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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): The First Act Of Reform Of The Path Of Spiritual Purification

Published: 13.08.2016

According to the disquisition of Vṛhad Gurvāvalī of Kharatara gaccha, Varddhamāna Sūri went to the court of Durlabhrāja, the king of port city of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa with his entourage of 17 disciples –Jineśvara, et al and defeated the 84 ācāryas, Sūrācārya and others of Temple dweller tradition in a religious discourse and quelled the stronghold which they had been enjoying for centuries. The difficulties faced by Vardhāmana Sūri and Jineśvara Sūri, in their herculean task were beautifully discussed in the 3rd volume of this series of 'Jain Legend'.

The Jain community got completely acculturated to the observance and practice the extravagant superficial religious rituals, as they have been witnessing the same as a routine from 11th century to 16th V.N., when Temple dweller tradition was in predominance. The frivolous and dubious methods adopted in the name of religion received sanction as a part of religious rituals. A great majority of followers of Jain religion had almost forgotten the original soul of spirituality. Pandit Jineśvaragaṇi requested his preceptor Varddhamāna Sūri to grant him permission to explain the true form and to show the true path of religion to the people and followers who were led astray by the pseudo path of Temple dweller tradition.

Conceding to this request, Vardhāmana Sūri along with his 17 monks including Jineśvaragaṇi proceeded towards Gujarat from Delhi. Following the itinerary, they reached the port city of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa via Pallī (probably Pālīmārawāḍa). The city was bereft of even a single lay devotee or a virtuous monk, from whom they could seek shelter. So they camped in a pavilion outside the city and engrossed themselves in important religious practices like self-study, meditation etc. Enduring heat, hunger and thirst they stayed there for some time. At that time Jineśvaragaṇi urged his preceptor, "Lord! There is no point in sitting like this as it does not help us in any way".

Vardhāmana Sūri asked, "Then what is it that we should do, O Gentle Muni?"

Jineśvara replied, "O Lord! Grant me permission to go to that monumental building, which is visible from here."

Taking the consent of his preceptor Jineśvara proceeded towards the building. It was the residence of the royal religious adviser (purohita) of King Durlabharāja of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa kingdom. During the course of conversation the royal religious adviser was highly impressed with erudite Jineśvaragaṇi. He questioned Jineśvaragaṇi, "Where have you come from? Where have you camped?" Jineśvaragaṇi said, "We have come from Delhi and have camped in an open pavilion outside the city. This place is full of our adversaries; there is none who practices our path. We are 18 ascetics in all".

Listening to this, the royal religious adviser gave them assent to stay in a portion of his building. Varddhamāna Sūri stayed in that portion along with his entourage of disciples. The attendants of the royal religious adviser informed them about the Brahmin houses, from where they would receive the requisite alms. The news soon spread in the entire city that some Vasativāsī monks had arrived into the port city. As soon as the Temple dwellers heard this news, they started conspiring to throw them out of the city. They spread a rumour through their sycophants that some spies of a rival king came to Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa disguised as monks to seize the kingdom of Durlabharāja.

The sycophants spread the message all over the city, including the royal palace and the court. The news also reached the ears of Durlabharāja who enquired from his soldiers about the spies. They replied, "Your Majesty! They are in the house of your religious adviser."

The king at once summoned the religious adviser and asked, "The news is everywhere that some spies of a rival king pretending as monks have arrived here. If they are indeed spies, then why did you provide them shelter in your house?" The religious adviser replied, "Lord! Who is spreading such scandalous rumours against them? If, anyone who whoever is accusing them establishes even a single shortcoming in them, I will give them a lakh pāruṣyas. Let the person come forward and prove his word." The entire court fell silent. There was none, who dared to accept his challenge. Then the religious adviser once again proclaimed, "O King! Those monks are reminiscent of the embodiment of religion in a physical form. They do not have even a single flaw in them."

The King felt relieved and was pleased listening to his religious adviser.

Sūrācārya and the other Temple dweller monks present in the royal court in consultation each other arrived at a decision that those Vasativāsīs should be vanquished by means of a religious discourse and should be sent out of the city. Nipping in the bud is the Moḍha s used by the wise to solve any problem. Thinking thus, they informed the royal religious adviser, "We want to debate with those ascetics residing in your house."

The royal religious adviser replied, "I will ask them and inform their decision to you."

