A study of the philosophy of Jainism

by Deepa Baruah | 2017 | 46,858 words

This page describes the The lives of the Tirthankaras from the study of the philosophy of Jainism: one of the oldest religions in India having its own metaphysics, philosophy and ethics. Jainism is regarded as an ethical system where non-violence features as an important ethical value.

Chapter I.c - The lives of the Tīrthaṅkaras

(i) Ṛṣabhadeva:

The earliest Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism was Ṛṣabhadeva, also known as Ādinātha, who was born in the womb of Marudevī. Nābhi was his father. Before his birth, his mother had a dream where she saw that a bull coming towards her. Hence, he was named Ṛṣabhadeva. He preserves two symbols, one is bull and other is dharmacakra. The tree connected with his kevalajñāna is nyagrodha. All the Tīrthaṅkaras have some particular yakṣa and yakṣiṇī. The name of Ṛṣabhadeva’s yakṣa and yakṣiṇī are Gomukha and Cakreśvarī.

(ii) Ajita:

Ajita was born in Ayodhyāin the womb of Vijayāsenadevī and he is regarded as the second Tīrthaṅkara. Jitaśatru was his father. Before his birth his mother saw an elephant in her several dreams. In Indian faith an elephant is connected with kingly power. After his birth all his father’s enemies were conquered (jita). Hence his name is given as Ajita the invincible one. The symbol related to him is an elephant. The tree connected with his is kevalajñāna is kevalavṛkṣa. Mahāyakṣa and Ajitabāla are his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(iii) Sambhavanātha:

The third Tīrthaṅkara, Sambhavanātha was theson of king Dṛḍharāja and queen Suṣeṇā. He was born in Śrāvasti. His king father had been distressed to see the way his dominions were ravaged by plague and famine, but when he heard the good news of the birth of his child, he felt that there was a chance (sambhava) of better times coming. So he named his son Sambhavanātha. His symbol is horse. The tree under which he received the kevalajñāna is śāla. Trimukha and Duritārī were the names of his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(iv) Abhinandana:

Abhinandana, the fourth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism was the son of Svayaṃvara and Siddhārthā who lived in Ayodhyā. He was so called because Indra used to come down to the earth to worship him. He preserves the symbol of an ape. Under piyāla tree he received the supremeknowledge. The name of the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī related to him were Īśvar and Kāli respectively.

(v) Sumatinātha:

Sumatinātha, the fifth sage of Jainism comes from a Rājput family. His parents were Megharatha and Maṅgalā. He was born in Kaṅkaṇapura. He was called Sumatinātha, because before the birth of the child, his mother’s intellect became much perfected (sumati). A story is related that there was an old brāhmiṇ, having two wives and a son. After his death, both the wives claimed that the son belonged to each of them and always quarreled about this. Ultimately the matter was laid before the Queen for settlement. The Queen ordered that to end the dispute the living child should be cut into two pieces. This brought an end to the quarrel, because no one wanted to cut and kill the child. Thus, this intelligent order saved the situation. Because of this sumati of his mother he was named as Sumatinātha. Heron was his symbol and the tree connected with his kevalajñāna is priyaṃgu. Tumbaru was his yakṣa and Mahākāli was his yakṣiṇī.

(vi) Padmaprabha:

Kauśāmbī was ruled by a Rājput king whose name was Sridhara and his great son Padmaprabha was known as the sixth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism. His name became Padmaprabha because his mother Susīmā had a desire to lie down on the bed of lotuses before the birth of the child. Lotus was his symbol. Kevala tree related to him was chatrābha. The names of his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī were Kusuma and Śyāmā respectively.

(vii) Supārśvanātha:

Supārśvanātha, the seventh Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism was the son of Supratiṣṭha and Pṛthivī. Banaras was known as his birth place. He was endowed from birth with beautiful sides, so he was known by the name Supārśva. Moreover, his mother was suffering from leprosy. She was cured from this before his birth and therefore he was given the name of su (good) and pārśva (sides). The yakṣa and yakṣiṇī related to him were Mātaṅga and Śānti respectively. Śirīṣa and svastika were his kevala tree and symbol.

