Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Episode of Candakaushika which is the tenth 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.

Part 10: Episode of Caṇḍakauśika

Now the Blessed Vīra, unstumbling like the wind, was told by herdsboys as he went towards Śvetavī: “Reverend sir, this straight road leads to Śvetavī. However, on it there is a hermitage named Kanakakhala. Now it is occupied by a serpent poisoning by its look. Only the wind passes; even birds do not appear. So, leave that road and go by the roundabout one. What is the use of gold because of which the ear would be cut off?”

The Lord knew that in a former birth the serpent was an ascetic who left the hermitage to break his fast. As he was going along, he injured a frog by a kick. His junior disciple showed him the frog, so he could confess it. But he, on the other hand, showing frogs killed by other people said, “Did I kill these also, small one?” Then he became silent and the young disciple thought, “Since he is pure in mind and noble in nature, he will confess in the evening.” When he had sat down without confessing it in the pratikramaṇa,[1] the junior disciple thought, “He has forgotten the injury,” and he reminded him of the frog, “Why do you not confess?” The ascetic jumped up angrily, thinking, “I’ll kill the young disciple,” and began to run. Blind with anger, he ran against a pillar and was killed.

As his status as an ascetic had been injured, he was born in the Jyotiṣkas. He fell and became the son, named Kauśika, of the wife of the abbot, the head of five hundred ascetics in Kanakakhala. There were other “Kauśikas” because there was a Kauśika gotra and he was known as “Caṇḍakauśika” (cruel Kauśika) because of his extremely bad temper. When the abbot had become the guest of Yama, he became the abbot of the ascetics there. From delusion he roamed day and night in a wood and did not allow anyone to take a flower, root, fruit, nor leaf. Picking up an axe, club, or clod of earth, he killed any one who took fruit, et cetera in the wood, even though it had fallen on the ground. The ascetics living there did not get any fruit, et cetera. When the club fell, they went in all directions like crows.

One day when Kauśika had gone away on account of the garden, Rājanyas[2] came from Śvetavī and quickly broke down the woods. As he was returning, herdsmen told him, “Look! look! some men are breaking down your woods.” Flaming with anger like a fire with an oblation, he seized an axe with a sharp edge and ran forward. Then the Rājanyas fled like birds before a hawk. He stumbled and fell into a pit that was like the mouth of hell. As he fell, the sharp axe fell on him and split his head in two. For there was maturing of bad karma. After he had died, Caṇḍa became a serpent, poisoning by its look, right there in the woods. For anger which has a sharp continuity goes along into another birth.

“Certainly, he is worthy of enlightenment.” With this idea the Teacher of the World, disregarding pain to himself, went by the same straight road. The Lord entered the old forest which had sand that was smooth from the absence of footprints; with a canal flowing from a well; with trees dried up and broken; strewn with heaps of old leaves; dotted with ant-hills, with huts that had become level ground. There the Lord of the World stood in statuesque posture in a Yakṣa temple, his eyes fixed on the tip of his nose.

Then the poison-eyed serpent, haughty, came out of his cave, like a tongue from the mouth of the night of destruction, to roam about. Roaming through the forest, making lines with his coils touching the dust like the writing of his commands, he saw the Teacher of the World. “Oh! Has some one entered here fearlessly, who does not know me or who scorns me, standing motionless as a pillar! Now I shall reduce him to ashes.” With this reflection, puffed up with anger, he expanded his hood. Terrible with loud hissing, he looked at the Blessed One with his eyes throwing out a streek of flame which destroyed the trees and vines. Then the blazing flames from his eyes fell on the Blessed One’s body, like a meteor, hard to look at, falling from the sky on a mountain. They indeed had no effect whatever on the Lord whose power was great. Is a wind, even great, able to shake Meru?

Blazing with anger at the thought, “He was not burned now, though trees were burned,” he looked and looked at the sun,[3] and again sent forth flames from his eyes. When these fell on the Lord like torrents of water, the pitiless serpent bit the lotus-feet. After he had bitten (him) repeatedly, intoxicated by the excess of his own poison, he went away, “because when he falls, overcome by my poison, he would crush me.” Though he bit repeatedly, his poison had no effect on the Lord; only his blood, white as milk, dripped. Thinking, “How does this happen?” the serpent stopped in front of the Lord of the World, looked at him, surprised. When he had examined the unequaled form of the Teacher of the World, his eyes were quickly extinguished by his beauty and mildness.'

Knowing that he was near, the Blessed One said, “Caṇḍakauśika, wake up! wake up! Do not be confused.” When he heard the Lord’s words, the recollection of his former births arose in the serpent making use of ūha and apoha.[4] Then, after he had circumambulated the Lord of Three Worlds three times, free from passions, he undertook a fast of his own accord. The Lord knew that the great serpent had undertaken the act of fasting, (though) devoid of action, and had attained tranquillity; and he bade farewell to him. “May he not go somewhere else. My look is terrifying from poison.” With this idea he put his mouth in the cave and drank the nectar of tranquillity. The Master stayed in the same place in the same way from compassion for him. For the practices of the great are for the benefit of others.

When they had seen the Blessed One thus, the cowherds and calfherds came there quickly, their eyes opened wide from astonishment. Hiding in the trees, (now) not submissive to the noble serpent, they struck him with stones and clods as they liked. When they saw that he was motionless in spite of this, they gained confidence, came near, and beat his body with clubs. The herdsmen told the people about this and the people went there, paid homage to Mahāvīra, and worshipped the serpent.

Ghī-vendors who were traveling by that road, touched and rubbed the serpent with fresh ghī. Sharp-beaked ants came because of the odor of the ghī and made the serpent’s body resemble a sieve. “What is this compared with my acts?” Enlightening himself so, the best of serpents endured the pain hard to endure. Thinking, “The poor weak ants must not be crushed,” the serpent did not move his body at all. Sprinkled by the Blessed One by a shower of the nectar of compassion by his glance, the serpent died after a fortnight and went to the heaven Sahasrāra. After he had benefited the serpent Kauśika in this way, the Teacher of the World left the forest and went to the hamlet Uttaracāvāla.

Footnotes and references:


Āvaśyaka. A ‘daily duty.’ Here it is the pratikramaṇa, confession, which must be made in the morning and evening. In this case it is obviously the evening public (i.e. before the other sādhus) confession. Pratikramaṇa may be either public or private.


See I, p. 155. Rājanyas were one of the 4 classes created by Ṛṣabha as king. The rājanyas were his companions, distinct from the kṣatriyas.


Apparently he drew strength from the sun for the flames from his eyes.


Ūha and apoha are 2 of the 8 dhīguṇas. Ūha is reasoning and doubt about meaning. Apoha is resolution of doubts. Yog. p. 53a; III, p. 339,

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