Literature Based on Mahavira's Teachings
Lord Mahavir had eleven chief disciples such as Indrabhuti
Gautama. Sudharman, Jabbu etc.; and they were known as Ganadharas. They have incorporated all his teachings in twelve
angas, which are below:
(1) Acaranga : It presents the rules and regulations on the life of a monk.
Its place in Jainism is something like the Vinayapitaka in Buddhism.
(2) Sutra-krtanga : It sets forth Jaina doctrines as well as resume and discussion of the contemporary creeds like
kriyavada, akriya-uadh, niyati-uada etc.
(3) Sthananga : Here certain topics and their subdivisions are enumerated according to their numbers. For instance,
darsana, caritra, samaya, pradesa, paramanu etc. are one each. Kriya is of two kinds: Jiva-kriya and ajiva-kriya is of two kinds: samyaktva-kriya and
mithyatva-kriya. Likewise, ajiva-kriya is of two kinds: irya-pathika and saparayika, etc.
(4) Samavayanga: Here certain topics are discussed according to the number of their division and subdivisions as in the
Sthananga. But here number is not limited to ten only as in the Sthananga, but reaches even hundred and thousand.
Thus, the nature of both these arigas resembles the Ariguttara-nikaya of the Tri-pitakaI.
(5) Vyakhya-prajnapti : This discusses topics of Jaina philosophy and ethics in the forms of questions and answers.
(6) Naya-dhamma-kaha : Usually this title is rendered into Sanskrit as Jnatr-dharma-katha and it is taken to indicate that this work contains religious tales narrated by Jantr-putra
Mahavira. But it is equally possible that the Sanskrit form of this Prakrit title originally stood as
Nyaya-dharma- katha. And it possibly contained nyayas or short maxims of worldly wisdom and morality duly illustrated by tales; such a surmise of its possible contents need not be surprising.
(7) Upasak-adhyayana : In this work were explained the vratas or vows of the upasakas or lay followers, the householders or sravakas through the
biographies of such of them as followed them. Thus, this anga can be called a supplement to the first
anga, namely, the acaranga, which expounded the rules for monks.
(8) Antake-dasa : According to Jaina terminology antakrt are those monks who attain nirvana after putting and end to this samsara
by practicing severe penances and patiently bearing various troubles. It appears that such ten monks were described in this ariga.
(9) Anuttar-aupapatika-dasa : Anuttara is a name for those higher heavens in which highly merited souls are born. From there, they take
only one birth as man; and then by observing the necessary religious practices, they attain liberation in the same birth.
In this ariga were given the biographies of such ten great monks and residents of Anuttara heavens.
(10) Prasna-vyakarana : As indicated by title this ariga contained questions and answers on different creeds and doctrines; and thus in a way it was a supplement of the
(11) Vipaka-sutra : Vipaka means the fruit of karmans. According to the karman doctrine,
good karmans give fruits in the form of enjoyment of pleasures and the bad ones, suffering or pains.
This was explained in this ariga with suitable illustrations.
(12) Drsti-vada : This had five divisions: Parikarma, Sutra,
Purva-gata, Anuyoga I and Culika. Parikarma Contained calculatory science and the Sutra included discussions about creeds and doctrines. The Purva-gata contained fourteen subdivisions: (1)
Utpada-purva, (2) Agrayaniya, (3) Viry-anuvada, (4) Asti-nasti-pravada, (5) Jnana-pravada, (6) Satya-pravada, (7) Atma-pravada, (8) Karma-pravada, (9)
Pratyakhyana, (10) Vidy-anuvada, (11) Kalyana-vada, (12) Pranavaya, (13) Kriya-visala and (14) Loka-bindu-sara.
As indicated by their names, they contained discussions about doctrines and principles. The eighth
Purva, Karma-pravada, has special importance, because it appears to have been the source on the basis of which has grown the entire subsequent literature about the Karma philosophy which is the vital doctrine of Jainism. The designation Purva-gata signifies that the tradition of their contents belongs to a period earlier than Mahavira who possibly improved on it in the light of his fundamental doctrines.
The fourth division of the Drsti-vada, namely Anuyoga, too has an important place in Jaina literature. It is also called
Pratham-auyoga; and the entire Puranic narratives, religious biographies as well as illustrative tales etc. are all included under the
Pratham-auyoga. According to the Dhavala commentary on the Sat-khand-agama (sutra 1, 1, 2), Pratham-auyoga contained twelve sections of the purana in which were described respectively,
Arhats, Cakravartins, Vidyadharas, Vasudevas, Carannas, Prajna-sramanas, as well as the families of
Kuru, Hari, Iksvaku, Kasyapa, Vadi (Cedi?) and Natha.
According to the Digambara tradition, the entire Ariga literature, in its original form, was gradually lost into
oblivition. After the nirvana of Mahavira, during the period of 162 years, it is only eight saints that had the full knowledge of
Arigas. The last among them is said to have been Sruta-kevalin Bhadrabahu.
After him, the knowledge of all the Arigas and Purvas went on gradually decreasing day-to-day; and during the 7th century after the nirvana of Mahavira a stage was reached when only some great saints had a partial knowledge of these Arigas and
Purvas. It is on the basis of this that the entire Jaina scriptures and puranas came to be composed in dependently in a new style in Prakrit and other languages current in different places and at different times.
According to the Svetambara tradition, during the 10th century after the nirvana of
Mahavira, a council of monks was convened at Valabhi (modern Vala) in Gujarat; and there, under the chairmanship of
Devarddhi-gani-Ksama-sramana, eleven out of the twelve Arigas were compiled, and they are available today. This compilation, however, has not been found to have
preserved entirely the original form of the work. One can clearly see additions and omissions in the contents.
Their language too is not the same Ardha-Magadhi as was used in the time of Mahavira : it displays linguistic features which developed in a period one thousand years later than him. Still, broadly speaking, the available texts testify of
the antiquity of the contents and method of exposition. They bear close resemblance with the ancient Buddhist literature. Just as the Buddhist cannon was
Tri-pitaka, the Jaina canon is found to be described as Gani-pitaka.
This branch of literature, as a whole, is called Ariga-pravista to be distinguished from Ariga-bahya texts,
14 in number, which deal, in details, with the conduct and day-to-day routine of monks. Their names are:
(1) Samayika, (2) Chturvimsati-stava, (3) Vandana, (4) Pratikramana, (5) Vainayika, (6) Krti- karman, (7) Dasa0vaikalika, (8) Uttar-adhyayana, (9)
Kalpa-vyavahara, (10) Kalp-akalpa, (11) Maha-kalpa, (12) Pundarika, (13) Maha- Pundarika and (14) Nisiddhika.
Their titles themselves indicate that their contents are related with instructions about religious practices, especially the routine of duties of monks. Though these fourteen texts, in their ancient form, are not found independently, still
their contents have been mixed up with other texts; and they are being used by monks even to this day.
The council of monks which compiled the canon at Valabhi has, besides the first category of 11
Arigas: 12 Uparigas (Aupapatika, Raya-paseniya etc.); 6 Cheda-Sutras (Nisitha, Maha-nisitha etc.); 4
Mula-sutras (Uttar-adhyayana, Avasyaka etc); 10 Prakirnakas (Catuhsarana atura- pratyakhyana, etc); and 2 Culika-sutras (Anuyoga-dvara and Nandi). Thus, the entire
Ardha- Magadhi canon has got 45 texts, and they have a religious sanction or authority for the Svetambara sect. This entire branch of
literature is as much important as the Pali canon for its language and style and for the philosophical and historical material contained therein.