Article: Padmaprabha

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Padmaprabhanātha or Lord Padmaprabha is the sixth of the 24 Jinas of the present cycle of time. The word Jina means 'victor' in Sanskrit. A Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma through practising extreme asceticism and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara or 'ford-maker' in Sanskrit – that is, one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience.

Padmaprabha is not an historical figure. He is not singled out for individual biographies in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. Treated like most of the other Jinas, he is provided only with basic biographical information. This information is fairly standardised and remains identical throughout later sources except for occasional variations, or confusions, in numbers.

The meaning of his name is straightforward. Padmaprabha means ‘bright as a red lotus’ in Sanskrit. The lotus is a flower associated with spiritual purity in Asian cultures so it has a positive connotation.

There are minor differences between the accounts and descriptions of this Jina among the two main Jain sects. According to Śvetāmbara biographies, Padmaprabha married princesses and governed the earth as a king before leaving worldly life for monastic initiation. According to the sect of the Digambaras, none of the Jinas assumed the responsibilities of a householder or king before becoming monks.

Basic information

The red lotus is the emblem – lāñchana – of the sixth Jina, Padmaprabha. Each Jina can usually be identified by his individual emblem although the emblems vary between the Digambara and Śvetāmbara sects.

Red lotus
Image by inoc © CC BY 2.0

Each Jina has standard biographical information found in various sources. Among the earliest Śvetāmbara canonical sources that provide biodata of all the 24 Jinas is the final section of the fourth Aṅga, the Samavāyānga-sūtra and the Āvaśyaka-niryukti. Among the earliest Digambara sources is a cosmological work, the Tiloya-paṇṇatti.

The standard Digambara biography of Padmaprabha-svāmin or Lord Padmaprabha is found on pages 33 to 38 of the 1968 edition of Guṇabhadra's Uttarapurāṇa in Sanskrit and Hindi. The standard Śvetāmbara biography is on pages 1288 to 303 in volume II of Johnson's English translation of Hemacandra's work, Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākāpuruṣa-caritra.

The biographical data can be categorised in a standard manner, and includes numbers, which are significant in wider Indian culture. These standard details can also be used to identify individual Jinas in art, since they are usually depicted as stereotyped figures. Pictures or statues of Jinas present them in either the lotus position or the kāyotsarga pose. Both of these imply deep meditation.

Parents

The important feature of a Jina’s father is that he is a king, from the kṣatriyacaste.

A Jina’s mother has an important role because she gives birth to a future Jina, and in practice a Jina is often called ‘the son of X’. Another reason for her importance is that the names given to the various Jinas are said to originate either in pregnancy-whims or in a dream their mothers had, at least in Śvetāmbara sources. This dream is specific, and adds to the traditional auspicious dreams that foretell the birth of a child who will become a Jina.

In the case of ‘Padmaprabha’, it is said in Śvetāmbara sources that his mother had a fancy for a couch of red lotusespadma – while he was in her womb.

Parents of Padmaprabha

Mother

Father

Susīmā

Dhara – Śvetāmbara
Dharaṇa – Digambara

Places

There are numerous temples on Pārasnāth Hill in Jharkhand, identified with Mount Sammeta – Sammeta Śikhara. Though most of the temples date back to the 18th century, the mountain has long been sacred because it is where 20 of the 24 Jinas were liberated.

Mount Sammeta
Image by Takeo Kamiya © Takeo Kamiya

Of the five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – four take place on earth and are associated with a specific village or town in the sources. Archaeological evidence often helps to identify the old names with modern places. Even when it is lacking, there is a tendency to carry out this identification process. Associating auspicious events with certain locations makes these places sacred to Jains, so that they are potential or actual pilgrimage places and temple sites.

Places associated with Padmaprabha

Last incarnation and birth place

Initiation and omniscience

Emancipation

Kauśāmbī

Sahasrāmravana

Mount Sammeta

Now a village, Kauśāmbī used to be an important capital in ancient India. It is located on the northern bank of the river Yamuna, about 60 kms from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Its existence and connection with this Jina are recorded and praised in the Vividha-tīrtha-kalpa, a 14th-century work on sacred places by the Śvetāmbara monk Jinaprabha-sūri. He devotes section 12 of his collection to it.  According to him, a temple dedicated to this Jina contained an image of Candanabālā, who gave proper food to the 24th Jina Mahāvīra so that he could break his long fast.

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