ORIGINS OF SECRET MANTRA (DAY 10): ‘DO WHATEVER YOU ENJOY’, HERETICS, HEDONISTS, NIHILISTS AND ‘NAKED ASCETICS’ IN INDIA: Sixty-two wrong views, six non-Buddhist teachers, the Charvakas and Jain followers at the time of Buddha

‘As long as you live, live joyously
None can escape Death’s wide net;
When once this body has been burnt,
How can it ever return?

While you live, live well, even if you have to borrow, for once cremated there is no return.’

― Quotes from Charvaka school

“Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.”

― Mahavira (main founder of Jain religion)

 

Introduction

Here is the write-up of the tenth day of HH 17th Karmapa’s teaching on the Origins of Secret Mantra (video is here).

In the first part of the teaching, the Karmapa spoke about the two different types of practitioners: Brahmins and wandering yogi, non-Brahmins (Shramanas) and why the latter lifestyle was able to flourish in India due to the abundance of food.

The Karmapa then explained the sixty-two wrong views around at the time of the Buddha, as listed in one source from the Pali canon, a Buddhist text called the Brahma-Jala Suttānta, or the Brahma’s Web Sutra in English. These views can be divided into two: those about the past/beginning and those about the future/end.

The second part of the teaching was about the wrong views of the six heretical (unorthodox) teachers, that are also well-known in Buddhism. These teachers had a mix of views which could be described as amoral, nihilist, hedonist and evasive. The Carvaka school, in particular, believed in hedonism; that people should do whatever they enjoy and that there are no future or past lives. The Karmapa said that this is very similar to  how many people think and act in the 21st Century.

The final section of the teaching was on the Jain school, derived from the Sanskrit word for Victor (Jina). His explanation covered the development of two sects within Jain, the ‘naked one’ and those ‘wearing clothes’, their tenets and similarities to both Buddhism and Hinduism. In that respect, the Karmapa said the Jains could be seen as like a ‘bridge between Buddhism and Hinduism’.

The  Karmapa concluded by explaining that in the next days he would cover Buddhism in India.

Music? Naked in the Jungle by Van Morrison? The hedonist anthem, Loaded by Primal Scream: ‘We wanna be free to do what we want to do, we wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time!’ 

Written, compiled and edited by Adele Tomlin, 14th September 2021.

 

DAY 10 TEACHING

PART I: DIFFERENT PRACTITIONERS AND VIEWS

The two different types of practitioners – Brahmins and śramaṇas

“Yesterday I spoke about the six Darshana, the orthodox Hindu philosophical schools. I will present the other views and schools today.  These are non-Buddhists. Tomorrow I will explain the Buddhist tradition.

At the time of the Buddha, there were two types of  practitioners, one is the  Brahmanas (Dramzey), who followed and had faith in the traditional Vedic views and practices. The other type of are spiritual practitioners called śramaṇas (Ge-jong) who were non-orthodox renunciates, ascetics, and yogis.  The name śramaṇas means “someone who is making an effort, someone in training”, and it was translated into Tibetan as “training in virtue” (Gejong)[1]. Their practice differed from that taught in the Upanishads. The śramaṇas would leave home to lead a wandering lifestyle, they would not stay in one place for long, and wander to many different countries and lands. Most of these who led these lives gave up all opportunities and comforts to live at him from a young age. 

They would become forest dwellers, and practice yoga and severe asceticism.  They did this to give meaning to human life and achieve the state of liberation. 

Image from 17th Karmapa’s teaching (Day 10) detailing the two different types of practitioners: Brahmanas and Shramanas

The reason why people were able to practice in that way due to the changes in thinking and philosophies at that time, which helped that lifestyle develop. Another factor, was that there was an abundance of food in India, so it was easy to get food and drink. India is a very hot country so if you don’t eat the food it rots quickly. Once it has been cooked the leftovers had to be thrown away, or they would become inedible. In general, they would be discarded. However, as there were so many people practicing dependent on alms, they were able to give that food to them.  Thus, those who left home and lived this way were never short of alms, they would go on the alms rounds and people would always give food to them without stinginess or reservation. it was easy for them to wander from place to place that way. We speak about it as the wandering lifetsyle. It was a new way of life, but it was much easier and there was more excitement and interest in doing it. Even children from prosperous families, would give up and forget about their good situation and live off donor’s food. They put a lot of effort and interest into realising the true nature. This was a new tradition that developed then.”

Ancient image said to depict naked ascetic shramanas
Indian ascetic in contemporary India, Haridwar.

Other philosophical schools than the six main ones

From one perspective, during the Age of Philosophy it seems that many different philosophies emerged, which we cannot mention. The ones of which there are still extant texts are those from the six orthodox Hindu philosophical schools, I spoke about yesterday, and from Buddhism and Jainism. There are not many remaining texts for the other Indian traditions at that time. That is why the historians and researchers look at these texts from the six schools to learn about the situation at that time. 

