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AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF UPAMITI – BHAVA – PRAPAÑCA – KATHĀ

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CHAPTER II
PART – I
THE LIFE AND TIME OF THE AUTHOR

INTRODUCTION

India is a spiritual land of many diversities. Innumerable religions and philosophies on one hand and seers, saints and philosophers on the other hand have glorified and sanctified this holy land of India. Jainism is an ancient religion of India and belongs to the Śramaṇic tradition as Buddhism. Jainism has no founder as it is a beginningless religion and promulgated from time to time by Tīthaṅkaras i.e. ford-makers. Ṛṣabha was the first Tīrthaṅkar and Mahāvīra was the last Tīthaṅkara of this eon. This Jinistic tradition of Tīrthaṅkars is followed by great Ācāryas i.e., spiritual teachers who head the Jaina congregation to lead the adherents on the path of spirituality.

To this tradition of spiritual teachers belonged Ṣiddhaṛṣi. He was an erudite scholar of Prakrit, Sanskrit and an authority on various branches of philosophical study and this is evident from his magnificient work, Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā. Prabhā-chandra has paid a rich tribute to Ṣiddhaṛṣi in Prabhāvaka Charitra. He says, ““May the great words of the experienced Ṣiddhaṛṣi safeguard the interests of all. Whosoever studies him, will cease to be ignorant thereafter.’’ 1

TRADITION OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS

According to Prabhāchandra, Ṣiddhaṛṣi belonged to the tradition of Vajraswāmi whose disciple was Vajrasena. Nagendra, Nivṛiti, Chandra and Vidhyādara were the four famous disciple of Vajrasena. The second disciple Nivṛiti founded the Nivṛiti school and to this lineage belonged Sūrācārya and his disciple Gargaṛṣi. Gargaṛṣi was the teacher of Ṣiddhaṛṣi who intiated him in the Jaina order.2 At the end of the text Ṣiddhaṛṣi has presented an eulogy in which he has paid great respects to Ācārya Haribhadra as his spiritual teacher, for it was the Lalita- Vistāra of Haribhadra that inspired him to be steadfast in his faith. Ṣiddhaṛṣi has spoken about Ācārya Haribhadra in Book I of his text too.

In the eulogy, Ṣiddhaṛṣi pays rich tribute to Sūrācārya who belonged to the Nivṛiti school. After Sūrācārya he has mentioned Delamehtarācārya who was a profound scholor of Astrology and his fame was spread far and wide. After him Duragaswāmi is highly applauded by Ṣiddhaṛṣi and then the author has paid salutations to his teacher Gargaṛṣi who had initiated Duragaswāmi and him in the spiritual order. Saddhaṛṣi and Ṣiddhaṛṣi were two prime disciples of Durgaswāmi. Prior to the creation of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā, Durgaswāmi had attained the heavenly abode and Saddhaṛṣi headed the congreagation. Ṣiddhaṛṣi has paid rich tributes to Saddhaṛṣi in his eulogy and finally he has stated that a person named Siddha has created the story of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā as told by Goddess Saraswati. Thus we come across the name of Ṣiddhaṛṣi as the author of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā.3 It is evident from his geneology of teachers that Ṣiddhaṛṣi belonged to the Nivṛiti school and was the disciple of Durgaswāmi although Gargaṛṣi was his initiator.

BIRTH AND FAMILY LINEAGE4

Ṣiddhaṛṣi was born in Śrimālpur, in Gujarat. When Śrīvarmalāt ruled Gujarat, Suprabhadeva was his minister. Datta and Śhubhankara were the two sons of Suprabhadeva. Māgha was the son of Datta and Siddha was the son of Śubhaṅkara. Hence Siddha was a cousin of Māgha, the famous poet who wrote Śiṣupāla-Vadha. This is the anecdote told in Prabhāvaka – Caritra XIV. In the Purātana Prabhandha Saṅgraha, both poet Māgha and Ṣiddhaṛṣi are said to be the grandsons of Minister Suprabhadeva.

In the Praśasti (the eulogy to the text), of Śiśupāla Vadha, Māgha mentions his ancestory as follows – Suprabhadeva was an able minister of Śrivarmal whose son was Dataka also known as Sarvāṣṛaya and the son of Dataka, Māgha wrote the book Śiṣupāla Vadha.

