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                                        Great Ascetics

                                                                  -Yashwant Malaiya, Colorado

Aryaika Chandana  Acharya Bhadrabahu  Acharya Kundakunda  Mahaviracharya  Lonka Shah    Taran Swami        Rajendra Suri

                                             ARYIKA CHANDANA
                                                   The first nun

To see a group of Jain nuns pass by is awe-inspiring. Barefoot, clad simply in a pure white garment, white garment, with a gentle demeanor but firm in following a noble but arduous code of conduct, the order of nuns(sadhivs) has been a major source of inspiration for  Jain shravakas throughout the centuries. They are following in the footsteps of the first nun, Aryika Chandana.

Over 25 centuries ago, Lord Mahavira, having established the final Tirtha of this declining era, attained Moksha in 599 BC. The Kalpa Sutra mentions that at that time Mahavira’s Sangha consisted of 14,000 monks,36,000 nuns,159,000 shravakas and 318,000 shavikas. Able Aryika Chandana, who was also known as Chandanabala, led the congregation of  nuns.

Chandana was born into a royal family. Tragically, as the result of a war, she was taken into slavery and sold. She was purchased by Seth Dhanadatta for use as a domestic servant. When the seth’s wife saw Dhanadatta treat  his slave kindly, she became jealous of the beautiful Chandana. While Dhanadatta was away, she had Chandana’s head shaved and her legs chained to the door of her slave quarters where she cried in anguish for days. When hungry, she was given half-cooked lentils (urd) in a flimsy bamboo container used for winnowing grain called a supa. Chance awaited her in this miserable condition.

Lord Mahavira was a Jain monk, and Jain monks may often take a vow to accept food only when it is possible to observe a set of pre-determined special conditions. The practice originates with Mahavira himself. A few months before he attained Keval Jnan, continuously fast until offered food by only that individual who met 10 untold and seemingly impossible conditions. He would accept (1)only urad lentils,(2) offered in a winnowing basket, (3) given by a person standing sideways with one foot on the threshold of  a dwelling place and the other foot outside, (4) who was a princess turned in to a slave, (5) who had a shaven head, and (6) whose legs were bound by chains. She had to be (7) a chaste woman, (8) at the time performing the penances of attham (3 days’s fast), and would serve him (9) only after all other mendicants had rejected her food offering, (10) with tears in her eyes.

Many would have cherished  the honor of giving food to Mahavira. Five months and 28 days lapsed, and no donor fulfilled his secret conditions. But Chandana, a princes sold as a slave, shackled and humiliated by the jealous wife of a depraved merchant, fulfilled his secret conditions. But Chandana, a princess sold as a slave, shackled and humiliated by the jealous wife of a depraved merchant, fulfilled all the other conditions except weeping. As Mahavira passed by, he turned his face away at the last moment without accepting her humble alms. Already tormented and abused, Chandana began to cry.

And thus the final condition was met. To the amazement of onlookers including her captors, in his bare palms Mahavira accepted the food Chandana offered from her simple winnowing basket, breaking his six-month fast with a small handful of the rough slave fodder that Chandana had been living on for weeks. Chandana was released and she joined Lord Mahavira’s monastic order. She thus became the first nun of the Mahaviran Jain tradition and eventually the leader of thousands
of Aryikas.

The significance of  Chandana’s leadership may be judged by comparing the order of Jain nuns with the Buddhist nun. Buddha agreed to ordain nuns only after considerable hesitation and persistent pressure from his aunt.Within a few centuries of Buddhist nuns was completely done away with in the Theravada sect. Some scholars believe this lack of female leadership contributed significantly to Buddhism’s eventual extinction in India.

Thousands of jain nuns today walk all over India and now travel  the world, presenting the message of Lord Mahavira and following the path of Aryika Chandana.

                                  ARCHARYA BHADRABAHU -I
                                     Leader of the undivided Sangha

Today, most Jains adhere to either of two great traditions: Digambar or Shvetambar. But in antiquity there was only one Jain tradition, and a man named Bhadrabahu holds the distinction of having been the leader of the undivided Sangha.

Teacher - student lineages recorded separately by both the Shvetambar and Digambar traditions join each other when they are traced back to Bhadrabahu, the very last individual to have attained the state of Shrut Kevalin, an authority on the 14 original Purva texts handed down from Mahavira’s own times.

The teachings of omniscient Lord Mahavira were compiled 12 Anga text and 14 Purvas. The Purvas were regarded as part of the  twelfth Anga, entitled Drishtivada. These texts were passed down from teacher to student by a well-regulated system of oral tradition and mnemonics. Teacher recited them and students memorized them. All Jain principles are based on these texts. After Lord Jambu (fifth century BC) who, in all time since, would be the last human being to achieve omniscience, Jain monks and scholars were guided only by these texts. Those who knew all of these texts are called Shrut Kevalins, indicating that although they did not have full and total Keval Jnan through those texts.As already mentioned, Acharya Bhadrabahu was simply the last Shrut Kevalin. Since there have been other Jain acharyas with the name Bhadrabahu , he is sometimes referred to as Bhadrabahu I.

Bhadrabahu was born at Pundravardhan, now in Bangladesh. During his time, the secondary capital of the Mauryans was the city of Ujjain. While there Bhadrabahu was able to perceive through is nimitta jnan (subtle cognition of causes andeffects) that there would occur a 12-year famine across North India. He decided the famine would make it harder for monks to survive as it would naturally make them a burden on a society already in need. He thus migrated with a group of monks to South India bringing with him Chandragupta, the aging founder of the Mauryan Empire turned Jain monk.  While Bhadrabahu was away the remaining monks in the North realized that the sacred scriptures were being forgotten. A monk named Sthulabhadra convened a ouncil to recompile the Purva scriptures. However, because Sthulabhadra’s own knowledge of these texts was imperfect, he wanted Bhadrabahu to study the sections missing from his memory. Bhadrabahu  taught Sthulabhadra, but forbade him to teach the Purvaa to others upon witnessing a demonstration by Sthulabhadra of certain extra corporal powers, which indicated that with time these sacred scriptures would become corrupted. Thus, the 14 Purvas in their original form  died with these two men.

 Bhadrabahu remains an exemplar of dedication to first principles at any cost.After him, the Sangha split into two separate teacher-student lineages of monks.Digambar monks belong to the lineage of Acharya Vishakha and Shvetambar monks follow the tradition of Sthulabhadra. Bhadrabahu composed some new texts as well. In the Shvetambar tradition, Brihatkalpa, Vyavahara, and Nisitha are considered his works.

                                          ARCHARYA KUNDAKUNDA
                                  Great organizer of highly complex ideas

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, atop a hill known as Ponnur Malai, on a large stone under a certain champa tree pilgrims may come across an engravedpair of stylized footprints (charan). These footprints are symbolic of a thinker who, nearly tow millennia ago composed some of the most influential philosophical books in world history. Some scholars from generations since then remember the exact day of their first encounter with his spiritual masterpiece, the Samaya Sara.

 Among the most famous of all Jain acharyas, Kundakunda, the celebrated author of the four renowned books Samaya Sara (Treatise of the True Self), Pravachana Sara (Treatise of Lectures), Niyama Sara (Treatise on Pure Rules), Panchastikaya Sara (Treatise on Five Universal Components) and Ashta Pahuda (Eight Steps), which is a collection eight texts. All his works are written in a Jain dialect known as Shourseni Prakrit. The organization of Jain ideas into certain relationships and structures taken for granted in more recent centuries was ultimately a product of his genius. Such has been his fame since early items, that many other books actually written by his pupils and others are popularly ascribed to him. In the Digambar tradition he is named immediately after Lord Mahavira and the preceptor Indrabhuti Goutam in the Mangalacharana (auspicious
blessing) prayer, and Jains of the Digambar tradition dub their tradition Kundakund-anvaya  (the order  of Kundakunda). However, scholars of all sects study his books with deep veneration.

He  was born around the beginning of the first century AD in South India in a place becoming a Jain monk was Padmanandi, but he is better known by the place of his origin. Kundakunda mentions that he was an intellectual descendant of Bhadrabahu I, the last Shrut Kevalin. Kundakunda belonged to an ancient order called the Nandi Sangha, wherein most monks assumed names ending in ‘nandi’. The Punyashrava Katha Kosh mentions that in his previous life, Kundakunda was a cow-herder who had found and preserved ancient texts and was blessed by a wandering monk. Acharya Kundakunda’s intense learning and moral character attracted royal disciples such as King Shivakumar. The story of Kundakunda is also surrounded buy legend- it is even said he could walk in air.

Kundakunda’s influence extends far beyond Jainism. India has always been a land where philosophical debate is a standard feature of intellectual life. The concise and systematized aphorismic forms he brought to Jain literature  and the literary structures in which he explained Jainism’s most advanced scientific principles relating to such area as atomic structure, cosmic dimensions, the cosmic ethers, and psychology, rivaled anything produced up to that time anywhere in the world. Hindu and Buddhist thinkers were put to the task of finding ways to respond to his explications of Jain philosophy and conduct, and he thus set unprecedented levels of erudition and rationalism in India’s overall philosophical discourse which would last through modern times.

Out of enthusiastic respect, Acharya Kundakunda has been called “Light of this Dark Age”. Several commentaries on his Samaya Sara have been written in Sanskrit and modern languages. In more recent centrues, the Samaya Sara had greatly moved leaders and scholars like Banarasi Das, Taran Svami, Shrimad Rajachandra and
Kanaji Swami.

                                  Taran-swami and his Taran-panth

The 15-16th century was an age of transition in India.During this time several reform movements arose in Jainism. Lonkashah of Gujarat founded his Dhundhiaorder in Sam 1508 (1451 AD), The Terapanth (Atyadhmamovement) among the Digambaras arose in Sam. 1683 in Agra. The main founders of this movement were BanarasiDas of Agra and Amarchand of Sanganer. Taran-swami inBundelkhand [1] founded his Taranpanth sect of theDigambaras in Sam. 1563 (1506).

The Digambra Terapanth movement was againt thedomination of the Bhattarakas. They opposed worship ofvarious minor gods and goddesses. Some Terapanthipractices, like not using flowers in worship, graduallyspreadthroughout North India among the Digambaras. The Taran-panthis on the other hand, traditionally donot have idols
in their shrines at all.Taranswami was a remarkable philosopher and author. Hewas born in Pushpavati (now Bilahari near Katni). Hisfather was a government officail there. His mama(uncle) lived in Sironj, where a Bhattaraka institution was present. When he was 8 years old, whileaccompanying his father to Sironj, he came across Bhattarak Shruta-kirti[2]. The Bhattarak persuaded theboy to start attending the lectures where "Samayasar"was discussed. Later Taran-swami organized his group atmeditated and preached at Semalkheri, Sukha andRakh.His samadhi is at Nisaiji in Dist Guna.

He wrote 14 books. His language is very unique, being ablend of Prakrit, Sanskrit and Apabhransha. Note thatat this time Jains have not been using Prakit forseveral centuries. His language was perhaps influencedby his reading of the books of Acharya kundakunda.Copies of his books are very hard to obtain. I thinkKanjiswami has some
lectures based on Taranswami'sbooks.

The number of Taranpanthis is very small. Their shrinesare called Chaityalya (or some times Nisai/Nasia[3]).At the altar (vimana) they have a book instead of anidol. The Taranpanthis were originally from 6communities. These days they are gradually mergingwith other Jain in the area. In recent past, some ofthem have been followers of
Kanjiswami of Songarh.

One interesting note. Rajneesh/Osho was born in aTaranpanthi family.


[1] Bundelkhand region is Lalitpur (UP), Guna, Sagar,Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh districts and nearby region.The Taranpanthis are mainly found here.
[2] This Shrutakirti may be the same one who wroteDharma-Pariksha, arivansha-purana and Parameshthisarin Apabhramsha. His teacher's teacher was Devendrakirti who originated from Gujarat and hadplaced his students at the Bhattarak seats of Surat aswell as Chanderi in Bundelkhand region.
[3] The term Nasia for a temple may have been derived from the practice of saying "Jay jay jay,nisahi, nisahi, nisahi" when one enters a temple.

                                                Rajendra Suri

Abhidhana-Rajendra Kosh (Encyclopedia) was a outstanding achievement of the 19th century. It has become an inspiration and an example for Jain encyclopedia efforts in our time.

This text is widely consulted by Jain scholars. Ordinary Jains may not come across it, but it has significantly influenced study of Jainism.

The author, Rajendra Suri, belonged to the Tristutik (or Agamik) sect of the  Svetambaras, originated by Shilaguna and Devabhadra Suri in 1193 AD.  It is a small sect that is opposed to worship of minor gods etc.

He was born as Ratna Raj Parakh on VS 1833 (3rd December, 1827) in Bharatpur.  He became a trader with his brother and lived in Srilanka for a while. He became a yati under Hemavijayaji at Udaipur in 1846 (vs1925). He became a reformer against the traditional life of many yatis then (use of chanwar, palkhi etc )and gave up the "daftari" title.

He finished is Abhidhan-Rajendra Kosh, in vs1960. It was published in 9200 pages in 7 volumes. It took 13 years to write and 21 years to publish. He also wrote 13 other major texts. He passed away in Mohankhera (Rajagarha) in vs1963, on the same thithi  he was born (paush shukla 7th). This day is celebrated as Guru Saptami by the Tristutik sect.

Mohankheda has become a tirtha because of the presence of  Acharya Rajendra Suriji since vs 1940. He was also associated with Mandava, Svarnagiri, Talanapur tirthas.