Acharya Kundkund's Insightful Contribution(1)

by Late Dr. Lal Bahadur Shastri

Dr. Lal Bahadur Shastri.was an authority on Acharya Kundkund. The present article describes some unique contributions of Acharya Kundkund to the Jain system. - D. C. J.

The religious tradition of India, which is basically one and the same, is divided into two streams of thought: one, the tradition of the self-reliants (SHRAMAN PARAMPARA), the aspirants who meditate on soul; and two, the tradition of Vedas (VEDIC PARAMPARA) whose scholarly sages meditate on God. These are the two original traditions of India that spread the message of spirituality to the world.

Acharya Kundkund was an eminent scholarly monk of the tradition of self-reliant. After Bhagwaan Mahaveer's Nirvana, there were three KEVALIs &endash; omniscients (Gautam Swami, Sudharm Swami and Jambu Swami). Later, there were five SHRUT KEVALIs &endash; scholars of scriptures. It is believed that SHRUT KEVALIs possessed the knowledge of the entire system of Jain scriptures. They were part of the long lineage of distinguished scholarly monks belonging to the tradition of the self-reliant. The SHRUT KEVALIs and the acharyas who followed them were great scholars and philosophers. They possessed superb intellect. They had the ability to perform sophisticated analysis through meditation.

A severe famine, at the time of SHRUT KEVALI Bhadrabahu, caused a serious disarray in the Jain religious order. To some extent, in place of renunciation, indulgence became prevalent. The knowledge imparted by Omniscient Bhagwaan Mahaveer faded gradually with the passage of time. Arguments and disagreements (about scriptural knowledge) came about. The need of that hour was for some savant to calm the turbulence, and place the Jain system on a unified solid foundation. Acharya Kundkund was the illustrious personality who accomplished this momentous mission. With a view to address the problems of his times, he employed his vast knowledge and insight to organize the scriptural knowledge and composed authoritative treatises on a variety of topics. By providing a consistent and well-organized literature, Acharya Kundkund quenched the thirst of the inquisitive masses. Acharya Kundkund underscored the genuine practice of religion and censured empty pretensions. In BHAAV PAAHUD (Treatise on Consciousness), he condemned those who pretended to be monks by remaining naked, but who were derelict in their conduct, in the following words:(2)

A naked monk who is devoid of the spirit of the teachings of JIN remains submerged in the ocean of worldly pain and he does not achieve right knowledge.

O monk! What is the purpose of remaining naked (or clad) if you indulge in malicious behavior, laughter, jealousy, delusion and untamed desires. Being full of blemish, you deserve disgrace.

Acharya Kundkund denounced also those who, on account of physical suffering, gave up nakedness, the exterior symbol of monkhood, but who did not relinquish monkhood and continued to indulge in ritualistic activities, misleading the unsuspecting masses.(3) Without any hesitation, in PRAVACHANASAAR (Essentials of Religious Discourse), the eminent acharya enunciated:(4)

A person holding the knowledge of all scriptures but having even slightest affectionate regard (MOORCHHA) &endash; feelings of possession, towards his body or other materials, can not attain salvation.

In this manner, Acharya Kundkund raised his voice against both kinds of undesirable conduct. He denounced those naked monks whose knowledge and conduct did not conform to the teachings of JIN as well as those monks who wore clothes but who indulged in irrational and deluding conduct. In MOKKHA PAAHUD (Treatise on Salvation), couplet 80, he has defined the conduct of a monk in the following words:

An individual who is devoid of possessiveness, who is free from deluding attachment towards self, family and relatives, who braves external suffering caused by environment, who has control over passions such as anger, and who does not indulge in any undesirable activities including household chores, rightfully advances on the path to liberation.

It is evident from the above examples that Acharya Kundkund freely and frankly expressed his opinion against heresy, indiscreetness, prejudice and ignorance. He righted the heretics, denounced the indiscreet, enlightened the prejudiced, and showed the path to the ignorant.

To put the heretics on the right path, Acharya Kundkund has written in DANSAN PAAHUD (Treatise on Perception):(5)

The quality of self-restraint cultivated through knowledge, perception, penance and virtuous conduct leads to salvation. This is the teaching of the Jain system.

Denouncing the indiscreet, Acharya Kundkund writes, in CHARITTA PAAHUD (Treatise on Conduct):(6)

Those who practice self-discipline but do not possess rationalism and so can not distinguish between falsehood and realistic knowledge, do not advance on the path to liberation.

