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The late Dr. Georg Buhler's essay Ueber die
Indische Secte der Jaina, read at the anniversary
meeting of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of
Vienna on the 26* May 1887, has been for some
time out of print in the separate form. Its value
as a succinct account of the Sravaka sect, by a
scholar conversant with them and their religious
literature is well known to European scholars; but
to nearly all educated natives of India works pu-
blished in German and other continental languages
are practically sealed books, and thus the fresh
information which they are well able to contribute
is not elicited. It is hoped that the translation of
this small work may meet with their acceptance
and that of Europeans in India and elsewhere to
whom tjie original is either unknown or who do
not find a foreign language so easy to read as
their own.

The translation has been prepared under my
supervision, and with a few short footnotes. Professor
Buhler's long note on the authenticity of the Jaina


tradition I have transferred to an appendix (p. 48)
incorporating with it a summary of what he sub-
sequently expanded in proof of his thesis.

To Colebrooke's account of the Tirthahkaras reve-
renced by the Jainas, but little has been added
since its publication in the ninth volume of the
Asiatic Researches; and as these are the centre of
their worship, always represented in their temples,
and surrounded by attendant figures, I have ven-
tured to add a somewhat fuller account of them
and a summary of the general mythology of the
sect, which may be useful to the archaeologist and
the student of their iconography.

Edinburgh, April 1903. J. BURGESS.


The J a i n a sect is a religious society of modern
India, at variance to Brahmanism, and possesses
undoubted claims on the interest of all friends of
Indian history. This claim is based partly on the
peculiarities of their doctrines and customs, which
present several resemblances to those of Buddhism,
but, above all, on the fact that it was founded in
the same period as the latter.

Larger and smaller communities of Jain as or
Arhata, that is followers of the prophet, who
is generally called simply the Jina 'the con-
queror of the world', or the Arhat 'the holy
one', are to be found in almost every important
Indian town, particularly among the merchant class.
In some provinces of the West and North-west, in
Gujarat, Rajputana, and the Panjab, as also in the
Dravidian districts in the south, especially in
Kanara, they are numerous; and, owing to the
influence of their wealth, they take a prominent
place. They do not, however, present a compact
mass, but are divided into two rival branches
the Digambara and Svetambara 1 each of

1 In notes on the Jainas, one often finds the view expressed,
that the Digambaras belong only to the south, and the S v e t a m-


which is split up into several subdivisions. The
Digambara, that is, "those whose robe is the
atmosphere," owe their name to the circumstance
that they regard absolute nudity as the indispens-
able sign of holiness 2 , though the advance of
civilization has compelled them to depart from the
practice of their theory. The vetambara, that
is, "they who are clothed in white" - do not claim
this doctrine, but hold it as possible that the holy
ones, who clothe themselves, may also attain the
highest goal. They allow, however, that the founder
of the Jaina religion and his first disciples disdained
to wear clothes. They are divided, not only by
this quarrel, but also by differences about dogmas
and by a different literature. The separation must

b a r a s to the north. This is by no means the case. The former in
the Panjab, in eastern Rajputana and in the North West Provinces,
are just as numerous, if not more so, than the latter, and also
appear here and there in western Rajputana and Gujarat: see
Indian Antiquary^ vol. VII, p. 28.

2 The ascetics of lower rank, now called Pandit, now-a-days
wear the costume of the country. The Bhajtaraka, the heads
of the sect, usually wrap themselves in a large cloth (chadr).
They lay it off during meals. A disciple then rings a bell as a
sign that entrance is forbidden (fnd. Ant. loc. cit.). When the
present custom first arose cannot be ascertained. From the de-
scription of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang (St. Julien, Vie. p. 224),
who calls them Li-hi, it appears that they were still faithful to
their principles in the beginning of the seventh century A. D.
"The Li-hi (Nirgranthis) distinguish themselves by leaving their
bodies naked and pulling out their hair. Their skin is all cracked,
their feet are hard and chapped: like rotting trees that one sees
near rivers."


therefore be of old standing. Tradition, too, upholds
this though the dates given do not coincide.
From inscriptions it is certain that the split occur-
red before the first century of our era 3 . Their op-
posing opinions are manifested in the fact that they
do not allow each other the right of intermarriage
or of eating at the same table, the two chief
marks of social equality. In spite of the age of the
schism, and the enmity that divides the two branches,
they are at one as regards the arrangement of their
communities, doctrine, discipline, and cult, at
least in the more important points; and, thus, one
can always speak of the Jaina religion as a whole.
The characteristic feature of this religion is its
claim to universality, which it holds in common
with Buddhism, and in opposition to Brahmanism.
It also declares its object to be to lead all men to
salvation, and to open its arms not only to the
noble Aryan, but also to the low-born Sudra
and even to the alien, deeply despised in India,
the Mlechha 4 . As their doctrine, like Buddha's,

3 See below p. 44.

* In the stereotyped introductions to the sermons of Jina it is
always pointed out that they are addressed to the Aryan and
non- Aryan. Thus in the Aupapatika Sutra 56. (Leumann) it runs
as follows : tesim sawesim ariyamanariyanam agilae dhammam
aikkhai "to all these, Aryans and non-Aryans, he taught the law
untiringly". In accordance with this principle, conversions of
people of low caste, such as gardiners, dyers, etc., are not un-
common even at the present day. Muhammadans too, regarded as
Mlechcha, are still received among the Jaina communities. Some


is originally a philosophical ethical system intended
for ascetics, the disciples, like the Buddhists, are,
divided into ecclesiastics' and laity. At the head
stands an order of ascetics, originally Nirgrantha
"they, who are freed from all bands," now usually
called Yatis "Ascetics", or Sadhus "Holy",
which, among the Svetambara also admits women, 3

cases of the kind were communicated to me in Ahmad
the year 1876, as great triumphs of the Jainas. Tales of the con-
version of the emperor Akbar, through the patriarch Hiravijaya
(Ind Antiq. Vol. XI, p. 256), and of the spread of the Digambara
sect in an island Jainabhadri, in the Indian Ocean (Ind. Ant.
Vol. VII, p. 28) and in Arabia, shew that the Jainas are familiar
with the idea of the conversion of non-Indians. Hiuen Tsiang's
note on the appearance of the Nirgrantha or Digambara in Kiapishi
(Beal, Si-yu-ki, Vol. I, p. 55), points apparently to the fact that
they had, in the North West at least, spread their missionary
activity beyond the borders of India.

5 Even the canonical works of the Svetambara, as for example,
the Acharahga (Sacred Books of the East. Vol. XXII, p. 88186)
contain directions for nuns. It seems, however, that they have
never played such an important part as in Buddhism. At the
present time, the few female orders among the Svetambara consist
entirely of virgin widows, whose husbands have died in child-
hood, before the beginning of their life together. It is not neces-
sary to look upon the admission of nuns among the Svetambara
as an imitation of Buddhist teaching, as women were received
into some of the old Brahmanical orders; see my note to Mami,
VIII, 363, (Sac. Bks. of the East, Vol. XXV, p. 317). Among
the Digambaras, exclusion of women was demanded from causes
not far to seek. They give as their reason -for it, the doctrine
that women are not capable of attaining Nirvana; see Peterson,
Second Report, in Jour. Bom. Br. R. As. Soc. Vol. XVII, p. 84.


and under them the general community of the
Upasaka " the Worshippers", or the S r a v a k a ,
"the hearers".

The ascetics alone are able to penetrate into the
truths which Jina teaches, to follow his rules and
to attain to the highest reward which he promises.
The laity, however, who do not dedicate themselves
to the search after truth , and cannot renounce
the life of the world, still find a refuge in Jainism.
It is allowed to them as hearers to share its prin-
ciples, and to undertake duties, which are a faint
copy of the demands made on the ascetics. Their
reward is naturally less. He who remains in the
world cannot reach the highest goal, but he can
still tread the way which leads to it. Like all
religions of the Hindus founded on philosophical
speculation, Jainism sees this highest goal in Nirvana
or Moksha, the setting free of the individual from
the Samsara, the revolution of birth and death.
The means of reaching it are to it, as to Buddhism,
the three Jewels the right Faith, the right Know-
ledge, and the right Walk. By the right Faith it
understands the full surrender of himself to the
teacher, the Jina, the firm conviction that he alone
has found the way of salvation, and only with him
is protection and refuge to be found. Ask who
Jina is, and the Jaina will give exactly the same
answer as the Buddhist with respect to Buddha.
He is originally an erring man, bound with the
bonds of the world, who, not by the help of a


teacher, nor by the revelation of the Vedas which,
he declares, are corrupt but by his own power,
has attained to omniscience and freedom, and out
of pity for suffering mankind preaches and declares
the way of salvation, which he has found. Because
he has conquered the world and the enemies in
the human heart, he is called Jin a "the Victor",
Mahavira, "the great hero"; because he possesses
the highest knowledge, he is called Sarvajna
or Kevalin, the "omniscient", Buddha, the
"enlightened"; because he has freed himself from
the world he receives the names of Mukta "the
delivered one", Siddha and Tathagata, "the
perfected", Arhat "the holy one"; and as the
proclaimer of the doctrine, he is the Tirthakara
"the finder of the ford", through the ocean of the
Samsara. In these epithets, applied to the founder
of their doctrine, the Jainas agree almost entirely
with the Buddhists, as the likeness of his character
to that of Buddha would lead us to expect. They
prefer, however, to use the names J i n a and Arhat,
while the Buddhists prefer to speak of Buddha as
Tathagata or Sugata. The title Tirthakara
is peculiar to the Jainas. Among the Buddhists it
is a designation for false teachers c .

6 The titles Siddha, Buddha and Mukta are certainly bor-
rowed by both sects from the terminology of the Brahmans, which
they used, even in olden times, to describe those saved during their
lifetime (jtvartmttkta). The surnames Vtra or Mahdvtra and
Arhat are probably derived from the same source. For Vira is


The Jaina says further, however, that there was
more than one Jina. Four and twenty have, at
long intervals, appeared and have again and again
restored to their original purity the doctrines dark-
ened by evil influences. They all spring from noble,
warlike tribes. Only in such, not among the low
Brahmans, can a Jina see the light of the world.
The first Jina Rishabha, more than 100 billion
oceans of years ago, periods of unimaginable
length 7 , was born as the son of a king of
Ayodhya and lived eight million four hundred
thousand years. The intervals between his succes-
sors and the durations of their lives became shorter
and shorter. Between the twenty third, Parsva
and the twenty fourth Vardhamana, were only
250 years, and the age of the latter is given as

used in the Saivite doctrine to describe a consecrated one who is
on the way to redemption. An A r h a t, among the Brahmans, is
a man distinguished for his knowledge and pious life (comp. for
example Apastamba, Dharmasutra. I, 13, 135 II, 10, I.) and this
idea is so near that of the Buddhists and the Jainas that it may
well be looked upon as the foundation of the latter. The meaning
of Tirthakara "prophet, founder of religion", is derived from
the Brahmanic use of tirtha in the sense of "doctrine". Comp.
also H. Jacobi's Article on the Title of Buddha and Jina, Sac.
Books of the East. Vol. XXII, pp. xix, xx.

1 A S a gar a or Sagaropama of years is = 100,000,000,000,000
Palya or Palyopama. A Paly a, is a period in which a well, of
one or, according to some, a hundred yojana^ i. e. of one or a hundred

geographical square miles, stuffed full of fine hairs, can be emptied,
if one hair is pulled out every hundred years : Wilson, Select Works,

Vol. I, p. 309; Colebrooke, Essays^ Vol. II, p. 194. ed. Cowell-


only seventy-two years. He appeared, according
to some, in the last half of the sixth century, ac-
cording to others in the first half of the fifth century
B. C. He is of course the true, historical prophet
of the Jainas and it is in his doctrine, that the
Jainas should believe. The dating back of the origin
of the Jaina religion again, agrees with the pretensions
of the Buddhists, who recognise twenty-five Bud-
dhas who taught the same system one after the other.
Even with Brahmanism, it seems to be in some distant
manner connected , for the latter teaches in its
cosmogony, the successive appearance of Demiurges,
and wise men the fourteen Manus, who, at various
periods helped to complete the work of creation
and proclaimed the Brahmanical law. These Brah-
manical ideas may possibly have given rise to the
doctrines of the twenty- five Buddhas and
twenty- four Jinas, 8 which, certainly, are later
additions in both systems.

The undoubted and absolutely correct compre-
hension of the nine truths which the Jina gives
expression to, or of the philosophical system which
the Jina taught, represents the second Jewel
the true Knowledge. Its principal features are
shortly as follows .

