Indian Influence on Mani Reconsidered: The Case of Jainism

Posted: 13.08.2009
Updated on: 24.03.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 5, No. 2 (2009) 1-30



Indian Influence on Mani Reconsidered: The Case of Jainism

In 2005 Iain Gardner published an article with the title: "Some comments on Mani and Indian religions according to the Coptic Kephalaia".[1] The most important reference point for the following paper is that he argued that some of the terms found in the Coptic text (bouddas, aurentes, kebellos / kebullos) are transliterations of Indian terms (Skt. buddha, arhat, kevala / kevalin) and that they can be traced to Buddhist or – and this is a new aspect brought into the discussion by Gardner – Jain concepts and traditions.

The following article will re-examine the hypothesis of Indian influence on Manichaeism in general and the possible share of Jainism in particular. It will take into account recent results of South-Asian philology and archaeology, and try to contextualize singular points from the previous paper in a more detailed way.

It is an interesting fact that consideration about possible Indian influence on Western (in the purely geographical sense) religions has been mainly restricted to Buddhism. This reflects, in our opinion, some of the dangers in a diffusionist approach to the history of ideas or religions; and it may be worthwhile to ponder on the pros and contras before embarking on a journey to discover such historical influence of one religious strand on another: Indian religions on Manichaeism.

To retrieve the diffusion of a certain phenomenon or concept from one cultural realm to another easily lends itself to complication through simplification.[2] There is – and this has been one of the major criticisms against more general anthropological and cultural diffusionism – the risk of seeing an influence of one phenomenon on another on the basis of sheer, to use Wittgenstein's term, 'Familienähnlichkeit' (family resemblance).[3] The direction of loan is then (again highly problematic and linked to one of the major themes in modern philosophical discourse) very often based on an assumed hierarchy of the cultural entities involved. The one to which is ascribed a higher age, cultural development, degree of originality, purity or authenticity (all criteria frequently mutually connected) is considered to be the donor and the other the receiver.

The first indispensable check for the validity of an assumed loan process is the actual historical connection between the two entities. A best basis is, of course, the case where form and content of the borrowed 'item' are highly congruent. If, for instance, a linguistic transcript is also highly compatible with the original in semiotic terms. Another vital factor is to show that the presumed loan-'item' was already extant in the donorcontext before it historically appeared on the receiving side. But one has to be careful in not drawing the too hasty conclusion from such a situation that the loan-'item' was completely adopted: It could well be that the borrowing side already had a similar concept which was enriched and / or transformed by contact with the other. This consequently means that, in the case of foreign influence on Mani, it has to be admitted that certain ideas and concepts could rather fertilize ones which were already existent in the original religious or cultural environment. In Mani's case, whatever was taken over from a foreign cultural or religious strand had to be congruent with his system, and in some cases had to undergo certain changes to achieve this.

Max Deeg became suspicious of the tendency of Western scholarship to identify any Indian influence on Near Eastern or Mediterranean Late Antique religion as Buddhist – even and especially as a Buddhist scholar – when he read, in a German translation,[4] the two preserved fragments from an originally longer work on India by the Syriac author Bardaisan of Edessa (154 – 222 C.E.) who had collected information from an Indian delegation[5] to the court of the Roman emperor Heliogabalus (r. 218 – 222 C.E.). Here it was mainly the description of the deliberate death of the ascetics, Greek samanaioi, in which he suspected Jain rather than Buddhist origin. We will discuss this point in detail because the overlap between the lifetime of Mani (216 – 276 C.E.) and Bardaisan[6] renders the latter's report not only a potential support for the thesis of Jain influence on Mani, but also shows that Mani could even have learnt about Jainism in his Iranian homeland. We know that Mani was aware and to a certain extent familiar with,[7] even influenced by, Bardaisan's work; and so his Indian report may be considered as a direct source of information for Mani before his own tour to India.[8]

The reason behind the fact that there is an emphasis on Buddhist influence and a neglecting of the Jain option[9] in the case of Indian-Western (or Near-Eastern) contact is that Buddhism with its 'enlightened' doctrine and the Middle Path (madhyamapat) has had a better standing in the West than the minor and in doctrine and practice more extreme Jainism. We will argue, however, that it is exactly the more extreme degrees of asceticism and some specific features of Jain doctrine which makes the influence of Mahāvīra's religious community more plausible. This has (as far as we are aware) previously only been stressed by Richard Fynes; although there is more evidence than that brought forward by him, as he restricts himself to the existence of plant souls in both Jainism and Manichaeism.[10]

By stressing this negligence of Jainism and the over-emphasis of Buddhism we do – nota bene – not mean to exclude Buddhist influence on Manichaeism; but would rather argue that in some cases there may be a stronger Jain influence. In some cases the distinction between Buddhist and Jain tradition is not so easily discerned, due to the 'common treasurehouse' [11] of both the Buddhists and the Jains[12] or due to the interpretatio Manichaeica or Christiana of the source under discussion.

