Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (3) ► Temple Dwellers Tradition; Its Origin, Maturing And Becoming All Pervading

Posted: 10.06.2016

The religious tradition of Lord Mahāvīra, continued to exist for centuries after his liberation in its original form and glory and the monks who were practicing the doctrine and conduct according to the scriptures, existed.

As the time passed, the ill effects of the avasarpiṇī araka made the gradual decline / decay of human virtues like physical tolerance (like body, energy, courage, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, simplicity or straightforwardness, intellect, absence of ego etc) resulting in the gradual decline of sacred Śramaṇa tradition and replaced them by pervert changes in the same.

In the beginning of V.N. 7th century, due to the impact of avasarpiṇī araka, huṇḍāvasarpiṇī time, and the unrestrained worship tradition started showing their material effects. These three inauspicious events along with the beginning of 2000 years duration of inauspicious planets (Bhasmagraha) at the liberation of Lord Mahāvīra also started wielding stronger ill effects.

Due to the combined effects of these four inauspicious events and the sharp fall in social and material standards and scarcity of essential commodities caused the Jain monks to take shelter in introducing laxity in their code of conduct. Such laxity resulted in severe downfall in the respect of monks amongst their followers. To overcome this downfall in their respect and to fan their own false ego, the Jain monks had to continuously invent and introduce new ways. Due to the other religions and their frivolous and dubious rituals, Jain monks started finding new and attractive rituals themselves to retain them and their followers in Jain fold lest they drift away due to growing feeling of harsh and unpractical code of conduct detailed in the scriptures. Thus the temple dweller monks, under the garb of devotion, found new easy and attractive religious rituals to achieve their objectives. Thus they started multiplying their follower base by misleading them through the shallow promises of material gains and miracles produced by them. They said, "It is absolutely essential to introduce practical relaxations in their code of conduct due to the onslaught of the era of machines (kaliyuga). It is not compulsory to observe scripture based rules concerning severe austerities, enduring afflictions, to give up material possessions, seeking food and aimless wandering to attain liberation. Besides these, auspicious activities involving building temples consecrating them and the idols therein, organizing massive worships using material offerings, pilgrimage, distribution of gifts (prabhāvanā) after these rituals amongst followers, which are simple activities and of interest to common persons can also lead one to attain liberation gradually. Such sermons and preaching by these monks attracted common people to this new creed of monks.

In this way, the pervert monks who introduced laxity in their code of conduct became successful to a large extent in retaining and expanding their follower base. They started preaching such fictitious attractive rituals which were not even mentioned (what to talk of their practice / observance) in the scriptures. In the beginning, idols and the inscriptions of Tīrthaṃkaras were built (like stūpas) at places where the last rites (at the time of their liberation) of Tīrthaṃkaras were performed. Later they indulged and introduced in large scale construction of grand temples and their consecration, organizing massive and enjoyable pilgrimage to such newly created places. Then distribution of gifts (prabhāvnā) on such occasions as practised in other religions traditions was introduced. These activities resulted in enhancing their prestige and following.

Encouraged by tremendous success in achieving their objectives, these clothed śramaṇas decided to form a separate congregation of their own which was very different from the ones mentioned in the scriptures.

Temple dwellers congregation was thus formed in V.N. 850. Monks (male and female) were identified as belonging to this congregation. These monks gave up the difficult practice of wandering and started living permanently in temples. Further they started accepting material gifts from their followers to build large temples and large kitchens in these temples to offer food to the idols installed in these temples. Then they started eating the flawed food from these kitchens which was totally against the scriptures. In this way from V.N. 850 onwards this tradition of temple dwelling monks and their lax conduct started and they preached and practiced openly.

However, till V.N. 1000 due to the existence of some prior canons knowing preceptors, this new tradition of temple dwellers remained in the background. But after the death of the last prior canons knowing Devardhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa; influence of this new tradition of temple dwellers gained momentum and grew at a very fast rate. The rich followers of temple dwelling monks continuously donated liberally to this new congregation of temple dwellers thereby making them prosperous, influential, self-sustaining and popular. This increasing prosperity and popularity of temple dwelling congregation resulted in introducing a list of ten relaxed rules in the code of conduct of monks which were totally contrary to scriptures and made the life style of temple dwelling monks more comfortable, austerity free, secure and luxurious in all respects than of the householders themselves.

By preaching, propagating and making use of these ten relaxations in the code of conduct as compulsory and the newly introduced rituals, the temple dwelling sect made fundamental changes in the original Jain religion.

