Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4) ► Aṃcalagaccha

Posted: 06.09.2016

Under the influence of Huṇḍāvasarpiṇī times, Jina doctrine became obscure due to lax monks and their perverted methods. Renowned ācāryas, of many gacchas, observing strict renunciation and severe penance, made efforts from time to time, to rejuvenate it to its original status and to re-establish scripture-based fundamental path of spiritual purification. Aṃcalagaccha was one amongst them, which will always be listed foremost in this reformation movement in Jain History.

From inception till date, the most significant feature that has been persisting in this gaccha is that the ācāryas and ascetics of this gaccha remain miles away from mutual or personal rivalry, criticism, exchange of harsh words etc and single-mindedly strive to achieve their purpose of progressing in the path of spiritual progress.

Medieval literature reveals the fact that every gaccha was involved in criticising and abusing every other gaccha, using foul and most objectionable language. However they used a very mild condemning word like 'stanika' for the ācāryas, monks and female - monks and followers of Aṃcalagaccha. They, in their literature blamed that the gaccha lacks the very core of Jina doctrine, and tenets, that their beliefs and rituals were against the scriptures and even that they were the followers of heretic Jamālī. But not a single monk, Upādhyāya or ācārya of Aṃcalagaccha uttered one syllable in protest.

Ārya Rakṣita Sūri

Aṃcalagaccha also came into existence as a protest against lax monks. It was an off-spring of reformation movement that emerged to drag the chariot of Jina congregation out from the mire of perverted beliefs and doctrines.

An ascetic like Vijayacandra Sūri of Aṃcalagaccha had commenced his religious war not only against Temple dweller tradition but even against the Suvihita tradition which engrossed in laxity and blasphemy. When Vijayacandra Sūri left his guru and tradition and started his reform movement, owing to the widespread pseudo and anti-scriptural activities of four-fold congregation; he found it difficult, rather impossible to get unblemished food. Hence the reformer Vijayacandra Sūri, along with his three companion-monks put his life on stake for a pious cause (observing Saṃlekhanā).

Circumstances leading to the origin of Aṃcalagaccha

Giving the details of Ārya Rakṣita Sūri (Vijayacandra Sūri), his lineage, parents, caste, etc, it is mentioned in Merutuṃgīya Paṭṭāvalī that a distinguished merchant called Droṇa of Poravāda caste lived in Daṃtrāṇī village near Mount Abu. His wife's name was Deḍhī. The couple cherished noble ideals and were very pious. Though they stepped into the autumn of their lives, they did not beget any children of their own Deḍhī was more worried. Once, Jaya Siṃha Ācārya, sitting in a palanquin came with lot of fanfare to Daṃtrāṇī. Observing his profligate conduct, the couple did not go to the lodgings to pay homage to him. This hurt ācārya. That night in the late hours, he dreamt Śāsanadevī telling him, "On the 7th day thence, a pious meritorious monk will descend into the womb of Deḍhī Devī. He will become an ascetic at an early age. He will establish reformed path and extend great many services to Jina Order. Inform Deḍhī of this prediction and seek her son in alms."

Jaya Siṃha Sūri was become very happy. The next day he summoned the merchant couple. They, following the established custom, offered him salutations.

Jaya Siṃha Sūri told them, "I summoned the both of you to give some good news. A great soul who will uplift the congregation that got stuck into the swamp of pervert beliefs and conduct will arrive onto the earth very shortly. On the 7th day from today a great influential, courageous and charismatic soul will enter into your womb. In due course he will turn out to be the founder and a great propagator of reformed path or scripture based holy path. Keeping the welfare of Jina Order in mind, I beseech you both now it, to entrust the son you would beget, to me".

The couple overwhelmed with joy replied in one voice, "o Lord! We are blessed. If Jina Order gets benefited because of our son, we do not long for any fate greater than this. From the depth of our hearts we give you our word that whenever you want or need our offspring, that very moment we will leave him under your charge."

