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Illustrated Tirthankar Charitra

Up-pravartak
Shri Amar Muni

ANANTNATH BHAGAVAN - 14

Queen Suyasha Devi, wife of king Simhasen of Ayodhya, gave birth to an illustrious son on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh. During her pregnancy the queen dreamt of a very long strand of beads whose ends were not visible. The power and the glory of the king also increased manifold during this period. Accordingly the new born was named Anant (endless) Kumar.

After leading a normal life, first as a price and then as the king he became an ascetic along with one thousand other persons. He became an omniscient on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh under an Ashok tree. In his first discourse he elaborated the subject of the fundamentals-matter and life. He had fifty chief disciples including the senior most named Yash. Purushottam Vasudev and Suprabh Baldev reigned during his period of influence.

Bhagavan Anantnath got Nirvana at Sammetshikhar on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra.

 

DHARMNATH BHAGAVAN - 15

The being that was to become Bhagavan Dharmnath was king Dridhrath of Bhaddilpur in Mahavideh area, in its earlier incarnation. Although he had enormous wealth and a large kingdom, he led a detached and pious life like a lotus in a pond. Even great saints praised him as the embodiment of religion. During the later part of his life king Dridhrath became an ascetic and as a result of his unblemished character and sincere spiritual practices he earned the Tirthankar-nam-and-gotra-karma. Completing his age he reincarnated as a god in the Vaijayant dimension.

This being then descended into the womb of queen Suvrata, wife of king Bhanuraja of Ratnapur. During the pregnancy the queen devoted all her time in religious activities. Even the king and all other members of the family were inclined to devote maximum time to various religious activities like charity, righteousness, penances, studies etc. On the third day of the bright half of the month of Magh a son was born to the queen. Due to the religious influence during the pregnancy period, the king gave him the name Dharmnath. In due course he became young, was married and then ascended the throne. He ruled successfully for a long period.

One day he terminated all worldly attachments and became and ascetic. After two years of spiritual practices he became omniscient. His first religious discourse was attended by the fifth Vasudev Purush Simha and Sudarshan Baldev.

In his first discourse he mainly dealt with the subject of form and ill effects of passions. A large audience was benefited by this eloquent discourse. At last he went to Sammetshikhar and got Nirvana.

 

SHANTINATH BHAGAVAN - 16

The account of the earlier incarnations of Bhagavan Shantinath indicates that his being had taken the path of discipline that lead toward purity of soul many births before. As a result of this uplifting during his incarnations as Shrisen and Vajrayudh it was born as Meghrath, the son of king Dhanrath of Pundarikini town in Purva Mahavideh area. At the proper time, king Dhanrath gave the kingdom to Meghrat and became an ascetic.

Protection to a Refugee

Meghrath was a benevolent and religious ruler. He was compassionate and protected all living things. Being a Kshatriya and a warrior he had the chivalry to sacrifice all he had in order to protect those in trouble.

One day while observing the partial renunciation vow (Paushadh) he was about to start a discourse on the religion propagated by the Tirthankars. All of a sudden a pigeon, trembling with fear, fell in his lap and uttered in choking human voice, "Save me, O king! Give me refuge, take me under your protection!" The compassionate king comforted the bird and took it under his protection.

The pigeon was followed by a falcon who too uttered in human language, "O king! This pigeon is my food, leave it alone." The king tried to explain, "It has taken refuge with me, as such I am duty bound to protect it. I will give you any type of food you want; why kill a living thing just to fill your stomach?"

The falcon insisted, "If you will not leave it I may die of hunger. I am a carnivore; who will provide me food. If I die, you will be responsible and bear the sin."

When the falcon did not yield, Meghrath said at last, "O falcon! As long as I exist, I will not allow you to die. I will cut out flesh from my body equivalent to the weight of this little pigeon and give it to you. You may satisfy your urge to eat. But under no circumstance I shall allow you to kill the bird that has taken refuge with me."

The falcon agreed to this proposal and the king put the pigeon in one pan of balance and in the other started putting pieces of flesh cut out from his own body. Surprisingly, the weight of the pigeon continued to increase as the king went on putting his flesh in the pan. Witnessing this pathetic scene, the queens and the members of the assembly were moved to tears. They requested the king not to sacrifice his precious life for a mere pigeon. The falcon, was also requested relent but he too declined.

The king continued to cut flesh from his body and put it in the pan of the balance. At last, when the pieces of flesh were not enough, the king got up from his seat and sat down in the pan. Everyone present was dumb struck at this lofty compassion and chivalry displayed by the king. Suddenly there was a flesh of divine light and a divine personage appeared. The pigeon and the falcon disappeared. The god addressed the king, "Maharaj! The king of gods was praising your compassion and courage, in his assembly. I could not contain myself and came around to test you myself. All this was my creation. You come out with flying colors. You are worthy of the praise bestowed on you by the King of gods. Please forgive me." The god filled Meghrath’s wounds instantaneously and left for his abode.

Whenever there is a talk about chivalry and compassion king Meghrath’s name is taken with respect.

Unflinching Discipline

Disturbed by the miseries of the mundane life, one day king Meghrath was doing mediation. He transcended to a very high level of purity. Knowing about this uncommon purity and determination of Meghrath the king of gods bowed to him with reverence, "My salutations to you O citizen Yogi! there are but a few in this world who could reach this level of detachment and purity." Two senior consorts of Indra, Surup and Atirup did not like this gesture of praise of a mere human. They both came to disturb the meditation of Meghrath. They made several beautiful and voluptuous damsels appear before the king. These beauties tried to disturb Meghrath by a display of dances and inviting gestures. When these night long seductive afflictions failed to disturb king Meghrath, the goddesses, before returning to their abode, appeared themselves and asked the king to forgive them.

King Meghrath, then, coronated his on and took Diksha from Arhat Dhanrath. Due to his increasing purity in meditation in the face of many afflictions, he earned the Tirthankar-nam-and-gotra-karma. Completing his age he reincarnated in the Sarvarthsiddha dimension of gods.

