The Unknown Loṅkā Tradition and the Cultural Unconscious (1)

Published: 05.03.2016

The Unknown Loṅkā Tradition and the Cultural Unconscious

In the last two decades, the main focus of Jaina research has shifted from the effectively a-historical exploration of the language, content and form of the Śvetāmbara canon in particular, to the historical and anthropological investigation of "strategies of transmission" of tradition, including "canonisation" and "transformation" (Bruhn 1987: 107f.). The guiding question in this research is how to conceptualise the relationship between continuity and change within the "Jaina tradition" (Carrithers 1990: 142). The investigation of this question became imperative after the philological deconstruction of earlier notions of a Jaina "ur-canon" and the "dogmatic immutability" of the Jaina doctrine (Bruhn 1987: 104, 107), as a consequence of which even the core principles of "true Jainism" (Dundas 1993: 253) and the term "Jaina" itself (FLÜGEL 2005: 2-5) became problematic.

THE PRESENT IN THE PAST

In current academic studies, the history of the Jaina tradition is predominately presented as an interactive process between texts and practices through time (Cort 1990: 59). The emphasis is on the continuity of canonical histories, monastic traditions, and religious properties,[1] which offer alternative points of connection for the for mation of variable group identities. In this model, scripture,[2] lineal descent, and the direct link to a charismatic teacher function as alternative sources of authority and legitimation as Granoff (1991: 76f.; 1993: 315), Dundas (1993: 250), Qvarnström (1998: 33f., 46) and Balbir (2003a: 267-269) have shown in their studies of late medieval Jaina sectarian traditions. Practice is not seen anymore as a mere enactment of rules, but also as an impetus for re-interpretation of rules or for the creation of new rules. Examples of such processes are particularly visible in the context of sectarian rivalry "expressing the stiffening of group identity, rather than the persevering of an archaic tradition" (Balbir 2003a: 267). Neither textual traditions nor descent constructs are now seen as static, despite the fact that innovations are within the Jaina tradition commonly introduced as "views well-rooted in the scriptural tradition" (Balbir 2003a: 263).

Although earlier views of the unchanging nature of the principal features of Jainism are being replaced by this new approach, the dominant lines of influence still run from the past to the present, from text to practice. Yet, with growing historical and ethnographical information, it seems both possible and necessary to reverse the perspective. After all, in any situation, the choice is not whether to obey or to disobey transmitted rules, but which rule to obey, as the anthropologists M. Gluckman and E. Leach both noted.[3] In the Jaina context, this is a truism. The amorphous nature of the canonical scriptures alone, not to mention the commentaries and imports from non-Jain traditions, forces strategies of selection and reduction of complexity on everyone who refers to them, even disregarding instrumental interests. The question is not whether to obey or to disobey the scriptures, but which scripture to obey, and how to interpret it.

W. C. Smith's (1962/1991: 168) concept of "cumulative tradition" already highlighted that "a tradition" presents itself not as an entity but as "a growing congeries of items" of diverse nature, which is only "unified in the conceptual mind, by processes of conceptual abstraction". J. Assmann's (2000: 39f.) notion of "cultural memory" covers similar ground. Yet, it puts less emphasis on processes of conscious transmission and re-vitalisation of a tradition through the faith of individual participants, as Smith's notion does, or the selective instrumentalisation of the past through the "connective memory" of particular groups, as current reconstructions of Jaina sectarian histories do, but focuses on the latent function of the entire "archive" (Derrida) of the amorphous "cultural unconscious". In Assmann's view, the interesting aspects of "cultural memory" are the forgotten, ignored, obsolete, hidden, excluded, suppressed or disrespected elements of a tradition, which are still accessible but unutilised and therefore "freely at one's disposal".[4] The term "cultural memory" is wider than the term "tradition", which in its restricted sense refers to a consciously constructed instrumentalisation of the past in terms of present needs and interests. Though inspired by Freud's notions of repression and latency, the "cultural unconscious" in this sense must be distinguished both from inferred processes of "unconscious thought"  and "deep motivations" (Goonasekere 1986: 7), and from spheres of value within the realm of ideology which are not systematically expressed (Laidlaw 1985: 51f.), and in this sense "unconscious" (Cort 1990: 60). It overlaps, however, with the sphere of preconscious habits, dispositions and practices (Bourdieu 1992: 52ff.) in a yet to be explored way.

