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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1) : Lord Śrī Mahāvīra (IV)

Published: 26.04.2016

Introduction of Gautama etc in the Digambara tradition

In the Digambara tradition, Maṇḍalācārya Dharmacandra in his text, "Gautama Caritra" introduces Lord Mahāvīra's first three gaṇadharas which, in brief, is as follows:

A scholar named Śāṇḍilya used to stay in Brāhmaṇanagara in the Magadha region. He had two wives – Sthaṃḍilā and Kesarī. One day, in the last part of the night Sthaṃḍilā saw auspicious dreams and a god came into her womb, after completing his time in the fifth heaven. After nine months, Sthaṃḍilā gave birth to a beautiful son who was great and of good deeds. The scholars predicted that this boy will possess knowledge of all the scriptures and his fame will spread across the earth. The parents named him 'Indrabhūti'. This boy later became Lord Mahāvīra's first Gaṇadhara and became famous as Gautama.

After sometime, another god completed his time in the fifth heaven and entered into Sthaṃḍilā's womb. Upon completion of the pregnancy, she gave birth to a very beautiful and charismatic son. The parents named him Gārgya and he later on became famous as the Lord's second Gaṇadhara Agnibhūti.

After some time Śāṇḍilya's second wife also became pregnant with a god from the fifth heaven who entered her womb and in time she gave birth to a son. Śāṇḍilya named this son of his Bhārgava who went on to become a scholar like his two brothers and also took initiation and became Lord Mahāvīra's third Gaṇadhara popularly known as Vāyubhūti.

Maṇḍita and Maurya: Clarification

There is an opinion among some past and present scholars that Lord Mahāvīra's sixth Gaṇadhara, Maṇḍita and seventh, Maurya, were brothers. Vijayādevī was their mother. Dhanadeva was Ārya Maṇḍita's father. Sometime after Maṇḍita's birth Dhanadeva died so Vijayādevī married Dhanadeva's maternal cousin, Maurya and through Maurya she had a son who was named Mauryaputra. Muni Ratnavijaya, agreeing with this opinion, writes in his Sthavirāvalī, Vol. 1, that widow remarriage was allowed in those days. Actually, names of both gaṇadharas' mothers being similar, has given rise to this false opinion. However, the SamavāyāṃgaSūtra gives some important facts about these two gaṇadharas, a study of which proves that the above opinion is not correct. SamavāyāṃgaSūtra states that Maṇḍita's total age 83 years and about him it clearly states that he attained liberation after observing the Śramaṇa vows for 30 years. Hence, when he took initiation from Lord Mahāvīra he was 53 years old. The same SamavāyāṃgaSūtra states that Mauryaputra took initiation at the age of 65. It is also a fact that all the 11 gaṇadharas took initiation under Lord Mahāvīra on the same day. In this context, how is it possible that while taking initiation on the same day one brother is 53 years old and the younger brother, 65 years old; that is the younger brother is older than the elder one by 12 years? Muni Ratnaprabhavijaya himself writes in Sthavirāvalī that at the time of initiation Maṇḍita was 53 years old and Mauryaputra 65 years old. All these evidences prove that the belief of these two being brothers is mere imagination which became popular because of their mothers' names being the same.

Lord Mahāvīra's first female disciple: Candanabālā

The much loved and doted on daughter of the king Dadhivāhana of Campā city and queen Dhāriṇī, Vasumatī grew up to be Candanabālā, the first female disciple of Lord Mahāvīra and the head preceptor of the order of female-monks. Female-monk Candanabālā's life story is briefly presented here:

Dadhivāhana was the king of Campā. His queen's name was Dhāriṇī. His only daughter Vasumatī was extremely beautiful, well behaved and endowed with all good qualities. There was peace and happiness in king Dadhivāhana's kingdom. There was mutual love and warmth among the family members. At that time, Śatānīka ruled over Kauśāmbī. For some reason and altercation occurred between Śatānīka and Dadhivāhana and out of envy Śatānīka conspired to attack Campā to destroy it. He suddenly got information that it was time for attacking Campā and he should start with his army at once. The moment he got the news, he started for Campā via water route with a large army. His army reached Campā and surrounded Campā from all sides. With this unexpected event, the king and subjects of Campā were in a daze. King Dadhivāhana was unable to meet that army without any assistance. Hence, he ordered his ministers to leave Campā through secret pathways to the forest.

On the second day, Śatānīka ordered his soldiers to break the domes of Campā and start looting it. The soldiers started the destruction. A soldier made Queen Dhāriṇīand princess Vasumatī prisoners. He took them in his chariot outside the city towards Kauśāmbī. Seeing the beauty of the queen the soldier said – "While looting Campā, getting this beautiful queen I have gained everything. The moment I reach Kauśāmbī I shall marry her."

Hearing these words of the soldier the queen was enraged with disgust. She was greatly hurt to be hearing these words from an ordinary soldier, being the queen of the king of Campā. She began to fear attack on her chastity. She took her tongue out from her mouth with her hand and with the other hit her jaws hard. She died at once and fell in the chariot. With Dhāriṇī's sudden death, the soldier felt sadness and guilt on his mistake. He feared that the innocent girl would follow suit, so he spoke kind words to Vasumatī to reassure her. The moment he reached Kauśāmbī, he asked her to stand on the street corner to sell her.

Merchant Dhanāvaha of Kauśāmbī saw the girl standing for sale. He was a very generous and religious-minded person. Seeing the girl he realised she must be from a superior class and separated from her parents. Giving a hefty amount, he bought the girl and brought her home. With lot of love, he asked her name and her parents' name but she did not open her mouth. In the end, handing her over to his wife he said – "It seems she is not from an ordinary family; love her as your own daughter." The merchant's wife Mūlā brought her up like her own daughter. The girl mixed well with Dhanāvaha's family. She had won everyone's hearts with her soft –spoken nature, good behaviour and politeness. Seeing her complexion soft as sandal and her polite demeanour, the merchant's family named her Candanā.

As Candanā grew up she became more beautiful and one day it so happened that seeing her immense beauty Mūlā became envious and suspicious. She thought – "I hope my husband does not marry her, attracted to her; in that case I will be done for. Before the 'daughter' gets the feeling of a wife in his mind, it is better to get her out of the way forever." During this period, Dhanāvaha went out of town for some days. Mūlā called over a barber and shaved off Candanā's hair. Then, chaining her hands and feet, shut her up in the godown. She also warned everybody to keep the matter secret.

For three days, Candanā was hungry and thirsty. The moment the merchant got back, he asked about Candanā. Seeing every servant quiet, he got a suspicion. He screamed in anger at them to tell him the truth. An old servant took some courage and told him everything. Opening the doors of the godown, the merchant started crying seeing her state. Seeing Candanā's face pale on account of hunger and thirst he ran towards the kitchen, and not finding anything else, brought some soaked urd dal in a winnowing basket for her, saying –"my daughter, satisfy your hunger with this; till I return with an ironsmith."

In spite of dying of hunger, Candanā thought –"Am I so unfortunate that I will have to eat without feeding a guest?" She looked at the door for a guest, when she saw a mendicant at the door with the brilliance of a crore rays of the Sun, with a brilliantly lit face and beautiful, well-built body. She had tears of joy in her eyes. Her face lit up like the moon on a full moon night in winter and she brought the winnowing basket in her hands. With difficulty she came out at the threshold, her feet chained, and politely requested the guest – "Lord, although these urd dal is not suitable, please accept them, doing this helpless woman a favour."

For a moment, the guest saw everything carefully. Seeing the guest leave, Candanā cried out –'what can be more unfortunate that a kalpa tree is returning from my home?" Tears fell from her eyes. The guest immediately extended his hands. Delighted Candanā gave him all the uḍada dāla in the winnowing basket on his palms.

That guest was none other than Lord Mahāvīra who was seeking alms having taken a specific resolve, for five months and twenty-five days. Seeing all his conditions met, he accepted alms from Candanā. The moment the urd dal fell into his palms the divine echoes of 'mahādāna – mahādāna' resounded and the gods showered the five auspicious things. The gods showered twelve-and-a-half crores of gold coins at Dhanāvaha's house. A huge crowd gathered to see this divine event and praised Candanā's luck. Within moments, Candanā's head was full of hair. Her chains turned into gold ornaments. Indra and the gods came there.