The name of these schools was given recently by scholars to the most prominent ones, the six Dharshanas. However, there were not only those schools. Although the original sources no longer exist, the evidence for other Indian philosophical schools is contained in old Buddhist  scriptures that state there were ninety-five different views that were upheld by people. They also mention those who upheld sixty-two wrong views, but they cannot find any reliable sources. “

Chinese version of Brahmajala Sutra. Bommō-kyō, Horyuji Treasures N-13, Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

“However, one source from the Pali canon, is a Buddhist text called the Brahma-Jala Suttānta, or the Brahma’s Web Sutra in English, mentions sixty-two wrong views. Thus it is a source of the 62 wrong views. This sutra is a section from the Dīgha Nikāya [Collection of Long Discourses],it is not in the Tibetan but it is a very important text. It is in Chinese and in the Pali Canon of Buddhist texts. It is in both the Sourthern and Northern traditions. There is no other source better than this on these views. 

I have looked at it and there is also a Brahma’s Web Sutra in the Tibetan Kangyur. There are so many sutras from the different vehicles and all just put in there together without any clear order. It does not include the 62 views.  I have not had time to compare them in detail but they seem to be the same, it would mean that this source is reliable and valuable.”

[Note: The Brahmajāla Sūtra (梵網經; ; Fànwǎng jīng), also called the Brahma’s Net Sutra, is a Mahayana Buddhist Vinaya Sutra. The Chinese translation can be found in the Taishō Tripiṭaka. The Tibetan translation can be found in Peking (Beijing) Kangyur 256. From the Tibetan it was also translated into Mongolian and the Manchu languages. It is known alternatively as the Brahmajāla Bodhisattva Śīla Sūtra.]

The Sixty-Two Wrong Views

“The sixty-two views can be divided into two sections: 

1) eighteen views ‘about a beginning’ [previous limit: ngon gi tha’] and 

2) forty-eight views ‘about the end’ [later limit: chi ma’i tha]

These are a total of sixty-two views.

1. The Eighteen Views About A Beginning

1. Four eternalist views (Tagpar Tawa). Non-Buddhists would also practice dhyana meditation. They practised shamatha, and through practising this dhyana, they would develop the clairvoyance of remembering past lives and would look with their clairvoyance to see the continuum of the past lives of other sentient beings as far back as many kalpas. When they looked they saw that sentient beings would go from one life to the next, and they thought that the continuum of the self of sentient beings was permanent and never interrupted. When I look to see where a person twenty kalpas ago was reborn they could see that they were reborn and so believed in a permanent self. That was one view.

The ‘four’ refers to a division according to the different capacities of the clairvoyants, divided into four groups: some were able to see twenty aeons ago, some forty, and so forth. These beings were able to do this because they were in the retinue of great Brahma and so when they were re-born as humans they had these amazing clairvoyant abilities. They think where is our Lord Brahma and then they saw he had not died either. They also thought he must be eternal and permanent but that his emanations were impermanent. The division into four depended on the person and where they had been born before and their capacities of clairvoyance in samdahi. Thus they developed an eternalist view.

2. Four views of some being eternal. There were some who had been born into the retinue of Great Brahma and then reborn as humans. As humans they practised shamatha and through dhyana developed clairvoyance and remembered that they had been in the retinue of Great Brahma by dhyana and realised that as Great Brahma was still existing, he had not died. They concluded that Great Brahma was eternal and permanent. However, they regarded the world and sentient beings as creations or emanations of Brahma and concluded that though Brahma was permanent, these were impermanent. The division into four was according to higher and lower realms. Thus, they developed an eternalist view that was limited to some beings.

3. Four views of being infinite or not infinite. Some non-Buddhist sages with clairvoyant powers looked to  see whether the world was finite or not. However, first they saw ages of destruction of the universe, as we do with out eyes, they concluded that it must be finite, there is an end. When they saw the ages of formation, they concluded it must be infinite. They were unable to see the whole picture, the entire world, but only seeing part.  Likewise, they would look up above and down below to see if there is an end, and see if hell realms had a finite end.  When they saw the hells they would see it had a finite end. But when they looked straight ahead, they thought it was infinite and that there was no end. So these views developed of the world being infinite or finite.

4. The four views of not giving up on the gods. This is a deceptive way of thinking. When answering questions such as what is good and virtuous, is there a consequence to good and non-virtuous actions, is this world finite or not, these people had pride and avoided a direct answer by saying, “I will not give up on the gods.…” and words like that. They would be deceptive and not answer directly.

5. Two denials of cause. There are two types of deniers of cause (ahetuvadin), those who reach the view from dhyana meditation and those who reach the view from speculation and logical thought. Although they have accomplished samadhi and clairvoyance from dhyana meditation do not see a preceding cause and thus conclude that body and mind arise spontaneously from chance. These are the deniers of cause. 

Those are the eighteen views about beginning because they are thinking mainly about the past.

2. The Forty-Eight Views About the End

Then there are those who talk and think about the future. Such as idea

6. Those who say they have ideas about the future. This covers the following sixteen ideas about the future:

  • I will have both a body and mind.
  • I will have neither a body nor a mind.
  • I will have a mind but not a body.
  • I will have a body but not a mind.
  • The self has an end.
  • The self does not have an end.
  • The self has both an end and does not have an end.
  • The self has neither an end nor not an end.
  • I will experience pleasure.
  • I will experience suffering.
  • I will experience both pleasure and suffering.
  • I will experience neither pleasure nor suffering.
  • The self is alone.
  • The self is separate.
  • The self is small.
  • The self is immeasurable.

7. Those who say they do not have an idea of the future. They do not have a conception of whether they will have a body and mind in the future, and so forth. The rest of the list is the same.

