Article: Sacred writings

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Unlike monotheistic traditions, the Jains do not have a unique holy book that characterises their faith. Instead they have a body of holy writings or scriptures. In India, they share this feature with the Buddhists. Hindus are in a similar position, even though they have the Vedas, which can be considered the ultimate source of teaching.

The Jinas, especially the 24th, Mahāvīra, are the ultimate source of teaching for all Jains. All sects agree that this teaching was first transmitted orally. All are also aware that in the course of time this teaching changed, with some parts altered through faulty memorisation or simply lost. They dispute, however, which parts have survived and which have survived in amended form. This is why Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras do not agree about which scriptures are authoritative.

The Śvetāmbaras have a canon of 32 or 45 Āgamas, made up of several types of scripture. Believing that all the original Āgamas have been lost for centuries, the Digambaras have a different canon. They hold that two texts preserve parts of the Pūrvas or original teachings of the Jinas. These and other early texts make up their scriptures.

Both sects agree on only a single scripture. The Tattvārtha-sūtra contains the main doctrines of the Jain faith, though the two main sects have slightly different versions and composition dates.

Knowledge of what is now in written form is essential to being a good Jain. It is included in the second type of knowledge in Jain epistemology – śruta-jñāna – ‘knowledge of what has been heard’. In the often fervent debates about the importance of this knowledge in spiritual development, one powerful view says that scriptural knowledge is not enough by itself.

Although scriptural knowledge is very important, access to holy texts has frequently been restricted. In some sects particular scriptures are still limited to certain groups, such as male mendicants. Lay access to holy writings has usually been under the guidance of mendicants and often has not been direct and unmediated. Printing and editing the scriptures are thus relatively recent activities.

Whether they have access to the textual material through which the Jinas’ teaching came to be handed down or not, all Jains are aware of the existence of their holy writings. These writings are the basis of their ritual and religious life and are venerated in various ways. The most striking examples are individual Śvetāmbara and Digambara festivals in which holy texts form the centrepieces.

Terms and classifications

A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals.

Jain holy texts
Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0

The word ‘canon’ for the Jain holy writings is increasingly felt to be inadequate, for it implies an unchanging body of texts sanctioned by a central authority. Jains commonly use the words siddhānta and āgama, which are pan-Indian terms. The former term conveys the idea of validity and authority, and is perhaps more common among Digambaras. The latter term means ‘what has come down to us’ or tradition.

Other terms used in Prakrit are ‘open teaching of monks’ – niggantha-pāvayaṇa – or ‘basket of the chief disciples’ – gaṇi-piḍaga. These are both in the singular and refer to the primary sources of the teaching as something global.

To a large extent, the concepts of siddhānta and āgama denote fluid groupings that are open to change. For practical purposes, various categories of the scriptures have taken shape over time and have been populated with specific texts. Whereas some categories are fairly fixed, others can be extended or reduced. The number of items in each group may play a role in sectarian identity because some may be rejected as apocryphal.

The terms āgama and siddhānta may also be understood as even broader groupings, covering any text with a Jain author that teaches some aspect of the tradition – whether commentary, hymn, story or treatise. These forms are all regarded as media meant to ‘awaken’ the ‘somnolent sūtras’ (Dundas 1996).

Therefore classifications of Jain scriptures may use various criteria. Different classifications may thus be compatible.

Each of the items in both classes contains a number of texts that may be either fixed or varying, according to the criteria adopted.

The Śvetāmbara canon comprises either 32 or 45 texts, depending on the sect.

Śvetāmbara canon or āgama

Sanskrit title

English meaning

Main categories

Aṅga

‘limbs’ or ‘main texts’

Aṅga-bāhyas

‘not limbs'

Upāṅgas
Mūla-sūtras
Cheda-sūtras
Prakīrṇakas
Cūlikās

For the sect of the Digambaras, the canon is also large, containing numerous texts.

Digambara canon or siddhānta

Sanskrit title

English meaning

Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama

Scripture in Six Parts

Kaṣāya-prābhṛta

Treatise on Passions

Prathamānuyoga

‘First Exposition’

Karaṇānuyoga

‘Exposition on Calculations and Techniques’

Caraṇānuyoga

‘Exposition on Conduct’

Kathānuyoga

‘Exposition of Stories

Outside the sectarian categories sit the Pūrvas, which means ‘early’ or ‘previous texts’ in Sanskrit. All Jains believe these were written before the existing canons of both sects. The Pūrvas are considered to be the work of the Jina’s disciples – gaṇadharas. They are thus a direct link to the last Jina, Mahāvīra. However, all sects agree that the Pūrvas were lost long before Mahāvīra’s teachings were put into writing in the Common Era.