Kauśāmbī's king Śatānīka, his queen Mṛgāvatī and others came to Dhanāvaha's house. Dadhivāhana's bodyguard was also with them; king Śatānīka brought him as a prisoner. The moment he saw Candanā he recognised her and started crying. When Śatānīka and Mṛgāvatī found out that Candanā was Dadhivāhana's daughter Vasumatī, Mṛgāvatī embraced her niece. Indra told Śatānīka – "When Lord Mahāvīra will become a kevalī, Candanā will be his first female disciple and in this body, shall attain nirvāṇa."

With lot of love king Śatānīka and Mṛgāvatī brought Candanā to their palace. Candanā was well aware of her past life. Staying in palaces she spent her life disenchanted and with a feeling of renunciation. Soon the day came when the Lord attained pure knowledge. Candanabālā took initiation from the Lord, became his first female disciple and the first head of the female-monk order established by the Lord. Managing the order, observing many kinds of severe penance and in the end destroying all her karmas Candanabālāattained nirvāṇa.

Lord Pārśvanātha and Mahāvīra: Differences between the two Orders

The first Tīrthaṃkara Vṛṣabhanātha taught the five mahāvratas. After him, 22 Tīrthaṃkara from Ajitanātha to Pārśvanātha gave teachings on Cāturyāma tradition. They spoke of non-violence, truth, and no stealing, and renouncing external things, as the four vows for life called yama, religion. After Pārśvanātha, when it was Mahāvīra's time, he taught non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and aparigraha in the form of five mahāvratas. With the difference in the nature of the vows, the obvious question is, why so.

Religious teachers /rejuvenators preach religious concepts in accordance with the knowledge of the people of that time. People were simple and unaware in the time of the first Tīrthaṃkara and those in the time of Mahāvīra are skewed and unaware. The people in Vṛṣabhanātha's time had difficulty in understanding, while in Mahāvīra's times people have difficulty in following the vows. Hence making the vows more specific, he spoke of the mahāvratas. The people in the time of the middle Tīrthaṃkara were simple and intelligent. They understood the teachings easily and followed them easily as well hence the middle Tīrthaṃkara propagated the Cāturyāma religion.

Celibacy and aparigraha (non-possession) as told by Mahāvīra is mentioned only to make it clearer. In one way even a woman is brought into the parameters of parigraha. Hence even if there is difference in the number, there is no fundamental difference between the two traditions.

Caritra (Practice / conduct)

At the time of Lord Pārśvanātha, the monks were given the equanimous conduct(avoiding flaws in the practice) 'sāmāyika cāritra', whereas Lord Mahāvīra started the tradition of seeking reinitiating (rectifying flaws in the practice) conduct 'chedopasthāpanīya' as well. The distinction of cāritra as done in chedopasthāpanīya was not necessary for the astute followers in the time of Pārśvanātha, hence he had the doctrine of undivided sāmāyika caritra. It is clear based on the reference in Bhagavatī Sūtra that monks who followed Cāturyāma tenets their caritra was termed sāmāyikaand when that tradition was transformed to make way for the five vows (paṃcayāma), their doctrine was called chedopasthāpanīya (returning to right path after correction for a mistake).

Both traditions were followed in Lord Mahāvīra's time. For short-term he gave importance to sāmāyika caritra and for long-term chedopasthāpanīya caritra. Mahāvīra also propounded, apart from these vows, not eating after dark, as a vrata.

The second difference between Lord Pārśvanātha and Mahāvīra is the concept of sacela-acela (with robe, without robe). Pārśvanātha's tradition accepts monks using robe, but Mahāvīra taught the practice of nakedness. Here acelaka meant not total renunciation of robes, but those with less value, worn out clothes. All Śramaṇas keep rajoharaṇa (whiskbroom) and mukhavastrikā (mouth-cloth). Hence, linguists say acelaka are of two types – sacelaka and acelaka. Tīrthaṃkara are acelaka. After the devadūṣya falls off, they remain without clothes. However, all the rest Jina monks, etc are called sacelakas. At the very least, they have the practice of whiskbroom and mouth-cloth. In the same way, the monk who is devoid of delusions but with few clothes i.e. acela is also a monk.

Sapratikramaṇa (Ritualised Confession) tradition

In the time of the first and last Tīrthaṃkara, there is the norm of pratikramaṇa (ritualised confession) both during evolving times (ubhayakāla) as well as at the time of committing a flaw by way of observing restriction during walking(īryāpatha) or begging rounds (seaking alms/bhikṣā)  etc are forms of immediate pratikramaṇa. That is, Lord Mahāvīra has instructed that pratikramaṇa is inevitable whether or not there is fault / imperfection (doṣa).Whereas in the time of the 22 Tīrthaṃkara from Ajitanātha to Pārśvanātha the moment there is a fault / imperfection there was an immediate purification act (śuddhi), hence they did not have the concept of evolving times pratikramaṇa as a rule.


At the time of the 1st and the last Tīrthaṃkara all (code of conduct) kalpas are essential, hence they are called Sthitakalpa. Whereas for the remaining 22 Tīrthaṃkara there are believed to be four Sthitakalpas and six Sthitakalpas. For the monks of Lord Mahāvīra, māsakalpa i.e. the monks and female-monks should not remain at a place beyond a month without a reason. Today those monks and female-monks for no reason at all, in the name of religious propagation, remain at the same place; this is not according to the scriptural norms.

Heretics of Lord Mahāvīra Jamāli

There were seven heretics in the time-period of Lord Mahāvīra, out of whom two were during his lifetime, Jamāli and Tiṣyagupta. Jamāli was the Lord's nephew; and being the husband of the Lord's only daughter, Priyadarśanā, was his son-in-law. He took initiation from Śramaṇa Lord Mahāvīra and after the Lord became a kevalī, he became famous as the first heretic as follows:

A few years after initiation Jamāli sought permission from the Lord to wander independently. The Lord did not reply. Considering his silence to be acceptance, Jamāli and five hundred monks started wandering independently. Wandering through various places, he came to Sāvatthī and stayed there at Koṣṭhaka garden. After some days, he got a burning sensation in his body. It was impossible for him to keep sitting. He asked his monks to prepare a bed to observe the pious death (saṃthārā) so that he may lie down. They were doing so when Jamāli reflected in his mind that Lord Mahāvīra who calls the one who starts moving as in motion (calamāna calita), and the of starting an activity as acting is false. I can see here that during the process of making the bed, the bed is not ready, so even the movement is unmoved. He explained his new understanding to the monks. Many of them liked him and reposed faith in him. However, others tried to explain to Jamāli unsuccessfully, left him and returned to Mahāvīra.

Hearing the news of Jamāli's illness Priyadarśanā too came there. She was staying at the house of Mahāvīra'as ardent devotee, Ḍhaṃka, the potter. Because of love for Jamāli, Priyadarśanā accepted his opinion and started trying to make Ḍhaṃka to be his follower. Ḍhaṃka said to her, "We know only this much that renunciation cannot be false and he decided to explain to Priyadarśanā." One day when Priyadarśanā was reading scriptures at Ḍhaṃka's workshop, Ḍhaṃka carefully lit a spark on the border of her saree. The female-monk said –"Śrāvaka, you have burnt my saree." Ḍhaṃka said –"No, only the borders are burning. According to your teacher, that which is burning cannot be called burnt." Hearing Ḍhaṃka's words, Priyadarśanā became aware. She repented her mistake saying, "mithyā me duṣkṛtaṃ bhavatu." Thereafter, she returned with her disciples to Lord Mahāvīra. This way, one after the other all his disciples left Jamāli, yet he was adamant. He used to popularise himself as kevalī. Lord Mahāvīra and Gautama both tried but it did not have any effect on him. Dying without repentance, he died and became a 'kilviṣī' god.

Heretic Tiṣyagupta

16 years after Lord Mahāvīra's pure knowledge came another heretic named Tiṣyagupta. He was the disciple of caturdaśa-pūrva- jṅānī (knower of the fourteen pūrvas) Vasu. Once, Ācārya Vasu was sitting in Guṇaśīla caitya in Rājagṛha. Reading about self-slander Tiṣyagupta came to a view that a sentient being cannot be of one space-point (pradeśa), not even those with two, three or with numerable space points. A sentient being (jīva) has to have innumerable space-points as jīvas are equivalent to cosmos (lokākāśa) and only in its last pradeśa only sentient-bitingness exists. The teacher tried to explain to Tiṣyagupta but when his viewpoint did not change, he expelled Tiṣyagupta from the congregation. Wandering independently, Tiṣyagupta reached Āmalakalpā city and stayed at Āmrasālavana. A śrāvaka named Mitraśrī used to live there. He sought a way to explain to Tiṣyagupta. He called Tiṣyagupta home one day to give him food. When he came, Mitraśrī welcomed him with honour, got many things as food offerings, and gave only the last grain of each one of those to Tiṣyagupta. Seeing this, Tiṣyagupta said –"Oh śrāvaka, are you making fun of me?" The śrāvaka said –"Lord, according to you only the last pradeśa has jīva, then how have I erred? If you do not consider even one grain as complete then your doctrine is false." Inspired by the votary Tiṣyagupta understood his mistake. Mitraśrī gave him complete honour and alms and sending him back to his teacher, assisted in purifying his spiritual path.

Mahāvīra and Gośālaka

Mahāvīra and Gośālaka had a long connection. According to Jain scriptures being a disciple of the Lord, Gośālaka continued to behave like his strong adversary also. The Lord introduced him as his bad disciple. Bhagavatī Sūtra gives a clear female-monkciation on Gośālaka's name. It is said here that in the past there was a clan of Maṃkhas, the people of which clan used to earn a living from showing a painting of a certain god. Gośālaka's father belonged to this Maṃkha clan and his mother's named was Bhadrā. When Gośālaka's mother was pregnant with him and when his time of birth was approaching, Maṃkhalī was staying at the village Saravala at the cowshed (gośālā) of the Brahmin Gobahula. So he was named as Gośālaka. Thus, his full name was Maṃkhaliputra Gośālaka and when he grew up, he used to carry a painting in his hands for earning a livelihood. The complete introduction to Gośālaka's life history is available in Ācārya Guṇacandra's 'Mahāvīra Cariyaṃ', which is presented briefly:

In Silindha, province of Uttarāpatha there lived a village headman named Keśava. His wife was Śivā. They had a son whom they named Maṃkha. When Maṃkha grew up, he went one day with his father to the lake for a bath. There he saw a pair of geese indulging in love play. At that time, a hunter stuck an arrow into the female goose, which started fluttering in pain. Seeing her suffer, out of sorrow, the male goose gave up his life. Seeing the plight of the goose pair, Maṃkha fell unconscious on the ground. Keśava was worried seeing his son. When Maṃkha regained consciousness, Keśava asked him the reason for his fainting. Maṃkha told him of the incident and said seeing the geese he was reminded of his past life, where he was killed with his partner goose and have now been born to him.

Keśava brought Maṃkha home, reassuring him, yet even at home that Maṃkha was always in thoughts. He was treated with many remedies; even many tāṃtrikas were called, but all was in vain. One day an elderly person suggested that a painting depicting his past life story of the geese shown to him. Let Maṃkha take the painting around and show it to people. Perhaps doing so someone would remember the past life and he might get his wife of the past life and attain peace. Keśava did as told and Maṃkha started wandering with that painting.

People would see that painting and sometimes ask him about it, and he would narrate the whole account. Wandering this way, Maṃkha reached Campā city. His journey was over and he had no means to sustain himself, so he made that painting his means of sustenance and singing songs, started seeking alms.

An extraordinarily lazy man named Maṃkhalī lived in the same city. He was always looking for a convenient way to sustain himself. One day, he met Maṃkha; he got hold of him, and started serving him, learnt some songs from him. Later on when Maṃkha died, he took all his details, and prepared the same kind of painting and went to his house. He took his wife along as well and like Maṃkha, started making a living showing the painting around. Wherever he went people would follow him, shouting, "Maṃkha has come, Maṃkha has come". Gradually, he became popular as Maṃkha'. Wandering, suddenly Maṃkha reached Saravaṇa village and stayed at Gobahula Brahmin's house where his wife Subhadrā gave birth to a son named as Gośālaka.

By nature, Gośālaka was wicked. He would not obey his parents and would misbehave with people. When his mother would say –"I bore you for nine months in my womb and brought you up with love, yet you do not listen to me", he would retort, "Mother, come into my stomach I will hold you there twice as long." People kept distance from him due to his bad behaviour. Once he fought with his parents and taking their means of livelihood, taking the painting, went off alone and wandering, reached the place where Lord Mahāvīra was staying for cāturmāsa during the second year of his mendicancy at Nālandā outside Rājagṛha. At that same time, Gośālaka came there with his painting. He decided to spend the cāturmāsa there. Lord Mahāvīra broke his first months fast at 'Vijaya' gāthāpati's house. The gods showered five auspicious things to express glory of the alms giving. Maṃkhaliputra Gośālaka was amazed seeing this. Approaching Lord Mahāvīra and saluting him, he said –"Lord, from today I am your disciple and you are my ācārya." Allow me to be at your feet and serve you." The Lord stayed quiet.

The Lord had gone out seeking alms when Gośālaka was not around and when he returned there, not finding the Lord, he was very sad. He looked for him in the entire Rājagṛha but could not find him. In the end, tired, Gośālaka left for Kollāga province. Hearing news from people about the showering of five auspicious things at the house of 'Bahula' Gośālaka was certain the Lord was residing thereabouts.

Approaching the Lord and paying obeisance to him he said –"I cannot be without you for a moment. I have placed myself at your feet. I have said earlier I am your disciple and you are my spiritual teacher." The Lord saw Gośālaka's faithful mind and placed 'so be it' insignia on his request. After the Lord accepted him, Gośālaka spent more than six years wandered as a disciple with the Lord. Once obtaining the art of producing hot flash from the Lord, he separated from him and became a strong proponent of fatalism. After sometime, he also got disciples and followers and started calling himself Jina and a kevalī.

Ājīvaka and Ājīvakaism

Gośālaka's tradition is popular as Ājīvaka tradition. Followers of this tradition observe various kinds of penance and meditation. However, they believed in soul, nirvāṇa and self-suffering, yet they were staunch fatatlists. In their opinion, human endeavour does not get any work done. Whatever be the other reasons for the name 'Ājīvaka', one of the reasons is also 'Ājīvaka', livelihood. According to Jain āgama, Bhagavatī, Gośālaka followed the doctrine of logic / reasoning. The Ājīvaka used to accumulate pleasurable things using this knowledge. This way, they managed their living easily. This is why in the Jain scriptures this sect is called as Ājīvaka and liṃga-jīvī.

According to Majjhimanikāya, just like the nirgranthas, the Ājīvaka too had tough norms of living. Their alms seeking practice praised as Ājīvaka monks used to take alms from alternate homes or sometimes from one out of three homes. Just like the six karmic stains, Gośālaka propounded six abhijātis (divisions) with names such as black, blue etc. Giving a brief introduction of Ājīvaka followers, Bhagavatī states that Gośālaka's followers consider; Arihanta as God; serve their parents; not consume fruits like the wild fig, fruit of the banyan tree, jujube, fig fruit, pilaṃkhu, etc; would neither emboss on oxen nor pierce their ears or nose; and would not do any business where there is violence on mobile beings.

The Founder of Ājīvaka Sect

Many to date consider Gośālaka as the founder of the Ājīvaka sect. According to Jain scriptures, Gośālaka was the proponent of fatalism and main teacher of the Ājīvaka tradition, but there is no mention anywhere of him being its founder. In the Buddhist, text Dīrghanikāya and Majjhimanikāya we find names of 'Kissa Saṃkicca' and 'Nandavaccha', apart from Gośālaka among the Ājīvaka leaders, who were Ājīvaka monks before Gośālaka. Perhaps after accepting the Ājīvaka sect, knowing Gośālaka as one with miraculous powers (labdhidhārī) and with knowledge of fatalism, they made him the leader of the Ājīvaka order. There being no clear account of the founding of the Ājīvaka sect, Udāyī Kuṇḍiyāyana who existed 133 years prior to Gośālaka's death is believed as the founder of the Ājīvaka order.

