Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Kapila’s births which is the tenth part of chapter I of the English translation of the Shantinatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Shantinatha in jainism is the sixteenth Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 10: Kapila’s births

Then the Blessed One related the story of Satyabhāmā and Kapila, and of Śrīṣeṇa, Śikhinanditā, and Abhinanditā. The muni further related: “Śrīṣeṇa, Abhinanditā, Śikhinanditā, and Satyā became twins after death. After their death then the four became gods in Saudharma. After falling, Śrīṣeṇa became Amitatejas here; Śikhinanditā’s soul became his wife, Jyotiḥprabhā; Abhinanditā’s soul became Śrīvijaya. Satyabhāmā’s soul became Sutārā.

Because Kapila died in painful meditation, he wandered through many birth-nuclei. He destroyed the karma arising from painful meditation by involuntary destruction of karma,[1] being reborn again and again in animal-and hellish-births. On the bank of the Airāvatī in the forest Bhūtaratna, Kapila became the son, Dharmila, of the ascetic, Jaṭilakauśika, who was devoted to penance, and of his wife, Pavanavegā, like the union of the yoke-pin and the yoke. Cherished by the women-ascetics like a tree in the court of the hermitage, the boy Dharmila gradually grew up.

After taking initiation at the side of his father as a (Śaiva) ascetic, he began foolish penance,[2] for that was his father’s and mother’s kind. In winter on nights terrible from cold he endured a stream of water from a jar with a hole in the bottom, like a mountain rock enduring a stream from a cascade. The sun over his head and blazing fires at his sides—so he endures the five fires at mid-day in summer. In pools dug by himself and filled with rain-water he stood in water up to his neck and recited mantras, et cetera to Śiva. He dug and had dug tanks, wells, and ponds, undeterred by the injury to waterbodied and earth-bodied souls. He took a sickle and axe and, like a ploughman, he himself cut darbha as fuel, having little wit like a child. He made charity-fires[3] and gave lights for the road, unafraid of the sin of burning insects in the wood and of the fall (into the fire) of flying insects, et cetera. At the beginning of a meal he always made a gift of food to evil-souled crows, et cetera, as if they were guests. He worshipped and honored cows like gods—he, like a bull; and also trees, the banyan, the pippal, nīm, et cetera. He sprinkled plants with water containing small creatures and he maintained water-centers here and there. Doing such things as these with the idea that they were dharma, foolish, he spent much time, living by the fruit of labor.

One day, he saw a Vidyādhara going through the air in his aerial car, like a rich man without a superior. He made a nidāna, ‘May I be like him in another birth as a result of this penance.’ In course of time he died. And then he was born as you, son of the Vidyādhara-king, Indrāśani, by his wife, Asurī, in the city Camaracañcā. This love of yours for Sutārā was from the connection in a former birth. Memory of a former birth lasts for a hundred births.”

Sutārā, Amitatejas, Śrīvijaya, and Aśani experienced disgust with existence and astonishment from hearing about their former births.

“Am I capable of emancipation or not?” questioned by Amitatejas, Blessed Balabhadra Muni replied: “In the ninth birth from this birth in this country Bharata, served by thirty-two thousand crowned kings, lord of the fourteen great jewels, master of the nine treasures, king of the country that has a girdle of the ocean and Kṣudrahimavat, served by the gods of the tīrthas, Māgadha, et cetera, you will be the fifth Cakravartin, O long-armed one. In that birth you will become the sixteenth Arhat, named Śāntinātha, your feet honored by sixty-four Indras. This King Śrīvijaya will be your first son and also your first gaṇabhṛt in that same birth.”

Then the kings, Śrīvijaya and Amitatejas, bowed to the king and adopted the twelvefold vows of the layman.

Then Aśanighoṣa bowed to the great muni Balabhadra and, well-pleased, bent from devotion, spoke as follows: “O omniscient, since I have heard from your lips my own pain arising in a former birth, my mind trembles even now from intentness on that. O Blessed One, by repeated births in birth-nuclei terrible from various and numerous killings, cuttings, and piercings I have experienced many times the consequences of the painful meditation which I made in the Kapila-birth, already described by you, as a result of separation from my wife. Then, my evil karma destroyed by involuntary destruction, finally I attained a human state in a former birth. In that birth also by bad fortune I, an ascetic who had not come in contact with the religion of the Jina, practiced foolish penance which produced much trouble and little result, alas! alas! Because I had made a wish for a reward for that penance, I became a Vidyādhara-king in the city Camaracañcā in this birth, lord. For me the course of penance with a nidāna and of kidnaping another’s wife and of the fear caused by the great vidyā Mahājvālā had an auspicious end, since you, who give release from all pain, have been found as a refuge, Teacher of the World. I have wandered through so many births without knowing the religion of the Jinas, like a blind man who does not see an object before him. Now save me! save me! Henceforth, let not a moment pass while I am deprived of yatidharma.[4] O lord, give me initiation now as a pupil.” He was accepted by Acala with the words, “That is suitable.”

Approaching Amitatejas, he said respectfully: “Even though I am proud, I am not ashamed to make humble submission to you whose grandfather is this worshipful Jvalanajaṭin, like a flame to the fuel of karma, like dharma victorious before one’s eyes; whose father is this Arkakīrti, blessed, fortunate, who abandoned power like straw, a sun with brilliance in the form of penance, you who are a future cakrin and a future Arhat. This kingdom of mine in Camaracañcā, these sons, Aśvaghoṣa, et cetera, and everything else are yours. Do not think otherwise.” After this speech, he set his eldest son, Aśvaghoṣa, on Amitatejas’s lap, like a child. Then Indrāśani’s son in company with many kings took mendicancy under Acala Svāmin. Śrīvijaya’s mother, Svayamprabhā, came there and also adopted mendicancy at the feet of Acala Svāmin. Amitatejas, King Śrīvijaya, Aśvaghoṣa, et cetera, bowed to Bala and went to their respective homes.

Śrīvijaya and Amitatejas spent their time holding distinguished eight-day festivals in the temples of the Arhats, always very magnificent like Śakra and Īśāna; making their wealth accomplish its purpose by giving sādhus presents which were always free from faults, acceptable, free from life; taking away pain from the afflicted whose minds were burned by the summer heat of a succession of anxieties, like the east wind and a cloud; meditating day and night in their conversation on the esoteric chapters of the scriptures heard in the guru’s presence—they, the chief of the intelligent; abandoning the society of evil teachers like the shade of the vibhītaka;[5] renouncing all sins[6] like a wrong road; experiencing pleasures of the senses at a suitable moment, constantly giving faultless thought to the kingdom; each one remaining in his own city, but in one place in thought.

One day Amitatejas was keeping pauṣadha in the pauṣadha-house near the temple and described the religion of the Arhats to the Vidyādharas. At that time two flying munis, like two arms of dharma, came there with the intention of worshipping the Jina’s statue in the temple. When he saw them come flying, King Amitatejas rose to show them honor and worshipped them, delighted at the wished-for sight. The excellent munis circumambulated the Jina three times, worshipped, and said to Amitatejas: “Like water in a desert a human birth is hard to attain. When it has been attained, it certainly must not be passed in vain from lack of discernment. Negligence toward the religion of the Jina must not be shown at all. There is no other grantor of desires, one after the other, except the religion of the Jina.”

After saying this, the two returned through the air, the sight of them desired by all, like rainy-season clouds that have rained.

Every year Śrīvijaya and Amitatejas held three special festivals in the temples of the holy Arhats. Of these, the gods held two eight-day festivals in Nandīśvara and other persons in their respective shrines in Caitra and Āśvina. Then Tripṛṣṭha’s son and Amitatejas held a superior eight-day festival in their own shrines in Caitra and Āśvina. But they held a third festival—a continual one in the shrine of Nābheya (Ṛṣabha) and on the spot of Bala’s omniscience on Mt. Sīman.

