Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2): Ācārya Prabhavaswāmī

Published: 08.05.2016

Ācārya Prabhava Swāmī was the third Pontiff of Lord Mahāvīra and was the successor of Jambū Swāmī. He remained as a householder for 30 years, followed by 64 years as an ordinary monk and 11 years as epochal-ācārya serving the Jain religion. His total tenure as a monk was 75 years and he lived up to the age of 105 years. He left for the heavenly abode in V.N. 75.

Prabhava Kumāra was the eldest son of the Kṣatriya King Vindhya of Jayapura kingdom, situated at the foothills of Viṃdhyācala. He belonged to Kātyāyana Gotra. He was born in BC 557 (30 years prior to V.N.) in Jayapura in Viṃdhyā Pradeśa. His younger brother was Suprabha. Both of them were brought up with lot of love and care befitting their noble birth.

When the adolescent Prince Prabhava turned 16, his father was displeased with him for some reason. Out of anger, he Stripped Prince Prabhava off his imperial right and declared his younger son as his successor.

Bandit leader Prabhava

Prabhava was deeply hurt and depressed as he was denied of his hereditary right. Displeased with his father, he left Rājagṛha and headed towards the dense and dreadful forests near Viṃdhyā Mountains and started living there. The bandits living in the Viṃdhyā forests, seeing the courageous and young prince, established friendly contact with him. Prince Prabhava would accompany them in all their robberies. Looking at his bravery and courage, the gaṃg of bandits made him their Leader. Bandit Leader Prabhava, now with a gaṃg of 500 robbers was everyday plundering major towns and villages in broad daylight. The more he became successful in his robberies, the more ambitious he became. To fulfill his high ambitions, he learnt and became proficient in "opening the strongest locks skill" and "putting others to deep sleep skill". With his powerful gang of bandits and his knowledge of these two arts, Bandit Leader Prabhava would enter into the houses of the rich of the major towns without any apprehension and without shedding even a drop of blood, he would successfully rob them off their immense wealth. The terror of the thieves and their Bandit Leader Prabhava spread all-over.

Conversation between Jambū and Prabhava

The incidents of Prabhava entering Ṛṣabhadatta's mansion to rob, the transformation of the thieves under the influence of Jambū Kumāra were already discussed earlier in this volume. Subsequently Prabhava with lot of affection said in a gentle voice, "Jambū Kumāra! You are self-enlightened. But still I would humbly like to say something. In this world, women & wealth are two nectar like fruits unattainable even to celestials fortunately you are blessed with both these fruits. Enjoy them as you wish till you are fully content. The learned do not appreciate the sacrifice of the luxuries which are at hand, in anticipation of the unknown bigger happiness hidden in the abysmal future. You are at an age where one enjoys all the worldly pleasures. I fail to understand how the thought of untimely forsaking all your luxuries and renouncing entered into your mind. A person, who relished all the worldly pleasures to his heart's content, and who has arrived at old age, sacrifices and embraces Dharma, then the correctness of the sacrifice is understandable."

Listening to this, Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! That which you consider a luxury, is like a drop of honey, which is insignificant, worthless and ephemeral, the consequences of which would be very painful".

Prabhava asked, "Brother! What is this drop of honey?" In reply Jambū Kumāra narrated the tale of drop of honey to Prabhava.

Episode of drop of Honey

With the intention of amassing wealth, a merchant along with many other merchants set out to travel extensively. There was a poor simpleton also with him. While travelling he reached a forest. There a gang of robbers tried to loot them. The poor simpleton was scared to death and somehow managed to escape. After running for some time, he noticed that a fierce wild elephant was chasing him. In order to save his life, he looked around for a secure place. His eyes fell upon a banyan tree nearby. To hold on to the branch of the tree, he went to a well close by, leaped and caught hold of the branch of tree.

He felt reassured that he was safe for some time. Holding on to the branch he looked around and glanced into the well. He noticed that in it was a gigantic python, brandishing its tongue and looking at him ravenously. Close by, at the four corners of the well, were four other snakes, rather small in size, staring at him with open mouths. His whole body started shivering out of fear. He lifted his head and saw that there were two rats, one black and the other white, on the same branch that he was hanging on to. They were gnawing the branch with great speed.

Witnessing all this, he felt certain that his life was in complete peril and there was no escape for him from this grave situation. Recognizing his footsteps, the elephant also reached the well and started shaking the tree vigorously. On the tree was a huge bee hive. The disturbed bees started biting all over the man's body. His whole body was burning in pain due to the unbearable agony. He felt as if the very god of death was dancing right in front of him; he trembled in fear.

Just then a drop of honey from the bee hive fell into his mouth. Even in that agonising and perilous situation also, he was carried away by the sweet taste of honey and felt happy and considered himself lucky.

Exactly at that time, one flying celestial (Vidyādhara) was passing by in the sky. He saw the man hanging from the branch into the well, surrounded by calamities on all sides. He sympathised with the man and said, "O Human being! Hold my hand. 1 will pull you out of this well and take you to a safe place free from all misfortunes".

Hanging from the branch and still in the calamitous situation, he replied, "Wait for some time. Look, the drop of honey is about to fall into my mouth".

The compassionate Vidyādhara offered again and again to grasp his hand and take him out of the situation. However, in spite of being trapped in difficulties, the man came with the same reply, "Wait for some more time; let me indulge in the taste of one more drop of honey".