The Ājīvaka Attire

There is no reference to the attire of the Ājīvaka. The Buddhist scriptures refer to the Ājīvaka monks as being naked and use the term acelaka for them. Mahāvīra seems to have inspired Gośālaka for nudity, because he was clothed when he came to the place where Mahāvīra was staying in Nālandā. In the 'Dīrghanikāya', Kāśyapa and in the 'Majjhimanikāya' 'Saccaka' speak of the following conduct of the Ājīvaka –"They renounce all clothes, stay away from civilised manners and eat food in their hands, etc."

'Majjhimanikāya' refers to the Ājīvaka ways – "They do not listen to those who wait for them to take alms; they do not accept food made for them; do not take food from the vessel it has been cooked in; they do not take food kept within the threshold, pounded in a mortar or cooked on fire; they observe various fasts."

This kind of practice is unique to nirgranthas. It is clear that Mahāvīra inspired Gośālaka. Based on similarties between the Ājīvaka and the nirgranthas, some scholars think that both their practices are similar, but in fact, there is a fundamental difference between the two. The difference between Ājīvaka as and nirgranthas is in not just in accepting certain kinds of food. The nirgrantha tradition prohibits even touching of certain kinds of food and vegetables, whereas the Ājīvaka tradition allows, partaking of vegetables, fruits, seeds and clear water.

Gośālaka in Digamabara Tradition

Digambara tradition states Gośālaka as Mahāvīra's disciple, but introduced as a monk of the Pārśvanātha tradition. Maskarī Gośālaka was present in Mahāvīra's first sermon. However, Mahāvīra did not deliver his sermon and he left, angry. Some say that he wished to be a gaṇadhara, but when he did not get that status, he separated and became the leader of the Ājīvaka tradition at Sāvatthī and started calling himself a Tīrthaṃkara. The source of Ājīvaka tradition lies in the Śramaṇa tradition. The main difference between Ājīvaka and Śramaṇas is that Ājīvaka use their knowledge for their sustenance, prohibited in the Śramaṇa tradition. Ājīvaka belonged to the Pārśvanātha tradition primarily. Fatalists are termed as 'Pāsattha' in the Sūtrakṛt aṃga. For this reason, too, some connect Ājīvaka to Pārśvanātha's tradition. The Saṃskṛta form of 'Pāsattha' is 'Pārśvastha'. Therefore, it does not seem appropriate to identify it with the Pārśvanātha tradition. By the way, Pāsattha can mean ascetics of any tradition as it means 'to stay close' to a good doctrine like knowledge etc. Ājīvaka are Pāsattha as they keep three kinds of knowledge close to them. Hence, it is not right to link Ājīvaka Gośālaka to Pārśvanātha tradition. According to facts in Jain āgamas, it is more appropriate to consider him related to Mahāvīra's tradition.

Religious Traditions in Mahāvīra's Times

During Mahāvīra's time, religious traditions were basically of four types, namely, based on Action (Kriyāvādī); based on non-action (Akriyāvādī); based on ignorance (Ajṅānavādī); and based on modesty /veneration (vinayavādī)

  1. Kriyāvādī: They consider an intrinsic relationship between soul and action. Their opinion is that without a doer there are no good and evil acts. They consider nine substances including soul, etc as independent existences. Their 180 sub-divisions are as follows. Nine basic elements i.e. Being / soul; non-being (nonsoul); meritorious deeds (puṇya); demeritoriuos deeds (pāpa); kārmika influx (āsrava); karmic binding (bandha); stoppage of karmas (saṃvara); dissociation from karmas (nirjarā) and; mokṣa (liberation). Each basic element four sub-types namely self (svataḥ), by others (parataḥ), eternal (nitya) and transitory (anitya) with further sub-division of each sub element with respect to time, god, soul, fate, and destiny; giving a total of 180 sub-divisions.
  2. Akriyāvādī: They believe that an action cannot be meritorious (puṇya) etc because action is performed on inert /steady substance and it is destroyed the moment it is born. Due to this, there is no still / unmoving substance in this world. They do not believe in soul either. They have 84 categories as follows. Seven basic elements, namely, living beings/ non-living being; kārmika influx; stopping of karmas; dissociation form karmas; binding karmas; mokṣa and each having seven categories; sva and para and their categories and six sub category of the 14 namely,  kāla (time); god; soul; destiny; character for a total of 84. Since they do not accept existence of soul, they do not have the eternal and transistory states in their doctrine.
  3. Ajṅānavādī: They opine that knowledge leads to arguments, because nobody has complete knowledge and half-baked knowledge often gives rise to different sects. Hence gaining knowledge is useless. Ignorance will save the world. They have 67 categories, namely, nine basic elements each with seven sub classification i.e. existence; non-existence; true existence; unworthy utterance; truthful utterance; untruthful utterance; true truthful utterance. Multiplying the seven there are 63 and then putting together origination and in four states like existence etc together constitute 67 divisions.
  4. Vinayavādī: One who is humble is vinayavādī. They do not have separate scriptures, etc. They only believe in mokṣa. They have 32 divisions -: god; king; yati (teacher); jṅāti (intelligent or wise); elder monk; Adhama; mother; and father. Be courteous to all of these from mind, speech and body and give them due charity keeping in mind place and time. This way, multiplying 8 by 4 they have 32 categories.


King Śreṇika Bimbasāra or Bhambhāsāra of the Śiśunāga clan was a famous and brave king. He belonged to Vāhīka clan as he hailed from Vāhīka country. Śreṇika was the king of Magadha and one of the prominent king-followers of Mahāvīra. His father Prasenajita was a devotee of Pārśvanātha and a votary with right perception. Some texts in Jain literary tradition say that he dissociated himself from the Jain religion for some time even though he was a born Jain.

According to Jain āgamas Daśāśruta-skandha, Śreṇika was very happy to hear news of the Lord's arrival in Rājagṛha. He went with his queen Celanā to be of service to the Lord. Hearing his sermon, inspired by his renunciation and detachment, he accepted the Jain religion with pure feeling. He obtained right knowledge on Jain religion.

King Śreṇika had deep faith in the nirgrantha path. In the context of Meghakumāra's initiation, he said that only the nirgrantha religion is true, the best, complete, liberating and of good logic and is incomparable. In the first year after attaining omniscience when Lord Mahāvīra came to Rājagṛha, King Śreṇika became a Jain again.

Later, his son, Kūṇika, along with his friends, imprisoned Śreṇika and became king. Kūṇika causes troubled his father in many ways. One day, when queen Celanā told Kūṇika about his father's love for him, he repented his mistake. In an emotional outburst, he went with an axe to untie his father Śreṇika's chains. To protect his son from the sin of killing his father, Śreṇika consumed poison on his finger ring and after death, due to biding of bad karma, went to the first hell. In his lifetime, Śreṇika had been devoted to Mahāvīra's religion. As a result, he attained the Tīrthaṃkara gotra. After exiting from hell, he will be the first Tīrthaṃkara of the next 24 Tīrthaṃkara and like Mahāvīra, shall give religious sermons.

King Ceṭaka

Just like Śreṇika king Ceṭaka was also a firm follower of Jain religion. Āvaśyakacūrṇi calls him a vratādharī śrāvaka (votary). He was a devotee of Lord Mahāvīra, and by relation, was his maternal uncle. He was a Haihaya clan chief of the Vaiśālī republic. He was a great warrior, able ruler and supporter of justice. Because of this he had to wage a fierce war with Kūṇika and in the end, with the fall of Vaiśālī, disenchanted, he observed the pious death and became a god in the next life.

