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Jaina Philosophy and Religion

Published: 30.10.2006
Updated: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 2, No. 3 (2006) 1-8



Review article of the work Essays in Jaina Philosophy and Religion, edited by Piotr Balcerowicz of the University of Warsaw, published in 2003 in Delhi by Motilal Banarsidas, containing articles by N. Balbir, P. Balceroxicz, J. Bronkhorst, C. Caillat, J. Cort, C. Emmrich, P. Granoff, Muni Jambuvijaya, A. Mette, J. Soni, L. Soni, K. Watanabe, A. Wezler, and K. Wiley.


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Jaina Philosophy and Religion

[1]In a vast and currently quickly expanding field such as Jaina Studies, which is researched by only a small number of scholars, conference volumes covering a wide variety of themes are the principal means of academic communication across disciplinary boundaries. A welcome addition to the small but growing body of interdisciplinary publications in Jaina Studies is the work Essays in Jaina Philosophy and Religion, edited by Piotr Balcerowicz of the University of Warsaw. Specialised in Indian philosophy and formal logic, and one of the few experts in Jaina logic in Europe, the editor has done more than anyone in recent years in promoting the dialogue between technical philosophy and rest of the field of Indic Studies by organising regular international symposia on Indian religion and philosophy. The book under review contains proceedings of the International Seminar 'Aspects of Jainism' at Warsaw University 8th-9th September 2000, supplemented by additional contributions. This important collection of articles in English and Sanskrit is addressed at specialists in the field of Jaina Studies. It contains fifteen articles by leading scholars in the field, a foreword by Satya Ranjan Banerjee, a benedictory message in Sanskrit by Muni Jambūvijaya, a short preface by the editor, and an index. The main text is divided into four parts, elegantly labelled Caturaranayacakram, four viewpoint-spokes: Philosophy and Anekânta; Early Jainism, Buddhism and Ājīvikism; Ethics and Monastic Discipline; Medieval Mysticism and Sectarian Divisions.

The first contribution in the sequence of chapters is, fittingly, Albrecht Wezler's article 'The Twelve Aras of the Dvādaśâra-naya-cakra and their Relation to the Canon as Seen by Mallavādin. First Part', which is the second part of the author's 'Studien zum Dvādaśâra-naya-cakra des Śvetâmbara Mallavādin', and based on Muni Jambūvijaya's critical reconstruction of the (lost) original text on the basis of Kṣamāśramaṇa's commentary. In his analysis of the sophisticated structure of the text, and of the relationship of Mallavādin's twelve naya (vidhi) scheme to the older seven naya (viewpoint) scheme and Siddhasena Divākara's two naya scheme, Wezler comes to the conclusion that Frauwallner's interpretation (in his Introduction to Jambūvjiaya's edition of the DNC Vol. I) of the 'terms' vidhi ('general affirmation'), niyama ('restriction'), and vidhi-niyama ('affirmation and restriction'), whose combination generates the twelve naya structure, is unconvincing: 'both these modes do not refer to classes of propositions, or statements, … but to aspects of, or perspectives of, perceiving (real) objects. The "scheme" of the twelve aras of Mallavādin is … basically of an ontological character' (20). According to Mallavādin himself, it is grounded in the teachings of the Jina which encompass all other teachings, since 'The Jaina canon is the true Veda' (22).

Jayandra Soni ('Kundakunda and Umāsvāti on Anekânta-vāda') compares the philosophical terminology used by two of the most influential non-canonical Jaina authors, Kundakunda and Umāsvāti, and some of their commentators. He found that Kundakunda uses the word 'syād' explicitly, whereas Umāsvāti does not (wisely none of the authors in the volume translated syāt, a word that is discussed by J.C. Wright, 'Review of: Nagin J. Shah (ed.) Jaina theory of multiple facets of reality and truth (Anekāntavāda). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 2000,' Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 63, 3, 2000: 435-437). Kundakunda uses naya only with reference to the 'canonical' (pace Balcerowicz, infra, p. 48) distinction between dravya (substance) and paryāya (modification), while Umāsvāti refers to the list of five (Digambara: seven) nayas (which Kundakunda also mentions). Without explicitly addressing the question of the historical evolution of the terminology of Jaina perspectivism, the author concludes that it is not clear whether syāt or naya has priority in Kundakunda (28), that the Digambara commentator Pūjyapāda (c. 5th-6th C.) first used the word anekânta (33), while the approaches of syād-vāda and of anekânta-vāda may or may not be 'implied' in the relevant passages of Umāsvāti's Tattvârtha-sūtra (28).

