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

Published: 15.08.2016

Jinacandra Sūri succeeded Jineśvara Sūri, the ācārya of Saṃvigna tradition. Jineśvara Sūri appointed him and Abhayadeva Sūri as ācāryas under the instructions of VarddhamānaSūri.

Śrī Jinacandra Sūri wrote a bulky text 'Saṃvega - Raṃgaśālā' which consists of 18 thousand verses. It should be read and honoured by each and every person desirous of knowing and advancing on the path of spiritualism. It acts as a beacon, guiding the devotees towards the right path. The name 'Saṃvega Raṃgaśala' indicates the fact that the tradition started after the first religious reform by Varddhamāna Sūri and continued to be called with the same name till his times.

Abhayadeva Sūri

Abhayadeva Sūri belonged to the 16th - 17th century V.N. and was an erudite scholar in the scriptures, a great commentator and propagator of Jain religion.

He was adorned with the title 'Navāṃgī Vṛttikāra' and well known in the Jain world by that name. Jain congregation is eternally indebted to him for the services he rendered to Jain order through his commentaries on nine Aṃgas(limbs) barring 'Ācārāṃga' and 'Sūtrakṛtāṃga'.

Śrī Abhayadeva Sūri was born to a wealthy couple Mahīdhara and Dhanadevī in Vikram 1072 in Dhārānagarī, a place of historical significance in Mālawā. He was the disciple of Jineśvara Sūri and granddisciple (praśiṣya) of Varddhamāna Sūri and a great reformer of his times.

The author of Prabhāvaka Caritra narrates about his initiation in the following manner:

Once Jineśvara Sūri in his wanderings came to Dhārānagarī and halted there. Listening to his preaching, young Abhaya Kumāra well realised the lacklustre, pale and transitory nature of mundane existence. He became totally detached towards life. He sought the permission of his parents to renounce the world. Deluded by attachment, they were shocked and aggrieved. They tried to explain and make him realise how difficult was the path he had chosen; but the young boy remained determined.

The parents were very well aware of their son's temperament. Once he took any decision, neither anyone nor anything could change his mind. So, ultimately they granted him permission with a heavy heart.

After being initiated into Śramaṇa dharma he was renamed Abhayadeva. Monk Abhayadeva started studying Sanskrit, Prākṛta languages, etc with great devotion and mastered them while ardently serving his guru. He astonished the scholarly world with his profound knowledge. Following the pure code of conduct he gained erudition from his preceptor JineśvaraSūri.

As he became a peerless scholar in all disciplines and held abstruse knowledge of scriptures, his fame reached far and wide. He was considered as one of the foremost scholars of his time.

In spite of his quick-wit, expertise in scriptural knowledge and profound scholarship, Abhayadeva Sūri remained honest, simple and humble. Fascinated by these qualities and the tales of fame of his grand-disciple, the religious reformer Varddhamāna Sūri commanded his obedient and proficient disciple Jineśvara Sūri to adorn Abhayadeva with the rank of ācārya. Obeying his guru's orders Jineśvara Sūri raised the young 16 year old Śrī Abhayadeva to the rank of ācārya in Vikram 1088.

Even after being endowed with 'Sūri' rank, Śrī Abayadeva Sūri accompanied his guru and carried out an extensive tour of different places delivering sermons and propagating Jain doctrine. He also engaged in many reform activities of Jina order.

According to the author of Prabhāvaka Caritra, sometime after being designated to the rank of Sūri, Ācārya Varddhamāna Sūri, in his wanderings reached Palyapadrapura. Realizing that he reached the end of his life and aspiring holy death, he observed fasting (unto death) there. He took the vow of Saṃthārā and departed for heaven. After the demise of Varddhamāna Sūri, Abhayadeva Sūri, following the orders of his guru, travelled different places preaching the pure fundamental Jain doctrine. While explaining the scriptures to his disciples, Abhayadeva Sūri realised that it was easy to explain the first two of the 11 Aṃgas (ekādaśāṃgī) namely Ācārāṃga and Sūtrakṛtāṃga in a simple and understandable manner as the commentaries on them written by Ācārya Śīlāṃka were available. But due to the loss of commentaries on the remaining nine Aṃgas by Ācārya Śīlāṃka, the student-monks experienced difficulty in understanding the meaning of scriptures and sūtras with multiple and cryptic meanings. He decided in his heart of heart that he should undertake this work to facilitate smooth learning for the students.

