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Jain View Of Life: 2.11 Acharya Bhadrabahu & Sthulibhadra

Published: 10.12.2011

Acharya Bhadrabahu & Sthulibhadra

About a hundred years after Lord Mahavira attained salvation there lived a Jain monk by the name of Bhadrabahu, of the same following. He became a monk at the age of forty five and by the age of sixty he became Acharya (Head of the Sect.) Acharya Bhadrabahu had learnt the knowledge of the Fourteen Purava's. That was he who knew the complete knowledge given in the scriptures and therefore also had the title of "Shrut Kevali".

During the time of Acharya Bhadrabahu, there was a long period of severe famine. The Acharya decided that would be in the interests of his other monks, they should travel south where the famine was not so severe. After a number of years Acharya Bhadrabahu made his way back north to Nepal where in the mountains he began a deep meditation (Mahapraan Dhyan Sadhana).

The famine continued and many monks began to die. The senior monks of the Sect became very concerned and worried because at the rate, monks were passing away there would be no one left with knowledge of the scriptures. They decided then to send an envoy to Acharya Bhadrabahu to request him to return and impart the knowledge of the scriptures, the "Fourteen Purava's" to the remaining monks.

Acharya Bhadrabahu refused to go back as he did not wish to disturb his on-going meditation. When the envoy bought this news, the senior monks held a meeting, therefore which they came to the conclusion that no one, irrespective of his position, was above the law of the Sect. Therefore it is an essential to obey the request made. They sent the envoy back to Acharya Bhadrabahu with a question. The envoy asked, "Acharya, if a monk breaks or disobeys the rules of the Sect, What punishment should he be given?" The Acharya replied, "Any such monk will not be eligible to remain within the Sect and would be outlawed". The envoy then said, "But Acharya, even you have disobeyed the Sect by not going back to teach the monks. Should you not be outlawed?" Acharya Bhadrabahu immediately realised his grave mistake. He asked the envoy to send the monks to him so that he could teach them the scriptures.

Five hundred monks made their way to Acharya Bhadrabahu. The monks however could not maintain the level of concentration required and slowly gave up. Only one monk by the name of Sthulibhadra remained to carry on his learning. Acharya Bhadrabahu had taught Sthulibhadra ten of the fourteen "Purava's" and had begun the eleventh when he decided to go south to Pataliputra. Sthulibhadra went with him.

It so happened that Sthulibhadra's seven sisters lived in Pataliputra. On hearing of the arrival of Acharya Bhadrabahu were eager to see their brother. They went to Acharya Bhadrabahu to pay their respects and then inquired about Sthulibhadra. The Acharya directed them to the room in which Sthulibhadra was residing. But to their surprise, they met with a huge lion instead of their brother. They ran back to the Acharya and told him that there was a lion in the room where Sthulibhadra was supposed to be. Was it possible that the lion had eaten Sthulibhadra up? Acharya Bhadrabahu immediately knew that Sthulibhadra had used his newly acquired knowledge and yogic powers to change his form into a lion, so as to impress his sisters. Acharya Bhadrabahu after having calmed them told them to go back to the same room and that they would see Sthulibhadra. The sisters went back and this time to their surprise and elation they found Sthulibhadra.

In the meanwhile, Acharya Bhadrabahu fell into deep thought. Sthulibhadra had attained immense knowledge through dedication and hard work. Even then he suc­cumbed to pride which brought about this action. Could he be trusted with the complete knowledge? No, Bhadrabahu thought, if Sthulibhadra was already so proud then he was not eligible to be given complete knowledge.

When Sthulibhadra came to Acharya Bhadrabahu, the Acharya said, "Now I cannot pass on any more knowledge of the "Purava's" to you as you have misused the knowledge that you have." Sthulibhadra realising his folly pleaded Acharya Bhadrabahu promising that he would never again misuse his acquired knowledge. Acharya Bhadrabahu finally agreed to impart the rest of the knowledge in the form of words only, but abstained from revealing the meaning and explanation of the remaining scriptures to Sthulibhadra.


Jain View Of Life

Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh Edition: 1st Edition 2000

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Bhadrabahu
  3. Concentration
  4. Dhyan
  5. Kevali
  6. Mahavira
  7. Meditation
  8. Pride
  9. Sadhana
  10. Shrut Kevali
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