Shrutakevali (knower of all the canonical literature) Shri Bhadrabahu Swami was the seventh in the line of pattadharas (chief disciple) of Lord Mahaveera. He was born in Vikram Samvat 94. Reputed Acharya Yashobhadra’s disciple as he was, he had the knowledge of 14 purvas (early canons). At the age of 45 years he accepted the life of penance and restraint, in the presence of Acharya Sambhuta Vijayji. He was designated as Acharya (head of a mendicant group). For over 14 years he ably managed the affairs of Jinshasan (Jain order) and added honor and glory to the post. He died at the age of 76 years and with him the tradition of Shrutakevali came to an end.
Shri Bhadrabahu swami was born in Pratishthanpur. He and his brother Varahmihira both were expert scholars of 4 vedas and 14 vidyas. Their meeting with Shrutakevali Shri Yashobhadrashri resulted in their initiation. However, the Guru considered Bhadrabahu as a more deserving candidate for the learning of 14 purvas as also the acharyapada and so the Guru appointed him as his successor. This decision irritated and enraged Varahmihira who ultimately renounced his initiation. About this time, a child was born to the king and Varahmihira made a forecast that the boy would live for one hundred years.
Incidentally, sanghanayak (leader of a congregation) Bhadrabahuswami staying in the same city did not go to the palace to bless the child and to congratulate the king. Seizing this opportunity Varahmihira instigated the king and the people against Bhadrabahu swami. When Bhadrabahu swami came to know all this, he said that he knew that on the seventh day the boy was to die because of a cat and so he had decided to call on the king to console him. Though he had full faith in the forecast of Varahmihira, the king took all precautions and arranged to catch and drive away all the cats out of the town in the forest area.
The child was kept under strict surveillance. But as destined, the wooden bar at the door with a cat’s figure on it fell on the child’s head, killing him instantly. On this shocking and sorrowful occasion, Bhadrabahu swami went to the king to convey his consolation. Greatly moved by this gesture, the king offered him unusual honor. Varahmihira had failed in his plan and steeped in his own anger and enmity.
Varahmihira was born as ‘Vyantardev’ (a class of lower god) in his next birth and by means of knowledge he came to recall his earlier birth and soon became jealous of the Jain Sangha. He then managed for the spread of plague amongst the Shree sangha as a result of which a number of people began to die suddenly and instantly. Shree sangha requested Bhadrabahu swami to do something.
Bhadrabahu swami by the sheer force of his shruta gyana (scriptural knowledge) he could correctly assess the entire situation and with a view to getting rid of the nuisance he composed Uvasaggaharam Stotra. The impact of this great stotra (devotional song) was so great that the strength of Vyantar got immensely diminished. Acharyashri Bhadrabahu swami also composed ‘Paryushana Kalpasutra’ which is popularly known as ‘Kalpasutra’. It is also believed that he wrote Niryukti on 10 sutras.
Bhadrabahu Swami is known for composing commentary on ten scripture like Acharang Sutra, Krutang, Avashyak, Dash Vaikalik, Uttaradhyayan, Dasha Shrut Skandh, Kalp, Vyavahr, Surya Pragnapti and Rishibhashit. He composed 4 Chheda sutras (a law book dealing with monastic offences) and wrote monumental works like ‘Bhadrabahu Samhita’ and ‘Vasudevcharita’ containing one lakh and twenty five thousand padas (verses). Thereby he imparted invaluable knowledge of the purvas (early canons) to Arya Sthulabhadra, and thus he managed to preserve the great heritage from perishing. Acharya Bhadrabahu has a record of entering into Yoga Meditation of Mahapran Yoga. He attained the unique achievement of intense meditation of Mahaprana dhyana constantly for 12 years. Bhadrabahu swami is respected as the fifth and final shrutakevali in both the shwetambara and digambara traditions.
Thus Acharya Bhadrabahu Swami was responsible for the impressive development of both Jainism and Jain Knowledge.