Jain Cosmology. Collette Caillat, Ravi Kumar.

Jain Cosmology

Chicago: Ravi Kumar, 2004. 10.5 x 12", 196 pp., color frontispiece, 108 color plates, bibliography, index of names and words, list of plates, cloth, d.j., Chicago, 2004. Item #126
ISBN: 1588860582

Cosmology is one of the subjects that are dealt with already in the old Jaina treatises composed in Middle Indian languages. Transmitted by means of the later summaries of the Doctrine and explained by detailed commentaries, they are the basis of the minutely elaborated manuals of the Middle Ages, such as the Langhu-ksetra-samara, 'the elementary summary of geography', and several other samgraharis, or 'collections' of 'geographical', 'astronomical' teachings. Even in the present days, they are reprinted and accompanied by translations into the modern vernaculars.

These editions are provided with summary tables and are illustrated with line drawings and color plates. They are all the more in demand because they play a part in the religious teaching given occasionally to the lay people by the pundits. The samgrahanis and cosmological works are known from a large number of manuscripts, which are adorned with miniatures inspired by the descriptions given in the text or the commentaries. Most of the illustrations, and certainly the most important of them, are found with minor variations from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

The brightly colored plates in the present volume mostly reproduce illustrations from Jain manuscripts of such cosmological treatises that have been collected by Ravi Kumar. They show the seven hells that make the huge lower world, the upper world with various levels of heavens, the smaller but extremely important middle world in some parts of which the human beings live. The pictures are commented upon by Collette [sic] Caillat. Thus the reader is able to follow and understand the jivas or souls wanderings in the samsara, before they finally reach the Perfection, the siddhi. A gigantic theater where transmigration and reincarnations take place, in one or other of the four modes of life - infernal, animal, divine, and human - the cosmos is capable, at the cost of strenuous efforts and long struggles, of being understood and overcome by man''s purely spiritual cognition. At the end of its ordeals, having regained its purity, the soul will leave its mortal remains to leap in a straight line, instantaneously, right to the summit of the universe, under the umbrella-shaped canopy which shelters the company of the perfected ones (siddhas) in their supreme detachment.

Price: $75.00