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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2): Ārya Mahāgiri And Āryasuhastī

Published: 15.05.2016

After Sthūlabhadra, the seventh successor and eighth ācārya of Lord Mahāvīra, Ācārya Mahāgiri became the ninth pontiff and Ārya Suhastī became the tenth pontiff.

9th pontiff Mahāgiri 10th pontiff Suhastī
Birth V.N. 145 V.N. 191
Initiation V.N. 175 V.N. 221 (Alt. V.N. 214)
Became ācārya V.N. 215 V.N. 245
Heavenly abode V.N. 245 V.N. 291
Household life duration 30 years 30 years  (Alt. 23 years)
Ordinary Monk tenure 40 years 24 years (Alt. 31 years)
Tenure as ācārya 30 years 46 years
Total longevity 100 years 100 years
Gotra Elāpatya Vaśiṣtha

Family life

Both Ārya Mahāgiri and Suhastī, from their infancy were left under the supervisory care of Female ascetic Yakṣa. They were brought up and educated under her able auspices.

Initiation as Śramaṇa

Ārya Mahāgiri was initiated in 175 V.N. and Ārya Suhastī was initiated in 221 V.N. As far as Mahāgiri is concerned, there is no controversy regarding his time of initiation. However as per the data given above, the initiation of Suhastī took place in V.N. 221 in such a case the most important objection would be the initiation of Suhastī by Ārya Sthūlabhadra himself. But Ārya Sthūlabhadra went to heaven in 215 V.N. itself. In such a situation, initiation of Suhastīby Ārya Sthūlabhadra in V.N. 221 does not seem to be logical or true. Hence it appears that Ārya Suhastī was initiated at the age of 23 and probably by a slip-up of some scribe, the figure 30 got documented instead of 23. If we accept that Suhastī was initiated at the age of 23, then, that he got initiated by Ācārya Sthūlabhadra (214 - 250 V.N.) himself, seems logical.

Life as Śramaṇa

These two great men spent 14 and 31 years of their life respectively as ordinary Jain saints. During this period they performed severe penance, flawlessly observed self-restraint and served Sthavira Śramaṇas with great reverence. Besides, they, with persistent practice and complete concentration acquired knowledge. Both of them are scholars in the ten Pūrvas except for two topics.

Post of ācārya

In the year 215 V.N. at the time of his departure for heaven, Ācārya Sthūlabhadra appointed both his worthy students - Ārya Mahāgiri and Ārya Suhastī as his successors, the eighth pontiff.

Ārya Suhastī after taking initiation from Ācārya Sthūlabhadra barely completed his study of Ekādaśāṃgī that Ācārya Sthūlabhadra went to heaven. So Ārya Suhastī studied the Pūrva Śruta s under Ārya Mahāgiri. According to the Pariśiṣta Parva Kāra, Ārya Suhastī himself said addressing Ārya Mahāgiri - "Mamaite guravah ̣Khalu" - "he is my Guru". If this fact is taken into consideration, it does not corroborate the statement that in V.N. 215, the novice monk, Ārya Suhastī, was given the post of ācārya along with Ārya Mahāgiri by Ācārya Sthūlabhadra.

A scrutiny of the facts makes it highly probable that while nominating Ārya Mahāgiri as his successor, Ācārya Sthūlabhadra with his special knowledge might have perceived that Ārya Suhastī would be the most eligible and efficient monk for running the congregation in future and so might have instructed Ārya Mahāgiri to appoint him as ācārya at the proper time.

During the tenure of both these ācāryas, Jain Dharma spread throughout India, far and wide. Moreover, Avantī also became a strong centre of Jain tradition during their time.

Remarkable Spiritual-exertion of Ārya Mahāgiri

Ārya Mahāgiri taught his many disciples the Āgamas and made them proficient in Ekādaśāṃgī. Later, he handed over the responsibility of his gaccha also to Ārya Suhastī and staying with the gaccha he started practicing the Śramaṇa principles of Jinakalpa. Even after taking the vow of Jinakalpa Śramaṇācāra, he did not leave the order (gaccha). He used to wander with Suhastī and the Śramaṇas. However, he would go alone for begging alms and also meditate in solitude. He took a challenging resolution that he would accept only the dry tasteless or stale food that the householders would discard.

