Contents |



(the right–knowledge)


The Ultimate Aim Of Life –

The ultimate aim of animate existence is to liberate from the mundane world, which is full of pain and misery of birth, disease, decay (old–age) and death. However the liberation or final deliverance depends upon irresidual separation of the karma–matter from the soul. Jaina seers prophesied a three–way path for attaining this stage of irresidual separation from karma–matter, called mokṣa, comprising – 1. Samyagdarśana, which we have already dealt with in the second chapter, 2. Samyagjñāna, which the subject of this chapter and 3. Samyakcāritra, which shall be covered in the section on Jaina ethics. This stage cannot be attained without practising right and righteous conduct, which, in turn, depends on knowing what is right and what is wrong in relation to the conduct. This discretion between the wrong and the right comes from right–knowledge. However, I must not sound so simplistic about a vast subject that has taken the seers ages to develop.

The Right–Knowledge –

The importance of Right–knowledge becomes evident when it is said that the knowledge comes first, the righteousness later (Paḍhamaṁ nāṇaṁ tao dayā). This chapter traces the concept of five types of knowledge and dwells at some length on the subject of Jaina canonical literature, which is an ocean of traditional spiritual wisdom.

Jaina View On Knowledge –

We have already seen that amongst the knowledge and conduct the emphasis is on knowledge. Although it would not be correct to view any of the three ingredients of the practices to attain liberation as more or less than the others but practically speaking we can feel that knowledge takes precedence over the conduct as without the right–knowledge the conduct can never be right.

What Is Knowledge?

All living beings have one thing in common and that is consciousness. Through the awareness wrought by consciousness comes about the knowledge about the other living beings and the non–living things. Thus, knowledge is not something that comes from outside but it is that, which comes about from the inherent consciousness of the living–beings. Knowledge can, thus, be called an innate quality of the living–beings. Because through such knowledge one comes to know about the self as well as the others, it is said to be both – the self–illuminating as well as the other–illuminating. Here, it is worthy of note that all living beings, even the finest and inconsequential creatures like the Nigoda are endowed with knowledge, only its manifestation is very subdued.

What Is Right–knowledge?

Now, we can deal with the question, ‘What is right–knowledge?’ It’s simplest definition is that the knowledge that makes us distinguish between the beneficial and the harmful is the ‘right–knowledge’. On the contrary, the knowledge that does not so enable us is ‘ignorance’ and the knowledge that makesus to accept the harmful as the beneficial is ‘false–knowledge’. Here, the question arises as to how any knowledge, inherent to the soul, be false. This can be understood through an example. It is natural for a mirror to reflect a true image of the object that is put in front of it. However, if the mirror–surface were covered with a layer of dust, the image that it would reflect would not be clear and sharp. The thicker the layer of dust covering the mirror, the worse will be the image reflected by it. Now, through a beginningless association with the karma–matter, a layer of knowledge obscuring (Jñānā–varaṇīya) karma covers the inherent knowledge of the soul and it dulls its perception. The thicker the layer of the knowledge obscuring karma, the duller will be the perception and more distorted it will be. The dull perception is nothing but ignorance and the distorted one is false–knowledge. Through the process of separation of the karma–matter from the soul, we gradually remove this layer of knowledge obscuring karma as well and there comes a stage when we can see and perceive things as they are. This is called the dawn of right–vision and right–knowledge. When the layer disappears completely, there dawns the complete knowledge that can perceive and know all the universal entities in all their modes in all the three times – the past, the present and the future. This is enlightenment or omniscience or Sarvajñatā.

Five Stages Of Right–knowledge –

We have already discussed that right–knowledge is the knowledge from which the curtain of knowledge obscuring karma has been lifted to a certain extent. As this curtain obscuring the knowledge lifts progressively higher and higher, the higher and higher stages of right–knowledge get revealed. According to the clarity and extent to which it can perceive things, which is, in turn, achieved through destruction (kṣaya) or destruction cum subsidence (kṣayopaśama) of knowledge obscuring karma, five types of right–knowledge have been mentioned in the canonical works. These are as follows : –

1. Matijñāna (Sensory Knowledge) – The perception gained through five sensory organs and the mind, which is considered as half a sense–organ, is called Matijñāna. It is gained in the following four stages : –

a. Avagraha or apprehension that something is there,

b. —hāor consideration that what it could be by drawing on past experience,

c. Avāya or determination that it is such and such, and

d. Dhāraṇā or retention for further reference and gaining the capability for timely recall in future.

As all living beings are endowed with one or more sensory organ(s), they also have Matijñāna. It is also known as deductive knowledge (Ābhinibodhika–jñāna) as it is deduced from the experiences of the sensory organs. This type of knowledge has been said to be indirect (parokṣa), as it is not through direct realisation by spiritual means but through the medium of sensory organs and the mind. However, another view takes it as practically direct (Sāṁvyavahāra pratyakṣa), as it is gained through own senses and without the aid of any external agency.

2. Śrutajñāna (Scriptural Knowledge) – The second type of right–knowledge in the indirect category is scriptural knowledge. It is the knowledge gained through the study of and listening to discourses on scriptural contents. As the senses of sight, hearing, speech and thought are involved in reading, listening to and reciting the scriptures, it cannot be gained in isolation of the sensory knowledge. There are fourteen sub–types of the scriptural knowledge. Some of these merit description –

a. Samyagśruta or right scriptures are the ones that contain the teachings of the omniscient Prophets (Tīrthaṅkaras) and have been composed either bytheir principal disciples (Gaṇadharas) or the canon omniscient preceptors (Śrutakevalis) or the preceptors in the know of at least ten pūrvas (Pre–canons). The scriptures composed by the preceptors knowing less than ten pre–canons may be right (free from corruption) or may be corrupted.

b. Āgamika Śruta these timely studiable scriptures, such as Ācārāṅga, etc, include those canonical texts that can be studied only within time–periods laid down for scriptural studies.

c. Aṅgapraviṣṭa Śruta These are the twelve primary canonical works composed by the principal disciples of the Tīrthaṅkaras (Prophet–propounders). These have been described in the next section on ‘Jaina canonical literature’.

d. Aṅgabāhya Śruta These are the extra–primary canonical works, based on the primary canons and composed by the later preceptors.