In this article, I will utilise this perspective for the analysis of the modern historiography of Loṅkā and the Loṅkāgaccha, by focusing on processes of canonisation and repression of memory, and on techniques of selective citation and re-combination of transmitted elements of the Jain tradition[5] through which authority was claimed both by Loṅkā and his successors and by modern authors who tried to establish Loṅkā as an ancestral figure for competing factions of the aniconic Jaina tradition, which Loṅkā is said to have founded on the basis of the scriptures alone. I will first explore the ways in which the teachings of Loṅkā and the Loṅkāgaccha tradition have been depicted in modern literature, and how the scant information on Loṅkā was compiled and redacted by different interested parties, and then turn to some of the texts which have been attributed to Loṅkā himself to delimit the scope of his influence on the still existing but ignored Loṅkāgaccha tradition, which has lost all memory of its own past and on the Sthānakavāsī and Terāpanth traditions. I am not trying to solve the presently unanswerable question of the accuracy of the transmitted historical knowledge on Loṅkā's biography and beliefs but will focus primarily on the analysis of the effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte) of his ideas.[6]

THE UNKNOWN LOṄKĀ

The true nature of the biography and teachings of Loṅkā is still disputed within the Jaina tradition, even now, more than five hundred years after his death.[7] It is commonly accepted that Luṅkā or Loṅkā[8] was a layman who lived in Gujarāt sometime between 1415-1489. Because of his access to the Śvetāmbara scriptures, he was able to articulate a powerful, text-based critique of the laxity, śithilācāra, of contemporary Jaina mendicants, and to reject the prevailing practice of image-worship as "uncanonical", since, in his view, it was predicated on violence and attachment to property.[9] No consensus exists, however, on the nature of Loṅkā's influence on the formation of the aniconic mendicant traditions which emerged        in the aftermath of his protest: the Loṅkāgaccha tradition,[10] which was founded by Bhāṇā in the 1470s, and the Sthānakavāsī traditions, which were established in the early 17th century by different groups of dissenting sādhus of the Loṅkāgaccha who objected to the re-emergence of image-worship within the tradition. Due to a lack of reliable sources,[11] nothing certain can be said at present about the biography of Loṅkā, and even less about the early leaders of the Loṅkāgaccha, although this may change in due course.[12]

The dearth of historical sources is a consequence both of the long-standing suppression of all but the most basic information concerning Loṅkā by his opponents,[13] and of the lack of interest in the creation and transmission of literature by the followers of Loṅkā, who evidently were more concerned with the preservation of his basic ideas (Sinnpflege) than of the texts (Textpflege).[14] Emptied of historical memory, the modern image of Loṅkā can be painted in almost any colour, like contours on a white canvas. By the beginning of the 20th century, Loṅkā was revered as an ancestral figure not only by the Loṅkāgaccha traditions, but also by the rival Sthānakavāsī and Terāpanth traditions; each claiming to manifest his teaching in its purest form. The premise of this contest, that religious authority is conveyed not only by proper conduct in accordance with the prescriptions of the scriptures (siddhānta) but also by either lineal or direct spiritual descent (paramparā) from a prestigious ancestor,[15] was not entirely new in the aniconic tradition.[16] In addition to Mahāvīra, Loṅkā is mentioned as a source of authority in almost all surviving old paṭṭāvalīs of the Loṅkāgaccha and Sthānakavāsī traditions. However, although they are amongst the earliest written documents of the tradition, the oldest Sthānakavāsī paṭṭāvalīs cannot be dated much earlier than the beginning of the 19th century.[17] Before the modern Jaina revival in the second half of the 19th century, the institutional structures of the aniconic traditions were very rudimentary and, within the five main lines of tradition, in a state of permanent flux. Instead of paṭṭāvalīs, which trace the succession of group leaders, the dominant descent constructs were gurvāvalīs, that is lists which trace the guru-śiṣya lineages, as documented in the colophons of the oldest surviving manuscripts which contain mostly biographical poems and songs.[18] It seems, the perceived need for group organisation and ideological integration through elaborate descent constructs emerged in the Sthānakavāsī tradition only when, facing extinction under conditions of colonial domination, Hindu nationalism and sectarian rivalry, the quest for organisation, reform and competitive reappropriation of the past had gained a new momentum.[19] At the time, the sectarian struggle over the definition of the cultural memory of Loṅkā was particularly intense between the Sthānakavāsīs and the reformed "Saṃvegī" Tapāgaccha Mūrtipūjakas. For the Mūrtipūjakas (and the Digambaras) Loṅkā continued to be the prototypical heretic and one of the greatest threats to the survival of their own tradition. In an intriguing role-reversal, the Sthānakavāsīs and the Mūrtipūjakas re-enacted the ideological struggle between Loṅkā (and the Loṅkāgaccha) and his Mūrtipūjaka opponents in the 15th century. Yet, the agenda had signify cantly changed. At stake was not only the justification of imageworship on the part of the Mūrtipūjakas, but also the quest for legitimacy of a wide variety of new monastic orders and sectarian traditions which, by now, derived their religious identity directly from the layman Loṅkā – either through descent constructs or through the acceptance of his interpretation of the scriptures. At the centre of the controversies were idiosyncratic points of the customary law, sāmācārī or maryādā, of the monastic traditions[20] which are at the heart of the aniconic sects.[21] Monastic customary law is multidimensional in both form and content. Usually it is transmitted in the form of hand-written lists of proclamations (bol) in vernacular prose, often only comprising quotes from the scriptures with or without commentary, but also in form of poems or question-and-answer texts (praśnottara). It regulates not only the conduct, but also the doctrinal outlook, organisation and liturgy of a particular group of mendicants.[22] As such, it provides a crucial link between doctrine and practice, scripture and community, and is prone to processes of canonisation.[23] A crucial point of contention between the Sthānakavāsī and the Mūrtipūjaka traditions was whether Loṅkā himself formulated a list of instructions which led to the formation of the Loṅkāgaccha, what exactly these instructions were, and how they related to the customs of the various contemporary Sthānakavāsī traditions. Currently, no records are known on disputes about Loṅkā's teachings amongst Sthānakavāsīs and members of the Loṅkāgaccha.

