Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Initiation of Rishabhadatta and Devananda which is the first part of chapter VIII 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 1: Initiation of Ṛṣabhadatta and Devānandā

The Supreme Lord, wandering in villages, mines, cities, et cetera to give help to souls capable of emancipation went to Brāhmaṇakuṇḍagrāma. The chief-gods made a three-walled samavasaraṇa in a garden named Bahuśāla outside the town. The Lord sat on the eastern lion-throne in it, facing the east. Gautama and others, the gods and others remained each in the proper place.

When they had heard that the Omniscient had come, many people of the city came. The husband and wife, Devānandā and Ṛṣabhadatta, came. The layman, Ṛṣabhadatta, sat down in the proper place, after circumambulating the Teacher of the World three times and bowing to him. Devānandā bowed to the Lord after Ṛṣabhadatta. Knowing the way (to her own seat), she stood, listening attentively, her face shining with joy. Then, when Devānandā looked at the Supreme Lord, milk flowed from her breasts and the hair on her body was erect from delight.

When Gautama Svāmin had seen her in this condition, feeling doubt and astonishment, making the aṭjali, he asked the Master: “Why does Devānandā, with unwinking eyes like a goddess, have a flow of milk at the sight of you like a son, Lord?” Then the Blessed Vīra explained in a voice deep as thunder: “Sir, dear to the gods, I am Devānandā’s son. When I fell from heaven, I dwelt in her womb eighty-two days. Therefore she, even though not knowing the full truth, is devoted to me.”

Devānandā and Ṛṣabhadatta rejoiced on hearing that; and all the assembly, which had never heard such a thing before, was astonished. Saying, “On one hand, our son is Lord of Three Worlds; on the other hand, we are nothing but householders,” the husband and wife got up and paid homage again to the Lord.

The Blessed One with such intention delivered a sermon for the benefit of his parents, who had requital of pain, and of the people also.


“Here in existence the relation of creatures—this one is a mother; that one a father; this one a son, et cetera—is produced and destroyed. Everything in worldly existence is like sorcery. Any one with a discriminating mind would not consent to stay in it even for a moment. So long as old age makes this body of ours decrepit, so long as death is not present to cut off life, for so long resort to initiation, the only means of emancipation, the unequaled depository of happiness. Carelessness in this matter is not fitting.”

Devānandā and Ṛṣabhadatta bowed and said: “We are disgusted with dwelling in this worldly existence because of its worthlessness. O living wishing-tree, give us initiation which leads across worldly existence. Who else except you is able to cross and to lead across it?”

Told by the Lord, “Very well,” they, considering themselves fortunate, went to the north-east and took off ornaments, et cetera. After pulling out their hair in five handfuls from desire for emancipation, circumambulating the Lord, and paying homage to him, they said:

“Master, we, terrified of birth, old age, and death, have resorted to you as a refuge. Please favor us by granting initiation yourself.”

He himself gave them initiation, taught them good practices, and explained the practice of the daily duties to them whose hearts were above reproach. Wherever the good stay even for a day, they confer benefits. How much more the Blessed Lord, the chief of all who rememher past favors! The Master entrusted Devānandā to Candanā and Ṛṣabha to the elder sādhus and they reached the final vow. They learned eleven aṅgas, practiced various and numerous penances, attained omniscience, died, and reached emancipation.

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