Acharanga Bhasyam: Preface To Chapter IX

Published: 27.06.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

The name of the present chapter is 'The Treatment of Penance'. 'Penance' means austerity. The mode of practising penance by the Lord during his ascetic life is depicted in this chapter. By minute study, one can discern that whatever penance was practised by the Lord is embodied in this scriptural text.

For illustration compare the following sūtras.

As Practised As Propounded

1] The Lord did not commit any violence to any living being, nor did he ever make others to do so. (9.1.17)

Having discerningly renounced actions involving violence, the wise aspirant should not do violence even to the subtle living beings. (8.18)

2] The Lord ever remained vigilant day and night by making his mind, body and speech steady and poised, and sense and passions subdued. (9.2.4)

O Sadhaka! you who are endeavouring day and night, discern that those who are stupefied are outside the sphere of the (Doctrine of nonviolence). You should, therefore, be alert and always sedulous. (4.11)

3] Although untouched by illness, Lord still have a reduced diet. (9.4.1)

At the tirhs of receiving food, a monk should know the right quantum.

4] Whether afflicted or not, he would not approve of medication for himself. (9.4.1)

Refrain from these (therapeutic measures) which cause misery of other creatures. (6.21)

5] Completely calm and poised, the great Lord would meditate squating in milking posture or other ones. He would meditate on various objects of the upper, lower, and the lateral worlds. He had his mind's eye firmly fixed of self-absorption. He was completely free from the desire of pleasure. He would, therefore, never let his evenness of mind dwindle. He was completely free from capricious thought. (9.4.14)

A person with wide-open eyes meditates on the Loka (universe). He knows the lower portion, upper portion and middle portion of the loka. (2.125)

There are four sections in this chapter. The topics of the chapter are as follows.[1]

  1. itinerary
  2. resting place
  3. hardships
  4. non-treatment of diseases and reduced diet.

In this chapter a realistic description of the Lord's ascetic life has been given. At the time of renunciation, the Lord had one piece of cloth on the body. Afterwards he adopted nudity. This is the ascitic mode in relation to robe.[2] The Lord's schedule of meditation was well-ordered. In meditation, un-winking concentration and dwelling in a lonely place were practised.[3] Freedom from non-vigilance and ecstasy were the principal members of his meditational discipline.[4] There are also indication of meditational posture and meditational process in the chapter.[5] If the verses related to meditation in this chapter are compiled together, a complete course of meditation can be constitued easily. The Lord meditated internally fixing his eye on the wall in front, for a quateWy period of the day. Sometimes, seeing him in meditation with his eyes wide open, unblinking, the frightened children shouted and called other children, crying aloud.[6]

Knowing and avoiding the female sex in mixed gathering places, the Lord did not indulge in sexually, but he meditated entering the depths of his self.[7]

Giving up the company of all ho iseh lders whomsoever, he meditated; when asked, he gave no answer. He went past, not transgressing the right path.[8]

At such abodes, the ascetic Lord, spent upto thirteen long years. He exerted carefully day and night, being vigilant and meditating in ecstasy.[9]

And Mahāvīra meditated sitting in some posture without distraction. He meditated concentrating on objects above, below and in front without any pre-made resolve.[10]

Free from passions, free from greed, not infatuated by sounds and colours, the Lord meditated. Though veiled by karma, the Lord did not yield to non-vigilance even for a moment, while exerting in spirituality.[11]

Being averse from the impressions of the senses, the Lord rambled about, speaking but little. Even in the cold season, the Lord meditated sitting in the shade.[12]

Diet, sleeping, forebearance of favourable and unfavourable situation are the auxilaries of meditation. In connection with diet, the practice of reduced diet and dry diet mentioned.[13] There is mention of fasting for two, three and five days, but then why there is no mention of fasting for six months? There is of course a mention of his living without water for six months.[14] Here the questions arise - did he eat but not water or did he neither eat nor drink or the use of the two phrases viz. 'he did not drink water'[15] and 'without drinking water'[16] might have been made for indicating consumption of food. Among penances, non-drinking of water is a great penance which is called 'abstaining from drinking water'. Abstaining from food is a natural implication of such penance.

The question of sleeping is also connected with meditation. Ordinarily a person not taking sleep for a proper period of time cannot keep his physical and mental health in a right order. During his asceticism for twelve years and half, the Lord was mostly awake. The period of His sleep did not touch even the span of one muhurta (fourty-eight minutes).[17]

Control of speech or silence was observed by the Lord in a right manner. During the Long period of asceticism, the Lord mostly observed silence. The following passages from the Ācārāṅga Sūtra indicates his practice of silence. He would walk in silence.[18] He would speak only when spoken to, and that too, very little.[19] He would normally remain silent. (Except only in special circumstances) he would speak but little.[20]

The Lord was always in meditation. The Lord was mindful of his ecstasy and so the scripture again and again says - The Lord would remain rept in meditation. He would not even subject himself to reaction.[21]

In this chapter, there is a very realistic description of Lord's practice of asceticism. The Lord's power of suffering and infinite tolerance are mentioned here in this chapter. There is also mention of the troubles and hardships inflicted by humans and animals.[22] But there is no mention of the troubles inflicted by gods. In later literature there is description in great detail of such troubles. There is also mention of tolerance of cold and heat.[23] It is our view that this chapter is an authentic source of the study of the biography of the Lord.


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Jain Vishwa Bharati

Ladnun- 341 306 (Raj.) India © Jain Vishva Bharti

ISBNS 1-7195-74-4

First Edition:2001

Courtesy :
Shree Chhotulal Sethia Charitable Trust Sethia House, 23/24,
Radha Bazar Street, Kolkata-700 001 (INDIA)

Printed by:
Shree Vardhaman Press
Delhi (INDIA)

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Concentration
  3. Discipline
  4. Fasting
  5. Greed
  6. Karma
  7. Loka
  8. Mahāvīra
  9. Meditation
  10. Muhurta
  11. Niryukti
  12. Nonviolence
  13. Sadhaka
  14. Sūtra
  15. Tolerance
  16. Violence
  17. Ācārāṅga
  18. Ācārāṅga Sūtra
  19. Āyāro
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