Nov 19, 2008

The Schisms in Jain Tradition

A. K. Roy
THE FIRST SEVEN SCHISMSThe main schisms of the Jaina Church was the one between the Shvetambaras and the Digambaras. The Shvetambaras believe that even before this schism, there had been seven other schisms. These schisms had started when certain important leaders had then taken away their followers and established what one might call separate sects. However, these schisms had little permanent effects, for the newly born sects had either disappeared or had joined the main Church again on the death of their leaders. The seven schisms have been all described together in Avashyaka Niryukti, VII, 56-100. (The Digambaras do not know of these seven schisms at all).

The first of these schisms, as we have already seen, happened during the life of Mohair himself. Its leader was his own son-in-law Jamali. Jamali broke away with his followers from Mahavira, fourteen years after the latter had attained omniscience. the point on which Jamali differed from Mohair would appear to an outsider to be mere quibble.

The second schism was started by Tissagutta in Rajagriha. This happened also during the life time of Mohair and only two years after Jamali's schism. Tissagutta's followers were called Jivapaesiyas. They controverted Mahavira's view that the soul is permeated in all the atoms of the body.

The third schism was led by Asadha at Seyaviya, 214 years after the death of Mohair. Asadha's followers were called Avattiyas, and they held that there was no difference between gods, saints, kings and other beings.

The fourth schism was started by Assamitta in Mihila 220 years after Mahavira's death. Assamitta was a disciple of Kodinna who was a disciple of Mahagiri. Assamitta's followers were called Samuchcheyas and they held that since the end of all life will come some day, the effects of good or bad deeds are immaterial.

The fifth schism was started by Ganga at Kullakatiriya, 228, years after the death of Mohair. Ganga was a disciple of Dhanagutta, another disciple of Mahagiri. His followers were called Dokiriyas, and they held that two opposite feelings such as cold and warmth could be experienced at the same time.
The sixth schism arose in Antaranjiya and was started by Sadulaya, otherwise known as Rohagutta, 544 years after the death of Mohair. Sadulaya is said to have been the author of the Vaisheshika sutra. His followers were called Terasiyas and they held that between life and non-life there is a third state 'no-jiva'. According to the kalpa-sutra, the Terasiya sect was founded by Rohagutta a disciple of Mahagiri.

The seventh schism was led by Gottamahila at Dashapura, 584 years after Mahavira's death. His followers were called Abaddhiyas and they asserted that jiva was not bounded by karman.

No trace of these seven schisms is now left in the Jaina religion.

The Eighth Schism - Digambaras and Shvetambaras
the Jaina community is divided into two sects Digambara and Shvetambara. Both the sects have exactly the same religious and philosophical beliefs and practically the same mythology. The only noticeable difference is the mythology of the two sects is regarding the sex of the ninetieth tirthankara Malli. The Shvetambaras believe that Malli was a Woman, while Digambaras think that Malli was a man. This difference of opinion about Malli arises out of the few differences in the beliefs of the two sects. The Digambaras think that it is not possible for a woman to achieve salvation and as all trithankaras do achieve salvation, the nineteenth trithankara could not have been a woman. Another difference between the two sects is that the Digambaras think that all Jaina ascetics should follow the example of Mohair and remain nude, while the Shvetambaras think that the practice of remaining nude known as jinakalpa was given up by the great teachers of the Church within a few generations after Mohair and they had started wearing white garments. This practice was known as sthavirakalpa. The present - day ascetics according to the Shvetambaras need to follow only these great teachers (sthaviras), and it was not necessary to practice the jinakalpa. The third point on which the two sects differ regarding the food of the kevali. The Digambaras maintain that a kevali does not need any intake of food while the Shvetambaras think that they do. The point is academic, both the sects are unanimous that nobody is going to become a kevali in the foreseeable future.

Digambaras also deny two of the Shvetambara beliefs about Mahavira, that Mahavira's embryo was taken from the womb of the Brahamana woman Devananda and transferred to the womb of Trishala, and also that Mahavira had married and had a daughter. (Other minor difference between these two communities are given later).

It will be noticed that these and similar other differences are of a minor nature and do not affect the main tenets of the religion which were essentially same for both the sects. On the other hand these differences minor though they might be have cleaved the Jaina community into two distinct groups with practically no inter-mixing on the religious or even social plane ; for even inter-marriage between the two sects is not ordinarily permissible. This was because the two communities have necessarily their own temples the Digambaras having the images of the tirthankaras nude and the Shvetambaras clothed. Due to some reasons mentioned later the Digambaras refuse to recognize the canonical books of the Shvetambaras, and have their own texts.

