Paṅcāstikāya - Ancient Book Of Reality

Posted: 21.07.2009
Updated on: 30.07.2015

Paṅcāthikāya (Paṅcāstikāya)

is an ancient and important text of Jain’s which is composed in old classical Indian language named ‘Prākṛta’ and specifically in ‘Śaurseni Prākṛta’ (an important part of the Prākṛta language). This work is composed by the famous Jainācārya Kunda Kunda in 1st century A.D.

The Paṅcāstikāya, as it is specified by its brief title, is one of the important works of Kunda Kunda who occupies unique position, next only to Lord Mahāvīra and his Gaṇadhara Gautam, in the south Indian Jaina tradition. It deals with Jain metaphysics, ontology and ethics, i.e. exposition of the path leading to liberation. The text is in Prākrit gāthās/verses and it mentions its title in two places: Paṅcattiya - saṅgaha (Paṅcāstika-saṅgraha) in gāthā No. 103, and elsewhere, in No. 173, suttam (sūtram) is tacked on to it, and in both the places it is qualified by Pavayaṇasaram (pravacanasāram). Though the brief title is more popular, some have used the title Sanskrit like Paṅcāstikāya - sāra. In this edition they are allowed to return as they are, inherited from earlier sources.

In Paṅcāstikaya, the five astikāyas or existents (jīva, pudgala, dharma, adharma and ākāśa), which are different from kāla, are explained. In this text there is an authentic explanation of the nature of dravya (substance), division of dravya, Saptabhṅngi, gūṇa (attributes), paryāya (modes) and in the first section /adhikāra there is an exposition of the substance, attributes and modes. In the second section, there is a clear analysis of the nine entities (padārthas) called: merit (puṇya), demerit (pāpa), living being (jīva), non living being (ajīva), influx (āśarva), bondage (bandha), stoppage (saṅvara), dissociation (nirjarā) and liberation (mokṣa); and the mokṣa –mārga (path of liberation) is also explained. According to the commentary of Ācārya Amṛtacandra, there are 173 gāthās in it, whereas according to Acārya Jayasena, there are 181 gāthas.



A number of commentaries in Sanskrit by Amṛtacandrāchārya; Brahmadeva, Devajitu, Jayasena, Jñānacandra, Malliṣeṇa and Prabhācandra are known. Those of Amṛtacandra and Jayasena are already printed and well known. There is a commentary of Bālacandra in old - Kannada language; but, so far, it is not published. Some expositions of this work in Hindi have been composed by Hemarāja (Samvat 1700) Rājamallu (Samvat 1716), Hīrācanada (Samvat 1718) and Vidhicanda (Samvat 1891).


About the Author

Kunda Kunda, the author of this work, was a very famous Jaina philosopher and theologian. He was also a great organizer of religious institutions. His name is held in great veneration especially by the Digambara section of the Jains. Many great religious teachers claimed it an honour to trace their lineage from the great teacher Kunda Kunda. Several inscriptions that are found in south India belong to Kundakundānvaya-or the line of Kunda Kunda. Students of Jaina literature are familiar with such phrases as the following: Śrī - Kundakunda - gurupatta - Page 537 of 555 STUDY NOTES version II paramparāyām; Śrī Kundakunda - santānam, Śrī - Kundakundākhyamūnīdra - vaṅśa. These are some of the phrases claimed by Jaina writers such as Sakalabhīṣaṇa, author of Upadeśaratnamālā, Vasunandi, author of Upāsakādhyyana, Brahmanemidatta of Āvādhanā - kathākośa. Instances may be multiplied without number, for showing the important place occupied by our author in the hierarchy of Jaina teachers/preceptors. Some of the epithets employed to characterize him are also significant of his great importance. Sumindra, the Indra among the ascetics, Mūnicakravarti the emperor among the mūnis, Kaundeśa, Lord Kuṇda, are familiar designations of the great preceptor.

