Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Story of the Brahman converts which is the thirty-fifth part of chapter III of the English translation of the Ajitanatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Ajitanatha in jainism is the second Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 35: Story of the Brāhman converts

Then a Brāhman and his wife came, circumambulated the Teacher of the World, bowed, and sat down in the proper place. In the course of the conversation the Brāhman, his hands folded, asked, “How is this? O Blessed One?” The Lord replied: “This is the power of right-belief, the sole source of the warding-off of all worthless objects and the attainment of desirable objects. Because of it hostilities cease, like fire because of rain; all diseases disappear, like serpents because of garuḍas. Bad karma melts away like snow from the sun;desires are attained at once, as if by a thonght-gem. The age-karma of a god[1] is bound, like a fine elephant by a fetter; gods are made near as if by a powerful charm. And yet, all this is insignificant fruit of right-belief; the important fruit is the rank of a Tīrthakṛt and even emancipation.”

At hearing this, the Brāhman, delighted, with folded hands bowed, and said, “O Blessed One, that is so. The words of the Omniscient are not false.” Saying this, he became silent. The head of the gaṇadharas, though he knew himself, in order that the people might know, asked the Teacher of the World, “O Lord, what did he ask? And what did you tell him? This is like telling something by hints. Enlighten us clearly.”

The Lord related: “Not very far from this city is a large village granted to Brahmans, named Sāligrāma. There lived the head of the Brāhmans, named Dāmodara, and his wife Somā. They had a son Śuddhabhaṭṭa who married Sulakṣaṇā, the daughter of Siddhabhaṭṭa. Sulakṣaṇā and Śuddhabhaṭṭa grew up and enjoyed pleasures suitable to their position, as they liked.

In course of time their parents died, and their fathers’ money also disappeared. Sometimes he would lie down at night, hungry in the midst of plenty. Famine is close beside the poor man, even in the midst of plenty. Sometimes he wandered in rags on the highway in the city, like a begging monk in a foreign country. Sometimes he was thirsty for a long time like the cātaka;[2] sometimes his person was unclean, like a Piśāca. Shamed by his neighbors and by himself for being such, he went to a distant foreign country without telling his wife. After some days his wife heard of his departure to a foreign country from gossip that was like a stroke of lightning. Sulakṣaṇā grieved for a long time, thinking herself deprived of good fortune by the loss of her parents and fortune, and the departure of her husband.

While she was grieving, the nun Vipulā came, wishing to stop in her house during the rainy season. Sulakṣaṇā allowed Vipulā to live there and listened daily to her religious teaching. From her teaching her wrong-belief disappeared like the sourness of vinegar from mixture with some sweet substance. Then later she attained faultless right-belief, like the moon brilliance after passing the black fortnight. She learned properly all the true categories of jīva, ajīva, etc.,[3] like a doctor ailments that arise in the body. She grasped the Jain dharma, adequate for crossing saṃsāra, like a sea-faring merchant a boat suitable for crossing the ocean. In her arose disgust with objects of the senses, subduing of the passions, and disgust with never-ceasing birth and death. Thus she spent the rainy season with listening to the nun, like a wakeful person passing the night with a story full of flavors. The nun administered the lesser vows to her, and went elsewhere. For generally ascetics do not stay in one place after the rains.

Śuddhabhaṭṭa made money and came back from abroad like a pigeon, drawn by his love for his wife. The Brāhman said to his wife: ‘My dear, how did you endure separation from me, since yon were formerly unable to endure it, like a lotus unable to bear cold?’ Sulakṣaṇā explained: ‘Listen, lord of my life. Like a duck into the desert, like a fish into a little water, like the crescent-moon into the mouth of Rāhu, like a deer into a forest-fire, I fell into separation from you, hard to bear, the gate to death. Like a light in darkness, like a ship on the ocean, like rain in a desert, like an uninjured eye to a blind person, the nun Vipulā, a wide ocean of compassion only, came to me when I had fallen into separation from you. At the sight of her, my grief arising from separation from you disappeared. I attained right-belief, the fruit of human birth.’

Śuddhabhaṭṭa replied, ‘O wife, what is this right-belief which is called the fruit of human birth?’

Sulakṣaṇā said: ‘Listen, noble husband. This should be told to dear ones. You are dearer than life. Whatever knowledge of divinity there is in reference to God, whatever conception of a guru there is in reference to a guru, whatever pure idea of dharma there is in reference to dharma, that is called ‘right-belief.’ On the contrary, whatever idea of God there is in regard to non-God, whatever thought of a guru in regard to a non-guru, whatever conception of dharma in regard to non-dharma, that is wrong-belief. The Omniscient, who has overcome the faults, love, etc., worshipped by the three worlds, giving true interpretation, God, Arhat, Supreme Lord, must be meditated on, he must be served, he must be sought as refuge. His teaching alone must be adopted, if there is understanding.