8. Those who say they neither have nor do not have a idea. These declare that “I neither have nor do not have an idea that…” for the same list. There are eight in total for that.

9. The seven views of annihilation. This applies to humans and gods in the Desire Realm, gods in the Form Realm, and gods in the four levels of the Formless Realm—seven in all. They have sickness and pain until death, but once dead, they are annihilated. This is the view that when you die, the continuum ceases.  There are seven explanations of that.

10. Those who say they can be liberated in this lifetime. This includes five categories:

  • liberation through unrestrained enjoyment of sensory pleasures;
  • liberation through achieving the first dhyana;
  • liberation through achieving the second dhyana;
  • liberation through achieving the third dhyana;
  • liberation through achieving the fourth dhyana.

Apart from the first one, they believe they will achieve liberation having achieved these samadhis.

What we need to consider among these views, is particularly the views of those who avoided answering directly, those who denied causality, those who held a nihilistic view, and those who said that they had achieved liberation in this lifetime. As they are very similar to the views of the six teachers whom I will now speak about.”


PART II: THE SIX ‘HERETICAL’ TEACHERS

Six Indian heretical teachers – Dazu Caves

“During the time of the Buddha, there were six non-Buddhist teachers. Most of you have probably heard their names. You may not have heard of the six orthodox Indian schools, but you have heard of the six teachers. When we recite the praises of the Buddha, there is a lot in there about these six non-Buddhist teachers[2]

1) Pūrṇa Kāśyapa, 

2) Maskarin Gośāla ( Gosala Mankhaliputta), 

3) Ajita Keśa-kambala, 

4) Pakudha Kaccāyana, 

5) Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta, and 

6) Nirgrantha Jñatiputra.

Textual Sources

According to Buddhist texts, they lived in the environs of Rajagriha and gathered and attracted students there. They would go to Rajgir and look for students. Like in our monasteries now people sometimes go out and look for monks.

They would also go to the palace of King Ajataśatru  (492 to 460 BCE or early 5th century BCE)[3] and speak about philosophy. There is a s sutra called the Samanna-phala Suttanta, The Sutra of the Results of the Spiritual Way, found in the Long Discourses of the Northern tradition. This describes in detail the results of practicing the spiritual way, the results of practice.  They are dialogues between King Ajatashatru and the six teachers. When the king asked what the results of practising the spiritual path were, the teachers gave their answers, and these were recorded[4]

The position of the Jain and Nirgrantha Jñatiputra, however, was not recorded. This text is very important as these six teachers are not described in any other Buddhist text. This text is the oldest surviving source, so it is very difficult to research them. They do appear several times in Tibetan Buddhist texts. For example, they are mentioned in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, but that is a much later text. Yet researchers want to see earlier texts as they are not sure how reliable it is or not. So they use this Sutra. They would need to know when was it written, when was it translated and so on. Just the fact there is a text is not sufficient for it to be authentic and that is important to know. That is how researchers think about it. This is not our way of thinking, we trust it but researchers need sources and evidence and so on. 

The Northern Buddhist version is preserved in Chinese and the Southern Buddhist one is in Pali of the Sutra of the Results of the Spiritual Way and when compared, these two are mostly the same.”

The Six ‘Unorthodox’ Teachers  and their Views

Image of six heretical teachers from Kizil caves

1. Pūraṇa Kāśyapa – nihilist, no belief in karma/cause and effect[5]
He is a nihilist. His position was that taking life, taking that which is not given, sexual misconduct, and lying are negative actions but will not result in suffering. Likewise, gathering many things and working to protect the poor have no virtuous result. He asserts there are no past and future lives, no karmic cause and effect, and no arhats. Basically, he holds a nihilist view.

2. Makkhali Gosāla – skeptical nihilist
He holds a sceptical view and was sceptical of everything. He doubts that there are such things as virtuous actions or misdeeds. There are no past or future lives; no parents; no gods; no sentient beings. All is confusion and illusion. There is nothing in actuality. 

3. Ajita Keśa-kambala – no past or previous lives[6]
He holds the view that when someone dies, the four elements dissolve and cease, so no matter who they are or what they have done, they will die, and that’s it. The view that the continuum ceases.

4. Pakudha Kaccāyana –nihilism, no cause and effect[7]

He asserts that there are no powers and that practising the spiritual path is pointless. There is no way in which sentient beings can be freed of stains and no cause to remove the cause and no cause that brings about the stains because there is no cause. There is no point in spiritual practice because they cannot be eliminated. Obscurations arise without a cause, so as there is no cause, then they cannot be eliminated either.

5. Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta – evasive answers [8]

He also holds a deceptive view. He said there is neither not a result of spiritual virtue and nor a result. This is considered to be a ‘wriggly’ view. 

6. Nirgrantha Jñatiputra – self is wisdom by nature[9]
He asserts that the self is prajna (wisdom) by nature, it is me, so there is nothing I do not know. When going, walking, lying down, or sitting, I am in equipoise. Prajna is always right there before me”.However, The Sutra of the Results of the Spiritual Way does not present Nirgrantha Jñatiputra’s views clearly. Although they are recorded in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya,as this was written much later than the sutra and thus is often regarded as less authentic by researchers.

When we compare the teachings of the sixty-two views with the six teachers along with the Cārvāka and the Jain religion, we can gain a new understanding.  We can understand that the Cārvāka is actually the school that preserved the destructive, sceptical, and nihilistic views mentioned before. Likewise, the Jain religion that primarily follows the teachings of Nirgrantha Jñatiputra. They basically repeat his teachings. Though his views are not described in this sutra, his position described in other sutras is very similar to that of the Jains in later scriptures. It is upholding the position of their teacher.  Though they are recorded in the sutras from the time of the Buddha, other than Nirgrantha Jñatiputra’s tradition, the teachings of the six teachers did not spread widely. At the time of the Buddha, they were recorded but later, people did not know about these six teachers. There is some mention of the Jain religion and their teacher, but otherwise there is no discussion of them.

The Cārvāka (or Lokāyata) School – Hedonism and ‘the worst among views’

“At that time, there was a wrong view, or anti-religious movement, or extreme tradition, that arose called the Cārvāka (चार्वाक) (Gyangphenpa). Researchers dispute how this tradition developed, there is no clear source that says whether it appeared before Buddhism or after. It was a combative and disruptive school, and disputes involving this school probably arose during time of the initial spread of Buddhism.

The person who founded this tradition, according to Buddhist texts, the movement was founded by a sage known as the “Eye of the World”(Tib: Drangsong Jigten Mig). However, the non-Buddhists do not explain it that way. It mentions a teacher called Devaguru, “teacher of the gods” [also known as Brihaspati]. They have a nice way of explaining it. They say that according to one myth, Devaguru went to the land of the asuras (demi-gods) and taught them wrong views to overcome their bounty and pleasures.

There is no source or manuscript that indicates when it decisively appeared. The time it appeared was when original Buddhism was spreading.”

The meaning of Cārvāka

“It  is also known as the Hedonist school. As the Cārvāka only looked at this lifetime and not at future lives, they were called the Hedonist school. The name in the Chinese is probably this. Basically it means people who are only interested in this life. In Tibetan it is called Gyangpenpa (lit. far flung), which is the Lokāyata school in Sanskrit. The reason it is called this is because it has gone’ far away’ from the upstanding traditions of the world and is called the extreme of the world. 

There are said to be some Cārvāka who, attained liberation through practicing dhyana, and others who attained it through the intellect. The latter say there are past and future lives and no liberation. The school is also linked to Ajita Kesakambali [the first proponent of Indian materialism in the 6th century BCE].”

Textual Sources

“What is the fundamental root text of this school? There are no extant root texts from the Cārvāka school, so it is difficult to explain their fundamental view with certainty. However, there are some fragments in other sources. For example, in Tibetan there is Kamalashila’s commentary on the Tattvasamgraha which speaks about Devaguru and details some of his positions. There are also references to the Cārvāka in Kamalashila’s Commentary on Entering the Middle Way [Skt. Madhyamālaṃkāra-panjika]. But it is difficult to say there are any root texts.

Both Buddhists and non-Buddhists asserted that the Cārvāka school holds the worst among the views. As an example of how non-Buddhists considered it the worst, in his Compendium of All Views [Skt. Sarva-Darsana-Sangraha], Madhava Acharya counts sixteen schools, and among them considers the Cārvāka to be the furthest from the correct view.

13th Century portrait of Madhvacharya, Advaita Vedanta teacher.

Some scholars also assert that  Cārvāka was not an actual independent philosophical school. Later, they were called the Hedonists, so at that time,  they were a mateiralist tradition. It seems that Cārvāka may have been the generic name for all materialist traditions.”

Tenets
“This school’s main tenets was that aside from perception, there are no other valid means of knowledge, such as inference. The four elements of earth, water, fire, and air truly exist, and everything arises from the four elements. Matter and mind arise from the same cause. The world was produced by coincidence and luck.  There is no creator or hidden powers. Basically, the Cārvāka view collates all the skeptical views, denials of cause, nihilist views and so forth from the sixty-two views and combines them all into one. Thus it is the most extreme of the extremist views.

At that time the Cārvāka did not have any particular order to what they asserted. They write their own things. There was no TV, phone, internet like nowadays. People didn’t have so much work, so they would think about things. They would say whatever they thought and debating that/ There were so many different views then, but this was seen as the worst of these views. 

However, the Cārvāka view is one held by most people in the world these days. When I read the song to you, it will be obvious. In society these days, the one they considered the worst is the one that most people these days hold. Whether this represents an evolution or a regression of views, is difficult to say.  The way we think and act are what they would have considered wrong view. The Cārvāka song says:

There are no gods. There is no ultimate aim of liberation. There is no liberation. There is no ultimate nature. Likewise, there are no other worlds,  no delightful heavenly realms, and no other lives. There are no rituals, no karmic cause and effect. Performing sacrifices, confessing negative actions, and so forth is pointless. It’s just people who lack courage and skills made them up in order to pass the time away.

When you sacrifice animals you are committing cruel deeds. If you think that these animals will then be reborn as gods,then  why don’t you sacrifice and kill your parents and put them in the fire? They had a ritual of offering food, which is similar to a tsog that  fills your ancestors’ stomachs, then there’s no need to carry provisions when you travel. Just get your family to make offerings for you and then go. If they do the smoke offering for you then your stomach will be filled too. Similarly, it the offerings given on the earth can be eaten by the gods in the heavens, if the  people who live on the top floor are given offerings by the people on the bottom floor? Look and see if they can actually eat it.  It doesn’t happen that way.

