Jain Ägam Literature

Introduction. 1

Recensions. 2

1) The First Recension done in Pataliputra. 2

2) The Mathuri Vachan (Recension done in Mathura) & The Valabhi Vachan (Recension in Valabhi) 2

3) The Penning down by Devardhigani 2

List, Subject-matter & Status of Jain Ägams. 3

Purvas. 3

Ang-pravishtha-Ägams. 3

Ang-bähya-Ägams. 4

Commentaries on the Ägams. 7

Digambar Literature. 7

Shatkhand‑Ägam.. 8

Kashay‑pahud or Kashay-prabhrut: 8

Four Anuyogas: 8

Non‑Ägam Literature. 9




Summary. 12

References. 12


For Jain History click here: Jain History



In most of the religions, there is one main scripture book.  Hinduism has Gita and 4 Vedas, Christians have the Bible, Muslims have Koran, Persians have Avesta, and Sikhs have Guru Granth Sahib, and Buddhists have 3 Pitikäs.  Likewise, Jains also have their own scriptures called Ägams, also called the Jain Shrut. Jains are people of books, they do not have one main scripture book but they have many.


The teachings by an omniscient Lord Tirthankar to his enlighten principal disciples, called Ganadhars was first composed in fourteen Purvas and then in twelve Ang-Pravishtha-Ägams (an `Ang' being a `limb') by Ganadhars themselves. All Purvas are included in one part of the twelfth Ang, called Drastiväd.  It is said one Jain scripture that, "Having climbed the tree of perfect knowledge, an omniscient Lord Tirthankar showers flowers of knowledge to enlighten principal disciples, called Ganadhars.  They collected all these flowers in the cloth of the intellect, and have interwoven them into the garland of Dvädsangi" (Dvädsangi means twelve Ang-Pravishtha-Ägams).


The composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation.  The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, non-possessiveness.


In addition to the twelve Ang-pravishtha works composed by the Ganadhars, other canonical literature (Ang-bähya-Ägams) which composed by Stathviras or elder monks are also included as part of the Jain Ägams.


The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12 Ang-pravishtha-Ägams and 3) Ang-bähya-Ägams (34 for Shwetämbar Murtipujak, 21 for Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi and 14 for Digambar).


Consistent with Shwetämbar murtipujak beliefs, there are three Ägam temples which have 45 Ägams engraved either on wall or on copper plate. They are in Palitana, Surat and Shankheswar. There are several places (Jnana-Mandirs) like Amadavad, Patan, Surat, Khambhat, Jesalmer, Pindvada, Nehsana, Ratalam, Ahor, Tharad, Guda, Surendranagar where all Ägams are available.


Jains believe that Ang-Pravishtha-Ägams were at all times in the past, are in the present, and will be at all times in the future. They are eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and everlasting.


For some time after Lord Mahavir's nirvän, the Jain Shramans did not pen down their Ägams in the book form, but preserved them by memorizing them. They considered the possessing books will constitute violation of the vow of non-attachment and non-possessions. But then came the time, they totally changed their attitude towards the possession of books because there was a fear of the destruction of the Jain Shrut.  Whatever wealth of the Ägam which was still extant at that time remained protected and preserved.



With a view to establish order in the preaching of Lord Mahavir, Jain Acharyas assembled three times and prepared three recensions of the preachings. Whenever the Acharyas saw that the Shrut was waning and that there was disorderliness into it, they assembled and established order in it. No documentation occurred during the first recension but during the second and third conferences most of the scriptures, commentaries, and other works were documented.



Recension Place



Patli-putra Recension

@320 BC


Mathura and Valabhi Recensions

@380 AD


Valabhi Recension

@520 AD


Around 1400 to 1600 AD, the Shwetämbar sect also divided into three sub-sects known as Shwetämbar Murtipujak, Sthanakväsi, and Terapanthi.  Differences also exist among all three Shwetämbar Jain sects in their acceptance of the validity and interpretations of the documented Jain scriptures (Ägam Sutras) and other literature.

1) The First Recension done in Pataliputra


The Order of the Jain monks assembled in Patliputra about 160 years after Lord Mahavir's death, and also after a terrible famine which lasted for many years.  At that time, the middle region of the country (Madhyadesh) was under the sway of this severe famine, causing the dispersion of Jain monks in various directions.  Naturally, the Anga Ägams fell into a bad state.


The monks assembled after the famine, and asked one another what they could recollect and thus collected and arranged eleven of twelve Angs. But they found that nobody recollected the entire Drastiväd, the twelfth Ang.  At that time Acharya Bhadrabahu alone possessed the knowledge of Drastiväd, but he had taken recourse to the yogic path of a special sort and was in Nepal.  So the Jain community requested Acharya Sthulibhadra with many other monks to go to Bhadrabahu to learn the text of the Drashtiväd from him.  The Drastiväd, being the twelfth Ang Ägam book, contained fourteen Purva-Sutras.  Of those monks, Sthulibhadra alone was successful in acquiring the knowledge of it.  After acquiring the knowledge of ten Purvas, he misused the miraculous power earned through their use.  When Bhadrabahu came to know this, he stopped giving lessons to Sthulibhadra.  After beseeching by Sthulibhadra, he agreed to teach him the remaining four Purvas, but he forbid Sthulibhadra to teach these four Purvas to others.