If we turn now to the relevant spread of the two religions in the period under concern, Buddhism is clearly dominant, for it is found around both the cultural centers of the ruling dynasty of the Kuṣāna: Puruṣapura (or Puṣkalāvatī) in Gandhāra, and Mathurā on the banks of the river Yamunā. However, while there is (as far as we are aware) no archaeological evidence for Jain communities in Gandhāra, their remains in Mathurā in the period of the Kuṣāna are considerable. One has to be careful not to overstress the possibility of Buddhist influence, although it obviously was there, from this situation. A Jain population, after all, is more difficult to detect as its monks, due to their extremely ascetic and mendicant lifestyle, did not necessarily settle in sophisticated brick or stone monasteries or caves like the Buddhists.[13]

Another problem is the literary evidence. The extant Jain literature, according to the Jain tradition itself, only to a certain part reflects the original teaching of the 'founder', Mahāvīra. [14] Both main 'sects', the Digambaras, the 'air-clad' or completely naked ascetics, and the Śvetāmbaras, whose monks and nuns wear white clothes, claim that their literature does not completely (in the case of the Digambaras not at all) reach back to the original sayings of Mahāvīra in the sense of canonical literature.[15] This is related to the schism which occurred between these two factions and was re-projected by both into concrete historical events. [16] Modern Jain Studies have, however, reached a certain agreement on a relative chronological stratification of Jain literature so that we may imply the existence of many of the main doctrinal conceptions and religious practices by the third century C.E.

Because of the historical and general parallels between Mani and Bardaisan, and in order to stress our point of a stronger Jain influence on the 'Western' reception of Indian religions in the world of late Antiquity, we will discuss some points in Bardaisan's report in more detail. The relevant passage on the samanaioi, in which much of the information does not seem to refer to Buddhism at all, is as follows:

"The samanaioi are, as we said, selected ones. If someone wants to be admitted to the community he goes to the council of the city – wherever he is residing – hands over all his property and belongings, shaves the parts of his body which have unnecessary hairs, takes a cape and leaves for the samanaioi without turning to his wife or his children, speaking a word or considering them to belong to him any more. The children are taken care of by the king so that everything they need is given to them; the wife (is taken care of) by the relatives.

The life of the samanaioi is organized as follows: They live outside of the city and spend their days with conversation about the Divine. They have lodgings and temples built by the kind in which there are stewards who receive a fixed amount (of money) to sustain those who have gathered (in the community).

As food rice, bread, fruits and vegetables are prepared. By the sound of a bell the samanaioi go into the house but those who are no samanaioi leave it, and these (samanaioi) speak a prayer. After they have finished their prayer the bell sounds again and servants bring a bowl to each of them – because two of them never eat together from the same – and give them rice to eat. To the one who wishes it they give additionally different sorts of vegetables and fruits. After they have eaten they return to their (former) activities.

They all live without wives and without belongings. The other [inhabitants of India] pay them and also the Brahmins so much reverence that even the king visits them and implores them to speak prayers and to intercede for those who own the land and to advice them what to do.

Towards death they have the attitude that they consider the time of their life as a service to be given to nature and are eager to unbind the soul from the body.

Often, when they see that they are well, they depart from life, although they are not affected or driven by any harm after they have announced it to the others. And nobody will prevent them – everybody rather praises them as blessed and sends greetings and messages to the relatives. They and the other people are so convinced of a firm and secure community of souls.

After they have listened to what they were told they deliver their body to the flame in order to separate the soul from the body in as pure as possible form and depart while singing. The closest friends see them off to death easier than other people see their co-citizens depart to distant colonies. They mourn themselves because they have to stay in life; but they praise those as blissful because they have achieved the lot of immortality."[17]

At first it should be noted that none of the given features exclusively refers to Buddhism and that some of the details even contradict the facts of Buddhist lifestyle which we know from Indian or Chinese sources. There are aspects in Bardaisan's report which could equally refer to Jains, and we will discuss these points first before an analysis of those that cause problems when interpreted by a Buddhist framework.

Here we have a clear description which resembles the upasaṃpadā of the Buddhists but also the formal act of 'going into homelessness' of other ascetic orders in India, of which the historically most influential after the Buddhists are the Jains. The fact that the hairs are shaven does not exclude the Jains from this description, who often are described of tearing out their hair during ordination: First, it is the conventional way to shave the head first before a remaining bushel is torn out[18], and second we do not know when it became normal for Jain ordinants to pluck out their hair. Furthermore, Bardaisan's informant(s) could well have given a more general description of an ordination process in which the custom of the majority was related (and which would have made more sense, after all, for the Christian author).

Bardaisan's samanaioi are clearly recognizable as monastics.[19] They live in a community outside of the settlements: This is something which both the Buddhists and the Jains did, although the Buddhist texts (and to a certain extent also the archaeological evidence) indicate that there were monastic communities in the towns and cities as well as the forest. The former were called the grāmakavāsin, 'village-dwellers', and the latter āraṇyakavāsin, 'forest-dwellers'.[20] In the case of the Jains we do not know exactly if they made a similar distinction between inhabitants of monastic compounds in cities and in the forest; but the more ascetic lifestyle of the Jain monks in general makes it highly probable that they were more to be found outside of the urban centres than inside or on the direct periphery. The emphasis on the fact that the monasteries and their running costs were covered by the king is clearly an idealization on the side of either Bardaisan's Indian informant or of Bardaisan himself; although there is clear (inscriptional) evidence that monasteries of all major śramaṇa-denominations were indeed funded by kings and noble families (and by donors from other social groups such as rich merchants as well).

