Article: Story Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Parable 5 – Selaga

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript illustrates very different monastic behaviour. The monk at the top left demonstrates the ascetic ideal of deep meditation and indifference to physical demands. He displays the detachment from worldly c

Behaviour of a 'bad monk'
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The story takes place in the time of the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi. Involving his cousin Kṛṣṇa, it unfolds in several episodes.

After hearing Ariṣṭanemi’s teaching, Thāvaccāputra, the son of a wealthy lady, decides to renounce worldly life. Despite his entourage’s lack of encouragement, he believes that becoming a monk is only the way to get rid of karmas.

During his wandering life as an ascetic, Thāvaccāputra reaches the town of Śailakapura, which is ruled by King Śailaka and his minister Panthaka. After listening to the monk’s sermon, the king and his minister decide to adopt the minor vows of Jain lay men.

Next, Thāvaccāputra’s wandering life leads him to the town of Saugandhikā, where a merchant called Sudarśana lives. Sudarśana has listened to the teaching of the Hindu ascetic Śuka, a follower of the Sāṃkhya philosophy, and has become a follower. Then Sudarśana hears Thāvaccāputra deliver a sermon on the fundamentals of Jain faith. He is convinced and becomes a lay Jain disciple.

When the Hindu ascetic returns, Sudarśana does not pay attention to him. He explains his change of heart to Śuka. The Hindu and the Jain ascetics then discuss their beliefs face to face. Thāvaccāputra answers all the questions his opponent asks, persuading him of the rightness of Jain doctrine. Śuka asks to be initiated as a disciple of the Jain monk, which is granted.

Śuka, now a Jain monk, travels to Śailakapura. After hearing him preach, King Śailaka wishes to become a monk and entrusts the kingdom to his eldest son, Maṇḍuka. The former king is initiated alongside other people, including his minister, Panthaka.

During his ascetic life Śailaka becomes seriously ill. Treated with medicines appropriate for a monk, he is cured. But somehow, after this he is unable to follow the rules of ascetic conduct, eating a lot of food and developing all of the characteristics of a bad ascetic. Once, while he is sleeping comfortably, Panthaka touches his feet to ask forgiveness before starting the ritual of repentancepratikramaṇa. Śailaka wakes in anger. Panthaka's apology leads Śailaka to realise that he has gone astray. He resumes the proper wandering ascetic life. Later on, Śailaka, Panthaka and other disciples reach emancipation on Mount Puṇḍarīka, that is Śatrunjaya.

Parable 6 – Tumba

A gourd covered with eight layers of fibres and mud will sink to the bottom of water. If these layers are removed, it will rise to the surface. In the same way, a soul loaded with the eight varieties of karma will be heavy and will go to the hells. When it is released from the karmas it will go straight to emancipation.

Parable 7 – Rohiṇī

This detail of an 18th-century manuscript depicts women fetching water from a stream. Wearing lots of jewellery, the women perform this daily task by carrying heavy pots on their heads

Women fetching water
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

This is also known as the parable of the five rice grains.

A merchant gives five rice grains each to his four daughters-in-law to test them, saying that they will have to return them when asked.

The first one throws them away. She thinks that when she needs to return them she can take another five grains from the huge quantity of rice in the storehouse.

The second one thinks the same, but swallows the grains.

The third one thinks there is some reason behind this strange gift and condition. She carefully wraps the grains in a piece of cloth in her jewellery box, near her bed. She checks it three times a day

The fourth one, Rohiṇī, thinks that she should not only preserve the rice grains but increase them. She arranges for the grains to be sown at the proper time and cultivated properly. A large quantity of rice is harvested from these original five grains year after year.

When five years have gone by the merchant asks the young ladies to return the rice grains he had given them. Each of them is rewarded according to her deeds, with:

  • the first one being put in charge of menial duties in the house
  • the second one appointed to prepare food
  • the third one put in charge of precious things in the house
  • Rohiṇī's being appointed the head of the family.

This famous text has a parallel in the Biblical tradition (see Roth 1973):

  • Matthew chapter 25
  • Luke 19.

In the Jain context, the five rice grains are equated with the five great vowsmahā-vratas – which mendicants may spoil or develop appropriately.

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