Kalpa Sutra of Bhadrabahu Svami

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Kalpa Sutra of Bhadrabahu Svami
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Bhadrabahu’s Kalpa Sutra is the earliest account of the life of the Tirthankaras, the 24th, 23rd, 22nd and |st—since the arrangement of the ~ book moves back in time. The present work should, in the fitness of things, occupy a unique position. Scholars have divided this work into three Parts, viz., Tirthankaras, Church Leaders and Parjusana. For the present translation, however, it has been divided into seven Parts as follows: Bhagavan Mahavira, Arhat ParSva, Arhat Aristanemi, Twenty other Tirthankaras, Arhat Rsabha, Church Prone Gerla lores

Among the Agamic texts, Kalpa Sutra belongs to a group called Cheda Sutra. Going by the contents of these texts, itwould appear that they contain rules about personal behaviour and organisational discipline to be observed by the monks. Among the Cheda Sutras, three names usually go together which are Dasa-kappa- vavahara and they are compiled into one text called Sruta Skandha. Kalpa Sutra is the eighth chapter of the Dasa text.

With certain sects of the Jainas, the reading of the Kalpa Sutra during the Parjusana is a must which has contributed to the great spiritual significance of this work.

Contents and Sample Pages


About the Author

Professor K.C.LALWANI, a Social Scientist (Economics), was born in 1921. He was an M.A. in first class of the Calcutta University and taught Economics and Commerce in premier Institutions in India. Widely travelled in America and Europe, he had published many books and articles on Economics, Political Science, Religion, etc. He entered the new field of Jainology and published translations of Dasavatkalika, Bhagavatt Sutra, etc. He was known for his lucid exposition of the subject


A translation of the Kalpa Siitra into English needs justifica- tion, since during the past few years several such translations have appeared in the market. The pioneering work by Hermann Jacobi remains a classic to this day, while in recent translations the writers have exercised a freedom which is hardly justified. The present translation not only claims complete authenticity, but, like the translation ofa few other Jaina texts by the same writer, it also strictly follows the prakrit text in prose as well as verse So that the reader through the English medium may enjoy a taste of the original. The translation has also been checked with Jacobi’s work on the one hand and an authentic Ben- gali translation by Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyaya published by © the Calcutta University on the other, and slight inaccuracies noticed in these two’ works have been carefully weeded out. - Jacobi’s translation being addressed primarily to the Western - ~ readers does not provide the prakrit text, while the text as well ag translation in Chattopadhyaya’s work is printed in Bengali script so that its use can at the most be very limited to the Ben- gali readers who have an appetite for a Jaina text. These diffi- culties have been done away with in the present work. An Appendix at the end provides alternative readings for a few passages, followed by Sutra-wise Notes based on commentaries and an Index of Proper Nouns (names) appearing in the text.

Bhadrabahu’s Kalpa Sitra, writes Jacobi, "‘has been held in. high esteem by the Jainas for more than a thousand years." If Bhadrabahu be the author of this work, then it should be about 2300 years’ old. If, however, its date be reckoned from the time of its writing, which took place at a meeting of the second Jaina Council at Ballabhi in A.D. 513, under the inspiring pre- sence and leadership of Devardhi Ksama-Sramana, even then it must be 1500 years’ old. We are, however not much bothered about a controversy, if any, about the author and the exact date of its writing, which are issues to be thrashed out by scholars. It is enough for us that the work exists, and that it is a_ very old work, the oldest available, on the life of the Tirthankaras, and has a fairly long list of names of men who had been the leaders of the Jaina church till the time of writing, and who, in fact, were the founders of innumerable denominations called ganas kulas, gacchas and sakhds into which the Jaina church got itself fragmented, both vertically and horizontally, over several centu- ries, before Jainism as a powerful religion, particularly in the . eastern region and in the deep south, was knocked off its pedestal and perhaps it will not be wrong to add that it has not regained its original position to this day, but is a religion of a small minority group.

As the earliest account of the life of the Tirthankaras, the 24th 23rd, 22nd and Ist,—since the arrangement of the text moves back in time,—Kalpa Sitra should in the fitness of things, occupy a unique position. Scholars have divided this work into three parts as Tirthankaras, Church Leaders and Parjusana, the last one being a code for the monks during the rainy season. For the present translation, however, the work, ,has been divided into seven parts as follows: Sramana Bhagavan Mahavira, Arhat Parsva, Arhat Aristanemi, twenty other Tirthankaras, Arhat Rsabha, Church Leaders and Parjusana. Parjusana in this text seems to have a wider connotation spreading as it may over the entire rainy season and is not just restricted to a few days during this season.

Among the Agamic texts, Kalpa Siitra belongs to a group call- ed Cheda Siitras. It is, however, not known what the word cheda stands for. Going by the contents of these texts, it would appear that they contain rules about personal behaviour and organisational discipline to be observed by the monks, How a work on the biographies of the Tirthankara entered into this group is anybody’s guess. Among the Cheda Siitras, three names usually go together which are Dasd-Kappa- Vavahdra (???-????-?????) and they are compiled into one text called Sruta Skandha. Kalpa Sitra is the eighth chapter of the Dasd text.

The word kalpa stands for the mode of some religious practice, usually a sacrifice; but in the Jaina context, it should mean the code of conduct of the monks during religious festivities. For the word siitra, we have the following definition: (Precise, beyond doubt, substantial, universally true, coll- ected into a single thread, beautiful prose.) If precision be a criterion, it is doubtful if the description rightly applies to the Jaina texts in general, andthe Kalpa Sutra - in particular, The Jaina Sutras are not precise texts nor terse formulae, except the Jattvartha, but are very elaborate and exhaus- tive. But undoubtedly they are master-pieces, full of substance, — and works by great masters, believed by the Jainas to be univer- sally true.

As it struck the translator, the first three accounts about Mahavira, Parsva and Aristanemi use the same diction, with only the names of personalities changing. This indeed facilitated the work of the writer andthe orthodox explanation would, perhaps, be that since all the three came with the same maturity and miss- ion, their earthly experiencecould not have been dissimilar. It is not certain if an explanation like this would satisfy a rational mind or the requirements of history.

In one respect, however, even on the authority of the Kalpa Sitra, Bhagavan Mahavira stands somewhat apart not only from the other two immediately preceding him, but from. the whole lot. This is his strong Brahmanical association of which at least two items have been noticed even in the Kalpa Siitra. They are, 1. descent from heaven into the womb of a Brahmin lady, and 2. all his Ganadharas being Brahmins versed in Vedic learning. As to the first, the mistake, somewhat unusual, was detected in time and rectified through a marvel in surgery at that date but as to the second, nothing could be done, and it is somewhat unusual that noneof his Ganadharas was a Ksatriya. Subsequent biogra- phers of Bhagavan Mahavira have noticed a few more Brahmini- cal associations with his life, like a Brahmin beggar receiving one half of his robe atthe time of his initiation and following him forthe whole year to receive the other half,a Brahmin making him the first offer after he became a truly homeless, and so on, but we overlook them as being less authentic. In the case of other Tirthankaras there was no association whatsoever with a Brahmin on important occasions of their life. What was the — Ksatriya reaction in general to this, particularly reaction from within his own clan, may be an appropriate subject for research, but the reaction of the Ksatriya youth Jamali to Mahavira’s doctrines, as against the reverence of Skandaka who was a Brahmin and Vedic scholar, both of whom had joined the | order of monks under Bhagavan Mahavira (vide Bhagavati Siitra) stands out as the most typical of the Ksatriya attitude.

Another thing in the life of Bhagavan Mahavira which struck the translator more than anything else is Bhadrabahu’s brief account ofthe last day on which Bhagavan Mahavira’s earthly mission was to close. According to Bhadrabahu, it was the divali day, which happened to be the last day of the month of Karttika When the rainy season was to formally end and when Bhagavan Mahavira was to enter into liberation, that 18 Malla and Licchavi kings from the Licchavi Confederacy, all his kinsmen, and 18 rulers from the Kasi-K ogala region, in all 36, mustered strong at Pava. No sooner did Bhagavan Mahavira’s soul discard its mortal frame than, writes Bhadrabahu, these rulers declared,

The Light of Intellect being out, let us lit the earthen lamps.