In spite of the immense agony that the man was undergoing, he could not come out of the delusion of tasting the droplets of honey. Tired of waiting for a long time, Vidyādhara understanding the man's delusion finally gave up his efforts to pull him out and returned to his heavenly abode. The man undergoing all sorts of sufferings, finally miserably died.

Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! The man in this story represents a worldly soul; the dense forest stands for the world; the elephant is the inevitable death; the well resembles the births of mortals and celestial angels; the merchant resembles to desires of the World; the python denotes hell and animal World; the other four snakes are the four deadly passions that lead to perdition - anger, pride, delusion and greed; the branch of the tree stands for life span of every being; the white and black rats symbolise the bright and dark fortnights of the lunar month gnawing the branch of life with their sharp teeth which represent day and night respectively; the tree stands for non-restraint and wrong belief which binds the soul to karma; the drop of honey represents the transient pleasures of the five senses; the bees stand for innumerable maladies of the body and finally Vidyādhara is the Guru who uplifts the grief Stricken mortals from the well of mundane existence"!

Jambū Kumāra then questioned Prabhava, "Now tell me Prabhava, under such circumstances, how much happiness or sorrow the man hanging in the well was experiencing?

Prabhava thought for a moment and replied, "While dangling on the well for a long time waiting for the drop of honey to fall into his mouth was the only thing that gave him some amount of happiness; other than that, everything else around him was only frightful & sorrowful.

Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! The same is pertinent to the joys and sorrows of human life. Surrounded by all kinds of fears, where is the real happiness for that man in the well, even for namesake? In such a situation, the drop of honey that gave him pleasure can be portrayed as his imaginary happiness, but not real".

Jambū Kumāra questioned Prabhava yet again, "Prabhava! Seeing a person stranded in the midst of such pitiful and calamitous situation, if any benevolent person comes forward and says, "O miserable mortal! Hold my hand; I will pull you out of this wretched place", will this grieving person want to be rescued or not?

Prabhava replied, "Of course he would want to be rescued".

Jambū Kumāra then said, "If a person engrossed in the delusion of relishing the drop of honey, out of ignorance says that he should first be allowed to savour its taste and get thoroughly satisfied, and then only be pulled out, then, he will not be freed from sorrow because, in this way he will never be satiated. The moment the branch that he is holding on to, is completely gnawed by the rats, he will fall to his death, into the mouth of the python.

Prabhava! After understanding the truth about existence, I will not delay even a minute to come out of the well of mundane life.

Acknowledging the truth of the facts illustrated by Jambū Swāmī, Prabhava asked, "Whatever you said is true; however, what grievous situation are you in that you are willing to abandon all your dear ones, who love you more than life itself, in such an inopportune moment?

The enormous suffering of the World: Jambū Kumāra replied, "Prabhava! Is staying in the womb a normal suffering? An enlightened person, who is aware of the pain of being in the womb, does not require any other reason to be detached from life and to renounce". Saying this, Jambū Kumāra narrated the incident of Lalitaṃg in relation to the agony of being present in the womb.

Incident of Lalitāṃga

"Long time ago, a king by the name of Śatāyudha ruled over the kingdom of Vasantpur. One day, one of his queens, Lalitā, saw a handsome youth. At the very first sight itself, she was totally enamoured by him and yearned for his association. She sent her trustworthy maid and gathered all the information about him. She got to know that the youth was Lalitāṃga, the son of a merchant called Samudrpriya and that he too resides in Vasantpura. She sent a love letter to him, through her maid.

The maid who is a master in the art of deception and beguile, somehow manifested the youth in front of the queen. Lalitāṃga and the queen, without any fear, indulged themselves in sensual pleasure. One day the king was informed about the illicit affair of his queen and Lalitāṃga.  He started to investigate the truth in this matter. The shrewd maid got to know about it. So as to save herself and her queen, the maid pushed Lalitāṃga in to hollow cesspool (a well in which dirty water is poured). Confined and stuck in the filthy, foul-smelling well, Lalitāṃga felt remorse about his frivolity and stupidity and started thinking, "Oh Lord! If for once I am able to come out of this predicament by some means, I will once and for all give up these sensual pleasures, whose repercussions bring nothing but agony".

Taking pity on Lalitāṃga, the maid would throw sufficient leftover food into the well. Lalitāṃga would eat that food and drink the filthy water from the well and quench his paṃgs of hunger and thirst.

Soon rainy season set in and filled the well with water. Some workers opened the conduit of the well in order to clean it. Immediately, under the forceful pressure of the gushing water, Lalitāṃga was swept out of the drain and landed in a far-off corner. Being in the covered and filthy well for a long period of time, Lalitāṃga fell unconscious when exposed suddenly to the fresh air. Seeing him unconscious near the well, many people gathered around. When she heard of the unconscious youth, even Lalitāṃga's wet-nurse arrived there. She immediately recognised her long lost Lalitāṃga and brought him back home. After prolonged treatment, Lalitāṃga recovered back to health with great difficulty".

Concluding the story of Lalitāṃga, Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! Lalitāṃga in this story symbolises the mortal soul; the sight of the queen is human birth; the maid is desire, the access into the palace, fulfillment of desire and the entry into the filthy well are the signifiers of the stay in the womb- the leftover food stands for the food eaten and digested by the mother; emerging out of the well resembles childbirth and services rendered by the wet-nurse depicts the nourishment for the body that facilitates in ripening karma. Explaining thus, Jambū Kumāra asked Prabhava, "Now let me know Prabhava, in case the queen once again invites Lalitāṃga to her palace, will he accept her invitation"?

In a firm tone Prabhava said, "No! Never! After going through such hellish times, he will never even turn his head towards that side".

Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! There is a chance that out of ignorance and deluded by the enticing sensual pleasures, he may once again accept the queen's invitation. However, I have understood the meaning of bondage and liberation; hence, I shall never get caught into the web of love and hatred that is the root cause for the cycle of birth and death and for the mundane existence of life".

To this Prabhava replied, "O blessed soul! Whatever you said is in fact the truth; nevertheless, listen to my humble request. A husband should perform his worldly duties towards his wives with love and care. As a matter of fact, this is a moral obligation of every husband. So accordingly spend considerable amount of time with your eight wives and then proceed towards an ascetic life. That would be befitting".

Eighteen kinds of relationships

Jambū Kumāra replied in a calm and composed manner, "Prabhava! There is no hard and fast rule in this world that you will have the same mother or the same wife in your next life with whom you are associated in this birth. It is possible that your mother in this birth might have been your sister, wife or daughter in your previous birth. In addition, your husband may be born as a son; a father as a brother or in any other form of relationship. Depending upon one's good or bad deeds, a soul gets incarnated as a woman, a man or a eunuch. In such a situation, how can one lead a spousal life with a woman who could have been one's mother, sister or daughter in one's previous lives"?

Prabhava said, "O great soul! It is nearly impossible to know the relationships of the previous births; therefore, the relationships of the present birth – father, son, husband, wife, etc - are taken into consideration and they alone are important".

In reply Jambū Kumāra said, "This sort of debate arises out of ignorance. In spite of being able to discriminate between good and bad, ignorance either instigates a person to do all the wrong things or indulge in sensual pleasures or even hanker for possession of things".

Jambū Kumāra continued his explanation, "Prabhava! Forget about past lives. I will recount an incident where in the same birth, many relationships are formed and how a calamitous chain of events occurred due to one's ignorance".

The narration about Kuberadatta and Kuberadattā

"Once there lived a courtesan Kuberasenā in the city of Mathura. When she became pregnant for the first time, she had a severe pain in her stomach. A physician was summoned. After examining he said, "She is carrying twins and hence is feeling inconvenient. There is nothing to worry".

Kuberasenā's mother tried to convince her to get rid of the pain by taking some medicine and terminating her pregnancy. But Kuberasenā did not agree. In due course she gave birth to twins – a son and a daughter. She named them Kuberadatta and Kuberadattā respectively.

One day Kuberasenā's mother said, "Because of your children you will lose your patrons. Therefore it is better that you should abandon them at some deserted place".

After being repeatedly pressurised by her mother to abandon the children, Kuberasenā finally gave in. She got made two finger-rings with the names of children engraved on them. When the children were eleven days old she put the rings in a thread and tied them around their necks. She then placed each child in a small boat-shaped wooden basket along with a bundle of precious stones and set them afloat at night in the river Yamunā.

The two baskets drifted and reached Sauripura by dawn. There two wealthy merchants came to bathe in the river. They noticed these two floating baskets and immediately pulled the baskets out of the river. They felt very happy to see the two children, the rings with their individual names engraved on them and the bundle of jewels. After discussing with each other, they took one child each to their respective homes. The two merchants and their wives brought up the children as if their own with love and care, providing them with all comforts; they were imparted with education and made able.

When both the children attained youth, the parents thought that the two children were suitable for each other and got them married with great pomp and show. The very next day, when playing the traditional game of dice, the friends of Kuberadatta interchanged Kuberadatta's and Kuberadattā's rings with each other. Kuberadattā noticed that her ring was exactly like that of Kuberdatta's.  She was curious and surprised that the make of the rings was exactly the same and there was not even a slight difference in the script of the names also. She thought that there must be some very strong reason behind this. Trying to recollect the past, Kuberdattā started thinking, "So far I never heard of any of our ancestors with this name; besides I am not experiencing any intimate feeling towards Kuberadatta, which a wife should normally feel towards her husband".

She was convinced beyond doubt that there is some deep secret behind all this. With this thought in her mind she placed Kuberadatta's ring back on his finger, where her own ring was already there.

Seeing the similarity of the two rings, the same doubt cropped up even in Kuberadatta's mind. He returned Kuberdattā's ring to her and took his own ring and approached his foster mother. Binding her under oath he asked her, "Beloved mother! Tell me the truth, who am I? And how did I get this ring?  Even Kuberadattā has the same type of ring with the same letters engraved on it".

The mother narrated the entire incident revealing that in reality he was not her own son and that her husband found him in a basket along with a bundle full of precious stones and the ring.

After listening to the entire matter, Kuberadatta was clear in his mind that Kuberdatta was his own sister. With remorse he complained, "Mother, knowing pretty well that we were siblings, why did you carry out this indecent and dishonourable act of getting us married?"

The merchant's wife also repented. She said, "Son! Even though we knew the truth, we proceeded with the immoral deed, blinded by delusion. But do not grieve. You are guilty of just getting married and did not commit any sin. Let bygones be bygones. I will send back Kuberadattā to her parents' house. You make a trip to other places for some time. After you come back, I will get you married to another girl."

Soon Kuberadatta's mother sent Kuberadattā to her parents. Taking enough money with him Kuberadattā left for another town.

Upon reaching her parental home, Kuberadattā also bound her mother under oath, and asked about her and the ring. The mother also told the same story.