The scriptural knowledge is prophesied, composed and propagated in three forms – 1. Meaning form (Artha– rūpa) in which the Lords Prophets preach. They only present views or thoughts or the ideas or the sense of what they wish to convey. This form is available to only those fortunate listeners, who form a part of the Lords Prophets’ congregation (Samavaśaraṇa) and listen to their discourses. 2. Maxim form (Sūtra–rūpa). The teachings of the Lords Prophets are composed into maxims or aphorisms, for the benefit of the posterity, by their principal disciples. These are now available to us in the form of primary canonical works. 3. Sūtrārtha–rūpa or in both the maxim and meaning forms. This version is also available to those disciples of the Lords Tīrthaṅkaras or those of their principal disciples, who were fortunate enough to listen to the discourses of the Lords Tīrthaṅkaras and hear the maxim–version as well from the Gaṇadharas. Presently what we have available is the maxim form of canonical texts in the Aṅgapraviṣṭa and Aṅgabāhya category and their meanings as interpreted by the commentators down the ages.

According to the canon–omniscient sage Ācārya Śayyambhava, the author of the Daśavaikālika–sūtra, it is the study of these scriptures that awakens a sense of discrimination between the sinful and pious acts and keeps the aspirant away from misdeeds and engaged in the spiritually beneficial ones.

3. Avadhijñāna (Clairvoyant Perception) – The first direct type of knowledge, which is not derived through the sensory organs and is, therefore, said to be extra–sensory, is Avadhijñāna or clairvoyant perception. Direct perception is also either complete or incomplete. Clairvoyant perception being limited in its scope to only specific regions comes in the category of incomplete direct perception. It is of two types, namely – 1. Bhavapratyayika or class induced type, which is by virtue of birth in certain classes of living beings and is found in the heavenly gods and the hellish denizens. However, the clairvoyant perception of the hellish creatures is of the false variety and is referred to as Vibhaṅga–jñāna. 2. Kṣāyopaśamika or destructo–subsidential type. It is the type that is gained through the destruction cum subsidence of the clairvoyant perception obscuring karma and is possible in the case of the humans as well as in some five–sensed rational animals. The latter type of clairvoyant perception is of six sub–types again – i. Ānugāmika, which follows the soul birth after birth, ii. Anānugāmika or the one that does not accompany the soul after death, iii. Vardhamāna, which keeps on increasing in its scope, iv. Hīyamāna or the one that decreases with the passage of time, v. Avasthita, which remains constant, and From the consideration of permanence, it is either Pratipāti or revocable, which can disappear after manifesting itself or Apratipāti, which is irrevocable, i.e. it does not disappear after it manifests itself. All the Tīrthaṅkaras are also born with clairvoyant perception, which is irrevocable or permanent. However, even though it is by birth itself, it is of the Kṣāyopaśamika type rather than the Bhavapratyayika type.

It must be clarified, here, that though the two types of clairvoyant perceptions have been named as Bhavapratyayika and Kṣāyopaśamika, the former, too cannot dawn without the due destruction or subsidence of the clairvoyant perception obscuring karma. The only difference between the two is that while for the former the hellish and the heavenly living beings have already achieved that destructo–subsidence before they are born as heavenly or hellish beings and they do not have to make any conscious effort like undertaking penance, etc, the latter type is an outcome of destruction cum subsidence achieved through conscious effort. It is, therefore, also referred to as Guṇapratyayika (virtue induced type) Avadhijñāna.

4. Manaḥparyāyajñāna (Telepathic Perception) – It is the second type of perception that falls in the incomplete direct category. It is signified by its holder’s capability of reading the others’ thoughts. Depending upon the stage of spiritual evolution of the holder, it can be either Ṛjumati, which can only apprehend some features of the thoughts rather in the form of an outline, or Vipulamati that can apprehend the others’ thoughts in complete detail. Therefore, the Vipulamati type is purer and more comprehensive than the Ṛjumati type in as much as it is in a position to clearly apprehend the subtler and more numerous particular features of the objects being thought of by the others. Also, the Vipulamati Manaḥparyāyajñāna is permanent while the Ṛjumati type is transient.

A word about the comparison between the two types of incomplete direct perceptions, namely Avadhijñāna and Manaḥparyāyajñāna will not be out of place. 1. While the spatial extent of the former (entire universe in the case of the most potent type) is much vaster than that of the latter (only up to the Mt. Mānuṣottara), the purity and, consequently, the clarity of the latter is much better than that of the former. 2. The former type of perception is possible in all four classes of living beings while the latter is possible only in the case of spiritually evolved human beings. 3. The former addresses all types of objects while the latter has only the others’ minds or thoughts as its objects.

These four types of knowledge – Mati, Śruta, Avadhi and Manaḥparyāya, are destructo–subsidential in nature and they invariably disappear at one stage or the other. Even the Apratipati Avadhijñāna, by birth in the case of the Tīrthaṅkaras and the Vipulamati Manaḥparyāya–jñāna, which appears at the time of their monastic ordination,also disappear when the purest of pure complete and direct type of perception – omniscience or Kevalajñāna dawns. Now, we shall describe that supreme and ultimate perception that dawns only on complete destruction of not only the knowledge obscuring (Jnānāvaraṇīya) karma but the other three destructive types–deluding (Mohanīya), vision obscuring (Darśanāvaraṇīya), and weal obstructing (Antarāya) as well; which does not disappear after it has appeared once, not even on death or nirvāṇa.

5. Kevalajñāna (Omniscience) – Destructional (kṣāyika), completely direct (sakala–pratyakṣa), extrasensory vi. Anavasthita or the one that keeps flickering.

