by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Previous birth of Vasudeva which is the second part of chapter II of the English translation of the Neminatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Neminatha in jainism is the twenty-second Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.
One day Andhakavṛṣṇi bowed to Muni Supratiṣṭha who had clairvoyant knowledge and asked, his hands joined together respectfully: “Master, why does my tenth son, named Vasudeva, have exceeding beauty and charm, know the arts, and have good strength?” The sage Supratiṣṭha related:
“In the province Magadha in Nandigrāma there was a poor Brāhman, and his wife, Somilā. They had a son, Nandiṣeṇa, and while he, the crest-jewel of misfortune, was a boy, his parents died. Pot-bellied, jagged-toothed, blear-eyed, square-headed, and misshapen in the other limbs, he was abandoned even by his relatives. While yet alive, one day he was bought by his maternal uncle. Now his uncle had seven marriageable daughters. ‘I shall give you one of my daughters,’ his uncle said to him; and he did all his uncle’s house-work from desire for her. When the eldest grown daughter knew about it, she said, ‘If my father gives me to him, I will certainly die.’ Nandiṣeṇa was depressed at hearing that and his uncle said to him, ‘I shall give you the second daughter. Do not worry.’ The same vow was made by the second daughter when she heard that and in the same way he was rejected in turn by the other daughters.
Then his uncle said to him, ‘Son, I shall ask for the daughter of some one else and give her to you. Do not be agitated.’ Then Nandiṣeṇa thought: ‘His own daughters do not want me. How then will other maidens want me, deformed as I am?’ With this thought, he departed because of disgust with existence and went to Ratnapura. Seeing husbands and wives playing there, he blamed himself. Wishing to die because of disgust with existence, he went to a garden, saw there a sage, Susthita by name, and bowed to him. The sādhu knew by (clairvoyant) knowledge his inclination and said to him: ‘Do not be eager for death. Verily, that is the fruit of non-dharma. Dharma must be practiced by the seeker of happiness. Certainly happiness is not from self-destruction; but dharma is the source of happiness in birth after birth through mendicancy.’
Enlightened by hearing that, he took the vow at his feet and, after he had finished his studies, took a vow of service to sādhus. In his assembly Purandara described him as performing service to sādhus, the young, the sick and others, free from disgust with existence. One of the gods did not believe Śakra’s speech and, assuming the form of a sick sādhu, went to a forest near. Ratnapura. After assuming the dress of a second sādhu, he went to his (Nandiṣeṇa’s) dwelling and, a morsel having been taken to break fast, he said to Nandiṣeṇa:
‘How, sir, can you eat now when there is a muni outside, who is exhausted by hunger and thirst, suffering from dysentery, when you have vowed service to sādhus?’ Leaving his food, Nandiṣeṇa went to search for water and the god began to make it impure45 by his power. It did not become apparent because of the power of the muni, who possessed magic arts; and then he found pure water some place.
Nandiṣeṇa went to the sick sage and was scolded harshly by the false muni. ‘I am in such a condition, but you, greedy for food, did not come quickly! Shame upon your vow of service.’ Nandiṣeṇa said: ‘Pardon this fault of mine. I shall cure you. This water is suitable for you.’ After giving him water to drink, he said, ‘Stand up,’ and the sick muni said, ‘Shame, stupid! Do you not see that I am not able?’ Then Nandiṣeṇa put the false muni on his shoulder and was abused by him at every step as he went along: ‘Villain, why do you hurt me serverely by jolting because you are going very fast? Go slowly, slowly, if you are performing true service.’ So instructed, he went very slowly. The god defecated on him and said, ‘Why do you interrupt your speed?’
Nandiṣeṇa reflected, ‘How can the great sage be cured?’ and paid no attention to the bitter words. He (the god) in his divine form removed the filth and joyfully showered flowers on the muni, circumambulated him three times, and bowed to him. The god told him about the praise given by Śakra, begged his forgiveness, and said, ‘What may I give you?’ The muni said: ‘I have acquired dharma which is very hard to acquire. Hence there is nothing of value here that I can ask of you.’ So answered, the god went to heaven and the muni to his own shelter. Questioned by the sādhus, he related everything without pride.
For twelve thousand years he practiced penance hard to endure and at the end, when he had observed a fast, he remembered his own hard fate. ‘Because of that penance, may I be dear to women.’ After making that nidāna, he became a god in Mahāśukra. Then Nandiṣeṇa fell and became your son, this Vasudeva, attractive to women because of his nidāna.”
Then Andhakavṛṣṇi installed Samudravijaya on the throne and he himself became a mendicant under Supratiṣṭha and attained emancipation.
Footnotes and references:
Pārśva., p. 108 takes ‘rora’ as a proper name, but the text, both there and here, favors an adjective.
Vaiyāvṛttya. See I, n. 123.
See II, n. 29.