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Part 4: Jain Reform Movement


Biographical Sketch

Lonkasaha is regarded as a crusader against idol-worship (Murtipuja). The Sthanakavasi sect owes its allegiance to Lonkasaha. It even celebrates a day to commemorate him. Lonkasaha was a sravaka and not a muni. There are controversies about his life and matters relating to the date of birth, death, marriage, his knowledge of scriptures, etc.

The life history of Lonka also faces controversies, particularly regarding his birth and death dates, family background, education and profession. Muni Jnansundarji in his book quotes various authors who differ in their account of Lonka’s life events. This lack of uniformity amongst authors only underscores Lonka’s importance and the reforms he introduced.

One of the many versions is as follows: Lonka was born in V.S. 1482 in Ahmedabad. His father Hemashah and mother Ganga were vanik by caste and were very devout jainas. Hemashah was intelligent and attained a high position in the court of King Muhammad Shah. Lonka imbibed many virtues including extraordinary memory powers from childhood. Due to his skill and deep knowledge of jewels he was appointed as a treasurer by the King. Sheth Odhavji, a prominent figure from Sirohi, was impressed by Lonka’s abilities and sharp intelligence, leading him to arrange the marriage of his daughter Sudarsana to Lonka. The couple had a son named Purnacandra..

When Lonka came to know about Kutubshah killing his father Mohammad Shah for the sake of kingdom, he felt utterly disgusted and realized the futility of worldly affairs. As a result, he resigned from the post.

At home he continued with his personal business of jewellery, along with his writings. He also engrossed himself in the study of various religious scriptures. During this time Muni Jnanji happened to visit his house for food. Upon entering the house he saw Lonka’s beautiful handwriting. This made muni ask Lonka whether he would copy the dilapidated copies of the agamas. Lonka eagerly awaited an opportunity to read the agamas, which were not accessible to the laity at that time. Dasavaikalika was the first agama he received from the muni to copy.

While copying them he started realizing the seriousness of religion. The principles of non-violence, restraint and austerities, as mentioned in the agamas and the perverse conduct of the Sramanas sparked in him the seeds of rebellion. He started making two copies of the agamas, one for the muni and other for himself. In this way he acquired 32 agamas. When Muni Jnanji came to know of Lonka making another copy he stopped giving him the other agamas. Lonka started studying the agamas that he had with him. Upon understanding the purity of religion and the perverseness that idol worship is not found in agamas he set out to reform the religion. Through discussions with many people he attracted a group of individuals, some of whom became his followers. Sant Bala asserts this version, in his book ‘Dharma Prana Lonkasaha’.

According to the second version, Lonka was a poor person from Limbdi in Saurashtra. He was orphaned at the age of ten. The name of his father was Hemashah and mother was Ganga. Coming to Ahmedabad he met Muni Jnanji under whom he started studying Jaina religion. Muni also secured a job for him in a temple where Lonka worked as an accountant. Once, Lonka had a quarrel with the sramanas of that temple regarding the accounts. Shocked by the behaviour of the monks during the quarrel, Lonka left the temple and began publicly condemning those sramanas for their violent behaviour and lack of Daya (compassion). It so happened that his Muslim friend, who was passing by, appreciated his act and even provoked him against idol worship. Lonka started preaching his views on Daya and non-violence. He got some followers and his sect came to be known as Dayagaccha or Lonkagaccha.

Whichever of the two versions is true, the fact remains that he has written in the medieval Gujarati language and criticized the popular trends of idol worship and temple building and criticized the prevalent Sramanacara.

Literature of Lonkasaha

Lonka’s literature made available by DalsukhaMalvania consists of two parts-58 bolas giving his views on what he considers to be true religion and 54 bolas appended to the main work criticizing the popular trends followed by the community during his time in the name of religion. Lonka emphatically states “Parampara likhai chai ketlakaimakahai chai sri veer niparampara ma imakahailikhai chai tekyan chai”

Lonka in his bola 17 quotes from Dasavaikalika sutra adhyaya first a statement describing the true Jaina religion as enunciated by the Tirthankaras

“Spirituality is the highest weal-
Non-violence, restraint and penance
Even the gods revere a mind
Always set on a spiritual Path.”[1]

By quoting this statement Lonka wants to emphasise that the true religion as preached by the tirthankaras consists of ahimsa, samyama and tapa. Roughly speaking the appended 54-bolas question practices of religion, which in his opinion go against these three basic principles of Jaina religion. Therefore these bolas can be classified into three groups (i) commenting on temple building and idol worship, and all conduct related to it, which goes against the principle of ahimsa, (ii) The practice of the monks which goes against the principle of samyama and (iii) the austerities practised during his time which were not sanctioned by and found in the agamas. It can be said on the basis of this classification that he is pointing out those practices which go against the cardinal principles. Thus his 54 bolas can be classified into these three groups, which go against ahimsa, samyama and tapa. 1) the bolas which comment on the temple building etc. they raise the issue of ahimsa, 2) issues related to sramanacara which goes against the principle of samyama and 3) issues related to austerities which go against the principle of tapa as found in agamas.

