Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Eleventh incarnation as Vajranabha which is the nineteenth 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 19: Eleventh incarnation as Vajranābha

In the continent Jambūdvīpa, in the East Videhas, in the province Puṣkalāvatī in the vicinity of the ocean, in the city Puṇḍarīkiṇī, they were born in succession as the five sons of King Vajrasena by his wife Dhāriṇī. Among them the soul of the doctor was the first son, named Vajranābha, indicated by fourteen great dreams.[1] The soul of the prince was the second, named Bāhu. The minister’s son was named Subāhu. The souls of the sons of the merchant and trader were named Pīṭha and Mahāpīṭha; and the soul of Keśava became a Rājput, Suyaśas. Suyaśas was devoted to Vajranābha even from childhood. Affection resulting from a former birth binds friendship. The King’s sons and Suyaśas gradually grew up, resembling the six mountain-ranges[2] turned into men. Often riding horrseback on the bridle-path, they, powerful, gave the impression of Revanta[3] multiplied. In the study of the arts their teacher in the arts was only a witness, since the merits of the great become apparent by themselves. Their exhibitions of strength were excelled by no one, as they lifted mountains with their arms just as if lifting stones.[4]

Then the Lokāntika gods appeared before the King and announced to Vajrasena, “O Master, found your congregation.” Then Vajrasena installed on the throne Vajranābha, whose strength was equal to the thunderbolt, who was like a second himself embodied. Then King Vajrasena delighted the earth by distributing gifts for a year, like a cloud water. His festival of departure (niṣkramaṇa) was made by gods, asuras, and kings. He adorned the garden to which he went like the moon the sky. The Blessed One, having self-acquired knowledge, took initiation there, and the knowledge called manaḥparyāya was acquired. Rejoicing in the supreme spirit, having a wealth of tranquillity, free from affection, free from possessions, with various resolutions[5] the Lord set out to wander over the earth.

Vajranābha gave provinces to each one of his brothers and, surrounded by them in constant attendance, looked like Indra surrounded by Lokapālas. Suyaśas was his charioteer, like Aruṇa of the Sun. For great warriors must choose charioteers in accordance with themselves. From the destruction of the impurity of the ghaṭi-karmas[6] of Vajrasena, he acquired the highest omniscience like the light of a mirror. Then the cakra, surpassing the sun, entered King Vajranābha’s armory. The thirteen other jewels also belonged to him. For acquisition is in proportion to merit, as a lotus is in proportion to the water. The nine treasures[7] performed service to him, drawn by strong merit like bees by perfume. He conquered the entire province Puṣkalāvatī,[8] and all the kings consecrated him as cakravartin. His inclination toward dharma, even as he was enjoying pleasures, increased very much, as if in rivalry with increasing age. Gradually from the increasing wealth of disgust with existence, his inclination toward dharma became very strong like a creeper from water in a basin at its root.

One day the Lord of Jinas, Vajrasena, came there in his wandering, producing the greatest joy like mokṣa embodied. Then the Master delivered a sermon on dharma, which was a fountain of nectar for the ears, under the caitya-tree in the samavasaraṇa.[9] Joyfully, like a king-goose Vajranābha with his brothers approached the lotus-feet of the Lord Jina, kinsman of the whole world. After he had circumambulated three times the Lord of the World and bowed to him, he sat down behind Śakra like a younger brother. Chief of the laymen, he listened to the sermon which resembled rain at the time of Svāti,[10] producing the pearl of enlightenment in the pearl-oysters of the minds of the souls capable of emancipation.

Listening eagerly to the Blessed One’s speech like a deer to a song, joyfully the King thought: “The boundless ocean of existence is hard to cross, like the sea. Fortunately, my Father, Lord of the World, is a guide across even it. Delusion makes men completely blind, just as darkness does. The Blessed One destroys delusion completely, as the sun destroys darkness. The heap of karma is incurable like a powerful disease that has existed for a long time. My Father is its healer. But what need to say more? He alone is the destroyer of all pain, the sole producer of happiness, an ocean of nectar of compassion. Since the Master is like that, alas! through negligence arising from delusion, we ourselves have deceived ourselves for so long a time.” Then in a voice choked from devotion, the Cakravartin announced to the Cakravartin of dharma who had come: “For a long time my mind has been injured by books on statecraft devoted to the acquisition of wealth, just as a ploughed field is injured by kuśa grass.[11] In the same way, desiring worldly pleasures, like an actor I have long made my soul play parts always with karma as a costume. For this sovereignty of mine is dependent on wealth and love. Whatever dharma is considered here is allied with evil. Even though I am my Father’s son, if I wander here in the ocean of existence, what deeds of prowess would I, just like every one else, have to my credit? Just as I have taken care of this kingdom I received from you, so I will take care of the empire of self-control. Give it to me.”

