Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words

This is the English translation of the Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Charita (literally “The lives of the sixty-three illustrious People”), a Sanskrit epic poem written by Hemachandra in the twelfth century. The work relates the history and legends of important figures in the Jain faith. These 63 persons include: the twenty four tirthankaras , the t...

Part 1: Introduction

We meditate on Arhatship, the foundation of all the Arhats, the abode of the Śrī[1] of emancipation, the light of the three worlds—earth, air, and heaven.

We worship the Arhats, who at all times and all places purify the people of the three worlds by their name, representation, substance, and actual existence.[2]

We praise Ṛṣabha Svāmin, who was the first king, the first ascetic, the first head of a congregation.

I praise the Arhat Ajita, the sun to the lotus-bed in the form of the universe, in the clear mirror of whose omniscience the world is reflected.

May the words of the Lord of the World, Holy Sambhava, prevail at the time of his preaching—words that resemble rivers in the garden of all the souls who can attain emancipation.[3]

May the Blessed Abhinandana, the moon for the exhilaration of the ocean of Anekānta-doctrine give great joy.

May the Blessed Sumati Svāmin, whose toe-nails are sharpened on the whetstone of the gods’ diadems, grant your desires.

May the splendor of the Lord Padmaprabha’s body, red as if from a burst of anger in crushing internal enemies,[4] promote your emancipation.

Homage to the Lord of Jinas, Holy Supārśva, whose feet are honoured by Mahendra (Śakra),[5] the sun to the sky in the form of the fourfold congregation.[6]

May Lord Candraprabha’s form, bright as a mass of moonbeams, as if made of embodied pure meditation, be for your prosperity.

May Suvidhi, who considers the universe as plain as a myrobalan lying in the hand by means of his wealth of omniscience, the depository of inconceivable power, be for your enlightenment.

May the Jina Śītala, a new cloud for making shoot up the bulb of the people’s supreme joy, who pours forth the nectar of Syādvāda, protect you.

May Śreyāṃsa, the sight of whom is a physician for creatures afflicted with the disease of existence, the lover of the Śrī of emancipation, be for your emancipation.

May Vāsupūjya, whose acquisition of Tīrthakṛt-karma[7] has been beneficial to the whole universe, entitled to worship from gods, asuras and men, purify you.

May the words of Vimala Svāmin which are like powdered clearing-nut, be successful in clarifying the water of the mind of the three worlds.

May Anantajit, rivaling the Svayambhūramaṇa ocean with water of the feeling of compassion, bestow on you the boundless wealth of happiness.

We worship Dharmanātha, the teacher of fourfold dharma,[8] like a kalpa-tree for attainment of creatures’ desires.

May the Jina Śāntinātha, who has brightened the quarters of the sky by the moonlight of his nectar-like words, be a moon to you for dispelling (mental) darkness.

May the Blessed Śrī Kunthunātha, lord of the wealth of the supernatural powers, supreme lord of the lords of gods, asuras and men, be for your emancipation.

May the Blessed Aranātha, the sun in the sky of the fourth division of time[9] grant us pleasure with the Śrī of the fourth object of existence (mokṣa).

We praise Malli, a new cloud for the peacocks[10] in the form of lords of gods, asuras and men, Hastimalla (Indra’s elephant) for the rooting up of the tree of karma.

We praise Munisuvrata’s preaching, which resembles the dawn for the sleep of the world’s great delusion.

May the rays of light from Nemi’s toe-nails which, falling on the heads of his worshippers, purify them like streams of water, protect you.

May the Blessed Ariṣṭanemi, the moon to the ocean of the Yadu-family, a fire to the straw of karma, destroy your misfortunes.

May the Lord Pārśvanātha, whose attitude of mind was the same toward Kamaṭha and Dharaṇendra[11] while each was performing actions characteristic of himself, be for your emancipation.

May there be good fortune from Holy Vīra’s eyes whose pupils are wide with compassion even for sinful people, moist with a trace of tears.[12]

In the congregations of the Tīrthaṅkaras, there were twelve Cakravartins, nine each of Ardhacakrins, Rāmas, and Pratyardhacakrins.[13] These sixty-three famous men, who have attained the Śrī of emancipation or will attain her, were born in the Bharata-zone in the avasarpiṇī period of time. We shall relate the lives of these famous persons. For the celebration of the noble is the best source of emancipation. From these, now the life of the Blessed Lord Ṛṣabha is described, beginning with the birth in which he acquired the seed of enlightenment.

Footnotes and references:


Śivaśrī. This use of śrī is characteristic of Hemacandra. He habitually uses the word with the personification carried to the point that the translation ‘goddess’ would be justified; with no reference, however, to Lakṣmī. Cf. the Marāṭhī use, M.C.s.v.


Everything is to be considered from four aspects (nikṣepa): nāma, sthāpanā (more usual term than the ākṛti of the text), dravya, and bhāva. In regard to a Tīrthaṅkara, nāma is the name, i.e., the mere word, and its repetition calls up his figure before the mind; sthāpanā, the representation, refers to any material representation of a Tīrthaṅkara; dravya, substance (in the case of a human being it is the ‘soul’), is the essential qualities that will be transformed into a Tīrthaṅkara in the future; bhāva, actual existence, is when he actually becomes a Tīrthaṅkara. Anuyog. 8, p. 10f. O. of J. p. 74.


Souls are divided into two classes: bhavyas—those that can attain emancipation, and abhavyas—those that can not. Āvacurṇi. p. 99a. Viśeṣāvaśyakabhāṣya, śloka 1821 ff. T.I.I.c.


Antaraṅgāri. The internal enemies are the four passions (kaṣāya): anger (krodha), conceit (māna), deceit (māyā), greed (lobha); love (raga), and hate (dveṣa). They are subdivisions of the fourth category, Pāpa. Yog. p. 56a.


Indra’s names and epithets are used for Śakra, the Indra of the first heaven (Saudharma), and the most important of the 64 Indras of the Jain pantheon.


Monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.


Tīrthakṛt-karma is a subdivision of nāma (body-making) karma. See App. II.


For dharma, see below, w. 152 ff.


All the Tīrthaṅkaras, except Ṛṣabha, were born in the fourth period of avasarpiṇī, duḥṣamasuṣamā, in which evil predominates.


The love of peacocks for clouds is proverbial.


Kamaṭha was Pārśvanātha’s enemy and Dharaṇendra his friend, as the result of an incident in a former birth. See Bloomfield: Life and Stories of the Jaina Savior Pārśvanātha, pp. 9 ff.


This has especial reference to Vīra’s compassion for the god, Saṅgamaka, who had tried in vain for six months to distract Vīra from his meditation. Yog. 1. 3, pp. 6a ff. A detailed account of Saṅgamaka’s persecutions is given in Tri. 10. 4. 171-303. The source is probably Āvacurṇi. p. 314b.


These with the twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras constitute the Sixty-three -Famous men. The Ardhacakrins and their enemies, the Pratyardhacakrins, are more commonly called the Vāsudevas and Prativāsudevas. Kṛṣṇa was the ninth Vāsudeva. The Rāmas are the Balarāmas, or Balabhadras, of whom Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa’s brother, was the ninth.

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