Tattvartha Sutra : Our Pride

We are emotion-driven people. We celebrate the birth centenary year with great fervour. How come we forget to celebrate the Scripture centenary? Celebration of Scriptures enlightens our lives. It is surprising that the religion that has been giving great importance to the Shrut Jnana (inherent oral tradition of wisdom), is so indifferent to the scriptures. Today, we wish to discuss, the Tattvartha Sutra (Tattvartha-Adhigam-Sutra or Moksha-Sutra), a Jain scripture written by Acharya Umaswati or Umaswami. It was an attempt to bring together the different aspects of Jainism such as spirituality, astrology, dialogues, ethics, etc. which were scattered haphazardly in various places in different writings. This is the earliest Jain Sutra which expresses almost the complete Jainism through 344 Sutras sub-divided into 10 sections.

The word ‘Tattvartha’ is derived from two Sanskrit words viz. ‘tattva’ (in Jain Darshan: reality) and ‘artha’ (real form). Umaswatiji is accepted by all jain sects and even non-jain scholars as well. The time of Umaswatiji is considered to be the first or second century AD. Whereas, Sarvarthasiddhi Tika of the Tattvartha Sutra by Acharya Pujyapad dates back to the fifth-sixth century. Umaswati Jainacharya is considered to be the first Sanskrit writer of Jain scriptures. This book is not only an example of a very complex piece of writing but also an example of the skilled poetic composition in the structure of the Sutra. By reading these scriptures, we get to know the author’s potency on YogaNyaya (justice), Buddhist philosophy, and the study of grammar. In this book, the knowledge of Agam and the knowledge of the Sanskrit language are mainly found. Umaswati was the first to compose short Sutras in the Sanskrit language of Jain literature and after him, the style of Sutras became very popular. Tattvartha Sutras of Umaswati articulates the basic philosophy of Jainism. It contains the nine elements which are very important in Jainism. Several commentaries were written on this book during successive periods. The term ‘tattva‘ stands for “that which is worth knowing in the world” and this book possesses the wisdom that comes from understanding the ‘tattva’. Those who cannot study the whole body of Jain Agama can get complete clarity of Jain philosophy through this book. This book has also been translated into many languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, and English.

The Tattvartha Sutra is considered to be the most authoritative text of Jain philosophy (Jainism) and is the only text that is accepted by both the Shwetambar and Digambar sects of Jainism. This book is as important in Jainism, as important Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra is in Hinduism. The text has the largest number of commentaries in various Indian languages from the fifth century onwards. One of the earliest Digambar commentaries (bhashya) on this was written in the fifth century and called Sarvartha Siddhi. Later, Vyakarana Vetta Devanandi, known as Pujya Pada, wrote commentaries in the 6th century AD and Akalank in the 780s as the Rajavartika and Vijayananda in the 9th century as the Sholavatrika.

The first stanza of the Tattvartha Sutra is:

Samyak Darshan Gnan Charitrani Moksha Marg:” ||

`It is said that Draupayik, a devotee from Gujarat, wrote on the wall of his house the Sutra for his self-realization, ‘Darshan Gyan Charitrani Moksha Marg’. Acharya Umaswatiji was passing from there and he read it after completing his work, Acharya Umaswatiji, with divine grace, added the title ‘Samyak‘ in the above stanza. When the devotee sees the word ‘Samyak‘ added in this Sutra, he becomes very happy and approaches the Acharya to ask about the nature of ‘Moksha Marga’ (path of emancipation). The Acharya starts from this Sutra and composes the Tattvartha Sutra.

Samyak Darshan Gyan Charitra ni Moksha Marga: ||

It conveys the essence of Jainism which means that true faith, religion, true knowledge, and right conduct jointly show the path to salvation. Its first chapter deals with the qualification of Pipasu (devotee) and various types of knowledge. The next three chapters describe Atma (soul), Adho Lok, (Hell), Urdhva Lok (universal body) and Deva Adi (Divine being). Ajiva (non-living) is described in the fifth chapter. The next three chapters are about Karma (Deeds) i.e. how we earn karma –Ashrava (incoming) – good and bad karma – auspicious and inauspicious karmakarma bondage, etc. are described. The ninth chapter describes why to prevent the bondage of karma – why to destroy the Samvar (blocking) and the binding karma – Nirjara (destruction of karma). The final chapter discusses the liberation of the soul i.e. the attainment of Moksha.

If we understand Jainism from the scriptures, the future of that understanding will be sustainable.

Dr. Sejal Shah (Ph.D.)