Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Droņācārya (Temple Dweller Tradition)

Published: 16.08.2016

Among the Jinācāryas that lived between 16th and 17th centuries V.N. (accordingly the Vikram 11th and 12th and 11th century AD), the life of Ācāryaśrī Droṇa (epochal), who was like epochal-ācārya of Temple dweller tradition, is really very significant from the point of view of Jain history. Even though Ācāryaśrī Droṇa was a contemporary to Abhayadeva Sūri, the author of nine Vṛttis and probably older than the latter, yet he showed respect to Abhayadeva Sūri as one usually shows to elders. This brings his personal quality into light that he had good insight at determining the qualities of others and also a lover of virtues.

Up to Vikram 1080 the Temple dweller tradition congregation remained extremely vast and influential. It consisted of 84 gacchas and 84 ācāryas. Of all the 84 ācāryas of these 84 gacchas, Sūrācārya was considered as the person in charge. Each gaccha was governed and administered by the ācārya of that gaccha and from among these 84 ācāryas, one was appointed by the congregation as the chief ācārya. The remaining ācāryas obeyed him and involved in carrying out endeavours to promote the interests of their congregation. The ācārya of each gaccha was held responsible for the activities of their gaccha. They promoted and executed pursuits for the progress and development of the Jina order. The chief ācārya was in charge of the unity of gacchas, i.e. he had to ensure that all the gacchas prevailed as one. He had to frame specific rules to be followed by all gacchas alike, and see to it that ācāryas of all the gacchas strictly adhere to those rules. If he found any flaws in the line of action of a particular gaccha, he had the power either to rectify the fault or to modify it by giving instructions to this effect to the concerned ācārya. The two unique features of Temple dweller tradition were: Firstly, Temple dweller tradition and its gacchas had a branch in Kūrcapura which was located far away from Paṭṭaṇa and a sub-branch in Āśīdurga subdivision. In the same manner, there were branches and sub-branches in different parts of the country. Secondly, each branch of a division of a region and in each sub-branch of a sub-division, arrangements were made to impart education to people of local and neighbouring areas as well.

The chief ācārya of Temple dwellers tradition besides being conversant in scriptures also explained and interpreted them to his subordinate ācāryas and to those who obeyed him. This implies that the Temple dwellers had developed an inclination to know and learn the scriptures. Moreover it can be inferred that it was an arrangement for Temple dwellers tradition to create and make future leaders, righteous householders, social reformers, worthy employees, etc. by providing education to the children of followers of different monasteries located at different parts of the country. Thus they could also entice the Śramaṇas and Śramaṇis to study scriptures.

It is clear that in Vikram 12th century, Temple dwellers tradition was a popular and prominent tradition not only in Gurjara region but in different parts of the country as well. Despite the fact that there subsisted 84 gacchas and 84 ācāryas respectively in this tradition, they still flourished united and stayed together till Vikram 12th century. Droṇācārya was their principal ācārya. His command was not only obeyed by all ācāryas of each gaccha but also by all members of Temple dwellers tradition as they were under obligation to compulsorily abide by his orders.

In the light of the above facts, it can be surmised that Droṇācārya was a great and omnipotent ācārya of Temple dweller tradition between Vikram 11th and 12th century. The contextual mention in Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī provides some details of his life: He was the chief ācārya of Temple dwellers tradition and knower of scriptures. He used to teach, explain, comment and interpret to a host of his subordinate ācāryas. Abhayadeva Sūri went to Paṭṭaṇa with a decision to write nine Vṛttis and stayed in Karaḍihaṭṭī and started writing Vṛttis there. When he came to know that Droṇācārya was commenting scriptures to his subordinate ācāryas, he went to listen to the same. Droṇācārya with due respect made Abhayadeva Sūri sit near him. Abhayadeva Sūri observed that Droṇācārya used to comment in a very inaudible tone wherever he had a doubt about the meaning of the scriptures and proceed further. The next day Abhayadeva Sūri took Vṛttis of those topics with him on which Droṇācārya was going to explain on that day. Giving the same to Ācārya Droṇa he humbly requested, "Before commenting the Aṃga Sūtras, please read these papers. Explanations of those Sūtras are written in these papers. They will help you to explain the Sūtras". Theācāryas of Temple dwellers tradition present there saw and read those papers. They were all amazed. Droṇācārya also read them and marvelled at the way the in-depth meaning of scriptures has been explained in a simple and easily understandable language. He was highly impressed by Abhayadeva Sūri. The next day he welcomed Abhayadeva Sūri by getting up from his seat and requested him, "Whatever number of Vṛttis you write, I will amend all of them."

The above incident described in Kharatara gaccha Vṛhad Gurvāvalī is confirmed by Abhayadeva Sūri himself. He giving accolades to Droṇa Sūri in Sthānāṃga Vṛtti, Jṅātādharma Kathāṃga Vṛtti and Aupapātika Sūtra clearly mentioned that Ācārya Droṇa Sūri of Nirvṛtti kula had amended these Vṛttis written by him.

A narration related to Droṇācārya is found in Prabhāvaka Caritra:  King Bhīma was ruling Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. Droṇa was the holy teacher of the king. Droṇa was born in a Kṣatriya caste and was maternal uncle of king Bhīma. Droṇācārya took initiation at a very young age and was appointed to the post of ācārya. With this information it can be inferred that probably Ācārya Droṇa of Temple dwellers tradition and the one of Kṣatriya lineage described in Prabhāvaka carita were one and the same.

Author of Prabhāvaka Caritra mentioned Sūrācārya, a very influential ācārya as the successor and disciple of Droṇācārya. Exactly contrary to this, the author of Kharatara gaccha Gurvāvalī says that Sūrācārya was the predecessor ācārya to Droṇācārya. Seeing the names of Sūrācārya and Droṇācārya described in the above mentioned Paṭṭāvalī, the reader naturally thinks that Droṇācārya was the disciple of Sūrācārya whose life has already been described.

According to historical timescale Sūrācārya undoubtedly lived up to Vikram 1080. Abhayadeva Sūri and Droṇācārya were contemporaries and in perfect amity with each other. Abhayadeva Sūri wrote Sthānāṃga Vṛtti and Gnatadharma Kathang Vṛtti in Vikram 1120. Droṇācārya modified these two Vṛttis. This historical fact proves that Droṇācārya was holding the post of chief ācārya in Vikram 1120. It also ascertains that Sūrācārya held the rank of managing-ācārya of Temple dwellers tradition in 1080 and 40 years after him Droṇācārya held the post of managing-ācārya of Temple dwellers tradition. Thus it is obvious that Sūrācārya was predecessor ācārya and probably his preceptor too.

Droṇa Sūri by maintaining amicable relations with Abhayadeva Sūri, the ācārya of Suvihita tradition, re-established the name and status of Temple dweller tradition which was at low ebb. Thus he not only prevented it from obliteration but also revivified it. Temple Dweller tradition was immensely benefited by this farsightedness of Droṇācārya; the tradition which would have otherwise become extinct by the end of 11th century was kept alive and anew and somehow succeeded to survive up to the end of Vikram 17th Century. Eventually Temple dwellers tradition had come to an end in Vikram 17th century.  But because of the insightful intelligence and foresight of Droṇācārya it exists even today in a dormant form because of some of its rituals and religious activities, i.e. it brought modifications in some of its methods partially (owing to the influence of reformation movement) and some existed in their original form, both of which appear even today in some traditions which claim them as suvihita tradition.

On the other hand it had an adverse effect on Suvihita tradition; their very purpose was defeated - Suvihita tradition aimed to extirpate the degenerated rituals and sluggishness in code of conduct introduced in the pure fundamental path of spiritual purification by the laid-back -monks and to re-establish it to its original form. As a first step towards this direction, it set up its base in Paṭṭaṇa, which was the stronghold of Temple dweller tradition. They could not achieve their goal equal to their expectations until 20th century V.N. The farsighted policy of cooperation, mutual socialisation, assistance and proximity with each other adopted by Droṇācārya assuaged the religious revolution of Vasativāsīs for a long time, which was initiated to bring the fundamental form into light. The dream of Varddhamāna Sūri to annihilate all the distorted practices and to re-establish the true path of spiritual purification using the single weapon - 'the scriptures', could not be actualised due to the unparalleled astuteness of Droṇācārya.

The foresight of Droṇācārya made him immortal even in Suvihita tradition. As long as Navāṃgi (of nine limbs) Vṛttis remain in existence, the name of Droṇācārya along with Abhayadeva Sūri will be remembered by the devotees.

With his amiable reconciliatory gestures of mutual cooperation, and bestowing honour upon Abhayadeva Sūri, Droṇācārya won the farmer's heart and sought his permission to even modify the Vṛttis written by him. This naturally creates a supposition in the mind of each enlightened reader that while modifying the Vṛttis, Droṇācārya might have tried to include some of the beliefs of his tradition. It may not be a surprise that showing tremendous respect and winning the faith of Abhayadeva Sūri, Droṇācārya might have taken advantage of it in this manner.

Careful analysis of these facts reveals that Droṇācārya played a significant role in the history of Jainism.


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. Aupapātika
  2. Caritra
  3. Cooperation
  4. Gaccha
  5. Jainism
  6. Jina
  7. Kharatara Gaccha
  8. Kula
  9. Sūtra
  10. Vṛtti
  11. Ācārya
  12. ācāryas
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