Through translations and analyses of the relevant explanations of sapta-bhaṅgī in the classical treatises on Jaina logic, Piotr Balcerowicz' article 'Some Remarks on the Naya Method' demonstrates that the well-known scheme of the 'sevenfold modal description' (sapta-bhaṅgī) can be interpreted as an answer to the question 'how to relate the whole and its parts' (40), if the whole is to be understood as a multiplex reality, which can only be fully described through statements from different perspectives ('contexts'). The analysis shows convincingly that the (Digambara) Jaina scheme is arranged in form of a 'progressive indexation' of the semantic field of a statement, in which each viewpoint (naya) delimits the context further (46): 'What is conspicuous in this method of description by way of applying seven conditionally valid predications in the gradual limitation of the context: from the most general one …down to the most specialised. … Thus every subsequent viewpoint is directly related to the one preceding it and it represents a further restriction of the point of reference' (61). Thus, it is not necessary to assume, as critics do, that the scheme violates the law of non-contradiction, or to take recourse to multi-valued logic (Pandey). In footnotes, the article proposes solutions to a number of longstanding problems in the field of Jaina logic. In footnote 27, it is argued that Kundakunda's two-truth theory goes back to the Buddhist Kathā-vatthu and Milindapañha (47). A small question mark may be put over the proposed formalisation of the method sevenfold predication in terms of 'truth-values', since at least Siddharṣigaṇi points out the significance of the speaker's intention, which however cannot be taken into account in the objectivist description of the 'co-ordinates' of the 'paradigm index' of sapta-bhaṅgī (63). A further extension of the important findings of this study in view of current work on speech act analysis would be fascinating.

Christoph Emmrich, in 'How Many Times? Pluralism, Dualism or Monism in Early Jaina Temporal Description', implicitly suggests a three-stage evolution of systematic ontological conceptions of time in Jainism (71). He starts with the classical conceptions of Umāsvāti and Kundakunda, who both defined time as a substance (dravya). Umāsvāti distinguished between niścaya-kāla (dravya-kāla) (absolute time, beyond measurement, samaya) and vyavahāra-kāla (conventional time, measured through spatial movement); kāla being defined primarily as setting in motion (vartanā), change (pariṇāma), or motion (kriyā). Kundakunda, on the other hand, was only concerned with absolute time. He adopted an atomistic conception of time-atoms (samaya) in analogy to the apparently pre-existing conception of space-atoms (pradeśa). This conception remained dominant in the Digambara tradition, while the Śvetāmbaras favoured an integral notion of time. Earlier, less systematic, texts such as Viy 207b distinguish cosmographic regions where time can be measured (samaya kṣetra) from those beyond where it cannot (due to the absence of planets). The author suggests that the main step towards the development of ontological concepts of time 'as such' must have been the interpretation of these two regions with the help of the niścaya/vyavahāra distinction (76, 78). As Adelheid Mette already showed (84), the word kāla is rarely used in canonical texts which instead use the word addhā-samaya (Viy 11.11, 25.5), translated by the author not as 'abstract time' (Deleu)(78), but as 'a stretch of time' or 'the time dimension' of past, present and future in view of the 'enumerative' character of addhā (80). In the canon, neither addhā-samaya nor kāla is characterised as a substance (dravya) - a conception which may have emerged as the result of Vaiśeṣika and Nyāya influence - nor is the niścaya/vyavahāra distinction explicitly applied to descriptions of time (80). In the oldest texts, the 'seniors', which are predominantly soteriological in orientation, even the word samaya in its temporal sense is not used. Instead, the word khaöa, short duration, is employed to designate a 'certain time' of significance (82-4).

In her thematic study 'Extrasensory Perception and Knowledge in Jainism' Kristi L. Wiley investigates the classification and role of extrasensory perception in a variety of Jaina texts. Particularly interesting is the discussion of different views within the Jaina tradition on the sequentiality/simultaneity of darśana and jñāna, and of avadhijñāna (clairvoyance) and manaḥ-paryāya-jñāna (mind-reading), and the attribution of these powers to different stages of the guṇa-sthāna scheme. Interestingly, the author found few details on what exactly was perceived through mind reading (which is said not to be possible anymore in our era) (103). But the texts univocally state that 'attachment to these powers is detrimental to a mendicant's continued spiritual progress' (106).

