Bhagavati-sutra (Viyaha-pannatti)

by K. C. Lalwani | 1973 | 185,989 words

The English translation of the Bhagavati-sutra which is the fifth Jaina Agama (canonical literature). It is a large encyclopedic work in the form of a dialogue where Mahavira replies to various question. The present form of the Sutra dates to the fifth century A.D. Abhayadeva Suri wrote a vritti (commentary) on the Bhagavati in A.D. 1071. In his J...

Part 2 - Introduction to book 1

In that descension phase of the time-cycle, at that time, there was a city named Rājagṛha. Description4. Outside the border of that city, in the north-east direction, there was a caitya named Guṇaśīlaka. The ruling monarch was Śreṇika and his principal consort was Celaṇā.

In that phase of the time-cycle, at that time, the leading-most among the śramaṇas5, Lord Mahāvīra, arrived there. He was the fountain-head of religion, the organiser of the orders, self-enlightened, the best among men, the lion among men, the choicest lotus among men, the best elephant among men, the best in the world, the master of the world, the benefactor of the world, the beacon-light of the world, the glitter of the world, the eraser of fears, the opener of vision, the giver of path, of shelter, of enlightenment and of righteousness, the propounder, the leader and the chariot-driver of religion, the emperor ruling over four directions in matters spiritual, the holder of unobstructed and best knowledge and faith, free from error, victor,, omniscient, enlightened, the teacher of the doctrines, the liberated, the liberator, all-knowing, all-seeing, intent on attaining the sphere of the liberated souls6, which is eternal, fixed, disease-free, endless, non-exhausting, devoid of obstruction, and wherefrom there’s no gliding back and forth...till7 the assembly of the great congregation. People went out (to attend). The Lord delivered his sermon. The assembly dispersed.

In that period, at that time, Śramaṇa Bhagavān Mahāvīra had a senior-most disciple in a monk named Indrabhūti who had been born in the celebrated Gautama line. His body was seven cubits in length and well balanced in structure8 with joints set and rivetted in a particular form9. The hue of his skin was golden, like a line of pure gold on a piece of black stone, or the pollens of the lotus. Monk was he, vigorous in penance, radiant in penance, glowing with, penance, great in penance10; liberated was he, firm, meritorious, rooted in deep austerities, rigorously celibate, with body dedicated to a noble cause, with powerful and far-reaching fiery forces well controlled, the master of the fourteen Pūrvas11, with four types of knowledge fully acquired12, well versed in all letters. Seated was he at that time neither very near nor very far13 from Mahāvīra, with his knees erect and head bent, in a posture of meditation, profoundly inspiring his soul by restraint and penance.

Such Gautama, with his reverence, doubt and curiosity/enquiry enkindled14, stood up at the place where he was seated, advanced towards Mahāvīra, encircled him thrice from the right-hand side and bowed ills head15, resumed his seat neither very near nor very far. With a submissive mood to listen the master’s words, paying obeisance, facing the master, with due humility16 and with folded palms, adoring the master, he made the following submission:

Notes (based on commentary of Abhayadeva Sūri):

4. The description of the city is omitted. Reference is to the Uvavāia (Aupapātika) Sūtra which gives a description of the city of Campā. The description of Rājagṛha is to be taken to be similar to that.

6. The word ‘saṃpāviu-kāme’ (Sanskrit saṃprāptakāmaḥ) means one intent on attaining the sphere of the liberated souls. This would sound inconsistent, since Mahāvīra was a vītarāga, i.e., above all attachments^ The desire to attain the sphere of the liberated souls is also a sort of attachment. But really there is no inconsistency because the expression is only aupacārika which means the imposition of our own reading/feeling on Mahāvīra. It was not necessarily his own feeling.

7. Jāva is a word used at many places throughout the Sūtra. It signifies the omission of certain detail, for which the reader is to refer above or to some other text where it is given. In the present context, the details omitted relate to the physical features of Mahāvīra till the description of the congregation, which are contained in the Uvavāia Sūtra.

