Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Ninth incarnation as a physician Jivananda which is the seventeenth 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 17: Ninth incarnation as a physician Jīvānanda

After he had enjoyed pleasures unceasingly, the soul of Vajrajaṅgha fell from the exhaustion of his life-span, just as a snow-ball melts in the sun. In Jambūdvīpa, in the Videhas, in the city Kṣitipratiṣṭhita, he was born as the son, named Jīvānanda, of the physician Suvidhi. At the same time in this city four other boys were born, like pieces of dharma joined to bodies. Among them, one was the son, named Mahīdhara, of King Īśānacandra by his wife Kanakavatī. Another was the son of the minister Sunāsīra and his wife Lakṣmī, named Subuddhi, resembling Śrīnandana (Love). Another was the son, named Pūrṇabhadra, of the trader Sāgaradatta and his wife Abhayavatī. The fourth was borne by the wife, Śīlamatī, of the merchant Dhana; he was named Guṇākara and was like a heap of good conduct. Zealously cared for by nurses day and night, all grew up together like limbs in one body. They played together in sand-piles, and together they absorbed the entire collection of arts as trees absorb water. In the same city the soul of Śrīmatī too was born as the son Keśava of the merchant Īśvaradatta. Counting him they were six friends, inseparable always like the mind and the senses, Jīvānanda learned the eight-branched[1] Ayurveda followed by his father and also the taste, efficacy, and effect of drugs. Like Airāvaṇa among elephants, like the sun among the planets, he became foremost among physicians, wise and with unquestioned skill. They always amused themselves together like brothers, all staying sometimes at one’s house, sometimes at another’s.

One day when they were at the house of Jīvānanda, the son of the physician, a sādhu came to beg for alms. He was the son of King Pṛthvīpāla, named Guṇākara, and had given up the kingdom like an impure thing, and had adopted the empire of tranquillity. Emaciated by penance like the water of a river by summer-heat, he was afflicted by worms and leprosy from eating food at the wrong time. Although afflicted with worms and leprosy in his whole body, he did not ever ask for a treatment. For those who desire emancipation are, indifferent to the body. As he was wandering at random from house to house to break his three days’ fast, they observed him in the courtyard of their own house. Then Prince Mahīdhara said tauntingly to Jīvānanda, the only physician in the world: “You have thorough knowledge of disease; you have knowledge of drugs; you are experienced in treatment. Compassion alone is wanting. Like a courtesan, you never glance even at a friend even though sick, even though asking, unless you are paid. Nevertheless, the discerning must not be greedy for money solely. In some cases, a cure must be made for the sake of dharma. Shame on all your efforts in treatment and in pathology since you are indifferent to such a worthy person who has come ill.”

Jīvānanda, an ocean of the jewels of knowledge, replied: “Noble friend, yon have astonished me. It is a good thing. A Brahman’s relatives free from animosity, a merchant who is not deceitful, a lover who is not jealous, a body free from disease, a learned man who is rich, a meritorious person free from pride, a woman who is not fickle, and a prince who has good conduct—these are seldom seen. I must certainly cure this great muni.‘“The lack of remedies hinders. I have here the oil with a hundred thousand ingredients, but I have not gośīrṣa-sandal and a jeweled blanket. Bring them.” “We will bring them,” saying, the five went at once to the bazaar. The muni went to his own house.

“'Take the price and give us a jeweled blanket and gośīrṣa-sandal,” they said to an old merchant. While giving them, he said, “A lac of dinars is the price of each of them. Take them, and tell me what yon intend to do with these objects.” They said, “Take the price and give the gośīrṣa-sandal and jeweled blanket. Our purpose is to cure a great sādhu with them.” Hearing this, the merchant, whose eyes were wide open with astonishment and whose joy was indicated by horripilation, reflected thus in his mind: “On the one hand is their youth intoxicated with wildness, joy, and love; on the other hand their minds, the abode of discernment, suitable for mature age. Such a thing is suitable for people like me whose bodies are decrepit from old age. For them to do it is like untamed animals carrying a load.” With these reflections he said: “Take the gośīrṣa-sandal and jeweled blanket. Good luck to you, sirs, and keep the money. I shall take imperishable dharma as the price of these two articles. Like brothers you have made me share dharma, which is a good thing.” The best of merchants delivered to them the gośīrṣa-sandal and jeweled blanket. Devout, he became a mendicant, and attained emancipation.

