A Story of Ganadhar Gautamswami

Published: 04.10.2010
Updated: 30.05.2011

A Story of Ganadhar Gautamswami

In the year 607 B.C. the Brahmin couple Vasubhuti and Prithvi Gautam (family name) lived in the village of Gobargaon; they had a son named Indrabhuti. Indrabhuti was tall and handsome. He had two younger brothers named Agnibhuti and Vayubhuti. They all were well educated in the Vedas and other common rituals of this early age and they became famous scholars in the state of Magadha. Each one of them had 500 disciples.

Once in the city of Apapa, a Brahmin named Somil was conducting a Yagna (sacrificial ceremony) at his home. There were over four thousand Brahmins present at the occasion, and there were eleven popular scholars among them.

Indrabhuti stood out as a bright star. Somil was a staunch supporter of the Brahmin philosophy and was very happy during the ceremony. The whole town was excited by this event in which they were going to sacrifice the sheep and the goats. Suddenly, Somil noticed many celestial beings coming down towards his sacrificial site. He thought that this would make his offering ceremony the most popular in the history. So he told the people: "Look at the sky, even the angels are coming to bless us." The whole town was eagerly looking at the sky.


Brahmin Indrabhuti surrounded by other Brahmins, listening to his teachings (print of a modern painting)

To their surprise, the celestial beings did not stop at their site, instead they went further down. Somil's ego melted away as he learned that the celestial beings paid homage to Lord Mahavir, who had come to the Mahasen Forest nearby. Indrabhuti was outraged by this incident and his ego was bruised. He started thinking to himself: "Who is this Mahavir who does not even use affluent Sanskrit, but speaks the common public language of Ardhamagadhi." Everyone in the ceremony was overpowered by the mere presence of Lord Mahavir. Indrabhuti once again thought: "Mahavir opposes animal sacrifices, and if he should succeed, we Brahmins will lose our livelihood. I will debate with him." So he left to meet that challenge.

Mahavir welcomed Indrabhuti by calling him by his name even though they had never met before. Indrabhuti was surprised, but then he said to himself: "Who does not know me? I am not surprised he knew my name. I wonder if he knows what I am thinking." Omniscient Mahavira knew what was going through Indrabhuti's mind. Indrabhuti, even though a great scholar, had a doubt about the existence of Atma (soul) and was thinking to himself: "Can Mahavir tell that I doubt the existence of the soul?" The next moment Mahavir said: "Indrabhuti! Atma is there and you should not question it." Indrabhuti was shocked and began to think very highly of Mahavir. Then they had a philosophical discussion and Indrabhuti changed his beliefs and he became Mahavir's first and chief disciple. Indrabhuti was fifty years old at the time, and from then on he was called Gautamswami, because he came from Gautam family.


Indrabhuti became a disciple of Mahavir (print of a modern painting)

Meanwhile in the town, Somil and other scholars were waiting to greet the expected winner of the debate, Indrabhuti. They were shocked to learn that Indrabhuti had become the disciple of Mahavir. The other ten Brahmin scholars also went to debate with Mahavir and they became his disciples too, following the same way as Indrabhuti. The people present at the Somil’s place began to leave and Somil canceled the ceremony and turned all the animals loose.

One time, Gautamswami was going after the Gochari (getting food or alms) and he noticed many people going in another direction. He asked them what was going on and they replied: "We are going to see Anand Shravak. He has been performing austerities and has attained a special knowledge (Avadhignan)." Anand Shravak was Mahavir's follower, so Gautamswami decided to go and visit him. When Anand Shravak saw Gautamswami coming to his house, he was very happy that his guru (spiritual teacher) was coming. However, even though he was very weak due to his austerities, he got up and welcomed his guest. Gautamswami inquired about his condition and Anand Shravak replied: "With your blessings, I am fine." After some time, Anand Shravak told Gautamswami with respect: "Reverend teacher, I have attained Avadhijnan because of which I can see as high as fourteenth heaven and as low as the seventh hell." Gautamswami thought: " A Shravak can attain Avadhijnan, but not to this extent." Aloud he told Anand Shravak: "You should atone for your imagination." Anand Shravak was astonished. He knew what he could see, but his teacher told him to atone for telling that. So, he politely asked Gautamswami: "Does one have to atone for telling the truth?" Gautamswami negated and then he left the place, thinking: "I will reconfirm this with Lord Mahavir."

Gautamswami returned to Lord Mahavir, who was sitting with his other disciples, and asked about Anand Shravak. Gautamswami described the occurrence and Mahavir said: "Gautam, Anand Shravak was telling the truth. How could a person like you with so much knowledge make such a mistake? You should atone for your mistake." Mahavir believed in the truth, and he would never cover up the mistake of his disciple just to make their group look good. Gautamswami put his alms aside and immediately he went to Anand Sharavaks 's abode to ask for forgiveness for his doubt. Anand Shravak was proud of his humble teacher, who did not mind admitting his own fault to his followers.

On another occasion, Gautamswami went to town for the alms. He was returning with the Kheer (a sweetie, made from rice and milk) in a Patra (bowl) when he saw fifteen hundred hermits. Gautamswami felt that they were hungry and offered them the Kheer. The hermits were wondering how he would feed all of them but Gautamswami requested all of the hermits to sit down, and then he served everyone with the Kheer with the help of Aksheenmahanasi (non-diminishing) and Labdhi (special power). While serving he kept his thumb into the Kheer. To everyone's surprise they were all well served from the small Patra (bowl). The hermits were so impressed by Gautamswami, that all fifteen hundred decided to take Diksha (renunciation) from Lord Mahavir.


Gautamswami feeding the hermits (print of a modern painting)

Many Sadhus, including those hermits, attained Kevaljnan, but Gautamswami was still unable to achieve it since he was worried that he himself would never attain Kevaljnan. One day, Gautamswami asked Lord Mahavir: "There were eleven of us (the main disciples, called Gandhars) who accepted Diksha and most of them have attained Kevaljnan. Why am I so unlucky that I am not able to attain Kevaljnan?" Lord Mahavir replied: "Gautam, you have too much affection for me. In order to attain Kevaljnan you must overcome the attachment. So, until you give up your attachment towards me, it would not be possible for you to attain Kevaljnan."

On the day when Mahavir was shortly before to attain Nirvana (liberation), he sent Gautamswami out to preach to a man named Devsharma. On his way back, Gautamswami learned that Lord Mahavir had attained Nirvana and reached the Moksha (salvation). Gautamswami went into a state of shock and sorrow, lamenting: "Lord Mahavir knew this was going to happen. Why did he send me away?" Gautamswami could not stop his tears and started weeping. Within a few minutes, he came back to his senses and began thinking: "Maybe this was destined to happen this way. No one can live forever; no relationship is permanent. Why was I so attached to Mahavir?" He contemplated that he was wrong and gave up attachment for Mahavir. During this deep thinking, he burned his Ghati Karmas and attained Kevaljnan at the age of eighty.

Gautamswami taught and spread Jain principles for next twelve years. He attained Moksha at the age of ninety-two in the year 515 B.C.



Compiled by PK

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. A Story of Ganadhar Gautamswami
  2. Agnibhuti
  3. Anand
  4. Ardhamagadhi
  5. Atma
  6. Brahmin
  7. Brahmins
  8. Diksha
  9. Ganadhar
  10. Ganadhar Gautamswami
  11. Gandhars
  12. Ghati
  13. Gochari
  14. Guru
  15. Indrabhuti
  16. Jainworld
  17. Karmas
  18. Labdhi
  19. Magadha
  20. Mahavir
  21. Mahavira
  22. Moksha
  23. Nirvana
  24. Omniscient
  25. PK
  26. Sadhus
  27. Sanskrit
  28. Shravak
  29. Soul
  30. Vedas
  31. kevaljnan
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