Muni Ratnacandra’s Nine Jain Questions for Christians

Published: 23.12.2014
Updated: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 9, No. 6 (2013) 1-30



This article examines a rare, and possibly unique, manuscript which describes an encounter between Jain monks and Christian’s from an unknown denomination of Padres which took place in 1854 at an unidentified location either in Rājasthān or the Pañjāb or possibly in Agra. What makes this work so interesting is that whilst there has been considerable scholarship on the early stages of Buddhist-Christian and Hindu-Christian debates there has been little work on encounters between Jains and Christians. The work takes the form of nine questions posed by Muni Ratnacandra (1793-1864) disciple of Muni Harjīmal (1783-1832) of the Manohardās order of the anti-iconic Sthānakavāsī tradition. The questions which Christians should be asked reveal unique features in how Jain tradition responded to encounters with Christians. I argue that the main arguments deployed against Christianity in the text are all adapted from earlier Jain arguments deployed against other teachings. The importance of this text then is that it allows us to have a unique insight into how Jain vernacular tradition responded to Christianity during the mid 19th century.


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Muni Ratnacandra’s Nine Jain Questions for Christians

This article examines a rare, and possibly unique, account of an encounter between Jain monks and British Christian Padres from an unknown denomination which took place in 1854 at an unidentified location either in Rājasthān or the Pañjāb or possibly in Āgrā. What makes this work so interesting is that whilst there has been considerable scholarship on the early stages of Buddhist-Christian and Hindu-Christian debates there has been little work on encounters between Jains and Christians. The work takes the form of nine questions which Christians should be asked and reveals unique features in how Jain tradition responded to encounters with Christians. I argue that the main arguments deployed against Christianity in the text are all adapted from earlier Jain arguments deployed against other teachings. The importance of this text then is that it allows us to have a unique insight into how Jain vernacular tradition responded to Christianity during the mid 19th century.

Part One: Introduction

1.1. The Text: The Nine Questions

This is a short work, in the form of a single copy of a handwritten manuscript, which consists of three folios containing a text of around two thousand words. The text contains a set of nine questions which were (and should be) posed to Christians during an encounter with a group of Christian Padres which took place in 1854. The dates of the encounter and the work can be inferred from a question in the text in which it says that "you say your lord died 1854 years ago". Due to this it seems reasonable to argue that the work was composed in CE 1854. The title of the work as given at the end of the manuscript is "The nine questions of Ratancand". (However, at the start of the manuscript it begins "the English people who are the servants of Jesus".)

The text is one of several hundred Jain manuscripts in the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine collection in London. These manuscripts, in Hindī, Sanskrit and Prakrit, were collected in the early part of this century in India and the majority of them came originally from Rājasthān and the Pañjāb in a wide range of Indian languages including Hindī, Pañjābī, Sindhī, Persian, Sanskrit and a range of Prakrits. It is likely that this manuscript was written in Rājasthān as it has many characteristics in common with manuscripts which were definitely written in this region (Friedlander 1996: 9-13).

1.2. The Author: Ratancand

The author of the work identifies himself in the manuscript as Ratancand (Skt. Ratnacandra) disciple of Harjīmal. Research by Peter Flügel (2007: 181f., 2011: 9) allows the identification of this author as Muni Ratnacandra (1793-1864) disciple of Muni Harajīmal (Harjīmal) (1783-1832) of the Manoharadāsa (Manohardās) lineage of the anti-iconic Sthānakavāsī tradition. Ratnacandra was a Rājput from the village of Tātījā in Śekhāvatī near Jaipur and was initiated in 1805 in Nāranaul in Hariyāṇa. The areas he was active in included Pañjāb, Hariyāṇā, Madhya Pradeś, Rājasthān and western UP. He was an influential scholar monk and wrote a variety of yet unpublished commentaries on the Āgamas and other works in Hindī. He also had a number of disciples and taught monks from other Sthānakavāsī traditions, such as Muni Ātmārām (later: Vijayānandasūri), who became well known proponents of reform and revival in the Jain tradition. A number of hard to locate biographies were written about his life and work which may shed more light on his encounters with Christians and their significance in the wider context of the intense religious rivalries in the Pañjāb in the 19th century.

1.3. The Contents

The contents of this work may be summarised as follows. A meeting took place, at an unidentified, perhaps Rājasthānī, location, perhaps an upāśrāy, between a group of people who were perhaps missionaries and who are described as 'The English servants of Jesus' or as the 'padres' and Ratancand and his followers. The manuscript records nine points that were raised by the Jains at the meeting and some partial replies by the Christians. Regarding the importance of these nine questions in the conclusion Ratancand stated:

"If these nine doubtful issues are resolved then everything will be known about the 'truth' and the 'untruth' (tattvātattva). So these nine points should be answered."

The reason for there being nine questions posed must be related to the Jain tradition of regarding the universe as consisting of nine, or seven, ultimate "reals" or "truths" (tattva). According to Umāsvātī's Tattvārthasūtra there are seven such tattvas: "sentient soul, insentient matter, karmic influx, bondage, stopping karmic influx, wearing away of accumulated karma, and liberation." However, in the earlier Uttarādhyayanasūtra categories of pāpa and puṇya were included bringing the total number of "reals' to nine (Cort 2001: 192). From a comparison of the nine tattvas and the nine questions it may be concluded that Ratnacandra's reference to the nine questions covering all that may be known relates to this categorization of what is real (tattva) and what is unreal (a-tattva). A comparison of the contents shows that the similarities between the two series of "nine points", if intended at all, are purely formal.