Similar classification of the original 58 bolas of Lonka had been done by DalsukhaMalvania in the following way. The first group discusses views on Himsa (violence) on the basis of samyaktva and mithyatva. The second group discusses the views on idol- worship. The third group discusses the authenticity of the commentary literature. Lonka has based his views mainly, or perhaps exclusively on the scriptural authority. This is clear from the quotations he gives in support of his views. He not only quotes from authoritative books like the Jaina scriptures and the various Niryuktis, Curnis, Tikas and Bhasyas, etc. but also raises the questions and doubts about the interpretations of the scriptures. He questions the additions and the concessions made by the interpreters to the pure religion preached by Tirthankaras in order to safeguard the institutionalized religion and the interest of the acaryas. The fact that he has not mentioned Tattvartha sutra is understandable in view of the fact that even now Tattvartha sutra is not much known to the laity among Swetambaras. But the fact that he questions or doubts some of the interpretations of agamas given by Niryuktis shows that he wants to understand pure religion as found, preached, propounded in agamas which is regarded as the original pure teaching of the Tirthankaras, Kevalis and Sruta-Kevalis and which is not a matter of pure intellectual scholarship. Thus it is clear that Lonkasaha is interested in discovering pure religion by removing various impurities and dogmas added to it through ages.

In each of his 54 appended bolas, Lonka mentions one phrase, one current practice and asks “where is it found written in the tradition”? He devotes his 58 bolas for quoting from various scriptures to highlight what is true religion and thereby arguing that the prevalent practices go against the true religion as found in the scriptures and hence not acceptable. The scriptures, which Lonka has quoted, are Acaranga sutra, its vritti and niryukti, Sutrakrtanga, Samavayanga, Dasavaikalika Sutra, Uttaradhyayana sutra, its curni and vritti Bhagavati sutra, Anuyogadvara, Vipaka Sutra, nisithacurni, AvasyakaNiryukti etc.

Exposition of Lonka’s Views

(A) Issuses Related to Idol Worship: Lonka mentions the following five practices:

1) Forming images at home

2) Consecrating those images

3) Making Asoka tree in front of image

4) Offering new grains, new fruits in front of the idol

5) Ritual of 108 pujas (santisnatra)

On the basis of the agamic knowledge Lonka denied and firmly revolted against the worship of images in the name of pure religion. The religion that scriptures propounded according to Lonka was devoid of any violence involved in the name of religion. Historically the tradition of worshipping the images began in about the second century A.D. S.B. Deo says “The discovery of several images of the Jinas (in Mathura) shows that idol worship was firmly established among the Jainas in this period and the monks were indirectly encouraging the people to have images and stupas.”[2] According to Jainism, salvation is achieved only in the human birth and any act performed by an aspirant should be consonant with the moksamarga. Since forming of images and construction of temples involve violence of the Prthvikayajivas (earth bodied beings) and worship of those images with fruits, flowers etc. involves violence of vanaspatikayajivas these practices are not consonant with the Jaina way of living. Mahavira condemns violence in such so-called religious acts. He says , “These are four ulterior motives of activities in life: For the sake of survival, for the sake of honor and reverence, for the sake of birth, death, and liberation, for the sake of prevention of miseries, (one indulges in action).” [3]

Lonka realizes that for our worldly and daily affairs we are required to commit violence. But one should not commit violence for the sake of and in the name of religion.

He argues that a muni may cross a river against the injunction of the scriptures which forbid such an act in extreme cases if it is absolutely necessary. But after that he has to take Prayascitta because it involves harm to the water bodied jivas (Apakayajivas). But making idols, which involves violence is not such a necessary and unavoidable act. Therefore, one can avoid such himsa which is unnecessary and avoidable.

His revolt against idol-worship and construction of temples which is his major reform can be said to be a result of the influence of Islam on him as in the fifteenth century Ahmedabad was ruled by the Muslim rulers. DalsukhaMalvania and S.B. Deo has considered this hypothesis to be probable. Another scholar P.S. Jaini says, “Certain scholars have suggested that Lonkasaha was influenced by the iconoclast ideas of the Muslims, who ruled portions of Gujarat at that time.”[4] The Lonka sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sect arose and was followed by the Dundhias or Sthanakavasi sect in about A.D.1653, which coincides noticeably with the Lutheran and Puritan movements in Europe. In Christianity though the image or idol of God is prohibited, the portrait or image of Jesus Christ is found in the churches and even in homes. This is because Jesus, though the son of God, was human; a historical person.

In Islam, however, it is a sin to portray an image of the Almighty God in human form. It is equally sinful to have a portrait of the prophet. The question of having an idol of God does not arise in the context of Jaina religion; it is atheistic. It believes that the souls and the material world are eternal and uncreated. The human beings can tread the path of liberation on self-effort and become Siddhas. It is, however, interesting to note that Oxford English dictionary uses the terms ‘idol’ and ‘idolater’ in a wider sense to include, besides image of deity, also image of a person or thing that is the object of excessive devotion. In this wider sense, preparing, consecrating and worshipping idols of tirthankaras would be idolatry

In both the major Sramana traditions- Buddhism and Jainism, the tirthankaras, who propounded the non-theistic religions, themselves came to be worshipped like gods by installing their idols, constructing their temples and doing Puja with flowers etc. Over time, a shift occurred in the Jaina tradition where the Tirthankaras, who initially emphasized following religious paths focused on vratas and performing various austerities-both external and internal, now also included the worship of idols of the Tirthankaras. More emphasis was placed on the external worship and the person who performs such worship came to be regarded as more religious. This practice was then justified on the grounds that such a veneration of the Tirthankaras remind people of the virtues of those venerable ones and the way of living and the progressive path propounded by them. But it so happened that in the course of time the values were replaced by mere worship and it was believed that mere elaborate worship involving huge costly rituals (various pujas) would open the door to liberation.

Lonka has questioned this type of idolatry in his bola which says that “gunaaradhyache” (virtue is worth respecting and acquiring).

“According to Jaina legends the practice of image worship in Jainism is as old as the religion itself. Jainas, like the Buddhists, worship their Tirthankaras like gods and erect statues in their temples. Archaeological evidence relating to the temples of Jaina images have been discovered at Mathura, which proves its existence as early as B.C. 600”.[5] “Though Jainism ruled out the existence of god it could not ignore the emergence of contemporary Mahavira Mahayana form of Buddhism which assigned the status of god to Buddha and received a positive response from laity. The spirit of competition led to an equally tremendous growth in idol worship”.[6]

“Even before the time of Lord Mahavira, there were traces of image worship. The Indus Valley civilization revealed innumerable sculptures in terracotta, stone and bronze.”[7] The archaeological evidence supports the presence of idols in the Indus valley civilization. But the earliest reference of worship is the Yaksa worship, which was prevalent during Mahavira’s times which even Lonka has mentioned in his bolas.

Along with yaksa worship also came idol worship. Yaksas were local deities of non -Vedic character and their worship was even present during the time of Mahavira. To appease the important sections of society, Jainism arranged a pantheon around its Tirthankaras and deities popular at mass level, i.e. Yaksas.

Lonka in his bola no 56 has referred to Vipaka sutra, Bhagavati sutra which mentions the Yaksa worship. “Jainism was not some kind of an unchanging monolith; it was conditioned by the spirit of time and space. Between c. 200 B.C. and c 300 A.D. changes took place at the ascetic and the popular levels. In the first case differences are visible in the doctrinal changes and in the development within the Jaina monastic order. At the popular level, the expansion of Jaina pantheon, beginning of idol worship and various developments in the fields of arts point out the directions in which Jaina popular activities were growing”.[8]

With the growth of temple building all over India there grew a spirit of visiting them as places of pilgrimages, especially those places where Tirthankaras have attained the auspicious events of their life. Visiting these places became a part of the religious affair. Therefore Lonka in his bola no 39 has argued that in adhidweepa (2 and ½ continents and oceans according to Jaina cosmology) there is not a single place from where liberation has not taken place. Hence the whole adhidwwep is a tirtha. Further, Lonka mentions that the popular places like Satrunjaya, Girnar, Astapada are not mentioned in the scriptures as the tirthas. Lonka mentions that Mahavira has established the four-fold Jaina community, comprising of, sadhus, sadhvi, sravaka and sravika, as the tirthas, confirming to the definition of tirtha as beings and not places. So where is it mentioned that any geographical place should be regarded as tirtha? Further Lonka in his bola no 53 which he quotes from the Jnatadharmakathanga 5th adhyaya which says that the real pilgrimage is to walk on the path of knowledge, faith, conduct, austerities and restraint.

He even argues that the word ‘caitya’ does not mean image or a temple, but knowledge. Therefore ‘caityarthe’ means for the sake of spiritual knowledge and conduct, that is, is equal to ‘jnanartha’ and for the sake of shedding of the karmas, that is, ‘nirjararthe’.

He points out that there is no unanimity among those who follow idol-worship on many points 1) whether the image should be nude or with clothes) 2) whether the image should be consecrated by laity or by monks, 3) what should be the posture of the image, 4) at what time of the day should the image be worshipped , of what material should the image be made of –stone, metal, wax etc, 5) since all the 24 Tirthankaras are equal which of them should be consecrated in the center, 6) what should be the height of the image, 6) does the image possess the qualities of knowledge, conduct, faith, austerities etc. after its consecration. No effects of idols are mentioned. But effects of arihant, cakravarti, baladeva, carana, vidhyadhara, sadhus, sadhavis, sravaka, sravika, prakritibhadarikamanusya (simple hearted human beings), ganga, sindudevis are mentioned. Birth of tirthankaras is celebrated by gods. They get mud from tirthas and water from different rivers, therefore it involves violence. It is the laukika Vyavahara of the celestial beings, and not for moksa.