8 For the list of these Jinas, see below, pp. 66 71.

9 More complete representations are to be found in Colebrooke's
Misc. Essays. Vol. I, pp. 404, 413, with Cowell's Appendix p.
444 452; Vol. II, pp. 194, 196, 198 201; H.H. Wilson's Select

Works^ Vol. I, pp. 297 302, 305 317; J. Stevenson, Kalpasutra*
pp. xix xxv ; A. Earth, Religions de r Inde, pp. 84 91.


The world (by which we are to understand, not
only the visible, but also imaginary continents
depicted with the most extravagant fancy, heavens
and hells of the Brahmanical Cosmology, extended
by new discoveries) is uncreated. It exists, without
ruler, only by the power of its elements, and is
everlasting. The elements of the world are six
substances souls, Dharma or moral merit, Adharma
or sin, space, time, particles of matter. From the
union of the latter spring four elements earth,
fire, water, wind and further, bodies and all
other appearances of the world of sense and of the
supernatural worlds. The forms of the appearances
are mostly unchangeable. Only the bodies of men
and their age increase or decrease in consequence
of the greater or less influence of sin or merit,
during immeasurabty^long periods, the Avasarpini
and the Utsarpini. Souls are, each by itself, in-
dependent, real existences whose foundation is pure
intelligence, and who possess an impulse to action.
In the world they are always chained to bodies.
The reason; of this confinement is that they give
themselves 'up to the stress of activity, to passions,
to influences of the senses and objects of the mind,
or attach themselves to a false belief. The deeds
which they perform in the bodies are Karman,
merit and sin. This drives them when one body
has passed away, according to the conditions of its
existence into another, whose quality depends on
the character of the Karman, and will be determined


especially by the last thoughts springing from it
before death. Virtue leads to the heavens of the
gods or to birth among men in pure and noble
races. Sin consigns the souls to the lower regions,
in the bodies of animals, in plants, even into
masses of lifeless matter. For according to the
Jaina doctrine souls exist not only in organic
structures, but also in apparently dead masses, in
stones, in lumps of earth, in drops of water, in fire
and in wind. Through union with bodies the nature
of the soul is affected. In the mass of matter the
light of its intelligence is completely concealed; it
loses consciousness, is immovable, and large or
small, according to the dimensions of its abode.
In organic structures it is always conscious; it depends
however, on the nature of the same, whether it is
movable or immovable and possessed of five, four,
three, two, or one organ of sense.

The bondage of souls, if they inhabit a human
body, can be abolished by the suppression of the
causes which lead to their confinement and by the
destruction of the Karman. The suppression of the
causes is accomplished by overcoming the inclination
to be active and the passions, by the control of
the senses, and by steadfastly holding to the right
faith. In this way will be hindered the addition of
new Karman, new merit or new guilt. The destruc-
tion of Karman remaining from previous existences
can be brought about either spontaneously by the
exhaustion of the supply or by asceticism. In the


latter case the final state is the attainment to a
knowledge which penetrates the universe, to Kevala,
Jnana and Nirvana or Moksha: full deliverance from
all bonds. These goals may be reached even while
the soul is still in its body. If however the body
is destroyed then the soul wanders into the "No-
World" (albka) as the Jain says, i. e. into the heaven
of Jina 'the delivered', lying outside the world u> .
There it continues eternally in its pure intellectual
nature. Its condition is that of perfect rest which
nothing disturbs. These fundamental ideas are
carried out in the particulars with a subtilness and
fantasy unexampled, even in subtile and fantastic
India, in a scholarly style, and defended by
the syadvada^ the doctrine of "It may be so",
a mode of reasoning which makes it possible to
assert and deny the existence of one and the same
thing. If this be compared with the other Indian
systems, it stands nearer the Brahman than the
Buddhist , with which it has the acceptance in
common of only four, not five elements. Jainism
touches all the Brahman religions and Buddhism in its

10 On the Jaina Paradise see below p. 74. Dr. Biihler seems
here to have confounded the Albka or Non-world, Hhe space
where only things without life are found', with the heaven of the
Siddhas 5 but these are living beings who have crossed the boun-
dary of the Samsara and attained perfection. Their dwelling place
is above that of the highest of the Anuttara gods. Ed.

1 Weber, Ueber das Sairtinjaya Mahatmyam^ S. 15; or Indian
Antiquary vol. XXX, p. 240, n. 4. Ed.


cosmology and ideas of periods, and it agrees
entirely with regard to the doctrines of Karman,
of the bondage, and the deliverance of souls. Atheism,
the view that the world was not created, is common
to it with Buddhism and the Sahkhya philosophy.
Its psychology approaches that of the latter in that
both believe in the existence of innumerable inde-
pendent souls. But the doctrine of the activity
of souls and their distribution into masses of
matter is in accordance with the Vedanta, accord-
ing to which the principle of the soul penetrates
every thing existing. In the further development of
the soul doctrine, the conceptions 'individual soul'
and 'living, being' to which the Jaina and the Brah-
man give the same name, jiva, seem to become
confounded. The Jaina idea of space and time as
real substances is also found in the Vaiseshika
system. In placing Dharma and Adharma among
substances Jainism stands alone.

The third jewel, the r i g h t W a 1 k which the Jaina
ethics contains, has its kernel in the five great
oaths which the Jaina ascetic takes on his entrance
into the order. He promises, just as the Brahman
penitent, and almost in the same words, not to
hurt, not to speak untruth, to appropriate nothing
to himself without permission, to preserve chastity,
and to practice self-sacrifice. The contents of these
simple rules become most extraordinarily extended
on the part of the Jainas by the insertion of five
clauses, in each of which are three separate active


instruments of sin, in special relation to thoughts,
words, and deeds. Thus, concerning the oath not
to hurt, on which the Jaina lays the greatest em-
phasis : it includes not only the intentional killing
or hurting of living beings, plants, or the souls
existing in dead matter, it requires also the utmost
carefulness in the whole manner of life, in all move-
ments, a watchfulness over all functions of the body
by which anything living might be hurt 2 . It demands
finally strict watch over the heart and tongue, and
the avoidance of all thoughts and words which
might lead to dispute and quarrel and thereby to
harm. In like manner the rule of sacrifice means
not only that the ascetic has no house or posses-
sions; it teaches also that a complete unconcern
toward agreeable and disagreeable impressions is
necessary, as also the sacrifice of every attachment
to anything living or dead 3 .

Beside the conscientious observance of these rules,
Tap as Asceticism, is most important for the right
walk of those, who strive to attain Nirvana. As-
ceticism is inward as well as outward. The former

2 The Digambara sect, at least in southern India, do not seem
to be all quite so punctiliously careful in this as the Sv etambara
of western India. Ed.

3 On the five great vows see the Acharahga Sutra, II, 15:
S. B. E. Vol. XXII, pp. 202210. The Sanskrit terms of the
Jains are: i. ahimsa, 2. sunrita^ 3. asteya^ 4. brahmacharya^ 5.
aparigraha; those of the Brahmanical ascetics: I. ahimsa, 2. satya,
3. asteya, 4. brahmacharya, 5. tyaga.


is concerned with self-discipline, the cleansing and
purifying of the mind. It embraces repentance of
sin, confession of the same to the teacher, and
penance done for it, humility before teachers and
all virtuous ones, and the service of the same, the
study and teaching of the faith or holy writing,
pious meditations on the misery of the world, the
impurity of the body, etc. and .lastly, the stripping
off of every thing pertaining to the world. On the
other hand, under the head of exterior Asceticism,
the Jaina understands, temperance, begging, giving
up all savoury food, different kinds of self-mortifi-
cation such as sitting in unnatural and wearying
positions, hindering the action of the organs, es-
pecially by fasts, which, under certain circumstances
may be continued to starvation. Voluntary death
by the withdrawal of nourishment is, according to
the strict doctrine of the Digambara, necessary for
all ascetics, who have reached the highest step of
knowledge. The Kevalin, they say, eats no longer.
The milder vetambara do not demand this abso-
lutely, but regard it, as a sure entrance to Nirvana.
In order, however, that this death may bear its
fruits, the ascetic must keep closely to the direc-
tions for it, otherwise he merely lengthens the
number of rebirths 4 .

4 With reference to asceticism, comp. Leumann, Aupapatlka
Sutra 30. The death of the wise ones by starvation is described ,

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryGeorg BühlerOn the Indian sect of the Jainas → online text (page 1 of 5)