Samaṇ Suttaṁ ► Preliminaries ► Introduction

Posted: 02.02.2011


The compilation of this book, by name Samaṇasuttaṁ, was undertaken by the inspiration of Acharya Vinobaji. As a result of that inspiration, the text was read in the As­sembly, which accorded its unanimous approval. This is a significant historical event.

The basic foundation of all religions in the world is - ātmā and the paramātmā, the soul and the supreme soul. The grand edifice of religion stands on the pillars of these two principles. Some religions of the world are believers in the existence of soul along with the existence of God; some religions are atheistic. Those who believe in the doctrine of the existence of God, regard him as the Crea­tor, Protector and Regulator of the universe, a God who is all-powerful supreme soul. Everything in the universe is dependent upon Him. He is called the Brahma, the Creator, the supreme Father and so on. According to this tradition, whenever there is an increase of irreligion or religion deteriorates, God incarnates Himself on earth and protects the world after conquering the evil forces; thereby he sows the seeds of righteousness.

Tradition of Non-existence of God

The second tradition is one, which believes in the exist­ence of the soul but not of God; as a creator of the universe, it believes in the independent progress of the soul. The soul reaches the highest position after attain­ment of supreme purification by destruction of attach­ment or indulgence and hatred, and acquisition of complete detachment. It is an eternal existence and self-regulated. He is his own friend and foe. Jainism follows this philosophy, which has an independent and scientific outlook. This tradition is known, in brief, by the name of Śramaṇa-culture. The Indian tradition, of believers in the existence of God, is known as the Brāhmana-culture. Buddhism is another Indian religion, which also follows the philosophy of non-creation of universe by God, but believes in the cycle of birth and death.


The greatness or the utility of a religion does not depend upon its antiquity or its recent origin. If some religious tradition, besides being ancient, has been alive since long, has remained active and progressive, has been successfully helpful in ethical advancement, and inspired and assisted long in cultural enrichment, it is a great religion. The antiquity of such religion and its continued importance are indicative of the inherent nature of its eternal and universal principles. The tradition of Jainism, from the point of view of its principles both on conduct and thought, goes very deep beyond comprehension. Historians have so far recognised fully the truth of this position and that Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra is not the founder of the religion. He was preceded by many Tīrthaṅkaras. He merely reiterated and rejuvenated that religion.

It is correct that history has not been able to trace the origin of the Jaina religion; but the historical evidence now available and the result of dispassionate researches in literature have established that Jainism is undoubt­edly an ancient religion. Reference to Vāta-raśana munis, Keśī and Vrātya-kṣatriya in the Ṛgveda, Śrīmadbhāgavata and other famous books have become available now.

The Jaina history contains references to the 63 Śalākā­puruṣas (the Supreme personages). These Śalākā-puruṣas lived during each of the ancient periods of time, called a cycle of two parts, one the avasarpini-kāla and the other utsarpinī-kāla. They each inspired the people to follow religion and ethics during the course of the advancement of human civilization. The Tīrthaṅkaras occupy the highest position among the Śalākā-puruṣas.

During the present period of Avasarpinī-kāla, the 24 Tīrthaṅkaras were born during the fourth portion of that period; the first of them is Ṛṣabhadeva who was the son of king Nābhi and queen Marudevī. He is designated as Ādinātha, Ādibrahmā, Ādīśvara etc. The last of the Tīrthaṅkaras, Mahāvīra lived about 2500 years ago. Buddha Tathāgata was his contemporary. The 23rd Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha preceded Mahāvīra by 250 years; he was the son of Aśvasena, the king of Vārāṇasī. The Buddhistic scriptures mention Mahāvīra as Nigaṇṭha-nāta-putta. The Pārśva's tradition has been also mentioned as Cāturyāma-dharma (religion of four vows). Mahāvīra was the representative of Pārśva's tradition. If one were to consider the uninterrupted flow of time, neither Ṛṣabha is the first nor Mahāvīra, the last. This tradition is without a beginning and without end; who knows how many twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras have gone by and how many will come in future?

Viewed from the point of cultural evolution, it would be apparent that from the point of spiritual stand-point, there is not much difference between the Vedic and Śramanic cultures; but difference between the two from the popular view-point, in respect of principles, conduct and faith, appears to be quite clear. The two cultures have influenced each other to a considerable extent; there have been exchanges between the two, while the social circumstances have almost remained the same. The difference that is evident is not such as is not perceptible. Besides, it is very helpful in understand­ing the levels of advancement in human civilization. In the rich ancient literature of India, we get ample evidence of the mutual exchange and influence that seem to have taken place between the two cultures and traditions. Even in one family, people with different traditions used to follow their respective modes of religious worship.