From the dimension of gods, the being that was Meghrath descended into the womb of queen Achira, wife of king Vishvasen of Ikshvaku clan and ruler of Hastinapur.

Once there was a great storm in the Hastinapur area. There were heavy rains and many other calamities. An epidemic followed these calamities and hundreds of people started dying every day. The masses appealed tot he king to save them, but the king took a vow that he will not eat or drink as long as peace and normalcy does not return to his kingdom.

Move by this harsh vow of king Vishvasen, the king of gods himself appeared before the king said, "O king! You are disturbed unnecessarily. Is there any death at the place where the wish-fulfilling trio of Chintamani, Kalpavriksha, and Kamdhenu (divine gem, tree and cow) exist? The embodiment of peace is being carried by queen Achira Devi in her womb and you still feel disturbed. It surprises me!" The Indra then sang a panegyric in praise of the Tirthankar and advised the king, "Let the queen got to he roof top and sing this panegyric. After this, let her throw a glance at the vast expanses of your kingdom all around. This pacifying glance of the queen will remove all miseries from wherever it reaches."

On the thirteenth day of the dark half of the month of Jyeshta the queen gave birth to the great and illustrious son. The whole universe, including even the hell, was pervaded by a soothing glow and a feeling of joy and happiness. Due to the pacifying influence during the period of pregnancy, the new born named Shanti Kumar (Shanti = Peace). When he came of age he was married to several beautiful princesses. At proper time king Vishvasen gave the kingdom Shantinath and took Diksha.

After a few years king Shantinath got a son who was named Chakrayudh. Several years later, the divine disc weapon appeared in the armory. When the traditional worship rituals of this weapon were concluded, it started moving toward the east on its own. Shantinath followed the Chakra with his armed forces. Most of the kings on the way surrendered. After defeating the remaining few Shantinath became a Chakravarti.

When, after a long and peaceful reign, he realized that the moment for his renunciation was approaching, Shantinath went into the Sahasramra jungle, and, becoming an ascetic commenced his practices.

After wandering as an ascetic for one year he returned to the same jungle and there, on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Paush, he attained omniscience under a Nandi tree. His first discourse was on the subject of disciplining the senses. He came to Sammetshikhar after a long period wandering and propagating true religion. There, along with nine hundred other ascetics, he observed a month long fast that started his final meditation. On the thirteenth day of the dark half of the month of Jyeshta, Bhagavan Shantinath attained Nirvana.

 

KUNTHUNATH BHAGAVAN - 17

The name of the powerful and illustrious king of Khadgi town in Purva Mahavideh area was Simhavaha. He was a very devoted and religious person when his son became young and capable, he handed over his kingdom to the son and took Diksha from Samvaracharya. As a result of his vigorous penance and devotion for the Arhat, he earned the Tirthankar-nam-and gotra-karma. Completing his age he reincarnated in the Sarvarthsiddha dimension of gods.

From the dimension of gods he descended into the womb of queen Shri Devi, wife of king Shursen of Hastinapur. During her pregnancy the queen saw a heap of gemstones known as Kunthu in her dreams. This inspired the king to name him Kunthu Kumar. The pious deeds of earlier birth resulted in unlimited power and grandeur for Kunthu Kumar. After Shursen became an ascetic, Kunthu Kumar ascended the throne. Soon the disc weapon appeared in his armory and he proceeded to conquer the world with his mighty army. Without any confrontation all the kings accepted his sovereignty and Kunthunath became a Chakravarti. Many mighty kings and princes used to be present in his court all the time. After a long and peaceful reign of twenty three thousand seven hundred and fifty years he became an ascetic along with one thousand kings immediately after Diksha he acquired Manahparyav Jnan. He spent sixteen years as an ordinary ascetic. Indulging in penances and other spiritual practices, he attained omniscience on the third day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra under a Tilak tree in Sahasramara jungle outside Hastinapur. His first discourse was on the subject of "inner purity".

As an omniscient ascetic Kunthunath wandered around and preached true religion for a very long period. He then went to Sammetshikhar and observed a month long fast before breathing his last. His followers were deeply devoted to him. As such, a large crowd was present at the moment of his Nirvana and cremation ceremony. They witnessed the ceremony with heavy hearts and tear filled eyes. The mortal remains of Bhagavan Kunthunath were taken away by the gods for worship.

 

ARNATH BHAGAVAN - 18

King Dhanpati of Susima city in Mahavideh area took Diksha from Samvar Muni and after acquiring Tirthankar-nam-and gotra-karma he reincarnated in the Graiveyak dimension of gods. From here he descended into the womb of queen Maha Devi, wife of king Sudarshan of Hastinapur. Besides the fourteen great dreams that precede the conception of a Tirthankar, queen Maha Devi also saw a gem studded wheel (Ara). accordingly, after the birth the boy was named Ara Kumar.

When Ara Kumar became young he was married to many beautiful princesses. Later king Sudarshan gave the kingdom to Ara Kumar and became an ascetic. For some years Arnath ruled as a regional king. Gradually his power and glory increased and one day the disc weapon appeared in his armory. He conquered the six continents and became a Chakravarti. In his attendance were thirty two thousand kings.

After a long and successful reign, one day emperor Arnath was thinking about the ever changing seasons. This triggered a chain of sublime thoughts that lead to complete detachment. He renounced all the wealth, power and glory and became an ascetic. He did spiritual practices and wandered around. After three years he arrived in the Sahasramra jungle outside Hastinapur and stood in mediation under a mango tree. With the fire of higher meditation he burnt one after another the four vitiating Karmas including illusory, knowledge obstructing, perception obstructing, and power hindering. Consequently he attained omniscience. His first discourse after attaining omniscience was on the subject of "how to win over the enemies like attachment and aversion."

In this first religious assembly thousands of individuals became ascetics including his 32 chief disciples headed by Kumbh. Spending a long period of twenty one thousand years wandering and promoting religion, he finally arrived at Sammethshikhar and attained liberation.

the sixth and seventh Vasudevas and Baldevas and the eighth Chakravarti (Subhum) were his followers.