(viii) Candraprabha:

The eighth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism was Candraprabha whose parents were Rājput and they belonged to Candrapurī. Before his birth, his mother longed to drink the moon and when he was born, he was found as bright as the moon and his name became Candraprabha. The moon became the symbol of him. The tree connected with his kevalajñāna is nāga. Vijaya and Bhṛkuṭi were the names of his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(ix) Suvidhinātha:

The ninth Tīrthaṅkara was Suvidhinātha, the son of Sugrīva and Rāmā. His place of nirvāṇa was Sametaśikhara. Before his birth his kingly relatives were warring against one another, but after his birth they gave up fighting between themselves and took to performing religious duties. His birth eventually brought suvidhi (good order) to the distracted family and so his name became Suvidhinatha. He was also called Puṣpadanta due to his beautiful teeth which were like the buds of flowers. Two different opinions had been seen about his symbol and kevala tree. The Śvetāmbaras believed that dolphin was his symbol but the Digambaras believed that crab was his symbol. Regarding the tree under which he attained the supremeknowledge was the nāga, according to some authorities and another authority, it was malli. Ajita and Sutārīdevī were yakṣa and yakṣiṇī of this sage.

(x) Śītalanātha:

King Dṛḍharatha and Queen Sunaṇdā’s son Śītalanātha became the tenth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism. He acquired a marvellous power to cure fever and bring coolness to the patients. His father was suffering from fever where all the physicians had given up all hopes of his recovery. But when he was in his mother’s womb, his mother laid her hand on her husband and immediately fever left him and his father was cured. He then came to be known as Śītalanātha. His symbol and kevala tree was śrīvatsa-svastika and vilva. Brahmā and Aśoka are his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xii) Śreyāṃśanātha:

Śreyāṃśanātha, the eleventh Tīrthaṅkara was the son of king Viṣṇudeva and Viṣṇudevī. It had been found that his father had a very beautiful and peculiar throne. But unfortunately an evil spirit took up his abode in it, so that no one even dared to sit on it. Then before the birth of child his mother made up her mind to sit on it. When she sat on it, nothing untoward happened. So his name was given as Śreyāṃśanātha, the lord of good. Rhinoceros was his symbol and tumbara wasthe tree connected with his kevalajñāna. Yakṣetaand Mānavī are his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xii) Vāsupūjya:

The twelfth Tīrthaṅkara who was born in Campāpurī was Vāsupūjya and he was the son of Vasu and Jayāvatī. His name has been derived in two ways. First, as he was the son of Vasu, he was called Vāsupūjya. And secondly, before his birth the Gods Indra and Vasu came to worship his father and brought for him wealth (vasu) from heaven. Male buffalo was his symbol. Regarding kevala tree one belief is pātalika and another, kadamba. Kumāra and Caṇdā were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xiii) Vimalanātha:

The thirteenth Tīrthaṅkara Vimalanātha was the son of the king Kṛtavarman and Suramyā. He is known as Vimalanātha (Lord of clearness) after the clearness of intellect of his mother with which she was endowed before his birth. Boar was his sign and jambu was his kevala tree. Ṣaṇmukhaand Vairoṭi were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xiv) Anantanātha:

Anantanātha became fourteenth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism who was the son of Siṃhasena and Jayaśyāmā. His mother saw an endless (ananta) necklace of pearls in a dream before his birth and so he was named as Anantanatha. The Śvetāmbaras believe that hawk was his symbol and the Digambaras believe that bear was his symbol. Aśvattha was his kevela tree. Pātāla and Anantamatī were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xv) Dharmanātha:

Dharmanātha was the son of Bhānurāja and Suvratā. He became the fifteenth Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism. Before his birth his mother performed many religious rites while he was in her womb. And, therefore, he was known as Dharmanātha. Thunder bolt was his symbol. The kevela tree was called dadhiparṇa or saptacchada. Kinnara and Kandarpā are his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xvi) Śāntinātha:

The sixteenth Tīrthaṅkara Śāntinātha was the son of Viśvasena and Acirā. He was born at Hastināpura. He was named as Śāntinātha or Lord of peace, since his birth brought peace to the place. Deer was his symbol. Under nandivṛkṣa he received the supreme knowledge. Kiṃpuruṣa and Mahāmānasī were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xvii) Kunthunātha:

The seventeenth Tīrthaṅkara was Kunthunātha, the son of king Śivarāja and Śridevī. Before his birth, his mother had seen a large heap (kuntha) of jewels in her dream. That is why he was known by the name of Kunthunātha. His symbol was a goat. The tree under which he attained the kevalajñāna was tilakataru. The yakṣa and yakṣiṇī related to him were Gandharva and Balā.

