by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Story of the goldsmith and his five hundred wives which is the fifth 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.
Then the Blessed One informed them: “In the city Campā in this same Bharata in the past there was a lustful goldsmith. Any beautiful maid whom he saw, as he moved about on the earth, he married, after giving her five hundred gold pieces. In this way in course of time he married five hundred women and he gave each of them ornaments covering the body. When the turn of one came, then she, wearing all her ornaments, her body anointed with bathing and unguents, was prepared for sporting with him. Sometimes all his wives had a very subdued appearance; otherwise, he taught them by scoldings and beatings, et cetera. Because of excessive jealousy, alert for their protection, he did not leave the house-door at all, like a harem-guard. He did not give food even to his own people in his house and he himself did not eat in other houses, because he did not trust them (his wives.)
One day, though he was unwilling, he was taken somehow by a friend to his house to eat. For this is a sign of friendship. Then his wives thought: ‘Alas for wealth! Alas for youth! Alas for life! Since we are shut up in prison, as it were. Like a messenger of Yama, this wicked husband of ours does not leave the door. Today after a long time, fortunately he has gone elsewhere. Now for a moment we shall do as we please.’
With this idea, after bathing, they put on unguents, ornaments, choice wreaths, et cetera. While they were looking at themselves in mirrors, the goldsmith came and was angry, when he saw them. The wretch beat one of the women so hard that she died, like a lotus crushed by an elephant’s foot. The others took counsel: ‘He will certainly kill us. So, together we shall kill him. He has been protected long enough!’
Reflecting in this way, unhesitatingly they threw four hundred and ninety-nine mirrors, like cakras, at him. He died at once. The women, remorseful, set fire to the house like a funeral pyre and perished instantly.
Because they died in a state of remorse with involuntary wearing away of karma, the four hundred and ninety-nine were born in a human status. By the bad contrivance of fate, living by theft, they joined together in course of time and staying in a certain stronghold, practiced thieving together.
The goldsmith was born in an animal-status, but his wife who died first, after being born an animal, became a son in a Brāhman family. After five years had passed, the goldsmith was born from his animal status into that family as a sister of the same boy. The boy was made her caretaker by the parents and she, while he was taking care of her, cried because of excessive badness.
One day when he was touching her stomach, he happened to touch her pundenda and she stopped crying. Having learned this remedy for her crying, the boy touched that place in the same way whenever she cried. One day when he was doing this he was discovered by the parents who punished him. Banished from his house he went to a mountain-cave. He went to the village where the four hundred and ninety-nine thieves lived and joined the thieves.
His sister, even before she was grown, was unchaste. Roaming about as she liked, she went one day to a certain village. At that very time the village was looted by the robbers who came; and the girl was captured and made their wife by them all. One day the thieves thought, ‘This wretched girl will soon die from service to us all.’ And with this idea they brought another woman. From jealousy the first wife searches for her weak points.
One day the thieves went away to steal and she, having hit on the trick, led her co-wife to a well by some device. She said, ‘Lady, what is here inside the well? Look at it.’ She, naive, began to look and was pushed inside by the first wife. The robbers returned and asked her, ‘Where is she?’ She said: ‘How do I know? Do you not guard your wife?’ They knew that she had killed the miserable woman from jealousy.
Then the Brāhman reflected, ‘Is this unchaste woman my sister?’ Having heard from the people, ‘The Omniscient has come here,’ he came here and first asked in his mind from shame at his sister’s unchastity. Told by me, ‘Ask in words’ he asked, ‘She-she-she-who-’ and we, having told him, ‘It is so,’ made him know that she was his sister. In this way creatures, their souls confused by love, hate, et cetera, wander in birth after birth, becoming receptacles of various evils.”
After hearing this, the man experienced extreme disgust with existence, took initiation under the Master and returned to his village. The four hundred and ninety-nine thieves, enlightened by the one who had become a mendicant, took the vow.
Mṛgāvatī arose, bowed to the Master, and said, “After obtaining permission from Caṇḍapradyoía, I shall take initiation, Lord.” Then she said to Pradyota, “If you consent, I, afraid of birth, shall become a mendicant. Then my son may be surrendered to you.” King Pradyota, his hostility destroyed by the Master’s power, gave her permission; and made Udayana king in Kauśāmbī. Eight wives of King Pradyota, Aṅgāravatī and others, took initiation with Mṛgāvatī in the Master’s presence. Mṛgāvatī and the others were entrusted to Candanā by the Lord after giving instructions. By service to her they learned the practices of sādhvīs.