Jain Literature

Some important notes regarding Jain literature for competitive examinations are as follows:

Purva, Agama, Bhadrabahu, Sthulbhadra & Vishaka

  • The canonical literature of Jainism is claimed to have started from Adinatha, the first tirthankara. It is said that these teachings were forgotten and revived by the Tirthankaras from time to time.
  • The teachings of the Tirthankaras before Mahavir are known as There were total 14 Purvas which were memorized and passed on through the ages, but later lost into oblivion.
  • Some Jain traditions say that Jain Scholar Bhadrabahu, who was also a Sutra Kevali (one who can recite all sutras), could recite the 14 Purvas. His disciple Sthulbhadra learnt all but last four Purvas. Thus, Bhadrabahu is considered to be the last expert of fourteen Purvas. He later migrated to South India, where he would later become guru of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • After Bhadrabahu, the Jainism split into Digambara and Svetambara. The Digambara belong to the lineage of Acharya Vishakha and Shvetambar follow the tradition of Acharya Sthulabhadra. In around 1500 AD, the Swetambar sect divided into three sub-sects known as Swetambar Murtipujak, Sthanakvasi, and Terapanthi.
  • Jain Literature is called Jain Agamas. They are canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahavira’s teachings. There are in all 46 texts.
  • 12 Angas: The 12 Angas are as follows:
  1. Ācāranga sūtra
  2. Sūtrakrtanga
  3. Sthānānga
  4. Samavāyānga
  5. Vyākhyāprajñapti or Bhagavati sūtra
  6. Jnātrdhārmakathāh
  7. Upāsakadaśāh
  8. Antakrddaaśāh
  9. Anuttaraupapātikadaśāh
  10. Praśnavyākaranani
  11. Vipākaśruta
  12. Drstivāda (This Anga had disappeared by the time second sangeeti was organized in 512 AD. The remaining Angas were written down in Ardhamagadhi (Jain Prakrit) Language.
  • 12 Upanga Agams: Upanga Agamas are explanations to Angas
  • 6 Chedasutras: These are texts related to behavior of Monks and Nuns.
  • 4 Mūlasūtras: These are texts which provide a base in the earlier stages of the monkhood
  • 10 Prakīrnaka sūtras: These are texts on Independent or miscellaneous subjects
  • 2 Cūlikasūtras: These are texts which further enhance or decorate the meaning of Angas.

Acharang Sutra (Acaranga Sutra)

Acharanga Sutra is the first of the eleven (or 12) Anga Agamas. It is the first text that was studied by the Jain monks. This agam describes the conduct and behaviour of ascetic life and the description of the penance of Lord Mahavir. This is the oldest agam from a linguistic point of view. It was written in Ardhamagadhi Prakrit.

Kalpa Sūtra

Kalpa Sutra (कल्पसूत्र) was written by Bhadrabahu. It contains the biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, most notably Parshvanath and Mahavira, including the latter’s Nirvana. Since Bhadrabahu was a teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, we can say that it was compiled in Mauryan Era.

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