The details given for the common meal of the monks is well attested for Buddhist monasteries.[21] Beating the bell – the gaṇḍī in Buddhist monasteries – is the sign for gathering in the 'refectorium', and the description of the monks receiving the food in their individual almbowls (pattra) represents long-established practice. But again we cannot say that this is typically Buddhists: the Jains certainly had similar customs.[22]

The most striking point in Bardaisan's report is his insistence on the term soul (ψυχή) which is a separate and separable eternal entity from the body (σώμα). Even in an interpretatio Christiana on the part of Bardaisan, a report on Buddhism by an Indian informant, who probably was a follower of the religion he described, would hardly have led to the repeated insistence on the soteriologically important existence of an individual soul. The idea of a soul, especially an immortal one (ἀθάνατος), would have been an impossible interpretation for the Buddhist notion of anātman (Pāli anatta). While one could argue that the use of the term 'soul' could still be an interpretation by Bardaisan of an originally Buddhist concept, the idea that the soul should be separated from the body is not at all compatible with any such ontological framework. However, Bardaisan's description that the aim of putting oneself to death is to separate the soul from the body is completely in accordance with the Jain concept of the jīva ('life [-substance]' = soul) of a kevalin, of an omniscient and enlightened ascetic, who leaves the body after physical death and ascends to the apex of the world where the liberated souls are said to rest into all eternity.[23]

The report of ascetics who deliberately bring their life to an end[24] has caused interpreters who assume a Buddhist influence a great deal of trouble. Buddhist tradition is clearly against any suicidal ending of one's life, even if there are some rare cases where this is tolerated.[25] Such tolerated suicide is never performed in the way described by Bardaisan, but restricted to cases of euthanasia. It is, however, a well-known fact that Jain saints starve themselves to death (sallekhanā). Although the way in which Bardaisan describes the 'suicide' of the Indian saints is self-immolation[26] and not explicitly starving to death, it nevertheless reminds one more (with the emphasis on the liberation of the soul) of Jain concepts than of Buddhist tradition according to which ending one's own life was normatively forbidden. As for the Jains the death through fire (jala ­appavesa) was considered to be an improper one,[27] but the legends reflect at least the cremation of the  tīrthaṅkaras.[28] The earliest art-historical stratum in Mathurā (see below) and reflexes in Jain literature imply that there was stūpa (or caitya) worship in a style similar to the Buddhist[29] which, to a certain extent, presupposes cremation.[30] There is, however, no direct evidence from Indian sources of the period that ascetics (whether Buddhist, Hindu or Jain) actually practiced self-immolation. In Bardaisan's report the reports of his Indian informers about cremation may then have been mingled with the classical topos of the Indian gymnosophists burning themselves.[31] In sum, the purpose of such an ordeal as given in the text clearly points to Jain ideas: The soul should be liberated. If we accept that it is the Jain practice of giving up one's life that underlies Bardaisan's account, then further discussion about the Buddhist position towards suicide[32] becomes futile.

Keeping Bardaisan's description of Indian samanaioi and what we have argued to be its Jain background in mind, it seems strange that whilst the historical setting of Mani's visit to India is relatively clear, there has been no extensive investigation of this background in the light of the Manichaean texts. In the early third century, the context for Mani's visit and of Bardaisan's report, northwest India experienced a relatively pluralistic situation under what could be called the pax kuṣānica, although the heyday of the Kuṣāna rule were already over at that time. [33] The Central-Asian Kuṣāna had conquered this part of the subcontinent in the first century of the Christian era; and, under rulers like Huviṣka and Kaniṣka, the realm which stretched from the Inner-Asian parts of Iran to the central plain of northern India had its vivid centers in the two capitals of Puruṣapura (near to modern Peshawar in Pakistan) in the upper northwest: the cultural region of Gandhāra, and Mathurā the centre of the three religious movements of Buddhism, Jainism and Viṣṇuism on the bank of the Yamunā river.[34] The region of Gandhāra (together with Bactria and Sogdiana) was, at the time when Mani traveled, ruled by Sassanid governors who called themselves Kūshānshāh, 'Kings of the Kuṣāna'.[35] The archaeological and art-historical evidence suggests that in terms of religions there had been no major change when the Sassanid rulers took over the region.

Although there are no signs whatsoever of Jainism in the region of Gandhāra, Mathurā had clearly been a Jain centre during the reign of the Kuṣāna, coexisting with Buddhist and Hindu communities. Archaeological proof of the Jain presence in the Kuṣāna capital includes the stūpa of Kaṅkālī Ṭilā which existed, according to inscriptional evidence, before 157 C.E.[36] Inscriptions in situ imply that the lay community consisted of merchants, artisans, jewelers and courtesans; and thus represented a prosperous middle class (quite similar – minus the courtesans – to the 'classical' Jain lay community of today). The fact that merchants are mentioned may indicate that knowledge about the religion was also transported beyond the frontiers of the subcontinent; one immediately thinks of Bardaisan's Indian envoys.

Besides Mathurā there is evidence of Jain presence in the western regions of northern India, in today's state of Gujarat, the stronghold of Śvetāmbara-Jainism. Digambara sources date the great schism to the year 609 after the passing away of Mahāvīra, which would have been around 100 C.E. (the Digambaras' traditional date of the death of Mahāvīra being calculated to 510 B.C.E.). [37] The Digambara tradition associates this schism with a famine in the heartland of Jainism which caused the sage Bhadrabāhu and his disciple Viśākha to lead a part of the Jain community to the kingdom of Punnāṭa in the south, respectively the Sindhu (Indus) region.[38] In spite of the highly legendary status of this tradition, it surely reflects a movement of the Jain community to the western coastal areas of the subcontinent before or during the Kuṣāna period.

The circumstances of Mani's journey to India have to be collected from different rather fragmentary sources[39] but it seems clear that it took place in the period between 240 and 242 C.E. [40] This was a crucial and formative period, as Manichaean tradition in the Kephalaia reports that Mani received his decisive 'revelation' in 240 C.E. [41] Thus one may well, supposing in reality a more gradual development of Mani's teaching than asserted by the later tradition, suggest that the years after this date still belonged to the formative period of his religious system; and that what came to be stylized as a mission journey by the Manichaeans themselves was rather an 'educational' trip to the then accessible regions east of the Iranian homeland.

