Chandakaushik’s story from Kalpa Sutra
Eradicating cruelty and not the cruel was Bhagavan Mahavir’s spiritual path. The story of Mahavir’s enlightenment of the serpent Chandakaushik conveys the effective application of ahimsa and all-embracing love.
Mahavir once journeyed from Asthik village to Shvetambika city during the early days of his itinerant life. On the way, while proceeding from south to north Vachal, he chose a short path through a desolate region. When some cowherds saw him taking this dangerous path, they tried to stop him with a warning that there was a ferocious black serpent in that area. Its venomous hissing destroyed even plants, and his killing glance brought down even flying birds. Mahavir just smiled, raised his open palm as a sign of reassurance, and proceeded.
Walking confidently, Mahavir arrived near the snake-hole. All around only skeletons and tree stumps could be seen; not even a single green leaf was visible. Close to the snake-hole was a dilapidated temple. Mahavir stood in the shade of this temple and commenced his meditation.
After some time the giant snake came out of the hole hissing. He looked at Mahavir with his glaring red eyes emitting waves of venom. Surprisingly, the gaze that killed every living thing within its reach had no effect on Mahavir.
The astonished serpent once again fixed his poisonous gaze on Mahavir and hissed with renewed anger, but in vain. He then slithered near and with all his force sank his fangs in Mahavir’s big toe. He drew back and waited for the fall of the human. Mahavir still stood in meditation, unmoved by these attacks. The serpent was taken aback when he saw that a stream of milk instead of blood flowed from the wound in Mahavir’s toe. The serpent continued to stare with surprise, his mind filled with fear and nervousness.
Now Mahavir decided it was time to preach to the serpent and bring about a change in his sinful attitude. In his deep and resonant voice he said, “O Chandakaushik! Rise above your anger, open your inner eyes and seek solace.” When the serpent looked into Mahavir’s eyes he felt as if a wave of serenity had engulfed him and all his anger was washed away. The name Chandakaushik stirred his consciousness and memories of his past two births surfaced.
In a previous birth he had been an ascetic observing the hard austerity of month-long fasts. One day, while breaking such a fast, he inadvertently crushed a frog under his feet when he went out seeking alms. When his disciple pointed this out and advised him to do atonement, the ascetic became angry and rushed to beat his disciple. The disciple ran. The angry ascetic chased after him, stumbled, and hit a pillar. He broke his skull and died on the spot. His harsh austerities combined with extreme anger at the time of death caused a rebirth as a Stellar god (Jyotishk Dev).
After completing his age as a god, he was reborn as the son of the rector of a hermitage in the Kanak Khal area. He was named Kaushik. Due to his ferocious attitude, he was popularly known as Chand (ferocious) – Kaushik. Once, some boys from Shwetambi town visited the hermitage garden. While roaming around they started plucking flowers. Chandakaushik admonished them but they gave no heed. This enraged Chandakaushik, and picking up an axe he rushed to kill them. The agile boys evaded him and ran away. While chasing them he fell into a ditch and injured himself with his own axe. He bled to death and was reborn as this giant serpent. The memory of these two births made him realize that due to extreme attachment and anger he had suffered great pain and had reached his present miserable state.
Now his soul was awake. He touched Mahavir’s feet and resolved, “Now I will never look at anyone with my venomous eyes and neither eat nor drink. I will just put my head in the hole and lie still in atonement for my sins.” the villagers came the next morning and witnessed the astonishing scene. They celebrated the unexpected change in the snake’s attitude by offering him milk and sweets. The snake, faithful to his vow, did not move his head out of the hole. The sweets placed around attracted swarms of ants and once the sweets were finished they attacked the serpent. Chandakaushik did not react at all, stoically enduring all these tortures. He silently atoned for his sins and took the ultimate vow of fasting till death. He died after fifteen days and was reborn as a god in the sought-after Sahasrar realm.
* * *
The common meanings of the term Karma are: “1. action (with its fruit, and implications of merit); an act, deed, work, occupation; function. 2. (moral) duty or obligation. 3. a religious observance, action or rite (as sacrifice, ablution, funeral obsequies). 4. fate (as the consequence of previous acts); fortune, lot. 5. result, effect. 6. (grammar) an object; the accusative case” (the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary).
Jain philosophy, however, has given a totally new meaning to this term. The Jains have evolved their concept on the basic premise that nothing happens in this universe without a cause. It is a logical extension of the common meanings: “fate as the consequence of previous acts” and “action (with its fruit, and implications of merit).” Avoiding the need for some supernatural governing power, and in order to explain fate logically, they have created the interface of karma theory based on their doctrine of immortality of the soul and its cyclic rebirth in a physical body. According to this idea, karma means a subtle form of matter, particulate in nature, that adheres to the soul, generally in aggregates, and causes sufferings through cycles of rebirth. It is a form of matter that constantly comes in contact with soul, adheres to it and fuses with it. It is these karmic particles that define and determine the soul’s life span and other attributes as a living being in its future rebirth. They are also the cause of the experiences, both of pleasure and pain, during that life-span.
Story of Dridhaprahari
Dridhaprahari was born in a Brahmin family. Though his father was a religious person, Dridhaprahari got involved in all manner of vices. In spite of all efforts, his father failed to correct him and finally expelled him from the house. Angry, Dridhaprahari left at once and went to a settlement of bandits. His skills in all kinds of criminal acts made him popular in the bandit community. In fact, his daring and courage impressed the chief of bandits so much that he gave him the name Dridhaprahari, “the man with a strong blow.” He loved him like his son. In due course, Dridhaprahari succeeded him and became the chief.
One day, after looting a few rich houses in a town, Dridhaprahari came to a Brahmin household to rest. When the family was about to take their meal, they invited the bandit to join them. He came in and was about to sit very near the pot full of sweets. The lady of the house did not like this and angrily said, “Are you a fool? Don’t you know that this is a Brahmin house and if you touch this pot we won’t eat even a morsel from it. You will certainly get food, but behave yourself.”
This reprimand enraged Dridhaprahari. He drew his sword and at once beheaded the lady. When her husband rushed at him he simply repeated the act. Seeing all this, the cow, standing in the courtyard, got angry and charged at him with bent head. This was nothing new for Dridhaprahari; he sidestepped and with one blow of his sword slit the belly of the cow. The cow was pregnant; the premature calf fell to the ground writhing.
Once the mist of rage had lifted from his eyes, Dridhaprahari could clearly see the pathetic consequence of his dastardly act. The shock shattered his callousness and a stream of compassion flowed out from the depths of his psyche. Recalling the cruel events of his life, he was filled with remorse and self-reproach.
The inner change inspired him to tonsure his head and take the garb of an ascetic. As an ascetic, the thought that first came to his mind was to retire into the solitude of some remote forest. But then he decided to meditate just outside the town so as to invite punishment from the people he had tortured in the past. This would give them satisfaction of revenge and he would have the opportunity to suffer afflictions in atonement for his sins, thereby shedding the resulting karmas. He was aware of the fact that there was no liberation without shedding karmas.
Once decided, he came near the eastern gate of the town and stood in meditation. In due course, people from the city saw and recognized him as the rogue Dridhaprahari. The news spread like wildfire and soon a crowd gathered. Those who were harmed by him started abusing him. Those whose relatives were killed by him started pelting him with stones. Dridhaprahari tolerated all the pain silently and continued his inner journey. This went on for forty-five days. He then shifted to the western gate and spent another forty-five days silently enduring pain and feeling indebted to the people. Gradually the anger of the people subsided and only curiosity and wonderment at this change remained. In this way, Dridhaprahari spent forty-five days at each of the four gates of the town. By then his soul had become free of all karmas and he attained omniscience.
The importance of Dridhaprahari’s story is that he was neither formally initiated as a monknor was he given any sermon by a spiritual teacher. The change in him was self-inspired and spontaneous. It was the intrinsic feeling of compassion that had triggered the reform.
According to Jain philosophy, the embodied soul is encumbered with karmic dust made up of the subtlest material particles (ultimate particles; let us call them ultrons). However, it has the capability and potential to shed this karmic dust altogether and become a Siddha (perfected one), meaning one who has attained the goal of complete purification that is irreversible and is traditionally called liberation (moksha). The endeavour of attaining this state has been divided into fourteen levels or stages of purification or spiritual ascendance. These are called gunasthans (places of virtue). The purification of the soul is also related to the level of knowledge, perception and conduct that are instrumental to this shedding of karmic dust.
The units of time referred to in this context are as follows :
The time taken by one ultimate particle (ultron) in going to the adjacent ultimate particle (ultron) at optimum speed is called one samaya. The smallest unit of time that we are able to recognize is an aggregate of uncountable samayas. In a mere blink of an eye, uncountable samayas pass. Even the most modern scientific instruments have yet to measure that minute fraction of time. The measurable time unit on this scale starts with praan (one exhalation + one inhalation), which is approximately 0.763 seconds. This is made up of a countable number of avalikas (a theoretical unit of time), which is a progressive assimilation of numerous integrations of many aggregates of infinite samayas.
The duration of one uchhavaas (inhalation) and one nishvaas (exhalation) of a person who is happy, unaffected by dotage, and free of physical and mental ailments is called one praan (breath) (approximately 0.763 seconds)
Seven praans make one stoka, seven stokas make one lava, and seventy-seven lavas make one muhurt.
Muhurt = 48 minutes
Lava = 48/77 = 0.6234 minutes = 37.4025 seconds
Stoka = 37.4025/7 = 5.3432 seconds
Praan = 5.3432/7 = 0.7633 seconds
Antarmuhurt = anything less than one Muhurt
The fourteen levels (gunasthans) are as follows:
This lowest level is that of wrong perception/belief. Every soul, irrespective of its possibility of attaining purity or not, starts at this level. Those at this level are known as unrighteous or deluded (mithyadrishti).
2. Sasvadan Samyagdrishti Gunasthan
This is a transitional level at which there is a fleeting taste of righteousness. It lasts only for a minimum of one samaya or a maximum of six avalikas. This level is attained and immediately lost by a living being (soul) who gains righteousness as a consequence of pacification (suppression) of the passions for a short duration of one antarmuhurt and loses it again due to a resurgence of the suppressed passions. After this fleeting taste of righteousness the soul falls back to the first level.
3. Mishra Gunasthan
This too is a transitional level lasting one antarmuhurt. At this level, the soul is in a mixed state of righteousness and unrighteousness wherein one experiences both right and wrong or noble and ignoble attitudes. Once the time limit of this level lapses, the soul either falls back to first level or rises to the fourth level depending on the chosen attitude.
4. Avirat SamyagdrishtiGunasthan
This is the level at which the soul is endowed with right perception/faith as well as the knowledge of right and wrong. However, it is unable to practice properly the self-discipline required for embarking on the genuine path of self-purification. This state may last for minimum of less than one muhurt and maximum of an extremely long period.
5. Desh-virati Samyagdrishti Gunasthan
This is the level at which, in addition to right perception/faith and discerning capacity, the soul is also capable of practicing self-discipline and restraint to a certain degree. In other words, partial renunciation is pursued. This state may last for minimum of less than one muhurt and maximum of an extremely long period.
6. Pramatta Samyat Gunasthan
This again is a transitional level lasting for anywhere between one samaya and one antarmuhurt. Here the soul attains complete self discipline and restraint but with traces of stupor or negligence caused by evanescent passions (sanjvalan kashaya). If this state lasts only for one samaya, the soul falls back to the fourth level; however, if it lasts for just short of an antarmuhurt, the soul falls back to the fifth level. In case it lasts at this level for an antarmuhurt it rises to the seventh level.
7. Apramatta Samyat Gunasthan
This too is a transitional level lasting for anywhere between one samaya and one antarmuhurt. Here the soul attains complete self discipline and restraint without even a trace of evanescent passions (sanjvalan kashaya). The ascent beyond this point depends on the aspirant having consciously and voluntarily taken either of the two paths of spiritual ascent: the sequence of progressive pacification of karmas (upasham shreni) or the sequence of progressive destruction of karmas (kshapak shreni). He can choose the path at any time while he is at any of the 4th to 7th levels. If he has not done so, he falls back to the sixth level. This rise and fall between 6th and 7th levels may continue for a long time.
8. Nivritti Badar Samparaya Gunasthan
A transitional level once again. This and all levels beyond it are restricted to those who have taken either of the two aforesaid paths of spiritual ascent. At this level the aspirant voluntarily performs apurva karan (doing hitherto not done). It is a process of meditation aimed at systematic pacification or destruction of karmas resulting in unprecedented purity and gain of virtues. Due to this unprecedented activity, this level is also called apurva karangunasthan. The aspirant who is on the path of pacification remains at this level for a minimum of one samaya and a maximum of one antarmuhurt. One who is on the path of karmic destruction spends complete one antarmuhurt at this level. From this level there is no fall to lower level.
9. Anivritti Badar Samparaya Gunasthan
This too is a transitional level. The aspirant on either of the aforesaid paths undergoes a process called anivritti karan. In this process he either pacifies or destroys some specific types of karma. However, passions still exist here. The aspirant who is on the path of karmic pacification remains at this level for a minimum of one samaya and a maximum of one antarmuhurt. One who is on the path of karmic destruction spends complete one antarmuhurt at this level. From this level also there is no fall to any lower level.
10. Sukshma Samparaya Gunasthan
Again, a transitional level. All traces of even subtle passions are either pacified or destroyed at this level. The aspirant who is on the path of karmic pacification remains at this level for a minimum of one samaya and a maximum of one antarmuhurt. One who is on the path of karmic destruction spends complete one antarmuhurt at this level. From this level also there is no fall to a lower level; however, from this point the upward path bifurcates leading those on the path of karmic pacification to the 11th level and those on the path of karmic destruction to the 12th level.
11. Upashanta Kashaya Vitaraga Chhadmastha Gunasthan
This again is transitional level and the highest level that can be reached on the path of karmic pacification or upasham shreni. At this level passions are completely pacified or destroyed. The aspirant on the path of pacification remains at this level for a minimum of one samaya and a maximum of one antarmuhurt. At the end of this time, he necessarily falls to one of the lower levels. However, this process can be taken up twice during a lifetime. After the first fall the aspirant still has a chance to follow the path of destruction of karmas leading to liberation. If he does not do that and again takes to the path of karmic pacification, his liberation during that existence becomes impossible.
12. Kshina Kashaya Vitaraga Chhadmastha Gunasthan
This too is transitional level lasting one antarmuhurt. On the destruction of the last trace of greed during the last samaya at the 10th level, the aspirant on the path of karmic destruction rises to this level of completely destroyed passions (kshina kashaya). Here he spends one antarmuhurt. In the penultimate samaya of this level, he destroys the two lightest kinds of sleep (nidra and pracala), and in the last samaya he also destroys the karmas obscuring the knowledge, perception and power of the soul. Having done that, he gains omniscience and rises to the 13th level.
13. Sayogi Kevali Gunasthan
At this level the aspirant is endowed with omniscience and omnipotence, but his association with matter (body) still remains due to lingering traces of benign karmas, including the life span determining karma. This state may last for minimum of one antarmuhurt and maximum of a little less than a purvakoti (an extremely long period). At the end of his life span, he destroys the last traces of karmas to attain liberation.
14. Ayogi Kevali Gunasthan
This is the last transitional level at which the soul sheds the last traces of karma and leaves the body to transcend to the state of perfection (siddha gati). It lasts for just one antarmuhurt. During this period the Kevali (omniscient one) breaks all associations (yoga) and enters the shaileshi state (a mountain-like state of complete inaction). Now he launches the process of kevali-samudghat (bursting forth and withdrawal of soul-space-points to balance the duration of three excessive residual karmas with the life span). A Kevali does this when one antarmuhurt of his life-span is left and the duration of karmas still to be experienced is more. This process takes eight samayas to conclude.