Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Goshala’s death which is the eighteenth 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.

The miserable Gośāla, burned by his own hot flash, drank wine to allay the heat, accepting a bowl of wine. Intoxicated by the wine, Gośāla sings and dances and frequently bows to Hālāhalā, making an aṭjali. He anointed his body with clay that had been pressed for pots and rolled in the water of the house-stream and drank it frequently. He spoke disconnected and contradictory speeches; and he passed the day nursed by his sorrowful disciples.

A lay-disciple of Gośāla there, Ayampula, observing a religious vigil in the first and last parts of the night, thought; “I do not know what shape the tṛṇagopālikā is.[1] I shall go and ask Gośāla who is omniscient, my guru.” With this resolution, wearing simple ornaments, he went at daybreak to Hālāhalā’s house and saw Gośāla in such a state. From shame Ayampula went away very quickly. He was seen by the sādhus, Gośāla’s disciples, who said to him, “Ayampula, in the last part of the night a doubt of yours arose regarding the shape of the tṛṇagopālikā.” Astonished, he said, “That is so.” To conceal Gośāla’s behavior, the sages said again to him: “Your guru explains that the fact that he is singing, dancing, holding a cup, and making the aṭjali are signs of the attainment of emancipation. For this is the last song, dance, making of the aṭjali, drinking, anointing with clay, and anything else. This is a sign of the emancipation of Gośāla, the twenty-fourth Arhat. Go and ask him your doubt. For he, your guru, is omniscient.”

Told this by them, he started to approach (Gośāla); and they told Gośāla in advance about his coming and his doubt. They had Gośāla put aside the wine-cup and other things and made him sit on a seat. At that time Ayampula came. Then the wretched Gośāla said to him seated before him: “You have a doubt about the shape of the tṛṇagopālikā. Know that the tṛṇagopālikā is the same shape as a bamboo-root.” After hearing this, Ayampula, delighted, went to his own house.

One day Gośāla, who had regained consciousness and knew that it was the time of his own death, summoned his disciples and instructed them earnestly: “When I am dead, my body must be bathed in scented water, anointed with fragrant ointments, dressed in fine apparel, and adorned with divine ornaments. Immediately after that it must be put on a bier carried by a thousand men. Then it must be taken out in a procession. It must be proclaimed throughout the whole city: ‘Gośāla, the twenty-fourth Lord Jina in this avasarpiṇī, has reached emancipation.’”

They promised to do this. On the seventh day, Gośāla, in whom a pure heart had developed, thought remorsefully: “Oh! I am wicked. I have injured very much the Arhat Vīra, my own teacher of dharma, in three ways, ī, exceedingly evil-minded. I called myself ‘omniscient’ and deceived all the people everywhere by false teachings which resembled the truth. Alas! two sādhus belonging to the guru’s party were consumed by me. Alas! the hot flash was discharged against the Master for my own destruction. For the sake of a few days what crime did I not commit that results in dwelling in very many hell-abodes? Not only was I myself made a guest of hell, but all the people from the teaching of the wrong path. Very well. Even having gone so far, let the people go by the right path.”

With these reflections, he summoned his disciples and said: “Oh, sirs! all of you listen. I am not an Arhat; I do not possess omniscience. But I am Gośāla, Maṅkhali’s son, Vīra’s disciple. I was an enemy of (my) guru like a fire consuming (its own) shelter. I myself and the people were deceived for so long a time by me by fraud. I shall die, an ordinary ascetic, consumed by my own hot flash. Sirs, I must be dragged through this city by ropes tied to the left foot. You, spitting on my face, dragging me like a dead dog, must proclaim this at the intersections of three streets and of four streets, et cetera in the city:

‘This is Gośāla, Maṅkhali’s son, by whom the people were deceived, the slayer of munis, not a Jina, the depository of sins, the violator of his teacher’s bed.[2] But the Blessed Vira is a Jina, omniscient, the depository of compassion, a teacher of what is beneficial. Gośāla disowned him entirely falsely.’”

He had them take an oath to this effect and died in pain. His disciples closed the doors of the potter's house from shame. In order to satisfy their oath the disciples drew a plan of Śrāvastī in it and dragged Gośāla, making the proclamation, et cetera accordingly. Then his disciples took away Gośāla’s corpse and made it the guest of fire with great magnificence.

Footnotes and references:


In the Bhagavatī, XV, 1, according to Hoernle’s Uv., p. 9 of App. I, it is the shape of the hallā insect that Ayampula asks about. I have not found the compound, tṛṇagopālikā. Deśī., 2.98, has goālikā, ‘an insect that appears in the rains.’ It must be some sort of grass insect.


This is an exaggeration to show wicked Gośāla was. He was not guilty of this maximum sin.

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