Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2): ĀcāryaVŗddhavādī and Siddhasena

Published: 18.05.2016

Among the ācāryas who belonged to the first century of Vikram era, Ācārya Vṛddhavādī occupies a significant place. He was the teacher of Siddhasena, and an intellectual and a strong-willed monk. He was born in a village called Kauśala in Gaudadeśa. His parents named him Mukunda. Inspired after listening to the discourse of Ācārya Skaṃdila Sūri of Vidyādhara lineage, a feeling of total detachment and renunciation roused in the mind of Mukunda and he took initiation as a Śramaṇa monk. Though initiated at an elderly age, he had a passion for learning and would spend day and night in quenching his thirst of knowledge. As he learnt by reading the verses aloud, other disciples who felt disturbed objected to his waking up so early in the morning to recite the lessons. In spite of his co-disciples repeatedly objecting, he continued his practice incessantly as he could not control his ardour for knowledge.

One day a co-disciple asked him, "By reading the verse in a loud tone, do you want the pestle to bloom?"

The sarcasm pricked Mukunda's heart like a needle. He, with the grace of his Guru, who imparted him with a Sarasvatī Mantra, recited continuously for 21 days alongside following the vow of Acamla (eating dry and tasteless food once a day). His endeavour culminated successfully with the appearance of the Goddess of Knowledge, who pleased by his devotion granted him the boon, "May you be blessed with the knowledge of all disciplines!"

Thus gifted with divine power, the monk Mukunda who now turned into a great poet approached his teacher's feet and addressing the congregation, said in a high tone, "All those who poked fun at me saying whether at this old age, would I make the pestle blossom, may behold that I am indeed going to make the pestle bloom".

Uttering these words ascetic Mukunda stood on the ground and using his divine power sprinkled unblemished water on the pestle and made it blossom right in front of the monks. Thus he proved that nothing is unachievable by a person with a strong determination.

Because of his unparalleled brilliance and knowledge, no opponent could face the elderly monk Mukund in debates and discussions. Hence he became famous all over with the name Vṛddhavādī (Vṛddha =elder and vādi= debator).

Finding him fit in all respects, Ārya Skandila nominated him as ācārya. Once during his wanderings, Vṛddhavādī was going towards Bhṛgupura. At that time a scholar called Sidhasena, considering himself to be the most prudent and the most intelligent, scorned at other scholars as if they were a blade of grass. Travelling from place to place in order to debate in scriptural discourses, he came to the path that led to Bhṛgupura. There he listened to the tales of glory of Vṛddhavādī and followed him. Vṛddhavādī was on his wanderings at that time. Sidhasen followed him and met him on the way. The moment he met Vṛddhavādī Sidhasena declared, "I wish to debate with you on scriptures".

Ācārya Vṛddhavādī replied, "That is fine, nevertheless, there are no scholars here for mediation. Without spectators who will give the verdict of who won or who lost the debate?"

Unable to restrain his intense desire to debate, Sidhasena showed the cowherds nearby and said, "Let these cowherds be our audience".

Vṛddhavādī happily agreed to this proposition. The debate commenced with the adjudicating audience of cowherds. Sidhasen took the initiative and began the debate. Addressing the cowherds, he put forth his contention for a considerably long time in Sanskrita using beautiful words and phrases. Unfortunately the cowherds could not understand even a single word of Sidhasena. When Sidhasena after his line of argument, retired, the Avasarajṅa (one who can assess a situation and behave accordingly) Vṛddhavādī with resolve, stated his assertion in a musical pattern, the gist of which was – the one who does not ever harm any being, does not steal anything, does not seduce the spouse of another, and who according to his status and availability of resources gives alms to the needy, he slowly but surely will attain heavenly abode.

Listening to his explanation the cowherds were pleased and said, "O how melodiously and delightfully 'Bābājī Mahārāja' had shown the righteous path! But as far the revered Sidhasena is concerned we did not even understand what he said. He with his loud voice created throbbing pain in our ears."

Listening to the verdict of the cowherds, Sidhasena accepted his defeat and said, "Lord! Please initiate me and make me your disciple as the audience has declared you a winner.

Ācārya Vṛddhavādī said, "Sidhasena, let us go to Bhṛgupura and have a debate in the royal court. What significance does a debate held in front of laymen like cowherds have?"

But Sidhasena was firm on his stand and said, "Sir! You are Kālajṅa (one who knows the three dimensions of time). So please initiate me in your congregation". Seeing his firm resolve, Vṛddhavādī initiated him into the ascetic life and gave him the name Kumudacandra. Later when he held office of ācārya, he became famous with the name of Ācārya Sidhasena Diwākara. After nominating his most eligible disciple, Sidhasena to the rank of ācārya, Vṛddhavādī continued his wanderings elsewhere and Sidhasena moved towards Avantī.

