Evolution of Sthanakavasi and Terapantha Sect [3.1] Literature

Posted: 24.05.2008
Updated on: 30.07.2015

volution of Sthānakavāsi and Terāpantha Sect

3.1 Literature

Unlike Lonkā, Bhikşu has lot of literary work to his credit. His works are also available to us.He has written a treatise on nine tattvas, a poem on anukampā, on dayā, dāna, ahińsā, on the conduct of the monks etc.

Bhikhanji in his book, “Ācārā-ri-coppāyi” has strongly criticized the food habits of Sthānakavāsi monks. According to him, many of them, especially the senior monks consumed excessive quantities of food ignoring the needs of other monks who were junior to them. The monks, who distributed food, discriminated between the recipients. Bhikhanji’s primary charge against the monks was that they ate excessive food and undertook fasts with the single objective of enjoying delicious food, which they got from laymen.

V.G. Nair, a critique of Bhiksu, in his book “Jainism and Terapanthism” says “Bhikhanji’s allegation goes to show that he was not probably given sufficient quantity of food to appease his hunger either because of the less quantity of alms which the sadhus could collect from lay devotees in consequences of the food famine that prevailed in Marwar or it may be that Bhikhanji was deprived of a portion of his legitimate share in punishment for his reactionary views on Jainism and his outburst against the samgha. It seems that the problem of discriminated food distribution among the sadhus was the primary cause of his revolt and departure from the sthanak.”[4]

Muni Nathamal (presently known as Acarya Mahapragna) in his book Acarya Bhiksu: The Man and His Philosophy writes “neither Raghunāthji nor Bhikşu ever imagined that the Jaina tradition would add a new sect to it. It was not a matter of any debate between the teacher and the taught. Bhikşu had only one thing in mind; he was getting restless to bring about rectitude in conduct. This was his only aim that actuated him to get separated from the ācārya.”[5]

Bhikşu established the Terāpantha sect and ascended to the Terāpantha seat as the first Ācārya of its samgha in 1760 A.D. At a conventional ceremony, he reinitiated himself as an ascetic in the tradition of tīrthańkaras who had never received ordination from a Guru for their entry from a home life to a homeless life of renunciation and penance. He was the initiator of a new philosophy in the history of Jainism. He was his own preceptor. He formulated his own concepts on some of the fundamental doctrines of Jainism. At the inauguration of the Terāpantha the number of monks who attended the gathering was thirteen. A passerby saw them and gave them a name “Terā” which means thirteen. Actually the number thirteen represents, 5 mahāvratas (major vows), 5 samitis (carefulness) and 3 guptis(restraints), which according to Bhikşu are the true religion to be followed, and he did not mind the name “Terāpantha”.

Bhikşu preached what he thought right in accordance with the scriptural knowledge he could acquire in Rajasthani language, as he did not know Sanskŗta and Prākŗta. He asserted that man’s labor of love for his liberation had been vainly lost in giving charity and rendering service to suffering life. He claimed that in the spirit of lord Mahāvīra’s teaching, charity was irreligious. As a critique of his contemporary situation Bhikşu writes, that asceticism is on decline in the following way:

Monks of today stay at the houses built especially for them, make people purchase books, papers and habitation. They are absorbed in vilifying others. They make householders promise that they would initiate them alone not by anybody else. They purchase disciples and they do not transcribe books. They send messages with householders; they keep more clothes than prescribed or permitted. They take delicious diet in violation of the rules. They go to public feast for alms. They are eager to have disciples - both male and female. They are concerned not with the life of a monk but only with continuation of their sect They try by hook or crook to prevent people from going to other monks. They sow the seeds of fraction in their families.

In the “Hundis”, one of 181 “bolas” and another of 306, acarya Bhiksu has presented a full account of the loose conduct among sadhus.

