by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Story of Sumati which is the sixth part of chapter II 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.
Enjoying manifold pleasures, Śārṅgadhara and Sīridhara passed the time, immersed in bliss like gods. Baladeva had a wife, Viratā, and a daughter, Sumati, originated in her womb Even from childhood, she followed the religion taught by the Omniscient, knowing the Principles, jīva, ajīva, et cetera, rich in the performance of penance. Observing the twelve lay-vows unbroken, she was always occupied with pūjās to the Arhats and service to gurus.
One day at the end of a day’s fast, she was seated for her fast-breaking meal. Just as she looked at the door, a sage came. She gave him food put in a dish, as if the religion with three controls and five kinds of carefulness had come in person. Then the five divine things, the rain of treasure, et cetera, took place. Verily, a gift to the noble should be multiplied by a crore of crores. Then the sage went elsewhere, wandering from that place. For there is no stopping in one place for sādhus free from worldly attachment, like the wind.
When they heard of the rain of treasure, Bala and Śārṅgin came and both pricked up their ears in astonishment when they saw it. Saying, “Her behavior has produced miracles,” they considered, “Who is a suitable husband for her?” After they had taken counsel with the minister Īhānanda, they held the festival of her svayaṃvara. At Vāsudeva’s command the lords of the Vidyādharas and the kings also, who lived in the half of the province, came to the svayaṃvara. Upendra’s servants erected a pavilion with a thousand pillars of jewels, an ornament of the earth, which resembled the council-hall of Indra. In it they made jeweled lion-thrones which presented the appearance of a row of jewels in the serpent-king’s hood. At Vāsudeva’s command the kings and the Vidyādhara-princes, the equals of Māra in beauty, seated themselves on the thrones. Dressed in divine garments, wearing jeweled ornaments, with various artificial decorations and much fragrant ointment, adorned with a white umbrella resembling the moon over her head, attended by friends of her own age, the path being shown by a woman door-keeper with a golden staff, carrying the bridegroom’s wreath, Balabhadra’s daughter, Sumati, adorned the pavilion, like Śrī the ocean, the Vidyādharas and kings being present, like gods.
The gazelle-eyed maiden looked at the svayaṃvara-pavilion with a charming glance, throwing a wreath of blue lotuses, as it were. Just then an aerial car, made of jewels, adorned with pillars of gems, suspended in the sky like the disc of the sun, occupied by a deity seated on a jeweled lion-throne, appeared suddenly above the pavilion. The girl, the kings, and the lords of the Vidyādharas looked at it with eyes wide-open from great astonishment. While they were looking, the goddess got out of the aerial car and sat down on the lion-throne in the pavilion. Raising her right hand, she said to the maiden Sumati:
“Young lady, Dhanaśrī, wake up! Wake up! Remember your former birth. In the half of Puṣkara-varadvīpa, in the middle section of East Bharata, there is an extensive rich city, Śrīnandanapura. In it there was a king, named Mahendra, like Mahendra (Indra), always zealous day and night in protecting people seeking protection. The king’s chief-queen, dearer than life, was named Anantamati, the receptacle of infinite virtues.
One day when she was sleeping comfortably, she saw in a dream in the last part of the night two fragrant, shining garlands on her own lap. When she told the dream, the king explained: ‘You will certainly have two faultless daughters.’ At the right time two daughters were born; I, the elder, named Kanakaśrī, and you, named Dhanaśrī. The two grew up with mutual affection and attained youth with the collection of arts. Playing here and there as they liked, they went one day to Mt. Giriparvata, a place for recreation on holidays. Gathering sweet fruit and fragrant flowers, they wandered there like divinities of forest and mountain. They observed Muni Nandanagiri, wholly tranquil, in a secluded place. After they had seen him, the two innocent girls circumambulated the muni three times and paid homage with devotion. Muni Ṇandana gave the blessing ‘Dharmalābha’ and delivered a sermon rejoicing their hearts. After hearing the sermon, their hands folded submissively, both said, ‘If we are at all suitable persons, give us instruction in dharma.’ After considering their suitability, the blessed muni gave them instruction in the twelvefold dharma and they accepted it. They paid homage to the great muni and went to their own house; and always observed dharma carefully.
One day they went out of curiosity to an aśoka-grove filled with pleasure-peaks, streams, tanks, and numerous kinds of trees. While they were playing there different games on a river-bank, a young Khecara, Vīrāṅga, the lord of Tripura, kidnaped them. His noble-hearted wife, Vajra. śyāmalikā, made him release them, like a lion a pair of does. The girls fell instantly from the sky, like goddesses banished to earth by a curse, on a patch of bamboo on a river-bank in a terrible forest. Knowing that the accident was fatal, they observed a fast, with pure meditation, engaged in the namaskāra. I, Kanakaśrī, became the chief-queen, Navamikā, of the lord of Saudharma, after death, sister. You, Dhanaśrī, became the chief-queen of Dhanada, after death. Then when you fell, you became the daughter, Sumati, of Sīrin. There was an agreement between us at that time that the second one must come and enlighten the one, who fell first, about the Arhats’ dharma. I have come, your sister, to enlighten you. Learn the Jain dharma, a boat for crossing the ocean of existence. Remember the eight-day festivals to the eternal Arhats in the continent Nandīśvara and the festivals at the birth-bath, et cetera, of the living Arhats, each in its proper place, and the words of their teaching experienced by yourself in a former birth. Why do you forget them because of this sleep of another birth? So take mendicancy, which is like a dear friend of emancipation, the fruit of the tree of a human birth, not easy to win even by gods.”
After saying this, Śakra’s chief-queen got into her aerial car and went away, lighting up the sky above, like lightning.
Then Sumati, whose memory of former births was aroused by that speech at once fell to the ground in a swoon, as if from fear of existence. Sprinkled with sandal-water, fanned by the breezes of fans, she regained consciousness and got up, as if at the end of the night. Her hands folded submissively, she said, “O all you high-born kings, I, remembering my former births, make a request. Pardon me that you have been summoned here on my account. I want to adopt mendicancy, the herb for the disease of wandering through births.”
The kings replied, “Very well, blameless girl. You are pardoned by us. May your wish be unhindered.” Sīrin and Śārṅgin, delighted, held her departure-festival, the crest-jewel of all festivals, with great magnificence. The chief-queens of Śakra and Kubera came and worshipped her. For such persons must be honored by Vāsava even. Together with seven hundred maidens she adopted mendicancy, a stream for the tree of emancipation, at the lotus-feet of Āryā Suvratā. She accepted twofold discipline and practiced many kinds of penance. Pervaded by desire for emancipation, she was the bee in meditation on the lotus of the soul. After some time, when she had mounted the ladder of destruction (of karma), omniscience arose, like a messenger of the Śrī of emancipation. After she had enlightened souls capable of emancipation and had destroyed the karmas prolonging existence, Sumati reached an imperishable abode.
Footnotes and references:
See I, p. 207.