How Not to Install an Image of the Jina: An Early Anti-Paurṇamīyaka Diatribe

Posted: 04.11.2009
Updated on: 25.03.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 5, No. 3 (2009) 1-23



Image installation (pratiṣṭhā), a central ritual of Jainism, of necessity requires the cooperative participation of monk and layman. The twelfth century Śvetāmbara teacher Candraprabhasūri, credited with initiating the Paurṇamīyaka Gaccha, apparently criticised the role of the monk in empowering an image of a Jina, apparently on the grounds that monks cannot engage in physical worship (dravyapūjā) of any iconic representation. This paper analyses the systematic riposte to this position by Ajitadevasūri of the Bṛhad Gaccha in his Mohonmūlanavādasthānaka of 1128.


*Versions of this paper were presented at the 13th World Sanskrit Conference in Edinburgh in 2006 and as the Ernest Bender Memorial Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.

How Not to Install an Image of the Jina: An Early Anti-Paurṇamīyaka Diatribe

The early Āvaśyaka literature, which dates from the beginning of the first millennium CE, informs us that a Jain layman can temporarily change his identity and become the equivalent of a monk by performing the religious exercise of sāmāyika, in the course of which a renunciant demeanour supplants for a brief span of time the preoccupations of the householder life.[1] As Śvetāmbara Jain history lengthened into the second millennium and what we can call for convenience's sake the medieval period, the respective positions of the realms of the renunciant and householder and the extent to which they could or could not intersect became a regular source of controversy, and in the first half of the twelfth century monastic intellectuals belonging to the (self-proclaimed) central renunciant lineage, the Bṛhad Gaccha, felt compelled to defend against a nascent dissident disciplinary order, the Paurṇamīyaka Gaccha, the necessary interdependence of monk and layman in what was one of the most central public rituals in Jainism, the pratiṣṭhā, or installation, of an image of the Jina. It is the background to this dispute and the arguments deployed therein which will form the substance of this contribution.

The Textual Background to Jain Image Installation: Haribhadra and the Nirvāṇakalikā of Pādalipta

In a fundamental study of the semantic range of pratiṣṭhā, Gonda identifies a core sense of the term within Vedic texts as being 'ground, basis, support', further demonstrating how what he calls 'an establishment in the ritual sphere' could by means of the supposed parallelism between sacrificial acts and processes in nature and society be understood as automatically producing an 'establishment' of a person or object.[2] Most significantly for the overall context of image installation, Gonda demonstrates how pratiṣṭhā was to gain a specific shade of meaning, namely 'to place a definite power in an object, to endow an object with divine faculties etc.' The term then came to be applied by the middle of the common era to the formal installation and inauguration of the image of a deity, with the earliest description of this being identified in Varāhamihira's Bṛhatsaṃhitā (sixth cen. CE) where the main protagonists in the ritual and the basic procedures described in later more elaborate codifications of pratiṣṭhā are recognisable for the first time.[3]

Jain tradition wishes to connect its first pratiṣṭhākalpas, or manuals prescribing the procedures for image installation, with Umāsvāti, who has been dated from the second to fifth centuries CE, and Haribhadra, some writings ascribed to whom may date from the sixth century while others may have been produced by an eighth century teacher of the same name.[4] Unfortunately, neither of these manuals is accessible today and indeed may never have been written, at least by the authors to whom they are attributed. However, it is unquestionably Haribhadra who provides the earliest extended remarks on the Jain perspective on pratiṣṭhā and I refer to those aspects of his treatment of the ritual which are most relevant to the subject under discussion here. So, in chapter seven of his Prākrit Pañcāśakaprakaraṇa, which can tentatively be dated to the sixth century but may in part be later,[5] Haribhadra describes how the adhikārin, the individual who resolves to build a temple, should be a high-born householder of proven moral quality (7.2-8). He further asserts that monks should not be present when the construction of the temple is underway since their ethical integrity would be compromised by witnessing activities such as digging in the earth and cutting down trees which are technically immoral because they involve the taking of life (7.11). Haribhadra concedes that of necessity various implements implicated in violence such as cutting tools are utilised in building temples, but he argues that the first Jina, Ṛṣabha, at the beginning of the current time cycle legislated for crafts of all sorts and that accordingly no fault need be ascribed to these sorts of practices since something which is partially opprobrious might still be able to counteract more serious faults. In chapter eight of the Pañcāśakaprakaraṇa Haribhadra introduces the topic of image installation proper, referring to the necessity of a skilled craftsman (śilpin) being hired in order to produce the image (8.7-11). He goes on to delineate the various sorts of pūjās offered to the tutelary deities, the use of auspicious objects, mantras and verses in the ritual (8.18-37) and the diverse forms of gifting and festivity carried out in its aftermath, although the actual installation of the image is only dealt with in a fairly cursory manner (8.16-17). The ethos of the ritual as described by Haribhadra is broadly, if not emphatically, lay, with no reference being made to formal renunciant participation.[6]

