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 5 - On the infernal beings (Nārakas): their life-span, respiration and intake

Q. 3. Bhante! How long is stated to be the life-span of infernal beings22?

A. 3. Gautama! The minimum life-span of infernal beings is stated to be 10,000 years and the maximum 33 sāgaropamas23?

Q. 4. Bhante! What is the duration of the breathing activity, inhaling and exhaling, breathing in and breathing out24, of the infernal beings?

A. 4. Gautama! The (answer is the) same as contained in the (seventh) chapter on ‘Respiration’ in the Paṇṇavaṇā Sūtra25.

Q. 5. Bhante! Are the infernal beings desirous of intake?

A. 5. It may be mentioned to be the same as stated in the (twenty-eighth) chapter on ‘Intake’ in the Paṇṇavaṇa Sūtra26.


Deserving of notice are:
Life-span, respiration, intake,
What comprises the intake,
If it’s taken by all soul-spaces,
Portions or whole taken by them,
And the manner they transform
Matter so taken in27.

Notes (based on commentary of Abhayadeva Sūri):

22. The discussion starts with the infernal beings and is extended to all the four forms of existence, viz., infernal beings, non-human beings (animals), human beings and celestial beings, who make in all 24 categories (daṇḍakas) as follows:

Categories Numbers,
All infernal beings in seven hells — 1,
Asurakumāras till Stanitakumāras (see 34 below) — 10,
Immobiles with one organ, e.g., earth-bodies, water-bodies, air-bodies, fire-bodies and flora-bodies — 5,
Two-, three-, and four- organ beings — 3,
Non-humans (animals) with five organs — 1,
Human beings — 1,
Vāṇavyantara devas — 1,
Jyotiṣka devas — 1,
Vaimānika devas — 1,

Infernal beings are called Nārakas. Naraka is a place wherein is born one with inauspicious karma.

23. Palyopama and sāgaropama are Jaina expressions used in those cases where figures have failed to give the number and aid is taken of comparisons like ‘as many as the stars in the sky’ or ‘as many as the hairs on the human head’. Palyopama is itself like that. Ten ‘koṭākoṭi’-times a palyopama gives a sāgaropama. The figures would safely run into billions of billions.

24. For all practical purposes, the pairs āṇamaṃti and usasaṃti, and pāṇamaṃti and ṇisasaṃti, may be taken to be synonyms, used here together for the sake of emphasis, though some commentators have tried to introduce a subtle, though not very significant, distinction between the two.

Q. 4 could have been preceded by one, viz., whether the infernal beings are endowed with the faculty of respiration, but this has not been done. Apparently, they are so endowed with, as is made clear by Q. 4. where the duration of respiration is discussed.

25. According to the Paṇṇavaṇā Sūtra, infernal beings have incessant respiration. They are so miserable that they inhale all the time and they exhale all the time.

26. The relevant chapter in the Sūtra states that the infernal beings are desirous of intake, which is conscious (ābhoga nivartita) as well as unconscious (anābhoga nivartita). For instance, we inhale many things including germs and other invisible tilings which constitute unconscious intake. Likewise, the entire body system absorbs from the environment heat, cold, moisture, etc., which are all unconscious intakes.

27. The couplet gives in a nutshell all the points resolved above on life-span, respiration and intake. Similar couplets occur at other places in the Sūtra. This is like giving the gist.

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