Important for our question of from which religious group Mani could have borrowed ideas, concepts and practices is the question as to which port he landed in after his sea journey from Farat in southern Persia. Both W. Sundermann and S. N. C. Lieu think that this was Dēb at the estuary of the river Indus,[42] but it is also quite possible – as Fynes may be suggesting[43] – that it was further to the south; for instance at the harbor of Barukaccha (Barugaza or Broach at the mouth of the river Narmada) which was one of the main coastal centers in the Persian-Indian trade at that time.[44] From there Mani could have gone to the city of Ujjayinī (Ujjain, Ujjeṇī) and then further to the north.[45] The report of Mani's conversion of the Tūrān Shāh, with Mani levitating into the air[46] and holding a discussion with a learned religious man as reported in a Middle-Iranian text,[47] when stripped of its propagandistic undertones, could well point to a peripheral region of the Kuṣāna empire down in the south or somewhere in the realm of the Kṣatrapa. The Tūrān Shāh would then be referring, in a kind of generalization, to a local ruler like the Kṣatrapas. Be that as it may, this region is definitely a candidate for Jain influence.

We will start with a philological investigation of the terms in the Kephalaia which are claimed to be of Indian origin.[48] The presupposition of this investigation is that Mani should or could have borrowed these terms, which occur in a Graecized form in the Kephalaia, not from the Sanskrit, which became the literary language of the Buddhists and Jains at a later period,[49] but from a north or northwest Indian vernacular – so-called Middle-Indo-Aryan or Prakrit – spoken and used in the period of the Kuṣāna. Recent discoveries of Buddhist manuscripts, probably stemming from southeast Afghanistan (the area around modern Kandahār, maybe the site of Haḍḍa near ancient Nagarahāra) give us a firmer ground for such a philological analysis of the terms which come from a Buddhist background. The language in which these manuscripts were written is, according to the cultural homeland where it was used, labeled by Western scholars as Gāndhārī. It was obviously a kind of lingua franca in the Kuṣāna empire, as manuscript finds in a slightly different variant at the archaeological sites of the southern silk road show. Even if we do not have evidence for Gāndhārī in the regions farther to the south of Gandhāra, there is no reason that a similar vernacular could not also have been in use in these regions at the time.[50] The terms in the Kephalaia could reflect words from a northwest dialect, from Sanskrit (used in an epigraphical form in Kuṣāna inscriptions; [51] or, in the case of supposed Jain origin, in Jain Prakrit (Ardhamāgadhī).

Let us start with the most obvious word, bouddas. The Prakrit form for Skt. buddha in Pāli, the language of the southern Theravāda-branch of Buddhism, and in Ardhamāgadhī, the canonical language of the Jains,[52] are identical. The Gāndhārī form of the word is budha[53]. It is notable – although not necessarily a claim for its linguistic origin – that the Kephalaia form of the term seems to reflect the Indic plural ending - ā(s)[54] while its singular correspondent Skt. buddha(ḥ) (Sandhi-form Skt. buddho) is usually rendered in Greek with the -o(s) ending.

Schaeder, Sundermann, Gnoli and others[55] have argued that the term aurentes in the Kephalaia is originally a transliteration of the Indic term (Skt.) arhat.[56] Sundermann and Gnoli referred to Iranian languages (Middle Persian and Bactrian) for mediating the specific word form into Coptic, but we think that the Indian side of the phonetic question has to be considered here as well. Sundermann has pointed to metathetic development of the sequence r()h into hr and suggested that the u instead of the h in aurentes may be compared to the rendering of Bactrian h by υ in the Bactrian usage of the Greek alphabet.[57]

We are somewhat cautious about an explanation which relies completely on scriptural tradition. After all, the transmission of the name occurred in an oral rather than a written form – Mani or whoever it was who picked up the Indian word certainly did so by hearing it from an informant – so that one should first check the possibility of phonetic change in the original rather than in the 'transmissional' language. The Indic-word form which slipped into the Kephalaia would not have been a standard Sanskrit form but a Prakrit form of arhat.

We therefore propose an explanation different from the 'Bactrian' one. In JainPrakrit the word-form is araha (or arahaṃta)[58] and is a concept for highly developed and venerated religious persons as in Buddhism.[59] It is certainly difficult from a purely Indian standpoint to explain how the simple vowel a- in arhat could be transliterated in a probably Aramaic or Greek mediating form into a diphthong au- as in aurentes; but we still see the possibility of a metathesized form *aharant- already on the Indian side in which the syllable (Skt. akṣara) -ha- then would have been pronounced with a more closed -a- – in contrast with the more open initial a- – which, after the -h- was lost, led to a diphthongic pronunciation (close to a > au) of the word. In terms of content it is difficult to decide from which religious strand, Buddhism or Jainism, Mani borrowed the word. In both Indian traditions the arhat denotes a soteriologically liberated person who has achieved the highest goal, although there seem to be slight differences in the details.

