Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2) ► Epochal-ācāryaĀrya Vajra Swāmī

Posted: 21.05.2016

Ācārya Vajra Swāmī occupies a very important place among the influential ācāryas of Jain order. The most unique and amazing fact of his life is that as soon as he was born, he had the memory of his previous births. From the very first day of his life, he was completely detached from the world and all through his life; he worked for spiritual development of his own self as well as others.

Śreṣṭhi Dhana, the grandfather of Ārya Vajra Swāmī was the resident of Tumbavana in Avantī. He was counted amongst the wealthiest, distinguished and eminent people of Avantī. Because of his virtues like generosity, magnanimity & kindness, his name and fame spread across the land of āryas.

In those days a merchant named Dhanapāla lived in Tumbavana, who owned immense wealth and property. He had a son called Samita and a daughter called Sunandā who was the most beautiful and most virtuous girl. His son Samita, enlightened by the sermon of Ārya Siṃhagiri, at a very young age itself relinquished all the wealth that he inherited and with great detachment took initiation into ascetic life from Ārya Siṃhagiri.

When Sunandā reached the marriageable age, Dhanapāla was concerned about finding a worthy and well-matched groom for her. Finally he felt that Dhanagiri, son of Dhana, who was equal to him in caste, wealth and character, was an appropriate match for his daughter and so put forth the marriage proposal.

Though averse to the worldly passions, Dhanagiri had to succumb to the loving entreaties of Dhanapāla. Eventually the marriage of Sunandā and Dhanagiri took place with great pomp and show, in a joyous environment. The newly married couple led their marital life in a more or less self-restraint manner. After a few days a great and fortunate soul entered the womb of Sunandā.

With the auspicious dream indicating the pregnancy, the couple was confident that they would beget a very blessed son. As the pregnancy of Sunandā progressed, so did her happiness progress.

Confirming the truth of the axiom "Jṅāte Tattvekaḥ Saṃsāraḥ" the knower of the ultimate truth, the disdained Dhanagiri had no attraction left towards familial pleasures. He used to feel that the family and wealth are fetters that dampen the spiritual progress. Thinking that it was an appropriate moment for the path of self-realization, he decided to take advantage of the happy mood of his wife.

One day Dhanagiri said to Sunandā, "O beloved! You know very well that I want to move ahead on the path of self-purification. Fortunately, soon you are going to have a son who will not only be of support to you, but will also be the reason for your living. I want to renounce the world and involve myself completely in the practice of spiritual progress. Virtuous women like you, are always prepared to make the utmost sacrifice, to make the path of their beloved ones easy and free of obstacles. So please extend your help to me in my path of self-realisation and permit me to renounce. This is my heart-felt desire".

The heart-melting articulation of her husband's inner feelings, at once awakened the latent Indian femininity in Sunandā. She replied in a calm and peaceful but firm tone, "O Love of my life! You carry on your noble wish joyously. I will lead my life with dignity and honour with the support of the child given by you".

Taking the permission of Sunandā, Dhanagiri at once left the house. As luck would have it, Ārya Siṃhagiri was camping at Tumbavana that time. Dhanagiri approached Ārya Siṃhagiri and took initiation. He started studying the canonical scriptures and was simultaneously practicing severe penance and self-restraint. His detachment towards worldly affairs was so deep that he never, not even for a fraction of a second, recalled his wife.

After the completion of the pregnancy, in V.N. 496, Sunandā gave birth to a very radiant son. Whoever heard the news of the birth of the child, expressed their happiness. The women of the household and the friends of Sunandā celebrated the occasion with a lot of merriment and joy. At that joyful moment someone from among the guests commented, "Had the child's father not renounced, this festivity would have been celebrated with more cheerfulness."

The moment the words fell onto his ears, the child because of the sacraments of his previous birth became aware of his former births. The newly born child contemplated in his heart, "Ah! My father is an epitome of virtuous deeds and hence he became an ascetic. I too, should take initiation and the vow of self-restraint as fast as possible which is the only way to safely cross the ocean of mundane existence. For achieving this end, I have to make sure that my mother does not develop possessiveness or attachment towards me and soon grieved by my behaviour, would willingly forsake me". He thought that incessant crying would yield fast results towards this direction, and so he started crying. His mother, her friends, relatives, skilled women, every one tried in many ways to console him and to stop him from crying, but in vain. He cried incessantly and Sunandā was perturbed and felt helpless. She could not be at peace either in the morning or at night. She used to heave heavy sighs and say, "Son, you are so cute and attractive. Just a glance at you overwhelms my heart with love towards you, but your ceaseless crying gives me lot of pain and misery. It pierces and penetrates into my heart like a spear." Thus somehow she managed six months, which seemed like six long years. Incidentally, Ārya Siṃhagiri once again came to Tumbavana.

At the time for seeking alms, Ārya Dhanagiri taking the permission of his teacher was ready to leave for the same. Listening to the chirping of the birds then, Ārya Siṃhagiri, who was a scholar in the science of Omens, foresaw everything and counselled him, "Son! Today whatever you receive in the alms, irrespective of whether it is endowed with life or not or is a combination of both, accept it without any second thoughts."

"Your wish is my command, Lord," thus saying Ārya Dhanagiri together with Ārya Samita went for seeking alms. While wandering, first he approached Sunandā's house. When the friends of Sunandā saw Ārya Dhanagiri and Ārya Samita approach Sunandā's house for alms, they immediately went to Sunandā and said, "Sunandā! Hand over your son to Dhanagiri."

Sunandā was grieved by the continuous crying of her son. She, heeding the advice of her friends, lifted her son with both the hands, came to Dhanagiri, saluted him and said, "I am completely exhausted because of

your son's ceaseless crying. Kindly take him away with you. If he feels happy staying with you, I too shall find my happiness in it."

Ārya Dhanagiri said in clear words, "Female-votary! I am ready to take him. But one cannot rely on the words of women. To prevent any Strife in the future, you, in front of many witnesses swear that you will never utter a word about your son in future."

Sunandā in a deep sorrowful tone said, "This Ārya Samita (her own brother) is my witness; further, all these friends of mine are also witnesses. In front of them I pledge that after this moment, I will never talk about my son."

Sunandā then placed her son in the receptacle of Ārya Dhanagiri. That very instant the child feeling very happy, at once stopped crying. Monk Dhanagiri, tied strong knots around the cloth-bag and holding it tightly with his right hand, left Sunandā's place and headed towards his teacher. By the time he reached his teacher, due to the weight of the child, his shoulder pained as if it was breaking. Somehow managing the weight of the child, he came to his teacher. Seeing Dhanagiri, from a distance, leaning more towards one side, Ārya Siṃhagiri approached Dhanagiri, took the bag from him and exclaimed in astonishment, "O Monk! What did you bring today which is as heavy as a mountain (Vajra)? Behold, it is slipping out of my hands too". He then placed the receptacle on his seat and opened the knot. Inside he saw the child in the receptacle, who was as pleasant as the moon, radiating bright light. Ārya Siṃhagiri named him as Vajra and said, "He will become a promoter of the Jain religion. He must be taken care of properly."

Ācārya Siṃhagiri entrusted the responsibility of the child to Śayyātarī, the lady caretaker of the lodging house for lady ascetics, and set out on his wandering.

Śayyātarī Female-votary before taking care of her own children would feed, bathe, and massage baby Vajra. He would remain in the lodging from morning till night, after which Śayyātarī would take him to her house. When the child wanted to urinate or defecate, he would either with a gesture on his face or by crying, hints Śayyātarī and never troubled her on this account.

When Sunandā came to know about the angels in the behaviour of the child and that he became chubby under the loving care of Female-votary Śayyātarī, unable to resist the desire to have a look of him, went to the lodging, one day. When she saw that her child was handsome and healthy and in a good mood, her motherly love and instinct gushed like the tide of an ocean. She begged Śayyātarī to return back her son, but Śayyātarī did not agree. Out of affection, she would visit regularly and breast feed her son. Thus, Vajra became three years old. Because of the knowledge of his former births, he used to take only unblemished food and was fond of listening to the scriptures from the Female monks.

