Jain Anuyog: Context for Content

What is Jain Anuyog? Why is it important to know about it? And how does it help us better understand and apply our Tirthankaras’ teachings? 

Anuyog and its significance 

Anuyog is one of the hidden gems of Jainism that helps us a great deal in understanding the context of Jain literature. As we read, interpret, and seek to apply the knowledge of scriptures, we must be careful to not overlook the Anuyog perspective, or we will miss an important aspect of our spiritual growth. 

Anuyog has many definitions depending on the reference in which the word is used. For the purpose of this article, Anuyog refers to the exposition of Jain principles: in simpler words, think of Anuyog as a “style of narration” for Jain literature and each style has a specific intent/purpose. 

The knowledge of Anuyog is very critical to correctly interpret and apply the information provided in Jain literature because the teachings in the scriptures are expressed in a rich variety to satisfy needs of a diverse set of seekers or followers. In Jainism there are four Anuyog and understanding the context and intent of each Anuyog enables us to expand our perspectives, be open-minded, prevent unnecessary debates, not become rigid in our thinking, and allows us to be mindful of our spiritual progress. It also helps us understand how to correctly interpret and apply the information provided. The simple rule is during any activities or actions, if our Mithyatva is eliminated and Kashaya (Anger, Ego, Greed, Deceit) is truly reduced, then we are on the right track of spiritual progress. 

The four Anuyog are: 

  • Prathamanuyoga or Kathanuyog (Jain spiritual principles are conveyed through specific stories) 

  • Karananuyoga or Ganitanuyog (Jain spiritual principles are conveyed through simple Mathematics such as existing knowledge of universe at that time) 

  • Charananuyoga or Charan-karananuyog (Vyavhaar Dharma or External Rituals/Conduct which are essential for our internal change) 

  • Dravyanuyoga (Nischaya Dharma or True Religion where we live our life as per the true nature of our substance “Pure Soul”). 

First, let’s look at the history and evolution of our Jain literature to put the Anuyog concept in perspective. Then, we will elaborate on purpose and limitation of each Anuyog and finally talk about specific examples to illustrate the nuances and distinctions between them. 

Introduction to Jain Literature 

Lord Mahavir preached Jain philosophy, values/principles, practices, ethics, conduct, and rituals to live a simple spiritual life. After his Nirvana, his preaching is compiled into many texts known as Sutras by his immediate disciples (known as Ganadhar) and later on by other Acharyas. These sutras are collectively known as Agam literature, the sacred books for the Jain religion. Agam literature is fundamentally divided into two groups: 

  • Anga Pravistha Agam / Anga-Agam – direct teaching and principles of Lord Mahavir. These are the oldest religious scriptures and backbone of Jain literature. 

  • Anga-bahya Agam – outside of Anga-Agam. These are commentaries and explanations compiled on the various subjects of the Anga-Agam literature by learned acharyas. 

Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers (acharyas or gurus) to the disciples for several centuries. In older times, the books were hand-written and rare. Also, religious books and scriptures were considered possessions and attachments for ascetics. Therefore, Agam sutras were rarely documented and not widely distributed for or by ascetics. 

During the course of time, it became difficult to keep the entire Jain literature (Agam sutras and commentary literature) committed to memory. Also, around 350 BC, the occurrence of twelve years famine made it extremely challenging for Jain ascetics to survive. A number of Agam sutras were forgotten or lost during the famine. Later, when the Jain congregation relaxed the vow of non-possession with regards to religious scriptures for ascetics, there were differing perspectives amongst Jain sects on authenticity of the Agam literature but the core intent, values and principles were consistently agreed upon. 

  • Digamber sect maintained that original Agam sutras were forgotten or lost due to lack of documentation. In absence of authentic scriptures, Digamber sect uses two main texts, three commentaries on main text, and more than 20 texts consisting of four Anuyog as the foundation for their religious philosophy and practices. These scriptures were written by Acharyas from 100 to 1000 A.D. 

  • Svetamber sect believed that only twelfth Anga-Agam known as Drastivada, which included fourteen Purvas was forgotten during famine but a significant portion of the remaining eleven Anga-Agams was remembered by their ascetics. The Svetamber ascetics held three conferences for the preservation of Jain literature in Paltiputra (320 B.C.), Mathura (380 A.D.), and Valabhi (520 A.D.). They have documented the Agam literature during the second and third conferences around one thousand years after Lord Mahavir’s nirvana. 