Ajātaśatru Kūṇika

Kūṇika has an important place among the devotee-kings of Lord Mahāvīra. King Śreṇika was his father and his mother was queen Celanā. The mother saw a dream of a lion. During pregnancy, she had a whim to eat the heart of king Śreṇika. With the cleverness of Abhayakumāra king Śreṇika fulfilled her whim, but seeing her child having such feelings in her womb, she was very unhappy. She attempted to abort the child but was unsuccessful. When he was born, she threw him in a dustbin where a cock bit his thumb finger and a fungus developed. The child started crying and Śreṇika removed the fungal matter by sucking it out with his mouth and cured the thumb. He was named Kūṇika due to the injury on the thumb. As he grew up Kūṇika started nursing feelings of being a king. Taking some of his brothers along with him, he imprisoned Śreṇika and became king. He repented later after his mother spoke to him. He went with an axe to break his father's chains. Śreṇika thought he is coming to kill him. To save his son from the sin of killing his own father, Śreṇika ate the poison from his finger ring and died.

Kūṇika became very unhappy with all this and leaving Rājagṛha, he made Campā the capital of Magadha and stayed there. Mother Celanā's upbringing and values produced in him deep faith in Lord Mahāvīra. He had a separate division, which followed up on news of Mahāvīra's wandering and everyday activities. Once when Mahāvīra arrived in the garden in Campā he went to him along with his family members. Kūṇika was overwhelmed when he heard the Lord's nectar-like speech and paying obeisance to him, returned to his palace. He was brave and bright right from the beginning. Defeating many enemies during his reign he became known as Ajātaśatru.

Kūṇika's attack on Vaiśālī

Kūṇika was the son of Rājagṛha's king Śreṇika and queen Celanā. King Śreṇika had two other sons, Halla and Vihalla.[1] Nirayāvalikā talks only of Vihalla. Śreṇika had presented them the best elephant of the time called Secanaka, and an invaluable necklace gifted by a god. Hearing the praises of those two the queen of Kūṇika, Padmāvatī was adamant that she wanted them. Kūṇika did not consider it right to take away those gifts of his father to his own brothers, but bowing to female obstinacy he asked Halla and Vihalla for those two things. The two brothers said, "Since their father had gifted them, they had the right over them." Yet if king of Campā Kūṇika wants them, he should give them half his kingdom in return. Kūṇika did not accept his brothers' demand. With this, fearing an attack, Halla and Vihalla rode on the elephant, wearing the necklace, went to their maternal uncle Ceṭaka in Vaiśālī.

Hearing this, Kūṇika became very angry. He sent a messenger to king Ceṭaka to return the elephant and necklace along with Halla and Vihalla to him. King Ceṭaka replied that both brothers are seeking refuge with him so he would not send them in a helpless state to Kūṇika. However, if the king of Campā so wishes, he may give them half his kingdom and take the elephant and necklace. Angry with Ceṭaka's reply Kūṇika attacked Vaiśālī with his army and armies of his ten brothers. Ceṭaka too came to the battlefield with the armies of Kauśala and Kaśī. At the end of the first day general of Kūṇika's army Kālakumāra, moved his elephant towards king Ceṭaka and invited him for a duel. With a smile of acceptance, Ceṭaka asked his elephant rider to take the elephant towards Kālakumāra. There was a vast difference in the age of the two. Respecting his maternal grandfather Kālakumāra said – "Ārya, you attack first." Ceṭaka said – "No, you must attack first; it is Ceṭaka's resolve not to attack a person who has not attacked him first."

With his full strength, Kālakumāra released his arrow aiming at Ceṭaka's forehead. Surprising everyone Ceṭaka released his bow shaped like a crescent moon at Kālakumāra, cutting his arrow in two and said – "Prince, if you want to save your life from this old man, leave the battle field, or else…" He released an arrow at Kālakumāra. All attempts to protect him failed and Kālakumāra died on his elephant.

After Kālakumāra, the remaining nine brothers too died at the hands of Ceṭaka. Kūṇika finally resorted to divine powers. He meditated on Śakrendra observing a two-day fast. Because of his past life good deeds and friendship, both Indras came to Kūṇika. Kūṇika said – "Ceṭaka has killed my ten brothers with his arrows. I have taken an oath that I shall destroy Vaiśālī and make donkeys to pull the plough over the land there; else, I shall take my life by jumping off the Uttuṃga mountain peak. Hence you show a way to end Ceṭaka's life." Devarāja Śakra said – "I cannot kill Ceṭaka who is the Lord's follower and of my own religion, but I can protect you from his arrows." Saying this, he gave Kūṇika impregnable armour. Camarendra too was an ascetic friend of Kūṇika's in his last birth. He gave Kūṇika the knowledge of making and using an airborne weapon called 'Mahāśilā Kaṃtaka' and a destructive weapon called 'Rathamūsala.' Thus helped by gods, Kūṇika jumped into the battlefield the next day with double enthusiasm.

Ceṭaka moved his elephant towards him. He released his arrow, from his bow at Kūṇika. That arrow broke into pieces hitting against the armour provided by Śakra. Seeing his arrow fail, the truthful Ceṭaka could not release a second arrow. Kūṇika now used the 'Mahāśilā Kaṃtaka' weapon. With the use of this weapon whatever arms were hurled at the Vaiśālī army made of wood, leaf; iron, etc, they would turn out to be deadlier than attack with huge rocks. Soon 84 lakh soldiers of Vaiśālī died. That day's war became famous as the 'Mahāśilā Kaṃṭaka Saṃgrāma (war)'.

Kūṇika came the next day with his destructive weapon, the 'Rathamūsala'. Ceṭaka released an arrow at Kūṇika that fell to pieces hitting against the armour. Ceṭaka did not use any other weapon again that day following his resolve. The iron Rathamūsala weapon pounced at the army of Ceṭaka, without anyone releasing it, without a vehicle, like dark clouds with the speed of light. The implements attached to it on their own started attacking. With their stormy speed, there was human killing in all directions. The battlefield resembled a quicksand of blood and human corpses and nobody got a chance to use their weapons. The Vaiśālī republic's armies started to retreat in fear and returned to their own cities. Ninty three lakh soldiers died on that one day. Seeing no way out king Ceṭaka returned to Vaiśālī with his remaining few soldiers. Kūṇika surrounded Vaiśālī on all sides.

We find out from Jain āgamas and texts that Kūṇika surrounded Vaiśālī for a long time. Halla and Vihalla for their part would come out at night on their elephant and killing Kūṇika's soldiers, return. This went on for long resulting in heavy loss and Kūṇika became worried.

Kūṇika thought of many ways to break through the domes but did not succeed. Ultimately, through an unseen power he found out that a Śramaṇa mendicant named Kūlavālaka can enter Vaiśālī and help him pass through. Kūṇika took the help of the famous courtesan of Vaiśālī, Māgadhikā, who seduced Kūlavālaka and made him accept to help in breaking through into Vaiśālī.

He also found a trick to stop the destruction by Halla and Vihalla at night. In their path a deep pit was dug; filled with burning splinters the pit was covered. Halla and Vihalla came out at night but through its knowledge, the elephant sensed danger ahead and stopped short of the pit. Thinking the elephant to be timid Halla and Vihalla forced it to move ahead. Seeing no other way Secanaka put the brothers down and he jumped into the pit and burnt to ashes. The brothers understood everything, were repentant, and became disgusted with life. The Jinaśāsana goddess Rakṣikā took them to Lord Mahāvīra, and they took initiation into mendicancy.

Kūlavālaka took the disguise of a soothsayer and entered Vaiśālī easily. He found out that because of a grand stūpa for Lord Munisuvratanātha, Vaiśālī was impregnable. When Kūlavālaka was thus roaming around like a soothsayer some subjects asked him with inquisitiveness – "Lord, when will we be free from this barricade?" Seeing the apt moment Kūlavālaka said – "Until this stūpa stands here this will continue. This stūpa is the reason for this inauspiciousness." People started to break the stūpa and within minutes, the stūpa disappeared. Kūlavālaka indicated to Kūṇika, and in the night, Kūṇika attacked Vaiśālī breaking through the fortress. Hearing this king Ceṭaka gave up his life observing a fast and became a god in heaven. Kūṇika got the land of Vaiśālī tilled by donkeys and fulfilling his oath returned to Campā.

