Literature and Agams
Baghavan Mahavir's preaching and
knowledge was orally transferred from acharyas the disciples
over the course of about one thousand years. Around 500A.D., after Lord Mahavir's nirvana
, Jain acharyas realized that it was very difficult to keep memorizing the entire Jain literature
several years , 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. Jain literature is classified into two major categories:
This consists of original scriptures complied by Gandharas and
Srut-kevalis. They are written in the Prakrit language.
This consists of commentary and explanation of Agam literature and
independent works, complied mostly 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
These texts are expansions of Ang-agams. They were complied by
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 , but has many books complied by
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 Baghwan Mahavir's nirvan. 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 Baghwan Mahavir's
||Number of Ang-agams Aceepted
|| Present Status
|| All are lost
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 Baghwan Mahavir's Nirvan.
||Number of Ang-bahya-agams Accepted
||All are lost
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 Baghwan
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 from 100 to 800 A.D. and are
based on the original Agam Sutras.
- Two Main Texts:
- Four Anuyogas:
- Pratham-anuyoga (Dharma-kath-anuyoga) - Religious Stories
- Charn-anuyoga - Conduct
- Karan-anuyoga (Ganit-anuyoga) - Description of the Universe
- Dravy-anuyoga - Philosophy
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.
Prabhrut): This scripture was written by
Achar 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.
Pratham-anuyoga (Dharma-kath-anuyoga) - Religious
This anuyoga consists of the following texts which contain religious
stories, art, literature, history, poetry, and like literature.
2. Charn-anuyoga - Conduct
anuyoga consists of the following texts which contain principles of
observances, conduct, behavior, and like literature.
Description of the
This anuyoga consists of the following texts which contain geography,
mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and like literature.
||Nemichandra Siddhant Chakravarti
This anuyoga consists of the
following texts which contain philosophical doctrine, theories, Tattvajnan,
and like literature.