 

MALLINATH BHAGAVAN - 19

In the Aparvideh area there was a city named Vitshoka. It was ruled by a powerful king Mahabal. He was very intimate with six other kings who were his childhood friends. Influenced by discourses of ascetics, king Mahabal decided to follow the spiritual path. he sought opinion of his six childhood friends with the remark-I want to became an ascetic, do you also?

All the six friends replied, "We have been together during both good and bad times. When we have been together during both good and bad times. When we have enjoyed the mundane life in company, it would be shameful if we part company on the spiritual path. We shall become ascetics together and we shall do all spiritual practices together."

The seven kings took Diksha from Varadharma Muni and started the spiritual practices earnestly. Mahabal was bitten by the bug of ego. he thought, "I have always been ahead of my friends. Now, if I do the same practices I will remain at the same level. As such I should do a little more and be ahead as before." With this feeling Mahabal started secretly doing more practices than the others. All the seven friends would formally take vow of some specific penance together but when on conclusion, other friends broke their fast, Mahabal would continue his fast on some pretext. The desire to be above the ordinary inspired this competition. As a result of this deception Mahabal feel from the lofty spiritual level he had attained due to his intense practices and acquired the Karma that would result in being born as a woman (Stri-ved). However, as he still maintained the purity and intensity in his practices he later also earned the Tirthankar-nam-and-gotra-karma. All the seven ascetics breathed their last after sixty days fast and mediation. They reincarnated as gods in the Anuttar dimension.

Birth of Malli Kumari

The being that was Mahabal, leaving the abode of gods, descended into the womb of queen Prabhavati, wife of king Kumbh of Mithila town. During the third month of pregnancy the queen had a desire to sleep on a bed made up of fragrant flowers of five colors and to smell a bouquet of flowers (Malladam) all the time. It is said that if a pious soul resides in the womb all the desires are fulfilled. On the eleventh day of the bright half of he month of Margshirsh the Queen gave birth to a pious and beautiful girl. It was unprecedented that a Tirthankar be born as a girl; everyone was surprised. But even the almighty is helpless when the Karmas precipitate into action.

The mother’s craving for flower bouquet inspired the king to name the girl as Malli Kumari. She was very fond of having a bouquet of flowers. Florists from far and near used to bring attractive and beautiful bouquets to present her and get desired gifts in return. Strange yarns about her infatuation for flowers and bouquets spread all around.

Divine Earrings

Once a famous and rich merchant, Arhannak, of Champa town, went on a sea voyage with some other people. After earning heaps of wealth when he was returning, a god appeared. In order to test Arhannak’s devotion for his religion, the god created a variety of afflictions. Even in the face of death Arhannak did not yield. His devotion for the path shown by Jina was absolutely unwavering. The god was pleased with this unrelenting determination of Arhannak. He gave the merchant a pair of divine earrings as gift.

On the way back the ship stopped at Mithila. All the merchants went to King Kumbh’s assembly with gifts. Arhannak gifted the divine earnings for Malli Kumari. The king and his ministers became astonished at the divine beauty of these earrings. Once a joint in these earrings broke. king Kumbh called expert goldsmiths to weld this joint but none of the artisans had skill enough to do its work. In annoyance the king exiled many of these artisans. Wherever these artisans went they talked of the divine beauty of Malli Kumari.

Ignorant Artist

Once Mallidinna, the younger brother of Malli Kumari, constructed an entertainment room in the palace premises. One of the working artists was highly talented. This artist had a glimpse of a toe of Malli Kumari who was standing behind a lattice. This enable the highly gifted artist to paint a fresco of the princess on a wall of the room. he was under the impression that the prince will be pleased to look at he exact replica of his sister and richly reward him.

When the room was complete, the prince came with his wives to look at and approve the beautiful paintings, some of which were erotic as well. While he was enjoying these works of art, he came across the painting of Malli Kumari. He could not believe what he saw. Ashamed of himself he said, "My elder sister is here and I am shamelessly enjoying these sensual paintings along with my wives." His governess explained, "Prince, You are mistaken. this is not your sister but her life size portrait." The prince carefully examined the painting and was astonished at the realistic work of art and the skill o the artist. However the feeling if anger overtook the sense if appreciation. He was annoyed at the mindless effrontery of the artist who had pained such a live portrait of his respected elder sister in the entertainment chamber.

The angry prince called the painter and asked him when and how he saw the princess. The artist humbly submitted, "Sire! I just saw one toe of the princess from behind a lattice. But I am endowed with this miraculous skill that when I start painting even a part of a thing I automatically complete the thing perfectly."

This explanation did not pacify the prince. He exiled the artist after amputating his right thumb. The vexed artist made another painting of the princess and sold it at a very high price to king Adinshatru of Hastinapur. Adinshatru was attracted towards Malli Kumari, as many others who had heard about her divine beauty.

Discussion with Choksha

one day a female mendicant named Choksha came to Mithila. In order to influence the royal family she came to Malli Kumari. choksha was a scholar of Vedas and other scriptures and her interpretation was that keeping the body clean, indulging in charity and the annointment of Tirth (sacred place)were the only religious activities that lead to liberation. She started preaching her ideas to Malli Kumari, who heard all this with patience. When Choksha had nothing more to say, Malli Kumari said in her magnetic voice, "With due respect to your attire, I am surprised at your ignorance, Choksha. Know that every charity is not done with religious or pious intent. Even cleaning the body and annointment of a Tirth are not sacred if they are not done with equanimous and pious feelings or if they cause any destruction of any living organism. A blood stained cloth will never be cleaned by washing it with blood. The basis of religion is a discerning attitude. To an irrational person, even penance causes discomfort and irritation." This irrefutable logic of Malli Kumari silenced Choksha, but she became angry and decided to take revenge.

