This holy Jaina book describes the biographies of the most revered 24 Tirthankar’s – the spiritual victors who have attained Keval Gnana (Infinite knowledge) and had preached the doctrine of Moksha (Salvation) for the benefit of all mankind. They elucidated the essentials of Jaina Cosmology and Philosophy as well as the path of purification through which the soul may escape Kfarmic defilements and attain eternal salvation with the basic cardinal doctrine being that of Ahimsa (Non Harming).
The Trisastisalakapurusacharitra is a literary classic Biography of the Jain world. All aspects of Jain religious order are depicted in this illustrious book. The stories of 24 Tirthankar, 12 Chakravarti, 9 Baldev, 9 Vasudev and 9 Prativasudev totaling to 63 in all are described with their previous births.
The Original version is written in Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, by Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji Maharaj at the personal request of King Kumarpal in 12th century, in Gujarat. It was later translated in other languages like Gujarati and Hindi. Many edited and abridged versions later came into being. This recent translation true to the original was done by late Miss Helen M. Johnson between 1931 — 1942 A.D.
Trisastisalakapurusacharitra is rich with science, art and architectural knowledge, literature, ethics, law, stories, myths, proverbs and warfare. However, more emphasis is laid on the spiritual science for which it is intended.
This book incorporates key elements of various science such as l-.i1`e science, Cosmic science, Karmic science, Molecular and General science, Social science, Astronomical and Dream science. This book encompasses elaborate descriptions of temple, city celestial and palace—architecture, animal and human, decorations, jewellery, dance, make up, costumes and various musical instruments.
Different topics like Anatomy, Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Philology, Psychology and Theology are included in this great scripture. The travelogue and seasonal description transfers the reader to that place and environment.
The short stories, real and parables rich with morals derived from personal conscience with results of good and bad in terms of natural justice, encourage goodness and respectability. This cultivates and tills the mind to sow seeds to reap the fruits that purify the soul.
For all .lain and Non Jain English readers to know Jainism — “A Religion of Universal Laws", this book is a 'Must Read.’
Life is a provisional existence of unknown limits. We live in a 'Living community' amongst human and sub-human living forms; to co—exist, everybody has to endure through life and have forbearance towards others, whether strong or weak, able or disable, merited or de-merited, wealthy or un—wealthy, small or big, competent or incompetent, developed or undeveloped in physical-mental or spiritual aspect of life.
While people and creatures deprived of basic requirements to survive physical life are helped or seen sorrowfully, the same deprived of spiritual competency are nevertheless not valued and helped, having unbearable nature with no good morals of life. Normally they behave and exhibit themselves in a rude manner being self centered and busy in procuring happiness and keeping away from all discomforts at the cost of other's existence or happiness, not considering the resulting multiple sufferings of surrounding living creatures.
It is here they fail to assess the future results of their own deeds, speech and thoughts, which would lead them to a worse scenario than the present to face in future.
An extended vision is expected to see, evaluate and force the distant past and future in present perspective i.e. the cause and effect in reference.
People and other sub-human forms with no religious knowledge and understanding of self being a 'Soul' with infinite past and future are pitiful, but a spiritually inclined individual with a high intelligent quotient if is deluded with the actual meaning and purpose of life, falling to sensual pleasures and wasting life with no particular goal are more pitiful because of their own ignorance of a 'human state' acquired by competing with infinite soul's. Then, who should be expected for a good life?
People are in quest of all kinds of freedom from time immemorial, but it is the spiritual freedom that makes the man superior to all with a meaningful and purposeful life to attain a definite state in this life and the lives after death until emancipation. If we do not wish to reinstate our bad past in future again, we need to be more aware of different life forms surrounding us as considering it as our past, and if ignorant of the present, our future lives, will surely be affected.
The belief in self, comes from belief of a God having a past like us and gradually developed and evolved as a pure form of omniscient —omnipotent being and we becoming like him, like God. Along with this belief comes the belief of Universal law of Karmic bondages. The minute particle of matter is deposited on every soul with passion and other deeds thus changing the original nature of soul to, a form of formless (soul) in different lives, with different status of happiness etc, the level of spiritual consciousness is covered—obst1ueted, resulting in delusion and ignorance. This results in the acceptance of the cosmic structure with celestial and infernal status to feel the extreme level of happiness and torture.
Thus a gradual development of soul in different life forms, from being a unicellular being with one sense to the most developed Eve sensed human form capable of emancipation is conceived. The voyage we all have started ends with our liberation from body i.e. life and death from Karmic Bonding.
Jain religion propounded by omniscient leaders-Tirthankar is complete in each form with minute and intricate knowledge and code of conduct capable to bring about development until emancipation. The need for English Jain literature has grown much more in recent times with new generation moving away from mother, mother tongue, mother land, Mother Nature, mother of language and mother of all religion. To bring them near to all these, a conversational universal language now English is more in use throughout. Making it a medium to impart ethical and moreover religious values, an authentic translated version of a scripture was badly in need.
When I came across this book e I saw my feelings respond. I have gone through this translation many times and have found it touching. The gist of all original authors' intentions are nicely translated in words. Interesting lucid and simple words have been framed for starters. I was very much impressed by her hard work, her knowledge of both languages and her mastery over them.
Since long, many have attempted to translate in the past but the strength in constructing and selecting words has been lame. Words have been wrongly depicted misgiving the original meaning and moreover its authenticity is yet to be proved. If a presentable translation is produced at international level then it would be more worthy of acceptance.
Nevertheless people try, but here translator has kept up the international standard of language.
The translator has misinterpreted in some places where, she wrote that Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji is inconsistent with spellings of proper names. But did not feel justified in changing his spellings.
Had she known the dictionary and thesaurus of Sanskrit words she wouldn't have erred.
To show the readers the richness of Sanskrit language Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji has given all the possible list of proper names as viewed in substance.
In this southern middle part of Jambudveep's, Bhartkhetra in the state of Gujarat in the 12th century of Vikram Era there was a noble and very powerful king named Siddharaj Jaysingh. During his reign the religious head of the 4 fold communion of the Swetamber Jain Sangh was Acharya Vijay Devchandrasuriswarji Maharaja. Who had great control over the Sangh. He was well known for his virtues merits, spiritual heights and devotion towards Jainism.
The Author of this great book and many others, his holiness Kalikal Sarvagna Acharya Shrimad Hemchandrasuriswarji Maharaj was his humble disciple.
In the year 1145 of Vikram Era on full moon day of 1st month of the year, in Dhandhuka, Gujarat mother Pahini a devoted laywoman gave birth to a bright child and named him Changdev. The brilliant light emitted at the time of birth was an announcement of his bright future. Nurtured by the milk of religious talks by his mother he grew, inclined spiritually from a very small age, as it was just continuation of the midway termination of the Sadhana of previous life.
Of his profound spiritio—intellectual level he renounced the social life and accepted the Jain ascetic life at the age of 9 in the year 1154 of that Era, by the name of Muni Somchandra. He grew fast and easy with the spiritual learning of the Jain order.
He learnt by heart all the scriptures as his name, with its deep meanings in all different combination of space, time, substance and nature.
His reverence for God and Guru gave him the required faith to interpret the ultimate meanings in all contexts and was accepted by all the elders of his time as the authentic leader amongst them.
His inclination and hard work for acquiring knowledge gave way to his (inner) spiritual growth, with it, emerged the inbuilt qualities like the gold purified by fire. This was rewarded and responded by 'Saraswati' the goddess of knowledge coming in actual, in his auspice presence.
When he decided to create new scriptures for easy understanding for future generations the thought of getting help from the Goddess arose, and thus started for seeking her towards southern part of India in 'Tripura City'. He must have moved for just 3 days towards the city and goddess Saraswati presented herself saying :-
"Where are you going looking for me? I bless you for your wish be complete". By his virtue and ‘the blessings‘, he created many scriptures comprising over three and half crores stanzas.
He was so pious and celebate that by virtue of those powers he acquired many merits. On one occasion when he moved to some place for alms, he was made to sit on a heap of coal and with his touch the heap turned to 'gold', as a result of which he acquired the famous name 'Hemchandra'.