By totally giving up the fundamental doctrine of religion like spirituality, nonviolence, non-possession, veneration of qualities and psychic meditation / spiritual contemplation on detached and formless pure all-knowing liberated soul with eternal existence and bliss; and replacing them with materialism, rituals involving violence, possessions, material offerings, worshipping the idols as the highest religion; this temple dwelling congregation badly bruised and tainted the right code of conduct of śramaṇas as depicted in the scriptures. The ten relaxed rules introduced by temple dwelling congregation did not give credence even to one quality of the monks as given in the scriptures. On the contrary, almost all the major flaws of the code of right conduct given in the scriptures were given primary place in the code of conduct of the monks of their tradition.

The temple dwelling congregation, no doubt kept their congregation known as Jain congregation but in reality they were at best pseudo Jains. This laxity in the conduct originated in the land of lax conduct and was founded on the same lax rules of code of conduct and grew into a large mansion of temple dwelling congregation.

To enhance the impression on the minds of people concerning their ten relaxations and other rituals / doctrines promoted by them, they started compiling new holy texts based on the Upaniṣadas. The ignorant people were made to understand that these texts are derivatives of the lost 12th limb Dṛaṣṭivāda and prior canons therein. In those texts, they tried to infer the rules and code prescribed by them are in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. In those texts, new basis of religion, temple construction, idol construction and their consecration, importance of pilgrimage, worship rituals were presented in great details. With each religious activity, offering materials and physical activities were associated to solemnise them completely. From the time of emergence of temple dwelling monks, its growth and achieving supremacy, the temple dwelling monks kept on introducing such changes in the sermons of Omniscient Lord.

With the financial support of their wealthy and influential followers and other means and the objective of destroying even the existence of the very basic foundation of Jain doctrine and code of conduct, these temple dwelling monks and congregation kept on innovating new methods to gain state patronage and increase their influence all over the country. Of all these innovations, the most dangerous innovation made by them was by accepting the post of the Holy-teacher (Rājaguru) of the king and using the same to issue ordinance to ban entry into their territories of monks of other Jain traditions. An example of such black ordinances exists even today by getting an ordinance, issued by King Vanarāja of Aṇahilapura Pāṭaṇa (V.N.1272) under the advice of his Rājaguru Śīlaguṇa Sūri, banning entry of Jain monks belonging to other Jain congregations in the territory of Pāṭaṇa. This ordinance was strictly followed in the territory of Aṇahilapura Pāṭaṇa from V.N. 1272 till V.N. 1545.

In all the states where the anarchical influence of temple dwelling congregation existed for two to three centuries, even the entry of Jain monks or the followers belonging to ancient and sacred Jain congregation was prohibited. In this way, the tradition of temple dwelling congregation prospered and grew in different parts of the country by acquiring state patronage. This tradition and influence of temple dwelling congregation was thus anarchical and strong from V.N. 11th to 16th century in almost all the territories of the country. In those states where the entry of non-temple dwelling congregations or monks was banned, even the veneration of monks belonging to the old pure and sacred Jain congregation became almost impossible for their followers. Thus the Jain followers of the pure Śramaṇa tradition not only found it difficult to venerate their wandering and practicing true Śramaṇa code of conduct monks, but they almost forgot the existence of their sacred scriptures and doctrine. Thus they also started taking the newly created holy texts and relaxed code of conduct, religious rituals and activities for them and their monks as the real and sacred doctrine and conduct prescribed by Omniscient Lords and the tradition of Lord Mahāvīra thereby forgetting completely the real sacred scriptures.

Thus the status of the temple dwelling congregation as true representation and tradition set by Lord Mahāvīra from V.N. 11th century till V.N. 1554 was all pervading and accepted. Their monks (temple dwelling) even though being non-conformist to the scriptures continued to dominate the rulers and people alike during this period. They were considered as the true Jain monks. Those activities which were till then considered as sinful and pervert in the scriptures were declared as religious by these monks and their statements were accepted by one and all as true doctrine and religious activities.

Since V.N. 11th century which was the beginning of the dominance of temple dwelling tradition; the number monks following basic doctrine, right conduct and spiritual activities kept on declining gradually. In the third part of 16th century V.N., the situation became so pathetic that in northern India or faraway regions towards east, the tradition and the practitioners of real Jain conduct became almost extinct.

In the period V.N. 16th century, existence of forest dwelling tradition Ācārya Udyotana Sūri in northern India proves that the true and pure tradition of four fold tradition of Lord Mahāvīra existed even during the hay days of temple dwelling congregation. For sheer selfish gains and under the influence of the temple dwelling congregation, these monks even called the forest dwelling tradition as extinct. But the scattered historical facts reveal that during the six to seven hundred years of pronounced influence of temple dwelling monks, the true and real tradition of fundamental Jain tradition not only survived but to some extent stayed together and firm also.

The main reasons for the almost eclipse and extinction of the fundamental spiritual Śramaṇa tradition and its code of conduct had been the impact of adverse time as well as the temple dwelling congregation.

Over a period of time, the temple dwelling congregation also went through significant disintegration in it. A number of different gacchas appeared in this tradition also, each subscribing to their own and different doctrines. It is very difficult to count the number of small gacchas but even large gacchas rose to high numbers like eighty four. Ācārya and follower of each gaccha tried continuously to outsmart and prove themselves more influential than the other gaccha. A gaccha who controlled the largest temples was considered as the biggest and most influential one. As a result, each gaccha started building largest and grandest temples and their consecration festivals, organize most expensive worship rituals and pilgrimages, taking out grand religious processions, organize attractive and large religious discourses by their monks daily and distribute most expensive gifts (prabhāvanā) to outsmart each other. Keeping the essential daily duties for monks like self-study, contemplation and meditation in the background, these monks (male and female) and their followers belonging to different gacchas of temple dwellers started preaching and practicing false and deceptive rituals as means to attain liberation.

In Vikram 11th century, Pandit Jineśwargaṇi requested his holy teacher Vardhmāna to tell the true nature and doctrine of Jainism to these believers of temple dwelling householders and followers. Accordingly Vardhamāna Sūri along with seventeen monks associated with him proceeded towards Gujarat from Delhi. During this period, he arrived in Aṇahilapura Pāṭaṇa, where in the royal court of King Durlabharāja he defeated in scriptural debates ācāryas of 84 gacchas associated with temple dwelling congregation. Thus the long ban on the entry for monks of other congregations in the territory was lifted. He thus established the tradition of monks belonging to congregation whose monks stay in vasati (public residences in temple complex). At this moment, with the defeat of its 84 ācāryas in scriptural debates with Vardhamāna Sūri in the royal court of King Durlabharāja, dominance and prominence of temple dwelling congregation started its journey of decline after its dominance and glory of 6 to 7 centuries.

Even though the temple dwelling congregation saw its decline in Gujarat towards the end of 12th century Vikram era, yet its dominating influence was profound still amongst Jain communities and people in Mārwāḍa and Mewāḍa regions of Rajasthan.

After defeating the temple dwelling ācāryas in Aṇahilapura Pāṭaṇa, Jineśwara Sūri undertook non-stop difficult walking tour of Gujarat and made large following of his Vasativāsa tradition. After the death of Jineśwara Sūri, his principal disciple Abhaya Deva Sūri played an important role and continued the effort of his teacher in spreading Vasativāsa tradition and refuting temple dwellers and weakening its impact. Similarly Abhaya Deva Sūri's disciple Jina Vallabha Sūri made efforts to weaken the temple dwelling tradition all his life. He wrote a scholarly treatise on the doctrine of temple dwelling congregation in his book 'congregation paṭṭaka'. Dādā Jinadatta Sūri, like his teacher Jina Vallabha Sūri, made lifelong effort to weaken temple dwelling congregation and enhance the influence of Vasativāsa congregation. He made several kṣatriya families as followers of Jainism.

After the death of Jinadatta Sūri, his principal disciple Jinapati Sūri also continued the efforts started by Vardhamāna Sūri and Pamḍita Jineśwargaṇi in weakening the temple dwelling congregation and strengthening the Vasativāsa congregation and aggressively taking this mission forward. By taking difficult walking tours of different places in the country, Jinapati Sūri made the doctrine and following of temple dwelling congregation as hollow and ineffective. His follower Jineśwara also continued the same mission and completely routed the temple dwelling congregation and their doctrine. He established the temples as inauspicious and made stay of monks there as unholy.

In this way, the distressing influence of temple dwelling continued its march from strength to weak and weaker after their defeat in King Durlabharāja's royal court in Vikram 1080. With the combined efforts of Sundara Sūri, the decline of the temple dwelling congregation reached extinct level in Vikram 1466. Alongwith this extinction of the temple dwelling congregation, even the rules of relaxations in conduct, new doctrines and their holy texts went into extinction. Today not even one text of temple dwelling tradition is available. Hence this tradition of temple dwelling congregation, which gained supreme prominence and remained influential from V.N.1000 to almost V.N. 2000, has become extinct now.

Even though the temple dwelling congregation met its demise in V.N.2000, yet it left its footprints behind. The newly established attractive religious rituals by them practiced for over 1000 years by their followers have been ingrained in the minds of their followers deeply as religious activities. Therefore all these rituals, in one form or the other have been accepted by all surviving Jain traditions. In this way, even though the tradition of temple dwelling has been routed, yet its rituals foot prints and remains continue to exist even today.

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