AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF UPAMITI – BHAVA – PRAPAÑCA – KATHĀ
PART – II
FORE-RUNNING STORY OF THE VIRTUELESS BEGGAR
The story of Upamiti begins with an allegory in which the author gives a detailed narration of his past life through the character of the unfortunate beggar named virtueless (Niṣpuṇyaka) who lives in the city that is beginning-less and endless (Aḍṛṣṭamūlaparyanta Nagara). The beggar is ugly, miserable, woebegone and afflicted by all kinds of diseases. he is lonely, dejected and dispirited. the gentle and sober people in the city have a sympathetic attitude towards him whereas the evil-minded ones ridicule him, he is a laughing stock for the naughty children and an example for the sinners. There lived many beggars in the city but none was so unfortunate and miserable like Virtueless. The lousy and the decayed food that the beggar obtained by begging did not satisfy his hunger but on the other hand magnified and intensified his illness. He was forever engrossed in futile thoughts of procuring more and more food. even if he succeeded in getting a morsel of wretched food he thought that he had acquired an entire kingdom. He was always fearful of his food being stolen away by some powerful men. never in his dreams had he tasted good food and he untiringly roamed in all the streets of the city, begging alms.
The city was ruled by the compassionate and famous King Steadfast (Susthitha) who showered his compassion on all
people, irrespective of their status. While begging from door to door, the beggar happened to come near the palace and the gate keeper of the palace who was “Resolver-of-ones-own-Karmas’ (Svakarmavivara) took pity on Virtueless and admitted him in the palace. The beggar was delighted by the very sight of the palace and his happiness knew no bounds when he saw the splendour and beauty of the palace. The palace was beautifully decorated and all kinds of material pleasures, be it in the form of music, arts, crafts, sports, dance, drama; (appeasing the five senses and the mind) were lavishly spread out in the palace. Many warriors and damsels and even old and wise ladies enhanced the beauty of the palace. The beggar observed that it was always festival time in the palace and the residents of the palace were always rejoicing. Only that day he was able to have a glimpse of the interior of the palace by the grace of the door- keeper. Although many times he had come at the door-step of the magnificient palace, but due to his ill-fate and short sightedness and on account of his being Virtueless, he was unable to enter the palace. He looked upon the door-keeper as a good friend and considered the people living in the palace to be very lucky and fortunate.
The king who resided in the top most floor of the palace is all-knowing and all-seeing. When the beggar entered the palace gates the pious sight of the king cleansed the beggar of his sins. King Steadfast, had appointed “Awakener-of-Righteousness’ (Dharmabodhakara), to look after the affairs of the kitchenette. When his eyes fell upon Virtueless, he was taken aback. At first he was unable to comprehend the reason of the entry of the beggar in the palace, but then he understood that only by the grace of the King and the door-keeper, the ugly and miserable beggar could have entered the palace. He visualised the changes that the beggar underwent on stepping into the palace and realised that he would surely become wealthy and affluent one day. He too took pity on the beggar and welcomed him in the palace to give him alms. The beggar felt mentally and physically a little better as his appearance also changed for the better, when he entered the palace. Some naughty children who ridiculed the beggar upto the palace gates ran away when they saw ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, approaching.
Virtueless was then made to sit along with other aspirants. After being instructed by her father, “Compassion (Taddayā), the daughter of “Awakener-of-Righteousness’, fetched the tasty, nutritious and curable good food, “The great fortune’. This food had great healing value, as it enhanced the person’s health, strength, beauty and power and was unobtainable even by the heavenly beings. But Vitueless was engrossed in his own frivolous thoughts and was fearful of losing his begging bowl and the alms that he had collected with great difficulty. For a while he even thought of quitting the place on the pretext of not being in need of any food. ““Compassion’’, stood before him repeatedly pleading him to accept the food offered to him, but all her gentle words fell on deaf ears as Virtueless was in a trance, worried about his petty possessions.
So injudicious was Virtueless that he could not apprehend the importance of the all healing good food served to him. Seeing this ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, remarked that Virtueless was not worthy of this curative food as he was unable to renounce the harmful addiction of his wretched food. He then pondered upon ways of healing Virtueless and reflected upon treating him with the three precious medicines viz. The “eye-salve’ (Pure vision), “holy water’ (Love for truth) and the “all-healing good food’ (The great fortune).
