Nirvana is nothing but constant and continuous study!
No Religion can be sustained without two things: first, the manners of its followers and second, the relevance of its scripture in today’s time. The readiness and generosity of those who study the scriptures are equally important. A religion sustains and expands through its rules and the successive generations of followers. Once the love and respect for religion are cultivated, the path forward does not remain complex. Every religion has some basic commandments in some form or another. The divine revelations of Jesus, Prophet, and Krishna, among others, are recorded in the scriptures. The successive generations interpret and pursue those revelations in their way. Gandhars have recorded the revelations of Lord Mahavira as aphorisms aka Āgam.
Āgam is words of Mahavir, torchbearer of life. Āgam is not only seen in Jainism but also in other religions. Shaivism, for instance, has its own Āgam. The foundation of Jainism is in a Jain Āgam. The representative scripture of Jainism called Samanasuttam is also based on Āgam. Based on the original preface, it forms only Ganadhar Dvadshangi. Sthaveer does the formation of all the Āgams except the components. Lord Mahavira had preached it to his 11 Ganadhars. Gradually, these formers were lost over time. Only one Ganadhar could retain these Āgams and preserve this body of knowledge for six generations. Names of these formers (Purva) were: Utpādpurva, Agrāyani, Veeryapravād, Astināstipravād, Gyānpravād, Satyapravād, Pratyākhyānpravād, Vidhyānypravād, Avandhya, Prānavāy, Kriyāvishāl and Bindusār. Not all the Āgams enlisted in the Nandisutra are currently available. The idol worshipers of the Shwetambar community believe Āgams to be 45, whereas some others believe it to be 84 Āgams. These conclusions are drawn from the available original Āgams, and various other editions were added later.
Sthānakvāsi and the Terāpanthi traditions consider only 32 of the Āgams as standard. On the other hand, Digambar Samaj believes that all Āgams have perished over time. The available Āgams are divided into 45 sections viz. 11 components, 12 appendages, 6 Mulasutrās, 6 Chhedasutrās and ten miscellaneous. The original language of Jain Āgams was Ardhmāgadhi. Āgam Vānchanā (readings) – after the emancipation of Shramana Mahāvir, five readings were undertaken in order to compile Āgams. The first reading took place in Pataliputra under the presidency of Ārya Sthulibhadra during the second century of Nirvana (254 BC). The second reading was undertaken during Emperor Kharvel in the middle of the second century. The third and fourth readings took place in Mathura and Valabhi (in the Saurashtra region), respectively, between 827 and 840 after the emancipation of Veer. Finally, during 454 – 456, under the direction of Kshamā-shraman of Devardhigani, the fifth reading was held at Valabhi. Thus, all the Āgams were recorded.
Jain Āgam Granth, a documentation of the experience of Āptapurush (trustworthy sages), is an invaluable treasure of world literature. Though a century has passed, the importance of Āgam literature still exists, and its relevance is increasing day by day. There is no rocket science if one wishes to discover the reasons for its everlasting impact in the present day and age. One of the chief reasons for its relevance lies in the fact that the texts deal with rational issues quite scientifically. Jainism is one of the most scientific religions today due to its fundamental philosophy, pragmatic principles, self-friendly lifestyle, and hypocrisy-free worship practices. Explicit and implicit indications of many such practices are found in the Jain scriptures followed in the Jain tradition for centuries. Many facts of Jain philosophy have been proved in the scientific world in scientific ways. For instance, in Jain philosophy decades ago, there was life in plants. Drinking water by filtering or boiling was said years ago in Jain philosophy which gained scientific support much later. There was once a disease called Naru-Bala in Rajasthan in which one had to go through a terrible disease of worms in the stomach. The worms that enter the body through the contaminated water caused this disease. On investigating the disease in the region, it was found that it did not have much effect on the Jain people, and the reason was their habit of drinking filtered/boiled water. Similarly, how isolation is recommended during the Corona period now is also mentioned in the earlier Jain scriptures.
Many topics such as ethics, environment, and sociality have been clarified in Āgam texts. For the Jain community, these are revered scriptures and the guiding texts, explaining the way of life and the ultimate truth. During the last couple of centuries, many works have been undertaken to revive, clarify, and analyse the Āgam texts. Discoveries are made based on the research generated in the process. Many facts about the historicity and originality of Jainism are found here. In the era of false knowledge, there are many misconceptions about the basics of Jainism. The profound words of Jainism such as Anekāntvād (many-sidedness), Sambhāv (equanimity), and Anukampā (compassion) are defined at such a superficial level that their original meaning has been forgotten. When the tendency to teach rather than to learn has become a new normal, the study of the Āgam scriptures can clarify our illusions. Āgam texts, written in Prākrit, an ancient language, are rich in material encompassing a wide range of subjects such as Indian culture and civilisation.
Āgam texts and ancient Jain literature provide essential and valuable information regarding the study of Indian languages, literature and culture. In today’s age and time of technology, it is our moral responsibility to preserve this literature’s original illustrations and provide them to the future. In this regard, Jain Sāhitya Academy Trust has started some groundwork. After giving a one-year course in Jain literature last year, a class on Jain Āgam has been started. This effort is commendable as it brings us closer to the original text. Some of the deep secrets of Āgam are revealed, and we get to know the vastness and depth each Āgam has. During 24 lecture series on complete Āgam, many of its vital secrets were revealed. In today’s Jain society, it is imperative to increase the importance of the wisdom and the wise, along with the Swādhyāya (self-study) in Jainism. A proud understanding of these concepts’ meaning will automatically come into practice. The Jain Sahitya Academy has started a unique experiment in Jain Āgam and Jain Music by introducing unique classes. If our Jain community would note it and motivate these initiatives, we could proceed towards some concrete development. Otherwise, these gems will be lost in the vain pursuit of wealth, power and taste. Those who are interested in these classes can contact the editor at email@example.com.
Today, on a global scale, the two issues of environment and violence are getting worse day by day. Materialism has spread out of proportion, and the issues of terror, violence, corruption, exploitation, hunger, and war are indispensable. Development has become one-sided. Religion and spirituality bring stability to our mind and heart and free us from the narrowness. When human behaviour and short-sightedness inadvertently harm society, it is necessary to read and respect the scriptures that bring peace of mind. The number of online classes has increased tremendously, and it also has many benefits. If time saved can be utilised in the company of good people and scriptures, we will inculcate a positive ideological attitude, saving us from animosity-jealousy. The instinct of ‘becoming more like the one we are living with’ matters greatly. Therefore, it is more conducive to stay away from the company of impatience, stubbornness, ego and to stay in the close affinity of the scriptures, exercises, and yoga. The study of Āgam texts is a remarkable initiative in this direction. It reflects the long-term, wide-ranging perspective of multi-religious culture. Further, there are many suggestions pertaining to language development in it.
Let us know, understand and respect Āgam and follow it. Do not forget that religion will stand against the generation to come by action and sensible and satisfactory answers. If we must speak about our contribution to society, the value of our work is zero. However, if society speaks about our contribution, our work is worthy. Finally,
Awareness of all sciences
Āgam is a great support
Departure to study final beatitude
The purpose of human life is the life of purpose and attainment of perfection. Let us move away from the quest to realise human birth and move closer to the realisation of human life. We are not souls that can help anyone. We could be an example of the change we want to see in the world (show the right path to all by my salvation). However, the most important thing to keep in mind is not to advise anyone until we are asked and keep the interest of all souls in mind and be free from Ego.
Dr. Sejal Shah (Ph.D)