Table 1: The navatattva (Nine "reals") and the nine questions

Tattva Question
1 Jīva (sentient souls) What calendar was used before the birth of Jesus?
2 Ajīva (insentient matter) How were people liberated before Jesus?
3 Āsrava (karmic influx) The ten commandments all concern karma, what are the fruits of karma?
4 Bandha (bondage) If Jesus is merciful to all then why do English people eat meat?
5 Pāpa (demerit) In what manner does Jesus grant liberation?
6 Puṇya (merit) What is virtue and sin?
7 Saṃvara(stopping karmic influx) Why can't we see Mount Meru? Is the earth bigger than the sun?
8 Nirjarā (wearing away of accumulated karma) If someone does something while unaware what is the fault in this?
9 Mokṣa (liberation) What is liberation?

One additional proviso which should be mentioned is that there are actually ten points, not nine as the title suggests. The explanation for this is that there are two parts of question seven. The reason for this is unclear, but as the conclusion clearly speaks of nine questions the way that question seven has two parts suggests that the repetition of the heading 'seven' was a scribal error. [1]

1.4. Text and Translation

The text is composed mostly in a form of pre-modern Hindī which shows features of modernisation due to contact with early modern standard Hindī. It also includes some Rājasthānī grammatical features and draws on a diverse vocabulary from Prakrit, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic sources. There are also a number of quotes in, very corrupt, Sanskrit.

A complication in understanding the text is that the orthography does not follow any later standard conventions. For instance the equivalent term to the modern Hindī is liye, 'because of this/therefore', is represented as sa līya. This poses considerable problems in interpreting the Hindī in the text, and makes the translation of the Sanskrit quotes extremely difficult.

One explanation for what may be, in parts, simply spelling errors in the text is that the scribe might have been a novice or particularly hurried. A further possible explanation, suggested by Veena Chopra, an expert on Rājasthānī dialects (Personal Communication, 14 July 2013), could be that the scribe might have been unfamiliar with the language of this text. Yet another possibility is that the document was recopied from a document which was itself illegible. This is suggested by the eminent Sanskrit scholar J. C. Wright who proposed in relation to one of the Sanskrit verses that in its third pada "perhaps the copyist's source was illegible between mātṛvat and paṇḍitaḥ and he filled the line with nonsense" (Personal communication, 13 July 2013)

Furthermore, there is no separation between words, which whilst normal in premodern Hindī manuscripts makes understanding what constitutes words in a prose text like this hard to settle. In addition there is almost no punctuation and at times this makes it hard to work out how to divide the text into meaningful sentences.

Due to these factors I have not found it possible to make what could be called a precise translation, I have rather tried in some places to make a readable translation of what appears to me to be being said in the text.

However, despite these difficulties it is a rare, possibly unique record of a pre-print culture Jain response to Christian missionary contact and so worthy of further study and discussion of its contents.

Part Two: Translation

Now, the English people who are the servants of Jesus. These points were asked of the padres concerning Jesus and what he taught. The Jain people asked of the English people these nine points, each of which needed an answer.

First point What era were years counted by before the incarnation of your Lord (prabhu) Jesus? How many years will there be in the Christian era, and what will be the next era counted in the future? You must tell us about the past eras and the future eras.


Second point If Jesus was born 1854 years ago then before that how were people liberated from sin, or are you saying there were no people before that? Or are you saying he was incarnated before that in the universe. By what method[3] were souls/selves (ātmā) atoned of sins? Were the souls/selves liberated by being 'Christian'[4] or by Jesus gazing on them from afar? You must tell us how to explain the distinction of this question.

Third point The English padres have given us printed books and we have looked at them. In them Jesus has ordained Ten Commandments (āgyā). Ten of these ten commandments have also been said by our Jinendradev Nemi to be wrong: first, to go with the wife of another; second, to kill; third, to steal; fourth, to swear using the Lord's name; fifth, to think ill of anyone; on the fourteenth of the dark and bright halves of the month not to abstain from work in the home.[5] In addition to contemplate the Lord and perform devotions etc. have been ordained. But, our Lord has ordained that liberation is found through good actions (su-karma). You do not believe in liberation through good karma. The Ten Commandments are all concerned with karma, Tell us what the fruits of good and bad karma are. We need the answer for this.


Fourth Point Your Lord, Jesus Christ looks with equal grace on all living beings of the world. In what manner does he do this? We have seen this written. English people eat meat. Will they do this at Jesus's command? If you say that it is at his commandment that you eat goat meat then we doubt it from what you write. But if Jesus ordered that you eat meat then how does he look equally on all creatures?

How can a prophet ordain such an injustice[7] that helpless creatures should be eaten? But, if he has not done so then why do English people eat meat without his commandment to do so. The justice of the English seems strange.

What justice is there in the powerful[8] forcibly eating the meat of the helpless and orphaned? In both English people's law and policy animals and the weak are treated alike. So why is it not written in the laws that someone of power who kills someone weak should be punished? You say that humans are supreme and other animals are not supreme. Does this point look right or not?