In course of time, Ārya Siṃhagiri wandering many places came to Tumbavana along with his disciples. Sunandā went to Dhanagiri and pleaded him to return her son.

Ārya Dhanagiri explaining to her the conduct of ascetics, said, "O Female-votary! We, the monks follow the principles of monkhood and so cannot return the alms we once receive. Like clothes, receptacle etc; similarly we cannot return even child Vajra whom we received once. You too are well acquainted with the principles of Dharma. When you accepted and gave your word once, it is now not appropriate to violate it. With Ārya Samita and your friends as witnesses, you gave the child Vajra to me and said, 'I am giving the boy to you. And henceforth I will never talk anything about him'. So you should stick to your promise."

Ārya Dhanagiri's efforts to convince Sunandā and to make her adhere to her word fell on deaf ears. Even the members of the congregation also tried to dissuade her. But the adamant Sunandā went to the king and lodged a complaint pleading justice. The judicial officers, after thorough enquiry, gathered the relevant information from both the sides, and placed before the king the complicated case to resolve. Listening to the entire matter of giving up the boy and demanding him back again, the king and judges were in a fix, as one side, the mother was anxious to get her son back and on the other, Sunandā herself willingly gave her son to the monk, who is the father of the son and was once her husband. Since he was given to the monk he belongs to the congregation. The congregation, as such, is the paramount power; even the Tīrthaṃkaras respect and obey the congregation. After much deliberation, the king declared that the child be handed over to the one to whom it goes freely and willingly.

The first opportunity was given to the mother. To attract the child towards her instantly, she brought many beautiful and eye-catching toys, delicacies that are loved by children; showing them all, she approached the child with great love. Addressing him sweetly, calling him, clapping her hands gently, she stretched out her hands for the child to come. She tried in many ways, but to no avail. Like an enlightened yogi he was not at all lured by those temptations. He did not budge even a little from his place.

Afterwards, the king gave the chance to the father, Dhanagiri. Ārya Dhanagiri showed his whiskbroom to Vajra and said, "Son, if you are willing to become a monk and a knower of Truth, and then take this whiskbroom to dust out the karma".

Ārya Dhanagiri did not even complete his sentence that Vajra at once jumped out from his place and sat on his lap. He then took whiskbroom from his hand and waved it like a whisk. The entire court fell silent for a moment. Then the Royal Court was filled with the echoes of the victory of Dharma.

'Boy Vajra will stay with the congregation', passing this ruling, the king showed his reverence to the congregation and to the monkls. Everyone returned to their respective houses.

Sunandā contemplated, "My brother Ārya Samita got initiated, my husband also got initiated, and my son is almost initiated. In such a situation, I too should renounce the world and take initiation." After considerable deliberations, she firmly resolved to lead an ascetic life. She approached the Female monks who ordained her into the Jain order. Vajra was three years old then.

As soon as Vajra became eight years old, Ārya Siṃhagiri took him out from the care of the Female monks, initiated him into the Śramaṇa order and kept Vajra with him. By then Vajra almost knew by heart all the 11 Aṃgas, as he had been listening to them constantly from the Female monks.

Wandering in many places with his disciples, in course of time, once, Ārya Siṃhagiri came near a mountain. With the intention of testing monk Vajra, Jŗṃbhaka Devas, his friends of former life, by their celestial power (assuming transformations of their bodies), created thick black clouds and reverberating with thunders. Seeing that it was about to rain, Ārya Siṃhagiri entered a cave of the mountain with his disciples. As they were entering into the cave there started torrential downpour with terrifying thunders and dazzling lightning. Within no time, the entire place was flooded with water. It looked as if the rain would not stop. So the monks decided to fast and were happily engrossed in meditation. By dusk it stopped raining. So, Ārya Siṃhagiri and his disciples spent the night in the cave itself.