After he had made the kingdom subject to his son, the Cakravartin—the sun in the sky of his own family, took the vow under the Blessed One. His brothers, Bāhu and the rest, took the vow at that time. For what their father and elder brother had taken came to them by inheritance. The charioteer, Suyaśas, following his master, became a mendicant at the feet of the charioteer of dharma. For servants follow their masters. Vajranābha instantly became completely acquainted with the ocean of scriptures, just as if the twelve aṅgas[12] visible to the eye had become combined in one living body. Bāhu and the others were learned in eleven aṅgas. For the wealth of merit is varied in accordance with the variation in destruction (kṣaya) and subsidence (upaśama) of karma.[13] Although rich in contentment, they were never satisfied with service at the Tīrthaṅkara’s feet and with severe penance. Constantly drinking the nectar of the Tīrthaṅkara’s speech, they did not become emaciated even with penance, such as a month’s fast, etc. The Blessed One, Vajrasena, resorted to the last pure meditation and attained emancipation which was celebrated with a great festival by the gods.

Vajranābha, like a brother of dharma, surrounded by munis, brothers in the vow, wandered over the earth. Bāhu and the other brothers and the charioteer had their lord in the Master Vajranābha, like the five senses subject to the mind. By the power of their yoga all the magic powers, phlegm, etc., became apparent like mountain herbs by moonlight. The body of a leper, if rubbed with just a particle of their phlegm, became golden like a heap of copper from koṭivedha juice.[14] The impurities from their eyes, ears, etc., and from their limbs, having the fragrance of musk, were a medicine for all sick people. Merely from touching their bodies, sick people became well, as if from a bath of nectar. Water, both rain-water and running water of rivers, etc., that had been in contact with their bodies, removed all diseases, as the light of the sun destroys darkness. The bad effects of poison, etc., disappeared from wind that had touched their bodies, just as other elephants disappear because of the scent of the ichor of a rutting elephant. Food, etc., infected with poison, that was placed in their dishes or mouths, became free from poison like pieces of nectar. By hearing their speech, pain left any one afflicted with a very poisonous disease, as poison disappears by a syllable of a charm. The nails, hair, teeth, and everything else produced by their bodies became medicines, just as water in pearl-oysters becomes pearls. They were able to make their bodies smaller than usual, so they could enter the eye of a needle like thread.[15] They had the power of making their bodies very large, so that Mt. Sumeru reached only to their knees. They had the capacity to make their bodies light, so that even the lightness of the air was exceeded. They had the power to make their bodies heavy, surpassing even the thunderbolt, which (power) could not be resisted even by Śakra and the other gods. They had the power of reaching, so that standing on the ground they could touch with their finger-tips the top of Meru, the planets, etc., like leaves of trees. They had the power of irresistible will, so that they could walk on water as well as on land, and dive into and come up from land as well as water. They had power by which they could gain the magnificent state of a cakravartin or Indra. They had the unprecedented faculty of making others submit, so that free, savage animals became submissive. They had the power of freedom from opposition, so that they had unopposed entrance into the middle of a mountain as if into a hole. They had the power of unfrustrated invisibility, so that they could always be as invisible as the wind. They had skill in changing their form, so they could fill the world with their own multiple forms.

Their seed-like intellect was apparent, supernatural, causing seeds of many ideas to grow from the seed of one idea. They had granary-like faculties so that they retained in due order things heard before without recalling them, like grain thrown in a granary. From their knowledge of all the texts and interpretations, they could continue a text from one word heard at the beginning, end, or middle. They had powerful mental faculties, lifting up from the ocean of scriptures a subject in an antarmuhūrta, from their power of immersion. They had a powerful faculty of speech, repeating all the scriptures in an antarmuhürta as easily as the alphabet. They were very strong in body, free from weariness and exhaustion even when they were engaged in motionless pratimā for a long time. They were sources of nectar, milk, honey, and ghee from the arrival of the flavor of nectar, etc., even from bad food put in their dishes. Fortunately they were sources of nectar, milk, honey, and ghee from the change of their words into nectar, etc., for those afflicted by pain. They had the power of having unfailing kitchens from the inexhaustibility of even a little food which had been dropped into their bowls, even though very much had been distributed. They had never-failing palaces from the comfortable accommodation of innumerable creatures in a little space as in the case of an assembly of a Tīrthakṛt. They had the power to acquire one undivided sense-organ from the grasping by one sense alone of the objects of other senses.

They had the art of flying with their legs by which they were able to reach Rucakadvīpa in one jump. Returning from Rucakadvīpa, with one jump they were able to reach Nandīśvara, and with a second the place from which they had started. When going up in the air, with one jump they could go to the garden Paṇḍaka on Meru’s peak. Then turning, they were able to go to Nandana[16] with one jump and with a second to the place of the first jump. By the art of flying by knowledge with one jump they were able to reach Mānuṣottara, and with another Nandīśvaradvīpa. With one jump they were able to arrive at the ground of the first jump. They were able to come and go up in the air in the same way as in the Middle World.[17] They had the power of a venomous serpent, able to destroy by a curse or to favor; and they had very many other powers also. They did not make use of their powers at all; for people seeking mokṣa are indifferent to things close at hand.

Now the Master Vajranābha acquired strong Tirthakṛt-body-making and family-karma by the twenty sthānakas[18] as follows. Of these the first is by worship of the Arhats and Arhat-statues, and by hymns of praise containing true events, avoiding blasphemy. The second is the celebration in words of the true state of emancipation with festivals of watching in the places where the siddhas attained perfection. The third sthānaka is kindness to yatis who are young, sick, students, etc., and affection for the scriptures. The fourth sthānaka is the showing of great devotion to gurus by gifts of food, medicine, clothes, etc., and by making salutation. The fifth is devotion to sthaviras, i.e., those who have been initiated for twenty years, those sixty years old, and the learned. The sixth is the showing of affection by gifts of food, clothes, etc., to those having more learning than oneself in regard to interpretation.[19] The seventh is tenderness to ascetics making protracted penance by the gift of devotion and rest. The eighth is the acquisition of knowledge of both text and meaning, of the twelve aṅgas of the scriptures by daily questions, reciting, etc. The ninth is right-belief, free from the faults of doubt, etc.,[20] adorned with the qualities of firmness, etc.,[21] characterized by tranquillity, etc.[22] The tenth is reverence (vinaya)—so-called from the destruction of karma, fourfold with knowledge, belief, good-conduct, and service to one’s superiors. The eleventh is earnest, determined avoidance, of transgression in the modes of conduct and daily duties. The twelfth sthānaka is the observance without sin of the chief guṇas of non-injury, etc., and the subsidiary ones of carefulness, etc. The thirteenth sthānaka is the making of pure meditation every minute and every second, with avoidance of negligence. The fourteenth sthāna is constant penance, according to ability, without injury to mind and body. The fifteenth is sharing of food, etc., with ascetics, according to ability, with purity of mind, speech, and body. The sixteenth sthāna is the rendering of service by food, drink, etc., to the ten persons, ācārya, etc.[23] The seventeenth sthāna is enabling the fourfold congregation to concentrate their minds in meditation by warding off all evils. The eighteenth sthāna is the daily zealous learning of new texts, interpretations, and both. The nineteenth sthäna is devotion to knowledge of the scriptures by faith, by their publication, by destroying censure, etc. The twentieth is the propagation of the doctrine by vidyās, prognostication, literary composition, discussion, discourses on dharma, etc.[24] Of these (i.e., of the twenty) one is cause for gaining Tīrthakṛtnāmakarma. The Blessed One acquired it by all.

Bāhu, performing service to the sādhus, acquired for himself karma which had as its fruit the pleasures of a cakravartin. Subāhu acquired superhuman strength by giving rest to the great rishis engaged in penance. Then Vajranābha praised Bāhu and Subāhu, saying, “These are indeed virtuous, bestowing service and rest.” Pīṭha and Mahāpīṭha reflected, “Whoever confers benefits, he alone is praised. Yet who praises us since we are devoted to the study of the scriptures and meditation, but do not confer benefits? People adhere to those who confer advantages.” Because they did not confess this sin caused by jealousy, devoted to deceit and wrong belief, they acquired karma that had woman-birth as its fruit. These six observed their mendicancy free from transgressions, resembling a sword-blade, for fourteen lacs of pūrvas.[25] The six, having pure resolution, undertook the first called pādapopagamana accompanied by the two kinds of saṃlekhana, and became chief-gods in the Sarvārthasiddhi heaven, with life-periods of thirty-three sägaropamas.

Footnotes and references:


These are described in detail in Chap. II.


See App. I.


Revanta was the son of Mārtaṇḍa when he and his wife had the form of horses. He was born, “holding a sword and bow, clad in armour, riding on horseback, and carrying arrows and a quiver.” Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa, 108. 7-12, Pargiter’s translation.


