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HereNow4U.net :: Article Archive | Tattvārtha Sūtra

Tattvārtha Sūtra

Posted: 29.06.2009
Updated on: 30.07.2015

1.0 Introduction

Tattvārtha Sūtra is a very important text of Jaina religion. It has covered all the aspects of Jaina philosophy and is the source to other literary works as it has seeds of all the topics. Jainism is divided into many sects and sub-sects since ancient days, but all the sects accept Tattvārtha Sūtra faithfully. None have doubted its authenticity. Like Namokāra mantra, Tattvārtha Sūtra is accepted by all faithfully. There is no other text like Tattvārtha Sūtra, which is accepted by all. This is the first Jain religious text written in Sanskṛta as earlier texts were all written in Prākṛata language. Being written in Sanskṛta, and in aphorisms form, it holds a unique place in the overall Indian tradition and hence even the other Indian philosophical schools study this text.


1.1 Name

There are two names:

  1. Tattvārtha Sūtra
  2. Mokṣa Śāstra.

Even though its proper name is Tattvartha sutra, yet generally it is known as Mokṣa Śāstra. It is known as Mokṣa Śāstra because the work begins by the word mokṣa and also because it has detailed expositions of mokṣa and the path to attain mokṣa. This is also found as the style with other texts like Bhaktāmara stotra (Ŗṣabhadeva stotra) is so called because it begins with the word Bhaktāmara; Devāgamastotra (āptamimāmsā) is so called because it begins with the word Devāgama.

This text is popularly known as Tattvārtha Sūtra because it explains the tattvas (basic elements) in the aphoristic style. It is necessary to know that goal of life is mokṣa and hence to know it, is to know the seven tattvas. Explaining the seven tattvas, there are totally 10 chapters (adhyāyas) in this text.

They are as follows:

1st - 4th






6th- 7th







Samvara - nirjarā

Stoppage and efflux




The tattvas are explained in the aphoristic style; this is very important. The author has seriously thought about the content of the text. Aphorisms are full of important content and are in simplistic style. The mark of a sutra is:

Alpākṣara Masāndhigdham sāravad Gūdhanirnayam\
Nirdosam hetumatathyam sutramityucyate Buddheha\\

It means, the sutra is that which is of fewer words, free of doubt, all the essence, deeply decisive, flawless, with logic, complete with facts. It means in very less words, the much more is told in a simple and lucid way. To write and make others understand the sutras, both are very difficult. One has to be very cautious while writing the sutras. Any irregularities may create misunderstandings. One cannot write more in the aphorisms. You may read my article “32 faults (dośas) of sūtra”. We can therefore see the name Tattvārtha Sūtra is so because the tattvas are described in the aphoristic style.


1.2 The author of Tattvārtha Sūtra:

It is a pity that there is no foolproof data available about the author’s place, parents, his teacher, time etc. Even there is a controversy about his name. Digambaras call him Umāsvāmi and the Śvetāmbaras call him Umāsvāti. Who is right or wrong, cannot be established properly and both sects claim that the writer belongs to their tradition. Concerning the timing, there are differences and most scholars put the author in 2nd to 4th century AD.


1.3 Important commentaries of the Tattvārtha Sūtra:

It has been mentioned that sutras are very serious and full of meanings and it is difficult to understand their meanings. Therefore one has to be very cautious about it. There are many ācāryas who have written commentaries on this text. There are more than 100 commentaries on it. It is difficult to talk of all of them, but let us see the following four important ones:

  1. Sarvārthasiddhi:
    Ācārya Pujyapāda has written this commentary in 5th century A.D. This is a very balanced commentary. All the aspects are and topics are covered in a simple manner and the later on ācāryas have kept it intact and present it as it is. The following sutra expounds Pujyapāda’s art of writing:

    Pramāṇakalamkasya Pujyapādasya Laksaṇam\
    dhananjayakaverkavyam Ratnatrayamapaścimam\\

  2. Tattvārthavārtika:
    Ācārya Aklaṅka has written this commentary in 7th century A.D. In this commentary the author has help of previous commentaries and then he has elaborated those and written his commentary. At several places he has given interesting stories and anecdotes.

