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

Published: 23.03.2016

It is the law of nature that a person whose present life is superior, to his past life's efforts must have been as superior. The second Tīrthaṃkara of Jain religion; Lord Śrī Ajitanātha past life's efforts were also high and worth emulating. His past life is described as follows:

In Mahā Videha province of Jambūdvīpa on the southern banks of a river named Sītā there is an extremely prosperous and beautiful heaven (vijaya) named Vatsa. There was an extremely beautiful city there named Susīmā. A ruler, brave, just, religious and one filled with qualities due in a king, named Vimalavāhana ruled there. He was unsullied by pleasures and was disinclined towards royal pleasures. He was popular among people as being magnanimous and compassionate.

While ruling happily one day Vimalavāhana, in the course of self-introspection, thought, what should a living being do having attained a human life? In this world there is neither beginning nor end to the cycle of birth, disease and death. Among 84 lakh existences (yoni), the human destiny is the only one where a living being can attain freedom from worldly pain by following the path of spiritual endeavour. I too have the golden opportunity to be free from this bondage; thus every minute of human life is invaluable. Nothing is to be gained by repenting after the endless, valuable time that has past, but whatever remains of this life, making the utmost spiritual gain from it would be most beneficial to me.

This way king Vimalavāhana had just made a firm resolve towards spiritual endeavour for self-benefit when the gardener saluted him and informed him that due to the good deeds of the people of Susīmā a great ascetic, Ācārya Aridamana had arrived at a garden situated outside the city.

Hearing this timely and happy announcement Vimalavāhana experienced indescribable joy and thought what an auspicious coincidence that when a good feeling arose in my mind I have got the good fortune of meeting an ascetic. The king reached the garden with his kith and kin. Hearing the immortality-bestowing sermon of Ācārya Aridamana, the feeling of disenchantment of Vimalavāhana gained strength. He asked the ācārya with humility that in spite of constantly suffering the agony of the immense pain of this world the feeling of disenchantment towards the world does not arise in an ordinary person. In this state, why and in what way did a feeling of disenchantment for the world arise in you?

Ācāryaśrī replied that for an intelligent and knowledgeable thinker, at every step in this world, he sees reasons that cause disinclination, but blinded by passion, desire and attachment a human being denies the obvious and continues to live on. A person with knowledge finds reasons, both self-experienced and experienced by others, to immediately become disinterested in the world.

After ascending my royal throne I decided to win over all directions and started on a victory campaign with my four-fold army. In course of that journey I saw a garden as beautiful as Nandana-vana. With its tanks, wells, and streams and canopy of creepers, that garden seemed like heaven. I was enchanted by the beautiful sight of that garden. After resting with my warriors and army generals in that garden I resumed my victory campaign.

In victory-journey I established my rule over many countries but I could never spot that same kind of garden pleasing to the eye again. After my victory campaign when I was returning to capital city I found that garden completely destroyed and disfigured. Mere stumps in the place of thick, magnificent flower and fruit-laden trees there seemed as fearsome as ghosts. Seeing this, my mind and heart were deeply wounded. I began to feel that the entire visible world was momentary and I thought every person in this world has to face this state sooner or later.

After this, I began to tremble and became agitated with the kind of thought that came to my mind. I thought I am a worldly human being crushed in the quern of birth and death since time immemorial, and I too, shall have to face this destiny soon. If I do not take care I shall keep wandering in this endless ocean. I began to see this world as a burning furnace. At that very moment, leaving everything, I took initiation into the Śramaṇa tradition and since then am following the happiness bestowing major vows.

Hearing that discourse of Ācārya Aridamana, king Vimalavāhana bequeathed the royal throne to his son and became a mendicant. After becoming a monk Vimalavāhana, while serving the monk, studied the āgamas, besides observing austerities. For a long time he observed with purity the five attitudes of carefulness (samitis) the three attitudes of restraint (guptis) and for a long time destroyed the karmas accumulated over a long time. He practiced many of the twenty sthānakas such as devotion to the Arihanta and obtained the Tīrthaṃkara nāma karma. In the end, giving up food, completing his time, he emerged in the form of a god, 33 ocean measured periods (sāgaras) of age, in the Vijaya palace in Anuttara vimāna.

Conception and Entry into the Womb

In the island in Bharata was a city named Vinītā. Here, after innumerable kings of the Ikṣvāku clan of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha, a great, brave and religious king named Jitaśatru was born. His pious wife was named Vijayā. Queen Vijayā was endowed with all good qualities, was beautiful in body and form and a religious, intellectual and chaste woman. The royal couple looked after the subjects with a sense of justice, while enjoying the best of worldly pleasures, followed the Śramaṇa religion regularly.

On the 13th day of the bright fortnight of Vaiśākha month, upon completion of 33sāgaras the god of Anuttara vimāna, 71 lakh pūrvas less 50 lakh crore sāgaras after the nirvāṇa of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha, under the Rōhiṇī constellation being in conjunction with the moon, with mind based, verbal testimony and clairvoyant knowledge under the Caitra constellation, Vimalavāhana moved from Vijaya palace into the king Jitaśatru's queen Vijayā's womb. On the last quarter of that very night the queen saw the 14 dreams in a half-asleep, half-awake state. Very delighted, the queen narrated her dreams to the king Jitaśatru. King Jitaśatru was also happy. He said we will get a very brave son venerated by the world.

The Second Cakravartī's entry into the womb

On that same night the young princess of Jitaśatru's younger brother Sumitravijaya, Vaijayantī, too, saw 14 great dreams whose refulgence was dull compared to the dreams of queen Vijayā. The next day king Jitaśatru asked able dream-interpreters to explain the meaning of the dreams and after some analysis they said queen Vijayādevī shall give birth to this declining happiness cycle's second tīrthaṃkara while princess Vaijayantī will give birth to the second cakravartī.


Upon the completion of the pregnancy period, on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of the Māgha month with moon in conjunction with Rōhiṇī constellation, mother Vijayādevī gave birth to a son venerated by the three worlds. Just like the birth celebrations of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha, Lord Ajitanātha's birth was also celebrated. Sometime after the birth of the Lord, princess Vaijayantī gave birth to a son who went on to become the second cakravartī. The atmosphere in the royal palace after the birth of two sons at the same time was filled with happiness and gaiety. People were given various kinds of gifts and rewards. It was an atmosphere of festivity and music all around. On an auspicious day king Jitaśatru invited his family and friends, ambassadors, warriors and important people of the city and after due honours, declared that since this son entered the womb of his mother, I have been unconquerable in the every place, hence it would be appropriate to name this boy Ajita. People expressed their agreement with joy. Prince Sumitra's son was named Sagara.

The development and upbringing of both the princes happened simultaneously. Both children gave happiness to their parents for many years with their child-play and entered adolescence. Prince Ajita possessed three kinds of knowledge since birth, and knew all the arts and skills. Consequently, there was no need to teach him anything, but to make Sagara skilled in all the arts and skills able experts were arranged. Sagara had a sharp intellect, hence on account of devoted and humble study, even before the expected time, he became well-versed in all kinds of knowledge and the 72 arts. During his study period, young Sagara also found his curiosity being resolved by Ajita of great use to him.

This way from childhood to adolescence passed and when both princes reached the youth stage the king Jitaśatru got them married to many qualified, beautiful women with all the womanly qualities. Prince Ajita also accepted it considering it part of the karma of enjoyment. When Ajitakumāra became 18 lakh pūrvas old, king Jitaśatru told him of his desire to accept monkhood and requested him to take up the responsibility of the king. The prince appreciated his father's resolve to become a renouncer and said that it is necessary for every one desiring Mokṣa to strive for it and that in this nobody should be an obstacle but only be supportive. As far as kingdom is concerned you may please give the same to my uncle who is also a prince and capable and qualified to take up that responsibility. Prince Ajita had not even completed his words when prince Sumitra said, I do not want to renounce everything along with the king and take the path of spiritual endeavour. Prince Ajita through his knowledge perception found out that there was some time left for prince Sumitra to become a renouncer so he requested him even if he did not take the responsibility of the kingdom he should remain as a yatī in the house. King Jitaśatru too requested his brother similarly. Prince Sumitra could not say no to this. Hence with great pomp and splendour prince Ajita's coronation was organised and the moment he sat on the throne king Ajita appointed Sagara Kumāra crown prince.

