by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This is the English translation of the Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Charita (literally “The lives of the sixty-three illustrious People”), a Sanskrit epic poem written by Hemachandra in the twelfth century. The work relates the history and legends of important figures in the Jain faith. These 63 persons include: the twenty four tirthankaras , the t...
Pārśva, playing in a playhouse, heard the sound of the drum and the noise of the soldiers assembling at that time. Saying, “What is this?” Pārśva, perplexed, went to his father’s side and he saw the generals ready for battle coming there. After bowing to his father, the prince said decisively: “Has a demon, a Yakṣa, a Rākṣasa, or some one else transgressed? On account of which there is this exertion of the father himself, powerful? I do not see anyone your equal or your superior.”
Pointing to Puruṣottama, Aśvasena said, “King Prasenajit must be protected from King Yavana.” Again the prince said: “Compared with the father there is no god nor asura in battle. Of what importance is this King Yavana in the matter? Enough of the father’s going. I shall go myself. I shall at once give a lesson to him who docs not know (his own) strength.”
Aśvasena said: “Son, my mind is pleased by your festival of sport, not by injurious battle-marches, et cetera. I know the strength of arm, capable of conquering the three worlds, of my own son, but my delight is in you playing in the house.”
Pārśvanātha replied: “This is play for me, father. There is no measure of effort in it. So let Your Honor remain right here.”
At his son’s insistence like this, knowing his strength of arm, he agreed to that speech devoid of anything objectionable. Dismissed by his father, Śrī Pārśva, mounted on an elephant, followed by Puruṣottama, set out at an auspicious moment from the festival. When the lord had gone one day’s march, Śakra’s charioteer came, bowed, got down from his chariot and said with folded hands:
“Indra, knowing that you wish to fight for sport, master, sent a battle-chariot with me as a charioteer. He knows that the three worlds are like straw compared with the master’s strength. Nevertheless, Śakra shows his devotion to you at the right time.”
As a favor to Śakra, the Master got into the great chariot filled with various weapons, which did not touch the surface of the ground. Śrī Pārśvanātha advanced, hymned by the Vidyādharas, with the chariot going through the air, with great splendor like the sun. The Lord’s army, skilled in battle, adorned with soldiers looking up to see the Master again and again, followed on the ground. The Master, able to go in a moment, alone competent for victory, went with short marches at his soldiers’ request. In some days he reached Kuśasthala and then camped in a seven-storied palace made by the gods in a garden.
“This is the custom of warriors,” the Lord, impelled by compassion, sent an intelligent messenger with instructions to Yavana. He went to Yavana and said eloquently from the Master’s power: “Prince Śrīmat Pārśva instructs you by my mouth: ‘King Prasenajit, who has sought protection from my father, must be freed from the siege and hostility by you now, O king. I, after restraining with difficulty my father who had started, have come to this country merely for that reason. Return to your own place. Submit at once. This transgression of yours can be tolerated only if you go away.’”
Yavana, his brow terrible from frowns, said: “Messenger, why do you say this! Do you not know me? Who is this boy Pārśva who has come here for battle from a caprice? Who is the old man Aśvasena who started first? Both of them and other kings, their partisans—what do they amount to? Therefore, go! Let Pārśva go also with the desire for his own welfare. You are not to be killed because you are a messenger, though saying harsh things. Escaping alive, go and tell everything to your master.”
Again the messenger said: “The lord sent me to enlighten you from compassion, not from weakness, evil-minded man. As the lord wishes to protect the King of Kuśasthala, likewise he does not wish to kill you, if you obey his command, sir! Breaking the master’s command, unbroken even in heaven, you die yourself, like a stupid moth touching a bright fire. On the one hand, a fire-fly; on the other, a sun lighting up the whole universe. On the one hand, you are a mere king; on the other, Pārśva, the lord of three worlds.”
Yavana’s soldiers, their weapons raised, rose up angrily and said defiantly to the messenger saying this:” Is there some hostility of yours toward your own master that you make this threat, villain? You are well-skilled in stratagem, wretch!” While they were talking in this way and wishing to kill him from anger, an old minister said in contemptuous and harsh words: “He is not an enemy of his master, but you are an enemy (of yours) who thus cause injury to your lord from your own desire. To cross the command of Pārśvanātha, lord of the universe, is not for your welfare, fools, to say nothing of killing his messenger. The master is thrown at once into a thicket of evil by such servants like untamed horses that have dragged him along. Messengers of other kings have been attacked before by you. In those cases it turned out well for you, for our lord was stronger than they. What is this quarrel of our lord, caused by badly-behaved worms of men, with one of whom the sixty-four lndras are servants!”
All the soldiers, reprimanded in this way, terrified, became quiet. Taking the messenger by the hand, the minister spoke with conciliation. “What these men, who make their living by arms alone, said to you from ignorance, you must pardon. You are a wise servant, ocean of tolerance. We shall follow you ourselves to take the honored Pārśva’s commands on our head. Do not tell such a thing to your lord.” After informing the messenger to this effect and entertaining him, he dismissed him.
Desiring his welfare, he said earnestly to his own lord: “Master, was this, which has evil consequences, done after reflection? (But) even by so much there is not ruin. Resort to Pārśvanātha whose birth-rites goddesses performed, whose nurse-duties goddesses discharged, whose birth-bath the Indras and gods gave. What is this inclination of yours for a quarrel with him, of whom gods and asuras with the Indras are footmen, like that of a goat with an elephant? Here Garuḍa, there a raven; here Meru, there a mustard-seed; here the serpent Śeṣa, there a heron-snake; here Pārśva, there such as you. As soon as you are allowed by the people, then with desire for your own good tie an axe to your neck and approach Aśvasena’s son. Accept the rule of Pārśva Svāmin, ruler of the world. The ones who are under his rule are fearless in this world and the next.”
After reflection Yavana said: “I have been well enlightened by you. I, stupid, have been saved from this evil, like a blind man from a well.” With these words, Yavana tied an axe to his neck and with his retinue went to the garden adorned with Śrī Pārśva Svāmin. Yavana was extremely astonished when he saw his army adorned with seven lacs (of soldiers) resembling horses of the sun; with bhadra-elephants by the thousand resembling elephants of Mahendra; with chariots like aerial cars of the gods; with foot-soldiers like Khecaras.
Being watched at every step by the soldiers with astonishment and scorn, gradually Yavana arrived at the door of the Master’s palace. He was announced by the door-keeper and, admitted to the council, bowed from a distance to the lord like the sun. The axe on his neck being removed by the master, Yavana bowed again, approached before him, and said, his hands folded respectfully:
“Compared with him, whose commands all the Indras execute, what am I—a worm of a man, a heap of straw before a fire! Showing compassion, just now you gave me orders by sending a messenger. Why am I not reduced to ashes merely by your frown? This rude behavior of mine has become a virtue, master, since I have seen you purifying the three worlds. How can I say, ‘Pardon,’ when there is no anger on your part? To say, ‘I give,’ to you, yourself lord of the house, is not suitable. ‘I am your servant,’ is a poor speech to you who are served by Indras. What sort of speech is, ‘Give freedom from fear,’ to the bestower of fearlessness himself? Nevertheless, from ignorance I say, ‘Be gracious. Take my wealth.. I am your servant. Bestow freedom from fear on me, terrified, lord.’”
Śrī Pārśvanātha said: “Good fortune to you, sir. Do not fear. Rule your kingdom. Do not do such a thing again.” The Teacher of the World rewarded him, who agreed to this, by the gift of much favor. For such is the custom of the great. At once the siege of Kuśasthala was raised and Puruṣottama left, after obtaining permission from Pārśvanātha. He related the story to King Prasenajit and joy became the sole umbrella in the city at that time.
Prasenajit reflected, pleased: “I am fortunate in every way and my daughter Prabhāvatī is fortunate in every way. The wish—Prince Pārśvanātha, worshipped by gods and asuras, will purify my city—has not taken place. Taking this same Prabhāvatī as a present, I shall go to Prince Pārśvanātha, a benefactor.” After these reflections, Prasenajit, delighted, went with a delighted retinue to Pārśvanātha, taking Prabhāvatī.
With folded hands he bowed to Pārśva Svāmin and said: “By good fortune, your arrival, master, was like rain without clouds. Yavana, though an enemy, was a benefactor to me in the quarrel because of which you, the lord of three worlds, did me a favor. As you did me a favor from compassion by coming here, likewise do me a favor by marrying Prabhāvatī. She, seeking what is hard to obtain, is infatuated with you from a distance. Show compassion for her. You are compassionate by nature.”
Prabhāvatī thought: “The prince, formerly heard about from Kinnarīs is now seen. The eye agrees with the ear. Courteous in speech, compassionate, he is heard and seen. Now he is well importuned by my father for my sake. Yet I am frightened now from lack of confidence in my good fortune, filled with anxiety whether or not he will approve my father’s proposal.”
While she was thinking this, Prince Pārśva, his voice deep as thunder, said to Prasenajit who was waiting: “By the father’s command we have come to protect you, Prasenajit, but not to marry this daughter of yours. So do not insist on this uselessly, Lord of Kuśasthala. Having executed the father’s command, we are going to the father’s presence.”
Hearing that, Prabhāvatī, very depressed, thought: “Such a speech from him is like a fall of fire from the moon. He was compassionate to every one, but cruel to me. How will you exist, alas! unfortunate Prabhāvatī? Family deities always worshipped, now show my father some device at once. For his devices are destroyed now.”
Prasenajit thought:” He himself is free from all desire, but he will do what I wish at Aśvasena’s insistence. I shall go with him under pretext of wishing to see Aśvasena. I shall importune Aśvasena to accomplish that wish.” Having caused friendship to be made with him so reflecting, Pārśvanātha honored and dismissed King Yavana. Prasenajit, being dismissed, said to Pārśvanātha, “I shall go, wishing to bow to honored Aśvasena, lord.” Taking Prabhāvatī, he went with Śrī Pārśva, who had said, “Very well,” to the city Vārāṇasī.
Pleasing Aśvasena by the protection of those who had come for protection, Pārśvanātha approached and made him rejoice by the sight of himself. When Pārśva had gone to his own house, Prasenajit approached and went before him, accompanied by Prabhāvatī. Aśvasena rose to greet him, raised him falling at his feet, embraced him with both arms, and said, perplexed:
“I hope your rescue took place. I hope that things are well with you, king. I wonder what the reason is that you have come here yourself.”
Prasenajit said: “Always I, of whom you, a sun in splendor, are the ruler, have protection and prosperity. But the request for something hard to obtain alone troubles me now. It will be accomplished by your favor, elephant of kings. Take my daughter, Prabhāvatī, for Prince Pārśvanātha from regard for me, king. Do not do otherwise.”
Aśvasena said: “Our Prince Pārśva has always been disgusted with worldly existence. I do not know what he will do. That desire of ours, too, is always in our heart: ‘When will our s'on’s marriage-festival with a suitable bride take place?’ Now from affection for you we shall make Pārśvanātha marry, even by force, though he has been unwilling from childhood.”
With these words, the king went with him to Pārśva and said, “Marry Prasenajit’s daughter.” Śrī Pārśva said: “Father, possession of wives, et cetera is a life-saver of the tree of worldly existence even when it is almost destroyed. How can I marry his daughter for undertaking worldly existence? I intend to cross the ocean of worldly existence, completely free of possessions.”
Aśvasena said: “Fulfill our wish characterized by marriage with King Prasenajit’s daughter. The ocean of existence must certainly be crossed by you who have such an intention. You should act for your own advantage at the right time, after marrying and having a son.” Pārśva was not able to transgress his father’s command and he married Prabhāvatī to destroy pleasure-karma. At the people’s insistence, the Lord passed the days, sporting with her in gardens, pleasure-peaks, et cetera.
One day Pārśva, occupying the terrace on the top of the palace, began to watch the city Vārāṇasī from curiosity. The Lord saw men and women of the city going outside in haste, carrying baskets of flowers as offerings. Pārśva asked his attendants, “What great festival is there today that the people, wearing many ornaments, are seen going in haste?” Some one explained: “Today there is no great festival, but another reason is present, Majesty. Today an ascetic, named Kaṭha, has come here outside the city. He is observing the penance of five fires, et cetera. The people of the town go to worship him.” Pārśvanātha went with his retinue to see the show; and saw Kaṭha engaged in the penance of the five fires. The Lord, who had three kinds of knowledge, saw a great serpent being burned inside a piece of wood which had been thrown into a firepit. When he saw that, the Blessed One, an ocean of compassion, said: “Alas for wrong knowledge! Since even in penance there is wrong knowledge, not compassion. What sort of river is it without water; what sort of night without a moon; what sort of a rainy season without a cloud; what sort of dharma is it without compassion? How is there dharma of a creature, like an animal, pitiless, not having a trace of the principle of dharma, allowing bodily torments?”
Hearing that, Kaṭha said: “Rājputs know horses, elephants, et cetera certainly; but we munis know dharma.” Then the Master ordered his servants: “Pull that piece of wood out of the firepit. Split it open carefully that he may be convinced.” They pulled out the wood, split it carefully, and a very large serpent came out hastily. For the serpent burned somewhat in it the Blessed One had namaskāras recited by men and the renunciation of everything made instantly. The serpent, absorbed in meditation, pure-minded, accepted that, watched by the Blessed One with eyes moist from compassion. By the power of the namaskāras and the sight of the Master, he became after death a Nāga-king, named Dharaṇa. “Oh, the knowledge of the prince! Oh, such discernment!” Being so praised by the people, the Master went to his house.
After seeing and hearing that, Kaṭha practiced penance especially—foolish or pernicious. Whence is there knowledge of persons with wrong belief? After he died, Kaṭha became an Asura, named Meghamālin, in the Meghakumāras in the Bhuvanavāsins.