Jain Philosophy (2) 28 – Jain Ägam Literature

Jain Philosophy (2) 28 – Jain Ägam Literature

Chapter 28 – Jain Ägam Literature


In most of religions, there is one or more main scripture books. Hinduism has the Gitä and 4 Vedas, Christians have the Bible, Muslims have the Koran, Persians have the Avesta, Sikhs have the Guru Grantha Sahib, and Buddhists have Tripitikas.  Likewise, Jains also have their own scriptures called Ägams or Ägam Sutras, also called the Jain Shruta. Jains do not have just one main scripture book, but they have many.

The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection, friendship, the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, and the principle of pluralisms (Anekäntaväda). It also teaches many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, Karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, and non_possessiveness.

After attaining Keval_jnän at the age of 42, Bhagawän Mahävir delivered sermons to the common people in local language called Ardha_Mägadhi Präkrit for next 30 years. These sermons were compiled orally into many texts by His immediate disciples called Ganadhars. First they have composed fourteen Purvas and then in twelve Anga_pravishtha Ägams also known as Dvädashängi (main canons).  All 14 Purvas are included in one part of the twelfth Anga_pravishtha Ägam, called Drashtiväda.

In addition to the twelve Anga_pravishtha Sutras composed by the Ganadhars, other canonical literature (Anga_bähya Ägams) composed on the basis of 12 Angas, by Shruta_kevalis (Sthavirs or elder monks) in an easier format for the understanding are also included as part of the Jain Ägams.

The Jain Ägams consist of 14 Purvas, 12 Anga Pravishtha Ägams and Anga_bähya Ägams (34 for Shvetämbar Murtipujak, 21 for Shvetämbar Sthänakaväsi and Teräpanthi, and 14 for Digambar) of different traditions.

Historically Ganadhars passed on the Ägam Sutras orally to their disciples who memorized and passed on to the next generations there after. This tradition of passing the knowledge from the memory in its total form lasted for about 160 years until Bhadrabähu Swami. After Bhadrabähu Swami the mental ability of Ächäryas gradually declined and they could not remember the entire Ägam_sutras. However 

  • As per Shvetämbar tradition, around 400 AD (800 years after Bhagawän Mahävir Nirvana) the memorized Ägam_sutras were written down. At that time no one remembered 14 Purvas and 12th Anga_Ägams. The remaining 11 Anga Ägams were partially remembered.
  • As per Digambars tradition, the written Ägam_sutras contain many errors and they did not accept them as original teaching of Bhagawän Mahävir. Hence they considered that all original Ägam_sutras are lost with time.

For some time after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana, the Jain Shramans did not pen their Ägams in book form, but preserved them by memorization.  They considered that possessing books would constitute violation of the vow of nonattachment and non_possession. Then came the time, when they totally changed their attitude towards the possession of books because there was a fear of the destruction of the Jain Ägams.  Whatever wealth of the Ägam, which was still extant at that time, remained protected and preserved.

Consistent with Shvetämbar Murtipujak beliefs, there are three Ägam temples, which have 45 Ägams engraved either on walls or on copper plates.  They are in Palitana, Surat and Shankheswar. There are several places (Jnän_mandirs) like Amdavad, Patan, Surat, Khambhat, Jesalmer, Pindvada, Mehsana, Ratalam, Ahor, Tharad, Guda, and Surendranagar where all Ägams are available.

Vächanä (Recensions)

In order to preserve Jain scriptures and other Jain literature, Jain Ächäryas assembled three times and prepared three recensions of the Jain literature. Whenever the Ächäryas saw that the Shruta was waning and that there was disorderliness into it, they assembled and established order in it.  No documentation occurred during the first recension but during the second and third conferences, most of the scriptures, commentaries, and other works were documented.


  Recension Place Time
01 Patliputra Recension @320 BC
02 Mathura and Vallabhi Recensions @380 AD
03 Vallabhi Recension @520 AD

First Vächanä in Patliputra (First Recension)

The Order of the Jain monks assembled in Patliputra about 160 years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana, and also after a terrible famine, which lasted for many years. At that time, the middle region of the country (Madhyadesh) was under the sway of this severe famine causing the dispersion of Jain monks in various directions.  Naturally, the Anga Ägam fell into a bad state.

The monks assembled after the famine, and asked one another what they could recollect and thus collected and arranged eleven of the twelve Angas.  However, they found that nobody recollected the entire Drashtiväda, the twelfth Anga.  At that time, Ächärya Bhadrabähu alone possessed the knowledge of the Drashtiväda, but he had taken recourse to the yogic path of a special sort and was in Nepal. Therefore, the Jain community requested Ächärya Sthulibhadra with many other monks to go to Bhadrabähu to learn the text of the Drashtiväda from him. The Drashtiväda, being the twelfth Anga Ägam book, contained fourteen Purva_sutras. Of those monks, Sthulibhadra alone was successful in acquiring the knowledge of it. After acquiring the knowledge of ten Purvas, he misused the miraculous power earned through this.  When Bhadrabähu came to know this, he stopped giving lessons to Sthulibhadra. After beseeching by Sthulibhadra and Sangha, he agreed to teach him only the text of remaining four Purvas, but he forbid Sthulibhadra to teach these four Purvas to others.

As a consequence of this, there existed the knowledge of 14 Purvas up to Sthulibhadra. After his death, the Order possessed the knowledge of eleven Angas and only ten Purvas. Sthulibhadra’s death occurred 215 years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana.

In short, of the twelve Angas (Anga_pravishtha) composed by the Ganadhars, eleven Angas bereft of the four Purvas were recovered by the Order assembled at the first council.

Second Vächanä in Vallabhipur and Mathura (Second Recension)

After this twelve years long famine, the monks assembled in Mathura under the leadership of Ärya Skandil and collected, and arranged the Kälik Shruta on the basis of what they could recall and recite.  Since this Vächanä was done in Mathura, it is called Mäthuri Vächanä. This happened about 830 years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana.

Synchronous with the council at Mathura, Ächärya Nägärjun convened a council of monks at Vallabhi (Saurashtra) and tried to collect and arrange the Ägams. Then they were written down and the recension was prepared after having corrected lengthy portions according to the context. The Vächanä is called the Nägärjun Vächanä as well.

Third Vächanä in Vallabhipur (Third Recension)

The Penning Down of Ägams by Devardhi_gani

Then a council of monks presided over by Kshamä_shraman Devardhi_gani was held at Vallabhi (Saurashtra), 150 years after the councils presided over by Skandil and Nägärjun at Mathura and Vallabhi respectively. It was decided to document all available Prakirna Sutras, and preserve the

Anga and other Sutras that were documented in the two former councils. In addition, the council was to bring uniformity in the Sutras as far as possible by resolving the differences in Sutras. Of course, the most important differences were documented in Churnis and Tikäs.

This task was accomplished 980 years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana. After that event, the text of most of the Ägam works available at present was finalized to the present time.

Jain Ägams

Both the Shvetämbars and the Digambars unanimously agree on the point that the Purva works have become extinct. There are several works, which refer to the Purvas. The Shatakhand_ägam and the Kashäya_präbhruta have been composed by the Digambar Ächäryas on the basis of the Purva works.  Many literatures recognized as Ägams by the Shvetämbars also have their source in the Purvas.


There are fourteen Purvas and they are huge.  The First Purva is written with a volume of the ink that is equivalent to the size of one elephant.  The Second one is two times larger, and third one is two times larger than second one and so on.  Here is the list and its subject matter:

No Name of Purva Subject Matter
01 Utpad Purva: Living (Jiva), non_living (Ajiva), and its modes (Paryaya)
02 Agrayaniya Purva: Nine realities (Navatattva), six substances (Shad Dravya), etc.
03 Virya_pravad Purva: Relating to energy of soul, non_living, etc.
04 Astinasti_pravad Purva Multiplicity of views (Anekantavada) Sapta_bhangi, etc
05 Jnan_pravad Purva Five types of knowledge and three types of ignorance etc.
06 Satya_pravad Purva Truth, Restraint, Silence (Maun), Speech, etc.
07 Atma_pravad Purva Analysis of soul from different angles (Naya)
08 Karma_pravad Purva Karma, its bondage, its nature, fruition, balance, etc.
09 Pratyakhyan_pravad Purva Giving up (Pachachakhan), restraint, detachment, etc.
10 Vidya_pravad Purva Expertise (Vidya), exceptional abilities, practice, etc.
11 Kalyan_pravad Purva Spiritual alertness (Apraamada), and laziness (Pramada)
12 Pranavay Purva Ten types of life substances (Prana), life span, etc.
13 Kriya_vishal Purva Art, 64 arts of women, 84 arts of men, etc.
14 Loka_bindusar Purva Three parts of universe, mathematics, etc.

Anga_pravishtha Ägams

There is no difference of opinion among the Jain sects on the point that the basic source of the entire Jain literature is a group of twelve Anga works composed by the Ganadhars. The Digambars maintain that within a period of time after the Nirvana of Tirthankar Mahävir, the Ägam preached by him have not been remembered in its entirety by Jain Shraman. However, the Shvetämbars tried to preserve the Ägams.  Having compiled them, they found many things, which have come down from ancient Ächäryas through oral tradition included in the Jain Ägams.

Jain Sects Total Anga_pravishtha Agams Numbers of Anga_pravishtha Agams Lost Numbers of Anga_pravishtha Agams Survived
Digambar 12 12 0
Shvetambar Murtipujak 12 1 11
Shvetambar Sthanakavasi 12 1 11
Shvetambar Terapanthi 12 1 11


Subject Matters of Anga_pravishtha Ägams:

Ächäränga Sutra (Äyäränga): This Ägam describes the conduct and behavior of ascetic life.  It also describes the penance of Bhagawän Mahävir.  This is the oldest Ägam from a linguistic point of view.

Sutra_krutänga Sutra (Suyagadänga_sutta): This Ägam describes nonviolence, Jain metaphysics, and the refutation of other religious theories such as Kriyä Väda, Akriyä_väda, Ajnänväda, and Vinaya_väda.

Sthänänga Sutra (Thänänga_sutta): This Ägam defines and catalogues the main substances of the Jain metaphysics.

Samavayanga Sutra: This Agam defines and catalogues the main substance of the Jain religion from a different perspective than the Sthänänga Sutra.

Vyäkhyä_prajnapti or Bhagavati Sutra (Viyäha_pannatti): This Ägam explains the subtle knowledge of soul, matter, and other related subjects. Thirty_six thousand (36000) questions and answers are presented in discussion form. It is the largest of the eleven Anga_pravishtha Ägams.


Jnätä_dharma_kathänga Sutra (Näyä_dhamma_kahä_sutta): This Ägam explains Jain principles through examples and stories.  This text is very useful in understanding the mode of Bhagawän Mahävir’s religious preaching.

Upäsaka_dashänga Sutra (Uväsagadasäo): This Ägam explains the code of conduct of the ten lay followers (Shrävaks) of Bhagawän Mahävir.  This Ägam is very useful for understanding the code and conduct of lay followers (Shrävak Dharma) in the Jain religion.

Antakrit_dashänga Sutra (Antagadadasäo): This Ägam tells the stories of ten sacred monks attaining liberation (Moksha) by destroying their karma.

Anuttaraupa_pätika_dashänga Sutra (Anuttarova_väiya_dasäo): This Ägam contains the stories of an additional ten sacred monks who attained the topmost heaven, known as Anuttara heaven.

Prashna_vyäkarana Sutra (Panhä_vägaranäim): This Ägam describes the five great vows(Mahä_vratas) and the five worst sins defined in the Jain religion.

Vipäk Sutra (Viväga_suyam): This Ägam explains the results of good and bad karma through several stories.

Drashtiväda Sutra: The twelfth Anga_pravishtha Ägams, Drashtiväda is considered lost by all Jain Sects.  The description, which is found in the other Jain Sutras relating to Drashtiväda, indicates that this Anga_pravishtha Ägam was the largest of all Ägam Sutras. It was classified in five parts, (1) Parikarma (2) Sutra (3) Purvagata (4) Pratham Anuyoga and (5) Chulikä. The third part, Purvagata contained 14 Purvas.  They contained the Jain religion’s endless treasure of knowledge on every subject.

Anga_bähya Ägams

In addition to the twelve Anga works composed by the Ganadhars, other canonical literature, (Anga_bähya) which was composed by Sthavirs or elder monks are also included as part of the Jain Ägams.  Such Sthavirs are of two types, Shruta_kevalis (one who comprehends the entire Shruta_14 Purvas) and Das_purvis (one who has acquired knowledge of the ten Purvas). Shruta_kevalis are those, who are especially well versed in the meaning and essence of the Ägams.

The Digambar sect believes that all Anga_bähya Ägams were also gradually lost starting about two hundred years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana.  Hence, in their opinion, the complete Jain Ägam literature was lost within a few hundred years of Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana.

The Digambar have accepted 14 works, the Shvetambars 34 works, and the Sthanakavasis 21 works as Anga_bahya Agams.

Jain Sects Total Anga_bahya Agams Number of Anga_bahya Agams Lost Number of Anga_bahya Agams Survived
Digambar 14 14 0
Shvetambar Murtipujak 34 0 34
Shvetambar Sthanakavasi 21 0 21
Shvetambar Terapanthi 21 0 21

Per Shvetämbar tradition, Anga_bähya Ägams are Upänga_sutras, Chheda_sutras, Mool_sutras, Chulikä_sutras and Prakirna_sutras.

Upänga Sutras:

The scriptures, which were created in relation to Anga_pravishtha Ägams, are called Upänga Ägams.  They provide further explanation of the Anga_pravishtha Ägams.

Aupapätika Sutra (Ovaväiyam): This Ägam describes the splendid procession (view) of King Konika when he visited Bhagawän Mahävir.  It also explains how a person can attain heaven in the next life.

Räja_prashniya Sutra (Räyä_pasena_ijja): This Ägam describes the story of Monk Keshi. Monk Keshi was the Ganadhar of Bhagawän Pärshvanäth. He removed the doubts of King Pradeshi regarding the existence and attributes of the soul.  Monk Keshi made the king a follower of the Jain religion.  After his death, the king was born in heaven as a Deva. He appeared from heaven to shower Bhagawän Mahävir with unprecedented pomp and splendor. The thirty_two dramas (plays) described in this Ägam throw light upon the ancient dramatic art of India.

Jiväbhigama Sutra: This Ägam describes the universe and the subtle description of all living beings (souls) of the universe.  It gives very important information to the scholars of biology and botany.

Prajnäpanä Sutra (Pannavanä): This Ägam describes the form and attributes of souls from a different perspective.

Surya_prajnapti Sutra (Suriya_pannatti): This Ägam describes the Sun, the planets and the associated mathematics regarding their motion.

Chandra_prajnapti Sutra: This Ägam describes the Moon, the planets and the associated, mathematics regarding their motion.  Both of these Upängas, the Chandra Prajnapti and Surya_prajnapti, are very important in understanding the astrology of olden times.

Jambudvipa_prajnapti Sutra: This Ägam provides a description of Jambudvipa. Jambudvipa is a big island located in the center of the middle world as explained in Jain geography. It also provides information on ancient kings.

Nirayärvali Sutra: This Ägam describes the story of ten brother princes. All ten princes fought with King Chetak of Vaishäli in cooperation with king Konika. King Chetak was the half brother of the ten princes. In the end, all ten princes went to hell after dying in war.

Kalpä_vatansikä Sutra (Kappävadamsiäo): This Ägam describes the story of King Konika’s children.  They did not fight with King Chetak in the war.  They renounced the world and became monks.  After their death, they went to heaven.

Pushpikä Sutra (Puspiäo): This Ägam describes the previous lives of certain Devas (angels) who worshiped Bhagawän Mahävir.

Pushpa_chulikä Sutra: This Ägam describes stories similar to those in the Pushpikä. Vrashnidashä Sutra (Vanhidasäo): This Ägam explains how Bhagawän Neminäth convinced ten kings in the Vrashni region to follow the Jain religion.


The subject matter described in the Chheda_sutras is for ascetics and not for lay people. It provides the rule of conduct, punishment, and repentance for ascetics. It also explains how they can repent for their sins and mistakes.

Nishitha Sutra (Nisiha): This Ägam explains the procedure of repentance (Präyashchitta) in the form of punishment for the monks and nuns who have violated the rules of ascetics.

Vyavahär Sutra*: This Ägam describes the system of confession for monks and nuns who fall from proper conduct. It explains the qualifications of the listening monk or nun and with what sort of feeling the confession should be made.  It also explains what sort of repentance (Präyashchitta) the monk should perform.  There are several other indications of the limits of ascetic life.Brahat_kalpa Sutra: This Ägam explains which of the ten kinds of repentance (Präyashchittas) is appropriate for a particular wrongdoing done by monks and nuns. It also defines the acceptable conduct of monks and nuns.

Dashä_shruta_skandha Sutra (Ächäradashä): There are ten chapters in this Sutra. It contains information relating to 20 places of Asamädhi, 21 major faults bringing weakness in conduct, 33

Äshätanäs of Guru, 8 Sampadäs of Ächäryas and their kinds, 10 places of Chitta Samädhi, 11

Pratimäs of layperson, 12 Pratimäs of ascetics (monks and nuns), Kalpa_Sutra (recited during the Paryushan), 30 places of bondage of Mohaniya Karma and 9 Nidänas (Niyane)

Pancha_kalpa Sutra *: This sutra explains the daily rituals the monks and nuns have to perform. Only scattered chapters of this Ägam are now available.  However, the commentaries (Bhäsya and Churni) written about this Ägam by some elder monks are available.

Mahä_nishitha Sutra: This Ägam explains the process of confession and repentance (Präyashchitta) for monks and nuns.  It explains the magnitude of pain one has to suffer if he or she breaks the fourth vow (celibacy).  It also describes and explains the conduct of good and bad monks.


The scriptures, which are essential for monks and nuns to study in the early stages of their ascetic life, are called Mool_sutras.

Ävashyaka Sutra: The daily rituals or essentials, which are necessary to perform during the day and night for the purification of the soul, are called Ävashyaka. A description of the six essentials (Ävashyaka) is explained in this Ägam.  The six essentials are, Sämäyika, Chaturvimshati_stava, Vandanä, Pratikraman, Käyotsarga, and Pratyäkhyäna.

Dasha_vaikälika Sutra: This Ägam briefly describes and explains the conduct of ascetic life.

Uttarädhyayan Sutra: This Ägam has the same place in Jain literature as the Dhammapada in Buddhism and the Gitä in the Hindu religion.  It contains preaching regarding religious principles and practices and many stories, dialogues, and examples based on such principles and practices.

Ogha_niryukti or Pinda_niryukti Sutra*: This Ägam explains certain rules and procedures for monks with respect to traveling, staying, and accepting food and other necessities from lay people.


The scriptures, which enhance or decorate the meaning of Anga_pravishtha Ägams are known as Chulikä_sutras or some times known as Chulikä.

Nandisutra: This Ägam contains an elaborate description of Tirthankars, Ganadhars, and five types of Knowledge (Jnän); Mati, Shruta, Avadhi, Manah_paryava, and Keval_jnän.

Anuyoga_dvära Sutra: This Ägam provides the description of many rights regarding the mode of preaching.


The scriptures, which describe independent or miscellaneous subjects of the Jain religion, are known as Prakirna_sutra.

Chatuh_sharana *: This Ägam contains prayers to the four benevolent beings: a) Arihanta – God in the form of a perfect human being, b) Siddha – God in the form of pure consciousness, c) Sädhu – Ascetics and d) Dharma – Religion

Ätur_pratyäkhyäna (Äura_pachchakkhäna)*: This Ägam describes the types of vows a wise person should take during various states of illness and how at the time of the death he should beg the pardon of all living beings in the universe.

Bhakta_parijnä (Bhatta_parinnä)*: This Ägam describes the process of fasting and how one should reflect at the time of death.

Sanstäraka (Santhäraga)*: This Ägam describes the process of dying by one’s own desire and its glory.

Tandulavaitälika*: This Ägam describes the state of pregnancy and provides knowledge about the human body.

Chandra_vedhyaka*: This Ägam describes the method of concentrated meditation (Dhyäna) that one should observe through the description of Rädhävedha.

Devendra_stava*: This Ägam describes the names, positions, and residences of Devas (angels) that live in heaven. It also provides a description of the moon, sun, planets, and stars. Ganita_vidyä*: This Ägam describes palmistry and how it is used to predict the future (Nimitta).

Mahä_pratyäkhyäna*: This Ägam explains how to completely give up the worst sins and how to repent these sins.

Virastava*: This Ägam is considered lost.  However, it appears from literature referencing this Ägam that it contained prayers of Bhagawän Mahävir.

Note*: the Sthänakaväsi and Teräpanthi Jain sects do not recognize 13 Anga_bähya Ägams. Following is the list of number of Anga_bähya Ägams recognized as authentic scriptures by different Jain Shvetämbar Sects:

Category of Anga_bahya Agams Shvetambar Murtipujak Sthanakavasi and Terapanthi
Upanga Agams 12 12
Chheda_sutra Agams 6 4
Mool_sutra Agams 4 3
Chulika_sutra Agams 2 2
Prakirna_sutra Agams 10 None
Total Anga_bahya Agams 34 21

Though the Digambars contend that Sthavirs composed the fourteen Anga_bähya Ägams different from the twelve Anga Ägams, they also believe that those Anga_bähya Ägams too have become extinct. The titles of these fourteen Anga_bähya Ägams are:

1         Sämäyika                      Descriptions about equanimity

2         Chaturvimshati_Stava  Name of 24 Tirthankars, Kalyänaks, special powers (Atishaya), ways of their worship as a group.

3         Vandanä                       Ways to worship one Tirthankar in their temple etc.

4         Pratikraman                  Description of seven types of Pratikraman.

5         Vainayiks                      Description of five appropriateness of Vinaya.

6         Kritikarma                      Ways to worship Arihantas, Siddhas, Ächäryas, and Sädhus.

7         Desävakäsika                  Ways to offer Ähär or Gochari to Monks.

8         Uttarädhyayan              Ways to deal with calamities,  and to tolerate 24 Parishahas by Monks.

9         Kalpa_Vyavahär           Ways for repentance by Monks on inappropriate conduct.

10       Kalpakalpik                   Appropriate and inappropriate ness in reference to subject, area, time and thoughts (Bhäva), in the conduct of Monks

11       Mahäkalpik                    Activity of Monks in relation to time and powers of body (Samvahanan) of a Monk

12       Pundarik                        Reasons for achieving four types of celestial realm.

13       Mahä_Pundarik             Reasons for becoming Indra or Prati_Indra with special reference to penance etc.

14       Nisithik                          Ägam that contains various types of repentances.

Commentaries on the Ägams

The commentaries on the Ägams have been written in Präkrit and Sanskrit. Those written in Präkrit are known as Niryukti, Bhäsya, and Churni.  Niryuktis and Bhäsyas are composed in verses while Churnis are in prose.