Doctrine of the Soul

What we call the Jaina religion today, must have had some other name in ancient days. It is true that the word Jaina is derived from the word Jina; again the word Jaina is relatively new. During the period of Mahāvīra, Nirgrantha or Nirgrantha-pravacana was indicative of the word 'Jaina religion'. During that period of Pārśvanāṇa-dharma. At the time of Ariṣṭa-nemi, the 22nd Tīrthaṅkara who preceded Pārśvanātha, it was called Ārhata-dharma. Ariṣṭa-nemi was the cousin-brother of Śrīkṛṣṇa, the Karma-yogī (the propounder of activism) Śalākā-puruṣa. In fact, the service of the cow and the spread of use of milk was an auspicious step in the direction of establishing a non-violent social order. In the Bihar region, Jaina-dharma is still popular as Ārhata-dharma. The king-saint Nami was from Mithilā and hailed from the family of Janaka. The Jaina scriptures contain beautiful account of his spiritual practices. There are many changing pictures of different names found reflected on the curtains of history; but this much can be said that the original doctrine of this religion, of its tradition and its culture remains today what it was in the form of seed, viz., ātma-vāda and Anekānta-vāda. On the fertile soil of ātma-vāda, the kalpa-vṛkṣa (tree) is continuing to bear fruit. Monks of the Jaina religion are called śramaṇa even today. The word śramaṇa is still in use as suggestive of labour (śrama), equanimity (samatā) and subdued passions (vikāra-Śamana).

The meaning of Jaina religion is the pathway to wel­fare, preached or propounded by Jina. He is called Jina who has achieved victory over the passions of his body and soul, namely external and internal. The greatest enemies of the soul are attachment, hatred, delusion and other passions. Therefore, the word Jaina main­tains one meaning, that it is not indicative of any caste. He is a Jaina who follows the path shown by Jina or follows it for the sake of self-realization.

Conquest of Attachment and Realization

The aim of the Jaina religion is attainment of complete conquest of attachment, and realization. Conquest of attachment and realization is auspicious; it will bring in bliss and by attaining it, man can achieve the posi­tion of the Arhat in the other world. This victory over attachment becomes possible by a harmonious accom­plishment of three jewels of Right Faith, Right Knowl­edge and Right Conduct. It is the path of happy combi­nation of Faith, Knowledge and conduct by following which man can attain salvation or perfection. Faith, knowledge and conduct together can bestow perfection on man. The primary or the basic teaching of Jainism is that right knowledge should be acquired by looking at mundane things with an eye of right faith and that the same should be translated into conduct in life. How­ever, the pivotal point of entire conduct and thought is attainment of conquest over attachment. Even the great­est riches of the world are futile in the face of conquest of attachment. Conquest of attachment in an ever-increasing degree by constant endeavour is regarded as conducive to the highest welfare of the innermost soul in both the states, whether one is in a state of involvement or detachment or of a householder or a monk. But, the path of attainment of conquest of attachment cannot be reached without the aid of an attitude of many points-of-views. This doctrine of many points-of-views will show the right path of liberation by creating in an individual an inclination towards detachment which he is inclined towards a mundane life, or by exposing the hollowness of mundane life when an individual is in a state of detachment.

Ahimsā or Non-violence

Non-violence is the foundation of Jaina ethics. The observance of non-violence is not possible without an attitude of many points-of-views. Because from the Jaina point of view, a person can be non-violent even when violence is committed, or even when committing violence. According to Jainism, commission of violence or non­violence is dependent upon the mental condition of the doer, not on the act. If the violence that is taking place outside is to be regarded as violence, then none can be non-violent because the entire world is pervaded by living creatures and there is constant violence to them going on. Therefore, he who conducts himself with the utmost caution is non-violent in his thought, hence he is non-violent; and he who does not observe caution in his active daily life, there is violence in his mental state so even if no violence is actually committed by him, he would be ethically violent. All this analysis is not possi­ble unless one possesses the many points-of-views. Hence a person who possesses an attitude of many points-of-views is regarded as being possessed of right faith, and it is the person possessed of right faith that can acquire right knowledge and become capable of right conduct. He who has no right attitude cannot have right knowledge and his conduct also cannot be of right type. Hence righteousness or right faith has special signifi­cance in the Jaina faith; that is the foundation-stone to the path of liberation.