If some man were to go force somebody's wife to go with him then he would be punished. This going with a woman other than your own is said to be a wrong action in law. So if he forcibly takes the life of an innocent animal, why is he not punished for this, is it not an injustice? And if a man forcibly steals someone's cloth, jewellery or cash, then it is written in the law that he must be punished. And if he forcibly takes the life of some poor animal, or kills an animal, or takes its life, then it is not written in the law that he should be punished, why? And if he forcibly takes the life of a poor animal or an orphan animal and takes its life, that is to say kills it, then why is there no punishment for this written?

And you say that the life of a man is supreme and that the lives of animals are not important.

If you say this then our answer is, if someone's son, daughter, wife etc. were kidnapped, then someone should be punished, and if anyone's ox is stolen then there should be a punishment, then why should there be no punishment for taking life? What sort of justice is this? It is very astonishing for us.

The response to it should be given having thought about the subtle nature of the issue.

Also you should tell us about the ātma, whether it is better to eat immobile living beings, plants, grains or not. You should answer this.

Our Lord Jinendra is beyond passion and is free from these faults:[9]

1. ignorance (ajñā),[10] 10. greed (lobha);
2. pleasure (ānanda),[11] 11. desire/attachment (rāga);
3. sloth (nidra); 12. aversion (dveṣa);
4. carelessness (pramāda), 13. destruction (hrās);
5. sensual experience (indri-viṣaya); 14. poisonous speech (biṣvād);
6. delusion (moha); 15. jealousy, i.e., envy (matsya kahiye irṣya);
7. anger (krodha); 16. lust, i.e., desire (kāmā kahiye icchā);
8. pride (māna); 17. emnity for others (pardroha);
9. deception (māyā); 18. falsehood or lying (alīka kahiye jhūṭha).

This is what has been ordered (farmāyā) by our Lord Jinendra who is free from these 18 faults.

(1) ātmavata-sarvabhūtānī / paradrabāṇī loṣṭavat
parastrī-mātṛ-vategye / yaṃ jo jānāti paṇḍitaḥ He is a Paṇḍit who regards [jānāti] all beings as himself, the possessions [dravya?] of others as a piece of earth, who looks on other's wives as his mother.[12]

The meaning of this is that mobile and immobile beings arise due to two causes, noble, and demonic.[13] The noble arise due to being mostly feeding on grain due to which their minds are not befuddled. Dirt makes consciousness dirty and befuddles it. Just as from drinking water there is no intoxication, but from drinking alcohol the mind reels and is befuddled. So the defiled cannot control their consciousness and their consciousness of dharma and karma is destroyed. This is the argument that eating base[14] foods which degrade intelligence makes one lose control of the self.

By eating demonic foods reason is lost, and bad knowledge created, due to which our Lord Śrī Jinendradev has said not to eat demonic foods. He has said that eating base foods inflames the fires of sensuality which support the body. He has ordained the view that for food and supremacy one should not act foolishly.[15]

But, what is the fruit of eating demonic foods, it causes great suffering. Crow's [16] consciousness arises from eating base food. Just as a man gets a great punishment if he steals diamonds, jewels, or cash. Just so if one steals cattle, oxen or horses, then in law there is great punishment. That is why everybody has laws and due to them there is a punishment for crime.

So you may say 'we don't eat demonic food' but then why don't you eat milk, yoghurt and ghee? From this there will be consciousness of punishment. Then if you say 'why eat milk, yoghurt and ghee?' we say 'this milk, yoghurt and ghee are not demonic and they do not give rise to lack of discernment.'

From seeing this, subtle ideas are known, but from demonic food intoxication and madness arises.[17]

Due to this there is no observance of the Lord's orders.[18] So this eating of meat, in what way[19] is to be accepted. Why do you not teach compassion for living beings and animals? We are much in doubt about this.

Fifth Point Jesus Christ, your Lord, master of people, your people's lord prophet[20], in what way does he grant liberation (mukti)? Is it thus that it is only through Jesus Christ's power?

Or through other people's teachings increasing awareness and granting liberation? Or through belief (bharosā) in his name that he gives liberation? Or through compassion on all living beings that he gives liberation? Or through the repetition[21] of Jesus's name? Is it like this or something else, how is it that your people explain it?

Our Lord Śrī Jinendradev Pārśvanāth etc. and countless avatārs by [right] knowledge, [right], insight/belief and [right] conduct,[22] and three fold austerity (tīn tapasyā) [by mind, speech and body], with the knowledge of [the] pure soul/self have known the secret of the difference of the soul/self and non-soul/self (ātmā and anātmā). From their [right] insight they have liberated their own true nature and in this way purified their soul/self and then given teachings to the inhabitants of the world for their benefit.

Abandoning the path of wrong action, they tell of the distinction (bheda) of [right] knowledge, [right] insight/belief and [right] conduct. Causing it to be grasped, causing resolution to be firm, when soul/self is purified, then there is liberation, this is the path of [right] practice.

eva ātmacidrayaḥ sarīrī karmājāgataḥ
dhyānāgini karmada gacchānisajāti-paramaṃ padaṃ.[23]

The meaning of this is that, first, the soul is the form/manifestation of existence, consciousness and bliss but it endures karma due to attachment due to the attraction/delusion (moha) of the body.[24] Our Lord has taught that there is liberation through revealed teachings (śruti), meditation (dhyāna), and physical austerity[25].

Your Lord Jesus Christ has told of liberation.[26] If your Lord Jesus Christ liberates through his power, then what was the point in his taking human form? Why did he not liberate people from heaven? Why did he give teachings on how liberation is obtained? This point should be answered.


