Jainism : The World of Conquerors: 2.5 ► Prominent Aacaaryas

Published: 18.11.2015

The aacaaryas were, and still are, responsible for the management of the Jain sangha and the dissemination of Jain teachings and practices. Aacaaryaship is conferred by the sangha to suitable ascetics who are highly proficient in the scriptures, and who display qualities of leadership, skills in public speaking, maturity and wisdom. There are very few texts available in English, which give detailed accounts of their lives as recounted in the Jain tradition. While it is impossible to give details of all the great aacaaryas in this book, we will mention some those have played a major part in the spread of Jainism either through their literary work or by their leadership. Historically, they have played a major role in the success of Jainism and its diffusion throughout India.

The pattaavali (Sanghamitra 1979: pp.30-31) gives a Svetambar list of thirtyeight prominent successors of Mahavira up to the eleventh century CE. The pattavali of Nandi Sangha provides the Digambar list of prominent successors up to the second century CE (Jain J, 1964: pp 262-263).

The literary activity, which Jains call the Sarasvati movement, began sometime in the first half of century BCE and produced a large amount of literature. Jains revere Sarasvati as the presiding deity of learning and literature. Her statue holding in the left hand a book of loose leaves, the cover marked with a gomutrika design, and holding out her right hand probably in varada or abhaya mudraa (yogic display), and with an inscription in old Brahmi characters, dated in the year 54 (just before the CE) has been discovered at the Kankali Tilaa site (near Mathura), and has been preserved in the State Museum, Lucknow (Jain J. 1964: 100). This image symbolises the great Jain renaissance, which began to bear fruit by the beginning of the Christian era, when it seems that the Jain ascetics broke the tradition and began to put their scriptures in writing. Both the Svetambar and Digambar traditions agree on the history of the succession until Bhadrabahu. After Bhadrabahu, the succession diverges. In the Svetambar tradition, Sthulabhadra assumed the leadership of the Magadhan sangha. His chronological successors up to the Valabhi conference in c. 460 CE, were Mahagiri, Suhasti, Gunasundara, Syama, Skandila, Revatimitra, Dharmasuri, Bhadraguptasuri, Guptasuri, Vajrasvami, Aryaraksit, Pusyamitra, Vajrasen, Nagahasti, Revatimitra, Sinhasuri, Nagarjun, Bhutadinna, Kalakasuri (fourth), Satyamitra, Harilla, and Devardhigani Ksamasramana (Sanghamitra 1979: pp. 30). According to the Digambar tradition, Bhadrabahu's successors up to the second century CE, were Visakha, Prosthilla, Ksatriya, Jaya, Naaga, Siddhartha, Dhrutisena, Vaijaya, Buddhila, Gangadeva, Sudharma, Naksatra, Jaypala, Paandu, Druvasena, Kansaarya, Subhadra, Yasobhadra, Bhadrabahu II, Lohaacaarya, Arhadbali, Maaghanandi, Dharasena, Puspadanta, and Bhutabali (Jain J, 1964:pp. 262-263)

We have given an account of the lives of early ascetics up to the time of Sthulabhadra in the fourth century BCE; the account now continues with the prominent ascetics; again, it must be remembered that traditional dates in the early years of Jain history are uncertain.

Mahagiri (c.268 to 168 BCE) and Suhasti (c.222 to 122 BCE): Mahagiri and Suhasti were disciples of Sthulabhadra, from whom they learned ten pre-canonical texts. Eventually, Mahagiri handed over the charge of his own disciples to Suhasti and lived as an ascetic, modelling his conduct on the example of the Jina, Mahavira.

The Emperor Samprati, grandson of the famous Emperor Ashoka, had great faith in Suhasti and as a consequence of his influence the king became a devout Jain, and showed his zeal by commissioning Jain temples, which were built throughout India, some of whose images survive. The example of Samprati induced subordinate rulers to patronise the Jain faith, so that not only in his own domains but also in adjacent countries, Jain ascetics could practise their religion. He was instrumental in arranging for missionaries to be sent out to spread the message of Jainism. Suhasti was followed by an unbroken succession of aacaaryas.

Shyamaacaarya (c.247 to 151 BCE): He is also known as Kalakacharya I and was the composer of the famous work the Prajnaapana Sutra, which is an encyclopaedia of Jain tenets. He is also acknowledged as the first person to expound the doctrine of the existence of a micro-organic world of 'one sense beings'.

