Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4) ► Reformation - A Very Difficult Task

Posted: 07.09.2016

Ārya Rakṣita Sūri launched his spiritual revolution in Vikram 1169 so as to illustrate the glory of Jain doctrine and the pure form of Śramaṇa code to the people. 80 years prior to this, in Vikram 11th century Ācārya Varddhamāna Sūri and his disciple Jineśwara Sūri commenced the reformation movement with the same intention. 20 years receding this i.e. in Vikram 1149 Ācārya Candraprabha, the founder of Paurṇamika gaccha started the revolution to eliminate the pseudo rituals that entered into Dharma and to augur new spiritual awareness. In his efforts he was encountered with hostility by his opponents from all sides. Eventually he officially established Paurṇamika gaccha in Vikram 1159. The lovers, supporters and stalwarts of Jina Order like Varddhamāna Sūri, Candraprabha Sūri, Rakṣita Sūri etc. initiated their cause with a lofty intention to revive the forgotten fundamental form. But the sluggishness in conduct and unconventional methods were so deeply-rooted in the four-fold congregation that it was highly impossible to bring in unity and radical reformation in entirety. So they could not fully manifest their dream and the reforms were limited in their scope.

The firm resolution of Rakṣita Sūri to introduce reforms en masse in the congregation on the basis of scriptures, led to the inception of (vidhi) Reformed gaccha. But unfortunately he too could not progress ahead upto his expectations. The reason being, in a very long span of thousand years after Vīra Nirvāṇa, the methods, the indulgence, rituals etc introduced by Temple dwellers  had so assimilated in the original doctrine that they appear part and parcel of, rather, they appear as original scriptures. Verily these revolutionary reforms aimed to destroy perverted rituals, and their mother was the Temple dweller tradition. So naturally the Temple dwellers felt these religious reforms were a treacherous spiritual campaign against them. They were very powerful in Gujarat, Saurāṣṭra, Mewāḍa, Mārawāḍa, Mālavā etc. and the patronage of kings in these regions further strengthened their position and tradition.

The founder of a vast kingdom like Pāṭaṇa, Vanarāja Cāvaḍ āand his successors, the seven kings of Cāpotkaṭa dynasty accepted these Temple dwellers as their holy teachers (Rājaguru) and spiritual preceptors (Dharma Guru) for 196 years, i.e from Vikram 802 to 998 and held them in high esteem. In order to make the tradition of his preceptor stronger than any other tradition, Vanarāja Cāvaḍā provided all facilities and decreed an ordinance prohibiting the entry of ascetics of other traditions into the territories without the prior permission of Temple dweller ācāryas.

Even after Cālukyas established their authority over Pāṭaṇa in Vikram 998, right from its first King Mūlarāja to its fourth King Durlabha's regime that is up to Vikram 1080 the earlier arrangements and facilities for Temple dwellers continued in the same manner. Thus in the vast territories of Gurjara kingdom from Vikram 802 to Vikram 1080, i.e for 278 years, Temple dweller tradition enjoyed unswerving patronage of and control over the society.

In such a scenario, in spite of their zeal and goal to rejuvenate the status of Jainism, the reformers like Rakṣita Sūri etc had to prune the scope to limited issues. As such, though they aspired for total shift to fundamental form and complete obliteration of newly rooted beliefs through reforms, they ultimately could not succeed. Apart from this, two more reasons also served as major hindrances in the path of reformation. The Temple dwellers washed the brains of people with such a psychological feeling that in the changed religious, social and political milieu, Jain religion could not continue to survive unless and until it leans against and takes the support of the Nigamas and Upaniṣadas - the texts written by Temple dwellers. And the second reason was Temple dwellers made such arrangements and comforts even for the detached / renouncers that the monks and female monks could lead their lives without any trouble or hardships and could command the respect of their followers. The facilities they enjoyed were as follows:

  1. The original tenet where Śramaṇas were recommended to wander throughout their lives was replaced by permanent stay at a temple or a monastery.
  2. The tough principle of Madhukarī (seeking alms), was given up. Delicious food prepared in the kitchens of temples or monasteries, to offer to Jina was consumed by them.
  3. They were free to spend the money, offered by the loyal devotees in temples and shrines, for their personal comforts.
  4. They decided and conveyed the auspicious time for all the familial activities of their devotees. Using their knowledge of prognostics they even predicted their future.
  5. They wore colourful perfumed clothes.
  6. They possessed and accumulated money.
  7. They gave up the toughest rituals like keśa luṃcana, etc.
  8. They kept the mouth fresh by eating betel.
  9. They consumed ghee, milk, fruits etc. as per their wish.
  10. They drank and used live (sacitta) water for other purposes.
  11. They used vehicle for conveyance.
  12. They accumulated clothes, vessels, etc.
  13. They slept on mattresses.
  14. They applied oil and massaged Abhyaṃga (paste of turmeric, oil, and ground pulse) etc on the body.
  15. To increase the number of disciples, they offered money to parents and buy small kids.
  16. They started earning money to lead a happy life by giving treatment to people and even using occult techniques.
  17. While worshipping Jinendra Prabhu, they can perform Āratī and perform havanas (fire sacrifice).
  18. They can construct any number of Jain temples, Pauṣadhaśālās, and seminar halls.
  19. They can maintain association with women and give lectures, sing bhajanas, kīrtanas, devotional songs etc in front of them.
  20. They could construct elevated platforms for the departed Gurus.
  21. There is no need to observe hard vows like fasting, etc.

Thus the Temple dwellers turned the ascetic renunciant life into a full-fledged life of a householder with all comforts and amenities.

In such a situation, a discerning reader can imagine and visualise the plight and predicament meted with and the vehement opposition encountered by the stalwarts like Varddhamāna Sūri, Jineśwara Sūri, and others in carrying out their pious mission of re-establishing the pure spiritual form and the toughest code of conduct of Śramaṇas.

As already mentioned earlier, Rakṣita Sūri could not even procure unblemished food and drink and had even to stake his life by observing fast unto death due to the omni-pervasive sway of Temple dwellers tenets. People were attracted towards Rakṣita Sūri (Vijayacandra) by his simple but vigorous ascetic way of life filled with total detachment and severe penance and ability to endure inflictions. 'Reformed Path (Aṃcalagaccha) stabilized itself into a powerful religious congregation and gained popularity during his life time only. His successor pontiff Jaya Siṃha Sūri during his pontificate from Vikram 1236 to Vikram 1258 extended remarkable services to reformed gaccha and contributed to its progress. He was an eloquent debater. He made several royal dynasties the followers of Jainism and considerably increased the numerical strength of his gaccha.

Dharmaghoṣa Sūri, prominent disciple and Successor Pontiff of Ācārya Jaya Siṃha Sūri, Mahendra Sūri, the fourth Successor Pontiff and Ācārya Siṃhaprabha the fifth successor pontiff of Reformed gaccha were great propagators. The 5th pontiff, Siṃhaprabha Sūri was ordained to the rank in Vikram 1309

He was a great sagacious debater of his times. He won many spiritual discourses and enhanced the fame of Reformed Path.

According to 'Merutuṃgīyā Laghuśata Padī' and Merutuṃgīya Paṭṭāvalī, Siṃhaprabha Sūri in spite of being versatile ascetic - a perspicacious debater, stalwart propagator, courageous and outspoken was slowly attracted towards lax conduct and eventually became a permanent inhabitant like Temple dwellers and more or less followed their life style. Following his footsteps, Ajita Siṃha Sūri, the 6th ācārya and his successor left behind the so called ācāryas of Temple dwellers in his laxity of conduct.

Most of the gacchas who purported themselves as Suvihita tradition also gradually became co-travellers of Temple dwellers with scant attention or no attention towards code of conduct, adherence to their tenets, and with heretical regulations, i.e going against scriptural doctrine.

Had the reformers not taken pains to bring the fundamental holy path into light, from time to time, probably today the scripture-based path of spiritual purification would have been blanketed by the debauched principles like a sun being shadowed by the dark monsoon clouds.

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