Prakrit Jñanabharati International Award - Speech of Prof. Willem Bollée during Award Ceremony

Posted: 30.05.2008
Updated on: 29.11.2012

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Professor Padmarajaiah Hampana, Professor Prem Suman Jain, Dr Mrs Saroj Jain, dear colleagues, especially the ones formerly in Heidelberg, Professors Heidrun Brueckner, Lothar Lutze and Joachim Bautze.

I wish to first thank His Holiness Pūjya Svasti Shrī Charukeerthy Bhaṭṭārak Mahāsvāmiji as chair­man, and the other members of the selection committee of the Shrutakevali Education Trust and the National Institute of Prakrit Studies and Research in Śravanabelagola, for the most honourable reward, conferred on my person for my work in the field of the study of Middle-Indo-Aryan literature and Jain religion. So far I have worked predominantly in Ardha-Māgadhī and Jaina Mahārāṣṭrī, but since I succeeded in obtaining some more relevant texts, also in Śaura­senī and Jain Sanskrit, as the booklet will show, which is to be released later on in this function.

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Speech by Prof. Willem Bollée

Asked after one’s profession here, one often has to explain first, that an Indologist is not a kind of medical specialist, and the religion of the Jains is completely unknown.

According to modern brain research we have neither an I nor a free will. Be that as it may, I came to the study of the Jains only after my degree because of lack of interest in non-brahmanical India at my university just after World War Two, where the professor of Indology himself had never been to India and told us that one could better study the discipline at one’s desk at home.

Besides, I had begun as a student of European classics and Indo-European linguistics, for in the Latin Grammar School Greek had been my favourite discipline. At one occasion, on the last day before the Easter holidays, I was fascin­ated, when our teacher, with whom we read Xenophon’s expedition with his Greek mercenaries to Persia, had written and explained King Darius’ Behistun inscription in Old Persian on the blackboard - that king, who may also have inspired the Emperor Aśoka to make proclamations to his peoples in the same way in stone.

The so-called fate had early helped my interest in oriental languages, when one day, together with a classmate, I found in a bookshop a Sanskrit grammar and we started to learn Deva­nāgarī. From books we also became interested in Buddhism on which my friend later wrote his thesis, whereas I worked some years on the Critical Pali Dictionary, first in Denmark, soon after that in Hamburg, at that time the centre of Middle-Indo-Aryan, especially Jain studies in Europe.

I used the good opportunity to participate in some courses, first of Haribhadra, then also in Ardha-Māgadhī. As - in contrast to the Tipiṭhaka - only a fraction of the Śvetāmbara Āgamas has been critically edited and studied, and the early editions must be revised now, I decided, to further concentrate on Jinological research. At Münster university, where I was an assistant professor when my contract with the Pali Dictionary ended, my Jain studies were still combined with Indo-European linguistics; after my DLitt. degree at Heidelberg I could restrict it to comparison with other Indian religions.

After World War II the interest in the advanced civilisations of the past has fast decreased, in Europe as well as in India, where we have lost a whole generation of great scholars such as A. N. Upādhye, who visited me in Bonn in the early seventies of the last century; Mālvaniyā,

whom I saw in Ahmedabad, and Bhāyānī. The avasarpiṅī, however, is gradually followed by an utsarpiṅīperiod. I am not informed about India, but in Germany we are happy now to have some promising younger students of Jinism. They, too, will want to build up a library and therefore face the same difficulties as we had, namely the procurement of books, especially the older text editions.

In the past, Jain studies used to be promoted by royalty: we think of the Mahārāja Gaekwaḍ of Baroda, and other prominent laymen such as Singhi Jain. The series they sponsored are mostly out of print now and urgently need to be made available once more. This holds true even more for the pothis and books printed in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Some of these were recently reset and regrettably not properly proofread. An additional difficulty is that nowadays Indian publishers consider reprinting a text a commercial risk. Therefore, at my suggestion, Maurice Bloomfield’s digest of Bhāva­deva’s Pārśvanāthacarita has now been made available again, but the text, which appeared in Benares in 1911 and of which I had provided the exemplar, is still waiting. For this reason the library of the newly founded chair of Indology in Würzburg will have to find many antiquarian books. This is a burden to its budget, all the more, because Jain studies are only a part of our discipline. Therefore, and in view of the fact that in the Indian śramaṇicreligions people are always invited to dāna, I have decided to donate the prize money connected with my award to my Würzburg colleague, Professor Heidrun Brückner.

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Berlin, 25.05.08, speech during Bestowal Function for Prof.W.Bollée and Prof.K.Bruhn.