A much fuller version of the procedures involved in image installation is given in Pādalipta's Nirvāṇakalikā (pp. 9b-29b), a Sanskrit work often dated by modern Jain scholarship to the early common era but stylistically much more redolent of a later period, perhaps c. ninth century (and probably later), since it is clearly comparable to, and no doubt consciously conforms to the Śaiva ritual manuals which appeared from the seventh century, culminating in Somaśambhu's famous paddhati produced at the very end of the eleventh century, and whose descriptions of priestly officiants, the mantric clothing of images with protective armour (kavaca) and complex forms of temple ceremonial were in wide circulation.[7] The Nirvāṇakalikā makes clear that there are three individuals who are involved (sthāpaka) in the installation of a Jina image,[8] by which is meant its ritual placement on a throne (sthāpyasya jinabimbāder bhadrapīṭhādau vidhinā nyasanam) (p. 11a): the craftsman, the lay sponsor of the ceremony, sometimes called the yajamāna (e.g. p. 29a), who assumes the role of the god Indra (p. 14b) and a senior monk called sūri or ācārya (p. 11a).[9] Of this trio, the monk performs a central function throughout the ceremony, invoking the gods of the directions and other tutelary figures, reciting and symbolically disposing on the image a range of protective mantras, engaging in meditative worship, himself physically applying the necessary auspicious powders and pastes and then by means of the ācāryamantra (more generally known as the sūrimantra) summoning the deity to enter into the image (pp. 15a and 23b).[10]

The ritual of image installation described by Pādalipta's Nirvāṇakalikā is recognisably similar to the procedures prescribed by the seventeenth century Sakalacandra whose Pratiṣṭhākalpa is still in use amongst Śvetāmbaras today, although the earlier text does not stress to the same extent the monk's summoning of the Jina to enter the eye of the image as a means of activating it.[11] So on every occasion on which an image is installed, there can be identified a division of procedural labour, with the layman responsible for seeing to the construction of the shrine, the carving of the image to be housed in it and the providing of the various, often lavish substances necessary for worship, while the monk functions as the main ritual officiant who empowers the image through mental and physical action of a highly charged type. Such a relationship of combined action for a common religious goal could be regarded as an extension of the most fundamental of Jain institutional relationships whereby the renunciant teachers and exemplars of the path to liberation were supported with food, clothing and shelter by their lay followers.[12]