The same night Deḍhī Devī had a dream in which she saw Sevikā Devī of Jina Order giving her a message, "O Pious Lady! When your first son attains the age of 5 years, surrender him at the feet of the Guru. You will be blessed with one more son who will continue your family lineage."

On the seventh day of Devī's prediction, Deḍhī Devī, dreamt that she drank cow's milk and that a pious great soul entered her womb. In due course Deḍhī Devī gave birth to a radiant son. As she drank cow's milk in her dream during her pregnancy, they named him 'Goduha Kumāra' (who later became famous as Ārya Rakṣita Sūri / Vijayacandra Sūri).

Bhāvasāgara Sūri gave the names of ācāryas after Devarddhi gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa, in sequential order and mentioned that Baḍa gaccha was found by Udhyotana Sūri. He gave the list of successor pontiffs. Udyotana Sūri was succeeded by Sarvadeva Sūri. The names of successor pontiffs in chronological order are: Padmadeva Sūri, Ubhayaprabha Sūri, Prabhānanda Sūri, Dharmacandra Sūri, Suvinaya Candra Sūri, Vijayaprabha Sūri, Naracandra Sūri, Vīracandra Sūri and Jaya Siṃha Sūri and then giving information about Vijayacandra, the successor pontiff and disciple of Jaya Siṃha Sūri said that

A minister Droṇa of Prāgvāṭ lineage lived in a village called Daṃtrāṇī near Mount Abu. His wife's name is Deḍhī Devī. She gave birth to a son who was named as Vijayacandra. Vijayacandra, being averse from this world, happily took initiation into monkhood. He diligently studied scriptures from his Guru and in a short time became a scholar in them. In course of his studies when he contemplated on the conduct of śramaṇas he found gross difference from the  theory as  described in scriptures, and practice. When he enquired his guru Jaya Siṃha Sūri about it, the latter replied it was 'due to lot of laxity'. To keep him bound to the gaccha, the Guru elevated him as Upādhyāya of the gaccha. But the sin-fearing and self-questing Vijayacandra did not want to stay in such a dissipated gaccha. Along with his 3 monks he left Baḍa gaccha and his Guru and moved to another place. While peregrinating, he reached 'Lāṭa' region. In the afternoon they approached householders seeking alms. Though they approached many householders, they could not obtain pure, unblemished food and water. Without any disappointment or anxiety walked towards Pāvāgiri. They went to Jina temple built on its peak and offered venerations to Lord Jina. They with a hope to beget holy death, they resolved to carry out severe penance for one month without food and water. Thus, they engrossed in self-contemplation and were about to complete the one month.

At the same time, Śrī Sīmaṃdhara Swāmī wandering from village to village in Videha region arrived at Puṣkalāvatī Vijaya. Celestial angels arranged for Samavasaraṇa in Sīmā Nagarī. In that Samavasaraṇa Śrī Sīmaṃdhara praised monk Vijayacandra and his stringent nontransgression conduct of monkhood, sincerity in performing religious austerities regularly, his loyalty and devotion towards Jain religion etc in front of the fourfold congregation and the royal celestial angels. Listening to his virtues Cakreśwarī Devī, the ruling female deity of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva was overwhelmed with joy. After the discourses by the Lord, she went to Vijayacandra and paying homage to him with reverence said, "There is no need to observe Saṃlekhanā now. A merchant called Yaśodhana, the resident of Bhālijya Nagara will come here tomorrow at dawn on a pilgrimage. He will be enlightened listening to your sermons and will offer you unblemished food and drink. End your one month fasting with that food." Thus requesting Cakreśwarī Devī disappeared.

The next day just as the deity had predicted, Yaśodhana reached Pāvāgiri with his huge fellow pilgrims on a pilgrimage. On the entreaties of Yaśodhana and his entourage, monk Vijayacandra preached on dispassion. Listening to his preaching, right faith awakened in the hearts of Yaśodhana and most of the members present there. Later Yaśodhana requested Vijayacandra and his Sādhus to have food and water. The monks went to their places of sojourn, accepting the alms, the food without 42 faults and whatever unblemished food they were offered with that they ended their one month vigorous fast with equanimity.