The key question, to what extent the prescribed[24] customary practices of the different aniconic traditions (and those of the Mūrtipūjakas) actually coincided with canonical prescriptions, triggered a series of heated disputes, which peaked in the 1930s, at the height of the nationalist and religious revivalist movements in India. At the time, the Śvetāmbara revivalist movements competed vigorously with one another and with Hindu revivalist groups, such as the aniconic Ārya Samāj of Svāmī Dayānand Sarasvatī (1824-1883),[25] and with Christian missionaries for support amongst the adherents of the traditional Jaina communities. Particularly virulent were     the written exchanges between Sthānakavāsī mendicants and exSthānakavāsī Mūrtipūjaka monks from the Paṭjāb and Rājasthān, such as the polemicists Muni Buddhivijay (Būṭerāy) (1807-1882),[26] Ācārya Ātmārām (Vijayānand Sūri) (1837-1897)[27] and his Gujarātborn disciple Muni Vallabhvijay (1870-1953), who were amongst the driving forces of the revival of the upright (saṃvegī) tradition of the Mūrtipūjaka Tapāgaccha in Gujarāt, which had to re-establish itself almost from scratch.[28] One of the fiercest critics of the aniconic tradition in the 20th century, the (ex-Sthānakavāsī) Mūrtipūjaka muni Jṭānsundar (1936: 131ff.), born in 1880 in Rajasthan,[29] who attempted to revive the Upakeśagaccha, has argued that contemporary Sthānakavāsī intellectuals such as Ācārya Amolakṛṣi (1877-1936),[30] V āḍilāl Moṭīlāl Śāh (1878-1931), Muni Maṇilāl (1849-1932?),[31] and Muni Saubhāgyacandra "Santabāëa" (died 1981),[32] who invoked Loṅkā's critique of image-worship both in their innovative historiography of Loṅkā and in their polemics against the Mūrtipūjakas, had deliberately fabricated (kalpita) an artificial portrait of Loṅkā as their common spiritual ancestor to promote the unification of the multiple strands of their divided tradition.[33] According to Jṭānsundar, who perceived a unified Sthānakavāsī Śramaṇasaṅgha as a threat to the revival of the Mūrtipūjaka tradition, there was not a shred of evidence for Loṅkā's instructions to his followers in the literature of Loṅkāgaccha, the Sthānakavāsīs and the Terāpanthīs, except for one unspecific reference to Loṅkā's upadeśa in a Loṅkāgaccha text which was composed thirty-eight or forty-six years after Loṅkā's death and could, in his view, therefore not be trusted.[34]

The critique of the "lack of evidence" in the Sthānakavāsi literature on Loṅkā is a modern topos of the Mūrtipūjaka praśnottara literature. It was already articulated by Ātmārām (1884/1903) and repeated again by Jṭānsundar (1936: 97) and Śeṭh (1962: 342), to name but a few. Proof and evidence (pramāṇa) are long-established criteria in Jaina scholasticism. However, the increasing influence of European historicism and academic jargon on modern Jaina vernacular historiographies cannot be underestimated.[35] The Jainas encountered the power of "scientific truth" and of historical "facts and figures" first in the colonial courts of law in the 19th century.[36] Its rhetoric quickly filtered into their internal sectarian and communal disputes soon after the introduction of the printing press and of modern means of communication and transportation which transformed Indian intellectual culture. Almost all printed vernacular texts on Loṅkā profess to be interested in history and often use scientific jargon. This does not mean that the texts are products of a scientific attitude, in the sense of Max Weber's Wissenschaft als Beruf, with at least a notional commitment towards objectivity. Most vernacular historiographies to date are partisan and often polemical works which explicitly aim at influencing the present through one-sided re-constructions and reinterpretations of the past.[37] To its credit, the new Jaina historiography has unearthed numerous important historical documents. Its authors also reflect on the method of writing history itself, but often only to discredit the work of opponents as "unreliable".

As Jṭānsundar (1936: 7) rightly observed, the interest of the Sthānakavāsīs in Loṅkā seems to be greatest during periods of expansion, crisis and change. Whenever "Sthānakavāsīs" feel the need to assert their common doctrinal heritage and the need for institutional integration, both Loṅkā and the common opposition against image-worship are brought into play. And whenever the "Mūrtipūjaka" tradition as a whole comes under attack, it usually retaliates in kind. In this way the antagonism generates a sense of self-identity in both traditions and contributes to their social integration. Underlying the antagonism between the previously socially insignificant denominational super-categories such as "Mūrtipūjaka" and "Sthānakavāsi", incorporating several "sub-"sects, is the struggle over the definition of the "essence" of "true Jainism" (understood in the manner of the new book oriented Religionswissenschaft) under the banner of "Jain" unity. At stake was the ideological self-definition and thus political positioning of the entire "Jain community" at a time of the emergence of Jain religious nationalism.[38]

Footnotes
1:

Jump to occurrence in text

2:

Jump to occurrence in text

3:

Jump to occurrence in text

4:

Jump to occurrence in text

5:

Jump to occurrence in text

6:

Jump to occurrence in text

7:

Jump to occurrence in text

8:

Jump to occurrence in text

9:

Jump to occurrence in text

10:

Jump to occurrence in text

11:

Jump to occurrence in text

12:

Jump to occurrence in text

13:

Jump to occurrence in text

14:

Jump to occurrence in text

15:

Jump to occurrence in text

16:

Jump to occurrence in text

17:

Jump to occurrence in text

18:

Jump to occurrence in text

19:

Jump to occurrence in text

20:

Jump to occurrence in text

21:

Jump to occurrence in text

22:

Jump to occurrence in text

23:

Jump to occurrence in text

24:

Jump to occurrence in text

25:

Jump to occurrence in text

26:

Jump to occurrence in text

27:

Jump to occurrence in text

28:

Jump to occurrence in text

29:

Jump to occurrence in text

30:

Jump to occurrence in text

31:

Jump to occurrence in text

32:

Jump to occurrence in text

33:

Jump to occurrence in text

34:

Jump to occurrence in text

35:

Jump to occurrence in text

36:

Jump to occurrence in text

37:

Jump to occurrence in text

38:

Jump to occurrence in text

Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Das
  3. Digambaras
  4. Guru
  5. Hiṃsā
  6. JAINA
  7. Jaina
  8. Jainism
  9. K. Bruhn
  10. Karma
  11. Loṅkā
  12. Mahāvīra
  13. Muni
  14. Mūrtipūjaka
  15. Objectivity
  16. Prabhu
  17. Pramāṇa
  18. Pūjā
  19. Rajasthan
  20. Rājasthān
  21. Sanskrit
  22. Sarasvatī
  23. Saṅgha
  24. Sthānakavāsi
  25. Sthānakavāsī
  26. Sādhus
  27. Tattva
  28. Terāpanthīs
  29. Tīrthaṅkara
  30. Upādhyāya
  31. Violence
  32. Yati
  33. Yatis
  34. Ācārya
  35. ācāryas
  36. Śvetāmbara
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 778 times.
© 1997-2020 HereNow4U, Version 4
Home
About
Contact us
Disclaimer
Social Networking

Today's Counter: