The Viyahapannatti (Vyakhyaprajnapti) or the Bhagvati, as it is popularly known, is the fifth Anga of the Jaina scripture. It is encyclopaedic in contents and gives a comprehensive glimpse of the various aspects of the life and society of ancient India over a range of several centuries beginning from the 6th century B.C. One can learn from it everything About ancient Jainism- its traditions and history, dogmatics, the life and activities of Lord Mahavira and his attitude towards other sects and thinkers and his peculiar method of exposition and expression. The Bhagavati is also a veritable promptuary of legends and parables.
Dr. Sikdar studied the text of the Bhagavatisutra with great care and patience under the guidance of two very eminent savants the late Dr. P. C. Bagchi and Dr. H. L. Jain. His studies spread over a number of years, primarily at Visva-Bharati University and later on at Research Institute of Prakirt, Jainology & Ahimsa. As a devoted student of Ancient Indian History and Culture, he could with ease glean data from the Ardhamagadhi text and weave them into a conected and economic conditions, social life and education. He has also made an attempt to study the evolution of Jaina philosophical thought as embodied in the Bhagavatisutra and also the literary value of the work.
The BhS (Viyahapannati, Skt. Vyakhyaprajnapti) is one of the most important works of the Arddha-Magadhi literature of the Jaina Canon, largest in volume and encyclopaedic in its Contents covering various aspects of Jaina Philosophy and History in the form of dialogues between Lord Mahavira and his disciples. This work has not so far been exhaustively studied from the literary, historical and philosophical points of view, although Weber, Jacobi, Winternitz and other scholars made brief appraisal of it in course of their reviews of the Jaina canonical literature. It throws important light upon many problems of Indian History and Thought by revealing various aspects of them, such as, political, social and economic conditions, education, different religious systems, the Jaina tradition, nature of faith and preconditions and mythological figures before Lord Mahavira, contemporary history, cosmology, cosmography, evolution of Jaina Philosophical Thought, etc. A critical study of the book was a desideratum and I have attempted in this thesis prepared for the Ph. D. degree of the Bihar University, to fulfil the want in my humble way.
The thesis has been divided into eleven chapters. The first chapter deals with the position of the BhS in the Arddha-Magadhi Canon and its relation to the other canonical works. It reveals that this text is a mine of varied contents treasured in a consolidated form, as found in all the works put together, convering all aspects of Sramana-Nirgrantha-Dharma and its philosophy. It shows that the BhS is integrally connected with the other canonical works and occupies the highest position in the Arddha-Magadhi Canon.
The second chapter treats of the authorship and date of this canonical work and makes a brief analysis of its contents, language and style. It is revealed here that in the first stage the BhS along with the other canonical works, was derived from the teachings of Lord Mahavira and given a shape of grantha by Sudharma-Svamin and then it was transmitted by him to Jambu-Svamin, in the second stage it was collected and fixed in the Pataliputra Council and in the third stage it was codified by the Vallabhi Council as the tradition says. But the core of the contents and subject-matter of the work existed long before the time of Lord Mahavira. Its language represents the Middle-Indo-Aryan stage, so its contents and language lend support to the assignment of its date to the period beginning from the 6th Cen. B. C. to the 6th Cen. A. D. As regards the technique of its style, it originates with prose containing the thoughts and activities of various religious teachers and conveys them through the language of the people in their own natural style.
The third chapter deals with the political conditions as reflected in the BhS and reveals that there was no political unity among the different states of India under one sovereign ruler during the time of Lord Mahavira. A quadrangular struggle among the four leading states, viz. Kasi, Kosala, Vaisali, and Magadha went on and led to the two great devastating wars called Mahasilakantaka-Sangrama and Rathamusala-Sangrama for establishing their respective political and economic supremacy over North-East India. In these wars king Kunika came out successful by inflicting a crushing defeat on the confederate army of Kasi, Kosala, nine Mallakis and nine Licchavis led by king Cetaka of Vaisali. This chapter throws an important light upon the polity and administration by giving an idea of the political theory and administration of both monarchical and non-monarchical forms of government, running side by side. The former was based on the principle of divine kingship and the latter on the social contract theory, as they are reflected in the monarchical state of Magadha, and the Republics of the Licchavis of Vaisali and of the Mallakis of Pava and Kusinara.
