Jaina Studies: Their Present State And Future Tasks

Posted: 29.06.2006
Updated on: 04.09.2017

Jaina Studies: Their Present State And Future Tasks (English)
By Professor Dr Ludwig Alsdorf
Pandit Nathuram Premi Research Series Volume 1
English Tr. by Bal Patil
Revised & Edited by Professor Dr. Willem Bollée

In 1962, Professor Dr. Ludwig Alsdorf gave two lectures in Paris, on the present state of Jain Studies and future tasks. Those lectures are "as relevant as ever and ought to be read by anyone who wants to work in the field of Prakrit."

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The lectures were translated into English by Bal Patil, at the request of Professor Dr. A.N. Upadhye and have been revised and edited by Professor Dr. Willem Bollée, son in law of Professor Alsdorf. They have been presented in the form of the present book.

The book deals with a brief history of Jaina Studies in the West; a history of the Jaina religion itself, a scholarly comparison with Buddhism, pointing out the strong Jaina influence on Buddhism giving examples of words like "asava", "tai". Alsdorf points out that even for a purely linguistic understanding of Buddhist texts, a study of Jaina scriptures is essential.

However, he contends that Jaina philology should not be considered for this purpose only. He mentions the antiquity of the Jaina religion, the importance and impact of its literature, right from the earliest works in middle Indo-Aryan to the modern ones. He saw the continuing Jain literary tradition as representing "an uninterrupted tradition on the soil of the motherland." He remarks upon the "extensive and varied" Jaina usage, sustenance and support of Prakrit and Apabhramsha. He also remarks on the huge impact of Jains on Dravidian literature, especially old Tamil and Kannada literature.

He critically examines the language used in the oldest of Jain scriptures, and surveys the opinions of various scholars. Taking the Ashokan inscriptions as a benchmark, he supports the views of Weber and Jacobi, citing copious examples, on the essentially transposition impact of Jaina Maharashtri on what is seen as the canonical Ardha-Magadhi today. He claims that, "in reality the name of Ardha-Magadhi, semi-Magadhi, was undoubtedly right for the language of the early Jain canon, but it does not hold true of the canon which we have now." He presents a lucid case for "a systematic linguistic study of the canonical texts with the aim of finding Magadhisms and other proofs of translation".

He also points out that over the centuries; the copyists had a role to play in "normalising" the Prakrit and thus helping obfuscate the original Ardha-Magadhi from the Svetambara canon. Professor Alsdorf's observations made in the 1960's hold true even today. He commented that "the Jaina canon had always to rely on the labour of an all too small number of western scholars".

There are indeed no more than fifty scholars in the West who are doing excellent work in the field of Jaina studies. However, there are rays of hope:

  • The Centre for Jaina Studies at the SOAS in London is the first ever department of Jaina studies at a Western university.
  • The Institute of Jainology, UK is an organisation of Diaspora Jains who are doing commendable work promoting the study of Jainism in the West.

This remarkable book has been published for the first time. It carries the observations and conclusions drawn by one of the leading lights in the field of Jaina studies in the 20 th century, Ludwig Alsdorf. The book is obligatory reading for any scholar of Jaina studies.

We are proud to publish this excellent text.
Yashodhar Modi
Manish Modi

Mumbai: Hindi Granth Karyalay, 2006
220 x 145 mm 144 pp
ISBN 81-88769-13-4 EAN 9788188769131
Deluxe Hardcover Edition Rs. 395
Mumbai 400004 INDIA
Phones: +91 (22) 2382 6739, 6554 2281, 2062 2600
E-mail: manishymodi@gmail.com
Web: www.hindibooks.8m.com

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