Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Story of the two bulls which is the twelfth 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.

Now in the city Mathurā, there were formerly a merchant Jinadāsa, a layman, and his wife, Sādhudāsī. They, pious, renounced the ownership of animals and bought daily curd,[1] et cetera from herdswomen. One day a certain herdswoman brought very excellent curds. Sādhudāsī bought it and told her graciously: “You must not take your milk, curds, et cetera anywhere else. I myself will buy them and give you any price you wish.” The herdswoman, delighted, did so daily. Sādhudāsī also favored her with the gift of many clothes. A great affection developed between these two, like sisters.

One day, there was a wedding in the herdswoman’s house. She invited the merchant and his wife to the wedding and they said: “We can not go, for we do not have the time, lady, but take from our house anything that is suitable for the wedding.” So saying, they gave clothes, rice, ornaments, et cetera. Because of the articles they gave her the wedding was very fine, the occasion for special elegance of all his herdsman-relations. The cowherds, delighted, brought the merchant two beautiful three-year old bulls, named Kambala and Śabala. The merchant did not accept the bulls and the cowherds tied the bulls to his door against his will and went away. Such is the affection of cowherds.

Jinadāsa thought: “If I turn these bulls loose, then they will certainly be yoked to the plow, et cetera by ordinary men. Here they will have poor care because of uselessness. Oh! What shall I do? Into what a dilemma I have fallen from the affection of fools!” With these thoughts the compassionate merchant fed the bulls with clean grass, et cetera and trickling water.

The merchant had taken the pauṣadha vow[2] and fasted on the eighth and fourteenth days; and read aloud religious books to them listening. From listening daily to religion, they became bhadrakas;[3] and on whatever day the merchant did not eat, they did not eat on that day.

On that day when the bulls did not eat the grass, et cetera, though they were given, the merchant thought: “I fed these bulls for this long from pity. In future they must be fed as brothers and co-religionists.” So the merchant paid especial attention to the bulls every day. For they were not animals in his opinion.

One day there was a festive procession in honor of Yakṣa Bhaṇḍīravaṇa and the young men of the village began the sport of racing draft-animals. A friend of Jinadāsa, very eager, went and took the bulls without asking him. For in friendship there is imaginary possession of identity. The merchant’s friend yoked to a cart these bulls, who were white as hen’s-eggs; as much alike as if they were twins; their legs round as balls; their tails like fly-whisks; ready to leap up, as it were, from liveliness; like sons of the wind in speed. Ignorant of their delicacy, urging them on with iron spikes of a goad, astonishing the people, he drove them without pity. With these bulls of peerless speed he defeated at once all the townspeople who had made bets on the racing. He tied the bulls, whose bodies were covered with blood flowing from wounds made by the spikes, broken down, again at the merchant’s house and went away.

At the time to feed them, the merchant himself went with a bundle of grass to the bulls like sons. He saw them with their mouths open, weak, tearful, panting deeply, trembling, with blood dripping from wounds by the spikes. He said, “What wretch has taken these bulls, who are dearer than life to me, without asking me and has reduced them to such a state?” Then his servants told him the whole affair of his friend. The merchant felt deep grief as if at the loss of brothers.

The bulls, who had discernment and wished to observe a fast, did not take any at all of the grass and water which the merchant gave them. Then he brought them a dish full of rich food and the bulls did not favor it even with a glance. Knowing their real nature, he suggested the renunciation of food. They agreed, wishing it, engaged in meditation. From compassion for them, the merchant himself gave up other work and continued reciting the namaskāra and explaining the duration in (each category of) births. Listening to the namaskāras and thinking about the duration of births, they died in meditation and were born in the Nāgakumāras.

Then Kambala and Śambala saw by clairvoyance the attack that was being made on the Master by Sudāḍha. Thinking: “Enough of other business. This is our business that we ward off an attack on the Arhat,” they approached. One began to fight with the Nāga Sudāḍha and the other picked up the boat in his hand and took it to the river-bank. They, with the power of recent rank as gods, defeated Sudāḍha, though powerful, whose strength was ebbing away at the end of his life. Having failed in his purpose, Sudaṃṣṭra went away; and the two young Nāgakumāras bowed and joyfully showered flowers and perfume on the Lord. “We escaped death, as well as the river by your power,” the people on the boat paid homage to Vīra devotedly. The two Nāgas bowed to the Lord and went away; and the Lord debarked from the boat. Having repented the airyāpathikī[4] properly, the Lord went elsewhere.

Footnotes and references:


Curd is not an accurate translation of dadhi. It is the whole milk sour and coagulated.


To live like a sādhu.


They had a tinge of right belief.


Supply kriyā. This is the slight action that even the most correct ascetic must commit, e.g. moving an eyelash. See Sūtrakṛtāṅga 2.2.23; Uttar. 29.71; Yog. 213a.

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