Illustrated Tirthankar Charitra
Shri Amar Muni
The Construction of the Divine Pavilion of Tirthankars
[Like many other branches of science the branch of constructing assembly halls has also amply developed. T construct a large auditorium where thousands of people may arrive, be accommodated, may listen to the lectures and peacefully leave, requires a trained mind with engineering skill. For such an arrangement renowned experts display their skill. Still there are incidents of chaos and stampede in such large congregations. Even the police forces get nervous in trying to control such crowds of thousands of people.
Thousands of years ago the divine pavilions were created for the assembly of a Tirthankar where not only millions of human beings but also innumerable gods and animals used to assemble.
In a large pavilion or assembly hall covering an area of one Yojan (4 sq. kosa or 12 sq. km) used to accommodate innumerable gods, humans and animals. They would arrive and sit in the allotted sections, listen to the discourses of the Tirthankar and go back peacefully. There were adequate traffic and parking arrangements for vehicles. The detailed and scientific description of such arrangements available in the ancient scriptures is truely astonishing. It also reveals the highly developed science and intellect during that period. We give brief description of the structure of these divine pavilions of the Tirthankars.]
The beholding of a Tirthankar in his divine pavilion, pondering over his discourses, and following his teachings purifies and strengthens the attitude, faith and realization of spiritual pursuits. Sitting in proximity of the Tirthankar, seeing him, listening to his discourse and coming under the influence of his aura and various unique attributes is spiritually inspiring not only for the gods and humans but also for the animals. Men and animals of contrasting attitudes loose their cruelty and mutual animosity, disease, sorrow, afflictions, fear etc. The Tirthankar’s discourse also provides benefits in shape of enhancement of knowledge and science and progress on the path of liberation through stoppage of inflow and acceleration of shedding of Karmas.
The Great Benefits
Knowing about the arrival of Bhagavan Mahavir in the Samavasaran the sages said, “O beloved of gods! This is the source of great benefits for us. When even the hearing of the names of Arihant Bhagavants is a boon, there is no doubt that approaching, greeting, bowing admiring and worshipping him in person is highly beneficial.” It is a great occasion to listen to even one word of the august preaching of the great man. Bowing to him and offering him and offering him reverence is sure to result in attainment of the pure blissful state of liberation besides being source of benefits, happiness and peace during this life and the later incarnations.
What is a Samavasaran? How is it created? Who creates it? When and for how long the Tirthankar gives his discourse in the Samavasaran? All these questions have been dealt in various canons (Agams), and their different commentaries (Niryukti, Vritti and Bhashya) in eloquent style.
The Samavasaran is the religious assembly of Tirthankars. The literal meaning of the term is proper congregation at a specific place or a place where beings with different attitudes assemble in an orderly manner. As such, the assembling of a variety of worthy beings-specially humans, animals and gods-for the purpose of beholding the Tirthankar and listening to his preachings is called Samavasaran. It is something much larger in dimension, much wider in scope, much numerous in species, and much lofty in purpose as compared to the modern parliament where representatives from various areas of the country meet.
The Special Divine Plan of the Samavasaran
The Mahardhik gods, first of all, inform the Abhiyogya gods about village, town or area where the Samavasaran is to be constructed. These gods, then clear, clean and level a 12 sq. km area pneumatically. Fragrant water is aerially sprinkled over that area and than in order to make the atmosphere pleasantly perfumed a variety of suitable flowers are showered. The whole area is decorated with various gemstones including moonstone and sapphire. Now the Vyantar gods construct gem studded and gold inlaid gates in all the four directions. These gates are embellished with motiffis like umbrella, human figure, crocodile arch, swastika etc.
After this the kings of gods with their special powers construct three concentric parapet walls with serrated design and embellished with gems and gold. The outermost wall is constructed by the king of the Jyotishka gods. The innermost wall is full of gemstones and is made by the king of Vaimanik gods. The decorations and embellishments are also done by the gods who construct the walls. The main gate studded with every gem is made by the Bhavanpati gods. Large urns with burning incenses with mixtures of fragrant powder like black Agar and Kundarak are installed all around by the Vyantar gods.
Now Ishan gods arrive and plant a Ashok tree 12 times the height of the Tirthankar exactly at the center of the innermost circle. Under this tree they make a gem studded platform. At the center of this platform they make a throne with leg-rest of crystal-quartz. Over this throne there are three canopies, one over the other. On both the flanks of the throne stand the Balindra and Chamar gods with whisks in their hands. The Vyantar gods install the emblem of wheel of religion a little distance away and in front of the throne. After this all the gods hail in loud voice and express their feeling of extreme joy.
As a rule, where all the gods arrive, the construction of the Samavasaran is done jointly by different gods as detailed above. But where kings of gods with special powers arrive, it is they who construct the Samavasaran. However, if such gods do not arrive it is the option of the Bhavanpati and other gods to construct the Samavasaran.
