Acharya Bhadrabahu

Acharya Bhadrabahu

Acharya Bhadrabahu (433 B.C. - 357 B.C. ?) was a Jain monk. He is more famously known as a spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya and author of several texts related to Jainism, including some of the most important works, Upsarga Stotra and Kalpasutra.

Bhadrabahu was born in Pundravardhan, (now in Bangladesh). During this time, the secondary capital of the Mauryas was Ujjain. While there Bhadrabahu was able to foresee through his "nimitta jnan" (subtle cognition of causes and effects) that there would be a 12-year famine across North India. He decided the famine would make it harder for monks to survive and migrated with a group of monks to South India, bringing with him Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan Empire [Chandragupta Maurya and His Times By Radha Kumud Mookerji, Published 1966 Motilal Banarsidass Publ.] turned Jain monk [The Sacred ʹSravaṇa-Beḷagoḷa: A Socio-religious Study By Vilas Adinath Sangave, Published 1981, Bharatiya Jnanpith] .

While Bhadrabahu was away the monks staying in the North realized that the sacred scriptures were being forgotten. A monk named Sthulabhadra convened a council to recompile the Purva scriptures. However, because Sthulabhadra’s own knowledge of these texts was imperfect, he went to Bhadrabahu to study the sections missing from his memory.

Bhadrabahu taught Sthulabhadra, but forbade him to teach the Purva to others upon witnessing a demonstration by Sthulabhadra of certain extra corporal powers, which suggested that with time these sacred scriptures would become corrupted. Thus, the 14 Purvas in their original form perished with these two men.

Bhadrabahu remains an exemplar of dedication to first principles at anycost. After him, the Sangha split into two separate teacher-student lineages of monks. Digambar monks belong to the lineage of Acharya Vishakha and Shvetambar monks follow the tradition of Sthulabhadra. Bhadrabahu composed some new texts as well. In the Shvetambar tradition, Brihatkalpa, Vyavahara, and Nisitha are considered his works.

Bhadrabahu is considered to be the last expert of 14 Purvas, of 12th Anga called Dristivaad, one of the scriptures of Jainism. Of these, 10 Purvas were passed on to Sthulibhadra, his chief disciple. Bhadrabahu went to Nepal for twelve years to perform the "Mahaprana Sadhana" a tantric exercise.

According to the Digambaras, he died after committing Sallekhana.

Acharya Bhadrabahu had a brother named Varahmihir. Both were in the same kingdom. When a son was born to the king, Varahmihira declared that he would live for a hundred years but Bhadrabahu declared that he would live for only seven days, and that he would be killed by a cat. On the eighth day the prince died because of a door's anklet falling on his head which had a picture of cat drawn on it. Due to this humiliation Varahmihira left the kingdom and died after some time.

According to the story Varahmihira became evil and tortured and terrorized the Jains, especially disciples and followers of Bhadrabahu. Acharya Bhadrabahu then formed a mantric prayer to 23rd Jain Tirthankara Parshvanath called the "Upsarga stotra" (now known as "Uvassagaharam Stotra") and called upon Dharnendra, the divine follower (a "devta") of Parshvanath. As an effect of it, Varahmihira was defeated and Jain society was relieved. That mantric prayer is still famous among the Jains and they chant it with due respect and faith. And that prayer had made Bhadrabahu's name immortal among Jain ascetics.


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