Jain Agam Literature

Posted: 07.10.2010
Updated on: 03.01.2011

 

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Jain Agam Literature

1. Background

Lord Mahavir's preaching was orally compiled by his disciples into many texts. This knowledge was orally transferred from acharyas (gurus) to the disciples over the course of about one thousand years. In olden times, monks strictly followed the five great vows of Jainism. Even religious scriptures were considered possessions and therefore knowledge of the religion was never documented. Also, during the course of time many learned acharyas (elder monks) complied commentaries on the various subjects of the Jain religion.

Around 500 A.D., which was one thousand years after Lord Mahavir's nirvana (death), Jain acharyas realized that it was extremely difficult to keep memorizing the entire Jain literature complied by the many scholars of the past and present. In fact, significant knowledge was already lost and the rest was polluted with modifications and errors. Hence, they decided to document the Jain literature as known to them. In this time period two major sects, namely Digambar and Swetambar, were already in existence. A thousand years later (1500 A.D.), the Swetambar sect divided into three subsects known as Swetambar Murtipujak, Sthanakvasi, and Terapanthi. Differences exist among these sects in their acceptance of the validity of the documented Jain scriptures and literature.

2. Jain Literature

Jain literature is classified into two major categories:

  • Agam Literature:
    This consists of original scriptures complied by Gandharas and Srut-kevalis. They are written in the Prakrit language.
  • Non-agam Literature:
    This consists of commentary and explanation of Agam literature and independent works, complied by elder monks, nuns, and scholars. They are written in many languages such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Old Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German, and English.

Agam literature is also divided into two groups:

  • Ang-agams or Ang-pravista-agams
    These texts contain the direct preaching of Lord Mahavir. They were complied by Ganadharas.
  • Ang-bahya-agams (outside of Ang-agams)
    These texts are expansions of Ang-agams. They were complied by Srut-kevalis.

3. Agam Literature:

Lord Mahavir's preaching was methodically compiled by his followers into many texts. These texts are collectively known as Agams, the sacred books of the Jain religion. Hence, the Jain religion does not have one sacred book like the Bible or Koran, but it has many books complied by many followers.

Ang-agams:

Lord Mahavir's immediate disciples were known as Ganadharas. All Ganadharas possessed perfect knowledge (keval-jnan). They orally complied the direct preaching of Lord Mahavir into twelve main texts (sutras). These texts are known as Ang-agams. Hence the Ang-agams are the oldest religious scriptures and the back bone of Jain literature.

The twelfth Ang-agam is called Drastivad. The Drastivad consists of fourteen Purva texts, also known as Purvas or Purva-agams. Among Ang-agams, Purvas were the oldest sacred texts. All Jain sects believe that knowledge of the Purvas (Drastivad) were gradually lost starting two hundred years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan (death). However, the subject matter of the Purvas has been referenced by other Jain scriptures and literature.

The Digambar Jain sect also believes that the remaining eleven Ang-agams were gradually lost. All Swetambar Jains believe that the proper meaning and the original intent of the eleven Ang-agams survived and were properly documented by elder monks one thousand years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan.

Sect

Number of Ang-agams
Accepted

Present Status

Digambar

11

All are lost

Swetambar Murtipujak

11

Available

Swetambar Sthanakvasi

11

Available

Swetambar Terapanthi

11

Available

Ang-bahya-agams:

Monks who had knowledge of a minimum of ten Purvas were known as Srut-kevlis. The Srut-kevlis wrote many texts (sutras) expanding the subject matter defined in the Ang-agams. Collectively these texts are called Ang-bahya-agams meaning outside of Ang-agams.

The different Jain sects accept different numbers of Ang-bahya texts. However the Digambar sect believes that they were also gradually lost starting about two hundred years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvan.