The next day in the afternoon Ārya Vajra monk, taking the permission of his Guru proceeded towards the hamlet to seek alms. After walking some distance, Monk Vajra saw a small beautiful colony and he entered a house to ask for alms. There a few decent men of gentle disposition paid homage to Monk Vajra and offered him a sweet dish made out of pumpkin. Though Vajra was a young lad, he had a very good knowledge of discrimination. He at once evaluated the alms on the basis of its material content (dravya), season (kāla), kṣetra (place) and analysis (bhāva) in the following ways:  Matter – pumpkin sweetmeat, Place Mālawa Pradeśa, season – summer, and analysis – the sacred donors who are wearing fresh garlands around their necks and, whose feet are not even touching the ground while walking; so they are definitely not human beings and therefore must be of celestial origin. Hence, under no circumstances the alms given by celestial beings is acceptable by monks.

Thus, after evaluating the food, he was sure that it was impure. So, declining the food, with a smile he said, "O Celestial beings! As this sweet dish is being offered by gods, it is not fit for monks."

The Jŗaṃbhaka Devas was astonished and pleased as well, seeing the sharp intellect of Vajra. They revealed themselves in their true forms and offered salutations with devotion to monk Vajra. Praising him highly for his strict observance of pure ascetic principles they went back to their abode.

In course of time, the Jŗaṃbhaka Devas resolved to test Vajra Monk once again. On a summer afternoon, under the scorching heat of the sun, Vajra monk was on begging round (seeking food). Jŗaṃbhaka Devas considering that it was the right time to test him, with the celestial power, disguised themselves as perfect householders, and created a house with their magical power. Then they called Vajra monk from within the house and urged him to accept their alms. Vajra monk entered the house to take alms. The disguised Jŗaṃbhaka Devas offered him a plate filled with sweetmeats (phynia). Looking at the phynia in summer, a dish which is normally prepared in winter, Vajra monk minutely scrutinised the offered food, the donor, etc and refused the food saying that it belongs to gods. Appeased with his pious conduct and strong adherence to the principles and his analysis of the food that is being offered to him, they granted him the spell to fly through the air (Ākāśagamana Vidyā). In the chapter of Mahaparījṅā in Āvaśyaka Niryukti, it is mentioned that Vajra Monk was blessed with the Ākāśagamana Vidyā.

From his childhood, Ārya Vajra had passion for knowledge and was service-oriented. Within a short period of time, he won the hearts of his Guru and fellow-monk with his rare combination of attributes like tranquillity, power of endurance, tenacity, humility and his power of remembering what he once heard. He learnt canonical scriptures from his revered teacher, thoroughly understood their meaning and assimilated the essence in his heart.

Charisma and humility of Ārya Vajra

The very next day after the aforesaid incident, Ārya Siṃhagiri went towards forest to attend the nature's call, and the rest of the monks also went out to seek alms and on their respective duties. When Monk Vajra discovered that he was all alone, the childish nimbleness manifested in him. He arranged the clothes of all the monks in a circle and sitting in the middle, started reciting and explaining the meaning of the canons and the Pūrvas. Slowly he got engrossed in it, and with fluency, continued his recital and explanation one after the other in an august tone. Meanwhile Ārya Siṃhagiri returned to the dwelling. Recognising the voice of Ārya Vajra, he hid himself behind the door and listened to him. Listening to his explanations so explicit and breath-taking from a boy of a playful age, Ārya Siṃhagiri was overwhelmed by ecstasy. He felt such elation that he instantly expressed to himself his feelings and emotions in the following manner, "How fortunate and blessed is the Jain Order! How fortunate is this Gacaha to have such an enlightened child monk!"

Ārya Siṃhagiri in a loud voice uttered 'Nissihī-Nissihī' to make known his arrival so that the child monk do not feel shy or embarrassed.

As soon as he listened to the voice of his teacher, the child monk had mixed feelings of shyness and fright. He quickly rearranged the clothes of ascetics and approached his teacher with head bowing down. He, with all humility bowed at his feet and wiped them with a cloth. Seeing the smiling countenance and the nectar of love showering from the eyes of his teacher, the child monk realised that his secretive act could not escape from the sight of his teacher.

