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From One Birth to Another: Stories from Jaina Literature

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Item Code: UBH874
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Author: Sudhamahi Regunathan
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789353026066
Pages: 244
Other Details 8.00 X 5.50 inch
Weight 190 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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100% Made in India
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Book Description
About The Book

A queen and her daughter were sitting in a beautiful garden. The mother was advising the princess, who was soon to be married, to follow the spiritual path instead. Hidden behind the bushes was another listener: the neighbouring king had sent his messenger to find out when the princess's swayamvara was going to be held. Later, the king and his minister devised a cunning plan...

Thus begins a story of love and deception, with unintended consequences. The neighbouring king weds the princess and they live happily ever after. However, her father, unhappy at the deception the king used to win her hand, renounces the world to become a monk. In a simple way, this story highlights the complexity of reality, as it can be interpreted in myriad ways.

What is the truth? The neighbouring king's love? The Queen's advice? The father's disillusionment? Disguised within deft storytelling, Jaina literature seeks to impart messages of restraint and rectitude - to caution us against the attractions of the senses and convince us of a deeper reality. Readers are familiarized with the pleasures of vices, only to make them realize in the course of the story that these don't bring ultimate fulfilment.

Memorable as the stories in From One Birth to Another are, they also serve as a guide to the moral landscape of our lives.


Civilizations are built on stories. How the world came about, what to believe in, what the future holds, how the present should be handled, what the past has left behind and, eventually, stories about civilization itself, how it came to be founded, its heroes and villains, its heroines and vamps. There is a plot and a goal which not only make the story interesting but also instil some beliefs in the listener. These beliefs, eventually, acquire names such as customs and traditions. Together they construct an alternate reality where members of a civilization feel a sense of belonging and that being part of it holds the key to a better life. Layers and layers of such stories come to be called culture. And this culture is further communicated through more and more stories.

Stories abound in religion and faith, for what better way can one find to illustrate virtues and vices than through them? Moral rectitude is a landscape, often with abstractions, and is best portrayed through examples presented in context. Jainism has very deftly and dexterously used storytelling to impart such messages.

The messages that Jainism sought to convey were austere - they cautioned against the attractions of the senses. To convey this unpalatable message, stories and parables were used to catch the attention of the listener. Through these stories, the ascetics convince the listener that they know of the pleasures that vices offered, and after knowing them fully well, they have realized that they don't bring everlasting benefit.

Communication of Jaina concepts through stories

What is the ultimate destination according to Jaina philosophy? Kaivalya or enlightenment. The enlightened one is called the Tirthankara when he or she, after attaining enlightenment, comes back in the midst of men and women to preach to them and take them towards salvation. The Jaina tradition records twenty- four Tirthankaras in the present cycle of time. One sect of Jainism believes that one Tirthankara was a woman and all the other twenty-three were men. Time, according to Jaina thought, is cyclical and moves from very good to middling to absolutely terrible time periods.

The Universe, in Jaina cosmography, is divided into three regions: the Upper Region, the Middle Region and the Lower Region. The Middle Region, also called Madhyaloka, has at its centre Mount Meru. Around Mount Meru, in concentric circles, there is land and ocean in alternation. A round island around Mount Meru is called Jambudvipa and this is the region where most of the Jaina stories are located. Jambudvipa is surrounded by the salty ocean of Lavanoda.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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