Later Abhayadeva Sūri went to Paṭṭaṇa and camped in a place called 'Karaḍihaṭṭī'. There he wrote commentaries (vṛttis) on nine Aṃgas i.e. Sthānāṃga etc. The service he extended to the four-fold Jain congregation through his works has and will be written in golden letters in Jain history for ages to come.

Yaśodevagaṇi, the disciple of Ācārya Ajitasiṃha of Nivṛtti lineage helped Abhayadeva Sūri in the arduous task of writing commentaries on nine Aṃgas. Abhayadeva Sūri mentioned this in his texts. Apart from this, in the citations of commentaries (vṛttis) on Sthānāṃga, Jṅātādharma Kathāṃga and Vipāka Sūtra he cited the name of Droṇācārya with great respect and praised him as the editor of vṛttis.

Abhayadeva Sūri wrote vṛttis of nine Aṃgas in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. This is mentioned by himself in some of his commendations of Vṛttis. As against this the author of Prabhāvaka Caritra mentions that Abhayadeva Sūri wrote his vṛttis in Palyapadrapura.

Ascetics of Temple dweller tradition bred hatred towards the tradition of Ācārya Varddhamāna Sūri ever since Jineśvara Sūri made the king annul the ordinance banning the entry of all non-Temple dweller tradition Jain ascetics into the territories of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. Impressed by his humility and in-depth knowledge in scriptures even Prādhanācārya of Temple dweller tradition showed immense respect to Abhayadeva Sūri. In this context it is appropriate to narrate the information available in Kharatara gaccha Vṛhad Gurvāvalī which is as follows:

"When Abhayadeva Sūri stayed in a Vasati called Karaḍihaṭṭī in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa, Droṇācārya, the chief ācārya of Temple dweller tradition used to deliver analytical comments on Aṃga Śāstras. All the ācāryas with their Kapalikas present in Paṭṭaṇa would go to listen to the commentary. Even Abhayadeva Sūri used to go there. Droṇācārya always made him sit on a seat near him. While commenting on the sūtras whenever Droṇācārya had any doubt regarding the meaning of any topic, he would explain it in such a low tone that nobody could hear him. Noticing this, the next day Abhayadeva Sūri reached the place with the Vṛttis written by him for the Sūtras that were to be explained on that day. Giving them to Droṇācārya he requested him to read those Vṛttis and contemplate on them before elucidating the Sūtras. Reading some parts of that Vṛtti, the Temple dweller ācārya was astounded and wondered, "Has this vṛtti been written by the gaṇadharas or by Abhayadeva Sūri himself?" This created immense respect in his heart towards Abhayadeva Sūri. On the next day, seeing the arrival of Abhayadeva Sūri, Droṇācārya got up from his seat and welcomed him. Seeing the honour extended to a ācārya of Suvihita tradition by a senior ācārya of their tradition, the agitated Temple dweller ācāryas left the venue and returned to their respective vasatis. After reaching their monasteries they conveyed the following message to Droṇācārya: "In what way is he greater than us? What is that special trait that demands our chief ācārya to show such type of respect towards him? What will happen to us if such honour and respect is shown to ācāryas of other traditions?" The moment the connoisseur and scholar Droṇācārya came to know about the enraged Temple dweller ācāryas' mutual consultation and message, he wrote a verse, made many copies of it and sent one copy each to all the ācāryas in various monasteries. The meaning of the verse is as follows: Verily there are such ācāryas in all holy places like monasteries, lodgings, etc. whose unblemished conduct sanctified the world and whose glory cannot be assessed even by an extraordinary person. Nevertheless please bring to my notice if there is any scholarly ācārya in this era that can stand in par with Abhayadeva Sūri even in a single attribute."