The eye-salve is able to cure all kinds of infections of the sight and the holy water cures one of all diseases and is most sought after and the all-healing good food that is served in the palace is capable of eradicating all the diseases and authorises one to immortality. When used as directed the person becomes strong, charming, handsome, pleasant and peaceful.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then applied the eye-salve in the eyes of Virtueless and immediately Virtueless felt better. He was able to visualize the surrondings and felt delighted. But due to attachment he holded tightly to his begging bowl and was fearful of imparting with it and even thought of absconding the place.
There upon ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, pleaded him to drink the holy water and when Virtueless did not respond, he forced the holy water into the mouth of Virtueless for his welfare. The holy water tasted like nectar and Virtueless was instantly cured of all the diseases and he felt fit and fine. He felt comfortable and blissful as he ceased to be mentally agitated and his attitude was no more perverse. He was now highly obliged to ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ and looked upon him as a great benefactor and a true Samaritan. Everyone thought that his thoughts had become pure but Virtueless could not give up the attachment of the contaminated, impure food and was more concerned about it than anything else. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, then remembered that he had seen many Virtueless people but he had not come across one like this Virtueless. He told Virtueless that there were many miserable and unhappy people outside the palace but none were fortunate to enter the palace and moreover the King Steadfast did not show mercy on them. He said he was confident that the king did not shower his mercy on the unworthy people but Virtueless proved him wrong.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, repeatedly inspired Virtueless to relinquish the wretched food and instead take the all healing curative good food served by “Compassion’. Virtueless was inspired by the kind words of ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ but still he shuddered at the very thought of discarding the begging bowl and the food it contained. He said that with great difficutly he had procured the food and had his own doubts about the kind of food being served to him. He pleaded to retain his begging bowl and the food, along with the food being served at the palace.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, was amazed by the power of Delusion and wondered how people stuped before it. He informed Virtueless that the wretched food he possessed and consumed was solely responsible for his illness. If only he had tasted the great food served in the palace he would not talk so irrationally and innocently. Only a fool will prefer poison to nectar. He further enquired from Virtueless that even after experiencing the goodness of the eye-salve and holy water, why was he still doubtful about the goodness of the all healing good food served to him! He told Virtueless, that Virtueless had taken great pains in the past to obtain the wretched food, in the present the food made him sick and worried and in the future too the food will only produce ill- health and mental agony, hence it was advisable to give up the wretched food as soon as possible. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ advised Virtueless to give up suspicion and unwanted thoughts and little by little accept that tasty food so that he was cured of all illness.
Virtueless then requested, ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ to allow him to keep his old food beside him and also serve him the good food. Thereupon “Compassion’ was instrumental to serve the good food, which Virtueless ate with great delight and his hunger was appeased. Almost all the pores on the surface of his body, which were subject to all kinds of disease were cured to a very great extent. He felt even better, healthy and happy. He now showed some veneration and affection towards ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, and asked that why he had showed so much care and concern for such an unfortunate person like him. Virtueless then said that he considered ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ as his Lord and Master.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then corrected Virtueless and said that he was not his Lord and Master but King Steadfast who is all-knowing and all-seeing is the Lord and Master of one and all. Virtueless was fortunate to have entered the palace and cure himself to a great extent. Virtueless was told that consistent use of the three medicines would cure him perfectly and one day he too can become like the king, all-knowing, all-seeing, blissful and perfect. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then instructed “Compassion’ to serve him the three medicines regularly.
Virtueless consented to the advise of ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ but put forth the condition of retaining his wretched food. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then thought that Virtueless had mistaken his advice and was of the opinion that ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ wanted him to renounce the wretched food.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then told Virtueless not to discard his wretched food but heed to the advice given to him previously. Virtueless then said that he did not pay attention to what was told to him as he was fearful of losing his begging bowl and the food it contained. Then when he was free from anxiety he heard ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ carefully. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ informed him about the qualities of the worthy who could be served the three medicines.
Those who are worthy alone are admitted in the palace by the door-keeper and those who are delighted by the very sight of the palace and find pleasure in the palace alone are worthy. Further those who react positively to the three medicines are healthier when compared to those who are passive. Even the latter are slowly and steadily cured as the medicines are so powerful. But besides the three medicines it is the grace of the King Steadfast which all aspirants should try to acquire to be relieved of all sorrows and miseries. ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ told Virtueless that he belonged to the second category and his pangs were acute. He instructed “Compassion’ to serve him the three medicines and cure him completely.
Virtueless heeded to the advice although he kept his begging bowl aside and protected it. In course of time “Compassion’ served him the three medicines but Virtueless consumed more of his wretched food and less of the water and food served to him, as he was still illusioned by his impure thoughts and possessions. Hence he was not completely cured and now and then he was subject to various diseases like fever, anxiety, cold, fits etc.
“Compassion’ then told him that due to the consumption of the wretched food he was not being cured and the medicines will procure the desired results only when he will give up the wretched food which is causing all the trouble. “Compassion’ further informed that she could not advise him to give up the wretched food as he was agitated by the very thought of renunciation of wretched food. There upon Virtueless said that even though he wanted to give up the food he was unable to do so and so asked “Compassion’ to repeatedly remind him about the disadvantages of the wretched food and prohibit him form consuming it.
The duties of “Compassion’ are many fold and hence “Compassion’ was unable to be by his side always, as a result of which he consumed his wretched food and fell sick. He pleaded to “Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ to find a solution and then ““Awakener-fo-Righteousness’’ appointed ““Wisdom’’ as his attendant.
In course of time Virtueless gave up his wretched food and eagerly took the three medicines and was physically and mentally cured. Gratification was written largely on his face. Realising the impurity of his wretched food he desired to give up all attachments and requested “Wisdom’ to discard the wretched food and cleanse his begging bowl.
“Wisdom’ took him to ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ and he ceremoniously discarded his wretched food and filled it with good food. Virtueless now became Virtuous and his joy knew no bounds. So also ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, ““Compassion’’, ““Wisdom’’ and all others in the palace were happy for Virtueless who had now become pure and virtuous. People in the palace remarked that Virtueless had become pure and meritorious by the grace of King Steadfast, by the efforts of ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ and by the care taken by “Compassion’ and ““Wisdom’’ who made use of the three precious medicines namely “the eye- salve’, “holy water’ and “all-healing good food’, and by discarding the wretched food little by little.
reason for writing upamiti-bhava-prapaÑca-kathĀ
Virtueless who was now rich in virtues; one day enquired from his attendant ““Wisdom’’ that what karmas and actions of his procured the fortune he reaped in the form of the three precious medicines. “Wisdom’ then said that what one sowed one reaped and Virtueless must have given these in his past to reap them in the present. There upon he remarked that if this is the case then he would like to distribute these great fortunes to all worthy people in a grandscale so that life after life they were available to him. His noble enquiry and desire pleased everybody in the palace. Then Virtueless waited for somebody to come and benefit from the three precious medicines but to his disappointment none came to the palace. When he went out of the palace to distribute the medicines none came forward except for some beggars. Others who knew him ridiculed him, ignored him and disgraced him.
Virtuous then informed “Wisdom’ about this and expressed his desire to help one and all. “Wisdom’ then advised him to go to the busiest market place and make public the three medicines by placing them in a wooden bowl. “Wisdom’ then said that even if one worthy and meritorious person benefited from the three precious medicines Virtuous would be blessed and his life purposeful.
The author then remarks that this is an eternal truth that who so ever realizes and acquires the three precious medicines, shall be relieved of all diseases and sufferings. The author further urges all readers to acquaint themselves with the three medicines and thus make their life meaningful and purposeful. The above is the allegory of the story that follows, the author desires to give all the readers the message to realize the true nature of the self and put an end to the worldly sojourn.
The mystery of the allegory as revealed by the author, follows the allegory in the text part of the canto. At the very outset the author makes it clear that he wishes to narrate the story of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā prior to which he wishes to reveal the mystery of the allegory presented above.
The Beginningless and Endless city that was described earlier as the home of the Virtueless beggar, is the world colonized by all that is good and bad, high and low. The description of the world includes the various birth-places, be it heaven, hell, human or animal and plant kingdom. The passions are compared to the noise produced by naughty children, the fort of the city is compared to delusion, the rivers and seas are the sensual pleasures, where in the ignorant delight. The physical bodies of the mortals are compared to the beautiful and enchanting gardens and the senses and the mind are the bees that buzz in the garden of mortals.
The author then announces that the Virtue-less Beggar is none other than his own self, wandering alone in the worldly sojourn unquenched by the sensual pleasures and like an imprudent fool rejoices in false-faith, vowlessness, in vigilance, passions and inauspicious activities of mind, body and speech. In the absence of righteousness and right faith, he is Virtueless and dispirited. Due to karmic conditioning, the beggar remains devoid of the rich spiritual treasure inherent in him, instead begs for alms in different births, the alms being sensual pleasures and his begging bowl being his physical body.