The author of the texts i.e. those of Prabhāva Caritra, Purātana Prabhandhasaṅgraha and the eulogy of Śiśupāla Vadha hold the same opinion regarding the ancestory of Poet Māgha but the same cannot be said about the relationship between Minister Suprabhadeva and Siddha. Findings in the fort of Vasantgark in Sirohī, Rajasthan, reveal that the date of King Varmal is 602 Vikram era and Māgha wrote Śiśupāla Vadha in 750 Vikram era and Ṣiddhaṛṣi wrote Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā in 962 Vikram era. The gap between Minister Suprabhadeva and Ṣiddhaṛṣi is of three centuries. Hence it is doubtful that Māgha and Ṣiddhaṛṣi were cousins.5 Ṣiddhaṛṣi was the son of Śubhaṅkara and Laxmi. He was married to Dhanyā a noble lady. After leading a married life for sometime, he became a Jaina monk. His mother was instrumental in enabling him to become a Śramaṇa i.e., a Jaina monk. Before becoming a monk Siddha got into bad company and took to gambling. Although his parents, relatives and friends tried to inspire him and guide him, he could not give up the vice of gambling. As days went by his weakness for gambling intensified, he spent the nights with gamblers and was engrossed in vicious company. He used to return home well past midnight and his wife Dhanyā used to keep awake and wait for him to return home. As a result she became weak and pale and when her mother-in-law enquired about the cause of sorrow, Dhanyā unhesitatingly revealed the truth about Siddha’s vicious life and his addiction to gambling and evil company. She also said that he never came home before midnight.

Laxmi then comforted and consoled her daughter-in-law and taking charge of the situation, promised to correct her son. Laxmi advised Dhanyā to go to bed that night and she kept awake waiting for her son to return home. When Siddha returned home late, well past midnight and knocked at the door, his mother did not open the door, instead rebuked him and said there was no place in her house for a person who was indisciplined and remained away from home till midnight. She told him to go to that place where the doors were open at that hour. Siddha immediately left the place and after sometime reached the door-steps of a Jaina monastery whose doors were open at that hour.

The monks were awake and were engaged in meditation, yoga and scriptural study. Seeing them Siddha realized the futility of his addiction to vices and denounced his lifestyle. He began to repent for all his wrong-doings because of which he was insulted and humiliated by his mother and wife. He prostrated before the monks and saluted them with great reverence. He remembered his mother with gratitude as she was indirectly responsible for his spiritual resurrection.

When the monks inquired about him and his whereabouts, he revealed his past, his addiction to gambling and his mother’s words that led him to the monastery. After narrating his past, Siddha requested the monks to allow him to be with them. The monks observed him thoughtfully and recognised the future Prabhāvaka (a great propagator) in him and said that none can live with them unless they were initiated in the holy order. They also added that for an addict and a gambler like him it was not possible to renounce the world, as a monk has to bear many hardships, take to austerities, tonsure his head, walk barefoot, beg for alms and spend his entire time in self-introspection and scriptural study.

Siddha then replied that while gambling too he faced innumerable adversities and difficulties. He argued that his vicious addictions subjected him to hunger and thirst, insult and injury, so it was apt for him to be initiated in the holy order and he promised to bear all the hardships for spiritual progress.

The holy monks then said that without the permission of his family members they would not entertain the thought of initiating him. He humbly listened to their words and sat there. In the morning, when his father enquired about Siddha, Laxmi narrated all that had happened the previous night and Śubhaṅkara immediately went out in search of his son. When he reached the monastery he was relieved when he saw Siddha with the monks and asked him to return home.

Siddha then replied that he had left the house and wanted his permission to be initiated. Subhankara then requested and pleaded him to return reminding him that he was heir to all the riches as he was his only son. His family left no stone unturned to influence him to relinquish the idea and return home, but all their words fell on deaf ears. Thus gambler Siddha became Siddha, the monk.6 After his initiation, Siddha undertook many austerities and made a through study of Jaina scriptures. He became an authority on religion and philosophy and was reckoned as a great orator, writer and an erudite Sanskrit Scholar. He wrote the commentary ““Balavabodhinī’’ on Upadeśamāla of Dharmadaśagani.7 One day he felt the need to study Buddhist logic and Buddhism. He requested his master to grant him the permission to go to a Buddhist monastery and study Buddhism. After much pleading his master granted him the permission but put forth a condition before him. He told Siddha that in case he became negligent and was fascinated by Buddhism, he should first come back to them and hand over the robes of the Jaina monk. Siddha promised his master and went to a Buddhist monastery to master Buddhist logic.