Ācārya Mahāgiri is regarded as the greatest ācārya of his time. Besides being a staunch supporter of pure conduct, he was well-versed in the Pūrvas. He would not accept even the slightest deviation in the strict adherence of the daily activities or self-control.

Thus practicing the strict monkhood as stipulated by Jinakalpa, Ācārya Mahāgiri performed severe penance for many years and set up a yardstick for the high quality life of a Śramaṇa. He was of peerless character and the highest quality monk of his times. Finally, he went to a place called Gajāgrapada near Elakaccha (Daśārṇapura) and fasting there he undertook Samādhi and attained heaven in 245 V.N.Y after completing 100 years of his life.

Mahāgiri's contemporary royal dynasty

It was already mentioned that the Mauryan dynasty was established during the last days of Ācārya Sthūlabhadra (215 V.N.Y). During the period of Ācārya Mahāgiri, Candragupta Maurya, the first King of this dynasty, under the guidance of his inspirational Prime Minister Cāṇakya, was engaged in wars for many years with the rulers within and outside India. He brought the entire country under one strong administration and established a vast, powerful sovereign empire. He even drove out the great Greek conqueror Selucus from Kābula and Kandhāra and annexed those regions to his vast Indian kingdom.

According to many ancient scriptures, when Candragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Pāṭalīputra, he was not a follower of Jainism. However, Cāṇakya in different ways proved the greatness of Jain doctrines and of Jain Śramaṇas and convinced him to follow Jainism. As a result, Candragupta became a staunch believer and a devoted votary of the Jain Dharma. He patronised and served the Jain order significantly.

After the coronation of Candragupta as the king of Pāṭalīputra, apprehending that he may be poisoned by any treacherous person, and so to safeguard his precious life, the farsighted Cāṇakya administered very small doses of poison to him, mixed in his food. The dose was steadily increased and the poison soon worked like ambrosia on Candragupta providing nourishment and sustenance to his body. Gradually, the ratio of the poison being fed to Candragupta was increased to such an extent that if somebody else just tastes the food that is served to Candragupta, would die then and there itself.

Birth of Bindusāra

One day while Emperor Candragupta was having his food, his pregnant wife came there. The queen expressed her desire to eat along with him. The more Candragupta resisted her from eating from his plate, the more adamant the queen became and in the end, she suddenly snatched a morsel from his plate and at once kept it in her mouth. The poisonous food worked instantly on the queen and she fell to the ground, unconscious. Immediately, there was hue and cry everywhere in the palace. Prime Minister Cāṇakya quickly rushed to the spot.

"It is impossible to save the life of the queen", uttering these words, Cāṇakya ordered the surgeons to cut open the abdomen of the queen as fast as they can and to save the life of the unborn child. The surgeons acted accordingly and took the baby out of the womb. There was not much effect of the poison consumed by the mother, on the baby, except the appearance of a blue dot (Bindi) on his forehead. He was named as Bindusāra, because of this poisonous dot on his forehead.

Maurya emperor Candragupta ruled over a vast territory of Maurya Kingdom for a period of 18 years from 215 to 233 V.N. and he died in 233 V.N.

Bindusāra - the Maurya Emperor

After the death of Candragupta, his son Bindusāra succeeded to the throne inheriting a vast kingdom. His name appears different in different texts. In Vayu Pūrāṇa etc, his name is mentioned as Bhadrasāra and Vārisāra; in the Mahāvaṃśa and Dīpavaṃśa scriptures of Buddhism as Bindusāra, and in the Greek memoirs and texts as Amitraceṭasa and Amitraghāta.

According to Bṛhatkalpa Bhāṣya, after inheriting the throne, Bindusāra extended the boundaries of the territories acquired from his father. He was a very just, kind, compassionate and benevolent king and a believer of Jain Dharma. When a famine broke out during his regime Bindusāra opened charity houses and common taverns and liberally helped the victims of the famine. A Greek ambassador named Daimaikas a delegate of Antiochus I, the son of Selucus lived in the court of Bindusāra.

The other name of Bindusāra was Amitraghāta (the slayer of enemy) and so the scholars opine that he might have been compelled to spend most of his time in wars wherein he victoriously vanquished his enemies because of which he got the name Amitraghāta. During the end of his regime, a rebellion broke out in Takṣśilā - the north western frontier of his kingdom. He had to send Prince Aśoka with a huge army to suppress it.

Death of Cāṇakya

After the death of Maurya Candragupta who followed him like a shadow, Cāṇakya decided to take initiation of a Śramaṇa and to strive for his self-realisation. However after being repeatedly implored by Bindusāra, he eventually agreed to remain as the Prime Minister for some more time.

Subandhu, a minister, who gravely aspired to become the Prime Minister of the Magadha kingdom, was extremely jealous of Cāṇakya, who wielded authority over the king, the kingdom and the subjects. Whenever he found a chance he would fill the ears of Bindusāra against Cāṇakya. One day Subandhu narrated to Bindusāra, the incident of the latter's mother's death weaving it in such a beautiful way that it seemed as if Cāṇakya intentionally murdered her. At last, Subandhu succeeded in sowing a seed of aversion and disbelief towards Cāṇakya in the mind of Bindusāra. The foresighted tactician Cāṇakya immediately read the feelings of Bindusāra, developed an aversion towards the world, retired to a secluded place on the outskirts of the city and started observing fasting and engrossed him in meditation. When Bindusāra came to know the truth of his mother's death through his wet-nurse, he felt remorse. He immediately went to Cāṇakya, asked for his forgiveness and urged him to take up his previous position as the Prime Minister. But Cāṇakya had already freed him of the worldly ties and bonds and was involved in the practice of spiritual-exertion. So the disappointed Bindusāra had to return to the palace, empty-handed. This incident, according to Jain literature, is narrated thus: Subandhu, on the pretext of serving Cāṇakya, stayed with him; and one day, he lighted fire to the dry cow-dung heap on which Cāṇakya sat in meditation. However, Cāṇakya did not make any attempts to escape and died in the posture of Samādhi, and died.

The heinous and repugnant misdeed of Subandhu could not be hidden from Bindusāra and the people. Being humiliated, condemned and turned away by the king and the people, Subandhu leading a miserable life and facing lot of troubles, ultimately breathed his last.

Royal dynasty at the time of Ārya Suhastī

After the accession of Ārya Mahāgiri to heaven in 245 V.N., his disciple Ārya Suhastī succeeded him as a ācārya; by then it was probably 12 years of Bindusāra's reign. After ruling the country for 25 years Bindusāra died in 258 V.N.

Maurya Emperor Aśoka

During the tenure of Suhastī as ācārya, after the demise of Bindusāra, his son Aśoka became the ruler of the vasta kingdom of Magadha in V.N. 258. Bindusāra, the father of Aśoka and Candragupta, his grandfather, both were the followers of Jainism. So initially Aśoka was also the follower of Jainism. During the ninth year of his reign (266 V.N.) Aśoka led a campaign against Kaliṃga. Kṣemarāja the king of Kaliṃga confronted Aśoka in the battlefield with his huge army and put up a stiff resistance. A fierce battle ensued between both the armies. Though the valiant soldiers of Kṣemarāja fought bravely, they were no match to the powerful and innumerable army of Aśoka and after a bloody battle the Magadha army inflicted a cruel defeat on Kaliṃga. In this battle of Kaliṃga, about one and a half lakh soldiers were imprisoned, other than that one lakh soldiers died and a greater number who were wounded in the battle, later died. The brutality of the war weighed heavily on Aśoka's heart. In his 13th rock edict he announced that he himself was responsible for this bloodshed and declared that in the future, he would never attempt to win a country with this type of human - butchery and bloodshed.

When Aśoka was in deep pain with guilt and shame and was feeling remorse, it is possible that he might have confronted a Buddhist ācārya and influenced by him, adopted Buddhism. After becoming a follower of Buddhism, he spent his life in propagating and glorifying Buddhism. He got his son Mahendra and daughter congregation mitrā initiated as bhikṣu and bhikṣuṇi respectively and sent them to the neighbouring country, Lanka to propagate Buddhism. Apart from propagating Buddhism, Aśoka also performed many noble deeds for the welfare of the people, and engraved rock edicts on which religious and cultural commandments were inscribed for the benefit of the people.

Because of his significant contribution for the expansion and propagation of Buddhism, Aśoka's name will be remembered for ever and will be taken with great reverence in the history of Buddhism. After exercising power and authority over Magadha for 24 years, Emperor Aśoka died in V.N. 282. Some historians believe that during the last four years of his life, Aśoka once again reverted to and followed Jainism.

After Aśoka, his grandson Samprati succeeded to the throne.

Sermon by Ārya Suhastī to Samprati

According to Kalpa Cūrṇi, Ārya Suhastī once went to Ujjain[1] to pay homage to Jīvita Swāmī and walking along with the chariot procession he arrived at the palace. When king Samprati, who sat near the window of his palace, saw Ārya Suhastī, he at once felt very familiar with him, as if he had seen him somewhere. While pondering about it, Samprati's knowledge of past lives revived.  He sent his servants to find out the place of stay of Ācārya Suhastī. When he came to know where Ācārya Suhastī was stationed, he approached him and after listening to his discourses posed a question to him, "Lord! What is the fruit of Dharma?"

The ācārya replied, "O king, following the holy law with equanimity, without implicit understanding, results in acquisition of kingdom, etc."

"Yes Lord! What you are saying is true" saying this he asked one more question, "Lord, do you recognize me?"

Ācārya, using his cognitive consciousness, saw the past life of Samprati and answered, "I do know you; you were my disciple in your just previous birth." Later, king Samprati under took the five lay-vows, gave up killing of animals and engaged himself in the progress and development of Śramaṇa congregation.

Past life of Samprati

Narrating his past life to him as an answer to his question Ācārya Suhastī said, "O king! This is in relation to your just previous birth. Once in my wanderings I reached the city of Kauśāmbī, along with my disciples. That time the city was gripped in severe famine. Hence, the common people could not even afford to see the food (let alone, eating). But the house holders because of deep veneration and devotion would give sufficient water and food to the Śramaṇas as alms. One day, my disciples, while begging alms went into a house. A poor, wretched and hungry beggar also followed them into the house. The host gave large amount of food and water to the monks, but he did not give even a grain to the beggar.

The hungry beggar followed my disciples begging for food. They explained to him that as per the rules prescribed for Śramaṇas they cannot give anything to a householder. The beggar, unable to tolerate the pangs of hunger, following them, came to me. He begged me also for food. With my cognition, I found out that in his next birth, he would propagate and spread Jainism. I told him that if he takes initiation into Śramaṇa Dharma, we would give him enough food as per his desire. The beggar thought that the difficult path of Śramaṇa Dharma is better than his poor, worthless and miserable life. He at once took initiation from me, after which he became entitled to our food, which he ate up to his heart's content. The novice who had been starving from many days, suffered with severe stomach ache, when he ate the sumptuous meal. Consequently, he died that night. He was born to the blind prince Kuṇāla, the son of Aśoka. O king! You are the same beggar who took initiation from me in your past life. This is the result of your Śramaṇa life that you led for one day because of which you are born as a king. (Ācārya Suhastī became a monk in V.N.S. 214. Samprati became a full-fledged king in V.N.S. 282.  There is a gap of 68 years.  Therefore, Ācārya Suhastī was present doing the just previous birth of Samprati. Ācārya Suhastī attained heavenly abode in V.N. 291).

Propagation and expansion of Jainism by Samprati

In Jain literature, the Maurya emperor Samprati holds the same status as Aśoka holds in Buddhist literature. According to many Jain texts, after listening to the sermons of Ārya Suhastī, King Samprati sent his officers, personnel, soldiers and his offspring - sons and daughters - to different places, within and outside the country in the guise of Jain monks and spread Jainism far and wide and even converted his vassals to Jainism. The personnel of Samprati, in the guise of Mokṣa, even went and wandered in non-Ārya (non-vegetarian) countries, enlightening them with the responsibilities of a Votary and rules of conduct of as Śramaṇa and made those places worthy of visit by the Śramaṇas. Yielding to the request of King Samprati, Ācārya Suhastī sent a few Śramaṇas to non Ārya lands to spread Jainism. They felt happy seeing the zeal and faith of the people there, towards Jain religion. The monks wandered freely in the non-Ārya lands just as they do in the Ārya lands and extensively propagated Jain religion there. The people in non-Ārya lands too, showed a lot of reverence towards & accepted the Jain religious principles of a Votary. Ācārya Suhastī felt overwhelmingly happy listening to all these reports.

In few Jain texts, it is mentioned that Samprati got many Jina temples erected in both Ārya and non-Ārya lands, thus beautifying the places with these temples. But there is no mention of these types of temples in the historical texts written before 882 V.N.

Avantī Sukumāla, the unparalleled symbol of strenuous practice of conduct

After Ārya Mahāgiri went to heaven, Ārya Suhastī, wandering through many lands, once again reached Ujjain and camped in a garden in the outskirts of the city. He sent two of his disciple saints to the place of a very wealthy & respected lady called Bhadrā for permission to stay in her place somewhere. Permission having been granted, he along with his disciples, stayed in the outhouse of that very wealthy & respected lady Bhadrā.

The next day, at dawn, Ācārya Suhastī was chanting the chapter of "Nalinī Gulma" aloud. Avantī Sukumāla, the son of Bhadrā, who was at that time sleeping in a room on the seventh floor of the mansion, with his 32 beautiful wives, heard the melodious recitation of the verse, which echoed in his ears. He listened to it rapt with attention. He at once found the chanting irresistible, and in order to listen to it more clearly and to understand it properly, he came out of the palace as if he were under a spell. He came to Ācārya Suhastī and listened to him attentively. Listening to the recital, an overwhelmed Sukumāla felt as if he had previously experienced the happiness described in the recital. On profound contemplation, he gained the knowledge of his past life. He went to the ācārya, bowed to him with humility and said, "Lord! I am the son of Bhadrā, the mistress of this house. On listening to your recital I regained the knowledge of my past life. Prior to this birth, I was a celestial being in a plane called 'Nalinī Gulma'. Now once again the strong desire to go back to my Nalinī Gulma has arisen in me. I want to be initiated into the ascetic life by you and return back there. Please ordain me as a Śramaṇa". Ācārya Suhastī explained him the difficulties of a Śramaṇa life.

Avantī Sukumāla said, "Lord! As per the norms laid down for the monks, I cannot practice penance for a long time. So, in the beginning itself, I will take the initiation into Śramaṇa Dharma undertaking the vow of fasting and endure the worst suffering for a short period".

Having noticed that he was firm in his decision, Ārya Suhastī asked him to seek the permission of his kinsmen. Later Avantī Sukumāla asked the permission of his mother and his wives to take initiation; however he did not get it. Hence, he himself plucked his hair with his fingers (keśaluṃcana) and clad as Monk went to serve Ārya Suhastī. Looking at Sukumāla who was detached even with his own body and completely averse to the world, and who initiated himself into asceticism, Ārya Suhastī initiated him into Śramaṇa as per the rules prescribed in the scriptures. Avantī Sukumāla then appealed Ārya Suhastī to grant him permission to perform penance by observing fast unto death.

Taking permission from Ārya Suhastī he went to the desolate burial ground outside the city, and stood there in a meditative posture (kāyotsarga). The very elegant and delicate Sukumāla, for the first time in his life, walked such a long distance, barefoot. So his feet pierced by thorns and sharp stones, were bleeding profusely. Enduring the pain bravely and suppressing hunger and thirst, he was engrossed in self-realization. The scorching sun burnt the ground like fire, but Avantī Sukumāla did not pay any attention to it and continued his meditation peacefully. The day progressed and soon the sun set; slowly darkness engulfed. The night appeared horrible and terrifying like a fatal night. But the delicate novice, Avantī Sukumāla who was averse from life stood still deep in his meditation in the burial ground. Sniffing the bloodstained foot prints, a female Jackal with her cubs came near Avantī Sukumāla. Sniffing the smell of blood trickling from the legs of the monk, it started licking his legs. Engrossed in spiritual meditation, the monk stood still. As there was no protest from him, the Jackal became fearless. It pierced its teeth into the flesh of his leg. Hot blood gushed out of it. The Jackal with her cubs began devouring his leg. Steadily the monk's meditation was reaching greater & greater heights. Without trying to obstruct the jackal, the monk thought, "This jackal, by devouring my flesh, is burning out my karma, and opening the doors of my Nalinī Gulma Vimāna". The jackal and the cubs started eating the second leg of the monk. The monk fell on to the ground. However, the monk's concentration of meditation was only getting deeper. After eating his thighs and shoulders, they tore open his stomach. The monk also moved to higher level in his self-realisation. Eventually he went into Samādhi, died with equanimity and achieving his aim, was born as a celestial being in the plane of Nalinī Gulma.

Next day when his mother Bhadrā, came to know about the incident from Suhastī, she with her 31 daughters-in-law, excluding one who was pregnant, took initiation into the Śramaṇa dharma.

Disciples of Mahāgiri

According to Kalpasūtra, the disciples of Ārya Mahāgiri sequentially are as follows:

  1. Sthavira Uttara (Bahula)
  2. Sthavira Balissaha
  3. Sthavira Dhanāḍhya (Dhanagupta)
  4. Sthavira Śrī Āḍhya
  5. Sthavira Kauḍinya
  6. Sthavira Nāga
  7. Sthavira Nāgamitra
  8. Rohagupta of Kouśika Gotra

A Gaṇa known as Uttar Balissaha, originated from the names Sthavira Uttara and Sthavira Balissaha, which had the following 4 branches:

  1. Kauśāmbikā
  2. Śuktivatikā
  3. Koḍaṃbāṇī and
  4. Candanāgarī

Line of Ārya Suhastī's Disciples

The disciple family of Ācārya Suhastī was very large. Out of them, there are twelve important disciples, whose names are as follows:

  1. Sthavira Ārya Rohaṇa
  2. Ācārya Yaśobhadra
  3. Meghagaṇī
  4. Ācārya Kāmardhigaṇī
  5. Ācārya Susthita Sūri
  6. Ācārya Supratibhaddha Sūri
  7. Ācārya Rakṣita
  8. Ācārya Rohagupta
  9. Ācārya Ṛṣigupta
  10. Ācārya Śrīgupta (of Hārila Gotra)
  11. Ācārya Brhamgaṇī
  12. Ācārya Somagaṇī

Samucchedavādī, the Fourth heretic Aśwamitra (V.N. 220)

During the fifth year of the pontification of Ārya Mahāgiri, i.e. in V.N. 220, the fourth schism took place as transitory-ness (Kṣaṇikavādī).) Under Aśwamitra, the disciple of Kodinna, who was in turn the disciple of Mahāgiri?

According to him, the hellish beings which are existent at the present time undergo destruction at a later time. In such a situation the hellish mode prevalent previously, obliterates and modifies into a distinct one at some other time.

During that period, the head of the Tollage department of the city Rājagṛha was a follower of Śramaṇa Dharma. He brought Aśwamitra onto the right path. Aśwamitra realising that his beliefs are false went back to his teacher and asked him forgiveness. He underwent vow of repentance for holding a false view of reality and once again joined the congregation as a Śramaṇa.

Dwikriyavadi Fifth Heretic - Gaṃga (228 V.N.)

The fifth schism was started by an ascetic named Gaṃga, in V.N.228.He was also known as Gaṃgadeva and was a disciple of Dhanāḍhya (Dhana Gupta), who was the disciple of Ācārya Mahāgiri. He opined that two types of activities and two manifestations can occur simultaneously. He held that Mahāvīra's saying 'only one feeling and one conscious activity at one point of time' is untrue.

Ārya Dhana Gupta tried his best to mitigate the doubt that cropped up in his mind citing many examples. Even after listening to the logical, intrinsic, analytical and easy to grasp explanation of his teacher, the ascetic Gaṃga did not forsake his importunity. So he was exterminated from the congregation.

After being expelled from the congregation, Gaṃga started a new doctrine called 'Dwikriyas'. It was short-lived and he, by this time realised his blunder. He went to his teacher, pleaded forgiveness, underwent vow of repentance and once again observed the holy path following the principles of temperance.

Administration of congregation after Pontiff Suhastī

Ācārya Suhastī did a remarkable service to the congregation during his pontificate, and his tenure is an embodiment of all-round development both in the congregation and in the religion. Nearly for 300 years right from Ārya Sudharmā to Ārya Mahāgiri and Ārya Sushati, the Jain Order was administered & safeguarded efficiently by all the ācāryas only.

Apart from ācāryas, there was the mention of other ranks in the scriptures such as Upādhyāya, Gaṇi, Gaṇavachedaka, Sthavira, preacher (Pravartaka) etc. However, except for ācārya, Gaṇadhara and Sthavira there is no mention of any other rank or their activities, right from the Tīrthaṃkara era till pontiff Ācārya Mahāgiri.

The sub-divisions like lineage, Gaṇa and branches started originating, since the period of Ācārya Yaśobhadra. But due to the influence of brilliant ācāryas like Bhadrabāhu and Sthūlabhadra, differences of opinion could not arise in the Śramaṇa congregation. Ārya Mahāgiri and Ārya Suhastī also did not allow any divisions, and competently maintained the unity of Jain order.

The three ranks of group-ācārya, discourse-ācārya and epochal-ācārya were created and their duties and powers were clearly demarcated so as to prevent any minor difference in the traditions, from transforming into a gigantic form and to protect the pure doctrines of Śruta dharma and the principles of conduct from being destroyed either totally or partially in future. As a result, the following three traditions came into existence:

  1. Gaṇadhara lineage: The leader of the Gaṇa should take care of the Gaṇa and act as a teacher and ensure that the Guru-disciple tradition was followed strictly. This tradition and rank has been continuing till date. The current Gaṇapatis are regarded as the vestige of it.
  2. Descriptive scholar lineage: the monks who were proficient in all the pious traditions of canonical literature and knowledge and could recite and explain the meaning efficiently was considered as the ācāryas of descriptive scholar lineage. Their boundary is not restricted to their own Gaṇa; instead it stretches over the entire congregation.
  3. Epochal lineage: In this tradition, one, who with his exceptional talent and skill could influence not only within Jainism but even outside its purview, was made as the epochal-ācārya. There was no prescribed eligible criterion that the discourse-ācārya or epochal-ācārya should belong to a particular Gaṇa or tradition; he could be appointed from any Gaṇa or tradition. After an epochal-ācārya, his successor could be appointed from a different Gaṇa or tradition from that of the pontiff who held the office till then.

After Lord Mahāvīra, for nearly 250 to 275 years, the congregation was efficiently run by a single Gan-ācārya, who successfully and proficiently accomplished the two tasks, i.e., administration of the congregation and the recital and explanation of the canons. During his pontification, Ārya Suhastī gave up the long established convention of Monocracy and opted for two Pontiffs – Gan-ācārya to run the congregation and dicourseācārya to recite and explain the meanings of the Āgamas. In course of time, the rank of epochal-ācārya was created. The necessity behind creating the three ranks in place of one is attributed to the following reasons: Farsighted ācāryas could foresee the differences that will erupt in the future, in Gaṇas, traditions and in beliefs. So in order to sustain unity in diversity, they might have preferred this type of arrangement in the congregation.

After Ārya Mahāgiri, so as to sustain the unanimity of scriptural traditions both in aphorisms and in structure; Keeping in mind the wellbeing of the Jain traditions, Ārya Suhastī appointed Ārya Balissaha, as discourse-ācārya, as he was equally respected by both the Gaṇas. Thus facilitating the smooth administration of the congregation and retaining the age-old tradition, he paved the way for a new convention.

As there were two independent ranks i.e. group-ācārya and discourseācārya and as they were always associated closely with other Śramaṇas, the unity of the congregation was held high and intact at all times.

As far as the rank of epochal-ācārya is concerned, during the period of Suhastī, under the patronage of the Mauryan king Samprati and also due to his faithful and devoted services, Jaina Dharma spread far and wide; besides there was tremendous development & growth in Śramaṇa congregation also. The Śramaṇas went to distant lands both within and outside the country and spread Jainism. As a result, the versatility of Suhastī was recognised and praised by one and all and he became renowned as epochal-ācārya of his times. And from then onwards the third convention of epochal-ācārya came into prominence. Both the posts i.e. discourse-ācārya and epochal-ācārya were not restricted to any particular Gaṇa as only the efficiency and worthiness of the Śramaṇa was taken into consideration. Hence both these ranks have been respected by the monks of all traditions and Gaṇas, till date.

The main responsibility of the epochal-ācārya was to bring all the Gaṇas under one roof, encouraging them to adhere to its principles; and in the time of crisis, apart from administration of the congregation, their chief duty was to propagate and pay tribute to Jainism using all their abilities and skills. Their decisions were cited as authentic even in non-Jain commonkties also.

According to "Duṣamākāla Śramaṇa congregation Stotra", in the Jain order, till the end of Duṣamākāla period, Sudharmā and 2004 other ācāryas were considered as epochal.

The immediate advantage of the creation of new ranks like discourseācārya and epochal-ācārya was that, in spite of the sub-division of Gaṇa, lineage, branch, etc., the unity of the congregation remained intact and thereby preventing the disintegration of the congregation.

Before presenting the historical events during the respective periods of the ācāryas of the aforesaid three traditions up to Devardhi Kṣamā śramaṇa, the names ofācāryas of these three traditions are given below:

Initially, the lineage of Ārya Mahāgiri which was well-known as discourse lineage tradition is being given below:

The ācārya traditions of Ārya Mahāgiri Discourse lineage tradition:

1 Ārya Sudharmā 2 Ārya Jambū 3 Ārya Prabhava
4 Ārya Sayyaṃbhava 5 Ārya Yaśobhadra 6 Ārya Saṃbhūtavijay
7 Ārya Bhadrabāhu 8 Ārya Sthūlabhadra 9 Ārya Mahāgiri
10 Ārya Suhastī 11 Ārya Balissaha 12 Ārya Swāti
13 Ārya Śyāma 14 Ārya Sāṃdilya 15 Ārya Samudra
16 Ārya Gaṃgu 17 Ārya Dharma 18 Ārya Bhadragupta
19 Ārya Vajra 20 Ārya Rakṣita 21 Ārya Ānandila
22 Ārya Nāgahasti 23 Ārya Revatinakṣatra 24 Brahmdwīpaka Siṃha
25 Ārya Skaṃdila 26 Ārya Himavanta 27 Ārya Nāgārjuna
28 Ārya Govinda 29 Ārya Bhūtadinna 30 Ārya Lauhitya
31 Ārya Dūṣyagaṇi 32 Ārya Devārdhigaṇi

Names of epochal- ācārya, Contemporary of discourse lineage

1 Ārya Sudharmā Swāmī 2 Ārya Jambū Swāmī 3 Ārya Prabhava Swāmī
4 Ārya Sayyaṃbhava Swāmī 5 Ārya Yaśobhadra Swāmī 6 Ārya Saṃbhūtavijaya
7 Ārya Bhadrabāhu 8 Ārya Sthūlabhadra 9 Ārya Mahāgiri
10 Ārya Suhasthi 11 Ārya Guṇasundara 12 Ārya Syāmācārya (Kālakācārya I)
13 Ārya Skaṃdilācārya 14 Ārya Revatimitra 15 Ārya Dharma
16 Ārya Bhadragupta 17 Ārya Śrīgupta 18 Ārya Vajra Swāmī
19 Ārya Rakṣita 20 Ārya Durbalikapuṣya 21 Ārya Vajrasena
22 Ārya Nāgahasti 23 Ārya Revatimitra 24 Ārya Siṃha
25 Ārya Nāgārjuna 26 Ārya Bhūtadinna 27 Ārya Kālakācārya (IV)

Kalpasūtra –Sthavirāvalī (group ācārya tradition) (ĀRYA SUHASTĪ ĀCĀRYA TRADITION)

1 Ārya Sudharmā 2 Ārya Jambū 3 Ārya Prabhava
4 Ārya Sayyaṃbhava 5 Ārya Yaśobhadra 6 Saṃbhūtavijay a- Bhadrabāhu
7 Ārya Sthūlabhadra 8 Ārya Suhasthi 9 Ārya Susthith Supratibuddha
10 Ārya Indradinna 11 Ārya Dinna 12 Ārya Siṃhagiri
13 Ārya Vajra 14 Ārya Ratha 15 Ārya Puṣyagiri
16 Ārya Phalgumitra 17 Ārya Dhanagiri 18 Ārya Śivabhūti
19 Ārya Bhadra 20 Ārya Nakṣatra 21 Ārya Dakṣa
22 Ārya Nāga 23 Ārya Jehila 24 Ārya Viṣṇu
25 Ārya Kālaka 26 Ārya Saṃpalitabhadra 27 Ārya Vriddha
28 Ārya congregation palita 29 Ārya Hasti 30 Ārya Dharma
31 Ārya Siṃha 32 Ārya Dharma 33 Ārya Sāṃdilya

As the lineage of Mahāgiri is important, information about the lineage of Ārya Mahāgiri is discussed first and then the ācāryas of remaining traditions are narrated in the text, based on the information provided in the Sthavirāvalīof Nandi Sūtra.


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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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  1. Aśoka
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  3. Bhāṣya
  4. Body
  5. Buddhism
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  7. Consciousness
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  12. Fasting
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  14. Gaṇa
  15. Gaṇadhara
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  43. jinakalpa
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