Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This is the English translation of the Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Charita (literally “The lives of the sixty-three illustrious People”), a Sanskrit epic poem written by Hemachandra in the twelfth century. The work relates the history and legends of important figures in the Jain faith. These 63 persons include: the twenty four tirthankaras , the t...

Muni Jambū had a disciple Prabhava; and he had one, Śrī Śayyambhava; and he had one, Yaśobhadra. His two chief disciples were Sambhūta and Muni Bhadrabāhu; and Śrī Sthūlabhadra was the bee to Sambhūta’s lotus-feet.

His chief disciple, who had outstanding magic powers, was Mahāgiri, a great mountain of firmness, knowing ten pūrvas of the treasury of fourteen pūrvas that had come down in succession in the line of teachers. Another disciple, knowing the ten pūrvas, best of munis, Suhastin by name, had a great wealth of knowledge produced by service to his (Mahāgiri’s) lotus-feet. King Samprati made the surface of the earth everywhere in every city, village, and mine in this half of Bharata adorned with shrines of the Jinas. The great muni, Ārya Suhastin, had a disciple, named Susthitasupratibuddha,[1] who knew ten pūrvas in a wealth of tranquillity, an elephant for breaking the big tree of existence. Then there was the great order, Koṭika, whose wandering extended to the Lavaṇoda Ocean from the vicinity of places served by sādhus, like the stream of the Gaṅgā from Mt. Himavat. In this order, after a number of chief sādhus had gone by, there was the last one who knew ten pūrvas, the great muni, Vajra Sūri, a diamond from the diamond-mine of the large city, Tumbavana.

One time when a famine had arisen, like the end of the world, he, sharing the fear, with pure magic arts set the whole terrified community of sādhus on a carpet, lifting (them) up by his lotus-hand, and took them through the air quickly to the city Mahāpurī, which was a place of abundant alms, he—the depository of unlimited power from penance.

From him the branch (śākhā) named Vajrā took place in the tree of the Koṭika order, the sister of the triad of branches, Uccanāgarikā, et cetera.[2] In the Vajrā-branch there was the sect, Candra, which became a bunch of flowers with the bees of munis clinging to it. In that sect there was Yaśobhadra Sūri, the moon of nectar of pious meditation, an ocean of interpretation of the spotless scriptures, the sun to the lotuses of bhavyas, a lion for the destruction of the elephant Love, who had a wealth of self-restraint, a heap of compassion, by whom the earth was filled with his own pure glory. He made a death from voluntary starvation on the mountain, whose peak had been purified by Śrī Jinendra Nemi,[3] first having observed a fast, at the last engaging in pure meditation, remaining with a tranquil mind, creating a miracle for thirteen days, he verified fully the stories of self-restraint of earlier sages.

Śrīmat Pradyumna Sūri, who caused the enlightenment of many bhavyas, was his disciple, whose collection of good qualities was known to all the world. Like a rain-cloud he favors the whole earth with water of interpretation taken from the ocean of scripture, after spreading everywhere the sthānakas[4] which resemble a shower of nectar for the car.

Then Guṇasena Sūri, a jeweled mirror of the esoteric meanings of all the sacred books, a tree for the creeper of happiness, an ocean of nectar of compassion, the sun in the sky of Jain doctrine, Mt. Rohaṇa of the jewels of good-conduct, et cetera, purifying the earth, general to King Dharma, was his disciple.

His disciple was Śrī Devacandra Sūri, a living tīrtha, purifying the earth, Mt. Hima with the Gaṅgā of Syādvāda, the sun of enlightenment of the universe, who attained the highest fame, having composed a commentary on the Sthānaka[5] and a Śānticarita, the seat of power from much penance. Ācārya Hemacandra was the bee to his lotus-feet, master of a wealth of knowledge acquired by his favor.

One day, the Caulukya, King Kumārapāla, an advanced layman, well-behaved, belonging to the family of Śrī Mūla Rāja, conqueror of Cedi, Daśārna, Mālava, Mahārāṣṭra, and the western country, the Kurus, Sindhus and other fortified territories, a Hari by the power of his strength of arm, bowed to him and said: “Whatever is the cause of life in hell—hunting, gambling, liquor, et cetera—all that has been forbidden on earth, (by me) having accepted your command for attention given to benefits without motive, master; the money of a man who dies without a son has been released; the earth has been adorned with shrines of Arhats. For these reasons I am now equal to Samprati in this world.

In the past at the request of my predecessor King Siddharāja, who had a trace of devotion, you composed a grammar with appendices, comprehensible from a good commentary. You composed the spotless Yogaśāstra for my sake; and other manuals, the Dvyāśraya, Chando (nuśāsana), Alaṅkṛti, and collections of nouns[6] for the people. If you are ready to confer benefits on the people of your own accord, nevertheless I ask you: for the enlightenment of people like me, reveal also the lives of the sixty-three illustrious persons.”

Because of his insistence Hemacandra Ācārya wrote the biographies called Śalākāpuruṣa, which have as their main result instruction in dharma, in a profusion of beautiful words. So long as Mt. Kanaka keeps the state of a pericarp to the lotus Jambūdvīpa, so long as the ocean makes an island of the earth; so long as the sun and moon wander, travelers on the paths of the sky; for so long may this Jain poem, named Śalākāpuruṣacarita, survive on earth.

Footnotes and references:


KSK, p. 165, discusses the possibility of this being something else than one name, but Hemacandra obviously uses it as the name of one man.


The other śākhās are Vidyādharā and Madhyamikā. KSK, p. 169 and SBE, 22, p. 292.


I.e., Girnar.


This does not refer to the 20 sthānakas, as the text suggests, but to a work by Pradyumnasūri, Sthānakāni, which deals with the saptakṣetrī.


This Sthānakavṛtti is a commentary on Pradyumnasūri’s work. It is called Mūlaśuddhi and is now being published by the Prakrit Text Society.


These include the Abhidhānacintāmaṇi, the Abhidhānacintāmaṇipariśiṣṭa or Śeṣasaṅgraha, the Anekārthasaṅgraha, the Nighantu, and the Deśīnāmamālā.

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