To enlighten the prejudiced individuals, in DANSAN PAAHUD (Treatise on Perception), Acharya Kundkund writes:(7)

Neither the body, nor the ancestry, nor the caste is venerable. Who would worship a self-reliant (SHRAMAN) monk or a householder devoid of virtues?

Elucidating the path for the ignorant, Acharya Kundkund says, in BHAAV PAAHUD (Treatise on Consciousness):(8)

O worldly soul, you have consumed water from various sources in the universe during innumerable lives. Still your thirst could not be quenched. So you should give up all desires and endeavor to liberate the self from the cycle of birth and death.

Many other similar concepts have been presented by Acharya Kundkund in his treatises (PAAHUDs). His treatises have resulted from his keen insight. His approach is novel but it conforms to the basics of Jainism. Acharya Kundkund's works signify that his scholarship, style of presentation and spiritual experiences were inimitable. For centuries, people had lost sense of direction. They had developed doubts and had become ignorant about spiritualism. Acharya Kundkund enlightened the path to spiritual progress and satisfied the need of the times.

In Jain philosophy, the unity of the three jewels, rational perception, rational knowledge and rational conduct, constitutes the path to salvation. However, it seems that the masses had developed doubts, disregard and misunderstanding about the three jewels. Until that time, there were no written texts having a consistent and analytical presentation of the three jewels. Ordinary people were forbidden to study the scriptures composed by Bhagwaan Mahaveer's interpreters (GANADHARs). Further, on account of the oral tradition, the scriptures had become so fragmented and partially forgotten that even the scholarly monks hesitated to put them into writing. The possible reason being that they suspected that many people would not accept them as authentic. Naturally, Acharya Kundkund had similar concerns. Nevertheless he took the intrepid step. In SAMAYASAAR (Essentials of Spiritualism), he wrote:(9)

I am presenting a comprehensive knowledge of soul as differentiated from external objects based on my understanding and experience. Accept it if (in your estimation) it satisfies the condition of authenticity (PRAMAAN). But if I fail in my description, reject it.

Acharya Kundkund wrote PANCHAASTIKAAYASAAR (Essentials of Five Entities), SAMAYASAAR (Essentials of Spiritualism) and PRAVACHANASAAR (Essentials of Religious Discourse). PANCHAASTIKAAYASAAR describes five of the six entities that are the object of rational perception, SAMAYASAAR contains rational knowledge about soul and alien substances, and PRAVACHANASAAR describes rational conduct. Thus Acharya Kundkund presented a detailed and consistent discussion of the path to salvation for the masses.(10) After Bhagwaan Mahaveer and his interpreters, for the first time, Acharya Kundkund provided a system of scriptural knowledge for the inquisitive. He presented the fundamental concepts relating to the path to salvation in a comprehensive manner. His significant contribution removed doubts and effected a consensus among the people. Even today, the attraction of the magnificent literature of Acharya Kundkund has not diminished.(11)

In many instances, Acharya Kundkund adopted some novel approaches in presenting the fundamentals of Jainism. For example, an omniscient (SARVAJNA) is commonly said to possess simultaneously the knowledge of the attributes, and of the past, present and future forms of all objects of the universe. Acharya Kundkund said that an omniscient knows the soul from the realistic viewpoint (NISHCHAYA NAYA), while, from the experiential viewpoint (VYAVAHAAR NAYA), an omniscient knows the objects of the universe. This statement does not contradict the commonly accepted definition of omniscient. Nowhere in the earlier literature is found such a sophisticated analysis.

In his writings, Acharya Kundkund has emphasized rational perception. In CHARITTA PAAHUD, he equates rationalism to conduct. He calls it SAMYAKTVACHARAN CHAARITRA &endash; activities of body, speech and mind that conform to rationalism. The eminent Acharya says:(12) Activities that conform to (rational) knowledge and perception imparted by the victors (JINs) constitute conduct with rationalism (SAMYAKTVACHARAN CHAARITRA). On the other hand, conduct following the precepts of the victors (without imbibing rational perception and knowledge) is conduct involving self-discipline (SANYAM CHAARITRA).

Along with rational perception and knowledge of soul and of other aspects of reality, Acharya Kundkund also prescribed certain concrete practices. In CHARITTA PAAHUD, he writes:(13) An individual, imbibing rationalism following the teachings of the victors, and being delusion-free, practices virtues such as admiration of the virtuous, modesty, compassion, charity, advancement of the virtuous path, abstinence from criticism, protection of all life and forthrightness.