Listening to the entire incident, Kuberadattā was filled with contempt towards the world. She approached a Pravartinī Female monk, took the oath of asceticism and following the five vows without fault, she started wandering from place to place along with the Female monk. Taking the permission of the Pravartinī, she kept with herself the ring that filled her with aversion.

Leading a chaste life and practicing severe penance she acquired knowledge of previous births plus clairvoyance after few years. With her insight, she perceived that her brother Kuberadatta and their mother Kuberasenā were unknowingly leading a married life. She was much shocked and pained about the contemptible and pathetic condition of the world. She thought, "Out of ignorance man commits so many absurdities". She took permission of the Pravartinī and arrived at Mathura along with some nuns to preach Kuberadatta and Kuberasenā. She sought a suitable place and stayed at Kuberasenā's residence. Kuberasenā bore a child from Kuberadatta. Kuberasenā would bring her son often with her, while visiting Kuberadattā.

In order to enlighten Kuberadatta and Kuberasenā, Kuberadattā started talking to the child sweetly from a distance, "You are my brother, my husband's brother, my son, my co-wife's son, my nephew and my uncle. Dear child, your father is my brother, husband, grandfather, father-in-law and son too. Dear boy! I am going to reveal one more hidden truth to you. She is my mother from whose womb you were born, she is also my mother-in-law, co-wife, my brother's wife, my grandmother and daughter-in-law".

Hearing to all this, a shocked Kuberadatta bowed to the Female monk and asked, "O Female monk! Why are you uttering all these contradictory statements? Are you under illusion? Or, are you just uttering these meaningless words merely for the enjoyment of the child?"

She replied, "Whatever I said is nothing but the truth. I am your sister Kuberadattāto whom you got married and this woman is our mother".

Kuberasenā and Kuberadatta were stunned and stared at her in disbelief.

Then Kuberadattā narrated all the incidents that she perceived through her yogic insight and she also recounted about the rings which were engraved with their names.

After listening to the truth, Kuberadatta felt aversion towards his life. He condemned himself and said in a sad tone, "Alas! How did I do this impossible, improper and unscrupulous deed"? Deeply aggrieved by his blunder, Kuberadatta gave away all his wealth to the child. He bowed to the Female monk in reverence and said, "You have opened my eyes and benefitted me greatly. I will spend the rest of my life in self-realisation".

Saying this Kuberadatta left home. He went to a Sthavira Śramaṇa and took initiation into monkhood and started leading a life of an ascetic, attained Samādhi and incarnated as a celestial being.

Kubersenā also followed Female-votary Dharma and led a pious life staying at home. Kuberadattā went back to serve her Pravartinī".

After narrating the story Jambū Kumāra asked Prabhava, "Now tell me, after the three of them came to know the entire truth, will they be lured by sensual pleasures again?"

Prabhava replied, "Never!"

Jambū Kumāra reiterating his decision to renounce, said, "Out of ignorance any one of them – Kuberasenā et al. may again involve in sensual pleasures, but as I came to know from my Guru, the unpleasant consequences of such frivolous activities, even the slightest desire towards such pleasures never arises in my mind."

Prabhava bent his head in veneration and said, "O reverend soul! Will there be any human being who does not get awakened after listening to your detailed narration with such facts and illustrations? However, I would like to say one word. Usually, one acquires wealth after great struggle and efforts. You have immense wealth. Remain as a householder for at least one year to enjoy this fortune, derive pleasures befitting the six seasons and put your wealth to a good cause by helping the poor and the needy. Then I would also take initiation together with you".

Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! The learned say that the purpose of wealth is best served when donated to the deserving, but not by indulging oneself in transitory pleasures. Having spoken thus Jambū Kumāra narrated the incident of a cowherd, who missed his wealth.

The incident of the Cowherd

In Aṃga district (Janapada) there once lived many rich cowherds who had innumerable cows and buffaloes. Once, a very powerful and well-equipped gang of robbers attacked the place. Along with the loot that they plundered, they also abducted a very beautiful young lady who had a son. While decamping from the place, the bandits left the child behind in the village itself and with the intention of selling the woman they took her to Campa town and sold her to a whore.

Who had made necessary arrangements to train the young woman in music, dance and in the skills of prostitution. Within a few years the young woman became proficient in all the three. The older prostitute would charge one lakh rupees to those who wished to spend one night with this talented young woman.

Meanwhile the deserted son of the young woman also reached adolescence. One day, he came to the town of Campā carrying many cartloads of ghee to sell in the market. After selling the ghee, he noticed that many young people were revelling in the music and dances in the brothel houses and were engrossed in all types of promiscuous activities. A thought crossed his mind that what other purpose will all his riches serve, if he does not philander with the best of the beautiful prostitutes. So, in order to pick one for himself he started looking at all the beautiful prostitutes there, one after the other, and finally came to that cowherd's wife who became a prostitute. He was completely taken in by her beauty, gave her the amount she demanded and saying that he would return in the night, went back to his carts.

In the evening, he took bath and wearing beautiful clothes and ornaments started for the prostitute's residence. Incidentally, a deity who witnessed all the events, out of compassion, wanted to prevent the cowherd-youth from this dreadful sin. She took the form of a cow with a calf and sat in the middle of the street. While going to the prostitute's house, one of his feet got smeared with faces lying on the road. The youth rubbed his foot against the back of the calf there. Talking in a human voice the calf asked its mother, "O mother! What sort of a man is he, rubbing his feet smeared with filth against my body?"

The cow also replied in a human voice, "Young one! Do not be angry with this mean and wretched person; he is going to have sex with his own mother. It is no surprise if a degraded person like him rubs his dirty foot against your body". Uttering these words, the cow and the calf vanished.

Listening to the animals talk in a human voice, the youth was not only astonished but also felt that there must be some authenticity in their words. He reckoned that the bandits had abducted his mother; and it is quite possible that she might have become a prostitute. After mulling for some time, he decided to go to the prostitute and find out the truth.

With this intention in his mind, the youth arrived at the prostitute's house. The skilful harlot offered him tasty and delicious food and drink and was about to entertain him with her dance and music.

The youth said, "Leave all this and first let me know who you are and where do you reside"?

The harlot replied, "O young man! Talk about your interest in me and my characteristics because of which you were attracted towards me and paid a hefty sum. What will you gain by knowing me and my whereas bouts?"

The young man said, "Have faith in me. In fact, I will be benefited by knowing your complete details, and nothing else. Pray tell me the truth without any hesitation and without concealing anything".

The woman thought for a while and mentioned the names of important people from her paternal side and in-laws side. She also narrated how she was abducted and sold by the dacoits to the older prostitute.

Ashamed of himself, the youth bowed down at her feet and said, "Oh Mother! It's me -your unfortunate son from whom the robbers separated you. By the grace of God, both of us have been saved from committing an abhorrent sin".

Later on, the youth paid a huge amount as demanded by the old prostitute and took his mother with him to his town.

After narrating the episode, Jambū Kumāra asked Prabhava, "Had he not been cautioned by the deity, in what way he would have used his money?"

Prabhava said, "In the most shameful and condemned way".

Jambū Kumāra then asked one more question, "Prabhava! After being known about their filial bond, do you think that at any point of time, the young lad will desire to make love to his prostitute-turned mother?"

Prabhava immediately replied, "Never, not even in his wildest dreams".

Jambū Kumāra said, "The one who is enlightened by listening to the preaching of the omniscient can save himself from committing any kind of immoral and obnoxious deeds, but not the one who is infatuated by senses and ignorance. In fact it is only by acquiring knowledge that one can get rid of all types of sorrows and miseries".

This time, Prabhava saluted to Jambū Swāmī with veneration and said, "Swāmī! Complying with the worldly law, beget a son and please your ancestors. The ancestors are benefitted through obsequies offered by a son. Sagacious persons say that the one who is freed from the debt of a father (by continuing the lineage by begetting a son) lives in heaven after his death. An old adage says that the person who is devoid of a son has no salvation; he will not get a place in heaven".

Jambū Swāmī replying to Prabhava's artifice said, "Prabhava! Whatever you said about getting free from the indebtedness of the ancestors by begetting a son is not at all true. At times, the son with an intention to do good to his father who is dead and incarnated in other form, does more harm than good with his deeds; in fact the father who is reborn in other form does not obtain any type of bliss or tranquillity from the actions of the son of his former life. This is so because one reaps the fruits of one's own karma–good actions yield happiness and bad-sorrow: one does not enjoy the fruits of someone else's actions. Under any circumstances, after the death of the father, whatever the son does to please the soul of his father, neither pleases the father nor gives him peace. It is evident that by feeding the Brahman on a death anniversary of a person, a friend living in another village does not get satisfied; then how can a soul living in other world be satisfied by performing rituals in this world? The truth is, instead of giving happiness to the father, the libation by a son may cause his death, for if he is reborn as ant, he may die when the son accidentally sprinkles water on it while performing obsequies".

"I will tell you an incident about the irrelevance regarding the worldly law of begetting a son: -".

Episode of Maheśwaradatta

Long time ago, in the city of Tāmralipti, there lived a merchant by name Maheśwaradatta. Samudradatta, his deceitful and greedy father died and was reborn in the same city as an ox. Unable to bear the sorrow of her husband's death, Maheśwaradatta's mother also died and was born as a female dog in the same town.

Having no elderly persons in the house to stop her, Maheśwara- datta's young wife Gāṃgilā lived as she wished, with complete free will and without restraint. One day she was drawn towards a handsome youth and she invited him to her house at night. After dusk, Gāṃgilā waited for her beloved at the doorstep. After some time, the paramour, dressed in beautiful costumes and ornaments and carrying weapons, came to Gāṃgilā. Incidentally, at the same time, Maheśwaradatta also came to the same place where both the lovers were meeting. Afraid for his life, the paramour insidiously attacked Maheśwaradatta with his sword to kill him. But Maheśwaradatta skilfully saved him from the stroke and struck the man and injured him with his sword. The injured paramour walked a few steps, faltered and fell down. Repenting for his sinful deed the paramour thought, "A wretched person like me got instantly what I deserve for my improper actions!" Contemplating on his actions, he peacefully breathed his last and entered into the womb of Gāṃgilā. Soon he was born as a son to Gāṃgilā. In this way, the paramour who was the enemy of Maheśwaradatta became his beloved son. Maheśwaradatta loved him more dearly than his own life.

In course of time, Maheśwaradatta bought a buffalo to perform his father's libation as per the family customs. Incidentally, the buffalo he bought for the purpose was his father, reborn. He killed the buffalo and served its cooked meat as food to the guests of the ceremony. The next day, Maheśwaradatta was eating the meat with liquor, with great relish. He was offering pieces of beef to his son (the soul of paramour) who sat on his lap simultaneously beating his mother who was sitting nearby, reborn in the form of a dog, with a stick. Just then a Saint came to Maheśwaradatta's house, seeking alms.

The Saint saw Maheśwaradatta eating the beef, mollycoddling his son and beating the dog. With his clairvoyance, the monk knew the reality and thought to himself, "Oh! How ironic ignorance is! Due to ignorance this human being is not only carrying his enemy on his lap, but also beating his mother and offering libation by killing the soul of his father on his death anniversary, relishing it and also offering it to others." Saying aloud, "Oh, what an outrageous action!" he turned back from the entrance itself.

Maheśwaradatta wondered as to why the monk turned back from the door itself without taking any alms, and just saying "Oh what an outrageous action!" He thought that he should know the reason from the monk and set out in search of him and reached the place where the monk stayed. Saluting the Saint Maheśwaradatta asked him why he uttered those words and left without taking alms.

The monk replied, "Sir! It is inconceivable for Śramaṇas to take alms from the house of those who consume meat and from those who lack respect. Eating meat is absolutely violent and repulsive and hence we do not receive alms from households where non-vegetarian food is consumed. Moreover in your house …..."

Without completing the sentence the monk remained silent. Maheśwaradatta bowed his head at the feet of the monk and pleaded him to divulge the truth. Then the Saint narrated him the entire account of Maheśwaradatta's father, mother, the paramour, buffalo, bitch and the son, which he had known through clairvoyance.

Maheśwaradatta said, "Lord! Whatever you said is true. But would you please present some proof to confirm these facts?" The monk said, "Take the bitch to your storehouse, there she will gain the knowledge of her previous birth and will dig in the courtyard with her paws and would unearth an urn filled with jewels."

As suggested by the monk, Maheśwaradatta took the bitch to his storehouse. The moment they entered the room, she recollected her previous birth and dug out the urn filled with jewels.

When the monk revealed and proved the hidden secret with evidence, Maheśwaradatta felt averse to the world. He took initiation of Śramaṇa Dharma from the same monk and reformed himself.

Explaining the inference of the incident, Jambū Kumāra said, "Prabhava! This is the present situation of the ethos. Only those souls engulfed in the darkness of ignorance have a penchant for unacceptable deeds and would abstain from the acceptable. But those people, whose heart is filled with the glow of knowledge, would never show inclination towards such deeds. This world is filled with sorrows; the soul which experiences it, should try to abandon all delusions and put all its efforts and persevere to attain liberation."

Curious to understand real happiness, Prabhava asked Jambū Kumāra the last question, "Sir! What is the difference between materialistic and spiritual happiness"

Jambū Kumāra replied, "Prabhava! The happiness of liberation is indefinable and unparalleled. It never gets disrupted even for a moment and hence is endless happiness. It is limitless and not bound by time and space; hence it is eternal and imparts happiness several multitudes more than the happiness of even celestial beings. It cannot be explained and hence extremely indescribable."

"The so-called materialistic happiness is in fact not happiness; it is an illusion of happiness and is transitory. A human being, while enjoying food, drink, anointment etc. assuming them to be happiness, in reality invites only sorrows. It was well said by experienced elders that in pleasure are the fears of disease."

Jambū Kumāra narrated an episode of a merchant to illustrate how one fantasises happiness in sorrow.

The merchant's episode

Once, a merchant with cart loads of goods was travelling to other lands along with a caravan. On the way he reached a dense forest. To facilitate his transactions while on the way, he took a bag laden with loose angels and coins and kept it on the back of a mule. By the time they reached the forest somehow the bag of coins broke open scattering the coins on the way. When the merchant became aware of this, he stopped all the carts and started picking up the scattered coins with the help of his servants. The guards of the merchants said to him, "Why are you risking millions of your money for the sake of a few coins. There is constant danger of being attacked by the thieves here in the forest. So let us move the carts fast".

The merchant did not heed the fitting advice of the guards. He said, "The profits in the future are unpredictable. In such a case, it is unwise to neglect the money I have now." So saying he once again got busy in picking up the coins.

Leaving behind the merchant and his cart along with his loads, the rest of the merchants and the guards of the caravan proceeded further. The merchant continued picking the coins. Soon a gang of robbers noticed that he had no guards to protect him. They attacked him and looted all his money.

Jambū Kumāra said, "The men swayed by the frivolous and so called nominal pleasures, tend to desert the efforts to obtain Mokṣa. They keep wandering ceaselessly in this world drowned in the sea of unhappiness and sorrow, just like the merchant who for the sake of handful of coins lost his millions".

Introspection of Prabhava

The facts and arguments presented by Jambū Kumāra in a benevolent way opened the inner eye of Prabhava. A kind of excitement aroused in his heart. Fountain of thoughts gushed out in his subconscious mind. He thought, "On one hand, Jambū Kumāra who is extraordinarily radiant and delicate, serene than the moon, attractive and charming, with wealth equivalent to that of Kubera, and having eight wives whose beauty excels the beauty of celestial angels and who are embellished with all the virtues, a palatial mansion and other luxuries which he had inherited without any efforts, is giving up everything as if they are insignificant like a blade of grass and moving ahead towards liberation; In contrast, I on my part, with my 500 companions, have been day and night involved in the contemptible deed of plundering the hard earned money and wealth of others. I have made the lives of many people miserable. Alas! I picked up immoral, anti-social and despicable activities like looting, robbery etc and accumulated innumerable sins. My future life would definitely be a horrible, miserable and gloomy one."