(indriyātīta), supreme (parama), pure (śuddha) and infinite (ananta) knowledge is what is called Kevalajñāna. It appears only on the complete destruction or separation of the four destructive types of karma that hinder the development of complete consciousness of the soul. Having appeared once, it becomes a permanent attribute of the soul and never separates from it. It appears in conjunction with and simultaneously with Kevaladarśana, which makes the perspective absolutely right and remains with the soul in its liberated state as well. This knowledge is unlimited in its scope, and infinite in its potential. Actually only change of modes that takes place in a liberated soul is in respect of its Kevalajñāna and Kevaladarśana. As the images in a perfectly clean mirror appear perfectly clear and real, the apprehension of all the modes of all the objects of the universe and the non–universal space, in the past, present and future is absolutely clear and uncorrupted. The Kevalajñāna can perceive all these as easily as one can perceive an object placed on the palm of one’s hand. Commenting on the divine nature of Kevalajñāna, Kundakundācārya remarks, “Who would call a perception that cannot perceive the past, present and future modes of everything (in this universe and the non–universal space) clearly, divine?”

Jaina Canonical Literature –

In every faith scriptures or canonical works occupy an important position amongst religious texts. Āgamas enjoy the same position and importance in the Jaina faith as the Vedas in Hinduism, Tripiṭaka in Buddhism, the Bible in Christianity and the holy Koran in Islam. The āgamas are the compilations of the preaching of the most venerable Arhantas (enlightened and omniscient Tīrthaṅkaras), who had realised the truth and attained enlightenment through spiritual practices and purification. Though the scriptures say that the Aṅga Sūtras or (the Primary Canons or the Foremost scriptures) are considered to have been preached by the Tīrthaṅkaras (Lords Prophet–Propounders of the Jaina faith), we must remember that they preached only the meaning (Artha), which was then codified into sūtras (maxims or aphorisms) by their principal disciples (Gaṇadharas). In other words, the Tīrthaṅkaras only presented the thoughts or the ideas, which were then given the garb of words and codified into sūtras (maxims) by the Gaṇadharās. Other extra primary canonical works (Aṅga–bāhya Sūtras) were subsequently composed by the Ācāryas (Heads of religious orders or Spiritual Masters), Sthaviras (Senior monks) and other learned preceptors (Upādhyāyas).

The Jaina tradition doesn’t lay as much emphasis on words as the Hindu tradition. It considers words only as a means to convey the thought, idea or meaning. In its view the meaning is important not the words. It is this lack of emphasis on words that the āgamas of the Jaina tradition could not keep their linguistic character unaltered as the Vedas have been able to do over the millennia. This is the reason why the Jaina Canonical literature got divided into two streams, namely the Ardha–māgadhī canons and the Śaurasenī canons. At present, the Śvetambara tradition follows the Ardhamāgadhī scriptures and the Digambara tradition the Śaurasenī canonical works.

Ardhamāgadhī Canonical Literature –

Ardhamāgadhī Canonical works, as the name suggests, are the sacred Jaina scriptures composed in the Ardhamāgadhī language that was prevalent as the language of the masses in the region between Magadha (South Bihar of the present time) and the Śūrasena (Western U.P. of the present). As this was the region in which the last and the twenty–fourth Jaina Prophet, Lord Mahāvīra, generally toured and preached, He chose this language as the medium of His sermons. His teachings were subsequentlycomposed into canonical works by His principal disciples called Gaṇadharas and these were called Aṅga Āgamas or the primary canons. Later, as the time passed several other works of fundamental spiritual value were composed by other masters down the line and they were called Aṅgabāhya Āgamas or the extra–primary canons. However, this classification didn’t prove to be final and for a long time several classifications of Ardhamāgadhī canonical works have been available. They are as follows –

The Aṅga Sūtras –

The earliest available classification of the Ardhamāgadhī canonical literature, which draws a line of demarcation between the works compiled and composed, by principal disciples of Lord Mahāvīra, on the basis of His teachings and those inherited from those of the twenty–three Prophets before Him. It is in the form of the Pūrvas and the Aṅga Sūtras. Aṅga Sūtras are twelve in number and the Pūrvas fourteen. However, in the context of the canonical literature prevalent in the religious order of Lord Mahāvīra, the fourteen Pūrvas form a part of the twelfth Aṅga Sūtra – Dṛṣṭivāda, which is believed to have been lost to the ravages of time and its knowledge, including that of the fourteen Pūrvas is not currently available. It has, therefore, become traditional to list only eleven Aṅga sūtras and mention the Dṛṣṭivāda and the Pūrvas separately.

The Eleven Aṅga Sūtras are –

1. Ācārāṅga – It is a treatise on the right monastic conduct. It is divided into two parts called Śrutaskandhas. The first part consists of nine chapters and within them forty sections called Uddeśakas. According to the content, language and the style of composition, the first part (Śrutaskandha) of the treatise is quite ancient. The second part is in the form of supplements (Cūlikas) and consists of three supplements and sixteen chapters. From the very beginning there flows a current of non–violence towards all the living beings of the universe and an emphasis on the point that all the living beings love life, therefore one must avoid killing or hurting life in any manner. The subsequent chapters lay down the rules for monastic conduct based on this underlying philosophy of non–violence. The ninth chapter of the first part, entitled Upadhānaśruta, contains a fairly detailed description of the severe penance undertaken by Lord Mahāvīra before He gained enlightenment and omniscience as well as that of his tours in the land of the non–believers and consequent hardships and afflictions suffered by Him. The second part contains detailed regimens for various monastic practices.

2. Sūtrakṛtāṅga– It is a treatise that contains a detailed description of the Jaina and other religious philosophies of the time. This treatise is also divided into two parts – Śrutaskandhas /– containing sixteen and seven chapters respectively. Its importance lies in the fact that it deals with all the major religious philosophies of the time such as Kriyāvāda, Akriyāvāda, Niyativāda, Ajñānavāda, Jagatkartṛtvavāda, Loka–vāda, etc and then proves as to how these are not fundamentally true.