Vajraswami (c.31 BCE to 47 CE): He was known for his leadership and capability as an organiser of the sangha as well as for his scholarship and personal austerity; and he is also remembered for his attainment of extraordinary powers (labdhi), which he used solely for the benefit of the sangha. The texts tell the story of his childhood: before his birth, his father had become a ascetic; as a baby, he was always crying; and his mother frequently ran out of patience and, out of desperation, when he was three years old, she handed him over to his ascetic father. Vajraswami was happy in the company of ascetics. When he was eight years old, his mother came with a request to have him back, but he refused to go with her. His mother went to the king demanding his intervention, but the king decided to allow Vajraswami to stay wherever he chose. His mother tried to lure him with toys and other desirable things, but he ignored her and stayed with his father. He was initiated as an ascetic at the age of eight, became proficient in scriptures, and taught other ascetics for a long period. He became an aacaarya at the age of 52 and led the sangha for another 36 years.

Kalakaacaarya II (c. first Century CE): Kalakaacaarya II came from the state of Ujjain. He was initiated at a young age, and his sister was initiated as a female ascetic soon afterwards. Kalakaacaarya became proficient in prognostics, astrology and other sciences. Because of his leadership qualities, he became an aacaarya at a very young age. A number of incidents from his life are recorded in the traditions: when King Gardabhilla of Ujjain kidnapped Kalakaacaarya's sister (who was a female ascetic), Kalakaacaarya was able to persuade a neighbouring ruler to attack Ujjain. When this happened Gardabhilla relented and released Kalakaacaarya's captive sister. This use of violence in the interest of justice and the sangha was regarded by many as pardonable.

The annual confession day (samvatsari) is the most important day of austerities in the Jain calendar, but the king requested that it be brought forward by one day and, as this was not inconsistent with the scriptures, Kalakaacaarya advised the sangha to give its approval; as a result the sangha received royal patronage.

Kalakaacaarya was also known as a strict disciplinarian, and when a number of ascetics were becoming lax in their daily life and duties, he persuaded them to return to their regime of Right Conduct. It is said that he was the first aacaarya to have travelled abroad in the promotion of Jainism, visiting Iran, Java, Borneo and other countries. For an ascetic to travel overseas was something of a minor revolution, but he was always vigilant about his own conduct and would make the appropriate atonement for any transgression, and his example is commended as a model even today. Like his namesake Kalakaacaarya I, he too was an expert on the micro-organic world. He advised ascetics to adapt their conduct according to the prevailing conditions of time and place, and to use robes and bowls, and was the first aacaarya to sanction the writing of sacred literature by ascetics.

Arya Raksit (c.5 BCE to 70 CE): This aacaarya was a systemiser of both sacred and secular Jain literature. He divided the literature into four groups depending upon the predominant nature of each composition. His own works included the Anuyogadvar Sutra, a treatise containing a theory of knowledge and a wide range of teachings on religious topics. His work also drew upon non-Jain sacred literature, which showed his liberal attitude and respect for other faiths.

Kundakunda (c.first century CE): This is the first south Indian ascetic scholar to contribute towards the literary glory of Jainism. He was a native of Kundkund in presentday Andhra. He was a prolific writer, but only a few of his books are available today. His important works include: the 'Essence of Doctrines' (Samaya Saara), the 'Essence of Ascetic Rules' (Niyama Saara), the 'Essence of Five Reals' (Pancastikaaya Saara) and the 'Essence of Sermons' (Pravacana Saara). A book titled 'Eight Chapters on the Path of Salvation' (Astapaahuda) is also credited to him. He is famous for expounding the 'absolute stand point' (niscaya naya), and is regarded as having been a deeply spiritual teacher. In the Digambar Jain morning liturgy, he is also mentioned in the auspicious recitations along with Mahavira and Gautam.

Umaswati (c.late first or early second century CE): He is one of the scholarly aacaaryas revered by both Svetambars and Digambars for his masterly work, the 'Manual for Understanding the Reals' (Tattvartha Sutra). This is the first authentic Sanskrit text on Jain tenets giving a complete survey of Jain beliefs in terse and pithy aphorisms. This text is so popular that more than twenty-five commentaries and translations have appeared in different languages, including English and German, and a notable new English translation was published in 1993 (see Bibliography). Another great work credited to him is Prasamarati, a guide for the aspirant on the path of peace and liberation from karmic bondage.

Lohaacaarya (c. 14 BCE – 38 CE) is reputed to have disseminated Jainism in the Punjab. He was the last ascetic who had the knowledge of the ten pre-canonical texts (Jain, J. 1964: 106).

