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

Posted: 22.04.2016

After the 22nd Tīrthaṃkara Lord Ariṣṭanemi, Pārśvanātha was the 23rd Tīrthaṃkara. He was born in 9th - 10th century B.C.E. He came 250 years before the 24th Tīrthaṃkara Lord Śrī Mahāvīra.  Based on historical research today's historians have begun to consider Lord Pārśvanātha a historical person. Major General Furlong has written after due research – "In that time in the entire northern India there was a philosophical religion essentially based on asceticism, that is, Jain religion, based on which an ascetic tradition developed in Brahmin ical, Buddhist and other religions. Before the āryas reached the banks of the Gaṃgā, at least 22 prominent ascetics, or Tīrthaṃkara had imparted religious discourse to Jains. After them came Pārśva, who had the knowledge of all his past 22 Tīrthaṃkara or sages. He had the knowledge of various scriptures which are known as Purāṇas on account of their being ancient." A well-established western scholar such as Hermann Jacobi considers Lord Pārśvanātha a historical person and he tried to establish the fact in his edition of Jain āgamas and Buddhist piṭakas. Many other scholars too agree with Jacobi. Dr. Vāsama points out that in the Buddhist piṭakas Lord Mahāvīra is shown to be an opponent of the Buddha, hence his historicity is unambiguous. Dr. Charles Charpentier has written – "We ought also to remember both i.e. the Jain religion is certainly older than Mahāvīra and his reputed predecessor Pārśva having almost certainly existed as a real person. Consequently, the main points of the original doctrine may have been codified long before Mahāvīra."

The religious conditions before Lord Pārśvanātha

In order to understand the specialty of Lord Pārśvanātha's teachings it is important to understand the religious conditions in India at that time. A study of available Vaidika literature shows that before 9th century BC the last grouping (maṇḍala) of the Ṛg-Veda was completed. As a result inquisitiveness regarding reality / truth had begun to emerge in the country resulting in further serious intellectual discussions and analysis of the same. In the time of the Upaniṣads this reflection and analysis began to take the form of debates between scholars. Dogmas were propounded on the fundamental truths of the world after serious reflection. With increase in thinking related to the question of the Self (ātmā), it was but natural that interest in sacrifice, other rituals, etc. declined. Because for individual's Mokṣa, there is no necessity for sacrifice, rituals, etc. As a result of these philosophies, criticisms began to emerge on the question of timelessness of the Vedas or about them being self-created (Svayaṃbhū). These thinkers used to spend their time observing silence and quietly reflecting over Brahma, the world, soul, and super-sensual matters living in quiet and remote places in forests, etc. Hence they got identified as sages (muni). These forest dwellers had committed their lives to penance, renunciation, simplicity and straight forwardness, non-violence and truth. According to the Gītā such feelings are born directly from god (īśvara or Ātmadeva). In that period while there was the kind of knowledge-oriented yajṅa, on the other hand were yajṅas held involving killing of animals in the name of sacrifice to please the gods openly. For the ordinary people it was difficult to decide which path was correct and beneficial. It was in this time in India that Lord Pārśvanātha emerged in Varanasi. At the appropriate time he vehemently opposed the violence in sacrifice and rituals and attracted people's attention to self-reflection and destruction of sensual inclinations. His compassionate, kind heart wanted to show the correct and expansive path to happiness and peace for all living beings.

Some historians imagine that on account of his opposing the violenceridden yajṅas, those in favour of yajṅas became his arch enemies, because of which Pārśvanātha had to leave his birthplace and make a place of ārya's the land of his religious discourse. In fact this argument is unsubstantiated because the opposition to yajṅas was far more aggressive in the time of Lord Mahāvīra, but Mahāvīra continued to propagate religion in and around his birthplace. Hence, it appears that the travels to non-Ārya places by Lord Pārśvanātha were not on account of opposition but to propagate religion.

Past Life and Penance

No soul realizes it's potential fully all of a sudden. It is only after noble deeds and practice of right conduct through several births that one attains purity and a condition apt for Mokṣa. In 'Cauvanna Mahāpurisa Cariyaṃ' and 'Triṣaṣṭi śalākā Puruṣa caritra' the past ten lives of Lord Pārśva are described as 'in the first birth as Marubhūti and Kamaṭha, second as an elephant, third as a Sahasrāra god, fourth as Vidyādhara Kiraņa Deva, fifth as the Acyuta god, sixth as Vajranābha, seventh as a graiveyaka god, eighth as Suvarṇabāhu, ninth as a Prāṇata god and tenth as Pārśvanātha'.

Lord Pārśvanātha accrued the Tīrthaṃkara nāmakarma in his eighth life as Suvarṇabāhu. A brief description of that birth is given here. Leaving the realm of gods Vajranābha's soul he was born as Suvarṇabāhu with all qualities of a cakravartī to queen Sudarśanā, the wife of the king of east Videha, Kuliśabāhu. When Suvarṇabāhu became a young man king Kuliśabāhu got him married and crowning him king and himself renounced this world as a monk.

Once, Suvarṇabāhu left on his horse for a pleasure ride, and to enjoy nature. On the way, the horse started running in an uncontrollable manner and took him to a deep forest. When the horse stopped by a lake in the forest, the king got down and washing his face, drinking some water, tying up his horse to a tree, went to take a stroll in the forest. After going some distance he spotted a few young women playing in the garden by a hermitage. His eyes became fixed on a beautiful, charming woman and he kept staring at her without blinking his eyes. Bees began to hover over her face, on account of the sandal paste, on her forehead. While she tried to get rid of them, many more bees began to hover over her face. Troubled, she screamed. Then Suvarṇabāhu shooed away those bees with his cloth and rid the woman of her fear.

The women thanked Suvarṇabāhu and said, "She is princess Padmā, the daughter of king Khecarendra. After the death of her father she has come here with her mother seeking protection at the hermitage of sage Gālava. Yesterday the sage told her that she would get a suitable groom like Suvarṇabāhu. This has come true." When sage Gālava heard about the arrival of Suvarṇabāhu in his hermitage he reached there, along with queen Ratnāvalī and after extending due respects, got Padmā married to him. After spending sometime there king Suvarṇabāhu returned to his kingdom. While enjoying his royal pleasures a cakra jewel appeared in his place. On that account, winning over six regions, he became a cakravartī emperor.

Once at a garden in Purāṇapura, the Samavaśaraṇa of Tīrthaṃkara Jagannātha took place. Happily, Suvarṇabāhu took his family to pay obeisance to him. Suvarṇabāhu, greatly inspired thinking again and again of Tīrthaṃkara Jagannātha and the gods who had come for the Samavaśaraṇa, and thinking of the glory of renunciation, became reminiscent of his past life. As a result, giving over his kingdom to his son, he accepted initiation under Tīrthaṃkara Jagannātha and observing severe penance, obtained the Tīrthaṃkaranāma karma by observing twenty instruments of arihanta devotion.

With penance he used to make several firm and difficult resolutions for spiritual purification as well. Once, wandering about, at the Kṣīravarṇa forest near Kṣīragiri, he stood facing the sun in relaxation (kāyotsarga) posture. At that time, the soul of Kamaṭha which had just exited from the seventh hell and had become a lion, seeing the monk, on account of a past life enmity, leapt on him with a roar. The monk, completing his kāyotsarga, became meditative, observing saṃlekhanā. The lion, after attacking him, had begun to tear open his body. The monk remained tranquil and steady. Completing his life in a feeling of equanimity, he became a god in the vimāna named Mahāprabha and got a life-span of 20 sāgaras. The lion died, too, and descended to the fourth hell and got a life-span of 10 sāgaras. On completing his life in hell, for a long time he bore many kinds of pain in animal wombs.