Thereupon, as per the request of the leader and the congregation, Vijayacandra gave sermons on the conduct and duties of lay devotees as propounded by Lord Mahāvīra, elaborately explaining the duties and responsibilities of laity in a soul-stirring and in an eye-opening manner. He explained the methods of six essential duties of laity, worship of Jina, veneration of saints etc. and taught them how to carry out those activities wearing uttarāsaṃga (upper garment). Impressed and convinced by the sermon, Yaśodhana took initiation as a votary with 12 vows.

While returning from Pāvāgiri, Yaśodhana took monk Vijayacandra and his fellow – monks with him to his place along with the pilgrims. After returning to Bhālijyapura, Yaśodhana constructed a beautiful Jina building and got a Ṛṣabhadeva idol installed in it by a celibate lay devotee, following the methods prescribed in scriptures. As foretold by Cakreśwarī, he became ācārya of reformed sect and was given the name Rakṣita Sūri.

The chief votary, Yaśodhana, ostentatiously celebrated the spiritual coronation ceremony of Rakṣita Sūri. From the moment he held the office of ācārya he tried and obliterated the perverted rituals and languid conduct of monks and female – monks, besides encouraging the pure, unblemished conduct. He founded reformed path to reinstate the scripture-based code of conduct of Śramaṇas and accordingly proclaimed the following precepts:

  1. Saints should not install Jina idols.
  2. Jina idol should not be worshipped with lighted lamp (dīpapūjā), with fruits (fala-pūjā) or with incantation (bīja-pūjā)
  3. Devotees can worship with rice or leaves.
  4. Lay devotees, men and women should perform the religious activities like six essential duties with seam / loose end (Aṃcala) of their cloth.
  5. Pauṣadha (complete fast for 24 hours and staying only at a religious or secluded place) should be observed on a festive day.
  6. Laity should practice periodic contemplation, (sāmāyika) morning and evening for two Ghaḍ īs (48 minutes; 1 Ghaḍ ī = 24 minutes).
  7. Exalted spiritual endeavours (Upadhāna) and honouring with garland (Mālāropaṇa) are prohibited.
  8. Śakrastava (Namothtuṇaṃ) should be recited 3 times a day.
  9. While offering salutations to a monk, one salutation should be done by kneeling with the head touching the ground.
  10. Ladies should offer salutations in the standing posture only.
  11. Kalyāṇakas (auspicious events related to Lord Jina's life) are not to be celebrated.
  12. 'Dīvottāṇaṃ, Saraṇagai Paiṭṭhā,' etc from the verse of 'Namotthuṇaṃ' are not to be recited.
  13. In 'Namaskāra Mantra' read 'Paḍhamaṃ Havai Maṃgalaṃ' as 'Paḍhamaṃ Hoi Maṃgalaṃ'?
  14. Perform Caumāsīon 'Pākṣika Pūrṇimā'.
  15. Celebrate Samvatsarī (the last day of Paryūṣaṇa 8 to10 days' festival) on the 50th day from the full moon day in Āṣāḍha. In a year with accretion leap month perform Samvatsarī on 20th day. Leap month comes in Pauśa or in Āṣāḍha month.

Ācāryas and followers of Aṃcalagaccha consider these rules as the core of scriptural guidelines and they firmly believe that this was neither a new path nor a new tenet, but was the epitome of real and pure traditional form of Jain doctrine.

Thus after setting up scripture based reformed path, Rakṣita Sūri, the follower of pure code of conduct, propagating Jain tenets in many lands reached 'Viuṇaya' Nagara. The distinguished multimillionaire of those times Kapardi, enlightened by the sermons of Rakṣita Sūri, took initiation together with his family members. His daughter Samayaśrī along with her 25 friends took initiation into asceticism from Rakṣita Sūri, discarding one million worth of jewels and tremendous wealth and leaving behind the house, kith and kin. Many virtuous inhabitants of Viuṇaya Nagara took initiation into Jain Order with 5 major vows and great many people became votaries.

