Shree Parshwanath Bhagwan, also known as Parasnath Bhagwan, is the 23rd Tirthankar of our present time-cycle. He lived for 100 years. At the young age of 30, He took Diksha. After 83 days of rigorous penance, on the 84th day, He attained Keval-Gnan (Absolute Knowledge).
Thereafter, for 70 years, He delivered Deshna to thousands of people and invoked a desire for Moksha (the ultimate liberation) in them. Many people took His refuge, renounced the world and with His grace, attained Keval-Gnan. Lord Parshwanath attained Nirvan on the sacred Sammet Shikharji Mountains.
Dharnendra Dev is His Shaasan Dev and Padmavati Devi His Shaasan Devi! Today, people worship Lord Parshwanath with great faith and devotion. Maximum derasars (temples) around the world are of Parshwanath Bhagwan and the most widely chanted mantra, too, is His.
Let’s now go through the life stories of the Lord’s nine previous births, prior to His birth as Tirthankar Bhagwan Parshwanath.
Marubhuti, the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan, took birth in the Potanapur town. There was King Arvind’s rule in this town. His subjects were pleased to have him as their King due to the peace, happiness and prosperity he had established and sustained in the kingdom. King Arvind was a pious person too.
He had an intelligent, knowledgeable and good-natured minister named Vishwabhuti, who was a Brahmin by birth and hence, was his family-priest too. Vishwabhuti Purohit and his wife had two sons, Kamath and Marubhuti. Both sons were quite promising and, at very young age, had earned good name and fame from the business they established. The two of them got married to Varuna and Vasundhara respectively. Both daughters-in-law were good-looking; however, Marubhuti’s wife Vasundhara was extraordinarily beautiful.
On completion of his personal responsibilities, after due consultation with King Arvind, Vishwabhuti Purohit handed over his ministerial responsibilities to his two sons and renounced the world. He left his home and took Diksha (monkhood) from a renowned Jain Saint.
Vishwabhuti’s elder son Kamath was excessively indulged in sensual pleasures with a lot of women. Seeing his younger brother’s beautiful wife, the lustful Kamath tried to lure her too. She was an easy prey, as her husband Marubhuti was highly reserved, religious-minded and a saintly person averse to sensory pleasures.
When Varuna came to know about the illicit relationship between her husband and her sister-in-law, she informed Marubhuti about it. However, Marubhuti, being a positive-minded person, initially did not heed her. Nevertheless, upon her insistence that she was saying the truth, he decided to check the facts by himself. Next day, Marubhuti told his elder brother that he was going out of station for some work. In the evening, in disguise of a traveller, Marubhuti came back seeking shelter for one night at Kamath’s home. Not able to recognise him, Kamath took him in.
At night, Marubhuti pretended to be fast sleep. After some time, he was shocked to see the evil conduct of Kamath and Vasundhara in action. Not understanding what to do, the next morning, he ran to King Arvind and told him everything. King Arvind ordered his guards to make Kamath sit on a donkey and banish him as a punishment for his illicit conduct.
Kamath was unable to take this insult. Consequently, he bound a strong vengeance towards his brother, who according to him was responsible for his big insult. He joined a group of ascetics in the forest and began rigorous penance to the effect of taking revenge.
On the other hand, the pious Marubhuti experienced within him intense remorse that why did he complain to the King. He held himself responsible for making his elder brother go through such an insulting punishment. Out of deep attachment towards his brother, he went and pleaded before the King to call his brother back. However, the King refused to do so, as he was responsible for ensuring uniform justice to all his subjects.
With the intent of seeking forgiveness, Marubhuti went to meet his brother in the forest and bowed down in his feet. However, Kamath, being tremendously angry with Marubhuti, picked up a big stone and threw it on Marubhuti’s bowed head. Thus, he died on the spot.
Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan always advised to repent in mind for the mistakes one has made. However, he also said, we should seek forgiveness in person only from someone who is likely to respond to this act of ours favourably; or else the vengeance would increase, as in the case of Kamath. Kamath went after Marubhuti for next nine births and killed him in every birth. So, where someone has severe hatred for us, is boiling with anger and harnessing feelings of revenge; it is advisable to keep asking for forgiveness in our mind from the Soul within that person and not in person.
On the other hand, we should also bear in mind that if someone comes to us asking for pardon, we should immediately grant forgiveness with an open and gracious heart. The Gnanis, the Enlightened Beings, are naturally forgiving because they have the right understanding with which they can see that no one in this world is at fault at all; they have a flawless vision!
As Marubhuti, the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan, died in aartdhyan (distressing thoughts), in his next birth, he was born as an elephant in the forest. On the other hand, owing to the feelings of severe anger and vengeance that Kamath harnessed in his mind, he got born as a poisonous snake in the same forest.
Meanwhile, King Arvind continued to rule his kingdom with a kind heart. One day, while sitting with his Queens in his palatial terrace, he suddenly saw various clouds floating in the sky in interesting shapes, creating a beautiful scene. The King was thoroughly engrossed in enjoying this scene. However, just then, in a moment, a strong wind swayed away all the clouds. In no time, the sky was bright and clear.
Witnessing this sequence of events, the King began to ponder over it. He wondered, “The luxuries and happiness I am presently enjoying and deeply absorbed in are also as transient as these clouds. For that matter, this body and this life of mine, too, are as transient as these clouds.
One day, death will arrive and sway away my life.” This made him dispassionate towards the material world. Thinking deeper, he realised, “Everything that I am seeing in this world is temporary; but behind this temporary (like the clouds) lies something that is bright and clear (like the sky), which is permanent. Hence, the purpose of my life should be to find out that permanent factor - what is it? how is it? where is it?”
Accordingly, he took Diksha from a Jain Muni, became Arvind Muni and commenced the journey in search of the eternal Soul, his real Self. Spiritually, he attained good height. To progress further on this path, he along with his Sangh (clan), went to the Ashtapad Mountains where Lord Rishabhdev’s son Bharat Chakravarti had established a beautiful Tirth full of temples housing idols of the 24 Tirthankars.
On the way, Arvind Muni explained to people the significance of a Tirth by saying, “In this world, we remain so engrossed, indulged and entangled into our worldly activities such that we do not have time for our spiritual progress or to find a Gnani, the Enlightened One, who can initiate our spiritual progress.
However, when we travel and go to a Tirth where a lot of spiritual Gurus and Gnanis also come, we may meet a Gnani who has attained the Soul and can also make us also attain the same. Furthermore, it is also important to visit different Tirth places and worship the Gods / Goddesses revered there. This is essential to wash off the offences we may have committed in the past, owing to our partial viewpoint, against that particular God, Goddess or Guru in the Tirth, assuming them to be of someone else’s faith.”
Arvind Muni’s camp, en-route to the Ashtapad Mountains, took a stop in the forest where the elephant (Marubhuti in the previous birth) resided. Coincidentally, the elephant came near the camp. Arvind Muni, by his knowledge of clairvoyance, realised that this elephant was Marubhuti’s reincarnation.
Arvind Muni, with great compassion, saw into the eyes of the elephant, connected with the Pure Soul residing within the elephant and reminded him of how good his spiritual development was in the previous birth. He inspired him to give up his beastly acts and, instead, take up the path to progress on the spiritual path of non-violence.
Listening to Arvind Muni, the elephant became calm and with a deep sense of gratitude and devotion, he bowed a number of times into the Arvind Muni's feet. He firmly determined to never hurt others through any of his thoughts, words or deeds, and thereafter, spent his life practicing non-violence.
One day, the elephant got trapped into the sticky mud on the banks of a river. He realised that now his death was near. Hence, he fearlessly engrossed himself in religious meditation. Just then, the serpent (Kamath in previous birth) happened to pass by. The vengeance that he had in his previous birth towards Marubhuti had become due to be invoked, as a result of which, he happened to bite the elephant. This is how karma comes into fruition!
This time, the elephant (Marubhuti in previous birth) had no aartdhyan (distressing thoughts) at the time of death. On the contrary, as he had vowed to not hurt anyone in life, no ill-feelings or anger arose even in his thoughts towards the serpent. On the contrary, he felt deeply grateful to the snake for ending his life as an animal and helping him move forward in his journey towards liberation. Thus, engrossed in this religious meditation, he died peacefully and attained Samadhi Maran!
The elephant, the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan, then reincarnated as a celestial being in the Sahasrar heaven. For years together, he remained surrounded by abundant pleasures in the heaven. He, however, did not let these pleasures distract him even by a bit.
He enjoyed the pleasures but without losing his dharmadhyan (religious meditation) and shukladhyan (meditation of the Pure Soul). He was aware that the happiness and comforts he was enjoying today were a result of good karma of adopting the principal of non-violence from Arvind Muni in his previous birth of an elephant.
On the other side, the snake, due to his wrongdoings, was compelled to take his next birth in the 5th hell, where he underwent severe hardships and went through enormous pain.
After completing a long celestial lifespan, the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan took birth in Tilka, a city in Pragvideh located in the East Videh Kshetra of Jambudwip. He was born as a son of King Vidyutgati, the kingdom’s ruler and his Queen Kanaktilka. He was named Kiranveg and soon grew up into an extremely good-looking, intelligent and a powerful Prince. One day, King Vidyutgati announced his son to be his successor and took Diksha to live a spiritual life thereafter.
Years passed by! One day, a Jain monk happened to stop by in the kingdom of King Kiranveg. The King went to do his darshan. He bowed before him with great devotion and sat in his feet. The Muni delivered a sermon for the benefit of Kiranveg, explaining about the impermanence of worldly things and the permanence of the Soul, the Self.
Listening to this preaching, the King decided to renounce the world and devote his life to the Self (the Pure Soul within) henceforth. He handed the Kingdom to his son, Kirantej and then took Diksha.
With due permission from his Guru, Kiranveg became ‘ekalvihari’, i.e., he wandered alone in forests, did severe penance and progressed with his spiritual practices. Once while Muni Kiranveg (Marubhuti’s reincarnation) was deeply engrossed in his mediation of the Pure Soul, a fierce python (Kamath’s reincarnation) saw him.
Because of his hostility carried over since multiple births, the serpent’s eyes became red and with great anger, he swallowed the Muni. Although the monk was in terrible pain, he did not have any negative thoughts for the serpent, nor did he believe the serpent to be at fault. He believed in the natural law of karma and continued his meditation until he met blissful death.
The Soul of Kiranveg was now born in the 12th heaven. Despite amidst the divine glamour of this heaven, he lived a religious life. On the other hand, the python (Kamath’s reincarnation) went to the Tamaprabha hell, the sixth hell, where he went through unimaginable sufferings for lakhs of years without an iota of peace or comfort.
After completing the lifespan in the 12th heaven, the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan, descended into the womb of the Queen of King Vajraveerya, a powerful ruler in the West Videh Kshetra of Jambudwip. The parents named their son Vajranabh, who grew up to be a valorous King after a few years.
Once, the reigning Tirthankar Ksemankara’s Samosaran was set in his own garden. King Vajranabh was greatly delighted to have this event. He thanked his merit karmas for this! Listening to the Tirthankar’s words (Deshna), he immediately took Diksha from the Lord Tirthankar. He chose to be an ekalvihari in this birth as well and performed rigorous penance for many years.
One day, a Bhil, i.e., a tribal Adivasi named Kurangaka (Kamath’s reincarnation) saw the ascetic (Marubhuti’s reincarnation) in meditation. Right from birth, the Bhil had been making his living from hunting and killing creatures in the jungle.
However, this time, owing to his malicious feelings of previous births, for no reason, he aimed his arrow at Muniraj Vajranabh who was engrossed in the most pious meditation of his Soul and finally killed him. Kurangaka took pride in performing this heinous shot and thus, took his next birth in the seventh hell where he underwent extreme sufferings for an extremely long period.
Vajranabh Muniraj, being engaged in the most pious meditation, continued to remain in peace despite the Bhil’s cruelty. He did not have an iota of ill-feeling towards Bhil even when he was put to death by him. Therefore, Vajranabh Muniraj, after death, became the celestial being of the highest magnificence, named Lalitanga.
In Jambudwip, in the East Videha, King Kulish was ruling the Puranapura city. One night, his wife Queen Sudarshana saw auspicious dreams indicating the birth of a Chakravarti son to her. The auspicious baby was born and the parents named him Suvarnabahu, who was the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan.
He grew up to become a great Chakravarti, a ruler of the six khands of the Universe. One day, he went out on a powerful horse for enjoying a sport. Suddenly, the horse, at a jet speed, reached a place that was astoundingly beautiful. There was a beautiful pond, wonderful flowers, birds chirping away and the atmosphere was filled with serenity.
Just then, the King saw some beautiful girls at the pond, of which one was Padmavati who was extremely beautiful. She was playing with her friends. Suddenly, a bee flew onto her face and she started screaming, “Save me from this bee. Save me!” The friends teased her saying, “No one except Suvarnabahu can save you now!”
Listening to these words, King Suvarnabahu was astonished. He immediately came and freed Padmavati from the bee. He tried to hide his identity by introducing himself to be the attendant of King Suvarnabahu. The girls reached home and narrated the incident to Ratnavali, the Mother of Padmavati. Suddenly, it struck Ratnavali that one Saint in the past had made a forecast of Padmavati marrying a Chakravati.
Suvarnabahu approached the Saint who confirmed that the two of them were indeed destined to marry. Thus, Chakravarti Suvarnabahu married Padmavati. Ratnavali bid farewell to her daughter with a valuable advice, “King Suvarnabahu’s home is your home now! You forget this home now and live a good married life. You treat his co-wives and step-sons with great kindness, even if they treat you as their rival.”
One day, Suvarnabahu got the news that Tirthankar Jagannath had arrived in his Kingdom. He immediately rushed to pay homage to him. His mind was overwhelmed with immense faith and devotion. After paying homage to Lord Jagannath, he listened to his Deshna and instantly made up his mind to take Diksha and progress further on the path of liberation. By accomplishing many of the 20 sthanaks and devoting sincerely to the Arhats, he swiftly acquired the most auspicious Tirthankar-naam-and-gotra karma.
Once, while he was in deep meditation in a dense forest, a fierce lion (Kamatha’s reincarnation) happened to come there. He saw the great sage from a distance and the anger and disgrace, being carried forward birth after birth, once again exploded within him. He pounced on Muni Suvarnabhanu and tore him apart. However, the Muni, as always, did not have any adverse thoughts for the lion. He admitted his karma, continued to remain equanimous and experienced blissful death while remaining in the meditation of his Soul.
Due to his strong equanimity at the time of various inflictions, Anand Muniraj (Chakravarti Suvarnabahu) died and became a celestial being in Mahaprabha, the 10th heaven.
The lion was forced to go to the hell again, this time to the fourth one. After completing the lifespan at the fourth hell, the lion’s Soul was born in a village in the human form, this time. His name was Kamath. However, soon after his birth, all his family members died and he was left alone in this world he survived his childhood amidst great poverty and somehow reached youth in a miserable condition.
One day, he saw a crowd of rich people wearing nice clothes and jewel-studded ornaments. He wondered how he can procure these for himself too. He was given to believe by people around that it was a result or the fruit of the hard penance they had done in their former birth. Listening to this, he decided to do rigorous penance with the desire of procuring enormous material wealth for himself. He took the vow of becoming an ascetic and was called Kamath Tapas.
In Bharat Kshetra, King Ashvasen was ruling the historic city of Varanasi. His Queen was Vama Devi. One night, as the Soul of Parshwanath Bhagwan descended from the celestial world into her womb, she got 14 dreams. She narrated her dreams to the King. The King, in turn, narrated them to the experts and got to know that the mother Queen would soon give birth to a Tirthankar!
Thereafter, Queen Vama Devi gave birth to a son. When the baby was in the womb of Vama Devi, she saw a huge serpent in her dream. Hence, the parents decided to name him ‘Parshwa’. Lord Parshwanath’s laanchan (symbol), too, was a snake. Baby Parshwa slowly grew up into a handsome Prince.
On the other end, King Prasenjit ruled the city of Kushasthal. He had an exceptionally beautiful and intelligent daughter named Prabhavati. The King was extremely worried about how he would find a suitable husband for his beautiful daughter.
One day, while Prabhavati was with her friends in a garden, some beautiful damsels were talking about Prince Parshwa Kumar of Varanasi. They were talking that He is extremely good looking and that He is going to be a Tirthankar. They asserted to the Princess, “He alone is suitable to marry you.” Listening to this and the characteristics described by the damsels, the Princess immediately fell in love with Prince Parshwa Kumar and decided that she would marry Him only.
Meanwhile, King Yavanraj of Kalinga learnt about Prabhavati’s beauty and decided to marry her. He sought King Prasenjit’s consent to do so. However, the King denied his proposal. Due to this, King Yavanraj waged a war against King Prasenjit. King Prasenjit asked for help from King Ashvasen.
King Ashvasen promised to protect him and accordingly, ordered his army to get ready for the war. However, Prince Parshwa Kumar requested His father to allow him to handle the situation. Raja Ashvasen had full trust in Him and hence, whole-heartedly gave the permission to do so.
Initially, Parshwa Kumar sent a messenger to King Yavanraj to forget Princess Prabhavati. However, King Yavanraj ignored him and abused the messenger. Parshwa Kumar then got ready to wage a war. Just seeing the huge army of Parshwa Kumar, King Yavanraj got extremely nervous.
He ran to Parshwa Kumar to negotiate. However, as soon as he saw the innocent and radiant face of Parshwa Kumar, he was highly impressed. Realising his divinity, he fell into the feet of Prince Parshwa Kumar asked for forgiveness.
The noble and humble Prince was about to become a Tirthankar! Tirthankars see the entire world as faultless. They have natural forgiveness for everyone. This is something, we too, can and must learn. When we learn to not see faults of anyone, the virtue of natural forgiveness develops in us too.
For that, we can make a beginning by learning to forgive others for their petty mistakes committed in daily events or situations. A resolve of, “I do not want to harness any adverse opinion for anyone and shall always be forgiving in my interactions,” when done on a daily basis will fetch good results!
Coming back to the story... after the above incidence, upon great insistence from His father and just to keep his parents’ word, Parshwa Kumar got married to Prabhavati, the daughter of King Prasenjit. Thereafter, King Ashvasen coronated Parshwa Kumar and renounced the world.
Once Prince Parshwa Kumar was with Queen Padmavati in His balcony. At some distance, He saw a mendicant practicing penance by doing a havankund. The mendicant was doing this out of utter ignorance. True penance is inner penance that is performed by maintaining equanimity during adverse circumstances of insult, loss, etc.
Every Tirthankar has three types of knowledge, namely Shrut-Gnan, Mati-Gnan and Avdhi-Gnan (clairvoyance), right from inside the mother’s womb. Therefore, Parshwa Kumar, with His clairvoyance knowledge, saw that a snake is trapped in the burning log used in the havankund. He immediately rushed to the scene and requested the mendicant to stop the penance.
However, the mendicant, who was no other than Kamath Tapas, totally ignored Him. Parshwa Kumar asked Tapas some tough questions, listening to which he got highly irritated and angry. The Prince ignored his anger and ordered His soldiers to cautiously break open the burning log.
As the soldiers carefully did so, there were two snakes inside, almost burnt and in great pain. Parshwa Kumar chanted the pious Navkaar Mantra to them. The snakes felt very fortunate for being able to hear the most pious Navkaar Mantra and that, too, from Lord Parshwa during the last few minutes before their death.
The snakes then ascended to a higher life form as celestial beings in their next birth. They are now known and revered as Dharnendra Dev and Padmavati Devi, respectively.
The viewers present there disgraced Kamath Tapas. Hence, Kamath was very furious with Parshwa Kumar. He left from there but with a lot of hatred towards the Prince. He did severe penance and, consequently, took birth in a higher life form as a heavenly being named ‘Meghmali’.
As Prince Parshwanath approached the age of 30, the Lokantik Celestial Gods reminded Him that it was time for Him to take Diksha. The birth of Tirthankar is meant for the most noble cause, which is the salvation of the world. Therefore, the Celestial Gods requested Him to proceed towards the act of renouncing the world for this divine cause.
Accordingly, Prince Parshwa began donating all His worldly wealth and continued to do so for a year. Finally, He left behind His family, His palace and all comforts and luxuries He had grown up with and embraced the divine path to salvation. He took Diksha and left for the forest in order to attain Keval-Gnan (Absolute Truth), the fifth and last knowledge!
As he took Diksha, he attained the fourth type of spiritual knowledge, Manahparyay-Gnan. This is what all Tirthankars attain at the time of taking Diksha. With this knowledge, He was able to precisely read other’s minds. This is because His mind had become absolutely transparent and crystal clear such that the thoughts of every being’s mind reflect in His mind easily and exactly!
One day, while Parshwa Muni was standing under a banyan tree and was deeply engrossed in the meditation of His Soul, Meghmali saw Him. Seeing Parshwanath Bhagwan standing in mediation all alone in the jungle, he found this to be the most appropriate time to take revenge. He started harassing Parshwanath Muni by whatever possible means he could, committing numerous atrocities against Him.
He threw heavy stones at Him and showered torrential rains upon Him. The water rose to Parshwa Muni’s ankles, knees and reached the tip of His nose in a few moments! However, Parshwa Muni was unperturbed. He continued with His meditation, standing motionless in deep waters. Nothing could distract Him!
Meanwhile, Dharnendra Dev and Padmavati Devi, who were saved by Prince Parshwa Kumar in His previous birth, got to know about this situation via their clairvoyance knowledge. They realised that it was time to do their duty! Hence, Dharnendra Dev along with Padmavati Devi, rushed to the scene.
Padmavati Devi generated a huge and beautiful lotus full of fragrance. She sat beneath the lotus and kept Lord Parshwanath in the standing posture inside the lotus. Dharnendra Dev, the serpent-king, covered the Lord from the top by making an umbrella of his own seven hoods as a shelter over His head.
As the water level grew, the lotus moved in the upward direction. This, coupled with the umbrella shelter, protected Parshwanath Bhagwan from the obstacles that Meghmali still continued to produce and helped Him proceed with His uninterrupted meditation.
Dharnendra Dev then took on Meghmali and defeated him. Then, lovingly and compassionately, he explained Meghmali how, birth after birth, he had suffered the worst of the hellish conditions only because of his anger towards the Lord.
He said, “Lord Parshwanath is a Tirthankar’s Soul. Just by doing His darshan once, people attain freedom from the vicious cycle of birth and death. Just by listening to His words, one experiences utter peace and harmony. You are so unfortunate that despite being with Him for more than nine births, in your bid to take revenge, you have only got yourself into more and more bondages of evil karma. When will you think of your freedom from these bondages?”
These compassionate words touched the heart of Meghmali and he was overwhelmed with the feelings of repentance and remorse. He fell into the feet of Parshwanath Bhagwan with tears rolling down his cheeks and begged for the Lord’s mercy to help wash away his anger, feeling of vengeance and all his bad deeds. The Lord blessed Kamath, and at that very moment, he attained Samyak Darshan (the right belief of “I am Pure Soul!”).
The most important virtue that we get to learn from this incident is the Lord’s state of absolute detachment. While Kamath was doing everything he could do to harass Lord and, on the other end, Dharnendra Dev and Padmavati Devi were trying their best to help and protect the Lord from every trouble; Bhagwan Parshwanath neither had an iota of attachment towards Dharnendra Dev and Padmavati Devi, nor did He have an iota of hatred or abhorrence towards Kamath. He remained perfectly equanimous, in both the conditions and continued to experience enormous bliss!!!
After this incident, the Lord left the place and continued His vihaar. It had been 84 days since he had taken Diksha. Throughout this period, He travelled (did vihaar) to various places but remained absorbed in relentless penance and spiritual practices. He then reached the highest level of purity and attained Keval-Gnan (Absolute Knowledge, Omniscience)!
After attaining Keval-Gnan, Parshwanath Bhagwan travelled from one place to another and gave Deshna for almost 70 years. He spread the light of knowledge and instilled awareness among people for Moksha (ultimate liberation). Finally, He attained Nirvana (salvation) on the Sammet Shikharji Mountain.
Today, there are numerous temples of Tirthankar Parshwanath. Thousands of people worship Him even today with great faith and devotion. However, many out of ignorance worship Lord so as to please His Shaasan Devi Padmavati Devi and seek Her blessings to fulfil their worldly desires.
We must always remember that the Shaasan Dev and Shaasan Devis are celestial beings of the highest order. They never get into fulfilling our worldly desires. However, they are definitely eager and willing to help us progress on the path of Moksha. Therefore, we must earnestly worship Padmavati Devi and seek Her blessings only for the purpose of salvation. We can pray to Her for the salvation of the entire world, which was the only intention of Parshwanath Bhagwan!