For further information on Jain Agam Literature and the difference in approaches among various sects, please review pages 234-274 in the book titled Jainism in a Global Perspective – Collection of Jain papers of 1993 Parliament of World Religions, Chicago. The Jain eLibrary book # 014010. 

The original literature in both sects was not compiled as per Anuyog but consists of texts like religious stories, principles of observances, mathematics, geography, astronomy, philosophical doctrines, theories etc. that aligned to each Anuyog. These religious sutras were later classified or grouped by Jain Acharyas into the four categories based on the style of narration to ensure that the context is taken into consideration while learning these sutras. 

At the highest level, the intent of each Anuyog is to move the seeker towards the ultimate spiritual goal of eliminating Mithyatva (ignorance and wrong belief) and reducing kashayas (afflictions like anger, ego, deceit, and greed). 

Let’s talk about each Anuyog in a little more detail. 

1.0 Prathamanuyoga or Kathanuyog (Stories) 

This anuyog refers to using stories to teach Jain morals, values or provide answer to a question. This style is most prominent in scriptures because it makes the information understandable, relatable, and accessible for readers. 

This anuyog consist of biographies of the Tirthankars and other well-known personalities (Shalaka Purush), stories, fables, art, history, sculpture, fiction, and mythology. The stories are mainly mythological, with some historical background. They are true to life, use realistic situations and make effective use of imagination. 

Here the historical aspect of the story is not important but the message it provides is according to the Jain values. 

Purpose / Value 

The primary purpose of this anuyog is to explain and cultivate religious and moral values through stories. New stories are created, or existing stories are modified by the author to make them relevant to the time, place, and culture. They form the basis of right conduct for the layperson and are especially valuable in the beginning phase of our spiritual journey to understand and internalize core religious principles.  

Hence, this Anuyog helps establish the foundation for moral, ethical living and teaches the importance of doing the right thing. 


This style of narration has one single purpose: to reinforce a particular theme or point.  The details are not meant to call attention to themselves. In most stories, assigning literal meanings to each of the details can lead to confusion and obscure the main point. 

Here are a few examples to appreciate the context for this anuyog so that we don’t get caught into nuances but instead stay focused on internalizing the key learning: 

  • To help understand the result of our actions, there are several stories that illustrate that good deeds are being rewarded and bad deeds are being punished in the future by the same person, animal, or similar environment. One such example relates to Mahavir Swami and one of his previous lives as Tripushta Vasudev. Tripushtha was very fond of music but had instructed his guards to stop the music that he was listening to, as soon as he fell asleep. One day, the guard forgot to stop the music. Upon waking up, furious Tripushta punished the guard by pouring hot lead into his ears. In turn, he had to suffer the same pain and agony in his last life as Mahavir, when the guard (who was reborn as a cowherd) pierced his ears with long nail-like thorns. This story is intended to emphasize the fruition of bad deeds as punishment but not intended to focus on who delivered the punishment and how it was delivered. 

  • To help instill importance of vows in our life, there is a story that talks about a person who took a vow “not to eat or drink at night”.  However, once when he was sick, he could not keep the vow and drank a glass of water at night.  Upon his death, he went to hell because he broke the vow. In another story, a non-vegetarian person took a vow not to eat the meat of a bird.  He continued to eat all other types of meat and never broke his vow.  After his death, he went to heaven because he did not break his vow of not eating birds’ meat. From overall Jain principle and conduct point of view, the above story could lead to many debates: Even though the first person lived a self-controlled life and broke the vow only once, he went to hell; The second person ate meat all his life, except for birds’ meat, and yet he went to heaven- how is that possible? This is where it is important to remember the limitation of this anuyog and not get caught into literal meaning of the details. The story has a single purpose of conveying the importance of vows in our life. 

Stories are meant to explain certain Jain principles, but one should not derive any Jain principles from stories, as they might involve some controversial cultural and moral aspects of the people of that time. Upon further contemplation, one would very likely have more questions, which in turn would instill a desire to go deeper into Jain literature. 


Some of the literature in Prathamanuyoga: 

Svetambar Agams and Literature: Jnatadharmakatha, Anuttaropapatikadasa, Vipaka, Nirvayavalika, Antakrddasa and Trisastishalakapurush of Hemacandra (12th century) 

Digambar Literature: Padma puran, Harivansha puran, Trishashtilakshana, Mahapuran and Adipurana of Jinasena (8th century) and Uttara purana of Gunabhadra (9th century) 

2.0 Karananuyoga or Ganitanuyog 

The information in this anuyog includes Mathematics, Geography, Astronomy, Astrology, Time-Cycle related information, philosophy and classification of Karma, explanation of Gunasthanak with reference to Karma. 

Purpose / Value 

The primary purpose of this anuyog is to help us get rid of our ego, understand the consequences of our past karma and be mindful of our current choices/actions. 

The religious literature in this anuyog helps us understand the consequences of our deeds in terms of karma. This awareness and understanding motivates us to be more mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions as they determine the good or bad karmas we acquire. The realization that rewards and punishment in our life are due to our own past Karma and not due to others, prevents us from blaming others for our situations. 

The Gunasthanak provides us a path and means to measure our spiritual progress. 

As we learn about the enormity of the Universe, it helps us understand that:- In such a vast universe, our existence is like a drop of water in the ocean This expansive universe functions on its own rules.  The time of our life span is just like a fraction of a second when compared to the infinite time cycles of the existence of the universe. Thus, by gathering more material wealth and possessions, one can invite arrogance and misery. So, limit your desires and get rid of your ego (karta bhav). 


The literature in this anuyog forms the second stage of religious teaching using mathematics, structure of universe (Loka), geography, rivers, mountains, physical description of heaven and hell, and classification of karmas. Bhagwan Mahavir used the knowledge base of universe that existed at that time which common people could relate to easily. Mahavir Swami was a spiritual teacher and not a geography teacher. With such breadth and depth of information, if we get overly absorbed in the information and not keep the purpose (right conduct) in the forefront, then it might end up creating cognitive dissonance within us or make us rigid in our thinking. 

The understanding of concept of karma teaches us that our happiness/unhappiness are results of past karma and one must not blame others. However, the limitation here is that we are still blaming not other people but our past actions. When we blame our past actions, we cannot improve spiritually. 


Some of the literature in Karananuyoga: 

Surya prajnapti, Chandra prajnapti, and Jayadhavala 

Tniokaprajnapti (7th century), Trilokasara (11th century), Jambudveep prajnapti (13th century) 

3.0 Charananuyoga or Charan-karananuyog 

The literature in this anuyog deals with the explanation of the third stage of religious teachings which is Vyavhaar Dharma/Laukik Dharma or External Rituals/Conduct. 

Purpose / Value 

The primary purpose of this anuyog is to inspire us to live a disciplined and service-oriented life through our external conduct and rituals such as: 

  • Austerities (Tapa) 

  • Ritualized confessions (Samayika/Pratikraman) 

  • Seva / Volunteering – anything that is helping and showing compassion towards others 

  • Temple/Sthanak rituals (Tirthankara’s stuti, Puja, Poojan, Guru-bhakti) 

It helps us understand the rules of conduct for shravakas/shravikas (lay people) and Monks/Nuns (Ascetics) and specific emphasis is given on future reward & punishment. 


The reward and punishment described in the Charananuyog sutras are to motivate us to live a life with limited needs and desires. However, if the teaching is taken out of context, then it might lead us to practice religion out of greed or fear. In reality, any religious practice done in order to gain something (with greed) and to avoid suffering (out of fear) is wrong. 


Some of the literature in Charananuyoga: 

·       Acharanga 

·       Nishitha 

·       Yogashataka 

·       Yogabindu 

·       Yogadrstisamuccaya, 

·       Dharma Samgraha 

·       Shraddha-vidhi 

·       Achar-Pradip 

·       Vattakera’s Mulachara 

·       Trivarnachara 

·       Samantabhadra’s Ratnakaranda Shravakachara (5th Century) 

·       Dharrnabindu of Haribhadra (8thcentury) 

·       Sravakacara of Amitagati (11thcentury) 

·       Yogasastra of Hemacandra (12thcentury) 

·       Purushartha-siddhyupaya of Amrtacandra (12thcentury) 

4.0 Dravyanuyoga 

The literature in this anuyog explains about the Nischaya Dharma (True religion). 

Dravya means “substance” or “existence”. The literature in this Anuyog includes six Dravya, Nine or Seven Tattva, and every essential aspect of Jain philosophy, conduct, and path of liberation. 

The main goal of this human life is to eliminate (not just suppress) mithyatva, kashaya, and activities of body, speech, and mind. Total elimination of these impurities is a must to attain liberation. ‘Vastu swabhavo iti khalu dhammo’ which means the true nature (swabhaav) of a substance (the soul) is its religion (dharma). The true/pure qualities of the soul are: 

  • Anant Darshan (Infinite Perception), 

  • Anant Jnan (Infinite Knowledge),  

  • Anant Charitra (Perfect Conduct), and  

  • Anant Virya (Infinite Power and Energy) 

These qualities can be achieved through meditation. It took Mahavir Swami twelve and a half years of meditation to attain this pure state. 

Purpose / Value 

In this anuyog, specific emphasis is given to understanding the stillness of mind, living in the current moment (not past or future), and realizing that meditation is the way to achieve that state. Our happiness or unhappiness depends on the present state of our mind (no kashaya) and not on our past Karma. 

This Anuyog also explains that religion is not what we ‘do’ as expressed in the first three Anuyog but what is our ‘intention & reflection’ behind our ‘doing’. It focuses on our way of being.  

There are no limitations for the information in this Anuyog. On the contrary, we want to ensure that our ultimate goal is to reach this phase and not get lost in the first three Anuyog. 


Some of the literature in Dravyanuyoga: 

·       Sthanang Sutra 

·       Lok Prakash 

·       Prajnapana Sutra 

·       Tatvartha Sutra 

·       Mahashastra 

·       Visheshavashyak Bhashya etc. 

·       Philosophical works of Acharya Kunda kunda (Samaysar, Panchastikay, Pravachansar etc..) 

·       Umasvami’s ‘Tattvartha Adhigama sutra 

·       Samantabhadra’s Apta Mimansa 

·       Commentaries on literature 

Understanding Jain principles/philosophy through the four Anuyog: 

Just as a kid’s academic learning progresses gradually from elementary school to middle school to high school to college, a spiritual seeker’s learning progresses with the Anuyog from Kathanuyog to Karananuyog to Charananuyog to Dravyanuyog. 

The following table illustrates that applying the knowledge from the four Anuyog in an order leads the seeker from a simplistic view to a more nuanced/spiritual view of any particular topic: 


Narration Style

Karananuyog Narration Style 

Charananuyog Narration Style 

Dravyanuyog Narration Style 

A boy steps on a thorn and injures his foot 

Mother explains: 

“It happened because you hit your sister” Boy stops hitting his sister; Mother’s goal is accomplished 

Mother explains:  

Your past bad deeds have come to fruition 

Mother explains: 

Always look down and walk: You will prevent injury AND you will save the lives of creatures on the ground; Mother taught him good conduct 

Mother explains: 

The thorn is out now and you are healing: Deal with the situation by remaining equanimous and free of kashaya 

Karma Philosophy 

If you hurt someone, they will hurt you 

Your bad past karma will hurt you 

You are responsible for your own suffering – do not blame anyone else 

You are suffering due to your Mithyatva and Kashaya 

It is up to YOU to suffer or not 

What is Samyakdarshan? 

Faith and devotion towards Dev, Shashtra and Guru 

Absence of Mithyatva (Ignorance and wrong belief) and loss or destruction of faith-deluding Karma 

Being ethical, just, morally responsible and following the ten basic virtues (Supreme Forgiveness, Humility, Honesty, Purity, Truthfulness, Self-restraint, Penance, Renunciation, Non-attachment, and Celibacy) 

Experiencing the soul, Knowing the difference between the body and the soul (Bhed Gnan), Adopting the virtues or true nature of the soul 

In Summary 

Each Anuyog is valuable and serves a specific purpose/intent. All the Anuyog except Dravyanuyog have limitations. Knowing the context and limitations will help explain a lot of apparent inconsistencies within the Jain literature and will also avoid misinterpretation of Tirthankaras’ teachings. The ultimate goal of a spiritual seeker is to eliminate Mithyatva (ignorance and wrong belief) and reduce Kashaya (afflictions like anger, ego, greed, deceit). Using a different style of narration, each Anuyog helps the seeker achieve this goal by nurturing detachment and explaining the essence of true religion. 

Image courtesy of thesatimes

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