Sixth point What is the nature of dharma and what is the nature of sin (pāp)? Our Jinendra has taught that through the protection of life and compassion for living beings there is dharma and through violence towards living beings there is sin. […] [Untranslated text][28] He ordained that the fruit of violence is hell and the fruit of compassion is heaven.

prāṇaraṣaṇ atulaṃ dharma / papas ca prāṇa-ghātakaḥ kṣamātulaṃ tapasyai / na bhūto bhaviṣyatī No dharma is higher than protecting life, no sin greater than killing, no penance is greater than patience/forgiveness, not ever in the past or future.

The meaning of this is that there is no dharma that is the equal of protecting life, no sin is the equal of taking life, and no austerity (tapan) is the equal of forgiveness. This will never not be and has never not been. This is the dharma ordained by our Lord (prabhu). Tell us what your lord (prabhu) has said which is the karma that leads to heaven and to hell. After thinking, tell us the subtle truth concerning this.

Seventh Point (part one) 'The world is round and its circumference is 1234 kośās and like an arahaṭa[29] it constantly revolves due to the sovereignty of the Lord, it hangs without support in space, etc.' You say this on the basis of earth science.[30] But, such a thing cannot be proved without firm foundations. We do not believe it and doubt your science, for the power of your science only goes so far, and you are mistaken.

You have learned that the earth is of so many thousands of kośās altogether, and this knowledge (jñāna) has been brought to light in the Hastāmalaka.[31]

Just as reflections of distant objects appear near in a perfect mirror, so the forms of this world and non-worlds are visible in the mirror of knowledge (jñāna), not through science (vidyā).

Just as if someone has a telescope or a 'water-scope'[32] through which they can see distant objects as if they were nearby with his own eyes. In the same way objects (vastu) which are knowable through (soul) knowledge (jñāna) are not knowable through science (vidyā).

Those who are endowed with the knowledge /knowers of the wisdom of the written texts (śāstra) have made clear, the science of the telescope allows the eyes to see according to the visual sense of the eyes.[33] So the power of science can only reach so far and no more, more can be known by (intuitive knowledge?) wisdom (jñāna) than science (vidyā) which is only a [form of limited/ empirical] knowledge (ilm).

It is like somebody may know a Persian but not know Persian, the English have learned science (ilm) but they do not know everything (sarbaga=sarvajñāna). By learning the strengths of the sciences what do the Persians and English know? Only by learning everything can one become omniscient. From this logic, wisdom (nyāya)[34] is not the same as the written text (śāstra) of science (vidyā), all things may be known from it, so it is the foremost.

If the earth is 1234 kośās [in diameter] then what is beyond it? What things are in the heavens and in the hells? You do not know. You say there are not five [elements]. How wide is the circumference of the atmosphere? What is the substance beyond the atmosphere? You have not said, and due to this science cannot be established. Is it not established[35] through wisdom (jñāna) that the earth is in the form of a round lotus with a single mountain at its centre? This proposition is a subtle idea, not something which can simply be written on a piece of paper.

You ask us 'if Mount Meru is 100,000 kośās high why can we not see it?' It is not seen in the mirror of the eye, it is seen through wisdom. The eyes can only see like telescopes can see. It's (i.e. Mount Meru's) light is not cast here, but in wisdom. From here you cannot see a mountain of five or ten kośās in height, and as Mount Meru is 45 yojanas from here, so how could it be seen? Our Jinendra has said this in the śāstras which are free from all faults, likewise if a man were free from all faults then he could see it.

Seventh point [part two] The beliefs which are printed [in the book:][36] that the sun is bigger than the earth and it is 40,000,000 kośās distant and the distance from the earth to the moon is 120,000 kośās. These matters have been seen without [knowledge of] the śāstras through the science of imagination (khyāl vidyā): that the moon is 2020 [kośās in diameter]. Have they been seen by any wise man? Has anyone on earth been to the sky or not? You should give us an answer to this.

Eighth Point [meaning unclear][37]

If a fool (abodh) deluded by greed were misled and destroyed what had been collected by virtue, then in establishing that wrong-karma, who is at fault? Likewise if somebody were to take somebody else's portion and do [.....] what would be the fault in that? What is the answer?

Ninth Point You have printed in a book 'liberation (mukti) is not the result of karma,' so the response to this is 'then bad actions (karma) will not lead one to hell', for if good karma has a result, then bad karma must have a result. Otherwise why should one fear having done a bad action?

You should consider the examples of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheś.[38] If one does bad actions (karma) one should be punished, and if one is not punished tell us why? And what is the nature of liberation (mukti)? What is attained through being liberated (mukta)? After liberation, is one reborn or not? You should tell us the answer to this. You should tell our venerable teacher (bhaṭṭāraka).[39]

And Jinendradeva has said that the passions (kāṃma) of desire (rāga), aversion (doṣa), delusion (moha), deception (bhrama), envy (mamatva), and emnity (baidaka = Skt. vairya) are errors. Beyond the error of [the passions] there is the honouring of the supreme self (paramātma), supreme god (parameśvar) and other gods, that is to say there is belief (bharosā). When one is separated from passion, liberation (mukti) is obtained. One is liberated from birth, death, old age, the body, karma, male, female and neuter gender. There is no incarnation. Tell us what you know of the characteristics of birth as well as the liberated in life[40], we have the desire to understand about that, so tell us.

