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Journey into Jainism: The Value of Modesty

Published: 03.10.2017

After one hundred and sixty years of Veera Nirvana, Bhagawan Mahavira's Emancipation, there was a long famine of twelve years. The Order of the monks was almost disintegrated at that time. The monks hardly got food and milk. Many of the monks even observed life­long fast as a result. Many others were forgetting their canonical knowledge as a result of hunger and thirst. Bhadrabaahu, who was the successor to Acharya Sambhuutivijay, was the Acharya under whose patronage Muni Sthuulabhadra began his study. Bhadrabaahu and many of his disciples moved to Nepal.

When the famine was over, the monks gathered at Patliputra (Patna) in the state of Bihar where they compiled the first eleven Jain Agamas. Bhadrabaahu was the only one who knew the 12th Agama, the knowledge of which fifteen hundred monks then asked him to impart to them. Five hundred were to be his pupils and the rest were to be in attendance. Sthuulabhadra was one of the 500 monks. They started the study but soon got tired and quit it but it was Sthuulabhadra alone who studied eight earlier scriptures with determination.

Once when he asked Bhadrabaahu, "How much have I still to study?" Bhadrabaahu replied, "You have learnt only a drop out of the vast ocean." Muni Sthuulabhadra worked with redoubled energy and learned ten scriptures.

One day when Muni Sthuulabhadra was meditating in a cave, seven of his nun-sisters, having received permission from the guru, came to visit him. When Sthuulabhadra learnt about it, his ego awakened and he decided to impress them. So by using his miraculous power, he turned himself into a lion and waited for his sisters.

When the nuns arrived and found a lion there instead of their brother, they were frightened and thought that the lion might have devoured their brother. They went back to tell Bhadrabaahu, who, having intuition, simply said, "Go back again; you will find your brother." When

When the nuns arrived and found a lion there instead of their brother, they were frightened and thought that the lion might have devoured their brother.

they saw him meditating, they were relieved and paid vandana to him.

A short while afterwards, Sthuulabhadra asked Bhadrabaahu to be taught further and was stunned to hear a prompt refusal. Perplexed, Sthuulabhadra inquired, " Why will you not teach me." To this his guru replied, "You are not worthy of receiving knowledge." When Sthuulabhadra probed him further, Bhadrabaahu told Sthuulabhadra to practise self-introspection. On that Sthuulabhadra thought carefully and then remembered how he had egotistically changed his form into that of a lion to impress his sisters. He repented deeply and promised not to repeat such an act in the future.

Bhadrabaahu said solemnly, "Pride is undoubtedly a great hindrance in the acquisition of knowledge."

Only when the whole assembly of monks gathered and implored him, "Please pass on your knowledge of the rest of the scriptures so that we may know them and pass them on in their entirety. Please forgive the lapse of Sthuulabhadra and consider the future of the Jain Order." When requested thus, Bhadrabaahu agreed to impart the knowledge of the remaining scriptures, though without revealing their hidden meaning.

Bhadrabaahu's message was clear: One should not have pride for one's knowledge. Pride leads to destruction. After attaining knowledge, one must know how to use it with modesty.


Title: Journey into Jainism
Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha (Samani Smit Pragya)
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun, India
Edition: 2012

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Agama
  3. Agamas
  4. Bihar
  5. Guru
  6. Muni
  7. Nirvana
  8. Patna
  9. Pride
  10. Vandana
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