Two Overviews [Part 1]

Published: 26.03.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

The paper was published in Berliner Indologische Studien Vol. 20 (2012), pp. 7-35.


I. Structure of Jainism (sects and schools)

There are various lines in the history of Jainism, but matters are made comprehensible (i) by the presence of two pairs of opposites: Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras, mūrtipūjakas (Śvet.) and amūrtipūjakas (Śvet.). There is furthermore (ii) in medieval times and earlier the Śvetāmbara opposition between vanavāsīs (or saṃvegīs, orthodox) and caityavāsīs (or yatis, secularized). A fight against the caityavāsīs was started by Vardhamāna Sūri who died in 1031: Wiley Di: 14. Refer for the probable beginnings of the 'temple-dwellers' to Wiley Di: 63; see also Wiley Di: 240 (caityavāsīs, yatis). Yatis almost disappeared in the 19th century, whereas the number of Kharatara gaccha saṃvegīs increased in the same century (Wiley Di: 240). - Emphasis on pairs of opposites is in many cases useful.

The mūrtipūjaka Śvetāmbaras belong mainly to the Tapā gaccha, the amūrtipūjaka Śvetāmbaras are Sthānakvāsīs (gacchas) or Terāpanthīs (infra). Some information is given by P. Dundas about other gacchas (Ancala, Kharatara, Upakeśa gacchas: Dundas Jn: 140, 148-149), and there is an overview over 117 [!] gacchas (Bhāvaharṣa gaccha ... Śankheśvara gaccha) in Jain Se: 52-69. Wiley Di informs inter alia about the present Tapā and Ancala gacchas (sub voce). Refer also to Wiley Di sub voce: 'mendicant lineages' for subdivisions like gaṇa, kula, gaccha (to mention the best-known categories). Long lists of spiritual names occur already in the canonical Kalpa Sūtra: Jacobi (KS): 287-295.

It would appear that the Tapā gaccha was founded by a certain Jagaccandra Sūri in the 13th century (Dundas Ta: 2-3, 176-177, etc.; Dundas Jn: 142-143, foundation: 1228), but gacchas existed already earlier (details?): Dundas Ta: 2-3. The Tapā gaccha was “the dominant Śvetāmbara Jain disciplinary order” (Dundas Ta: 15). Lonkā, the founder of amūrtipūjaka Jainism (Śvetāmbara) lived in Gujarat and died most likely about 1475 (Dundas Jn: 248). A reform movement ('reform of the reform') broke away from Lonkā's line or movement in the 17th century. The 17th-century reformers were a group of five monks (Wiley Di: 130 and 203: Dharmasiṃha, Hara, Jīvarāja, Lavajī, Dharmadāsa). The whole development (16th-17th century) is not very clear: Recorded history starts apparently with the pentad, perhaps even later. The name 'Sthānakvāsī' originated in the 17th century (according to Wiley Di: 203 found but rarely before the 20th century) but is popular in any case today. Refer for the history of the Sthānakvāsī movement to Dundas Jn: 246-254. - Different from Dharmasiṃha (supra) is Dharmadāsa (ca. 1645-1703, Wiley Di: 75-76). Dharmadāsa was later than Dharmasiṃha (Dharmasiṃha: 1599-1671); Wiley Di: 76. Dharmadāsa is said to have founded or claimed twenty-two [!] branches (tol): Dundas Jn: 253. Moreover “Today, there are twenty-six [!] independent Sthānakvāsī ascetic groups in total, the majority of them being located in Gujarat, not all of which are headed by an ācārya. Overall Sthānakvāsī numbers underwent an expansion, particularly of nuns, in the later half of the twentieth century, reaching in 1999 a total of 533 monks and 2,690 nuns” (Dundas Jn: 253-254). - In 1952 thirty-two (...!) ācāryas tried (in Rajasthan) to unite all Sthānakvāsīs in the so-called Śramaṇa Sangha (Wiley Di: 200). Moreover “The original 22 founding traditions are under the command of a single ācārya for the purposes of initiation and excommunication” (Wiley Di: 200). There remained independent ascetic groups, consisting of monks who did not want to enter the Śramaṇa Sangha.

If Loṅkā remains frustratingly obscure... Ācārya Bhikṣu is one of the best-documented figures in the history of Jainism” (Dundas Jn: 254). He was born in 1726 in Marwar; his followers became known as Terāpanthīs (Dundas Jn: 254-262). The best known modern representative of the Terāpanthīs is Ācārya Tulsī, the ninth ācārya (1914-1997, Dundas Jn: 260-261).

A general description of the structure (organization) of Jainism does not seem to exist, but the Sthānakvāsī literature (religion) has been studied extensively (Flügel Pr III, pp.196-206). Refer for general descriptions to Jaina Dharma kā Maulik Itihās (Hastimal) and... Jaina Dharma kā Itihās (Susilkumar); Flügel Pr III: 200 and 205. Refer for the organisations and customs of important Sthānakvāsī traditions to Flügel Pr III: 127-195 (overview on p. 128).

Mūrtipūjakas: “This term came into use after the establishment of the non-image-worshipping Sthānakavāsī tradition between the mid-15th and the early 17th centuries C.E.... Today, the mendicant community is divided into several gacchas, and the laypeople often are identified as followers of one of these gacchas” (Wiley Di: 152).

The Digambaras are mūrtipūjakas (to use the Śvetāmbara term). The so-called bhaṭṭārakas have a special position in Digambara Jainism as spiritual leaders (“... emergence of the bhaṭṭāraka, the pivotal figure in medieval Digambara Jainism.”) Dundas Jn: 123. There existed thirty-six 'bhaṭṭāraka thrones' in the medieval period. The Mudbidri throne, south Karnataka, was founded in the 12th century (Dundas Jn: 125). There are five bhaṭṭārakas (including Mudbidri) today: Dundas Jn: 125. Digambara Jainism has numerous units and subunits (e.g. Kāranjā śākhā of the Balātkāragaṇa: Jain Se: 92), standing under the guidance of ācāryas. Lists of ācāryas (Jain Se: 92-132) contain hundreds of names: Kāranjā śākhā supra (p. 92: Amarakīrti, Viśālakīrti, Vidyānanda, Devendrakīrti,...), Lāḍa-bāgaḍa-punnāṭa gaccha of the Kāṣṭhāsangha (p. 118: Maunibhaṭṭāraka, Hariṣeṇa, Bharatasena, Hariṣeṇa,...).

Early and medieval Digambara tradition has a system of subdivisions which disappeared in the course of time (Mūlasangha etc.). The Mūlasangha had consisted of four sections (Sena, Deva, Siṃha, Nandi): Dundas Jn: 120-121. - In many parts of India we have the distinction (Digambara tradition) of a Terāpanthī line without bhaṭṭārakas (Digambara Terāpanthīs are different from Śvetāmbara Terāpanthīs) and a Bīsapanthī line with bhaṭṭārakas (Wiley Di: 58-59). The Bīsapanthīs worship (worshipped) images. But “After the death of Todarmal [Terāpanthī scholar] in the mid-18th century, the animosity between the Bīsapanthīs and Terāpanthīs in Jaipur began to decrease” (Wiley Di: 215). - The Digambara monks are mostly naked; Digambara nuns are, naturally, never naked, and nuns in the strict sense do not exist at all in Digambara Jainism.

The origin of the schism between Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras is unexplained. We know only very little about the earliest history of Śvetāmbara art (starting in the 5th century CE, Dundas Jn: 48), and there are no other indications of the schism (chronology). - Śvetāmbara means 'white-clad' (monks and nuns wearing white garments), Digambara means 'sky-clad' (monks clothed in the sky, i.e, wearing no clothes, nude). - Our overview (I) is almost exclusively concerned with the last centuries.

The Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth (Tāraṇ Svāmī 1448-1515, Madhya Pradesh) is a splinter party within Digambara Jainism, the ideology being derived from Kundakunda (Kundakunda's teachings on the nature of the soul). The panth is critical of mūrtis and of the bhaṭṭāraka institution; Tāraṇ Svāmī's books are worshipped in temples: the panth is to some extent a 'book-religion' (Wiley Di: 210-212) The Tāraṇ-svāmī-panthīs are close to the Digambara Terāpanthīs.

The Kānjī Svāmī Panth (Kānjī Svāmī 1889-1980, Gujarat) is another splinter group (Gujarat, Rajasthan). Kānjī Svāmī was originally a Sthānakvāsī monk, but became later on a Digambara layman and follower of Kundakunda (again influence of K.). There are no mendicant lineages, but the sect includes lower-order celibates (mostly brahmacāriṇīs). Temples exist in Nairobi and London. Wiley Di: 116-118.

The Adhyātma movement is “A movement that flourished from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century in north India.” Formative influence was exercised by Banarsidas (1586-1643), lay reformer and mystical poet. Banarsidas was also the first author to write a Hindi autobiography. “... John Cort understands the Adhyātma movement to be a trans-sectarian circle of spiritual seekers rather than a sect with a clearly delineated social identity like the Terāpanthī.” See Wiley Di: 24-25, 49-50. The movement is again Digambara.

In the history of the Jaina church (Śvetāmbara) the large number of recorded names (gurus and śiṣyas) is unusual; compare e.g. Flügel Pr III: 166-168 (Sthānakvāsīs). “Thus the hierarchy of teachers consisted of Ācārya, Upādhyāya and Gaṇāvacchedaka and the groups led or controlled by them are known as gaṇa or gaccha, gumma and phaḍḍaya, respectively” (Jain Se: 50). A rough list of Śvetāmbara gacchas appears in Jain Se on pp. 52-69, nos.1-117 (Bhāvaharṣa gaccha … Śankheśvara gaccha).

It would be adequate to say that Jainism has 'many divisions and subdivisions'. But 'division' is probably not an established category in the study of the history of (Indian) religions, and little can be said in this connection about Jainism as long as we do not know the situation in different Jaina denominations and in other Indian religions. - Refer for subsects (etc.) also to Glasenapp Jn: 386-398 and to Sangave Co: 51-62, 316-324, 393-398. H. von Glasenapp mentions also popular (?) etymologies of the relevant terms.

The muhpattī (mouth-cloth), infra, existed already in the canonical period (Ut 26,23 etc., Schubring Do: 260). But P. Dundas writes: “It is Lavajī who is usually credited with the introduction of a practice which has continued to distinguish Sthānakvāsī and Terāpanthī ascetics from those of other Śvetāmbara sects and which many westerners regard as characteristic of all Jains: the permanent wearing of a strip of cloth across the mouth, tied behind the ears, known as a muhpattī, 'mouth-shield'... which by minimising the destruction of air-bodies and tiny insects through the outflow or inflow of breath is an outward sign of the ascetic's commitment to non-violence” (Dundas Jn: 252-253). Moreover: “Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaka mendicants [the majority] carry this cloth in their hands and place it in front of their mouths while preaching and reading aloud from sacred texts” (Wiley Di: 150).

We have included the present overview because some readers might prefer a quasi-complete survey to a rough list of the familiar facts. See also Flügel Pr IV (“Jaina-Reformbewegungen IV”).

The Census of 2001 produced the figure of 4,225,053 Jainas or 0,4% of the total population (P. Flügel); 150,000 Jainas live outside India. The Wikipedia (Census for 2001) mentions the percentages of all the Indian religions: 80.5% (Hindus), 13,4% (Muslims), 2,3% (Christians),... 0,4% (Jainas).


Berliner Indologische Studien

Compiled by PK


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