Mischievous children who chased the beggar are compared to the perverse attitude of “The Worldly Soul’ in transmigration. False perception torments him at every stage, in every birth as a result of which he experiences incredible agony, physical and mental anxiety. The beggar was afflicted by all kinds of diseases, so also, the soul in transmigration is afflicted by the diseases of ignorance, delusion, attachment and aversion. Just as diseases are not natural to the body, these passions and pleasures are not characteristic of the self. Due to ignorance and false perception, the Virtueless soul experiences endless hunger, thirst, heat, cold, poverty, insult and injury like the wretched beggar with whom he is compared.
Some sympathize with the beggar, while others ridicule him and still others laugh at him. So also the enlightened have mercy on the Virtueless soul, the proud and arrogant people, ridicule him and the wicked abuse him and laugh at him. Just as the beggar is an example for the sinners; saints and seers illustrate the example of the Virtueless soul to educate and enlighten the masses.
There were many beggars in the city but none was so unfortunate and miserable like Virtueless. The author says that he is the most unfortunate and miserable one of all, as delusion, attachment, anger, aversion, conceit, deceit and greed were abundant in him before being intimated in the right faith.
Just as the Virtueless beggar was for ever engrossed in futile thoughts of begging more and more food, so also the Virtueless soul is forever engrossed in futile contemplation of conquering the world, amassing wealth, creating material wonders etc.
The beggar makes efforts to search an isolated place and quench his hunger. So also the worldly soul leaves no stone unturned in indulging in vices, sex, and the sensual pleasures. Just as the beggar tries to save for the morrow, so also the mortals endlessly accumulate wealth and property to enjoy them in the future. Even if they succeed in acquiring little wealth, they consider themselves to be the richest, such is the alluring power of material riches and pleasures. At times he takes to spiteful and trivial jobs to earn a livelihood but yearns for material luxuries and pleasures.
The author enumerates the names of various professions like agriculture, business, mineralogy, metallurgy and the like which people undertake to amass wealth and fortune. Enticed by his imagination and desire he serves the kings, ministers and the clergy and bears all humiliation. At other times he gambles and even steals in quest of wealth.
With great difficulty the Virtueless beggar acquires some rotten food. While eating it and saving it for the morrow, he is fearful of some strong people snatching his precious food. So also the ignorant Virtueless souls are always fearful of losing their treasures and exercise new methods to secure and protect their fortunes, be it wealth, property, wife, kith and kin.
As already told the decayed food, did not satisfy the hunger of the beggar but magnified and intensified his hunger, so also the material pleasures and fortunes never satiate the cravings of the mortals but on the other hand aggravate their desires and appetite for material benefits.
Just as the beggar suffers from many diseases so also the worldly souls are subject to all kinds of mental and physical ailments. In fact the karmic conditions are the root cause of all diseases, disorders and indispositions. Here the karmas are compared to the decayed and rotten food accumulated by the Virtueless beggar.
The beggar considers the decayed food as the best food available under the sun, for good and nutritious food is beyond his imagination. So also the mundane souls in the absence of right knowledge are unable to visualize and seek true happiness. Due to delusion they are unable to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy. Here the author compares right conduct to the good and nutritious food and says had his soul taken to right conduct his wanderings in the worldly sojourn would have come to an end. Just as the beggar wanders endlessly so also all mundane souls are caught in the web of transmigration since beginningless time.
It has been stated earlier that the Virtueless beggar happened to come near the palace of King Steadfast and the Gate-keeper “Resolver of one’s Karmas’ admitted him inside the palace after taking pity on him. This is the simile of the king and the gate-keeper. The famous King Steadfast in none other than Supreme and Perfect Soul, who is omniscient, liberated and showers his compassion on all beings. He is the ruler of the city beginning less and endless for he has realised his true self and freed himself from all material conditioning. The gate-kepeer is that condition of the soul where the duration and intensity of karmas is reduced to a great extent and the soul breaks the knot of ignorance, awakens from the spiritual slumber, takes to a righteous life and enters the holy order. This is compared to the entering of the palace of the Virtueless beggar. Only when the gate-keeper admits ie when this condition of the soul manifests, the soul is able to enter the palace gates ie the spiritual realm of progressive purification and perfection.
The beggar was taken aback when he saw the beauty and splendor of the palace, so also when the mundane soul stands at the door step of spiritual purification his joy knows no bounds when he prostrates before the self-realised and spiritual masters. The author says that those who renounce the petty material pleasures and adorn their life by right faith and right conduct, never fall in the denizen of hell and other lower existences. After entering this magnificient palace one never experiences fear, anxiety, affliction, meanness, aversion, jealousy, guilt and cowardice. Instead, their self confidence and spiritual strength, springs by leaps and bounds and they experience spiritual joy and bliss, which was hitherto unknown to them. There is always festival time here and the aspirants are forever rejoicing in knowledge and austerity.
