Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Story of the bull which is the fifth part of chapter III 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.

After he had taken these resolutions, after a fortnight the Lord went to the village Asthikagrāma even during the rains. The Lord of the World asked the villagers there for permission to live in the temple of a Yakṣa, Śūlapāṇi. The villagers said: “The Yakṣa does not allow any one to live here. Listen to the long story of the Yakṣa.

This village was named Vardhamāna in the past. There is a swift river here with muddy ground on both banks. A trader, Dhanadeva, came there with five hundred carts loaded with merchandise. He had a great bull that he put in the yoke and in a minute he pulled all the carts across the river though it was hard to cross. The great bull, noble as a spirited horse, fell on the ground, vomiting blood from his mouth from pulling excessive weight. The merchant made the bull a witness and said to the villagers, ‘This bull must be guarded like my own life on deposit.’ He gave the villagers much money for grass and water for the bull. For that is the duty of an owner. Then after making a friend of the bull by his gifts of food and water, the trader himself, with tears in his eyes, went elsewhere. The villagers took the money but, wicked like evil doctors, did not provide the bull, like a sick man, with grass, water, et cetera. Broken-hearted, tormented by hunger and thirst, his body only skin and bones, the bull thought:

‘Indeed! the village is devoid of compassion, most evū, cruel-hearted, no different from cāṇḍālas, and besides, this whole village is exceedingly treacherous. To say nothing of caring for poor me from compassion, they have consumed the money given by my master for food, et cetera.’ Angry, with involuntary destruction of karma, the bull died and was reborn a Vyantara, named Śūlapāṇi, in this same village as before.

He knew the story of his former birth by perverted clairvoyance; he saw the body of the bull and was angry at the village. The Vyantara created a pestilence, like a deity of pestilence. These piles of bones resulted from the villagers who were killed. The suffering villagers frequently consulted astrologers and others and carried out their advice for allaying the plague, like sick men following the advice of doctors. They gave frequent baths, offerings, et cetera to the household divinities. Nevertheless the pestilence did not abate in the least. The villagers went to other villages, but still the angry Vyantara killed them, like the heir-apparent of Yama. The villagers reflected:

‘Some god or demon, a Yakṣa or some other tutelary deity has been offended by us. We shall go to that same village of his in order to pacify him.’

With this reflection, together they came here again. Bathed, clothed in white, wearing upper garments, their hair loosened, throwing rice at the junctions of four roads and of three roads, in gardens, haunted houses, and elsewhere on all sides, looking up, their joined hands held out, sad-faced, they spoke:

‘O gods, asuras, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Kimpuruṣas and others, pardon by all means whatever sin of ours has resulted from negligence or arrogance. For the anger of the great, even though great, is limited by submission. Whoever has been offended by us, may he be gracious.’

The Vyantara, standing in the air, said: ‘O cruel men, greedy like hunters, now you ask for forgiveness. Then water, grass, et cetera were not given to the bull suffering from hunger and thirst, even with the money given by the trader. The bull died and became I, Śūlapāṇi, a god. I kill you all because of that enmity. Remember that.’

When they had heard that, again busied with throwing incense to him, rolling on the ground, miserable, they said again: ‘Nevertheless, pardon that sin of ours and be appeased. We have taken refuge with you; we have no other refuge.’ Somewhat appeased by their speech, the Vyantara said:

‘Now gather these human bones in a pile. Erect a temple on top of it and inside it install on high a statue of me in the form of a bull. If you do this, I will grant you life, but not otherwise.’

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