8.Samacauraṃsasaṃṭhāṇasaṃthie’ in the Sūtra signifies the bodily structure of Indrabhūti Gautama which had seme speciality. The shape of the body is ‘saṃṭhāna’, and when it has a fourfold balance as follows, the body is said to be well-balanced: when seated in the padmāsana posture, the difference between the two knees equals the difference between the seat and the forehead, equals the difference between the right shoulder and the left knee, equals the difference between the the left shoulder and right knee.

9.Vajjarisahaṇārāyasaṃghayaṇe’ indicates how the joints of Gautama’s body were set and rivetted in a particular form in order to impart sufficient strength to the bone structure to make the body capable of bearing the austerities and hardships of penance.

11. Pūrvas constituted canonical learning which became the basis for the compilation of later-day Āgamas (see 3 above). They are: Utpāda-pūrva, Agrāyaṇīya-pūrva, Vīrya-pravāda-pūrva, Astināsti-pravāda-pūrva, Jñāna-pravāda-pūrva, Satya-pravāda-pūrva, Ātma-pravāda-pūrva, Karma-pravāda-pūrva, Pratyākhyāna-pravadā-pūrva, Vidyānu-pravāda-pūrva, Avandhya-pūrva, Prāṇāyu-pravāda-pūrva, Kriyā-viśāla-pūrva and Lokavindusāra-pūrva.

Because of their absorption in the later-day Āgamas, the Pūrvas are no longer extant.

12. The Jainas have given the following classification of knowledge:

(1) mati or ordinary cognition by sense organs and mind;

(2) śruta or knowledge derived with the help of signs, symbols or words/expressioṇs;

(3) avadhi or direct knowledge of corporeal things without the help of sense organs and mind, but within some limitation of space and time;

(4) manaḥ-paryāya or direct knowledge of the thoughts of others without the help of sense organs and mind, but within some limitation of space and time; and

(5) kevala or knowledge which completely reveals, without the aid of sense organs and mind, and without any limitation of space and time, the truth about all things in the universe, corporeal as well as non-corporeal, with all their attributes and modifications, past, present and future.

Indrabhūti Gautama fully possessed the first four. He acquired kevala jñāna after Mahāvīra’s passing away.

13.Adūrasāmaṃta’ signifies a reasonable distance, neither very far nor very near, a form of humility observed by the monks in their relation with the master. The distance is usually of the length of the person concerned, 3 1/2 cubits, and the space-gap between the two is called avagraha-bhūmi.

14. Gautama’s reverence (saddhā), doubt (saṃsaya) and curiosity/enquiry (koūhalla) have been repeated four times with the adjectives jāya, uppaṇṇa, saṃjāya and samuppaṇṇa, giving in all 12 forms. Reverence signifies not only desire to know the truth but also faith and respect for it. But it might be that Gautama had certain points about which he was in need of more light. Hence doubt. Gautama was a highly accomplished monk. His doubt, therefore, could not be on superficies, but on fundamentals, or certain aspects thereof. Curiosity was about how the master resolved the points of doubt.

The four terms may also be explained as follows: Jāya implies the genesis of reverence, doubt and curiosity; in uppaṇṇa, each one of these takes a shape; the last two, saṃjāya and samuppaṇṇa, with the prefix ‘saṃ’ to jāya and uppaṇṇa, signify a process of intensification of the first two, since the enquirer was no ordinary person, but was himself in command of four types of knowledge.

Some commentators have explained the four expressions with altogether twelve forms in terms of ‘superficial knowledge’ (avagraha), ‘desire to know more’ (īhā), ‘fulfilment of desire for more knowledge’ (avāya), and ‘being firm in knowledge’ (dhāraṇā). Others have considered the four as signifying more or less the same thing, with slight intensification from one to the next one.

15.Vaṃdai ṇamaṃsai’—paying homage and obeisance, the former by expression and the latter by bowing one’s head in a prescribed manner.

16. Humility as prescribed is as follows:

ṇiddā-vigahā parīvajjiehiṃ guttehiṃ paṃjaliuḍehiṃ bhattibahumāṇapuvvaṃ uvauttehiṃ suṇeyavvaṃ

which means (1) giving up slumber and irrelevant talk; (2) controlling mind, body and expression; (3) with folded palms placed on the forehead; (4) with devotion and profound respect; (5) with mind fully devoted/concentrated. In above manner, one is to listen the master’s words.

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