The congregation in Avantī received him warmly amidst applauds and cheered him as 'Son of Omniscient' and other laudatory titles. Coincidentally, King Vikramāditya was coming from the opposite side, seated on an elephant. When he heard the people saying 'Son of Omniscient', in order to test him, offered salutations internally in his mind. Sidhasena lifted his hand and gestured to the king that he had accepted his salutation. The king asked in astonishment, "Are your blessings so insignificant that you are bestowing them on to a person who did not even pay his respects to you?" The ācārya replied, "O King! Though you did not physically salute me you did it in your heart".

The pleased King Vikramāditya dismounted from the elephant and bowed to him in front of all the people gathered there and presented him with ten million golden coins. Ācārya Sidhasena who was under strict vow of non-possession of any kind said to the king, "O King! Leave alone accepting, we Jain monks do not even touch gold and women".

As the king also felt that he cannot take the money back, once bequeathed to the monk, he spent the money for the welfare of the people.

There are famous anecdotes about Ācārya Sidhasena Diwākara's erudition and his miracles. One of them says that Sidhasena secured a magic leaf from Mānsthambha (pillar of pride) in Citrakūṭa that had two charms. With the first charm Hemasiddhividyā, one can procure as much gold as one desires, and with the second charm, sasarpavidyā, innumerable soldiers can be generated like mustard seeds. With these two mantras in hand, Sidhasena went to Devapāla the King of Kūrmārpura and with the help of his magic charms made him victorious in the battle against Vijayvarmā. Out of gratitude King Devapāla became a great devotee of Ācārya Sidhasena and as a royal tribute bestowed upon him the title 'Diwakāra", would visit him every day and offer him salutations. Impressed by the devotion and sincerity of the king, even Ācārya Sidhasena used to go to the king, sitting in a palanquin.

Human mentality is such that it gets carried away by emotions and Ācārya Sidhasena was no exception to this. Carried away by the devotion of the king and devotees of high rank, he became languid towards his ascetic life and conduct. He spent most of his time in eating, drinking, relaxing and sleeping. He could not even encourage his disciples to practice the doctrines. The author of Prabaṃdha Kośā describes the situation in these words, "If the teacher continues sleeping inconsiderate of the path he is treading on, the disciples would surely follow suit. They too mimicking their teacher were leading a carefree and comfortable life – eating, drinking and sleeping. Thus, competing with each other in sleeping, the ascetics pushed salvation behind".

When Vṛddhavādī came to know about the fame and also the deterioration of Sidhasena, he was pained and to literally and figuratively rouse him from his deep slumber, handed over the responsibility of the Gaccha to the worthy monks and alone headed towards Kurmārpura. There he joined as one of the palanquin-bearers and carried Sidhasen in the palanquin, along with others.

Seeing the faltering walk of the old palanquin-bearer, Sidhasena asked him, "Are you feeling sore in your shoulders being bogged down by the intense weight?" Vṛddhavādī replied, "This afflicted pain (of the shoulder) is not more than his inflicted pain (of disgrace)".

Hearing the familiar voice, Sidhasena was alarmed and started contemplating, "Who could this monk be alluding my fault? Is he by any chance my Guru Vṛddhavādī?" No sooner did such contemplation cross his mind, than Sidhasen got down from the palanquin, and recognising Vṛddhavādī, felt abashed and pleaded for forgiveness.

During the conversation to make sure that Sidhasena stays more deeprooted in his practice of spiritual purification, Vṛddhavādī uttered the following stanza and asked him the meaning:

Aṇafullipa fulla ma toḍai, māṃ rovā moḍahiṃ ||
Maṇakusumehiṃ achchi niraṃjaṇu, hiṃḍahi kāṃi vaṇeṇavaṇu ||
14 || (from Prabaṃdha Kośā)

Even after reflecting for a long time Sidhasena could not get the real meaning of it. Then Vṛddhavādī explained the meaning to him

"Aṇafullipa fulla ma toḍai" which means, Siddhasena! The tree of yoga had borne the flowers of name, fame and power. Do not pluck the flowers in their immature stage without allowing them to grow into the fruit of absolute knowledge.

"Māṃ rovā moḍahiṃ" – meaning, do not needlessly stamp and crush the saplings of great vows.

"Maṇakusumehiṃ achchi niraṃjaṇu" – which means, worship Jinendra Deva with the flowers of virtuousness that bud in the heart; or worship the transcendental Lord with the blossoms of the heart and soul.

"hiṃḍahi kāṃi vaṇeṇavaṇu"– which implies that just like a person who roams aimlessly from one forest to another, why are you engrossed in prodigal and improvident acts like entertaining the king and so on? What a wonderful education!

After listening to Vṛddhavādī, Siddhasena sanctified himself following the vow of Ālocanā (confessions and self-criticism) at the holy feet of the Guru. He firmly stabilised himself in the practice of self-restraint and taking the permission from the king, set off on his religious travels along with Vṛddhavādī.

