Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4) ► Ācārya Jinadatta Sūri (Dādā Guru)

Posted: 21.08.2016

Jinadatta Sūri was such an influential ācārya of the Vikram 12th Century that even today he is well-known in many distant parts of India. He was a fearless, quick-witted ācārya and an eloquent debater. His sermons used to be poignant and soul-stirring. Travelling continually all over India, he with his commanding and inspiring sermons of Lord Mahāvīra strengthened the morale of the followers of Jainism and upheld the moral and social values, and also motivated thousands of non-Jains to convert into Jain

Parents, Caste and Birth

Jinadatta Sūri's father's name was Vācchiga. He was a distinguished merchant in Gujarat who was revered even by the king. He belonged to Hummaḍa caste. They were originally inhabitants of Dhavalakapura (Dholakā) in Gujarat which is a place of historical significance. Vācchiga was the minster of Gujarat. His wife's name was Bāhaḍa Devī. She was a chaste and devout lady.

She gave birth to a son in Vikram 1132, who later became famous as Dādā Jinadatta Sūri (who enriched Jina order).

When the boy attained the age of schooling, he was sent to an able teacher for studies. The boy having mental penetration started learning diligently.

Some scholarly female monks of Dharmadeva Upādhyāya, the disciple of Jineśvara Sūri halted in Dhavalakapura during monsoon in Vikram 1141. Taking her son, the devout Bāhaḍa Devī went to them every day to behold, and to listen to spiritual discourses be in the company of righteous. At the very first glance itself, the female monks realised that the boy would transform into an extremely intelligent person. They, on the basis of auspicious marks and astrology foresaw that this boy in future would serve and enrich Jain religion. They persuaded Bāhaḍa

Devī with amity, to get her intelligent son initiated into śramaṇa monkhood. When they were convinced that eventually Bāhaḍa Devī would yield to their advice, they sent the message to Dharmadeva Upādhyāya, "Here we found an able worthy boy. We think that you too would be delighted to see him."

With the monsoon season coming to an end, Śrī Dharmadeva Upādhyāya came directly to Dhavalakapura from his monsoon halt. He was thoroughly pleased to see the gifted boy who was completely up to his expectations. In Vikram 1141, at an auspicious time Dharmadeva Upādhyāya initiated the 9-year old boy into monkhood and gave him the ascetic name - Monk Somacandra. Making Sarvadevagaṇi guardian of the neophyte monk, he ordered him to guide the daily schedule, spiritual routine etc., of Municandra and to encourage him to perform them regularly at the prescribed times.

Monk Somacandra, travelling through many places along with his guardian Śrī Sarvadevagaṇi, reached Paṭṭaṇa. There arrangements were made for his studies. He started studying under Bhāvaḍācārya.

Studying devotedly, monk Somacandra obtained proficiency in many texts on different subjects like Lakṣṇa Paṃjikā etc. Bhāvaḍācārya was in all admiration for Somacandra for his quick wit and brilliance. He used to feel that he is the best amongst all his disciples and compared him with 'Kastūrī'. Within a short time Monk Somacandra excelled in subjects like grammar, prosody, law, ethics etc. and started studying the scriptures. Śrī Harisiṃhācārya systematically taught him all scriptures. After acquiring proficiency in scriptures, monk Somacandra took to his religious travel, preaching and promoting Jina doctrine. He engaged in uplifting himself and others. He progressed on the revolutionary spiritual path aimed at and commenced by Varddhamāna Sūri, Jineśvara Sūri etal to uproot the influence of Temple dweller tradition. Shortly his fame spread far and wide like the fragrance of 'Kastūrī', as foretold by his preceptor. Listening to the glorious stories of Somacandra, the spiritual fondness of Devabhadrācārya (the one who appointed Jinavallabha Sūri on ācārya post) towards monk Somacandra increased in leaps and bounds.

The news of the sudden death of Jinavallabha Sūri in Vikram 1167 during the late hours of night on 12th day of dark half of lunar month of Kārtika shook Devabhadrācārya emotionally. He firmly decided to appoint a worthy monk as Pontiff, one who can glorify the Jina order like Jinavallabha Sūri.

"Who is there in our gaccha, who is both worthy and brilliant, who can bring honour to the post hitherto held by Jinavallaba Sūri and moreover competently increase the influence of Jina order?" Contemplating on these questions, Devabhadrācārya at once remembered monk Somacandra. Mentally assessing the pros and cons regarding his choice of priority, he felt sure that 'he has all the qualities which an influencial charismatic ācārya should possess. He is a good orator, scholar, totally fearless and outspoken. He is gifted with the amazing ability to improve the congregation's proliferation in all conditions, whether favourable or unfavourable. He is virtuous, brilliant, majestic and intelligent. His heart is soft like fresh butter and his mind is strong like vajra weapon. He is, in all aspects perfect to be appointed as successor of JineśvaraSūri'.

Devabhadrācārya consulted with four fold congregation and sent a message to Somacandra asking him to reach Cittauḍa, so that he could be appointed as successor-Pontiff of Jinavallabha Sūri; what's more even Jinavallabha Sūri also wished the same.

Devabhadrācārya arrived at Cittauḍa along with the train of disciples and ascetics, and laity of gaccha of Varddhamāna Sūri. The four-fold congregation made all necessary arrangements for the ceremony.

One day Devabhadrācārya in solitude said to monk Somacandra, "You will be appointed as successor-Pontiff on a specific day".

Paṃḍita Somacandra Sūri replied, "Whatever you say is okay. However the auspicious time chosen by you will prove inauspicious for me and I will not enjoy longevity of life (Ciraṃjīvī). The best auspicious time falls on Saturday, 6 days after the muhūrta fixed by you. If I am made Pontiff on this day, wherever I travel, followers of our gaccha, monks, female – monks, votaries and laity will increase to an unprecedented number. Our four-fold congregation will become preeminent and far-reaching."

Acceding to his belief about the auspicious time, monk Somacandra was appointed to the Sūri post held by Jinavallabha Sūri, on Saturday, the first bright day in Vaiśākha month, in Vikram 1169. The ceremony was held in all splendour in Mahāvīra temple that was constructed by Devabhadrācārya in Cittauḍa. He was given the ascetic name - 'Jinadatta Sūri'.

One day in Cittauḍa itself, Devabhadrācārya noticed that Jinaśekhara had deviated from the observance of a certain vow related to monk conduct. So Jinaśekhara was expelled from the gaccha. Jinaśekhara went and sat in a place on the outskirts of the city on the way to the jungle where Jinadatta Sūri usually goes to defecate etc. The moment Jinadatta Sūri came there, Jinaśekhara fell on his feet and implored, "O Best of Sūris! Please forgive my offence. I shall never repeat such an offence in the future."

The ocean of compassion, Jinadatta Sūri exonerated Jinaśekhara and allowed him to stay back in the congregation. When Devabhadrācārya listened to the incident, (perhaps Jinadatta himself might have told him) he admonished him saying, "Jinaśekhara may prove to be unpropitious to you."

Jinadatta Sūri said, "O Virtuous Sūri! I am aware of it; but we must keep in mind that this is the same Jinaśekhara who followed ācāryaśrī like a shadow, who left the Temple dweller tradition and joined here. Therefore let us stand by him as long as he stays with us."

Thus after counselling Jinadatta Sūri, that he should undertake religious wanderings to other places for some time. Devabhadrācārya set out for his monastery.

Jinadatta Sūri was in a dilemma, as to which direction he should start his religious wandering. Aspiring for an answer, he observed the vow of three day fasting with meditation and mentally recalled his teacher Śrī Harisiṃha Sūri. On the third night of the three days vow of fasting (telavrata) the departed teacher manifested and asked, "Why did you summon me?" Jinadatta Sūri asked, "Where shall I proceed for my religious wanderings?"

"Wander in the desert areas." Was the reply received by Jinadatta Sūri.

Complying with his teacher, Jinadatta Sūri journeyed towards the desert areas of Cittauḍa."

In his wanderings, wherever he went, the people there were inspired by his auspicious sermons. The lay devotees both men and women, along with all their family members, accepted him as their preceptor as per the injunctions of scriptures and started practising the vows and resolutions (not to commit faults) and became his disciples as votaries and female votaries.

From there he moved towards Nāgaura and Ajmer. The chief of laity Āsadhara, Rāsala and others together with a host of votaries welcomed him upon approaching Ajmer, and arranged a place for his stay.

Later Jinadatta Sūri headed towards Bāgaḍa region from Ajmer. In Bāgaḍa his preaching left such a remarkable and lasting impression, that innumerable people accepted the right path (Samyaktva), many people took 12 vows conduct of votaries. It was not easy to account the number of people who took vows and resolutions (pratyākhyāna).

In the very first religious tour of Jinadatta Sūri to Bāgaḍa, many spiritually inclined people felt aversion towards the material world. Many people took initiation from him into monkhood with five vows. According to Kharataragaccha Gurvāvalī, 52 women were initiated into asceticism during that time. Jinadatta Sūri appointed Jinaśekhara Sūri to the post of 'Upādhyāya' (holy teacher) and ordered him to go to Rūdrapallī. He also sent some of his disciples with him. The greatest achievement of Jinadatta Sūri in his Bāgaḍa tour was - after accepting submission, six most influential and popular Temple dweller ācāryas namely 1 Jayadevācārya, 2 Jinaprabhācārya, 3 Vimalacandra gaṇi, 4 Guṇacandra gaṇi, 5 Rāmacandra gaṇi and 6 Brahmacandra gaṇi took initiation into Suvihita tradition together with their multitude of disciples (after being enlightened by the sermons of Jinadatta Sūri). Ascetic Jīvānanda, son of Rāmacandra gaṇi, also took initiation into the monkhood of Jinadatta Sūri's tradition, Alongwith his father Jayadatta, a famous occultist of Temple dweller tradition into monkhood with five great vows. Seeing that the renowned and eminent ācāryas and monks (male and female) took initiation from Jinadatta Sūri in great numbers, even a large number of laity of Temple dweller tradition also became the followers of Jinadatta Sūri. Two brothers Jinarakṣita and Śīlabhadra and their mother, and two more siblings Sthiracandra and Varadatta were among those who took initiation into monkhood from Jinadatta Sūri.

As a result of his religious expedition, inspiring discourses and miracles, many Temple dweller ācāryas, and a host of lay devotees accepted Jinadatta Sūri as their preceptor and many devout young boys and girls took initiation into monkhood. As a result, Kharataragaccha became very powerful, prominent and a centre of attraction for one and all.

From amongst the family of neophyte monks, Jinadatta Sūri sent intelligent students Jinarakṣita, Sthiracandra, and many other monks; and Śrīmatī, Jinamatī, Pūrṇaśrī and other female - monks to Dhārā Nagarī to study the scriptures, while he with his vast family of saints travelling towards Rūdrapallī. On the way, in a certain village he comforted a votary who was bewitched by evil spirit by exorcising it. He wrote a mystic text called Gaṇadhara Sattarī which consisted of occult mantras for the benefit of his troubled followers. When a lay devotee, bewitched by evil spirits held the book in his hands, the spirit left him and he was totally relieved of all writhing and agony. With this miraculous incident, Jinadatta Sūri's fame spread far and wide.

When he reached the outskirts of Rūdrapallī, Jinavallabha Sūri welcomed him into the city accompanied by a very big entourage of lay devotees, who was full of great delight and enthusiasm. Impressed and convinced by his preaching, 120 non-Jain families accepted Jainism in Rūdrapallī. Lay devotees like Devapāla and others took initiation into monkhood from Jinadatta Sūri.

From there he reached Vyāghrapura. There Ācārya Jayadeva, relinquishing Temple dweller tradition, joined Jinadatta Sūri along with his troop of disciples. Jinadatta Sūri ordered him to wander in and around Rūdrapallī preaching and propagating the pure Jain doctrine.

Staying for some time in Vyāghrapura, Jinadatta Sūri wrote a text called Caccharī (Carcarī) which elucidates 'Caityagṛha Vidhis' promulgated by Jinavallabha Sūri. He then had Tippaṇaka (commentary) written and sent the same ('Tippaṇaka Caccharī') to Āsala and other important laity to be acquainted with the doctrines of Kharataragaccha related 'temple rituals'. When all the important monks assembled in the temple and were just taking the Caccharī Tippaṇaka out of the bundle, a wayward youth named Devadhara swooped and snatched the Tippaṇaka from their hands, and tore it off saying this is not a Kaccharī Tippaṇaka, but a Caccharī Tippaṇaka. The laity reported the act of the impudent youth to his father, who begged forgiveness and said that Devadhara, his son by nature, was harsh, insolent and arrogant. He ensured that he would admonish him not to repeat such unruly behaviour.

The laity sent a message to Jinadatta Sūri, "We did receive the Caccharī Tippaṇaka, but even before we could read it, Devadhara ripped it off".

Jinadatta Sūri prepared another copy and once again sent it to Āsala and other laity with an instruction not to reprimand Devadhara even a little, and predicting that soon he would realise the true path and would be of help in the progress of the gaccha.

The moment they received the second copy of Caccharī Tippaṇaka, they read it and got answers to many of their queries. When Devadhara came to know that despite tearing the first copy, a second copy of Caccharī Tippaṇaka arrived, he felt that really it must be a significant text that should be read.

Thus resolving, he sneaked into the temple from the roof of his house and started reading the 'Caccharī Tippaṇaka' enthusiastically.

He found the text very substantial, interesting and fascinating. One by one, all his doubts got clarified as he proceeded in reading the text. After reading the text completely, he was left with only two unanswered questions. The first one was regarding idols of non – reformed temples and the second about forbidding women to worship Jina.

While wandering in Bāgaḍa region Śrī Jinadatta Sūri summoned all those monks from Dhārānagarī whom he had sent there for studies. He explained the meaning and interpretation of scriptures to them and to other monks. By that time, the number of male and female monks increased substantially. After contemplating and evaluating the facts like discipline, learning, teaching, knowledge, philosophy, perfect character, propagation of religion in different regions and observance of code of conduct etc., of all the monks he found Jīvadeva, whom he himself initiated into monkhood, suitable for the post of ācārya. So, he appointed him ācārya.  Jayasiṃha was a disciple of his teacher Harisiṃhācārya and of Municandra Upādhyāya. Jinadatta Sūri raised him too, to the rank of ācārya and ordered him to wander in Cittauḍa region to propagate the religion. He made another monk called Jayacandra, the disciple of Jayasiṃhācārya as ācārya and assigned him with the task of propagating Jain doctrine in Paṭṭaṇa.

Besides appointing three scholar-monks to the Sūri rank, he also appointed Jinacandra gaṇi, Śīlabhadra gaṇi and 10 other scholar-disciples as discourse - ācāryas; Śrīmatī, Jinamatī, Pūrṇaśrī, Jinaśrī and Jṅānaśrī et al Mahattarā to the rank of (chiefs) and Jīvānanda, a scholar-disciple was made Upādhyāya. He explained their duties to all these spiritual readers, gave instructions about their places of wandering and issued orders to travel towards their respective regions. He himself set out for Ajmer. While nearing Ajmer, throngs of lay devotees greeted him with great enthusiasm and honour and took him into the city, celebrating his arrival. During the first stay of Jinadatta Sūri, the King of Ajmer, Arṇorāja donated to the Jain Society, the land stretching from the foothill of the mountain in the south of Ajmer to the peak of mountain. There the laity built Jina temples and a temple of Ambikā (demi goddess) before the subsequent visit of Jinadatta Sūri. At an auspicious time Jinadatta Sūri entered and started staying in the main dwelling place. A prominent person of the commentary in Ajmer and well-known lay devotee Āsala gave his seven year old son to Jinadatta Sūri for the future development of the congregation. Śrī Jinadatta Sūri initiated Āsala's son into monkhood in Ajmer on the 9th bright day of Fālguna month in Vikram 1203. He was given the ascetic name Jinacandra. Knowing that his disciple was a gifted soul, Jinadatta Sūri bestowed the title ācārya on the nine year old Jinacandra and declared him as his successor. The same Ācārya Jinacandra later became famous as Maṇidhārī Ācārya Jinacandra Sūri.

Jinadatta Sūri's time and the preceding time may be called as era of debate. Often the discussions on matters relating to Āyatana (Reformed temple) and Anāyatana (non-reformed temples) would take a harsh and violent form. Farsighted Śrī Jinadatta Sūri followed the foot prints of Jinavallabha Sūri in this matter. Instead of directly involving in debates and discussions with Temple dwellers, he thought it better and wise to write small treatise which imparts knowledge to the people on these matters and enlightens them.

After vehemently shaking the very foundation of Temple dwellers, Jinadatta Sūri rendered everlasting services to Suvihita tradition through his works. Some of the texts are given below.

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