How horrible and daunting would the results of his bad deeds be? The very thought made Prabhava shudder. He, at once decided firmly that he would forsake all types of sinful deeds, gave up all luxuries and sensual pleasures and would genuinely try to reform his future and uplift himself.

Thus resolving in his heart Prabhava bowed at the feet of Jambū Kumāra and with folded hands said, "Sire! You are my Guru and I am your disciple. You showed me the path to salvation. I am firmly determined to become an ascetic renouncing the world and to serve you till the end of my life. Please accept me as your disciple."

Jambū Kumāra in a tone of acceptance said, "All right."

The moment Jambū Kumāra uttered the word of acceptance all the 500 companions of Prabhava who turned motionless became free. Prabhava ordered his men to return all the looted money. Taking the permission of Jambū Kumāra, he, along with his companions then set out for Jayapura to take the permission of his father to become a monk.

Initiation of Prabhava and his Spiritual-exertion

Prabhava went home and took the permission of his parents. The very next day, along with his 500 companions he came to Sudharmā Swāmī. Jambū Kumāra and his 26 kinsmen, Prabhava and his 500 men got initiated into monkhood from Ārya Sudharmā. Thus the leader of bandits became the leader of ascetics. Some authors opined that Prabhava took initiation sometime after the initiation of Jambū Kumāra but there is no substantial evidence to prove this fact. Prabhava was 30 years old when he took initiation. Whether he was married or not, there is no mention of it in any text.

After initiation Prabhava thoroughly studied all the 11 Aṃgas and 14 Pūrvas from Sudharmā Swāmī and Jambū Swāmī. He performed severe austerities, and in the blazing flame of penance he started burning his bad karma like firewood. Serving Ārya Sudharmā he followed the Śramaṇa Dharma. In V.N. 64, Prabhava was made ācārya by Jambū Swāmī. After the nirvāṇa of Jambū Swāmī, Prabhava Swāmī took over as Pontiff.  He not only elevated himself in the spiritual path but also served the congregation, following the principles of Lord Mahāvīra with unflinching faith and devotion, and glorified Jainism setting an example for others by his conduct as a Pontiff of that time

Contemplation about the successor

One day, at night Ācārya Prabhava Swāmī was deep in meditation. The rest of the ascetics were fast asleep. After his meditation in the middle of the night he reflected on the issue of his successor. He was perplexed as to whom the responsibility of a successor should be entrusted to administer the large congregation efficiently as per the guidelines of Lord Mahāvīra. He mentally recollected all the ascetics of the congregation and visualised them to be his successor; but much to his dismay, he could not find anyone fit to the rank. Then he started thinking of the people outside the religion who are eligible to run the congregation. With his intuition he found out that Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa, a staunch Brahmin of Vatsa Gotra, a resident of Rājagṛha and who was engaged in performing the sacrificial rites, was proficient in all aspects to run the congregation.

The next day, Prabhava Swāmī, the leader of Gaṇas wandering along with his disciples reached Rājagṛha. After reaching there, he ordered two of his disciples, "Śramaṇas! Both of you go to the Yajṅa being performed by Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa and seek alms from him. If the Brahmins there refuse to give alms to you, recite this verse in a pleasant voice and come back:

"Aho kaṣṭamaho kaṣṭaṃ, tattvaṃ viṅāayate na hi"!

It means – Alas! It is a matter of great sorrow; it is a pitiable thing that the reality (real truth) is not known here.

Receiving these instructions from Prabhava Swāmī, the two disciples immediately set out for Rājagṛha to seek alms. They reached the vast Yajṅa site and begged for alms. As foretold by Prabhava Swāmī, the Brahmins at the Yajṅa hall refused to offer 'yajṅa receipts' as alms to them.

Then as foretold by Prabhava Swāmī, the monk named Yugal in a loud voice recited the aforementioned verse and returned back.

When, Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa who sat near the yajṅa-alter performing the rites listened to the verse recited by Yugala, he started reflecting over it. He very well knew that the Jain Śramaṇa never tells a lie under any circumstance. So, innumerable doubts regarding the real truth started triggering in his mind. With the countless questions rising in his inner mind, Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa felt as if he was attacked by a storm of apprehension. He approached his teacher who was performing the Yajṅa and asked, "O best of the priests! What is the real form of tattva (reality / verity)"?

The teacher said, "Sir, the essence of the real knowledge is that the Vedas are the essence of heaven and salvation. The scholars who are fully aware of this knowledge say that there is no real truth other than Vedas."

Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa in an angry tone said, "Tell me the truth, what is the real truth or else I will separate your head from the shoulders." Uttering these words he drew the sword from the sheath.

Staring at Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa in awe, standing in front of him with a sword in his hand like Lord Yama, the teacher thought that it is impossible to save him without telling the truth. So he confessed that the Dharma propounded by Lord Mahāvīra is the real truth and the real Dharma and that he should learn about it from Ācārya Prabhava.

Learning about the Truth, Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa was very pleased. He gave away all the sacrificial material to the high priest and presented himself in front of Prabhava; prostrating at Ācārya Prabhava's feet, Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa requested him to impart him the knowledge that leads to salvation.

Ācārya Prabhava with authenticity explaining the greatness of right faith with non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession, said that they are the real truth, real knowledge and real Dharma. The one who spurns the worldly pleasures, follows and practices these tenets will be freed from birth, old age, death once for all and attains eternal happiness.

Learning about the virtuous path through the preaching of Prabhava, Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa immediately took initiation as a Śramaṇa from Prabhava Swāmī. The preaching to Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa by Prabhava Swāmī proves that the great ācāryas of Jainism not only endeavoured for their own self-realisation but also paved the way for the welfare of the future generations, by incessantly trying to stabilise & strengthen the Śramaṇa tradition which showed the right way.

Ārya Prabhava attains heaven

The leader of bandits Prabhava took initiation at the prime age of 30. Up to the age of 64, he practised severe austerities and after that for 11 years, he led the Śramaṇa congregation as its Pontiff. During that period he uplifted not only himself but also helped others. Such examples are very rare to be found in the history of the world. Eventually at the age of 105, the great ācārya envisaged that time has come to leave his physical body. So he declared Sayyaṃbhava Bhaṭṭa, his disciple, as his successor. Subsequently he observed fasting and departed for heavenly abode in 75 V.N. at the age of 105.

Viewpoint of Digambara Sect

The opinion expressed by Digambaras in the texts and Paṭṭāvalī is that after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, Ācārya Viṣṇu succeeded Ācārya Jambū Swāmī, and not Ācārya Prabhava. In the most regarded scripture of Digambara sect, Uttara Pūrāṇa, (chapter 76) it is mentioned that Jambū Swāmī 's disciple was a monk called 'Bhava' whereas Paṃdit Rājamala mentioned 'Prabhava' as Jambū  Swāmī 's disciple in his 'Jambū  Caritam'. It is also mentioned in this text that few days after the nirvāṇa of Jambū Swāmī, due to be Devī lament by the demons, Vidyuccara and the dacoit prince Prabhava and his 500 companions who were initiated into the monastic life, died and became deities. Apart from this no information is available about Prabhava in two texts.

Of Ārya Prabhava and Ārya Viṣṇu (also known as Nandi) who became the ācārya of Dharma congregation, after Ācārya Jambū Swāmī is a delicate, significant and knotty issue. Both Digambara and Śvetāmbara sects agree about chronology of pontiffs after the nirvāṇa of Mahāvīra up to Jambū Swāmī. Controversy about whether Indrabhūti Gautama was the first successor or not is not of much significant as the difference of opinion among the authors is trifling. If Digambara sect opines that Indrabhūti Gautama was the first successor, the Śvetāmbaras going a step further, bestow upon him a much higher esteem and position. However, the difference of opinion between the both groups sparks about the question of the successor of Jambū Swāmī. The controversy starts from naming different ācāryas like Viṣṇu (also known as Nandi), Nandimitra, - Aparājita and Ācārya Govardhana so on and so forth. In the end, both the schools unanimously agree that Śrutakevalī Bhadrabāhu ācārya was the last 14 - Pūrvadhara ācārya. The controversy between both the camps, once again continues after Ācārya Bhadrabāhu and no further consensus is found. With the passage of time, both the schools have expressed somewhat closer opinion regarding the period of Ārya Maṃkṣu, the Guru of Yati Vṛṣabha and that of Nāgahasti.

Considering the difference of opinion about the name of the successor after Ācārya Jambū Swāmī, many scholars are of the view that the seeds of separation of Jainism into Digambara and Śvetāmbara might have sown because of this issue. However, both the camps straight away deny this hypothesis. In spite of the difference in the names of ācāryas after Jambū Swāmī, neither of the schools is willing to accept that, the bifurcation of the Dharma congregation of Lord Mahāvīra took place after the nirvāṇaof Jambū Swāmī.

In light of the above mentioned facts, it is clear that to bring out an amicable clarification is not an easy task. Lot of research has to be done in this regard. The points which are helpful in research work are presented below:

  1. In the scriptures of Digambara School, it was mentioned that Viṣṇu Nandi was the successor of Jambū Swāmī but nowhere is it clearly mentioned whether he was the disciple of Ācārya Jambū Swāmī or of somebody else.
  2. The scriptures of Śvetāmbara elaborately discuss about Prabhava Swāmī, the successor of Jambū Swāmī; whereas Digambara scriptures do not provide any details about Ārya Viṣṇu.
  3. Digambara scriptures mentioned the name of Prabhava. Whereas nowhere in the ancient scriptures of Śvetāmbara the name Viṣṇu as the successor of Jambū Swāmī was mentioned.

It is hoped that the scholars of both the sects strive hard to study the matter thoroughly and throw enough light on this issue.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (2)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Aparājita
  3. Body
  4. Brahman
  5. Brahmin
  6. Brahmins
  7. Celibacy
  8. Clairvoyance
  9. Contemplation
  10. Dharma
  11. Digambara
  12. Digambaras
  13. Fasting
  14. Fear
  15. Gautama
  16. Ghee
  17. Gotra
  18. Greed
  19. Guru
  20. Jainism
  21. Karma
  22. Lakh
  23. Mahāvīra
  24. Mathura
  25. Meditation
  26. Mokṣa
  27. Nirvāṇa
  28. Non-violence
  29. Omniscient
  30. Pradeśa
  31. Pride
  32. Pūrvadhara
  33. Rājagṛha
  34. Soul
  35. Space
  36. Tattva
  37. Vedas
  38. Yati
  39. samādhi
  40. Ācārya
  41. ācāryas
  42. Śrutakevalī
  43. Śvetāmbara
  44. Śvetāmbaras
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