As a consequence of this, there existed in the Order of Jain monks, the knowledge of 14 Purvas up to Sthulibhadra.  After his death, the Order possessed the knowledge of eleven Angs and only ten Purvas. Sthulibhadra's death occurred 215 years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvän.


In short, of the twelve Angs (Ang-pravishtha) composed by the Ganadhars, eleven Angs bereft of the four Purvas were recovered by the Order assembled at the first council. 

2) The Mathuri Vachan (Recension done in Mathura) & The Valabhi Vachan (Recension in Valabhi)


After this twelve year long famine, the monks assembled in Mathura under the leadership of Arya Skandil and collected and arranged the Kalik Shrut on the basis of what they could recall and recite.  Since this vachan was done in Mathura, it is called Mathuri Vachan.  This happened about 830 years after Lord Mahavir's nirvän.


Synchronous with the council at Mathura, Acharya Nagarjun convened a council of monks at Valabhi (Saurastra) and tried to collect and arrange the Ägams.  Then they were written down and the recension was prepared after having corrected lengthy portions according to the context. The Vachan is called the Nagarjun Vachan as well.

3) The Penning down by Devardhigani


Then a council of monks presided over by Kshama-Shraman Devardhi-gani was held at Valabhi (Saurastra), 150 years after the councils presided over by Skandil and Nagarjun at Mathura and Valabhi respectively.  It was decided to document all available Prakirna Sutras, and preserve the Ang and other Sutras that were documented in the two former councils. Also it was to bring uniformity in Sutras as far as possible by resolving the differences in Sutras.  Of course, the most important differences were documented in Churnis and Tikas.


This task was accomplished 980 years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvän.  After that event, the text of most of the Ägam works available at present was settled at this time.

List, Subject-matter & Status of Jain Ägams


Both the Shwetämbars and the Digambars unanimously agree on the point that the Purva works have become extinct. There are several works which refer to the Purvas.  The Satkhand-Ägam and the Kashaya-prabhrit have been composed by the Digambar Acharyas on the basis of the Purva works. Many literature recognized as Ägams by the Shwetämbars are also having their source in the Purvas.



There are fourteen purvas and they are huge. First one is written by the volume of the ink that is equivalent to the size of one elephant. Second one is two times larger, and third one is two times larger than second one and so on. Here is the list and its subject matter:



Name of Purva




Living (Jiv), non-living (Ajiv), and its modes (Paryäya)



Nine realities (Navtattva), six substances (Shad-dravya),  etc.



Relating to energy of soul, non-living, etc.



Multiplicity of views (Anekäntväd), Saptabhangi, etc.



Five types of Knowledge and three types of ignorance, etc.



Truth, Restraint, Silence (Maun), Speech, etc.



Analysis of soul from different angles (naya)



Karma, its bondage, its nature, fruition, balance, etc



Giving up (Pachchhakhän), restraint, detachment, etc



Expertise (vidyä), exceptional abilities, practice, etc.



Spiritual alertness (Apramäd) and laziness (Pramäd)



Ten types of life substances (Prän), life span, etc.



Art, 64 arts of women, 84 arts of men, etc.



Three parts of universe, mathematics, etc.



There is no difference of opinion among the sects of the Jains, on the point that the basic source of the entire Jain literature is a group of twelve Anga works composed by the Ganadhars.  The Digambars maintain that within a period of time after the Nirvän of Tirthankar Mahavir, the entire Ägam preached by him became extinct. But the Shwetämbars tried to preserve the Ägams, having compiled them, they found many things which have come down from ancient Acharyas through oral tradition are in the Jain Ägam.


Jain Sects

Total Ang-pravishtha-Ägams

Number of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams Lost

Number of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams Survived





Shwetämbar Murtipujak




Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi




Shwetämbar Terapanthi





List and subject-matter of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are as follows:


1. Ächäräng Sutra (Äyäräng): This Ägam describes the conduct and behavior of ascetic life. It also describes the penance of Lord Mahavir.  This is the oldest Ägam from a linguistic point of view.


2. Sutrakratang Sutra (Suyagdäng): This Ägam describes nonviolence, Jain metaphysics, and the refutation of other religious theories such as Kriyavada, Akriyavada, Ajnanavada, and Vinayavada.


3. Sthänänga Sutra (Thänäng): This Ägam defines and catalogues the main substances of the Jain metaphysics.


4. Samaväyänga Sutra: This Ägam defines and catalogues the main substances of the Jain religion from a different perspective than the Sthänänga Sutra.


5. Vyäkhyä Prajnapti or Bhagavati Sutra (Viyah Pannati): This Ägam explains the subtle knowledge of soul, matter, and other related subjects.  Thirty-six thousands (36000) questions and answers are presented in discussion form.  It is the largest of the eleven Ang-pravishtha-Ägams.


6. Jnätä Dharma Kathänga Sutra (Nayadhammakahao): This Ägam explains Jain principles through examples and stories. This text is very useful in understanding the mode of Lord Mahavir's religious preaching.