The idol worship and temple building is not a phenomenon, especially limited to Jainism. We find similar movements in both Hinduism during the Puranic age and Buddhism during the Mahayana period. The ancient structure of Brahmanical religion had scope only for yagnas; with the puranic age, there developed personal gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha etc. Not only idols were made, but also temples were built for them, which led to further growth of rituals with all grandeur. Jainism, which grew along with these two cultures, naturally adopted such a way of worship. Therefore from the medieval period till Lonka’s arrival on the scene idol worship was widely prevalent. Lonka’s protest seems to have been based on the agamic studies. The prevalence of the images has been observed since the 1 century B.C. as recorded in inscriptions found in Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves near Bhubaneswar. According to the Jaina tradition temple worship is as ancient as the religion itself. In other words it is eternal. Critiques of Lonka argue that there are Sasvat Pratimas in the devaloka, therefore one can build images in the Bharat region of Jambudweepa and there is no harm in worshipping them. Lonka argues that such practices are the laukika kriyas of the devatas.

Thus Lonka’s points of criticism against idol-worship and temple building are:

These practices which have been newly introduced are not directly helpful in the spiritual path.

They go against the principle of non-violence as many of the practices involve injury to the Prthvikaya, Apakaya, Vanaspatikaya and other jivas.

(B) Issues Related to Sramanacara: The ideal way of a sramana is to live a life in accordance with the Mahavratas, Guptis, and Samitis. The initial protest of Lonka was against these sramanas who he found did not live within the prescribed code of conduct. The ideal Sramana is, “He who does not commit violence is one who has ceased from (sinful) actions; it is he who has ceased from (sinful) actions (according to the code of conduct of the Arhants) that deserves to be called a monk.” [9]

But Lonka raises various objections against the prevailing practices. These objections can be classified into four major groups which are as follows:

a) Objections against practices related to initiation such as

1) Initiation of small children,

2) Changing of the names after initiation etc

b) Objections against practices as in relation to laity

1) During the daytime these sramanas stay in the house of laity and in the night in the monastery

2) Involving in astrology

3) Foretelling future or prescribe medicine to the laity

4) Asking laity to give them a formal welcome when they enter the city

5) Allowing laity to travel with them

6) Using full clothes

c) Objections against the actual conduct of the munis

1) The practice of sramanas residing in the house of laity during their sojourn

2) Doing ayambil

3) Staying in upasraya specially made for them

4) Keeping possessions with themselves

d) Objections against the various practices concerning rituals like worship, pilgrimage etc.

1) Asking to worship the Pothi

2) Asking to do samgha puja

3) Selling pothi in paryusana

4) Selling yatra (for becoming samghapati)

5) If no prabhavana is given they do not read agamas

6) After the death of the sramanas special death bed (mandavi) is made for them

7) Put sandalwood powder (vasascape) on the head of the laity

8) Asking laity to pay tax to go on pilgrimage

9) Asking the laity to do Vandana

10) Using deva dravya

11) Suri mantra for acarya’s post

12) Chanting Suri mantra in daytime (when it is not allowed)

13) Command others to do tapa in paryusana

14) Doing utthamanu on the death of a Sadhu.

Lonka has heavily questioned the sramanas for not following the prescribed code of conduct. He wanted to revive the ancient way of living where munis were away from the laity, living in forests. Hence he raises objections not only against the munis that were fully clothed but also those who have much acquaintance with the laity in the daily routine. (This he has mentioned in his appended 54 bolas). DalsukhMalvania points out that Lonka himself, though did not undergo formal initiation, yet he lived like a bhiksajivi (attaining food from anyone as it was an ancient practice and not necessarily from a ucca kula), wearing only the upper and a small lower garment, carrying one bowl for food (he questioned the extra possessions of the munis). Muni dharma is necessarily towards Moksa. Hence munis should not have very close contact with the laity as such intimacy would lead the munis astray and make them lax in conduct. There have been such instances in the history of Jainism, for instance, Samprati, the Mauryan ruler and even the logician like Siddhasena Divakara. Too much benefaction to munis leads them astray from their aim. Siddhasena Divakara, one of the most important Jaina acarya, mastered two mystical lores. “Among the two, one was known as ‘Sarsapa vidya’ by which an army would be created by throwing Sarsapa Seeds in water. The army destroys the opponents’ army and then disappears. He used this lore to help one king, Devapala, to gain victory over his opponent. The king then conferred Siddhasena with the title of Divakara (the Sun) as he destroyed the darkness in the form of fear from the enemies. Thus, after receiving great royal favour Siddhasena along with other followers slackened or became sluggish in religious performances. This condition reached to such an extreme that laity never used to enter Pausadhasala even.”[10] Lonka writes severely against such laxity that became prevalent in the conduct of the munis. “In spite of the ban on the use of spells and magical powers by monks as given in the Acaranga, the post-Anga texts and the Niryuktis refer to a number of such practices resorted to by monks.”[11]