The Ācāryas, Upādhyāyas, monks, nuns and laity are compared to the Kings, Ministers, Commanders, Generals and Warriors, guarding the palace of righteousness and spirituality.
The Virtueless beggar saw that the palace, was adorned by abundant luxuries and riches. So also the palace of righteousness is always adorned by meritorious and auspicious moments and actions. Men of virtue and values glorify the palace and it is the abode of eternal bliss and joy, hence it is always festival time in the palace.
When the beggar entered the palace, he was dumbfounded and in a state of shock, for he had never imagined in his wildest dreams the beauty and glory of the palace. So also the aspirant who realize the path of liberation and spiritual glory, is at first curious and reflects thus, ““This path of the Arhats (liberated souls) is indeed majestic and unparalled and the residents of this palace are my well-wishers and friends.’’ He feels one with the inmates of the palace. Just as the Virtueless beggar was indebted to the gate-keeper for allowing him inside the palace, the souls in quest of perfection remain indebted to the promulgators of the path of perfection. The other gate-keeper namely attachment, aversion and delusion obstruct the path and forbid the mundane souls from entering the kingdom of righteousness but ““Resolver-of-one’s-own-karmas’’ enables the aspirants to enter the kingdom.
The Virtueless beggar thinks that he is indeed Virtueless as he had never been thoughtful about the kingdom and was never curious to know about its bounty. He thought that the inmates were lucky to dwell in the magnificent kingdom. So also when the mundane souls have a vision of the Tirthaṅkars or other souls upon whom the vision of truth has dawned, consider themselves to be fortunate to come in association with the noble souls.
The pious sight of the King Steadfast cleansed the beggar of his sins, so also when time ripens and corresponding karmas are destroyed for every individual, he is blessed with realization and cognition of the eternal truth. This is to be understood as the grace of the Lord, for only when the knowledge-obscuring karmas, vision-obscuring karmas and delusion-producing karmas are destroyed the soul has a vision of the Supreme. The Siddhas who abide at the top most tip of the universe, have infinite capacity to cognize all the substances along with their modifications of past, present and future simultaneously. They have manifested the inherent capacities of the soul, viz infinite-knowledge, infinite vision, bliss, infinite power and forever rejoice in the self. The pleasures of the world, are indeed painful and mocking, for the self-realised aspirants this is the truth, on the other hand those immersed in the pool of worldly pleasures, can never apprehend the joy and bliss experienced by the self-realised and perfected souls.
Just as the Virtueless beggar is blessed by the very sight of King Steadfast, so also those aspirants progressing on the path of perfection are blessed by the pure souls, as they get inspiration from them and are motivated to reach the shore of the worldly sojourn. Destiny, time, nature, destruction of karmas too play a vital role in shaping the journey of the soul in transmigration but the grace of the master is of prime importance.
Suddhaṛṣi, the author of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā had experienced the grace of his spiritual master, hence in this context he pays rich tribute to his masters. King Steadfast had appointed ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ to look after the affairs of the kitchenette, so also the spiritual masters and heads of the congregation are the ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, for it is they who instruct, inspire and guide the aspirants on the spiritual path. Like the King Steadfast, “Awakener of Righteousness’, the spiritual master too showers ‘Compassion’ on the mundane soul desirous of perfection.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ for a while comprehends over the reason of the Virtueless beggar into the palace, so also the spiritual masters apprehend the reasons for the mundane souls to enter the spiritual realm. As the saying goes ““As the king, so are the subjects’’, so ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ follows the footsteps of King Steadfast and attends to the Virtueless soul who newly embrace the holy path. He enthusiastically approaches the aspirants in question and says, ““The world is ephemeral although time is beginningless and endless. The soul is eternal and indestructible and all mundane experiences are the result of karmas. Since beginningless time, the soul and karmas are united and hence the drama in various existences. Perverse attitude, vowlessness, invigilance, passions and inauspicious activity of mind, body and speech are the root cause of karmic conditioning which is either auspicious or inauspicious. Auspicious conditioning yields all kinds of gains and happiness and inauspicious conditioning yields all kinds of losses and sorrows. All diversities of birth, name, caste, creed, colour, sex, physical and mental modifications are influenced by karmas.’’ When ““Awakener-of-Righteousenss’’ approaches the mundane souls and instructs them in the truth, all futile speculations and opinions cease to exist, just as the cowards leave the battlefield on seeing the mighty warrior.
