If recent research is correct in considering him to have belonged to the second or third century ad, then this would make him the first significant and independent thinker of the post-canonical period whose views are accepted as representing the essence of Jaina thought. Although he was a pioneering Digambara thinker, probablyfrom South India, appreciation for his views also comes from the Digambar sect of Jainism. He was also known as Padmanandi. The name Grudhapiccha, erroneously used for him since about the fourteenth century, has led to confusion because it is also an alias for Umaswati.
A total of eighty-four works on various themes are ascribed to Kundakunda, of which fifteen are extant and three may be said to be philosophical masterpieces, all written in the Prakrit language. These are the Pañchastikaya (Essence of the Five Existent= s), the Pravacanasara (Essence of the Scripture) and the Samayasaa (Esse= nce of the Doctrine). The Pañcstikya and samaysara is an elementary work=dealingwith the Jaina substances (excluding time because it does not occupy any spatial points) and the fundamental truths, to which two additional categories are added, namely the meritorious and demeritorious acts related to karma (puṇya and pāpa). The Samaya= samaysara emphasizes, among other things, two standpoints mentioned in the canonical literature which seem to have no relation to the standard sevenfold standpoint (see Manifoldness, Jaina Theory of). These are the `definitive' standpoint (niścayanaya), used synonymously with the `pure' or `transcendental' (śuddha or paramārtha) standpoint,= and the `mundane' standpoint (vyavahārikanaya). It is an illuminating work dealing with the nature of the soul and its contamination by matter, and whether the soul's intrinsic nature is in any way affected or changed through karma bondage in so far as it is the doer and enjoyer of activities. An attempt is made to reconcile theseproblems, solutions to which depend on the standpoint from which one approaches the issues. The Pravacanasāra is an insightful work whose three sections clearly delineate its scope: knowledge, the objects of knowledge, and conduct. The problem of substance, quality and mode, is one of the pivotal issues in Jaina philosophy and a few points are outlined below in order to show how Kundakunda deals with it. It forms the subject matter of the second section of the Pravacanasara,which the tenth-century commentator Amṛtacandra says Kundakunda `properly discusses'.
The problem is basically that of how change in the world may be explained given the permanent, eternal nature of the two basic substances of ultimate reality; this has obvious implications for the essential nature of the soul. Kundakunda begins the section with the statement: `The object of knowledge is made up of substances, which are said to be characterized by qualities, and with which, moreover, are (associated) the modifications' (Pravacanasāra II, 1; trans. A.N.Upadhye). The basic problem is then evident when he says: `There can be no origination without destruction, nor is there destruction without origination; origination and destruction are not possible in the absence of permanent substantiality' (II, 8). How `origination' and `destruction', which in fact refer to change, are to beunderstood is expressed by Kundakunda in typical Jaina language in II, 19: `The substance forever retains its position, its own nature, as endowed with positive and negative conditions according as it is looked at from the substantial and the modificational viewpoints.'This is further elaborated:
All substances are nondifferent from the substantial viewpoint, but again they are different from the modificational view-point, because of the individual modification pervading it for the time being. According to some modification or the other it is stated that a substance exists, does not exist, is indescribable, is both or otherwise.
(II, 22–3)What Kundakunda means by origination and destruction is distinctively Jainist and is clarified later in the same section: `In this world, in which modifications originate and pass away at every moment, nothing is absolutely produced or destroyed; what is the production of one modification is the destruction of another; and thus origination and destruction are different' (II, 27). The change that occurs in matter is understandable on the analogy of objects and colour. Just as gold (regarded here as a substance), for example, can have not only different shades of colour (with colour being its basic quality) but also different forms (with the object made out of gold being its modification), so too all substances retain their substantiality despite the apparent destruction of their qualitiesand modes. The situation is more complicated with the soul substance. The problem is technical, and relates to two `operations' (upayogas) ascribed to the soul, namely `indeterminate intuition' and `determinate knowledge'; these operations are described as two qualities (guṇas) of the soul. The concern is with the unity or identity of the soul and involves the question of whether the two upayogas operate in the soul simultaneously or in succession, and if in succession, which is first, and whether they maintain their distinctness in the state of omniscience. Kundakunda maintains that they operate successively at the mundane level and simultaneously at the transcendental level of omniscience. His view, which is also held by Umāsvāti, represents the attitude of the Digambara sect and is=
opposed, for example, by Siddhasena Divakara, who, in regarding quality and mode as synonyms, says that they are not separate operations in the state of omniscience. His view represents the general Śvetāmbara standpoint, based on the fact that the canonical literature distinguishes only substance and quality, withoutmentioning the standpoint connected with the modifications of a substance.