The gods who are stained with marks of women, weapons, a rosary, etc., love, etc., devoted to blame and favor are of no use for emancipation. How would they, confused by afflictions in the form or acting, loud laughter, concerts, etc., understand people who had attained a subdued state? Those who observe the great vows, firm, living only on alms, absorbed in tranquillity of mind,[4] teachers of dharma, are considered gurus. Those who desire all things, enjoy all things, have possessions, unchaste, teachers of false belief, are not gurus. How can they, sunk in possessions and worldly undertakings, lead others (across saṃsāra)? A poor man himself is not able to make another a lord. Dharma, so called from the raising of creatures fallen into an evil state of existence, with ten divisions, self-control, etc.,[5] is taught by the Omniscient for emancipation. If superhuman speech did not exist, there would be no authority. For authority is dependent upon the speech of the Arhats.[6] The dharma taught by heretics, defiled by hiṃsa, etc., though known as ‘dharma,’ is the cause of wandering in births. If God[7] should feel love, if a guru should be unchaste, and dharma deprived of compassion, oh! oh! the world is lost, alas!

Right-belief is characterized completely by five characteristics: tranquillity, desire for emancipation, disgust with the world, compassion, and faith in the principles of truth.[8] Firmness in Jain doctrine, promulgation of Jain doctrine, devotion to Jain doctrine, expertness in it, and service to the tīrthas are taught as its five ornaments.[9] Doubt, acceptance of other doctrines, hate of the Tīrthaṅkaras’ speech, praise of false doctrine, acquaintance with it are five things able to corrupt right-belief.’[10]

The Brāhman said, ‘O wife, you are fortunate, since you have taken up right-belief entirely, like a deposit.’

Śuddhabhaṭṭa then adopted right-belief. For instructors in dharma are merely witnesses to the dharma of the pure-minded. They both became laymen from instruction in right-belief. Even lead and tin may become gold from mercury. In that Brāhman village, the people at that time were without lay-dharma, from absence of contact with monks, and false-belief gradually arose. The people criticized them, saying, ‘They, evil-minded, have abandoned their inherited religion and have become Jain laymen.’ Scorning criticism, they continued to be Jain laymen, and in course of time they had a son, the fruit of the tree of the householder-state.

One day in the cool season the Brāhman took his son and went at dawn to the fire-pan for religious duties which was surrounded by the Brāhman assembly. Saying, ‘You are a Jain layman. Go elsewhere! Go!’ the angry Brāhmans reviled him like an outcaste. And the Brāhmans stood, surrounding the religious fire-pan completely. For their caste-law is jealous. Then embarrassed and angry at their shaming words, in the presence of the assembly he made a vow:

‘If the religion taught by the Jina does not lead across the ocean of existence; if the Arhats are not venerable, omniscient, and founders of congregations; if right-know-ledge, -belief, and -conduct are not the path of nirvāṇa; if there is not right-belief on earth, then may my son be burned. If all that is, may this fire, even though burning, be cool as water to my son.’ With these words, burning with anger like another fire, the impetuous Brāhman threw his son in the fire. ‘His son is burned by that wretch! His own son is burned, oh! oh!’ The assembly reviled him with such abuse.

A divinity present there, who possessed right-belief, at once threw the child, like a bee, into a lotus. Quickly she took the power of burning from the flame of the fire terrible with a multitude of flames and made it as if it were painted. In a former birth she had died, opposing asceticism, and had become a Vyantarī. Questioned by her in regard to gaining enlightenment, the Kevalin said, ‘Enlightenment is easy for you to gain, O sinless one. For its sake you must be duly devoted to perseverance in meditation and right-belief.’ Wearing his speech constantly on her heart like a necklace, she protected the boy for the glorification of right-belief. When they saw this demonstration of power, the Brāhmans, who had never seen such a thing before in their lives, became, wide-eyed with astonishment. After he had gone home, the Brāhman, delighted, told his wife the result of firm belief in right-belief.

His wife, who possessed discernment from close association with the nun Vipulā, said, ‘Alas! what have you done? This inconsiderate anger of yours, though crooked, became straight certainly through the presence of some deity who has right-belief. If some divinity who had power solely from right-belief had not been near at that time, your son would have perished. Moreover, those men, especially wicked, would have said, “This religion taught by the Jina is not authority. In that case how much more is it not authority.” Some foolish person may do such a thing as you have done. Henceforth, noble husband, you must not do such an unconsidered thing.’

After saying this, she brought her husband here before me in order to make firm his right-belief. The Brāhman asked his question with this in mind and I replied, ‘This is the power of right-belief.’”

After hearing this talk of the Blessed One, many other persons were enlightened and acquired firm dharma. Śuddhabhaṭṭa and his wife became mendicants in the Blessed One’s presence, and gradually attained omniscience. The Blessed One, the Lord, completed his preaching and wandered from that place over the earth, devoted solely to the benefit of the world, shining with the dharmacakra going in advance, like the Cakravartin with his cakra.

Footnotes and references:


See I, App. n.


See I, n. 161.


See I, App. IV.


Sāmāyika. See I, n. 122.


See I, n. 38 and n. 40.


See 3. 441 ff., page 100.


Deva must refer, as often, to the Tīrthaṅkaras. The gods, ordinarily speaking, were not free from the passions. See 3. 441 ff., page 100.


Cf. I, n. 121; Yog. 2.15.


See I, n. 120; Yog. 2.16.


See I, n. 119; Yog. 2. 17.

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