Acharya Vidyasagar Biography: Age, Wikipedia, Cause Of Death, Education And Legacy

acharya vidyasagar biography

Acharya Vidyasagar Biography

Acharya Vidyasagar was a renowned Digambara Jain monk who was known for his scholarship, austerity, and meditation. He was born in Karnataka, India, in 1946 and became a monk at the age of 22. He was the leader of a large group of monks and nuns who followed him across India. He wrote several books and poems on Jain philosophy and spirituality, including the epic poem Mukamati. He passed away in 2024 at the age of 77.

Early Life and Education

Acharya Vidyasagar was born as Vidyadhar on 10 October 1946 in Sadalga, a town in the Belgaum district of Karnataka. He belonged to a Kannada-speaking Jain family. His parents were Mallappa and Shrimanti, who were both teachers. He had three siblings: Mahavira, Anantanath, and Shantinath. He was the second son of the family.

He was a bright and curious child who showed interest in religion and spirituality from a young age. He used to visit temples and teach his younger siblings the principles of Jainism. He also enjoyed painting and playing chess. He was fond of eating fresh butter, which was later used to make ghee (clarified butter).

He studied till the ninth grade in a Kannada medium school. He was an excellent student who excelled in academics and extracurricular activities. He was especially interested in physical education and participated in various sports such as cricket, football, and athletics.

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Initiation and Asceticism

After completing his schooling, he decided to renounce the worldly life and become a Digambara monk. He was inspired by the teachings and example of Acharya Shantisagar, the first Digambara monk to visit South India in the 20th century. He also met Acharya Gyansagar, a disciple of Acharya Shantisagar, who encouraged him to take diksha (initiation).

On 30 June 1968, he took diksha from Acharya Gyansagar in Ajmer, Rajasthan. He was given the name Vidyasagar, meaning “ocean of knowledge”. He adopted the vows of celibacy, non-violence, non-possession, truthfulness, and non-stealing. He also gave up his clothes and wore only a peacock feather broom and a water pot as symbols of his renunciation.

He followed a strict and disciplined lifestyle of asceticism and meditation. He ate only once a day, and that too only what was offered to him by the lay followers. He walked barefoot across the country, covering thousands of kilometers. He spent long hours in meditation, sometimes up to 18 hours a day. He also practiced various forms of tapasya (austerity), such as fasting, silence, and standing.

Leadership and Scholarship

In 1972, he was elevated to the status of an Acharya, meaning “teacher”. He became the leader of a large group of monks and nuns who followed him. He also attracted many lay followers who revered him as a saint and a guru. He visited many places across India, especially in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. He also revived many ancient Jain temples and pilgrimage sites, such as Chandragiri, Kundalpur, Sonagiri, and Shravanabelagola.

He was also a prolific writer and scholar who wrote several books and poems on Jain philosophy and spirituality. He was well-versed in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, and English. He wrote on topics such as ethics, logic, metaphysics, cosmology, psychology, and history. Some of his notable works are:

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Mukamati: An epic poem in Hindi that narrates the journey of a soul from bondage to liberation. It is considered a masterpiece of Jain literature and is part of the syllabus for Hindi MA programs in various institutions.

Samayik Sutra: A commentary on the Jain scriptures that deal with the practice of samayik, or equanimity.

Pravachan Sutra: A collection of his discourses on various aspects of Jainism, such as the nature of the soul, the doctrine of karma, the path of liberation, and the role of the guru.

Jeevan Vigyan: A book on the science of life that explains the anatomy, physiology, and psychology of the human body from a Jain perspective.

Chintan Sutra: A book of aphorisms that reflect his insights and wisdom on various topics, such as happiness, suffering, attachment, detachment, love, hate, and peace.

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He also wrote many haiku poems in Hindi and Kannada that express his poetic and spiritual sensibility. He also composed many hymns and songs that praise the virtues of the Tirthankaras, the enlightened beings in Jainism.

Death and Legacy

Acharya Vidyasagar passed away on 18 February 2024 at Chandragiri, a hill near Dongargarh in Chhattisgarh. He had been suffering from a respiratory infection for a few days and had refused any medical treatment. He attained samadhi, or the state of complete absorption in the self, while meditating. His death was mourned by millions of his followers and admirers across the country and the world.

He was cremated according to the Jain rituals on the same hill where he died. His ashes were scattered in the Narmada river, as per his wish. A memorial was built on the spot where he breathed his last.

He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and inspiring Jain monks of the modern era. He is credited with reviving the Jain tradition of asceticism and scholarship in India. He is also seen as a role model for establishing institutions that promote education, health, and social welfare among the Jain community and the society at large. He has been honored by various awards and recognitions, such as the State Guest Honor by the Uttar Pradesh government in 2018.

He has also inspired many researchers and scholars who have studied his works and life for their master’s and doctoral theses. His teachings and writings have been translated into many languages, such as English, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. His life and message have also been depicted in various documentaries, films, and books.

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Conclusion

Acharya Vidyasagar was a remarkable Jain monk who dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge and spirituality. He was a master of both the inner and the outer worlds, balancing his rigorous asceticism with his profound scholarship. He was a leader and a teacher who guided thousands of monks, nuns, and lay followers on the path of Jainism. He was a poet and a philosopher who expressed his vision and values through his words and deeds. He was a saint and a guru who embodied the ideals of Jainism and inspired many to follow his example.

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