Ajitadevasūri's Arguments Against Lay Image Installation

While serious questioning of the role of image worship in Śvetāmbara Jainism, largely because of only sporadic mention of this activity in the scriptures and an awareness of the possibility of violence caused by the construction of temples and the use of plant life in pūjā, was not fully articulated until the fifteenth century, there is evidence that by the eleventh century an element of disquiet was already being expressed about the merits of the material worship (dravyapūjā) performed by the laity as opposed to the inner, affective worship (bhāvapūjā) of renunciants, generally taken as being the sole means by which the latter could ritually interact with an installed image.[13] This disquiet came to be further directed towards the role of senior monks in image installation by one of the earliest Śvetāmbara disciplinary orders of the medieval period, the Paurṇamīyaka Gaccha (now no longer extant), which was founded by Candraprabhasūri at the beginning of the twelfth century. The Gurutattvapradīpa, a controversialist work produced by a monk of the Tapā Gaccha in the fourteenth century which took polemical aim at rival Jain lineages, describes how Candraprabhasūri, in a fit of jealousy owing to not being invited by an important layman to preside over an image installation, had in order to spoil this ceremony promoted the view that monks should not in any way be involved in pratiṣṭhā and had only subsequently promulgated the teaching after which the order he founded was named and came to be primarily associated, namely that the fortnightly pratikramaṇa observance should invariably take place on the full-moon day (pūrṇimā).[14] Municandrasūri, who was a pupil of the same teacher (who belonged to the Bṛhad Gaccha) as Candraprabhasūri, wrote a work entitled the Pākṣiksaptati, "Seventy Verses on the Fortnightly Pratikramaṇa" (also known as the Āvaśyakasaptati, "Seventy Verses on the Obligatory Verses") which later opponents of the Paurṇamīyaka Gaccha were to cite with approval, and there can be no doubt that the question of correct calendrical observance was central to Paurṇamīyaka sectarian identity. However, the issue of participation in image installation was to remain a regular feature of anti-Paurṇamīyaka polemic and clearly formed an important component of that order's understanding of Śvetāmbara Jain orthopraxy.[15]

The first attack upon Candraprabhasūri's views on image installation was by a pupil of Municandrasūri, Ajitadevasūri, who was accepted by Tapā Gaccha chroniclers as leader of the central Jain lineage which descended from Mahāvīra's disciple Sudharman[16] and as having effected Candraprabhasūri's expulsion from the city of Pāṭaṇ on the grounds of heresy.[17] Concerning any other achievements by him nothing substantial is known. Ajitadevasūri's Mohonmūlanavādasthānaka (MVS), "An Issue of Disputation which Uproots Delusion", written in 1128 at the request of a layman, does not specifically mention Candraprabhasūri and his Paurṇamīyaka followers but was clearly intended to refute "those who do not accept that the installation of Jina images is carried by a teacher with the approval of five prominent laymen" (pañcabṛhatpuruṣasaṃmatām apy ācāryakartṛkārhatpratimāpratiṣṭhāṃ na pratipadyante).[18] I will now proceed to delineate the main contours of Ajitadevasūri's polemic against the Paurṇamiyakas. Both this and the Paurṇamīyaka position as presented by Ajitadevasūri, whether entirely accurately or not, will provide revealing insight into what would appear to be the earliest example of extended and analytical Śvetāmbara Jain discourse about the procedures involved in image installation.

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin presents his argument in favour of lay image installation at the outset as being based on a range of textual evidence (MVS pp. 1-5), also invoking more cursorily a secondary argument based on inference (which I will refer to towards the end of this paper), namely that lay people in barbarian lands at the beginning of the third era of the current time cycle must have installed images themselves because there were no monks available to perform the necessary ritual (MVS pp. 6f.). The sources adduced by the pūrvapakṣin are not scriptural in origin but represent a variety of genres of Śvetāmbara Jain literature dating from around the middle of the first millennium CE to near the time of Candraprabhasūri.[19] Each of them is said to refer to the performance of pratiṣṭhā of an image by a non-renunciant such as a laywoman, a king, a god and laymen in general without any obvious reference to the participation of a monk.[20] Ajitadevasūri responds (MVS p.9) that the Paurṇamīyaka position loses its force through reliance on the authority of treatises dealing with general topics (sāmānyaprakaraṇa) rather than scripture (āgama) and his reductio ad absurdum view is that by the Paurṇamīyaka argument even the Vedas, the repository of everything against which Jainism defines itself, might ultimately be a valid source for discussing pratiṣṭhā.[21] Furthermore, Ajitadevasūri claims, an examination of the various sources cited makes clear that they do not unambiguously confirm the necessity of lay image installation, there being nothing in their wording which precludes the participation of a monk, and indeed they can be said to evince contradictory, not to say possibly irregular (utsūtra) statements about ritual procedure.[22] Thus an apparent narrative reference to an image being set up by the laywoman Damayantī cannot be regarded as significant because there is no evidence in the text in question of the full ritual of consecration being performed, the source merely describing how she carried out only a preliminary 'setting up' (sthāpanā) of the image, rather than a 'complete ritual of installation' (saṃpūrṇaḥ pratiṣṭhāvidhiḥ). If this account is to be held to describe the equivalent of a full performance of image installation, then logically this could also be regarded as taking place during the performance of pratikramaṇa which involves the enunciation of a hymn of praise to the Jinas, also a component part of the pratiṣṭhā ritual (MVS p. 10).

