Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2): Ārya Balissaha And Group-Ācārya & Discourse-Ācārya Of Mahāgiri Tradition

Published: 16.05.2016

(Estimated V.N.S. 245 to 329)

In 245 V.N. after Ārya Mahāgiri acceded to heaven, out of hindsight prominent Sthaviras, Ārya Balissaha was appointed as the group-ācārya. His Gaṇa was called as 'Uttara Balissaha'.

No personal information, like the birth, initiation, parents, etc., of Balissaha is available. He was a Brahmin of Kauśika lineage. Initiated into monastic life by Ārya Mahāgiri, he obtained the knowledge of the ten Pūrvas. Like his Guru, he too very strictly followed the holy path, because of which, after Ārya Mahāgiri, he was considered as the Chief group-ācārya of this tradition.

With a view to maintain the unity of the congregation, Ārya Suhastī created the ranks of discourse-ācārya and epochal-ācārya, apart from group-ācārya. Accordingly, to maintain coordination and affability between the two ranks, he appointed Balissaha, the great scholar of canons, as the discourse-ācārya of the entire congregation.

Ārya Balissaha imparting canonical knowledge to the monks of the congregation carried out commendable service to the Jain order. In the recital of Śramaṇa congregation, which was organised during his tenure, he recited and explained the meaning of the eleven Aṃgas and the ten Pūrvas and contributed his full share in compiling them in a systematic order.

During the period of recital, he also compiled a Jain canon text called Aṃga Vidyā from 'Vidyānuvāda Pūrva'. From Uttara Balissaha, his disciples branched out into four divisions known as Kosaṃbiyā, Sotittiyā, Kodaṃbāṇī and Candanāgiri.

Thus, Ārya Balissaha held the rank of group-ācārya of Mahāgiri tradition in addition to being the discourse-ācārya of the entire congregation for a long time. His tenure is estimated from 245 to 329 V.N.

11th Epochal-ācārya Guṇasundara (291 TO 335 V.N.)

According to the tradition of epochal-ācārya, Ārya Balissaha declared Ārya Guṇasundara (also known as Guṇākara, Meghagaṇī, and Ghanasundara) as epochal-ācārya.

Birth V.N. 235
Initiation V.N. 259
Became epochal-ācārya V.N. 291
Heavenly abode V.N. 335
Household life duration 24 years
Ordinary Monk tenure 32 years
Tenure as epochal-ācārya 44 years
Total longevity 100 years

11. Susthita - Supratibuddha group-ācārya (291 TO 339 V.N.)

Birth V.N. 243
Initiation V.N. 274
Became epochal-ācārya V.N. 291
Heavenly abode V.N. 339
Household life duration 31 years
Ordinary Monk tenure 17 years
Tenure as epochal-ācārya 48 years
Total longevity 96 years

After Ārya Suhastī, in his lineage, Ārya Susthita and Ārya Supratibuddha were appointed as group-ācāryas.

Ārya Susthita and Ārya Supratibuddha were brothers. They were born in Kākandi city in the ruling family and they belonged to Vyāghrāpatya Gotra. Both the ācāryas chanted Sūri Mantra 10 million times. Hence their gaccha became famous as Kauṭika-gaccha. Prior to this, right from Ārya Sudharmā to Ārya Suhastī, the Dharma congregation of Lord Mahāvīra was known as Nirgraṃtha or detached gaccha.

The King of Kaliṃga, Mahāmeghavāhana Khāravela assembled together the entire four-fold congregation for reciting the canons at Kumāragiri hills. The two brothers also participated in it. They had 5 disciples.

  1. Ārya Indradinna - group-ācārya
  2. Ārya Priyagraṃtha – Occulist
  3. Ārya Vidyādhara Gopāla
  4. Ārya Ṛṣidatta and
  5. Ārya Arhadatta.

Except his name, no other information is available about Ārya Supratibaddha.

Royal Dynasty during the period of Ārya Balissaha

After the departure of Ārya Mahāgiri to heaven, Ārya Balissaha became the group-ācārya of Mahāgiri's Gaṇa in V.N. 245. After that he became the discourse-ācārya of the congregation. However, information is not available as to how many years he held the rank of ācārya. Based on the information available in different texts, only a rough presumption can be derived.

According to Himavaṃta Sthavirāvalī, Ārya Balissaha attended the council of the four-fold congregation organised by Mahāmeghavāhan Bhikkurāya, the King of Kaliṃga, at Kumāragiri, so as to revive and reestablish the knowledge of the Pūrvas and the Ekādaśāṃgī. It is a historical fact that after killing Bṛhadratha, the last king of Magadha in V.N. 323, his Commander-in-Chief, and Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃng ascended the throne. Upon the request of the Jain populace of Magadha, to protect them against the atrocities of Puṣyamitrā, Bhikkurāya attacked Magadha and defeated Puṣyamitrā twice.

Later, in order to uphold the canonical scriptures, Bhikkurāya organised a large assembly of Śramaṇas, Śramaṇīs, Votaries and Female-votaries at Kumāragiri, to compose, compile and restore the Aṃga Śāstra and the knowledge of Pūrvas.

The aforesaid council by Bhikkurāya Khāravela is believed to have been organised after 323 V.N., between 325 and 329. It is so because, after the nirvāṇa of Mahāvīra, the Kingdom of Magadha was ruled by the Mauryan Dyansty for 108 years. Thus, Puṣyamitrā ascended the throne of Magadha in 323 V.N.

After giving an adequate lesson to Puṣyamitrā, the then formidable foe of Jains, Khāravela, sometime between V.N. 325 and 329, might have summoned the council of the four-fold congregation including Śramaṇa congregation at Kumāragiri hills to properly organised the lessons in the Dwādaśāṃgī.

In the light of above mentioned facts, it can be assumed that the following major dynasties reigned during the tenure of Ārya Balissaha as discourse-ācārya:

  • Bindusāra, the Mauryan emperor ruled over the kingdom from V.N. 233 to 258; out of the 25 years of his total reign, the last 13 years were from 245 to 258 V.N.
  • The reign of Mauryan emperor, Aśoka the great, from V.N. 258 to 283.
  • Mauryan emperor, Samprati's reign from V.N.Y 283 to 293, of which 2 years were with Pāṭalīputra as his capital and 9 years with Ujjaini as his capital.
  • According to Jain scriptures King Puṇyaratha and Vṛhadratha and according to Hindu scriptures Śāliśūka, Devaśarmā, Śatadhanuṣa and Vṛhadratha supposedly ruled the kingdom from V.N. 293 to 323. After the Mauryan emperor Samprati, they wielded power over Ujjaini too.
  • Bhikkurāya or Mahāmeghavāhana and Khāravela are estimated to have ruled Kaliṃga from V.N. 316 to 329.
  • Out of the 30 years of the reign of Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃnga from V.N.322 to 352, 7 years are from 322 to 329 V.N.  His capital was Pāṭaliputra and he reigned over Ujjaini also.

Thus, if the tenure of Ārya Balissaha as a discourse-ācārya is taken to be between V.N. 245 and 329, i.e., a total of 84 years, then it can also be said that during that time Bindusāra ruled for 13 years and the remaining 7 Maurya kings ruled for 71 years.

The King of Kaliṃga - Mahāmeghavāhana Khārvela (316 TO 329 V.N.)

In the history of Kaliṃga, the name of Emperor Bhikkurāya Khārvela as such occupies an incomparable place; besides his name is written in golden letters in the history of Jainism and will remain so for time immemorial. The kings who invade the other lands to expand their territories cannot be counted. But the one who takes the risk of war to protect his co-religionist subjects, from the atrocities of a powerful king, is a true king and such examples are seldom found in history.

King Khārvela not only enhanced the glory of Kaliṃga by his most valuable contributions for the progress of Jain religion and culture but also protected the Jain monks and followers from the brutality of the Magadha King Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga alias Brahaspati by invading and defeating & punishing him twice.

On the basis of inscriptions, some historians opine that the Kaliṃga King Khārvela belonged to the Chedi dynasty while others believe him to be of the Caitra dynasty.

In Himavaṃta Sthavirāvalī it is mentioned that Khāravela was of Ceṭaka dynasty and the story goes along these lines: Ceṭaka, the King of Vaiśāli was defeated by Kūṇika in a war; after the death of his father Ceṭaka, his son Śobhanarāya went to Sulocana, his father-in-law, the king of Kaliṃga. King Sulocana had no heir; hence he declared his son-in-law as his heir-apparent. Consequently, after the death of Sulochan, Śobhanarāya ascended the throne. Khāravela is of the tenth generation of Śobhanarāya, the son of King Ceṭaka.

The fourfold congregation, organized by Khāravela to reconstitute the canonical texts was attended by Ārya Balissaha and 200 other Śramaṇas equaling to Jinakalpi monks (whose conduct is modelled upon that of Mahāvīra), Ārya Susthita and 300 Sthavira Kalpi monks, female-monk Āryā Poyaṇī and 300 others, Bikṣurāja, Sīvaṃda, Cūrṇaka, Selaka and 500 Votaries, and Purṇamitrā (the queen of Khāravela) and 500 Femalevotaries. Yielding to the request of Khāravela, those monks inscribed the doctrines of Mahāvīra in a unanimously acclaimed form, on cortices of Birch and Palmyra leaves; thus he safeguarded the Dwādaśāṃgī, preached by Sudharmā.

In V.N. 323 Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga became the king of Magadha by killing Vṛhadratha, the last emperor of the Maurya dynasty. Usurping the kingdom he started tormenting the Buddhist and Jain monks. As soon as he became aware of these facts, King Khāravela attacked Puṣyamitrā in V.N. 324, i.e., during the 8th year of his reign for the first time; and in V.N. 328 during the 12th year of his reign for the second time. This proves that Khāravela ascended the throne of Kaliṃga in 316 V.N.

On the basis of the events that occurred, it is evident that Khāravela was born in V.N. 292, became Prince in 307, crowned as king in 316 and died in V.N.Y 329. Khāravela belonged to the Candra dynasty of Haihaya Kāatriya Ceṭaka.

Elephanta cave inscriptions of Khāravela were written 50 years after the death of Khāravela in 379 V.N. (B.C. 148).

Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga

During the reign of Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga, Ārya Balissaha was the ācārya of the Jain order. After killing Brihadratha, the last Maurya king in V.N. 323, Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga ascended the throne of Pāṭalīputra. He was also known as Vṛhaspatimitra. His reign is marked for the decline of Jainism and Buddhism and the rise of the Vedic rituals.

After seizing the throne of Pāṭalīputra in V.N. 323, he inflicted atrocities on the Buddhists and Jains. As soon as he came to know of this, King Khāravela attacked Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga for the first time in V.N. 324 and again in V.N. 328 and defeated him.

After the death of Ārya Balissaha and the Kaliṃga King Khāravela, epochal-ācārya Ārya Guṇasundara and group-ācārya Ārya Susthita Supratibudha, etc encountered many problems during the regime of Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga, as he was a strong opponent of Jainism.

Ārya Swāti, the 12th Discourse-ācārya (His estimated tenure – V.N. 329 – 335)

Ārya Swāti headed the congregation after the demise of Ācārya Balissaha. He was born in a Brahmin family of Hārita lineage. After listening to Ācārya Balissaha's preaching filled with renouncement, he became avert towards the world, and when still an adolescent took initiation into the Śramaṇa congregation. Serving his teacher with dedication, he gradually learnt Ekādaśāṃgī and the ten Pūrvas thoroughly, with concentration and perseverance.

The historians are of the opinion that Ārya Swāti is different from Umā Swāti, the Vācaka (one who recites and explains the canonical literature and referred as descriptive scholar). It is probable that due to the similarity in their names, the authors of Paṭṭāvalī might have been confused. Ārya Swāti died in V.N. 335. During his tenure as ācārya, Guṇasundara was the epochal-ācārya and Ārya Susthita-Supratibuddha was the group-ācārya.

Śyāmācārya, the 13th Discourse-ācārya and 12th Epochal-ācārya
(First Kālakācārya) (V.N. 335 TO 376)

Birth V.N. 280
Initiation V.N. 300
Became discourse-ācārya  / epochal-ācārya V.N. 335
Heavenly abode V.N. 376
Household life duration 20 years
Ordinary Monk tenure 35 years
Tenure as ācārya 41 years
Total longevity 96 years

According to the Nandi Sūtra Sthavirāvalī, after discourse-ācārya Swāti, his disciple Ārya Śyāmācārya was considered as 13th discourse-ācārya. In the Prabhāvaka Caritra and Kālakācārya Prabhaṃdha, Ārya Śyāmācārya is referred to as the 12th epochal-ācārya after Ācārya Guṇākara.

Śyāmācārya was an eminent scholar of his times in Dravyānuyoga (exposition of metaphysics). He was the first Kālakācārya and regarded as the interpreter of 'Nigoda' (The dormant state of human soul).

This very Śyāmācārya was also the author of Pannavaṇā Sūtra. Even today, this Sūtra is classified into 36 parts. From the point of view of the explanation of Jīva, Ajīva and other substance types given in this Sūtra, it can be regarded as the unparalleled storehouse of metaphysical knowledge. A study of this Sūtra is considered to be beneficial for the understanding of the intricate knowledge of Jain philosophy.

Ārya Śyāma was also known as Kālakācārya (first). Altogether, there were four different Kālakācāryas during different periods of time.

The political and religious scenario during Ārya Śyāma's leadership

During the tenure of Ārya Śyāma, who was the 13th discourse-ācārya and also the 12th epochal-ācārya, the reigning King Puṣyamitrā patronised Vedic religion. As a result, the Vedic rituals like Yajṅas and sacrifices, gained more popularity. Puṣyamitrā performed the Aśwamedha sacrifice, probably sometime during V.N. 330 and 340. According to Greek historians, the year of the Aṣwamedha sacrifice was performed around V.N. 347 (170 B.C).

With the performance of the Aśwamedha Sacrifice by Puṣyamitrā, a kind of wave spread throughout the Country about performance of sacrifices. Many small and big sacrifices have been performed in different parts of the Country.  Hence, many inscriptions are available which mention the several yagnas performed during the reign of the Śṛṃga Kings.

The Śṛṃga dynasty was founded in V.N. 323, when Ārya Balissaha was a discourse-ācārya. After the death of Puṣyamitrā Śṛṃga in V.N. 353, his son Agnimitra ascended the throne of Magadha. Not much information is available in Jain literature, about the other kings and their reigning period of this dynasty. The following information is available about the king of the Śṛṃnga dynasty and their reign in the epic literature:

1. Puṣyamitra 36 years
2. Agnimitra 08 years
3. Vasujyeṣṭha 07 years
4. Vasumitra 10 years
5. Bhada 02 years
6. Pulindaka 03 years
7. Ghoṣa 03 years
8. Vajramitra 01 year
9. Bhāgavata 32 years
10. Devabhūti 10 years

A careful observation of the regimes reveals the fact that other than Bhāgavata, the ninth ruler of this dynasty, the other rulers' reign was neither stable nor peaceful. The regime of the fifth to the eighth monarchs is more or less insignificant.

The rulers of this dynasty were not at all tolerant towards other religions and religious intolerance reached its zenith. The massacre of Buddhist monks by Puṣyamitrā is a proof of this.

Ārya Indradinna - Group-ācārya

In the lineage of Ārya Suhastī, after the departure to heaven of Ārya Susthita-Supratibuddha, in V.N. 339, Indradinna of Kauśika Gotra was appointed the group-ācārya of the congregation. Apart from this, no other information is available about him. During his tenure, his co-disciple Ārya Priyagraṃtha was described as an influential occult ācārya. After Ārya Indradinna, Ārya Dinna became group- ācārya. He was Gautama Gotra Brahmin.

14th Discourse-ācārya and 13th epochal-ācārya
Ārya Sandilya (Skandila) (V.N.S. 376 to 414)

Birth V.N. 306
Initiation V.N. 328
Became ācārya V.N. 376
Heavenly abode V.N. 414
Household life duration 22 years
Ordinary Monk tenure 48 years
Tenure as ācārya 38 years
Total longevity 108 years

Subsequent to Śyāmācārya, Ārya Śāṃdilya of Kauśika Gotra became the 14th discourse-ācārya. He is also known as Skaṃdilācārya. Ācārya Devardhigaṇī Kṣamāśramaṇa, in reverence, saluted Sāṃdillaṃ, saying "vaṃde kosiyagotaṃ sāṃdillaṃ ajjajīyadharaṃ". It is apparent from the word "ajjajīyadharaṃ', in the verse that Ācārya Śāṃdilya was a staunch believer and follower of 'Jīta- Vyavahāra", i.e., code of conduct based on conformity to the Jain tenets and also other four Vyavahāras i.e. Āgama, Sūtra, Ājṅā and Dharma. In Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī, he is described as the author of a holy text 'Jīta maryāydā'. It is believed that Ācārya Vṛddhacārī was his disciple. The sub-division 'Śāṃdilya Gaccha' originated from Ācārya Śāṃdilya, which in course of time merged with 'Candra Gaccha'.

From V.N. 376 to 414, Ācārya Śāṃdilya held the rank of both a discourse-ācārya and an epochal-ācārya simultaneously. Accordingly, he was the 14th ācārya in descriptive-scholar lineage and the 13th ācārya in the epochal lineage.

Ārya Dinna Group-ācārya

In the line of Ārya Suhastī, Ārya Dinna succeeded Ārya Indradinna to the rank of group-ācārya. He was a Brahmin of Gautama Gotra.

Ārya Samudra, the 15th Discourse-ācārya (414 To 454 V.N.)

In V.N.414, Ārya Samudra held the rank of a discourse-ācārya after Ārya Śāṃdilya. Ācārya Devavācaka has started that he had immaculate knowledge of cosmology and geography. Being a very good orator, his sermons used to be very impressive. He wandered in distant lands too.

Ārya Samudra was a good scholar in metaphysical knowledge and he was a specialist in geography. Even in adverse situations, he would maintain his equanimity without getting agitated or worried. A versatile monk like Ārya Maṃgu was his disciple. Serving the Jain order for forty years as ācārya, he finally attained heaven in 454V.N.

During the last years of his life, Ārya Samudra suffered from severe weakness in his thighs, because of which he was unable to walk. At the end of his tenure, the very impressive Ārya Kālakācārya (second), became the ācārya of the congregation.


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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ajīva
  2. Aśoka
  3. Brahmin
  4. Buddhism
  5. Candra
  6. Caritra
  7. Concentration
  8. Dharma
  9. Dravyānuyoga
  10. Equanimity
  11. Gaccha
  12. Gautama
  13. Gaṇa
  14. Gotra
  15. Guru
  16. Jain Philosophy
  17. Jainism
  18. Jīva
  19. Magadha
  20. Mahāvīra
  21. Mantra
  22. Nirvāṇa
  23. Soul
  24. Sūtra
  25. Vedic
  26. Vidyā
  27. Ācārya
  28. Āgama
  29. Āryā
  30. ācāryas
  31. Śāstra
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