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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2): Ārya Sudharmā

Published: 04.05.2016

Ārya Sudharmā Swāmī was born in 607 BC at Kollāga Village in Videha Pradeśa, in Uttara Fālgunī nakṣatra. His father's name was Dhammilla and mother's name was Bhaddilā. He was a Brahmin and his Gotra was Agni Vaiśyayana. Dhammilla was a very renowned scholar in Veda Vedāṃgas. As a student, Sudharmā learnt the four Vedas (Ṛga, Sāma, Yajura and Atharva Vedas), 6 vedāṃgas (Sikṣā, Kalpa, Vyākaraṇa, Nirūkta, Chanda and Astrology), and 4 upāṃgas (mīmāṃsā, nyāya, Dharma śāstra and Pūrāṇa) thoroughly. He started teaching after becoming a distinguished (Pāragāmi) scholar. At a time 500 students studied under him serving him with great devotion. This proves the fact that apart from being a good scholar, he was also prosperous.

Despite his immense knowledge in all the scriptures he used to feel some kind of inferiority, emptiness and incompleteness in his knowledge. He was always searching for the truth. When he first saw Lord Mahāvīra, a ray of hope emerged in his heart and he knew that his feelings of void, emptiness and incompleteness would be completely removed by Lord Mahāvīra.

An enthusiastic desire arouse in his heart, when Sudharmā came to know that Indrabhūti, Agnibhūti, Vāyubhūti and Ārya Vyakta, who earned name and fame as the best scholars, took initiation in Śramaṇa monkhood from Lord Mahāvīra after their doubts were clarified. "Why shouldn't he approach the omniscient Lord Mahāvīra and find answers to his long pending doubts?" Immediately he went to Samavaśaraṇa together with his 500 students. He prostrated himself with devotion at the feet of Lord.

Lord Mahāvīra addressing him with his Gotra's name said, "Ārya Sudharmā! There is a doubt in your heart. Will a human being or an animal take the present form and the same type of body even in his future births? Supporting and logically substantiating your doubt, you convince yourself that if Jowāra (a type of course grain) is sown in a field, naturally Jowāra crop grows and if wheat is sown, obviously it yields wheat crop only. It is not possible to sow Jowāra grain and get wheat or vice-versa. Oh! Innocent Sudharmā! Your doubt is not proper because whatever good or bad karmas a being performs with his trikaraṇas (doing, asking others to do and approving others doing) and three types of activities, 'triyogas' (by body, speech & mind) depending upon the nature of those karmas, either he gets meritorious or demeritorious birth, body, happiness and sorrow, wealth or calamity, union or separation in future births. This cycle keeps going till the soul destroys all type of karmas - meritorious or demeritorious attain liberation / salvation.

After being born in a particular destiny (yoni), if one does karmas the effects of which make him deserve to be born in the same yoni, he may take birth in the same. But this is a false notion if you think that one person always takes births in the same yoni.

Listening to the answers to his doubts, which till then existed deep within his heart, Sudharmā was dumb-found. He was totally convinced with the logical and reasonable answers of Lord Mahāvīra. Overwhelmed, Sudharmā and his 500 students took intiation into Śramaṇa monkhood and surrendered themselves at the lotus feet of Lord Mahāvīra.

As soon as he listened to the Tripadī from Lord Mahāvīra he metamorphosed into a treasure of unfathomable knowledge. At first he compiled fourteen Pūrvas and then Dwādaśāṃgī i.e. Ācāraṃga etc. Ekādaśāṃga literature that is available now, is believed to belong to the Vācanā of Sudharmā.

At the age of 50, Sudharmā was initiated by Lord Mahāvīra; he practiced self-control and performed penance. He served the master for 30 years, obeyed his orders and did lot of service to the Gaṇa. After the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, he became the first pontiff of congregation. He served as the successor ācārya for twenty years and had run the congregation efficiently. In 12 V.N. after the nirvāṇa of Indrabhūti, he destroyed the four obscuring Karmas and attained omniscience. He served the congregation as its Head for 9 years as an omniscient. Thus, for a total 20 years he did invaluable service to the congregation of Lord Mahāvīra.

In the last phase of 20 V.N., in 508 BC in Guṇaśīla Caitya of Rājagŗha, as a result of one month of observing Saṃthārā (Pādopagamana), at a ripe age of 100 years, he attained the last and most important object of his life i.e., salvation.

Why Sudharmā Swāmī alone was made successor of Lord Mahāvīra's creed?

Lord Mahāvīra attained liberation on Kārtika Kṛṣṇā Amāvasyā in 528 BC. The same night Indrabhūti Gautama obtained omniscience. The very next day Dharma congregation declared and nominated Ārya Sudharmā as the first Successor of Lord Mahāvīra. The three-fold reasons are as follows:

  1. Thirty years before his nirvāṇa, on the very day of the establishment of Tīrtha, Lord Mahāvīra foresaw the longevity & ability of Sudharmā and gave him order for the Gaṇa which the Caturvidha congregation knew very well.
  2. Caturvidha Tīrtha also knew that during the lifetime of Lord Mahāvīra itself, the nine omniscient gaṇadharas - Agnibhūti and other. Attained nirvāṇa. One month before their nirvāṇa they entrusted their respective Gaṇas to Ārya Sudharmā, knowing that he is a Gaṇanayaka and Dīrghāyu (with long life).
  3. Apart from these two well-known facts, after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, the senior most and the best disciple Indrabhūti had all the abilities to hold the office of pontiff. But the same night he attained omniscience and hence he could not succeed Lord Mahāvīra. The reason being, the successor has to carry forward and implement the teachings, preaching, and principles of his predecessor. Keeping all that in mind, he had to propagate and convey the message to the people and had to see that the followers obey and carry out His orders. However, an omniscient possesses the knowledge about all the beings of the world. Whatever he says or commands is based on his omniscient knowledge and is not based on the doctrines and commandments of the preceding ācāryas.

Ārya Sudharmā, at the time of nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, was not an omniscient, but an eminent scholar and knower of the fourteen Pūrvas. Hence he had the authority to quote Lord and say that Lord had counselled in that manner, or, I am repeating exactly what Lord said so on and so forth. Whereas, as Indrabhūti had attained omniscience on the very night after the nirvāṇa of Lord he could not have said that he was emulating or following his predecessor. He could have said that, "In my opinion", "I can say that", "it appears to me", and the like.

In such scenario, to keep the tradition of scriptures propounded by Lord Mahāvīra intact, i.e. in their original form, Ārya Sudharmā was preferred to be the first Successor rather than Indrabhūti Gautama who already became omniscient by then.

Available Ekādaśāṃgī - Ārya Sudharmā' discourses (Vācanā)

Ekādaśāṃgī that is available in the present times is the vācanā (or discourse) of Ārya Sudharmā. Evidences are available in the Āgamas which strengthen this fact. Some of them are as follows:

The very first sentence of Ācāraṃga Sūtra "sūyaṃ mei āusaṃ teṇaṃ bhagavayā evamakkhāyaṃ", which means Oh! Long Live (Jambū!), I heard, Lord Mahāvīra saying this. With the framing of this sentence it is clear that the Guru who is uttering this to his disciple had heard the same from his Guru, Lord Mahāvīra.

As in Ācārāṃga Sūtra evidences are available even in Aṃga Sūtras like Samavāyaṃga, Sthānāṃga, Vyākhyā-Prajṅapti etc. and external canons (Aṃgabāhya) Sūtras like Uttarādhyayana, Daśa Vaikālika. Ārya Sudharmā narrates to his disciples starting with the same sentence, "sūyaṃ me āusaṃ teṇaṃ bhagavayā evamakkhāyaṃ", It is somewhat clearer in the beginning of Anuttaropapātika Sūtra and Jṅātādharma kathā:

"teṇaṃ kāleṇaṃ teṇaṃ samaeṇaṃ rāyagihe nayare, ajja suhammassa samosaraṇaṃ… parisā padigayā" ||2||

"Jambū jāva pajjuvāsaī evaṃ payāsī jaiṇaṃ bhaṃte I Samaṇeṇaṃ jāva saṃpatteṇaṃ aṭṭhamassa aṃgassa aṃtagaḍadasāṇaṃ ayamaṭhṭe paṇṇatte, navamassa ṇaṃ bhaṃte Aṃgassa anuttarovavāiya samaṇeṇaṃ jāva saṃpatteṇaṃ ke aṭṭhe paṇṇatte" ||3||

"Taeṇaṃ se suhamme aṇagāre Jambū aṇagāraṃ evaṃ vayāsī- evaṃ khalu Jambū Samaeṇaṃjāva saṃpatteṇaṃnavamassa aṃgassa aṇutarovavāīya dasāṇaṃ tiṇṇi vaggā paṇṇattā" ||4||

Having so many queries, from time to time, Ārya Jambū asked his Guru Ārya Sudharmā, "How did Śramaṇa Lord Mahāvīra explain the meaning of a particular doctrine? Giving reply to his question Ārya Sudharmā said, 'Āyuṣamāna Jambū! I heard explanation given to certain Aṃgas by Lord Mahāvīra'. He explained certain canons, certain chapters, and sections like this.

This type of convention of imparting the Āgamika knowledge to his disciple Jambū is also found in other Sūtras. From the very first lesson of Nayadhamma Kahao, it becomes apparent that the text Aṃga Śāstra available in the present times is compiled by Ārya Sudharmā.

The aforesaid facts indisputably prove that like any other Gaṇadharas, even Ārya Sudharmā too compiled Dwādaśāṃgī based on the instructions in the teachings of Lord Mahāvīra. The rest ten Gaṇadharas entrusted their respective gaṇas to him and obtainednirvāṇa. Hence his Dwādaśāṃgī became popular and only that text is available now. Dwādaśāṃgī written by other Gaṇadharas got extinct sometime after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Brahmin
  3. Dharma
  4. Gautama
  5. Gaṇa
  6. Gotra
  7. Guru
  8. Kalpa
  9. Karmas
  10. Mahāvīra
  11. Mīmāṃsā
  12. Nakṣatra
  13. Nirvāṇa
  14. Nyāya
  15. Omniscient
  16. Pradeśa
  17. Soul
  18. Sūtra
  19. Tripadī
  20. Tīrtha
  21. Uttarādhyayana
  22. Veda
  23. Vedas
  24. Vācanā
  25. Āgamas
  26. ācāryas
  27. Śāstra
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