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Acharya Kundakunda - A versatile Genius

“Mangalam Bhagavan viro, mangalam gautami gani,
Mangalam kundakundadya jaina dharmostu mangalam.”

Every time when I recalled the above prayer, I was unable to understand the significance of the last line. It is an indication of how vast the Jain religion is all about. This line carries a great respect to Acharya Kundakunda (eminent pontiff of Jainism after the Nirvana of Baghwan Mahaveer).

At a time when Jesus Christ had just appeared in the near east horizon, we already had Kundakunda, the brightest literary luminary. All these facts reveal the beauty of Jainism. I feel that the product “Jainism” is a spectacular outcome of thousands of scholars who worked across the time period of over 2500 years!

Today these scholars have left “Jainism” to such a horizon where we need no further modifications or where we can’t pinpoint even a single malpractice!

Kundakunda – man behind the “Raman Effect”:
The work Panchastikaya of Kundakunda identifies samaya as the minutest movement of light as paramanu prachalanayatah. This forms the basis for the present day theories: the ‘seattering of light’ and the ‘Raman effect’. In this context, it has to be stated that Kundakunda was a versatile genius and a celebrated literary figure, who lived between the closing years and the first half of the Christian period.

Kundakunda – man behind the Navkar Mantra?
I am not exactly sure about this. Some of the Jain scriptures that I have read indicate that, “Navkar mantra” existed much before the birth of Acharya Kundakunda. But some insist that, it was composed by this great scholar.

I am forwarding you an article carrying a brief introduction about this versatile scholar.

According to the Jain tradition, Kundakunda succeeded to the pontificate seat in Vikrama Samvat 49 (8 B.C.) at the age of 33. He lived as the pontiff of the mulasangha up to 52 years and passed away in 44 A.D. when he was 85 years of old. He was a contemporary of Bhadrabahu II and Arhadbali. Jinasena a commentator of Kundakunda, has observed that he was disciple of Kumaranandi. According to Pattavalies, he was the student of Meghanandi Whose teacher was Arhatbali. But in his own work of Bodhapahuda, Kundakunda calls himself as nayam sisenaya bhaddabahussa-sisya of Bhadrabahu who lived between 37 to 14 B.C. This Bhadrabahu was a later person and not the earlier Bhadrabahu, a Contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya.

According to epigraphical records his name is Kundakunda. Devasena (10th cent A.D.) and Jayasena (12th cent.) refer him as ‘Padmanandi’. In the later works, he is known as vattekera, grudhapichha and Elacharya.

Birth Place:
From a reference in Bodhapahuda, he hailed from the Krishna region of Andhra Pradesh. As regards his nativity at Konakondla in Anantapur district, its antiquity may not be placed earlier than 7th cent. A.D. Through exploration in the area has not yielded any archaeological material datable to the period of Kundakunda.

Another possible association can be attributed to the village Kolanukonda, opposite the sprawling city of Vijayawada across river Krishna . The place had a Jain basadi on the hill top ste up by the Bhoga Sangha of Bihar . Its possible association may be attributed to the period of Kundakundacharya based on the archacological remains found on the hill slopes. Incidentally, it may be stated that on the original Jain establishment a Siva temple was built on the hill top at Kolanukonda with the name of Bhogalingeswara. The name is not found in Saiva tradition.

His contribution to Jain Literature:
Kundakundecharya as the leader of the mulasangha was the most eminent among the ascetics.

Kundakundacharya was a leading light even in Tamil literature. His tradition is attributed to Tirukkural, a work which was given to Tiruvalluver who introduced it to the Sangam proceedings at Madurai . He had devised a format for South Indian dialects with common letters of reading and writing. It was subsequently made popular by another Jain saint Kumudendu. As stated earlier, Kundakunda was Vattkera, whose name is possibly remembered even today in the south for archaic script known as under the name Vatte (kerae) luttu.

It was Kundakunda who established the devotional prayer of ‘Panchaparamestins prayer, a daily ritual recitation of invoking Arthats Siddhas, Ayyas, Uvajjhas, and Sahus compulsory in the Jain dharma.

It is generally attributed that Kundakunda instituted Om Namassivaya siddham namah, during the aksarabhyas, the intiation learning. This practice has its Jain origins especially in Andhra Pradesh.

Through his writings, Kundakunda has made it clear that he had full knowledge of atamatatva or atmavidya - the knowledge of the soul and advocated the path of vitaraga, non-vitaraga, non-attachment, either for good or bad. One should develop a state of mind through - ‘sravanasakti, strength from austeric practices that lead one to enlightenment.

At a time when Christ had just appeared in the near east horizon, Andhra Pradesh had already Kundakunda, the brightest literary luminary. Although he played an active role in transferring the hither to oral teachings, into a well documented Sarasvat movement, he was a flood of, Santirasapravaha ‘peace and tranquillity’ as found in some inscription. He demonstrated that the Jain precepts of austeric life, ahimsa, aparigrapha and anekanta have for reaching importance in removing the karmie entanglements of the ‘soul’ that lead to enlightenment.
"Non violence is the supreme religion"