Thus we see that the two sects swearing allegiance to Mahavira and his teachings behave in their practical religious life as two different societies. How a community with the same religious philosophy started behaving at some point of time as two distinct communities is not clearly known. The early religious literature of both the sects is practically silent on this point. It is thus possible to conjecture that the Church was undivided in the beginning the more orthodox one among the monks practicing nudity and the others not discarding clothes. Perhaps nudity was optional in the beginning it became later the fixed manner of all those who adopted it considering it to be the orthodox way of Jainism. the Separation of the Digambaras and shvetambaras according to this thinking was thus a gradual process and there was no point of the time when there was any actual schism. This appears to be a plausible theory.

A slight modification of this theory would be that Hemachandra was wrong, and the jinkaplika was never given up. One group of Jaina ascetics continued to practice it throughout, and this group was later called Diagmbara. The great scholar of Jainism Hoernle has argued in his essay on the ajivikas in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics that originally the Digambaras were those Ajivika who were unhappy at he behavior of their leaders Makkhali Goshala at he time of his death. After leaving his sect they had joined Mahavira and had become the latter's follower. Thus the Digambaras as a group were separate form the time of Mahavira himself. Horernle's conjecture is based mainly on two grounds. Firstly not only did the Ajivikas practice strict nudity but also a few of their customs resembled those of Digambara monks to some extent. On this latter point Hoernle has cited some instance which do not seem to be bore out by facts. For instance Hoernle says that Ajivikas used to carry a stick and so do the Digambra monks now a days. As a matter of fact Shvetambara monk who may carry a stick and not a Digambara monk who can have practically no earthly possession. The second point on which Hoernle bases his arguments is that many ancient authors and lexicographers have confused the Ajivikas with the Digambaras.

The Jaianas themselves both Shvetambaras and Digambaras have there own versions as how the schism between them occurred. These appear in their later books composed long after the alleged occurrences. As stated earlier these are mere legends and cannot be verified as history. The Shvetambara version is given in Avashyakabhashya a work of about 500 A.D. The Legend is as follows:
A person called Shivabhuti who had founded a sect called the Bodiya in the city of Rathvirapura. The occasion for doing this arose in this manner:

Shivabhuti had won many battles for his king and the latter showered honors on him. Naturally, Shivabhuti became very proud and used to return home late at night. His mother on the complaint of her daughter-in-law refused to open the door one night and asked him to go to the place the door of which was likely to find open. getting wild Shivabhuti entered such a place which, however, turned out to be monastery. He asked the head priest to initiate him but the priest refused to do so, whereupon Shivabhuti himself plucked out his hair and wandered as a monk.

After some time this self-imitated monk Shivabhuti happened to come to the same place. The king his former friend sent him a costly garment as a gift.
Shivabhuti's superior protested and disallowed him to use such a garment. When Shivabhuti did not listen to his advice the teacher tore off that garment and used it as a mattress. Getting wild and excited Shivabhuti gave up all clothing.

(A slightly different version of this says that the occasion for it arose when once, his teacher, expounding the texts to class came up against the following alluding to a special stage of Jinakalpa.

"Jinakalpias were of two kinds. Some of them might have the necessary requisites, and others not. On hearing it Shivabhuti asked his teacher.; 'While there is the system of Jinakalpa why should be there be the bondage of clothes? A monk following jinakapla and living in solitude should following the principles of austerity, including nudity". The teacher tried to bring him round but Shivabhuti would not be persuaded and gave up all clothing. Thus created schism in the community).

His sister Uttara also followed him and she also became naked. But when the courtesans of the city complained that nobody would go the them seeing the ugly nature 9of the female body, Shivabhuti disallowed his sister to accept nudity. Thus nudity was started by the Bodiyas under Shivabhuti. The Bodiyas presumably were later called the Digambaras. This the eighth schism according to the Shvetambaras occurred on 609 A.D. or A.D. 83

The Digambara version of how the Shvetambaras broke away form the main Church which the Digambaras call the Mulasangha is completely different. It was recorded much later. The first record is found in Harisena's Brihakatakosa of A.D. 931. This is as follows :

In the reign of Chandragupta Marurya Bhadrabahu had predicted a terrible famine in the country of Magadha, for a period of 12 years. Hence a part of the community migrated to South India under his leadership, while the rest remained in Magadha.