Once Vimleshwar Yaksha asked all the munis to ask for a boon. Shri Devendrasuri asked that he be given knowledge, Shri Malaygiri asked that he be given the strength to personify the principles, whereas, Shri Hemchandrasuriswarji asked that "maintaining all promises 1 may lighten up the religion of Jainism, give me such strength.” Vimleshwar Yaksha granted them the boons.
He was handed over the auspicious reign as the head of the communion by his gum and the insistence of the present 4 fold sangh in the year 1192 V. S. at a young age of 17. And thus the highest rank of Acharya was conferred on him being competent for the said post.
Though he travelled in many states, his main area of vihar (travel) was Gujarat and in it mostly around its capital ‘Patan’, (now, a city in north Gujarat). He was well known for his soft nature and was renowned for his discourse on Jainism with reference to all religions. The city people grew fond of him and thousands paid homage to him daily. Soon his name spread amongst the Jain community throughout the country. He was regularly invited and expected in the Rajbhavan of King Siddharaj. Seeing the propitious promulgation of religion he accepted the invitation by going daily as per the proposition of the king, to his durbar; By this pleasant combination the religious grip grew more on political reign. The king saw the religion prosper in all ways throughout his country.
King Siddharaj was a Shiva devotee but grew fond of the Acharya's discourses on Jainism and developed a soft corner for this religion. At King's request the Acharya made a Sanskrit Grammar book by the name 'Siddha—hem Sabdanushasan'. With King's help, reconstruction and restoration of Girnartirth was made possible, where a great sum of money and manpower was applied.
There was a possibility of Kumarpal his nephew becoming the next king of Gujarat after the death of King Siddharaj. Due to this an enimity rose between the two and so King Siddharaj ordered his men to find Kumarpal live or dead, For this reason Kumarpal had to run for his life out in the jungles saving himself from Siddharaj's men following him like death in person and he alluding them and death as if fate was sure to make him the crowned king. He roamed up to 50 years of age taking many obligations for his survival from people and repaid them in multiples when he became the king, remembering them all in person.
On many occasions Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji saw the greatness of Kumarpal and helped him to escape, gave asylum to him thus protecting him by his power and assistance. Thus the relation of two great developed as a consequence, creating trust and confidence in men Acharya with due devotion.
After the death of Siddharaj, Kumarpal somehow by his power and merit became king of Gujarat with 18 countries of Bharat. He had to spend 20 years co—ordinating and organizing, getting a complete hold on his kingdom and protecting his kingship. After getting a strong hold and expanding his empire he came in touch with Acharya again and remembered his favours.
At the age of 70 he stared learning the Jain Scriptures and the Sanskrit language in which the commentaries on the Scriptures were written. The Acharya specially made new scriptures for his easy understanding on his request and insistence to know the different aspects of Jainism like the philosophy, biography of God, the true qualities and nature of God, the code of conduct of a Guru and laypersons, the cosmic structure and the karmic laws that govern the universe and all living souls and the Jain yoga.
H became a devout Jain layperson with the acquired faith, knowledge and code of conduct. He introduced different practices of daily rituals of repentance, penance, worship in temple, hearing of daily discourses etc.
He constructed fourteen thousand Jain temples, Shrines and installed beautiful idol of Tirthankars in thousands. He reconstructed sixteen thousand dilapidated temples under the guidance of Acharya. He wrote and got written the scriptures on palm leaf which had a life of over 1500 years, thus creating many religious public libraries.
He made tirthyatras in auspicious presence of Acharya with thousand of lay devotees spending crores of rupees in those times. He helped the 4 fold communion grow in his country. He ordered that there should be no killings and eating of non-veg food. He stopped the cruel activities of fishing and shooting. He banned the alcoholic drinks throughout and made strict rules and regulations for every person in religious and ethical codes. Thus by his good deeds he became famous with the Acharya. A mere wish of Acharya was fulfilled by the king. Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji passed away in 1173 a. d. just two months before King Kumarpal's death.
The present saga came into being in those times when the king requested the Acharya, being inclined to learn the biography of great people and the brief history of Jainism. Acharya sri with the blessing of goddess wrote 34,000 stanzas in Sanskrit, creating this Jain Saga thus weaving the life of the twenty four Tirthankar, twelve Chakravarti, nine Baldev, Vasudev and Prativasudev with their life prior to the last life till emancipation.
The illustrious saga contains many more aspects like philosophy, cosmic science, life science, Karmic science, the society then and their trends, the definition of good and bad people and their after effect. The greatness of 'Tirthankar', as, the lord of the gods Indra with theirs retinue would attend all the important happenings of the Tirthankar's life. To gain faith in religion and in one's own self, one should read this book consistently.
The original construction in Sanskrit with simple words, using all kind of grammar, composition, figures of speech, construction of sentences, the usage of appropriate words rich with illustrations of places, persons etc with a definite meaning to everything, proves itself competent to transform the values and trends of life which makes it truly inspiring biographical epic story.
The Adisvaracharitra is the first book of the Trisastisalaka- purusacharitra, the lives of the sixty—three famous men, by the Jain Acharya.
The biographies of the Trisastisalakapurusacharitra very greatly in extent and interest. Others are rich in folk—lore, fiction, exposition of Jain doctrine, etc. The Adisvaracharitra is one of the best, containing the biographies of the first Tirthankar, Rsabha, and the first Cakravaitin, Bharata. It is in itself almost a handbook of Jainism, for the lexicographer it has a large amount of new material; and for the student of folk—lore and the origin of customs it gives the Jain tradition, which is very different from the Hindu.
The second book of the Trisastisalakapurusacharitra, like the first one, includes the biographies of one Tirthankar, Ajitanatha, and one Cakravartin, Sagara. The event of importance that occurs also in the Hindu epic is the destruction of the 60,000 sons of Sagara, described in the sixth chapter.
Book III contributes the lives of 8 tirthankars from Sambhavnath to Shitalnath. The sermons are rich with description of the four Gati. (state of being)
Book IV consists of the biographies of five Arhats, five Baladevas, five Vasudev, five Prativasudevas, and two Cakravartins. The Sreyansanathacharitra includes the biographies of the first Baladevas, Vasudev, and Prativasudevas and each of the four following biographies of the Arhats includes one of a Baladevas, Vasudev, and Prativasudevas. The lives of the first group, Acala, Triprstha, and Asvagriva, are treated at great length. Indeed, all the biographies of the Baladevas, Vasudev, and Prativasudevas are given in more detail in the Trisastisalakapurushcharita than anywhere else I could find.
They are treated very cursorily in other works. Book V is devoted entirely to Santinatha with a wealth of detail equaled only in the Adisvaracharitra and the Mahaviracharitra. But, as Suriji's is one of the favorite tirthankar with Jain authors, even Acharya Hemchandrasuriswarji’s detailed biography is exceeded by others.
Book VI of the Trisastisalakapurusacharitra includes the biographies of two Tirthankar who were also Cakravartins, of two Cakravartins, Balabhadras, Vasudev, and Prativasudevas each. Kunthunatha and Aranatha are comparatively obscure and not popular with authors of the Tirthankar biographies. Hemchandrasuriswarji’s biographies are routine and brief. It is only the story of Virabhadra, which is introduced into Aranatha's biography, that lends interest to it.
Mallinatha is outstanding as the only woman Tirthankar and is fairly popular as a biographical subject. The reason she was born as a woman is in itself interesting and strictly Jainistic.
Munisuvrata is perhaps better—known to the faithful than Kunthunatha and Aranatha, An account of the origin of the Harivansa and a short story about an enlightened horse redeem the biography from complete aridity. All the biographies contain sermons invaluable for the comprehension of Jainism.
The biography of Cakravartin Subhuma includes the story of the destruction of the ksatriyas by Parasurama and that of Brahmans by Subhuma. This version differs greatly from Hindu epic versions. The story of the 'three steps' saves the biography of Cakravartin Mahapadma. Hemchandrasuriswarji’s version of the 'three steps' also differs markedly from the epic one. The biographies of the two Balabhadras, Vasudev, and Prativasudevas are stereotyped and of little interest.
