The Author of Bhaktamar Stotra, Acharya Sri Mantunga was a talented scholar, eminent missionary and prodigious ascetic. Each and every word of Bhaktamar reveals his deep devotion and infinite faith in the Lord.
In the year 1100 AD there was a great King Bhoja in Ujjain city of Malva. King Bhoja was a learned and talented king of unsurpassed rank and was the author of Sanskrit poetry. Great poet Kalidas was one of the members of his Royal Court. A Jain poet Dhananjaya was also becoming famous those days in the city. One day King Bhoj called Dhananjaya in his royal court and praised him for his poetry and wisdom. Dhananjaya told the king very politely that his all wisdom and knowledge was due to the blessings of his teacher Acharya Mantunga, a Jain Muni.
After hearing the praise of Acharya Mantunga, King Bhoj desired to meet the Acharya. King Bhoj ordered his servants to bring Acharya Mantunga to his royal court with honor. At that time Acharya was staying at Bhojpur and doing Tapa (Penance) for Self-Realization. Servants of King Bhoj reached there and prayed to Acharya, again and again, to go with them and meet their King. But ascetic saints have no purpose in meeting the King or any other persons. The monk replied, “What do I have to do at the royal palace? Only those going to the court who are either concerned with it or have committed an offense. Then why should I go as I am an ascetic.” Saying this the Acharya got engrossed in deep meditation.
The servants returned to the King and told him about their inability to bring Acharya Mantunga to the Royal Court. The King Bhoj became angry and ordered to bring the Acharya forcefully in his royal court. Servants did the same and thus Acharya was brought before King Bhoj. The king praised Acharya and requested him to give some religious precepts to the audience present there. But at that time looking at unfavorable situations, Acharya decided to remain silent. All the prayers of the King were in vain. The King became angry and ordered his soldiers to place the Acharya in prison. Thus Acharya Mantunga was locked up in forty-eight chambers under locks and chains.
It was the dark of the night. An ascetic in prison! The environment lay sobbing. The starry sky was pouring tears of sorrow. Yet the glowing sentiment of the ascetic began to work. He went into full awareness of the profound depth of the meditation. His flame of attention transcended him to the unprecedented prayer of Lord Adinath. The purpose was to exhibit Jainism in highest esteem around the world of academicians. He entered the heavenly realms of the Lord and began to recite extempore, stanza after stanza, in his unparalleled style. He was remembering all the Sixty-four miraculous ascetics who had attained Realization through severe austerities. He wrote in Sanskrit a great poem which is called the Bhaktamar Stotra, which has 48 Stanzas (Verses). The chants and prayers of Mantunga were in full brim, flowing with the unbound energy of chain-reaction. The phenomenon began to appear. Mantunga no more remained imprisoned. The locks broke and Mantunga came out of prison. The guards awoke and saw him out of the prison… saw this miracle, but in their ignorance, again locked Acharya in prison and checked the locks firmly. But after some time, the locks of prison again opened and Acharya was free again.
They took him again and again to the central darkened prison room, but the miracle could not be controlled. The king was informed, and he rushed to see the scene and he ordered the soldiers to tie Acharya firmly with strong chains and kept in the prison having 48 locks.
Why is Faith so Important?
Sometimes, when things don’t go according to plan, we lose faith, not only in ourselves, but also in any potential outcome in our lives. Failure does this to us. When we experience life’s monumental failures, it’s easy to lose hope, and even faith.
But what’s the difference?
Faith, at its core, is deep-rooted in the expectation of good things to come. It goes beyond hope. While much of hope lives in the mind, faith is steeped in the heart and the spirit. It can’t be explained away by reason or logic or be understood through a single dimension.
Faith is an expression of hope for something better. More than a wish, it is closer to a belief, but not quite. A belief is rooted in the mind. Faith is based in the heart.
Faith speaks the language of the heart. It is an expression of hope that goes beyond the conscious mind
While life can be hard at many times, faith is the knowledge, deep down inside, that things will get better. It is taking the next step when you can’t see the entire staircase. Simply put, life would fail to have reason if we didn’t have faith.
We couldn’t drive our cars without faith that someone wouldn’t cross the divider and crash into us. If we didn’t have faith, how could we fly in an airplane, a metallic machine soaring 35,000 feet in the air? Without faith, how could we move from one moment to the next?
We act in faith when there is no guarantee, no certainty. No one knows what kind of life an infant will have, yet people continue to have children. No one can know how life with our mates will turn out, yet we continue to have faith our relationships will last a lifetime.
Without faith, we couldn’t expect that things would turn out all right for us no matter what the situation might be.
Faith, then, is just as important as the air we breathe. While the oxygen in the air nourishes the body, faith nourishes the heart and the soul. It’s the energy that courses through every single fibre and cell within our beings. It’s part of every muscle and every strand of thought. It is the fundamental foundation of our existence. Simply put, the importance of faith cannot be underestimated.
People have moved mountains with their faith. Even when situations seemed dire and bleak, it was their faith that carried them through. There’s little to no explanation for it in the physical realm; it’s the metaphysical fibre that binds us all, carrying each of our deepest wishes and desires. That’s where faith lives.
Unfortunately, some people don’t believe in things that they cannot see. They explain things away due to other causes and effects, failing to find the small miracles in life that exist and work in our favour on a constant basis. There’s an enormous level of importance attributable to having faith in life. The power of faith is infinite.
Rishi Mantunga’s complete surrender to the Lord and his composition of Bhaktamar is the greatest gift to mankind. Each and every word of Bhaktamar reveals his enlightening devotion and infinite faith.
Devotion has strange powers. Faith gives infinite strength. If someone calls the Lord with pure and pious surrender it does not go in vain. He acquires physical and spiritual energies, grandeur, respect, affluence. Further health and wealth become his natural possessions. A true devotee never becomes desperate in life. It is impossible that faith and devotion does not bear fruit.
While reciting the Shlokas, if mind is focused on the pure divine image of the Lord, all ambiguities vanish, and unprecedented bliss of harmony is experienced. This bliss cannot be expressed in words, it can only be experienced and enjoyed.
Acharya again recited Bhaktamar Stotra with faith and all 48 locks with chains were broken. Acharya automatically came out of prison. Looking at this miracle, the whole city assembled around the prison in surprise and admiration. The king realized the power of Jainism and surrendered completely to the facts. King Bhoj fell down at the feet of Acharya and asked for pardon again and again for his mistake.
He prayed, “O Excellence! You were constituted of as many ultimate particles as they were full of the peaceful love. This is the reason for your unparallel and beautiful form in the whole universe.
“The eyes are not satisfied on other forms, once having looked at you. It is a fact that none will take to drink seawater, once having tasted the sweet water of Milky-ocean. The mother in whose womb you entered, become the noblest. All around, everywhere, mothers give birth to sons, but can the mother who gave birth to a son like you be common? Stars are accommodated in every direction, but the East alone is capable to give place to the Sun. Then your greatness is greater than that of the sun. The reason is that you neither set nor get eclipsed by the Rahu (ascending node).
“ Not screened by the clouds you illuminate all the three worlds simultaneously. Just as the Meru could not be moved by the winds of the bang, similarly, O Lord! The diving-beauties could not move your mind and heart even a bit. Hence, O Reliever of all miseries of the three worlds, I bow to you. O Earth’s unique ornament, the Lord of the three universes and exhauster of ocean of the world, I adore you.”
After this, Acharya Mantunga entered the city of Dhara. Due the effect of the preachings and Tapa of Mantunga, many people accepted Jain Dharma. Later on, Acharya Mantunga stayed at Bhojpur, practiced penance and meditation, and tried to get rid of worldly affection and aversion. At the end, he accepted “Sallekhana Vrit” and gave up his body doing Tapa. Shrine of Acharya Mantunga and his Siddha Shila is also here in Bhojpur. A pair of footprints of Acharya Mantunga are installed on the shrine. At a distance of 13 km from Dhara, in the village Ahu, ruins of 48 pillars may be seen where Acharya was kept during prison.
Thus, by the essence of devotion and surrender, decorated by figurative (rheoteric) Vasantatilka composition, the rosary rhythmic poetry resounded in the atmosphere.