A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of two sects of jainism: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - Two Sects of Jainism


There are two main sects of Jains, Śvetāmbaras (wearers of white cloths) and Digambaras (the naked). They are generally agreed on all the fundamental principles of Jainism. The tenets peculiar to the Digambaras are firstly that perfect saints such as the Tīrthaṅkaras live without food, secondly that the embryo of Mahāvīra was not removed from the womb of Devanandā to that of Triśalā as the Śvetāmbaras contend, thirdly that a monk who owns any property and wears clothes cannot reach Mokṣa, fourthly that no woman can reach Mokṣa[2]. The Digambaras deny the canonical works of the Śvetāmbaras and assert that these had been lost immediately after Mahāvīra. The origin of the Digambaras is attributed to Sivabhūti (A.D. 83) by the Śvetāmbaras as due to a schism in the old Śvetāmbara church, of which there had already been previous to that seven other schisms. The Digambaras in their turn deny this, and say that they themselves alone have preserved the original practices, and that under Bhadrabāhu, the eighth sage after Mahāvīra, the last Tīrthaṅkara, there rose the sect of Ardhaphālakas with laxer principles, from which developed the present sect of Svetāmbaras (A.D. 80).

The Digambaras having separated in early times from the Śvetāmbaras developed peculiar religious ceremonies of their own, and have a different ecclesiastical and literary history, though there is practically no difference about the main creed. It may not be out of place here to mention that the Sanskrit works of the Digambaras go back to a greater antiquity than those of the Śvetāmbaras, if we except the canonical books of the latter. It may be noted in this connection that there developed in later times about 84 different schools of Jainism differing from one another only in minute details of conduct. These were called gacchas, and the most important of these is the Kharatara Gaccha, which had split into many minor gacchas. Both sects of Jains have preserved a list of the succession of their teachers from Mahāvīra (. sthavirāvali , pattāvali, gurvāvali) and also many legends about them such as those in the Kalpasūtra , the Pariśiṣṭa-parvan of Hemacandra, etc.

Footnotes and references:


See Jacobi’s article on Jainism, E. R. E.


See Guṇaratna’s commentary on Jainism in Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya.

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