He started considering himself unconquerable with this 'Mahāśīlā Kaṃṭaka' and 'Rathamūsala' weapons and desired to become a cakravartī. Lord Mahāvīra was staying in Campā's Pūrṇabhadra caitya. He went there and said – "Lord, will I become the victor of the six divisions of Bharataa and become a cakravartī?" The Lord said – "No, there are only 12 cakravartīs in the present avasarpiṇī half-cycle. It is impossible for you to be one." He then asked – "What are the indicators of a cakravartī?" The Lord said – "They had fourteen divine jewels such as cakra, etc. Kūṇika found out all about the jewels from the Lord and returned to his palace.

He had full faith in the Lord but at the same time, he had also seen the amazing miracles of his weapons. He got jewels made from the artisans and with fasts, etc, and all the weapons, he left for establishing rule over the six divisions. He reached Timisraa cave after conquering many kingdoms and attacked its doors, after observing a fast. The doorkeeper of the cave asked – "Who is it?" Kūṇika replied – "Cakravartī Aśokacandra." The doorkeeper said – "Impossible! Twelve cakravartīs have already existed." Kūṇika replied – "I am the thirteenth." Angry at this the doorkeeper god fumed and Kūṇika was burnt to ashes. After dying, he went to the sixth hell. In spite of being a devotee of Lord Mahāvīra, on account his selfishness and greed, he skipped the path and went to doom.

Kūṇika remained Lord Mahāvīra's devotee and follower throughout his life. Though Dr. Smith writes that the Buddhists and Jains both call Ajātaśatru their follower but the claim of the Jains is stronger. Kūṇika's real name was Aśokacandra or Emperor Aśoka.

King Udāyana

Among the foremost of devotees and followers of Lord Mahāvīra, such as Śreṇika, Kūṇika, Cetaka, King Udāyana also belong this category. He was a popular king of Siṃdhu-Sauvīra kingdom. The capital of this kingdom was Vītabhaya city, which was large, beautiful and prosperous in every way. Prabhāvatī was the queen King Udāyana Abhīcakumāra was their son. Udāyana's nephew Keśīkumāra too used to live with him. King Udāyana had great faith in the words of Lord Mahāvīra. He was a 12-vowsfollower of Mahāvīra. Once king Udāyana was in his fasting hall, fasting and deep in spiritual contemplation, when a feeling emerged in him – "Those people are blessed who have seen the Śramaṇa Mahāvīra, listen to him and, serving him, do good. When will I get such a golden opportunity?"

The next day, leaving Campā city, the Lord arrived at the Mṛgavana garden in Vītabhaya city. On knowing this, Udāyana was beyond himself with joy hearing and saw his dream come true. Getting up from his throne, with intense feeling, he prayed to the Lord and reached the garden with his family members and others.  The detached sermon of the Lord had such an impact on Udāyana that he requested the Lord – "I want to take initiation, handing over my kingdom to my son Abhīcikumāra." The Lord said –"Do not delay doing the work that gives you happiness".

Feeling very happy, king Udāyana was returning to his palace. On the way a thought occurred to him – "If I hand over this kingdom, which I am giving up for it being a cause for great sorrow, to my son as a successor, if he becomes attached to it he will expand his worldly attachment. Hence let me give it to my nephew, Keśīkumāra, in place of my son." Accordingly, he made Keśīkumāra the successor of his vast kingdom and became a monk taking initiation from Lord Mahāvīra.

Being denied his paternal rights to the kingdom by his father, Abhīcikumāra felt deeply wounded, yet he obeyed every word of his father and peacefully went to Campā to the emperor of Magadha, Kūṇika. His father's act pained him for long like a thorn. In spite of being a dedicated devotee of Lord Mahāvīra, he did not even salute his father, monk Udāyana in his lifetime, and keeping this resentment in his mind, observing the śrāvaka conduct, completing his life with a month's saṃlekhanā, without repenting the bad feeling towards his father, he became a demon god, Asurakumāra. On completing his life span as Asurakumāra; he will be born in Mahā Videha and shall attain enlightenment, emancipation and liberation.

Mahaśramaṇa Udāyana, after initiation, studied the eleven Aṃgas and became immersed in observing severe penance, etc. to annihilate all his karmas. Because of different kinds of intense penance, his body had become mere bones and because of limited food, a severe disease affected his body. On request by physicians, he began to consume curd.

Once, wandering alone, Udāyana reached Vītabhaya city.  When the minister found out, with a bad feeling, he told the king Keśī – "Sage Udāyana is coming again to take his kingdom. Hence killing him immediately is better for us." Keśī immediately did not agree with the minister, but the minister continuously explained to him he agreed with the plan of giving Udāyana poisonous food. Upon his orders poisonous curd, brought by a herdswoman, was given to Udāyana, eating which, within a while of the poison having its effect, sage Udāyana became alert and accepting that food with equanimity, ascending the ksapakaśreṇī through deep meditation, he attained pure knowledge and after a half month's saṃlekhanā¸ obtained nirvāṇa.

This sage Udāyana is the last king who attained mokṣa following sermons of Lord Mahāvīra.

Some memorable moments of Lord Mahāvīra

Once, Lord Mahāvīra was seated in the garden named Manoramā in Pottanapura city. The king of that city, Prasanna candra, impressed by the Lord's detachment inspiring sermon, took initiation and learning under elder monks, became well versed in the Sūtras. After sometime, the Lord left Pottanapura and came to Rājagṛha. Monk Prasanna candra was also with him. At Rājagṛha, a little distance away from the Lord, he stood at one place in meditation. By coincidence, going to serve the Lord, king Śreṇika passed that way and saw him standing on one leg, meditating. After paying obeisance to the Lord he said – "Lord, the monk who is meditating on the way, if he dies now, what destination he will reach?" The Lord said –"The seventh hell."

Śreṇika was surprised that even a monk doing great penance can go to hell. After sometime, out of curiosity, he asked that question again. Lord Mahāvīra said – "If he dies now, he will be a god in the Sarvartha Siddhi vimāna." Hearing this, Śreṇika was even more perplexed. Clearing his doubt the Lord said –"Oh king! When you asked the first time, the meditating monk was indulging in a mental battle with his opponent monks and during the time of your second question, repenting for his error, he had ascended the height of lofty thoughts. That is why the answer for the two questions is so different."

Upon Śreṇika's request the Lord further said –"The meditating monk overheard the conversation of two army generals, Sumukha and Durmukha. He learnt that his minister and an enemy king might be possibly dethroning his son to whom he handed over his kingdom to become a monk. Angry, giving in to love for his son, he was battling in his mind with the minister and the enemy king. In the fearsome time of these results, you asked the question so I said he would go the seventh hell. But after sometime when he realised he is but a monk and what is his business with kingdom and thrones, and repenting, he took to lofty thoughts, hence I said he would attain to Sarvārthasiddhi vimāna."

Lord Mahāvīra was explaining to Śreṇika the secret of his statement when the skies resounded with divine sounds. The Lord told Śreṇika – "That same monk, Prasanna candra, who became eligible for the Sarvarth Siddhi vimāna, in the second stage of his deep meditation, ascended the vimalasreni, and destroying, at the same time, his obscuring karmas, has attained pure intuition and pure knowledge. To express the glory of that, the gods are beating the drums." Śreṇika was pleased in his mind to see the Lord's omniscience.

Once, Lord Mahāvīra was staying in Rājagṛha's garden. A person came to Mahāvīra at that time and falling at his feet, said – "Lord! Your sermon is like crossing the worldly ocean. Once I had the opportunity to hear your speech and your teachings at that time saved me from trouble. Today I wish to benefit from your speech." Thus, with a firm resolve, he heard the Lord's sermon, hearing which he felt guilt for his past actions. With folded hands, he requested the Lord – "Lord! My past life is full of misdeeds. Can I get a place at your feet to purify it? Can a thief and a perpetrator of atrocities obtain Śramaṇa dharma?  Hearing that person's pure words, the Lord said – "Rohineya! True repentance clears the blackness of sin. All your impurities have burnt to ashes by the self-criticism. Hence you have become eligible for the Śramaṇa status."

