Article: Reference Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Second section of the Ācārānga-sūtra

The second section of the Ācārānga-sūtra has linguistic and content features pointing to a later date than the first. There are also hints that it was originally a supplementary work. It is divided into sixteen chapters.

Details of the second section of the Ācārānga-sūtra

Chapter number




Search for Alms

Rules and precautions regarding alms


Search for Lodging

Rules and precautions regarding conditions for proper monastic lodging or stays



Precautions in walking and other movements


Modes of Speech

Precautions in the use of language and speech


Search for Monastic Clothes

Rules and precautions regarding clothes


Search for Monastic Bowl

Rules and precautions regarding alms-bowls


Regulation of Possessions

Rules regarding permission, especially for accepting a place of stay, and the notion of proper limits

8 to 14

These sections are considered as forming a set of seven lectures, covering the topics of:

  • religious postures
  • rules regarding the place of study
  • rules for relieving oneself
  • the attitude to hearing things, such as musical instruments that imply mundane festivals
  • attitude in seeing things, which imply temptations to take part in mundane pastimes
  • interactions with fellow mendicants and house holders
  • reciprocal action
  • places and temptations to be avoided, such as music and colour.


The Reinforcing Practices

A large part of this section on Mahāvīra’s life is close or identical to the corresponding section of the Kalpa-sūtra. It serves as an introduction to the innovation of Mahāvīra’s teaching, namely the five great vows – mahā-vratas. These are then detailed along with the practices meant to reinforce them – the bhāvanās.



Pursuit of liberation explained through similes.

Aṅga 2 – right and wrong paths

This detail of an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript painting shows a Śvetāmbara monk teaching. As the highest-ranking monk, the teacher is the largest figure and sits on a dais. The junior mendicants gesture in homage while a bookstand is between them

Monastic teacher and pupils
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

One of the main characteristics of Aṅga Number 2 is the emphasis on the principles of Jain doctrine – the true doctrine. It contrasts them with the beliefs of other schools, whose followers are ‘fools’. Thus the Sūtrakṛtānga gives insights into the sects and schools that were rivals to the Jains. A number of comparisons and examples are used to impart the teaching.

There are 23 chapters in the Sūtrakṛtānga. The first section is made up of a mix of prose and verse chapters. The sixth chapter is a famous passage of poetry on mendicants and their lives. All in prose, the second section boasts a very well-known parable.

First section of the Sūtrakṛtānga

The first section of the second Aṅga has 16 chapters, in a mixture of prose and verse. One of the most famous examples of ascetic poetry is the sixth chapter, which pays homage to the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra.

Details of the first section of the Sūtrakṛtānga

Chapter number




The Doctrine

The Jain doctrine and false ones


The Destruction of Karma

Exhortation to mendicants to:

  • resist temptations
  • follow the right path
  • observe self-control
  • understand that the modes of one’s existence are due to karmas, which have to be annihilated.


The Knowledge of Troubles

This is an exhortation for mendicants and the wise to remain steadfast and firm in their resolution, whatever the situation.


Knowing about Women

One of the most important and well-known lessons exhorting the monks to stay away from women and whatever relates to them.


Description of the Hells

One of the most important canonical texts describing the variety of tortures in hell in great detail.


Praise of Mahāvīra

Praise of Mahāvīra, whose steadiness and strength are conveyed through a number of forceful similes. This is a well-known example of ascetic poetry.


Description of the Wicked

This contrasts the wise and the sinner.


On Energy

This contrasts:

  • the wrong definition of energy, which leads to actions
  • the wise man’s energy, which leads to the destruction of karmas.


The Law

This gives the principles of Jain doctrine and proper conduct as defined by Mahāvīra – in contrast with wrong views about dharma. Many of the rules are phrased as prohibitions – ‘a monk should not…'



On restraint, self-control, watchfulness, detachment as prerequisites for absolute spiritual freedom.


The Path

Those who follow the right path and those whose behaviour means they may go astray.


Heretical Creeds

This chapter in particular mentions the tenets of various philosophical schools.


The Real Truth

It contrasts the attitude and practice of the wise, emphasising that the notion of the social context where one is born is not relevant.


The Nirgrantha

Taking the Sanskrit term for ‘free from knots’ – bondage of karmic matter – this is about the perfection of monastic life


The Yamakas

Taking its title from a stylistic technique, this chapter begins each verse or line with a word repeated from the preceding one.


The Song

A prose chapter with each of its paragraphs starting with the identical formula of:

  • ‘He is a Brahmana for this reason that’
  • ‘He is a Śramaṇa for this reason that’
  • ‘He is a Bhikṣu for this reason that’
  • ‘He is a nirgrantha for this reason that’.
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