At this point, Bhadrabahu abruptly ends his narrative without offering any comment, and subsequent acaryas have preferred to keep silent over what had happened on that fateful day.. , Looking back in a dispassionate spirit, the above looks like a determination on the part of the Ksatriya rulers to participate in and determine succession to the spiritual seat of Bhagavan Mahavira even when he was still alive. Other events like the removal of Indrabhiti Gautama from Pava and Bhagavan | Mahavira’s entering into a long recital of some texts are no less significant of the fact that he preferred to be indifferent at what was going on at this moment. It is true that remaining at a distance Indrabhiti attained omniscience on this fateful day, but that was no disqualification for himagainst Sudharman to succeed to the chair of Bhagavan Mahavira. Be it noted that Sudharman attained omniscience long after this event. Indrabhiti was alive for afew more years after this event, but only as one of the many monks in the order and not as its leader. In this respect the Digambara belief about Indrabhiti, and not Sudharman succeeding Bhagavan Mahavira as the leader of the church does not appear very convincing, since in that case the Agamic texts _ would not have later been issued in the name of Sudharman. It was perhaps in desperation that the Digambaras declared the Jaina texts as having been lost and they stick to this belief to this’ day. The disorder in the Jaina church atthe liberation of Bhagavan Mahavira has its corroboration from the Buddhist sources as well. It is thus beyond doubt that the Ksatriya kings turned an occa- sion of deep mourning into an occasion of festivity at their apparent success, and celebrated it as the Festival of Light, . as is done even to this day, and on this day every year, a section of the Jainas even now rush to Pava to ‘worship’ Vitaraga Bhagavan Mahavira with sweet balls (/addu), a symbolic remini- scence of what the Ksatriyas did on that day two thousand five hundred years’ ago. Most other Jainas, however, observe the day as the day of fast. The translator invites research on the events on this fateful day on the basis of the Jaina and other contemporary texts.

The next twenty Tirthankaras, till Arhat. Ajita, second in succession, have been lumped together into a single chapter, as if nothing special need be said about them, except putting them on record, and the time-difference between the one and his pre- . decessor has been indicated in astronomical figures. The implica- tion seems to be that these twenty had no dissimilar experience | and all of them came down to fullfil the same earthly mission, which they effectively did. In the use of astronomical figures, ~ however, the Jainas do not stand apart from the rest in this country where such figures have been freely used in the sacred texts of all religions, including Hinduism, to establish their réspective antiquity. If, however, we bear in mind the time differ- ence between the last three Tirthankaras, the 24th, 23rd and 22nd, which was no bigger than a few centuries, and superimpose this model for the rest, then the date of Arhat Rsabha may go somewhere near the sixth or fifth century B.c., which was about the date when Indian civilization might have had its genesis. The account of this chapter is so dull and dry that Jacobi has preferred to restrict it to a single printed page, though, for this translation, the complete rendering of the original text has been included, since any abridgement would tantamount toa distortion, and hence be counted as a sacrilege.

Arhat Rsabha, the first Tirthankara, stands somewhat apart from the rest since he has been viewed by the Jainas as the founder of the Indian civilization. He started the system of marriage outside qne’s immediate family, established a monarchy, created a social organisation, taught arts and crafts including farming and provided a script for writing named after one of his two daughters, Brahmi. It may be interesting to recall that the script has been used in Agokan Edicts. He had one hundred sons, of whom the eldest, Bharata, became the first emperor and the country took her name from him. The other ninetynine were also settled as rulers over different territories before Rsabha ‘courted the life of a monk after having "lived as a prince for 20,00,000 parvas and asa monarch for 63,00,000 parvas.’’ His exit from home, the long procession that took him to a park where he initiated himself into monkhood and changed over from. a householder into a homeless mendicant and other chain of events are, however, not dissimilar from those of his successors. He was now destined to provide a church, create its four segments, monks, nuns, male followers and female followers, and provide the necessary texts, including the code of conduct, that go in in’ _ the making of a religion. He also named his Ganadharas who were the heads of the constituent units of the Church. All these one comes across in the life of each. Tirthankara who by virtue of these activities becomes the organiser of the tirtha or order. It appears that between one Tirthankara and another, the order created by the former faded out so that on each occasion it had to be re-created. It is, however, intersting to note in parenthesis that although during the past two thousand five hundred years, no Tirthankara has appeared on the scene, the need for one has perhaps not been felt during this entire period. It may be added that the life of Rsabha as recorded in a Hindu Purana, Srimad Bhagavata, in several chapters (Skandha 5 Chapters 3-6) is more elaborate than any existing in the Jaina texts, including the Kalpa Sutra. Therein he has been described as the eighth incarnation of Visnu (1.3.13) and attributed with the creation of a new type of religion based on total detachment and tranquilisation of sense organs and mind (1.7.10). This shows the amount of esteem in which he was held. in this country. Still more interesting is that he has been noticed in one of the early Vedas. Cf.