In reference to the language used in Jain scriptures, the Brahmin scholars used to say that the Jain ācāryas were unaware of Sanskrita language else, they would not have written their scriptures in a simple language like Prākṛta. Besides, even their Mahāmantra is also chanted in Prākṛta, the language of the common folk. By virtue of his noble birth and having studied in Sanskrita all his childhood, Siddhasen felt hurt when he heard such comments. "Namo arhat siddhācāryopādhyāya sarvasādhubhyah ̣" – thus he recited the Nāmaskāra mantra in Sanskrita. Then he came back to the lodgings, to his Guru and recited the same before him, and expressed his desire to compile the scriptures of Jainism in Sanskrita.

The congregation reprimanded him saying, "Siddhasena, you acquired sin by uttering such words. Lord Tīrthaṃkara and Gaṇadharas were not unaware of Sanskrita. If we translate the scriptures into Sanskrita, it is equal to humiliating those great souls. You did a grave mistake by translating the primordial immortal Nāmaskar mantra into Sanskrita. In order to purify yourself of that sin, you have to undergo 'daśave pārāṃcika'–Punishment of contrition.

In front of the congregation and his Guru, Sidhasen accepted the vow of contrition of concealing his appearance of a monk by forgoing his mouth cover cloth and whiskbroom for twelve years and serve the Jain order. He immediately commenced his services to the congregation, secretly. Giving discourses about the Jain doctrines to many kings, in the eighth year of his vow of contrition, he reached Ujjaini. It is said that he, when in the guise of a monk (avadhuta), went into the temple of Mahākāleśwara, slept stretching his feet towards the Śiva Liṃga. In the morning when the priests of the temple noticed his legs towards the Śiva Liṃga, they asked him to move from there and even admonished him, but to no avail. Finally they complained the matter to the king who became furious and sent his soldiers to flog the monk and make sure he leaves the temple. The soldiers at first tried to convince him to leave the place; then they coerced him and finally they were forced to flog him. But to everyone's surprise, not even a single scourge fell on him. Seeing this, everyone was dumb-founded. They passed on the message to the king. The astounded king Vikramāditya at once went to the temple and said to the yogi, "O Great Soul! It is not befitting you to lie down stretching your feet towards the Śiva Liṃga. You should in fact bow to Lord Śiva, revered by one and all".

The yogi replied, "O King! This divine Śiva Liṃga of yours cannot endure the intense power of my salutations". After repeated entreaties by the King, Siddhasena started praying to the true form of the Lord by chanting some verses (Ślokas). As he recited only a few Ślokas, the idol of Pārśvanātha appeared emitting dazzling light.

Thus witnessing the many miracles of the will power of Siddhasena, King Vikramāditya became his devotee. In like manner, in seven years, Siddhasena converted 18 kings into Jain Dharma by enlightening them with his sermons. It is said that though there were still five years left in his contrition, the congregation pleased with his work as an exalter of Jainism granted him amnesty and pardoned the remaining period of punishment. It is believed that King Vikramāditya performed many righteous deeds under the influence of Siddhasena. Inspired by Ācārya Siddhasena, King Vikramāditya became the follower of Jainism and worked towards the benefit of the people.

Ācārya Siddhasena was a distinguished scholar, a great exalter of Jainism, eloquent orator, proficient administrator and an eminent litterateur. The evidence of his versatility is available in the form of his extensive literary works. He was the author of important books like Nyāyavatāra, Sanmati Tarka, 32 Dwātriṃśikāeṃ, Nayāvatāra, Kalayāṇa Mandira Stotra, and the commentary on the exposition of Gandhahastī on Ācārāṃga, etc.

From the accounts of Prabhāvaka Caritra, Prabhandha Kośā, etc., it is evident that he belonged to the 1st century of Vikram era. His father's name was Devaṛṣi and Mother was Devaśrī. They were Brahmins of Kātyāyana lineage. It is said that prior to his initiation, to flaunt his erudition, he used to wear an iron band around his waist, and hold a pick axe in one hand and ladder in the other while walking on the streets. An objective analysis of all the incidents reveals the fact that the authors sometimes weaved exaggerations of the truth for amusing the readers. The appearance of the idol may also be one such exaggeration.


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. Arhat
  2. Brahmin
  3. Brahmins
  4. Caritra
  5. Contemplation
  6. Deva
  7. Dharma
  8. Gaccha
  9. Guru
  10. Jain Dharma
  11. Jainism
  12. Jinendra
  13. Mantra
  14. Mouth cover
  15. Pride
  16. Pārśvanātha
  17. Sarasvatī
  18. Siddhasena
  19. Soul
  20. Tarka
  21. Tīrthaṃkara
  22. Yoga
  23. Ācārya
  24. Ālocanā
  25. ācāryas
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