Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Sixth incarnation as Vajrajangha which is the fourteenth part of chapter I of the English translation of the Adisvara-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Adisvara (or Rishabha) in jainism is the first Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 14: Sixth incarnation as Vajrajaṅgha

Then he was born as the son of King Suvarṇajaṅgha and Queen Lakṣmī in Jambūdvīpa, in the East Videhas, near the ocean on the north bank of the big river Sītā, in the province Puṣkalāvatī, in the city Lohārgala. Then with delight blossoming forth, on an auspicious day the happy parents gave him the name of Vajrajaṅgha. In a short time Svayamprabhā, afflicted by grief, devoted to works of dharma, also fell like Lalitāṅga. In this same province in the city Puṇḍarīkiṇī, she became the daughter of the Cakrin Vajrasena and his wife Guṇavatī. She was endowed with beauty surpassing all the world, and was named Śrīmatī by her parents. Cared for by nurses like a creeper by women-gardeners, she grew up gradually, her body delicate and her hands like shining blossoms. As a jewel adorns a gold ring, youth adorned her making the sky blossom, as it were, with her glossy beauty.

One day, for amusement she ascended the high palace named Sarvatobhadra, like a streak of twilight-clouds on a mountain. Then in a beautiful garden she saw the gods coming to Muni Susthita who had reached omniscience. “Where have I seen this before?” Using ūhā and apoha[1] she recalled her former births like a dream of the night. At once she fell on the ground in a swoon as if unable to bear in her heart the load of the knowledge of her former births. After she had recovered consciousness from treatment of sandal,[2] etc., administered by her friends, she got up and reflected as follows: “Lalitāṅga, my husband in a former birth, fell from heaven. Where has he descended now? Ignorance of this grieves me. Since he fills my heart, there is no other lord of my heart. Who indeed would put salt in a dish of camphor? He is the lord of my life. If there is no opportunity of conversation with him, what use is there in talking to any one else?” and she took a vow of silence. Fearing that it was a derangement due to supernatural agency, her friends gave treatment of charms, spells, etc., such as was fitting. She did not abandon her silence even from one hundred remedies. For certainly one disease is not cured by the remedy for another. On occasion she gave instruction to her retinue by writing and by gestures with her eye-brows, hands, etc.

One day Śrīmatī had gone to a pleasure-garden, and her nurse, named Paṇḍitā, seized a favorable opportunity and spoke to her privately: “You are like my life to me; I am like your mother. There is no reason for lack of confidence between us. Tell me, daughter, why you have taken to silence. Make your grief easier by sharing it with me. When I know your grief, I shall proceed to the business of curing it. For a treatment of an unknown disease is not right.” She then told Paṇḍitā an exact account of her former life, like a man making confession to a good guru. Having represented Śrīmatī’s story on canvas by pictures, Paṇḍitā, learned in strategy, went quickly to display it outside. It was the birthday of the Cakrin Vajrasena and for this occasion many kings came there. After she had painted the canvas clearly, Paṇḍitā spread it out on the highway, and stood like the strong desire of Śrīmatī. Some who knew the scriptures praised the painted heaven, Nandīśvara, etc., in it which agreed with the description in the scriptures. Other laymen, nodding their heads, described the images of the holy Arhats one by one. Looking repeatedly with side-long glances, some, who had experience in the arts, praised constantly the purity of line. Others described the colors, black, white, yellow, blue, red, etc., that made the canvas look like a twilight-cloud.

Just then King Durdarśana’s son, who was fittingly named Durdānta, came there. He looked at the canvas with circumspection for a moment, fell on the ground in a pretended faint, and got up like one who has regained consciousness. Questioned by the people as to the reason for his fainting, after he had got up, he told a story giving a false account. “Some one has painted on the canvas the incidents of my former birth, and at the sight of it here the recollection of the birth took place. I am the god Lalitāṅga, and Svayamprabhā was my goddess. All this agrees exactly with what is painted here on the canvas.” Then Paṇḍitā asked him, “If that is so, sir, then tell what this composition on the canvas is. Explain it with your finger.” He said, “This is Mt. Meru. This is the city Puṇḍarīkinī.” Again asked about the name of the muni, he said he had forgotten the name. Again asked, “Who is this king, surrounded by ministers? Who is this woman ascetic?” he replied, “I do not know their names.” Recognized as a deceitful person, he was addressed by her with ridicule: “O son, this account of your former birth agrees exactly with this. You are Lalitāṅga, sir, and Svayamprabhā is your wife. Now as a result of karma she is a lame girl in Nandigrāma. From recollection of her former birth, she painted her own life and gave me the canvas when I went to Dhātakīkhaṇḍa. I have searched for yon out of compassion for her, lame as she is. So, come to Dhātakīkhaṇḍa. I shall lead yon to her presence. Pitiable in separation from you, she lives in grief. Console at once your wife dearer than life in a former birth, O son.” When Paṇḍitā became silent after speaking thus, the deceitful man was ridiculed by his own friends. “Oh, there is fruition of your merit from this acquisition of a jewel of a woman.” “By all means this lame girl must be approached and supported.” Then Prince Durdānta, his face pale from embarrassment, (looking) like a piece of goods that has been left after a sale, went elsewhere.

Just then Vajrajaṅgha came from the city Lohārgala, saw the events painted in the picture, and swooned. Fanned with fans, sprinkled with water, he got up. Recollection of his former birth took place, as if he had just come from heaven. Questioned by Paṇḍitā, “Why did you swoon, O Prince, when you saw this painting?” Vajrajaṅgha said: “This painting is the life of my wife and myself in a former birth, madam. When I saw it, I fainted. This is the holy heaven Īśāna, and this the palace Śrīprabha. Here am I named Lalitāṅga, and that is my wife, Svayamprabhā. Here in Dhātakīkhaṇḍa, having descended in Nandigrāma, she, named Nirnāmikā, was born in the house of a poor man. Here she has ascended Mt. “Ambaratilaka and begun fasting before Muni Yugandhara. Here I have gone to show myself to her. She died devoted to me and was born again as Svayamprabhā. Here in Nandīśvara I am engaged in worshipping the images of the Jinas, and here, going from there to other tīrthas, I have fallen. Here, I think, my wife also is falling. Here is Svayamprabhā, alone, poor, pitiable. I think she is here. Remembering her former birth she painted that. For certainly one person does not know what has been experienced by another.” Paṇḍitā agreed, and went to Śrīmatī and told her everything—a remedy for healing the arrow-wound in her heart.

At the recital of the news of her lover, Śrīmatī’s hair stood on end from delight, like Vidūra’s ground sprouting with jewels at the sound of clouds.[3] Śrīmatī had Paṇḍitā tell her father, for dependence is a natural virtue of high-born women. Delighted at once by that recital like a pea-cock by thunder, King Vajrasena summoned Vajrajaṅgha. The King said to the Prince, “Take now my daughter Śrīmatī for your wife as in a former birth.” The Prince agreed, and the King, delighted, married Śrīmati to him, just as the ocean married Śrī to Hari.[4] Clothed in white linen, like the moon and moonlight united, they had the King’s permission to go to Lohārgalapura. Knowing that Vajrajaṅgha was a suitable person, King Svarṇajaṅgha installed him in power and took initiation. Vajrasena also bestowed his sovereignty on his son Puṣkalapāla and became a mendicant. He became a Tīrthakara. Vajrajaṅgha, dallying with beautiful Śrīmatī, bore with ease the burden of the kingdom, as an elephant bears a lotus. To them who were never separated like the Gaṅgā and the ocean, enjoying pleasures, a son was born.

Then the border vassals on all sides, very angry like a lot of snakes, were estranged from Puṣkalapāla. For the purpose of subduing them like snakes, the powerful king Vajrajaṅgha, summoned by him, set out. Śrīmatī, whose devotion was unshakeable, also set out with King Vajrajaṅgha, like Paulomī with Biḍaujas. When he had gone half-way, he saw ahead a patch of cane that presented the appearance of moonlight on the night before the new moon. When he was informed by travelers, “Here is a snake whose look is poisonous,” he went by another road. For the prudent are devoted to the completion of their purpose. He, resembling a lotus, went to Pundarīkiṇī, and the whole crowd of vassals became submissive to Puṣkala. King Puṣkalapāla gave numerous gifts to him, like a disciple greetings to a guru.

One day, he took leave of Śrīmatī’s distinguished brother and set out, accompanied by Śrīmatī, like the husband of Śrī by Śrī. When the grindstone of enemies reached the vicinity of the reed-patch, now the experts in his carriage said, “Here two ascetics attained kevalajñāna. The serpent which was poisonous by its glance became poisonless from the brilliance of the gods coming there. The two munis, named Sāgarasena and Munisena, O King, are there like the sun and moon.” The King knew that these munis were his brothers and, exceedingly pleased, dwelt in that very place in the forest, like Viṣṇu in the ocean.[5] Bowed with the weight of devotion as it were, together with his wife he paid homage to them preaching there, surrounded by an assembly of gods. At the end of the sermon he gave them food, drink, garments, paraphernalia, etc., and reflected as follows: “These are blessed, free from passions, from self-interest, and from possessions. I, alas! am not such, though born from the same parents. These alone are like legitimate sons, since they follow the good road of the father who took the vows; and I am like a purchased son. Even in such circumstances, if I become a mendicant, it is not at all unsuitable for me. For mendicancy even just taken is like a lamp for destroying darkness. Therefore, I shall resort now to my father’s course, like a haṃsa to the course of a haṃsa, after I have gone to the city and given the kingdom to my son.”

Accompanied by Queen Śrīmatī who agreed about taking the vow, as if her mind were interwoven with his, he arrived at the city Lohārgala. Then his son, eager for the throne, alienated the entire kingdom by money. Money penetrates everywhere like water. The King and Śrīmatī went to sleep at night with the thought that at dawn they would take the vow, and give the kingdom to their son. While they were happily asleep, their son infused poisonous incense into their room. Who could restrain it like fire coming out of a house? The husband and wife died at once from the excessive smoke of the incense which entered their nostrils like a hook for pulling out their lives.

Footnotes and references:


These are the second and third divisions of matijñāna. See below, 3. 579-84 and note 248.


To rub sandal-paste on the forehead or chest is a recognized Indian treatment for fainting. To hold an onion under the nose is another.


A literary convention. Cf. Kalidasa’s Kumārasambhava I. 24.


An allusion to the epic and Purāṇic story of ‘The Churning of the Ocean,’ during which Śrī was churned up and taken by Viṣṇu as his wife. Viṣṇupurāṇa, Bk. I, Chap. 9.


The ocean is Viṣṇu’s dwelling-place between the Kalpas. He is represented as reclining on Śeṣa-nāga, or on a lotus.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: