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Sub-Categories of Jain Agam Literature

Background

Jain Literature
Agam Literature
Digambar Literature
Four Anuyogas
  Summary
 

Appendix - Summary of Swetambar Jain Agams

  Ang‑agams
  Upang-agams
  Chhed Sutra Aagams
  Mool-sutras
  Chulika‑sutras
  Prakirna‑agams

Jain Agam Literature

By Pravin K. Shah

Jain Study Center of North Carolina
 

Agam Literature

Lord Mahavir's preaching was methodically compiled by his immediate disciples known as Gandharas, and elder monks known as Srut-kevalis into many texts known as Sutras. These Sutras are collectively known as Agams or Agam Sutras, the sacred books of the Jain religion. Hence, the Jain religion does not have one sacred book like the Bible or Koran, but it has many books compiled by Gandharas and Srut-kevalis during 150 years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan (death).

Agam literature is also divided into two groups:

  • Ang‑agams or Ang‑pravista‑agams
     

  • Ang‑bahya‑agams (outside of Ang‑agams)

Ang‑agams or Ang‑pravista‑agams:

Lord Mahavir's immediate disciples were known as Ganadharas. All Ganadharas possessed perfect knowledge (keval‑jnan) and attained liberation at the end of their human life. They orally compiled 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 backbone 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) was gradually lost starting about one hundred fifty years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan (death). However, other Jain scriptures and literature reference the subject matter of the Purvas.

The Digambar Jain sect also believes that the other remaining eleven Ang‑agams were gradually lost. All Swetambar Jains believe that the eleven Ang‑agams were remembered by their ascetics and were properly documented by them during the last two conferences that were held in Mathura and Valabhi around one thousand years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan.

Present Status of Ang-agams:

Jain Sects

Total Ang-Agams

Number of Ang-agams Lost

Number of Ang-agams Survived

Digambar

12

12

0

Swetambar Murtipujak

12

1

11

Swetambar Sthanakvasi

12

1

11

Swetambar Terapanthi

12

1

11

Ang‑bahya‑agams (outside of Ang‑agams):

Monks who had knowledge of a minimum of ten Purvas were known as Srut‑kevlis. They possessed the total knowledge of reality (soul, matter, their relationship etc.) by studying scriptures.  The Srut‑kevlis wrote many texts (sutras) expanding the subject matter of 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.   

The Digambar sect believes that all Ang-bahya-agams were also gradually lost starting about two hundred years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvan.  Hence in its opinion, the complete Jain agam literature is lost within few hundred years after Lord Mahavir's nirvan.

Present Status of Ang-bahya-agams:

Jain Sects

Total Ang-bayha Agams

Number of Ang-bayha agams Lost

Number of Ang-bayha agams Survived

Digambar

14

14

0

 

Swetambar Murtipujak

34

0

34

 

Swetambar Sthanakvasi

21

0

21

 

Swetambar Terapanthi

21

0

21

 

 

 

 

 

  Classification of Ang‑bahya‑agams:

The Swetambar sect has divided Ang‑bahya‑agams into the following categories:

Upang-sutras:

The scriptures, which provide further explanation of Ang-agams, are called Upang-agams.

Chhed‑sutras:

The subject matters described in Chhed‑sutras are only for ascetics not for lay people.  They relate to the conduct and behavior of monks and nuns.  They also explain how they can repent for their sins and mistakes.

Mool‑sutras:

The scriptures, which are essential for ascetics to study in the earlier stages of their monkhood, are called Mool‑sutras.

Chulika‑sutras:

The scriptures, which further enhance or decorate the meaning of Ang‑agams are known as Chulika‑sutras.

Prakirna‑sutras:

The scriptures, which describe independent or miscellaneous subjects of the Jain religion, are known as Prakirna‑sutras.

Following is the list of number of Ang-bahya-agams recognized as authentic scriptures by different Jain Swetambar Sects:

Category of Ang-bahya-agams

Swetambar Murtipujak

Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi

Upang‑agams

12

12

Chhed‑sutra‑agams

6

4

Mool‑sutra‑agams

4

3

Chulika‑sutra‑agams

2

2

Prakirna‑sutra-agams

10

none

Total Ang‑bahya‑agams

34

21