Although the majority of the world’s population is Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, there are a number of more minor (but important) religious followings that permeate communities all over the globe. Jainism is one of them, and Jains have been spreading their teachings for at least 5000 years. It likely began by 3000 BC somewhere in the Indus Valley. Even though the religion is ancient, we still have much to learn from its teachings and strong moral principles today. The Tattvartha Sutra is a Sanskrit text written sometime within the first five centuries AD.
Throughout the ages, Jainism has been divided–albeit in small ways. This is true of any religious following. Jains are divided into the Digambara, the sky clad, and Svetambara, the white clad. Both groups follow the most rigidly important principles of Jainism. It’s the details that set them apart. The Digambara sect believes that women cannot achieve soul purification or liberation; instead, they must first be reborn into a man’s body. This sect also believes that one must remain naked, devoid of any earthly possessions that can sway moral standing.
Svetambara also retain few possessions, but are granted simple clothes, grooming tools, and books. The two sects don’t agree on which texts constitute Jain canon. In almost all other ways, they agree on fundamental Jain beliefs. The Tattvartha Sutra is important because it is considered the only text of the age that is authoritative to both the Svetambara and Digambara. When taken alongside the fact that it is one of the earliest surviving Jain books, its importance can’t be undervalued.
As a Jain, there is no contract as there is in Christianity or other similar religions. The Tattvartha Sutra and other similar texts explain that no matter who you are, your goal is to remain kind and caring to your fellow man, and even the wildlife with which you interact on a regular basis.
Liberation is an important aspect of Jainism. The goal of each follower is to obtain liberation of the soul. The very beginning of the Tattvartha Sutra book paraphrases the importance and reality of this goal. It places importance on different types of faith in knowledge. In addition, it goes on to define the differences between living and non-living and celestial, and between the different worlds. It emphasizes the vows that true Jains make, and how to achieve final liberation.
The text defines seven categories of truth, from souls to basic particles that bear similarity to those taught in any basic physics course. It places emphasis on ethics and morality in an effort to help reduce the number of future rebirths that might prevent or delay liberation. Ultimately, the Tattvartha Sutra is a text revered by any Jain follower.