There are certain points which might suggest that the aurentes = arhat were originally taken from a Jain background rather than from a Buddhist. First of all, in Jain texts the term arhat can well be used for the tīrthaṅkaras, while in Buddhism an arhat is a person who achieved enlightenment through the teaching of a Buddha, that is a soteriologically lower position than a Buddha. Also, the rise of early Mahāyāna (however uninstitutionalised and vague it may have been in the first centuries of the Christian era) shortly before and during Mani's stay in India[60] definitely had already weakened the concept of the arhat in the Buddhist context.[61] If now, in the Kephalaia, the term together with kebellos / kebullos is used on an equal stand with Buddha / bouddas then this would rather imply a stronger Jain concept underlying this loanword integrated into the Mani's system.

There is other Indian evidence for arhat having been used as a Jain term rather than a Buddhist one. In Varāhamihira's (505 – 587) mainly astrological work Bṛhaddevatā there is an iconographic description about how religious statues should be made. Concerning the non-Hindu 'deities' it says the following:

"Endowed with the marks of a lotos on hands and feet, of a calmed shape and with delicate hairs, sitting on a lotos-throne, like the father of the world should be the Buddha." [62]

And in the following verse:

"The arms hanging down to the knees, bearing the śrīvatsa-mark and with a composed figure, air-cladden, tender and beautiful should the god of the arhats be made."[63]

The description of the 'god of the arhats' ([a]rhatāṃ deva[ḥ]) as a standing (kāyotsarga), naked figure with the prolonged arms and the youthful complexion clearly refers to a tīrthaṅkara-statue[64] and is compared with the sitting posture (padmāsana) of the Buddha. This becomes even more clear in a following passage about the followers of the different 'deities':

"The Bhāgavata are known (for venerating) Viṣṇu, the Magas (for venerating) Savitṛ, the ash-smeared twice-born (for venerating) Śambhu [Śiva], and those who know the course of the sun (for venerating) the mother(-goddesses), the Brahmins (for venerating) Brahmā; the Śākyas are known (for venerating) the one who (acts) for the bliss of all and has a calmed mind, the naked ones (for venerating) the Jinas; those who rely on their god in their own way have done what should be done."[65]

Here again, besides the clear notion of the epitheton jina for the Jain tīrthāṅkaras, (Skt.) nagna, 'naked', emphasizes the nakedness of the followers which seems to refer to Digambara-monks. Varāhamira's description clearly fits to the well-known type of tīrthaṅkara-statues rather than to real Buddhist arhat-statues for which, after all, we do not have any art-historical and archaeological evidence.

Gardner's proposed equation kebellos / kebullos: [66] Skt. / Prakrit kevalin makes complete sense in terms of content and conception. Phonetically there is not much of a problem: the Indic tendency to blur the distinction between -v- (in kevala / -in) and -b- (kebellos / kebullos) is well-known (and in any case -v- is necessarily represented as -bin Coptic), and the difference in the vowels - kebellos / kebullos versus kevala / -in – is due to the indifferent vocalic quality of an unstressed weak -a- which we are familiar with in North-Western Prakrit. There is, however, a phonetic flaw in this identification: the Jain term for an omniscient being is a possessive derivation from the term kevala, 'omniscience' [67] (by the secondary suffix -in). Kebellos or kebullos, however, must rather reflect the basic term kevala (an Indic final -a mostly being given as -o in the Greek transliteration). One could argue that Mani adopted the term kevala in its adjectival meaning, "complete, perfect, unsurpassed",[68] which would fit well the way in which the word is used in the Kephalaia. Another possibility is that the Manichaean term is an abridged version of the compound kevalajñānin: "(the one) endowed with complete knowledge".

In sum: While the Buddhist provenance in the case of bouddos is quite clear the origin of aurentes / arhat is at least ambiguous. The Jains also use this term (AM. araha) to describe a tīrthaṅkara or an ascetic who has achieved the highest stage of liberation.[69] It may even be argued that the Buddhist concept of an arhat, a saint who has achieved enlightenment and awaits final extinction (parinirvāṇa) after physical death, does not fit very well to the aurentes-concept in the Kephalaia where this term denotes a kind of Manichaean savior in an active soteriological function. A Buddhist arhat never corresponds to this, as he is dependent on the teaching of a Buddha. Again, we do not want to insist on a predominantly Jain influence in this matter, but just want to point out the different shades of compatibility

After these linguistic preliminaries we can further discuss the Kephalaia passages from an Indological point of view:

"Once again they say: Twenty-four … they came to the land of the east, they chose … also they built twenty-four towers with their leaders and their presbyters and their deacons; and the righteous disciples, men of truth, that they chose in them; and the good helpers that they brought about for them, who are the catechumens of the faith that were in their generation and their people. And these twenty-four kebullos (-oi) … all their leaders, they did make manifest on account of them all. Also, for his part, the one who spoke among them … So, these seven bouddas and the x-teen (?) -entes (-ai) and these twenty-four kebullos (-oi) … are a single spirit."[70]

As Gardner remarked previously, the number seven for the Buddhas of the present and the past is a stereotyped number and is well reflected in literature of an early period close to Mani's lifetime.[71] Similarly, in the fragmentary passage x-teen -entes must be a reference to a standardized number of aurentes.[72] Early references to arhatworship are combined with the numbers sixteen or eighteen, but as there is no direct evidence how far the systematized arhat-worship in India had developed up to the first half of the fourth century it is highly speculative to decide on any concrete number.[73]