The naughty children who ridiculed the beggar are compared to futile ponderings and considerations of the ignorant souls. Just as the mischievous children ran away when they saw ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, so also all false speculations and reflections are dispersed in the presence of the spiritual master.
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ further instructs the Virtueless soul and says, ““Righteousness (Dharma) is the caring father, compassionate mother, understanding brother, affectionate sister, loving wife, loyal friend, pleasing son, virtuous daughter, noble relative, humble family, King of Kings, Cakravatī (Emperor of emperors), Indra (king of Gods). Righteousness alone is the strong and beautiful body, auspicious ears and eyes, invaluable treasure, unconquerable army and abode of beatitude. What more to say, righteousness alone is capable of begetting eternal happiness and emancipation.’’
““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ then revealed that Righteousness is to be understood to be of four kinds viz Charity (Dāna), Chastity (Śīla), Austerity (Tapa) and Auspicious reflection (Bhāva), following which one can become prosperous in this birth and the next.
There upon “Compassion’ the daughter of ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ was called to attend the Virtueless beggar and this daughter of ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ is none other than the grace of the spiritual master. When “Compassion’ approached Virtueless beggar and offered him the curative food he was engrossed in his frivolous thoughts as he was fearful of being cheated. So also the spiritual adepts try to instruct and enlighten the mundane souls but the imperfect aspirants who are passionate, deluded, ignorant, unenlightened, shallow and superficial, do not heed to their precious advice for the fear of being cheated and being deprived of their worldly possessions. He is unable to understand their selflessness, benevolence and magnanimity but remains absorbed in his trivial thoughts. The spiritual adepts remain helpless in enabling them to overcome their illusion and have a sympathetic attitude towards them. They affirm that perverse attitude is the root cause of all misery, but for it, the mundane souls can free themselves from the worldly sojourn.
Then ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ contemplates upon ways of healing Virtueless. He resolves to give him the three medicines viz the eye salve, holy water and all-healing good food. Just as ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ contemplates and resolves to treat Virtueless so also the spiritual masters contemplate upon the cause for this sympathetic condition of the mundane soul. They realize that the karmic bondage of the soul is responsible for his condition and hence they resolve to treat him with the three divine medicines, viz, right knowledge, right faith and right conduct which are capable of healing all kinds of diseases and effecting physical, mental and spiritual fitness.
Right knowledge is the eye-salve, right faith is the holy water and right conduct is the all-healing good food, which the spiritual leaders wish to give to Virtueless mundane souls caught in the web of transmigration. Right knowledge elimiates all ignorance and in the light of knowledge the soul is able to discriminate the truth from the untruth. Right faith is faith in the truth and most essential for the soul to begin his spiritual journey. Right conduct enables one to realize emancipation only after attachment, aversion and passions are done away with. Thus the spiritual masters contemplate to serve the three divine medicines.
When ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ applied the eye-salve Virtueless felt better. So also the spiritual masters again and again instruct and inspire the ignorant soul to tread on the path of righteousness and this is compared to the applying of the eye-salve. But the excuses that people put forth are eight in number and are compared to the irrational ponderings and movements of the Virtueless beggar. The excuses may be ““I have no time, what will I gain by approaching God, only idle people are worried about religion and philosophy, if I indulge in such activities my kith and kin will starve to death, there is so much work lying incomplete at home, business will be terminated, I’ll not be able to serve my country and even farming and cultivation will not take place.’’
Hearing such excuses the spiritual masters still try and convince him to profit by right knowledge, right faith and right conduct. But the ignorant soul finds it very difficult to renounce his attachment and possessions. To drive home the importance of righteousness the spiritual master preaches him about the two values in life viz. the importance of wealth and affluence and the place of pleasures in life (Artha and Kāma).
The Virtue-less beggar opens his mouth to take the medicines so also the ignorant soul is impressed by the worldly discourses and is influenced to hear more form the master. Then the discourses on righteousness and emancipation are put forth by the master. The master questions and asks him to reflect upon the ups and downs in life and the diversities prevalent in different persons. ““One is rich, the other is poor, one is healthy while other is totally unfit and paralysed by many diseases, one is intelligent other is a simpleton, still another is a dullard, one is respected and is held in high esteem while another is a man of disrepute. The master reveals that these jarring differences that we experience in our day to day life are not without cause. All good things, moments, occasions, pleasures, affluence, good health, beauty, intelligence, fame etc. are effected by righteousness alone, hence righteousness is the only prime Puruṣātha ie value in life.