7. Upäsaka Dashänga Sutra (Uvasagdasao): This Ägam explains the code of conduct of the ten lay followers (Shrävaks) of Lord Mahavir.  This Ägam is very useful for understanding the code and conduct of ordinary people (Shrävaka Dharma) in the Jain religion.


8. Antahkradashänga Sutra (Anatagaddasao): This Ägam tells the stories of ten sacred monks attaining liberation (Moksha) by destroying their karmas.


9. Anuttaroupa Pätika Dashanga Sutra (Anuttarov Vaiya Dasao):  This Ägam contains the stories of additional ten sacred monks who attained the top-most heaven, known as Anuttara heaven.


10.  Prashna Vyäkrana Sutra (Panha Vagarnai): This Ägam describes the five great vows (mahavratas) and the five worst sins defined in the Jain religion.


11.  Vipäka Sutra (Vivagsuyam): This Ägam explains the results of good and bad karmas through several stories.


12.  Drastiväd Sutra: The twelfth Ang-pravishtha-Ägam Drastiväd is considered lost by all Jain Sects.  The description, which is found in the other Jain Sutras relating to Drashtivada, indicates that this Ang-pravishtha-Ägam was the largest of all Ägam Sutras.  It was classified in five parts; (l) Parikarma (2) Sutra (3) Purvagata (4) Pratham-anuyoga and (5) Chulikä. The third part, Purvagata contained 14 Purvas.  They contain the Jain religion's endless treasure of knowledge on every subject.



In addition to the twelve Anga works composed by the Ganadhars, other canonical literature (Anga-bähya) which composed by Stathviras or elder monks are also included as part of the Jain Ägams. Such Sthavirs are of two types; Shrut-kevalis (one who comprehends the entire Shrut-14 Purvas) and Das-purvis (one who has acquired knowledge of the ten Purvas).  Shrut-kevalis, are those who are especially well versed in the meaning and essence of the Ägams.


The Digambar sect believes that all Ang-bähya-Ägams were also gradually lost starting about two hundred years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvän.  Hence in their opinion, the complete Jain Ägam literature is lost within few hundred years after Lord Mahavir's nirvän.


The Digambars have accepted 14 works, the Shwetämbars 34 works, and the Sthanakaväsis 21 works as Ang-bähya-Ägams.



Jain Sects

Total Ang-bähya Ägams

Number of Ang-bähya Ägams Lost

Number of Ang-bähya Ägams Survived





Shwetämbar Murtipujak




Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi




Shwetämbar Terapanthi





Per Shwetämbar tradition, Ang‑bähya‑Ägams are consisted of Upäng-sutras, Ched-sutras, Mool-sutras, Chulikä-sutras and Prakirna-sutras.




The scriptures, which provide further explanation of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams, are called Upäng-Ägams. The scriptures, which were created in relation to Ang-pravishtha-Ägams, are called Upäng-Ägams.  They provide further explanation of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams.


1. Aupapätika Sutra (Ovavaiya): This Ägam describes the splendid procession (view) of King Konika when he visited Lord Mahavir.  It also explains how a person can attain heaven in the next life.


2. Rajaprashniya Sutra (Raya Pasen Ijja): This Ägam describes the story of Monk Keshi.  Monk Keshi was the Ganadhara of Lord Parshvanath.  He removed the doubts of King Pradeshi regarding the existence and attributes of the soul.  Monk Keshi made the king a follower of the Jain religion.  After his death, the king was born in heaven as a deva.  He appeared from heaven to shower Lord Mahavir with unprecedented pomp and splendor.  The thirty‑two dramas (plays) described in this Ägam throw light upon the ancient dramatic art of India.


3. Jiväbhigama Sutra: This Ägam describes the universe and the subtle description of all living beings (souls) of the universe.  It gives very important information to the scholars of biology and botany.


4. Prajnäpanä Sutra (Pannavana): This Ägam describes the form and attributes of souls from a different perspective.


5. Suryaprajnäpti Sutra (Surya Pannti): This Ägam describes the Sun, the planets and the associated mathematics regarding their motion.


6. Chandraprajnäpti Sutra: This Ägam describes the Moon, the planets and the associated, mathematics regarding their motion.  Both of these Upängas, the Chandra Prajnapti and Surya Prajnapati, are very important in understanding the astrology of olden times.


7. Jambudveepaprajnäpti Sutra: This Ägam provides a description of Jambudveepa.  Jambudeepa is a big island located in the center of the middle world as explained in the Jain geography.  It also provides information on ancient kings.


8. Nirayärvali Sutra: This Ägam describes the story of ten bother princes.  All ten princes fought with King Chetaka of Vaishali in cooperation with king Konika.  King Chetaka was the half brother of the ten princes.  In the end all ten princes went to hell after dying in war.


9. Kalpävatansikä Sutra (Kappavadamsiao): This Ägam describes the story of King Konika's children.  They did not fight with King Chetaka in the war.  They renounced the world and became monks.  After their death, they went to heaven.


10.  Pushpikä Sutra (Puspiao): This Ägam describes the previous lives of certain devas (angels) who worshiped Lord Mahavir.


11.  Pushpa Chulikä Sutra: This Ägam describes stories similar to those in the Pushpika.


12.    Vrashnidashä Sutra (Vanhidasao): This Ägam explains how Lord Neminath convinced ten kings in the Vrashni region to follow the Jain religion.