Sect

Number of Ang-bahya-agams
Accepted

Present Status

Digambar

14

All are lost

Swetambar Murtipujak

34

Available

Swetambar Sthanakvasi

21

Available

Swetambar Terapanthi

21

Available

Classification of Ang-bahya-agams:

The Swetambar sect has divided Ang-bahya-agams into the following categories:

  • Upang-agams:
    The scriptures which provide further explanation of Ang-agams are called Upang-agams. There are 12 Upang-agams accepted by all Swetamber sects.
  • Chhed-sutras:
    The subject matter described in Chhed-sutras is only for monks and nuns and not for lay people. It relates to the conduct and behavior of monks and nuns. It also explains how they can repent for their sins and mistakes. The Swetambar Murtipujak sect accepts 6 Chhed-sutra texts but the Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi sects accept only 4 texts.
  • Mool-sutras:
    The scriptures which are essential for monks and nuns to study in the earlier stages of their monkhood are called Mool-sutras. The Swetambar Murtipujak sect accepts 4 Mool-sutras texts but the Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi sects accept only 3 texts.
  • Chulika-sutras or Sutras:
    The scriptures which enhance or decorate the Ang-agams are known as Chulika-sutras or Sutras. There are 2 Chulika-sutras accepted by all Swetamber sects.
  • Prakirna-agams:
    The scriptures which describe independent or miscellaneous subjects of the Jain religion are known as Prakirna-sutra. The Swetambar Murtipujak sect accepts 10 Prakirna-agams texts but none are accepted by the Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi sects.

Classification Summary:

Agams

Swetambar Murtipujak Sect

Sthanakvasi/Terapanthi Sect

Upang-agams

12

12

Chhed-sutra-agams

6

4

Mool-sutra-agams

4

3

Chulika-sutra-agams

2

2

Prakirna-agams

10

none

Total Ang-bahya-agams

34

21

4. Digambar Jain Literature:

The Digambar sect believes that there were 25 Agam-sutras (11 Ang-agams + 14 Ang-bahya-agams) complied from the original preaching of Lord Mahavir. However, they were gradually lost starting about two hundred years after Lord Mahavir's nirvana. Hence the existing Agam-sutras (which are accepted by the Swetambar sects) are not accepted by them as authentic scriptures.

In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambars use the following literature as the basis for their religious practice. These scriptures were written by great Acharyas (scholars) from 100 to 800 A.D. and are based on the original Agam Sutras.

  • Two Main Texts:
    • Shatkhand-agam
    • Kasay-pahud
  • Four Anuyogas:
    • Pratham-anuyoga (Dharma-kath-anuyoga) - Religious Stories
    • Charn-anuyoga - Conduct
    • Karan-anuyoga (Ganit-anuyoga) - Description of the Universe
    • Dravy-anuyoga - Philosophy

Shatkhand-agam:

This Digambar scripture is also known as Maha-kammapayadi-pahuda or Maha-karma-prabhrut. It was written by two Acharyas; Pushpadant and Bhutabali around 160 A.D. The second Purva-agam named Agraya-niya was used as the basis for this scripture. The scripture contains six volumes. Acharya Virsen wrote two commentary texts, known as Dhaval-tika on the first five volumes and Maha-dhaval-tika on the sixth volume of this scripture, around 780 A.D.

Kashay-pahud (Kashay Prabhrut):

This scripture was written by Acharya Gunadhara. The fifth Purva-agam named Jnan-pravad was used as a basis for this scripture. Acharya Virsen and his disciple, Jinsen, wrote a commentary text known as Jaya-dhaval-tika around 780 A.D.

Four Anuyogas:

  • Pratham-anuyoga (Dharma-kath-anuyoga) - Religious Stories

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

Name

Author

Time

Padma-puran

Ravisen

650 A.D.

Harivamsa-puran

Jinsen II

783 A.D.

Adi-puran

Jinsen II

783 A.D.

Uttar-puran

Gunabhadra

879 A.D.

  • Charn-anuyoga - Conduct

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

Name

Author

Time

Mulachar

Vattaura

600 A.D.

Trivarnachar

Vattaura

600 A.D.

Ratna-karanda-shravak-achar

Samantabhadra

600 A.D.

  • Karan-anuyoga (Ganit-anuyog) - Description of the Universe

This anuyoga consists of the following texts which contain geography, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and like literature.

Name

Author

Time

Surya-prajnapti

Unknown

-

Chandra-prajnapti

Unknown

-

Jaya-dhaval-tika

Virsen/Jinsen

780 A.D.

Gommat-sar

Nemichandra Siddhant Chakravarti

1000 A.D.

  • Dravy-anuyog - Philosophy

This anuyoga consists of the following texts which contain philosophical doctrine, theories, Tattvajnan, and like literature.

Name

Author

Time

Niyamasar

Kunda-kunda

100 A.D.

Panchastikaya

Kunda-kunda

100 A.D.

Pravachanasar

Kunda-kunda

100 A.D.

Samaya-sara

Kunda-kunda

100 A.D.

Tattvartha-sutra

Umaswami

200 A.D.

commentary by

Samantabhadra

600 A.D.

commentary by

Pujyapad

700 A.D.

commentary by

Akalank

750 A.D.

commentary by

Vidyanand

800 A.D.

Aptamimamsa

Samantabhadra

600 A.D.

commentary by

Akalank

750 A.D.

commentary by

Vidyanand

800 A.D.

Summary:

The Jain literature which was complied by Ganadharas and Srut-kevlis is known as Agam literature. These texts are the holy scriptures of the Jain religion.

The Agam Sutras show great reverence for all forms of life and strict codes of vegetarianism, asceticism, nonviolence, and opposition to war. The existing Agam Sutras are accepted as the authentic preaching of Lord Mahavir by the Swetambar sects, but the Digambar sect does not accept them as authentic. Digambars follow two main texts (Shatkhand Agam and Kasay Pahud) and four Anuyogs (consisting of more than 20 texts) written by great Acharyas (scholars) from 100 to 800 A.D.

All other Jain literature is known as Non-agam literature.

Summary Table:

Category

Accepted by:

Digambar

Swetambar Murtipujak

Sthanakvasi/Terapanthi

Ang-agams

11

11

11

Ang-bahya-agams

14

34

21

Total Agams

25

45

32

Classification of Ang-bahya-agams of Swetamber Sects:

Agams

Swetambar Murtipujak Sect

Sthanakvasi/Terapanthi Sect

Upang-agams

12

12

Chhed-sutra-agams

6

4

Mool-sutra-agams

4

3

Chulika-sutra-agams

2

2

Prakirna-agams

10

none

Total Ang-bahya-agams

34

21

5. Details of Jain Agams:

  • Ang-agams:

Ang-agams are the oldest religious scriptures and the back bone of Jain literature.

  1. Acharang Sutra(Aayarang): This agam describes the conduct and behavior of ascetic life and the description of the penance of Lord Mahavir. This is the oldest agam from a linguistic point of view.
  2. Sutrakratang Sutra (Suyagdang): This agam describes nonviolence, Jain metaphysics, and the refutation of other religious theories such as Kriyavada, Akriyavada, Ajnanavada, and Vinayavada.
  3. Sthananga Sutra (Thanang): This agam defines and catalogues the main substances of the Jain religion (defines Jain metaphysics).
  4. Samavayanga Sutra: This agam defines and catalogues the main substances of the Jain religion from a different perspective than the Sthananga Sutra.
  5. Vhakhya Prajnapti or Bhagavati Sutra (Viyah Pannati):
    This agam explains the subtle knowledge of soul, matter, and other related subjects. 36000 questions and answers are presented in discussion form. It is the largest of the eleven Ang-agams.
  6. Jnata Dharma Kathanga Sutra (Nayadhammakahao): This agam explains Jain principles through examples and stories. This text is very useful in understanding the mode of Lord Mahavir's religious preaching.
  7. Upasaka Dashanga Sutra (Uvasagdasao): This agam explains the code of conduct of the ten lay followers (Shravaks) of Lord Mahavir. This agam is very useful for understanding the code and conduct of ordinary people (Shravaka Dharma) in the Jain religion.
  8. Antah Kradashanga Sutra (Anatagaddasao): This agam tells the stories of ten sacred monks attaining liberation (Moksha) by destroying their karmas.
  9. Anuttaroupa Patika Dashanga Sutra (Anuttarov Vaiya Dasao): This agam contains the stories of an additional ten sacred monks who attained the top-most heaven, known as Anuttara heaven.
  10. Prashna Vyakrana Sutra (Panha Vagarnai): This agam describes the five great vows (mahavratas) and the five worst sins defined in the Jain religion.
  11. Vipaka Sutra (Vivagsuyam): This agam explains the results of good and bad karmas through several stories.
  • Upang-agams:

The scriptures which provides further explanation of Ang-agams are called Upang-agams.

  1. Aupa Patika Sutra (Ovavaiya): This agam describes the splendid procession (view) of King Konika when he visited Lord Mahavir. It also explains how a person can attain heaven in the next life.
  2. Raja Prashniya Sutra (Raya Pasen Ijja): This agam describes the story of Monk Keshi. Monk Keshi was the Ganadhara of Lord Parshvanath. 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 as a deva in heaven. He appeared from heaven to shower Lord Mahavir with unprecedented pomp and splendor. The thirty-two dramas (plays) described in this agam throw light upon the ancient dramatic art of India.
  3. Jivabhigama Sutra: This agam 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.
  4. Prajnapana Sutra (Pannavana): This agam describes the form and attributes of souls from a different perspective.
  5. Surya Prajnapti Sutra (Surya Pannti): This agam describes the Sun, the planets and the associated mathematics regarding their motion.
  6. Chandra Prajnapti Sutra: This agam describes the Moon, the planets and the associated, mathematics regarding their motion. Both of these upangas, the Chandra Prajnapti and Surya Prajnapati, sutras are very important in understanding the astrology of olden times.
  7. Jambudveepa Prajnapti Sutra: This agam provides a description of Jambudveepa. Jambudeepa is a place explained in Jain geography. It also provides information on ancient kings.
  8. Nirayarvali Sutra: This agam describes the story of ten princes. All ten princes fought with King Chetaka of Vaishali in cooperation with king Konika. King Chetaka was the son of the 10 princes' step-mother. In the end all ten princes went to hell after dying in war.
  9. Kalpa Vatansika Sutra (Kappavadamsiao): This agam describes the story of King Konika's children. They did not fight with King Chetaka in the war. They renounced the world and became monks. After their death, they went to heaven.
  10. Pushpika Sutra (Puspiao): This agam describes the previous lives of certain devas (angels) who worshiped Lord Mahavir.
  11. Pushpa Chulika Sutra: This agam describes stories similar to those in the Pushpika.
  12. Vrashnidasha Sutra (Vanhidasao): This agam explains how Lord Neminath convinced ten kings in the Vrashni region to follow the Jain religion.
  • Chhed Sutra Aagams:

The subject matter described in the Chhed-sutras is for monks and nuns and not for lay people. It relates to the conduct and behavior of monks and nuns. It also explains how they can repent for their sins and mistakes.

  1. Nisheetha Sutra (Nisiha): This agam explains the procedure of repentance (Prayashchitta) in the form of punishment for the monks and nuns who have conducted themselves badly.
  2. Vrahat Kalpa Sutra: This agam explains which of the ten kinds of repentance (Prayashchittas) is appropriate for a particular wrong-doing by monks and nuns. It also defines in clear terms what is acceptable conduct for monks and nuns and what is not.
  3. *Vyavahara Sutra: This agam 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 (Prayashchitta) the monk should perform. There are several other indication of the limits of ascetic life.
  4. Dasha Shruta Skandha Sutra (Achardasha): There are ten chapters in this Sutra. It contains the following information:
    • 20 places of Asamadhi
    • 21 powerful faults bringing weakness in conduct
    • 33 Ashatanas of Guru
    • 8 Sampadas of Acharyas and their kinds
    • 10 places of Chitta Samadhi
    • 11 Pratimas of Sravaka
    • Bhiksu Pratimas
    • KALPASUTRA - recited during the Paryushanas
    • 30 places of Maha Mohaniya karma bandhana
    • 9 Nida nas (Niyane)
  5. *Panch Kalpa Sutra: This sutra explains the daily rituals the monks and nuns have to perform. Only scattered chapters of this agam are now available. However, the commentaries (Bhashya and Churni) written about this agam by some elder monks are available.
  6. Mahanisheetha Sutra: This agam explains the process of confession and repentance (Prayashchitta) for monks and nuns. It explains the magnitude of pain one has to suffer if he or she breaks the fourth vow (chastity). It also describes and explains the conduct of good and bad monks.
  • Mool-sutras:

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

  1. Avashyaka Sutra: The daily rituals or routines which it is necessary to perform during the day and night for the purification of soul are called Avashyaka. A description of the six routines (Avashyakas) are explained in this agam. The six routines are; Samayika, Chaturvinshatistava, Vandanaka, Pratikramana, Kayotsarga, and Pratyakhyana.
  2. Dasha Vaikalika Sutra: This agam briefly describes and explains the conduct of ascetic life.
  3. Uttaradhyayana Sutra: This agam has the same place in Jain literature as the Dhammapada in Buddhism and the Geeta in the Hindu religion. It contains preaching regarding religious principles and practices, and many stories, dialogues, and examples based on such principles and practices.
  4. *Ogha Niryukti or Pinda Niryukti Sutra: This agam explains certain rules and procedures for monks with respect to travelling, staying, accepting food and other necessities from lay people.
  • Chulika-sutras or Sutras:

The scriptures which enhance or decorate the Ang-agams are known as Chulika-sutras or Sutras.

  1. Nandi Sutra: This agam contains an elaborate description of Tirthankaras, Ganadharas, and five types of Knowledge (Jnan); Mati, Shrut, Avadhi, Manaparyay, and Keval-Jnan.
  2. Anuyogadvara Sutra: This agam provides the description of many rights regarding the mode of preaching.
  • Prakirna-agams:

The scriptures which describe independent or miscellaneous subjects of the Jain religion are known as Prakirna-sutra.

  1. *Chatuh Sharana: This agam contains prayers to the four benevolent beings:
    • Lord Arihant- God in the form of human being
    • Lord Siddha - God in the form of pure consciousness
    • Sadhu - All monks
    • Dharma - Religion
  2. *Aatur Pratyakhyana (Aayur-Pachakhana): This agam explains differences in the death of children, youths, adults, and old people. It also describes the types of vows a wise person should take during various states of illness and how he should beg the pardon of all living beings in the universe.
  3. *Bhakti Parijna (Bhatta-parinna): This agam describes the process of fasting and how one should strive to feel at the time of death.
  4. *Sanstaraka (Santharag): This agam describes the process of dying by one's own desire (Santhara) and its glory.
  5. *Tandulavaitalika: This agam describes the state of pregnancy and provides knowledge about the human body.
  6. *Chandra-Vedhyaka: This agam describes the method of concentrated meditation (Dhyana) that one should observe through the description of Radhavedha.
  7. *Devendra-Stava: This agam describes the names, positions, and residences of Devas (angels) who live in heaven. It also provides a description of the moon, sun, planets, and stars.
  8. *Ganita Vidya: This agam describes palmistry and how it is used to predict the future (Nimitta).
  9. *Mahapratyakhyana: This agam explains how to completely give up the worst sins and how to repent these sins.
  10. *Veerastava: This agam is considered lost. However, it appears from literature referencing this agam that it contained prayers of Lord Mahavir.

* Note: These 13 Agams are not recognized by the Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi Jain sects

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