Bhadrabähu II composed all the present Niryuktis.  He flourished in the fifth or sixth century V.S (Vikram Samvat). In his Niryuktis, he conducted philosophical discussions in an attractive style. He laid the firm foundation of the Jain philosophy by writing on the subjects of Pramäna, Naya, and Nikshepa.

One should study the Bhäsyas if one wants to have a complete picture of the full discussion on any particular subject that had been carried on till the date of their composition. Among the  authors of the Bhäsyas, Samghadäs_gani and Jinabhadra are famous. They belong to the seventh century.

The Churnis that are available to us belong to the seventh or the eighth century. Among the authors of the Churnis, Jindäs Mahattar is famous.

The oldest Sanskrit commentaries on the Ägams are those written by Ächärya Haribhadra. He has been assigned to the periods between 757 V.S and 857 V.S.  Haribhadra had mainly given the Sanskrit version of the Präkrit Churnis.

After Haribhadra, Shilänk_suri wrote Sanskrit commentaries in the tenth century.

After Shilänk_suri, the famous Sanskrit commendatory by Santya_ächärya flourished. He wrote Brahat_tikä on the Uttarädhyayan.

After him, the well – known commentator Abhaydev, who, lived from 1072 to 1134 V.S., wrote Sanskrit commentaries on nine Angas.

Here we should mention the name of Maladhäri Hemchandra who was also a Sanskrit commentator. He was a scholar of the twelfth century.

However, among the authors of Sanskrit commentaries on the Ägams, Malayagiri holds the supreme position. He was a contemporary of Ächärya Hemchandra.

Other scholars started writing Bälävabodha commentaries in contemporary Apabhramsha, which is an old Gujarati language.

Dharmasimha Muni of the 18th century rejects the interpretation given in the old commentaries and gives his own interpretation.  However, his interpretation fits in well with the tenets of his own sect (Loka Gachchha), which had arisen in opposition to idol worship 

Digambar Literature

The Digambar sect believes that there were 26 Ägam_sutras (12 Anga_pravishtha Ägams + 14 Anga_bähya Ägams). However, they were gradually partially forgotten starting from one hundred fifty years after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana. Hence, they do not recognize the existing Ägam_sutras (which are recognized by the Shvetämbar sects) as their authentic scriptures.

In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambars follow two main texts, three commentaries on the main texts, and four Anuyogas consisting of more than 20 texts as the basis for their religious philosophy and practices. These scriptures were written by great Ächäryas (scholars) from 100 to 1000 AD.  They have used the original Ägam Sutras as the basis for their work.

Shatakhand Ägam

The Shatakhand Ägam is also known as Mahä_kamma_payadi Pähuda or Mahä_karma Prakriti Präbhrut.  Two Ächäryas, Pushpadanta and Bhutabali around 160 AD wrote it.  The second Purva Ägam named Agräyaniya was used as the basis for this text. The text contains six volumes.  Ächärya Virsen wrote two commentary texts, known as Dhavalä_tikä on the first five volumes and Mahä Dhavalä_tikä on the sixth volume of this scripture, around 780 AD.

Kashäya_pähuda or Kashäya_präbhruta:

Ächärya Gunadhara wrote the Kashäya_pähuda.  The fifth Purva Ägam named Jnän_praväd was used as a basis for this scripture.  Ächärya Virsen and his disciple, Jinsen, wrote a commentary text known as Jay Dhavalä_tikä around 780 AD.

List of Digambar texts as they are used in absence of Original Scriptures:

Shatakhand_ägam or Ächärya 160 AD
Mahä_kamma_payadi Pushpadanta and  
Pähuda or Mahä_karma Bhutabali  
Prakriti Präbhrut a

Kashäya_pähuda or



Kashaya_prabhruta Dhavala_tika Commentary on Shatakhand Agam Vol. 1 to 5 Gunadhara Virsen 780 AD
Maha_dhavala_tika Commentary on Shatakhand Agam Vol.6 Virsen 780 A.D.
Jayadhavala_tika Commentary on Kashaya_pahuda Virsen and Jinsen 780 A.D.

Four Anuyogas:

Pratham Anuyoga / Dharma_kathä Anuyoga (Religious Stories)

This Anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain religious stories, art, literature, history, poetry, and like literature.

Padma Purän Ravisen 650 AD
Harivamsa Purän Jinsen II 783 AD
Ädi Purän Jinsen II 783 AD
Uttar Purän Gunabhadra 879 AD

Charan Anuyoga (Conduct)

This Anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain principles of observances, conduct, behavior, and like literature 

Mulachar Vattaura 600 A.D.
Trivarnachar Vattaura 600 A.D.
Ratna_karanda Shravakachar Samantabhadra 600 A.D.

Karan Anuyoga / Ganita Anuyoga (Mathematics)

This Anuyoga expounded the texts, which had mathematical viewpoints. It consists of the following texts, which contain geography, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and like literature.


Surya_prajnapti Unknown  
Chandra_prajnapti Unknown
Jayadhavalä_tikä Virsen/Jinsen 780 AD
Gommatsär Nemichandra Siddhänt 1000 AD

Dravya Anuyoga (Philosophy)

This Anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain philosophical doctrines, theories, metaphysics, Tattva_jnän, and like literature.

Niyamasar Kunda_Kunda 100 AD
Panchastikaya Kunda_Kunda 100 AD
Pravanchansar Kunda_Kunda 100 AD
Samaysar Kunda_Kunda 100 AD
Tattvartha_Sutra Umasvati 200 AD
Commentary on Tattvartha_Sutra Samantabhadra 600 AD
Commentary on Tattvartha_Sutra Pujyapad 700 AD
Commentary on Tattvartha_Sutra Akalank 750 AD
Commentary on Tattvartha_Sutra Vidyanand 800 AD
Apta_mimamsa Samantabhadra 600 AD
Commentary on Apta_mimamsa Akalank 750 AD
Commentary on Apta_mimamsa Vidyanand 800 AD

Non_ägam Literature

Jains have tens of thousands of books, which are not considered part of the Jain Ägams. These non_ägam literature works consist of commentary and explanation of Ägam literature and independent works compiled by ascetics and scholars.  They are written in many languages such as Präkrit, Sanskrit, Apabhramsha (old Gujarati), Old Marathi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German, and English.

Examples of a few Digambar non_ägam books are already discussed in the “Digambar Literature section.  Examples of few Shvetämbar non_ägam books are: Shri Tattvärtha Sutra, Shri Sanmati_tarka, Shri Pramäna_naya, Shri Syädväda_ratnäkar, Shri Vishesh_ävashyak_mahäbhäshya, Shri Tattvälokälankär, Shri Kamma_payadi, Shri Dharma_parikshä, Shri Dharma Sangrahani, Shri Yogadrashti_samuchchaya, Shri Yoga_shästra, Shri Yogabindu, Shri Anekänta_Jayapatäkä, Shri Shästra_värtä_samuchchaya, Shri Jnänsär, Shri Ädhyätma_sär, Shri Ädhyätma_ätma_parikshä, Shri Anyayoga_vyavachchhedikä, Shri Shänt_sudhäras, etc.

Some Sacred Books

All Jain sects unanimously consider Shri Tattvärtha_Sutra as the main Jain textbook today. In this section, we will give glimpses of Shri Tattvärtha_Sutra, Shri Uttarädhyayan Sutra (Shvetämbar scripture), and Shri Samaysär (Digambar sacred book). These are the three main textbooks used today.

Uttarädhyayan_Sutra (Ägam Literature)

Uttarädhyayan_Sutra is one of the most important scriptural texts and is the third Mool Ägam_sutra. Traditionally, it is said to contain the last sermons of Bhagawän Mahävir. Many scholars presume that the current text seems to be a composite work of various dates. However, it is one of the earliest texts equivalent to the primary texts.

This text has various ways of narrating the Jain principles. They have been illustrated through the parables, the anecdotes, the episodes and the historical stories. It contains 36 chapters. Nearly a third of them have the historical stories and the episodes. Some early chapters contain the parables and the concepts of Jainism.  The variety of methods applied in the text makes the book highly illustrative and interesting.  The text is now available with translations into many languages: German, English, Hindi, Gujarati, etc.  Its first English translation was published as early as in 1895. It is now available under the sacred books of the east vol. 45. There are many short and long commentaries on this text written since the ninth century AD. With the help of these translations, any person can read, understand and estimate the value of the book.

Let us now turn to the summary of the content of this important text.  The book tells us that human life is rare and difficult to attain.  However, it is human life, which leads us to ultimate happiness.  Hence, it is necessary to make the best use of the human life. One must try to enrich it with the highest human values and enlightenment.  It allures people towards the ascetic life, which is a life of better internal happiness.  The text tells us that there are four things, which are rare:

  • Human life
  • Sermons of the Jinas
  • Right or rational vision, and
  • Right conduct of restraints.

One must realize that Mahävir was the highest among the ascetics of his days. He had many followers with proper faith and understanding.  He inspired many people to his path as a means of the outer and the inner happiness of the permanent nature. He also laid stress as an ascetic, the path of detachment, where one would have to face 22 types of difficulties. One will have to bear many hardships of a physical and mental nature to transform oneself as a true ascetic.

Uttarädhyayan Sutra teaches us many points of ascetic life through the stories of Kapila, Nami, Mrugaputra, Sanjay, Rathanemi, Jay_ghosha, Vijay_ghosha, and many more. They suggest that ascetic life accrues from the previous good Karma.  One must think and act well all the time.  A chapter tells us the story of an ascetic who is not given the due regard by high caste people.  Later on, his sermons yield him the credit.  Mahävir says the asceticism can be cultivated without any restrictions of the caste and creed.  This is the basis of universality of the religion.

The text mentions that carelessness and indolence is not good. Too much attachment or indulgence is also bad. The ambitions and desires of the men are limitless.  They cause dissatisfaction and lead to an unhappy life.  One should practice cultivation of the good qualities, which may moderate the obstructive attitudes. To get away from bad actions and thoughts is the best sacrifice one can have.

A good number of chapters describe the basic tenets of the Jain system. The practice of these tenets is the milestone of the inner and outer purification. The Karma theory is the essence of the Jain system.  The practice of equanimity (Sämäyika) and meditation has been described. The theory of Leshyä (state of mind and karmic stains) is one of the most important psychological principles that reflect one’s thought process.

The Jainism is an action oriented religion.  However, the action bears the result only when performed with meticulous care without lapses of omission and commission.

The last chapter is very important for us.  It gives us the details about the living and the non_living world.  It deals with physics, chemistry, botany and zoology. The nonviolence has been described in chapters dealing with the different qualities and vows of the ascetics.