In Bhiksu’s time the following beliefs and practices were current. Even the garb or semblance of lord Mahāvīra was to be saluted. It was believed that this particular time i.e. pancama kāla is not conducive for spiritual upliftment and therefore the rules prescribed were relaxed tremendously. There was a growing belief in “mixed religion” where one and the same act is regarded as sinful and meritorious. For example, the act of temple building involves violence of one sensed souls at the same time it leads it leads to the religious merit.

No discrimination was made between worldly pity and donation from spiritual compassion and donation, to take food prepared for him, to use articles purchased for a monk, to take food everyday from the same house. Not to inspect clothes and utensils so as to avoid any injury to insects’, to initiate a householder without permission from his guardians to keep clothes and utensils beyond measure to make householders prepare copies for their personal use.

Bhikşu wrote 1st lekha patra in V.S.1832 from the point of view of the campaign for purity in conduct. Acārya Mahāprajna mentions the following main points:


  • “Many people say that there can be no religion without killing creatures. They hold that there is no sin if one’s thought is pure. But how can the thoughts of those who intentionally kill be pure?
  • He said that where there is pity, there could be no religion without killing creatures.Violence is man’s weakness, and that there can be no religion without violence is completely ominous.
  • It is no religion to preserve a creature by killing another. Religion is to exhort the irreligious to adopt religious ways.
  • To nourish creatures by killing others is the worldly way those who sense religion they are an ignorant lot.
  • Many people say that if creatures are killed with a sense of pity the result is both religion and sin. But sin does not lead to religion and religion does not lead to sin. There cannot be both in the same sense.
  • Sinful and religious actions are necessarily different.
  • It is sinful to indulge in avrata, to get it done and also support it.
  • It is religion to observe Vratas, to make others observe them and to support them.
  • Right attitude regards worldly and spiritual ways as different.
  • Religion means renunciation, not the enjoyment of carnal sins.
  • Religion means the change of heart, not the use of force.
  • To desire an unrestrained person to live is attachment.
  • To desire an unrestrained person to die is aversion.
  • It is religion to desire an unrestrained person to lead a temperate life.”[6]

Bhikşu has firstly objected to the image worship not only because it involves violence but also for an additional reason that it involves use of money for performing the various rituals. The construction of temples and performing ceremonies cost money and labor. Charity cannot be rendered without money. Rendering of charity to help other needy persons and save them from hunger is not only impracticable but also senseless. V.G Nair points out, “The miserable economic conditions, droughts, famines and the other social disabilities which stood as obstacles to lead a normal life gave the fill up to the teachings of Bhikhanji among a certain class of society”[7]

The belief that in the Paňcama kāla, religion is difficult to follow provides an escape to the four-fold community for not following true religious path (i.e. only outward means without inner essence). This was severely condemned by Bhikşu. It so happened that in a particular village the laity refused to worship the Jaina monks; Raghunāthji sent Bhikşu to that place to settle the matter. On reaching there the people complained about the laxity in the behaviour of those monks. Somehow managing to convince those people to listen to those monks, Bhikşu returned to his guru with a disheartened feeling. On raising the issue, his guru replied that due to the Paňcama kāla, it is difficult to follow conduct. This made Bhikşu strikingly think on the true nature of religion, because he found that this way of escapism is a deteriorating mark of religion. Such a heavy and a deep-rooted psychological understanding of time create a major stumbling block even today in the minds of the four - fold community. It is so because of a blind belief that omniscient has seen and propounded that time is going to deteriorate and liberation is impossible during this time in this Bharat Ksetra of this Jambu region. But on the other hand it even mentions that merit acquired here would lead to next birth in Mahāvideha Ksetra (a place conducive for liberation always) and hence lead to liberation.




  1. V.G.Nair, Jainism and Terapanthism,p. 22
  2. Tr. N. Sahal Acarya Bhiksu: The Man and His Philosophy, p.29
  3. Ibid, p. 14.15
  4. V.G. Nair, op.cit p.37


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