Choksha decided that, in order to shatter the pride of this princess it would be best if she could be manipulated into marrying some king who already had many wives. Cooking up her plan, she approached the king of Kampilyapur in Panchal state. She gave a titillating description of the divine beauty of Malli Kumari and provokingly said to the king, "Your life and palace both are lack luster as long as you do not marry and bring this divine beauty to your palace." King Jitshatru was highly impressed. He decided to seek the hand of Malli Kumari in marriage.

Change of Heart of the Six Kings

The six friends of Malli Kumari’s earlier birth were born in six different royal families and inherited the kingdoms.

They were:

1. King Pratibuddha of Saketpur,

2. King Chandrachhay of Champa,

3. King Rupi of Shravasti,

4. King Shankh of Varanasi,

5. King Adinshatru of Hastinapur, and

6. King Jitshatru of Panchal (Kampilyapur).

The fame of the beauty of Malli Kumari inspired all these six kings to send proposing kings and returned the emissaries. These kings felt insulted and marched on Mithila with their armies and lay a seize.

When king Kumbh got the challenge he became worried. Malli Kumari asked about the cause of her father’s anxiety. Kumbh replied, "Daughter! All these kings want to marry you. My refusal has irked them and they have surrounded Mithila. I am anxious about what I should do now!"

Malli Kumari was already aware of all these activities through her Avadhi Jnan (the capacity to know all about the physical world). She made a plan to enlighten these friends of her last birth. In the palace garden she got a chamber made and in its center installed a life size statue that was her exact replica. It’s inside was hollow and there was an opening hidden under the neck. Six adjacent chambers were also erected around this central circular chamber. These six chambers had windows opening in the main chamber. These windows were so designed that a n onlooker could only see the statue and nothing else. Making all these arrangements, Malli Kumari started putting one handful of the food she ate every day inside the hollow statue.

When the stink of decomposed food, coming out of the statue on opening the lid became intolerable, Malli Kumari went to her father. She said to her father, "Stop worrying, father, and inform the kings individually that I want to meet them to discus about marriage." The king did likewise. Believing that only he had been invited, everyone of the kings accepted the invitation. At the predetermined time they all came one by one and were led to the six chambers allotted for them separately. From the windows in their chambers each one of them gazed at the divinely beautiful statue considering it to be Mali Kumari. Everyone was dreaming of the marriage and the happy moments thereafter. All of a sudden Malli Kumari removed the concealed cover from the hole in the neck of he statue. The obnoxious smell of decomposed food filled the chambers. The hellish smell hit the peeping kings and they were jolted out of their state of day dreaming. Their faces distorted with revulsion.

Panic stricken, the kings shouted, "What is all this? Why have I been locked in this chamber? It is impossible breath here. Please open the doors." It was then that Malli Kumari appeared and said, "O slaves of passions! You are totally infatuated with female beauty. A moment ago you were admiring this earthly beauty and were nurturing a desire to possess and enjoy it. Now a hatred for the same is evident on your distorted faces. What sort of love for beauty is this?"

The kings shouted, "Why are you trying to make fools of us? It is impossible to tolerate this stink?"

Malli Kumari asked the attendants to open the gates of the chambers. All the six kings rushed out and were surprised to see each other. Finding the right opportunity Malli Kumari said to them, "The stink caused by just a few handfuls of food is intolerable. Mind you, this body is nothing but a statue made of bones and flesh and maintained by the same food. Why such infatuation for such decomposed thing? You are all friends of my last birth. Rise above this infatuation and commence once again the terminted pursuit of purification of the self."

All the six kings acquired Jati-smaran Jnan, They sought pardon from king Kumbh as well as Malli Kumari. Resolving to follow the path of renunciation they left for their respective kingdoms.

Malli Kumari also announced her decision to become an ascetic. After the great charity she became an ascetic along with three hundred males and equal number of females. Immediately after her Diksha, she acquired Vipulmati Manahparyav Jnan (the ultimate Pra normal capacity and started deep meditation. The same afternoon she attained omniscience. In her first discourse she discussed on the subject of philosophy of equanimity. The six kings took Diksha during this first discourse. After enhancing the spread of religion for a long period she attained Nirvana on the fourth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra at Sammetshikhar.

 

MUNISURVRAT BHAGAVAN - 20

The being that was to be Bhagavan Munisuvrat purified its soul during his birth as Surshreshta, the king of Champa city in Mahavideh. He then reincarnated in the Pranat dimension of gods.

King Sumitra of the Harivamh clan ruled over Rajgriha town. His wife, queen Padmavati, gave birth to a son, the being that had descended from the Pranat dimension of gods, on the ninth day of the dark half of the month of Jyeshta. After the traditional post birth rituals the name giving ceremony was celebrated. The king announced that since this being had descended into the womb of queen Padmavati, she took a variety of good vows and lead a life as disciplined as an ascetic. As such the new born named Munisuvrat (vow like ascetics).

In due course Munisuvrat was married and ascended the throne. After a successful and long reign he became an ascetic on the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Phalgun. He wandered as a ordinary ascetic for eleven months and attained omniscience under a Champa tree. His first discourse was on the subject of "scriptural and applied philosophy". After a long life devoted to spread of true religion he went to Sammetshikhar and got liberated on the ninth day of the dark half of the month of Jyeshtha.

Bhagavan Munisuvrat’s period was an important period of Jain pre-history. His illustrious contemporaries and followers included stalwarts like the ninth Chakravarti-Mahapadma, the eighth Prativasudev, Baldev, and Vasudev, Ravan, Rama and Lakshman respectively. The elder brother of Bahagavan Munisuvrat, ascetic Vishnu Kumar, also became famous for his pioneering effort of saving the Jain organization from the oppressions of mister Namuchi; the Rakshabandhan festival is celebrated in the memory of that event.