At night, Ārya Siṃhagiri, pondering over the amazing talent of his disciple-child monk Vajra, thought that though tender at age, he is mature in knowledge; it is a disregard from my side to make him serve the monks just because they had taken initiation earlier than him. I should prevent this in future. After reflecting for a long, he came out with a solution.

Next day, early in the morning, he assembled his disciples at one place and said, "Today I am leaving this place. All the student-Śramaṇas will remain here"

The Śramaṇas who were studying the canonical scriptures enquired with humility and inquisitiveness, "Lord, who will teach us scriptures and explain them?"

Ārya Siṃhagiri peacefully, solemnly and decisively gave a short reply, "The young monk Vajra"

Had there been a vicious environment in those days, as it is today, then the disciples would have definitely protested against the teacher, raising unruly slogans, defying him for taking such a decision. But those humble disciples accepted his words like God's command.

Without any deliberation, the Śramaṇas readily agreed saying "As you wish Lord." Later Ārya Siṃhagiri with some Sthavira monks left for another place. When it was time for recital, the Śramaṇas arranged a higher seat for Monk Vajra, and making him seated with due respect, they too sat on their seats.

Vajra Monk started imparting the knowledge, in an elaborate and in an easy-to-understand method, commented every Sūtra and every stanza expounding the deep and inner meaning of the canons in such a way that it got imprinted in the brain of each and every monk. Thus every day the recital and explanation continued. While receiving the scriptural knowledge from Vajra Monk, every monk felt as if he were drinking nectar.

After few days Ārya Siṃhagiri returned back. Everyone bowed and prostrated at his feet with devotion. The teacher asked, 'Śramaṇas! Tell me how the study of the canons is progressing?"

All the monks in a single happy tone replied, "Revered Sir! By the grace of our teacher, our studies are progressing in a smooth and lively manner. While listening to and learning the canons we are experiencing immense joy. Lord! Let Ārya Vajra alone be our discourse-ācārya forever."

Ārya Siṃhagiri too felt immeasurably happy and said, "I understood this with my direct experience. I intentionally left this place to let you know of the virtues and abilities of this child monk."

Ārya Vajra performed different types of penance and simultaneously taught his co-disciples while receiving knowledge from his teacher.

Within no time Ārya Vajra learnt from his teacher the entire canonical knowledge that the teacher had. Ārya Siṃhagiri decided to send Ārya Vajra to an able scholar saint who could teach him the remaining knowledge of scriptures. In his wanderings, one day he arrived at a city called Dashapur. From there he sent Ārya Vajra to study under Ārya Bhadragupta who resided in Avantī (Ujjain) and who was a Daśa Pūrvadhara (knower of ten pūrvas). Ārya Vajra, obeying the orders of his Guru, walked fast on foot to reach Avantī. As evening had already set in, he stayed at the outskirts of the city for the night.

In the morning, after the completion of his routine activities, he started for Daśa Pūrvadhara Ārya Bhadragupta. Meanwhile Ārya Bhadragupta said to his disciples, "Sons! Last night I dreamt that a lion cub drunk and licked the sweet pudding (kheer) off my bowl. My dream indicates that someone who is extremely intelligent is coming to obtain knowledge of the ten pūrvas from me."

Ārya Bhadragupta just completed his sentence, when Monk Vajra stood in front of him, offering him humble reverential salutations, and telling him the purpose of his coming, prayed him to teach him the scriptures. With the gestures and attributes of his body, considering Vajra as able and worthy of learning the scriptures, Ārya Bhadragupta started impairing him with the knowledge of the Pūrvas. When Ārya Vajra fully completed his study of the Pūrvas with their meanings, Ārya Bhadragupta gave him permission to go back to Ārya Siṃhagiri and Vajra Monk went back to his teacher. Pleased, Ārya Siṃhagiri came to Daśapura and appointed Vajra Monk as a 'Vācaka'.

Seeing his beloved disciple Vajra monk attaining the status of Daśa Pūrvadhar Ārya Siṃhagiri's happiness knew no bounds. As he realised that he would be leaving the physical body in a very short time, in V.N. 548, he appointed his disciple Daśapūrvadhara Ārya Vajra as his successor ācārya, to head the congregation after him. As Ārya Vajra became ācārya, everyone organised a grand festival to celebrate the occasion. Ācārya Vajra was wandering along with 500 monks at that time.

Ārya Vajra Swāmī served his Guru with devotion during the last days of his life. After the accession of his Guru to heaven, Ācārya Vajra Swāmī proficiently ran the organisation and served Jain order. Wandering through different places preaching the Jain Dharma, he, once arrived at Pāṭalīputra and camped in a garden outside the city. Thousands of people - men, women, children and old - thronged the garden to sanctify their souls by listening to his transcendental preaching and by catching a glimpse of him.

Captivated and enlightened by his extremely appealing and amazing discourses, a great number of men and women vowed to follow the path of righteousness, and observed the rules and vows of Jainism.

Rukmiṇī, the daughter of a distinguished wealthy merchant called Dhana of Pāṭalīputra heard much in praise of Ārya Vajra from the female monks who stayed in their wagon shed. As soon as she saw the blissful face of Ārya Vajra glowing extraordinarily due to the Strict observance of celibacy and listened to his soft and sweet words as if dipped in nectar, while delivering the sermons, Rukmiṇī got attracted towards him. She took a pledge, "If Ārya Vajra marries me I will stay bound to the world, or else I will renounce the comforts, luxuries and the world. She sent the message to her father through a friend, that she chose Ārya Vajra as her husband, and hence if she fails to marry him she would jump into the pyre and sacrifice her life.

The father was very well acquainted with her terrible oaths and stubbornness. So he felt worried and anxious when he came to know about her resolution. After reflecting for a long time, he with innumerable precious stones, and accompanied by her charming daughter went to the garden where Ārya Vajra stayed with his disciples. The merchant Dhana after paying homage requested Ārya Vajra, "O Best of ācāryas! My daughter, the most beautiful, embellished with all virtues is drawn to you by your virtues and versatility and wants to be your wife. I have a wealth of thousand million silver coins. I want to hand over my daughter together with the entire money to you. You can enjoy comforts and luxuries of life with that money, besides using it to help others. Kindly marry my daughter."

Ācārya Vajra with his habitual composure said in a peaceful tone, "Sir! You are very gentle and soft-natured. As such you already are bound by the worldly ties and now want to bind others too. You are unaware of the spiritual bliss and joy one gets by following the path of temperance. No doubt it is a path full of thorns, yet the unique happiness a true wanderer enjoys through self-restraint and knowledge is unparallel when compared to the momentary material happiness, which is insignificant, contemptible and a mirage. The ineffable spiritual bliss one attains through temperance is infinite times more precious than the most precious treasury of gems. You want to compare the incomparable happiness of self-restraint which is equal to a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpavŗkṣa) with the detestable sensual pleasures which are worthless, equivalent to a blade of grass. O Gentleman! I am a monk who does not possess anything or attached to anything. I do not have any desire towards worldly riches or sensual pleasures. If your daughter really loves me, then let her follow and observe my path - the path of self-restraint which bestows the highest happiness.

When Rukmiṇī listened to the words of sacrifice and detachment of Ārya Vajra, which were sanctified by penance and are logical, the black shroud of ignorance was pulled off and her inner eyes opened. She immediately took the vow of temperance and observing it, Ārya Rukmiṇī started her spiritual wanderings along with other female monks.

Even though the pleased Jŗaṃbhaka Devas, the friends of Ārya Vajra in his previous birth, gifted him with the 'power to walk in the air', yet with his unfathomable scriptural knowledge, from the chapter 'Mahaparijṅā' from Ācārāṃga Sūtra, Ārya Vajra found out power to walk in the air and during the dreadful time of famine, as the time and situation demanded, inspired by kindness to the people he used that power and saved many lives.

Thus the versatile genius Ācārya Vajra Swāmī, during his tenure as ācārya, wandered from east to north of India. That time as there were no signs of rain, a severe famine broke out in the entire north. Due to the scarcity of food resources, the people gripped under pangs of hunger and misery raised hue and cry. Animals, birds, children, aged people, everyone started falling victim to starvation deaths as the land completely dried up without any grass, flowers, fruits and crops. The congregation undergoing the miserable plight of natural calamity came running to Ācārya Vajra seeking protection.

Though it was against principles and code of monkhood, in response to the piteous request of the congregation, with a view to save the lives of many and from the perspective of welfare of both the society as a whole and the religion, Ārya Vajra using his extraordinary power to fly carried the congregation to Maheśwarīpurī. There the king, being a follower of Buddha Dharma, was anti-Jains. But under the influence of the great Ācārya Vajra, he too became a Jain Votary which propagated the religion immensely.

India alone was not victimised by a chain of famines, but even other countries faced the same situation from time immemorial, which, shook the humanity very badly from time to time. The culture, the spirituality and religious knowledge that was earned by the untiring efforts of the elevated men for centuries together, and the very concept of humanity was considerably lost as a result of the evil effects of the famine. Even in these calamitous circumstances, the lights of virtues like temperance and spiritual knowledge were kept burning due to the insurmountable willpower of great ācāryas like Vajra Swāmī. By the grace, mercy and efforts of such great religious leaders, our religion, spiritual knowledge and culture survived and the humanity is kept alive till date, despite the severe blows received from time to time by dreadful famines, political turmoil's and religious upheavals,.

The innate desire of Ācārya Vajra Swāmī was to see that the ocean of knowledge of scriptures should continue to flow perennially and uninterruptedly. But as there was none able and worthy to receive the knowledge of Pūrvas, he in the autumn of his life felt worried, that the knowledge of Daśapūrvas would be lost with him. The spiritual yearning of great souls would not be left unheard. Proving the truth of this axiom, a young monk named Ārya Rakṣita, obeying the command of Ārya Tosaliputra came to Ācārya Vajra Swāmī. He obtained the knowledge of nine Pūrvas and could learn only half of the Ten Pūrva. This is explained in detail in the chapter on Ārya Rakṣita.

Propagating and spreading the preaching of Lord Mahāvīra's Jain order, Vajra Swāmī reached the southern part of India. He ordered a disciple to bring dry ginger to get relief from his cough. After taking some, as a remedy, he kept the remaining portion of the dry ginger on the upper part of the ear and completely forgot about it. Afternoon, during the time of transcription, as he removed the cloth covering his mouth, the dry ginger also fell on to the ground. He pondered over the incident, "I am on the verge of my life and I became careless. And so, I forgot about this dry ginger which I kept on my ear. How will temperance sustain when carelessness has stepped in? It is better for me to take Samādhi." Immediately he foresaw with his power of cognition that a 12 year long famine would upsurge in the near future, which would be more dreadful than the previous one. Hoping that disastrous famine would not engulf all the monks without any survivors, and so in order to save the family of monks, he ordered his disciple Vajrasena to leave for Kuṃkuṇa (Kokaṇa) with few monks and to wander there until the situation comes to normalcy. He also said, "When you come across preparations to mix poison in cooked rice, purchased for one lakh coins, then, at once, realise that, that would be last day of the famine and that from the next day onwards, normal conditions will prevail". Ārya Vajrasena obeyed the orders of his teacher, went to Kuṃkuṇa with a few of his co-disciples and wandered in that land which had plenty of riches and grains.

In the land in which Ācārya Vajra Swāmī was wandering, the dreadful impact of the drought increased slowly turning the situation from bad to worse. As the monks could not get any alms for days together and they feeling miserable because of the pangs of hunger, Vajra Swāmī provided them with food everyday using his magical power and said, "This food is the boon of the supernatural power and thus we have to get along for 12 long years. If you feel that the attribute of temperance is on the increasing pace, you survive on this food, or else you have to observe fast unto death (saṃthārā). The discretion is left to you; you can opt for either of the ways"

All the 500 monks unanimously and decisively declared their wish to observe fast unto death. So Vajra Swāmī along with his disciples set out towards the Māṃgi Mountain located in southern India. He tried to dissuade a novice monk from observing the fast but he did not listen. On the way to the Māṃgi Mountain, Vajra Swāmī sent him to a village on pretext of carrying out some errand and he continued his journey with other monks. After arriving on the top of the mountain, they paid their humble respects to the goddess of that mountain and stood upright in mediation observing fast without taking either food or water.

Meanwhile the young monk came back from the village to the place where they have camped. There as he could not see his teacher or other disciples, he realised that his Guru intentionally did not take him along to observe the vow of fast. He reflected thus, "The revered teacher thought that I am unfit to observe the vow of fasting, and hence he left me behind. Am I really weak and spineless? In order to safeguard the temperance, when my revered teacher and all the other disciples can observe fasting why should I lag behind? Hence, I should also follow his footsteps."

Thus resolving firmly, the young monk proceeded up to the mountain. At the foothill, standing on a boulder burning hot, due to the blazing sun, he took the 'vow of pādopagamana anaśana vrata' (abandonment of body wilfully). Forbearing the scorching heat of the sun and fire-like burning heat of the boulder, he continued his penance and fasting, with total detachment. He had not only overcome the physical suffering but also conquered and controlled the mind and heart. Within a span of 48 minutes, he left the perishable body and left for the heavenly abode. The Devas praised his tenacity, courage and energy.

The monks were engrossed in penance observing fasting on the Māṃgi Mountain. One aged monk from among them heard the uproar of the celestial angels downhill and enquired Vajra Swāmī about the reason. Ācārya Vajra Swāmī narrated the entire incident of observance of 'pādopagamana anaśana vrata' by the novice monk on a burning boulder, and his demise and explaining about the commotion he said that the pleased celestial angels were celebrating the great occasion.

Getting inspired by the strong resolution and will power of the monk who sacrificed his life with detachment at a very young age, all the monks with extraordinary perseverance and concentration were engrossed in self-realisation. A peripatetic celestial angel created lot of trouble for the monks involved in penance, but failed to produce the least effect on them. Vajra Swāmī with his disciples shifted to a nearby mountain. After they paid their humble respects to the goddess of that mountain they sat on their respective seats and started meditating, and attained heaven.

After the demise of all his disciples through observance of fasting, Ārya Vajra Swāmī too, in dethatched concentrated meditation, left his body. Thus the Pride of Jain order, Ārya Vajra Swāmī left for heavenly abode in V.N. 584. With his demise, the knowledge of tenth Pūrva and the fourth endurance (ardhanārāca saṃhanana) got lost.

How profound was the knowledge of Ārya Vajra? Presently, we do not have any yard stick to measure it.

If 'imagination' which can fly to its utmost, tries to probe the fathomless knowledge of Vajra Swāmī, who immediately after his birth had gained the memory of his previous births, because of which, even as an infant, instead of his mother's milk, he drank the ambrosia of the Jain scriptures from the Female monks and memorised the eleven Aṃgas and who, when still a lad, broke the fetters of the worldly ties and obligations and remained at the feet of proficient teachers worshipping and acquiring knowledge, then that 'imagination' would fall downward disappointed, as his knowledge is beyond its reach.

In spite of our past being engulfed in centuries of darkness, if the devotees are still able to see light, it is just because of the light kindled by the sacrifice, detachment and knowledge sanctified by serve penances of great souls like Ārya Vajra Swāmī.

Ācārya Vajra Swāmī for 80 years strictly observed the virtues of pure asceticism and propagated the religion. He was a born yogi. He had excellent oratory skill and so his preaching was attractive, appealing and impressive. After his departure to heaven, the vajjī Gaṇa / group 'Vajjī śākha' was founded in V.N. 584, to make his memory everlasting in the minds of the people.

Share this page on:

Author

Source/Info

Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2)
Author:
Acharya Hasti Mala
Editors:
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011