Agamas

Published: 07.12.2012
Updated: 07.12.2013
Alias(es)
Aagam, Aagamas, Agama, Āgama

Original sacred texts of Jainism

based on Mahavira’s teachings.

Mahavira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sutras (texts) which were collectively called Jain canonical or agamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers (acaryas or gurus) to the disciples for several centuries. The scholars date the composition of Jain Agamas at around the 6th to 3rd century BCE.

While some authors date the composition of Jain Agamas starting from 6th century BCE, noted Indologist Hermann Jacobi holds that the composition of the Jaina siddhanta would fall somewhere about the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. The general consensus amongst scholars is that the earliest portions of Jain siddhanta were composed around the 4th or 3rd century BCE. This is also in agreement with Jain tradition according to which the agamic literature and the Purvas were passed from one heads of the order to his disciples for around 170 years after the Nirvana (Jainism) of Mahavira. However with time, it became difficult to keep the entire Jain literature committed to memory. According to tradition, there occurred a twelve years of famine around 350 BC where it was extremely difficult for the Jain ascetics to survive during this time. Under such circumstances they could not preserve the entire canonical literature. The Purvas or the ancient texts were already forgotten and lost after the famine. According to Svetambara tradition, the agamas were collected on the basis of collective memory of the ascetics in the first council of Pataliputra under the stewardship of Acarya Sthulibhadra in around to 463–367 BCE. However, the Digambara Jain sect maintains that after the famine, the entire Jain canonical literature became extinct.

The Agamas were composed of the following forty-five texts:

  • Twelve Angās
    1. Ācāranga sūtra
    2. Sūtrakrtanga
    3. Sthānānga
    4. Samavāyānga
    5. Vyākhyāprajñapti or Bhagavati sūtra
    6. Jnātrdhārmakathāh
    7. Upāsakadaśāh
    8. Antakrddaaśāh
    9. Anuttaraupapātikadaśāh
    10. Praśnavyākaranani
    11. Vipākaśruta
    12. Drstivāda (now extinct)

  • Twelve Upanga āgamas (Texts that provide further explanation of Angās)
    1. Aupapātika
    2. Rājapraśnīya
    3. Jīvājīvābhigama
    4. Prajñāpana
    5. Sūryaprajñapti
    6. Jambūdvīpaprajñapt
    7. Candraprajñapti
    8. Nirayārvalī
    9. Kalpāvatamsikāh
    10. Puspikāh
    11. Puspacūlikāh
    12. Vrasnidaśāh

  • Six Cheda sūtras (Texts relating to the conduct and behaviour of monks and nuns)
    1. Ācāradaśāh
    2. Brhatkalpa
    3. Vyavahāra
    4. Niśītha
    5. Mahāniśītha
    6. Jītakalpa

  • Four Mūla sūtras (Scriptures which provide a base in the earlier stages of the monkhood)
    1. Daśavaikālika
    2. Uttarādhyayana
    3. Āvaśyaka
    4. Pindaniryukyti

  • Ten Prakīrnaka sūtras (Texts on Independent or miscellaneous subjects)
    1. Catuhśarana
    2. Āturapratyākhyanā
    3. Bhaktaparijñā
    4. Samstāraka
    5. Tandulavaicarika
    6. Candravedhyāka
    7. Devendrastava
    8. Ganividyā
    9. Mahāpratyākhyanā
    10. Vīrastava

  • Two Cūlika sūtras (The scriptures which further enhance or decorate the meaning of Angas)
    1. Nandī-sūtra
    2. Anuyogadvāra-sūtra

References

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acarya
  2. Acaryas
  3. Agamas
  4. Angas
  5. Angās
  6. Aupapātika
  7. Candraprajñapti
  8. Cheda sūtras
  9. Daśavaikālika
  10. Devendrastava
  11. Digambara
  12. Hermann Jacobi
  13. JAINA
  14. Jacobi
  15. Jaina
  16. Jainism
  17. Mahavira
  18. Nirvana
  19. Niśītha
  20. Purvas
  21. Svetambara
  22. Sūtra
  23. Uttarādhyayana
  24. Vyākhyāprajñapti
  25. Ācāranga
  26. Āvaśyaka
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