 

NAMINATH BHAGAVAN -21

The being hat was to be Bhagavan Naminath purified his soul during his birth as king Siddharth of Kshambi town in East Mhavideh. He reincarnated as a god in the Aparajit dimension. this being then descended into he womb of queen Vipra, wife of king Vijay of Mithila. As the queen had seen fourteen auspicious things in her dream at the moment of conception, the augurs informed hat the child to be born was going to be a Chkravarti or a Tirthankar.

During the pregnancy period once Mithila was attacked by some very powerful kings. Peace loving king Vijay was at a loss to find a peaceful solution and was worried. An expert augur told the king that the pregnant queen should go to the roof of the palace and look at the attacking armies. The queen followed the instructions and threw a loving glance at the large armies stationed on the fields outside the town. The aura of the pious soul in the womb was so powerful that it cast a pacifying spell on the attackers. the kings who were sure to win the battle, surrendered and bowed before king Vijay.

This incident inspired the king to name the new born as Naminath. Born on the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Sravan, Naminath had a happy childhood. When he became young he was married and later was given the reign of the kingdom. After a long and peaceful reign he became an ascetic on the ninth day of the dark half of the month of Ashadh. After nine months he attained omniscience under a Bakul Tree in a garden near Mithila. His first discourse was on the subject of right perception. After a long period of religious and spiritual activities he went to Sammetsikhar and got liberated on the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh.

The tenth Chakravarti Harishen was his contemporary and the eleventh Chakravarti Jai came in his religious tradition, through much later.

 

ARISHTANEMI BHAGAVAN - 22

The being that was to be Bhagavan Arishtanemi, in his earlier incarnation, was Shankh, the eldest son of king Shrishen of Hastinapur. One day some citizens and wayfarers came to the king and informed him that the highways approaching Hastinapur and the surrounding area were being terrorized by bandits and smugglers. No traveler or villager was safe from the attack of the bandits. Robbery and murder became a daily routine for them. The citizens requested he king to protect the masses. the king deputized prince Shankh to go and punish the bandits.

Prince Shankh was an accomplished diplomat and strategist. He planned and conducted his campaign in such a way that he apprehended the leader of bandits without any bloodshed. While he was on his way back he heard the cry of help of a young princess abducted by a Vidyadhar (a lower god); prince Shankh challenged the Vidyadhar, defeated him and saved princess Yahomati. when these young people saw each other they fell in love and got married. In due course prince Shankh ascended the throne.

Once a scholarly ascetic visited Hastinapur. King Shankh went for his Darshan, an asked him, "Why am I so deeply in love with Yashomati that all my desires to renounce come to a naught." The ascetic said, "Your marital ties are many a life-time deep. For last six lives you are being married to each other, this is the seventh birth. That is the reason for such intense and deep feeling of love for each other."

The king asked, "When these ties will be broken?"

The scholarly ascetic replied, "In your ninth incarnation you will be born as Neminath and she as Rajimati. In that birth you will be able to break this tie of love and become twenty second Tirthankar. Rajimati will also follow you on the path of renunciation and get liberated."

The Birth as Arishtanemi

Knowing all this Shankh had a deep feeling of detachment. He gave his kingdom to his on and became an ascetic. As a result of high spiritual practices and deep devotion for Jnan he earned the Tirthankar-nam-and gotra-karma and reincarnated in the Aprajit dimension of gods.

Bhagavan Rishabhdev and twenty one other Tirthankars were born in the Ikshavku clan. The twentieth Tirthankar Munisuvrat was born in the Harivamsh clan. The great king Vasu was also from Harivamsh clan. After a long time this clan saw another illustrious king Sauri who was the founder of the famous Sauripur town. Sauri had two sons Andhak Vrishni and Bhog Virshni. Andhak Virishni had ten sons, the eldest was Samudravijay and the youngest Vasudev.

The being that was Shankh descended from the Aparajit dimension of gods into the womb of queen Shiva Devi, wife of king Samudravijay of Sauripur. The fourteen great dreams indicated that this being was to become a Tirthankar. On the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Shravaan queen Shiva Devi gave birth to a son. As per the convention 56 goddesses of directions arrived and performed the birth celebrations after the post-birth cleaning.

During the naming ceremony the king conveyed that as the queen had seen a disc with Arishta gems, the new born will be called Arishtanemi.

Vasudev, the younger brother of king Samudravijay was a charming and handsome person. His senior queen Rohini had a son named Balram (Padma) and junior queen Devaki had a son named Shrikrishana. Balram and Shrikrishna were the ninth Baldev and Vasudev.

During those times the whole area of central India had become a disturbed area due to prevailing conspiracies among various kingdoms. Cruel Kamsa and oppressive Jarasandh (the Prativasudev) were the worst of these feuding principalities. In order to be away from these everyday problems and as per the advise of an astrologer, the Yadav clan, including Samudravijay, Vasudev, Ugrasen, Shrikrishan etc. migrated from Mathura sauriur to the west coast. Shrikrishan constructed the large and beautiful town of Dwarka on the sea coast and near the Raivatak mountain (Girnar). Its grand architecture and strong fortification made it heavenly beautiful and unconquerable.

The Power and Prowess of Arishtanemi

One day while wandering around, youthful Arishtanemi reached the hall of weapons of Vasudev Shrikrishna. Seeing the divine weapons he first lifted the Sudarshan Chakra (the disc weapon) curiously and whirled it playfully. He then lifted the giant bow, Sarang, and bent it as if it was a thin cane. After this he lifted the Panchajanya conch, put it to his lips and blew it hard. The piercing loud sound emanating from the great conch shocked the town. Shrikrishan rushed to the armory. Seeing Arishtanemi playfully handling the he giant and heavy weapons belonging to Vasudev, Shrikrishan was astonished. He asked "Nemi! did you blow the Panchajanya?" Nemi innocently replied, "Yes brother! It is so cute I could not contain myself."