Description of past life in various scriptures

According to Padma caritra, Pārśvanātha was named Ānanda in   his past life. He was born to Vītaśoka Dāmara in Sāketā city. Ravi Sena considers Pārśvanātha as having emerged from Vaijayanta heaven, whereas in Tiloyapaṇṇatī and Kalpasūtra, he is considered to have come from the Prāṇata kalpa. In Uttara Purāṇa and Pāsanh Cariuṃ too, there is similar description of the past life of Pārśvanātha. There is also description of his past lives in Ācārya Hemacandra's Triṣaṣṭi śalākāpuruṣa caritra and Lakṣmīvallabha's commentary on Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, 23rd chapter. Later ācāryas wrote the life-story of Pārśvanātha independently, too.

In the Śvetāmbara tradition, Devabhadra Sūri first wrote an independent account called Siri Pārasanāha Cariuṃ. According to Devabhadra Sūri, Marubhūti started remaining sad after his father's death and inspired by the teachings of monk Hariścandra, he began to feel detached from his house, family and his wife. Because of this his wife became attracted to a person named Kamaṭha. Marubhūti learnt of Kamaṭha and his wife from Kamaṭha's wife, Varuṇā. To confirm this information Marubhūti feigned to be leaving town. In the night, disguised as beggar, he gained permission to spend the night at the same place. There he saw Kamaṭha and Vasundharī meeting. Thereafter, seeing this misdeed, he went to king Aravinda seeking justice. At that very moment the king called Kamaṭha and ordered his soldiers that this sinner's face should be painted black and seated on a donkey, he should be thrown out of the city. The soldiers did so and throwing stones at him, sent him away. Condemned this way, he decided to commit suicide in a forest, but reflecting for a moment, became an ascetic and started meditating.

After sometime Marubhūti reflected that he shouldn't have taken family matters to the king and went to Kamaṭha to beg forgiveness, and seeing him Kamaṭha got angry and throwing a big stone on his head, killed him. Hearing this, king Aravinda became detached and renouncing everything, took initiation.

This way the soul of Lord Pārśvanātha, going though birth and death, in the 9th birth as Suvarṇabāhu, accepted the spiritual path and obtained the Tīrthaṃkara nāmakarma when he became a lion's prey (Kamaṭha's soul) and completing his life, went to Prāṇata realm of gods.

Birth and Parents

Completing 20 sāgara years in Prāṇata devaloka, Suvarṇabāhu's soul entered the womb of Vāmā, queen of king Aśvasena of Varanasi, on the midnight hour of the fourth day of the dark fortnight of Caitra month under the constellation Viśākha. Seeing the 14 auspicious dreams entering her mouth the queen Vāmā was very happy. On completion of her pregnancy she gladly gave birth to a son on the midnight of the tenth day of the dark fortnight of Pauṣa month with moon being conjunct with Viśākha constellation. According to Tiloyapaṇṇatti, Lord Pārśvanātha was born eighty four thousand six hundred and fifty years after the birth of Lord Neminātha. Happy with the birth of his son the king Aśvasena performed the birth celebrations for ten days. On the 12th day at the time of naming, Aśvasena announced – "When the child was in his mother's womb the mother alerted me about a snake (Pārśva) moving about even in the darkness of night, and saved my life, hence it is appropriate to name the boy Pārśvanātha." According to Uttara Purāṇa Indra himself named Pārśvanātha.

According to Samavāyāṃga and Āvaśyaka Niryukti, Pārśva's father's name was Aśvasena and mother's name was Vāmā. Ācārya Guṇabhadra and Puṣpadamṃta (in Uttara Purāṇa and Mahāpurāṇa) mention the father's name as Viśvasena and mother's name as Brāhmī. In Vādirāja's Pārśvanātha Caritra the mother's name is mentioned as Brahmadattā. In Tiloyapaṇṇatti Pārśva's mother's name is also mentioned as Varmilā; Aśvasena's synonymous name, Hayasena is also found. Basically, it does not seem to make any difference. Difference in a person's name in terms of qualities, influence and manner of speech is not surprising.

There is no clear reference to Lord Pārśvanātha's clan and lineage in basic āgamas such as Samavāyāṃga, etc. Only the Āvaśyaka niryukti mentions 22 Tīrthaṃkara as belonging Kāśyapa gotra and Munisuvratanātha and Lord Ariṣṭanemi as belonging to Gautama gotra. But in Devabhadra Sūri's 'Pārśvanātha Caritra' and Triṣaṣṭi śalākā Puruṣa caritra, king Aśvasenais considered to be of the Ikṣvāku clan as Kāśyapa and Ikṣvāku meaning the same. In some places they use Kāśyapa in place of Ikṣvāku. Puṣpadamṃta claims that Pārśva was from the Ugravaṃśa. Tiloyapaṇṇatti too, mentions his lineage as Ugravaṃśa and today's historians say Pārśva belonged to Uraga or even Nāga lineage. Pārśvanātha was of incomparable strength and of 1008 auspicious qualities. Seeing the boy's brilliance and intelligence queen Vāmā and king Aśvasena were most delighted and contented. Pārśvanātha was endowed with mati (mind-based knowledge), śruti (verbal testimony) and avadhijṅāna (clairvoyance) since childhood.

Pārśva's Valour and Marriage

One day king Aśvasena was sitting in his royal assembly when a messenger arrived from Kuśasthala city. Saluting the king, he said – "The king of Kuśasthala, Naravarmā, has accepted mendicancy, and right now his son Prasenajita is looking after the kingdom. Ever since his daughter Prabhāvatī heard about your son prince Pārśvanātha's beauty, being praised, she has taken a vow that she will not marry anyone else but Pārśvanātha. The parents were also happy with their daughter's choice but the king of Kaliṃga, Yavana, has ordered attack on Kuśasthala, saying, "How can Prabhāvati be given to Pārśva when I am around?" King Prasenajita is in great dilemma. He has sent me to let you know of the situation."

Aśvasena was enraged with anger when he heard Kuśasthala's messenger. He said – "How dare that wicked man think of attacking you when I am here?" Saying this he declared war. When Pārśvakumāra heard the war-trumpets he went to his father and hearing about the situation, said – "What is the need for you to go? I am enough to teach that Yavana a lesson, I do not foresee any great effort in this." Hearing his son's excitement he allowed him to go to war. Pārśvanātha sent a messenger to the king of Kaliṃga that king Prasenajita has taken refuge in king Aśvasena, hence he should give up the idea of attacking Kuśasthala. The king of Kaliṃga in turn sent the message that he needn't interfere in this. 'Let us hope you do not lose your life at my hands unnecessarily before your time.' Pārśvanātha was of course the ocean of compassion. He did not get angry with the Yavana king, but sent a messenger back to him to make him understand. Listening to the messenger's words, the Yavana king said – "it seems you have some enmity with your master that you are forcing him to fight with me."

Hearing these words of the Yavana king his minister said – "Oh king, you are not aware of Pārśvanātha's greatness. Indra too bows down to his strength; hence it is for everybody's well-being that we all take refuge in Pārśvanātha." The minister's self-beneficial teaching had an impact on the Yavana king and reaching Pārśvanātha, he sought forgiveness. Pārśvanātha too gave him freedom from fear and respectfully bade him farewell. At the same time the king of Kuśasthala Prasenajita came with his daughter Prabhāvatī and said – "In the same way as you have protected us and our kingdom on our request, please heed the prayers of my daughter and myself and marrying her, do us a favour." Pārśvanātha said – "Oh king! I came here based on my respected father's permission to protect your kingdom, not to marry your daughter. Hence do not request me at this time in vain." Saying so Pārśvanātha returned to Varanasi with his army.