Like these days, there is the Corona virus and sometimes people cannot go outside. So if there are some people in multi-storey buildings and the people on the top floor are not allowed to go to the ground floor, there is no need for them to order food, the ground floor can offer it and everyone on the upper floors will  get it.

They also claimed that while you are still alive, you should just have good time and do whatever you enjoy.  There is no next lifetime, so if you are going to have a good time you have to do it in this lifetime and do whatever you want. If you can borrow money from a friend, just borrow it and eat the best food you can and wear the best clothes you can, whatever you like. When you are dead and your corpse is buried underground, you won’t be able to give it back.  Likewise, they say there is no next life. So people think that their consciousness continues, but they say there is no way that could happen.

In addition, if the consciousness could go to another world, why wouldn’t it come back to the family who are left behind for their sake? It’s all made-up and false. Also, spending so much money on making sacrifices for the deceased is pointless and is just the deception of the cruel Brahmans. They just want to gather wealth for themselves and it  has no real other benefit. 

They also assert that the authors of the three Vedas are terrible and bad Gods, or spirits. They are all just performers. Thus reciting mantras and sutras and rituals is pointless and meaningless. Instead it is better to just do what you enjoy. 

That way of thinking  is very similar to how many people think these days. Many people think do what brings you pleasure. They want to get a car, a motorcycle, a house and other things. Who cares about future lives? There probably aren’t any future lives, they think. 

At that time, in India these views were regarded as heretical and too extreme, one that had crossed the boundaries.  However, in ancient India, these views had probably existed for some time before. The reason we can say this is the story in the Mahabharata that  tells how a demon possessed a Brahman who went to see King Yudhishthira. When he returned and got what he wanted. This Brahmin  spread many wrong views and he violated the Brahmanical laws, which state that doing so will lead to execution. So the myth states that he was executed. This is just a story, but it is possible there is a true event behind it. If it were true, then there were people who did not believe in Gods or in anything in India from ancient times.”


PART III JAINISM

Jainism – origin, founders and split into two sects

Image from 17th Karmapa’s presentation on Jainism

“Now I will speak about the Jain religion. Normally, we call them the ‘naked ascetics’ but I do not think that is correct, so will say the Jain religion (Tib: Gyalwapa). 

Researchers have different positions on when the Jain religion appeared. There are basically two positions:

1) many scholars say that the Jain and Buddhist faiths began to spread at about the same time. 

2) other scholars say that Jainism arose from within Buddhism. It was originally a part of Buddhism and derived from it.

Similarly there are two different positions among scholars as to who the founder of the Jain religion was: 

1) Many contemporary scholars say the founder was Nirgrantha Jñatiputra, mentioned in Buddhist scriptures as one of the six non-Buddhist teachers.

 2) The Jains themselves say the founder was Vardhamāna Mahavīra.

See the image of Mahavīra. This image of him he looks quite similar to the Buddha. Some people mistake the Jain teacher with the Buddha as he wears similar robes and adopts a similar posture to Shakyamuni Buddha.”

The naked sage and founder of Jainism, Mahavira

Mahavīra’s life story is also similar to that of Buddha. At the age of twenty-nine, he ‘went on the road’ or went forth, and practiced the path. After twelve years practicing the path of meditation and austerities, he attained  the level of jina, victor over the afflictions. For the latter thirty years of his life, he gathered students and taught dharma. The Jain religion developed in that way.

The name “Jain” comes from the Sanskrit word for “victor” and means “the victorious ones” over the afflictions. The Jains are sometimes called the “naked ascetics” because within the religion there are two different sects, one of which was naked, and so they were called the ‘naked ones’ and that name was given to the entire Jain religion in Tibetan.

However, the way it is described in Buddhism is that at the time when Buddhism first developed, Nirgrantha Jñatiputra was teaching in Vaisali. At the time, the largest religion was the Jain dharma that he was teaching. Later, after he passed away, his students split into two factions and were always criticising each other and in continual disputes amongst themselves. This is described in detail in the Long Discourses (Dīrgha Āgama) and the Pasadika sutra (the Freedom from Stains). 

So there was this disagreement, which was small at first but which later  split into two sects. This happened around two hundred years later.”  


The Two Sects – differences in clothing and views on women

White-robed Jain practitioner

“The way this split happened is  during the reign of the first Mauryan king, Chandragupta, there was a huge famine in Magadha.  There was one leader of the Jains called Bhadrabāhu[10], who due to the famine went with his students to the region of Karnataka in South India. The rest of the Jains continued to stay under Sthulabhadra, stayed in Magadha. They continued to compile scriptures and held a council and so forth. 

When the famine ended, the ones who went to Karnataka returned to Magadha. When they reunited, those in Magadha had completely different clothing. The sect in Magadha had adopted white clothing, whereas those from Karnataka insisted on being naked as before. So the question then arose as to whether they should wear clothes or be naked. That is how the dispute arose.”

Naked ascetic in a Gandhara sculpture of the Mahaparinirvana, circa 2nd-3rd century CE.

“Thus they split into the white-robed Svetambara and the naked Digambara sects. Digambara does not mean completely naked, it means they wear the ‘directions as their clothes’.”

Naked sadhus in contemporary India.
Contemporary Jain practitioner, India

Status of Women in Jain

“Those who wore the directions as their clothes, say that the teacher Nirgrantha did not have a wife; whereas the Svetambara say that he had a wife and a daughter. Also, the Svetambara say that women can achieve liberation, whereas the Digambara did not explain that. Thus there were differences in their tenets and explanations[11]. “

[Author’s Note: According to the Kalpa-sūtra, after the death of the Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra, the community that he organized “contained a body of female ascetics two and half times as large as the number of male ascetics.” Further, the respected Candanbālā, a Jain female renouncer during the time of Mahāvīra, is said to have led a sangha of 36,000 female ascetics. These annotations highlight the fact that, while there was lively discussion and debate regarding female mendicants, women have been a part of the Jain monastic tradition for a long time. This has continued even unto modern times, where Sethi observes that the number of female ascetics within Jainism is far greater than that of male ascetics. Arguably, given that Jainism offers the possibility of liberation to women, women are seen as “legitimate aspirants and agents of salvation,” where in other traditions – such as Hinduism – they may not.”]

Statue said to be of Maillinthala, female Jain practitioner. Jain statues in Anwa, Rajasthan.
See: http://www.jainpedia.org/manuscripts/detail-view-meta/manuscript/kalpa-sutra-gamma-453/rajimati-and-rathanemi/index.html

Textual Sources

“The Svetambara and Digambara share root texts, which are in fifty volumes. Later, they compiled these texts separately, so there are two different recensions. The text is half in Sanskrit and half in colloquial. Later the Jains took many ideas from Buddhist teachings and incorporated them into the Jain religion. 

By the 5th century CE, they had probably completed the compilation of their texts. At that time, Buddhism had spread greatly and there are great similarities between Buddhists and Jains. 

When you look at the Jain texts you might think this is like a type or branch of Buddhism. it is easy to mistake them because their texts are very similar. However, among the Jain texts that are still extant, there is a question as to whether the Jain texts are the actual teachings of Mahavira as they were compiled later. It is difficult to say. One reason why they don’t have standard beliefs in the two sects is because of that. “

The Jain Tenets

“The Jain school do not accept the Vedas. In that respect, they are similar to the Buddhists who also reject the Vedas, In addition, they reject  the idea of a creator god, as does Buddhism. Saying there is no Creator of the world is not the same as saying there are no Gods though. 

However, there are also significant differences between the Buddhist and Jain philosophies. Buddhism does not have much connection with the Brahmins and is separate. Yet, Jainism agrees with views within the Sāṃkhya. For example,  that the world is created out of two constituents, the primal nature and the puruṣa. They also consider ascetic practice to be extremely important. Within Buddhism, ascetic practices are not explained to be very important. Thus, Jainism is different from the six orthodox schools and could be described as a bridge between Buddhism and Hinduism. On one hand they are similar to Buddhism, on another they are similar to Hindusim.”

The Three Jewels in Jainism

“The Jains also talk about the three jewels. These are not the Three Jewels of Buddhism, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. They assert the three jewels are:

 1. right prajna, 

2. right faith, and 

3. right conduct. 

Right prajna is being able to distinguish what is from what isn’t, what the nature is and what it is not. It is not the prajna of understanding the five areas of knowledge.  Right faith is having complete, heartfelt belief in the teacher and not doubting the scriptures, not even a single word. 

There are five aspects to right conduct. The main part of their practice is ahiṃsā (non-violence) at a level that ordinary people would find difficult. In Mahatma Gandhi’s writings, he was a leader on non-violence and  his works frequently quote from the Jain scriptures because they have such a strong emphasis on non-violence.

The second is satya (truth), not telling lies. 

The third is asteya (not stealing) i.e. not taking that which is not given. 

The fourth is brahmacharya (chaste conduct or celibacy). 

The last one is aparigraha, (not possessing anything), which entails not having more than you absolutely need, not wearing elaborate clothes, and giving up sensory pleasures. These are the five aspects of right conduct that Jains teach.

That is a brief introduction to the Jain religion. Tomorrow, I will speak about the topic of Buddhism. There are only four days to speak about it but I will not rush through it to get to secret mantra. That may bring an obstacle to teaching Buddhism well. The question as to what century the Buddha was alive in is a big issue since Indians at that time did not record dates.”

 

Further Reading

Acharya, Mādhava (1894). The Sarva-darśana-samgraha: Or, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy. Translated by Cowell, E. B.; Gough, A. E. London: Trübner & Company.

Basham, Arthur Llewellyn (1981). History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, a Vanished Indian Religion. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.

Bhattacharya, Ramakrishna (2002). “Cārvāka Fragments: A New Collection”. Journal of Indian Philosophy. 30 (6): 597–640. doi:10.1023/A:

Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna (2010). “What the Cārvākas Originally Meant”. Journal of Indian Philosophy. 38 (6): 529–542.

Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna (2011). Studies on the Carvaka/Lokayata. Anthem Press.

Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna (21 August 2011). “Materialism in India: A Synoptic View”. carvaka4india.com. Retrieved 18 July 2018.

Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna (2013). “The Base Text and Its Commentaries: Problems of Representing and Understanding the Cārvāka/Lokāyata”. Argument Biannual Philosophical Journal. 3 (1): 133–149. Barua, B.M. (1920). The Ajivikas. University of Calcutta.

Basham, A.L. (2002) [1951]. History and Doctrines of the Ājīvikas (2nd ed.). Delhi, India: Moltilal Banarsidass Publications. originally published by Luzac & Company Ltd., London, 1951.

Jain, Kailash Chand (1991), Lord Mahāvīra and His TimesMotilal Banarsidass

Dundas, Paul (2002) [1992], The Jains (Second ed.)

Muller, Charles (2012). Exposition of the Sutra of Brahma´s Net, Sŏul-si (Seul): Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. 

Muller, Charles; Tanaka, Kenneth K., trans. (2017). The Brahma’s Net Sutra, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai Amerika.

Reddy, Gayatri (2005). With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Sethi, Manisha (2012). Escaping the World: Women Renouncers among Jains. London, UK: Routledge. 

 Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life (DN 2). On-line http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html.

Walshe, Maurice O’Connell (trans.) (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Somerville: Wisdom Publications. 

Women in the Jain tradition http://www.jainpedia.org/themes/people/women-in-the-jain-tradition/contentpage/5.html

Umāsvāti (2010). Tattvārtha Sūtra: That Which Is. Translated by Nathmal Tatia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Zwilling, Leonard and Michael J. Sweet (2000). “The Evolution of Third-Sex Constructs in Ancient India: A Study in Ambiguity”. Invented Identities: The Interplay of Gender, Religion and Politics in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 99–132.


[1] “Śramaṇa (Sanskrit: श्रमण; Pali: samaṇa) means “one who labours, toils, or exerts themselves (for some higher or religious purpose)” or “seeker, one who performs acts of austerity, ascetic”. The term in early Vedic literature is predominantly used as an epithet for the Rishis with reference to Shrama associated with the ritualistic exertion. The term in these texts doesn’t express non-Vedic connotations as it does in post-Vedic Buddhist and Jain canonical texts. During its later semantic development, the term came to refer to several non-Brahmanical ascetic movements parallel to but separate from the Vedic religion. The Śramaṇa tradition includes Jainism, Buddhism, and others such as the Ājīvikas, Ajñanas and Cārvākas.”

[2] The Six Heretical Teachers, Six Heretics, Six Śramaṇa, or Six Tirthakas (false teachers) were six sectarian contemporaries of the Buddha, each of whom held a view in opposition to his teachings. Except for Nigantha Nataputta or Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara Of Jainism, the other five heretical teachers were regarded as the holders of some or other form of Akiriyavada views.

The six heretics and their views on Indian philosophy are described in detail in the Samaññaphala Sutta of the Digha Nikaya in the Pali Tipitaka.

[3] Ajatashatru, Ajatashattu or Ajatasatru (Sanskrit: Ajātaśatru, Pāli: Ajātasattu; 492 to 460 BCE or early 5th century BCE) was a king of the Haryanka dynasty of Magadha in East India. He was the son of King Bimbisara and was a contemporary of both Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. He forcefully took over the kingdom of Magadha from his father and imprisoned him. He fought a war against Vajji, ruled by the Lichchhavis, and conquered the republic of Vesali. The city of Pataliputra was formed by fortification of a village by Ajatashatru.

[4] According to the sutra, King Ajatashatru visited Gautama Buddha, who, at the time, was living in the mango grove of Jīvaka in Rajagaha among 1250 bhikkhus. The king posed the Buddha the question of whether or not it was possible that the life of a śramaṇa could bear fruit in the same way as the lives of craftsmen bear fruit, declaring that he had previously asked six teachers (Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta and Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta) the same question, yet had not found a satisfactory answer. At the Buddha’s request, King Ajatashatru describes, the answers given to him by the six other teachers.

[5] Purana taught a theory of “non-action” (Pāli, Skt.: akiriyāvāda) whereby the body acts independent of the soul, merit or demerit. In the Pali Canon, Purana (along with the ascetic Makkhali Gosala) is identified as an ahetuvadin, “denier of a cause” (of merit). The Anguttara Nikaya also reports that Purana claimed to be omniscient. The Dhammapada commentary claims that Purana committed suicide by drowning

[6] “Ajita Kesakambali (Sanskrit: अजित केशकंबली) was an ancient Indian philosopher in the 6th century BC. He is considered to be the first known proponent of Indian materialism, and forerunner to the Charvaka school. He was probably a contemporary of the Buddha and Mahavira. It has frequently been noted that the doctrines of the Lokayata school were considerably drawn from Ajita’s teachings.”

[7] “Pakudha Kaccāyana was an Indian teacher and philosopher who lived around the 6th century BCE, contemporaneous with Mahavira and the Buddha. He is credited as the founder of the Atomism philosophy, which believed that everything is made of seven eternal elements – earth, water, fire, air, happiness, pain and soul. According to Buddhist sources, Pakudha’s followers did not hold him in high esteem, in contrast to the devotion felt for the Buddha by his followers. Pakudha did not welcome questions, and displayed annoyance and resentment when cross examined. Elsewhere however, he is spoken of as having been highly honoured by the people, a teacher of large and well reputed schools, with numerous followers. But he did not lay claim to perfect enlightenment.”

[8] “Sañjaya Belatthiputta (Pali: Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta; Sanskrit: Sañjaya Vairatiputra; literally, “Sañjaya of the Belattha clan”), was an Indian ascetic teacher who lived around the 7th-6th century BCE in the region of Magadha. He was contemporaneous with Mahavira, Makkhali Gosala and the Buddha, and was a proponent of the sceptical ajñana school of thought. In the Pali literature, Sanjaya’s teachings have been characterized as “evasive” or “agnostic”.  In the Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1), Sanjaya’s views are deemed to be amaravikkhepavada, “endless equivocation” or “a theory of eel-wrigglers.” In Jaina literature, Sanjaya is identified as a Jaina sage (Skt., muni). It is believed that he was influenced by Jaina doctrine although Jaina philosophers were critical of Sanjaya.”

[9] “Nigantha Nātaputta also known as Mahavira, regarded as the most recent tirthankara within Jainism, was the fifth teacher who Ajatashatru questioned. Nātaputta answered Ajatashatru with a description of Jain teachings, which, unlike the previous teachers recognized morality and consequences in the afterlife. The philosophy of Nātaputta, however, varied from that of Buddha in its belief that involuntary actions, like voluntary actions, carry karmic weight; Buddhism holds that only actions with intention have the potential to generate karma.”

[10] Ācārya Bhadrabāhu (c. 367 – c. 298 BC) was, according to the Digambara sect of Jainism, the last Shruta Kevalin (all knowing by hearsay, that is indirectly) in Jainism but Śvētāmbara, believes the last Shruta Kevalin was Acharya Sthulabhadra, but was forbade by Bhadrabahu from disclosing it. He was the last acharya of the undivided Jain sangha. He was the spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Maurya Empire. According to the Digambara sect of Jainism, there were five Shruta Kevalins in Jainism – Govarddhana Mahamuni, Vishnu, Nandimitra, Aparajita and Bhadrabahu.

[11] “One of the most fundamental distinctions between Śvetāmbara and Digambara Jains is their respective views on women as mendicants, or nuns, that originated over their debates regarding nudity. The general consensus between the two sects is that the Jinas, and especially the last Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra, practiced naked asceticism. Digambara Jains claims that it is necessary for all mendicants to conduct their renunciation without clothing. For them, this represents the idealized practice of aparigraha, in which a mendicant renounces all property and possessions, including clothing. Śvetāmbara Jains, however, claim that nudity as the exemplary mode of asceticism is impossible in this period of the cosmic age, and as such, it is “deemed inappropriate.” For the Śvetāmbaras, the white robes commonly associated with them are interpreted as mere tools that enhance religious life.

The debate on nudity would translate into a concern about the renunciant and soteriological potential of women. For Digambaras, women cannot become ascetics as they could not be naked, which was seen as “an essential component of the path to liberation.” Women were also seen as essentially immoral – and therefore unsuited to become a mendicant – because their bodies “generate and destroy life-forms within their sexual organs… thus repeatedly infringing nonviolence.” Women, then, were exempt from spiritual liberation because their bodies consistently broke the cardinal rule of ahiṃsā. The Śvetāmbaras accepted the premise that naked nuns would be inappropriate; however, because they viewed clothing as auxiliary to religious pursuits, the issue of female mendicants was resolved as they would be clothed. Additionally, Śvetāmbara Jains argued that women were not exempt from spiritual liberation, given that there is nothing within Jain scriptures that precludes such.

The debates haunt the discussion of gender, and particularly women, in Jainism, as the mendicant tradition is seen as one of the most significant features of Jain religious practice. Yet, it is important to note that simply because the “liberal” Śvetāmbaras do not preclude spiritual liberation for women, women are still viewed in various ways – both positively and negatively – as shown by the Jain literary tradition.”

As Manisha Sethi observes, “[T]here is no single archetype but a heterogeneity of ideals that appear sometimes to buttress women’s claim to independent spiritual life, and at other times, to erode this pursuit.” Her point brings to bear the fact that the broader Jain literary tradition has stories that both inspire and demonize Jain nuns and laywomen. For example, there are goddess beings such as the yakṣī Padmāvatī, who can intercede on behalf of “the non-salvational needs of their Jaina devotees, needs which cannot be met by the aloof, unresponsive, and totally-transcendent Tīrthaṅkaras.” There are also stories about early Jain women whose chastity and righteousness eventually lead to their liberation, such as Rājīmatī, wife of the 22nd Tīrthaṅkara Neminātha.

Yet at the same time, women – be they laywomen or nuns – are viewed as sexual agents with potentially nefarious goals. Indeed, while Jain monks are meant to control their sexual desires via their ascetic practices, the Sūtṛakrtāṅga-sūtra details how “a woman will tempt [a monk] to a comfortable couch or bed” by seductive means. Women are seen as cat-like predators who prevent Jain monks from achieving their lofty spiritual goals. Unlike their lay counterparts, references to Jain nuns within the texts about monastic conduct are notably absent. This lack of representation, argues Sethi, is an act of erasure: denying women equal opportunity in renunciate activities and leaves the Jain spiritual worldview solely within the domain of male practitioners. However, nuns are not exempt from being characterized as dangerous sexual agents, as a Jain nun needs to both protect her own chastity from “potential molesters and rapists as well as her own self.”

While representations of women as goddesses or chaste liberators within the literary tradition offers an alternative, and positive, vision of women within Jainism.”

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