When after some time the leaders met together in Ujjayini the famine was still there and hence they allowed the monks to wear a piece of cloth to hide shame while on the begging tour. But even when the famine was over these minks refused to give up the use of the piece of cloth. The conservative elements protested against this. And thus these Ardhaphalakas proved to be the forerunner of the Shvetambara sect.

The final separation came later due to Chandralekha queen of king Lokpala of Valabhipura. It is related that these Ardhaphalaka monks were invited by her ; but seeing them neither clothed nor naked the king was disappointed and the queen therefore asked them to dress completely. Therefore the Ardhaphalakas began to put on white clothes and came to be called Shvetapatas. This happened in A.D. 80.

(There is a reference to a Svhetapapa community in a grant issued in the the fourth regal year by the Kadamba king Mrigeshavarma. The grant of a village was made to a community of Jainas living in the city of Vaijayanti. The village was divided into three shares the first to the holy Arhat the Second to the eminent ascetics called Shvetapapas, who were intent on practicing the true religion and the third for the eminent ascetics called Nirgaranthas. Thus the Shvetapatas and Nirganthas in this city in Karnataka worshipping the same image of Arhat in a temple. Whether the Shvetapapas referred to in the inscription and the Shvetapatas sect referred to in the above Digambara legend were the same is not known).

There is a serious weakness in this Digambara version : It is not supported by the earliest Digambara epigraph that mentions famine. This epigraph, at Shravana Belogola, says that Bhadrabahu had predicted the famine in Ujjayini and not in Magadha; moreover he himself is not recorded to have accompanied the community to South India. Thus there are contradictions in the Digambara versions. On the other hand the Shvetambara version as to how the Church split into two is a bit too puerile for such an important event. It appears that all these stories were invented long after the actual split which in the beginning must have been a gradual process which was completed some time at he end of the 5th century. We do not know when actually the two sects finally separated but we have epigraphic records to prove that even in the 3rd century A.D. the difference, if any within the community was not sharp. The images found at Kankali-tila in Mathura belong to this period. They depict the tirthankaras in a nude state. Yet the donors of these images presumably belonged are the shvetambara sect for the shakhas and Ganas to which they belonged are the same of the donors were nuns or the disciples of nuns. Thus though the images were in the Digambara style the worshipers did not observe the Digambara orthodoxy about disallowing women to become nuns. Or the disciples of nuns. The exact dates of the Mathura inscription cannot be determined. They are dated in the Kusana era and the dates mentioned are from 5 to 98 of this era. However, the controversy as to when the Kusana era stated is not yet over and if we go by the date suggested by R.C. Majumdar then this era started in A.D. 244, and therefore the Mathura Jaina inscriptions belong to a period from the middle of the 3rd century to the middle of the 4th century. The inscription of Kajum in the Gorakhpur district refers to the installation of five images of Adikartis. This inscription is dated A.D. 460. The images found here are nude. The conclusion would be that the difference in beliefs of the two sects if they had at all parted company by that time, was not up to then clear-cut and both the sects worshiped nude images.

The actual parting of the ways perhaps came come time near the middle of the 5th century, when the Valabhi council was held. It is said that the canon of the Shvetambaras had been reduced to a state of disorder and was even in danger of being lost altogether. Hence in the year 980 after the Death of Mahavira a Council was held in valabhi in Gujarat presided over by Devarddhi Ksahmashramana the head of the school for the purpose of collecting texts and writhing them down. The twelfth Anga containing the puvvas had already gone astray at that time. This is why we find only eleven Angas in the recession which is supposed to be identical with that of Devarddhi.

The Digambaras completely deny the authority of the texts collected by this Council. They say that not only was the knowledge of the 14 Puvvas lost at an early period, but that 436 years after Mahavira's nirvana the last person who knew all the 11 Angas has died. The leaders who succeeded him knew less and less Angas as time went on, until the knowledge of these works was completely lost 683 years after Mahavira's nirvana. Thus the Valabhi council when the two sects actually parted company. As stated earlier all the tirthankaras either in the standing position and nude, or if seated in the crossed legged position are sculptured in such a way that neither garments not genitals are visible. Thus upto the Kusana period both the sects worshipped nude images. The earliest known image of a tirthankara with a lower garment is standing Rishabhnatha discovered at Akota in Gujarat. The date of his image has been fixed at the later part of the fifth century. This was shortly after the period of Valabhi Council.
The geographical distribution of the sects also would give some support to the theory that the Valabhi Council was the chief reason of the schism. It is found that the main concentration of the Shvetambaras is round about and within 500 kilometers of Valabhi. Most of the Jainas in Gujarat and western Rajasthan are Shvetambaras, while most of the Jain of the eastern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and the Jainas of the South India are Digambaras.

