Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

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

Part 4: Incarnation as Marīci

Now, in this same Bharata there is a very fair city, named Vinītā, built in the past by the Indras for Yugādinātha (Ṛṣabha). Bharata, the son of holy Ṛṣabha Svāmin, was Cakravartin there, lord of nine treasures,[1] lord of fourteen jewels.[2] The soul of the village-overseer fell and became his son, who shed rays of light and so was called ‘Marīci.’ As a member of the warrior-caste, Marīci went with his father, brothers, and others to the first samavasaraṇa of Ṛṣabha Svāmin. After he had seen the honor paid to the Lord by the gods and had listened to dharma, his mind was captured by right-belief, and he took the vow. Knowing well the duties of ascetics, indifferent even to his own body, possessing the three controls,[3] observing the five kinds of carefulness,[4] free from passions, keeping the five great vows,[5] studying the eleven[6] aṅgas under the elders, Marīci wandered as a mendicant with Ṛṣabha Svāmin for a long time.

One day, when he was on the road, (walking) in a layer of dust that burned the nails on travelers’ feet and was harsh from the rays of the sun in the hot season, both of his garments smeared with dirt from his body wet with perspiration, suffering from thirst, as a result of the maturing of good-conduct-obscuring karma,[7] he reflected:

“Henceforth I, devoid of merit, desiring birth, am not able to bear the attributes of mendicancy which are burdens equal to Meru, hard to bear. Shall I abandon the vow? I would certainly be disgraced before the world, if I abandon it. Rather I shall take this means to keep the vow from being a burden. These blessed ascetics are always free from the three hurtful acts (tridaṇḍa).[8] The triple staff (tridaṇḍin) shall be a token of me who have been subdued by the hurtful acts. These are bald from pulling out their hair, but I shall have a tuft of hair (śikhin), bald by means of a razor. These observe the great vows; I shall observe the lesser vows.[9] These munis have no possessions; I shall have a ring, et cetera. They are free from delusion; I, covered with delusion, shall have an umbrella. These sages walk without shoes; I shall have shoes as a means of protection for my feet. They have a good odor from their conduct; I have an evil odor from my conduct. To obtain a good odor, I shall have a tilaka, et cetera of sandal. These sages, free from passions, (kaṣāya), have old white garments; I, having passions, shall have reddish garments (kāṣāya). They give up the use of water which causes the destruction of many lives; I shall bathe and drink a moderate amount of water.”

Thus calculating in his mind for the sake of contriving an outfit, cowardly before austerities, Marīci undertook mendicancy. All the people who saw him with this garb questioned him about dharma and he taught them the sādhu-dharma as taught by the Jina. Again asked by the people, “Why do you yourself not practice it?” he said, “I am not able to bear the weight of Meru.” However, he sent the bhavyas[10] who were present, after they had been enlightened by instruction in dharma, to the Master, son of Nābhi (Ṛṣabha), as disciples.

With practices of this kind, Marīci wandered with the Master and the Master stopped in a samavasaraṇa again in Vinītā. When he was questioned in it by Cakrin Bharata after paying homage to him, the Lord named the future Arhats, Cakrins, Viṣṇus, Prativiṣṇus, and Balas. Bharata asked again, “Is there any one here in the assembly who will be a Tīrthakṛt in this country of Bharata, like yourself, Lord?” The Master showed him Marīci and said: “This son of yours will be the last Tīrthakṛt, named Vīra, here in Bharata. He will be the first Śārṅgabhṛt (Vāsudeva) here, named Tripṛṣṭha, in the city Potana and will be the Cakrabhṛt Priyamitra in the city Mūkā in the Videhas.”

When he had heard that, Bharata took leave of the Lord, went to Marīci, circumambulated him three times, saluted him respectfully, and said:

“The Master said that you will be the last Arhat here in Bharata; the first Vāsudeva, named Tripṛṣṭha, Lord of Potana; and a cakrin, named Priyamitra, in Mūkā in Videha. Your mendicancy is not to be honored; you are honored because you are a future Arhat.”

When he had said this to him, the Cakravartin bowed again to the Master, reverent-minded, and entered the city Vinītā, delighted.

Footnotes and references:


Their names, descriptions, and functions are given in I, p. 252f.


The 14 jewels arc enumerated in I, n. 200. The ‘iga’ should probably be taken as ‘ekāvalī,’ a necklace of one strand.


Trigupti. Control of mind, body, and speech. Uttar. 24.19-25.


Samiti. Īryā-, care in walking not to injure any living thing; bhāṣā-, care not to injure any one by speech; eṣaṇā-, care in obtaining alms; ādānanikṣepana-, care in regard to handling possessions; pratiṣṭhāpana-, or utsarga-, care in regard to sanitary hygienic practices. Uttar. 24. 1-18.


The mahāvratas are non-injury, truthfulness, honesty, chastity, and poverty. See I, p. 56.


The 11 foremost books of the Canon. There were 12 originally, but one was lost.


Cāritrāvaraṇa. There is no cāritrāvaraṇa in the categories of karma. It must be used here for cāritramohanīya. Also in 9.213.


Of mind, body, and speech.


The lesser vows are the same as the great vows, but in lesser degree. They are the vows for laymen.


Souls capable of emancipation.

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