Shrikrishan knew that is weapons were beyond the capacity and strength of any warrior in the world. He was astonished and pleased at the same time, that his young cousin was so strong and powerful. He wanted to test Nemi’s strength further; he invited Nemi to the gymnasium for a friendly trial of strength. First Shrikrishan raised his arm and held it straight asking Nemi to bring it down. Nemi forced Shrikrishna’s arm down without any apparent effort. After this Nemi raised his arm and Shrikrishana, in spite of all his strength could not force it down. He even put all his weight on the outstretched arm but as if it was a beam of steal, the arm of Nemi did not move even a fraction of an inch.

Shrikrishan was very pleased knowing about this unprecedented strength of his cousin. He thought that this great individual, much more powerful than him, is capable of becoming a Chakravarti. but how could he become a Chakravarti if he does not change his attitude of detachment for all worldly activities. Shrikrishan formulated a plan. He asked Nemi to marry and start his family life. Nemi still did not show any interest. Shrikrishan now consulted his queens and organized a spring festival. The ladies dragged Nemi Kumar to the pool for water games and there they used all their guile to pursued him to agree for marriage. Shrikrishna also requested once more. Nemi presented a smiling but thoughtful look. With his divine knowledge he became aware it was the marriage celebration that would initiate him on the path of liberation. As such he did not oppose the proposal. His silence was taken as a sign of affirmation and it was joyously announced that Nemi Kumar had finally agreed for marriage.

Shrikrishana started the search for a suitable match. One of his queens Satyabhama, informed hat her beautiful and delicate younger sister, Rajul, would be an extremely suitable match for Nemi Kumar. Shrikrishana finalized all arrangements. On the arranged date the marriage procession started with Nemi Kumar riding the decorated king elephant. All the kings and princes of the Yadav clan joined the procession with their royal regalia and retinue. When the procession was approaching the destination, Nemi Kumar saw that on the side of the road there were large fenced areas and cages full of wailing animals and birds. Filled with sympathy and compassion, he asked the elephant driver why those animals and birds were being kept in bondage. The driver informed him that the creatures were collected to be butchered for meat for the large number of gusts attending his marriage.

Nemi Kumar was filled with despair and a feeling of detachment. He said to the elephant driver, "If I agree to be the cause of the butchering of so many living beings my life and the one to come will be filled with pain and misery. So, I will not marry. Immediately arrange for the release of all these creatures; turn back and head for Dwarka." The driver looked at him in astonishment. Nemi Kumar said, "This is an order."

The driver went and opened the gates of the fenced areas and cages. The animals jumped and ran away into the jungle. They were saved from the torture of death. The driver came back and turned the elephant towards Dwarka. On the way Nemi Kumar took out all the valuables and ornaments on his body and handed them over to the elephant driver.

The news spread panic in the marriage procession. All the seniors of the Yadav clan tried to change the mind of Nemi Kumar, but in vain. Even Shrikrishna could not dissuade him from his determination. Nemi Kumar said to the elders, "As these animals were prisoners in the cages, we all are prisoners in cages of karma which are much stronger than these fences. See the feeling of joy evident in the animals released from the cages. Know that happiness is in freedom, not in bondage. I want to tread the path of breaking this bondage of Karma and embrace eternal bliss. Please do not stop me."

When Rajimati, dressed as bride, heard of this act of Nemi Kumar she could not tolerate the sting of sorrow. she fainted with shock. When she recovered she started crying and again lost consciousness.

After a year long charity, Nemi Kumar sat in a palanquin named Uttarkura, and, passing through the town of Dwarka, arrived in the Raivatak garden. He got down under an Ashoka tree and pulled out five fistful of hair and after taking off all ornaments and the royal dress. He became an ascetic along with one thousand person on the sixth day of he bright half of the month of Shravan. Shrikrishan was deeply touched by this incident; he blessed his younger cousin and wished him success in his mission.

Arhat Neminath spent fifty four days in deep spiritual practices and then went to Vijaynat hill (Girnar). On the fifteenth day of the dark half of the month of Ashvin, in he afternoon, he was observing a two days fast and was meditating under a bamboo tree when he became an omniscient. Establishing he four pronged religious organization (Tirth) he became the twenty second Tirthankar.

When Rajimati recovered from the melancholy she decided to follow the path taken by Neminath. Prince Rathnemi, the younger brother of Neminath, tried his best to seduce Rajimati. But she could not be distracted from her goal. When Rajimati came to know that Neminath had become an omniscient, she went to the Samavasaran of neminath along with many of her friends and took Diksha. She lost herself in penances and other spiritual practices and in the end got liberated.

Stories of a number of famous ascetic contemporaries of Bhagavan Arishtanemi are glittering gems in he heap of Jain scriptures. some more prominent names are child ascetic Gajasukumar, great ascetic Dhandhan Rishi, Thavaccha-putra Sharman etc.

Bhagavan Arishtanemi got liberated, at the age of one thousand years, on the eighth day of the bright half of he month o Ashadh.

A number of historians accept that Arishtanemi, he cousin of Shrikrishana, was a historical figure who greatly contributed towards vegetarianism, compassion and Ahimsa. This is the point where Jain prehistory fuses with history.

PARSHVANATH BHAGAVAN - 23

Bhagavan Parshvanath was born about 380 years before the Nirvana of Bhagavan or in the 10th century BC.

Past-Incarnation

Like other Tirthankars, important events of earlier incarnations of the being that became Bhagavan Parshvanath are available in Jain scriptures. Study of these incidents reveals that amnesty and compassion played a major part in his life and progress toward purity of soul. In every incarnation his rival, Kamath, continued to torture him and he continued to forgive and forget.

Kamath and Marubhuti

The soul that was to be Bhagavan Parshvanath was inspired to take the direction of purity in its birth as Marubhuti. He was born to the wife of Purohit Vishabhuti living in Potanpur city. His elder brother was Kamath. As Kamath was cruel, conceited, and a debauch, in spite of being the elder son it was Marubhuti who succeeded his father on the post of Rajpurohit (the director of ritual ceremonies of the king and state). Attracted toward the beautiful wife of Marubhuti, Vasundhara, Kamath seduced her. When Kamath’s wife came to know about the affair, she tried to dissuade him in vain and told Marubhuti about it. Marubhuti made a secret inquiry and conveyed everything in detail to the king. Kamath was exiled by the king. He became a mendicant and started doing rigorous penance.