  3. Tattvarthaslokavartika:
    Ācārya Vidhyānandi has written this commentary in 8th century A.D. This is a detailed commentary.

  4. Tattvārthādhigamabhāśya:
    The above three commentaries are written by the Digambara authors. But this is a Śvetāmbara commentary. It is believed that the Umāsvāti himself has written this commentary.

What ever may be the case, it is necessary to read and understand the commentaries to know the Tattvārtha sūtra. The above commentaries are sufficient enough to know and read.


2.0 The Content of Tattvārtha Sūtra:

We have discussed the external matter of the text. Now we will discuss the actual content of the text, which is very important from the point of Jaina philosophy. The external content is important for the historical and the social point of view. But from logical, philosophical and spiritual point of view one need not entangle in the above controversies.


2.1 Mangalācaraṇa (Benediction):

To begin any good work it is necessary to evoke good saying of blessings and all the literary works have so. In all the works they evoke the iṣṭa devatā and worship them in the benediction. In Tattvārtha Sūtra the following mangalācarana is found:

Mokṣamārgasya Netāram, Bhettāram Karmabhubhratām\
Jnātāram Visvatattvānām, vande tadgunalabdhaye\\

It means ‘I bow to the qualities of that one who is the leader of the path of liberation, has eradicated the karmas and is the knower of the tattvas’.
This is a very important benediction in the Jaina philosophy, because it is not for the person but the Vitarāga- Sarvajña (omniscient) who are the shower of the path; they are worshipped so. It is not for any worldly gains but only to attain the best qualities.

It is because of this reason that on the above verse many Ācāryas having written elaborately. Many have also written independent works, for example, Ācārya Vidhyānandi (7th century) has written Āptaparikṣā, Samantabhadra (2nd century) has written Āptamīmāmsā on the basis of this Verse. Ācārya Vidyānandi has said to the extent that this verse is like a tirtha (ford). To recite this verse is equivalent to worshipping the tīrthas. Hence one should understand this verse properly.


2.2 Content

1st Adhyāya:

Right faith (Samyak Darśana), Right Knowledge (Samyak Jñāna) and Right conduct (Samyak Caritra) all three put together constitute the path of liberation. Jiva, ajiva, āśrava, bandha, Sanvara, nirjarā and mokṣa – the faith in these tattvas is Samyak Darśana. The faith thus arises due to two reasons - 1) on its own due to the previous karmas and 2) due to the discourse by other. Full faith arises after the right knowledge; hence the full knowledge of the tattvas etc should be regained first and foremost. This happens with the help of valid knowledge (pramāṇa), standpoints (naya) and presentation (nikṣepa), direction (Nirdeṣa), ownership (swāmitva), instrument (sādhana), location (adhikaraṇa), duration (stithī), classification (vidhāna), existence (sat), number (sankhyā), field of occupation (ksetra), field of touch (sparśana), time (kāla), interval (antara), condition (bhāva), relative numerical strength (alpabahutva) etc are also useful for the cognition of the tattvas. Pramāna is right knowledge and is of 5 types- mati, śruta, avadhi, manahparyaya and kevala. Mati and śruta are both parokṣa pramāṇa and the rest three are pratykṣa pramāṇa. Naya is a part of pramāṇa. The difference between naya and pramāṇa is that pramāṇa cognizes the whole truth, while naya cognizes only partial truth. The chart below explains naya and pramāṇa classification easily:

Types and means of acquiring knowledge









Naigam figurative / Non-literal




Saṅgraha - Class view:




Vyavahāra – Distributive view




Ŗjusutra- Linear or straight thread.














 2nd Adhyāya:

Jīva has following five kinds of psychic states / bhāvas (thought activities)

  1. Aupaśamika – that which results from the subsidence of the karma concerned
  2. Kṣāyika - that which results from destruction/annihilation of the karma concerned
  3. Kṣāyopaśamika - that which results from subsidence-cum-destruction of the karma concerned.
  4. Audayika - that which results from activation of the karma concerned
  5. Pāriṇāmika - that which having nothing to do with karma appears naturally.

