Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Origin of Brahmans which is the sixth part of chapter VI 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 6: Origin of Brāhmans

Then Bharata summoned the laymen and made this announcement: “You must take your food daily in my house. Ploughing, etc., must not be done. Moreover, daily you must devote your attention to study of the scriptures, acquiring new knowledge. When you come into my presence after you have eaten, you must recite: ‘You are conquered. Fear grows. Therefore, do not kill. Do not kill (māhana).’” Agreeing, they take their food in his house and attentively recite his speech as well as the recitation of scripture.

Absorbed in pleasure like a god, the King, careless, sometimes reflected just from hearing these words: “By whom am I conquered? Oh, I know. By passions. And fear of what grows? My fear of them (passions). So, may I not kill any living creatures. So these men, possessing discernment, always remind me. Shame on my negligence! Shame on my greed for sense-objects! Shame on my indifference to dharma! Shame on my passion for saṃsāra! Shame on conduct the reverse of what is suitable for a noble man.” As a result of this reflection, dharmadhyāna progressed in him, negligent, like the stream of the Gaṅgā in the Lavaṇoda. Again the Kin g became absorbed in sense-objects—sound, etc. No one is able to change karma which has pleasure as its fruit.

One day, the head-cooks informed the King, “Because of the large number of people (who come), it is not known who is a layman and who is not.” Bharata instructed the cooks, “After this, food must be given with a test, ‘Are you laymen?”’ “Who are you?” “I am a layman.” “Tell us how many vows.” “Laymen do not have these (vows), but we always have five lesser vows and seven disciplinary vows.”[1] They showed the ones who had passed the test like this to the King. With the cowrie-jewel the King made three lines indicating right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct, a mark of purity, like a garland hung obliquely over the shoulder. Every half-year the new laymen passed the test and were marked by the cowrie in the same way. By that mark they obtained food and recited aloud, “You are conquered, etc.” From that they became Māhanas (Brāhmans). They gave their children to sādhus; and of these some, disgusted with life, took the vow of their own accord. Some became laymen, as they were unable to endure trials; they took food and were marked in the same way with the cowrie-jewel. Because the King gave it to them, the people gave also from faith. One who is honored by those who are honored, by whom is he not honored?

For the sake of their study, the Cakrin made the noble Vedas purified by praise of the Arhats and right practices of munis and laymen. Gradually, the Māhanas became known by the name of Brāhmans and, bearing the three marks of the cowrie-jewel, they reached the state of wearing the sacred thread. This was the custom under Bharata’s rule, but Arkayaśas made a gold sacred thread because the cowrie was lacking.[2] Beginning with Mahāyaśas some made silver cords, others made of silk thread, and others of cotton thread. This custom prevailed through the time of eight men from Bharata: Ādityayaśas, Mahāyaśas, Atibala, Balabhadra, Balavīrya, Kīrtivīrya, Jalavīrya, and Daṇḍavīrya the eighth. By these kings half of Bharatakṣetra was enjoyed completely and the Blessed One’s crown, brought by Śakra, was worn on their heads. It could not he worn by the remainder because of its weight. For the load of an elephant can be borne only by an elephant, not by others. A disappearance of sādhus took place between the ninth and tenth Arhats, and this continued during seven intervals between Jinas. The Vedas, consisting at that time of praise of the Arhats and dharma for monks and laymen, were made ignoble later by Sulasā, Yājñavalkya, and others.[3]

Now Bharata continued to spend the days in gifts to laymen, love-sport, and other amusements. One day, the Blessed One went to Mt. Aṣṭāpada, purifying the earth with his feet, like the moon the heaven. The Lord of the World sat in a samavasaraṇa made at once by the gods and delivered a sermon. That the Master of the World had come and was so engaged was reported to the Lord of Bharata by his agents who had returned swift as the wind. Bharata gave them a reward the same size as before. For the wishing-tree giving every day does not fail.

When he had come to the Master in the samavasaraṇa on Aṣṭāpada, had made the pradakṣiṇā, and had paid homage, the Cakrin delivered a hymn of praise.


“From your power, I, even though ignorant, praise you, O Lord of the World. For the sight, even though dull, of those looking at the moon, becomes sharpened. O Master, your omniscience prevails, infinite like space, the light for the sight of the world plunged in the darkness of delusion. For the sake of such as me buried in the deep sleep of negligence, O Lord, you come and go repeatedly, like the sun. Karma acquired in a lac of births dissolves at the sight of you. Ghee even as hard as a mill-stone would melt in time from a fire. The period of Bliss-Pain is better than that of Pure Bliss, since in it you gave better fruit than the wishing-trees. O Lord of all the worlds, this world adorned by you is superior to (other) worlds, just as a city adorned by a king is superior to villages. Benefits which father, mother, teacher, master—everyone, in fact, do not confer, yon alone, having become several persons, confer. The world is adorned by you, like the night by the moon, like a pool by the haṃsa, like a face by a tilaka.”

After reciting this hymn of praise and paying suitable homage to the Blessed One, the Lord of Bharata, polite, sat down in the proper place. The Blessed One delivered a sermon for the benefit of all, in a speech extending for a yojana and conforming to every dialect. At the end of the sermon, the Lord of Bharata, his hair erect from joy, bowed with folded hands to the Master and asked: “O Lord how many other Dharmacakrins like you, benefiting all, will there be here in Bharata, and how many Cakrins? Tell their city, gotra, parents, name, age, color, height, and interval (between Tīrthaṅkaras), initiation and future condition of existence, O Lord.”

Footnotes and references:


The three meritorious vows and the four proper disciplinary. These 7 are usually called śīlavratas.


Only Cakravartins had the cowrie-jewel.


Sulasā here is probably the Sulasā of a story that occurs in Tri. 7. 2. 455 ff. A suitor of hers was defeated at her svayaṃvara by a rival through a trick. Whereupon he brought about his own death and was reborn as an Asura. He then knew by clairvoyant knowledge that Sulasā’s husband had played this trick, and vowed revenge. With an ally, he gained power over the people by causing diseases, etc., and then curing them. He then persuaded them to adopt many ignoble practices, including animal sacrifices and eating of meat. Yājñavalkya is the reputed teacher of the White Yajūrveda and the law-giver.

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