21 May 2013

Bhagwan Mallinath - 19th Tirthankar

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 the 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 of the artist. However the feeling of anger overtook the sense of appreciation. He was annoyed at the mindless effrontery of the artist who had painted 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 terminated 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.

Note: There has been a debate since ages on the 19th Tirthankar being either Male or female. The same is not concluded and the above article is provided from the most accepted version of Tirthankar Charitra.

17 May 2013

Bhagwan Arnath - 18th Tirthankar

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 beautiful princess. 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.

15 May 2013

Bhagwan Kunthunath - 17th Tirthankar

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 Manah paryav 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.

07 May 2013

Bhagwan Shantinath - 16th Tirthankar

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 Meghrathï wounds instantaneously and left for his abode.

Whenever there is a talk about chivalry and compassion king Meghrathï'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 to the 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 the 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. 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.

02 May 2013

Bhagwan Dharmnath - 15th Tirthankar

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.