The fourth chapter treats of the social conditions as reflected in this canonical work by making a critical study of Varnas (social orders), Asramas (stages of life), social structure and family relations, popular belief in dreams, celebrations of birth and marriage, position of women, dresses and ornaments, art of decoration, houses and articles of furniture, sports and amusements, manners and customs. It reveals that the society was based on the traditional Varnasrama Dharma but the social order was not very rigid, as it is evidenced by the fact of the racial synthesis of various Indian tribes and foreign nationals, such as, Kiratas, Barbaras (Indian tribes), Parasis, Arabs, Simghalis, (foreign nationals), etc., in the evolution of Indian civilization. The spirit of Varnasrama Dharma illustrated itself in the system of life into stages, for spiritualism dominated in the individual, social, political, religious and secular aspects of the people's life of that period.
The fifth chapter makes a study of the economic conditions as reflected in the Bhagavati Sutra by revealing that the economic structure of its society stood on agriculture, arts and crafts, labour and capital, industry, trade and commerce, roads and communications and banking business. As regards the general economic conditions of the people it is found that there was a small number of rich persons in comparison with the economic standard of those days and that of the present time. A current of poverty flowed beneath the surface of much opulence of social wealth and prosperity.
The sixth chapter deals with education of that period by making discussion on the conception of education, its system, art of writing, language and literature, science and arts. It reveals that education was based on the unity of thought and action, knowledge, right attitude and right conduct. Its ideals and aims were self-control, building up of moral character, physical, mental and intellectual development, theoretical and practical knowledge in different branches of learning to make an individual capable of shouldering the responsibilities of the worldly affairs and discharging both temporal and secular duties by holding before him the goal of 1ife-Moksa (liberation). So the system of education was academic and vocational, because a balance was maintained between the individual and secular aspects of life. This spiritual background of education made itself realize that the human life and body, material enjoyment of objects of Nature were transitory and belonged to the mundane world and the soul to the spiritual one.
The seventh chapter treats of the existence of various leaders of thought and their philosophical and religious systems as mentioned and described in the BhS viz. Sramana-Nirgrantha Dharma, Ajivikism, other schools and sects, such as, Kriyavadins, Akriyavadins, Ajnanavadins, Vinayavadins, Parivrajakas, Vanaprasthas, Carakas, other Tirthikas, the order of Lord Parsvanatha, that of Jamali, the first schism in the Nirgrantha order led by him, deities, supernatural powers and elements, etc. It depicts a picture of ancient India of the period of this canonical work, when the habitual religion of the people was in its degrees and forms in clash and adjustment with the higher religions preached by various schools of thought, while the common people followed their traditional faiths and customs.
The eighth chapter deals with the historical data found in this work and its bearing upon the history of the time-the life of Lord Mahavira, his contemporary kings, clans, tribes and races. It throws fresh light upon the parentage of the Master by revealing that he was the son of Devananda, the Brahmani of Brahmanakundagrama. Lord Mahavira appears to have erected a great edifice of Sramana Nirgrantha Dharma on a solid metaphysical foundation by systematizing the fundamental principles of this religion laid down by his predecessors.
The ninth chapter makes a study of cosmology, cosmography and historical geography as found and described in the BhS with the corroborative evidences of the Buddhist and Brahmanical sources of information.