3. Sthānāṅga – A treatise with ten chapters and seven hundred and eighty–three aphorisms, this work enumerates various things and concepts – both concrete as well as abstract – as per their numbers. In this regard it can be compared to the Aṅguttaranikāya of the Buddhist scriptures.

4. Samavāyāṅga – Just like the Sthānāṅga, this treatise also lists various things according to their numbers. However, while the things mentioned in the Sthānāṅga are of a general nature and interest, those that have found a mention in this work are the ones connected with the monastic life and conduct. Its first two hundred and tenaphorisms list things from one to Koṭā–koṭi (1014) and the remaining aphorisms contain information of miscellaneous nature.

5. Vyākhyā–Prajñapti or Bhagavatīsūtra) – A treatise with eight hundred and sixty–seven aphorisms in forty–one chapters and with many sub–chapters in each, it contains the explanations and analyses of various things, concepts and precepts as given by Lord Mahāvīra to Gaṇadhara Gautama. The explanations given in this treatise are in the form of questions and answers. Gaṇadhara Gautama asks questions related to the fundamental principles, which are then answered by Lord Mahāvīra. At many places, in this treatise, there are descriptions of discussions between the followers of Lord Mahāvīra and those of the twenty–third Prophet Lord Pārśvanātha wherein the latter were convinced of the importance of the five dimensional faith (Pañcayāma dharma) preached by Lord Mahāvīra under the changed circumstances and embraced it with pleasure. Amongst other things this work also mentions the historically important events such as two great wars fought, in Vaiśāli, between the Vajjis and the Ajātaśatru Kuṇika on one side and almost all the rest of the kingdoms and republics of the eastern and central India (comprising nine Mallakis, nine Licchavis, Kāśī, Kauśala and the eighteen other republics) on the other.

6. Jñātā–Dharmakathāṅga – A treatise in two parts (Śrutaskandha), it contains moral and religious stories told by the Lord (Jñātaputra) Mahāvīra. The nineteen chapters of the first part contain nineteen moral stories, which uphold moral values and expound morality. Ten stories of the second part are religious stories that aim at propounding and establishing the Jaina tenets through this medium of lucidly told captivating stories. All of them aim at promoting the value of renunciation, restraint and penance towards the attainment of spiritual emancipation. Some of the well–known stories of this work are – Meghkumara, Sthāpatyāputra, Rohiṇī, Draupadī, Gajasukumāla, etc. The remarkable thing about this work is that the fourth chapter of the first part contains animal stories, which, it can be surmised, sowed the seeds of a major literary style in the coming times which ultimately gave major animal stories like in Pañcatantra, Aesop’s fables etc.

7. Upāsakadaśāṅga – It is a treatise containing the accounts of the lives and spiritual practices of ten lay followers (Upāsakas or Śrāvakas) of Lord Mahāvīra in ten chapters. The rules of conduct to be followed by the lay followers of the Jaina faith have been laid down and explained through the medium of these stories. In the very first chapter the five minor vows (Aṇuvrata), three virtue enhancing vows (Guṇavrata) and four educational vows (Śikṣāvrata) as well as the possible excesses (aticāra) that can be committed have been very lucidly presented. Ānanda, the subject of the first chapter, was a very devoted devotee of Lord Mahāvīra and had taken the vows at the hands of the Lord Himself. He had attained the highly sensitive and extensive accomplishment of clairvoyant perception (Avadhi–jñāna) after undertaking rigorous lay followers’ practices for twenty years. The remaining nine chapters also have similar accounts of the lives and practices of the other nine Śrāvakas. This work can easily be termed as the Ācāraṅga for the lay followers. As the first primary canonical work, Ācārāṅga lays down the conduct for the monks and the nuns, this work does the same for the lay followers of the faith.

8. Antakṛddaśāṅga– A treatise in eight chapters to describe the lives and spiritual practices of ninety spiritual aspirants, from the religious orders of the twenty–second Tīrthaṅkara Lord Ariṣṭanemi and the twenty–fourth Tīrthaṅkara Lord Mahāvīra, who practised severe penance and liberated inthe same birth. All of them studied all the possible scriptures and practised severe penance followed by embracing of voluntary peaceful deaths through fasts unto deaths. The most moving accounts are those of Rathanemi’s chastisement by Rājimati and the ordination and nirvāṇa of Gajasukamāla.

9. Anuttaropapātikadaśāṅga– It is a treatise containing the accounts of the lives and spiritual practices of thirty–three great aspirants whose spiritual practices yielded them rebirths in the five ultimate heavens called Anuttara–vimānas. The gods of the ultimate heavens are unique in the sense that they are destined to attain the final deliverance in the human rebirth that they take after descending from these heavens. This work also contains a detailed description of the most severe type of end–practice (Voluntary Peaceful Death) of the Pādapopagamana type of Samādhimaraṇa in which the aspirant practitioner accepts fast unto death and lies down like a fallen tree without any movement what so ever except when he has to answer the nature’s calls.

10. Praśna–Vyākaraṇa– The title of this treatise suggests that it ought to have been a treatise containing questions and answers related to spiritual matters pertaining to the own faith as well as the others. However, this purported original form of this work seems to have undergone some change over time. In its present form it exists in two parts that deal with karmic influx (Āsrava) and stoppage (Saṁvara). The first of the two parts of this work contains the descriptions of the five causes of karmic influx (Āsrava–dvāra) and the second part that of the five measures for ensuring karmic stoppage (Saṁvara–dvāra).

11. Vipāka Sūtra– It is a treatise that outlines the inevitable retribution of one’s actions – both, pious and impious. In its twenty stories the first ten are devoted to showing as to how the sinful actions result in painful retribution (Duḥkha–vipāka) and the next ten stories underline the pleasurable results of pious actions (Sukha–vipāka).

The Twelfth Aṅga Āgama ‘Diṭṭhivāda (Dṛṣṭivāda)’ –

This Aṅga Sūtra, which is believed to have been lost over time, had five parts. They were –

1. Parikarma– containing the mathematical procedures and formulae for various calculations. It had five sub–sections, namely –

(a) Candra Prajñapti,

(b) Sūrya Prajñapti,

(c) Jambūdvīpa Prajñapti,

(d) Dvīpasāgara Prajñapti, and

(e) Vyākhyā Prajñapti.