Oral transmission

This detail of a manuscript painting shows the universal gathering – samavasaraṇa. When a Jina reaches omniscience, he sits in a samavasaraṇa the gods have built for him. The term is also used for the gathering of animals, humans and gods that listen.

An omniscient Jina preaches
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Jains hold that each Jina reveals the same essential truths, according to the needs of the society in the era in which he is born. When he reaches omniscience, he can make the ‘divine sound’ – divya-dhvani – through which he transmits his teachings to all sentient beings. The Digambara and Śvetāmbara sects interpret the notion of the divine sound differently. Each Jina sets up a fourfold community but also has a group of chief disciples – gaṇadharas. These disciples are mendicants, as the Jina is, and have followed him since before his enlightenment. They collect together the Jina’s sermons and discussions, which they pass on to the rest of the fourfold community by preaching to them. Succeeding generations of mendicant leaders memorise these oral teachings, which are eventually written down as the scriptures.

Divya-dhvani

The source of teaching is the ‘divine sound’ coming from a Jina's mouth. The ‘divine sound’ can only be produced after the Jina has reached omniscience, so he can preach to all creatures that have gathered to listen to him – samavasaraṇa.

All Jains agree on this, but the two main sects understand the ‘divine sound’ in slightly different ways.

Two concepts of the divine sound

Digambara

Śvetāmbara

unarticulated sound, which is monotone and can be compared to the sound of oṃ (Jaini 1979: 42)

called ‘divine’ because all beings can hear it, including five-sensed animals with understanding and spiritual abilities. It is considered to be a human language that takes the form of Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

Chief disciples – the gaṇadharas

This manuscript painting shows Indrabhūti Gautama preaching. The white-clad monk is fanned by a servant and sits on a lotus, symbols of worldly and spiritual rank. King Śreṇika and his family sit separately from the lords and ladies of the court

Indrabhūti Gautama preaches
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

‘A Jina utters the meaning, the chief disciples put together the text skilfully’. This oft-quoted statement from the Āvaśayaka-niryukti, an early Śvetāmbara commentary, describes the process of teaching and the respective roles of the Jina and his chief disciples.

The chief disciples – gaṇadharas – are the closest followers of a Jina, who have taken mendicant vows in his presence and form the core of his fourfold community. Mahāvīra, for instance, has 11, who are said to be converted brahmins. They are the only ones who can understand the Jina’s meaning from the various lectures and discussions he leads over time. They shape it so it can be passed on to others, resulting in the 14 Pūrvas and the 12 Aṅgas.

The differences in Śvetāmbara and Digambara understanding of the ‘divine sound’ may influence the role of the chief disciples. It could be more important among the Digambaras since the gaṇadharas have to translate into words a sound that does not correspond to any specific language.

The chief disciples attain final liberation without further rebirth and cannot continue their activities as monastic leaders or teachers after they have reached omniscience – kevala-jñāna. Thus they must ensure that they transmit the Jina’s teachings while still ordinary monks.

Chain of oral transmission

This picture from a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra dates from 1512. It depicts the elder Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives

Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

In theory only the Jinas and their chief disciples are involved in passing on teachings orally. Each of the Jinas has direct disciples, but nothing much is known about their exact role in transmission. Precise evidence is available only for the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra.

Mahāvīra’s first chief disciple was Indrabhūti Gautama. But he attained omniscience on the day Mahāvīra died, which is commemorated in Dīvālī. Then the leader and preacher was Sudharman, who attained omniscience 12 years after Mahāvīra’s death. He was thus in a position to preach and lead Mahāvīra’s community during this 12-year period.

Sudharman taught his disciple, Jambū, as the introduction to many Aṅgas shows. When Sudharman died, at the age of 100, the first generation of Mahāvīra’s disciples was extinct. Jambū was the first ‘elder’ – sthavira. He became the leader of the monastic community and the chief teacher for eight years. When he attained omniscience and final liberation in the 64th year after Mahāvīra’s death, he was the last person to be liberated in this time cycle.

Jambū’s successors continued to transmit Mahāvīra’s message by memorising it, with their followers doing the same. The first ‘elders’ who followed Jambū were:

  • Prabhava
  • Śayyambhava, around 429 BCE
  • Yaśobhadra
  • Bhadrabāhu in the 4th century BCE, who was the last to master the 14 Pūrvas
  • Sthūlabhadra.

More elders are traditional, with the full list forming the topic of the second part of the Kalpa-sūtra, the'Sthavirāvalī' or 'String of Elders'. This list is also found at the opening of another work in the Śvetāmbara canon, the Nandī-sūtra. Legends about the main elders are knitted together in Hemacandra’s Pariśiṣṭa-parvanLives of the Elders – written in the 12th century (Fynes 1998).

