Digambara Attitudes To The Śvetāmbara Canon

Published: 31.12.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 3, No. 5 (2007) 1-11



Pūjyapāda is the first Digambara philosopher that wrote a commentary on the Tattvārthasūtra. In that commentary titled as Sarvārthasiddhi he quotes many sentences from many works. Their analysis leads to the conclusion that Pūjyapāda may have had some tendency to harmonize Digambara and Śvetāmbara concepts.


Digambara Attitudes To The Śvetāmbara Canon

[1]0. No one would deny the importance of anekāntavāda or the doctrine of multi-foldness in Jaina philosophy. This doctrine teaches us to observe an object from many points of view. Jain literature can also be viewed from many sides. In other words, Jaina literature itself has an anekānta aspect. The Digambara Jaina philosopher Samantabhadra says in his Svayaṃbhūstotra that according to the teaching of Mahāvīra the doctrine of anekānta is also of an anekānta character when it is observed through pramāna and naya.[2] In this paper I shall point out an example of such a multi-pointed discussion on the Jain canon.

1. As is well known, the two main Jain sects, Digambara and Śvetāmbara, have different attitudes toward the sacred texts. All Śvetāmbara sects accept the authority of Prakrit texts called āgamas, although the number and contents of the āgamas accepted are not always the same, because of different sectarian views. The āgamas are divided into three groups of works, known as pūrva, aṅga and aṅgabāhya (scriptures which are outside the aṅgas). The last one has five subdivisions: upāṅga, chedasūtra, mūlasūtra, prakīrṇakasūtra and cūlikāsūtra. Today, the Digambaras are generally said to deny the authority of the Śvetāmbara canon. It is unknown, however, who was the first Digambara philosopher that aired the opinion that the Śvetāmbara canon is not authentic. Moreover, some Digambara texts contain detailed information on the Śvetāmbara āgamas when they deal with śruta, or scripture, as one of five kinds of knowledge. It is therefore interesting to examine Digambara views of the āgamas and compare them with those held by Śvetāmbaras.

2. Some Digambaras argue for the authenticity of the Şaṭkhaṇḍāgama and the commentaries on it. According to them, the teaching of Lord Mahāvīra is partially preserved in this text, which was made accessible even for Digambaras only in the twentieth century.[3] Others maintain that the original āgama tradition comprising the authoritative teaching of Mahāvīra completely vanished 683 years after his nirvāṇa.[4] Even after that time, however, Digambaras seem to have preserved some portions of the āgamas in a different way.

Both Śvetāmbara and Digambara traditions agree that the twelfth aṅga, the Dṛṣṭivāda, has been long extinct. Even so, they have some information on this text. We shall see how the text is described in the Digambara and Śvetāmbara schools to find similarities as well as dissimilarities between their descriptions.

3. Let us begin our discussion with the Tattvārthasūtra (hereafter TS) which is regarded as an authoritative text by both schools.[5] The authorship of the TS is uncertain. According to the Śvetāmbaras the name of the author is Umāsvāti while the Digambaras call him Umāsvāmin. The TS has been commented on by many philosophers. The Śvetāmbaras claim that Umāsvāti himself wrote the commentary upon TS, and the Digambaras deny the fact. However, the sūtra of the TS which we will discuss is authorized by both schools. In the twentieth sūtra of chapter I, the author refers to śruta or authentic scripture which is one of five varieties of valid knowledge or pramāṇa. He explains that śruta can be categorized into three groups and that each of them has "two, many and twelve" subdivisions.[6]

3.1. Pūjyapāda in the sixth century[7] is the first Digambara scholar to write a commentary on the TS. Commenting on TS I.20, he explains as follows:

"The word 'division' (bheda) should be construed with each of the words `two subdivisions', 'many subdivisions' and 'twelve subdivisions.' First, by 'two subdivisions' are meant the outside aṅga (aṅgabāhya) and the inside aṅga (aṅgapraviṣṭa). The outside aṅga has many divisions including Daśavaikālika, Uttarādhyayana. The inside aṅga has twelve subdivisions:

(I) Ācāra (VII) Upāsakādhyayana
(II) Sūtrakṛta (VIII) Antakṛddaśā
(III) Sthāna (IX) Anuttaraupapādikadaśā
(IV) Samavāya (X) Praśnavyākaraṇa
(V) Vyākhyāprajñapti (XI) Vipākasūtra
(VI) Jñātṛdharmakathā (XII) Dṛṣṭivāda

