The Uttarâdhyayana Sûtra may be said to be to Jainism what the Bhagavad Gita is to Hinduism. It exemplifies the core of Jain teachings, is full of the most practical advice and will be found to be valuable to any drawn towards the ascetic spiritual life.
As Hermann Jacobi explains in the introduction to his translation:
Its intention is to instruct a young monk in his principal duties, to commend an ascetic life by precepts and examples, to warn him against the dangers in his spiritual career, and to give some theoretical information.
In its opening line we find Mahavira providing the purpose of the work quite clearly, as he says:
“I shall explain in due order the discipline of a houseless monk, who has got rid of all worldly ties.”
The work proceeds along these lines, with rules of conduct for the would-be monk. This emphasis on conduct is found throughout the Jaina texts to an extent hardly seen in other religious systems. As Mahavira says:
“Endowed with conduct and discipline,
Who practices control of self,
Who throws out all his bondage,
He attains the eternal place.”
And this is what the Uttarâdhyayana Sûtra teaches its readers: the way to establish one’s self-disipline with the aim of attaining to true Wisdom. A sampling of the discipline Mahavira instructs will give some idea of the nature of the text.
Subdue your Self, for the Self is difficult to subdue; if your Self is subdued, you will be happy in this world and in the next. (1:15)
Better it is that I should subdue my Self by self-control and penance, than be subdued by others with fetters and corporal punishment. (1:16)
This is at the core of Jainism: Self-Control. And the instruction on how to accomplish this self-control is stated plainly and simply with hundreds of simple rules and examples, a few of such are as follows:
One should always be meek, and not be talkative in the presence of the wise; one should acquire valuable knowledge, and avoid what is worthless. (1:8)
He should not tell anything sinful or meaningless or hurtful, neither for his own sake nor for anybody else’s, nor without such a motive. (1:25).
A monk should avoid as unallowed such food as is well dressed, or well cooked, or well cut, or such in which is much seasoning, or which is very rich, or very much flavoured, or much sweetened (1:36)
If any misfortune happens and he suffers pain, he should cheerfully steady his mind, and bear the ills that attack him. (2:32)
Wandering about on deserted ways, in pain, thirsty, with dry throat, and distressed, he should bear this trouble (of thirst). (2:5)
A wise man, suffering from heat, should not long for a bath, or pour water over his body, or fan himself. (2:9)
Suffering from insects a great sage remains undisturbed. … He should not scare away (insects), nor keep them off, nor be in the least provoked to passion by them. Tolerate living beings, do not kill them, though they eat your flesh and blood. (2:10-11)
‘If he does not get (victory over his will) early, he will get it afterwards;’ such reasoning 4 presupposes the eternity of human life. But such a man despairs when his life draws to its close, and the dissolution of his body approaches. (4:9)
As a charioteer, who against his better judgment leaves the smooth highway and gets on a rugged road, repents when the axle breaks; so the fool, who transgresses the Law and embraces unrighteousness, repents in the hour of death, like (the charioteer) over the broken axle. (5:14, 15)
Everything that happens to somebody, affects him personally; therefore, knowing the creatures’ love of their own self, do not deprive them of their life, but cease from endangering and combating them. (6:6)
As a drop of water at the top of a blade of Kusa-grass dwindles down to naught when compared with the ocean, so do human pleasures when compared with divine pleasures. (7:23)
Such simple, yet meaningful and practical instruction and wisdom is designed to aid the ascetic in acquiring complete discipline, such that one’s self becomes thoroughly subjugated to only the highest within, focused solely on wisdom and liberation with not a care for the personal comforts of life. The Jaina life is not for the faint of heart, nor for the spiritually indolent. But for those wishing to walk the age old ascetic path, or even for those wishing simply to incorporate more self-control into their daily ‘householder’ lives, its focus on conduct will provide much instruction.
And now we present to you The Uttarâdhyayana Sûtra in full, in both html and PDF format.