Illustrated Tirthankar Charitra
SHANTINATH BHAGAVAN - 16
Protection to a Refugee
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 Meghraths wounds instantaneously and left for his abode.
Whenever there is a talk about chivalry and compassion king Meghraths name is taken with respect.
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.