(xviii) Aranātha:

The eighteenth sage Aranātha was the son of king Sudarśana and Mitrasenādevī. His mother saw a wheel (ara) of jewels in her dream so he obtained the name of Aranātha. Svastika was his symbol. The sacred tree related to him was mango tree.The yakṣa and the yakṣiṇī were Yakṣendra and Dhāraṇīdevī.

(xix) Malli:

The nineteenth Tīrthaṅkara was Malli. The Śvetāmbaras believed that Malli was a woman and was the daughter of king Kumbha and Prajāvatī. She was known as Malli because before her birth her mother had desired to wear a garland of flowers called mallikā. Her symbol was a water–jar. The tree under which she attained supreme knowledge was aśoka. Kubera and Dharaṇapriyā were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī of Malli. However, the Digambaras deny this belief of the Śvetāmbaras. Their faith is that no woman can ever be liberated and subsequently become a Tīrthaṅkara. Therefore, they believed that nineteenth Tīrthaṅkara was also a male.

(xx) Munisuvrata:

Munisuvrarta was the son of King Sumitra and Padmāvatī. Before his birth his mother observed all the vows of Jainism. Hence, after the birth of the child, he was given the name of Munisuvrarta. Tortoise was his symbol. He obtained kevalajñāna under campaka tree. Varuṇa and Naradattā were the yakṣa and yakṣiṇī of him.

(xxi) Naminātha:

Naminātha, the twenty-first Tīrthaṅkara was the son of Vijayarāja and Vaprā. The enemies of his father bowed down in submission when he was in his mother’s womb and therefore he was named as Naminātha. Blue lotus was his symbol and bakula was kevala tree. Bhṛukti and Gandhāri were his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī respectively.

(xxii) Neminātha or Ariṣṭanemi:

Nemināth or Ariṣṭanemi was the twenty-second Tīrthaṅkara of the Jainas who was the son of Samudravijaya and Śivadevī. Before his birth his mother saw a wheel (nemi) of black jewels (ariṣṭa) so his name became Ariṣṭanemi. Conchshell was his symbol. The tree related to his kevalajñāna is mahāveṇu. The yakṣa and yakṣiṇī are Gomedha and Ambikā.

(xxiii) Pārśvanātha:

The twenty-third Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha was the son of Aśvasena and Vāmā. He was known by the name because when he was in the womb of his mother, she saw a serpent crawling by her side. At the age of 30, Pārśvanātha renounced the world and became an ascetic. He practised penance for eighty-three days. On the eighty-fourth day, he obtained kevalajñāna. He preached the truth for about 70 years and achieved salvation or mokṣa at the age of 100 years on the Mount Pārśvanātha in Bengal. Snake is his symbol. The devadāru was his kevala tree. Pārśva or Vāmana and Padmāvatī were his yakṣa and yakṣiṇī.

(xxiv) Mahāvīra:

The last Tīrthaṅkara was known as Mahāvīra, also known as Vardhamāna, who was the greatest of all the Tīrthaṅkaras of Jainism. Mahāvīra was the second son of Siddhārtha a kṣatriya chieftain of Magadhaand Triśalā. He was born in the village called Kuṇḍagrāma near Vaiśāli about 599 B.C. He was called Vardhamāna because before his birth, his family’s treasures were increasing day by day. He sustained all fears and dangerous and endured all hardships and calamities. So he was called Mahāvīra.

Mahāvīra lived as a householder for thirty years. But, when his parents died, he left his home and became an ascetic at the age of 30. After twelve years of constant meditation, he went to a place known as Tṛmbhikagrāmawhich was near Pārśvanātha hills. In that place sitting under the shade of an sāla tree by the side of the river Ṛjuvāllika, he meditated deeply for some time and ultimately attained the absolute or perfect knowledge (kevalajñāna). After this he, became omniscient and was regarded as a Tīrthaṅkara. He died in 527 B.C., at the age of 72. Lion was his symbol and sāla was kevala tree. The yakṣa and yakṣiṇī were named as Mātaṅga and Siddhāyika.

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