On Reading the Lives of the Jinas: Questions and Answers of Medieval Monk

Phyllis Granoff, Yale University

A program in cooperation with the Department of Religious Studies supported by the Hwei Tai Fund for Buddhist Studies

The lives of the T?rthankaras, from their modest beginnings in early texts, developed into rich and complicated narratives. Jains embedded the past lives of the Jinas into the biography of the final life, building an often baroque composition to which were also attached numerous didactic stories. The biographies of the Jinas were told in every language and in every conceivable genre of literature, in every part of the subcontinent where there were Jains, and throughout the ages. It is no surprise that different tellings sometimes had different details. What was the status of these texts within the larger corpus of Jain literature? Were readers/hearers of these texts aware of the conflicts between them? And if so, what did they do about the inconsistencies from text to text? This talk seeks to answer these questions based on a series of exchanges between learned monks of the 17th century that were meticulously recorded and have been preserved. It will propose that Jain monks regarded all the different biographies as authoritative texts, exact records of the past, that could even be called upon to legitimate present ( and innovative) new practices.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 | 5:15 pm — 7:00 pm
Encina Hall West - Room 208

Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford