PRELUDE

AN INTRODUCTION TO TERAPANTH

 India has always been a land of spiritual sages, and it continues to be so even today. The Indian culture reflects an ideal of renunciation and penance, and the Jain religion is one of the best examples of this. There have been twenty-four Tirthankaras 1in the Jain tradition, among which Lord Rishabha is the first and Lord Mahavira the last. For six centuries after Lord Mahavira had attained liberation (which is the ultimate aim of Jainism), the Jain religious community remained undivided. However, in the 2nd century A.D., it split into two main branches, namely, the Shvetambaras 2 and Digambaras. 3 Later on, the Digambara tradition gave birth to some sub-branches, such as the Bisapantha, Terapantha and Taranapantha and the Shvetambara tradition was further divided into several sects such as, the Murtipujaka, 4 Sthanakvasi 5 and Terapantha. 6In the Murtipujaka tradition, one finds several Gacchas 7 (e.g. Khataragaccha, Tapagaccha etc.). Likewise, there are many sects and sub-sects in the Sthanakvasi tradition. The venerable Raghunath was the Acharya of one such Sthanakvasi sects and is worth mentioning, for Acharya Bhikshu (or Bhikshu Swami), the founder of Terapantha, was his disciple. Terapantha got originated from the Sthanakvasi sect.