Father's renunciation, omniscience and liberation

Upon completion of the coronation of prince Ajita, king Jitaśatru's exiting ceremony also took place in a festive spirit and he took initiation from an elder monk from the congregation of Lord Ādinātha. Upon initiation as a mendicant the monk Jitaśatru attained pure intuition (kevaladarśana) and pure knowledge through severe penance over a long period, destroying his four obscuring karmas (ghātikarmas) and in the end attained Mokṣa having destroyed the remaining four remaining no obscuring karmas.

The Rule of King Ajita

Ajita ruled justly and as per norms for 53 lakh pūrvas. By the strength of good deeds of Ajita, the receptacle of three kinds of knowledge, other kings came under him voluntarily, bowing to him with faith and devotion. In his rule his subjects were in every way prosperous, happy and just, religious and orderly. One day, contemplating in solitude, king Ajita thought now I must renounce the mundane activities of this world and should be determined in my basic purpose. I should not delay in striving to be unbound, devoid of passions and blemish. These thoughts were in the king's mind when the lokāntika gods came in his presence and prayed to him that 'Lord! Establish the congregation and redeem the living beings. 'After the gods left king Ajita called prince Sagara and said, "I want to renounce all kinds of mundane things and want to be firm in the path of austerities; hence you take over the responsibilities of the kingdom". Hearing these words from the king's mouth Sagara stood dumbfounded as though struck by a thunderbolt. His eyes were brimming with tears. Crying, he said, "I have considered you as my father, mother and teacher. I cannot live a moment away from you. Distanced form you I cannot accept even the sole control of the entire world, leave alone this kingdom. If you have resolved to renounce then allow me too to be at your service." Saying this Sagara laid his head at the feet of his elder brother.

A Year's charities and Initiation

After the coronation of prince Sagara the king gave charities for one year. He would donate one crore gold coins each every single morning. After completion of a year's charities 64 Indras including Śakra came in the service of the king. Gods such as Śakra and Devendra and king Sagara organised the king Ajita's renunciation ceremony. The king, adorned in all finery, was placed on a palanquin named Suprabhā. Groups of people along with gods held the king's palanquin and reached Sahasrāmravana situated outside the Vinītā city. A huge gathering of gods and people arrived to watch the great ceremony. On the ninth day of the bright fortnight of Māgha month with moon in conjunction with the Rōhiṇī constellation, king Ajita himself took his clothes and ornaments off and accepted the divine cloth (devadūṣya) offered by Śakra. Thereafter, pulling five fistfuls of hair reciting "namo Siddhāṇaṃ", saluting the liberated souls, and observing a fast along with one thousand kings he accepted a lifelong conduct of mendicancy. The moment he took initiation he attained direct awareness of thought-forms of others sans the aid of mind and senses (manaḥparyayajṅānī).

Period of mendicancy (Chadmastha)

The next day after initiation king Brahmadatta broke the fast of the Lord Ajitanātha with an offering of rice pudding in Sāketa (Ayodhya, another name of Vinītā) and became the first giver of alms. Here five kinds of heavenly showers occurred. After initiation, the Lord wandered from village to village for 12 years as a mendicant. For 12 years the Lord kept annihilating the accumulation of karmas through observation of external and internal austerities. One day the Lord was observing fast, deep in meditation in Sahasrāmravana. In his meditative state, he completely destroyed the obscuring karmas and attained pure intuition and pure knowledge thereby entering the 13thguņasthāna (sayogī-kevalī) or became omniscient Lord. This way, after 12 years in the state of mendicancy, on the 11th day of the bright fortnight in the Pauṣa month with Rōhiṇī constellation being in conjunction with the moon Lord Ajitanātha became the all-knowing, all-perceiving i.e. an omniscient. The gods showered the five auspicious things and the king of gods created the Samavaśaraṇa right there. King Sagara got the message of the Lord's being omniscient. Immediately, he along with his ministers, kith and kin, arrived at the garden with royal pomp and majesty. Reaching the Samavaśaraṇa, king Sagara paid obeisance to the Lord with devotion and joy and sat there. Lord Ajitanātha, seated on a high seat erected by the gods, gave a sermon at the Samavaśaraṇa like a shower of nectar. Gaining knowledge from the Lord's sermon many people accepted the conduct of monks and female-monks and lay-men and lay-women. Lord Ajitanātha had 95 Gaṇadharas (principal disciples) among whom Siṃhasena was the first. The Lord's first female disciple was Falgu who started the Lord's female-monk congregation. This way, in his first sermon, Lord Ajitanātha spoke on the scripture and conduct and established the four-fold order.