Prasenajita too took his daughter and came to Varanasi with Pārśva. He said to king Aśvasena – "Please be kind enough to accept my daughter for prince Pārśvakumāra." King Aśvasena called Pārśva and told him – "Prince! Prasenajita's daughter Prabhāvatī is endowed with all qualities; we would also like that you accept her as your wife." Unable to put off his father's request, in order to destroy the enjoyment karmas, Pārśvakumāra married Prabhāvatī.

Differences of opinion on the question of marriage

There is difference of opinion regarding Pārśvanātha being married. There is description of the marriage of Lord Pārśva in Triṣaṣṭi śalākā puruṣacaritra and Caupanna Mahāpurisa cariyaṃ, but not in Tiloyapaṇṇatī, Padmacaritra, Uttarapurāṇa, Mahāpurāṇa and Pārśvacarita of Vādirāja.  There is a description of the marriage after the submission of the Yavana king in Devabhadra's Pāsanāha Cariyaṃ and Triṣaṣṭi śalākā puruṣacaritra. Padmakīrti does take up the marriage issue but does not describe the marriage taking place. There is no mention of marriage in the basic āgamas Samavāyaṃga and Kalpasūtra. The main tenets of Śvetāmbara and Digambara tradition mention that Vāsupūjya, Mallī, Nemi, Pārśva and Mahāvīra Tīrthaṃkara became renouncers at adolescence and the remaining 19 ruled over kingdoms. Based on this the Digambara tradition considers him unmarried. According to the ācāryas of the Śvetāmbara tradition adolescence here means the stage of being a crown prince. Among those who believe Pārśva to be married say that based on his father's request, despite having married, he remained aloof from enjoyment of pleasures and despite being young and able he did not accept kingship. This is why he is called prince. But other ācāryas believe that because he did not marry he is hailed as a prince. This is the root cause of the difference of opinion. Śabdaratnakoṣa and Vaijayanti also take 'kumāra' to mean prince.

Redemption of Nāga (Serpent)

One day Pārśvanātha was watching the splendour of Vārāṇasīpurī when he saw many people going out of the city carrying with them material for ablutions and prayers. On enquiry he came to know that a great ascetic called Kamaṭha was observing the paṃcāgni fire ritual in the garden outside the city and people were going to pay obeisance to him. Out of curiosity the prince too went to see the ascetic. He saw that the ascetic painted with ash was worshipping the big fire. All around him were intense flames and over his head was the intense heat of the summer sun. His blood-shot eyes in the midst of his long locks of hair made the ascetic look fearsome. Crowds of people would come, lay flowers and garlands at his feet, take sacred ash and leave, considering themselves blessed. Through his clairvoyant knowledge, Pārśvakumāra realized that a serpent (according to Uttarapurāṇa serpent couple) on one of those logs of wood was burning in the fire. The prince's heart filled with compassion. He told ascetic Kamaṭha – "Compassions the basis of religion. How is it possible to be compassionate through burning of a ritual fire? For by burning the fire so many living beings are killed/ destroyed." Enraged with anger, the ascetic started fuming at the words of Pārśva – "Prince! What do you know about religion? Your work is to take pleasure with elephants and horses. It is ascetics like us who know the essence of religion. Can you tell me which living being is burning in this fire?" The prince ordered his attendants to remove a burning log of wood from the ritual fire and carefully tore it open when a burning snake emerged. Seeing the snake suffer in pain Pārśvanātha recited the navakāra mantra and made the snake observe paccakhāṇa to free them from cruel and inauspicious meditation, thereby enablingthe snake complete his life in pure feeling. The snake died and was born as Indra called Dharaṇendra in the realm of serpent-gods. The people present there started praising freely the knowledge and sense of discrimination of Pārśvanātha. The ascetic's respect declined. He was filled with envy for Pārśvakumāra. In the end, completing his time in ignorant penance, he became a god named Meghamālī among the demon princes.

Detachment and Initiation

There are three categories of people who gained knowledge in this world – self-taught / knowing, taught / instructed by others and taught by the enlightened. Tīrthaṃkara are counted among the self-knowing / selftaught. They do not become detached gaining knowledge from anyone else. Pārśvanātha was detached till 30 years, despite staying as a householder; he did not become attached to it. Considering the karma of enjoyments to be diminishing and decaying, Pārśva decided to accept self-restraint and as per norms the lokāntika gods requested him to propound the religious tīrtha. Accordingly, Pārśvanātha donated gold coins for a year and on the eleventh day of the dark fortnight of Pauṣa month at the Āśramapada mountain in Varanasi, amidst a huge gathering of people, under the Aśoka tree, removed all his clothes and ornaments on his own and five fistfuls of hair and with a three-day fast without water, under the Viśākhā constellation, became a monk along with 300 others, and at that very moment he obtained the fourth type of knowledge namely telepathy (manah ̣paryavajṇāna).The next day, leaving Āśramapada he reached Kopakaṭaka where he broke his fast at the householder Dhanya's house with rice pudding. The gods showered five auspicious things expressing the glory of Giving / charity. Ācārya Guṇabhadra in his Uttarapurāṇa mentions the fast-breaking as having occurred at the house of Dhanya, the king of Gulmakheṭa. Padmakīrti mentions his being initiated with eight fasts, instead of the aṣṭamatapa fast, which is noteworthy.

After taking initiation the Lord decided that during his mendicancy period at eth time penance he will remain in meditation and in this time he shall not have any attachment to his body and shall bear with all calamites.

Spiritual endeavour and calamities

Leaving Varanasi the Lord reached Śivapurī city and as per his resolve, stood in meditation in Kauśāmba forest. There, reminded of his past birth, Dharaṇendra arrived and to protect him from the sun, made an umbrella over him. Since then that place became known as 'Ahicchatra'. Again, wandering, the Lord reached a hermitage. Since it was evening he stood there under a Banyan tree in relaxation (kāyotsarga) posture. Suddenly, Kamaṭha, cognizing through his knowledge of the Lord standing in kāyotsarga posture, appeared in the form of Meghamālī demon to take revenge. With lot of anger remembering his past life, he gave the Lord all kinds of pain taking the forms of a lion, tiger, elephant, poisonous snake, scorpion and snake.  Then he tried to frighten the Lord taking the form of a fearsome ghoul. But Lord Pārśvanātha remained unshaken like a mountain. Seeing his deeds failing, Meghamālī started torrential rains through the power of his vaikriyalabdhi. It started to rain with thunder and lightning. Scared, the creatures of the forest started running helter-skelter. The entire forest was filled with water. The water level rose and covered the Lord's knees, waist, and then his neck and started to reach nose, but Pārśvanātha's meditation was not disturbed. The Lord's body was about to drown in water when Dharaṇendra's throne shook. Through his clairvoyance he saw Pārśvanātha's condition and created a lotus with a long stalk and making a seven-hooded serpent umbrella over his head protecting him from water beneath and rains above.

Having a detached attitude, Lord Pārśvanātha showed equanimity towards both Kamaṭha asura's creation of calamities as well as Dharaṇendra's devotion. But understanding Meghamālī, Dharaṇendra said – "Oh fool! Who are you trying to cause pain to with your calamities?  Disrespecting and disrupting the peace of such a great soul is as painful as stamping on fire. He will not be affected at all; instead, your feet will burn. You will be destroyed. The Lord himself is an epitome of compassion, he will not do anything, and will bear it all peacefully, but I cannot remain peaceful too long." Meghamālī was scared on hearing Dharaṇendra's words. He also experienced the Lord's endless forbearance and immediately gathered up all illusory tricks. He begged forgiveness at Pārśvanātha's feet and went back to his place. Dharaṇendra prayed to the Lord and moved towards his place. Gaining victory over the calamities, the Lord continued to observe penance. Moving around many places, Lord Pārśvanātha reached Āśramapada garden in Varanasi and completed 83 nights as a mendicant.

Omniscience and Sermon

Lord Pārśvanātha's mendicancy time-period was of 83 days. On the 84th day, he stood in meditation observing a fast(aṣṭamatapa) in Āśramapada garden under the Ghātakī tree. He conquered all the obscuring karmas by destroying his deluding karma in the second stage of deep meditation and became omniscient. The day he attained omniscience it was the fourth day of the dark fortnight of the Caitra month with moon conjunct with the constellation Viśākhā. Gods and Indras expressed delight over the attainment of omniscience of Lord Pārśvanātha and created the holy congregation (Samavaśaraṇa).

In his first sermon the Lord said – "Life is empty and meaningless without religion. Hence practise religion. Breaking of bondage and the bondage of karma is only possible by following the spiritual path. The path to liberation from the bondage is right knowledge, right belief and right conduct, which is two kinds – the śruta and caritra (scripture and practice / conduct). The right conduct is of two kinds that of the householder and of the mendicant. To observe these as per one's capability and gaining the ultimate truth is the ultimate and essential objective of humankind."

The Lord's first sermon was very effective. Hearing the Lord's speech, king Aśvasena became detached and leaving his kingdom to his son, became a mendicant. Queen Vāmādevī and Prabhāvatī and many other women too accepted initiation. Vaidika scholars like Śubhadatta, too, became initiates with the Lord and obtaining the tripadī knowledge from the Lord they got to know the fourteen pūrvas and became Gaṇadharas. This way the Lord established the four-fold order and became a Tīrthaṃkara.

Pārśva's principal disciples (Gaṇadharas)

The 'Śrī Pāsanāha Cariyaṃ' gives the following description of Lord Pārśvanātha's Gaṇadharas:

  1. Śubhadatta: He was the first Gaṇadharas of Lord Pārśvanātha. He was the resident of Kṣemapurī city. His father's name was Dhanya and mother's name was Līlāvatī. He became a śrāvaka under monk Saṃbhūta. After the death of his parents he became disinclined. He heard the sermon of Lord Pārśvanātha at Āśramapada garden at the 1st Samavaśaraṇa and became a mendicant and the first Gaṇadhara.
  2. Āryaghoṣa: He was Pārśvanātha's second Gaṇadhara. He was a resident of Rājagṛha and a minister's son. He was also present at the Lord's first Samavaśaraṇa and after being initiated, became the second Gaṇadhara.
  3. Vasiṣṭha: He was the Lord's third Gaṇadhara. He was the son of the king Mahendra of Kampilapura. He came to the Lord's first Samavaśaraṇa and being initiated there, became the third Gaṇadhara.
  4. Āryabrahma: Āryabrahma was the son of the Surapura king Kanakaketu. His mother's name was Śāntimatī. Hearing about the Lord's omniscience he came there and listening to the sermon, became a mendicant and the fourth Gaṇadhara.
  5. Soma: Soma was the son of king of Kṣitipratiṣṭhita, Mahīdhara and queen Revatī. His wife's name was Campakamālā. He also had a son who died at the age of four. His wife was sick, too and died. After these two deaths he became detached. Inspired by the Lord's discourse he accepted the path of restraint and became the fifth Gaṇadhara.
  6. Ārya Śrīdhara: He was Pārśvanātha's sixth Gaṇadhara. His father's name was Nāgabala and mother's name was Mahāsundarī. He got married to king Prasenajita's daughter Rājamatī. Remembering his past birth and the untimely death of his younger brother became the prime reasons for his taking initiation.
  7. Vārisena: The seventh Gaṇadhara of Lord Pārśvanātha, Vārisena was the resident of Mithilā. Yaśodharā and Namirājā were his parents. His values of the past birth were so strong that since his childhood his mind was attracted towards mendicancy. With the permission of his parents he went to Lord Pārśvanātha's Samavaśaraṇa with other prince friends of his and impressed by the sermon, took initiation and became a Gaṇadhara.
  8. Bhadrayaśa: Bhadrayaśa was the eighth Gaṇadhara of The Lord. His father was Samarasiṃha and mother Padmā. In a garden named Mattakumṃja he saw a man wrapped in pointed nails. When Bhadrayaśa removed the nails from his body he got to know that his brother had done this on account of a past life's enmity. Seeing the selfishness of this world his mind became detached from the world. With many of his friends he accepted initiation from Lord Pārśvanātha andbecame a Gaņadhara.
  9. Jaya and Vijaya: Both of them were residents of Śrāvastī and were brothers. Both loved each other. Once they dreamt that they have a very short life. Feeling disenchanted with life, they came to the Lord to accept mendicancy and taking initiation, became Gaṇadharas.

Āvaśyakaniryukti and Tiloyapaṇṇattī mention these ten Gaṇadharas, whereas Samavāyāṃga and Kalpa Sūtra mention only eight Gaṇadharas of Pārśvanātha. Clarifying this difference the commentator of Kalpa Sūtra, Vinaya Vijaya has written that Jaya-Vijaya were two Gaṇadharas of short life-spans hence mentioning only eight Gaṇadharas is considered correct.

Pārśvanātha's Cāturyāma Religion

The initiation that Lord Pārśvanātha gave into the religion based on scripture and conduct aiming at sincere and prudent people is known as Cāturyāma-dharma or four fold vows. Yama means supressing – to put an end to the bondage of soul through four ways, that is to say, to keep it restrained and orderly is the essence of Cāturyāma-dharma. These four yamas were in the form of vows forever, viz: 1 To give up all kinds of violence, 2 To give up falsehood and untruth, 3 Not to accept that is not given i.e. stealing, 4 To sacrifice, renounce. In these four vows there is no place for brahmacarya (celibacy). The reason being, that Pārśvanātha's ascetics were well aware, hence considering a woman to be part of the renouncing act, they used to consider woman to be inferred when speaking of renunciation (parigraha) as bahiddhādāna means giving (up) of an external object.

This Cāturyāma-dharma emerged long before the Vedas and Upaniṣadas in the Śramaṣatradition. Scholar in history Dharmānanda Kauśāmbī too accepts this.

Wandering and propagation of Religion

There is no clear reference as to which places Lord Pārśvanātha visited after attaining omniscience and where did he stay during the rainy season halts (cāturmāsa) but based on available historical material it is believed that he traveled from Kāśī-Kauśala  up  to Nepal. South Karnataka, Koṃkaṇa, Pallava and Draviḍa, etc., at that time were considered as non Ārya regions; however Pārśvanātha and the Śramaṇa monks of his time had gone there too. Śākyabhūmi was part of Nepal; Pārśva's followers were present there too. The great Buddha's uncle was himself a follower of Pārśvanātha which was only possible if the Lord had wandered in the Śākya land. Lord Pārśvanātha wandered across several regions for around 70 years and propagated Jain religion. In Raṃchī and Mānabhūmi districts of Bihāra thousands of people worship Pārśvanātha even today and are termed 'sarāka' (śrāvaka) and consider him their cult god. It has been proved through research that once Pārśvanātha walked from Tāmralipti to 'Kopaṭaka'. Because he accepted food there it became known as 'Dhanya Kaṭaka'. This belief is still intact in these places.