[Conclusion] If these nine doubtful issues are resolved then everything will be known about the 'truth/real' and the 'non-truth/real' (tattvātattva). So these nine points should be answered.

The end of the nine questions composed by Svāmī Ratancandjī, disciple of Harjīmaljī.

Part 3: Discussion

I would like to now point out what could be seen as the logic behind the questions posed. I suggest that each question Ratancand raises is one he implies can be used to test, and to disprove, the validity of Christian teachings, and at the same time to re-emphasise the validity of the Jain principles.

First question: What era was before the Christian era?

The first question that Ratancand poses to the Christians is whether there were eras before Christianity and whether there will be eras after Christianity. Why this was seen as a point to question Christians over needs consideration. I would suggest three possible reasons, one springing from Jainism itself, one from Jain debates with Hindus, and one general point.

Jain tradition is well known for its interest in the nature of time and the pattern of cyclic creation and destruction in which different Jain Tīrthaṅkaras are periodically incarnated (Jaini 1990: 30-33). From this viewpoint it appears to be quite reasonable for Ratancand to begin with a discussion of whether Christianity has also a theory to explain what eras proceeded, and will follow it, which would distinguish Jainism as an eternal teaching from Christianity which would only be a temporary truth.

Jain tradition may also have had developed an argument on these lines in relation to debates with Hindus. Young (1981: 23, 138) noted a number of instances of Hindus arguing for the superiority of their teaching due to it being 'as old as the world itself'. He also suggests that this was a consistent tactic in Hindu apologetics against both Christianity and Jainism to try and show that the other tradition was 'an upstart'. The argument that Young sees as implicit in this is that if a religion is older, it is superior. In this case then Ratancand's argument may also reflect arguments in Hindu-Jain debates being now applied to JainChristian debates.

However, what strikes me about the logic in asking this question is that if Ratancand could get his opponents to admit that their view was only true at a particular time, during the Christian era in this case, one can argue it is not ultimately valid, as it is only valid under limited circumstances. So this was the first test for Christianity, had it always existed? If not, then Jainism was superior as in each era of the universe Jain teachings periodically appear.

Second question: How were people liberated before Christ?

This point follows on from the first and it shows that the Christians had admitted that Christianity began at a certain time in the past, and this had revealed a weakness in it. Ratancand then argued that the Christians need to explain how beings were liberated before Christ.

One Jain perspective on this question which might cast light on its importance is that Jains were known for criticising belief in a Creator God, and salvation through grace (Jaini 1990: 89). In this context it then makes sense for Ratancand to be questioning Christian's belief in God and the role that Christ plays in granting salvation to beings.

The second aspect of the question appears to also relate to the first two of the tattvas, the nature of the jīva and ajīva. However, the focus is on the issue of whether liberation comes about due to beings 'being Christ' or due to 'Christ's distant gaze'. This is I think a question about whether Christians are a variety of monist advaita followers, believing in the identity of beings and the supreme being, or some sort of a dualist dvaita teaching with a separation between beings and supreme being. Such an argument about the identity of the spirit and God may reflect Jain debates with Hindus over this point being applied by Ratancand to debates with Christians.

Third question: The commandments

Here Ratancand raises the point that the Christian ten comandments and Jain codes of conduct, or vows (vrata), have great similarities, but Christianity reveals a clear difference: it does not accept the functioning of karma (Skt. karman).

Here Ratancand's question clearly lines up with the third of the navatattvas as it is about how āsrava, karmic influx, functions. One of the distinguishing characteristics of South Asian religious traditions is the belief that karma is inherent in the structure of the universe. Apart from the ancient materialist Lokāyata tradition the belief in karma is common to all ancient South Asian traditions.[41] It must therefore have seemed an obvious weakness in Christian teachings that they do not assert that liberation is attained through the purification and final dissociation of all karma. Theories of how the gradual shedding of karma lead to successive stages of purification of the spirit are integral to Jain tradition. So for the Christians to not assert the central role of karma must have been seen as a very weak point in their teachings, and equally a very strong point in favour of Jain tradition.

Young (1981: 139) argued that a distinctive feature of Hindu anti-Christian arguments was "karman and rebirth are logically more satisfying explanations of suffering than the Christian notion of probation or sanctification". It appears certain that in a Jain context, or in a Buddhist context, the karma argument might have been seen slightly differently than by Hindus. For Hindus salvation is possible by divine grace, for those who followed devotional (bhakti) traditions, and by the performance of rituals for those who followed the Brahminical Vedic path. However, for Jains those paths to liberation were not open and so the emphasis put on personal effort was much greater.

Fourth question: Why do you eat meat?

This point is very long, which indicates I think that it was a critical issue in Ratancand's view. I will therefore discuss it in several sections. Ratancand starts by pointing out that it is inconsistent to say that Christ regards all of creation alike, yet allows one type of being to eat another.

Looking for inconsistencies was also one of the tactics employed by Christian missionaries in their attacks on other traditions. The same tactic was also used by Hindus and Buddhists to attack Christianity, and here Ratancand does the same. Young (1981: 120) examined how Hindus attacked Christians for mistreating animals, in particular cows and oxen. Young also argued that Hindus felt the eating of beef signalled the chaos of kali yuga and that Christian lack of compassion for animals showed the unsoundness of their teachings.

Ratancand's next argument confronts British law and Christian teachings in that he questions why if the law prohibits murder and rape, it does not also prohibit the murder of animals. In the modern era when church and state are argued to be separate the relationship between Christianity and Western justice may not seem apparent to many people, but to Ratancand the injustice in the difference between the treatment of animals and people was an argument against Christianity.