Deliverance of the people of Śāligrāma

Giving a discourse on the immortal truthful tradition, urging people to walk towards Mokṣa, Lord Ajitanātha arrived at a garden located to the north outside Kauśāmbī city. The gods erected the Samavaśaraṇa. Seated on a huge pedestal under the Aśoka tree the Lord started his sermon. At that time a Brahmin came with his wife to participate in the Samavaśaraṇa and after circumambulation the Lord and praying at his feet sat beside him. After the sermon the Brahmin, with folded hands, asked the Lord, "Why is it so?" The Lord answered, "This is the effect of right belief." The Brahmin asked again, "In what way, Lord?" The Lord explained, "The effect of right belief is mighty. Its result is that enmity is silenced, diseases are eliminated, bad karmas die out, the desired gets done, heavenly-destiny karma is bonded, gods and goddesses are ready to help. These are all the ordinary effects of right belief. By the best observance of right belief a person can destroy all the accumulated karmas and gain the Tīrthaṃkara-nāma-karma even, can become pure, knowledgeable and emancipated." On hearing this from the Lord, the Brahmin said, "Lord, if it is so, then there is nothing else other than this." Saying this, the Brahmin sat with a contented countenance in his place.

To make clear the secret in this sermon for the listeners, Lord's main Gaṇadhara asked – "Lord, what is the secret of the Brahmin's question and your response?" To this the Lord Ajitanātha said, "A little distance from here is a village named Śāligrāma. A Brahmin named Dāmodāra used to live there. His wife's name was Sīmā. Their son was named Śiddhabhaṭṭa. When Śiddhabhaṭṭa attained marriageable age, he was married to the daughter of a Brahmin Śiddhabhaṭṭa, named Sulakṣaṇā, Śiddhabhaṭṭa and Sulakṣaṇā were living happily when both their parents passed away and all their wealth and prosperity too ended. It reached a stage when even two square meals a day was difficult. Śiddhabhaṭṭa was so unhappy with this poverty that one day he left to another country without telling his wife. When Sulakṣaṇā realized this she was shocked. Immersed in an ocean of sorrow the lone Sulakṣaṇā began to spend her life like a recluse far away from everyone. In those very days a preceptor named Vipulā along with two other female-monks came to that village to stay during the rains and started to live in a corner of Sulakṣaṇā's home. Sulakṣaṇā used to listen to the discourse of the preceptor every day and she began to develop a taste for the religion. When her cloud of illusion cleared, from within her emerged right belief and she accepted the Jain religion which would help her cross the ocean of this world. Through this her kaṣāyas (passions) were stilled and she developed distaste and disinterest for sensual pleasures. She served the female-monks with devotion throughout the rainy season halt (cāturmās a period). When the rainy season halt ended the female-monks made her accept the minor vows (aṇuvratas), making her a female-votary and left for another place. After the female-monks had left, Sulakṣaṇā's husband returned home with large sums of money. Sulakṣaṇā was very happy with his coming. When Śiddhabhaṭṭa asked her as to how she spent her time after his departure Sulakṣaṇā said, "I was in distress over your leaving when the female-monks came here and stayed in our house for four months, purifying it. Seeing them my pangs of separation from you were quelled and I got from them the jewel of right belief and a meaning for my birth."

Śiddhabhaṭṭa was inquisitive to know what right belief was and how did it look like? Explaining the immortal tradition brought to form by the unbound Jinendra to her husband Sulakṣaṇā said, "Destroying passions, hatred, accepting the Jain religion founded by the Jinendra free from bondage, utter devotion towards the true gods, true teacher, and pure religion is right belief. The other name of right belief is correct knowledge of reality. There are five characteristics of right belief – tranquillity, increasing inclination leading to disenchantment, disregard for worldly objects, compassion and faith or affirmation. Helping people of the same religion to be steady in right belief, influencing / propagating, devotion, expertise in the doctrine, and service to the fourfold tīrthas, are its five adornments." Śiddhabhaṭṭa was very happy to have understood very well the true form of Jain religion from his wife. He too accepted the right belief and the couple, accepting right belief, became followers of Jain religion. The other Brahmins of the village began to criticize them, that leaving their own traditional religion they have become votaries.