2. Sūtra describing each of the 363 false faiths, prevalent at that time, and then logically refuting each of them.

3. Pūrvagata– containing the fourteen Pūrvas.

4. Anuyoga– containing the descriptions of the lives and practices of sixty–three great personalities or torch–beares (Trisaṣṭi Śalākā–puruṣa) of the Jaina faith.

5. Cūlikā– containing the supplements to various Pūrvas.

The third part – Pūrvagata comprised the fourteen Pūrvas (Pre–canons).

The Fourteen Pūrvas–

1. Utpāda Pūrva– It described the coming into being (Utpāda), permanence (Dhrauvya) and destruction (Vyaya) of animate and inanimate matter.

2. Agrāyaṇīya Pūrva– It contained the descriptions of seven hundred good and bad standpoints (Naya), six matters (Ṣaḍ–dravya), seven fundamental verities (Sapta tattva), and nine substances (Nava padārtha).

3. Vīryānuvāda Pūrva– It described the potentialities of six matters.

4. Asti–nāstipravāda Pūrva– It explained the existence and the non–existence of the animate and inanimate matter with reference, respectively, of their own quartet (Svacatuṣṭaya) of matter (dravya), place (kṣetra), time (kāla) and mode (bhāva) and that of the others (Paracatuṣṭaya).

5. Jñānapravāda Pūrva– describing the number, types, subjects and effects of knowledge.

6. Satyapravāda Pūrva– describing various tendencies of the truth and the untruth.

7. Ātmapravāda Pūrva– It described the qualities like doership (Kartṛtva), enjoyership (bhoktṛtva), etc. of the soul (Jīva) from both, the absolute (Niścaya) and practical (Vyavahāra) stand–points (Nayas).

8. Karmapravāda Pūrva– it contained the descriptions of the bonding (Bandha), existence (Sattā), fruition (Udaya), premature fruition (Udīraṇā), etc of karma.

9. Pratyākhyāna Pūrva– It describes various types of renunciations.

10. Vidyānuvāda Pūrva– It contained the descriptions of 700 types of petty and 500 types of great learning, procedures for perfecting various incantations for obtaining desired results (Mantra–siddhi Vidhāna), and eight–fold prognostics (Aṣṭāṅga Nimitta).

11. Avandhya Pūrva– Describing the auspicious events in the lives of sixty–three great personalities or torch–bearers (Śalākāpuruṣa) of the Jaina faith.

12. Prāṇāyu Pūrva– containing the knowledge of the science of healing and that of incantations (Mantra prayoga) for relieving the spells cast by evil spirits.

13. Trilokabindusāra Pūrva– containing the descriptions of the three worlds – higher, middle and nether; and the Mokṣa (the abode of the liberated souls) as also the actions that lead to Mokṣa.

14. Cūlikā Pūrva– detailing the procedures for attaining various unusual accomplishments as follows –

A. Jalagatā Cūlikā– the art of walking on water by stabilising it.

B. Agnigatā Cūlikā – the art of stabilising fire, entering it and walking on it.

C. Sthalagatā Cūlikā– the art of treading the inaccessible lands such as Mt. Meru etc.

D. Māyāgatā Cūlikā– the art of breaking the magic and evil spells.

E. Rūpagatā Cūlikā– the art of adopting various forms such as those of lion, goat, elephant, horse, etc. at will.

F. Ākāśagatā Cūlikā– the art of flying in the sky (Janghācāraṇa vidyā).

Aṅgapraviṣṭha And Aṅgabāhya Āgama –

The second classification of the canonical works is in the form of Aṅga included (Aṅgapraviṣṭha) or Intra Primary canons and Aṅga excluded (Aṅgabāhya) or Extra Primary Canons. Nandīsūtra describes this classification, which is as shown in the chart given below:–

Āgama or Śruta

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Ācārāṅga ™ ™

Sūtrakṛtāṅga ĀvaśyakaĀvaśyaka–vyatirikta

Sthānāṅga ™ ™

Samavāyāṅga Sāmāyika

Vyākhyāprajñapti Caturviṁśatistava

Jñātādharmakathāṅga Vandanā

Upāsakadaśāṅga Pratikramaṇa

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Antakṛddaśāṅga Kāyotsarga

Anuttaropapātikadaśāṅga Pratyākhyāna




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Uttarādhyayana Daśavaikālika

Daśāśrutaskandha Kalpikākalpika

Kalpa Culla–Kalpaśruta

Vyavahāra Mahākalpaśruta

Niśītha Aupapātika

Mahāniśītha Rājapraśnīya

Ṛṣibhāṣita Jīvābhigama

Jambūdvīpa–prajñapti Prajñāpanā

Dvīpasāgara–prajñapti Mahāprajñāpanā

Candra–prajñapti Pramādāpramāda

Kṣullikāvimānapravibhakti Nandī

Mahallikāvimānapravibhakti Anuyogadvāra

Aṅgacūlikā Devendrastava

Vaggacūlikā Tandulavaicārika

Vivāhacūlikā Candravedhyaka

Aruṇopapāta Sūrya–prajñapti

Varuṇopapāta Pauruṣīmaṇḍala

Garuḍopapāta Maṇḍalapraveśa

Dharanopapāta Vidyācaraṇaviniścaya

Vaiśramaṇopapāta Gaṇividyā

Velandharopapāta Dhyānavibhakti

Devendropapāta Maraṇavibhakti

Utthānaśruta Ātmaviśodhi

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Samutthānaśruta Vītarāgaśruta

Nirayāvalikā Vihārakalpa

Kalpikā Caraṇavidhi

Kalpāvataṁsikā Āturapratyākhyāna

Puṣpikā Mahāpratyākhyāna



The Four Anuyogas

The third classification of the canonical texts is based on the subjects dealt with therein. All the āgamas were divided into four parts called Anuyogas. They are as under:–

1. Caraṇa–Karaṇānuyoga– dealing with the rules of monastic conduct, flaws and atonement therefor. The canonical works included within this anuyoga are – Kālika Śruta (Timely studiable canonical works), Mahākalpa, Chedasūtras, etc.