After sometime Marubhuti felt that it was because of his report that Kamath was insulted and thrown out of the state; as such he should go and beg forgiveness from his elder brother. Marubhuti went into the jungle near Kamath and bowed before him seeking his pardon. Instead of getting pacified, Kamath was over powered by the desire of vengeance. He picked up a large stone and hit Marubhuti on the head.

Marubhuti died on the spot.

The King Elephant

The soul of Marubhuti was reborn as an elephant in the forests of Vindhyachal. It became the leader of the herd. One day when an ascetic was standing in meditation in the Vindhyachal area, the king elephant came near him. The memory of its past life precipitated and it became a follower of the ascetic and turned mellow and detached. One day the elephant rushed into and stationed itself in the middle of a pond in order to save himself from a forest fire. The being that was Kamath had taken birth as a serpent of the Kurkut species. When it saw the elephant, the serpent recognized it as its enemy from the earlier birth. The serpent landed on the head of the elephant and stung it. The elephant equally tolerated the pain and died peacefully.

Suvarnbahu Chakravarti

In his third birth the being that was Marubhuti reincarnated as a god in the Sahasrar dimension. From there it descended and was born as prince Kiranveg in Mahavideh area. He furthered his progress towards purity by becoming an ascetic and was killed once again by the Kamath, now born as a snake. His next birth was as a god in the Achyut Kalpa dimension. From there he came to Mahavidh area as king Vajranabh. Kamath was born as a Bhil aborigine who shot Vajranabh, who had become an ascetic now, with an arrow. Reincarnating in the Madhyam Graiveyak dimension of gods, the being that was to be Parshvanath enjoyed the fruits of his pious Karma.

In his eighth birth this being was born in the royal family of Puranpur in the Mahavideh area. After ascending the throne Suvarnbahu conquered six continents and became a Chakravarti. In later part of his life he became an ascetic and did purest of meditations to earn Tirthakar-nam-and-gotra-karma. During this birth also, this being was killed by its old enemy Kamath who was born as a fierce lion. From here this being went to the Pranat dimension of gods.

Descending from the Pranat dimension of gods, the being that was Marubhuti came into the womb of Vama Devi, wife of King Ashvasen of Varanasi. On the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Paush Vama Devi gave birth to a son. At the time of his naming ceremony king Ashvasen announced that during her pregnancy Vama Devi one night saw a snake slithering on the bed near his flank. She woke him up and saved him from the impending danger. As such, he was naming the new born as Parshva (flank).

Prince Parshva was very handsome and intelligent. His fame reached Kushasthalpur and princess Prabhavatti, daughter of king Prasenjit, determined to become his wife. Before a proposal for marriage could be sent the king of Kalinga lay a seize of Kushasthalpur and sought the hand of Prabhavati in marriage. King Prasenjit, aware of the might of Yavanraj sent a messenger to Varanasi for help. King Ashvasen got irritated at the misconduct of Yavanraj and command the army in this battle. Pshvasen was well aware of the ability and prowess of prince Parshva; he accepted proposal without any hesitation.

Before the prince started for the battle field the king of gods sent a divine and air worthy chariot for Parshva. After reaching the battle field the and prior to giving the orders to attack, Parshva sent a message to Yavanraj that now Prasenjit was under the protection of king Ashvasen, and as such he should break his seize of Kushasthalpur or face the great army of Varanasi and divine powers of Parshva. Although the youthful Yavanraj and some of his younger ministers were provoked, a senior minister informed him that the king of gods himself sided Parshva. He not only had divine powers but also the flying chariot of Indra. To fight Parshva was to embrace certain defeat. Yavanraj accepted the advice of the senior minister and surrendered before prince Parshva without a fight. He offered rich gifts to Parshva and became a friend of Prasenjit.

Victorious Parshva Kumar returned to Varanasi. King Prasenjit also came to Varanasi with his daughter Prabhavati and requested king Ashvasen to marry Parshva Kumar with Prabhavati. Parshva was averse to the bond of marriage. However, his parents persuaded him and he could not hurt their feelings. He was married to Prabhavati but led a simple and detached life.

One day prince Parshva was enjoying a view of the town from the balcony of his palace. When he saw groups of men and women, carrying items for worship, passing by, he asked out of curiosity if it was some day of religious ceremonies. His attendants informed him that some mendicant named Kamath is doing a harsh penance named Panchagni Tap (five fire penance). The citizens are going to pay homage to him with all these presents. Prince Parshva also proceeded to witness this strange scene. As he was endowed with three levels of knowledge since birth, Parshva perceived everything worth knowing about this person at once. This was the same being that had been nurturing an intense feeling of vengeance for him for many births. After completing his age in the hell he was born in a poor family. Driven by hunger and poverty he had become a mendicant and was influencing the ignorant masses with his harsh but ill conceived penance.

When prince Parshva came near the mendicant he saw that some logs of wood were burning all around the mendicant. Inside one of the logs was a pair of serpents, writhing in pain due to the intense heat of the burning flames. Moved by a feeling of compassion the prince said to the mendicant, "Burning a five sensed being in fire, what sort of self improvement do you strive for?" The mendicant replied angrily, "Prince! You are a child; go and enjoy your princely games. It is mendicants like me who know about religion not you. How can you claim that some being is burning in the fire around me?"

All the efforts to persuade him that a pair of serpents was burning in the fire went in vain. Parshva then ordered his attendants to draw the specific log aside and split it. As soon as the attendants did that, a pair of serpents, partially scorched, fell on the ground writhing in pain. Realizing that they were about to die, prince Parshva said to them that they should not be annoyed with the ignorant mendicant and should remain equanimous during the last moments of their lives. He also recited the Namokar Mantra. As a result of equanimous thoughts and hearing the Namokar Mantra, after death the pair was born as the king and queen of the gods of the Nag Kumar clan (Dharanendra and Padmavati).