The Historicity of Lord Pārśvanātha

Based on historical facts, it had been established that Lord Pārśvanātha was a historical person without doubt. Not just Jain literature but Buddhist literature too proves the historicity of Lord Pārśvanātha. Proving the existence of a nirgrantha tradition prior to the Buddha, based on Buddhist literary sources, Dr. Hermann Jacobi writes that the Buddhist extensively refer to nirgranthas in their literature, even in the Tripiṭakas. From that it can be deduced that the Buddhist considered the nirgrantha tradition as a significant one. In the Mahāsiṃhanāda Sūtra in Majjhima-nikāya, describing his severe penance the Buddha refers to four kinds of penance. These four are also part of the nirgrantha tradition. Lord Mahāvīra too followed them and it was essential for other nirgranthas to follow them as well. Ajātaśatru in the Dīrgha-nikāya refers to Lord Mahāvīra and his disciples as followers of the Cāturyāma. From the point of view of Jain literature it is totally confirmed that Lord Mahāvīra's and his disciples' tradition was that of the five major vows (mahāvratas) and calling them as Cāturyāma indicates that the Buddhist bhikṣus were aware of the tradition of Pārśvanātha and considered Mahāvīra's tradition similar. The Cāturyāma tradition prior to the Buddha is the legacy of Lord Pārśvanātha. This proves Pārśvanātha's historicity before the Buddha. The Ārya Āṣṭāṃgika mārga propounded by Bodhisatva also includes parts of the Cāturyāma, which is a Śramaṇa tradition.

The Congregation of Pārśvanātha

The following were part of Lord Pārśvanātha's congregation: 8 Gaṇadharas including Śubhadatta and 8 gaṇas, 1000 omniscient, 750 having knowledge of mental modes (manaḥparyayajṅānī), 1400 with clairvoyant knowledge (avadhijṅānī), 350 fourteen pūrvadharas, 600 debaters of philosophy (vādī), 1200 anuttaropātika monks, 16000 monks, including Āryadinna, etc., 38000 female monks including Puṣpacūla, etc., 164000 votaries including Sunanda and 327000 female votaries including Nandinī, etc. 1000 monks gained enlightenment in Lord Pārśvanātha's period. Apart from this, crores of men and women became the Lord's devotees with right perception.

Liberation (Parinirvāṇa)

After wandering as an omniscient for a little less than 70 years, the Lord sensed the end of his life-span. So he went to Sammetaśikhara from Varanasi through Āmalakappā and observing fast for a month along with 33 monks, went into the third and fourth stages of pure meditation (Śukla-dhyāna). Then he became enlightened, emancipated and liberated on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of Śravaṇa month when moon was conjunct with the Viśākhā constellation.

The Śramaṇa Tradition and Pārśvanātha

The Śramaṇa tradition is a very ancient Indian tradition. Ones who observe penance from mind and senses are called Śramaṇas. The Jain scriptures mention five types of Śramaṇas – Nirgranthas, Śākya, Tāpasa, Geruā and Ājīvaka. The Jain Śramaṇas are called nirgranthas. The foundation of the Śramaṇa tradition was laid in the time of Vṛṣabhanātha. The term Śramaṇa is used in texts like Vṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣada, Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa and Śrīmadbhāgavata, etc. The Tripiṭakas mention the word nirgrantha at various places. This goes to show that the nirgrantha tradition was prevalent even before the time of the Buddha. In the Anuttara-nikāya Śākya named 'Bappa' is referred to as a nirgrantha votary; he was the Buddha's paternal uncle. This shows that before the Buddha's time there was propagation of the nirgrantha religion in the Śākya country. The Buddha was a contemporary of Mahāvīra; hence it is proved that the propagation of the nirgrantha religion happened in the time of the predecessor Tīrthaṃkara of Mahāvīra, Pārśvanātha. Actually, the nirgrantha religion started even before Pārśvanātha's time. There is no basis for considering Pārśvanātha to be the founder of the Jain religion. Lord Vṛṣabhanātha is considered by all Jains to be the first Tīrthaṃkara and founder of Jain religion of the present time cycle which means there must be some historical basis and proof for this. Dr. Radhakrishnan too opined that the Jain religion had existed long before Varddhamāna Mahāvīra and Pārśvanātha.

The Widespread impact of Lord Pārśvanātha

The three streams of compassion, sweetness and peace used to flow in the speech of Lord Pārśvanātha. Asceticism as the tradition of was prevalent in his time; but common people thought of asceticism as inflicting pain to the body. With his knowledge and detached teachings the Lord showed people the true form of asceticism. The teachings of famous sages of the time such as Pippalāda, Bhāradvāja, Naciketā, Ajita Keśakambata, etc. reflect the teachings of the Lord. The influence of Pārśva's teachings seemed to have spread even in other countries outside India. Among these the Greek philosopher Pythagoras may be mentioned, who used to believe in rebirth of the soul and the karma principle. He used to speak against flesh eating and used to consider many vegetables inedible.

From the life-story of the Buddha it may be stated that he was deeply influenced by the thoughts and conduct of Pārśva. Buddha's paternal uncle was also a follower of Pārśvanātha. The Cāturyāma idea of the nirgranthas seems to have had an influence on Buddha himself, because later on he founded his aṣṭāṃikga mārga (the eightfold path) which includes Cāturyāma. It is said that not only was there an impact of the Jain religion on Buddha's thoughts but after becoming a mendicant he spent six years of his life as a Jain monk. Pārśvanātha's speech and teachings influenced many kings and royal families of his time. There were many royal families in Pārśvanātha's time where he was considered their family deity. Most vārtya Kṣatriyas of central and eastern regions were followers of the Jain religion. At that time in many parts of the country, especially in southern India strong Nāga clans emerged who had Pārśvanātha as their cult deity. Among the powerful Vajjī gaṇa of Videha and Vaiśālī, too, the religion of Pārśvanātha was popular. It is said that the king of Kaliṃga and Pāṃcāla were also influenced by the teachings of Pārśvanātha.

Pārśvanātha's disciples in Jyotirmaṇḍala

In the Nirayāvalikā Sūtra, in the first and second chapters of the third section named Puṣpitā, there is, respectively, description of Indra, moon and sun of the astrologers and that of planets such as śukra, etc., which is as follows:

Once when Lord Mahāvīra was staying at a garden named Guṣaśīlaka in Rājagṛha, the Indra of Jyotirmaṇḍala, 'Candra' (moon) came to see the Lord at his Samavaśaraṇa. In order to make an impression of the Jina order he made groups of gods and goddesses to appear there through his celestial power of vaikriyalabdhi and also presented many beautiful and attractive shows there in front of the four-fold order to impress them, and returned to his place. The Gaņadhara Gautama asked Mahāvīra – "Lord! Who was this god Candra in his past life and how did he obtain these powers?"

Mahāvīra replied – "Long ago there was a gāthāpatinamed Aṃgati in Śrāvastī city who was wealthy and respected by kings and subjects alike. Once, Lord Pārśvanātha came to Śrāvastī. Aṃgati too went to the Lord's Samavaśaraṇa along with a huge group of people and listening to the Lord's sermon, became disenchanted with the world and became a mendicant. Aṃgati observed severe penance. He completely followed the basic tenets of restraint but accepted impure food and water and did not repent doing so. Thus in the end, completing his life with a fast of 15 days, he became the Indra of Jyotirmaṇḍala. He has got these attributes on account of his penance and restraint." On being asked by Gautama Gaņadhara the Lord further said – "When he completes his time, Candra will be born in Mahā Videha and shall become emancipated, enlightened and liberated."

Similarly, once when Lord Mahāvīra arrived at the Guṣaśīlaka caitya (hall with auspicious emblems) in Rājagṛha, Sūrya too came to the Lord's Samavaśaraṇa. Sūrya too showed extraordinary spectacles and returned to his abode. When Gaņadhara Gautama questioned about Surya's past life, the Lord said – "The gāthāpati of Śrāvastī, Supratiṣṭha, was a wealthy, magnanimous and respected and famous person. He went to the sermon of Lord Pārśvanātha and took initiation. He too did severe penance, followed the basic virtues fully, but neglected the secondary virtues and did not repent and completing his life observing pious death code (saṃlekhanā), became the god Sūrya. After completing his life in the realm of gods he will be born in Mahā Videha and shall become enlightened observing austerities.

In the same way, god Śukra too came for the Lord's Samavaśaraṇa and showing awesome spectacles through his vaikriyalabdhi, saluting the Lord, returned to his abode. Sensing Gaņadhara Gautama's curiosity, Mahāvīra said – "In his past life he was a learned Vaidika scholar, Brahmin Somila who used to live in Varanasi. When Lord Pārśvanātha came to Varanasi's Āmraśāla forest, Somil too went there. He asked the Lord many questions and happy with their answers, became a votary (śrāvaka) of the Lord. In time, on account of seeing a false monk and emergence of falsehood (mithyā) the thought occurred to him that if numerous gardens were made it would be good and he made many gardens. Then philosophical thinking led him to a strong feeling of becoming an ascetic. Handing over the family's responsibilities to his eldest son, he renounced. As an ascetic Somila started observing many fasts and started wandering, regularly facing the sun in penance. While staying up one night a thought occurred to him to move towards the north; to locking his mouth in wooden ring to remain silent and go on walking and wherever he was tired or fall, to remain there.

As per the resolve, early in the morning he started northwards and reached under an Aśoka tree by afternoon. He put his wooden water pot down, and after ablutions, etc., became silent again locking his mouth in wooden ring. In the middle of the night some god told him – "Somila, your penance is not right." But Somila paid no attention. The god repeated the same statement twice or thrice and went away. Somila continued to walk northwards. In the afternoon he would rest under the shade of a tree and in the night stand silent by locking his mouth in a wooden ring. Again the same god would appear and say – "Somila, your asceticism is not correct." When Somila would remain silent, paying no attention, the god would go away. On the fifth day Somila completed his daily ablutions and stood silent as before under a wild fig tree. In the night the god repeated the same words. When he said it a third time, Somila broke his silence and said – "Dear god! What is lacking in my asceticism?"

The god said –"Somila, you had accepted the votary conduct of 12 vows under arihanta Pārśva. Giving that up, you have become a mendicant, this is incorrect asceticism. If you again accept the 12 vows of a votary your mendicancy will turn unto a good mendicancy." The god left. As per the god's words, Somila again accepted the votary conduct and started moving about observing different kinds of fasts. In the end, affecting his soul with saṃlekhanā of 15 days, without being critical of the past bad deeds, completing his life span, he became the great planet god Śukra. Because of severe penance and observing the Śramaṇa tradition, he attained these accomplishments. When he completes his term as a god he will be born in Mahā Videha and becoming a mendicant, shall destroy all his karmas and attain nirvāṇa."

Somila keeping his mouth tied up in wooden ring and observe silence calls for analysis and some research. There is no other religion except Jainism which has the practice of keeping the mouth covered. Reference in Nirayāvalikā to Somila keeping his mouth tied up proves that in ancient times in non-Jain traditions too, there was the practice of tying up (covering) the mouth and that even in Pārśvanātha's time there was the practice of covering up the mouth or else the god would have advised Somila to stop that practice.

Female-monk in the form of Goddess Bahuputrikā of Pārśvanātha's congregation

Following is the description in relation to Bahuputrikā goddess in the Nirayāvalikā Sūtra's third section and fourth chapter:

The prosperous goddess of Saudharma kalpa, Bahuputrikā, came to the Samavaśaraṇa of Lord Mahāvīra in Guṣaśīlaka garden in Rājagṛha city. After listening to the sermon, saluting the Lord, that goddess produced an amazing spectacle spreading her right hand and producing 108 young gods and by spreading her left hand and bringing forth 108 young boys and girls of different age-groups. Then she left to her place. Gaņadhara Gautama asked Lord Mahāvīra – "Lord, who is this goddess? What was she in her past life and how did she get such accomplishments?" The Lord said – "An exceedingly prosperous caravanned named Bhadra used to reside in Varanasi. His wife Subhadrā was very beautiful and chaste but she had no children. She used to waste herself in sorrow and worry, considering herself unfortunate on being childless. One day, a mendicant disciple of Lord Pārśva, Āryā Suvratā came to Subhadrā's house along with other female-monks in the course of seeking food offerings. Subhadrā gave them respect and looked after them and sought their help telling them of her being childless. The Āryā said – "goddess, we are not even allowed to think on those matters, but if you wish we can tell you about the religion of detachment which ends all sorrows." When Subhadrā agreed the Āryā, explaining to her the vexation with worldly enjoyments, told her of the importance of the path of renunciation."

"Subhadrā felt very happy. She became a female-votary and later a female-monk. After becoming a female-monk the Āryā Subhadrā would play with people's children and this way satisfy her desire for children. Female monk Suvratā explained to her that her behaviour was against the conduct of female-monks, but her behaviour did not change, and in the end she left for another place. There, independently being lax, she observed the mendicant's conduct and in the end observed saṃlekhanā for a month and a half and completing her life, became goddess Bahuputrikā in the Saudharma kalpa

In response to Gautama's question the Lord further said that "after leaving Saudharmakalpa Bahuputrikā will be born as a Brahmin's daughter Somā in the surrounding areas of Vimala in Bhārata. She will be married to her maternal uncle's son, Rāṣṭrakūṭa. From Rāṣṭrakūṭa she will beget twins every year and for 16 years she will become the mother of 32 children. Bringing them up, listening to their wails and cries, she will consider herself unfortunate. In time, she will go to a female-monk named Suvratā and renouncing, shall observe severe penance and after one month of saṃlekhanā, completing her life, will become a god like Śakra, Indra, etc.  After completing her time in the abode of gods she will be born as a human being and, observing penance and austerities, will attain nirvāṇa."

Some female-monks of Lord Pārśvanātha

Based on references in Nirayāvalikā and Jṅātādharma Sūtras we get to know that, influenced by the teachings of Lord Pārśvanātha, at different times, 216 old and decrepit unmarried women took initiation by the Lord. These accounts tell us about the impact of Lord Pārśvanātha on the social situation and his popularity, and the reasons for the use of the adjective "Puruṣādānīya" with his name become clear. Hence those accounts are presented here in brief. There are totally 10 chapters in the fourth section of Nirayāvalikā called Puṣpacūlikā.

In the first chapter there is a description of Śrīdevī, that once goddess Śrīdevī also went to the Samavaśaraṇa of the Lord Mahāvīra in Guṣaśīlaka garden of Rājagṛha; saluting the Lord, she presented an extremely charming and excellent dance through her high quality vaikriyalabdhi. After she left, in response to Gaņadhara Gautama's curiosity, the Lord, giving her past life introduction, said – "A prosperous gāthāpati named Sudarśana used to live in Rājagṛha city when Jitaśatru ruled there. His wife's name was Priyā and his only daughter was named Bhūtā. Bhūtā could not get married and she became old and decrepit. Once Puruṣādānīya, or arihanta Pārśvanātha arrived in Rājagṛha. Taking permission from her parents Bhūtā too went to the Lord's Samavaśaraṇa. Becoming disinterested in worldly affairs after hearing the Lord's sermon she sought permission from her parents to take initiation. Happily gāthāpati organised the initiation ceremony and went to the Lord to present his daughter as his disciple. On acceptance by the Lord, Bhūtā removed her ornaments and went to female-monk Puṣpacūla to be initiated as a female monk. After becoming a monk Bhūtā became a śarīrabākuśikā (taking special care of purifying and cleaning the external body). Female monk Puṣpacūla explained to her that this conduct is inappropriate for a female-monk, but Bhūtā did not listen to her and instead went to be alone to a different place. Continuing her conduct as before, she affected her soul through various kinds of penance and in the end completing her life in saṃlekhanā, without being critical of her laxity, she became a goddess in Saudharmakalpa's śrī Avataṃsaka vimāna and obtained this prosperity. After completing one palyopama years in the realm of gods she will be born in Mahā Videha and shall become enlightened, emancipated and liberated.

There are descriptions similar to that of Śrīdevī, of nine other goddesses such as Dhī, Kīrti, Buddhi, Lakṣmī, Ilādevī, Surādevī, Rasadevī and Gandhadevī in the remaining nine chapters.

In the same way in the tenth section of the second Śrutaskandha of Jṅātādharma Sūtra there is description of 206 old and decrepit unmarried women being initiated by the Lord Pārśvanātha. In the first section there are stories of five foremost queens, including Kālīdevī, of Camarendra. At first Kālīdevī paid respect to Lord Mahāvīra, seeing him seated at Rājagṛha, and just like Sūryābha showed a dance performance with her gods and goddesses using her vaikriyalabdhi and returned to her place. When Gaņadhara Gautama asked the Lord, he gave her past life story, saying that in a city named Āmalakalpā the gāthāpati  Kāla and his wife Kāla śrī gave birth to a daughter, Kālī. She remained unmarried till old age; hence she was called an old-old calibate woman, or Junnā Junnūkumārī. When Lord Pārśvanātha arrived in Āmalakalpā, Kālī went for the Samavaśaraṇa and hearing his sermon, became detached with the world. With her parents' permission, she renounced and she was sent to female monk Puṣpacūla as a disciple. Female monk Kālī, while studying the eleven Aṃgas, and purifying her soul through various austerities, wandered about, but she used to pay special attention to her bodily cleanliness and cleanliness of the place she would stay at. Puṣpacūla told her this was inappropriate for a monk, but she paid no attention and went to a separate place to be on her own and wander. Observing the vows for years, completing her life through saṃlekhanā of a fortnight, she became one of the foremost queens, Kālī of Camarendra, in Camaracaṃcācapital.

After leaving Camaracaṃcā, she will be born in Mahāvideha and attain liberation. The remaining four, Rātri, Rajanī, Vidyuta and Medhā goddesses mentioned in this section were also daughters of laity. They did not get married till a very old age. Feeling disenchanted with the world after hearing the sermon of Lord Pārśvanātha, they became female-monks, observed various kinds of austerities and fasts and because of their lax behaviour they stayed independently and in the end after saṃlekhanā became foremost queens of Camarendra. They will complete their time and be born in Mahā Videha and shall attain liberation.

In the second section of the second Śrutaskandha gives five foremost queens – Śuṃbhā, Niśuṃbhā, Raṃbhā, Niraṃbhā and Bhadatā of Balīndra  who were unmarried daughters same names of five laity gāthāpati copules in Sāvatthī city. In the third section, six each foremost queens of nine Dakṣiṇendras for a total of 54 foremost queens were unmarried daughters of nine lay- laity gāthāpati couples of similar names in Varanasi in their past lives. And, taking initiation from the Lord Pārśvanāthaa became a part of the female monk-order. They remained unmarried all their lives and on the arrival of Lord Pārśvanātha in Campā city, took initiation under the female monk Suvratā. They practised restrain for many years observing fasts, etc. and in the end through saṃlekhanā they completed their lives and became the foremost queens of Uttarendras. There is a description of the 32 foremost princesses of Vyaṃtarendras in the fifth section. These 32 were daughters of laity of Nāgapura, who remained unmarried, in their past lives. When they became old Lord Pārśvanātha arrived at Nāgapura. They too reached the Samavaśaraṇa and became female-monks under female-monk Suvratā. They practised restraint for many years, observed severe penance, but due to laxity in conduct without repenting it completed their life in saṃlekhanā and became queens of Dakṣiṇendras. In the sixth section we find accounts of the 32 goddesses of Vyaṃtaras who in their past lives were daughters of laity in Sāketapura who also took initiation inspired by the sermon of Lord Pārśvanātha. Observing austerities for many years, due to laxity on conduct, they wandered alone without being critical of their laxity, and completing their life-span with saṃlekhanā, became the foremost queens of 32 Uttarendras including Mahākāla, etc. In the seventh section there is reference to four queens of Surya who in their past lives were daughters of the laity of Ārakkhapurī. In the eighth section is a description of four queens of Candra who in their past lives were daughters of laity of Mathurā. In the ninth section are accounts of eight foremost queens of Saudharma Indras who were daughters in their past lives of the laity of Hastināpura, Kampilapura and Sāketapura. In the tenth section there is description of eight foremost queens of Īśāna Indras who were daughters of the lay-couples of Varanasi, Rājagṛha and Kauśāmbī. In this way, all the 201 goddesses described in sections two up to the tenth were in their respective past lives unmarried for life, and in very old age they all became female-monks taking initiation from Lord Pārśvanātha, inspired by his sermon. Having gained knowledge of the eleven Aṃgas, they observed many kinds of penance, yet because of laxity on conduct, became independent of the female-monk order, wandering about, and in the end completed their life-spans observing saṃlekhanā and became queens of the Indras, Sūrya, Candra, etc.

Lord Pārśvanātha's Indelible Influence

Although there may be similarity among Tīrthaṃkara in terms of their knowledge, renunciation, and other qualities of the soul, it is possible that perhaps there was something special about Lord Pārśvanātha considering his popularity. We find form the Jain stutis, stotras, mantras, etc. that among the 24 Tīrthaṃkara, the number of stutis available in connection with Lord Pārśvanātha are not available for the other Tīrthaṃkaras. Based on the poetry literature (kāvyas, mahākāvyas), stotras, life-stories of Lord Pārśvanātha, filled with feelings of devotion and glorification written by various scholars and great men found in various volumes; and on the grand artistic symbols, huge temples, etc, we can say that the religious minded Jain community has always shown devotion and grateful to him.  In the scriptures (āgamas) we find use of the adjective 'arahā' for many Tīrthaṃkara, such as 'Mallīarahā', 'Nemiarahā', etc, but when Pārśvanātha is introduced the term 'Puruṣādānīya' is used. 'Puruṣādānīya' means respected among men. This goes to prove that even in the time of the āgamas there was special significance attached to Lord Pārśvanātha for him to be introduced as 'Puruṣādānīya'. In the same way as the term 'Samaņebhagavaṃ Mahāvīre' is used with Mahāvīra on account of his special kinds of pe nance, there must certainly be a significant reason for using the term 'Puruṣādānīya' with Pārśvanātha.

One of the main reasons for this seems to be the impact of Lord Pārśvanātha on the former lives of the 220 gods and goddesses. A large gathering of people from various places at Lord Mahāvīra's Samavaśaraṇa watched for real the prosperous display of spectacles by those gods and goddess and, hearing the description of their past lives from the knower of the three time cycles, Lord Mahāvīra, they understood that all of them were part of the entourage of Lord Pārśvanātha, which must certainly have caused them to feel tremendous devotion and undying faith in Lord Pārśvanātha.

We find out from the accounts of these old unmarried women that certain circumstances of the time made it difficult for women from even prosperous families to find suitable grooms and turning their insipid and hopeless lives towards the firm path of spiritual practices the Lord indeed gave a respite to the society. Those unmarried old women definitely attained godly prosperity by the grace of Pārśvanātha. The society of that time, knowing all this, must have certainly become indebted and devoted to him.