The master then elaborates on the nature of true Dharma ie religion and the Virtueless soul becomes more curious to know the truth. While discoursing on right faith the master discloses the five characteristics of a Samyadṛiṣṭi ie one who has Samyak Darśana i.e. right faith, they are:
Niṛveda Renunciation/desirous of emancipation
Āsthā Steadfast faith
He instructs him not to entertain doubt and remain steadfast. When the Virtueless beggar experienced good health after consuming the eye-salve and holy-water he looked upon ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ as his benefactor, so also the mundane soul who has secured right faith looks upon the spiritual master as a true Samaritan and remains indebted to him all his life.
At this stage the Virtueless beggar had not given up attachment of the decayed food that he possessed. So also the soul who has acquired right knowledge and right faith, remains attached to his kith and kin and his possessions. Inspite of realising their ephemeral nature, he is unable to shun them and embrace right conduct. Then ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ loses his temper and asks him to take the all-healing good food brought by ““Compassion’’. He also orders him to discard the decayed food. Here the decayed food is compared to the attachment of the worldly objects and ““the all-healing good faith’’ is compared to renunciation and right conduct.
But Virtueless, pleaded to retain his begging bowl and food, and in addition requested ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ to give him the good food. So also the delinquent soul does not heed to the advice of the master and remains absorbed in worldly pleasures. He expresses his weakness in accepting the path of complete renunciation and so the master advocates the path of partial renunciation and the aspirant then takes to partial vows. When the aspirant takes to partial vows, he limits his desires and becomes aware of his day to day activities. He looks upon the spiritual adept as his saviour and Lord. But the master corrects him and says that he is not the saviour but the perfected, emancipated, omniscient are their Saviour and Lord.
When Virtueless accepted to undertake the orders except that of discarding his wretched food, ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ realised the effect of his instructions and allowed him to retain his wretched food. There upon Virtueless became calm and relaxed. He became more attentive and sincere. He was now prepared to take further orders from the master. He said due too previous inhibitions and worries he was unable to grasp the essence of the discourses. He then kept his begging bowl aside and consumed the three medicines. In a similar fashion, the spiritual adepts allow the aspirants to retain their previous attachments and instruct them to regularly absorb right faith, right knowledge and right conduct so as to conquer them in due course. Moreover they instruct only those who are worthy of instruction and matured for inspiration. Visualizing the mental state of different aspirants the spiritual masters guide them accordingly.
Subsequently Virtueless abides in the palace and is attended by “Compassion’ who serves him the three medicines. Besides regular intake of the three medicines the Virtueless beggar continues to consume his wretched food as he is unable to give up his outstanding attachment. This is compared to that stage where the aspirant accepts the partial vows and continues to perform his worldly duties living with his kith and kin. When “Compassion’ pleads him to consume those medicines, he devours them half-heartedly as he is still under the influence of his past cravings. So also when the spiritual master repeatedly instructs him to tread on the path of right-faith, right-knowledge, the aspirant does it half-heartedly as he is still under the influence of his karmic pattern. Here the karmas are compared to the diseases which are afflicted on the mundane soul and in their presence the aspirant is unable to embrace the path of renunciation, self-restraint and equanimity. Just as he Virtueless beggar pleads for mercy and attention, the aspirant too pleads for mercy and grace to overcome his desires and athachment.
When “Compassion’ did not attend to the Virtueless beggar he consumed his wretched food and became perverse and unfit. So he requested ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’ to make such arrangements, so that he never fell ill again. Consequently ““Weakener-of-Righteousness’’ appointed ““Wisdom’’ as his companion, as a result the Virtueless beggar overcame his weakness for the wretched food and became fit. So also the aspirant is blessed with “Wisdom’ to guide him always, besides the grace of the master. The aspirant wisely avoids worldly pleasures and substitutes them with austerity, renunciation and equanimity. In the absence of “Wisdom’, man is not different from an animal. “Wisdom’ enhances the power of discrimination. As a result one becomes detached and the more detached one is, more worthy he becomes to realize and conquer his self and subsequently free himself from the worldly-sojourn.
One day Virtueless beggar converses with “Wisdom’ and expresses his astonishment in feeling so healthy and fit. “Wisdom’ then said that it was natural for him to feel good as he had wisely repudiated the consumption of the wretched food and regularly consumed the three medicines. The same is true of any spiritual aspirant who repudiates the sensual pleasures wholeheartedly and never yearns for them any longer, for he realizes the ocean of bliss inherent in him. Just as Virtueless asks “Compassion’ to throw away his wretched food so also the person desirous of his spiritual welfare, approaches the spiritual adepts and seeks their permission to be initiated in the holy order.
In this context the author enumerates the hardships and afflictions faced by those who renounce the world. He says it is better to remain in the world and sincerely abide by the partial vows than to renounce the world and later regret it. Hence they do not initiate a person unless and until they are convinced of his determination and strong character.
When ““Awakener-of-Righteousness’’, ceremoniously discarded his wretched food and filled it with good food, it was celebration time in the palace. ““Awakener-of-Righteousnes’’, “Compassion’, “Wisdom’ and all others were happy for Virtueless who had now become “Rich-in-Virtues’. So also when the mundane soul renounces the world and gets initiated in the holy order it is celebration for him, his family and the entire congregation. One who has experienced the pleasure of being a King never yearns to be a down-trodden once again. All of us at some stage or the other are afflicted by innumerable physical and mental agonies and contemplate to relinquish the world, but rarely a hero is born who does not surrender to the world but dedicates himself in the accomplishment of his higher divine self. When he does so he becomes “Rich-in-Virtues’ and is always ecstatic and overjoyed, like the Virtueless beggar who is now “Rich-in-Virtue’ and fit and fine.
One day the Virtueless beggar inquired from “Wisdom’ as to what he had done to receive the benefits of the three precious medicines. “Wisdom’ answered that, ““What one sowed only one reaped, ie the Virtueless beggar must have given these medicines to somebody in his previous births, to get them now.’’ The Virtueless beggar who is now “Rich-in-Virtues’ decides to give the three medicines in charity to reap their benefits in future existences.
So also the spiritual aspirant reflects on the happiness and joy yielded by right faith, right knowledge and right conduct in his life and believes that he must have done some great auspicious deeds to reap the fruit of divinity in this birth. Like the Virtueless beggar he too plans to give these three medicines in charity. As the inmates of the palace, so are other spiritual aspirants rejoicing in right faith, right knowledge, right conduct. So none approaches “Rich-in-Virtue’ for the three medicines in the palace.
Then “Wisdom’ advises him to step out of the palace and announce about the three medicines. “Rich-in-Virtue’ goes out of the palace and does as told, but his former acquaintances and friends who knew him as the Virtueless beggar, ignore him and mock at him. Some take the medicines while many others remain deprived of its benefits. So also the aspirant who has realized the importance of right-faith, right-knowledge and right-conduct, moves from place to place, barefoot, without injuring any creature, instructing, discoursing and preaching the noble path and its prime constituents namely right-faith, right-knowledge and right-conduct- for all to benefit and liberate from the worldly sojourn.
Some take interest, others remain aloof, still others ridicule the monks and nuns preaching the divine path. But the spiritual aspirants remain unaffected by praise and sarcasm and continue to do their good work come what may, be it rain or shine, they continue to travel and inspire multitudes of people.
It is in this context that the author reveals his desire to compose an inspiring work to reach out to a wider section of society and drive home the message of the enlightened ones. Thus Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā was written by the author in which the journey of the soul in Manifold Existence is enumerated. The author says that as he has written the work in simple language, he compares it to ““placing of the three medicines in a wooden bowl and not in a golden bowl by “Rich-in-Virtue.’
He says that who-so-ever consumes the three divine medicines namely right-faith, right-knowledge and right-conduct shall be relieved from all physical, mental and spiritual illness. He further says that he is yet imperfect and unenlightened, but has put in great efforts to present the path of the Jina (the perfect souls). He requests his readers to read the text sincerely and hopes that all benefit from it.
Thus the author has presented the allegory of the Virtueless beggar and the essence of the allegory. He then begins to enumerate the story of the “Jīva’ in the worldly sojourn in an allegorical form. He concludes Canto I as follows:
1. The author says that whatever he has experienced in his life he has presented the same, because similar are the experience of all. He asks one and all to reflect upon these experiences.
2. In Canto I the author has self-reproached, besides elucidating the path of the Jina, viciousness of attachment and aversion, evil of karmas and the drama of manifold existence.
3. The worldly sojourn is full of sorrows and evils, hence one should secure right-knowledge, right-faith and right-conduct and keep supplementing them for spiritual progress.
End of Canto I – Chapter Two