Chhed Sutras:


The subject matter described in the Chhed‑sutras is for ascetics and not for lay people.  It provides the rule of conduct, punishment, and repentance for ascetics.  It also explains how they can repent for their sins and mistakes.


1. Nisheetha Sutra (Nisiha): This Ägam explains the procedure of repentance (Prayashchitta) in the form of punishment for the monks and nuns who have violated the rules of ascetics.


2. Brahat Kalpa Sutra: This Ägam explains which of the ten kinds of repentance (Prayashchittas) is appropriate for a particular wrongdoing done by monks and nuns.  It also defines the acceptable conduct of monks and nuns.


3. Vyavahära Sutra*: This Ägam describes the system of confession for monks and nuns who fall from proper conduct.  It explains the qualifications of the listening monk or nun and with what sort of feeling the confession should be made. It also explains what sort of repentance (Prayashchitta) the monk should perform.  There are several other indications of the limits of ascetic life.


4. Dashä Shruta Skandha Sutra (Ächärdashä): There are ten chapters in this Sutra.  It contains information relating to 20 places of Asamadhi, 21 major faults bringing weakness in conduct, 33 Ashatanas of Guru, 8 Sampadas of Acharyas and their kinds, 10 places of Chitta Samadhi, 11 Pratimas of layperson, Pratimas of ascetics (monks and nuns), KALPASUTRA ‑ (recited during the Paryushanas), 30 places of bondage of Mohniya karma and  9 Nida nas (Niyane)


5. Panch Kalpa Sutra *: This sutra explains the daily rituals the monks and nuns have to perform. Only scattered chapters of this Ägam are now available.  However, the commentaries (Bhashya and Churni) written about this Ägam by some elder monks are available.


6. Mahanisheetha Sutra: This Ägam explains the process of confession and repentance (Prayashchitta) for monks and nuns.  It explains the magnitude of pain one has to suffer if he or she breaks the fourth vow (chastity).  It also describes and explains the conduct of good and bad monks.




The scriptures, which are essential for monks and nuns to study in the early stages of their ascetic life, are called Mool‑sutras.


1. Ävashyaka Sutra: The daily rituals or routines, which it is necessary to perform during the day and night for the purification of soul, are called Avashyaka.  A description of the six routines (Ävashyakas) is explained in this Ägam.  The six routines are; Samayika, Chaturvinshatistava, Vandanaka, Pratikramana, Kayotsarga, and Pratyakhyana.


2. Dasha Vaikalika Sutra: This Ägam briefly describes and explains the conduct of ascetic life.


3. Uttarädhyayana Sutra: This Ägam has the same place in Jain literature as the Dhammapada in Buddhism and the Geeta in the Hindu religion.  It contains preaching regarding religious principles and practices, and many stories, dialogues, and examples based on such principles and practices.


4. Ogha Niryukti or Pinda Niryukti Sutra*: This Ägam explains certain rules and procedures for monks with respect to travelling, staying, and accepting food and other necessities from lay people.




The scriptures, which enhance or decorate the meaning of Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are known as Chulikä‑sutras or some times known as Sutras.


1. Nandi Sutra: This Ägam contains an elaborate description of Tirthankaras, Ganadharas, and five types of Knowledge (Jnan); Mati, Shrut, Avadhi, Manaparyay, and Keval-Jnan.


2. Anuyogadvära Sutra: This Ägam provides the description of many rights regarding the mode of preaching.




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


1. Chatuh Sharana *:This Ägam contains prayers to the four benevolent beings: a) Arihant          ‑ God in the form of perfect human being, b) Siddha ‑ God in the form of pure consciousness, c) Sadhu - Ascetics and d) Dharma Religion


2. Ätur Pratyäkhyäna (Äyur‑Pachakhäna)*: This Ägam explains differences in the death of children, youths, adults, and old people.  It also describes the types of vows a wise person should take during various states of illness and how he should beg the pardon of all living beings in the universe.


3. Bhakti Parijnä (Bhatta‑parinna)*: This Ägam describes the process of fasting and how one should reflect at the time of death.


4. Sanstäraka (Santhara)*: This Ägam describes the process of dying by one's own desire and its glory.


5. Tandulavaitalikä*: This Ägam describes the state of pregnancy and provides knowledge about the human body.


6. Chandra‑Vedhyaka*: This Ägam describes the method of concentrated meditation (Dhyana) that one should observe through the description of Radhavedha.


7. Devendra‑Stava*: This Ägam describes the names, positions, and residences of Devas (angels) that live in heaven.  It also provides a description of the moon, sun, planets, and stars.


8. Ganita Vidyä*: This Ägam describes palmistry and how it is used to predict the future  (Nimitta).


9. Mahäpratyäkhyäna*: This Ägam explains how to completely give up the worst sins and how to repent these sins.


10.  Veerastava*: This Ägam is considered lost.  However, it appears from literature referencing this Ägam that it contained prayers of Lord Mahavir.