“In spite of their acceptance of medicine the monks themselves were forbidden to give medicine to, or make diagnosis of a sick householder. Along with this, monks were not allowed to foretell the future of anybody as that was likely to lead to misunderstanding and ill-will.”[12]

Though Lonka is very much correct in pointing out the misbehavior followed by them, he failed to understand the developments and changes in the entire society. The spread of Jaina religion, development of cities, and requirement of the munis to channel the lay followers for spiritual growth demanded the adjustment in the institutional religion. But the excessive involvement and the undue advantage taken by the munis as it is happening today demanded Lonka’s instant concern for a critical approach. The lack of personal spiritual growth and the circumlocutory ways of promoting only exterior modes of worship for living a religious life both for themselves and the laity demanded Lonka’s attention to critically scrutinize his existing circumstances. “Widening of the sphere of activities led to the liberality of outlook and that is evident from the fact that the Nisitha curni allowed the initiation of children who were orphaned, or were to be of some benefit to the samgha. It may be noted that the Angas generally disallowed the initiation of below eight years.”[13] Lonka has raised objections against the Sramanas in appended bola no. 2.

Angas mention that the residence of Sramanas should be in solitary places like a place freed from crowd, in gardens, in cemetery, deserted houses, mountain caves etc. In such places, they would be able to concentrate, study and lead a spiritual life to overcome passions. However, by the medieval ages with the series of migrations, socio-political and economic changes the structure of Jaina Monachism also underwent changes. Sramanas had to adjust to the urban developments that led to the increase in contact with the laity. Such contact led them to engage in the prohibited actions like pursuing astrology and medicine, foretelling future, staying with laity for a prolonged period, asking them to bid for taking people to places of pilgrimages, asking the laity to give sramanas a formal welcome when entering the city, to asks them to consecrate images in their houses, initiate small children, change the names after diksha, asks the laity to worship the pothi (a sacred jaina agama) etc. The practice of this worship developed specifically from the time of Hemacandracarya; a 10th century Jaina thinker.

Munis even developed the practice of asking people to pay a tax to go on pilgrimage. Under the Muslim reign it was a rule to pay tax. These sramanas began hoarding more materials than required and prescribed. They even used the money of the temple, i.e. deva dravya. They even applied sandalwood powder on the heads of the laity. (It is believed the miraculous powers assumed by the sramanas are transmitted through such blessings, which would make the people wealthy). The sramanas do the death ritual when their fellow being dies.

S.B. Deo refers to Nyayadhammakahao and mentions, “the monk was not allowed to live in lodgings used by householders, or those containing fire and water, those having a common passage both for the monks and householders….”[14] The monk living with the members of the family of a householder was likely to get attached and therefore Lonka had raised his voice against such acaras of the monks. Lonka even raised his protest against the size of the clothes worn by the monks, as they were wearing clothes that covered them right up to the toe. Referring to Brhat Kalpa – a Jaina agama Deo writes, “…it was 2 and ½ hands in length. Any shortening or lengthening of clothes was not allowed.”[15]

Lonka points out various defaults in the behaviour of the monks concerning the practice of samitis. In relation to basha samiti, Lonka has argued that a monk is not allowed to speak half-truth and half-false. Lonka also brings out the contradiction between the scriptural injunctions and the actual practices of the monks as in relation to the laity. This was reinforced by the modern scholars like K.K. Dixit, The texts (Acaranga I and Sutrakrtanga I) are the earliest literary records of (around 3rd century B.C.) of the jainas, which mention the code of conduct only for the ascetics. The texts extol the life of a monk, especially a good monk, but they have nothing save condemnation for the life of a householder. Consequently, the possibility of there being a good householder is never envisaged. Even in his capacity as an almsgiver the householder is never praised. He is rather pointed out as a possible source of unauthorized alms; as for the rest, the householder is a possible source of multifarious dangers and multifarious temptations. Of course, the majority of householders constituted the only possible source of recruitment for the order of monks. Therefore, these individuals had to be approached with appeals for recruitment, but these appeals were always based on a forthright condemnation of the life of a householder. Hence the injunction that alms should not be asked in exchange for a religious discourse (su 7.24) was made because it was likely that one might become mild in one’s criticism of the life of a householder at the time of asking for alms. And with a view to avoiding all chances of developing intimacy with a householder, the injunction was laid down that alms-receiving should never be a pre-arranged affair while those who were one’s relative in the pre-monastic career should not at all be approached for alms (Su 7.24). As a matter of fact, the persons who were one’s relative in the pre-monastic career constitute the strongest link between oneself and the regular society; as such, they are most likely to tempt one back to the regular society and are to be avoided at all costs. Under such conditions it was difficult – if not impossible – for any community of monks to forge special links with any community of householders; (it was only in the course of social evolution that links of this nature were forged and it was then that many, if not the most, of the fundamental monastic rules of the older times turned into a mere formality. Therefore the aim of the monk was liberation, which is real Punya and rest all as papa.”[16]