The personality of this great preceptor, as is generally the case with world famous individuals, is lost in obscurity and shrouded with traditions to have a glimpse of this great person. The early history of India is but a string of speculations and even as such there are very many gaps. Under these circumstances, we have to be very cautions about the history of our author. ‘ After many discussions a group of scholars decided 1st century A.D. for the Kunda Kunda’s period.


Works of Kunda Kunda

All the works of Kunda Kunda are in Prakṛta verses which are easy to recite and understand. Prābhŕtatraya or nāṭaka, i.e. the trilogy of Paṅcāstikāyasāra, Pravacanasāra, and Samayasāra or Samayasāra–prābhṛta, Niyamasāra, Aṣṭapāhuda, Rayaṇsāra; Bāraha Aṇuvekkhā are the best creations of kundkund. All these books have been printed. He is said to have written 84 pāhudas but they are not as yet found in any library.


Central Concept Of The Text

There are two important concepts in Paṅcāstikaya which are perplexing to students of Jainism, the astikāya i.e. the existent and the dravya / substance. The term astikāya is a compound name made up of asti and kāya which respectively mean existing and extensive magnitude. Thus astikāya means a real that has extensive magnitude. The other term dravya means the real that is changing like the flow of water.


Existent / Astikāya

The existents are of five types namely jīva / iving being (soul), jīva, pudgala (matter), dharma (principle of motion), adharma (principle of rest) and ākāśa (space). These five build up the cosmos. Space and matter are distinctly extended exitents. Dharma and Adharma are indirectly related to space. Their operation is in space and is limited to Lokākāsa, Thus they may also be considered as related to space. Lastly life is generally associated with body; the organic body is constituted by pudgala or matter. Jīva is operative in and conditioned by such a physical medium. In a way therefore jīva also is related to space. These five existences which have spatiality either directly or indirectly are the five astikayas. These are the constituent elements of the universe or the world. According to the text, astikāyas are described in this way:

Jivā puggalakāyā dhammadhamma taheva āyāsam
Atthīttamhī ya nīyadā anannamaeyā aṅumahamtā. (1/4)

Jesīm athīsahāo guṇehīsaha pajjarhī vīvīhehī.
Te hoṅtī atthikāyā nippaṇṇam jehi tailokkam. (1/5)

Here the author enumerates the five existents. He describes the number of each and the general and special characteristics of the different astikāyas. Jīvas, pudgalas, the principles of rest and motion, and finally space - these are the astikāyas. They are eternal, uncreated and of huge magnitude.

The things, which have the essential nature of manifesting themselves severally through their numerous attributes and modes up to the limits of the three worlds, are the astikāyas- they being the constituent part of the world.

Another substance which is the main cause for every change / transformation in this world is called kāla (time). In the text the author didn’t include time dravya in Astikāya. Therefore kāla has no extension in space either directly or indirectly. Hence it is not an astikāya. Time has its own definitions. Kāla or time, though not an element of the physical universe as mentioned in the text; however it is, through its attributes of change and motion, is admitted to be real. So time also must be considered real. The real or absolute time, as contrasted with the relative time, is constituted by simple elements known as kālāṇūs or instants. Instants, points and atoms are the characteristics conceptions of Jaina thought and in this respect it has a wonderful corroboration from the field of Modern mathematics and physics.

So, kāla (time) is not an astikāya. It is distinctly a real entity which accounts for changes in other things. Such are the characteristics of real time. This should not be confounded with Vyavahāra kāla or relative time which is measured by some conventional units of either long or short duration. These conventional distinctions would have no meaning if they are not coordinated in a single real time series.


Theory of Existence

The term dravya (substance) denotes any existence which has the important characteristics of persistence through change. Pancāstikāya admits only the dynamic reality or dravya. Dravya then is that which has permanence and its manifestations through change of its attributes resulting in is modes. Utpāda – origination, Vyaya the destruction are real. Kundakunda in the following very important gāthā for the explanation of existence ‘sattā’ says:

Sattā savvapayatthā savīssaruvā aṅātapajjāyā.
Bhānguppāddhuvattā sappadivakkhā havadī ekkā

Existence (substance) is one (as a class). It is inherent essence of all things. It manifests itself through diverse forms. It undergoes infinite modifications. It has the triple characteristics of origination, destruction and permanence. It also has the antithetical qualities, i.e. it may be described by the opposite.