With regard to Siddharṣi's description in the Upamitibhavaprapañcakathā of a layman installing an image of the Jina Ṛṣabha in order to summon (avatāraṇāya) the semi-divine vidyādharas, Ajitadevasūri points out that all the descriptions in that work are allegorical and imaginary (upamitaṃ kalpitaṃ ca), serving the basic function of enlightening the pious rather than giving precisely framed instructions about ritual procedure, and he compares it (perhaps not entirely appropriately) with the scriptural account of Makkhali Gosāla telling an admonitory story which alluded to his ability to destroy Mahāvīra.[23] Texts like the story of Damayantī and the Upamitiprapañcakathā thus cannot have authority in the matter of image installation since their descriptions of it do not possess any injunctive force (MVS pp. 10-14). If their point was simply to urge replication of the behaviour described, then by extension various actions well-known in Jain narrative tradition but difficult or inadvisable to perform would also be unambiguously enjoined.[24]

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin had also invoked the two central Śvetāmbara authorities, Haribhadra and Umāsvāti, in support of lay image installation. The passages cited, namely Haribhadra's Pañcāśakaprakarana 6.3 which states that image installation and other practices fall into the category of 'outer worship' (dravyastava) which is a causal preliminary to 'inner worship' (bhāvastava)[25] and Umāsvāti's Praśamarati v. 305 which refers to the establishment of shrines and engaging in worship therein,[26] are by no means conclusive, and Ajitadevasūri (MVS p.15) turns the tables on the Paurṇamīyaka by providing citations from the manuals of image installation produced by the two great teachers actually prescribing the participation of a senior monk.[27] If the Paurṇamīyaka was to reject the authority of these passages, then of necessity he would have to deny the validity of other authoritative sources such as Pādalipta's Nirvāṇakalikā which provide similar testimony.

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin is then depicted as invoking a stronger argument (MVS pp. 15f.) which prefigures that promulgated in the fifteenth century by the antiiconic Lumpāka sect, namely that monks following the prescriptions described in the pratiṣṭhākalpas with regard to building a temple and installing and worshipping an image housed within it cannot possibly conform to the five Great Vows (mahāvrata) which determine the parameters of renunciant behaviour.[28] Ajitadevasūri asserts by way of a general response that the presiding monk by definition can engage only in morally correct actions and is not compromised by any activity that might originally have involved the infringement of the vow of non-violence through disturbing life forms in earth, water, fire and trees.[29] However, he indulges the Paurṇamīyaka by assessing the possible significance of his criticism with regard to the other Great Vows.

So the pūrvapakṣin attributes to the presiding monk breach of the second Great Vow of not lying on the grounds that he advocates (kathana) the reprehensible ritual of image installation while supposedly having rejected all other reprehensible acts. A circular argument here elicits a rather weak response from Ajitadevasūri. He points out that the presiding monk does not in any manner dissimulate about the merits of the ritual in order to encourage people to sponsor it, rather unconvincingly accusing his opponent of adopting precisely this tactic to persuade lay people to build temples.

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin further accuses the monk who presides over image installation of breach of the third and fifth Great Vows in that he takes what has not been given to him in receiving as an offering (bali) the ritual implements, which might technically be viewed as the property of the Jinas, such as the gold unguent stick and silver pen (used for opening the image's eyes), and effectively makes them his possessions. In reply Ajitadevasūri cites (MVS pp.16-17) three unattributed Prākrit verses which relate to what a monk may and may not take in the course of the ritual.[30] The following is a (tentative) translation.