Muni Jambūvijaya's short and rather general contribution 'Jainadarśanasya Svarūpamuddeśaśca [The Essence and Outline of Jainism]' is written in Sanskrit, and was probably only included in recognition of his pre-eminent status as a scholar-saint.

Three articles concentrate on Jaina-related passages in the Sāmañña-phala-sutta in the Buddhist Dīgha-nikāya. Padmanabh S. Jaini ('Cātuyāma-saṁvara in the Pāli Canon') addresses the open question of the meaning of the fourth of the 'four restraints' (cāujjāma dhamma) in early Jainism, which is not clearly defined in the well-known sources in the Jaina and Buddhist (DN I. 57) sources. The only available characterisation is the obscure compound bahiddhâdāṇa in Than 4.266, translated by the commentator Abhayadeva as (restraint of) 'sexual conduct and other possessions'. Jaini identifies two sūtras in the Pāli canon, which confirm this interpretation. In DN 3.48f., the fourth of the cāturyāma saṁvara is described with the word bhāvitaṃ ('the pleasures of senses'). In the passage itself the Niganthas are not mentioned, but the commentator Buddhaghosa clearly attributes the fourfold restraint to the 'Titthiyas', or Jainas. Since at least Dhammapāla must have met Jaina mendicants in the 6th century in South India, and because the five great vows (pañca-mahā-vrata) of the Jainas are nowhere mentioned in the Buddhist commentary literature of the period, Jaini concludes with the evocative hypothesis that 'Buddhists in South India most probably were in contact with some Jaina mendicants who may still have been observing the cāturyāma saṁvara' (133). The author was apparently not aware of Adelheid Mette's earlier discussion of DN 3.48f. ('The Synchronism of the Buddha and the Jina Mahāvīra and the Problem of Chronology in Early Jainism', in H. Bechert (ed.) 1991. The Dating of the Historical Buddha. Part 1, 132-7. Gšttigen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht).

Kenji Watanabe's 'A Comparative Study of Passages from Early Buddhist and Jaina Texts: Āyār 2.15: Dhp 183 and Isioh 29.19: Dhp 360, 361' is based on a number of papers published in Japanese between 1981-1994 and points to 'some parallelism between the Buddhist kusala and the samāyika [sāmāyika] -cāritra in Jainism' (141), i.e. the vow to abstain from all sinful acts, because both refer to the stopping of the influx of karma. Similar parallelisms are found with regard to saṁvara and vāri in passages also discussed by Jaini (146).

The formidable article by Johannes Bronkhorst, 'Ājīvika Doctrine Reconsidered', proposes a new solution to the conundrum of what exactly the Ājīvikas taught, which was left unsolved in Hoernle's contributions (curiously not mentioned by Bronkhorst) and in Basham's exegeses of the opaque passages describing Gosāla's teachings in the Buddhist (DN 1.53f.) and Jaina (Viy 15) scriptures. Bronkhorst's interpretation is predicated on his well-publicised view that early Jainas were mostly concerned with immobility, i.e. with stopping all physical and mental activity, whereas early Buddhists highlighted the role of desire and intention (157): 'The inactivity of the Jain ascetic was not only meant to avoid producing karmic effects in the future, but also to destroy actions carried out in the past. The Ājīvika denied that present inactivity can destroy actions carried out in the past. For him these former actions will carry fruit whatever one does. However, there is no reason to believe that he rejected the possibility of non-performance of new actions' (163). However, this does not answer why the Ājīvikas propagated a strict determinism. Bronkhorst's answer focuses on the less well understood passage in the DN (1.53f.): 'There is no deed performed either by oneself or by others, no human action, no strength, no courage, no human endurance or human prowess (paraphrase Basham)'. In his view, the Ājīvikas must have believed, like the proponents of the Sāṁkhya school and of the Bhagavad-gītā, that 'the real self does not act', and that activity belongs to the material world (169). What exactly distinguished the Ājīvika position from the message of the Bhagavad-gītā, Bronkhorst fails to explain, apart from the suggestion that it may have rejected the caste-orientation of the Bhagavad-gītā in favour of the idea that everyone has its own predetermined trajectory of reincarnations (ibid.). At the end of his article Bronkhorst speculates that early Jainism may have had a similar conception of an inactive (akiriyā) self, which is not in evidence in the later Jaina literature anymore. The conception of an active (kiriyā) soul, as seemingly manifest in the oldest surviving Jaina text (Āyāra, would, of course, seriously undermine the 'immobility' thesis (therefore his defence in note 47, pace Schubring 1935: ¤ 57, 70), which also does not match the prescribed Jaina practices of begging and wandering, the unavoidable violence of which was criticised precisely by the Ājīvikas (cf. Viy.). However, Bronkhorst's convincing reconstruction of the Ājīvika doctrine would not even be affected by the removal of the immobility thesis.

