Acharya Bhikshu (1726–1803) was one of the great revolutionary saints and reformer of Jainism. He was the founder and first spiritual head of the Svetambar Terapanth sect of Jainism.
He was a staunch disciple of Mahavira and completely immersed his life onto the path given by him. In the initial phase of his spiritual revolution, he moved out from the group of Sthanakvasi Acharya Raghunath. That time he had 13 saints,13 followers and 13 the basic rules. This coincidence results in the name of "Terapanth" (Thirteen Path).
The various beliefs and teachings of the religious orders of those times greatly influenced his thinking and he choose to follow the way of the search for truth and to understand it. He studied and analyzed the various disciplines of the Jain religion thoroughly and on this basis he compiled his own ideologies and principles of the Jain way of life. Based on the doctrines propagated, Acharya Bhikshu rigorously followed the principles and thus set an example for all to follow. He showed the importance of discipline, purity and self-control. It was this way of life that was demonstrated by Acharya Bhikshu which became the foundation principle of Terapanth. The Letter of Conduct was written by him is still followed in the same manner with due respect with slight changes as per the time & situation. The original copy of letter written in Rajasthani language is still available. His followers piously referred this great visionary monk as 'Swamiji'.
Though gold is invaluable by itself it yet needs to be tested and molded by fire to win the admiration and appreciation of the masses. Similarly the life of Acharya Bhikshu was a prodigy of ups and downs that tested and molded him to become a supreme individual. While in the first half of the life, he faced ordeals and difficulties, the second half reveals (unfolds) the success and accomplishments.
Acharya Bhikshu had a very broad vision who was far ahead of his times. He rose above the present conditions of the society and strived to present an example to the people of all times of a life of discipline and truth. In pursuit of this objective, he sacrificed material goals, honor and luxuries.He revolutionized the various principles which had become meaningless with the passing of time and gave conception and birth to these tenements. He visualized a systematic, well established and orderly religious sect and saw it taking shape through Terapanth. To organize and stabilize this religious order he propagated the ideology of one guru and brought to an end the concept of self discipleship. In this way his ideology of one Acharya, one principle, one thought and similar thinking became the ideal for other religious sects.Acharya Bhikshu showed the way from desire to desirelessness. He said the common man should understand and practise true religion which would take him to the path of salvation.
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