"Whatever is presented on the offering-table (vedi) at the time of purification of the image is bhakṣya belonging (sakkaṃ) to the presiding monk. Some teachers say that this is the śeṣa of the Jina. (1) If it happens that the carver of the image should stand beside the presiding monk for the installation of the image, then he should give half of the śeṣa to him also with the exception of money etc. (2) Whatever money, clothes, brass receptacles and the like are received by the Jina at that time belong to him. So the presiding monk should not take it. (3)"

These verses employ vocabulary relating to the consumption and leaving of food, namely bhakṣya, 'to be consumed', and śeṣa, 'remainder, left-over', which is more familiar in the context of brahmanical discourse about sacrifice and offerings to gods.[31] Ajitadevasūri in a brisk interpretation of the verses (MVS pp. 17f.) explains bhakṣya as "that presented on the offering-table which has been given to the presiding monk as something to be taken (or, approved as suitable) (ābhāvya)" (tad api vedikāmadhyaḍhaukitam eva guror ābhāvyatayā pratipāditam),[32] while śeṣa is "gold and such like, different from the bhakṣya (just mentioned), which is bhakṣya offered beside (or in the vicinity of, but not on) the offering-table which is said to belong to the teacher of the universe (the Jina)" (bhakṣyavyatiriktaṃ kanakādi vedikābahir ḍhaukitabhakṣyam ca tribhuvanaguroḥ sambandhi kathitaṃ).[33] The reference in the second verse to "half of the śeṣa" is taken by Ajitadevasūri as meaning that at the time of the purification (adhivāsanā) of the image when auspicious powder is sprinkled on it, the lay sponsor of the ritual gives half of the bhakṣya on the offering-table to the craftsman involved in the production of the image and half to the presiding monk. Admittedly grain is one of the substances placed on the offering-table, but it is not necessary that the monk take everything located there. In short (MVS pp. 18f.), the monk involved in pratiṣṭhā cannot be said to be actually receiving an offering. A true renunciant does not take anything, being concerned solely with gaining advancement on the spiritual path, an objective difficult enough to fulfil in the current degenerate times. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, he cannot be said to be taking the property of the Jina (devārtha) since the image of the Jina does not possess any divinity (devatva) (and thereby right of ownership) when it has not been formally installed.[34]

Ajitadevasūri is equally dismissive (MVS pp.19-20) of the argument that the fourth Great Vow of chastity is broken by the presiding monk through the use in the ritual of various expensive anointing substances redolent of the non-renunciant world of sensuality and eroticism. He cites a verse from the canonical Oghaniryukti which refers to the obligation of monks to wash away the bodily dirt of sick teachers so that they do not present a poor appearance to the world in order to substantiate the view that the outward cleanliness of teachers is a desideratum.[35] If wiping down the body with a rag dipped in water which does not contain any life forms (prāsukajala) is acceptable prior to engaging in ascetic exercises (pratimā),[36] then it would be unreasonable to object to a similar practice in other contexts. The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin concedes that he is prepared to accept the desirability of physical cleanliless in its restricted sense but refuses to countenance a monk bathing and coming into contact with luxurious substances such as sandalwood and perfumes. Ajitadevasūri replies (MVS p. 20) that these activities and the substances associated with them in fact fall within the sphere of the layman who is the partial installer of the image (deśapratiṣṭhākara). Lest this be taken to support the Paurṇamīyaka position that the layman has sole responsibility for image installation, Ajitadevasūri describes how there is a large number of participants in the ritual: the craftsman, the lay sponsor of the installation, his wife, the presiding monk and the assembled monks and nuns. If this were not the case, then there would be no point in the customary summoning of the community (saṅgha) to the ritual.[37] In the course of the installation there does indeed take place a public exchange between layman and monk of the gold seal (mudrā) which is placed on the image for auspiciousness (maṅgala), but that cannot possibly compromise the renunciant Great Vows of celibacy and lack of possession; otherwise this would also take place when handling the other objects used at various points in installation of a Jina image or those used on the occasion of the installation of the image of a dead monk.[38]