There is no direct counterpoint to this issue that I can find in any Hindu or Buddhist attacks on Christianity. In view of the importance placed on the ethics of ahiṃsā in Jainism this seems a very distinctively Jain way of attacking Christianity.

Ratancand then introduces a list of the faults which the Jain tīrthaṅkaras did not have, which both establishes their credentials as teachers and leads into the next point Ratancand wants to make, which is that the consciousness of those who eat meat is inherently clouded and so Christian teachers are inferior to Jain teachers.

This is an argument which I cannot find mentioned as a Hindu or Buddhist polemic against Christians, and which is clearly related to the importance of vegetarianism. In the present day even some Christians have similar worries and there have been arguments made that Christ was himself a vegetarian (Regenstein 1991: 180-2). However, Western and Buddhist arguments are based largely on the notion that killing animals is cruel. Ratancand's argument is that eating meat pollutes consciousness.

Another aspect of this debate may also reflect internal Jain relations between the Śvetāmbara and Digambara Jain traditions. Dundas (1985: 181) has pointed out that Jain descriptions of the characteristics of a tīrthaṅkara stress not only their pure knowledge but also a debate between Śvetāmbara and Digambara Jains which lasted for centuries about whether a tīrthaṅkara was beyond hunger and whether hunger would cause inferior consiousness (mati-jñāna) to arise in them.

However, a second aspect of this argument is perhaps more a distinctively Jain response to Jain-Hindu debates. Jaini (1990: 183) points out that a long standing bone of contention between Jain and Mīmāṃsaka, Hindu traditions, had been over whether it was the Hindu Vedas or human Jain teachers who were infallible. Whilst Ratancand, notably does not apparently consider attacking the Christians on their equivalent to the Veda, Christian scripture, he clearly identifies that Christian teachers' claims to true knowledge are false as their conciousness is clouded due to their dietary habits.

Ratancand then changes tack and argues, apparently, that not only do Christians eat 'demonic' foods (pisācī) but also that Christians neglect to eat milk, curds and ghee (sattvik foods), and this is a fault in them.

There is a strong sense in the text here that what was written down was an actual report of a discussion which took place between Ratancand and the visiting Jesuits or missionaries.

Fifth question: How does Jesus grant liberation?

Ratancand's fifth point concerns the ways in which liberation is to be attained. It is notable as well that each of the ways he speaks of is related to another religious tradition. The notion of a prophet is a non-South Asian concept and appropriately he questions whether Jesus is a paigambar, an Islamic word for a prophet. It is also striking that he speaks of belief in the name of god as something separate from repetition of his name. I think the former is a reference to Islamic and devotional Hindu belief in the name of God, and the latter to repetition of the name, as in Sufi zikr or as in the practice of jāp in Hindu bhakti devotional cults.

Ratancand does not seem to have shown an interest in whatever the Christians then said in response to these questions. This is probably due to the praśnottara genre of texts, where the answers are to be supplied by the opponents. This points to an important aspect of this text: it does not really tell us what Christian's would have replied to the questions, apart from when it forms part of a subsequent argument.

Ratancand then leads off into a description of the Jain path to liberation as revealed by Pārśvanāth based on the purification of the ātma and understanding the difference between spirit and nonspirit (ātma and anātma). After stating the Jain position Ratancand questions the Christians over their position, and employs the strategy of pointing to the inconsistency that if Jesus was all powerful why did he need to take incarnation as Christ? Young (1981: 28) points to similar issues being raised in the 1830s in Bombay in debates between Christian evangelists and Hindu paṇḍits and the same question being raised of why if he was all powerful did he need to incarnate himself.

Sixth question: What is virtue and sin?

Ratancand's next point focuses on the difference between dharma, virtue, and sin, pāp. Ratancand points out that it is karma that determines whether somebody goes to heaven or hell, and that a vital factor in this is practicing non-violence. The Jain stress on ahiṃsā is clearly the major influence on this question.[42] It is also notable that this question on the nature of dharma and pāp fits neatly into sequence as a discussion of the nature of pāp and puṇya in the nine "reals" (nava-tattva).

Seventh question: The world

There are strong indications in this section that Ratancand is reporting directly what the padres were saying to him. It addresses some of the central questions about geography and cosmology that formed part of the debate between Christian missionaries and Hindus and Buddhists and, it seems, Jains. A considerable number of the points here are also clearly related to the text called Bhūgol Hastamālaka which was an early and influential Hindī printed text on the new Western understandings of cosmology and geography being introduced into India at this time.

(1) Ratancand starts his question by restating what he understands from what the Christians have said, regarding factual data about the size of the world and such matters, but questions on what basis they can say this. He then rejects the validity of the means by which secular knowledge has been gained and distinguishes between jñāna, real knowledge gained from the śāstras, and secular knowledge which he variously terms vidyā and ilm. The term vidyā has a long history of usage in South Asia and is often used alongside jñāna, as a term signifying wisdom or knowledge and magic. However, unlike jñāna it is also used to describe arts, in the sense of skills, and it is not hard to see how it could also be translated as 'science' in the old sense of a science being an applied art. Indeed, this seems to be the way that Ratancand is using it in this text. Alongside this he also uses the Perso-Arabic term ilm to refer to secular knowledge of a limited nature. His essential point is that both vidyā and ilm are forms of knowledge, but do not constitute proof. The only legitimate basis for proof (pramāṇa) in regard to any point are either the sacred texts (śāstra) or direct perception (pratyakṣa).[43] Thus the Christian attempts to argue that Jainism is false due its cosmology being false are groundless as they are not supported by the śāstras or by direct perception.

