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...

Translator’s foreword (Volume 3)

The Third Volume of the Bhagavatī Sūtra goes to the earnest reader after a gap of six years which was due to circumstances beyond control; but from the writer’s side, the period has not been altogether barren so much so that the output of the period includes an authentic text on the life and doctrines of Mahāvīra and two comprehensive translations, one the Uttarādhyayana Sūtra and the other the Kalpa Sūtra, the former in verse-form like the original. It is expected that henceforth the flow of the subsequent volumes of the Bhagavatī may be more regular.

As in the previous two volumes (English Version), so here too topics under discussion go on changing so that the reader is always kept on the suspense as to what to expect next. Thus, for instance, the topics in Book Seven range from food intake till heretics, and yet the reader does not lose interest. Likewise, in Book Eight, topics range from matter which is highly concrete till devotion which is an abstract item.

The volume is rich in historical matter in so far as it refers to two great wars of the reign of king Kunika which must have been very important events, though the presentation is in the form of mythology. The age of Mahāvīra was an age of heterodox religions with many spiritual leaders, all of whom were outside the fold of the Brahminical religion. In this volume, we come across the names of many sects and of heretical monks some of whom came in touch with Mahāvīra and his monks and were converted to Jainism.

The volume is also rich in scientific content, since a very long and penetrating discussion is devoted to matter—consciously transformed, spontaneously transformed and as a mixture of the two. Well, it has not been possible to check the reaction of a modern particle physicist to this, but it can be safely said that the discussion, whatever its worth today, was one of the most advanced for the period during which it was written and was unprecedented in any other text of the time.

Last but not least in interest should be the description of the state of things in Bharata in the penultimate phase of the present downword [downward?] moving time cycle contained in this volume when humans will be indistinguishable from non-humans, when life will hardly be worth living and when climate will be extreme on the side of severity. We have similar gloomy picture about the future in other religious texts as well, both oriental (Śrīmad Bhāgavat) and occidental (Bible), which clearly means that all the glitter of present day civilisation is not only not going to last, but surely it is not going to transplant humanity in greater bliss. The reader is left to himself to consider what value he should give to it and what lesson he should derive from it.

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