(C) Issuses Related To Austerities: Apart from ahimsa and samyama the third most important aspect of the path to salvation is “tapa.” Those austerities having agamic sanction, if followed, can lead to salvation. The following are the various tapas which Lonka questions as pertaining to originality. He finds that these tapas are not having any agamic sanction.

1) Gautamapadago tapa – the tapa in name of Gautama – the first Ganadhara of Mahavira

2) Sansaratarana tapa

3) Candanabala tapa – the tapa in the name of Candanabala, the important Lay woman, who met Mahavira in the course of his life.

After performing various austerities, the people celebrate in front of images, which are questioned by Lonka. The origin of these tapas could not be known. Even S.B. Deo in his book “History of Jaina Monachism” has written about various other tapas but has not mentioned the above-mentioned tapas.

(D) Critical Consideration of Commentary Literature: The Jaina literature is classified basically into two parts; (1) scriptures (agamas) and (2) the commentaries on the scriptures (Niryuktis, curnis, bhasyas, tikas).

The Agamas were handed by the Tirthankara to the Ganadharas orally who later on passed them to the Sruta –Kevalis. This tradition of orally transmitting the Sruta jnana was carried out till Devardhigani (4th century A. D.), under whose guidance the agamas were finally written down. Historically there is a gap of nine hundred years from Mahavira to Devardhi under whom the Agamas were verbalized.

These agamas contain various commentaries on them written by various sramanas. The commentary literature includes Niryuktis, Bhasyas, Curnis and Tikas. The Niryuktis quite often mention rules, which rather contain exceptions to the universal principles, mentioned in the scriptures. Lonka’s main criticism against the commentary literature is twofold.

Firstly, he is bringing out the contradiction between the original agamic saying and the commentaries on them, and argues that commentaries are violating the noble saying of the agamas.

It is pointed out by Lonka in the 57th bola that while scriptures talk about complete renunciation of all weapons, monks ask people to pluck flowers, fruits from the trees which is a violation of the principle of non-violence. There is a mention of taking food at night which goes against the ratri-bojanatyaga prescribed by the agamas. Lonka asks how can such commentaries, which go against the scriptural prescription of complete renunciation of the weapons, that is, complete non-violence be valid.

Secondly, he criticizes commentaries for adding those portions on which agamas are silent. He refers to some practices prescribed by the curnis like going on a pilgrimage. This practice is not in contradiction with the scriptures yet mentions something on which the scriptures are silent.

It is not the case that the commentaries are committing the errors separately. There are examples of the combinations of these errors. Lonka mentions the curni of uttaradhyayana, which permits or does not forbid sadhus to use their supernatural powers; even to kill an army of a cakravarti. Scriptures do not allow using of mystical powers in any circumstances while commentaries allow their use and go against the scriptures. In addition to this, they mention the circumstances in which the powers should be used

In this case, commentary commits three-fold errors by mentioning (i) A muni is not supposed to have supernatural powers; (ii) to use such a power and (iii) to use it for doing something which goes against the Mahavratas. The bola number 56. “sadhu caritriocakravartinakatakcurnakarai”,

Nisitha is one of the agamas belonging to the cheda sutras, which deals with rules of conduct for nirgranthas and nirgranthis and with the various prayascittas (forms of reparation for offences committed). Jinadasa Gani, who lived around the seventh century B.C, writes this curni.

Its curni while adhering to the contents and aim of the sutra, discourses at some length on the conditions of life prevailing around them, for the munis and sadhavis were living in contact with society. It was necessary; therefore, not only to forestall strains and stresses regarding the rules, but also to acquire skill in foreseeing possible exceptions such as would prevent faults. “As regards the way in which the ascetics lived out the dharma and taught it to others, the curnis testifies to a suppleness of approach, an adaptation to circumstances and situations. These compromises permitted the dharma to take root, to survive, to gain new members, to win a certain prestige in society. However, this ascendancy was not accomplished without grave ill-consequences, in particular a certain relaxation in asceticism caused by too close an association with society as a whole and too active a part being taken by monks in the affairs of this world. The excuse was, as in all monastic traditions, that was this proximity and social engagement is for the enhancement of men’s spiritual welfare.”[17]