The royal religious adviser went home, informed the matter to Varddhamāna Sūri and said, "O Great Soul! Your opponents want to hold discourse with you."

Śrī Varddhamāna Sūri replied, "It is quite acceptable to us. There is nothing to be afraid of. Just let them know that if they want to engage in a spiritual discourse, it should be done in the presence of King Durlabharāja. However, they can choose any venue they like."

The royal religious adviser conveyed the message to the Temple dweller ācāryas. They thought 'all personnel and the persons starting from the low status to the highest position are under our control; so there is nothing to fear about. As such, let the discourse be held in the presence of the king'. Thinking on these lines they publicly announced their decision, "The spiritual discourse will be held for a few days in the huge temple of Paṃcāśarīya Deva".

The royal religious adviser talked to the king in private, "O King! The Temple dweller monks of this city, who regularly and permanently stay in temples, are ready to participate in the spiritual discourse with the monks who have come from Delhi. It would be an honour if such discourses are held in the presence of a just king like you. So your gracious presence at the place of debate will be highly solicited."

King Durlabharāja accepted the proposal and said, "This is indeed a befitting thing to do. I shall definitely attend the debate."

Consequently in Vikram 1080, Sūrācārya and other 84 ācāryas sat on their seats beseeming their seniority in the Paṃcāśarīya temple. On the specific date and time fixed for the debate, King Durlabharāja also was seated on his throne there.

Addressing the royal religious adviser the King said, "Reverend Teacher! Please summon those ascetics!"

The royal religious adviser went home and addressed Varddhamāna Sūri, "O Great Soul! All the ācāryas with the entourage of their disciples came to the venue and occupied their seats. King Durlabharāja is awaiting your arrival in the Paṃcāśarīya temple. The King felicitated them by giving them betel."

Silently offering venerations to the epochal-ācāryas like Sudharmā Swāmī and the others, Varddhamāna Sūri went to the temple along with Paṇḍita Jineśvara Sūri and a small entourage of his disciples who were conversant in scriptures. After reaching there, he seated himself on the seat spread by Paṇḍita Jineśvara Sūri and Jineśvara Sūri seated near his feet. King Durlabharāja was just about to offer betel to Varddhamāna Sūri, when Varddhamāna Sūri said, "O King! A monk should never eat or accept betel, because eating betel by celibates, monks and widows is condemned severely and prohibited in religious ethics." No sooner did they listen to this, a deep veneration for the Vasativāsī monks aroused in the hearts of the discerned persons.

Preparing for the debate, Varddhamāna Sūri declared to the people assembled there, "During the debate whatever Paṇḍita Jineśvara says, please consider that it has my approval in to."

All the members replied in a single tone, "Okay. So be it."

Later, presenting their first proposition (pūrvapakṣa), the leader of Temple dwellers, Sūrācārya said, "The monk who stay in vasati, are usually unaware of and outside the six philosophies (Ṣaḍ Darśana). Kṣapaṇaka, Jaṭī Prabhṛti etc which are mentioned in Ṣaḍ Darśana". To substantiate his statement with evidence, Sūrācārya wanted to read the extracts from the book of new theory related to this topic. He took the book into his hand to read. Jineśvaragaṇi preventing him midway and addressing Durlabharāja said, "O King! Which rules and regulations do you follow in your kingdom? Those enunciated by the ancestors or those created by the new generation?"

The King immediately answered, "In our kingdom we follow only those theories and principles enunciated by the ancestors and we never consider other policies as authentic or worth following."

Then Jineśvara said, "O King! Even in our tradition, we too consider that religious path as authentic, which was paved by gaṇadharas and Śrutakevalīs, conversant with 14 prior canons. Except the preaching of gaṇadharas and knowers of 14 prior canons, we never regard either the preaching or the path of others as authentic or worth following."

Durlabharāja at once replied, "Your statement is undeniably logical and completely true".

When the king supported his opinion Jineśvara Sūri said, "O King! As we travelled a great distance, we could not bring along, the canonical scriptures written by the great gaṇadhars and knowers of 14 prior canons of previous times. So, O King! I request you to ask these Temple dwellers to bring those scriptures from their monasteries. Referring to them, we can decide which path is virtuous and which is not."

The king agreed to the reasonable wish of Jineśvara Sūri and addressing Sūrācārya and others said, "Whatever he says is quite logical. I will send my officers along. Please do not hesitate to entrust the scriptures to them."