After sometime, Sulakṣaṇā gave birth to a son. It was winter time. One day, in the morning Śiddhabhaṭṭa took his son near the fireplace where many Brahmins were warming themselves up in the fire. Seeing Śiddhabhaṭṭa approach them they all stayed around the fire in such a way that there was no place for anyone else, and further they said you are a votary hence there is no place for you in our midst and teasing him they laughed at Śiddhabhaṭṭa. Sad and angry with this disrespectful behaviour of the Brahmins Śiddhabhaṭṭa said, "If the Jain religion not be one that helps one cross the worldly ocean, if the Arihanta not be the all-knowing, if right belief and right conduct not be the path to salvation, or if there be no such thing as right belief in this world; then let this my son burn to ashes in the fire, but if all these exist, may not a hair on his body come to harm." Saying this Śiddhabhaṭṭa threw his son into that fire.

Seeing this, the people assembled there began to cry out, "Oh, Oh, this foolish man has burnt his son". But the moment they looked towards the fire they did not see even the signs of any fire there and in its place, instead was a huge lotus in full bloom and the child was happily playing on it. The people kept looking at the miracle in wonder.

Actually, it so happened that when Śiddhabhaṭṭa threw his son into the flames, a wandering celestial being (peripatetic deity), who was ever keen to show the impact of right belief was coincidentally thereabouts, immediately made the fire to disappear and in its place, placed a huge lotus flower, thus saving the child. That peripatetic deity was in her previous birth a female-monk who had criticized the ascetic tradition because of which she became a peripatetic deity upon her death. When she asked an omniscient Lord the reason for her birth as a peripatetic deity, he clarified this point and suggested to her that she should always remain ready to show the influence of right belief and its development. Since then that peripatetic deity is every eager to show the effect of right belief. Śiddhabhaṭṭa returned home with his son. He told his wife everything. She told him he did not do the right thing. If our son had been burnt would right belief, the being of the religion founded by Jinendra, the Arihanta be negated? But their being has been proven throughout all times.

After that the Sulakṣaṇā has come here along with all those people of the village and her husband to make them steady in right belief. The Brahmin came here and asked me about it and I told him of the impact of right belief.

Liberation (Parinirvāṇa)

Ultimately, completing the age of 72 lakh pūrvas, Ajitanātha along with one thousand monks became emancipated, liberated and free on Sammetaśikhara observing fast on the 5th day of the bright fortnight of Caitra month. He spent 18 lakh pūrvas as a child, 53 lakh pūrvas or more as a king, 12 years as a mendicant and little less than 1 lakh pūrvas in the kevalī mode. For a long time his congregation continued successfully in which innumerable souls attained their well-being. His congregation had 95 Gaṇadharas, 22,000 omniscient, 12,500 telepaths, 9400 clairvoyants, 3700 14-pūrvadhārīs (all prior canons knowing), 20,400 vaikriya labdhidhārīs, 12,400 vādīs (excellent debators), 100,000 monks, 330000 female-monks, 298000 votaries and 545000 female votaries.


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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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ajita
  2. Ajitanātha
  3. Anuttara Vimāna
  4. Arihanta
  5. Ayodhya
  6. Aśoka
  7. Bharata
  8. Body
  9. Brahmin
  10. Brahmins
  11. Chadmastha
  12. Crore
  13. Devendra
  14. Gaṇadhara
  15. Guptis
  16. Jambūdvīpa
  17. Jinendra
  18. Karma
  19. Karmas
  20. Kevaladarśana
  21. Kevalī
  22. Lakh
  23. Meditation
  24. Mokṣa
  25. Nirvāṇa
  26. Nāma
  27. Nāma Karma
  28. Nāma karma
  29. Omniscient
  30. Samitis
  31. Tīrthaṃkara
  32. Vimāna
  33. Vṛṣabhanātha
  34. kaṣāyas
  35. Ācārya
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