Substance, Qualities and Modes

The dynamic substance or dravya is always associated with certain intrinsic and inalienable qualities called gūṇas. Thus the yellow colour, mallability, etc, will be the qualities which must exist in some state or form. This is its mode of existence or paryāya. This mode or paryāya is subject to change. It may be destroyed and a new mode may appear. But this origination and destruction are relevant only to paryāyas or modes and not to dravyas, the constitutive substance that can neither be destroyed nor created and so is eternal.

Substance exists with the qualities and modes. Without it there is no existence of the substance. Pancāstikāya explains the characteristics of dravya :

Davvam sallakkhaṇayam uppādavvayadhuvattasanjuttaṅ
Guṇapajjayāsayam va jam tam bhaṅamtī savvaṅhu 1/10

Whatever has substantiality, has the dialectical triad of birth, death and permanence, and is the substratum of qualities and modes is dravya. So say the all knowing omniscient.


Explanation of Jīvāstikāya

Ācārya Kunda Kunda gave very long explanations about Jīvāstikāya these are in about 46 gāthās – from gāthā No. 27 to 73. He defines jīva:

Jīvo ttī havadī cedā uvaogvīsesīdo pahu kattā.
Bhottā ya deha matto ṇa hī mūtto kammsaīṅjūtto. 1/24

The attributes of jīva (soul) are- it has life, consciousness, manifestation/upayoga (knowledge and perception), is potent, performs action, and is affected by their results, is conditioned by his body, is incorporeal and ordinarily found with karma. Kunda Kunda discussed many subjects which are directly related to jīva e.g. state of pure soul; knowledge of soul; size of soul; relation between karma and soul; actions of soul, modes of the soul etc.


Concept of Matter - Theory of Atom

Theory of smallest indivisible part of matter called parmāṇū is detailed in great depth in Paṅcāstikāya. We can compare his description parmāṇū with modern science’s atom and its further sub divisions. Kunda Kunda mentions four different kinds of material objects:

Khaṅdhā ya khaṅdhadesā khaṅdhapadesā ya hoṅti parmāṇū.
Edi te caduvvīyappā puggalakāyā muṇeyavvā.

These are the four basic modifications out of which the multifarious modes of matter are formed. Be it understood that matter exists in four main modes: skandhas, skandhadeśas; skandh apradeśas and primary atoms. Here skandhās are the aggregates of atoms. This class refers to complete molecular constitution. Skandhadeśa is said to be incomplete. But still it is an aggregate and so is skhandhapradeśa. These three are the differences in molecular constitution. The last class refers smallest unit of matter called parmāṇū or the indivisible part of atom that is the constituting the other three classes. And this is explained deeply in next sixteen gāthās.

Similarly Paṅcāstikāya explained the theory of Dharma and Adharma (medium of motion and rest) and the concept of space astikāyas from gāthā 83 to 96.


Path of Salvation

Right faith, right - knowledge and right conduct is the path of salvation. In the next half part of the Paṅcāstikāya explains nine padarthās/ objects or entities (including seven verities) and the path of salvation.

Kunda Kunda explains the three jewels (Right faith, knowledge and conduct) of Jainism. In the following gāthā (Verse):

Sammattaṅ saddahaṇaṅ bhāvāṇaṅ tesīmadhīgamo ṇāṇaṅ.
Chārīttaṅ sambhāvo vīsyesu vīrudhamaaggīṇaṅ.

Belief in the real existence or tattvas is the right faith, knowledge of their real nature without doubt or hankering is right knowledge. An attitude of neutrality without desire or aversion towards the objects of the external world is right conduct. These three are found in those who know the path.

Kunda Kunda explains these three in very deep and spiritual way. He also defines the seven verities with pūṇya - pāpa (merit - demerit) called nine padārthās.

We can say in short that Paṅcāstikāya is single text of 1st century A.D. which explains in depth, the Jaina theory of reality.

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