Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Udyotana Sūri

Published: 12.08.2016

When the customs of material based traditions were on high tide, the dazzling glare of their pomposity blinded the people. As a result the fundamental pure Jain doctrine went into oblivion with only an insignificant number of monks and followers left. It was during this period that Varddhamāna Sūri was initiated by Udyotana Sūri into the tradition of scripture based Jain Doctrine and code of conduct of Śramaņas. Varddhamāna Sūri made the name of his guru immortal by bringing the original religious order close to the hearts of the people.

Udyotana Sūri gradually taught all the doctrines and scriptures to his newly initiated disciple, Varddhamāna Sūri. Postulating his scholarly disciple as master of scriptures and worthy of the rank, Udyotana Sūri appointed him as ācārya. "Progressive activities of my gaccha, et cetera, will definitely be accomplished by Varddhamāna Sūri - my intellectual and impressive disciple," contemplating thus, he granted permission to Varddhamāna Sūri to way fare in the northern region. Obeying his guru's command, Varddhamāna Sūri reached the northern region and started giving sermons and preaching in villages, towns, cities etc.

After sending his disciple Vardhāmana Sūri to northern region, Udyotana Sūri surrounded by 83 student-monk disciples, who have been sent by the sthaviras of 83 different Śramaņa groups, offered veneration to Vŗşabhadeva. Sthaviras of 83 different Śramaņa groups sent a monk each to Udyotana Sūri for higher studies. After sending Varddhamāna Sūri to wander in the northern region, Udyotana Sūri along with his congregation and 83 student-monk disciples went to Mālawā and paid veneration to the idol of Vŗşabhadeva installed on Śatrunjaya Mountain.

While returning from Śatrunjaya, on the way, Udyotana Sūri rested under the pīpala tree (Siddhavaţa) during night. In the middle of the night he noticed that in the sky, Jupiter (Bŗhaspati) was entering into Rohinī constellation. He spoke aloud, "It is such an auspicious time now that the person on whose head I place my hand will earn name and fame in the entire world".

Listening to this statement the 83 disciples present there pleaded him, "O Noble Lord! You are our teacher and we are your students in quest of knowledge; hence please place your hand on our heads."

Udyotana Sūrisaid, "Get me vāsacūrņa (sandalwood powder)".

So the 83 students collected some dry twigs, powdered them and handed it over to Udyotana Sūri, who consecrated it by chanting mantras and put the powder on the heads of the 83 student-monks one after the other.

In the morning, comprehending that he was left with only a few days, Udyotana Sūri observed the path of pious death (Samādhi) by undertaking fasting.

All the 83 student-disciples (of different traditions) became ācāryas of their respective Śramaņa groups. They wandered through different places and established 83 gacchas. By then Udyotana Sūri had already made his disciple Varddhamāna Sūri the ācārya of his own gaccha. All these 84 gacchas gained popularity and became famous. Thus the 84 gacchas came into existence.

From the articles of Gurvāvalī of Kharatara gaccha we can infer the fact that Udyotana Sūri was an eminent scholar-ācārya who preached and practiced pure code of conduct during the period when Temple dweller tradition was enjoying a predominant position and influence in the society.

From a number of records of Tapā gaccha Paţţāvalī, the historical literature of Tapā gaccha, it appears that Ācārya Vimala Sūri, the 35th ācārya of Jain order appointed his pontiff disciple Sarvadeva Sūri as the 36th ācārya, 35th Ācārya Udyotana Sūri, the guru of Ācārya Sarvadeva Sūri and the founder of Vŗhad gaccha is different from Ācārya Udyotana Sūri, the preceptor of Vardhāmana Sūri and founder of Kharatara gaccha.

They undoubtedly are two different ācāryas belonging to different times having identical names.

(Beginning of the decay of Temple dweller tradition)

The period starting from the first phase of 11th century V.N. up to 8th or 9th decade of 16th century V.N. in a broad sense is considered as the period when the glory of Temple dweller tradition reached its pinnacle. Its influence extended over the entire Gurjara region in the northern India and all the far-flung places surrounding it.

Not many monks of Suvihita tradition remained and those few who existed were scattered in different far-off places, receiving scant attention from the people. This pathetic situation of the original monks was perhaps the cause for Varddhāmana Sūri (the disciple of Ācārya Jinacandra, Temple dweller of Abhohara village) to quit the Temple dweller tradition. He felt motivated to search for a worthy, virtuous scholarly preceptor of Suvihita tradition to study the scriptures and to take initiation from him. In his quest for a worthy preceptor he received information about Udyotana Sūri, who was carrying out religious wanderings at that time, around Delhi. In fact, Jinacandra Sūri, the guru of Varddhamāna Sūri even tried to retain him in his tradition by luring him with ācārya post; but by then the inner eye of Varddhamāna ācārya had already opened. Hence he took initiation from forest dweller Ācārya Udyotana Sūri into Suvihita tradition, studied scriptures and started his religious campaign.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4)
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. Delhi
  2. Fasting
  3. Gaccha
  4. Guru
  5. Kharatara Gaccha
  6. Tapā Gaccha
  7. Vimala
  8. samādhi
  9. Ācārya
  10. ācāryas
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