Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Second incarnation as elephant which is the third part of chapter II of the English translation of the Parshvanatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Parshvanatha in jainism is the twenty-third Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 3: Second incarnation as elephant

Dying from the injuries from the blows, in a state of painful meditation, he was born an elephant, the leader of a herd on the Vindhya mountains, tall as Vindhya. Varuṇā, blind with anger, died and became a cow-elephant, wife of the same lord of the herd. Happy from unbroken pleasure, the lord of the herd plays with her especially on mountains, in rivers, et cetera as he liked.

And now Arvinda, Lord of Potana, was amusing himself with the women of his household on top of the palace in autumn. While he was amusing himself, he saw a newly-risen cloud, filled with a rainbow and lightning, spreading over the sky in a moment. While the king was saying, “Look at its beauty!” the cloud, struck by a strong wind, dispersed like a bunch of cotton. After seeing that, the king reflected: “Other things in saṃsāra are like this. The body, et cetera are gone as soon as seen. What confidence in that (saṃsāra) is there on the part of a discerning man?”

As the king was reflecting assuredly to this effect, his knowledge-obscuring and conduct-deluding karma reached destruction and quiescence. With clairvoyance produced at once, the king installed his son Mahendra in his place and took the vow at the feet of Ācārya Samantabhadra. With his guru’s permission, engaged in solitary wandering and fasts, Muni Aravinda wandered, as if to cut the road of births. As he wandered, indifferent to the body, there was no stopping at all in a solitary place, dwelling, village, or city.

One day, his body emaciated by penance, having made numerous special vows, he went to Aṣṭāpada with the caravan of the trader, Sāgaradatta. Sāgaradatta asked the muni, “Where are you going?” He replied, “We are going to Mt. Aṣṭāpada to pay homage to the gods.” Again the trader asked: “What gods are on that mountain? By whom were they made? How many are they? What fruit is there for you in their worship?”

Knowing that he had attained suitability for emancipation, Ṛṣi Aravinda said to him, “No others, except the Arhats, are worthy to become gods, sir.” “Who are the Arhats?” “They who are free from passion, omniscient, worshipped by Śakra, saviors of the whole universe by teaching of dharma. Cakrin Bharata, Ṛṣabha’s son, had the statues of the twenty-four Arhats, Ṛṣabha and the others, made of jewels there (Aṣṭāpada). The chief fruit of homage to them is emancipation, but other incidental fruit is attainment of the rank of king, Indra, Ahamindra, et cetera and such things. How can others, themselves engaged in injurious acts, facing a bad state of existence, causing delusion in everyone, become gods, sir?”

Enlightened by him with this and other speeches, the caravan-leader abandoned wrong belief quickly and in his presence undertook to be a layman. Ṛṣi Aravinda told him religious stories daily; and gradually he reached the forest inhabited by Marubhūti. At meal-time the caravan-leader with the caravan camped on the bank of a pool there, an Ocean of Milk of water. Some went for wood; some for water; some for grass; some remained in the caravan, engaged in cooking food, et cetera.

At that time the elephant Marubhūti, surrounded by female elephants, came there and drank water from the pool, like a cloud from the ocean. After making lor a long lime the (sport of) tossing up his trunk filled with water with the cow-elephants, he left (the pool) and climbed up the edge. Looking around in all directions, he saw the caravan encamped there and he ran forward, his face and eyes red from anger, like Kṛtānta. His trunk made into a circle, both ears motionless, the heavens filled with his trumpetings, he scattered the members of the caravan. Men, women, draft-animals, elephants, et cetera fled in all directions to save their lives. Everyone wishes to live.

Knowing by clairvoyance that the time for the elephant’s enlightenment was near, the Blessed Aravinda held the kāyotsarga-posture, motionless. After running from a distance from anger, seeing him, he went near, his anger appeased from the power of the Śrī of his (Aravinda’s) penance. At once, his body motionless from the desire for emancipation and compassion that had arisen, he stood before the muni, like a new disciple. The muni finished his kāyotsarga for his benefit and began to enlighten him in a voice deep from tranquillity.

“Sir! Sir! Do you not remember your own birth as Marubhūti? Do you not recognize me, King Aravinda? Have you forgotten the dharma of the Arhats accepted in that birth? Remember everything. Dismiss delusion which results in (birth in) the category of wild animals.”

Immediately he attained recollection of the birth through the muni’s speech, and the elephant bowed to the muni with his head. Again the muni said:

“In this existence which resembles a play, a creature, like an actor, assumes a different form from moment to moment. So, on the one hand, you were then a Brāhman, intelligent, knowing the Principles, a layman; on the other hand, now you are an elephant, your soul confused by the nature of your category (as an animal). Accept again the layman-dharma of your former birth.”

He agreed to the muni’s speech with gestures of his trunk, et cetera. Varuṇā, who had become a cow-elephant and had stayed just there, attained the remembrance of (former) births at that very time, like the noble elephant. For the sake of firmness (in faith) the ṛṣi explained again householders’ dharma to him. After becoming a layman and bowing to the muni, the elephant went away. Amazed by the elephant’s enlightenment, many people there became mendicants and many became laymen at that time. Then Sāgaradatta, too, became a distinguished layman, his heart firm in the Jinas’ dharma, not be shaken even by the gods. Having gone to Mt. Aṣṭāpada, the great muni Aravinda paid homage to all the Arhats and went elsewhere in his wandering.

The elephant-layman, having become a yati in spirit, roamed, devoted to care in walking, et cetera, practicing penance—the two-day fast, et cetera. Drinker of water heated by the sun, breaking a fast with dried leaves, et cetera, the elephant remained averse to play with cow-elephants, his mind disgusted with existence. He reflected:

“They are fortunate, who take the vow as humans. The vow is the fruit of being human, like the gift of money in a dish. Alas! Being human then was wasted by me, like money by a rich man, as I did not take initiation. Now, what can I, an animal, do?”

Thus meditating, his mind firm in his guru’s leaching, he continued passing the time, comfortable in pleasant and unpleasant circumstances.

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