The Dṛṣṭivāda comprises five sections:

(I) parikrama (IV) pūrvagata
(II) sūtra (V) cūlikā
(III) prathamānuyoga

Of these sections pūrva has fourteen subsections:

(I) utpādapūrva (VIII) karmapravāda
(II) agrāyaṇīya (IX) pratyākhyānanāmadheya
(III) vīryānupravāda (X) vidyānupravāda
(IV) astināstipravāda (XI) kalyāṇanāmadheya
(V) jñānapravāda (XII) prāṇāvāya
(VI) satyapravāda (XIII) kriyāviśāla
(VII) ātmapravāda (XIV) lokabindusāra

This 'scripture' is divided into three groups, which are respectively two-, many- and twelve-membered. Why are there such divisions? Because of different preachers. There are three kinds of preachers: omniscient saviors (sarvajñas tīrthakara), perfect masters of scripture (śrutakevalin) and 'remote' ones (ārātīya). Of them the omniscient highest saints, possessed of the highest knowledge, preached the āgama. The āgama is authoritative because the saints preached it after having perceived things directly and [because] they had destroyed all the faults. The perfect masters are the leaders of the religious group (gaṇadhara) and they are direct disciples of the saviors and possessed of special cognitive abilities. Depending upon their memory, the leaders wrote books which presupposed the aṅga. The books are authentic because the aṅga is authentic. The 'remote' teachers wrote books such as the Daśavaikālika for the benefit of their disciples who could not enjoy longevity and had the weakness of mental power and vital power due to the defect of aging."[8]

First let us compare the titles of the texts in the inside aṅga category listed here with those of the inside aṅga category accepted by the Śvetāmbara tradition.[9] All titles in both traditions are the same with little difference: in the Digambara tradition the sixth begins with Jñātṛ- while in the Śvetāmbara sources it begins with Jñātā-; and the seventh ends in -adhyayana in the former while it ends in -daśāḥ in the latter. The sequence of the twelve titles in the two traditions is quite the same.

Pūjyapāda mentions two titles among the outside aṅga category: Daśavaikālika and Uttarādhyayana. In the Śvetāmbara tradition these two comprise a group of sacred literatures named mūla or 'root' and are regarded as being among the oldest texts.[10] This fact suggests that he realized the importance of these two texts.

Now let us look at the contents of the Dṛṣṭivāda which is admitted by both the traditions to be extinct. The titles of the five sections mentioned by Pūjyapāda are almost the same as those handed down in the Śvetāmbara tradition.[11] The titles of the subsections of the fourth section, i.e. pūrva, are also the same in the two traditions. The only difference is, according to Pūjyapāda, that the subsections nine and eleven are called Pratyākhyāna-nāmadheya and Kalyāṇa-nāmadheya in the Digambara tradition, while in the Śvetāmbara tradition the former has the suffix -pravāda and the latter the suffix - vañjha.

In the Sarvārthasiddhi, Pūjyapāda seems to quote from the Śvetāmbara canon to fortify his arguments.[12] The original source cannot stem from the aṅgas, but must be a scripture accepted as authentic by Śvetāmbaras.[13]

Taking all these things into consideration, thus, we may safely say that Pūjyapāda does not deny the authenticity of the Śvetamabara canon, although he does not accept its value.

3.2. Akalaṅka, another Digambara philosopher,[14] gives more detailed information on the āgamas. In his commentary on TS, i.e. I.20-xii, he says:

"The inside aṅga consists of twelve kinds of texts, such as Ācārā. They are written by the leaders of the church, who are possessed of special cognitive abilities, depending upon their memory.

The leaders have pure minds cleansed with the words of the Omniscient, compared to the water of the Gaṅga flowing from the Himalaya. They, being possessed of special cognitive abilities, wrote twelve books beginning with Ācāra depending upon their memory. The books are called the 'Inside aṅga.' Their titles are:

(I) Ācāra (VII) Upāsakādhyayana
(II) Sūtrakṛta (VIII) Antakṛddaśā
(III) Sthāna (IX) Anuttaraupapādikadaśā
(IV) Samavāya (X) Praśnavyākaraṇa
(V) Vyākhyāprajñapti (XI) Vipākasūtra
(VI) Jñātṛdharmakathā (XII) Dṛṣṭivāda

In the Ācāra, different types of behavior, i.e. eight kinds of śuddhi, five of Samiti and three of Gupti are described.... The twelfth aṅga is Dṛṣṭivāda:... In this book, the explanation of 363 (180+84+67+32) kinds of views and the refutation of them are made. This Dṛṣṭivāda is divided into five sections: parikarma, sūtra, prathamānuyoga, pūrvagata and cūlikā. Of them, pūrva has fourteen subsections."[15]

Some of the titles in the following list are changed:

(I) utpādapūrva (VIII) karmapravāda
(II) agrāyaṇa (IX) pratyākhyānanāmadheya
(III) vīryapravāda (X) vidyānuvāda
(IV) astināstipravāda (XI) Kalyāṇanāmadheya
(V) jñānapravāda (XII) prāṇāvāya
(VI) satyapravāda (XIII) kriyāviśāla
(VII) ātmapravāda (XIV) lokabindusāra

Akalaṅka defines the aṅgabāhya scriptures as follows:

"The 'remote' teachers who had been disciples or intermediate disciples of the leaders of the church and who gained the understanding of the reality of things composed compendia of aṅgas, for the sake of those who could not enjoy longevity and had deficient powers due to the defect of aging. The compendia are called the outside aṅga. (…) They are of many varieties: Uttarādhyayana and others."[16]

In addition, he quotes some passages from the Āvaśyakaniryukti to bear out his views. For example, in his commentary on TS I.19, where he discusses prāpyakāritva, (reaching to the object) by sensory organs, he quotes the following verse as evidence from the āgamas to argue for aprāpakāritva, (not reaching to the object) by the visual organs and the mind:

puṭṭhaṃ suṇedi saddaṃ apuṭṭhaṃ puṇa passade rūpaṃ |
gaṃdhaṃ rasaṃ ca phāsaṃ baddhaṃ puṭṭhaṃ vijāṇādi ||

Sound is heard when the organ reaches to it while the shape is recognized without reaching; Smell, taste and touch are sensed when the organs reach to them closely.

This is the fifth gāthā of the Āvaśyakaniryukti. It is clear that Akalaṅka does not quote the verse to refute what is said there but that he quotes it as the authority. We must note, however, that he does not mention this text when he enumerates the titles of the inside aṅga. This shows that, although even in the Śvetāmbara tradition the Āvaśyakaniryukti is not regarded as an āgama text, it occupies a rather important position. We also know its importance from the fact that it has been published several times in modern India.

3.3. Another famous Digambara philosopher, Vidyānandin, who belongs to the ninth century, does not refer to the titles and contents of the āgamas in his commentary on TS I.20, which is the first sūtra that deals with śruta or āgama exclusively. It is likely, therefore, that Vidyānandin had no information on the Śvetāmbara canon. But this does not necessarily mean that by the time of Vidyānandin, i.e., by the ninth century, the Digambara tradition had lacked any knowledge about the canon.

4. Nemicandra, a Digambara philosopher of the tenth century, has a good knowledge of the Śvetāmbara canon. In his Gommaṭasāra Jīva-Kāṇḍa, Nemicandra refers to eleven titles of aṅgas, as Pūjyapāda and Akalaṅka do, and enumerates fourteen outside aṅga texts, including Daśavaikālika and Uttarādhyayana.[17] Moreover, he not only mentions the titles of the āgamas but also refers to the number of the pādas which are contained in the canon. With reference to the Ācāraṅga, for example, he says that it consists of eighteen thousand pādas.[18] Furthermore, Nemicandra seems to take into consideration the twelfth aṅga, the Dṛṣṭivāda, when he mentions five kinds of parikarma, one sūtra, one prathamānuyoga, the pūrvas and five cūlikās.[19] In this connection it is also interesting to note that the five kinds of parikarma consist of Candraprajñapti, Sūryaprajñapti, Jambūdvīpaprajñapti, Dvīpasamudraprajñapti and Vyākhyaprajñapti.[20] We come across these titles in the list of the canonical Śvetāmbara upāṅgas. As mentioned above, the Dṛṣṭivāda in which these five texts are included is regarded as extinct by both traditions. Nemicandra may have intended to deny the authenticity of the upāṅgas, especially of those dealing with Jaina cosmology.[21]

What is common among these Digambara authors is that they do not emphatically deny the authority of the canonical works which they enumerate with titles.

5. Many Śvetāmbara philosophers mention the titles of their own canon. Umāsvāti, for example, refers to the names of the aṅgas along with Uttarādhyayana, Daśavaikālikā, Ŗṣibhāṣita in the so-called auto-commentary on TS I.20.[22]

Detailed information on the Śvetāmbara canon can also be found in the Nandīsūtra[23] which is part of the canon itself. Naturally, the Nandī distinguishes and enumerates the eleven inside aṅgas. The titles of the inside aṅgas, though they are mentioned not in Sanskrit but in Prakrit, correspond to those enumerated by the Digambara philosophers, as we have seen above.

6. Concluding remarks

In my view, it is difficult to decide who was the first Digambara philosopher to deny the authority of the Śvetāmbara canon. K. K. Dixit is of the opinion that by the seventh or eighth century the Digambaras began to neglect the Śvetāmbara canon.[24] However, as we have seen above, the Digambara philosopher Akalaṅka of the eighth century referred to the Śvetāmbara āgamas. He knows not only their titles but also their contents. Moreover, he quotes some passages from the Āvaśyaka Niryukti to add authority to his opinions.

Given all this, we may say that Akalaṅka accepts the authority of the Śvetāmbara canon, at least partially. And it is also likely that he had access certainly to parts of the canon preserved in the form of manuscripts and not only within the oral tradition. In his works he does not accept the validity of the Śvetāmbara canon as a whole. But it is also clear that he does not deny the validity of certain passages which he sometimes quotes to bear out his opinion. Thus not all Digambaras denied the authenticity of the Śvetāmbara canon by the eighth century.

From textual evidence we know of the long history of fierce debates on various subjects between the two traditions. The topics of kevali-bhukti (food taken by an omniscient person) and strī-nirvāṇa (emancipation of women) are, for example, controversial among both traditions. The Śvetāmbaras admit the appetite of the kevalin and the salvation of women, which the Digambaras both deny. Naturally, the former criticize the latter and vice versa. This does not mean, however, that both traditions oppose to each other on each and every point. On the contrary, there are quite a few topics on which they agree with each other. To be sure, the two traditions today have different opinions on the issue of whether the āgamas handed down by the Śvetāmbaras are authentic or not. But, as we have seen above, at least by the time of Akalaṅka, the Digambaras also accepted the authenticity of at least parts of the canon though they did not say so explicitly. This attitude may have continued until the time of Nemicandra.

In order to fully understand how the Digambaras viewed the Śvetāmbara canon, we must study the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama and the commentaries on them. Yet, even after the research on them has progressed, the tentative conclusion which we have arrived at in this paper will not need amending.


Primary Literature

Gommaṭasāra Jīvakāṇḍa of Nemicandra. Edited with Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Rai Bahadur Jugmandar Lal Jaini. The Sacred Books of Jainas Vol. 5. Lucknow: The Central Jaina Publishing House, 1927. Jambūdvīpaprajñapti with Śānticandra's Commentary. Devcandra Lālbhāī Jainapuṣṭakoddhāra No. 52. Bombay: Devcandra Lālbhāī Jainapuṣṭakoddhāra Fund, 1920. Nandī Sūtra. In: Nandisuttaṃ Aṇuyogaddārāiṃ. Edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya et al. Jaina- Āgama-Series Vol. 1. Bombay: Śrī Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya, 1968. Niryukti-saṃgrahaḥ of Bhadrabāhu. Edited by Vijaya Jinendra Sūrī. Śāntipurī: Śrī Harṣapuṣpāmṛta Jaina Vidyālaya, 1987. Sarvārthasiddhi of Pūjyapāda. Edited by Phūlcandra Siddhānta Śāstrī. Mūrtidevī Jaina Granthamālā No. 8. Varāṇasī: Bhāratīya Jñāna Pīṭha, 1971. Svayaṃbhūstotra of Samantabhadra. Edited by Sin Fujinaga as: "Studies on Samantabhadra (8)." Reports of Researches of Miyakonojo NCT 30 (1996) 83-92. Tattvārthādhigama-Sūtra of Umāsvāti/Umāsvāmī. With Auto-commentary. Edited by Keshavlal Premchand Mody. Bibliotheca Indica No. 1044. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1903-1905. Tattvārthaślokavārttika of Vidyānandin. Edited by Paṇḍit Manohar Lāl. Bombay, 1918. Tattvārtha(rāja)vārtika of Akalaṅka. Edited by M. K. Jain. Mūrtidevī Jaina Granthamālā No. 20. Vārāṇasī: Bhāratīya Jñāna Pīṭha, 1953, 1957.

Secondary Literature

Alsdorf. Ludwig. "What were the Contents of the Dṛṣṭivāda?" German Scholars on India: Contributions to Indian Studies. Vol. I. Edited by the Cultural Department of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1-5. New Delhi: The Chowkhamba Sanskrit Office, 1973 (Reprinted in his Kleine Schriften Vol. 1. Ed. Albrecht Wezler, 252-256. Wiesbaden: Steiner Verlag, 1974).

Dixit, Krishna Kumar. Jaina Ontology. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1971.

Dundas, Paul. The Jains. Second Revised Edition. London: Routledge, 2002.

Glasenapp, Helmuth von. Der Jainismus: Eine indische Erlösungsreligion. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1985 (2. Nachdruckauflage der Ausgabe Berlin: Alf Häger Verlag, 1925).

Jaini, Padmanabh S. The Jaina Path of Purification. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Kapadia, Hiralal Rasikdas. A History of the Canonical Literature of the Jainas. Ahmedabad: Sharadaben Chimanbai Educational Research Centre, 2000 (Reprint of Surat: H.R. Kapadia, 1941).

Malvaniya, Dalsukh D. "Introduction." Nyāyāvatāra of Siddhasena. Edited with Vṛtti of Śānti Sūri. Singhi Jaina Series No. 20. Bombay: Bhāratīya Vidyā Bhavan, 1949.

Wiles, Royes. " The Dating of the Jaina Councils: Do Scholarly Presentations Reflect the Traditional Sources?" Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Disputes and Dialogues. Edited by Peter Flügel. 61-85. Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies Vol. 1, London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2007


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text

Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Akalaṅka
  3. Anekānta
  4. Anekāntavāda
  5. Aṅga
  6. Aṅgabāhya
  7. Aṅgapraviṣṭa
  8. Aṅgas
  9. Berkeley
  10. Berlin
  11. Bheda
  12. Bombay
  13. Calcutta
  14. Candraprajñapti
  15. Chedasūtra
  16. Daśavaikālika
  17. Delhi
  18. Digambara
  19. Digambaras
  20. Dr. Peter Flügel
  21. Dr. Sin Fujinaga
  22. Dṛṣṭivāda
  23. Gaṇadhara
  24. Gommaṭasāra
  25. Gupti
  26. International Journal of Jaina Studies
  27. JAINA
  28. Jaina
  29. Jambūdvīpaprajñapti
  30. Jinendra
  31. Jñāna
  32. Jñānapravāda
  33. Jīva
  34. Kevalin
  35. Krishna
  36. London
  37. Lucknow
  38. Mahāvīra
  39. Muni
  40. Nandī
  41. Naya
  42. New Delhi
  43. Nirvāṇa
  44. Niryukti
  45. Omniscient
  46. Parikarma
  47. Prakrit
  48. Pramāṇa
  49. Pūrva
  50. Pūrvagata
  51. Samiti
  52. Sanskrit
  53. Siddhasena
  54. Surat
  55. Sūtra
  56. Tattvārthasūtra
  57. The Jaina Path of Purification
  58. Umāsvāti
  59. Upāṅga
  60. Uttarādhyayana
  61. Vidyā
  62. Vyākhyāprajñapti
  63. Vṛtti
  64. Ācāra
  65. Ācāraṅga
  66. Āvaśyaka
  67. āgama
  68. Śvetambara
  69. Śvetāmbara
  70. Śvetāmbaras
  71. Śānti
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 2327 times.
© 1997-2021 HereNow4U, Version 4.07
Contact us
Social Networking

HN4U Deutsche Version
Today's Counter: