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Sacred Books of the Digambaras

The Digambaras maintain that the original Angas containing the teachings of the Tirthankaras including that of Mahavira have gradually been lost, because the acharyas who know them passed away without ensuring that their disciples had mastered them. There is thus no way now of reconstructing the original words in which Mahavira taught his disciples. The Digambaras, therefore, reject as canonical the works claimed as the original texts by the Svetambaras; and for religious literature they fall back upon the works that their early acharyas composed.

These early acrayas were






Svami Kartikeya,

Vattakera, etc.

Most of these acharyas wrote in South India. The only known exception is Umasvami whose Tattvarthadhigama-Sutra is said to have been composed in Pataliputra.

However, there does not seem to be a unanimity of opinion as to which works should be considered the most sacred of sacred literature and in what manner they should be classified. Seventy years ago, when Winternitz,1 was writing, the usual custom was to put these works in four groups (they were also some-times called the four Vedas). The distribution then was as follows:

1. Prathamanuyoga:

Legendary works to which belong the puranas:




Maha and


2. Karananuyoga: Cosmological works:


Chandra-prajnapti, and


3. Dravyanuyoga:

Philosophical works of Kunda-kunda,

Umasvami's 'Tattvarthadhigama-Sutra, and

Samantabhadra's Aptamimansa.

4. Charananuyoga:

Ritual works:

Vattakera's Mulachara, and Trivarnachara; and

Samantabhadra's Ratnakaranda-Shravakachara.

The present practice is to divide the most sacred of the Digambara literature into two groups as follows:

1. Karmaprabhrita :

Chapters on Karman" This is also called Shatkhandagama, and was composed by Pushpadanta and Bhutabali on the basis of the now lost Drishtivada, and is said to have been composed in the 7th century after Mahavira. A commentary on the first five books of Karmaprabhrita by Virasena (9th century AD) is equally respected .

2. Kashayaprabhrita

"Chapters on passions". This work is by Gunadhara, and is also based on the Drstivada, and composed in the same age as the Karmaprabhrita. Its commentary by Virasena and his pupil Jinasena is also respected.


1. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 474.