The primary sources of authority are the Agamas or scriptures. There is no one bible or main scripture but a whole series of scriptures numbering at least forty-five and some have been lost over the years. These cover a wide range of topics, from the life and times of the Tirthankaras, to the code of conduct for Monks and Nuns, the values and science of living (Acharanga Sutra), the psychology of non-violence, the science of existence (Tattvartha Sutra).
The ‘Tirthankaras’ or ford-makers are the primary source of authority for the wisdom of the tradition. The latest Tirthankara, Mahavira was born in 599 BCE. The scriptures are partly based on what he said whilst he was alive, and have partly evolved over later centuries and written by scholar monks and agreed upon by monk congregations.
The role of scriptures is important and they have evolved over the years – however the scriptures are not absolute nor are they treated as the last word. They are presented for study and reflection rather than as a precise prescription of right livelihood. They are open to analysis and interpretation. There is a vast artistic, poetical and literary tradition which expands upon the core values and practices.
The agamas were passed on orally for many centur