Kalpa_sutra (Ägam Literature)

Traditionally most revered scripture for Shvetämbar is Kalpa_sutra, read during fourth to eighth day of Paryushan. Kalpa means an activity, which enhances religious knowledge, conduct and self_control.  This scripture, which gives rules for monastic life during rainy season, was originally the eighth chapter of the Anga_bähya Ägam Dashä_shruta Skandha. The chapter has in fact been made into a separate book, to which are appended both a collective biography of the Tirthankars, and a lineage of successors to the Ganadhars. Ächärya Bhadrabähu composed these three chapters in Ardha_Mägadhi language, collectively called Kalpa_sutra in 3rd century B.C. and it has 1216 verses. In 454 A. D., for the first time it was penned down on palm_leaf during Vallabhipur recension. Traditionally it was recited only among Sädhus during Paryushan. However, the Kalpa_sutra has been recited in public for over 1500 years, ever since Devardhi_gani chanted it before King Dhruvsen of Vallabhi to relieve the king’s grief over the death of his son. In 1879, a German scholar named Herman Jacobi translated and printed the Kalpa_sutra for the first time.

It has a very detailed and lively description of Bhagawän Mahävir’s life as well as narration of His previous 27 lives. Poetic depiction of the dreams of mother Trishalä, celebration of the birth of Tirthankar Mahävir, few incidents of His childhood, procession for Dikshä, the account of the calamities endured by Him during the monastic life, and the elucidation of Keval_jnän and Nirvana creates a live picture in listener’s mind and builds an atmosphere of reverence. Lives of Tirthankar Rishabhadev, Neminäth and Pärshvanäth are also narrated in detail. On Samvatsari day, entire scripture is read with great reverence.

Shri Samaysär (Non_ägam Literature)

Ächärya Shri Kunda_Kunda Swämi wrote Shri Samaysär around 100 AD. About 800 years later, in the 10th century, Shri Amrita Chandra Ächärya wrote a critique on Samaysär. It is called Ätmakhyäti.  Shri Jaysen and Amratchandra Ächäryas also wrote critiques in the Sanskrit language.  In this century, Shri Känji_swämi gave a detailed analysis on Samaysär in a lecture series in Gujarati, which is an easily understandable language for many laypeople. Samaysär has been translated into many languages including Sanskrit, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, English, etc.  This text mainly explains the Jain philosophical doctrine of soul. It explains all the 9 reals (Tattvas) from an absolute point of view.  It insists that the soul’s bondages are not due to Karma but to one’s own weaknesses in effort making (Purushärtha). Liberation of soul will occur once he makes his own efforts. The scriptures and the enlightened preceptors are only to guide the soul in the right direction. Shri Kunda_Kunda Swämi said that from time immortal the soul has forgotten himself, his own true nature.  Ächärya Shri exposed this fact and showed the real path of salvation by understanding the philosophy of soul. He showed uniqueness of soul from other substances and their modes.  Importance of right faith has been stressed in greater detail. The text maintains that right faith is the first step towards salvation. The vows, penance, worship, prayer, etc of the right conduct follow the right faith.  It stresses that one must forgo wrong belief first to start religious progress.  From an absolute point of view, the soul is pure, but from the practical point of view, Karma are attached to the soul by principal cause – auxiliary cause relationship.  The main attribute of the soul is knowledge, which can  be experienced by any living being, and has been given great importance in this book.

This book has 415 aphorisms and it is divided into 9 chapters.  They are as follows:

  • Living and non_living
  • Agent and his action
  • Good deeds and bad deeds
  • Inflow of Karma
  • Stoppage of Karma
  • Shedding of Karma
  • Bondage
  • Liberation
  • Total and pure knowledge

If one can understand this text, which is mainly written from an absolute point of view, then his understanding of soul’s true nature will widen.  He will thereafter believe that ultimately the good deeds and bad deeds both are to be given up to obtain right faith and ultimately salvation. The ultimate goal is the purification of the soul and by remaining in its own innate form. To achieve this goal, one has to use these instruments such as penance, vows, prayers, etc, which are not to be considered as total fulfillment.

Ächärya Kunda_Kunda

Not much is been known about his life.  He was born in a small village named Korari in the District of Guntoor in Andhra Pradesha, India.  He renounced the world at age of 11 and became monk, and after 33 years of meditation and penance, at the age of 44, he was bestowed the honor of Ächärya. He wrote in Mägadhi and Präkrit languages. He lived to the age of 95. He transferred his Ächärya status to his disciple Umäsvämi (digambar tradition). Ächärya Jaysen wrote in his commentary of Samaysär that he, through his spiritual powers traveled through his Audärika_Sharira to Videha_Kshetra listened to the sermons of Simandhar swami to enlighten his knowledge.

Tattvärtha Sutra (Non_ägam Literature)

Most of the sacred literature of the Jains is written in the Ardha_Mägadhi language. This was the public language in those days.  However, times changed.  Sanskrit became the royal and elite language.  The Jain scholars also started writing their religious and other texts in Sanskrit. Tattvärtha Sutra is the first such Jain text in terse aphoristic form. It has two more names: Tattvärtha Adhigama sutra (manual for knowledge of true nature of things or realities) and Moksha Shästra (tenets of salvation).  However, it is popularly known as the Tattvärtha Sutra.

The name Tattvärtha Sutra consists of three Sanskrit words: Tattva (true nature), Artha (things or realities) and sutra (aphorisms of few words).  It may, therefore, be called “Aphoristic Text on the true nature of realities” This indicates the content of the text.

There is no definite information about when this text was composed. However, it is agreed that it must have been composed during the age of elegant aphorisms. The early Christian centuries have almost every philosophical or religious system in the east putting their tenets in short and sweet form.  Brahm_Sutra, Yoga_Sutra, Vaisheshika_Sutra, Nyäya_Sutra etc, represent aphoristic texts of different systems.  Tattvärtha Sutra represents aphoristic text of the Jain system.  It must have been composed during 200_400 AD.

Ächärya Shri Umäsväti’s or Umasvämi’s creation of the Tattvärtha Sutra is the greatest gift to Jains and is accepted by all the sects.

Not much is known about the details of his life.  He was born in a Brahmin family in the village Nayogradhika. His father was Swati and his mother was Vatti.

