On umAsvAti the jaina scholar

Though the nAstIka mata-s in their reactionary fervor chose to keep away from deva-bhASha, its lure could not be avoided. The precision and abilities of deva-bhAShA, as well as the need to keep up with the shAstra-s and disputations of their AstIka rivals, made them eventually accept devabhAShA. This was facilitated to a great extant as the AstIka brain drain into these heterodoxies gained momentum with brAhmaNa and kShatriya scholars converting to these mata-s. Thus, deva-bhASha become the language of the educated from gandhara to pANDuraNga in Champa (central Vietnam) suvarNadvIpa in the sea (Java). But in the larger nAstIka sphere the anti-Sanskrit undercurrent linked closely to the anti-AstIka sentiment was never fully lost. This attitude was stronger among the jaina nAstIka-s, and persisted much longer than in their bauddha counterparts – they tended to use the deshI medium much more, with Sanskrit works becoming prevalent only somewhat later. This is also corroborated by the jaina story of the Acharya siddhasena who wanted to render their deshI and Prakrit works into devavANI, but was made braShTa for that suggestion, until he performed prAyashchitta. Yet, due to the brAhmaNa brain drain even the jaina-s adopted saMskR^itAnusAra quite early for the purposes of philosophical discourse around the first 2 centuries of the CE. One of the first to do this was the great jaina philosopher umAsvAti (umAsvAmI according to the digambara-s). vAchaka umAsvAti’s work the tattvArthAdhigama sUtra-s (=tattvArtha sUtra-s; TAS) is one of the important hallmarks in the history of Indian thought that is comparable to the AstIka darshana sUtra-s. Its role as the primary pillar of the jaina mata is clear from the fact that it has been studied across sectarian lines among them and studied and commented by several notable jainAcharya-s – siddhasena, haribhadra sUrI, devagupta, akala~Nka bhaTTa among others. Among the AstIka-s, even the medieval period, TAS was studied as a pUrvapakSha and cited by vidyAraNya in his sarvadarshana saMgraha.

Of vAchaka umAsvAti we know not much and whatever accounts exist are confused and conflicting. At least one jaina account mentions that he belonged to the brahminical harita gotra but another contradicts this and mentions his gotra as kaubhiShaNa (or unknown origin). There is some agreement that he was a teacher in the jaina school of pATalIputra. A study of the TAS reveals certain key points about umAsvAti-s origins:
1) The main stay of the early jaina mata were the vaishya-s and their royal kShatriya patrons. This is clearly supported by the fact that the vaishya occupations are considered the best options for a jaina. Secondly, this is also consistent with the use of the deshI medium which was indeed the prevalent speech of the vaishya-s and possibly also some the earlier kShatriya dynasties like maurya and nanda. In contrast to this trend, the TAS is the first recorded instance of a jaina author composing a text in Sanskrit – few other jaina texts were composed in Sanskrit for a while after the TAS.
2) umAsvAti uses the sUtra style closely mirroring that used in the AstIka systems authored by brAhmaNa philosophers. Thus, the TAS also represents the first time the jaina-s used the style of sUtra-s similar that prevalent from the vedic period among the AstIka-s. In its organization the TAS consciously mirrors the foundational sUtra-s of various AstIka darshana-s like those of kaNAda, akShapAda, pata~njali and bAdarAyaNa. The TAS has a closely linked commentary (by umAsvAti himself according to shvetAmbara tradition) that resembles the yoga sUtra-s and their integrally linked bhAShya, the vyAsa bhAShya.
3) The contents and philosophy of the TAS are clearly jaina, yet they have several elements that definitely reflect AstIka thought. The TAS positions itself as a shAstra for mokSha-dharma – this is same as what vedAnta does (although their ideas of mokSha might differ). It presents restraints and control of the senses (e.g. 7th adhyAya) which resemble those of AstIka ascetic practices enjoined by the yoga tradition (e.g. ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha etc.). Importantly, the TAS mirror nyAya and vaisheShika thought in its analysis of substance and the atomic theory (adhyAya 5).
Thus, it appears quite likely that umAsvAti was a brAhmaNa convert to the jaina mata, who brought in the Sanskritic sUtra tradition as well as a certain philosophical elements (this will definitely offend hardline jainas who want to separate themselves from the rest of Hindu tradition). In the process he ended up writing what were probably the first sUtra-s of the jaina-mata, equivalent to those of the AstIka darshana-s, and thereby set the jaina darshana on level ground with the astIka for the battles to ensue.

umAsvAti’s sUtra-s includes a feature that is not common in the principal AstIka darshana-s, namely the sUtra-s that describe geography/cosmography and types of deva-s (adhyAya-s 3 and 4). The description of the types of deva-s including multiple indra-s and their vimAna-s (“spaceships”) is primarily to establish an alternative system that purposely differs from that of the AstIka-s from whom they branched off (we have noted before examples of how the bauddha-s as well as jaina-s did this on these pages). In contrast, the principal AstIka darshana-s affiliated with the veda did not need to include such sections because their versions were the standard versions which were already provided by their shruti and original itihAsa-purANa. By creating such parallel versions the jaina-s (and other nAstIka-s) could now set up cosmographies and theographies that could claim a hierarchical superiority over the standard model. For example by creating a system of multiple serial indra-s they could trivialize the foremost deva of the vedic AstIka-s. However, the nAstIka-s were not unique (and possibly not original) in this regard – the sectarian astIka-s too set up such systems to supersede earlier systems in their cosmographic/theographic hierarchy. For example, among the shaiva-s, the lAkula-s who succeeded the veda-affiliated original pAshupata-s (who have no cosmographic sutra-s) added a new system of shiva-s (e.g. vidyeshvara-s) to supersede the original rudra-s of their predecessors. This process continued with the siddhAnta tantras with new shiva-s being added on top of the lAkula system till sadAshiva is reached. Finally, the trika and shrIvidyA systems even place preta-s of sadAshiva and others in the throne of their respective devI-s.

However, the most important intellectual contribution of vAchaka umAsvAti was his analysis of life forms and matter. It is in this he preserves some of the early aspects of Indian scientific thought. We had earlier discussed on these pages the zoology of umAsvAti and his classification of animals based on various anatomical and reproductive characters (adhyAya 2). In adhyAya 5 of the TAS we find the early exposition of jaina atomism:
nANoH || 5.11
There are no further divisions in the ultimate atom of matter.
aNavaH skandhAsh-cha || 5.25
Matter may exist in the form of either pure atoms or clusters there off (skandhAH – molecules). The jaina authorities in elaborating on this sUtra mention niyama-sAra 6 which declares the paramANu to be that particle which cannot be divided further, and is itself the beginning, the middle and the end of the particle. The associated bhAShya of the TAS also cites an ancient unattributed verse which is reminiscent of mammaTa’s opening of the kAvyaprakAsha which declares the paramANu to be the ultimate cause, minute and indestructible.
A remarkable feature of umAsvAti’s atomic theory is the postulation of two forces to mediate the interactions between the ANu-s:
snigdha-rUkShatvAd bandhaH || 5.32
“snigdha” and “rUkSha” are the two properties that mediate atomic combinations.
He then formulates a system of rules involving these forces that mediate atomic combinations.
na jaghanya-guNAnAM | gunasAmye sadR^ishAnAM | dvyAdhikAdiguNAnAM tu | bandhe samAdhikau pAriNAmikau || 5.33-5.35
aNu-s possessing the minimum one degree of snigdha or rUkSha cannot combine; aNU-s which have the same degree of snigdha or the same degree of rUkSha cannot combine; two snigdha aNu-s or two rUkSha aNu-s can combine if the snigdha or rUkSha of one is two or more degrees higher than the other; during combination the aNu with equal or higher degree of rukSha or snigdha transforms the property of the dissimilar aNu to its own. Thus, umAsvAti postulates the existence of charge-like properties to explain atomic combinations.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on April 21, 2008.

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