2. Dharmakathānuyoga– the canonical works that predominantly contain religious stories, such as – Ṛṣibhāṣita, Uttarādhyayana, etc. are included within this anuyoga.

3. Gaṇitānuyoga– the canonical texts such as Sūrya–Prajñapti, etc., which can be studied through mathematical rigour, form the content of this anuyoga.

4. Dravyānuyoga– the canonical works dealing with the material science, such as Dṛṣṭivāda, etc., are included within this anuyoga.

The Latest Classification –

The latest classification of canonical works is in the form of Aṅga Sūtras, Upāṅga Sūtras, Mūla Sūtras and Cheda Sūtras. Thirty–two scriptures recognised by the Sthānakavāsī (Prayer–house dwelling) and the Terāpanthī Śvetāmbara (White–clad)Jaina tradition as canonical works (Jaina Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaka – White–clad Idol–worshiping tradition recognises forty–five scriptures as such) include eleven Aṅga Sūtras (Primary canons), twelve Upāṅga Sūtras (Subsidiary canons), four Mūla Sūtras (Basic canons), four Cheda Sūtras (Disciplinary canons) and Āvaśyaka– sūtra (Esssential scripture). They are as follows:–

Eleven Aṅga Āgamas –

These are the same as mentioned under Aṅgapraviṣṭha āgamas.

Twelve Upāṅga Āgamas –

The Upāṅga (subsidiary) canonical works generally correspond to their respective Aṅga (primary) counterparts. They are –

1. Aupapātika,

2. Rājapraśnīya,

3. Jīvābhigama,

4. Prajñāpana,

5. Jambūdvīpa–prajñapti,

6. Sūrya–prajñapti,

7. Candra–prajñapti,

8. Nirayāvalikā (Kalpikā),

9. Kalpāvataṁsikā,

10. Puṣpikā,

11. Puṣpacūlikā,

12. Vṛṣṇidaśā,

Four Mūla Sūtras

1. Uttarādhyayana–sūtra made famous by the belief that it is a compilation of the last sermons of Lord Mahāvīra, delivered just before His nirvāṇa, it is believed to be the essence of entire Jaina sacred lore, hence the work of supreme importance and the best of Jaina study. Its thirty–six chapters contain the essence of the Jaina thought on almost every area of spiritual and moral issue. It contains material on all the four Anuyogas and its importance is all the more enhanced by the fact that it is one of the few Jaina scriptures that form the set of Śramaṇa poetry. Thirty–five of its thirty–six chapters are in melodious metric verse. Most popular of the Jaina scriptures, it is also known as the Jaina–Gītā.

2. Daśavaikālika– It is a compilation of the essential rules of right monastic conduct in a nut–shell.

3. Nandīsūtra– This basic canonical work by Devavācaka Gaṇi is an expose on the right–knowledge. The subject of five kinds of knowledge – sensory, scriptural, clairvoyant, telepathic and omniscience – has been dealt with in relation to their various aspects. It also contains the rolls of heads of monastic groups starting from Ārya Sudharma right down to Devardhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa of the Valabhi conclave fame.

4. Anuyogadvāra– Mainly explanatory in nature, this work is considered to be an essential aid in the study of all the primary and secondary canonical works.

Four Cheda Sūtras

1. NiśīthaNiśītha enjoys the most important position amongst the Cheda Sūtras (Disciplinary canons)that prescribes censures and atonement for various monastic misdemeanours.

2. Vyavahāra– It is again a treatise, by canon omniscient Bhadrabāhu, on the rules of monastic conduct that prescribes rules for seeking food (Pinḍaiṣaṇā) by monks and nuns, monastic tours (Vihāra), repentance and atonement for various infractions, etc.

3. Vṛhatkalpa– This Cheda Sūtra is complementary toVyavahāra Sūtra and deals with similar subjects of monastic conduct, renunciation, exceptions and expiation thereof.

4. Daśāśrutaskandha– Another Cheda Sūtra by Ācārya Bhadrabāhu, this work is also known as Ācāradaśā. Its ten chapters deal with various aspects of monastic conduct. Its eighth chapter is the famous Kalpasūtra describing the Cāturmāsa–kalpa (conduct during the four months of the rainy season) of the Jaina clergy.

The Thirty–second Āgama

Āvaśyakasūtra – This canonical work prescribes and describes six essential activities that must be undertaken by the monks and the nuns everyday without fail. These activities are – 1. Samāyika (observing periods of equanimity), 2. Caturviṁśti–stava (paying homage to the twenty–four Tīrthaṅkaras), 3. Vandanā (Bowing to the five venerable paragons of spiritual virtues), 4. Pratikramaṇa (Retracting from the transgressions committed during the day, the night, the fortnight, the month–quartet or the year as the case may be, 5. Kāyotsarga (Observing periods of detachment towards the physical body) and 6. Pratyākhyāna (Giving up some sinful activity, food or physical facility as a part of one’s daily spiritually uplifting activity).

Forty–five Āgamas –

As mentioned earlier, the White–clad Idol–worshiping tradition recognises forty–five scriptures as āgamas. They are as follows:–

Eleven Aṅga Āgamas as listed earlier,

Twelve Upāṅga Āgamas as listed earlier,

Six Mūla Sūtras

1. Āvaśyakasūtra,

2. Daśavaikālikasūtra,

3. Uttarādhyayanasūtra,

4. Nandīsūtra,

5. Anuyogadvārasūtra, and

6. Piṇḍaniryukti–Oghaniryukti.

Six Cheda Sūtras

1. Niśīthasūtra,

2. Mahāniśīthasūtra,

3. Vṛhatkalpa,

4. Vyavahārasūtra,

5. Daśāśrutaskandha, and

6. Pañcakalpa.

Ten Prakīrṇakas

Generally, ‘Prakīrṇaka’ means ‘a treatise compiled on miscellaneous subjects’. According to Malyagiri, the commentator on the Nandīsūtra, the monks used to compose the Prakīrṇakas based on the sermons of the Tīrthaṅkaras (the Prophets Propounders of the Jaina faith). Today, only ten of the twenty–two available Prakīrṇakas are recognised amongst the forty–five canonical works. These are as follows :–

1. Āturapratyākhyāna,

2. Bhaktaparijñā,

3. Tandulavaicārika,

4. Candravedhyaka,

5. Devendrastava,

6. Gani–vidyā,

7. Mhāpratyākhyāna,

8. Catuḥśaraṇa,

9. Vīrastava, and

10. Saṁstāraka. The Five Canonical Recitations –

From the very beginning the question of preservation of the sacred canonical lore was a matter of great concern for the Jaina monks. Unlike the Brahmin Vedic scholars, the Jaina monks didn’t write the canonical texts on palm–leaves etc, but committed them to memory and passed them on to the next generation of monks by the word of mouth. This practice prevailed because according to the Jaina tenets use of mediums of writing such as the palm–leaves, bark, ink, pen, etc was considered as acts of violence towards the plant life and hence as sinful acts. The second reason for this concern was that the members of the Jaina clergy were a wandering lot, who never stayed in one place as per the dictates of their precepts. They were, therefore, unable to devote as much time to reciting and repeating the canonical knowledge as they might have liked to. Thirdly, unlike the Vedic hymns the canonical maxims had no role to play in the social and civic life of their followers and, as a result, weren’t repeated often. Fourthly, at least twice in the known history, long famines, each lasting for as long as twelve years, had disrupted the monastic orders when the monks dispersed from the famine hit regions to distant places where they could find the where–with–alls to sustain their lives. They, obviously, could not keep up with their recitals and the canonical knowledge partly lost.

Due to these various reasons the canonical knowledge had withered and five times the efforts were made by assembling the conclaves of monks and collecting the canonical lore by collective recitations.

The First Recitation ‘Pāṭaliputra Vācanā’–

The very first recitation was held at an assembly of monks called at Paṭaliputra (Patna, Bihar) 160 years after Lord Mahāvīra’s nirvāṇa. This conclave, under the direction of Canon–omniscient (Śruta–kevalī) Bhadrabāhu and Ācārya Sthūlibhadra, could recall the eleven Primary canonical texts (Aṅga–praviṣṭha Āgamas) and ten out of the fourteen fore–canons (Pūrvas) from the twelfth primary canon – Dṛṣṭivāda. According to the Jaina lore, after Bhadrabāhu, Sthūlibhadra was the only monk, who knew the fourteen fore–canons in text and only ten of them in meaning.

The Second Recitation –

The second recitation was held at a conclave assembled in the second century BC nearly three hundred years after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, at the Kumārī hill in Orissa, during the reign of emperor Khārvela. Not much is known about this conclave except that the efforts were made, here, to recall and revive the canonical knowledge forgotten during the Mauryan reign.

The Third Recitation ‘Māthurī Vācanā‘–

This recitation was held at Mathurā under the direction of Ārya Skandila about 840 years after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra.

The Fourth Recitation ‘Nāgārjunīya Vācanā‘

Yet another recitation was organised under the direction of Ārya Nāgārjuna at Vallabhī in the Saurāṣṭra region of Gujarat almost at the same time as the Mathura conclave. The forgotten canonical knowledge was recollected but it was not reduced to writing.

The Fifth Recitation ‘Vallabhī Vācanā‘–

The fifth recitation was again held at a conclave assembled at Vallabhī, in the year 980 after the Vīra–nirvāṇa, under the direction of Ācārya Devardhigaṇī Kṣamāśramaṇa. It is popularly known as the ‘Vallabhī Vācanā‘. While in the earlier four conclaves the canonical lore was only recited orally and recommitted to memory, it was at this conclave that the canonicaltexts were organised in their present form and reduced to writing.

Śaurasenī Canonical Literature –

As has been pointed out earlier, the Digambara tradition holds the view that only a part of the canonical knowledge, inherited from tradition and imparted by Lord Mahāvīra, was retained by the monks through their monastic Śruta–tradition and the Śaurasenī canonical works were composed by the learned masters based on this remnant knowledge. The Śaurasenī canonical works are as under –


This most revered and the most voluminous of the Śaursenī canonical works, in six parts, was composed by two Digambara monks – Puṣpadanta and Bhūtabali – under the auspices of Ācārya Dharasena. By various considerations and available evidence it has been surmised that this work was composed in the first century of the Śaka Era. The details of its six parts are as under:–

1. Jīvaṭṭhāṇa In this part, Jīvasthāna, various attributes, nature and conditions of the living beings have been described in relation to eight considerations. These eight considerations are – 1. Reality (Sat), 2. Number (Saṅkhyā), 3. Area (Kṣetra), 4. Touch (Sparśan), 5. Time (Kāla), 6. Difference (Antar), 7. State (Bhāva) and 8. Maximum–Mimimum (Alpa–bahutva).

2. Khuddābandha – In this part, ‘Kṣudrakabandha’, in thirteen chapters, the karmic bondability (bandhatva) or otherwise (Abandhatva) of any living being has been analysed in accordance to his station in the journey towards spiritual emancipation (Mārgaṇā–sthāna or way–station). This part is very important from the point of view of ‘Theory of karma (Karma–Siddhānta)’.

3. Bandhasāmitta–vicaya This part, ‘Bandhasvāmitva–vicaya’ deals with the eligibility of various types of karmic bondage in various stages of spiritual development (Guṇa–sthāna) and various stations in the journey towards spiritual emancipation (Mārgaṇā–Sthāna). This part is also very important for the study of Karma–Siddhānta.