The tenth chapter throws an important light upon the contribution of this canonical work to the evolution of Jaina philosophical thought by dealing with Jaina Metaphysics, Psychology, Epistemology, Ethics, Logic and the doctrine of Karma and liberation as revealed herein. It gives an exposition of the metaphysical principles in general and the doctrine of matter in particular, containing an idea of the atomic theory, and reveals the relation of Metaphysics with Physics by dealing with the six fundamental substances of the Universe, viz, Dharma (principle of motion), Adharma (principle of rest), Akasa (space), Jiva (soul), Pudgala (matter) and Addhasamaya (time). It shows that the metaphysical inquiry goes beyond the aspects of Physics.
The section of this chapter dealing with ethics reveals that the unlimited possession of wealth and its unrestricted enjoyments have not been commended as final according to the ethical principles laid down in this canonical work, for the forces of desire and enjoyments lead man to the mad lust for wealth and consequent suffering. So it lays a great emphasis on the principle of non-possession (aparigraha).
The eleventh chapter makes the estimation of the value of the BhS from the literary, historical and philosophical points of view and reveals that its value lies in the fact of its service to mankind with its thought-provoking and wisdom evoking principles of truth of life and Nature, amply and brilliantly expressed in thoughts evolved by the rational ideas of Lord Mahavira.
The critical study of the BhS was assigned to me in July, 1954 by my late revered teacher, Dr. Prabodh Chandra Bagchi, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Vishva- Bharati University at Shantiniketan where I served as Research Scholar-cum-honorary lecturer for about three years. There I made free study of some Jaina canonical works in general and the BhS in particular. After the sudden death of Dr. Bagchi on the 19th January, 1956, naturally I could not get the proper guidance at proper time; still I resolved myself to continue the studies in the same subject as an academic duty as assigned by him. Fortunately I got timely help from Dr. Hiralal Jain, M. A., LL. B., D. LlTT., then Director, Research Institute of Prakrit, Jainology and Ahimsa, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. It is he who kindly gave me a seat as Research scholar in the Institute in March, 1957, to continue my studies in the same subject under his mature guidance. A regular scheme was drawn up with his help and guidance. Before starting the study topicwise I made a free translation of the BhS. Then I went deep into the subject according to the scheme. In the day-to-day progress of my studies my revered teacher, Dr. H. L. Jain, guided me in dealing with the problems that arose by taking regular classes for the advancement of my work under his paternal care. I had to face the difficulty for not finding some of the necessary reference-books, journals, periodicals, etc., in the library of the Institute, as it was then newly established Research Institute and most of the reference-materials were unavailable in the market.
In this connection I feel called upon to acknowledge my deepest gratitude to my Guruji, Swamin Swatmananda, Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Burdwan, and Dr. Dhirendra Mohan Datta, the retired Professor of Philosophy, Patna University, for their encouragement in the pursuit of my studies and researches. I refrain from the vain attempt to praise my revered teacher and guide, Dr. H. L. Jain, because my feelings of attachment and gratitude for him are too deep for utterance. In one word only I say he has transformed my life in the field of learning with his intellectual majesty combined with his benevolent heart and able guidance. I am very grateful to my revered teacher, Dr. Nathmal Tatia, M. A. D. Litt., Director, Research Institute of Prakrit, Jainology and Ahimsa, Muzaffarpur for his act of kindness to get my Ph. D. thesis published by this Institute with great interest.
I am much indebted to my dear friend and colleague, Research Scholar, Sri K. R. Chandra for his invaluable help with his intelligent suggestions and sweet company in working out my thesis. I am also thankful with gratitude to my first dear fellow brother, Sri Vimal Prakash Jain, M. A. Lecturer, Research Institute of Prakrit, Jainology and Ahimsa for his arduous work in assisting me in abbreviating my thesis for publication and reading the proofs. I am also indebted to Shri Atulnath Sinha and Shri Nandkishore Prasad, Research Scholars, for preparing the Index. In this connection I remember also my sister, Meera with affection for giving me fresh strength and energy by her constant inspiration in my hard task to complete the thesis. I place on record my debt of gratefulness to the institute for the award of a Research Scholarship to me for the prosecution of my studies and the publication of my thesis.
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