As desired Ṣiddhaṛṣi reached a Buddhist school. In course of time he studied Buddhism and embraced Buddhism. Impressed by his learning the Buddhist monks decided to crown him as the head of their congregation. It was then that Ṣiddhaṛṣi recollected his master’s words and with the permission of the Buddhist monks returned to Gargaṛṣi to return to him the robes of Jaina monk, in which he had previously left.

When he reached the place where Gargaṛṣi was seated he neither bowed to him nor did he pay his homage to the revered preceptor, but stood there holding his head in pride. It did not take time for Gargaṛṣi to understand the situation and instead of preaching anything, he handed over a copy of “Lalita-Vistāra’ of Haribhadra Sūri to Ṣiddhaṛṣi and he left the place along with other monks.

When Ṣiddhaṛṣi began to study the Lalita-Vistāra, little by little his ignorance faded out and he realized the futility of his ill- judeged and irrational thinking and repented for the same. When Gargaṛṣi returned, he stood up in veneration and fell at his feet and begged his pardon. Gargaṛṣi forgave him, reinitiated him and blessed him.8 From then on he remained indebted to Haribhadra, for it was the Lalita-Vistāra of Haribhadra, that enlightened him and made him steadfast in his faith. He says, ““I bow to Haribhadra, whose Lalita Vistāra inspired me to shed all my ignorance and blemish.’’9 He further says, ““Comprehending the future Haribhadra wrote Lalita-Vistāra for me alone.’’10 This episode brought a new, responsible, enlightened Ṣiddhaṛṣi to light. To inspire more and more people on the path of righteousness and to prove the futulity of all material possessions for a person wandering in the worldly sojourn he decided to write Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā. Thus Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā was completed by Ṣiddhaṛṣi in 962 A.D. and first recited in Bhinnamāla city.11 The wise and the laymen applauded his work as it was thought provoking and full of inspiration and insight. From then on Ṣiddhaṛṣi was given the title Siddha Vyakhyata.12 Further in the eulogy he says, a nun named Guṇā, disciple of Durgaswāmi wrote the first manuscript of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā.13 It is also said that the author of Kuvalayamāla, Chandrasūri inspired Ṣiddhaṛṣi to write Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā. He once told that the fame of Samarāditya Kathā had spread far and wide, and it was surprising that Siddha, who was such an erudite scholar had not authored any text to date.14 Ṣiddhaṛṣi replied, ““When compared to the sun what is the place of a glow-worm. So also how can I compete with the great scholar Haribhadra?’’ The dialogue between Ṣiddhaṛṣi and Chandrasūri ended there, but the latter’s words inspired Ṣiddhaṛṣi and he wrote Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā.15 It may be noted that Chandrasūri author of Kuvalayamālā, who inspired Ṣiddhaṛṣi is not the same Uddhyotana Sūri who also authored Kuvalayamālā in 835 Vikram era and the date of Ṣiddhaṛṣi and Chandrasūri is 962 Vikram era.16

WHY ṢIDDHARṢI CHOSE TO WRITE IN SANSKRIT17

Lord Mahāvira, the last of the twenty four ford makers of this eon, preached in Prākrit. His prime disciples i.e. Gaṇadharas and their successors, Ācāryas i.e. spiritual masters of Jaina congregation complied and wrote the Jaina canonical literature in Prākrit. But in course of time Jaina thinkers and writers wrote in Sanskrit too, thus adding to the vast store-house of knowledge.

At the time of Lord Mahāvira, Prākrit was the language of the common man and Sanskrit was the language of the elite i.e. scholars and aristrocrats. People who did not know Sanskrit, were looked down upon by those who knew Sanskrit and conversed in Sanskrit. When Lord Mahāvira saw this he chose to discourse in Prākrit so as to reach out to the masses and to enlighten the scholarly class. He said that for self-realization and emancipation a pure mind devoid of attachment and aversion was required and not just the knowledge of Sanskrit. As a result Prākrit was the language of Jaina cannonical literature and post canonical literature i.e. 500 years after Lord Mahāvira’s Nirvāṇa, Prākrit remained the official language of the Jainas. The Jains did not nurture any hatred for Sanskrit, but to spread the universal message of Ahiṅsa, Anekānta and Aparigraha they chose to read and write in the language of the common man.