In the original article, Gardner speculated whether the fact that the kebulloi are ascribed the construction of twenty-four towers, whilst their Jain correspondents are 'ford-builders' (tīrthaṅkara), could be the result of a "textual corruption";[74] or whether the towers could be symbolic of each community (corresponding to the purgos as an image of the church in the Shepherd of Hermas). But one could also consider – with all the necessary caution of no direct textually linked evidence – whether these towers might literally refer to the huge stūpas or caityas which were found over Northern India during that time. They were, in the Buddhist case, clearly connected with the worship not only of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni but also of his predecessors, and it may be supposed that the Jains had this custom as well. The 'misinterpretation' of the Jain tradition might then indicate that the Manichaeans thought of the Jinas (tīrthaṅkara, kebulloi) having themselves built these structures; while, at the same time, they kept the true notion that the caityas were built and preserved by the followers of the religion and were localized objects of worship. This would be a good interpretatio Manichaica of what could probably be seen as religious activity in North India at that time.[75]

Certain concepts of the soul which are found in the Kephalaia [K. = Gardner 1995] are interesting because of their possible connections with Jain concepts about the soul. In K.151.28ff. the soul is compared with the body:

"The living soul is like this, established in apparent silence. In its apparent silence it is grasped and receives blows from these five fleshes, which destroy (the soul) and strike it. It can be likened to the mystery of the [corporeal] body, as it can be grasped and mastered, can receive blows and wounds."[76]

K.191.9 – 192.3 is completely dedicated to the benefit of fasting and seems to reflect one of the basic Jain practices in an astonishing way:

"Once more the enlightener speaks to his disciples: The fasting that the saints fast by is profitable for [four] great works. The first work: Shall the holy man punish his body by fasting, he subdues the entire ruling-power that exists in him. The second: This soul that comes in to him in the administration of his food, day by day; it shall be made holy, cleansed, purified, and washed from the adulteration of the darkness that is mixed in with it. The third: That person shall make every deed a holy one; the mystery of [the children] of light in whom there is neither corruption nor […] the food, nor wound it. Rather, they are holy, [there is nothing] in them that defiles, as they live in peace. The fourth: They make a [… …] the Cross, they restrain their hands from the hand [… not] destroy the living soul. The fasting is profitable to the saints for these four great works should they persist; that is if they are constant in them daily, and cause the body to make all its members to fast [with a] holy fast. […] faith. They who have not strength [to fast] daily should make their fast on the lord's day. They too make a contribution [to the works] and the fasting of the saints by their faith and their / alms."[77]

In K.234.4ff. the catechumen, the purified Manichaean lay-follower, is described as moving up and reaching the 'land of rest';[78] this corresponds closely to the way the released jīva moves up to the heavenly abodes where it will rest eternally.

Let us now look at some of the parallel conceptions between Manichaeism and the Jain teaching. A first immediately striking point, which can not have been derived in its presented form from the Judaeo-Christian background of Mani, is the concept of the fate of the soul after physical death. There is, first of all, the notion of metempsychosis / transmigration, and it is generally held that this is an idea which was integrated by Mani into his system under Indian influence. [79] Gardner has collected the most relevant Kephalaia passages[80] which partly evidence a general notion of transmigration with a kind of karmic retribution as found in all the three major Indian religious systems: Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. There are, however, some points which are more compatible with (later documented) Jain concepts of transmigration and retribution, in particular the idea that karma is actual 'stuff' rather than moral or ritual consequence. Whilst the Manichaean concept of the ascension of the soul also has some clear parallels with ideas of the fate of the soul found in old Indo-Iranian (Zoroastrian) texts,[81] for instance the soul's encounter with its light-image, it is still astonishing how close it is in other respects to the Jain idea.

Parallels can also be found in the institutional and practical aspects. Klaus Bruhn, in his extensive article on the mahāvratas (the 'great vows') in early Jainism has already pointed to some of these; though he is careful not to claim a direct influence in one direction. This certainly would be a profitable area for some sustained research.

In sum, the need for a revision of late-antique sources on India in the light of possible influence by or reference to the 'underdog' of the three great Indian religious traditions, Jainism, is clearly to be seen in the light of the topics we have discussed. Jainism has been almost wholly ignored as a candidate for religious influence outside of India; and this certainly has to do not only with its status as minority religion in modern South-Asia but also with the research history of Indian Studies as an academic discipline. It is Buddhism that, as a non-Brahmanic religion, has been predominantly studied and found its way into the popular awareness of Indian religion.

Manichaean Studies also seems to reflect a certain biased treatment of the historical context in and out of which the religion developed; for, originating from the study of Late-Antique sources, it looked for the roots of the religion in the syncretistic environments of West Asia and the Mediterranean. The discovery of the "Eastern branch" of Manichaeism, with the famous manuscript and archaeological finds along the Silk-Road, tended to emphasize the Buddhist elements in the religion that were mainly explained by cultural contact in that area, mainly admitting an indirect influence of Indian religious culture. Future investigation of Manichaeism and its historical development has to find a way in which to deal with its very real connections to India.[82]


Allon, Mark. Three Gāndhārī Ekottarikāgama-Type Sūtras: British Library Kharoṣṭhī Fragments 12 and 14 (Gandhāran Buddhist Texts 2). Seattle: University of Washington, 2001.

Ball, Warwick. "The Buddhists of the Sind." South Asian Studies 5 (1989) 119-131.

Bivar, A. D. H. "The History of Eastern Iran". The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3 (1): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Ed. Ehsan Yarshater, 181-231. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Bruhn, Klaus. "The Mahāvratas in Early Jainism." Berliner Indologische Studien 15-17 (2003) 3-98.

Damsteegt, Th. Epigraphical Hybrid Sanskrit: Its Rise, Spread, Characteristics and Relationship to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978 (Orientalia RhenoTraiectina 23).

