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Tattvartha Sutra – Basic Religious Text In Jainism

Tattvartha Sutra, also known as Tattvartha Adhigama Sutra, is regarded as a primary religious text in Jainism. The text, as well as its author, Umasvati, also known as Umaswami, has gained great recognition from all sects of the Jain community.

The entire philosophical thought and religious ideology of Jainas is summarized in a nutshell in Tattvartha Sutra and serves as a compendium of Jaina philosophical doctrines. The available Svetambara agamas and Digambara scriptures were all documented in Prakrit language but Tattvartha Sutrai s the first Jain text to be written in Sanskrit.

The language is lucid, style is exemplary and exposition is profound. It is widely studied for its depth of thought and simplicity of expression. The truths expounded in the ext have universal application and are immutable, as they are deep-rooted in religion and philosophy of tirthakaras. The aphorisms are brief like Brahma Sutra, hence without a commentary it is not understandable.

Tattvartha Adhigama Sutra is a work with many commentaries, most of them in Sanskrit and several in Indian languages.

The exact date of the author is unknown, but scholars historians have dates him differently. Those who regard the author of the text and bhashya as one, place him between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. The Digambara tradition regards him to be the successor of Acharya Kundakunda and places him between the 2nd and 3rd century CE.

Tattvartha Sutra is divided into ten chapters containing 357 aphorisms.

The ten chapters are:

  1. Faith and Knowledge
  2. The Category of the Living
  3. The Lower World and the Middle World
  4. The Celestial Beings
  5. The Category of the Non-Living
  6. Influx of Karma
  7. The Five Vows
  8. Bondage of Karma
  9. Stoppage and Shedding of Karma
  10. Liberation

The first chapter deals with the process of cognition and details about different types of knowledge. The next three chapters deal with the soul, lower worlds, naraka, and celestial abodes, devas. The fifth chapter discusses the Non-soul. The next three chapters deal with the karmas and their manifestations and the influx, asrava, good and bad karma, shubha-ashubha karma and the bondage of the karmas. The ninth chapter describes the blocking, samvara and shedding of the karmas, nirjara. The final chapter discusses moksha or the liberation of the soul.

Accordingly, the path of moksha (liberation) lies in perfect knowledge and intuition. The first chapter investigates knowledge/cognition, and the next five chapters elucidate the process of bondage and liberation. It classifies knowledge into pramana (thing as it is) and naya (aspects or standpoints), and it divides pramana into pratyaksha (direct) and paroksha (indirect). Moksha is the complete freedom of being from pudgala (karmic matter).

Tattvartha Sutra presents seven categories of truth in sutra 1.4

  1. Souls exist
  2. Non-sentient matter exists
  3. Karmic particles exist that inflow to each soul
  4. Karmic particles bind to the soul, which transmigrate with rebirth
  5. Karmic particles inflow can be stopped
  6. Karmic particles can fall away from soul
  7. Complete release of karmic particles leads to liberation from worldly bondage