Note*:  These 13 Ang-bähya-Ägams are not recognized by the Sthanakväsi and Terapanthi Jain sect



Following is the list of number of Ang-bähya-Ägams recognized as authentic scriptures by different Jain Shwetämbar Sects:


Category of Ang-bähya-Ägams

Shwetämbar Murtipujak

Sthanakväsi and Terapanthi
















Total Ang‑bähya‑Ägams




Though the Digambars contend that the fourteen Ang-bähya Ägams, naturally different from the twelve Anga Ägams, were composed by Sthavirs, they also believe that those Ang-bähya Ägams too have become extinct.  The titles of these fourteen Ang-bähya Ägams are: 1. Samayik, 2. Chaturvin-shatistava, 3. Vandana, 4. Pratikraman,  5. Vainayiks, 6. Kritikarma, 7. Dasavaikalik, 8. Uttaradhyayan, 9. Kalpavyavahar, 10  Kalpakalpik, 11. Mahakalpik, 12. Pundarik, 13. Mahapundarik and 14. Nisithik

Commentaries on the Ägams


The commentaries on the Ägams have been written in Prakrit and Sanskrit.  Those written in Prakrit are known as Niryukti, Bhäsya, and Churni.  Niryuktis and Bhäsyas are composed in verses while Churnis are in prose.


All the extant (present) Niryuktis have been composed by Bhadrabahu II.  He flourished in the fifth or sixth century V.S.  In his Niryuktis he has conducted philosophical discussions in an attractive style.  He laid the firm foundation of the Jain philosophy by writing on the subjects of Praman, Naya, and Nikshep.


One should study the Bhäsyas, if one wants to have a complete picture of the full discussion on any particular subject that had been carried on till the date of their composition.  Among the authors of the Bhäsyas, Samghadasa-gani and Jinabhadra are famous.  They belong to the seventh century.


The Churnis that are available to us belong to the seventh or the eighth century.  Among the authors of the Churnis, Jinadas Mahattar is famous. 


The oldest Sanskrit commentaries on the Ägams are those written by Acharya Haribhadra.  He has been assigned to the periods between 757 V.S.  and 857 V.S.  Haribhadra had mainly given the Sanskrit version of the Prakrit Churnis. 


After Haribhadra, Silamk-suri wrote Sanskrit commentaries in the tenth century.


After Silamk-suri there flourished the famous Sanskrit commentator Santya-Acharya.  He wrote Brihat-tika on the Uttaradhyayan.


After him, there flourished the also well known commentator Abhayadev who, living from 1072 to 1134 V.S., wrote Sanskrit commentaries on nine Angas. 


Here we should mention the name of Maladhari Hemachandra who was also a Sanskrit commentator.  He was a scholar of the twelfth century.


However, among the authors of Sanskrit commentaries on the Ägams, Malayagiri holds the supreme position.  He was a contemporary of Acharya Hemachandra. 


Other scholars started writing Balavabodha commentaries in contemporary Apabhramsa, which is a Old Gujarati language.


Dharmasimha-muni of 18 century rejects the interpretation given in the old commentaries and gives his own interpretation.  However his interpretation fits in well with the tenets of his own sect (Loka-gacha) which had arisen in opposition to idol-worship.

Digambar Literature


The Digambar sect believes that there were 26 Ägam‑sutras (12 Ang-pravishtha-Ägams + 14 Ang‑bähya‑Ägams).  However, they were gradually lost starting from one hundred fifty years after Lord Mahavir's nirväna.  Hence, they do not recognize the existing Ägam-sutras (which are recognized by the Shwetämbar sects) as their authentic scriptures.


In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambars follow two main texts, three commentaries on main texts, and four Anuyogs consisting of more than 20 texts as the basis for their religious philosophy and practices.  These scriptures were written by great Acharyas (scholars) from 100 to 1000 AD.  They have used the original Ägam Sutras as the basis for their work.



The Shatkhand‑Ägam is also known as Maha‑kammapayadi‑pahuda or Maha‑karma‑prabhrut.  Two Acharyas; Pushpadant and Bhutabali around 160 AD wrote it.  The second Purva‑Ägam named Agraya‑niya was used as the basis for this text.  The text contains six volumes.  Acharya Virsen wrote two commentary texts, known as Dhaval‑tika on the first five volumes and Maha‑dhaval‑tika on the sixth volume of this scripture, around 780 AD.

Kashay‑pahud or Kashay-prabhrut:


Acharya Gunadhara wrote the Kasay-pahud.  The fifth Purva‑Ägam named Jnan‑pravad was used as a basis for this scripture.  Acharya Virsen and his disciple, Jinsen, wrote a commentary text known as Jaya‑dhaval‑tika around 780 AD.


List of some Digambar texts as they are used absence of authentic scriptures:


Shatkhand‑Ägam or Maha‑kammapayadi‑pahuda or Maha‑karma‑prabhrut


Acharya Pushapdant and Bhutabali

160 AD

Kashay‑pahud or Kashay Prabhrut


Acharya Gunadhara



Commentary on Shatkhand-Ägam Vol 1 to 5


780 AD


Commentary on Shatkhand-Ägam  Vol 6




Commentary on Kashay-pahud

Virsen and Jinsen


Four Anuyogas:


1. Pratham‑anuyoga (Dharma‑katha‑anuyoga) - Religious Stories


This anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain religious stories, art, literature, history, poetry, and like literature.