He renounced the world under Ächärya Ghoshnandi Shvetämbar tradition or Ächärya Kund Kunda Digambar tradition. According to the inscriptions found by the archeologists, he is said to be from either the early second century AD. or late first century AD.

He is said to have been very learned in various Hindu, Vedic and Buddhist philosophies along with extensive knowledge of geography, astronomy, philosophy of soul and life etc.

Historians called him the most knowledgeable person in the language of Sanskrit. Jain scholars recognized him to be the first one to write in Sanskrit.

The Tattvärtha sutra as described below is the most complete assembly of Jain scriptures and understandably acceptable to all sectors of Jains.

There is a story about the origin of Tattvärtha sutra:

There was a learned scholar of the scriptures named Siddhaya. He once wrote on a piece of paper “faith, knowledge and conduct is the path to Moksha” and left his house for some reason. By chance that day, Ächärya Shri Umäsväti took Ähär (alms) at his house and happened to see that written statement by the scholar Siddhaya and added the word “right” in the beginning of his statement to read “right faith, knowledge, conduct is the path to Moksha”. When Siddhaya returned home he asked his mother who wrote this word before his sentence. After learning about Umäsväti from his mother, he went to the Ächärya and asked about Moksha and ways to attain it.  The answers to his questions, is the basis for creation of Tattvärtha Sutra.

This text contains 344 or 357 aphorisms.  The text contents are related with all major theoretical and practical aspects of the Jain system.  It is a small text but it describes Jainism to its fullest excellently.  It represents an epitome of Jainism.  This book has ten chapters of uneven length containing the above number of aphorisms.  The subject content is not new. However, it has brought together all the earlier scattered material for the first time in a structured system. It consists of all the necessary fundamentals of Jainism. It describes the realities in the world and their true nature. Its contents are as appropriate as its name.

The Jain principles have been described here both spiritually and scientifically. It mentions that the object of a successful life is to attain ultimate, permanent inner happiness or salvation. It cannot be fulfilled until we have a threefold coordinated path of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.  The path cannot be followed until we have the right knowledge about the realities of the world. The right knowledge could be obtained either by self intuition or it could be obtained through listening, reading and analyzing the scriptures with the help of the enlightened souls and spiritual teachers. It is necessary that the knowledge be very right. The criteria could be satisfied only when one critically evaluates our information through different organs of knowledge and viewpoints.  This is the same process we apply even today to get useful knowledge.

The text not only describes the methods of obtaining knowledge about the outer world, but it also describes how to attain knowledge about the inner world.  This requires purification of the body, the mind and speech through austerities and meditation.  During the elaboration, it points out the details of seven types of verbal and nonverbal viewpoints and the theory of manifold predications. These are the basics for obtaining the right knowledge.  With the right knowledge comes the right faith. With right faith and right knowledge to start with, the right conduct follows.

Umäsväti must be given credit to arrange these elements in proper order with respect to the process involved and the principles of human psychology. The earlier literature shows the numerical and ordinal variations.  Umäsväti, thus, systematized the Jain system with a logical sequence.

There are infinite numbers of living beings in this universe and every living being wants to be happy.  However, everyone’s approach to attain happiness is not the same. The majority depends on material things to be happy.  They try to satisfy their desires by external means. Their happiness is dependent on external means.  This type is a temporary happiness which is followed by unhappiness and more desires.  This involves s  lf efforts (Purushärtha) to earn (Artha) to satisfy the desires.   Our great Ächäryas have labeled these types of living beings as less developed. Then there are some who depend on spiritual approaches (internal means) to be happy.  These approaches are self dependent and it involves self efforts to practice dharma to attain everlasting happiness (Moksha).  These living beings are called more developed living beings


Therefore, the subject of this canonical book is everlasting happiness (Moksha) and in the first Sutra (aphorism) of the first chapter – three essential components to attain everlasting happiness (Moksha) are introduced.

  • The first verse of the first chapter is “Samyag_darshan_jnän_chäriträni Moksha Märgah”.

This is the nutshell of Jainism in some respect.  It means that right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct collectively only are the path to liberation (Moksha). The next three verses mention the seven elements.  The rest of the first chapter deals with the process of cognition and details about different types of knowledge. The details about right conduct are included in chapters eight and nine.

  • The Second, third and fourth chapters deal with the Soul (Jiva) The Second chapter deal with the Soul (Jiva)

The Third chapter deals with description of hell, Hellish beings, Human beings and Animals and Jain geography.

The Fourth chapter deals with heaven and Heavenly beings.

  • The Fifth chapter deals with the Non_soul (Ajiva).
  • The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth chapters deal with the various types of karma and their manifestations and the inflow and the bondage of the karma. (Bandha and Äsrava)
  • The Ninth chapter describes the stoppage and shedding off the karma. (Samvar and Nirjarä)
  • The Tenth chapter is about the complete liberation of the soul or the Moksha. (Moksha)


The Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadhars and Shruta_kevalis, is known as Ägam literature.  These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain religion. The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12 Anga_pravishtha Ägams and 3) Anga_bähya Ägams (34 for Shvetämbar Murtipujak, 21 for Shvetämbar Sthänakaväsi and 14 for Digambar).

All sects agree that 14 Purvas and Drashtiväda, the 12th Anga_pravishtha Ägam are extinct. Digambars believe that all Jain Ägams are extinct, whereas the Shvetämbar sects accept the existing Jain Ägams as authentic teachings of Bhagawän Mahävir. However, Shvetämbar Murtipujak believe that there are 34 Anga_bähya Ägams existing while Shvetämbar Sthänakaväsi believe that there are 21 Anga_bähya Ägams existing.

The composition of the scriptures has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation.  The Ägam Sutras teach eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, and the principle of non_one_sidedness. It also teaches many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, Karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, and non_possessiveness.






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