Jain Literature – UPSC Notes – Art and Culture

Lord Mahavir’s teachings found meticulous expression through the dedicated efforts of his immediate disciples, the Ganadharas, and esteemed elder monks known as Srut-kevalis. These devoted individuals wove his wisdom into a tapestry of texts, collectively known as Jain Agam or Agam Sutras, becoming the sacred books of the Jain religion. These scriptures, believed to be the original compilation of the Ganadharas, are categorized into two major streams: Canonical texts referred to as Jain Agamas or Agam, and Non-canonical literary works. Read comprehensively on Jain Literature in the following article!

The multifaceted nature of Jain literary expression extended beyond the boundaries of Prakrit and Ardha Magadhi. Jain monks, influenced by the spirit of exploration, wrote in various languages dictated by the era, region, and the patrons who championed their cause. During the Sangam period in South India, the monks embraced the rhythmic beauty of Tamil in their writings. Furthermore, their linguistic canvas expanded to encompass Sanskrit, Shauraseni, Gujarati, and Marathi, showcasing a willingness to explore diverse linguistic realms with an open mind. In this exploration, the Jain monks transcended linguistic boundaries, celebrating the richness of expression in a tapestry of languages, echoing the spirit of innovation and boundless curiosity.

Evolution of Jain Literature

  • Samavasarana: Tirthankaras, ancient spiritual teachers, shared wisdom in a divine preaching hall.
  • Shrut Jnana: Teachings comprised eleven parts (angas) and fourteen principles (purvas).
  • Sutta Conversion: Disciples transformed Tirthankara’s divine teachings into written records known as suttas.
  • Tattavartha Sutra: Significant Jain text written by Umaswami in Sanskrit.
  • Parasparopagraho Jivanam: Motto of Jainism, a key teaching from the Tattavartha Sutra.
  • Authoritative Text: Accepted in both Svetambara and Digambara traditions.

Types of Jain Literature

The Jain literary tradition is broadly categorized into two major groups: Digambara and Svetambara.

Svetambara Siddhanta:

According to the Svetambara tradition, the agamas, foundational scriptures, were composed during the first Jain council around 300 BC in Patliputra.

The canons of Svetambara consist of twelve Angas, twelve Upangas, ten Prakirnakas, four Mulasutras, six Chedasutras, and two Chulika sutras.

  • Acharanga Sutra: The first of twelve angas, compiled based on Mahavira’s teachings, later recompiled and edited by KshamaShraman Devardhigani.

Siddhanta of Svetambaras:

Twelve Angas: These treat the life of the monks and mostly consist of sermons on various themes important to Jains.

  • Acaranga
  • Sutrakratnga
  • Samvayanga
  • Thananga
  • Bhagavati
  • Jnatadharmkatha
  • Upasakadasa
  • Antakritdasa
  • Anuttaraupapatikadasa
  • Prasna Vyakarana
  • Vipaka Sutra
  • Dristivada (The 12th anga is lost.)

Twelve Upangas: Based on the Angas and authored by seers.

  • Uvavaiya-sutta
  • Raya-pasenaijja
  • Jivajivabhigama
  • Pannavana
  • Suriya-pannatti
  • Jambudvipa-pannatti
  • Canda-pannatti
  • Nirayavaliyao or Kappiya
  • Kappavadamsiao
  • Pupphaio
  • Puppha-culiao
  • Vanhi-dasao

Six Chedasutras: Texts related to the behavior of monks and nuns.

  • Biha Kappa
  • Vavahara
  • Ayara-dasao
  • Nisiha
  • Jiya-kappa
  • Maha-nisiha

Four Mulasutras: Texts providing a base in the earlier stages of monkhood.

  • Dasaveyaliya-sutta
  • Avassaya-sutta
  • Uttarajjhayana-sutta
  • Pinda-nijjutti and Ogha-nijjutti

Two Culikkasutras: Texts enhancing or decorating the meanings of Angas.

  • Nandi-sutra
  • Anuyogadvara-sutra

Svetambara Texts and Their Descriptions

  • Hemachandra:
    • Yogasastra: This is a treatise that outlines the rules of conduct for both laypeople and ascetics. It is written in Sanskrit.
    • Salakapurusa: Explores the concept of the 63 illustrious beings who appear during each half-time cycle.
    • Parishishtaparvan: This text provides details about the history of the earliest Jain teachers.
    • Arhanniti: A work on politics from a Jain perspective.
  • Shubhacandra:
    • Jnanarnava (or Yogapradipadhikara): This Sanskrit text covers various topics, with its primary focus on meditation.

Digambara Siddhanta

The Digambara canon, known as Siddhanta, encompasses numerous texts, with two regarded as the sole remnants of the original Purvas, believed to have been composed in the 2nd to 3rd centuries. These two ancient scriptures hold significant reverence as they encapsulate elements of the Purvas crafted by Mahavira’s chief disciples, capturing and molding his teachings.

Main Texts of Digambara Siddhanta

  • Shatkhandagama (Scripture in Six Parts):
    • Author: Pushpadanta and Bhutabali
    • Language: Prakrit
    • The Shatkhandagama, also known as Prathama Sruta-Skandha, serves as the first agama. It is a comprehensive treatise on Karmakarma theory, delving into calculations and subdivisions. The text addresses the intricate connection between karma and the soul, exploring the nature of karma. Written in concise prose and primarily in an aphoristic style, it is considered highly technical and intended for specialists. The scripture is divided into six parts:
      1. Jiva Sthana (Categories of living beings)
      2. Kshudraka Bandha (Minutiae of Bondage)
      3. Bandhasvamitva (Ownership of Bondage)
      4. Vedana (Perception)
      5. Maha bandha (Great bondage)
      6. Vargana (Divisions of Karmas)
  • Kasayapahuda or Kasayapranhrta (Treatise on Passions):
    • Compiled by: Guṇabhadra in the 2nd to 3rd century AD
    • The Kasayapahuda, written in 180 verses, is based on the Purvas. Virasena initiated its writing in Prakrit and Sanskrit, completed later by Jinasena in 820 AD. This text focuses on the passions (kasayas) or attachments to worldly things, arising from deluding karma (mohaniya-karma).
  • Anuyogas (Expositions):
    • Composed between: 2nd and 11th centuries AD
    • Language: Jaina Sauraseni (a variety of Prakrit) or Sanskrit
    • Anuyogas are categorized into four fields of knowledge and learning:
      1. Pratham-anuyoga (Religious stories)
      2. Charn-anuyoga (Conduct)
      3. Karan-anuyoga (Mathematics)
      4. Dravy-anuyoga (Philosophy)
    • Pratham-anuyoga: Digambara versions of Jain epics such as Ramayana (e.g., Padma-Purana by Ravisena) and Mahabharata (e.g., Jinasena’s Harivamsa Purana) are presented. Jain universal history (Maha-Purana) includes Jinasena’s 8th-century Adi-Purana and Guṇabhadra’s 9th-century Uttara-Purana.

Digambara Texts and Their Authors

  • Acharya Bhadrabahu:
    • Kalpa-sutra: Contains biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, with notable focus on Parsavanatha and Mahavira.
    • Other works include four Chedda sutras, Bhadrabahu Samhita, and Vasudevcharita.
  • Acharya Jinaratna:
    • Lilavatisara: Narrates the stories of the lives of a group of souls as they undergo a series of embodiments on their journey to final liberation.
  • Acharya Kundakunda:
    • Samayasara: Expounds Jain concepts like Karma, Asrava, Bandha, and Moksha.
    • Niyamsara: Elaborates on the path to liberation.
    • Pravachanasara: Deals with correct ascetic and spiritual behavior based on his dualism.
    • All the texts mentioned above are in Prakrit.
  • Samantabhadra Swamy:
    • Ratnakaranda sravakacara: Discusses the conduct of Sravaka.
    • Language: Sanskrit
  • Pujyapada:
    • Sarvarthasiddhi: The oldest commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra.
    • Language: Sanskrit
  • Jinasena:
    • Trishasthilkshana Mahapurana: Composed during the rule of the Rashtrakuta ruler Amoghavarsha.
      • Its first part (Adi Purana) is written by Jinasena in Sanskrit.
      • The second part is Uttara Purana, written by Gunabhadra in Apabhramsa.

FAQs on Jain Literature

1. How is Jain literature categorized? Jain literature is divided into two main categories: Agam and Canonical Literature (Agam Sutras). The Agam literature consists of sacred texts written in the Ardha-magadhi Prakrit language, holding profound significance in the Jain religion.

2. What are Svetambara canons? The Svetambara canons include twelve Angas, twelve Upangas, ten Prakirnakas, four Mulasutras, six Chedasutras, and two Chulika sutras. These compositions form an essential part of the religious scriptures in the Svetambara sect of Jainism.

3. What are Jain Agamas? Jain sacred literature is referred to as Agamas by the Jainas, and it is written in Prakrit. Similar to the Buddhist Pitakas in Pali and the Brahmanical Vedas in Sanskrit, the Jaina Agamas contain the teachings and sermons of the founders of Jainism.

4. In what languages was Jain literature written? Jain monks wrote in various languages, including Prakrit and Ardha Magadhi, depending on factors such as era, region, and patronage. During the Sangam period in South India, they wrote in Tamil. Additionally, Jain literature exists in Sanskrit, Shauraseni, Gujarati, and Marathi.

5. What is the significance of the “diksha” ceremony in Jainism? The “diksha” ceremony in Jainism is an official initiation ceremony marking the transition of individuals into Jain monks or nuns. Translating to “consecration” or “initiation,” the ceremony involves individuals renouncing their ordinary lives and taking vows of celibacy, non-violence, truthfulness, non-attachment, and other principles of Jainism.

6. How has Jainism influenced society? Jainism has left a profound impact on Indian and global society. In India, Jains have significantly shaped philosophy and ethics through concepts like Karma, Ahimsa, Moksha, and reincarnation. Additionally, Jains from wealthier classes have contributed to societal development by investing in schools, colleges, and hospitals.

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