Crises and losses

Sacred footprints in Bhadrabāhu’s Cave on Candra-giri at the pilgrimage site of Shravana Belgola, Karnataka. These footprints – caraṇa – are considered to be those of the 3rd-century sage Bhadrabāhu, who fasted to death at Shravana Belgola

Bhadrabāhu’s sacred footprints
Image by Ilya Mauter © CC BY-SA 2.5

Legendary accounts show that a major crisis occurred around 300 BCE in the area of eastern India where the Jain community had originated and was strong. A 12-year famine in the Magadha region proved disastrous. The accounts explain why the Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras have such different canons of holy writings. Dating from much later than the events they describe, the traditional stories suppose that the split between the two sects had already taken place. In fact, at the time of the famine, these two groups are emerging as separate factions.

According to Digambara sources, Bhadrabāhu led a fraction of the monastic community to the south, to today’s Karnatak, to escape the effects of the long famine. The Emperor Candragupta was also part of the group. Both Bhadrabāhu and Candragupta are thought to have fasted unto death in Shravana Belgola. Some 12 years later Bhadrabāhu’s followers went back to Pāṭaliputra, modern-day Patna and the capital of the ancient kingdom of Magadha. There they discovered that Sthūlabhadra had organised a recitation of the holy writings, which produced an official revised edition or recension. The returned monks disagreed with the recension. The northerners had also given up practising nudity while the community had been split up. The group that refused to accept these two innovations are those who were later called Digambaras.

Śvetāmbara sources say that Bhadrabāhu did not go south but went to Nepal. Organising a recitation of the sacred texts in Pāṭaliputra, Sthūlabhadra asked Bhadrabāhu to recite the Pūrvas, which only he knew.

Both sects agree that Bhadrabāhu was the last person to memorise the whole of the 14 texts. After he died they both hold that only part of the Pūrvas was still known, until, finally, they became extinct. They disagree, however, on when exactly he died. Digambaras believe he died 175 years after the traditional date of Mahāvīra’s death, around 352 BCE. The Śvetāmbara sect holds that he died 162 years after Mahāvīra, which is 348 BCE.

Śvetāmbara canon

As one of the early 'elders' – sthavira – of the Jain tradition, Sthūlabhadra is an important figure. He organised a recitation of the holy texts around 300 BCE, which was key in the gradual split between the Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects.

The elder Sthūlabhadra
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

This part of the story does not concern the Digambaras. Since they denied the authenticity of the first recitation at Pāṭaliputra, they view later ones in the same light. These councils produced what is known as the Śvetāmbara canon, which dates back to the 5th century.

The elders and teachers recognised that natural disasters or other crises threatened the preservation of the tradition. They made successive attempts to collect whatever was available during official recitations – vācanās – or ‘councils’.

Sthūlabhadra presided over the first council, which strengthened the growing divisions between the two groups that would later be known as the major Jain  sects. It took place in Pāṭaliputra ‘160 years after Mahāvīra’s death’, which would correspond to 367 BCE. At that time, the Pūrvas and the 12th Aṅga, the Dŗṣṭi-vāda, were already lost.

The next recitations took place in the 4th century CE, though it is possible that the texts had begun to be written down earlier. The second recitation was held at Mathurā in modern-day Uttar Pradesh, under the supervision of Skandila-sūri. A concurrent council took place at Valabhī, in Gujarat, led by Nāgārjuna. These two recitations were apparently irreconcilable. Scattered traces of the readings adopted by the ‘Nāgārjunīyas’ are preserved in the surviving Śvetāmbara scriptures but no more than that.

The final redaction of the Śvetāmbara canon was achieved during a council at Valabhī in the 5th century. According to tradition, the religious teacher Devarddhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa organised the council ‘980 or 993 years’ after Mahāvīra’s death, which is 453 or 466 CE. All the accounts of the episode are much later but it appears that council attendees agreed to write down everything that remained to avoid more losses than had already occurred.

Digambara canon

What the Digambaras view as authoritative reflections of the early teachings are works that they believe were put into writing in the 2nd century CE. They are the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama and the Kaṣāya-prābhŗta. They are fragments of the Pūrvas, which were all that the oral tradition had saved by that time.

Beyond boundaries – the Tattvārtha-sūtra

Because Digambaras and Śvetāmbara have different canons, it is important to underline the unique place of another Jain holy writing – the Tattvārtha-sūtra.

This is the only text accepted as an essential scripture by all Jain sects. There are disagreements about the date it was written and differences in the Digambara and Śvetāmbara versions of the text.

However, the Tattvārtha-sūtra sums up key beliefs of Jainism and its authority remains strong. Commentaries reflect these sectarian differences but also emphasise the place of the scripture at the heart of the Jain tradition. This is the reason the Tattvārtha-sūtra was selected to represent Jainism in the Sacred Literature Series, which organises the publication of key texts in different faiths. It was translated into English under the title That Which Is.

Languages

Initially, the language of the Jain scriptures was an issue – it was Prakrit against Sanskrit. But in later phases various languages came to coexist and have been used in different contexts in India, where multi-linguism has always been widespread.

Prakrits

A palm-leaf manuscript from Tamil Nadu. The manuscript is kept together by a string threaded through holes in each long thin folio. When the teachings of the Jinas were first written down, they were etched onto palm leaves, which are very fragile

Palm-leaf manuscript
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Both the Digambara and the Śvetāmbara Āgamas are written in Prakrit, not Sanskrit. This is considered to have been a deliberate choice. In Mahāvīra’s time Sanskrit was the language of the sacred texts of the brahmins and appears to have been reserved for an ‘elite’. As Mahāvīra’s teaching was ‘open’ to all – an idea that the term pavayaṇa might convey – it was written in the most widely understood language.

The Śvetāmbara Āgamas in the strict sense of the term are written in the variety of Prakrit known as Ardhamāgadhī, with a mixture of another form of Prakrit called Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī. The former is associated with the region of eastern India, where Mahāvīra preached, and the latter with western India. Jains migrated west later, and western India is where the final redaction of the scriptures took place, at Valabhī in Gujarat. Somebody who understands one of the two can also understand the other. The differences are grammatical. The degree of blend depends on the texts. Those which are considered ‘early’, such as the Ācārānga-sūtra, are more Ardhamāgadhī.

Early commentaries on the Śvetāmbara canon were also written in Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit, such as:

In their first phase the Digambara Āgamas are written in the variety of Prakrit known as Jaina Śaurasenī. Again, this is not altogether a distinct language. The differences from other Prakrits mainly relate to phonetics.

Digambaras also used a later form of Prakrit known as Apabhraṃśa, which is the language of some poetical treatises and narratives.

Sanskrit

This is a good example of the pañca-pāṭha style of using the manuscript margins for commentary. This manuscript page is from a 16th-century copy of the Ṣaṣṭi-śataka.

Pañca-pāṭha style of manuscript commentary
Image by British Library © The British Library Board

In around the 5th century CE Jain writers began to use Sanskrit for certain scriptures. Though these texts were not believed to represent the earliest tradition, they have the status of quasi-canonical works, because Sanskrit was felt to be the language of knowledge and intellectual debate. The best-known example is the Tattvārtha-sūtra.

Most commentaries on the scriptures among both Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras were written in Sanskrit. It has remained a trans-regional language of culture.

Regional languages

A Śvetāmbara monk and a bookstand – sthāpanācārya – which symbolises his role and authority as teacher. It holds a scripture in protective cloth. He sits on a low plaform while pupils sit on the floor. Religious beliefs were originally passed on orally

Monk and pupils
Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah

From the 14th century onwards regional languages tended to become an important medium of teaching and commenting. This did not mean that Prakrit and Sanskrit had become obsolete, however. The choice of language depended on the context and corresponded to various levels of education.

Among the Śvetāmbaras, commentaries known as bālāvabodhas and ṭabos were written in old Gujarati. These range from extensive, in-depth explanations to word-to-word paraphrases, often equivalent to translations. At the beginning of the 20th century, several monks complained that they were not exposed to canonical scriptures in their original language but had access to them only through these intermediates. This situation still applies today, with variations depending on monastic orders and their attitudes towards religious education.

Among Digambaras from north India, similar commentaries or rewritings were completed in:

In south India, Digambara scriptures were rewritten or commented on in Kannada and, to a lesser extent, Tamil.

Learning and teaching scriptures

This illustration from an 18th-century Ādityavāra-kathā manuscript shows Digambara monks preaching to lay men. Sitting on low platforms above their listeners, the monks hold up scriptures. The bookstands in front underline their role as religious teachers

Monks preach to lay men
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

During their long history, Jains have shown a variety of attitudes towards their holy writings. How should they be used? Should everyone be able to read and learn them? Who should be authorised to teach them? Should they be restricted to certain groups of people?

Evidence from the medieval period onwards shows that the holy writings are used as proofs in intellectual debates and controversies among mendicants who are learned ideologues (Granoff 1993, Dundas 2007, Balbir 2009 and others). Not only are specific works mentioned but precise passages are also quoted. In some cases, the authors refer to the page of the particular manuscript they read. Thus, for instance, advocates and opponents of image worship both fight with the support of scriptures. A question-and-answer format has been used in texts on controversial sectarian issues. Composed from the 17th century onwards, these are good examples of the way scriptural sources are quoted among both Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras (Jaini 2004, Jaini 2008). Such texts – praśnottaras or bols – are produced even today as pedagogical tools.

Generally, Jains consider that lay Jains should read the Āgamas in their narrowest interpretation together with or under mendicant supervision. But they can read alone stories, hymns or digests specifically targeted at lay audiences or learn about the contents of the Āgamas from monastic preaching. Thus there are ‘practical canons’ (Cort 2001, Dundas 2002: 63) for various purposes and people, which may evolve in the course of time.

Even so, sectarian attitudes among both laity and mendicants differ on whether certain categories of scriptures should be available to all types of audiences.

Among Digambaras, study of the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama by the laity and, to a lesser degree, by mendicants was prohibited for a long time. This was largely because its concepts are so elaborate that it was thought no one could understand it. Members of the Digambara community were also keen to keep some mystery around this work as if to emphasise its prestige and antiquity.

Nuns of the Śvetāmbara Tapā-gaccha sect are not allowed to read the class of Āgamas known as Cheda-sūtras, which deal with monastic discipline in great detail. Lay people are generally not supposed to read them either.

Study of the Āgamas follows a steady progression among mendicants of the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak orders (Cort 2001). A junior monk starts with the basic texts – the Mūla-sūtras – and in time moves on to read more technical texts as he becomes more senior. This progression is codified in books dealing with the monastic way of life.

Printing scriptures

Because the teachings are holy, Jains have at times shown reluctance to let them be printed. One reason is because printing is a mechanical process and may therefore involve harm. Another one is connected with the quasi-magical value attributed to scriptures.

The first printed edition of the Śvetāmbara Āgamas dates back to 1874. It was published after resistance from some monks and lay people.

Among the Digambaras, the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama started to be printed in 1939, only after many efforts. Other works in the Digambara canon had been printed earlier.

Editing scriptures

The Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā, the monumental edition of the 45 holy Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks. Inspired by Ānandasāgara-sūri, the book is often enthroned as a sacred object in temples. This one is in the Agam Mandir in Surat, Gujarat

Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The Digambara canon in the strict sense has been edited only once, after many difficulties, and is not transmitted through several independent manuscripts. The problem of a critical edition thus does not arise.

The situation is different for the Śvetāmbara Āgamas, which have been transmitted in western India through palm-leaf and paper manuscripts without break since the 12th century. The material available is nearly overwhelming in its quantity. However, there is no manuscript where all the holy texts are found together. They are copied either individually or in small groups. Editions of published material therefore use different manuscripts for different texts.

In the absence of any central religious authority, there is no need to have a single edition that would be the final word. Instead, a multiplicity of editions of various types and varying standards has been published since the end of the 19th century, and continue to be published.

Critical editions based on palm-leaf manuscripts, which provide critical apparatus such as a glossary or references, are a quite recent phenomenon. Beginning with publication in 1968, these critical editions are:

  • those started under the impulse of Muni Puṇyavijaya and lay Jain scholars, and published by the Mahāvīra Jain Vidyālay in Mumbai, as the Jaina-Āgama-Series
  • the Ladnun edition, published by Ācārya Tulsi and Ācārya Mahāprajña of the Terāpanth.

These editions are not identical. The editors have diverging views on the way commentaries should be used in textual history. A notable editorial project is the ‘Illustrated Agam’ edition started by the Sthānaka-vāsin monk Amar Muni in 1992. It shows how leading intellectuals make the scriptures accessible to large audiences by finding attractive new ways of presenting them.

Holy writings as sacred objects

In addition to honouring the contents of sacred texts, Jains venerate them as holy objects in themselves. Jains pay homage to the scriptures as a body or as single items in various ways. Scriptures are sometimes found in temples in the shape of books, symbols or quotations inscribed on the walls. They are frequently the focus of religious rituals. Holy books play important roles in festivals celebrated by the Digambara and Śvetāmbara sects, both as representations of knowledge and as physical objects.

Digambara

Found in Digambara temples, a śruta-skandha-yantra represents the scriptures and scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna. In the form of a tree, it has 24 branches showing types of sacred texts. This example in Tamil Nadu is surrounded by Jina images.

Śruta-skandha-yantra
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama, the earliest Digambara scripture, is housed in a temple in Mudbidri, Karnataka. For a long time it was worshipped only. It became available to study only in the 1930s.

The authors of the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama are at the heart of the festival of Śruta-pañcamī.

The sect of the Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth has temples in Madhya Pradesh where books have replaced images on altars and are worshipped.

The metal or brass śruta-skandha-yantras are visual representations of the teachings found in temples. They take the form of a tree with 24 branches showing the various types of scriptures. These sit alongside images of goddesses or Jinas. They can be adorned with garlands of flowers.

The headquarters of the Kānjī Svāmī Panth sect, which originated in the 20th century, has extensive scriptural engravings. Kundakunda’s works are inscribed on the walls of the main temple at Songadh in Gujarat.

Śvetāmbara

A gallery of the Agam Mandir in Pune, Maharashtra, displays plates inscribed with the 45 holy writings or Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak sect. Temples devoted to scriptures, Agam Mandirs were invented in the 1940s

Gallery of an Agam Mandir
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Copies of the Kalpa-sūtra are displayed in public. The text and the book itself are at the centre of the festival of Paryuṣaṇ.

The festival of Jñāna-pañcamī is an annual occasion where books of the Āgamas are dusted, repaired, copied and so on.

Among Mūrti-pūjak sects, there are specific worship ceremonies – pūjā – and specific ritual diagrams – yantras – honouring their 45 Āgamas.

The Mūrtipūjak leader Ācārya Ānandasāgara-sūri inspired the 1999 publication of the Śvetāmbara Āgamas, known as Āgama-mañjūṣā. Weighing several kilos, the single monumental volume is enshrined in glass boxes in temples and is an object of worship.

Ācārya Ānandasāgara-sūri also inaugurated a new type of temple in the 1940s. The Āgam Mandir contains inscriptions or engravings of all the 45 scriptures of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak sects.

Images

  • Jain holy texts A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals. The Digambara sect of Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth worships books instead of images of Jinas.. Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • An omniscient Jina preaches This detail of a manuscript painting shows the universal gathering – samavasaraṇa. When a Jina reaches omniscience, he sits in the centre of a samavasaraṇa the gods have built for him. The term is also used for the gathering of animals, humans and gods that listen to his teachings in peace and friendship.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Indrabhūti Gautama preaches This manuscript painting shows Indrabhūti Gautama preaching. The white-clad monk is fanned by a servant and sits on a lotus, symbols of worldly and spiritual rank. King Śreṇika and his family sit separately from the lords and ladies of the court.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives This picture from a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra dates from 1512. It depicts the elder Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Bhadrabāhu’s sacred footprints Sacred footprints in Bhadrabāhu’s Cave on Candra-giri at the pilgrimage site of Shravana Belgola, Karnataka. These footprints – caraṇa – are considered to be those of the 3rd-century sage Bhadrabāhu, who fasted to death at Shravana Belgola. The flowers and powders on the footprints are evidence of a ritual of worship which devout pilgrims have performed recently. . Image by Ilya Mauter © CC BY-SA 2.5
  • The elder Sthūlabhadra As one of the early 'elders' – sthavira – of the Jain tradition, Sthūlabhadra is an important figure. He organised a recitation of the holy texts in Pāṭaliputra around 300 BCE, which was a key factor in the gradual split between the Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Palm-leaf manuscript A palm-leaf manuscript from Tamil Nadu. The manuscript is kept together by a string threaded through holes in each long thin folio. When the teachings of the Jinas were first written down, they were etched onto palm leaves. Surviving palm-leaf manuscripts are very rare, because the material is highly fragile.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Pañca-pāṭha style of manuscript commentary This is a good example of the pañca-pāṭha style of using the manuscript margins for commentary. This manuscript page is from a 16th-century copy of the Ṣaṣṭi-śataka.. Image by British Library © The British Library Board
  • Monk and pupils A Śvetāmbara monk sits before a bookstand – sthāpanācārya – which is a symbol of his role and authority as teacher. It holds a scripture wrapped in protective cloth. He sits on a low plaform while his pupils sit on the floor and listen. Religious beliefs were originally passed on orally, with junior monks memorising what their teachers said. Today, monks and nuns still learn in large part from senior monks.. Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah
  • Monks preach to lay men This illustration from an 18th-century Ādityavāra-kathā manuscript shows monks preaching to lay men. Though dressed in white, like monks of the Śvetāmbara sect, the mendicants are Digambaras. Sitting on low platforms above their listeners, the monks hold scriptures in their hands. The bookstands before them underline their role as religious teachers. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā The Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā, the monumental edition of the 45 holy writings or Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak sect. Inspired by Ānandasāgara-sūri, the book is often enthroned as a sacred object in temples. This one is housed in the Agam Mandir in Surat, Gujarat.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Śruta-skandha-yantra Found in Digambara temples, a śruta-skandha-yantra is a metal or brass representation of the scriptures. A symbol of the scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna – vital for spiritual development, it takes the form of a tree, with 24 branches showing the various types of sacred texts. This śruta-skandha-yantra in Tamil Nadu is surrounded by Jina images.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Gallery of an Agam Mandir A gallery of the Agam Mandir in Pune, Maharashtra, displays plates inscribed with the 45 holy writings or Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak sect. An Agam Mandir is a type of temple invented in the 1940s containing engravings of the Āgamas, which are intended for worship, or at least darśana – being seen.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Further Reading

Jaina Studies: Their Present State and Future Tasks
Ludwig Alsdorf
translated by Bal Patil
edited by Willem Bollée
Hindi Granth Karyalay; Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2006

Full details

‘Autobiographies of Jain Monks and Nuns in the 20th Century: A Preliminary Essay’
Nalini Balbir
Jaina Studies
edited by Colette Caillat and Nalini Balbir
Papers of the XIIth World Sanskrit Conference series; series editor Petteri Koskikallio and Asko Parpola; volume 9
Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, India; 2008

Full details

‘Les lecteurs jaina śvetāmbara face à leur canon’
Nalini Balbir
Ecrire et transmettre en Inde classique
edited by Gérard Colas and Gerdi Gerschheimer
Études thématiques series; volume 23
École Française d’Extrême Orient; Paris; 2009

Full details

‘Is a Manuscript an Object or a Living Being?: Jain Views on the Life and Use of Sacred Texts’
Nalini Balbir
The Death of Sacred Texts: Ritual Disposal and Renovation of Texts in World Religions
edited by Kristina Myrvold
Ashgate; Aldershot, Hampshire UK; 2010

Full details

‘On the role and meaning of the Śvetāmbara canon in the history of Jainism’
Nalini Balbir
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Jaina Law
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 4
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2013 – forthcoming

Full details

‘Das Kanonproblem bei den Jainas’
Klaus Bruhn
Kanon und Zensur
edited by Aleida Assman and Jan Assman
Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation series; volume II
Wilhelm Fink Verlag; Munich, Germany; 1987

Full details

In Search of the Original Ardhamāgadhī
N. M. Kansara
translated by K. R. Chandra
Prākrt̥a Grantha Pariṣad series; volume 35
D. M. Prakrit Text Society; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 2001

Full details

‘The Intellectual Formation of a Jain Monk: A Śvetāmbara Monastic Curriculum’
John E. Cort
Journal of Indian Philosophy
volume 29
2001

Full details

‘Somnolent Sūtras: Scriptural Commentary in Śvetāmbara Jainism’
Paul Dundas
Journal of Indian Philosophy
volume 25
1996

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

History, Scripture and Controversy in a Medieval Jain Sect
Paul Dundas
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; series editor Peter Flügel; volume 2
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2007

Full details

Scripture and Community: Collected Essays on the Jains
Kendall W. Folkert
edited by John E. Cort
Studies in World Religions series; volume 6
Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University & Scholars Press; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; 1993

Full details

‘Going by the Book: The Role of Written Texts in Medieval Jain Sectarian Conflicts’
Phyllis Granoff
Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu
edited by Rudy Smet and Kenji Watanabe
Hon-no-Tomosha; Tokyo, Japan; 1993

Full details

The Lives of the Jain Elders
Hemacandra
translated and edited by R. C. C. Fynes
Oxford World’s Classics series
Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK and New York, USA; 1998

Full details

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

Full details

‘Hemaraja Pande’s Caurāsī Bol’
Padmanabh S. Jaini
Jambū-jyoti: Munivara Jambūvijaya Festschrift
edited by Madhusudan A. Dhaky and J. B. Shah
Shresthi Kasturbhai Lalbhai Smarak Nidhi series; volume 7
Sharadaben Chimanbhai Educational Research Centre; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 2004

Full details

‘Jain Sectarian Debates: Eighty-four Points of Contention (Cauryāṃsī bol) Between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras (Text and Translation)’
Padmanabh S. Jaini
Journal of Indian Philosophy
volume 36
2008

Full details

A History of the Canonical Literature of the Jainas
Hiralal Rasikdas Kapadia
Surat, Gujarat, India; 1941

Full details

The Doctrine of the Jainas: Described after the Old Sources
Walther Schubring
translated by Wolfgang Bühlen
edited by Satya Ranjan Banerjee
Lala Sunder Lal Jain Research series; volume 15
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2000

Full details

‘The Dating of the Jaina Councils: Do Scholarly Presentations Reflect the Traditional Sources?’
Royce Wiles
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Disputes and Dialogues
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 1
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2006

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Ācārya

Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.

Āgama

Authoritative scriptures. The holy texts that are considered authoritative depend on the group and the period.

Apabhraṃśa

Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.

Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit

A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.

Ascetic

Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.

Bālāvabodha

In Sanskrit, literally ‘an explanation for the fools'. Usually written in Gujarati, a bālāvabodha is a type of commentary on Jain scriptures, which are generally written in Prākrit. 

Bhāṣya

A type of commentary on Jain scriptures. It may be either:

  • Prākrit verse commentary on Śvetāmbara texts
  • Sanskrit prose commentary on a Sanskrit work, such as the Tattvārtha-sūtra.

Brāhmaṇa

A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.

Candragupta

Founder and first ruler of the Mauryan Empire, Candragupta (circa 340–298 BCE; ruled from circa 320 BCE) is an important figure in Jain history. According to Digambara tradition he abdicated his throne to become a monk and followed the sage Bhadrabāhu. The pair fasted to death at Shravana Belgola and are commemorated there.

Canon

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Another word for 'scripture'.

Caturvidha-saṅgha

The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.

Commentary

An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:

  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.

Common Era

The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.

Cūrṇi

A class of Prākrit commentary. Written in prose, the cūrṇis were composed between the 6th and 8th centuries CE.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Divya-dhvani

'Divine sound' in Sanskrit and characteristic of the Jina’s speech after he has reached omniscience. The two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slightly different concepts of it but agree that the divine sound is the source of all Jain teaching.

Elder

A term used for a man who is one of those listed in early sources as the direct successors of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Festival

A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 

Gaṇadhara

'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.

Gaṇin

A religious title for a monk in charge of a small group of mendicants, who live and travel together. A gaṇinī is a nun who leads a group of female mendicants. 

Gloss

To explain or translate a word or phrase in a text. A glossary is a collection of such explanations. A gloss may be a short note in the margin or between the lines of a text or it may be an extended commentary.

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

Gujarati

The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Hymn

The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:

  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Indrabhūti Gautama

Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jaina Śaurasenī

A variety of Prakrit. A spoken language, it became used primarily for drama in northern India during the medieval period and is the language used for the main Digambara scriptures.

Jina

A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.

Karnataka

State in south-west India.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Kṣamā-śramaṇa

The title used to address the monk who helps perform the ritual during confession and repentance.

Kundakunda

Digambara monk who lived in the second or third centuries CE. Little is known of his life but his mystical writings, concentrating on the soul and internal religious experience, have been enormously influential in Jain thought. Key works include Samayasāra, Niyamsāra, Pañcāstikāya and Pravacanasāra.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Māhārāṣṭra

Bordering on the Arabian Sea, Māhārāṣṭra in central India is the third-largest and the richest state in India. Its capital is Mumbai and the official language is Marathi.

Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit

A dialect of the Prākrit language used in some Jain writings.

Mahāvīra

The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.

Marāṭhī

Usually written as Marathi in English, Marāṭhī is a language widely spoken in western and central India. It is the official language of the Indian state of Māhārāṣṭra, usually written in English as Maharashtra.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Monk

A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Mūrti-pūjaka

Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.

Niryukti

A class of early Prākrit verse commentary in the Śvetāmbara tradition.

Nudity

The Digambara mendicants are 'sky-clad' because they believe that all the Jinas and their male ascetic followers went nude as part of their vow of renunciation. This vow entails renouncing all possessions, including clothing. Female Digambara ascetics wear white saris and are thus technically spiritually advanced celibate laywomen. Śvetāmbara mendicants of both sexes, however, wear white clothing. The difference of opinion over whether the vow of non-possession includes clothing was one reason for the Jain community's split into these two major sects early in the Common Era.

Nun

A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Pūjā

Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Pūrva

Literally, the Sanskrit for 'ancient’. The term can mean either:

  • a measurement of 84,000 x 84,000 years
  • the scriptures of the 24 Jinas' preaching and long since lost.

The 14 Pūrvas held all the knowledge in the universe and the few who knew them were given the exalted status of śruta-kevalin – ‘scripturally omniscient person'. In line with the prophecy of the last Jina, Mahāvīra, knowledge of the Pūrvas died out within a thousand years of his liberation. Parts of the Pūrvas are said to form elements of later philosophy and scriptures.

Rajasthan

The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.

Rite

A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

Saṇgha

Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

Sect

An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.

Siddhānta

'Doctrine' in Sanskrit. Digambara Jains tend to use it to refer to their canon while Śvetāmbara Jains usually use Āgama for their holy scriptures.

Sūtra

In common use it refers to any sacred text. However, strictly speaking, it means an extremely concise style of writing, as illustrated in the Tattvārtha-sūtra, or a verse.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Tapā-gaccha

A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.

Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth

Lay followers of the Digambara thinker Tāraṇ Svāmī (1448–1515). They do not worship images but instead focus on the books of Taraṇ Svāmi and Kundakunda, and other Digambara scriptures.

Tattvārtha-sūtra

Extremely famous Jain holy text written in Sanskrit in perhaps the fifth century CE. Śvetāmbaras call the author Umāsvāti while Digambaras know him as Umāsvāmin. Going into the principles of karma in ten chapters, it discusses the principles and the reality of existence in a concise style – sūtra. The Tattvārtha-sūtra is a key text, fundamental to all Jain sects. Its title is often translated into English as That Which Is.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

Valabhī

The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

Yantra

Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.

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