Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Initiation of Sundari which is the nineteenth part of chapter IV 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: Initiation of Sundarī

Continuing to exercise unbroken overlordship in Vinītā, he began to remember his own family, at the end of the coronation-festival. After a separation of sixty thousand years, his ministers showed the King his own family, eager to see him. Then he, fair with virtues, saw Sundarī, the full-sister of Bāhubali,[1] pointed out by his officials naming her, thin like a river drained by the hot season, black like a lotus from contact with a mass of snow, her loveliness destroyed like a digit of the winter-moon, her cheeks pale and emaciated like a plantain-tree with dried-up leaves. When he saw her in such a condition as if she were a different person, the King spoke angrily to his ministers: “Is there never any boiled rice in my house, villains? Is salt not found in the Lavaṇa Ocean? Are there no cooks skilled in various dishes? Or are they, lazy, stealing their living? Is there nothing fit to eat here, such as grapes or dates? Pray, is no gold to he found in Meru? Have the trees in the gardens ceased to bear fruit? Do the trees in the grove Nandana not bear fruit? Or is there no milk from the cows here with udders like jars? Pray, has the cow of plenty gone dry? But if there is an abundance of food, etc., and Sundarī eats nothing, then she is sick. If she has some ailment, thief of her health, are not all the physicians dead? Or if divine healing herbs are not to be obtained in my house, Mt. Hima too must now be lacking in herbs. I am grieved to see her so emaciated, like a poor man’s daughter. Alas! you have deceived me, like enemies.” Bowing to Bharata, the ministers said, “Every thing is available in your Majesty’s house, as in Indra’s house. However, from the time your Majesty departed for world-conquest, she has eaten just enough dry food[2] to sustain life. likewise from the time she was prevented by your Majesty from becoming a mendicant, she has in reality been initiated at heart.”

Questioned by the King, “O good lady, daughter of a good lady, do you wish to become a mendicant?” she replied, “Yes.” Bharata said, “Either from negligence or from simplicity, for so long I have prevented her taking the vow. She is the child like our father, free from worldly feelings. What are we, devoted to things of the senses, not satisfied with a kingdom? People, greedy for things of the senses, even though knowing that life is very perishable like a wave of ocean-water, do not realize it. By this transitory life mokṣa should be obtained properly, like a glimpse of a road by lightning that disappears instantly. Whatever adornment is applied to the body consisting of the liver, impurities, perspiration, and disease, that is like perfuming the house-drain. You take with this body the vow which bears the good fruit of mokṣa. Certainly the clever take jewels even from the Ocean of Milk.” When permission to take the vow had been given by the delighted King, though she was thin from penance, she expanded so with delight that she was not thin.

Just then the Blessed Lord Ṛṣabha, the cloud to the peacock of the world, came to Mt. Aṣṭāpada in his wandering. There on the mountain, the gods made a samavasaraṇa that was like another mountain of jewels, gold, and silver. Without delay the mountain-guards came and reported to Lord Bharata that the Master was preaching there. When he heard that news, the King rejoiced more than at the conquest of the six-part Bharatakṣetra. The King gave a present of twelve and a half crores of gold to the servants announcing the Master’s arrival. “The Teacher of the World has come here in his wandering, like the embodied accomplishment of your desire,” he said to Sundarī.

The Lord of Bharata had the departure-ceremony made by young women of his family as well as slave-girls. After bathing and being anointed at once with pure ointment, she put on fringed garments that were like another ointment. She put on choice jewels and ornaments. Good conduct was her ornament. Ornaments are for the sake of dignity. Before Sundarī in this state, even Subhadrā, the woman-jewel, with her wealth of beauty looked like a slave girl. Whatever any one asked, Sundarī, fair in conduct, gave him unhesitatingly, like a living wishing-vine. Resplendent in garments white as camphor-dust, she entered the palanquin, like a haṃsa a lotus-pond. Sundarī, like Marudevī, was followed by the King, the ground covered with elephant-drivers, horsemen, infantry, and chariots. Fanned by two chauris, adorned with a white umbrella, praised by bards, with auspicious songs of the festival of mendicancy sung aloud by her brothers’ wives, salt being waved[3] by noble women at every step, resplendent with many people accompanying her carrying full dishes, she arrived at Mt. Aṣṭāpada purified by the Master’s feet.