DeBuhn, Jason. The Manichaean Body. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Deeg, Max. The Places where Siddhārtha Trod: Lumbinī and Kapilavastu. Lumbinī: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2004.

Deeg, Max. Das Gaoseng-Faxian-Zhuan als religionsgeschichtliche Quelle: Der älteste Bericht eines chinesischen buddhistischen Pilgermöṇchs über seine Reise nach Indien mit Übersetzung des Textes. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005 (Studies in Oriental Religions 52).

Deeg, Max. "Unwirkliche Gegner: Chinesische Polemik gegen den HīnayānaBuddhismus." Jaina-Itihāsa-Ratna: Festschrift für Gustav Roth zum 90. Geburtstag. Edited by Ute Hüsken, Petra Kieffer-Pülz & Anne Peters, 103-125. Marburg: Indica et Tibetica Verlag, 2006 (Indica et Tibetica 47).

Deeg, Max. "Maritime Routes in the Indian Ocean in Early Times According to Chinese Buddhist Texts." Interaction on the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China Sea. Edited by Ralph Kauz, pp.?. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, forthcoming (2009) (East Asian Maritime History).

Delhey, Martin. "Views on Suicide in Buddhism: Some Remarks." Buddhism and Violence. Edited by Michael Zimmermann, 25-63. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2006 (LIRI Seminar Proceedings Series 2).

Deo, Santaram Bhalchandra. History of Jaina Monachism from Inscriptions and Literature. Poona: Deccan College of Postgraduate and Research Institute.

Dundas, Paul. "The Marginal Monk and the True Tīrtha." Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu. Edited by Rudy Smet & Kenji Watanabe, 237-259. Tokyo: Hon no tomo-sha, 1993.

Dundas, Paul. The Jains. Second Revides Edition. London: Taylor and Francis, 2002.

Dundas, Paul. "A Non-Imperial Religion? Jainism in Its 'Dark Age'." Between theEmpires: Society in  India 300 BCE to 400 CE. Edited by Patrick Olivelle, 383-414. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Fukita, Takamichi. The Mahāvadānasūtra: A New Edition Based on Manuscripts Discovered in Northern Turkestan. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003 (SanskritWörterbuch der buddhistischen Texte aus den Turfan-Funden, Beiheft 10).

Fussmann, Gérard. "Gāndhārī écrit et Gāndhārī parlé." Dialectes dans les littératures indo-aryennes: Actes du colloque international organisé par l'UA 1058 sous les auspices du C.N.R.S. … Edited by Collette Caillat, 433-501. Paris: Collège de France, Institut de la Civilisation Indienne, 1989.

Frye, Richard N. "Manichaean Notes." Studia Manichaica: II. Internationaler Kongreß zum Manichäismus, 6. - 10. August 1989, St. Augustin / Bonn. Edited by Gernot Wießner & Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, 93-97. Wiesbaden: Verlag Otto Harrasowitz, 1992 (Studies in Oriental Religions 23).

Fynes, Richard C.C. "Plant Souls in Jainism and Manichaeism: The Case for Cultural Transmission." East and West 46 (1996) 21-44.

Garbe, Richard. Indien und das Christentum: Eine Untersuchung der religionsgeschichtlichen Zusammenhänge. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1914.

Gardner, Iain. The Kephalaia of the Teacher: The Edited Coptic Manichaean Texts in Translation with Commentary. Leiden, New York, Köln: E. J. Brill, 1995 (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 37) [quoted as K.].

Gardner, Iain. "Some comments on Mani and Indian religions according to the Coptic Kephalaia." Il Manicheismo: Nuove prospettive della richerca (Quinto congresso internazionale di studi sul Manicheismo, Atti; Manichaean Studies V). Edited by Aloïs van Tongerloo & Luigi Cirillo, 123-135. Turnhout: Brepols, 2005.

Gardner, Iain. "Towards an Understanding of Mani's Religious Development and the Archaeology of Manichaean Identity." Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf. Edited by Carole M. Cusack & Christopher H. Hartney. Leiden: E. J. Brill, forthcoming.

Gnoli, Gherardo. "Aurentes. The Buddhist arhants in the Coptic Kephalaia through a Bactrian Transmission." East and West 41 (1991) 359-361.

Haas, Christopher. Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict. Baltimore, London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Henrichs, A. & L. Koenen. Der Kölner Mani-Kodex: Über das Werden des Leibes (Kritische Edition). Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1988 (Abhandlungen der RheinischWestwälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sonderreihe Papyrologia Coloniensia XIV).

Hinüber, Oskar von. Das ältere Mittelindisch im Überblick. Zweite Auflage. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2001 (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, 467. Band).

Jaini, Padmanabh S. The Jaina Path of Purification. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1979/1998.

Jaini, Padmanabh S. "Fear of Food? Jaina Attitudes on Eating." Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu. Edited by Rudy Smet & Kenji Watanabe, 339-353. Tokyo: Hon no tomo-sha, 1993.

Jaini, Padmanabh S. "Jaina Monks from Mathura: Literary Evidence for their Identification on Kuṣāṇa Sculptures." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 58, 3 (1995) 479-494.

Johnson, Will J. "The 'Jina Experience': A Different Approach to Jaina Image Worship." Jainism and Early Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini. Edited by Olle Qvarnström, 217-230. Fremont, California: Asian Humanities Press, 2003.

Jones, F. Stanley. "Some Things Mani Learned from Jains." [abstract of an unpublished conference paper, 2003 (information from the author)]. (accessed 25.04.2008).