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin has thus been manoueuvred into apparently advocating that many indispensible procedures of the image-installation ritual cannot actually be performed stricto sensu.[39] Ajitadevasūri then proceeds to examine (MVS pp. 21-2) the possible semantic range of the word dravya, literally 'substance', which is regularly used in Jain analysis to refer to the literal, surface aspect of an entity without reference to its bhāva, inner or deeper aspects.[40] The specific point is the lack of authorisation (adhikāra) for monks engaging in dravyastava, which Ajitadevasūri is prepared to accept at one level, taking the expression as signifying praise (stava) of the Jina when it is not the principle element of the ritual.[41] However, Ajitadevasūri further considers the claim that dravya is a synonym for kāraṇa, 'cause', the necessary latent condition for the emergence of something superior or more developed,[42] and points out that, as is clear from the Āvaśyakasūtra, this cannot mean that monks are not authorised to engage in caityavandana, the cluster of exercises involved in paying homage to the image of the Jina, since that particular ritual is the cause, or better precondition, of inner worship.[43]

Developing this point, Ajitadevasūri considers (MVS pp. 23-5) the monk's involvement with dravyastava in the sense of worship carried out with substances such as perfume and flowers and justifies his authorisation to engage in this practice by reference to Haribhadra's assertion that a respectfully disciplined approach (vinao) towards the Jina is no different from dravyastava.[44] As Ajitadevasūri points out, Jain teachers have themselves prescribed that in pratiṣṭhā dravyastava involves the sprinkling of perfumed powder and the opening of the eyes of the image and nothing more. Furthermore, if monks were not authorised to engage in dravyastava, whether through actually performing it, effecting it or approving it, then the wording of the arahaccaityastava portion of the caityavandana liturgy,[45] in which the monk undertakes to perform the disciplinary exercise of kāyotsarga in order to pay worship (pūyaṇa), homage (vandana), honour (sakkāra) and respect (saṃmāna), the images of the Jinas would effectively be a breach of the second Great Vow of not speaking untruth.[46] By extension, a monk would no longer be allowed to perform the basic auspicious practice of sprinkling consecrated powder on holy places, scriptures, other renunciants and laypeople because it shares the same ritual idiom as dravyastava.

The pūrvapakṣin then considers two apparently authoritative statements made in explanation of Bṛhatkalpasūtrabhāṣya v. 1792a[47] which appear to describe lay control over the ritual of image installation, the first of these referring to a layman performing pratiṣṭhā, while the second has no subject and uses the causative form paiṭṭhavaṇa (~ Sanskrit pratiṣṭhāpana).[48] Ajitadevasūri argues that the pūrvapakṣin's interpretation of the second example has been conditioned by the first example's mention of the layman, and he interprets the subjectless passage (on no compelling grounds, in fact) as conveying monastic agency in the ritual. If the pūrvapakṣin persists in claiming that the layman performs the ritual, by logical extension that would also necessitate him carrying out the various ancillary activities involved in the ceremony such as playing music and dancing.[49] Ajitadevasūri then proceeds (MVS pp. 26f.) to a discussion of the grammar involved in the expression paiṭṭhāna / pratiṣṭhā, 'installation', arguing that it can frequently be taken as meaning 'get installed by', thus supporting monastic involvement in the ceremony.[50] What is still more germane to his polemical purpose is the demonstration (MVS pp. 27- 34) that the full context of Bṛhatkalpasūtrabhāṣya v. 1792a relates to the performance of a chariot procession (rathānuyāna), that is to say, a festival involving the temporary placing of the Jina image on a vehicle and its procession round the streets of a town or city.[51] This sense of pratiṣṭhā / pratiṣṭhāpana is, asserts Ajitadevasūri, universally accepted and the Bṛhatkalpasūtra and its various commentaries cannot be cited to prove that laymen and not monks install images in temples.[52]