Thus Rakṣita Sūri (Vijayacandra Sūri) propagated Jain doctrine in villages, cities, towns etc. Owing to his impressive preaching, the strength of monks, female - monks, Votaries and Female-votaries had increased considerably.

A merchant called Dāhaḍa lived in Sopāraka city in Koṃkaṇa region. One day his wife Neṭī saw the full moon in her dream and later she conceived. In due course she gave birth to a son. He was named Jāsiga (Jaya Siṃha). From childhood he was bent more towards spiritualism. One day he listened to the story of Jambūswāmī from a Guru. He was inspired listening to his life which was filled with high levels of renunciation and detachment. He too felt detached towards worldly things. He convinced his parents and with the encouragement of the Cālukya king Jaya Siṃha, approached Rakṣita Sūri who was halting in Padrapura along with his friend Sukhadatta. There he humbly offered venerations, and when asked he gave his details and expressed his desire to become a monk.

At an auspicious time he was ordained to monkhood with five major vows. He became an eminent scholar in scriptures with his untiring efforts, total humility and by the grace of his preceptor. Perceiving his disciple fit for the rank of ācārya, Rakṣita Sūri in a grandiose manner, performed the coronation ceremony in 'Viuṇappa' Nagara, adorning him with 'Sūri' and gave him the ascetic name 'Jaya Siṃha Sūri'.

The date of establishment of Aṃcalagaccha goes back to Vikram 1213 in many Paṭṭāvalīs and in the works of many scholars. But according to Vīravaṃśa Paṭṭāvalī, Vijayacandra Sūri founded 'reformed sect' (Aṃcalagaccha) alongside his coronation ceremony in Vikram 1169.

With incidents described in Vīravaṃśa Paṭṭāvalī it is indubitably clear that Rakṣita Sūri started the reformed branch in Vikram 1169 and instructed his followers to observe six essential rituals and to pay veneration to monks with Uttarāsaṃga (upper garment). However the question remains as to how and when the name (Vidhi) 'Reformed Sect' was substituted with 'Aṃcalagaccha'.

Vīravaṃśāvalī (Vidhi Pakṣa gaccha Paṭṭāvalī) narrates that during the life time of Rakṣita Sūri itself King Kumārapāla bestowed the name 'Aṃcalagaccha' to (vidhi) Reformed sect.

Sometime after Vidhi (reformed) gaccha came into existence it was given the name 'Aṃcalagaccha'. This fact was substantiated by the facts elucidated in 'Vidhipakṣa Paṭṭāvalī'. After (vidhi) Reformed gaccha came into vogue, Vijayacandra Sūri in his religious wanderings came to 'Viuṇappa' Nagara. There Kapardi the merchant, enlightened by his preaching joined the gaccha as a lay devotee. And immediately after that he went to the court of King Kumārapāla of Pāṭaṇa. There the neophyte devotee offered veneration to Hemacandra Sūri with his upper garment (Uttariya). Kumārapāla was amazed. When he enquired his preceptor about this, he explained it with intricate details. So the king gave the name 'Aṃcalagaccha' to (vidhi) Reformed branch / gaccha.

It was very clearly mentioned in Vidhipakṣa Paṭṭāvalī that after giving it the other name, Kumārapāla went to behold the Darśana of its founder Rakṣita Sūri to Timirapura but the date of origin is not mentioned. As such, if we consider the date Vikram 1213 mentioned in other Paṭṭāvalīs as date of its origin, then we can infer that the name Aṃcalagaccha had been given by Kumārapāla to (vidhi) Reformed branch in Vikram 1213 after seeing Kapardi's venerations with loose end / seam of upper garment (Uttarāsaṃga). Ārya Rakṣita Sūri of Reformed gaccha attained heavenly adobe in Vikram 1236, Ācārya Hemacandra Sūri in Vikram 1229 and Mahārāja Kumārapāla in Vikram 1230. So it is probable that Kumārapāla went to Timirapura in Vikram 1213 to pay homage to RakṣitaSūri, after giving it the name Aṃcalagaccha.