The stories in this collection span almost one thousand years of story-telling in India. Most originate in North India and all were written by Jain monks for the edification and amusement of the faithful.
Jain literature is both rich and varied. Stories were told in verse and prose, in Sanskrit and in vernacular languages. Some resemble simple folk tales while others are as sophisticated as courtly romances.
The stories in Jain literature are about holy men and holy places, famous kings and courtiers and those not often heard in ancient and medieval India - women and toiling villagers.
The treasures of India's heritage of story-telling are known to us today mainly from these Jain stories which have carefully preserved through the years.
The stories in The Clever Adulteress have been translated by a renowned group of scholars from India, North America and Europe. Each translator has chosen his or her favorites from the vast treasures of Jain literature.
About the Author
Dr. Phyllis Granoff, who edited this volume, is a professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and has previously published Monks and Magicians: Religious Biographies in Asia, (with Koichi Shinohara, 1988) and A Strange Attachment and other Stories by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, (1984).
This book is a collection of translation of Jain stories that were originally written either in Sanskrit or in one of the older vernacular languages related to Sanskrit. The Jains trace the history or their religion back through a series of twenty-four teachers. Jinas or "Conquerors" the last of whom, Mahavira, was a contemporary of the Buddha. From the very beginning Jains told stories to illustrate their religious teachings. Stories fill their existing canon, and many of the commentaries to canonical texts are veritable treasure houses of stories. Indeed in later medieval times some of these stories from the canon and the commentaries were gathered together with other popular tales into large and often very diverse collections that were aptly called "treasure houses of stories."
Early in its history the Jain community split into two groups, the Svetambaras, who were concentrated mainly in the north of India, and the Digambaras, who were concentrated primarily in the south. While most of the translations in this volume are of stories in the Svetambara Jain tradition, the Digambara Jains also told and collected stories in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. It is in all of these Jain writings that much of medieval Indian story literature as a whole has been preserved, and without them we would know much less than we do of popular culture in medieval India.
The material in the Jain canon, its commentaries, and the story collections that grew from this older tradition is often didactic. Part I of the present book is a selection of Jain didactic stories. It begins with Dr. Bollee's translation of a parable from one of the eleven angas, which takes us back to the very starting point of Jain story literature. This is followed by a long section from the story tradition that is preserved in the commentaries to the Avasyakasutra. The prominence given to the Avasyaka stories here is an accurate reflection of their importance within the Jain tradition. The Avasyaka commentaries are the lifeblood of the didactic story tradition in Svetambara Jainism: they preserve an enormous number of stories and were one major source for many later collections of stories. By translating a block of stories Dr. Balbir has given the English reader the unique opportunity to see the range of stories that the commentarial tradition preserves and to understand how the stories functioned in their original setting. The section on didactic stories continues with example from later didactic story collections, some of which are rooted in the Avasyaka tradition. Dr. P.S. Jain, who has translated the story of the faithful wife Rohini has chosen to retain much of the verse form of the original, which gives the reader the chance to see just how varied in style Jain stories can be. I have translated several stories on a single concludes with a story that illustrates karmic retribution. It comes from the Digambara tradition and is translated by Dr. Friedhelm Hardy.
Part II offers selections of another significant group of stories that were told throughout the history of Jainism. In addition to avowedly didactic stories, Jains also recounted the lives and deeds of people who were important to their tradition. They also collected and told stories about their holy places. The boundary line between Jain "biographies" in particular and the didactic story is admittedly fluid; on the one hand, biographies may incorporate didactic stories or be used as didactic stories. At the same time biographies could be preserved in didactic story collections and yet lack a clear didactic purpose. Jain biography collections also from time to time include stories about famous poets and kings who were not specifically connected with the Jain tradition. Collections of the deeds of monks and nuns, pious laymen and women, appear regularly from the 12th century on. Biographies of the Jinas, the founding teachers of Jainism, have a longer history, but they continued to be a popular subject in medieval times.
In chapter 1 of Part II of this book I have translated biographies from a number of major Jain biography collections. For chapter 2 I have given two accounts of lay devotees who became demi-gods. These accounts come from a text on Jain holy places. In chapter 3 Dr. Lefeber has translated the humorous account of the minister Canakya, whom Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist sources alike celebrate as the power behind the throne of India's first great empire. Chapter 4 contains three chapters from the Digambara Adipurana that have been translated by Dr. Ralph Strohl. The chapter describe the conflict between the two brothers Bharata and Bahubali, and between secular and religious authority. Chapter 5 is a selection of translations from the same pilgrimage text that records the deeds of the lay devotees becomes gods translated in chapter 2. Here Dr. Cort has selected several accounts of medieval holy places. Some of these are miracle stories or stories of the origins of a holy site; others are more descriptive in nature and still others belong more properly to the class of literature we would call hymns. By providing samples of all these types, Dr. Cort has given the English reader the chance to see the kind of religious world his stories inhabit.
The title of the book, "The Clever Adulteress and the Hungry Monk," was taken from one story in Part I and one in Part II. In part I Dr. Bablir has translated a tale of a clever woman who outwits both her husband and the divine being who tests her chastity. In Part II I have translated a story about a Jain monk who is too eager for food and so converts to Buddhism.
In the original each of the stories that are translated in this collection has an unmistakable and unique stamp; Jain story literature as a whole is characterized by a plurality of styles and a freedom of invention that surely contributed to its lasting appeal. Some stories read like simple folk-tales; others read more like the bare framework for a sermon while still others seem more like courtly romances. In addition, although they all appear here in English, these stories in the original are not even in the same language. A single story may even be in more than one language, for it is not unusual for stories to switch from one language to another, using Sanskrit and the vernaculars side by side. Some of the stories that appear here were written entirely in prose, while others were in verses or in mixed prose and verse. The stories have been translated by several by several scholars, and no attempt has been made to achieve a uniform translation style. This was a deliberate decision; the originals themselves exhibit great diversity and it was hoped that at least an impression of that richness might be conveyed by the strikingly different translation that each scholar has made. The freedom of the translators included the choice of adding footnotes or incorporating necessary background information into the text. The original themselves exhibit the same wide range of tone, from scholarly and erudite to popular and easily accessible. Several translators kept to the popular vein; others have added notes that will be of great interest to specialists as well as general readers. These translations offer only a brief glimpse into what is an enormous body of literature. Hopefully the availability of these stories in English will help stimulate interest in this warm and lively literature.
I take this opportunity to thank the Dean of Social Sciences at McMaster for assistance in having the manuscript typed.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend