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Life of Vardhamana Mahavira

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  Sthaviravali of the NandiSutra
  The Pattavali (List of Pontiffs) of the (Shvetambara)
 

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The Jain Church After Mahavira


�Years later Kunala came to Ashoka's court dressed as a minstrel and when he greatly pleased the king by his music, the king wanted to reward him. At this the minstrel was Prince Kunala and he was demanding his inheritance. Ashoka sadly objected that being blind Kunala never could ascend the throne. Thereupon the latter said that he claimed the kingdom not for himself but for his son. "When", cried the king, "has a son been born to you?" "Just now Samprati) was the answer. Samprati accordingly was the name given to Kunala's son, and though a baby in arms, he was anointed Ashoka's successor, after whose demise he ascended the throne and became a powerful monarch. Samprati was a staunch Jain".

Hemachandra then describes the manner in which the ten Purvas were preserved by Sthulabhadra. The principal character in this famous incident was Bhadrabahu, and as Bhadrabahu died 170 years after the Nirvana of Mahavira, i.e. fifteen years after the accession of Chandragupta, it is clear that the incident described below happened during the reign of Chandragupta.


Sthulabhadra learns the Purvas from Bhadrabahu

"A dreadful dearth prevailing about this time forced the monks to emigrate as far as the seaside. During these unsettled times they neglected their regular studies, so that the sacred lore was on the point of falling into oblivion. The Sangha, therefore, reassembling at Pataliputra when the famine was over, collected the fragments of the canon which the monks happened to recollect, and in this way brought together eleven Angas. In order to recover the Drishtivada,the Sangha sent monks to Bhadrabahu in Nepal commanding him to join the Council. Bhadrabahu, however, declined to come, as he had undertaken the Mahaprana vow, which it would take 12 years to carry out; but after that period he would in a short time teach the whole of the Drishtivada. Upon receiving the answer, the Sangha again dispatched two monks to ask Bhadrabahu what penalty he who disobeyed the Sangha incurred. If he should answer excommunication, then they should reply that such was his punishment. Everything coming about as foreseen, Bhadrabahu requested some clever monks to whom he would daily deliver seven lessons at suitable time. Accordingly 500 monks with Sthulabhadra as their leader, were sent to Bhadrabahu. But all of them except Sthulabhadra, becoming tired by the slowness of their progress, soon fell off; Sthulabhadra alone stayed out the whole term of his master's vow. At the end of it he had learned the first ten Purvas.(IX, 55-76)

Sthulabhadra and Bhadrabahu, it appears, then went back to Pataliputra. Sthulabhadra had seven sisters. These sisters of Sthulabhadra paying their reverence to Bhadrabahu after his arrival in Pataliputra, asked him where their brother stayed, and were directed to some temple. On their approach Sthulabhadra transferred himself into a lion, in order to gratify his sisters with the sight of a miracle. Of course the frightened girls ran back to their guru to tell him that a lion had devoured their brother. Bhadrabahu however assured them that their brother was alive, and so they found him on their return to the temple".


"When his sisters had left Sthulabhadra, he went to Bhadrabahu for his daily lesson. But the latter refused to teach him any more, as he had become unworthy of it. Sthulabhadra then replied that he remembered no sin since his ordination, but being reminded by him of what he had done, he fell at his feet and implored his forgiveness. Bhadrabahu, however, would not take up his instruction. Even the whole Sangha could only with great difficulty overcome his reluctance. He at last consented to teach Sthulabhadra the rest of the Purvas on the condition only that they (viz. He should not hand down the last four Purvas) to anybody else. On Bhadrabahu's death, 170 years after Mahavira's Nirvana, Sthulabhadra became the head of the Church.)(IX,101- 113).


Mahagiri & Suhastin

"Sthulabhadra had two disciples, Mahagiri and Suhastin. As Yaksarya brought them up,5 the word arya was prefixed to their names. Sthulabhadra taught them the ten Purvas, for the last four Purvas he was forbidden to teach. After their teacher's decease they succeeded to his place."(X,36-40)

"After some time, Mahagiri made over his disciples to Suhastin and lived as a Jinakalpika, though the Jina Kalpa had by that time fallen into disuse."(XI,1-4)

Hemchandra had stated earlier that Jina Kalpa was abandoned after Jambu. Does Mahagiri's acceptance of Jina Kalpa signify the break up of the Jain Church into the two sects Digambara and Shvetambara? This does not appear to be the case, for Mahagiri's name does not figure in any list of sthaviras of the Digambras. Also, Hemacandra's statement that Mahagiri had handed over his disciples to Suhastin is perhaps not correct , for Nandi Sutra, a Svetambra text gives the succession list6 of Mahagiri's disciples, and this list is completely different from the list of successors of Suhastin given in the Kalpa Sutra.

In other words, when Mahagiri started living as a Jina Kalpa, he either had not made over his disciples to Suhastin, or if he had done so, then he might have had picked up a new group of disciples later. One thing is clear: Mahagiri's successors did not leave many impresses on the history of Jainism. Except for the Nandi Sutra list, their names have practically disappeared. As stated earlier the only one whose name occurs in the legends composed in the later times was Mangu.


Spread of Jainism

Buddhism had spread all over India and to some places outside India due to the missionary efforts of Ashoka. A similar role in the case of Jainism was played, according to Hemachandra, by Ashoka's grandson Samprati. Hemachandra continues.

"The king (Samprati) looking up to Suhastin as his greatest benefactor, was converted by him to the true faith, and hence forth strictly performed all duties enjoined to the laity. He further showed his zeal by causing Jina Temples to be erected over the whole of Jambudvipa". (XI, 55-65)

�The example and advice of Samprati induced his vassals to embrace and patronize his creed, so that not only in his own kingdom, but also in the adjacent countries, the monks could practice their religion.�

"In order to extend the sphere of their activity to uncivilized countries, Samprati sent there messengers disguised as Jain monks. They described to the people the kind of good and other requisites which monks accept as alms, enjoining them to give such things instead of the usual taxes to the revenue collectors who would visit them from time to time. Of course, these revenue collectors were to be Jain monks. Having thus prepared the way for them, he induced the Superior to send monks to these countries, for they would find it in no way impossible to live there. Accordingly, missionaries were sent to the Andras and Dramilas, who found everything as the king had told. Thus the uncivilized nations were brought under the influence of Jainism". (XI, 89- 102)

"Such was the religious Zeal of the king (Samprati) that he ordered the merchants to give the monks gratis all things they should ask for, and to draw on the royal treasury for the value of the goods. It may be imagined that the merchants did not hesitate to obey the king's order". (XI, 103-112).

All this necessarily had a corrupting effect on the Jain monks, and Mahagiri, the ascetic-minded patriarch protested. Hemachandra continues:

"Although the alms with which the monks were supplied are expressly forbidden by the rules of the Church, Suhastin, afraid to offend the zealous king, dared not make any opposition. Mahagiri, therefore, severely blamed Suhastin, and resolved definitely to separate from him. For as he said, there was an old prophecy that after Sthulabhadra, the conduct of the Jains would deteriorate. Accordingly after saluting the image of Jivantasvamin, he left Avanti and went to the Tirtha Gajendrapada. There, starving himself to death, he reached Svarga. Samprati dying at the end of his reign, during which he continued a patron of the Jains, became a God and at last he will reach Siddhi". (XI, 113-127)


The Temple of Mahakala in Ujjayini

There was a merchant's son called Avantisukvmala. Once he heard the preaching of Suhastin and was thus greatly attracted towards Jainism. He became a monk, but as he was of a delicate constitution, he could not stand the rigor and died while starving. His son built a magnificent temple at the spot where his father so manfully had faced death. This temple is still famous in the world as the temple of Mahakala.

(Hemachandra does not say so specifically, but the implication clearly is that this temple was originally a Jain temple, and was later converted into a Hindu temple by the Shaivites. In the thirteenth century (AD 1234) Iltutmish destroyed this temple. Ramchandra, Diwan of the Peshwa built the present temple of Mahakala on the same site, in 1745.)

"In the course of time Suhastin left this world starving himself to death, and entered heaven". (XI.176-178)

Hemachandra then leaves out the next four patriarchs from Suhastin onwards are as follows: 8 Suhastin. 9 Susthita- Supratibuddha. 10 Indra. 11 Dinna. 12 Sinhagiri. 13 Vajra.

Hemachandra does not mention Susthita, Indra and Dinna at all, and mentions Sinhagiri only as the guru of Vajra.

Vajra was the son of Dhanagiri, a disciple of Sinhagiri. Dhanagiri had left his house soon after his wife became pregnant. The child who was born to this abandoned woman was very troublesome and her relations gave him away to Sinhagiri when he had come to the area on a preaching mission. Since the child was very heavy in weight Sinhagiri named him Vajra. He was then educated in the sacred literature. Sinhagiri wanted Vajra to be master in the knowledge of the sacred books, so he sent Vajra to Bhadragupta in Ujjayini. Bhadragupta was master of ten Purvas.

"Soon afterwards Vajra arrived, and was most cordially received by Bhadragupta, who readily imparted to him the knowledge of the Purvas. The object of Vajra's mission being accomplished in a short time, he returned to Dashapura and joined his guru. The latter permitted him to teach the Purvas, which event the Gods celebrated by showering down a rain of flowers. Sinhagiri, after having made over to Vajra, his gana, put an end to his earthly career by self- starvation. Vajurasvamin, then traveling about in company with 500 monks preached the Law; wherever he went he was admired and praised by all."

How the knowledge of the later part of the 10th Purva was lost

There was a person called Aryarakshita. He went to great acharya to learn the Drishtivada. The acharya asked him to become a monk first. Aryarakshita was willing to do so at once, but he induced the monks to remove their residence; for he was afraid that the king and the people would importune him to leave the order. (This was the first case that Jains were guilty of seducing disciples of other sects.) Aryarakshita became a pious monk and he readily acquired all knowledge that the acharya possessed. But when he was told that Vajra in Puri knew more of the Drishtivada than his teacher, he went and joined Vajra.

Then Aryarakshita began his studies and in a short time had mastered nine Purvas. It was when he learned the yamakas of the 10th Purva that the course of his studies was interrupted. For about this time a letter arrived from his parents entreating him to return home. Vajra was at first reluctant to let him go without learning all the Purvas, but when more such letters came requesting Aryaraksita to go back home, "Vajra at last permitted him to go, because his intuition told him that he (Vajra) should soon die, and with him the knowledge of the complete 10th Purva." (XIII, 134)

"With Vajra died out the knowledge of the complete 10th Purva, and the fourth Samhanana came to its end." (XIII, 179)

"From Vajra are derived all the divisions of the Church which exist at the present time." (XIII, 201-203).

Thus Hemachandra ends the Sthaviravali, the history of the patriarchs of the Jain Church. In the 13th canto of his work he mentions one or two incidents from the life of Vajrasena who was the successor of Vajra, but these are not important in the history of the Church. (Aryarakshita whom Vajra had taught most of the Purvas never became a patriarch, but his pupil Gotthamahila was the person who started the seventh schism of the Jain Church in 584 AV.).

It appears from the account given by Hemachandra that generally it was one person who occupied the top place in the Church, and this person was the one who knew the Jain sacred literature in full. There was up to that time no written record of this literature and everything had to be committed to memory. People with such good memory are not easy to find at any time, and the Jains had to find such men among the limited number of people who would accept the strict rules of the Jain monk-hood. Only twice there were two heads of the Church living simultaneously. The second of this occasion was during the reign of king Samprati in Ujjayini. At that time Mahagiri and Suhanstin headed the Church simultaneously. Of the two, Mahagiri was conservative. He wanted the Jain monks to live strictly in the manner prescribed in the Law. Since he was unable to enforce this, he went away and starved himself to death.

The headquarters of the Jain Church was generally in the capital city of the most powerful ruler of that time. When Udayin, founded his new capital city at Pataliputra, the head quarters of the Church was moved there. It remained there throughout the period of the Nandas and the first three Mauryas. When the fourth Maurya king Samprati (one of Ashoka's grandsons) set up his capital to Ujjayini, the headquarters of the Jain Church also moved there.

