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 3 - Nine questions on karma bondage

[Note 17: Since the soul is in bondage with karma, the Sūtra starts with a consideration thereof, giving in a nut-shell the entire process through which the dormant karma is, in its entirety, put on the move through the spiritual effort of one desirous of liberation, till it is thrown out. The question is considered in, all its details and that for all the 24 categories of living beings.]

Q. 1. Thus verily, Bhante18! is it proper to call moving as moved, fructifying as fructified, feeling as felt, separating as separated, cutting as cut, piercing as pierced, burning as burnt, dying as dead, and exhausting as exhausted19?

A. 1. Yes, Gautama, it is so; moving is moved and so on till exhausting is exhausted20.

Notes (based on commentary of Abhayadeva Sūri):

18.Bhante’ is a form of address inviting the attention of the Ācārya, Sanskrit bhadanta, bhavānta, bhayānta, meaning one who helps end transmigration, etc.

19. Nine verbs used in Q. 1 need explanation. The soul is in bondage with karma, and the soul now strives for early liberation. To anticipate the content of Q. 14, karma, which has come up, must of necessity be exhausted through suffering. But karma, which is still dormant and is in occupation of the soul-spaces, may be got rid of through spiritual practices, which is the theme here. Through a conscious effort, the living being brings up dormant karma in order to push it through various stages till exhaustion. Of these, the first four relate to bringing up karma from its dormant state, in very quick succession, to a state where karma-atoms have vacated soul-spaces, and the last five relate to stages leading to total exit of karma-atoms, after they are effectively separated from the soul-spaces.

To be precise, one who is mature enough to attain liberation, and has a striving for it, stands virtually on the last stage from which he can liquidate the earlier ones and earn liberation. He brings up karma from a dormant state and puts it straight to fructification. At once, the outcome is felt, and, just then, karma-atoms are speedily separated from the soul-spaces, which thus stand vacated. By this quick process, he gets rid of karma enshrouding faith, vision, knowledge and power. But, he has yet to get rid of the remaining karma which gives name, lineage, life-span and suffering. For this, the process is the subject-matter of Q. 59, wherein cutting of karma means transforming karma with a long-span into one having a short-span; piercing means changing the deep-effect karma into slow-effect one and vice versa; burning signifies the process by which karma-atoms are turned into pudgala-atoms so that they are no longer in occupation of the soul-spaces; and dying signifies the termination of karma determining name, lineage and life-span. Exhaustion is total elimination of karma bondage, and hence of suffering, when the soul is free, restored to its liberation, perfection and enlightenment.

20. The use of the present perfect tense to signify what appears to be the present continuous tense is justified by Mahavira on the ground that once the goal is set and the process of liberation gets started with conscious effort, it must end. For, the last thing, viz., the goal, in this case, is made first, by the striving soul, and then starts the process of liquidation of the intervening stages, so that once the thing is set going, it must reach the end.

Cf. ‘The last of life, for which the first was made.’—Browning.

It is interesting to recount here that fourteen years after Mahāvīra’s enlightenment, the doubt was raised by one of his disciples (son-in-law) Jamālī, who found that almost nothing could be done in a moment, and that most things needed more than a moment to be completed. So, he felt, one should not say ‘it has been done’ till it was really done. A thing which was in the process of being done was not actually ‘done’ till the process came to an end. On this ground, Jamālī not only refuted the philosophical principle propounded by Mahāvīra viz., that ‘a thing in the process of being done should be considered as already done’, he even left his group. He was joined in this by his wife (Mahāvīra’s daughter) Anojjhā (Priyadarśanā); but she soon realised that what Mahāvīra had propounded was correct, and returned, but not Jamālī. The point is that the principle propounded by Mahāvīra is based on nīścaya naya, while the doubt raised by Jamālī stands on vyavahāra naya. According to the former, a thing is considered to be actually finished as soon as it is started; but according to the latter, a thing is completed only when it is really finished.

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