Entry and the Sitting Arrangement
After the construction of the Samavasaran is complete the Tirthankar enters it by the eastern gate during the first hour after the dawn or when the second hour is approaching. He moves stepping on divine lotuses. While walking, seven divine lotuses appear both at the front and back of him. He first circumambulates the Chaitya tree and then approaches the throne and sits on it facing east.
Three replicas of the Tirthankar sitting on the throne are created by gods and installed facing remaining three directions. Thus the Tirthankar is visible to every one sitting anywhere in the assembly.
At the feet of the Tirthankar the senior most principle disciple sits after bowing to the tirthankar. The senior Ganadhar sits near the feet of the Tirthankar in south-east direction. All the other Ganadhars sit at his side or ahead of him.
Then the omniscient ascetics enter from the eastern gate, circumambulate the Tirthankar, utter-Namastirthaya (salutation tot he Tirth), and take their seats at the back of the Ganadhars . After this the remaining highly endowed ascetics (Manahparyav Jnanis, Avadhi Jnansis, Fourteen Purvadhars, other Purvadhars etc.) also enter from the eastern gate, go around the Tirthankars thrice, pay homage to the Tirthankar and other seniors, and take seats behind the Kewal Jnanis.
Now enter the female ascetics and after formally paying homage to all the seniors go and stand behind the Vaimanik gods, they do not sit. Goddesses from the Vaimanik dimension enter from the eastern gate and formally saluting to the Tirthankar and all the ascetics go and stand behind the common ascetics. One after another come the goddesses from Bhavanpati, Vyantar and Jyotishka dimensions, from the southern gate and paying homage to the Tirthankar and all the ascetics go and stand in the south-western direction one behind the other in the said order.
After all these arrive gods from Bhavanpati, Jyotishka and Vyantar dimensions from the eastern gate and after due formalities take their allotted seats, one group behind the other in the said order in the north-western direction. Then from the northern gate enter the Vaimanik gods followed by men and women and after due formalities take their allotted seats. In front sit Vaimanik gods, behind them are men and then women. The families sit near the gods with whom they are associated and nowhere else.
In every direction and the corners sit these clusters of people in groups of three classes (gods, men and women). As a rule the juniors pay respects to the seniors at the time of their arrival in the assembly, irrespective of the order of arrival. At the four gates-east, west, north and south stand Soma, Varun and respectively as guards of the directions.
Sitting in this fashion there is no if superiority or inferiority, envy, competition, differences or animosity. Due to the miraculous influence of the Tirthankar, even the natural enemies from the animal kingdom loose anger or fear from each other.
This is the arrangement of the first enclosure.
Arrangement of the Second and Third Enclosures
The second enclosure is allotted to all types of animals (the five sensed ones). The third enclosure is allotted for parking of vehicles.
Outside these enclosures there are crowds of animals, humans, as well as gods. Sometimes they come separately and sometimes all together. However, in spite of the crowd the movement is orderly and peaceful. There is hardly any rush or stampede or altercation.
The Importance of Beholding the Samavasaran
To behold the Samavasaran of a Tirthankar is such an important act that an ascetic who has not done so earlier is inspired to walk and come even if he is stationed twelve Yojan (approx. 144 km) away. As it is a rule that any ascetic stationed within a distance of 144 km from the Samavasaran should come and join. One who ignores this for any reason should observe a four days fast as a penitence. This is because his right perception is fret with faults of instability, shallowness and dilution.
The appearances of the Tirthankar sitting in the Samavasaran is so breathtakingly beautiful that if all the gods join together and try to create that beauty in the dimension of a toe, it cannot surpass the beauty of the toe of the Tirthankar.
In terms of the beauty of the form the list of people in order of descendence is as follows (The beauty of the earlier being infinitely more than the latter: Tirthankar, Ganadhar, Ascetics with normal human body, Anuttar Vaimanik gods, Navagraiveyak, Achyut, Aaran, Pranat, Anat, Sahasrar, Mahashukra, Lantak, Brahmlok, Mahendra, Sanat Kumar, Ishan, Saudharma, Bhavanvasi, Jyotishka, Vanavyantar (all dimensions of gods), Chakravarti, Vasudev, Baldev and regional kings. The common kings and other people are further down on the scale with much larger gap. (The traditional reduction being-infinitely less in six attributes.)
The Acharyas have explained the purpose of this breathtaking beauty of the Tirthankar that appears due to the precipitation of the Tirthankar-nam-karma. They say that this divine beauty of the Tirthankar inspires those attending the Samavasaran to indulge in religious or righteous activities activities. they feel that when such a divinely beautiful person indulges in righteous activity, all those who are earthly, beautiful ought to do so. The utterances of a divinely beautiful person are listened to with attention. The pride of the narcissists also shatter sin presence of such an embodiment of pure beauty. Those are the reasons that make the divine beauty of a Tirthankar praiseworthy.
The Ideal of Humility
The first words the Tirthankar utters when he starts his discourse are “Salutations to the ford of religion.” After this he begins his discourse in easily understandable words of the common man’s language, Ardha-Magadhi, with the specific purpose that everyone present may understand and absorb the words and their meaning. As the status of Tirthankar is gained because of the establishment of Tirth (ford of religion), salutations, are first of all offered to the Tirth. The cause of becoming revered is reverential even for the reverend one. The religious ford or Tirth is revered in the whole cosmos whereas the Tirthankar is revered only in the revered only in the inhabited region; the Tirthankar recognizes this fact with due reverence. Another reason is that when such a lofty and endowed person as a Tirthankar displays such humility he sets an example for others to follow.
The Volume of the Speech
With the advancement of technology the capacity and scope of transmission of sound with the help of amplifiers, telephones, radios and satellites has increased manifold. However, the Tirthankar’s speech is naturally endowed with unique attributes. As such in the Samavasaran the voice of the Tirthankar reaches the eardrums or hearing organs of all five sensed beings. Everyone in the audience thus removes his doubts and ambiguities.
The Tirthankar gives his discourse only in one language, but he assembly has the congregation of gods, humans and animals. How do they all understand this monolingual discourse? It is something like the single color water turning into a variety of colors depending on the soil it falls on; black, white, red or gray etc. One of the unique attributes of the Tirthankar’s speech is this capacity to automatically get translated into the language of the listener. In this age of advanced technology it is nothing to be astonished about. In the United Nations Organization there are representatives from almost all nations of the world. There is a multiplicity of languages, but the technology has made it possible that any speech in any language is immediately translated into the language of the listener.
There are twelve types of congregations in the Samavasaran. If the preaching of the Tirthankar does not inspire any of the listeners to take a vow of any one of the four Samayiks (a specific spiritual practice), Sarvavirati (total renunciation), Deshvirati (partial renunciaton), Samyaktva (right conduct), and Shruti-Samayik (listening to the scriptures), all this effort of construction of the Samavasaran and collecting such a large crowd would go waste. But it is not so. Once the Samavasaran is created, the Tirthankar does give his discourse. For once at least, his preaching makes lasting impression on the psyche of the listener even if he does not accept any of the prescribed vows. The pure particles of the Tirthankars speech are fast acting. As such, more often than not his speech does not go in vain. Men take at least one of the four types of vows mentioned above. The animals accept one out of three leaving aside the Sarvavirati. The gods as a rule accept the Samyaktva Samayik.
In the Samavasaran, the Tirthankar gives discourse for the first quarter of the day (three hours). After this he comes out of the first quarter of the day (three hours). After this he comes out of the first enclosure, Devachhandak, situated in the second enclosure towards the east and rests comfortably.
In the village or town near which the Samavasaran is created, a number of messengers are appointed for giving news about the movement of the Tirthankar. Some of them are honorary and others salaried. For this recurring expenditure the Chakravarties contribute 1.2 million gold coins. The regional kings contribute the same number in silver coins. Gods like Kuber, various landlords, merchants and other people contribute according to their capacity and devotion.
How the Gods Work for Spread of Religion?
The devoted gods too follow this practice. They distribute money to various people appointed for various jobs like security, maintenance and serving the masses. They also provide assistance to people in need as well as support to the newly initiated ones. they consider this to be the worship of the Tirthankar. As a result they acquire the Satavedaniya Karma (the pleasure causing Karma). They automatically become virtuous and promote the spread of religion.
After the Tirthankar’s discourse the Ganadhars start their discourse. This is done during the second quarter of the day.
The Position of the Ganadhars
Ganadhars, the heads of groups of ascetics, give their discourse either sitting on the thrones resented by kings or the foot rest of the Tirthankar.
The Ganadhars in their discourse narrate the stories about past and future. They also answer to the questions of the curious among the masses. As the Ganadhars answer to all and sundry questions it is not possible to call them ignorant or lacking in the unique virtues like Avadhi Jnan and others.
Thus in the Samavasaran of a Tirthankar there are ample opportunities of hearing to the discourse of great souls, pondering, accepting vows, enhancing of right attitude, religious activities, worshipping and serving greatmen as well as masses.
(For further reading see Abhidhan Rajendra Kosh, Vol. 7)
SRI AMAR MUNI
Shri Amar Muni is a scholarly ascetic from Shri Shwetambar Sthanakvasi Jain Shraman Sangh. He is an accomplished orator, poet, and singer. He has written detailed commentaries on Bhagavati Sutra (four volumes), Sthananga Sutra (two volumes) and many others. He is the one who is responsible for taking the bold initiative to launch the publication of the illustrated Agam literature.
Illustrated Uttardhyayan Sutra (Hindi-English), illustrated Antakritdasha Sutra (Hindi-English) and illustrated Kalpa Sutra have already been published and received well.
The scholarly editor of this illustrated series is Srichand Surana ‘Saras.’