Karttunen, Klaus. India and the Hellenistic World. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society, 1997 (Studia Orientalia 83).

Klein, Wassilios. "The Epic Buddhacarita by Aśvaghoṣa and its Significance for the 'Life of Mani'." Il Manicheismo: Nuove prospettive della richerca (Quinto congresso internazionale di studi sul Manicheismo, Atti; Manichaean Studies V). Edited by Aloïs van Tongerloo & Luigi Cirillo, 223-232. Turnhout: Brepols, 2005.

Klimkeit, Hans-Joachim. Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1993.

Leoshko, Janice. "Inside Out? View of Jain Art". Jainism and Early Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini. Edited by Olle Qvarnström, 249-267. Fremont: Asian Humanities Press, 2003.

Lévi, Sylvain; & Édouard Chavannes. "Les seize Arhat protecteurs de la Loi." Journal Asiatique (1916) 5-50 & 189-304.

Lieu, Samuel N.C. Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China. Second Edition. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1992.

Lüders, Heinrich. Mathurā Inscriptions. Edited by Klaus L. Janert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Dritte Folge, Nr. 47).

Norman, K.R. "Uttarajjhayaṇa-sutta I. An Edition and Translation with a Metrical Analysis and Notes." Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu. Edited by Rudy Smet & Kenji Watanabe, 375-394. Tokyo: Hon no tomo-sha, 1993.

Pal, Pratapaditya (Ed.). The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1995.

Parry, Ken. "Vegetarianism in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: The Transmission of a Regimen". Feast, Fast or Famine: Food and Drink in Byzantium. Edited by Wendy Mayer & Silke Trzcionka, 171-187. Brisbane: Australian Association of Byzantine Studies, 2005 (Byzantina Australiensia 15).

Ray, Himanshu P. The Winds of Change: Buddhism and the Maritime Links of Early South Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Roth, Gustav. "Gosāla Mankhaliputta's Birth in a Cowstall in the Gospel of Luke II." Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu. Edited by Rudy Smet & Kenji Watanabe, 413-455. Tokyo: Hon no tomo-sha, 1993.

Sachau, Edward C. Alberuni's India: An Account of the Religion, Philosophy, Literature, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Customs, Laws and Astrology of India about AD 1030. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1910 (2 Volumes in One).

Salomon, Richard. "Epigraphic Remains of Indian Traders in Egypt." Journal of the American Oriental Society 111, 4 (1991) 731-736.

Salomon, Richard. Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Schaeder, H. H. "Der Manichäismus nach neuen Funden und Forschungen." Orientalische Stimmen zum Erlösungsgedanken. Morgenland 28 (1936) 80-109.

Schubring, Walther. The Doctrine of the Jainas. Described After The Old Sources. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1962 (originally published as Die Lehre der Jainas, nach den alten Quellen dargestellt, Strassburg 1934, Grundriss der indo-arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde Bd. III, 7).

Seth, Hargovind Das T. Pāia-Sadda-Mahaṇṇavo: A Comprehensive Prakrit-Hindi Dictionary with Sanskrit Equivalents, Quotations and Complete References. Second Edition. Varanasi: Prakrit Text Society, 1963 (Prākrit Text Society Series No. 7).

Shah, Umakant P. Jaina-Rūpa-Maṇḍana, Volume I (Jaina Iconography). New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1987.

Sims-Williams, Nicholas. "Aurentēs." Studia Manichaica: VI. Internationaler Kongreß zum Manichäismus. Edited by Ronald E. Emmerick, Werner Sundermann & Peter Zieme, 560-563. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000.

Skoog, Kim. "The Morality of Sallekhanā: The Jaina Practice of Fasting to Death." Jainism and Early Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini. Edited by Olle Qvarnström, 293-304. Fremont: Asian Humanities Press, 2002.

Srinivasan, Doris Meth. Mathurā: The Cultural Heritage. New Delhi: South Asia Publications / American Institute of Indian Studies, 1989.

Sundermann, Werner. Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtlichen Inhalts, mit einem Appendix von Nicholas Sims-Williams. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1981 (Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Zentralinstitut für Alte Geschichte und Archäologie: Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur des Alten Orients, Berliner Turfantexte XI).

Sundermann, Werner. "Mani, India and the Manichaean Religion." South Asian Studies 2 (1986) 11-19.

Sundermann, Werner. "Manichaean Tradition on the Date of the Historical Buddha." The Dating of the Historical Buddha – Die Datierung des historischen Buddha. Part 1. Ed. Heinz Bechert, 426-438. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991.

Wackernagel, Jakob & Alfred Debrunner. Altindische Grammatik, Band II, 2: Die Nominalsuffixe. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1954.

Waldschmidt, Ernst. Das Mahāvadānasūtra, ein kanonischer Text über die sieben letzten Buddhas. Sanskrit, verglichen mit dem Pāli nebst einer Analyse der in chinesischer Übersetzung überlieferten Parallelversionen. Zwei Teile. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1953 / 1956 (ADAWB, Klasse für Sprachen, Literatur und Kunst Jahrgang 1952 Nr. 8 und Jahrgang 1954 Nr. 3).

Widengren, Geo. "Manichaeism and its Iranian Background." The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3 (2): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 965-990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Winter, Franz. Bardesanes von Edessa über Indien: Ein früher syrischer Theologe schreibt über ein fremdes Land. Thaur: Druck- und Verlagshaus Thaur, 1999 (frühes Christentum – Forschungen und Perspektiven, Band 5).

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophische Untersuchungen. Dritte Auflage. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1982.

© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2009

Share this page on: