JAINISM – THE CREED FOR ALL TIMES
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The TALE Of MṚGĀPUTRA : THE SON OF MṚGĀ
This story from the first Mūlasūtra, Uttarādhyayana, brings out, in vivid details, the virtue of proper knowledge of what one sets his mind to do and then, by the strength of one’s –right–knowledge, to set all doubts at rest. In this story Mṛgāputra decides to become a monk and when his parents raise various doubts about his life as a monk, he replies to each of their questions to their satisfaction and wrests their permission after satisfying them.
In the ancient times there ruled in the town of Sugrīva, surrounded on all sides by the sylvan surroundings of parks, gardens and forests, the king Balabhadra. Mṛgāvatī was his queen–consort and the crown–prince was Balaśrī who was also known as Mṛgāputra. Balaśrī, was a very dear and obedient son and a valorous and brave crown–prince whom the foes feared. In the ample and opulent palace he lived luxuriously like a young heavenly god.
The Detachment of Mṛgāputra –
Once, while looking out of the palace–balcony, Balaśrī saw a pious, austere and restrained Śramaṇa monk who was passing that way and recalled his monastic life that he had led in his past life. He realised the futility of leading a mundane life and became totally detached from worldly ways. He wanted to become a monk and went to his parents to seek their permission to do so.
He said, “O’ father µ O’ mother µ I have come to know the misery that attends the worldly creatures and have realised the futility of leading the miserable worldly life; I have realised the transient nature of things including my own body and have come to know of the fallacy of sensory pleasures that ultimately result in more misery than the pleasure they give; I have realised that the worldly wealth and riches do not accompany anybody when one dies and that one day I, too, shall have to leave all this and die; I have, therefore, set liberation from this miserable mundane existence as my goal and I do want to leave this miserable world beset by birth, decay, disease and death and follow the path of liberation. As a wayfarer who leaves without victuals falls on bad times and is tormented by hunger and thirst, so a traveller of the path of liberation who goes without having taken the way–fare of spiritual practices also falls on bad destiny and wanders. As the owner of a burning house takes out expensive items and leaves worthless ones to burn so do I wish to salvage my soul from this world that burns in the fire of decay and death. I seek your permission to become a monk.”
On hearing Mṛgāputra’s detached talk his parents who were in the grip of parental affection and were deeply attached to him, wished to dissuade him from his intended monastic ordination and wanted to frighten him away from his intent by narrating the hardships and affliction that he was likely to encounter in his monastic life. However Mṛgāputra’s detachment was steadfast and he was not to be dissuaded by any fear of inducement. What follows is a dialogue between Mṛgāputra and his parents that brings to the fore the deep insight he had about his intended monasticism and consequent firmness of his intent.
The Rigours of Monastic Life –
Mother – “Son µ the monastic life is very hard, the mendicant has to take many a difficult vows and has to lead a very austere life. It is very difficult to observe the vow of not hurting the vitalities of any creatures so is to be ever vigilant about not to utter any lie. It is equally difficult observe the vow of non–stealing like not to take even a toothpick without being given by its rightful owner; even to observe the vow of celibacy will be very difficult for a person like you who has revelled in luxury and sensual pleasures all his life. Also, it is very difficult to renounce everything like riches and grains, servants and animals, etc. It is very difficult to give up attachment towards all these things and beings.”
Father – “Son µ it is very difficult to give up night–eating for ever and to bear hardships like hunger and thirst, heat and cold, reprimand and beatings etc are very difficult too. For a soft and delicate person like you the monastic practices such as plucking the hair etc, not once but repeatedly throughout your life, will be as difficult as to swim across an ocean. Similarly, to observe penance is like walking on the edge of a sword or to chew the grains of steel. To lead monastic life in the prime of one’s youth is as difficult as swallowing the flame of fire, as holding the air in a cloth–bag and as weighing Mt. Meru on a kitchen–scale. Therefore, O’ son µ stay in the royal palace and enjoy pleasures that are difficult to get even by the heavenly gods. Once you have enjoyed these pleasures to your content go and become a monk in your old–age.”
Mṛgāputra – “O’ mother µ O’ father µ what you have just said is true but nothing is difficult for one who has overcome the delusion caused by mundane attachment. In this indefinite worldly wandering, birth after birth, I have experienced many fearful pains and miseries, faced many a frightful fear, bore many a tormenting tortures in hellish and other births in four living species. In the hellish births I have born heat that was infinitely hotter than fire, cold that was colder than ice. There, I was cooked on fire, sawed by saws, dragged on pointed thorns, pierced by swords, spears, beaten by iron bars and cut to pieces. There, I was pressed in large and heavy presses and torn by frightening wild beasts. There, I was put under red–hot yokes, lashed by whips and picked by the sharp beaks of fearful birds of prey like vultures and eagles. O’ dear father µ Hellish pains and miseries are infinite times more unbearable as compared to the ones we see here. There, there is no respite even for a moment. Thus, I have born many hardships, afflictions and painful miseries such that the hardships of monastic life will pale in comparison.”
Seeing that their son was steadfast in his detachment from the mundane and that he knew about what he was wanting to do, it was clear to the parents that there was no stopping him from becoming a monk. However, they tried again.
The Parents – “Son µ it is fine if you wish to become a monk but have you thought that in the monastic life it is very painful not to take treatment when one becomes ill and indisposed?”
Mṛgāputra – “O’ mother µ O’ father µ what you say is true but who treats a dear in the forest when it falls ill, who gives it medicine and who feeds it looks after it? As it recovers health all by itself and returns to the grazing ground so I will also lead the monastic life without treatment and looking after by others. As a dear moves about in the jungle unrestricted so a monk also goes about his monastic peregrinations and rises in the spiritual purity. As a dear goes alone in the forest so, sustained by my monastic restraints and austerities, I will also move about alone and discharge my duties.”
Rendered speechless by irrefutable arguments of their son, the parents yielded to his request and permitted him to accept monastic ordination, as he desired. They said –
The Father – “Son µ do as it pleases you.”
Mṛgāputra – “O’ mother µ O’ father µ permitted by you, I shall lead a perfect dear like monastic life that will help me in destroying the karmic bondage responsible for all miseries.
The Mother – “Son µ do as it pleases you.”
Thus, having obtained the parents’ permission after variously convincing them, Mṛgāputra discarded all delusion and attachment just as a great serpent discards its old skin. Renouncing all worldly possessions as one sheds the dust from one’s clothes; he proceeded on his monastic sojourn.
He became endowed with five great monastic vows, he was carefully guided by five comportments (Samitis) and restrained by three self–restraints (Guptis). He was ever–ready to accept increasingly rigorous external and internal penance and shed pride and prejudice altogether. He became a protector of static and mobile life–forms and developed equanimity in gain and non–gain, pleasure and pain, praise and criticism, honour and insult and life and death. He freed himself from the clutches of pride, passions, punishment, spiritual thorns, fear, laughter, wishes, worry and bondage and became fully engrossed in the pursuit of perfect monastic practices.
Like this, after leading a monastic life full of the pursuit ofright–vision, right–knowledge, right–conduct and right–penance for a number of years, Mṛgāputra observed a month–long end–practice of Sallekhanā–Samādhimaraṇa for a period of one month and gained the unparalleled gain of spiritual perfection of the Siddhas.
Moral of The Story –
Concluding this story, the Lord said, “O’ blessed ones µ Just as, becoming detached, Mṛgāputra stuck to his detachment and was not dissuaded from accepting monastic ordination in spite of the best persuasion by his parents who painted a frightening picture of monastic hardships and discomforts and liberated to attain spiritual perfection, you, too, must treat worldly wealth as a source of misery and worldly attachments as the most frightening and pursue the path of monasticism unwaveringly. It is the only unparalleled path that can yield spiritual emancipation and ultimate destination of spiritual perfection endowed with infinite vision, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite spiritual prowess.
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