4. Vedanākhaṇḍa The first two parts of the Karma– prābhṛtaKṛti and Vedanā – are, together known as Vedanā–khaṇḍa. This shows that this part is quoted from the Pre–canons (Pūrvas). The first of these two, Kṛti, is mainly devoted to benediction and supplemented by stating various types of Kṛti. The second, Vedanā, has been analysed in, great detail, in sixteen chapters.

5. Vargaṇā Khaṇḍa This part deals with the types of material particles that constitute Karma Vargaṇā or karmic material particles capable of bonding with the soul. The analysis is in three parts called – 1. Sparśa (Touch), 2. Karma and 3. Prakṛti (Nature).

6. Mahābandha – After the bondability study (Bandhanīya adhikāra) in the Vargaṇā Khaṇḍa, this sixth part of āṭ<khaṇḍāgama deals with the four aspects of bondage – 1. Nature of bondage (Prakṛti Bandha), 2. Quantum of bondage (Pradeśa Bandha), 3. Duration of bondage (Sthiti Bandha) and 4. Intensity of bondage (Anubhāga Bandha) – in such great detail and it is so voluminous that it has been named as Mahābandha.

Kasāyapāhuḍa (Kaṣāya Prābhṛta)

This important Śaurasenī canonical work, which basically deals with the subject of attachment (Rāga) and aversion (Dveṣa) was composed by Ācārya Guṇadhara. Conversion of these two basic attributes of the living beings into four great passions (Kaṣāya) and their nature, duration, intensity and incidence constitute the subject–matter of this work. According to Dr. Nemicandra Jain this work is of an earlier origin than the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama and much earlier than the works of Ācārya Kundakunda. Its period of composition might be as early as the first century AD. The linguistic evidence also supports this inference, as its language is more ancient than the language of the Ṣaṭkhanḍāgama.

Kaṣāya Prābhṛta has a total of sixteen chapters (Adhikāra). The first eight of its chapters vividly describe the nature of deluding (Mohanīya) karma that is primarily responsible for the worldly wandering of the living beings. The remaining eight chapters are devoted to the analyses of spiritual evolution effected by gradually decaying deluding karma and its various conditions under various circumstances of spiritual awakening. The aspects of karmic influx, bondage, duration, fruition, separation, etc have been lucidly dealt with in great detail. In a nutshell this treatise presents a vivid analysis of attachment and aversion wrought by delusion; karmic influx, bondage, etc due to activities guided by such delusion and karmic separation when deluding karma is checked.

Canon–Equivalent Śaurasenī Literature –

The following are some of the Śaurasenī works of the most revered of great Ācāryas of the Digambara Jaina tradition that are considered to be equivalent to the canonical literature:–

Ācārya Kundkunda’s Works –

The important works of Ācārya Kundakunda are –

1. Pravacanasāra,

2. Samayasāra,

3. Pañcāstikāya,

4. Aṣṭapāhuḍa comprising

i. Daṁsaṇapāhuḍa,

ii. Suttapāhuḍa,

iii. Cārittapāhuḍa,

iv. Bohapāhuḍa,

v. Bhāvapāhuḍa,

vi. Mokkhapāhuḍa,

vii. Liṅgapāhuḍa and

viii. Sīlapāhuḍa.

5. Niyamasāra,

6. Bārasāṇuvekkhā,

7. Rayaṇasāra, etc.

Tiloyapaṇṇatti by Yativṛṣabha

This work is the Śaurasenī version of the Jaina cosmology that has some differences from the descriptions contained in the three prajñaptis – Sūrya–Prajñapti, Candra–Prajñapti and Jambūdvīpa–Prajñapti – on the subject, under the Ardhamāgadhī canonical works.

Mūlācāra by Vaṭṭakera

This is a valuable treatise that describes, in great detail, the rules and regulations of monastic conduct. Many of its verses are also found in the Ardhamāgadhī works like Āvaśyaka niryukti, Piṇḍaniryukti, Bhattapaiṇṇā, Maraṇasamādhi, etc.

Bhagavatī–Ārādhanā by Śivārya

This is yet another ancient Śaurasenī treatise by Ācārya Śivakoṭi (Circa 3rd Century Vikramī Era) that is divided in four parts – Samyagdarśana Adhikāra, Samyagjñāna Adhikāra, Samyakcāritra Adhikāra and Samyaktapa Adhikāra. These parts cover the subjects indicated by their titles in great detail.

Kārtikeyānuprekṣā by Svāmi Kārtikeya –

It is a treatise devoted to twelve types of reflections that promote spiritual well–being.

Ācārya Nemicandra’s Literature –

Ācārya Nemicandra Siddhāntacakravartī, an erudite scholar monk of the 11th century AD, wrote a number of works that are famous to date. They are:–

1. Gommaṭasāra,

2. Trilokasāra,

3. Labdhisāra,

4. Kṣapaṇāsāra, and

5. Dravyasaṁgraha.

Conclusion –

Knowledge is all–important. Its importance lies in the fact that all living beings are endowed with consciousness comprised of vision and knowledge and, therefore, it is a natural and essential attribute of all living beings. Knowledge is the recognition of consciousness. Lack of knowledge is inertia and a sign of inanimate existence.

Another important feature of knowledge is that right–conduct is possible only through right–knowledge and, hence, the seers have echoed the thought, “Knowledge first, conduct later”.

Even though knowledge is a natural attribute of life, its manifestation is hindered by the karmic veil known as Jñānā–varaṇīya (knowledge obscuring) karma. The five types of knowledge – Matijñāna, Śrutajñāna, Avadhijñāna, and Manaḥ– paryāya–jñāna become manifest as this karmic veil is gradually lifted. Once the four destructive karmic bonds are destroyed, the soul realises its full glory and the pure, irrevocable, infinite and divine omniscience dawns along with the simultaneous dawn of Kevaladarśana. It is to this end that entire gamut of spiritual practices is played. The dawn of omniscience is the culmination of all spiritual practices. Nothing remains hidden once this divine enlightenment is realised. The ordinary mortal self becomes immortal supreme self.

The pursuit of knowledge, and the right–knowledge for that matter, is therefore, all–important, too.Svastika

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