As noted earlier Hemachandra does not describe the lives of the four patriarchs between Suhastin and Vajra. These four patriarchs are named in the Kalpa Sutra. A question may be raised as to whether even this Kalpa Sutra list is a complete one, for the possibility is that the number of patriarchs between Suhastin and Vjra was more than four. Jacobi arrives at this conjecture on the following basis;7

Hemachandra mentions that Bhadrabahu died 170 years (170 AV.) after the Nirvana of Mahavira. As Bhadrabahu was the sixth patriarch, this gives an average period of a little less than thirty years for each patriarch up to Bhadrabahu.

On the other hand if we accept the usual date given for the sixth schism to be 544 AV., then we find the difference between the lifetime of its author Rohagutta and the death of Bhadrabahu as 374 years. Now Rohagutta8 was a prashishya of Suhastin, the eighth patriarch, e.g., he belonged to the generation of the tenth patriarch. This gives only four patriarchs in an interval of 374 years that means 94 years for each patriarch. This according to Jacobi is an absurd figure. It may be question whether the date of the sixth schism, viz. 544 AV. is correctly recorded. Jacobi has also examined this point. The first seven schisms of the Jain Church have been described in the Avasyaka Nirykti, but it does not mention the eighth schism (the Shvetambara- Digambara split) which is said to have taken place in 609 AV.), or, say, 50 to 60 years after the 6th schism (544 AV.). So there is not much possibility that the date of this schism could have been forgotten by that time. "To sum up, if we base our inquiry on the well established date of the schisms,9 we arrive at the conclusion that the list of Theras (patriarchs) is imperfectly handed down; there must have been far more theras than are contained in the Theravalis."

"In other words the Theravalis do not furnish a connected list of patriarchs succeeding each other as teacher and disciple, but a patched up list of patriarchs whose memory survived in oral and literary tradition, while the rest of them had fallen in utter oblivion."10

It will be noticed that Hemachandra ends his Sthaviravali in an enigmatic manner. "From Vajra are derived all the divisions of the Church which exist at the present time." What these divisions were, are not stated. It may be conjectured that Vajra had supported chaityavasa (dwelling by monks in temples a practice that led later to corruption among the Svetambaras. An inscription of about the 1st century AD on the Son Bhandara (Rajgir, Bihar) shows that Acharya Vaira (Vajra) excavated two caves that were suitable for dwellings of monks and in which Jain images were installed for worship.



REFERENCES

1. H. Jacobi in his Introduction to Hemachandra's Parishishtaparyam, p. xiv.

2. The figures in the brackets refer to the canto and shloka numbers in the Asiatic Society edition of Hemchandra's sthaviravali. The portions within inverted commas are Jacobi's summaries of these shlokas.

3. The Buddhist version of how Kunala was blinded is different. It is said that Tishyaraksha, the chief queen of Ashoka, fell in love with Kunala who tried to desist his stepmother. In her fury she caused him to be blind; or Kurala tore out his own eyes to prove his innocence. Cambridge History of India, Vol. I. P. 451)

4. Ashoka's successor, according to some Buddhist sources, was Konala whose successor, according to some Buddhist sources, was Kunala whose successor was his son Samprati. Cambridge History of India, Vol. I, p. 461

5. "Evidently Sthulabhadra's eldest sister is meant."(Note by Jacobi)

6. Appendix V.

7. Introduction to the Sthaviravali, p. xvii

8. "Rohagutta was a disciple of Suhasti." (Jacobi's note). This does not appear to be correct. According to the Kalpa Sutra Rohagutta was a disciple of Mahagiri, colleague of Suhastin. This makes the matter more confusing.

9. Jacobi himself questions the dates of the various schisms given in the Avashyak Nirukti. The 4th schism was started by Assamita, who was a disciple of Kodinna, a disciple of Mahagiri, in 220 AV. and the 5th schism was started by Ganga who was the disciple of Dhanagutta, disciple of Mahagiri in 228 AV. Thus the difference between the periods of the two heresies both started by prashishyas of Mahagiri is eight years. But the 6th schism that was since we know that Mahagiri and Suhastin were contemporaries, the difference between the ages of their prashisyas could not be as much as 300 years.

10. Ibid., p. xix.