Jain Path of (Gradual) Training

Dear All,

I’m currently interested in comparing Buddhist and Jain path of enlightenment. The Buddhist path of enlightenment according to EBTs is the eightfold noble path which can be specified as path of gradual training (anupubbasikkha) described in the suttas (eg. MN 27 Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta and DN 2 Samannaphala Sutta). The Jain (or Nigantha as it mentioned in Buddhist texts) path of enlightenment is the threefold path of right view or faith (samyak darsana), right knowledge (samyak jnana), and right conduct (samyak carita). Like the Buddhist eightfold noble path, I think the Jain threefold path is just a summary of their path of (gradual) training. In my search, I found that the Jain threefold path is first formulated by Rsabha, the first Tirthankara of Jain, but this is from a late Jain texts and I cannot find anything about the Jain path of training similar like the Buddhist anupubbasikkha (in DN 2 and MN 27) from early Jain canon (Agamas).

Is there anyone can help me with this reference of Jain Agamas on their path of training?

Thank you :anjal:

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@Gabriel might be able to help?


I’m by no means an expert in Jain literature, just to be clear. Generally I would not use later Jain texts in order to compare Nigantha with early Buddhist spiritual practice. The Acaranga sutra, book 1 (as the oldest Jain text) is not as methodical as many of the suttas, there are few numbered items, repetitions, etc., so I wouldn’t expect to find an obvious equivalent of the Buddhist path. Non-injury is the most frequently mentioned aspect of spiritual practice. And here are a few passages that could serve as general practice guides for early Jainism:

We find in Acaranga 1.2.6 for example:

The hero does not tolerate discontent,
The hero does not tolerate lust.
Because the hero is not careless, the hero is not attached (to the objects of the senses).
Being indifferent against sounds (and the other) perceptions, detest the comfort of this life.
A sage adopting a life of wisdom, should treat his gross body roughly.
The heroes who have right intuition, use mean and rough food.
Such a man is said to have crossed the flood (of life), to be a sage, to have passed over (the samsara), to be liberated, to have ceased (from all activity).

Acaranga 1.4.4:

One should mortify (one’s flesh) a low, high, and highest degree, quitting one’s former connections, and entering tranquillity. Therefore a hero is careful, a person of pith, guarded, endowed (with knowledge, etc.),and always restrained.

Acaranga 1.6.5:

Not neglecting tranquillity, indifference, patience, liberation, purity, uprightness, gentleness, and freedom from worldly cares, one should, with due consideration, preach the law of the mendicants to all sorts of creatures.


@Gabriel, thank you so much for your references :anjal:

Yes, I does realize this problem. So I’d like to know whether there is a counterpart of Buddhist gradual training in Jain early texts.

How about Mahavira’s biography in the Kalpa Sutra? It is an early Jain text or not?

Thank you :anjal:

It depends on how early you want to be. The Kalpa Sutra belongs to the third layer of early Jain texts if you will. The dating is not too reliable, but you find the notion that Acaranga 1 is the oldest (from 3rd cBCE), then Acaranga 2, Sutrakrtanga, Isibhasiyaim, and Uttarādhyayana from 2nd-1st cBCE. And only then the Kalpa Sutra from around the 1cCE.

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The noble eightfold path and gradual training are separate things.

Gradual training:


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Your article is about anupubbakatha (gradual teaching) for Buddhist newcomers, but what I mean is anupubbasikkha (gradual training) for a Buddhist monk as explained in DN 2 and MN 27 (which is culminated on attainment of four jhanas and three or six true knowledge):



Thank you for sharing:



Thank you so much for your information on the chronological order of early Jain texts :anjal:

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That’s correct, but the gradual training is separate from the noble eightfold path. The gradual training appears in different forms in different suttas, whereas the NEP, like Satipatthana and Anapanasati, is constant throughout.

“The Gradual Training, as noted, is found in three of the Nikāyas, but unlike the Satipaṭṭhāna and Ānāpānasati practice lists, there is no single list that universally appears. Thirty “factors” of the Gradual Training are described with no more than 21 factors or fewer than seven factors appearing in any one sutta.”—Brasington

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Thank you for your comment, but I don’t want to discuss about this, just focus to the topic please. :anjal:

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Dear @Gabriel,

I think I found what I’m looking for in Acaranga Sutra 1.8(7).7.2-8 / 228-53. Here is the text translation by Johannes Bronkhorst in his book The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India:

When a monk thinks: ‘I am indeed tired of carrying around this body in these circumstances’, he should gradually reduce his food; having gradually reduced his food and diminished his passions, his body being prepared, standing like a plank, his body pacified, … he should ask for grass; having asked for grass and received it, he should go away to a lonely place; having gone away to a lonely place … he should spread the grass; and having spread the grass, at that occasion, he should reject body, activity, and movement … (228).

The firm ones, having reached the [ways of] liberation, powerful and wise, knowing all that is excellent, (229)

Having conquered the twofold (birth and death?), the awakened ones have gone to the other shore of the doctrine. And one rids oneself of activity when he has thought [about this] in due order.(230)

(1) Having diminished his passions he bears with little food. In case the monk gets ill in the presence of food, (231)

He should not long for life, nor strive after death; he should not be attached to either, life or death. (232)

Impartial, intent on the destruction of activity (nijjarå) he should preserve his concentration. Renouncing internally as well as externally he strives after a pure heart. (233)

Whatever means he may know to secure his life [for another while, let the wise one quickly avail of that for an intervening period. (234)

Having looked for a place in a village or in the wilderness, and knowing it to be with little life, the monk should spread out the grass. (235)

He should lie without food; when affected [by discomfort] in that [position] he should bear it. He should not go beyond the boundary [which he has set himself], even when he has been affected by things human. (236)

He should not hurt nor rub away living creatures which creep on the ground, or fly high or low, and eat his flesh and blood. (237)

Creatures injure his body, yet he should not walk from his place. Being pained by all kinds of outside influences, he should bear [it all], (238)

going to the other shore of his span of life, [free] from all kinds of knots. This is well-accepted by the self-controlled and understanding person. (239)

(2) The following is another practice taught by the son of Naya (= Mahåv¥ra). One should abandon movement in the threefold three ways, except for [keeping] himself [alive]. (240)

He should not sit down on green plants, but lie on the bare ground after inspecting it; renouncing, taking no food, he should bear [discomfort] when affected [by it] in that [position]. (241)

While feeling aversion to his senses, the monk may take [as much food] as is appropriate. Nevertheless, he is blameless who is motionless and concentrated. (242)

He may step forward and backward, contract and stretch [his limbs], in order to keep body [and soul] together; or, alternatively, he [may become] unconscious in that same position. (243)

He may walk around when tired, or [remain] standing as before. When tired of standing he may finally sit down. (244)

While sitting he directs his senses to the excellent death [which he is going to die]. In case he stumbles upon a termite hill [for support], he should search for something different. (245)

He does not lean on something from which something avoidable could originate. He should pull himself up from there and bear all that affects him. (246)

(3) This one is [even] more intent (ayatatare) [on reaching the goal] who keeps to the following. While controlling all his limbs, let him not move away from his place. (247)

This is the best practice, better than the preceding. Having cleansed [the place] for a short time, the Brahmin should remain there standing. (248)

Having reached a place free from living beings, he should place himself there. He should renounce his body; thinking ‘there are no afflictions in my body, afflictions and troubles [last] as long as life’, he should bear them, being restrained, realizing that they lead to the destruction of the body. (249-50)

He should not be attached to desires for transitory things, even when [they become] more numerous. He should not nourish wishes and greed, since he is looking for the unchanging character. (251)

But this is seemingly that the Jain liberation is ultimately achieved through starving to death, even though Mahavira enlightenment (kevalin jnana) is achieved when he is alive (there is an account of Mahavira asceticism and enlightenment in last part of Acaranga Sutra book 1). Any comment? :thinking:

It’s an interesting passage, and I know that Bronkhorst introduces it as a ‘road to liberation’. But keep in mind that this is the chapter on liberation and describes the end of the journey for the most advanced practitioners. So it’s not the equivalent of the Buddhist gradual path in the sense that it starts from the very beginning with ethics etc.