One day Amitatejas was in his own palace, like the sun on Sumeru, attended by his ministers. He, to whom the matchless Jaina religion was dear, saw a muni, who had fasted for a month, come for alms; his entire store of flesh and blood dried up by penance, like a choice pool with its mud and water dried up by the summer season; with a network of veins visible like an ocean with high waves; his joints creaking like an old mat of bamboo; not horrifying, though his ribs were apparent and his belly emaciated, shining with a blameless wealth of the light of penance; a minor of dharma. Amitatejas rose to receive him, circumambulated him three times, paid homage to the muni and presented him with pure food, et cetera. From the power of the gift of food, et cetera to the right person the five divine things took place then and there. With righteous actions of this kind many thousands of years passed for Śrīvijaya and Amitatejas absorbed in happiness.

Once upon a time King Amitatejas and King Śrīvijaya went together to the garden Nandana to worship the eternal Arhats. After they had finished the worship of the eternal Arhats, while they wandered around from curiosity to see the grounds of the garden Nandana, they saw two excellent flying munis, great sages, named Vipulamati and Mahāmati, standing on a slab of gold. After they had circumambulated and worshipped the two munis, the two excellent kings, who were laymen, listened to a sermon in their presence.

“Death is always very close at hand. So how long can life continue for people in the world like cattle in butchers’ shops? Since people, even though knowing that life is transitory like lightning, do not make any effort in dharma, there is, alas! widespread delusion. Delusion, truly the chief enemy from birth till death, cuts down dharma, which is beneficial to men, at the root. Abandoning delusion altogether, dharma must be practiced with a desire for the fruit of a human birth. For another human birth might be difficult.”

After hearing this, they asked how much of their lives was left and the munis replied that twenty-six days were left. Knowing that their words were infallible, the king of men and the king of Vidyādharas said with great repentance and indifference to worldly objects: “We, careless, as if we had been asleep always, as if we had drunk wine all the time, as if we had been children forever, as if we had been in a perpetual swoon, as if we had always been epileptics, alas! alas! have wasted this birth which is fruitless like a jasmine in a forest.”

The two flying munis enlightened them: “Enough of despondency. Surely mendicancy is suitable for you. Mendicancy taken even at the end is the cause of a multitude of good things. Verily, moon-light is a cause of joy to the night-blooming lotus even at the end of the night.”

Enlightened by them in this way, Śrīvijaya and Amitatejas went to their own homes, eager for pious duties. In the temples they made a final eight-day festival and gave to the poor people, the people without a protector, et cetera, whatever they wanted. The kings installed their sons in their kingdoms and then took the vow under Abhinandana and Jagannandana. They observed the fast called ‘pādapopagama’[7] and at that time Śrīvijaya recalled his father.[8] Thinking about his extreme good fortune and his own inferior fortune, he made a nidāna: “May I be like him.”

Footnotes and references:


See above, p. 57, ff.


Bālatapas. See T., VI. 20; K.G., 1. 58.


Dharmaśakaṭī. This word, which does not occur in any of the Sanskrit lexicons, was explained by Muni Jayantavijaya. To light a fire on the ground or on a mud hearth or to make a fire of any kind for people to sit around in winter is considered meritorious by the Hindus. Cf. Guj. śagaḍī, ‘hearth.’


See I, n. 38.


Vibhītaka is ordinarily interpreted as Terminalia belerica, which does not suit here. MC says that “in popular understanding and use” it is Semecarpus anacardium. Balfour, s.v., says of the S. anacardium that people “accidentally sleeping under the tree when in blossom, or even going near the flowers, are stupefied and have their faces and limbs swollen...” This seems to suit much better here. Perhaps also in 2. 1. 153 it should be taken as S. anacardium.


Vyasana. Abhi. 3. 99 com., ‘gambling, others’ wives, etc.’


See I, n. 126.


His father was Tripṛṣṭha, the first Vāsudeva.

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