Āchārya Haribhadra Suri

March, 2024 by Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain
Jainism is one of the ancient Indian religions, where numerous great Ācāryas have significantly contributed to its rich philosophical heritage and have made important contributions in carrying forward the rich knowledge tradition of Jain Philosophy. Among these revered figures, Ācārya Haribhadra Suri stands out as a profound scholar, spiritual guide, and prolific writer whose works continue to inspire and enlighten generations. Most historians believe that his time was after or around 650 AD (due to his familiarity with ‘Dharmakirti’). In his writings, he identifies himself as Jinabhadra of the Vidyadhara Kula and a student of Jinadatta. He was a great, philosopher, doxographer, and prolific author with a powerful personality, had written many books in Sanskrit and Prakrit. His versatile scholarship, unmatched knowledge, acute critical faculty, and mastery of language have earned him a distinguished place in the history of Indian literature. The 1444 books deemed to have been written by him are regarded as the most valuable treasure of knowledge of the Jain religion. He was the first commentator of the Agamas (Jain canonical literature) and through his books, he blazed a new trail in meditation.

His life was unusual and extraordinary. He was the family priest of King Jitari of Chittor. Besides being an authority on the Vedant and Darshanshastra (Jain Philosophy) he possessed a thorough knowledge of 14 faculties of studies. In his own times, there was nobody in the entire country to challenge and defeat him in debate and discussions. He therefore issued a public challenge that if anyone could present the topic that he could not understand he would readily become his/her pupil. It was said that Haribhadrasūri always carried the following items with him: 1. A golden belt around his belly, 2. An Axe in his hand, 3. A net at his side, and 4. A ladder on his shoulder.

All four items were very significant. He used to wear a golden belt around his belly in order to protect it from bursting, as he believed that he had so much knowledge that his belly would burst if he did not tie it around. The axe, net, and ladder were instruments Haribhadrasūri used to find a scholar who wished to defeat him in discussions. Haribhadrasūri challenged everyone that he would find a scholar hidden beneath the earth with an axe or from the sea with his net or with the ladder he would bring a scholar down from the sky and defeat him in debate. This is how Haribhadrasūri established himself as the most knowledgeable person on this earth.

One day, as he was walking through the village, he came across a royal elephant so angry that it was completely out of control. The elephant was running directly toward Haribhadra. In grave danger of being trampled, Haribhadra frantically looked around for a safe place and entered a Jain Temple just in time to avoid being crushed by the charging elephant. There, he happened to listen to a gatha (verse) being sung in a tranquil and melodious voice –

Chakkidugam Haripanagam Panagam Chakki Ya Kesavo Chakki

Kesav Chakki Kesav Du Chakki Kesi Ya Chakki Ya.

Pandit Haribhadra made numerous efforts to interpret its meaning but he failed to understand it. He had mastered four Vedas, all the Upanishads, and eighteen Purans as also all the branches of knowledge, and yet he failed to make out the meaning of the verses. He felt small and his pride in being knowledgeable began to melt. In all humility, he went to the Sadhviji and requested her to interpret the ‘gatha’ for him.

Sadhvi Mahattara Yakini requested him to come the next day in the presence of her Guru who would explain the meaning of the gatha. Accordingly, Ācārya Jindattasuri arrived there the next day and offered an interpretation, whereupon Haribhadra became his disciple, and in the course of time Pandit Haribhadra came to be known as Ācārya Haribhadrasuri.

Ācārya Haribhadra promoted the ideal of Anekāntavāda – epitomized by the parable of the blind men and elephant. He taught that whenever we take a partial, unconditional view of reality and won’t accept contrary views, our reality becomes distorted. He respected and studied many traditions, promoted religious pluralism, and included the insights of other religions in his own teachings. He concluded every book that he wrote with an invariable expression of deep gratitude to Sadhvi Yakini Mahattara and introduced himself as Dharmaputra of Yakini Mahattara.

Literary Legacy :

Ācārya Haribhadra Suri’s literary prowess is evident in his vast body of work. He authored numerous texts, ranging from commentaries on canonical Jain scriptures to independent philosophical treatises. He wrote 1444 religious books, covering many aspects of Jainism. Unfortunately, only about 170 of his books are presently available. The commentaries on Dash Vaikälika-sutra, Tattvärtha-sutra, Pancha-sutra, and Ävashyaka-sutra are among his well-known compositions. Moreover, he wrote Lalit-vistarä, Dharma Sangrahani, Upadeshapad, Shodashtaks, Dharmabindu, and Anekänta Jayapatäkä. He was probably the first Jain scholar to write on Yoga and treated the subject with an entirely new point of view, he taught that everything done by a monk, with a spiritual end in view and without attachment should be considered yoga. Yogabindu, Yoga-vinshikä, Yoga-shatak, and Yogadrashti Samuchchaya are his compositions on Yoga. His magnum opus, “Shaddarsanasamuccaya,” is a comprehensive work that systematically presents the teachings of six major philosophical traditions of ancient India, including Jainism. This remarkable compilation showcases Haribhadra Suri’s encyclopedic knowledge and analytical acumen.

Among his famous works are:
Anekāntajayapatākā (The Victory Banner of Relativism) – which puts forward arguments about anekantavada.
Ashtakaprakarana (The Eightfold Explanation).
Dharmabindu – which outlines the duties of the laity, outlines rules for mendicants, and describes the bliss of moksha.
Dhūrtākhyāna (The Rogue’s Stories) – a satirical critique of Hindu mythology.
Pañcāśaka – a Prakrit work on rituals and spiritual matters.
Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya (Compendium of Six Philosophies) – which compares Jainism with other schools of Indian philosophy.
Samarāiccakahā (The Story of Samarāicca) – a narrative that outlines the effects of karma in a story about the enmity of its characters which endures over several reincarnations.
Sāstravārtāsamuccaya (The Array of Explanatory Teachings).

With such an output, Ācārya Haribhadra-suri will always be remembered for his valuable contribution to Jain literature.

Ācārya Haribhadra Suri’s contributions extend beyond the realm of philosophy and spirituality; his literary works have played a crucial role in shaping Jain culture. His writings have been instrumental in preserving and disseminating the rich heritage of Jain thought, making them valuable resources for scholars and practitioners alike. He remains an illustrious figure whose legacy continues to enrich the tapestry of Jainism. His profound philosophical insights, literary brilliance, and spiritual guidance have left an indelible mark on the tradition, influencing generations of seekers and scholars. As we reflect on his significant contributions, we recognize Ācārya Haribhadra Suri as a beacon of wisdom, guiding us toward a deeper understanding of life, ethics, and the eternal truths that transcend time and space.

About Author


Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Studies in Jainism, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai. He is the founding Editor of ‘The Prakrit Times International eNewsletter’ for the promotion and propagation of the oldest Prakrit language and literature globally, as well as he is also an Associate Editor of Jain Avenue Web Magazine (jainavenue.org). He has five books to his credit so far, out of which he is the author of three and editor of two. He has represented Jainism at an International Conference held in Colombo (Srilanka). He has directed a documentary film depicting the historical and archaeological importance of Sravanabelagola (Karnataka), which has been screened in a couple of National and International film festivals. He was honored with the ‘National Gaurav Award 2023’ and ‘Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swami Shriphal Patrakarita Award 2024’ for his innovative contributions.

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13 days ago

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Anita Sakariya
Anita Sakariya
13 days ago

Hello sir I am Anita sakaria from Chennai and I I read your blog on Haribhadra Suri which was really impressing ,I knew the story well, as i have listen it from Acharya Bhagwan in pravachan for so many times but yet somebody who is Jain and who is narrating the whole story it’s really amazing for me.

I want few stories which can add values to children specially teenagers ,you can just list me few values also which I can add to children as I can work on it and hold few sessions for them.

I am a social server in Sanskar vatika as a teacher.
So any stuff regarding Jainism which is proven facts on basis of science will be helpful for me.
Thank you .

If you have any such articles or any thing please forward it to me.

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