Young noted a similar distinction being drawn in Hindu writings from the 1830s, between jñāna, as religious knowledge, and vijñāna as scientific knowledge. It is this pair of terms has become the normal way of distinguishing these ideas in many modern Indian languages, including Hindī, rather than Ratancand's usage of jñāna as opposed to vidyā. However, the use of vidyā to mean 'science' has an interesting parallel as Taylor (1893: 7) rendered it in just this way in his translation of the Prabodhachandroya which suggests that the notion of vidyā as 'science' has a long history of usage in South Asia.

Ratancand then turns to another way to undermine Christian ideas, a criticism that Christian's knowledge is only partial, and therefore unsatisfactory. Whilst Jain knowledge is based on subtle understanding (sūkṣam vicāra) the Christian's knowledge is simply something written on paper (kāgada me liṣyā).

One of the issues is whether Mount Meru is visible. We can infer that the Christians pointed out it was not visible, and that this showed it did not exist. The logic of Ratancand's attack on this point seems to hedge its bets somewhat, on the one hand he states that you can't see, with the physical eye, Mount Meru as it's only visible through wisdom (jñāna) not through the 'mirror of the eye', but on the other hand it also can not be seen simply because it is too far away.

(2) Ratancand then starts another seventh point apparently opposing the arguments in the Bhūgol Hastamālaka. He argues that western cosmology is based on the science of imagination (khyāl vidyā), while Jain knowledge is based on either the śāstras or direct perception, and they are the only valid grounds for knowledge.

In terms of the navatattva it might have been expected that this question would relate to the concept of saṃvara (stopping karmic influx), and yet it appears to have only a very tangential relationship to this issue. However, it could be suggested that Ratancand's focus on the distinction between vidyā and jñāna could be seen as relating to a distinction between negative and positive influences on the individual.

Eeighth question: Awareness and karma?

This is a short point and there are a number of problematic issues with its text; which mean, I cannot make a proper translation of it. In so far as I understand it, the gist of it is a consideration of whether actions done without awareness result in the accumulation of karma. The appropriate topic drawn from the navatattva sequence to introduce at this point would have been one on nirjarā (wearing away of accumulated karma) but as the meaning of the text is unclear I cannot comment further on this point.

The Ninth Point: What is liberation (mukti)?

The issue of karma then takes centre stage in the first part of the last question when finally Ratancand turns to a central issue in the debate between Christians and Buddhists and Jains, what is the nature of liberation (mukti) itself? This is also the ninth tattva in the navatattva sequence and so further evidence that Ratancand's questions are based on this set of issues as their primary agenda.

The distinction between rebirth in a heaven and liberation (mukti) was a central issue in Christian relations with Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. On the one hand Christians attacked their opponents arguing that mukti was nihilistic, on the other hand Hindus and Jains argued that Christianity offered only rebirth in heaven, a lesser goal than liberation itself. Ratancand's question therefore cuts to the heart of the different world views of the Jains and the Christians. Essentially his argument is that the Christians cannot explain the nature of liberation, and so their teaching is defective as it does not touch on this point from the navatattva which must be explained by a dharma for it to be complete. Hence his conclusion is that as Christianity does not address the nine key points he has raised, it cannot be a complete teaching.


Ratancand's 'Nine Questions' is an interesting text for three reasons. First, in itself it poses issues about the relationship between Christianity and Jainism which are still as valid today as when they were written,. It is therefore interesting in itself. Second, it is an example of a text representing a pre-twentieth century response to the colonial Christian intrusion into South Asia and this makes it unusual and interesting. Third it shows how the basis for Jain criticism of Christianity could be based on the classical Jain theory of the nine reals, the navatattva.

I would also suggest that we can see some continuity between Ratancand's arguments and those put forward by the Jain protagonist in the 11th century Hindu allegorical drama the Prabodhacandrodaya. A careful reading of the Prabodhacandrodaya is needed, as it is an allegorical play intended to show the falsity of non Brahminical teachings, such as those of the Jains, but still in the process shows some aspects of how Jains were seen as arguing. The Digambara ascetic in it states his basic position as being that the soul is inherently pure and separate from the body which is constantly polluted by the senses (Taylor 1893: 33). Then in the play he is depicted as arguing with a Buddhist monk by questioning how his rites were established and the authority of Buddhist scriptures over the issue of the Buddha's omniscience (ib., pp. 36f.). This is interesting as it is one of the focal topics in the Christian encounters with Hindus and Buddhists and in Ratancand's text. The Digambara Jain ascetic then goes on to ask a Kapālika Śaivite ascetic about the nature of his rites and the nature of liberation as found through his practices (ib., p. 39). It is apparent as well that Ratancand asks the padres these same questions, the nature of their customs, and the form of liberation that following their tradition grants.