The Paurṇamīyaka pūrvapakṣin is then presented as adducing (MVS p.35; already alluded to at MVS pp. 6-7) the evidence of the commentarial literature on the Āvaśyakasūtra which describes how at the beginning of the third movement of this time cycle Bāhubali ritually installed a discus (cakra) in honour of the footprints of the first Jina Ṛṣabha at Takṣaśilā and Nami and Vinami installed an image of the Jina at Mount Vaitāḍhya, both installations being carried out prior to his achievement of omniscience.[53] In response, Ajitadevasūri points out that at that primeval time there were no laymen prior to Ṛṣabha's attainment of omniscience since there were no monks and that only subsequently did his son Bharata became the first layman. If in this light those responsible for the installations in question could not be deemed to be laymen, then the pūrvapakṣin would logically have to accept the possible central involvement in the ritual of such otherwise unsatisfactory categories as non-Jains, women and gods. In fact, Bāhubali's erection of a jewelled cakra over the footmarks left by the meditating Ṛṣabha was to protect them from sacrilegious damage by passersby, while Nami and Vinami's setting up of an image was simply a manifestation of their loyal devotion to their lord, so that it would be straining matters to take these as examples of formal pratiṣṭhā.[54] No doubt there is a well-known tradition about Bharata installing an image of Ṛṣabha on Mount Aṣṭāpada,[55] but, states Ajitadevasūri adopting a sternly sceptical approach to the relevant narrative descriptions (MVS pp. 35f.), there exists no truly authoritative source for precisely ascertaining the ritual procedure carried out during such an ancient event.

In summing up his argument thus far against the Paurṇamīyaka which has largely been based on textual citation (MVS pp. 36-7), Ajitadevasūri concedes that there can be no disagreement that there is complete prohibition of a monk engaging in that part of the pratiṣṭhā ritual which involves dravyastava, since that does no doubt involve destruction of the six kinds of life-form.[56] At the same time, none of the sources adduced by the pūrvapakṣin supports the position that the layman has sole responsibility for the installation ritual. Given that any Jina image in a shrine must of necessity be formally installed, if the Paurṇamīyaka's position were valid, then that would mean that he could not worship any of the huge range of images found in various parts of India which were previously installed by senior monks.[57] Vague reference to a 'generally installed' (sāmānyapratiṣṭhita) category of image as affording an acceptable object of worship would involve accepting the heretical claims of the Digambara Jains who also have installed images of the Jinas, while rejection of those images which had been installed by caityavāsin teachers, whose assertions about lineage affiliation and standards of renunciant behaviour were often deemed questionable, would flout the principle found in āgama that images installed by all Śvetāmbara ācāryas, irrespective of the disciplinary order to which they belong, can be worshipped (MVS pp. 37-9).[58] Quite simply, Ajitadevasūri triumphantly concludes, there exists no hard evidence in the form of inscribed names and dates commemorating laymen who installed images as there is for ācāryas.[59] The claim that image installation should not be performed by ācāryas because of the possible violence involved in the ritual is like abandoning a garment for fear that it harbours a louse, the Indian equivalent of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and is a criticism which might equally well be made of the ritual of renunciation (pravrajyā).[60]

Concluding Remarks

It is not clear whether Ajitadevasūri was directly attacking Candraprabhasūri himself; the absence of any relevant early texts means that the views of the founder of the Paurṇamīyaka Gaccha can only be reconstructed through the accounts of his opponents. However, the weight of unanimous testimony undoubtedly makes clear that the Paurṇamīyakas did challenge monastic involvement in image installation in favour of an exclusive lay role. The reasons for this stipulation may have been twofold: either it was an attempt to ensure the unambiguous purity of ascetic behaviour or, alternatively, it represented a strategy to allow prominent lay Jains (particular those involved in largescale building of temples) a more significant role in ritual.[61] The Paurṇamīyaka interest in the procedure involved in the ritual of image installation suggests that the order had at an early period in its history controlled not a few temples, although there is little evidence for these now, and the tenor of some of Ajitadevasūri's criticism suggests that there may have been disputes within the Śvetāmbara community about their status.

In this contribution I have rehearsed Ajitadevasūri's main arguments against the Paurṇamiyaka Gaccha both because of the light they shed on the intra-Śvetāmbara discourse of polemic which was taking shape at the beginning of the second millennium and because of what can be learnt about medieval Śvetāmbara attitudes to image worship. The views combatted by Ajitadevasūri have a particular interest since aspects of them clearly presage iconoclastic perspectives and doubts about the ethical integrity of pūjā which are generally taken as not appearing within Jainism until the fifteenth century. In a subsequent study I intend to discuss how later Śvetāmbara writers belonging to the Tapā Gaccha, such as the author of the Gurutattvapradīpa and Dharmasāgara, further engaged with Paurṇamīyaka views about lay image installation.



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© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2009

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