650 AD


Jinsen II

783 AD


Jinsen II

783 AD



879 AD


2. Charn‑anuyoga  - Conduct


This anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain principles of observances, conduct, behavior, and like literature.




600 A.D.



600 A.D.



600 A.D.


3. Karan‑anuyoga (Ganit‑anuyog) - Mathematics


This anuyoga expounded the texts, which had mathematical viewpoints.  It consists of the following texts, which contain geography, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and like literature.










780 AD


Nemichandra Siddhant

1000 AD


4. Dravy‑anuyog - Philosophy


This anuyoga consists of the following texts, which contain philosophical doctrine, theories, metaphysics, Tattvajnan, and like literature.




100 AD



100 AD



100 AD



100 AD



200 AD

Commentary on Tattvartha‑sutra


600 AD

Commentary on Tattvartha‑sutra


700 AD

Commentary on Tattvartha‑sutra


750 AD

Commentary on Tattvartha‑sutra


800 AD



600 AD

Commentary on Aptmimamsa


750 AD

Commentary on Aptmimamsa


800 AD

Non‑Ägam Literature


Jains have tens of thousands of books which are not considered part of Jain Ägams. These non-Ägam literature consists of commentary and explanation of Ägam literature, and independent works, compiled by ascetics and scholars. They are written in many languages such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Apabhramsa (old Gujarati), Old Marathi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German, and English.


Examples of few Digambar non-Ägam books are already discussed in the “Digambar Literature section. Examples of  few Shwetambar non-Ägam books are: Shri Tattvartha Sutra, Shri Sammatitark, Shri Praman-naya, Shri Syadvadratnakar, Shri visheshavashyakmahabhashya, Shri Tattvalokalankar, Shri Kammapydi, Shri Dharmapariksha, Shri Dharmasangrahni, Shri Yogdrashtisamuchchaya, Shri Yogashastra, Shri Yogbindu, Shri Anekntajayapataka, Shri Shastravartasamuchchaya, Shri Gyansar, Shri Adhyatmasar, Shri Adhyatmatmapariksha, Shri Anyayogavyavarchhedika, Shri Shantsudharak, etc.


Shri Tattvarthsutra is considered unanimously the main Jain textbook today by all Jain sects.  In this chapter, we will give glimpses of Shri Tattvarthasutra, Shri Uttradhdhayan Sutra, and Shri Samaysar.  These are the three main textbooks used today.



Most of the sacred literature of the Jains is written in Ardhamagadhi language.  This was the public language in those days.  However, the times changed.  Sanskrit became the royal and elite language.  The Jain scholars too started writing their religious and other texts in Sanskrit. Tattvartha Sutra is the first such Jain text in terse aphoristic form.  It has two more names: Tattvarth‑adhigama‑sutra (manual for knowledge of true nature of things or realities) and Moksh‑Shastra (tenets of salvation).  However, it is popularly known as Tattvartha Sutra.


The name Tattvartha Sutra consists of three Sanskrit words: Tattva (true nature), artha (things or realities) and sutra (aphorisms of few words).  It may, therefore, be called "Aphoristic Text on the true nature of realities” This indicates the contents of the text.


There is no definite information about when this text was composed.  However, it is agreed that it must have been composed during the age of elegant aphorisms.  The early Christian centuries have almost every philosophical or religious system in the east putting their tenants in short and sweet forms.  Brahmsutra, Yoga‑sutra, Vaisheshika sutra Nyaysutra etc. represent aphoristic texts of different systems.  Tattvartha Sutra represents aphoristic text of Jain system.  It must have been composed during 200‑400 AD.


Acharya Shri Umaswami's creation of Tattvartha Sutra is the greatest gift to Jains and is excepted by all sects.


Not much is known about the details of his life.  He was born in a Brahmin family, in the village Nayogradhika.  His father was Swati and his mother was Vasti.


He renounced the world under Achrya Goshnandi.  According to the inscriptions found by the archeologists he said to be from either the early second century AD. or late first century AD.


He said to have been very learned in various Hindu, Vedic and Buddhist philosophies along with extensive knowledge of geography, astronomy, philosophy of soul and life etc.


Historians called him the most knowledgeable in the language of Sanskrit, Jain scholars recognized him to be the first one to write in Sanskrit.


Tattvartha sutra as described below is the most complete assembly of Jain scriptures and understandably acceptable to do all sectors of Jains.


There is a story about the original of Tattvartha sutra:


There was a learned scholar of the scriptures named Siddhaya, he once wrote one a piece of paper "faith, knowledge and conduct is the path to Moksha" and left his house for some reason.  By chance that day Achrya Shri Umaswami took ahar (alms) at his house and happened to see that written statement by the scholar Siddhaya and added the word "right" ahead of his statement to read "right faith, knowledge, conduct is the path to Moksha".  When Siddhaya returned home he asked his mother who wrote this word before his sentence.  After learning about Umaswami from his mother he went to the Acharya and asked about moksha and ways to attain it.  The answers to his questions, is the creation of Tattvartha Sutra.