Mundane life is a bondage. The soul is involved in this bondage from time immemorial; he has forgotten his real nature on this account; he regards it as his real nature and continues to find pleasure in it; it is this forgetfulness that is responsible for his bondage. He will realize this mistake only when he discovers that his nature is endowed with infinite consciousness, that his strength is greater than what is seen in mundane life, that he is the treasure-house of infinite knowledge, infinite faith, infinite bliss and infinite power; it is only when he becomes alive to this faith that he will achieve right attitude and then he will try to achieve firmness of conviction about his real nature through his right conduct. Hence the pathway of Jaina ethics is the royal road that leads to the state of conquest of attachment in accordance with right knowledge.


Viewed from the real point of view, even the highest knowledge that he acquired by an embodied soul in this vast world is limited, imperfect and one-sided. It is not possible for such persons to comprehend the infinite qualities of an object simultaneously, let alone the expression of it which is far more difficult. The inadequacy of language and the limitations of the meaning of words create conflicts and disputes now and then. The ego of man further accentuates the matter. The doctrine of Anekānta paves the way for harmony and removal of conflicts. There is an element of truth in every statement and it is possible to dissolve the conflicts in a straightforward manner by understand­ing that element of truth. He who is not obstinate or persistent in his own point of view can solve easily almost every problem. Every person lives under the vital influence of Anekānta but he does not know that he lives the very light which his life. So long as the sight is obscured by the veil of persistence, it is not possible to get a proper perspective of an object. The doctrine of Anekānta proclaims the independent exist­ence of an object. In the world of thought, Anekānta is the tangible form of Ahimsā. Whoever is non-violent shall be the possessor of Anekānta view of life and whoever possesses the Anekānta view of life shall be non-violent in thought and action. The present form of Jainism as is available to us was inspired by the teachings of Mahāvīra. It is his religious code that is in vogue today. Mahāvīra brought about a synthesis between religion and philo­sophy. It is the harmony between knowledge, faith and conduct that can lead man towards liberation from misery. Action without knowledge or knowledge without action are both futile. The practice of truth that is known and the knowledge of the truth that is practised it is only when both combine together that there can be fruitful result.

Nature of Substance, Dharma

The nature of an object (or substance) is dharma - that is the most significant contribution of Jaina philosophy-vatthu-sahāvo dhammo. Every substance in this world behaves according to its own nature. Its existence is attended with origination, sustenance and destruc­tion. No substance, whether it possesses consciousness or is immobile, departs from its nature. The form of existence always sustains it; due to its changing nature, it is always »subject to constant modifications. The mansion of Jaina philosophy stands on this triple foundation. The significance of Jaina philosophy is that the world-organization is expounded on the strength of this triple character. It is clear from the existence of six substances that this world is without a beginning and without an end, and that, there is no special being or power that is its creator, preserver or builder. There can be no room for inequalities in society like class-distinctions or caste-distinctions when once the existence of soul is accepted on the basis of space, time and nature of the substance. In such circumstances, it was possible for Mahāvīra, the conqueror of attachments and the seer of principles, to say in this mundane world that equanimity is Ahimsā, and non-possessiveness consists in not entertaining any sense of attachment or of ownership. Truth is contained not in sacred books but in experience; brahmacarya or celibacy consists in walk­ing along the path of the Supreme Soul. Through action alone, a person becomes a Brahman; through action alone, a person becomes a Kṣatriya; through action alone, a person becomes a Vaiśya; through action alone a person becomes a Śūdra. Neither tradition nor apparel, neither money nor strength, neither power nor wealth, neither knowledge nor books, can afford any protection to a person devoid of character. No protection can be available to a person by performance of various rituals for propitiation to please gods and goddesses or the dif­ferent powers in nature. Self-realisation, self-knowledge and self-absorption absorption in the bliss of one's own soul, alone can bring about liberation to man. This is certainly the right-faith. Mahāvīra was a nirgrantha; in the true sense making a distinction between an object of possession and possession, he was devoid of a body, though embodied. The atmosphere was surcharged with his speech, which was devoid of words, though compre­hensible to everyone, pouring nectar.

Householder's Conduct

Fulfilment is always dependent upon the capacity of a devotee. It is for this reason that two divisions have been made in the Jaina path of conduct: Householder's conduct and Monk's conduct. The rules of conduct prescribed for a householder are easier than those prescribed for a monk. Because he has not renounced his household and remains occupied with his occupa­tion, a householder always remains conscious of his conduct and his aim is to progress towards the ethical code prescribed for a monk. When the inherent capacity of the soul of a householder increases and when his power of restraint over the perturbations of attachment, hatred etc. and control of passions like anger etc. goes on increasing, he progresses gradually upwards step by step to march over the path of a monk. A householder reaches the state of a monk by observing the twelve vows without any transgression and crossing the eleven stages [pratimās). Really speaking, the ethical rules of conduct prescribed for a householder form the found­ation for and are complementary to the ethical rules prescribed for a monk. It is worthy of mention that the entire ethical discipline of Jainism is self-oriented, and a systematic and a gradually progressive prescription of ethical codes capable of leading upwards is available.