Phyllis Granoff's 'Paradigms of Protection in Early Indian Religious Texts or an Essay on What to Do with Your Demons' argues that basically three different strategies of dealing with the demons attacking children with disease can be identified in South Asian religious and medical literature: First, the strategy of either 'chasing evil away' or propitiating 'the agent of evil with a sacrificial offering', or both (185), that can be found in the Ṛg-Veda and the Brāhmaṇas, or the aggressive subduing of the aggressor, for instance by Kṛṣṇa, the protector, in the Hari-vaṁśa; second, the Buddhist strategy of converting the aggressor into a protector of the home, as manifest in the Mūla-sarvāstivāda-vinaya; and, third, the Jaina strategy of attributing all harm to karmic rather than supernatural causes, and to remain indifferent to demonic forces, as evidenced by selected stories of the Āvaśyaka literature. The article offers numerous new and evocative hypotheses (e.g., because protective functions were not attributed to the Buddha, local deities were incorporated as protectors of Buddhist communities (200)), which could be fruitfully related to comparisons of a similar kind by anthropologists such as L.A. Babb, and his predecessors.

Adelheid Mette's 'Waste Disposal (pariṭṭhavaṇa-vihi) in Ancient India. Some Regulations for Protection of Life from the Rules of the Order of Jain Monks' (a translation of the German original to be published in a forthcoming volume) can be read as an addition to her magisterial work on the Piṇḍ'esaṇā, the chapter of the Ogha Niryukti on the alms round of the Jaina 'monks'. The Pāriṣṭhāpanikī-niryukti is a short Prakrit text of 83 āryā stanzas compiled from various sources, embedded within the Āvaśyaka Niryukti. The text is a commentary to the 5th samiti, or rule of circumspection, concerning the proper removal of impure substances (Skt. pāriṣṭhāpanikī). It has a parallel in Ogha Niryukti 596-625, which is generally less complete, but more elaborate with regard to the correct disposal of human excreta (215, 223). Mette's article analyses the flaws in the structure of the text, and offers translations and analyses of 'assorted excerpts'. It concludes with the remark that 'not the arbitrary rule of the cleric superior, but ahiṁsā, the principle of conscientious non-injury of life, provides the criterion' which informed the formulation of specified rules: 'the quite simple forms of external living conditions forced the adoption of a detail-oriented order and strict regulations of behaviour' (223f.).

On the basis of four examples selected from the medieval Digambara narrative literature, Luitgard Soni, in 'Concealing and Protecting: Stories on Upagūhana', explores the puzzling concept of upagūhana or avagūhana (Pkt. uvagūhaṇa) - protecting Jainism by concealing the faults of one's fellow members – which is regarded as one of the eight attributes of right belief (samyag-darśana) of a lay-person (cf. R. Williams. Jaina Yoga. London, 1963, pp. 43-5). The paradox that in such cases the 'protection of the true religion is based on an explicit lie' in direct contradiction to the Jaina value of truthfulness (229) is explained with reference to the idea of a higher 'duty' manifest in the examples which show that 'upagūhana is not implemented for the sake of an individual but for the status of the Jaina community as a whole' (235).

In 'A Portrait of the Yogi (joi) as Sketched by Joindu' Colette Caillat explains, through a philological examination of his terminology, why for the Digambara mystic Yogindu (Pkt. Joindu) (c. 6-10 C. C.E.) 'most of the exercises that are commonly termed yoga, joya are spurious', or, at best, mere preparations for the ultimate form of Jaina yoga, the 'contemplation of the supreme self (paramâtma)' (244). Interestingly, the word yoga itself is not used in Yogindu's main poems – the Yoga-sara and the Paramâtmaprakāśa - which prefer the verb joi (Skt. yogin), often in association with words derived from the present jāṇai (Skt. jānāti), 'he knows' (247). In continuation of her longstanding criticism of the common misrepresentation of Jainism as a religion that is only concerned with the regulation of outward (and mental) action, Caillat shows convincingly that the association of Jaina yoga with vision and knowledge is fundamental in Digambara mysticism, and that self-contemplation is regarded as the form of 'right conduct' of those who know (248): 'Joindu even maintains, paradoxically, that right doing, from the transcendental point of view, is worse than wrong doing' because it produces pleasurable rewards and encourages more of the same karma-accumulating actions (250).

Nalini Balbir's stimulating contribution 'Samayasundara's Sāmācārī-śataka and Jaina Sectarian Divisions in the Seventeenth Century' is part of a project on the 'history of ideas and methods of argumentation' in Jainism (254). It illustrates the methods employed by the Jaina praśnottara ('questions and answers) literature, which emerged in the medieval period during a phase of intense sectarian competition (a chronology of selected texts from the 14th century onward is given on p. 274, though Klatt 1894: 175 cites an earlier text composed in 1206). According to Balbir, the genre is characterised by a 'tendency to stress divergences' (256) in doctrine and practice (259), although the criticised groups are rarely explicitly mentioned (257). Most praśnottara texts do not follow any organising principles (257). They focus on ascetic practice and liturgy, which 'is one of the areas at the heart of differentiation between Jain orders' (261). The technique of 'source-quotations' is widely used to establish legitimacy for partisan interpretations (263). The 17th century Sāmācārī-śataka of the Kharatara-gaccha upādhyāya Samayasundara is particularly rich in captivating detail. Following the example of Klatt's (1894) study, the text is summarised in the form of keywords. The article concentrates then on selected doctrinal innovations of the Kharatara-gaccha vis à vis other sects. The key example is Samayasundara's interpretation of the legendary 'embryo transfer' of Mahāvīra as the 'sixth kalyāṇaka', or auspicious event, in his life, which contrasts with the conventional 'five auspicious events' in the lives of the other Jinas (263-7). Balbir concludes from this (pace P. Dundas) that Samayasundara does not write as a 'puritan' fundamentalist but as an innovator who seems to prioritise the imperatives of group identity over those of the canonical tradition (267). His technique of citing canonical scriptures (sūtra, siddhânta) and authors belonging to his tradition (sampradāya) side by side represents 'a subtle way to introduce novelties without calling them so' (268). The main argument of the article concerns the interpretation of the changes within the tradition by Jaina authors themselves, whose arguments Balbir often, with very good reasons, deconstructs: 'The prevalent tendency is to see changes occurring in one's own group as restorations, and changes made by others as lapses' (273). It could have been added here, that innovations are detectable in the canon itself; and that the scriptures explicitly permit the ācāryas to frame new rules under certain circumstances. In fact, the rhetorical techniques of the medieval authors do not seem to be much different from those of the compilers of the 'canon' itself. The presumed 'invention' of the practice of 'installing images or stūpas of the gurus' may also not be a 'distinctly characteristic of the Kharatara-gaccha' (269), since stūpas are already mentioned in the scriptures. In an interesting footnote, Balbir herself points to citations of older sources in the Sena-praśna, a later praśnottara text of Śubhavijayagaöi, which support this conclusion.

John E. Cort's short article 'Dyānatrāy: An Eighteenth Century Digambara Mystical Poet' is a revised and expanded version of an article which was first issued in the largely inaccessible publication Mahāvīr Jayantī Smārikā 37 (2000). It offers a translation of selected poems of Dyānatrāya's oeuvre, and locates four influences on the work of this author, who belonged to the Adhyātma lay movement: Digambara mysticism, Digambara liturgy, Jaina devotional poetry, and the Hindi poetry of the nirguṇ sants.

This outstanding collection of original and thought provoking philological and historical essays makes a significant contribution to Jaina Studies. It is a must read for everyone with an interest in the academic study of the Jaina tradition.

©The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2006


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