Acharya Kundkund was very specific about genuine religious practices. As indicated above, he defined two kinds of conduct, self-discipline without rationalism and practice of virtues with rationalism. As mentioned earlier, in CHARITTA PAAHUD, couplet 10, he writes: Those who practice self-restraint without rational perception, are ignorant and uninformed. They do not progress on the path to salvation.

It is evident that Acharya Kundkund has elucidated many unique and sophisticated features of the religion of the JINs and has made a significant insightful contribution to the Jain system.

 

Footnotes:

1) English adaptation of the article 'ACHARYA KUNDKUND KA VAICHAARIK AVADAAN', published in the prestigious journal 'PRAKRIT VIDYA' of January-March 1998, published by Kundkund Bharati, New Delhi, India. The help of Dr. Trilok Chandra Jain, Sterling VA, with the adaptation of this article is gratefully acknowledged.
Back up

2) NAGGO PAAVAI DUKKHAM NAGGO SAMSAARASAAYARE BHAMAEE |

NAGGO NA LAHAI BOHIM JINABHAAVANAVAJJIYAM SUIERAM | 68 |

AYASAAN BHAAYANEN YA KIM TE NAGGEN PAAVAMALILEN |

PESUNNAHAASAMACHCHHARAMAAYABAHULEN SAVANEN | 69 |
Back up

3) Evidently, Acharya Kundkund did not value external attributes but he underscored inner qualities. - D. C. J.
Back up

4) PARAMAANUPAMAANAM VA MUCHCHHA DEHAADIYESU JASSA PUNO |

VIJJADI JADI SO SIDDHIM NA LAHADI SAVVAAGAMADHARO VI | 3-39 |
Back up

5) NAANEN DANSANEN YA TAVEN CHARITTEN SANJAMAGUNEN |

CHADUHIM PI SAMAAJOGE MOKKHO JINASAASANE DITTHO | 3 |
Back up

6) SAMMATTACHARANABHATTHA SANJAMACHARAM CHARANTI JE VI NARA |

ANNAAN NAANAMOODHA TAHAVI NA PAAVANTI NIVVAANAM | 10 |
Back up

7) NAVI DEHO VANDIJJADI NAVI YA KULO NAVI YA JAADI SANJUTTO |

KO VANDADI GUNAHEENO NA HU SAMANO NEV SAAVAGO HODI } 27 |
Back up

8) TIHUYAN-SALILAM SAYALAMPEEDAM TANHAAYE PEEDIYEN TUME |

TO VI NA TINHAACHCHHEDO JAADO CHINTEH BHAVAMAHANAM | 23 |
Back up

9) TAM AEYAATAVIBHATTAM DAAEHAM APPANO SAVIHAVEN |

JADI DAAEJJA PAMAANAM CHUKKIJJA CHHALAM NA GHETAVYAM | 5 |
Back up

10) It should be pointed out that the Jain doctrine presented by Acharya Kundkund is essentially the same as described in other scriptures such as DASHAVAIKAALIK SUTRA and UTTARAADHYAYAN SUTRA. - D. C. J.
Back up

11) In recent times, the pioneering writings of Acharya Kundkund have drawn the attention of great souls like Shrimad Rajchandra. - D. C. J.
Back up

12) JINANANADITTHISUDDHAM PADHAMAM SAMMATTACHARANACHAARITTAM |

VIDIYAM SANJAMACHARANAM JINANAANASADESIYAM TAM PI | 5 |
Back up

13) VACHCHHALLAM VINAYEN YA ANUKAMPAAE SUDAANADACHCHHAE |

MAGGAGUNASAMSANAAE UVAGOOHAN RAKKHANAAE YE | 11 |

AEAEHI LAKKHANEHIM YA LAKHIJJAI AJJAVEHIM BHAAVEHIM |

JEEVO AARAAHANTO JINASAMMATTAM AMOHEN | 12 |
Back up

***************************************************************************************************

Essence Of Jainism

NAANAM NARASSA SAARO SAARO VI NARASSA HOI SAMMATTAM |

SAMMATTAO CHARANAM CHARANAAO HOI NIVVAANAM | 31 |

Essence of knowledge is rationalism.

Essence of humanity is knowledge.

Essence of rationalism is good conduct.

Remember, good conduct leads to salvation.

- Acharya Kundkund in DANSAN PAAHUD

Home / email us