The mendicant became angry and kept on adding more fuel to the fire of vengeance. After death he reincarnated as the evil god Meghmali.

This incident inspired Parshva Kumar to step on the right path and show the path to the masses misled by such ignorant hypocrites. While he was contemplating this, he one day went to garden and chanced to see some frescoes about the incidents of life of Bhagavan Arishtanemi. These vivid paintings pushed him to the decision of becoming an ascetic. He sought permission of his father and started the year long charity. On the eleventh day of the dark half of the month of Paush he became an ascetic under an Ashok tree.

One day Parshva-muni was standing in meditation in Kaushamv jungle. God Dharanendra arrived there to pay homage. When he saw scorching sun rays falling on the meditating ascetic, he covered Parshva-muni with canopy of snake hoods. It is said that this area later became famous as Ahichhatra.

One day Parshva-muni was standing in meditation under a banyan tree in an Ashram outside a village. The evil god Meghamali, the Kamath of earlier birth, through his evil powers became aware of this. Driven by the animosity of earlier births, Meghamali arrived at the spot where Parshva-muni his extremely loud and fearsome laughter. When Parshva-muni remained unmoved, Meghmali inflicted pain on him by attacking in the form of various animals. Parshva-muni tolerated all these afflictions with equanimity. Meghamli’s anger reached its peak.

Now he created dark and dense clouds in the skies. The sky was completely covered by dark rain-bearing clouds. With fearsome rumbling and thunder and lightening it started raining heavily. Meghamali caused so much rain that it flooded the whole area. Parshva-muni tolerated the torment of this torrential rain like the Meru mountain. The water level rose and it reached the tip of Parshvanath’s nose. He was still unmoved in his meditation. At this peak of the affliction, the throne of god Dharanendra trembled. He came to know about the incident through his divine powers and reached the spot with Padmavati. One of these snake-gods created a platform under the feet of Parshva-muni and the other a canopy of its multiple hoods over hid head. Dharanendra admonished Meghamali who then fell at the feet of Parshva-muni and sought his forgiveness.

After eighty three days of penance and spiritual practices Parshva-muni came to Ashrampad garden in Varanasi and stood in meditation under a Dharanendra tree. With fast increasing purity he attained omniscience on the fourth day of the dark half of the month of Chaitra. The gods created the divine pavilion. Bhagavan Parshvanath gave his first discourse on the form of religion. He propagated the four dimensional religion(Ahimsa, truth, non-stealing and non-possession) for upliftment of the soul.

Inspired by the discourse of Bhagavan Parshvanath, many members of his family including his father Ashvasen, mother Vama Devi, and wife Prabhavati took Diksha from him. Many other princes and scholars including the famous Vedic scholar Shubhdatta also took Diksha after hearing to his discourse. Bhagavan Parshvanath established the four pronged religious organization. He had eight chief disciples with Shubgdatta being the first and most senior.

Although no detailed mention is available about the areas visited by Bhagavan Parshvanath, it can be surmised from various incidents and related stories that he covered a considerably wide area of the subcontinent. It appears that he visited Kashi-kaushal (Uttar Pradesh), Nepal, Bang (Bengal), Kalinga (Orissa), Anga (Magadh), Vidarbh, Konkan, Saurashtra etc. Among his followers were Shakya Kings, rulers of Magadh (grandfather and father of king Shrenik) and many others.

206 Spinsters

In Jain scriptures there is a mention of an incident of Bhagavan Parshvanath’s period that has not been much talked about. It is the initiation of 206 old spinsters in his ascetic organization. At different times many old spinsters from merchant families from a number of towns took Kiksha into Bhagavan Parshvanath’s organization and indulged in spiritual practices. But due to some faults in minor codes of discipline and death before doing required corrective self-analysis they reincarnated as queens of lesser gods like Chamarendra, Balindra, Vyantarendra etc. At the time of Bhagavan Mahavir’s divine pavilion creation they came for the Darshan (paying homage in person) and displayed their divine glamour and grandeur just like the sun god. What to talk of the common audience when even Ganadhar Gautam became spellbound at this heavenly display. When Gautam asked Bhagavan Mahavir about these goddesses he explained these goddesses acquired these unique divine powers as a result of their practices of penance and discipline when they were the old-spinster ascetics in Bhagavan Parshvanath’s order.

All these references indicate that even during the period of Bhagavan Mahavir the faith and devotion for Bhagavan Parshvanath was wide spread. The masses strongly believed that remembering the name of Bhagavan Parshvanath was the panacea for all troubles as well as the means of success. This was the reason that in Bhagavan Mahavir’s time Bhagavan Parshvanath was popularly known as "Purushadaniya".

Many scholars are of the opinion that the Chaturyam Dharm (the four dimensional religion) was the leading and prominent religion in whole of India during that period. The Buddha also got initiated into this school in the early part of his spiritual life. Later he evolved and propagated his eight pronged religion out of this only.

Bhagavan Parshvanath was a householder for thirty years and then an ascetic for seventy years. When he was 100 years old he got liberated on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Shravan at Sammetshikhar.

It is believed that the time span between the Nirvana of Bhagavan Parshvanath and Bhagavan Mahavir’s launching of his own school was about 250 years. There is a mention of four prominent leaders of Bhagavan Parshvanath’s school:

1. Ganadhar Shubhdatta (Shumbh)

2. Arya Haridatta

3. Acharya Samudra Suri

4. Arya Keshi Shraman

The last one is believed to have existed between 166 to 250 years after the Nirvana of Bhagavan Parshvanath. Arya Keshi Shraman was a forceful Acharya. The staunch non-believer king Pradeshi became a highly devoted Jain Shravak under his influence only. There were nine groups of five hundred ascetics each, in the large religious organization headed by Keshi-muni. These groups worked in far fling areas like Tailang (Andhra), Konkan and Maharashtra. He himself wandered in the Magadh area with one thousand ascetics.