Perhaps a reminiscence of the lifting of the mountain by Kṛṣṇa. Viṣṇupurāṇa, Bk. V, Chap. 11.


Abhigraba. Abhigrahas are special vows taken by sādhus according to their particular notions. They relate to substance, place, time, and condition. A famous example is the resolution of Mahāvīra to break his fast only if he were offered kulmāṣa in one corner of a winnowing-basket by a woman whose feet were chained—one foot inside the threshold and one outside, at a certain time of day, and if the woman’s head were shaved and if she were crying. The story is told in detail in Tri. 10. 4. 478 ff. Kulmāṣa is said by the sādhus to be the same as uṛad (pulse) boiled in plain water. Now they usually break fast with rice or wheat.


Four of the 8 classes of karma are ‘destructive’: knowledge-obscuring, faith-obscuring, obstructive, and deluding. See App. II.


The 14 jewels and 9 treasures are discussed in Chap. IV.


One province of Videha is equal to all of Bharata and the conquest of one is sufficient to make a cakravartin.


The preaching-hall erected by the gods for the Tīrthaṅkaras. A detailed description occurs in Chap. III.


Each constellation is supposed to have a specific influence on the rain fall. If rain falls at the pearl-beds near Ceylon at the time of Svāti, it turns into pearls in 9 days, according to tradition.


Kuśa, or darbha, is Poa cynosuroides, a sacred grass used in some sacrificial ceremonies. It is considered very undesirable in cultivated ground.


The traditional original Jain canon.


See Chap. III.


This liquid is also mentioned in the Prabandhacintāmaṇi, Tawney, p. 173; Sk. ed. pp. 309-10.


In the Yog. and Pravac., this is described as having the power to become small enough to enter the hole of a lotus-stalk and still enjoy the prerogatives of a cakravartin.


Nandana is a half-way garden on Meru.


E.g., when they went to Meru, they went in two jumps and returned in one.


There are useful discussions of these in Āva. 176-8, p. 161 and Pravac. 310-19, pp. 82 f.


According to the Āva. p. 161, learning in regard to interpretation is more esteemed than in regard to the text.


The faults of right belief in addition to doubt (śaṅkā) are: acceptance of other doctrines (kāṅkṣā); hate of the Tīrthaṅkaras’ speech (vicikitsā); praise of false doctrine (mithyadṛṣtipraśaṃsana); acquaintance with false doctrine (°saṃstava). Yog. 2. 17.


The guṇas are: firmness in Jain doctrine (sthairya); promulgation of Jain doctrine (prabhāvanā); devotion to Jain doctrine (bhakti); expertness in it (kauśala); service to the tīrthas (tirthasevā [tīrthasevā?]). The tīrtha is either dravyatīrtha, places where the Tīrthakṛts were born, received initiation, kevalajñāna, and attained mokṣa; or bhāva-tīrtha, the fourfold congregation, or the chief gaṇadhara. Yog. 2. 16.


The characteristics (lakṣaṇa) are: tranquillity (śama); desire for emancipation (saṃvega); disgust with the world (nirveda); compassion (anukampa); faith in the principles of truth (āstikya). Yog. 2. 15.


The 10 persons entitled to service are; ācārya (head of a group of monks); upādhyāya (preceptor); sthavira (a monk 60 years old, or one who has been initiated 20 years, or a very learned monk); tapasvin (ascetic); glāna (a sick monk); śaikṣaka (a young monk); sādharmika (a co-religionist); kula (a group of sects); gaṇa (a group of kulas); saṅgha (a group of gaṇas). Aup. 20, p. 43. Sth 397, p. 299. Āva. 176-78, p. 161b, The interpretation of sādharmika varies from that of any one professing the same religion to the narrow definition of one who follows the same detailed practices. These 10 persons are entitled to 13 kinds of service: giving of food; of drink; giving a seat; supplying anything that may be lacking in his equipment; cleansing the feet; giving of clothes; giving of medicine; escort on the road; protection from rogues, thieves, etc.; taking the staff when he enters the house; and 3 kinds of sanitary service. Āva. p. 161b.


These are some of the 8 divisions of prabhāvanā (see n. 120). Yog. 2. 16, p. 65, gives the following list; 1) pravacin, one who knows the scriptures; 2) dharmakathin, one who delivers admirable religious lectures; 3) vādin, one who holds disputations; 4) naimittika, one who knows or teaches prognostication; 3) tapasvin, one who practices severe penance; 6) vidyāvat, one who has the vidyās, Prajñapti, etc., as attendant deities; 7) siddha, one who has obtained magic powers; 8) kavi, one who composes literary productions.


A pūrva—8,400,0002 years.

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