Tattvārtha Sūtra of Umāswāti, was the first Sanskrit work written at the beginning of this century. From then on many Sanskrit works were written along with explanations of the sacred canons. This age was marked by excellent Sanskrit writers, writing in all branches of study. As Winternitz puts it, ““It was a period of lively philosophical disputes, Kumārila, the great Mīmāṅsa philosopher and representative of Brahmanical orthodoxy, attacked the Buddhist and Jinistic logicians, including among the last-named, the prominent teachers Samantabhadra and Akalaṅka, whilst Prabhāchandra and Vidyānanda defended their co-religionists against Kumārila.’’18 It became important to answer the philosophical debates and establish Jaina philosophy in the scholarly circles, hence Sanskrit was gaining prominence among Jaina writers. The Jaina philosophers and thinkers realized the importance of Sanskrit and wrote in Sanskrit although they continued to write in Prākrit. To name a few writers, Haribhadra, Śīlānka, Abhayādeva, Malayagirī, Nemīchandra wrote commentary literature on Jaina canons in Sanskrit and enriched Sanskrit literature. Pūjyapāda wrote Sarvārtasiddhi, Vīrasena and Jinasena authored Dhavala and Jayadhavala, Vidhyānadi wrote Aṣṭasahasri and Tatvārtha Rājvāthik and Kalikalā Sarvajña, Hemachandra wrote Siddha-Hema-Śabdānuṣāsana and many other works in Sanskrit.19 In those days of philosophical debates, those who wrote in Sanskrit were considered great scholars and respected for their learning. Jaina writers too adopted Sanskrit and once again proved that they were efficient not only in writing in Prākrit but excelled through Sanskrit writings too.

Ṣiddhaṛṣi was well aware of this situation. He himself has said that when he wrote Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā Sanskrit and Prākrit both were prominent but the scholars held Sanskrit and Sanskrit writings in high esteem. Ṣiddhaṛṣi must have wanted to write in Prākrit, but for the fear of being neglected by the erudite scholars Ṣiddhaṛṣi did not write in Prākrit, on the other hand he chose to write in lucid Sanskrit to make it accessible to the common man and creditable among the learned. He says, ““Keeping in view the exigency of both classes, I have written the text in easy Sanskrit.’’20 One may argue that when Ṣiddhaṛṣi was telling a narrative tale he could have as well told it in Prākrit, but from the above it is evident that Ṣiddhaṛṣi chose to write in Sanskrit for more reasons than one. Firstly to enlighten the arrogant Sanskrit scholars, the language was not instrumental in emancipation as they believed.21 Secondly, in the 10th century A.D. Apabhraṅṣa was gaining literary form and prominence and Prākrit became less prevalent. Sanskrit was still alive where as Prākrit was initially replaced by Apabhraṅṣa and from it developed the modern Indian languages.22 Hence, Ṣiddhaṛṣi chose to write in Sanskrit which had universal impact. Thirdly, Ṣiddhaṛṣi’s motive was not to entertain and amuse the masses through his tale but to preach the knowledge of the divine and the philosophical essence of life. Hence he chose Sanskrit as the vehicle to present the rich Jaina metaphysics and philosophy in easy Sanskrit in place of rhetorical and flowery Sanskrit.

From the above commitment of Ṣiddhaṛṣi we come to know that the philosophical and literary works of that time influenced the masses and their ethical, sociological, philosophical and religious convergence.

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  1. Prabhāchandra Prabhāvaka Caritra []
  2. Praśasti of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Siddhaṛṣi. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. Jain Dharma ke Prabhāvak Ācārya by Sādhvi Saṅghamitra, Page 523-532. []
  6. Introduction of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Devendra Muni Shastri. []
  7. Jain Dharma ke Prabhāvak Ācārya by Sādhvi Saṅghamitra. []
  8. Praṣasti of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Ṣidddhaṛṣi. []
  9. Ibid. []
  10. Ibid. []
  11. Ibid. []
  12. Jain Dharma ke Prabhāvak Ācārya by Sādhvi Saṅghamitra. []
  13. Praśasti of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Sidhaṛṣi. []
  14. Jain Dharma ke Prabhāvak Ācārya by Sādhvi Saṅghamitra. []
  15. Ibid. []
  16. Ibid. []
  17. Introduction of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Devendra Muni Shastri. []
  18. Maurice Winternitz in History of Indian Literature, Vol. II Page 506 []
  19. Introduction of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Devendra Muni Shastri. []
  20. Ibid. []
  21. Ibid. []
  22. Ibid. []