In his childhood the Lord helped Prasenajita and liberated the Anārya king of Kaliṃga who took refuge in the Lord and got inspired by his teachings. After attaining omniscience the Lord wandered to Anārya place as well and made innumerable people in these places part of his religious order. It seems it is because of these specialties and reasons that Lord Pārśvanātha became influential, popular and respected among people of both Anārya and Ārya regions and came to be called 'Puruṣādānīya'.

The ācāryatradition under Lord Pārśvanātha

According to general norms, in the time period between the time–period of nirvāṇa of one Tīrthaṃkara and rejuvenating of the religious order by another Tīrthaṃkara, the previous Tīrthaṃkara's religious order and ācārya tradition continues. There were numerous ācāryas even before the 23rdTīrthaṃkara but there being no substantive information regarding them they have not been highlighted. But there is substantive information available regarding the ācāryas of Lord Pārśvanātha. Prior to the time period of Lord Mahāvīra, there is only an interval of 250 years. According to Kalpasūtra until the time of the fourth epochal person (ācārya) after liberation of Lord Pārśvanātha, all ācāryas are believed to have attained liberation. Hence historically speaking it is important and apt to mention that ācārya tradition. Based on the Upakeśagaccha Caritāvalī, Lord Pārśvanātha tradition's ācārya lineage is described below:

  1. Ārya Śubhadatta: Ārya Śubhadatta was the Lord's first principal disciple (paṭṭdhara Gaņadhara). He graced the status of ācārya for 24 years after the nirvāṇa of the Lord and managing the fourfold order with great skill, gave religious discourses. Thereafter, appointing Ārya Haridatta as his successor, he attained liberation.
  2. Ārya Haridatta: Before becoming the second paṭṭdhara of Lord Pārśvanātha tradition, Haridatta was earlier the leader of 500 dacoits. Once Gaņadhara Śubhadatta had to stay at a forest along with his 500 disciples. At that time, Haridatta reached there with the aim of looting them with his 500 associates. Here, instead of wealth, Haridatta and his friends gained religious sermon from the monk, inspired by which he immediately became his disciple along with all his friends and in future he himself became a leader of monks and a leader of religion. On account of his sharp intellect he began to be rated among the best scholars of the eleven Aṃgas. Ācārya Haridatta propagated the religion for 70 years and appointing Samudra Sūri his successor, became eligible for nirvāṇa in Pārśva nirvāṇa samvata 94. Ācārya Haridatta was a highly influential ācārya of his time.  He defeated in religious debate at a royal hall Lauhityācārya, the fanatic supporter and propagator of the opinion that violence in Vaidika religion is not violence and established the dictum "ahiṃsā paramo dharma" (non-violence is the supreme religion). Lauhityācārya took initiation along with his one thousand disciples and with his permission propagated the religion of ahiṃsāin the south.
  3. Ārya Samudra Sūri: Ārya Samudra Sūri became the third pontiff (paṭṭdhara)ācārya of Lord Pārśvanātha tradition. He gave service to the Jina order from Pārśva-samvata 94 to 166. He was a knower of the fourteen Pūrvas and a staunch opponent of the violence incurred in sacrificial rituals. One of his disciples, Videśīmuni once reached Ujjayinī. Videśīmuni was a true follower of Ārya Samudra Sūri and an excellent scholar. It is said that on account of Videśīmuni religious discourse the king of Ujjayinī took initiation into the Śramaṇa order along with his wife and son Keśī. The young monk Keśī not only had the knowledge of his past life but was also well-versed in scriptures. In time, he defeated the propagator of sacrificial rituals, Mukuṃda ācārya in a religious debate. Sensing his last day's Ācārya Samudra Sūri gave the ācārya position to Keśī and attained nirvāṇa destroying all his karmas in Pārśva-samvata 166.
  4. Ārya Keśī Śramaṇa: The fourth epochal-ācārya of Lord Pārśvanātha's tradition was Ārya Keśī Śramaṇa. Ārya Keśī Śramaṇa was a young monk who held the knowledge of the fourteen pūrvas, and of four types of knowledge completely (i.e. mati, śruti and avadhijṅāna andmanah ̣paryavajṇāna). With great competence he brought together the Śramaṇa order and made them firm and sent monks in 9batches of five each under the leadership of scholar monks in different far-flung places and he himself stayed in Madhya Pradeśa with one thousand monks while propagating and propounding the Jain religion. He was ācārya from Pārśva-samvata 166 to 250, i.e. 84 years and in the end making Svayaṃprabhu Sūri his successor, attained liberation.

Through his religious teachings he converted king Pradeśī of Śvetāmbikā from a firm atheist to a believer. As a result king Pradeśī accepted the lay-person's conduct and setting aside one-fourth of his kingdom's wealth for charities, giving up worldly pleasures, got immersed in observing chaṭṭhabhakta fasts. Seeing her husband's disinclination towards kingly duties queen Sūrikāntā desired to make her son the king and on the day of her husband's fast breaking, gave him poisonous food. The moment Pradeśī felt the effects of the poison he learnt of all this but without any resistance or ill-feelings, giving up his life in meditation, became a god Sūryābha in Saudharma-kalpa with extraordinary powers.

We find two monks by name Keśī in the scriptures. One is Keśī Śramaṇa who gave a religious teaching to king Pradeśī and the other, Keśīkumāra, who accepted the five mahāvratas of the Cāturyāma tradition in Śrāvatthī city, after the debate with Gautama the second Gaņadhara. This question is open to debate as to who was the fourth epochal-ācārya of Lord Pārśvanātha's tradition? Ācārya Rajendra Sūri gives an introduction to Keśī Śramaṇa in two places in his Abhidhāna Rājendra Koṣa, but has expressed both Keśīs to be one and the same while mentioning the debate of Keśī Śramaṇa with Gaņadhara Gautama. The same is the case with Upakeśagaccha Paṭṭāvali and the Gujarātī text, 'History of the Jain Traditions'. It is a different matter that some people consider him the son of king Jaya Sena and some consider him the son of a nirgrantha. As against this, in the text 'History of Pārśvanātha's Tradition', there are no two separate introductions to both of them but there is acceptance of the two being different  people.

The fact is that Ācārya Keśī and Keśīkumāra are two separate people. The fourth paṭṭadhara of Lord Pārśvanātha, Ācārya Keśī, who is considered the preceptor of the king Pradeśī, existed in the time period Pārśva nirvāṇa samvata 166 to 250, until the time of Mahāvīra's mendicancy, according to the Upakeśagaccha Paṭṭāvali. In contrast, the debate between Keśīkumāra Śramaṇa of Śrāvastī city happens 15 years after Mahāvīra became an omniscient; hence the two are different people.  Further, the Keśī who gave a religious discourse to king Pradeśī is said to possess four kinds of knowledge, whereas the Keśī who had a debate with Gautama in Śrāvastī is said to have possessed three kinds of knowledge. In this sense, it does not seem proper in any way to think that the possessor of four kinds of knowledge Keśī Śramaṇa who was of the time of Mahāvīra's mendicancy period could have met Keśī, the possessor of three kinds of knowledge fifteen years after Mahāvīra became an omniscient. The above facts unquestionably prove that Keśī Śramaṇa Ācārya and Keśīkumāra were not one and the same but two different people. One attained nirvāṇa during the time period of Pārśvanātha while the other attained nirvāṇa during Mahāvīra's time period, after accepting the Cāturyāma tradition and the Śramaṇa conduct comprising the five mahāvratas following the debate with Gaņadhara Gautama.

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Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1)
Author:
Acharya Hasti Mala
Editors:
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011