With all the remedies, they, foremost of the noble, accompanied by Jīvānanda, went to the muni. After bowing to him as he was standing in kāyotsarga, motionless beneath a banyan tree like its root, they said, “We are going to make an obstacle to your dharma to-day by giving a treatment, Blessed One. Permit it and favor us with merit.” Thus informing the muni, they brought a cow recently dead. Certainly doctors do not hesitate. They anointed with the oil every limb of the muni; it disappeared in the body like canal-water in a garden. The muni became unconscious from the oil which had great warming power. An exceedingly strong remedy is suitable for allaying a very strong disease. Confused by the oil, the worms came out of his body, as ants come out of an ant-hill because of water. Jīvānanda then covered the muni entirely with the jeweled blanket just as the moon covers the sky with moonlight. Then the worms clung to the jeweled blanket because of its coolness,[2] just as fish burned by summer midday heat cling to duckweed. Slowly shaking the blanket above the cow’s body, the doctor made the worms fall. Indeed, treachery is never present in the good. Then Jīvānanda soothed the muni with gośīrṣa-sandal which gives life to creatures like nectar. As only the worms which were in the skin came out from this, Jīvānanda anointed again the muni with oil. From that anointing again many worms that were in the flesh came out, like liquids from the vital air that is in the throat and rises upwards. The worms stuck to the jeweled blanket-cover in the same way as bacteria of curds more than two days old stick to a cloth with red lac. Again he made the worms fall from the jeweled blanket on the cow’s body in the same way as before. Oh, the knowledge and skill of the doctor! Jīvānanda made comfortable the muni with showers of juice of gośīrṣa-sandal, just as a cloud makes comfortable with rain an elephant tormented by summer heat. By another anointing the worms in the bones came out. There is no staying even in adamant cages when the very strong are angry. Again he shook the worms clinging to the jeweled blanket on the cow’s body. A low abode is suitable for the low. Again the best of doctors smeared the muni with gośīrṣa-sandal at once with the greatest devotion as if he were a god. The muni, handsome because of the fresh skin that had been produced by the applied remedies, looked like a polished golden statue. When these men skilled in devotion had asked his forgiveness (for any fault they might have committed), he, patient as the earth, went elsewhere to wander. For such as he can remain nowhere.

Endowed with plenty of shrewdness, they sold the remaining gośīrṣa-sandal and the jeweled blanket and received gold. With that gold and gold of their own they had built a lofty Jain temple that was like the peak of Meru. Worshipping the Jinas and devoted to attendance on their guru, they, noble-minded, wore away time like karma. One day, the six felt disgust with the world and, pious, in the presence of their guru took initiation—the fruit of the tree of human birth. They wandered from city to city, from village to village, and from forest to forest, staying a limited time, like planets going from one sign of the zodiac to another. By penances of two, three, four, etc., days’ fast,[3] they made the jewel of good-conduct more shining, though already 'shining, as if by a whetstone. Not troubling the giver, for the sake of sustaining life they took alms to break fast, following the custom of the bees.[4] Supported by firmness, they endured trials, hunger, thirst, heat, etc., as good soldiers endure blows. With forgiveness, etc.,[5] as weapons they completely overcame the four passions like four branches of the army of King Delusion. After they had first performed saṃlekhanā[6] physically and mentally, they began to fast, which is a thunderbolt for destroying the mountain of karma. Engaged in concentrated meditation, recalling the formula of homage to the five Supreme Ones, they abandoned the body. The noble have no delusion.

Footnotes and references:


These are given in MW. s.v. as follow: removal of any substance which has entered the body; cure of diseases of the eye or ear, etc., by sharp instruments; cure of diseases affecting the whole body; treatment of mental diseases supposed to be produced by demoniacal influence; treatment of children; doctrine of antidotes; doctrine of elixirs; doctrine of aphrodisiacs.


The worms were burned by the oil.


This is not a strictly accurate translation of the tūrya (caturtha), ṣaṣṭha, aṣṭama of the text. Neither is the more usual one and a half, two and a half, three and a half days, respectively. In actual practice the caturtha affects three days. Only one meal is eaten on the day preceding the fast day proper, complete fast is observed for one day, and on the third day one meal is eaten. In the same way the ṣaṣṭha affects four days, the aṣṭama five, etc.


They took alms where they would not be missed, nor cause any trouble to the giver, as bees take honey.


This refers to the yatidharma. See note 38.


See below, 6. 434 ff.

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