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Political Ideas In Ancient India In Jainism Books

Jain political ideas in ancient India are mainly available in Adi Purana, Nitivakyamrtam and Laghuvarhaniti. The history of the evolution of man and his institutions are described in Adi Purana (111.14-21) of Jainism: the role of Rishabha and his son Bharata is described at length (111.24.5; XVI.130-92; 241-5; 250-54; XXXVIII.4-49). A different story of the origin of the social and political order is narrated in Hemachandra’s Adisvaracharita, and the story is found in Subodhika.

Adi Purana describes kshatra vrittam (Ch.XLII) concerned with rajavidya, which explains the contrast between the doctrine of dharma and sovereignty described as rajya, where rajya is described as a great evil. There is a strong antithesis between politics and ethics.

The king is the naradeva (God of men). Haribhadra (Dharmavindu 1-31) ad Hemacandra (Yogasastra 1-48) repeat Smriti views on the king. Coercive authority (danda) is dealt with by the Jain authors on conventional lines. Jinasena has followed Smriti tradition as the ideas of government with a strong Jain twist.

Yasastilaka of Somadeva develops the same tradition; however, he has discussed inter-state relations with some originality – application of fatalistic creed to politics, the application of materialistic creed to politics, the superiority of human effort to fate in the ruling of one’s affairs, a realistic treatment of politics, constant vigilance of king, his application of a complex and even contradictory behavior towards his subjects with the aim of internal consolidation and complete extermination of the enemy.

Somadeva (Nitivakyamritam) and Hemacandra (Laghuvarhaniti0 notwithstanding their strong Jain faith, drew their political  ideas almost exclusively from Smriti and Arthashastra tradition, especially as represent by Manu, Bhishma and Kautilya. Somadeva begins his work (1.1) significantly enough with salutation to sovereignty (rajya). Absence of government is better than government by fools and knaves (1.256).

Somadeva proposes that control of policy should be in the hands of civil authorities, and that the military be kept in a subordinate position. He followed Vedic tradition on the Saptanga theory, danda, vidya, diplomacy, war and peace, and so on. (Chap. XXX).

Hemachandra is more willing than Somadeva to introduce the ethical standards of his religious faith into political life, but he does not hesitate to recommend severe punishment of the death penalty when the crime justifies it. Moral considerations are confined by the Jainism authors mainly to internal administration.

While the Buddhist canonists in general deliberately make their characteristic principle of righteousness the foundation of governmental policies, the Jain authors no less emphatically ignore their distinctive moral principle of non-violence in deference to the needs of the state administration. Thus the great service done by Somadeva and Hemachandra, as well as their forgotten peers, lies in their acclimatization of the teachings of Smriti and Arthashastra tradition among the adherent of their faith.