Jainism does not merely preach morality or rules of conduct from the point of view of mutual relationship in life. There is no place for external rituals, popular beliefs, or false beliefs about Gods and preceptors, as it is directed towards the achievement of spiritual strength. When observance of the small vows etc. gives an inspiration to a householder to become a spiritual-seeker, he discharges a unique role in the conduct of affairs of the society.

Introducing the Book

Samaṇasuttaṁ is an orderly and brief compilation of the essential principle of the Jainas' religion and philoso­phy. There are four parts and forty-four sections in the book. There are 756 verses altogether.

The book has been composed or compiled with verses in Prakrit which can be sung and are fit for regular reci­tation. The Jaina Ācāryas have called Prakrit verses as sūtras. The Prakrit word sutta means sūtra, sūkta or also śruta. The word sūtra is popular in the Jaina tradition. Hence the book has been given the title of Samaṇasuttaṁ (Śramaṇasūttaṁ). The collection of the verses has been made ordinarily from the ancient texts.

Hence this Samaṇasuttaṁ is itself as valid as the scriptures.

The first part is Jyotirmukha or source of illumination: therein an individual gets a glimpse of internal life by rising above the plane of mundane or external life of 'eat', 'drink' and 'make merry'. He understands the futility of sensuous enjoyment, of the cause of misery, birth and death in mundane life, and develops detach­ment towards mundane life. He understands that attachment and hatred are his greatest enemies and begins trying to subdue them in every possible way and takes recourse to forgiveness, compassion, sincerity, contentment and other virtues by replacing anger, pride, delusion and greed. He restrains his passions and controls the senses, covetous of pleasures. He looks upon all living creatures as on himself, begins to experience the sensations of pleasure and pain of others and renounces possessiveness according to his capacity, taking into consideration of the needs of others. He remains ever wakeful towards himself and others, as also begins to march fearlessly on the path of emanci­pation with perseverance.

The second part deals with the Path of Emancipation. On being initiated into it, all doubts, sensations born of fear, desires as also false beliefs are all washed off by the trio of right faith, knowledge and conduct or devotion, knowledge and action. The dualism of what is desirable and undesirable comes to an end and there will be a sudden outburst of equanimity and affection. One becomes detached towards worldly attachments and the mind becomes full with peace. Even if he remains in his house, he remains as detached as a lotus in water remains unaffected by it. He does nothing, even if he is carrying on his business and occupations. The householder gradually relies on the religion of the monk and his mind ascends progressively the different steps of knowledge, detachment and meditations; the mind rises higher and higher till all its inclinations become uprooted; the sun of knowledge begins to illuminate with all his brightness; the mind rises and falls with the tides in the ocean of bliss. So long as he is associated with the body, he remains in the state of an Arhat or a liberated being, though embodied, continues to move about giving his message of welfare to the world; and when he is freed from his body or his life comes to an end, he attains the status of a Siddha, only to become absorbed in the ocean of bliss.

The third part deals with Tattva-darśana or faith in principles; in it are contained the expositions on the seven principles like soul, non-soul etc. or the nine fundamental principles including merit and demerit. After giving an account of six substances like soul, matter (atom), there is an exposition of the theory of creation of the universe by the combination and division of these substances, as also its eternity and endless­ness.

The fourth part deals with Syādvāda (or the doctrine of seven predictions). Besides, there is a brief account of Anekānta. This is the fundamental principle of Jaina logic. This section contains a heart-captivating, simple and brief account of deep and serious topics like pramāṇa, naya, nikṣepa and sapt-bhaṇgī. Finally the book ends with a prayer to Mahāvīra.

It can be said that the four parts or the 756 verses contain an all-sided and brief account of the Jaina religion, an exposition of its principles and ethical code of conduct. The Jaina literature is vast and there are many books available on each of the subjects. Surely, it is necessary that one should make a comprehensive study of those books for a deep understanding of the subjects. This is a representative book acceptable to all for the purpose of having a general acquaintance with the doctrines of the Jaina religion, its code of ethics and the process of gradual spiritual advancement of life, in a traditional but devotional manner. Victory shall there be to the Jaina doctrine.

Justice T.K. Tukol
Dr. K.K. Dixit

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