and Literature apart from art and architecture constitute the most important
records of the cultural history of a country. Hence, the study of the Agamas
is bound to reveal the most important observations of Jainism and its contribution
to Indian culture.
As we all know, the collective term given by the Jainas to their Sacred
literature is called Agamas written in Prakrt just as the Buddhist Pitakas
in Pali and the Brahmanical Vedas in Sanskrit. The Jaina Agamas like the
Buddhist Pitakas contain the sermons of their founders. They were later
on codified by their trusted disciples into the languages of the people
just for the larger benefit of the masses. Thus the original Sacred Books
of both the Jainas and the Buddhist were written in Prakrt, i.e., Ardhamagadhi
and Pali respectively. Being missionaries, their mission was to interest
not only the intellectuals but the common people and hence they used the
language of the common man. The Jaina Agamas accord a very respectable position
to Ardhamagadhi by calling it not only the language of the Aryans but also
of the celestial gods.
The Buddhist Trpitakas enjoin upon their followers to use the local dialect
of the people for the propagation of their sacred teachings. This was nothing
but a legitimate protest against the touch-me-not attitude of the Vedic
scholars who would never descend down from their ivory tower of Sanskrit
language and on the other hand they would look down upon the us of these
languages of the people for imparting religious instructions. Prakrt and
Pali were declared to be the languages of the outcasts or Mlechchhas.
This shows their regard for maintaining the so-called cultural purity by
the priestly order to ensure their monopoly for ever. To be impartial, we
cannot deny that there was some amount of animosity among the Jainas and
the Buddhist scholars against the use of Sanskrit language at least at the
critical stages which is amply reflected in the painful sight of some of
Pali and Prakrt scholars maintaining linguistic isolationism as a result
of which they remained unaware of the Indian heritage as depicted in Sanskrit
language and literature. The Bhikkhus of the Hinayana cults of Buddhism
in Burma and Ceylon are examples of such isolationism.
Similarly, many eminent scholars of Sanskrit of that age remained unaware
of the growth and development of ideas in the field of Pali and Prakrt languages.
The cause of this linguistic animosity was also unhealthy religious rivalries
which are demonstrated into the literature of the 7th and 8th centuries
A.D. All these factors went to retard the growth of cultural synthesis in
India at least for some time.
In this respect, the Jaina tradition has been rather liberal. Down from
the days of Arya Raksit (2nd Century of Vikram Samvat) and Uma Swami (3rd
Century of V.S. , there has been equal interest in Prakrt and Sanskrit so
much so that both these languages became the common and combined treasures
of the Jaina. Naya, the Jainas have adopted other regional languages also
like Kannada and Tamil in South India, Gujarati and Marathi in Western India
and even Hindi in Central India for the propagation of their religious teachings
or literary pursuits.
Pt. Sukhalalji has divided the entire extent of Jaina philosophical literature
broadly into four periods beginning with the Agamic period. Not withstanding
the differences in the two tradition of Digambaras and Svetambaras, the
Jainas generally agree that the Agamas constitute the inspired wisdom of
Lord Mahavir, when he attained perfection and Omniscience.
The sermons were later on codified by his chief disciples called Ganadharas.
According to the Jaina tradition, there are only two types of persons, who
are qualified to know the secrets of religion - the Omniscient (Kevalin)
who directly perceive everything of all places and of all times. Then lectures
of sermons by the Kevalins themselves. They are called Sruta Kevalins. Acarya
Yati Vrsabha has given the chronological account of the Missionary (Acarya)
tradition of 683 years after the Nirvana of Lord Mahavir having 3 Kevalins,
5 Sruta Kevalins, 20 different orders of Acaryas.
According to the Svetambara tradition, the last compilation of the Agamas
had been done at Valabhi after 980 years of the death of Lord Mahavir at
the time of Devardhi, however the compilations of some of the Agamas were
done at Pataliputra also which was after 250 years of Lord Mahavir’s death.
The Agamic literature is vast and stupendous, comprising of 12 Angas, 12
Upangas, 4 Mulas, 2 Chulikas Sutras, 6 Cheda Sutras, 10 Prakirnakas etc.
The commentation on these Agamas are called Niryukrtis and Bhasyas, which
are in poetry style and those in prose style are called Curnis. Available
Niryuktis, are said to be compositions of Bhadrabahu, the Second, which
contain subtle philosophical discussion on the problems of existence of
soul, analysis of knowledge and meaning etc. The Bhasyas contain the fuller
accounts of all subjects. Sanghadas Gani and Jinabhadra are the two famous
Bhasyakaras. Jinabhadra was a versatile genius, who has written practically
on all subject under the sun. Sanghadas Gani has limited himself to the
task of dealing with the problems of epistemology and the ethics of the
Jain Sadhus. Among the Curnikaras, Jinadasa Mahattara is a notable figure.
Curnis are shorter commentaries in prose on the pattern of Jatakas. In Sanskrit,
the oldest commentaries of the Agamas is of Acarya Haribhadra (757-857 V.S.)
next to whom are Silanka Suri (8th Cent. V.S.) and Sandhacarya, Abhayadeva
and Malladhari Hemacandra and last but not the least Malayagiri. All these
scholars wrote their commentaries in Sanskrit and Prakrt but they were so
vast and deep that shorter commentaries in the languages of the people was
considered essential. Hence, we find the composition of many primers and
Beginner in regional languages like Taba in Gujarati. Acarya Dharma Singh
is said to be an important author of such Beginners and Primers.
According to the Digambara tradition, all the old Agamas are said to have
lost except the 12th called Drstivada. They regard Bhadrabahu as the last
Sruta Kevali, with him out of 14 Purvas, 4 were lost. After Bhadrabahu,
the different Acaryas became the teachers of 11 Angas and 10 Purvas and
the process of disintegration continued up till 683 years after Mahavir’s
Nirvana. An important Acarya named Dharasena initiated his two most, able
disciples, named Puspadanta and Bhutabali into the Agamas, who later on
compiled the Sermons in the form of a monumental epics of religion called,
Sat-khanda-gama in Prakrt. A contemporary of Acarya Gunabhadra compiled
Kasayas-Pahuda upon which Yati Brsabha wrote a commentary in Prakrt after
he learnt it from Arya Mansku and Nagahasti. There are quite a few commentaries
on these two monumental treasures-Satkhandagama and Kasaya-pahuda. The last
of the commentaries on Satkhandagama called Dhavala is by Virasena, which
comprises 72 thousand verses. The commentary on Kasaya-pahuda, called Jayadhavala
is equally monumental having 20 thousand verses written by Virasena and
40 thousand added by his disciple Jinasena. The final portion of the Satkhandagama
is called Mahabandha which has 41 thousand verses. This has been composed
by Bhutabali himself.
Fortunately, all those three monumental Agamas are treasured at Mudabidri's
temple library. Acarya Nemichand Siddhanta Sastri Chakravarti of the 10th
century was supposed to be an authority on these three Agamas. He had composed
Gommatasara and Labdhisara to give the essences of these Agamas. Todaramala
has written commentaries upon Gommatasara and Labdhisara in Bhasa. Acarya
Kunda-kunda's Samayasara, Pravacanasara, Niyamasara and Pancastikaya-sara
are in acknowledged Prakrt works which are regarded as good as the Agamas
by the Jainas. Jainacarya Umaswati wrote Tattvartha-Sutra, which is regarded
as the Veritable Bible of the Jainas by both the sects. The legend of the
propagation of Jaina religion rests with the Tirthanakars and their disc
iples called eleven Ganadharas, who are said to have converted a community
of 4411 Sramanas from whom the entire Jaina community has grown.
of the Agamas The Validity of Scriptural Knowledge - Except the
Carvakas, all systems of Indian Philosophy admit the validity of scriptural
knowledge. In the Vedic tradition, the Vedas which are regarded as impersonal,
constitute the highest authority of religion. In the tradition of the Sramanic
culture of Buddhism and Jainism, the authority of scriptures rests with
their prophets, who are supposed to be Omniscient as well above all desires
and aversions. In the Jaina tradition, the validity of the scripture is
accorded at par with direct perception since the scriptural knowledge is
knowledge gained by the Omniscient being, who has directly perceived the
Thus scriptural knowledge is also definite and indubious like the omniscient
knowledge. This is admitted by Samantabhadra in his Apta-Mimamsa. It should
also be noted that the knowledge and practice of Scriptures (Agamas) also
leads to the attainment of Kevala-jnana, so as to the knower of the Srutas
are called Sruta-kevalin. Anybody and everybody cannot be Srut a. In order
to be a Sruta, he must fulfill the conditions of becoming desireless (Vitaraga)
and he must destroy the Karmas which obscure the real nature of Sruta. Only
then, such a Scriptural knowledge serves like the bliss.
According to the Vedic tradition, the Vedas manifest their own validity.
Words used by us, according to them, denote things that can be cognised
by other means of knowledge, and, if we cannot know them through other means,
then those who utter them must be of unquestionable authority. So non-Vedic
utterances cannot possess any inherent validity. According to Prabhakara,
such non-Verbal knowledge is of the nature of inference because only the
verbal cognition of the Vedas is strictly verbal. The Vedic thinkers adopt
the doctrine of impersonate authorship perhaps to maintain is infallibility,
because a person is liable to many defects. However, in order to prove the
impersonal authorship of the Vedas, the Vedic thinkers; especially the Mimamsakas
introduce a mystical theory of the eternality of the Vedas. They hold that
the relationship between the word and its meaning is natural and not created
The purpose of the Mimasmsakas in rejecting the authorship of the Vedas
to Gods is because God, who is incorporeal, has no organs of speech and
hence he cannot utter words, and if He assumes the human form, then He is
subject to all the limitations of material existence and hence his utterances
will not be authoritative. Then there is no tradition of divine or human
authorship of the Vedas. If it is said that the Vedas are human compositions
because names of saints and seers occur, it may be said that the hymns deal
with the eternal phenomena of nature and the names of persons have only
symbolical significance and not any historical significance. In tracing
their Agamas to the utterances of Lord Mahavir, the Jainas have a more secured
position. Firstly, since Mahavir is Omniscient (Kevalin) what he says must
be true. Since, he is above desires (Vitaraga), what he says is free from
any subjective prejudices. Lastly, since he is compassionate, what he says
is for the benefits of the people. Thus the Jaina theory of scriptures as
the sermons of Lord Mahavir is more intelligible rational. the adherence
of one's faith in the personality of Lord Mahavir gives a religious color.
Lastly, such a theory of scriptures having its source in the personality
of a realized man raises the dignity and status of man to the status of
God. Omniscience is not divine but human.
It requires a Sadhana. Thus the Jaina doctrine of Agamas sets up everything
in real and historical context, while the explanation of the impersonality
of the Vedas is rather vague and ambiguous. However, it looses at one place-by
treating the Vedic authorship as impersonal, it implies that it is per haps
very-very old and ancient because a person is after all a historical event.
Here the Jaina reply is that since the truth contained in the Agamas are
one, eternal and permanent, it is as old as anything. The objects of the
knowledge are the one and the same for all. Hence their cognition is neither
new nor old. Hence, there is an argument in the teaching of all Arhats.
In this sense, the teachings are eternal and universal and hence impersonal.
Thus, the line of demarcation between personal and impersonal authorship
of the scripture give way to a reconciliation. A prophetic utterance, in
the sense, it is eternal and universal, is impersonal; however, since it
comes from the mouth of a historical person, it is personal. Agama and its
Interpretation - The statement of a trust-worthy person is said to be Agama.
Otherwise, words themselves are inert, lifeless and even ambiguous. Hence,
the validity of Sabda rests with the person who uses them. Hence the interpretation
of the Agamas depend both upon the Speaker and also upon the Audience. So
far, the speakership of the Agamas is concerned, it is held to be the direct
sermons of the Omniscient Lord, which have been compiled and codified by
their chief disciples called Ganadhara. So far the interpretation of the
Agamas from the point of view of the audience is concerned, it should be
clearly noted that a certain amount of intellectual ability and moral preparation
is needed for the appropriate grasp of the subject matter. In absence of
such a preparation, the same Agama admits of different and even conflicting
interpretations about one and the same subject, like the different interpretations
of the Brahma-Sutra and the Bhagavad-Gita.
The Jaina Agamas are the sermons of the Tirthankaras which have been correctly
reported by the Sruta-kevalin and the Ganadhara, who are also supposed to
be Sruta-kevalin and the Ganadhara, who are also supposed to be omniscient
and also above all desires of love and hate, hence the validity of the Jaina
Agamas is doubly raised because both the Source as well as the Course of
the Agamas are pure. The Place of Samayika - There are three distinctive
contributions of Jainism to Indian Culture - Equality (Sama), Self-control
(Sama) and Dignity of labor (Srama). Equality or Samayika is said to be
the heart of Jainism. In the Jaina religious scripture, Dvadasang or in
the 14th Purva, the place of Samayika is the first and foremost among the
six daily duties. Without the practice of Samayika or equality, there is
no hope for any religious or spiritual realization. When a householder accepts
the Jaina religion, he solemnly pledges to abide by the principle of equality.
The whole of Visesavasyaka-bhasya of Jinabhadra Gani is an exposition of
this principle of Samayika.
The three jewels of Jainism, i.e. Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right
Conduct depend upon the principle of equality. The Gita calls it the inner
poise or the evenness of mind (Samatvam), or equal mindedness (Sama Cittatvam
or Samata) and such a man who attains this is called seer with an equal
eye (Samadarsinah or Sarvatra-sama-darsana). This principle of equality
must be reflected both in thought and action. In thought it is the principle
of Anekanta, in action it is the principle of Ahimsa. (a) Anekanta - Anekanta
is the application of the principle of equality in the sphere of thought.
Thus it is not a philosophy but a philosophical standpoint just as there
is the Advaitic standpoint of Sankara and the standpoint of the Middle path
of the Buddhists. Anekanta literally means non-absolution. Though the Anekanta
Period in Jaina philosophical literature comes after the end of the Agamic
period, the genesis of the Anekantic idea is already present in the Agamic
literature. The famous Bhagavati Sutra refers to the important and interesting
dreams that Lord Mahavira had just before attained Keval-jnana. In one of
the dreams, there is reference to `multi-faced' or `multi-colored' (citra-vicitra)
wings of Pansakholi which symbolizes the multi-faced reality.
The Buddhist also have their doctrine of Vibhajyavada or `conditional expressions',
which means that they discard one-sided view (ekansavada). However, the
Buddhists believed inhajyavada to a limited extent, where as the Jainas
believe it to the full extent, so that it was finally developed into the
Theory of Non-absolutism (Anekantavada). In Buddhism, Vibhajya means division
and Vibhajya Vyakarniya means answering a question by diving. While the
Buddhists attribute the divergent attributes at the same time with regard
to two different things, the genius of the Jainas is reflected in attributing
the different attributes in the one and the same subject, of course, the
contexts are different.
This leads to the organon of Sapta-bhangi and the multi-valued logic of
Syadvada. Even in the Vedas and Upanisads, the description of the reality
is in terms of contradictory attributes, like real and unreal, mobile and
immobile. Nasadiya Sukta, therefore, avoids to describe the reality either
as real or unreal. ThusAnekanta seems to be a dynamic of thought-reconciliation,
through which we find an attempt at synthesis between apparently contradictory
attributes of eternality and non-eternity of the world or finiteness or
infiniteness of the Jiva or difference or non-difference between the body
and the soul. Anekanta however, should not be understood to mean that reality
is contradictory. It simply means that it has innumerable number of aspects
and attributes which can be thoroughly comprehended only when we can put
all of them together.
This is ideal of perfection, which can be attained only when we become an
omniscient. However, we can have the knowledge of one or other aspect if
we are free from prejudice and bias. Thus, on the one hand it has its ideal
of finality of knowledge, in reality it aims at aspectal knowledge or naya.
As a corollary, we have to be cautious in our speech. Lord Mahavira explained
every problem with the help of Siyavaya or Syadvada. Absolutism in speech
and language is as bad as absolutism in thought. The Agamic stress on Anekanta
and Syadvada is due to its great adherence to Ahimsa. Anekantavada or Syadvada
is extension of the principle of Ahimsa on intellectual level. Jainas think
that without non-violence in thought, non-violence in practice is impossible.
(b) Ahimsa - Ahimsa follows as a logical corollary from the principle of
Equality (Samya) of souls. The inequalities of physical and mental abilities
are only accidental and they are due to the Karmas. How, since `life is
dear to all and since everything has hot life', we have to accept the principle
of Ahimsa as an important means of spiritual realization. To the Sramanic
cult of Jainism, the means are as important as the ends. Our end is no doubt
self-realization or Moksa. Now, this self-realization is impossible without
the love of self and this love of self is nothing other than Ahimsa, since
self resides in everything. Jainism looks upon the whole world as filled
with life. Nothing is fallow or sterile, nothing is dead and inert. What
to speak of living beings, even plants and every portion of matter have
got life. Hence, respect for life is a spiritual act, it is a law of our
If we forget it, life becomes well nigh impossible. `As we feel our pain,
so we must feel the pain of others', says the Acaranga. The same truth is
stated in Dasvaikalika where it is clearly said that `all beings desire
to live, none want to die'. All our religions accept Ahimsa as a virtue
but Jainas have worked out a complete philosophy of non-violence, hence
here Ahimsa is more due to rational consideration than emotional as we find
in Buddhism and Christianity. The Jaina Ahimsa, embraced the whole universe
and is not restricted to humanity. There we can find that Advaita Vedanta
and others admit oneness of soul and practically removes the ground of mistrust
and violence, which are the result of duality.
Nivarttaka Dharma - Ahimsa together with Aparigraha constitute the ethical
wholeness of self-control or self-restraint in social relationship, self-control
is the foundation of a higher moral life as in individual life, it is the
basis of higher spiritual life. Except for the Mimamsakas, who believe in
heaven etc. all the Vedic and non-Vedic systems adopt Moksa as the Summum
Bonum of life, which is a state of cessation of the wheels of existence.
It is happiness (Sreya) rather than pleasure (Preya) which is the goal of
life. Thus self-purification (Atma-suddhi) and not the acquisition of any
earthly or heavenly pleasures, which is the aim of life. The obstacles in
the forms of delusion, ignorance and craving must be rooted out by practicing
the different vows or Vratas, throughout life.
Hence, the agency is emphasized. In short, all these constitute the Nivarttaka
Dharma or world-withdrawing religion, which is said to be the heart of Jainism.
It is bound to be individualistic, world-withdrawing and self-negating.
Emphasis on renunciation, asceticism, penances etc. in the account of Sadhana
given in the Acaranga is literally soul-stirring. Like Buddha, Mahavira
also presented a gloomy picture of the world. `The living world is afflicted,
miserable' - thus begins the second lecture of the first book of Acaranga.