Dharasena (c. first century CE), Puspadanta, Bhutabali, and Gunadhara (1-2 centutry CE): Dharasena had partial knowledge of pre-canonical literature; he was the master of clairvoyant knowledge and he resided in the cave (Candraguphaa at Girinagara). Fearing the surviving traditional canon might be lost with him, he sent a message to the aacaaryas of the South who had assembled at Venaakatipura. The assembly thereupon sent Puspadanta and Bhutabali, who were tested by Dharasena for their appropriateness. After being satisfied with their ability, he imparted the knowledge to them and sanctioned it to be written down. The subject treated was Mahaa-karmaprakruti-praabhurta. Puspadanta composed 20 cardinal Sutras, incorporating a part of the canonical knowledge received from Dharasena and sent the manuscript to Bhutabali. Bhutabali completed the remaining work and organised it into six parts and hence this work is called the Sata-khanda--aagama-siddhanta. The work was completed on the fifth day of the bright half of Jyaistha, and since then this day is being celebrated by the Digambar tradition as the sacred day of Sruta-Pancami by the worship of the scriptures and the goddess Sarasvati.

At that period another saint, Gunadhara, also had partial knowledge of the original canon, with mastery of the Kasaaya-Praabhruta. Inspired by a similar motive, he committed to writing the 180 original sutras and added 53 supplementary sutras. Later, Yativrusabha wrote 6,000 Curni-sutras on them. Thus the two sets of the Digambar canon were finally redacted, and subsequently a number of commentaries were written on them. The last and most important commentaries are the Dhavala and the Jayadhavala written by Virasena in the eighth century CE.

Devardhigani Ksamasramana (c.400 CE to 480 CE): He hailed from Saurastra (Gujarat) and was a ksatriya by birth, initiated as a Jain ascetic by Aacaarya Dusyagani and is known in Jain texts as one of the most respected aacaaryas under whose auspices the last council was held, where the oral canon was redacted, in 460 CE at Valabhi (Gujarat). Following the work of two earlier councils at Pataliputra and Mathura, the canon was organised and put into written form. Over 500 ascetics attended this council, which lasted nearly fifteen years. Each ascetic was given an opportunity to recite the oral canon and the final product is the possible correct scripture in the written form, and this was a great tribute to Devardhigani.

Samantabhadra (c.450 CE to 550 CE): This southern ascetic scholar lived during the Chola dynasty. He was a poet, logician, eulogist and accomplished linguist. His works include: the 'Critique of the Enlightened' (Aptamimansa), the 'Discipline of Logic' (Yuktyaanusasana), the 'Eulogy of the Tirthankaras' (Svayambuhstotra) and the 'Jewels of Conduct for the Laity' (Ratnaakaranda Sraavakaacaara). It is said that he also composed a commentary on Umaswati's Tattvartha Sutra. He is credited with performing many superworldly feats for the promotion in Jainism. During his time Jainism became widespread in southern India.

Siddhasen Divakar (c.500 CE to 610 CE): Aacaarya Vruddhavadi initiated This Brahmin scholar as a Jain ascetic. He founded the Jain system of logic and was instrumental for the popularity of Jainism in more than eighteen kingdoms of central, southern and western India. His works cover a range of literature: eulogical, logical, and religious; his 'Descent of Logic' (Nyaayavtaar), the 'Logic of Right Wisdom' (Sanmati Sutra), the 'Eulogy on Welfare' (Kalyaana Mandir Stotra) and many hymns, each of 32 verses (dvatrisikas), played a crucial part in the development of the later literature. His brilliance and accomplishments brought to Jainism royal patronage from many rulers.

Pujyapada (c.510 CE to 600 CE) This Karnataka-born Brahmin scholar became a Jain ascetic out of conviction. He was a poet, philosopher, grammarian and expert on indigenous medicines. He has been credited with many accomplishments, which assisted in the promotion of Jainism in the south. He is also noted for his 'Manual of all Reals' (Sarvartha Siddhi), and a commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra, popular among Digambars. His other books include a work on grammar (Jainendra Vyaakaran), the 'System of Meditation' (Samaadhi Tantra), the 'Eulogy on Accomplishments' (Siddhapriya Stotra), the 'Tenfold Devotions' (Dasa Bhakti), and the 'Sermons on Desirable Practices' (Istopadesa).

Jinabhadra (c.500 CE to 593 CE): This aacaarya is noted for composing commentaries on at least fifteen sacred books including the Jain tenets (Aavasyaka Sutra), ascetic conduct (Jitakalpa) and the 'Commentary on Jain Essentials' (Vishesa Vashyak Bhasya); and he was a major scholar, expositor and logician.

Mantunga (c. 600 CE to 660 CE): This revered aacaarya was born in Varanasi during the reign of King Harshadeva (7th century CE), who had a court of noted scholars, including a Jain minister. When challenged to produce a miracle to prove the worth of Jainism, the minister sought the help of the aacaarya, who reluctantly agreed to help for the sake of the faith. The king had the aacaarya placed in a room, sealed with 48 chains, each of which was individually locked. The aacaarya meditated on the Tirthankara Risabhdeva and composed devotional verses in praise of the attributes of Risabhdeva, and as each verse was completed, one of the locks opened until, eventually, all the 48 locks were unlocked. These verses have come down to us as the famous 'Eulogy of the Immortalisation of the Devotee' (Bhaktamara Stotra), and are recited by many Jains during their morning prayers.

Akalanka (c. 620 CE to 680 CE): This one of the most important Jain logicians and philosophers lived in Karnataka during the Rastrakuta dynasty. He studied Buddhism (clandestinely) and proved himself an able debater with Buddhist scholars. In addition to his reputation as a debater, he is credited with having significantly shaped Jain logic and among his original contributions to Jain literature are works on cognition, the theory of omniscience and the theory of 'Relative Pluralism' (Anenkaantavaada). He composed the outstanding 'Royal Commentary' (Raju Vartik) on the Tattvartha Sutra and the 'Eight Thousand Verses on Logic' (Aptamimansa Astasahasri).

Haribhadra (c.705 CE to 775 CE): He was a shining star among the Jain ascetic scholars of the eighth century. He was a Rajasthani Brahmin scholar of considerable repute and was proud of his scholarship. He had taken a personal vow to be the disciple of any person whose work proved beyond his understanding. One day while passing a Jain upashraya, he heard a verse recited by the Jain female ascetic, Mahattaraa Yakini, and could not understand its meaning, so he overcame his pride and went to the female ascetic to ask its meaning, but rather than explain it herself she directed him to her guru Jinabhadra.

As a result of his encounter with Jinabhadra, Haribhadra was initiated as a Jain ascetic. He mastered the Jain scriptures and was awarded the honorific title of Suri, which means something like 'sun'. Such was his devotion to Jainism that he mastered Buddhist literature in order to debate with Buddhists and promote Jainism. Of his reputed output of 1,444 books, 88 are extant today. He wrote in Sanskrit and Prakrit on ethics, asceticism, yoga, logic and rituals. He also composed works on satire and astrology as well as novels and canonical commentaries. With his 'Compendium of Six Philosophies' (Sad Darsana Sammucayas), he created a novel style of logic in an era noted for the quality of its philosophical debates. 'The Essence of Religion' (Dharmabindu) is a major contribution to the religious life of the laity. Even at a time when Jains were numerically in decline, Haribhadra demonstrated the enduring strength of the faith.

Bappa-Bhatti (c.743 CE to 838 CE): He was a 'great soul', who became an aacaarya at the age of eleven. He established a reputation as one of the greatest ascetic scholars and debaters of his time. He was a teacher of his royal patron Prince Amaraj who became King of Kanoj (Uttar Pradesh). Amaraj tested the ascetism of the aacaarya by tempting him with royal dancers but Bappa-Bhatti remained unmoved. He was a great orator and author, winning public esteem across India for composing eulogies on the goddess of learning and the twenty-four tirthankaras, which remain popular today.

Virasena (c. 9th Century C. E.) This ascetic scholar had many talents: proficient in astrology, grammar, logic, mathematics and prosody. He is noted for his commentary named the Dhavala on the Digambar canonical Satkhandaagama (six chaptered canon). He also started the detailed commentary on Satkhandaagama called the Jayadhavala, which was completed by his disciples. He was one of the outstanding minds in the kingdom of Amoghvarsa under the Rastrakuta dynasty, regarded as a golden age of Jain literature and culture.

The above account and the account that follows are also based on the
work of Sanghamitra (1986), Chatterjee (Vol.1 1978, vol.2 1984), Jain
J (1964), Roy (1984) and the Kalpa Sutra. We are now coming to the
aacaaryas of the modern age, the time during which the 'devotional
path' (bhakti marga) of Vaisnavism was prevasive, and the Jain
aacaaryas had to adopt a more ritualistic worship in order to compete
with the popularity of the new cult.

Somadeva (c. tenth century CE): He was a prolific writer of prose and poetry from northern India. Of his three major works, one is on political science, the first by any Jain author, written at the request of the King of Kanoj. The second is a prose entitled Yashastilaka, said to be stylistically comparable to the best Sanskrit poetry, remarkable for its deep knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, metre and idiom. It deals in part with the conduct expected of the laity, noting that the adoption of local cultures can maintain and preserve the faith. The third work deals with spiritual aspects of Jainism. When the religion faced decline due to the popularity of ritual movements of other faiths, he adapted rituals to serve the needs of the Jain community.

Abhayadeva (c.1057 CE to 1135 CE): Born in Ujjain, and initiated by Jineshvara Suri, he became a scholar of exceptional ability. It is said that a guardian deity would appear to him in dreams and inspire him to write commentaries on scriptures in Sanskrit. In spite of recurrent health problems he wrote many books, including commentaries on nine scriptural texts, said to total 57,769 verses, which proved so popular that large numbers of the laity volunteered to copy and distribute them throughout India. Tradition attributes that his blessings brought miraculous results, on one occasion when some merchant's ships were in danger of sinking, his blessings saved them.

Hemcandra (c.1089 CE to 1172 CE): Aacaarya Hemcandra is one of the most esteemed Jain scholars and aacaaryas. In his biography by Prabhachandra and Merutung, his key role in enhancing the standing of Jainism through his political, religious, social and academic activities is described in detail. He is considered to be the 'father of the Gujarati language' and, in 1989, the 900th anniversary of his birth was celebrated in many parts of the world.

Hemcandra was the son of a merchant in Dhandhuka (Gujarat); his father was a Vaisnava Hindu and his mother was a Jain, and he was originally called Changadeva. He was an exceptionally intelligent child. Once, when Aacaarya Devcandra was passing through his town, he saw the boy and was struck by his facial aura; he sought permission from his mother to initiate the boy as a Jain ascetic, to which she reluctantly agreed. The aacaarya entrusted him into the custody of Governor Udayan of Cambay (Gujarat) for scriptural study. At the age of nine, he became proficient in all subjects and he was ordained as an aacaarya at the age of twenty-one and given the new name of Hemcandra.

At this time, Siddharaja Jaisinha was the King of Gujarat (1092-1141 CE). He was a sophisticated monarch who appointed the aacaarya as his court scholar and historian. Impressed by his scholarship, Siddharaja commissioned him to write a poetic history of his dynasty, the Calukyas, and a Sanskrit grammar. This he did. The king had no son, and his nephew Kumarpala was next in succession; but as he did not want his nephew to succeed him, he sent soldiers to kill him. Out of compassion, Aacaarya Hemcandra helped Kumarpala by hiding him from the soldiers under piles of his manuscripts. Eventually, Kumarpala succeeded to the throne of Gujarat.

Kumarpala was so impressed by the Jain teachings and by Hemcandra that he became active in promoting Jainism. At the instigation of Hemcandra, Kumarpala issued a proclamation prohibiting the killing of 'mobile' living beings (amaari pravartan) in his kingdom, which extended to modern Gujarat and became a vegetarian observing the vows of the Jain laity. Many temples were built during his reign and inscriptions from that period survive in large numbers.

Hemcandra is noted for his literary works, which embrace all the major branches of learning and, because of this great range of knowledge, he is known as the 'omniscient of the contemporary age' (kali kaala sarvajna). On the completion of his Sanskrit grammar, known as the Siddha Hema Vyaakarana, elaborate celebrations, commissioned by Siddharaja and attended by more than 300 scholars from all parts of India, were held. This classic work also included a Prakrit grammar. Hemcandra also composed the first Gujarati grammar. He produced a biography of the sixty-three 'torch bearers' of Jainism and a history of the Jain sangha. He also wrote lexicons, poetry and works on logic, the Yoga Sastra and prosody.

Jinadattasuri (c.1075 CE to 1154 CE): He is the most celebrated aacaarya of the Svetambar sub-sect known as the Kharataragaccha. He was initiated as an ascetic at the age of nine years and became an aacaarya at the age of thirty-seven. His social, religious and literary activities earned him the title of 'aacaarya of the era' (yuga pradhaana). He made tremendous efforts to expand the Jain community, both through preaching and through open, welcoming attitude, and reputedly more than 100,000 joined the Jain community through his influence. So great was his personal influence that the Muslims of Sindh gave land for the use of the Jain community. Like many prominent figures in Jain literature and history, Jinadatta Suri was regarded as possessing supernormal attributes and powers.

His main work was centred on Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharastra and Sindh. He was a great scholar of Sanskrit, Prakrit and Apabhramsha, an ancient language used in Gujarat and Rajasthan. His services to the community earned him great reverence and when he passed away at Ajmer, the place of his death was named the 'Garden of Dada' (Dadawadi), dada means grandfather and is a term of endearment and respect. As a tribute to his work, his followers have established dadawadis or dadabaris throughout India, and leading ascetics of this sub-sect are known as dada gurus.

Hiravijaya (c.1526 CE to 1595 CE): This prominent aacaarya was born in Palanpur (Gujarat). He was initiated at the age of thirteen and he became aacaarya at the age of twenty-seven. He was highly studious and intelligent and his work earned him the honorific titles of 'the scholar' (pandit), 'teacher of scripture' (upadhyaaya) and 'the orator' (vaacak). According to the book Ain-i-Akbari by Abdulfazal, he was one of twenty-one most learned people in the Mogul Empire.

The great Mogul Emperor Akbar invited him to Delhi. He declined the offer of royal elephants for the journey and travelled on foot from Gujarat to Delhi to meet Akbar. He was given a magnificent reception. Akbar was highly impressed by his simplicity, austerity and the learning displayed in his sermons. The aacaarya's teachings on nonviolence and reverence for life prompted the emperor to release many prisoners and caged animals; Akbar prohibited the killing of animals on Jain sacred days especially during the sacred period of paryushana. Akbar gave up hunting, fishing and even eating meat on many days. Hiravijaya's influence with the great Emperor Akbar earned him the title of 'World Teacher' (Jagat Guru). He left Delhi, leaving his disciples Bhanu Chandra and Vijay Sen Suri as counsellors at the court of Akbar and travelled widely in India.

Yashovijay (c.1620 CE to 1686 CE): There are some ascetics who will not accept the responsibility of being an aacaarya as they feel it would not allow them to pursue their literary and spiritual activities to the full. The contribution of such ascetics is unparalleled in Jain history. We have included Upadhyaaya Yashovijay in this chapter, as his contribution in literary activity and scholarship is of great significance.

He was born in Kanoda, Gujarat, and showed intelligence as a child. Having listened to the sermons of Muni Nayvijayji, he expressed a wish to become an ascetic, to which his parents reluctantly agreed. In view of his excellent memory and powers of concentration it was thought appropriate to send him to Varanasi to study Indian philosophy, where he became proficient in the subject and defeated a well-known Hindu ascetic (sanyaasi) in public debate. This brought him great honour and he became known as an 'expert in logic' (nyaaya visaarada), the first Jain ascetic to be honoured in this way in the traditional seat of Hindu scholarship at Varanasi.

In his own religious life, the Jain mystic poet Anandaghana influenced Yashovijay, which resulted in his writings having a concern with inner spiritual values. His guru, Aacaarya Vijaydev advised him to put his scholarship to better use in his writing. His prolific literary output includes more than 100 books in four languages, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Gujarati and Rajasthani, ranging from epics, stories and biographies, to ontology, logic, philosophy, yoga, spirituality, and ascetic and lay life. Among his works, his 'Essence of Knowledge' (Jnaana Saara) is widely read both by laypeople and by ascetics; also popular is his 'Essentials of Spirituality' (Adhyaatma Saara), and four books on yoga practices. The main thrust of his teaching was that liberation is an inner achievement, dependent upon detachment, not upon external material achievement; he also sought to reinforce ritual with deep spiritual significance.

Bhikshu or Bhikhanji (c.1726 CE to 1803 CE): He was the founder of the Terapanthi, an offshoot of the Sthanakvasi sect (non-image-worshippers) within the Svetambar tradition. He became a ascetic at the age of twenty-five, but disturbed by what he saw as the laxity in the conduct of Sthanakvasi ascetics and their erroneous teachings, he established a new threefold tradition for the efficient running of the order. This included having a single head of the order authorised to select his successor, uniform observance, and an ethos of uniformity. During his aacaaryaship he initiated 104 persons as ascetics. He composed many books in the Rajasthani language. Bhikshu had a 'holy death' (sallekhanaa, the voluntary abandonment of all bodily needs), at the age of seventy-seven.

Amulakh Rushi (1877 CE to 1936 CE): This Sthanakvasi saint translated the 32 main books of Jain sacred literature into Hindi. He also composed 70 books on many other subjects, which have been translated into Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada and Urdu. In view of his lifelong efforts to spread the holy teachings of Jainism through his translations and writings, his admirers called him the 'destroyer of darkness and ignorance'. Born in Bhopal, initiated at the age of eleven, he became head of the sangha at the age of fifty-five. He travelled to many parts of India and had a 'holy death' in 1936.

Vallabh Vijay (1870 CE to 1954 CE): Aacaarya Vallabh Vijay Suri was an influential ascetic of the Svetambar tradition, very much a man of the people and he encouraged many to become active in the welfare both of the Jain and other communities. He promoted Jain unity and tried to enlist other aacaaryas to this end. He was an impressive speaker who emphasised self-sufficiency, strong organisation, education, accessible literature, a caring community, women's welfare and patriotism. He was instrumental in the establishment of the famous Mahavira Jain Vidhyalaya and a chain of other institutions for modern education in the Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. Following his guru Aacaarya Vijaynand Suri's instructions, his main work remained in the Punjab. He promoted the path of Jain values to wider communities. As a result of his work in Punjab, Vallabh Vijaya became known to followers as the 'Lion of the Punjab' (Panjab kesari). For his general work in promoting Jain values and the welfare of the Jain community he was considered the 'aacaarya of the era' (yuga pradhan)

During the early period of the British Raj, the Svetambars held the office of an aacaarya in abeyance, and when conditions were favourable, Vallabh Vijay's guru, Vijaynand Suri was conferred by the sangha as the first aacaarya after more than a century. Vijaynand Suri was invited to attend the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893; as Jain ascetics travel on foot, he could not participate, but he motivated a brilliant layman Virchand Raghavji Gandhi to attend. Along with his guru, Vallabh Vijay assisted the preparations of Virchand Gandhi in the task of promoting Jainism and Jain values in the Western World.

A number of miracles are associated with Vallabh Vijay. On one occasion he blessed an installation ceremony of a temple images in a Punjab village, at which more than 15,000 devotees were served full dinner, though the organisers had prepared food for only 5,000 devotees. What should have been insufficient amounts of prepared food became more than adequate in amount due to the blessings of Vallabh Vijay. He defied weather forecasts during religious ceremonies and it is said that rain stopped on many occasions, apparently through his blessings to the sangha. He supported the non-violent freedom struggle of India. His interventions saved the lives of many Jains during the violent time of the partition of India in 1947. All national leaders of India paid their respects to him for his patriotic and humanitarian sermons. He died in Bombay in 1954. More than 200,000 mourners attended his funeral procession.

Shantisagar (c.1872 CE to 1955 CE): Aacaarya Shantisagar became the first Digambar Jain ascetic after an interval of many centuries. During the Muslim period and most of the period of British Raj, Digambar ascetics were harassed. As a result people did not dare to be Digambar ascetics. In the Digambar tradition a layperson who has taken minor vows becomes a 'celebrated laity' (brahmacaari). Spiritual development then leads to the stage of a 'two-garmented laity' (ksullaka), followed by a 'one-garmented laity' (ailaka). Lastly one becomes a 'sky-clad' ascetic.

Born in Karnataka into a family of farmers, he became detached from the affairs of the household and progressed along the spiritual path. He was initiated at the age of forty-eight and given the name 'ocean of peace' (Shanti Sagar). He travelled throughout India, and promoted Jain teachings both to Jains and non-Jains. He observed the 'Jinamodelled' austerities in his personal life, for which his followers honoured him with the epithet of 'king among ascetics' (muniraj) and 'ocean of observances' (silasindhu). During one of his times of meditation in a cave, a cobra was seen with its hood raised for many minutes, as if paying respect to this great saint. During the time of the British Raj, 'sky-clad' Digambar ascetics were prohibited from entering major cities. As this restriction, enforced in the name of so-called 'decency', struck at an important element of Digambar belief, Shantisagar undertook a fast at a square near the Red Fort, Delhi until permission was granted for all 'sky-clad' ascetics to roam freely. The British Raj lifted the restrictions and people began to appreciate the austerities of the Digambar ascetic. He had a 'holy death' at Komthali (Maharastra).

Tulsi (1914CE-1997CE): Aacaarya Tulsi was the ninth in the line of Terapanthi aacaaryas. In 1995 he became the first person to be granted the title ganaadhipati, superior of all the ascetics. He is known as the 'aacaarya of the era' (yuga pradhaana) and 'promoter of minor vows' (anuvrata-anushasta). Born in Ladnun (Rajasthan), initiated at the age of eleven, and ordained to aacaaryaship at the age of twenty-three, he was awarded the Indira Gandhi National Award in 1993, for promoting national wellbeing through the 'minor vows' (anuvrata) movement. He believed in strong personal discipline, a through scriptural education, and the global dissemination of Jain values, Jain communal unity and interfaith harmony.

He was the initiator of many activities of contemporary importance; his literary work includes the preparation and publication of critical editions of Jain scriptures in Hindi and English, canonical lexicons, Jain instructional literature, biographical literature and scientific interpretations of Jain tenets. He encouraged the establishment of educational centres for the newly initiated and the creation of intermediate cadres of 'semi-monk' (Samna) and 'semi-nun' (Samna), allowing them relaxation in the vow of non-violence so that they could travel and promote Jainism to wider area, especially outside India.

Vidyasagar (1946-): This Digambar Jain aacaarya from Karnataka was initiated at the age of twenty-two and became an aacaarya at the age of twenty-six. He is an original thinker and a fine orator, proficient in many languages and motivates his followers to pursue high standards of scholarship. He has written many books of poetry and prose exhibiting a concern with raising moral standards, has made poetic translations of Kundkunda's books and other literature. He wrote a religious novel in Hindi entitled 'Silent Soil' (Mook-maati) which is highly regarded for its style and its content and has been translated into many languages.

He heads a group of about 100 monks and nuns, most of them highly educated. He is a reformer and he has motivated activities, appropriate to modern times, including research institutes, educational centres for new initiates, administrative training centres, annual Jain seminars and discussion groups, and the renovation of many places of pilgrimage.

This section has covered only a selection of the prominent aacaaryas of the past and present. Today many aacaaryas are continuing to work to preserve and adapt the Jain heritage in the modern world: work is being undertaken to collect, preserve, catalogue and publish Jain literature, to build Jain temples and other centres and to serve the sangha worldwide.


Title: Jainism: The World of Conquerors
Dr. Natubhai Shah
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Edition: 1998
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  1. Abhaya
  2. Ailaka
  3. Ajmer
  4. Akalanka
  5. Akbar
  6. Anuvrata
  7. Apabhramsha
  8. Ashoka
  9. Aura
  10. Bhaktamara Stotra
  11. Bhakti
  12. Bhikhanji
  13. Bhikshu
  14. Bhopal
  15. Bombay
  16. Brahmin
  17. Buddhism
  18. Chicago
  19. Concentration
  20. Dada Gurus
  21. Dadawadi
  22. Darsana
  23. Delhi
  24. Dhandhuka
  25. Digambar
  26. Discipline
  27. Gandhi
  28. Glory of Jainism
  29. Gujarat
  30. Guru
  31. Haribhadra
  32. Jain Calendar
  33. Jain Logic
  34. Jain Temples
  35. Jainism
  36. Jaya
  37. Jina
  38. Jinabhadra
  39. Kaala
  40. Kalpa
  41. Kalpa Sutra
  42. Karnataka
  43. Ksatriya
  44. Kundakunda
  45. Kundkund
  46. Labdhi
  47. Ladnun
  48. Lucknow
  49. Mahavira
  50. Mandir
  51. Mathura
  52. Meditation
  53. Muni
  54. Naya
  55. Niscaya Naya
  56. Niyama
  57. Non-violence
  58. Nonviolence
  59. Pandit
  60. Paryushana
  61. Pradesh
  62. Prakrit
  63. Pride
  64. Pujyapada
  65. Punjab
  66. Puspadanta
  67. Rajasthan
  68. Rajasthani
  69. Sagar
  70. Samaadhi
  71. Samaya
  72. Samvatsari
  73. Sangha
  74. Sanskrit
  75. Sanyaasi
  76. Sarasvati
  77. Sarvajna
  78. Science
  79. Shantisagar
  80. Siddha
  81. Siddhi
  82. Sthanakvasi
  83. Sutra
  84. Svetambar
  85. Tantra
  86. Tattvartha Sutra
  87. Terapanthi
  88. Tirthankara
  89. Tirthankaras
  90. Tulsi
  91. Ujjain
  92. Uttar Pradesh
  93. Vaisnava
  94. Varanasi
  95. Vidyasagar
  96. Violence
  97. Virasena
  98. Virchand Gandhi
  99. Virchand Raghavji Gandhi
  100. Yoga
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