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The Quest for the Royal Road: The Sun in the Jain Agamas

Published: 04.02.2016

The Jain Agamas are the main basis of the Jain Metaphysics. The enlightened knowledge of the Jain Tirthankaras and the Ganadharas has been used in the composition of these Agamas. The Tirthankaras had the understanding of the basic sources of Metaphysics and the sharp intelligence of the Ganadharas played its role in their detailed analysis. From this point of view, it can be said that arth tradition of the Jain Agamas was related to the Tirthankaras and it was the function of the Gandharas and the monks to express them into words.

Jain Metaphysics is a multi-dimensional discipline, subject, education, Dharma (religion) Philosophy, history, culture, art, mathematics, geography are the subjects which have been treated in depth in the Jain Agamas. They mainly discuss the living and non-living elements, which include all the elements in the world. That is why the Jain scriptures can be placed among representative scriptures of the world. In the present context, only brief information about the description of the sun is being given.

Four types of jeevas have been recognised in the Jain Agamas—naraka[1], tiryanch[2], manushya[3] and deva[4]. The gods have been widely discussed in the.Agamas. The gods fall into four grades—Bhavanapati[5], Vyantatra[6], Jyotishka[7], and Vaimanika[8]. The ten categories of devas like Asuras, Nagas, etc. are called Bhavanapati gods.- The gods like Pischacha, yaksha, kinnara, gandharva, etc. come in the Vyantara category. The sun, the moon, etc. are the Jyotishka gods. The gods residing in the top-most part of the world are known as the Vaimanika gods.

The Jyotishka gods are of five kinds—the sun, the moon, the planets, the constellations and the stars. Among these five gods the sun and the moon have been said to be Indra. The sun is the brightest of them all. Apart from its light and heat, the sun plays the most important part in the life of the people. Among the Jain scriptures, there is an Agama called Suryaprajnapti, in which the sun has been depicted from different point of view. In this particular Agama there is so much information about the sun that any number of scholars can engage themselves in astrological studies.

According to the Jain scriptures, the visible sun is not the god but a Vimana or an abode of gods. It is an earth. It contains luminous atoms in very large quantity. That is why the rays of light continuously emanate from it. The Vimanas of the gods like the sun are always on the move. Still thousands of gods contribute to this movement according to the status and prosperity of their master. The vimana of Surya is situated at the height of 800 yojanas[9] on the Meru mountain. This distance in terms of yojanas has been calculated on the basis of pramanangula[10] as described in the Jain Agamas.

How far does the light of the sun spread? In reply to this question it has been said in the Bhagwati Sutra that the light of the sun goes upto the height of 100 yojanas; reaches 1800 yojanas below and spreads obliquely to the area extending upto 47,263 yojanas.

The Jain scriptures give full description about the number of the sun and the moon. If all the suns of the universe in their full numbers are counted together, they could go well beyond our set of mathematical measures and turn out to be innumerable. As such there are 132 suns in human world. Jambudweep Sutra and Prajnapana Sutra give full description about them. The position of those 132 suns are as follows:

There are two suns in Jambjidweep, four suns in the Lavana ocean. The number of the suns in Dhatakikhanda goes upto twelve. In kalodadhi[11] there are 42 suns and in Pushkardweep there are 72 suns. In all, there are 12 suns.

The Jyotishka gods are both mobile and immobile. The sun, the moon, etc. in the human world are mobile. Myriads of other suns and moons outside that limit are immobile. The calculation of time is done entirely according to the movement of the sun. In the areas outside the human world, because there is no movement of sun, there is no provision of practical time. Usually, the movement of the sun and the earth is a debatable question. From the Jain scriptural point of view, the sun related to the sphere of Time (the human world) is mobile and the suns outside that sphere are immobile.

The sun has a special place in the religious practices of the Jain ascetics. A large number of their rituals are performed during day-time. The ascetics cannot even have the meals, after the sun-set. This fact has been thus explained in the words of the Agamas.

The ascetic should not even think about food from the time of the sunset till the sun rises again in the east.[12]

After sunrise till the sun sets again, the ascetic may accept food, water, medicine, etc.[13]

The sun is kept as a reference even in the Jain practice of renunciation (pratyakhyana). This has been indicated as follows:

Ascertainment of Time in the practices of renunciation of food etc. including namaskar-samhita, i.e. one undertaken for 48 minutes after sun rise, for one quarter of the day time, etc. are determined from the time of sunrise.[14]

The Jain ascetic does sadhana in a manner of ways. The sun is related to this experiments of sadhana too. There are innumerable such instances cited in Bhagwati, which is the biggest of the Jain Agamas. One such instance is related to the householder Tamali, who meditates with a view to make his future life sublime. He says to himself: "While I have still in me capacity to rise, to act, while I still have virility and masculine prowess, and valour, it is best to entrust the entire responsibility of the family to my eldest son and I myself become an ascetic when the sun with its thousands of rays and with all its brilliance rises above the horizon."

After taking to the ascetic life he made a further resolve: "From now on, I shall always fast for two days at a time. During the fasting period, I shall stand facing the sun and spreading both my hands upwards, shall bear the heat of the sun."

Alongwith performing the penance, the idea of bearing the heat of the sun is significant from many points of view. As a result of the penance, the body which engages in action becomes weak and emaciated and the latent spiritual powers are awakened. Alongwith that, the body acquires greater lusture as a result of bearing the heat of the sun. The body glows on that account and emits brilliance. The Jain scriptures have also discussed one more attainment,"the attainment of brilliance." The sadhaka who attains that brilliance, can perform many miracles with his lustrous body. This power is useful for showing kindness and exercising restraint. It has been ordained that for attaining such power, it is necessary to face the sun and bear its heat for six months at a stretch.

From the physiological point of view, the effect of the rays of the sun during the Jain method of sadhana cannot be denied. The Jain scriptures ordain that dinner at night has to be avoided. Unless there is a scientific analysis of this rule, it appears like a mere tradition. But its scientific basis is automatically proved by understanding the significance of the underlying view point.

It is an indisputable fact that the rays of the sun are very strong. The harshness of those rays affects the digestive organs of the living creatures. Those who have meals after sunset, cannot avail themselves of the energy emanating from the rays of the sun. Their digestive capacity weakens thereby and they fall victims to illnesses like indigestion. Like the people, who take their meals after sunset, even in the case of those who have their meals before sunrise or soon after, have weak digestive system. This is because even after the sun rises, it takes 50 to 60 minutes before the living creatures can feel the heat of its rays. Even though the rays of the early sun contain vitamins, the energy which helps in digesting food is available only a little later. Probably this was the reason why Jainism has accepted the practice of namaskars-samhita and avoidance of night dinner and drinking water at night as penance.

The Jain scriptures have discussed the sun in detail. It is necessary to seriously study the Jain scriptures several years, before their comprehensive compliation can be prepared. Those who wish to do research in the field of astrology should particularly pay attention to this.


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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Agama
  2. Agamas
  3. Bhagwati Sutra
  4. Body
  5. Devas
  6. Dharma
  7. Discipline
  8. Enlightened Knowledge
  9. Fasting
  10. Ganadharas
  11. Gandharva
  12. Indra
  13. JAINA
  14. Jaina
  15. Jainism
  16. Kinnara
  17. Manasa
  18. Meru
  19. Pratyakhyana
  20. Sadhaka
  21. Sadhana
  22. Sutra
  23. Tirthankaras
  24. Yaksha
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