Bharata and Sundarī experienced exceeding joy when they saw the mountain occupied by the Master, like the eastern mountain with a moon. They ascended the mountain with a broad summit, like the first wide stairs to heaven and mokṣa. Then they reached the samavasaraṇa, the refuge of those fearing existence, with four doors like the world on a small scale.[4] The Lord of Bharata and Sundarī entered the samavasaraṇa by the north door as was correct. Their bodies swollen and contracted by delight and reverence, they made the pradakṣiṇā to the Supreme Lord three times. They bowed to the Supreme Lord touching the ground with five parts of the body,[5] as if eager to see him reflected in the jeweled surface of the earth. Then the Cakravartin began to praise the first Dharmacakravartin in beautiful speech pure with, devotion.

Stuti (the first Dharmacakravartin)

“One man praises another, reciting merits that do not exist. How can I praise you, when I am unable to recite even your merits that do exist? Nevertheless, O Lord of the World, I shall make a panegyric to you. Does not a poor man give a gift even to a rich man? Merely by the sight of your feet, sins even though committed in another birth, fade away like śephālī-flowers[6] from the moon’s rays. Like juice of the herb of nectar, O Master, your words are efficacious with people ill with disease of the three humors in the form of delusion hard to cure. All your glances, O Lord, like the yearly rains, are the source of a wealth of joy to cakravartin or beggar. By the merit of such as us, you wander over this earth, O Master, a sun for destroying the snowball of cruel karma. Your three steps (tripadī) consisting of origination, perishing, and permanence, O Lord, prevail, like sūtras teaching the meaning of technical terms which pervade grammar. O Blessed One, this is the last existence in this world of anyone who praises you, to say nothing of one who serves you, or meditates on you.”

After praising the Blessed One in this way, the Lord of Bharata bowed and sat down in the right place in the northeast quarter.

Sundarī, after paying homage to the Master, Vṛṣabha-bannered, with folded hands spoke in a choking voice as follows: “You were seen continually in the mind all this time, O Lord of the World; by good fortune because of much merit you are seen in person, O Gentle One. Because of their merit the people have reached you like a great lake of nectar in the desert of saṃsāra whose happiness is like a mirage. Even though free from affection, you are kind to the world. Otherwise, how can you raise it from the ocean of misfortune and pain? Lady Brahmī obtained her desire, my brothers’ sons obtained their desire, my nephews’ sons obtained their desire, who followed your path. From regard for the Lord of Bharata, I did not take the vow. O Blessed One, for so long I deceived myself. O leader of all, lead poor me; lead me, O Father. Does not a light that lights a house light a jar? Favor me; give me initiation, O Lord devoted solely to the protection of all, like a boat for crossing the ocean of saṃsāra.” Saying “Well done! Well done! O noble woman,” the Lord gave her initiation accompanied by the recitation of the sāmāyika-sūtra.[7] The Lord gave her a sermon containing instruction, like a stream of nectar to the grove of trees of the great vows. Noble-minded, considering that she had attained mokṣa as it were, she sat down in the group of nuns according to seniority. After hearing the Master’s sermon, bowing at the lotus-feet, delighted, the Lord of Bharata went to the city Ayodhyā.

Footnotes and references:


Bharata’s wife.


Ācāmāmla. The same as ācāmla. The present practice in the Tapagaccha is to take one meal a day of dry food, such as plain cooked rice and flour cakes. Salt, pepper, dry ginger may be used; but no ghī nor anything sweet. Water is taken.


Uttāryamāṇalavaṇa. Salt and mustard are waved over a person’s head to remove effects of evil eye, etc. Modern Guj. has the same expression, luṇ utārvuṃ.


See App. I. The wall around Jambūdvīpa has 4 gates.


With Jains the five parts are hands, knees, and forehead. They do not prostrate themselves.


The śephālī is the Nyctanthes arbor tristis, the nightflowering jasmine. I have not found any belief about its flowers perishing from moonlight.


This is given in the Pañcaprati. 9. p. 22, as follows:

Karemi bhaṅte sātnāiyaṃ sāvajjaṃ jogam paccakkhāmi, Jāva niyamaṃ pajjuvāsāmi, duvihaṃ tiviheṇaṃ maṇeṇam vāyāe kāeṇaṃ na karemi na kāravemi, tassa bhaṅte paḍikkamāmi niṅdāmi garihāmi appāṇaṃ vosirāmi.

“I adopt tranquillity, O Blessed One. I reject sinful activity. Since I honor self-restraint, in two ways and three ways I do not commit nor cause it (sinful activity) to be committed by mind, speech, or body. I confess, I censure it, I reproach myself, I dismiss it, O Blessed One.”

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