It is possible that so far as the Jainas of northern India were concerned, they might have had a Council of their of there own at Mathura. Its President was Skandila. This name does not occur in the list of Sthaviras of the Kalpa-sutra, but the name of Shandilya occurs 33rd in the list. Jacobi remarks in this connection : "I think Shadilya is the same as Skandila, who was president of the Council of Mathura, which seems to have been the rival of that in Valabhi."
In other words, those who accepted the literature edited and collected at Vallabhi as canonical were later called Shvetambaras, and those who either has their own Council at Mathura, or did not have any Council at all as in South India, were later called Digambaras.

The Digamabaras of South India, long before the time the Valabhi Council of the Shvetambaras had met had started developing their own sacred literature. They had to do this because according to them the last of the acharyas who knew even a part of the angas had died 683 years after the death of Mahavira. The name of this acharya was Bhutavali. Nobody was left who knew even a part of the original canon. The next point off according to some Digambara lists was Bhadrabahu II. Kundakunda who claimed to be the disciple of this Bhadrabahu, therefore started writing the sacred books of the Digambaras. He is said to have written altogether 84 such books. The names of all the work composed by kundakunda are not known. But three of his works, viz., Samayasara, Pravachanasara, and Panchasikayasara are considered so important by the Digambaras that together they are called Prabhritatraya or Saratrraua, a name which reminds one of the prasthanatraya of the Vedantists. Indeed Kundakunda is considered so important a personality in the Digambara hagiology that a popular Digambara benedictory verses runs thus :

Mangalam Bhagavana Viro, mangalam Gautamogani,
Mangalam Kundakundyadyau, Jaina dharmostu mangalam.

To the Digambaras thus Kundakunda is an important a teacher as Sudharma is to the shvetambars.

Kundakunda was followed by many other Digambara writhers such as Vattakera, Kartikeya Svamin, etc. Practically all these authors belonged to South India. Thus by the early centuries of the Christian era while the intellectual center of the Shevtambaras was developing in western India, the Digambaras had their own intellectual center on south-west Karnataka. Perhaps this geographical separation of the intellectual centers was the main reason why the two sections of the Jainas drifted. To some extent even the gods began to differ: The Digambaras in South West Karnataka made Bahubali, a son of the first tirthankara one of their most important deities and built colossal statues for him. Bahubali on the other hand is scarcely, if at all, mentioned in the Shvetambara mythology.

The Digambaras called their Church, the Mula Sangha or the Main Church. The Mula sangha is then said to have branched of into Nandi, Sinha, etc. But all Digambaras to whatever gaccha they might belong claim the descent of their gaccha uttimately from the Mula Sangha.

In the first few centuries of the Christian era the dominant sect among the Jainas of the Deccan and South India were the Digambaras. Only one inscription - a grant - has been found in these parts of India which refers to the Shvetapatas (Shvetambaras) by name. This is the Devagira (Dharwar district) inscription of king Mrigeshavarmana referred to earlier. His period according to Saletore was A.D. 475-490).

The difference between the Shvetambaras and the Digambaras
The total number of points on which the Digambars differ form the Shvetambaras are eighteen, These are listed below:
The Digambaras do not accept the Shvetambara beliefs :
1. That a kevali needs food;2. That a kevali needs to evacuate (nihara);3. That women can get salvation. (In order to get salvation a woman has according to the Digamabaras to be born again as a man).4. That Shudras can get salvation;5. That a person can get salvation without forsaking clothes;6. That a house-holder can get salvation;7. That the worship of images having clothes and ornaments is permitted;8. That monks are allowed to possess fourteen (specified) things;9. That the tirthankara Malli was a woman;10. That the eleven of the 12 original Angas (canonical works) still exists;11. That Bharata Chakavarti attained kevali hood while living in his palace;12. That a monk may accept food from a Shudra;13.That Mahavira's embryo was transferred form one womb to another; and Mahavira's mother had fourteen auspicious dreams before he was born. The Digambaras believe that she had actually 16 such dreams;14. That Mahavira had a sickness due to the tejolesya of Goshala;15 That mahavira had married and had a daughter;17. That Marudevi went for her salvation riding and elephant; and 18. That a monk may accept alms form many houses.

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