These five have got 2, 9, 18, 21 and 3 sub-types respectively.

Upayoga or manifestation of consciousness is the defining characteristics of a soul. It is of two types;

1. Darśanopayaga- indeterminate cognitive operation, which is of four types.

a. cakṣu- indeterminate cognition had through the visual sense-organ
b. acakṣu- indeterminate cognition had through the non- visual sense-organ
c. avadhi- indeterminate cognition of the nature of avadhi
d. Kevala- indeterminate cognition that is all - comprehensive.

2. Jñānopayoga – determinate cognitive operation which is of eight types

a. mati - right determinate cognition by mind and sense organs.
b. Śruta -right determinate cognition of the nature of verbal testimony
c. avadhi - right determinate cognition with limitations of type, place etc.
d. manahparyaya- right determinate cognition of the nature of thoughts.
e. Kevala - right determinate cognition that is all-comprehensive
f. ku-mati - wrong determinate cognition by mind and sense organs
g. ku-sruta -wrong determinate cognition of the nature of verbal testimony.
h. vibhanga - wrong determinate cognition of the nature of avadhi.

Jīvas are of two types: liberated and worldly. The worldly living beings are of two types namely mobile and immobile. Immobile are of 5 types and are with only one-sense namely:

  1. earth bodied
  2. water bodied
  3. fire bodied
  4. air bodied
  5. plant bodied

The mobile are the two sensed to five sensed living beings, e.g. ant, elephant and humans etc. Five sensed living beings are of two types i.e. with and without mind.

There are five sense organs namely; touch, taste, smell, visual and hear. They are each of two types namely matter (dravya) and psychic (bhāva). Dravya indriya are of two types: nivritti and upakarana. Bhāva indriya are of two types: attainment/labdhi and manifestation / upayoga.

The state of transmigration (without gross body) i.e. leaving present body (death) and moving to the next body (rebirth) id of two types namely: of worldly living beings and liberated living beings. Movement of liberated beings is straight from present body to Moksa while of empirical souls it can have a maximum of three turns within a very small time.

Births can be of three types namely garbhaj (i.e. born out womb of female) and upapada (of heavenly and hellish beings) and sammurchana (spontaneous generation). Gross bodies are of five types namely matter, celestial, communication, electric and karmana.

These are in the order of their being gross to subtler state. At any time a living being can have four bodies at a time. Mostly they have karmana and electric plus matter or celestial.


3rd Adhyāya:

In this chapter there is a discussion of the nether world (hells) and the middle world. There is a description of 7 layers of hells where the souls live a long life of pain and suffering. There is also the description of the middle world, which consists of concentric rings of continents and oceans with Bharat, Airāwat, Videha etc as continents and Ganga, Sindhu etc as the rivers.


4th Adhyāya:

There are four kinds of celestial beings namely Bhavanvāsi (residential), Vyantara (peripatetic), Jyotiṣi (stellar or luminary) and Vaimāniki (heavenly beings). There are further subdivided into 10, 8, 5 and 16 sub types respectively. Again there are further sub classifications in each sub type. Details of all these are given in commentaries of Tattvārtha Sūtra and Trilokasāra etc.


5th Adhyāya:

This chapter describes insentient (ajīva) beings as the first four chapters talk of sentient beings (jīva). Ajīva is of five types namely pudgala (matter), dharma (principle of motion), adharma (principle of rest), ākāśa (space) and kāla (time). Matetr is concrete and the rest are nonconcrete. Dharma, adharma and ākāśa are one each in number while matter is infinite and time is innumerable in number. All jīvas cooperate with each other. Body, speech, mind, breathe are all matter and results of cooperation between matter and jīva. Similarly motion /movement, rest, space to exist and change are the benefits of dharma, adharma, ākāśa and kāla respectively. All substances are eternal and existent and with attributes and modes.


