Article: Story Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Parable 14 – Teyaliputta

Tetaliputra is an eminent minister with high status. He loses interest in his wife, who becomes a nun. She is then reborn as a god named Poṭṭila. This god tries to awaken Tetaliputra to his failings, but in vain.

Only when the god brings about a situation where the arrogant minister falls into disgrace with the king and experiences extreme sorrow does Tetaliputra go on to the right path. Later he reaches omniscience and emancipation.

Parable 15 – Nandiphala

Nandi trees are inviting, but their leaves, fruits and shade are toxic. Some people accompanying the caravan of the merchant Dhanya listen to his warning. They do not taste the fruits and are safe. Others, however, cannot resist the ripe fruit and die.

Parable 16 – Avarakankā or Dovaī

Two Śvetāmbara nuns in white monastic robes – saṃghaḍī – in their lodgings – upāśraya. They are barefoot and hold their monastic brooms – rajoharaṇa or oghā – under their left arms. Jain nuns of all sects wear white robes that cover them from head to toe

Two Śvetāmbara nuns
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

This is the longest story. It is a small epic and features some characters from the Mahābhārata cycle, thus providing a Śvetāmbara Jain Mahābhārata. The lady Nāgaśrī is followed through her successive rebirths. In the last one she is Draupadī, who marries the five Pāṇḍavas.

Nāgaśrī is an example of the way lay people should not offer alms to a Jain monk. She purposely pours a bitter-gourd curry, which is toxic, in the alms-bowl of the monk Dharmaruci. When the monk shows this food to his superior, the latter advises him to throw it away carefully and beg again. But when Dharmaruci sees how the ants die that eat even one drop of it, he decides to eat it all to save other creatures from death. He is poisoned and dies. Nāgaśrī is thrown out of her house for causing the death of a monk.

After death, Nāgaśrī undergoes innumerable rebirths in the lowest hells – the sixth and the seventh – or as a fish or reptile, or as an earth body.

Then she is reborn as the tender-bodied daughter of a merchant couple, hence her name Sukumālikā – ‘tender’.

Her first husband, a merchant, leaves Sukumālikā when he realises that the touch of her hand feels as sharp as the edge of a sword.

She marries again, this time to a beggar. He discovers the same and leaves her.

Sukumālikā follows her father’s advice to distribute food to ascetics. When a group of Jain nuns happens to come by, she offers them food. They preach and Sukumālikā is inspired to take monastic initiation.

Ignoring her superior’s recommendation, she undertakes penance in a garden outside the town. There she sees five young men having fun with a courtesan and wishes to enjoy the same pleasures in her next birth.

From this time on, she starts to pay excessive attention to her body, which is not proper for nuns. Instead of listening to her superior’s advice, she decides to live independently and leaves the group. She fasts to death but does not repent for past transgressions.

She is reborn as a courtesan of the gods and then as Draupadī, the daughter of King Drupada and Queen Culaṇī.

Her father organises a svayaṃ-vara – a form of marriage among royal families where the girl chooses her husband herself. Draupadī marries the five Pāṇḍava brothers. After a series of adventures, detailed in the Jain Mahābhārata, they all take monastic initiation and practise penance. The five Pāṇḍavas go to Saurāṣṭra – a part of Gujarat, where the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi, is wandering. They reach omniscience and emancipation on Shatrunjaya hill. Because Draupadī leads the life of an exemplary nun, she is reborn as a goddess in the Brahmaloka heaven. Then she will be reborn in the Mahā-videha and reach emancipation.

 

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