Soon the infamous thief Rohineya became a monk and went far ahead because of his penance and good deeds. It is true, after all, that the detachment-inspiring sermons of the Lord can turn a thief into a pious soul.

Abhayakumāra in the precincts of Rājagṛha

The king of Rājagṛha, Śreṇika and his family were the best devotees of Lord Mahāvīra. This minister Abhayakumāra contributed towards bringing them this credit. Abhayakumāra was also Śreṇika's son, born to his queen Nanda. Abhayakumāra saved Śreṇika many times from political troubles.

Once Ujjayinī's king Caṇḍapradyota attacked Rājagṛha along with many other kings. Abhayakumāra showed such intelligence that Caṇḍapradyota went back in fear. Where the enemy camp was about to be housed, Abhayakumāra got gold coins to be placed there in pits. When Caṇḍapradyota surrounded Rājagṛha, Abhayakumāra sent word to him saying the kings who have come with him have actually joined hands with king Śreṇika and that they plan to make him prisoner of Śreṇika. In return for this Śreṇika has given them lots of money, which has been placed in pits under your camp. The moment he heard this Caṇḍapradyota got the place dug up and found the gold coins. Out of fear, he at once returned to Ujjayinī.

A woodcutter of Rajgrhi, Drumaka, took initiation from Ārya Sudharmā. When Drumaka used to go seeking alms, people would make fun of him and say – "Here comes the great renouncer, See what a great wealth he has sacrificed." Drumaka was very unhappy with this behaviour of people and told this to Ārya Sudharmā. To cure Drumaka's disgust, Ārya Sudharmā decided to leave from that place the next day. When Abhayakumāra learnt of this he requested Ārya Sudharmā to change his decision and placed a crore each of gold coins in a heap in the city, and announced that whosoever leaves his wife, fire and water for life may take these three crore gold coins. When nobody was prepared Abhayakumāra said –"See this Drumaka is such a great renouncer. For a lifetime he has sacrificed woman, fire and fresh water." Because of this cleverness of Abhayakumāra, people's taunts at Drumaka ended.

When Lord Mahāvīra arrived at Rājagṛha, Abhayakumāra too came there to listen to his sermon. At the end of the sermon, Abhayakumāra asked the Lord – "Lord, who will be the last king to attain mokṣa in your time?" The Lord replied – "Vītabhaya's king Udāyana, who is a monk with me; he will be the last king to gain mokṣa." Abhayakumāra thought, 'if I take initiation after becoming a king, the path to mokṣa will be closed for me. It will be better if I take initiation while I am a prince. When he placed this thought before Śreṇika he said – "Child! It is my time to take initiation; you must take over the kingdom." When Abhayakumāra made a special request Śreṇika said – "the day I become angry with you for some reason and ask you to go away from here and do not show me your face even by mistake, that day you can renounce.

After sometime, Lord Mahāvīra again arrived at Rājagṛha. It was extreme winter. One day Śreṇika went for a stroll with his queen Celanā. Returning in the evening on the way they saw a monk in meditation. Suddenly the queen woke up in the night and remembering that monk and suddenly she said – "Ah! What must he be doing?" hearing this, the king developed suspicion towards the queen and in the morning he instructed Abhayakumāra–"Burn Celanā's palace, it is infested with bad conduct." Abhayakumāra took Celanā out of the palace and burnt it.

There Śreṇika asked the Lord about the behaviour and conduct of the queen, to which Lord Mahāvīra said – "Your Celanā and other queens are faultless and of chaste character." Hearing this praise for his queens Śreṇika began to repent having given those orders and fearing that no harm may happen, returned to the palace. Seeing Abhayakumāra on the way he asked – "What happened to the palace?" Abhaya said – "As per your instructions it has been burnt." Hearing this, the king was very sad and said –"You did not do the right thing. Despite my orders you should have used your intelligence and obeyed the orders after stalling it for some time." To this Abhaya replied – "You should not have given those orders without thinking."

The king was very angry due to persistent arguments with Abhayakumāra and with his own evil orders, He suddenly said – "go away from here, and do not show me your face again." Abhaya was waiting for this. He left at once and accepted initiation at the Lord's feet. King Śreṇika returned to the palace and seeing everyone safe was sad again for giving hasty orders. He felt he had lost a clever son and an able minister. He went at once to Lord Mahāvīra but Abhayakumāra initiated already. Observing with purity the monk conduct muni Abhayakumāra became ahamindragod named Vijaya in the Anuttaravimāna.

Nirvāṇa from a historical Point of View

Lord Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa in 527 B.C. Evidence for this is available in good amount in all the ancient and modern scriptures of the Jain tradition. The strong evidence is completely unambiguous based on which this time has been calculated.  Still, modern historians and researchers have from time to time given different viewpoints on this matter. We shall briefly review these now.

The name of Herman Jacobi is prominent among those scholars. Based on all these evidences he compared the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra and Buddha and concluded that Buddha was younger than Mahāvīra. After careful study of Dr. Jacobi's evidences, scholars have opined that it is not correct to take Dr. Jacobi's conclusion to be the final one. According to Ācārya Hemacaṃdra Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa was in 527 B.C. Dr. K. P. Jaiswal states that Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa account in Buddhist āgamas do not agree with historical facts. He considers Mahāvīra's nirvāṇato have occurred prior to Buddha. Dr. Rādhākumuda Mukharjī and investigator of archaeology, muni Jinvijaya, according to Dr. K. P. Jaiswal's opinion, he accepts Lord Mahāvīra to be older. In the same way, Dr. Hasle talks of Buddha's nirvāṇa as having taken place five years after Mahāvīra. According to him, Buddha was born three years before Mahāvīra. According to muni Kalyāṇavijaya Buddha's nirvāṇa took place in 542 BC (in May) and Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa in 528 BC (November); thus Buddha had attained nirvāṇa 15 years before Mahāvīra. He also places Lord Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa in527BC,which is also in accordance with the tradition and evidence as well. Srī Vijayendra Sūrī's 'Tīrthaṃkara Mahāvīra" also uses different evidences and places Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa in 527 BC.

Buddhist Pitakas perhaps give real and clear evidence about Lord Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa. In those, Buddha speaks of Anaṃda's and Cunda speaks of Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa. Where the question of Lord Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa before Buddha is concerned, we should not doubt it because there is no opposing reference in the Jain āgamas for this. According to muni Nagarāja, there are many accounts in Buddhist texts to prove Mahāvīra's seniority in age, in which Buddha himself accepts that he is younger. For example: Lord Buddha was once wandering in Śrāvastī in Jettavana of the orphan Pindik when king Prasenajita had asked him in some context, 'you are young in age and renounced recently, then how can you say that you have seen samyaka saṃbodhi?' To this Buddha said – "Fire, snake, kṣatriya and monk should not be insulted by calling them young." This is the strongest evidence for Buddha being the younger one among the spiritual ācāryas and leaders of his time. Seeing all this there should be no doubt about Mahāvīra's seniority in age and nirvāṇa before Buddha. In the same way, keeping in mind both traditional and historical points of view and evidence, his nirvāṇa took place in 527 BC.

Candragupta's ascension to the throne (BC 322 which according to Jain tradition) is considered to be another evidence historically i.e. 215 years after Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa.  Ascension of Avanti and this is another historical fact that Candragupta established his kingdom ten years after ascending the throne. Thus, 322-10=312+215=527, that is, according to the Jain time count, too, when Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa occurred in 527 B.C.

The strongest and universally accepted evidence to prove unambiguously 527 BC to be the nirvāṇa year is also this, which has been unanimously accepted by ancient Digamabara and Śvetāmbara Ācāryas – that is the beginning of the Śaka era, 605 years and 5 months after Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa. In this way, BC 527 is the historically proven and accepted time.

Historical Analysis of Lord Mahāvīra and Buddha's Nirvāṇa

Lord Mahāvīra and Buddha were contemporaries; hence, in deciding the nirvāṇa time of both, scholars have discussed it together, considering the intrinsic connection between their times. It is a different matter that instead of solving the problem, it has made it more complicated. India's accomplished historian, Paṇdita Gaurīshaṃkara Hīrāchaṃda Ojhā, while discussing 'Buddha Nirvāṇa Samvat', writes that there is no decision on which year Buddha attained nirvāṇa. In Laṃkā, Burmā (Myanmar) and Śyāma, Buddha's nirvāṇa is believed to have taken place in 544 BC as also the Āsāma royal teachers believe. According to Chinese traveller Fa Hien it happened around 1097 BC and Hiuen Tsang, within 4th century BC. Some other historians say between 4th century BC and 5th century BC. Muni Kalyāṇavijaya has tried to make it clear on his part that Lord Buddha was 22 years older than Lord Mahāvīra was and Lord Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa 15 years after Buddha's nirvāṇa. This way, Buddha's nirvāṇa is in 542 BC. Without getting into an analysis of scholars' opinions here, we wish to present just facts and evidences so that we get the exact year of nirvāṇa.

It may be noted that we have to take a decision on an event that occurred approximately 2500 years ago. It is well-known that at that time Sanātana, Jain and Buddhist religions were the main ones which are existent even today. There is no description on Buddha's life in Jain āgamas. The description in Buddhist scriptures and texts about Buddha's nirvāṇa are so mutually contradictory that not one of them we cannot consider correct. In this situation, it becomes necessary to search for material in Sanātana religion's ancient literature. Fortunately, there is a śloka in the Sanātana religion's Srīmadbhāgavatapurāṇa (in its first skaṃdha), which throws light on Buddha. This śloka means that during kalayuga in Magadha (Bihāra) to seduce demons, the enemies of gods, you will be the avatāra of Buddha, son of Aṃjanī (Āṃjanī).

In Buddha's context, the author of this text refers to the brave king of the time, 'Aṃjan'. According to Buddha-related descriptions, Śuddhodana is Buddha's father; hence, according to the śloka there is no scope for considering Aṃjan to be Buddha's father. Actually, the author of Bhāgavata means to say that Buddha was the son of the king Aṃjana's daughter Aṃjani. This is a really new but historical fact that Lord Buddha was king Aṃjana's grandson. The śloka mentions Aṃjana's daughter Aṃjani in the same way as Janaka's daughter is Jānakī, and Maithila's daughter is Maithilī. The Burmese tradition proves that Buddha's maternal grandfather Aṃjana was a Śākya kṣatriya who started his own era named Ītajānā. In Burmese language, Ītajānā means Aṃjana. According to Ītajānā era, Buddha's nirvāṇa happened in 148 on Vaiśākha month's full moon day on a Tuesday, which is equivalent to 502 BC, April15, Tuesday.

To solve this problem there is a Ślokain Vāyupurāṇa in which is mentioned a king named Pradhyota who will be seated on the throne of Avaṃti after his father Munika will get will get the king murdered and bringing all ministers under his control, will rule for23 years. According to the Tibbetan Buddhist tradition, Buddha and Caṃdapradhyota were born on the same day, as Buddha became emlightened. All historians unanimously accept this fact that at the time of enlightenment, Buddha was 35 years old. This means that Pradyot too became king of Avanti at the age of 35. According to the śloka in Vāyupurāṇa, Pradyot ruled for 23 years and after him, his son, Pālaka, became the king, and on that day, Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa. Thus strong evidence from Sanātana, Jain and Buddhist beliefs prove that on the day Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa at the age of 72, Pradhyota died at age of 58 and Buddha too was 58 years old on that day. With this it is proved that Buddha's year of birth was 14 years after the birth of Mahāvīra and nirvāṇa 22 years after that of Mahāvīra.

According to Āvaśyakacūrṇī, when Mahāvīra turned 28, his parents died. According to the authors of the cūrṇī, at the time of death of king Siddhārtha and Triślā Devī, Pradhyota was 14 years old. Accordingly, we prove the nirvāṇa year of Mahāvīra as 527 BC. Mahāvīra was born in 599 BC and Buddha was born in 585 BC. Combining all these facts together, we can conclude that Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa in 527 BC and Buddha, 22 years after that, in 505 BC.

In Aśokan edicts, no. 256, which is considered indicative of Buddha's nirvāṇa year, proves that Buddha's nirvāṇa took place in505 BC. Many scholars based on this number in the edict, believe that when these edicts composed, after 256 years of Buddha's nirvāṇa. According to historians, Aśoka was coronated king in 269 BC. Eight years after coronation, he gained victory over Kaliṃga, where, seeing the cruel human killing, he became disgusted with war and became a follower of Buddhism. On his part, he put all energy into propagation of Buddhism. As a result, Buddhism spread not only in India but also in many countries abroad, attaining the peaks of progress after he started issuing the edicts. In all these perhaps 10-12 years were spent, hence these edicts were commissioned in the 20th year of the coronation, 249 BC, when 256 years had passed after Buddha's nirvāṇa. According to this calculation, Buddha attained nirvāṇain 505 BC and corresponds with reference in Vāyupurāṇa to Pradyota's reign. Based on all these indisputable facts, we can say that Lord Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa in 527 BC and Buddha in 505 BC.

Place of nirvāṇa

According to Jain belief, Lord Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa place is Pāvāpurī near Rājagṛha in Patna district, where grand temples have made it a Jain pilgrimage centre. However, historians do not seem to agree with this. The reason being that when Mahāvīra attained nirvāṇa at that time there were 18 chiefs of republics of Mallas and Licchavis present there. This is only possible to have taken place in north Bihar's Pāvāpurī because all these republics were in Bihar. South Bihar's Pāvā was in their enemy land. Dr. Jacobi too, based on descriptions in Buddhist scriptures, concedes that Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa place Pāvā was in Śākya land. Rāhula Saṃkrityāyana too, confirms this. Nāthūrāma Premī also expresses the same opinion. According to him, Lord Mahāvīra's nirvāṇa took place at the northern side of Gaṃgā in Pāvā city, which is in present Gorakhapura district, in a village popular as Pupahara.


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Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Abhaya
  2. Acelaka
  3. Ajitanātha
  4. Akriyāvādī
  5. Anger
  6. Anitya
  7. Aparigraha
  8. Arihanta
  9. Asurakumāra
  10. Avasarpiṇī
  11. Aśoka
  12. Bandha
  13. Bhagavatī Sūtra
  14. Bihar
  15. Body
  16. Brahmin
  17. Buddha
  18. Buddhism
  19. Cakra
  20. Calita
  21. Candra
  22. Caritra
  23. Celibacy
  24. Consciousness
  25. Contemplation
  26. Crore
  27. Cāritra
  28. Dharma
  29. Digambara
  30. Doṣa
  31. Equanimity
  32. Fasting
  33. Fear
  34. Gautama
  35. Gaṇadhara
  36. Gotra
  37. Greed
  38. Indra
  39. Jacobi
  40. Jina
  41. Jinaśāsana
  42. Jīva
  43. Kalpa
  44. Karma
  45. Karmas
  46. Kevalī
  47. Kriyāvādī
  48. Kāla
  49. Lakh
  50. Lokākāśa
  51. Magadha
  52. Mahāvratas
  53. Mahāvīra
  54. Mauryaputra
  55. Meditation
  56. Mokṣa
  57. Muni
  58. Munisuvratanātha
  59. Nirayāvalikā
  60. Nirgrantha
  61. Nirjarā
  62. Nirvāṇa
  63. Nitya
  64. Non-violence
  65. Padmāvatī
  66. Para
  67. Parigraha
  68. Patna
  69. Pradeśa
  70. Pratikramaṇa
  71. Puṇya
  72. Pāpa
  73. Pārśvanātha
  74. Rājagṛha
  75. Saṃlekhanā
  76. Saṃvara
  77. Siddhi
  78. Soul
  79. Space
  80. Space points
  81. Sāmāyika
  82. Sūtra
  83. Tīrthaṃkara
  84. Vimāna
  85. Violence
  86. Vrata
  87. Vṛṣabhanātha
  88. Yati
  89. cāturmāsa
  90. Ācārya
  91. Ācāryas
  92. ācāryas
  93. āgama
  94. Śreṇika
  95. Śrāvaka
  96. Śvetāmbara
  97. śloka
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