Reading this verse, all the Temple dweller ācāryas were extremely embarrassed and completely appeased. Droṇācārya, as usual continued his sermons of commenting on the aṃga śāstras on the basis of vṛttis written by Abhayadeva Sūri.

This was the miraculous outcome of the exceptional scholarship and humility of Ācārya Abhayadeva Sūri, which humbled the pride of the rival Temple dweller tradition. Even their chief ācārya honoured him wholeheartedly

Apart from these qualities Abhayadeva Sūri was endowed with another exceptional skill, that of judging the brilliance and selecting the virtuous. It is worth mentioning in this context, the example of Jina Vallabha Sūri.

Jineśvara Sūri Kūrcapurīya, a Temple dweller ācārya sent his intellectual disciple Jina Vallabha to Abhayadeva Sūri to study aṃga śāstras. At the very first glance itself, Abhayadeva Sūri could sense that this student will become an eminent scholar and a dynamic propagator of Jain doctrine. He imparted to Jina Vallabha the knowledge of all the doctrines alongside other different subjects, with lot of interest and fondness and made him an outstanding scholar. After learning the doctrines and different subjects Jina Vallabha went to his Temple dweller guru and conveyed in clear words, "I am leaving this tradition to become the disciple of Ācārya Abhayadeva of Suvihita tradition with an earnest desire to uplift myself and others".

Even after repeated entreaties of his guru, Jina Vallabha Sūri left the Temple dweller tradition and dedicated his life to the service and glorification of Suvihita tradition. It is apparent from all these writings that Abhayadeva Sūri was very soft natured and eminent scholar of his times with a charismatic personality who could win the hearts of every person.

He did great service to Jainism by writing Vṛttis on nine Aṃgas and other very valuable literary works. His name will be written in golden letters in Jain history and he will always be remembered with great veneration by the intellects that have a passion to acquire thorough knowledge of scriptures.

Abhayadeva Sūri wrote a number of books. The details are tabulated below:

S.N o. Name of the commentary No. of verses Year and place of Compilation
Associate Compiler Research Scholar
1 Commentary on Sthānāṃga 14250 Vikram 1120 Yaśodeva gaṇi, the disciple of Ācārya Ajitasiṃha of Saṃvigna wing Ācāryaśrī Droṇācāry a, head of Caityāvāsī tradition
2 Commentary on Samavāyāṃg a 6575 Vikram 1120 Aṇahillapur a Paṭṭaṇa city
3 Commentary Vyākhyā Prajṅapti 18616 Vikram 1128 Aṇahillapur a Paṭṭaṇa city
4 Commentary Jṅātā-dharmakathāṃga 3800 Vijayādaśa mī day Vikram 1120 Aṇahillapur a Paṭṭaṇa city Ācārya Droṇācāry a
5 Commentary Upāsakadaśāṃga 1812
6 Commentary Antakṛddaśāṃga 899
7 Commentary Anuttaropapātikadaśāṃga
8 Commentary Praśnavyākaraṇa 1630
9 Commentary Vipāka Sūtra 3125 Aṇahillapur a Paṭṭaṇa city Ācārya Droṇācāry a
10 Commentary Aupapātika Upāṃga 3125

Apart from the abovementioned 10 Vṛttis on 9 Aṃgas and 1 upāṃga, he also wrote Prajṅāpanā, Tṛtīya Pada Saṃgrahaṇī, Paṃcāśaka Vṛtti, Jayatihuyaṇa Stotra, Paṃcanirgraṃthī and Śaśṭha Karmagrantha Saptatikābhāṣya.

The nine Vṛttis written by Abhayadeva Sūri throw ample light on the perplexing meaning of the Aṃgas and clearly explain the meaning of Sūtras and words. They are neither elaborate nor brief.

Authors of Prabhāvaka Caritra and Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī projected different versions regarding the replication of these Vṛttis. According to Prabhāvaka Caritra by Prabhācandra Sūri on completion of writing the Vṛttis and after being amended by great Śrutadharas, the votaries started making the copies of those Vṛttis.

Later, 84 intelligent votaries in Paṭṭaṇa, Tāmralipti, Āśāpallī and Dhavallaka Nagara made a large number of copies of these Vṛttis and dedicated these to Abhayadeva Sūri.

Out of these Vṛttis of 9 Aṃgas, Abhayadeva Sūri wrote in the citations of 4 Vṛttis that he wrote the Vṛttis in Paṭṭaṇa. In Kharatara gaccha Vṛhad Gurvāvalī also it is mentioned that the author of Navāṃgī Vṛttis wrote his Vṛttis staying in Karaḍihaṭṭī complex in Paṭṭaṇa. As against this, Prabhācandra Sūri in his Prabhāvaka Caritra wrote that the author of Navāṃgī (nine limbs) Vṛttis wrote his works in Palyapadrapura.

Two verses of Vṛttis are presented below so as to draw the attention of scholars of Jain world towards unparalleled greatness of Abhayadeva Sūri.

Abhayadeva Sūri confronted many hardships while writing Vṛttis on 9 Aṃgas like Sthānāṃga etc. Placing them in front of contemporary Jina devotees and people of future generations, he pointed out seven such problems in Sthānāṃga Vṛtti. The first difficulty 'satsampradāyahīnatvāt' demands a deep contemplation. In the first line of the first verse of the citation he clearly and fearlessly without any bias towards any tradition presented the fact to the Jain world that – 'Today (during his times) our society faces a dearth of good tradition' - i.e. here he implies the finest lineage of gurus, a tradition void of excellent gurus who can explain the real inner and in-depth meaning of the words and Sūtras of scriptures. The decline of pure fundamental scripture based tradition started approximately 590 years prior to the authoring of Vṛttis and reached its lowest ebb by 1550 V.N., throwing it into an inexplicable dismal condition. Illustrating the true picture, Abhayadeva Sūri without any bigotry clearly accepted that - 'Somehow today there is a paucity of a good tradition'. This strongly proves that he was an ardent supporter of truth.

Yet one more strong evidence which reveals his quality more clearly than this is the historical verse given below of his 'Āgama Aṣṭottarī' which was described in detail in the third volume of this series.

Devaḍiḍhakhamāsamaṇa jā, paraṃparaṃ Bhāvao viyāṇemi|
Siḍhilāyāṛe ṭhaviyā, davvao paraṃparā bahuā||

'I know very clearly that till the times of Devardhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa (1000 V.N.), the pure scripture based spiritual tradition existed in its fundamental form like a pure flowing river. But after him, the monks who became lax in the code of conduct of Mahāvīra's congregation created many material offering based traditions." Thus Abhayadeva Sūri fearlessly and objectively expressed the fact. This confirms that he was a great and ardent worshipper of truth.

He dedicated his entire life to Jain order carrying out activities for the progress of Jina order. He was made ācārya in Vikram 1088 at a tender age of 16. With this it can be inferred what an exceptionally brilliant person he was. Holding the post of ācārya for 51 years, he wrote many texts on diverse topics apart from the huge Vṛtti literature. In Vikram 1139, when he was in Kapaḍagaṃja (Gurjara Pradesh), he realised one day that his end was near. So he undertook vow of fasting and left the body in deep meditation (Samādhi) at the age of 67 years. Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī did not specify the time. It only mentioned that Abhayadeva Sūri departed for fourth Devaloka (Realm of the gods and goddesses) in deep meditation.

In some Paṭṭāvalīs of Kharatara gaccha the time was given as Vikram 1135 whereas some others established the time as Vikram 1139 in Kapaḍagaṃja. The author of Prabhāvaka Carita did not mention the time; however he wrote that Abhayadeva Sūri departed for heaven in Paṭṭaṇa Nagara during the regime of Karṇarāja, the King of Paṭṭaṇa.

In the light of aforesaid facts the date Vikram 1135 seems more appropriate than Vikram 1139.

It is a historical fact that in the last phase of 11th century Varddhamāna Sūri with his religious reforms shook the very foundation of Temple dweller tradition that had been continuously enjoying a secure status for centuries together. Jineśvara Sūri defeated the leader of Temple dwellers in a spiritual debate that was arranged in the court of Durlabharāja, the King of Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa in Vikram 1079-80. It was a tremendous blow to Temple dwellers' tradition - the centre of degenerated pseudo doctrines and beliefs. The fundamental true path of liberation promulgated by Lord Mahāvīra that had drifted away due to lax monks was once again restored. After being made aware of the pure form of Jain doctrine which aims at universal welfare, the righteous men and women once again started following and progressing on the true path.

The unanticipated defeat and the resultant changed scenario gave a severe setback to Temple dwellers tradition leaving a black mark on its prestige. On the basis of the aforementioned facts it can be deduced that initially the Temple dweller monks might have nourished antagonistic feelings towards Vasativāsīs. However, the elderly scholars and farsighted ācāryas of Temple dweller tradition may have realised that the people were drawn towards Vasativāsī tradition due to their commendable authority over the scriptures. As a result the Temple dwellers, so as to retain their identity and existence, might have gradually modified their rituals, mode of worship, religious activities and code of ascetic life in such a way that the people who moved away from them were yet again attracted towards their tradition. It can be deduced that probably encouraged by their initial, though insignificant success, the Principal ācāryas possibly adopted a policy of cooperation and associated themselves with Vasativāsīśramaṇas.

It has been confirmed by the piece of evidence that Droṇa Sūri the most eminent ācārya of Temple dweller tradition himself and on his advice all the other ācāryas collectively maintained congenial as well as deferential relationship with Abhayadeva Sūri - the eminent scholar in scriptures and ācārya of Suvihita tradition.

Finally, the approbations written by Abhayadeva Sūri in his Sthānāṃga Vṛtti, Jṅātā Dharma Kathāṇga and Aupapatika Vṛtti strengthened the fact that Abhayadeva Sūri, with an intention to make the nine Vṛttis easily understandable for the devotees of both the sects - Vasativāsīs as well as Temple dwellers, got the amendments made by Droṇa Sūri, the prominent ācārya of Temple dweller sect. This noble deed also inspires one and all to extend mutual cooperation and to assess the qualities of others.

Approximately up to 20 years after Abhayadeva Sūri, the Temple dweller tradition prevailed as a dominant sect in entire Gurjara state. Ācārya Prabhācandra Sūri, founder of Pūrṇimā gaccha carried out a widespread religious reform in Vikram 1159. Till then the entire Jain Congregation remained under the control of Temple dweller tradition in Paṭṭaṇa.

It is plausible that taking into consideration the powerful stand of his opponent and keeping the interests of Suvihita tradition in mind, Abhayadeva Sūri compromised and maintained goodwill and amiable relationship with Temple dweller tradition. It can be considered as an appropriate move under the then existing conditions.


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. Abhaya
  2. Aupapātika
  3. Body
  4. Caritra
  5. Contemplation
  6. Cooperation
  7. Dharma
  8. Fasting
  9. Gaccha
  10. Guru
  11. Jainism
  12. Jina
  13. Kharatara Gaccha
  14. Mahāvīra
  15. Meditation
  16. Nivṛtti
  17. Pradesh
  18. Pride
  19. Sanskrit
  20. Sūtra
  21. Vṛtti
  22. samādhi
  23. Ācārya
  24. ācāryas
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