This text has two versions containing 344‑357 aphorisms. The text contents are related with the major theoretical and practical aspects of Jain system.  It is a small text but it describes Jainism excellently.  It represents an epitome of Jainism.       This book has ten chapters of uneven length containing the above number of aphorisms.  The subject content is not new.  However, it has brought together all the earlier scattered material for the first time in a structured system. It consists of all the necessary fundamentals of Jainism.  It describes about the realities in the world and their true nature.  Its contents are as appropriate as its name.


The Jain principles have been described here both spiritually and scientifically.  It mentions that the object of a successful life is to attain ultimate, permanent inner happiness or salvation.  It can not be fulfilled until we have a three‑fold coordinated path of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.  The path can not be followed until we have the right knowledge about the realities of the world.  The right knowledge could be obtained either by self-intuition or it could be obtained through listening, reading and analyzing the scriptures with the help of enlightened souls and spiritual teachers.  It is necessary that the knowledge is very right.  The criteria could be satisfied only when one critically evaluates our information through different organs of knowledge and viewpoints.  This is the same process we apply even today to get useful knowledge.


The text not only describes the methods of obtaining knowledge about the outer world, but it also describes how to attain knowledge about the inner world. This requires purification of the body, the mind and the speech through austerities and meditation.  During the elaboration, it points out the details of seven types of verbal and non‑verbal viewpoints and the theory of manifold predictions.  These are the basics for obtaining the right knowledge.  With the right knowledge comes right faith.  With right faith and right knowledge to start with, the right conduct follows.


In the first chapter itself, the text points out that there are seven elements to move onto the path of spiritual and physical progress.  The first two are the main elements namely the living (Soul) beings and the non‑living (pudgal) elements.  The third and the fourth elements relate to the influx of the karmas to the soul. This process is called ashrav and the bondage of the karmas to the soul is called bandh. The Karmas are the part of vast varieties of pudgals in this universe. This bondage of karmas is the cause of our rebirths, cycle of weal and woes from where we want to move away permanently.  The fifth element is the means to stop this bondage of karmas is called the stoppage of karmas, samvar and the sixth is to eradicate the existing bondage of the karmas through various processes is called shedding off karmas, nirjara.  And, the seventh element is the freedom of the soul from the bondage of all the karmas is called liberation, Moksha. Thus, we have seven elements to cure our worries and weal, once again they are:


            (1)  Living

            (2)  Non‑living

            (3)  Influx of karmas

            (4)  Bondage of karmas

            (5)  Stoppage of karmas

            (6)  Shedding of karmas

            (7)  Liberation.


Umasvati must be given credit to arrange these elements in proper order with respect to the process involved and the principles of human psychology.  The earlier literature shows the numerical and ordinal variations.  Umaswati, thus, systematized the Jain system with a logical sequence.


The first verse of first chapter is "Samyag darshan jnan charitrani Moksha margah". This is the nutshell of Jainism in some respect. It means that right knowledge, right faith and right conduct collectively only are the path to liberation or Moksha. The next three verses mention the seven elements. Rest of the first chapter deals with the process of cognition and details about different types of knowledge. The details about right conduct is included in chapters eight and nine.


The Second, third and fourth chapters deal with the Soul.

The Fifth chapter deals with the Non‑soul (Ajiva).

The Sixth, seventh and eighth chapters deal with the various types of karmas and their manifestations and the inflow and the bondage of the karmas.

Ninth chapter describes the stoppage and shedding off the karmas.

Tenth chapter is about the complete liberation of the soul or the Moksha.



There are two types of scriptural texts for the Jains: 1) primary and 2) secondary or supplementary.  Both contain the Jain principles and practices, though the primary texts are the most important ones.  The secondary texts are also important.


We will discuss here about one of the most important secondary scriptural text named Uttaradhyayana Sutra. Traditionally it is said to contain the last sermons of Lord Mahavira.  Many scholars presume that the current text seems to be a composite work of various dates.  However, it is one of the earliest texts equivalent to the primary texts.


This text has various ways of narrating the Jain principles.  They have been illustrated through the parables, the anecdotes, the episodes and the historical stories.  It contains 36 chapters.  Nearly, a third have the historical stories and the episodes.  Some early chapters contain the parables and the concepts of Jainism.  The variety of methods applied in the text makes the book highly illustrative and interesting.  The text is now available with the translations in many languages: German, English, Hindi, Gujarati, etc.  Its first English translation was published as early as in 1895.  It is now available under the sacred books of the east vol. 45. There are many short and long commentaries on this text beginning since ninth century AD. With the help of these translations, any person can read, understand and estimate the value of the book.


Let us now turn to the summary of the content of this important text.  The book tells us that human life is rare and difficult to attain.  However, it is the human life, which leads us to ultimate happiness.  Hence it is necessary to make the best use of the human life.  One must try to enrich it with highest human values and enlightenment.  It allures the people towards the ascetic life, which may be a life of better internal happiness.  The text tells us that there are four things, which are rare:    

                        1)  Human life

                        2)  Sermons of the Jinas

                        3)  Right or rational vision, and

                        4)  Right conduct of restraints.


One must realize that Mahavira was the highest among the ascetics of his days.  He had many followers with proper faith and understanding.  He inspired many people to his path as a means of the outer and the inner happiness of the permanent nature.  He also laid stress as an ascetic, the path of detachment, where one would have to face 22 types of the difficulties. One will have to bear many hardships of physical and mental nature to transform oneself as true ascetic.


