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The Story of Paesi

Published: 03.09.2017
Updated: 04.09.2017


A Dialogue on Materialism in Ancient India

Text in Roman + English Translation + Extensive Notes

+ Glossary of Selected Words + Index Rerum

+ Quotations + Detailed Bibliography + Appendix containing

a section of Haribhadra's "Samaraiccakaha"

+ 72 folio Facsimile of the original Prakrit Pothi 

Title: The Story of Paesi: Soul and Body in Ancient India
  Pandit Nathuram Premi Research Series Volume 2
Edited and translated into English Willem Bollee

English, Prakrit

Edition 2005
Pages: 452

Hindi Granth Karyalay, Mumbai

Size: 24.5 x 16 cm
The Story of Paesi or Paesi-Kahanayam is a lively dialogue between the monk Kesi and prince Paesi based on the Rayapasenia Agama. Interestingly, the Paesi Kahanayam is the only large legend common to both Jain and Buddhist canonical literature. It is found in the Jain Rayapasenia Agama and in the Buddhist Dighanikaya. 

The monk Kesi and the prince Paesi (Sanskrit - Pradeshi) discuss the corporeality of the soul, whether it dies with the body or is distinct from the body. The prince is a materialist and argues in favour of the corporeality of the soul but the monk convinces him that the soul and body are distinct and while the body is corporeal, the soul is eternal. This dialogue is set in the 6th century BCE, the age of reflection on and discussion of the soul. While the present literary form dates some Centuries later, the discussion is still as relevant today, after two millennia.

This edition contains the Prakrit text in Devanagari and Roman transliteration, accompanied by an incisive English translation, exhaustive notes and a glossary.

The arguments in this discussion reflect many ancient Indian realia - birth rituals, diseases, etiquette, ethnic list of female servants, execution of thieves, regicide, the 72 professions,  similes, etc. which have been commented upon in the notes.

The Story of Paesi
Glossary of Selected Words
Appendix containing a section of Haribhadra's "Samaraiccakaha"
72- Folio Pothi of Paesi Kahanayam {Rayapasenia Agama}
Excerpts from Prof. Dr. John Cort's review of this book which appeared in the Journal of the American Oriental Society 123.4 (2003)

…"The debates concerning the existence of a soul in Buddhist and Upanishadic circles are well known to students of ancient India. Far less known is the similar contemporary debate between the materialist King Paesi of Sevaviya (Savatthi, Shravasti) and the Jain monk Keshi recorded in the Shvetambara Rayapasenia Sutta, even though the arguments of Paesi (there spelled as Payasi) are also recorded in his dialogue with Kumara Kassapa in the Payasi Suttanta contained in the Buddhist Dighanikaya. The issue in the Jain context is not the existence of the soul; rather, Paesi argues that there is no difference between the soul and the body, while Kesi asserts the fundamental doctrine that the two are different. The realization that we are more than just our bodies, that there is eternal in each and every one of us is a soul that is different from the body, has long been a sine qua non for the true religious life according to the Jains. The analysis of the dualistic distinction between sentient soul (jiva) and insentient matter (ajiva) is the starting point for all Jain dogmatics. In the Digambara tradition this "knowledge of the difference" (bheda jñana) was the basis of the Digambara mystical tradition. In many modern spiritual biographies of both Digambara and Shvetambara Jains, one reads that the person started on the spiritual path when she or he came to understand the difference between soul and body. Further, Paesi is portrayed as a wicked king who traduced dharma and oppressed his subjects, indicating that materialists lack basic moral qualities."

"Paesi advances a number of arguments against the independent existence of the soul. Why, for example, has no departed soul returned to earth to tell him about its continued existence? Paesi inspected the bodies of executed criminals (Paesi had a reputation as a wicked king, and so had a large and ready supply of subjects for his experiments, and no need to have them fill out Human Subjects Approval forms); he saw no evidence of a soul escaping after death. He conducted the same experiment Dr. Macdougall ran over two millennia later, but could find no difference in the weight of a person immediately before or after death, and so came to the opposite conclusion. Each argument is refuted by Kesi."

"Souls in hell are so preoccupied with their tortures that they are unable to come to this world to report on their existence, while souls in heaven are so preoccupied with their pleasures that they are equally indisposed to come. Souls in heaven face another obstacle, as a human lifespan is so short in comparison with those in heaven that the heaven-dwelling soul forgets to come until long after all near descendants themselves have died. One cannot see a soul leaving a dying body any more than one can see sound emerge from an enclosed room, but both occurrences happen. A leather sack weighs the same whether inflated or deflated, and so the fact that a body weighs the same alive and dead proves nothing, for an immaterial soul obviously has no weight. Kesi cannot show a soul to Paesi because neither of them are enlightened; only an enlightened being can see souls"...

..."finally, Paesi falls back on tradition: he accepts the materialstic position that the body and soul are identical because his father and grandfather before him had done so. Kesi answers with the example of a man carrying a load of iron ore to sell in another town who passed up the opportunity to exchange the iron ore for precious gems on the grounds that he started out his journey carrying iron ore and so should complete it in the same way. His colleagues who exchanged the iron ore for gems found in the forest became rich, while the stubborn iron salesman remained poor. Kesi admonishes Paesi not to make the same mistake, which he would surely later regret. Paesi concedes defeat. He accepts the Jain teachings from Kesi, and is reborn in heaven, following which he will be born on the continent of Mahavideha and attain liberation."

"Willem Bollée provides and edition and translation of this dialogue, contained in the second half of the Raiapasenia Sutta ("Scripture on the Questions of the King), the second Upanga of the Shvetambara Jain canon. He includes a rich and wide-ranging critical apparatus of philological and cultural notes.

There is an 84 page selected glossary, the Prakrit text of the quotations, and a detailed bibliography. Bollée also includes the text and English translation of a similar debate concerning the existence of the soul found in Haribhadra's "Samaraiccakaha".

The resultant book is Indological scholarship of the highest caliber."..

The editor of this work, Professor Willem Bollée is a highly regarded scholar of Prakrit and Jain studies, having taught Indology at Heidelberg and Bamberg Universities in Germany.

Professor Bollée is the recipient of the Acarya Hemacandra award for this work, "The Story of Paesi ".

The Story of Paesi sets the standards of scholarly translations of Jain sacred literature. It is a modern masterpiece and shall prove to be a fascinating read for those who are students of Indology, Religion, Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology, History and Indo-European Studies. We are proud to have published this book as part of our Pandit Nathuram Premi Research Series. The book has been very attractively published and sports an artistic dust jacket.


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