Lonka questioned some portions of those commentaries, which contain exceptions on the mahavartas. He therefore has raised the issue on the authenticity and the validity of those commentaries (bola no. 41, 56 and 57). In the bola no. 41, he says that there is a mention of five mahavratas in the Acaranga but the niryukti and vritti on Acaranga mention the merits acquired by going to places of pilgrimages which are not in Acaranga sutra. In bola no. 56 Lonka, quoting from the curni of uttaradhyayana which says a sadhu can kill an army of a Cakravarti, raises his voice against such violence. In bola 57 he mentions that the monk asks the people to pluck the fruits, etc. from the trees. It is to be noted that the Acaranga sutra mentions that vegetation are the single bodied jivas. And even there is a mention of taking food at night for the sake of conduct. How such commentaries can be valid when there is complete renunciation of the weapons mentioned. The bolas in which he questioned the conduct of the munis; probably relates to the exceptions specified in the mahavratas. He therefore propounds that these exceptions cannot be the part of the religion, which entirely puts forth a non-violent way of living, particularly for the monks. Nevertheless, he isolated himself from understanding the various changes intriguing in the Jaina religion right from Mahavira, affecting the religion in toto. Though interpretations are necessary to understand basic principles, one necessarily has to derive from it the main objective, with reference to which the interpretations are done. Lonka holds that above three practices mentioned in the commentaries are not in consonance with the spirit of scriptures and religion. Hence they cannot be accepted as valid.

(E) Emphasis on Samyaktva: Lonka’s first bola mentions the definition of Samyaktva from Acaranga sutra fourth Adhyaya, named, Samyaktva. “The true doctrine: Non-violence.

The Arhants (venerable ones) of the past, those of the present and the future narrate thus, proclaim thus and asseverate thus: one should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any animal, living being, organism or sentient being. This doctrine of Non-violence is immaculate, immutable and eternal. The self-realized Arhants, having comprehended the world (of Living beings), have propounded this (doctrine)”.[18] The very first bola of Lonka emphasizes the importance of samyaktva (right understanding of the true doctrine of Jainism viz. non-violence. According to the Jaina scriptures only after the attainment of samyaktva can an individual become worthy of salvation, as quoted by Lonka. Even Tattvartha sutra mentions “samyagdarsana jnana caritranimoksamarga”.[19] Samyaktva is to renounce various types of violence done in the name of religion, and for the sake of religion and to have compassion for all thereafter in real religion.

Lonkasaha reemphasizes the central point, that samyaktva is the main cause for liberation. All activities such as austerities and conduct are truly religious and valid only if the individual has attainted samyaktva. Therefore quoting from Acaranga sutra (4th Adhyaya- “Samyaktva”), which commands not to kill any Prana, Bhuta, Jiva, Sattva is religion, which is pure and commenting on this Lonkasaha says, “Daya is religion, which is pure, and violence is impure” (bola Number 1). The bola numbers 4, 5, 7, 17, 21, 47 and 58 that have been quoted from various agamas by Lonka speaks of Ahimsa and Daya. For Lonka Daya is the only way to Moksa.

Acaranga sutra opens with the message on the use of the weapons on the six-kinds of Jivas. The whole predicament of Mahavira centered on violence and therefore he has discussed the six types of living beings and the types of weapons used on them. Therefore, Lonkasaha’s main point is that non-violence is an important and basic principle of Jainism and that not killing any Bhuta, Sattva, Prana, Jiva is pure religion. His first bola emphasizes on this indispensable principle propounded by Mahavira.

The essence of Buddhism lay in suffering. Buddha in his first sermon has propounded that there is suffering, there is cause of suffering, there is end to suffering, and there is a way to end suffering. Similarly Non-Violence is the essence of Jainism. Mahavira’s main sermon, which is stated in the Acaranga sutra, is “SatthaParinna” (Knowledge of weapons). In the very first Adhyaya he has described the six classes of living beings and the various ways in which violence is committed on them.

A person who has samyaktva not only renounces all external instruments but also the inner instruments of violence (Bhava Sattha) viz. passions but also restrains himself from all physical activities i.e. Dravya Sattha. Hence he himself does not commit violence, nor gets it done by another nor gives consent to others.

Lonka has clearly emphasized that the conduct and austerities of a person with right inclination (samyaktva) and right knowledge is the root cause of Moksa, as envisaged by the jinas. Hence the tapa (austerities), niyama (conduct) of such a person are authentic. The Jaina concept of the living world includes earth, water, fire, air, vegetation, the animal world from microbes to beings with five senses, and human beings. “This particular understanding of what constitutes the world of living beings must have accentuated the already strong ascetic tendency of the Jaina speculation. For otherwise, a Jaina could have argued that in case one undertakes such worldly productive activity as involves no employment of human or animal labor but just the manipulation of things like earth, water, fire and air one is indulging in nothing sinful, but as things stood he was bound to condemn even an activity like this as one which involves a lot of arambha-directed against the allegedly living beings like earth, water, fire and air. Even so, nothing prevented a Jaina from characterizing as particularly sinful the acts, which involve an employment of human or animal labor.”[20]

Critique of Lonka

Muni Jnansunderji of Upkesagaccha was the initial person through whom Lonka was known in the modern times. He has referred to the earlier works, which were critical of Lonka’s reforms. Muni Jnansunderji himself is a severe critique of Lonka and has leveled many charges against Lonka.

