26 September 2013

Bhagwan Aristhnemi - 22nd Tirthankar

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 the 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 Shrikrishnaï'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 steel, 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 guests 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.

20 September 2013

Bhagwan Naminath - 21st Tirthankar

The being that was to be Bhagavan Naminath purified his soul during his birth as king Siddharth of Kshambi town in East Mahavideh. He reincarnated as a god in the Aparajit dimension. This being then descended into the 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 that the child to be born was going to be a Chakravarti 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 Sammet sikhar 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.

17 September 2013

Bhagwan Munisurvrat - 20th Tirthankar

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 Sammet shikhar 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.