Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Climbing of Astapada which is the sixth part of chapter IX 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 6: Climbing of Astāpada

Gautama, very depressed, thought: “Will my omniscience not become manifest? Shall I not reach emancipation in this birth?” He recalled the gods saying, “It was said by the Arhat, ‘Whoever lives for a night on Aṣṭāpada, after bowing to the Jinas, will be emancipated in the same birth.’” At that time with confidence in the gods’ words Muni Gautama wished to go to Aṣṭāpada to pay homage to the Tīrthakṛts. Knowing his wish and that enlightenment from penance was near, the Arhat gave Gautama orders for homage to the Arhats. Delighted by the Master’s command that was in accordance with his own wish, Muni Gautama went to Aṣṭāpada in g moment by supernatural (power of) flying,[1] like the wind.

Now, when they heard that Aṣṭāpada was a means of emancipation, ascetics Kauṇḍinya, Datta, and Sevāla went to climb it. The first, always observing fasts of one day and breaking the fasts by green bulbs, et cetera, reached the first terrace with five hundred ascetics. The second, observing fasts of two days and breaking the fasts by dry bulbs, et cetera, reached the second terrace with five hundred ascetics. The third, observing fasts of three days and breaking the fasts with dry duck-weeds, reached the third terrace with five hundred disciples.

Unable to climb higher, as they stood looking up, they saw Gautama, shining like gold, whose body was fat. They said to each other: “We are not able to climb this mountain, though we are thin. How will he, fat, climb it?” While they were saying this, Gautama climbed the mountain and became invisible instantly like a god. They said to each other: “This is some magic power of the great sādhu. If he comes, we shall become his disciples.” With this determination, the ascetics eagerly watched for him returning, like a brother, experiencing great longing.

Gautama went to the shrine which Lord Bharata had ordered to be made, which resembled the shrines on Nandīśvara, ornamented with (statues of) the twenty-four Jinas. He paid homage with extreme devotion to the matchless statues of the twenty-four Arhats. After he left the shrine, Gautama sat on the ground under a large aśoka tree and gods, asuras, and Vidyādharas paid homage to him.

Gautama delivered a sermon suitable for the occasion to them and, questioned by them because they considered him to be omniscient, solved their doubts. When he delivered the sermon, he said as an introduction: “With bodies nothing but skin and bones, with creaking joints, suffering from exhaustion just from talking, moving only from spiritual strength, sādhus become such as a result of severe penance.”

Hearing that, Vaiśravaṇa, perceiving his large size, laughed a little at the thought, “His words do not agree with himself.” Indrabhūti, who had mind-reading knowledge, knew his thought and said: “Thinness of the body is not a standard, but, look you! there should be a grasp on meditation. For instance:

Footnotes and references:


For the labdhis described in. detail, see, I, pp. 75ff.

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