(Oh Divinity! Do thou produce amongst us, of high descent, a great god like Rsabha, who by becomingan _ arhat, which is the epithet of the first world teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies.) Equally dull-reading is Part Six which contains an almost non- ending account of the senior monks and church leaders till the time of Devardhi Ksama-Sramana who lived in the early part of the sixth century A.D. One also gets in this Part an early glimpse of the gradual disintegration of the Jaina church into ganas, gacchas, kulas, etc., during a millennium after the liberation of Bhagavan Mahavira. Since then the thread appears to have been lost and even though the medieval period produced excellent scholars like Hemacandra, no effort was ever made to pick it up again. The present-day denominations of the church had their genesis towards the last. phase of the medieval period, including some which were added in our livingmemory, and hardly anyone of these sects can establish a definite genealogical link with the traditional church as it existed at the time of Devardhi Ksaméa- Sramana.

Part Seven contains an exhaustive prescription about the con- duct of the Jaina monks during the four months of the rainy season loosely called Parjusana. It is the personal opinion of the writer that this part is not particularly relevant for a work which purports to bean account of the Tirthankaras and church leaders, and must have been added at a later period when the reading of the Kalpa Sitra became popular with certain sects of the Jainas during the Parjusana. As not a few, but many, prescriptions - about conduct were liable to diverse interpretation, they must have been crucial in promoting schisms, in which each break-away group claimed purity to itself, calling into question the bona fides of the parent group, the latest to occur — like this has been with the Terapanth Sect of the Jainas. For those who are not familiar with the Jaina spiritual festivi- ties, it may be worthwhile to add a few lines. The period during which they are celebrated usually falls in the month of Bhadra, the second month of the rainy season according to the Jaina calendar, and runs over a period of about ten days which is the ‘period of Parjusana. The festivities include tapasyd which means fasts, sometimes as long as a month or beyond, svddhydya or reading of texts, sitting in sadmayika or equanimity, visiting temples or monks as often as possible, and so on. The Jaina year starts with the month of Agrahayana which is the first month of the Jaina calendar synchronising ‘with . November- December, and this along with three following months forms the first third of the year which is winter or fall. The Jain word for this season is Hemanta. The second third of the Jaina year, again consisting of four months, is summer whichends with Asadha. The remaining third consisting of four months with which the year ends constitutes the rainy season. Parjusana at the latest must start at the expiry of one month and 20 days of the rainy season, but never later than that, though it may start earlier and continue for any length. Under exceptional circum- stances or under conditions created by a natural calamity, it may start evenin Asadha and continue till the end of Agrahayana. Where the aim is the enrichment of the spirit, the longer the-period, the better. By universal practice, however, it is restricted to about ten days for the Svetambaras, called Parjusana follow- ed by another ten called Dagalakkhani for the Digambaras. Parjusana is also a Sarnvatsarika or annual festivity, though as . it has come down to us, it is the name given to the last day of Prajusana of the Svetambaras, the pitch of spiritual activity, which is followed by the usual ksamdpand or forgiving-and-beg- ging-to-be-forgiven. Even Samvatsarika does not fall on the same day for all: Svetambaras, some observing it'a day — earlier, or to put it differently, others observing it a day later.

As to Bhadrabahu, the celebrated author of the Kalpa Siitra, our information is very scanty except the innumerable works which are attributed to his:authorship. We know nothing about the date and place of his birth, his family and parents, except that he belonged to a line called Pracina or ‘ancient’, beyond which the implication of the word is anybody’s guess. Even the list of church leaders in the Kalpa Siitra makes a scant mention of him. All we know about him is that Rajagrha, once the capital of the Magadhan Empire, was his seat till he migrated to the south, and that before he did so, he might have on several occasions visited his dear disciple Candra Gupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire at Pataliputra which had then shot up into prominence as the capital city in place of Rajagrha. Later, even Candra Gupta is said to have joined his spiritual master in the south and spent his last days there, throwing out his life in the prescribed Jaina way through a long fast. Bhadrabahu has been called a Srutakevalin, which means that though he was not a Kevalin nor the direct recipient of Sruta knowledge, he knew by heart the 12 Angas, including the twelfth one, Drstivada, which is since lost. In anticipation of a great famine in the north, when food would be difficult to get for his monks, we have been told, the celebrated leader preferred to move to the safer south, with many monks following him thither. He settled at Sravana Belgola in the Mysore State and propounded the reli- gion of the Jainas to a completely alien though recéptive audience, It is remarkable that under Bhadrabahu, Jainism became the religion of this region and remained so for about a thousand years after his death. In his absence, the leadership of the Jaina church in the north fell on one Sthilabhadra who was _ respon- sible for convening the first Jaina Council at Pataliputra where only eleven Jaina Agamas could be collected and put to writing. The twelfth Avga is said to have contained much scientific material and was known only to Bhadrabahu, and none else, and as Bhadrabahu was not available, it could not*be jotted down. Keeping in view the importance of this work, and the fact that Bhadrabahu was still alive, which must have been known to the church leaders inthe north, it would appear somewhat curious that when the texts were being written, no effort should or could have been made either to bring him to the north, or to hold the meeting in the south, or to associate him in some way with the deliberations and maintain touch with him, or at least to get the text of Drstivada from him by rushing an emissary to the south. The inability or reluctance of conveners of the Council to take anyone of these courses seems inexplicable at this date and the callousness with which they preferred to leave the gap unbridged is somewhat startling. It is not even known if Bhadrabahu had any information about the Council and its deliberations, but it is pretty certain that even after the deliberations, no effort whatso- ever was made to have his concurrence and have the texts checked by him. It appears that soon after his exodus to the south, Bhadrabahu was no more than a name in the north, though in the south, this foreigner’s memory is still preserved in the Kannada literary tradition which holds him in the highest esteem. Connecting together the disconnected threads, the present writer cannot help saying that it was one more schism in the Jaina church of which the latest victim was Bhadrabahu, like Indra- bhiti Gautama earlier, and the story of the impending famine which was circulated might have been a convenient fabrication. This appears plausible in view of the Digambara dominance in the south, while the Jaina church in the north is dominantly Svetam- bara. This may be a further reason for the continued Digambara belief that all the traditional texts became extinct with Bhagavan Mahavira. At least it is not very convincing to think that a man of Bhadrabahu’s stature was afraid of the famine and escaped to the south to save his own and a few other people’s lives. Further research is, however, invited on this dubious item also. We have it on the authority of the medieval scholar Hemacandra that Bhadrabahu passed away 170 years after the liberation of Bhagavan Mahavira. Quoted below is the relevant couplet:

Sixth in the line downward from Bhagavan Mahavira, Bhadra- bahu has been attributed with the authorship of many works. At least three or four Agamas are attributed directly to his pen, but his particular association is said to be with the Cheda Sutras, of which atleast three are due to him. Of the three Kalpa texts, he is said to have produced at least two, Brhat Kalpa and Pafica Kalpa. He was gifted with a superhuman memory which preserved the Agamic texts after Bhagavan Mahavira and helped their record- ing and subsequent propagation, without which perhaps Jainism would have been lost after the medieval age. Dharmaghosa, the author of JSimandala, attributes the following works to the authorship of Bhadrabahu:

The list is too long to go unchallenged and some of the works named therein, like Uttaradhyayana and DaSavaikdlika must have handed down from the past. But in so far as Bhadrabahu preserv- ed them in his own memory, the claim is all right. All things said, however, it must be admitted that his was a superhuman intellect which produced many works and left inspiration for many more. The present generation of the Jainas owes not a little debt of gratitude to one who perserved the texts in his memory which has helped them to’retain their identity, though in a very truncat- ed form, for which Bhadrabahu was not responsible in any way against the vast welter of Hinduism, which is by no means a small thing particularly when one recalls that Buddhism got lost in the land of its birth and Gautama Buddha has been given a position in the Hindu pantheon.

The date of the present translation is February 10, 1971-April 7, 1972. Its publication has, however, been delayed due to factors beyond control. It is at last going to the readers, and the writer hopes that they will find it useful.

For the illustrations, the writer is grateful to the Editor of the Jain Journal, Jain Bhavan, Calcutta, who made available the blocks and to the publishers who readily. agreed to use all of them.

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