There is a similarity then between the underlying assumptions made by the Jain ascetic in the Prabodhacandrodaya and Ratancand. This suggests that Ratancand may be the heir to a very long tradition of Jain rhetoric in regard to how to argue with followers of other traditions and it is this tradition which shaped the initial contact between Jain ascetics and Christianity, and modernity, in Rājasthān and Northern India.[44]

Moreover, unlike early Sri Lankan Buddhist anti-Christian rhetoric, it shows no sign of considering the two religions as opposites. Instead I suggest that Ratancand represents Christianity as an incomplete teaching which testifies to the validity of Jainism. Moreover, in comparison to Hindu responses to Christianity and their emphasis on the infallibility of the Vedas, it is apparent that it is the authority of teachings, the nature of dharma and the nature of mukti which takes centre stage in Ratancand's response as articulated through the doctrine of the nine reals (navatattva).

In conclusion, this suggests more research needs to be done on the interaction of Jain traditions and Christianity to determine the extent to which the interaction was shaped as much by traditional arguments as by responses to new ideas introduced by colonialism. However, until more works such as that by Ratancand are identified, this area will remain to some extent unexplored.[45]

What therefore makes Ratancand's 'Nine Questions' a text which deserves some attention is that it does show a range of traditional Jain strategies for dealing with other religious traditions, here deployed against Christianity.[46] Moreover, a number of the issues addressed also appear to be ones with reasonable and universal appeal which are likely to be of interest to people from many different religious, and secular, backgrounds.


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Cort, John E. Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Dundas, Paul. "Food and Freedom." Religion 15 (1985) 161-198.

Dundas, Paul. The Jains. London: Routledge, 1992 (Second Revised Edition 2002).

Dundas, Paul. "Jain Perceptions of Islam in the Early Modern Period." Indo-Iranian Journal 42 (1999) 35-46.

Flügel, Peter. "Jainism and the Western World." Jain Journal 34, 1 (1999) 1-11.

Flügel, Peter. "Protestantische und Post-Protestantische Jaina-Reformbewegungen: Zur Geschichte und Organisation der Sthānakavāsī III." Berliner Indologische Studien 18 (2007) 127-206.

Flügel, Peter. "The Unknown Loṅkā: Tradition and the Cultural Unconscious." Jaina Studies: Papers of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference Vol. 9. Edited by Colette Caillat & Nalini Balbir, 181-279. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 2008.

Flügel, Peter. "Burial Ad Sanctos at Jaina Sites in India." International Journal of Jaina Studies 7, 4 (2011) 1-37.

Flügel, Peter. "Sacred Matter: Reflections on the Relationship of Karmic and Natural Causality in Jain Philosophy." Journal of Indian Philosophy 40, 2 (2012) 119-176.

Friedlander, Peter A Descriptive Catalogue of the Hindi Manuscripts in the Wellcome Institute Library. London: Wellcome Institute, 1996.

Frykenberg, Robert E. (ed.). Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication since 1500, with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion, and Colonialism. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Granoff, Phyllis. "Being in the Minority: Medieval Jain Reactions to other Religious Groups." Jainism and Prakrit in Ancient and Medieval India. Essays for Prof. Jagdish Chandra Jain. Edited by Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya, 241-266. New Delhi: Manohar, 1994 (re-published in Jain Doctrine and Practice: Academic Perspectives. Edited by Joseph T. O'Connell, 136-164. Toronto: University of Toronto, Centre for South Asian Studies, 2000).

Harris, Elizabeth J. Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter. London: Routledge, 2006.

Jaini, Padmanabh S. The Jaina Path of Purification. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidas, 1979/1990.

Lal, Mohan (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Sasay to Zorgot. Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1992.

Oddie, Geoffrey A. "'Constructing "Hinduism': The Impact of the Protestant Missionary Movement on Hindu Self-Understanding." Christians and Missionaries in India: CrossCultural Communication since 1500, with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion, and Colonialism. Edited by Robert E. Frykenberg, 155-182. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Oddie, Geoffrey A. Imagined Hinduism: British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism, 1793 – 1900. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2006.

Regenstein, Lewis. Replenish the Earth: The History of Organised Religion's Treatment of Animals and Nature. London: SCM Press, 1991.

Schmidt-Leukel, Perry (Ed.) Buddhism, Christianity and the Question of Creation: Karmic or Divine? Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Siṃha, Śivaprasāda. Bhūgol Hastāmalaka ("The Earth as [a Drop of ] clear Water in Hand"). Ilāhābad: Naval Kiśor Press, 1898.

Steinkellner, Ernst. "Hindu Doctrines of Creation and Their Buddhist Critiques.' Buddhism, Christianity and the Question of Creation: Karmic or Divine? Edited by Perry SchmidtLeukel, 15-32. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Taylor, J. Prabodha Chandrodaya or the Rise of the Moon of Intellect. Bombay: Tookaram Tatya for the Bombay Theosophical Publications, 1893.

Umāsvāti/Umāsvāmī. Tattvārthasūtra. Translated by Nathmal Tatia as That Which Is. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.

Young, Richard F. Resistant Hinduism: Sanskrit Sources on Anti-Christian Apologetics in Early Nineteenth-Century India. Vienna: Institut für Indologie der Universität Wien, 1981.

Young, Richard F. "Receding from Antiquity: Hindu Responses to Science and Christianity on the Margins of Empire, 1800-1850." Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication since 1500, with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion, and Colonialism. Edited by Robert E. Frykenberg, 183-222. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Young, Richard F. & Somaratna, G. P. V. Vain Debates: The Buddhist-Christian Controversies of Nineteenth-Century Ceylon. Vienna: Institut für Indologie der Universität Wien, 1996.

© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2013


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