The Temple dwellers knew for sure that if the scriptures are brought, they will verily substantiate the statements of Vasativāsīs. So they remained silent. The king ordered his officers "Go to their maṭhas and bring those bundles of scriptures immediately."

The officers obeying his orders went to the Maṭha and brought the bundles of scriptures. When the bundles were opened, the first text was 'Daśavaikālika Sūtra" compiled by Ācārya Sayyaṃbhava - the knower of fourteen prior canons. They read the following verse from the 8th chapter of Daśavaikālika Sūtra:

Annaṭṭhaṃ pagaḍaṃ leṇaṃ, bhaijja sayaṇāsaṇaṃ|
Uccārabhūmi saṃpannaṃ, itthīpasuvivajjiyaṃ ||52||

An ascetic should live in a house which was not built specifically for him, but was built for others, for the householder himself, and in which there is a designated place to urinate and defecate. The house should be devoid of women and animals, etc., and the ascetic should accept the bed, i.e. the seat, bed sheet (falaka), carpets, etc. which were kept for the use of householders."

Reciting the verse and explaining its meaning Paṇḍita Jineśvaragaṇi said to the members, "An ascetic should stay in such type of a house or residence built in the temple complexes and not in luxurious buildings."

The king said in a decisive tone, "Yes! It is definitely an appropriate and logical fact."

All the officers realised that their preceptor became defenceless. So to help their guru, all the royal officers including Śrīkaraṇa started saying, "The ācāryas of this place are the preceptors of each and every courtier present here. The king honours us deeply and as such he naturally honours our Gurus too."

They implied that they were the followers (upāsaka) of Temple dweller ācāryas whereas the vasativāsīs do not have any. Subsequently they hoped that the king being an unprejudiced judge would concede to their logic and would not allow the Vasativāsīs to dwell there. When the royal officers put forth their opinion, Jineśvara Sūri explained, "Each and every Temple dweller ācārya is associated with one or the other member present here, like the Guru for example is associated with Śrīkaraṇa, another with the minister and some ācārya with Paṭawa and so on. But who is associated with us who are strangers to this place?"

Durlabharājadeclared firmly, "You are associated with me."

Jineśvara continued, "O King! Since each ācārya is associated with someone, every ācārya is the guru of someone. But we have neither any sort of association or connection with anyone from among these people nor can we claim that we are gurus of a certain person."

Extremely convinced by Jineśvara Sūri's logic the king at once proclaimed the vasativāsīs as his gurus and then questioned, "Why should our Gurus sit on the floor? Don't we have thrones? Let the thrones studded with gems be brought for each one of my gurus."

Taking the cue from the king, when the royal attendants were just about to leave the place to fetch the thrones, then Jineśvara Sūri stated, "O King! It is inconceivable to envisage an ascetic to sit on the throne as is clear from the following in Jain doctrine:

Bhavati niyatamevāsaṃyamaḥ syādvibhūṣā
Nṛpatikakuda etallokahāsaścabhikṣoḥ
Sfuṭatara eha saṃgah ̣ sātaśīlatvamuccai
Riti na khalu mumukṣoḥ saṃgataṃ gavdikādi

i.e. the self-restraint of the ascetics gets tarnished by sitting on a throne. Moreover sitting on the throne is considered as a symbol of sumptuousness which is totally forbidden for the ascetics. O Jewel of the kings! An ascetic becomes a laughing stock if he chooses to sit on a throne, as the foremost quality of an ascetic is renunciation. Per se, a throne symbolises luxury and comfort. Besides, the moment an ascetic sits on the throne, typical laxities creep into him. Keeping all these shortcomings in mind, sitting on a throne is totally prohibited for an ascetic."

Durlabharāja then inquired Jineśvara, "What kind of places do you dwell in?"

Jineśvara replied, "O King! Where can we get a place to stay when our opponents are very powerful?"

Durlabharāja said to Jineśvaragaṇi while simultaneously beckoning his officers, "You may stay in the mansion in Karaḍīhaṭṭī. It belongs to a merchant who died childless." Arrangements were immediately made for Vasativāsī ascetics to stay in that house.

The king once again questioned Jineśvara Sūri "Where do you eat? And what type of food do you generally have?"

Jineśvara Sūri replied, "O King! Just like finding a place to stay is not easy; similarly procuring food is also difficult for us".

Durlabharāja: "How many ascetics are you?"

JineśvaraSūri: "O King! We are 18 ascetics."

Durlabharāja: "Will you be contented with Hastipiṇda (quantity of food equal to that which is sufficient to assuage the hunger of an elephant)?

Jineśvaragaṇi: "O King! It is clearly mentioned in the scriptures that it is prohibited for ascetics to accept food from the kings."

Durlabharāja: "In that case, one of my attendants will accompany you when you seek alms, so that procuring alms will be easy for you."

After subduing the Temple dweller ācāryas in the scriptural discourse, Varddhamāna Sūri together with his disciples, the king and citizens, entered the house allotted for them. Thus in Vikram 1080, Varddhamāna Sūri made the then King Durlabharāja annul the black ordinance 278 years after it had been decreed that was once issued by King Vanarāja Cāvadā of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa in Vikram 802. On the advice of holy teacher (Rājaguru) Śīlaguṇa Sūri, barring the entry of Jain ascetics belonging to other Jain congregations into the territory of Paṭṭaṇa, in this way, he re-established Vasativāsī tradition in Gujarat.

The Temple dwellers, who connived to defeat the Vasativāsī ascetics in a scriptural debate and to get rid of them, were themselves defeated miserably. Thus they faced a dismal failure in their attempt to flee the Vasativāsīs out of Paṭṭaṇa. Prior to this, the Temple dwellers spread a rumour against the Vasativāsīs denouncing them as the spies of a rival king. But that strategy also did not work out. The third attempt by the royal officer devotees of Temple dwellers, to defame the Vasativāsīs, instead favoured the latter: the Temple dwellers presumed that they logically argued their way that as the Vasativāsīs do not have any devotees or followers in entire Paṭṭaṇa, they do not have any right to stay in their city. This in turn, only encouraged the righteous King Durlabharāja to become the devotee of Vasativāsīs.

Though they met with failure in all their attempts, the Temple dwellers did not yield. They, in consultation with each member, follower, schemed out a plan to throw Vasativāsīs out of Paṭṭaṇa. The 84 Temple dweller ācāryas told their followers to appease the Queen Consort with precious gifts and convince her to get the Vasativāsīs evicted from the territories of Paṭṭaṇa, as the king never refutes her. As per the orders of their respective gurus, they went to the Queen taking with them a variety of precious gifts such as jewellery, clothes, cosmetics, fruits, flowers, large vessels, and boxes and baskets full of different kinds of sweetmeats. The queen was immensely delighted with the gifts. Prompted by her happiness, they started pouring out their hearts to her and expressed their desire to expel the Vasativāsīs from the territories of the kingdom. Exactly at the same time Durlabharāja sent his attendant to the queen to carry out a pressing errand. It so happened that the attendant was originally a native of Delhi. Looking at all the precious gifts placed in front of the queen he figured out that it was a plot to expel the Vasativāsīs who were also from his native place. At once he decided to help the Vasativāsīs. He conveyed the king's message to the queen and returned back. The attendant approached the king and said humbly, "O King! I conveyed your message to the queen. But O Majesty! I have seen a spectacular spectacle there. Just like how we place different kinds of offerings before the idol of Arhat (omniscient), similarly loads of expensive jewellery, clothes, novelties, fruits, dry fruits, sweetmeats, etc. have been offered in heaps to the queen. She appears as the personification of Goddess-Arhat with all those offerings placed in front of her."

The king immediately grasped the entire situation and contemplated, "These Temple dwellers did not abandon their efforts to expel the Vasativāsīs, even after I publicly accepted them as my gurus." He then ordered the attendant, "Go to the queen at once and convey this message to her - 'the king declares that if you accept even a betel nut from among those gifts, neither you will remain his, nor he yours.'"

The attendant in a trice went back to the queen and delivered the message. The queen was perturbed. She said to those officers in a commanding and wrathful tone, "Pick up your respective gifts and return to your homes. They are of no use to me."

The officers took their gifts and returned back to their homes. Thus even the last attempt of Temple dwellers also resulted in a stalemate.

They once again discussed the pros and cons among themselves and arrived at a decision, "If the king decides to honour the ascetics who came from other places, then we will leave our mansions and migrate to other places." So leaving the temples (Caityas) and the kingdom, they relocated to another place.

When the king was informed about this development, he asserted, "It does not matter if they do not like to stay here; let them go wherever they want." Later on, bachelors were appointed on wages to carry out the worship of deities. There was no hindrance in the performance of pūjā (worship) and it continued on a regular basis. The Temple dwellers could not stay at any other place, except the temples where they were accustomed to all types of comforts and luxuries. So gradually one by one they returned to their respective temples on some pretext or the other. Varddhamāna Sūri continued his wanderings without any obstructions.

After the victory of Varddhamāna Sūri, ācārya of Saṃvigna tradition (āmanāya) of Suvihita śramaṇa tradition and his disciple Jineśvara Sūri, the influence of Temple dweller tradition slowly and gradually started declining.

The steps taken by Varddhamāna Sūri in the first half of the 16th century V.N. to rejuvenate the true path of spiritual purification has historical significance. A fondness was created and augmented in the hearts of the people about the true path. These reform movements were carried out continuously giving birth from time to time, to the reformers in succession.

Reform movement was the progenitor of most of the gacchas that came into existence between 11th century and 15th century V.N.

A unique psychological trend appeared in these reformists. The ācāryas would perform many reformist activities resolutely, facing numerous difficulties. Strangely however with the passage of time, the disciples and the grand-disciples of same ācārya would fall back into the ditch of indolent code of conduct. In course of time the tradition of Varddhamāna Sūri faced the same fate and metamorphosed like yati (administrator monks) tradition.

The apparent question that arises persistently in the minds of every discerning and inquisitive person or reader is 'why the need for reforms arises time and again?' when great torch-bearers through their religious reforms, spiritual awakening etc show the rightful and virtuous path of spiritual pursuit that was prescribed by the Omniscient in the scriptures. The clear-cut answer to this question is while spiritual practice is a hard task; the practice of rituals prescribed by Temple dwellers was very easy. Practice of spiritual purification amasses eternal transcendental radiance in oneself. On the contrary, material based spiritual exertions (Dravyasādhanā) only bring instant honour, name, fame, etc. thus fulfilling the mundane desires. True path of spiritual purification is arduous, rugged and insipid whereas practice of material-based path is exciting, convivial, amusing and fascinating. Hence people surge into material based tradition and material-based practices.

How VarddhamānaSūri and his disciples like JineśvaraSūri, et al uphold the scriptures as the only authentic source has been described in a picturesque manner in the Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī. It says that the ascetics should never accept Rājapiṇda - the food offered by the kings, they should seek alms from pious householders and thus should avert 42 faults by consuming (eṣaṇiya) only pure and untainted food, they should stay in an unblemished Vasati, and they should lead a life without comforts or possessions. On the contrary, the code of conduct of their succeeding ācāryas lacked dedication and was full of laws.

Though they were termed as religious reformers, because of the influence of inauspicious planets they could not accomplish their mission completely and successfully till the advent of Lokāśāha in V.N. 2000 who emphasised practice of mental meditation and mental worship as opposed to material worship which is the root cause of aberration.

"Jineśvara Sūri defeated the Temple dwellers in a spiritual debate in the court of Durlabharāja, in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa and re-established Vasativās tradition in Gujarat" - discussions in 'Gaṇadhara Sārddhaśataka' written by Jinacandra Sūri, the chief disciple of Jineśvara Sūri provides a strong testimony confirming historicity and authenticity of this incident.

During his life time itself, Varddhamāna Sūri ordained his chief disciple Jineśvara Sūri and his younger brother Monk Buddhisāgara as ācāryas. According to Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī, Varddhamāna Sūri departed for heavenly abode in intense meditation (Samādhi), near Mount Abu in Vikram 1080 (V.N.1550).


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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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Arhat
  2. Brahmin
  3. Darśana
  4. Daśavaikālika
  5. Daśavaikālika Sūtra
  6. Delhi
  7. Deva
  8. Fear
  9. Gaccha
  10. Gujarat
  11. Guru
  12. Kharatara Gaccha
  13. Lakh
  14. Maṭha
  15. Maṭhas
  16. Meditation
  17. Mount Abu
  18. Muni
  19. Omniscient
  20. Pandit
  21. Paṇḍita
  22. Pūjā
  23. Soul
  24. Sūtra
  25. Upāsaka
  26. Yati
  27. samādhi
  28. Ācārya
  29. ācāryas
  30. śramaṇa
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