The first ten chapters of Book VII constitute an elaborately detailed Jaina Ramayana. This includes the lives of Rama, the eighth Balabhadras of Laksmana, the Vasudev, and Ravana, the eighth Prativasudevas. Naturally, it is very different from the Hindu Ramayana.
Chapter XI of Book VII is a brief routine biography of Neminatha. Chapters XII and XIII are stereotyped accounts of the tenth and eleventh Chakravartins.
Book VIII of the Trisastisalakapurusacharitra, the Neminathacharitra, includes also the lives of Krishna, the ninth Vasudev, Balarama, the ninth Balabhadra, and Jarasandha, the ninth Prativasudevas. It gives more space to Krishna than to Neminatha himself and is, in fact, a Iain Harivansa. The first chapter of Book VIII narrates the previous incarnations of Neminatha Chapters II-IV is a long wearisome account of Vasudeva's many marriages. Chapters V- VIII concern Krishna's affairs, with much repetitious detail of battles, especially the one in which Jarasandha is killed. However, Hemchandrasuriswarji manages as usual to introduce interesting episodes which redeem the tiresome narrative of unromantic marriages and fighting. The founding and destruction of Dwaraka are interesting and offer data for the much-discussed site of Krishna's Dwaraka.
Book IX includes the lives of Brahmadatta, the twelfth Chakravartin, and of Parsvanatha.
The Mahaviracharitra, the tenth parvan of the Trisastisalaka- purusacharitra deals with the life of Mahavira only and includes many historical events associated with him, e.g., the association of Gosala and Mahavira and gosala's subsequent enmity, and the heresy of Jamali. Historical events subsequent to Mahavira's time are introduced in the guise of prophecies by Mahavira. Its historical data, if not altogether dependable, may be assumed to report a Jain tradition well—established in Hemchandrasuriswarji’s time. The parvan has much exposition of Jain doctrine, next to the Adisvaracharitra; and numerous devotional hymns.
This holy Jaina book describes the biographies of the most revered 24 Jainas or Tirthankar’s - the spiritual victors who have attained Keval Gnana (infinite knowledge) and had preached the doctrine of Moksha (Salvation) for the benefit of all mankind. They elucidated the essentials of Jaina Cosmology and philosophy as well as the path of purification through which the soul may escape Karmic defilements and attain eternal salvation - with the basic cardinal doctrine being that of Ahimsa (Non Harming).
Writing the preface of this book was a complete surrender to the ideas that always didn't seem to fit a linear rational approach and it has changed me in a way that’s like the core energy of Jainism... Simple and powerful. There are no complications in it... Its wisdom is so profound and yet you find yourself startled by its Simplicity and naturalness. When I began reading this ‘Iain saga' and the birth biographies of our most revered 24 Tirthankara’s...enlightment was far away from my mind! What I was looking for was some abstract notion called peace of mind and probably some quick fix methods to solve my problems! But enlightment? No ways!
And yet, as I read the holy doctrines of the birth and karmic cycles of the 24 celestial lords... the light of the 3 worlds - earth, hell and heaven... my foundation of doubts and disbeliefs rocked... a powerful change took place! In one stroke I moved from blaming, judging and fighting - to acceptance, self responsibility and its empowered action! As I read more I got completely submerged in lord Rishabdev Swami's sermon of true dharma and its four fold division of dana, shila, tapas and bhava... lord Padmaprabha's urge - a symbolic red, like a burst of anger to crush all your internal enemies to gain emancipation, Lord Parshvanath swami's innate equanimity with, Kamatha and Dharnendra's and Lord Mahavira’s compassion even for sinful people made me ready for forgiveness.
In a strange way l resonated to the mystical and practical philosophy of each and every "Tirthankara with the joy of applying it in my life in today's modern world. These are not ancient redundant scriptures reflecting some bygone era in ages... But they are powerful potent archives recording the wisdom of sheer human existence, its cause, its effect and the way to emancipate oneself from the constant birth cycle to being one invariable energy of light. I realized enlightment is not something for only the Tirthankara's or sages, it is not an impossible dream and it does imply a distancing of self from all that we have held dear. Life, even our very contemporary life are not mutually exclusive states.
The scripture taught me how to live my day to day life with integrity, joy, peace and balance. l realized that cause and effect simply outlines that we are the cause not some outside other, fate or god... we only reap what we sow, through our thinking feelings or action. This is what karma is - what we have chosen over lifetimes to experience, expand and disempowered and thus meet as outer effects. lf the powerful Tirthankara's had also to experience the effects of their good and bad karmas of lifetimes, then how can we as mere human beings escape? Negative karma is not some retribution or punishment from god but simply an awareness that you are yet to align with your higher potential. The more you become aware, the higher energy you attract and more karmas you burn. Difficult people and situations change from being problems we have no control over to self chosen opportunities for growth. Diseases and fears are not suppressed or condemned but seen afresh as soul purposes each has chosen in their higher wisdom to explore and expand.
One of the many gifts of absorbing this amazing text is its mind stretching quality reflecting the Tirthankara's wisdom by using irony and paradox. lf you think being forceful is the appropriate response - lord Rishabdev will urge you to see the value in being humble. lf action seems called for, Lord Mahavira asks you to consider non action. If you feel grasping will help you acquire what you need or want Vasupujya swami counsels you to let go and be patient. Only 'your karma' is the supreme reality ~ an all pervasive source of everything. Karma never begins or ends, does nothing and yet animates everything on this planet Earth of form and boundaries. Moksha is attained by those who practice unceasingly the brilliant trait of knowledge, faith and conduct. All the Tirthankara's in their sermons preach and urge to understand this ocean of samsara 'burdened by numerous birth — nuclei} is filled with the flames of anxiety, disease, old age and death. To break these recurrent cycle of life and death the only answer is emancipation, where there is no death, no birth only bliss - an eternal form of light brilliant with ‘the luster of omniscience. And this can be achieved only when all your good and bad karmas are burned. As Padmaprabhu swami puts it' in the whole universe there is not a space of a point of a hair, which is not touched by creatures in various forms because of their karma. Inhabitants of all the four gatis - hell, heaven, human and animals are all subjected to this universal law. When a human birth has been won with difficulty in the ocean of existence, it is like the most beautiful jewel for attaining moksa and to burn all your karmas with right knowledge, faith and conduct. But alas, when this human birth, which is earnestly hoped even by gods, is lost by ignorant people in the pursuit of materialistic pleasures, it is like a lost jewel. Pure minded people, after reflecting that samsara is worthless, should strive for emancipation by means of mendicancy and gain enlightment.
As I soaked more and more in the simplicity of this texts powerful wisdom, I began to see this world and its web of human existence and relationships in more clairvoyance. I realized that on the surface the obstacles against spirit are enormous. Everyday life is a kind of swirling chaos and the human mind is entrenched in its demands. My destiny is to move in the direction of my soul and the fuel that makes my destiny move is INTENTION. And yet with the intentions, I realized I need discipline and thus the Tirthankara's laid down rites and rituals, regular meditation and prayers for sages and common man, on moment to moment basis to make their intentions strong and to feel centered inside. How can we then not be grateful to these Lords of the Gods - these powerful beings for showing us the way to emancipation? Our society teaches us often to be skeptical of the sacred. But these are revered saints who have through their own experiences laid down a wealth of scriptures - an infinite treasure to attain eternal bliss and fulfillment.
Cherish it as a new born baby as one lifetime seems incredibly short and transient, even to fathom its powerful messages. But even simply meditating on the biographies of these great jaina Tirthankara's can help to fight the whole package of illusion, of money, power, sex and pleasure, which are supposed to fill up all lack, but they never do. The Jain Tirthankara's offer you simple tools to combat materialistic pleasures and raise your consciousness on a daily basis. I consider this classic as an ultimate discourse on the nature of existence. I know about so many people who overcame life threatening addictive behaviors by simply reading and re reading this ancient text. I can think of no greater vision for our planet and universe.
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