Uttaradhyana Sutra teaches us many points of ascetic life through the stories of Kapila, Nemi, Mrugaputra, Sanjaya, Rathnemi, Jaya‑Vjayghosha and many more.  They suggest that good life or ascetic life accrues from the previous good karma. One must think and act good all the times.  It also tells us that professions should not be taken as the birth right.  They depend upon your training and activity.  This idea has been one of the most progressive one during old days.  A chapter tells us the story of an ascetic who is not given the due regards by the high caste people. Later on, his sermons yield him the credit.  Mahavira says the asceticism can be cultivated without any restrictions of the caste and creed.  This is the basis of universality of the religion.


The text mentions that carelessness and indolence is not good.  Too much attachment or indulgence is also bad.  The ambitions and desires of the men are limitless.  They cause dissatisfaction and lead to an unhappy life. One should practice cultivation of the good qualities, which may moderate the obstructive attitudes.  To get away from the bad actions and thoughts is the best sacrifice one can have.


A good number of chapters describe the basic tenets of the Jain system.  The practice of these tenets is the milestone of the inner and outer purification.  The Karma theory is the essence of the Jain system.  The practice of equanimity (Samayik) or meditation has been described. The theory of colors (Leshya) is one of the most important psychological principles that reflect one's mind through the colored halo around the body.  The practice of meditation improves the mind and therefore the color.  There are six types of such leshyas.


The Jainism is an action-oriented religion. However, the action bears the result only when performed with meticulous care without lapses of omission and commission.


The last chapter is very important for us.  It gives us the details about the living and non‑living world.  It deals with the physics, chemistry, botany and zoology.  The non‑violence has been described in chapters dealing with the different qualities and vows of the ascetics.



Shri Samaysar was written by Acharya Shri Kundakunda Swami around 100 AD.   About 1100 years back, in the 10th century, Shri Amarut Chandra Acharya Dev wrote critics on Samaysar.  It is called Atmakhyati.  Shri Jaysen Acharya also wrote critiques in Sanskrit language.  In this century, Shri Kanji Swami gave detailed analysis on Samaysar in a lecture series in Gujarati, which is an easily understandable language for any lay person.  Nowadays Samaysar is translated into many languages including Sanskrit, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, English, etc.  This text mainly explains the Jain philosophical doctrine of soul.  It explains all the 9 reals in an absolute point of view.  It insists that the soul’s bondages are not due to karma but to his own weaknesses in effort making (parushartha).  Liberation of soul will occur once he makes his own efforts.  The scriptures and the enlightened preceptors are only to guide the soul in the right direction.  Shri Kundakunda Swami said that for time immortal, the soul has forgotten himself, he forgot his own true nature.  Acharya Shri exposed this fact and shown the real path of salvation by understanding the philosophy of soul.  He showed uniqueness of soul from other substances and their modes.  Importance of right faith is stressed in greater detail.  The text maintains that the right faith is the first step towards salvation.  The vows, penances, worship, prayer, etc. of the right conduct follows the right faith.  It stresses that one must forgo wrong belief first to start religious progress.  From an absolute point of view, the soul is pure, but only from the practical point of view, karma are attached to the soul by principal cause-auxiliary cause relationship.  The main attribute of the soul is knowledge, which can be experienced by any living being, and it is given great importance in this book. 

This book has 415 aphorisms and it is divided into 9 chapters.  They are as follows:



1.      Living and non-living

2.      Agent and his action

3.      Good deeds and bad deeds

4.      Inflow of karma

5.      Stoppage of karma

6.      Shedding of karma

7.      Bondage

8.      Liberation

9.      Total and pure knowledge


If one can understand this text, which is mainly written from an absolute point of view, then his understanding of soul’s true nature widens.  He will thereafter believe that ultimately the good deeds and bad deeds both are to be given up to obtain right faith and ultimately the salvation.  The ultimate goal is the purification of the soul and by remaining in his own innate form.  To achieve this goal, one has to use these instruments such as penances, vows, prayers, etc, which are not to be considered as total fulfillment.



The Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadharas and Srut-kevlis, is known as Ägam literature.  These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain religion. The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12 Ang-pravishtha-Ägams and 3) Ang-bähya-Ägams (34 for Shwetämbar murtipujak, 21 for Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi and 14 for Digambar).


All sects agree that 14 Purvas and Drastiväd, 12th Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are extinct. Digambars believe all Jain Ägams are extinct. While Shwetämbar sects accepts the existing Jain Ägams as authentic teachings of Lord Mahavir. However, Shwetämbar murtipujak believe there are 34 Ang-bähya-Ägams existing. while Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi believe there are 21 Ang-bähya-Ägams are existing.


The composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation.  The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, non-possessiveness.


Jains believe that Ang-Ägams were at all times in the past, are in the present, and will be at all times in the future. They are eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and everlasting.



  1. “The Jain Ägams” by Shri Dalsukh Malvania & Translated by Dr. Nagin Shah
  2. “Jain Ägam Literature” compiled by Pravin K. Shah, Jain Study Center of NC (Raleigh)