6th Adhyāya:

This chapter describes influx of karmas to soul. Influx is of two types namely auspicious and inauspicious. Activities of mind, body and speech are called yoga and the same are the causes of influx. If the influx is auspicious then it results in inflow of merit and if it is inauspicious, then the inflow is of demerit (pāpa). Influx can be described of two other types also, namely sāmprāyika (actions of passion tainted living beings) and īryāpathika (i.e. actions of persons who are free of passions like walking carefully to avoid violence). Intensity of psychic actions is directly proportional to the intensity of influx. Briefly the causes of influx of all eight types of karmas are as follows:

    1. Knowledge and vision obscuring: hiding flaws in knowledge and faith, jealousy etc.
    2. Vedniya or feeling: pain: causing pain, grief, scare etc to self and others; pleasure: compassions, charity, patience, forgiveness etc.
    3. Deluding: faith: disrespect to right god, scripture, teacher and religion; conduct; passion tainted activities.
    4. Life span: Hell: excessive greed, possessions; sub-human: deceit; human: disinterest in possessions, amicable nature; heavenly: self restrain, penance with desire for good results.
    5. Body building: inauspicious: crooked activities of mind, body and speech; auspicious: simplicity of activities; tirthankars: solahkāranabhavanā.
    6. Status: high: self-criticism and praise for others. Low: Self-praise and criticism of others.
    7. Interference/obstructions: to cause obstructions in others works.


7th Adhyāya:

Description of auspicious influx: Disengagement and disinterest in violence, telling lies, stealing, excessive possessions and infidelity is called vow (vrata). These can be observed partially (by laity) and completely (by monks). Violence is to cause pain /hurt intentionally. To speak the untruth or what is not right is telling lies. To take things without permission or the owner is stealing. To have sexual desires towards others is infidelity. To have attachment in other living and non-living beings is excessive possession. Flaws caused in these vows due to laziness or disinterests are called flaws of the vows. To avoid them one should contemplate or reflect on the vows and in the end should observe sallekhanā.


8th Adhyāya

Description of bondage: Jiva, in a passion-tainted state, gets bonded with the matter particle, which can become karmas. This is due to five causes namely: perverted faith, disinterest in vows, laziness, passions and activities of mind body and speech. Bondage is of four types namely prakriti (nature), duration, strength /potency and pradeśa (area or space). Nature relates to eight types of karmas, duration is the time when and how long the karmas will be active, strength relates to the intensity of the results of karmas and pradeśa related to the firmness with which the karmas are bonded with soul.


9th Adhyāya

Description of stoppage and dissociation of bonded karmas: Stoppage of influx is saṅvara or stoppage. This is due to the observance of 3 attitudes of restraints and 5 attitudes of carefulness, 10 dharmas, 12 reflections /contemplations, 22 afflictions and five types of conduct. Restraining activities of mind, body and speech, 5 types of carefulness are in walking, speech, seeking food, excretion and picking up and keeping things; ten dharmas are supreme forgiveness, absence of pride deceit and greed, speaking the truth, penance, charity, detachment and celibacy; twelve reflections relate to impermanence, helplessness, cycle of transmigrations, loneliness, separation of self and non-self, impurity of body, influx of karmas, stoppage of influx, dissociation of karmas, cosmos, rarity of religion and laws expounded by Jinas; 22 afflictions relate to indifference/ perseverance against thirst, hunger, cold, heat, mosquito bites, nudity, lack of interest, women, daily activities, bed, anger, pain, begging, non attainment of knowledge, sickness, straw hurting, dirt, getting respect, wisdom, lack of knowledge and lack of belief; five types of conduct are sāmāyika, chedopasthāniya, parihāraviśśuddhi, sukṣmasāprāya and yathākhyāta.

Dissociation is caused by austerities /penance. Penance is of two types namely external and internal and each is further divided in six categories.


10th Adhyāya

Description of salvation / Mokṣa: Annihilation of Knowledge and vision obscuring, deluding and obstruction causing karmas result in attaining omniscience. This state is called Arihanta. After this the remaining karmas which are experienced only namely status determining, life span, feeling and body formation are also annihilated at death when the pure soul becomes absolutely pure and stays at the summit of cosmos.


We thus see that by describing the seven basic elements in Tattvārtha Sūtra, the entire doctrine of Jain religion are described and the reader can acquire knowledge about them by its study.