Muni has mentioned that Lonka has tried to abolish the samgha by initiating Bhana- a lay follower.

Muniji has questioned the scholarship of Lonka who according to Muniji has denied the agamas supporting the Jaina sasana. But it is now known that Lonka’s works are based on scriptural study. When Muniji ascribes that Lonka refuses to believe in the Niryuktis written by Acarya Bhadrabahu -the knower of 14 Purvas, it is now known that Niryuktis are not firstly ascribed to Bhadrabahu but to later Jaina Sramanas and secondly Lonka has questioned those contents which involve himsa in relation to idol-worship, and those which says that sadhus kills an army of the cakravarti. But Lonka’s main aim was to purify one’s own self; attain samyaktva and liberation, to follow the path ascribed in agamas; for liberation and that in following this path there cannot be any concessions and miracles.

Muniji has mentioned that idol-worship is sanctioned by the agamas and through which one can achieve the path of welfare, but Lonka has failed to understand the difference between Daya and himsa, and ask laity to renounce idol-worship. Lonka has denied people from going to places of pilgrimage. Muniji proclaims that such places contain good vibrations, especially those where the Tirthankaras have attained Moksa. Travel to such places induces a person to take nivritti from day-to-day worldly life, following celibacy, vratas, satsanga, guru seva and good use of one’s own money. Taking processions, following the festivals, leads to bondage of Tirthankara Nama karma. Such ways of religion even have an effect on the people of other religions. All these lead to attainment of Samyaktva. Lonka has raised an objection to the ways and therefore raised a class of miser.

But these charges of Muniji are not valid and such arguments cannot be considered because religion aims at character building of a person and not bothered about the amount a person spends in so-called external religious activities. Religion aims at purification of self and not to have or show effects on others.

Muniji further argues that because of Lonka’s views, sociologically there entered such evils of child marriage, selling of girls, old-age married, dowry etc. He also argued that Lonka has not taken into consideration the contribution of those sramanas who have induced the Rajputs to renounce liquor, meat but also made groups like Oswal, Porwal, srimali etc.

During menstruation, women are not allowed to touch anything and must abstain from all activities. But Lonka and Sthanakavasi Munis have opposed such practice and Munis even take food from such ladies. They are even allowed to read the agamas. This can be taken as a progressive step. No external linga can be of any hurdle to spiritual development.

Lonka’s aim, unlike Muniji’s accusations, was not to divide the Jaina samgha but rather to purify the elements of violence involved in the entire process of making idols and temples. Thus, to revive the crucial foundation of Jaina religion, that is, Ahimsa. He even did not aim to spread Jaina religion like those Munis who were involved in political affairs, but to limit one’s salvation through Daya and restraint; i.e., to revive another important principle central to Jaina religion that is Samyama.

Lonka’s reforms are conducive to the spirit of religion as he aimed to maintain the religion in its original form. While some aspects of his reforms may be questioned, they do not undermine his overall efforts and contributions.

[1] Tr. K. C. Lalwani , Dasavaikalika Sutra, 1. 1.

[2]S.B.Deo, History of Jaina Monachism, pp. 101-102

[3]Acaranga Sutra, 1.1.10.

[4] P.S. Jaini, Op. Cit. , p. 310.

[5] A . C, Sahoo, Jaina Religion and Art, p. 83.

[6]K.L Chanchreek And Mahesh Jain, Jaina Economic Life, p. 137.

[7] K. C, Jain, Op.Cit , p. 333.

[8] K. L. Chanchreek and Mahesh Jain, Op. cit. , p.131-132.

[9]Acaranga sutra., 1.5.92

[10] P.N. Dave , Siddhasena Divakara, A Study (unpublished thesis), p. 18.

[11] S. B. Deo,Op.Cit., p. 316.


[13]S.B.Deo, “Some Social Impacts on Jaina Monastic Life”, (Ed) B.G.Gohkale, in “Indica”, p. 80.

[14]Ibid. , p . 158.

[15]Ibid. , p. 259.

[16] K.K. Dixit, Early Jainism, pp. 4-5.

[17]N Shanta, The Unknown Pilgrim, p. 195.

[18]Acaranga Sutra 1. 4. 1.

[19]Tattvartha Sutra 1.1.

[20] K.K. Dixit, Op. Cit. , p.6.

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