Recognized by the symbol of a sitting bullock, Vasupujya Bhagwan is the 12th Tirthankara of this current time cycle. Born in the Indian town of Champa, His height measured 70 bows. He had 66 Gandharas (chief disciples of a Tirthankara). Kumar Dev is His Yaksha Dev and Chandra Devi is His Yakshni Devi.
Let’s now go through the life stories of the Lord’s past two births, prior to His birth as Tirthankara. Finally, we will go through the story of his last birth as a Tirthankara in which He gave Deshna on the meaning of religion or meaning of dharma.
Vasupujya Swami’s second-last previous birth, prior to becoming a Tirthankara, was that of King Padmottar, who ruled over the Ratnasanchay town in Manglavati Vijay located in Purva Videh Kshetra of the Pushkarvar Dweep.
King Padmottar ruled his kingdom very nicely. When time came, he intended to take Diksha. On taking Diksha, he did a lot of worship and acquired the Tirthankara-naam-and-gotra-karma.
Upon completing his lifespan after many years, in his next birth, he reincarnated as a celestial being in the tenth dimension of heaven. Thereafter, in the next birth, he was born as the 12th Tirthankara.
In Champa Nagri located in India that comes in the Bharat Kshetra, Vasupujya Swami was born to King Vasupujya and Queen Jaya.
He completed His childhood well. When He grew young, His parents requested him to get married. They informed Him that a large number of marriage proposals are coming for him from good and prestigious Kings all over the world; so, if He gives His consent, they can get Him married and hand over the kingdom to Him so that they could take Diksha and move ahead on the path of spiritual progress.
However, Lord Vasupujya did not agree for marriage. Still, His parents made him understand how the first Tirthankara Rishabhdev Bhagwan was married and had two queens. They also told Him that even all other Tirthankaras were married too. They then added that then why should He not marry and take pleasure? They urged Him to marry and soon chair the throne, as they were getting old and now wanted to do something good for their own Soul with an aim of liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Remaining unshaken, Vasupujya Bhagwan did not change His mind. He explained, “In which birth have I not married? In which birth have I not enjoyed all the pleasures? Which life-form have I not been to? Right from one-sensed creature to the five-sensed human form, I have taken birth multiple times. Infinite times, I became a human being; I was born, got married, had children! What did I achieve from all of this? All this is in my memory. And more so, I have no pending karma of getting married; it is all over. Hence, my marriage is not destined to happen. Amongst the future Tirthankaras, Mallinath Bhagwan and Neminath Bhagwan too will not get married.”
Different scriptures have conveyed different views regarding the marriage of Vasupujya Swami and Tirthankara Parshwanath Bhagwan. Some say they were married; whereas, some say they were not.
Coming back to the story, the Lord finally took Diksha and attained Keval-Gnan in just one month. His ultimate goal was to get free from the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation.
After attaining Keval-Gnan, Lord Vasupujya started giving Deshna, listening to which lives of many got transformed. Once, He gave a beautiful Deshna on religion. When born as a human in a highly cultured family having very good parents who’ve given good moral values, one should be keen to attain religion.
The general belief is that religion means to do puja, aarti, counting beads and chanting the name of God, etc. One usually does these rituals for about an hour or so. But then, what about the remaining 23 hours? There is no awareness of what kind of karmas are bound during the rest of the day. Especially in the human form, religion holds a great significance. Whoever practices religion ought to be in constant inner peace all the time. Externally, (circumstances of) peace may or may not prevail, but inner peace is a natural outcome of true religion.
What is the definition of religion? That which brings result is religion. So, if it does not give result, then how can it be called religion? No matter how much religion we may practice or follow, if peace does not prevail inside and rather have worries, problems, conflicts and passions overwhelming us, then what is the outcome of all this? If the result is not prevalence of peace inside, then it cannot be called practicing religion. Thus, somewhere we are going wrong. It is essential to find that mistake and come out of it. In a nutshell, the result should come if we are practicing religion.
Another beautiful but fundamental definition of religion is: When a substance prevails in its intrinsic functional properties (guna dharma), that is dharma.
Each substance is with its intrinsic functional properties of its own. According to the spiritual science of the Tirthankaras, there are six eternal elements in the cosmos. Even each of these elements is with its intrinsic functional properties of its own. However, until a substance does not prevail in its intrinsic functional properties, it is not called a substance.
For example, gold is called gold only if it is in its intrinsic functional properties, i.e., it is yellow; it is shining; it is mouldable; it does not rust; and it does not turn black. Similarly, an intrinsic functional property of rose is its fragrance. That which looks identical to a rose but has no fragrance in it is not in the intrinsic functional property of a rose. Thus, it is not real rose; it is artificial. If a wooden mango, no matter how beautiful it is, has no smell, softness, or taste in it, then how can it be called a mango? Only when it is with its intrinsic functional properties, it is said to be a mango.
So, when anything prevails in its intrinsic functional properties, it is said to have come in its true nature (dharma).
Tirthankaras have said that there are two types of religions:
Nishchay dharma means Atma dharma (religion of the Self), and vyavahaar dharma is of anatma (outside the Self, the non-Self). Whatever touches the mind, speech and body goes into vyavahaar dharma. Rituals, worship, religious practices, policies, rules, disciplinary procedures – they all fall under vyavahaar dharma.
Internally (in terms of intention), the highest vyavahaar dharma is, “May no living being be caused slightest hurt through my mind, speech or body!” No matter how many penances, chanting, yoga, meditation, rites and rituals one may do, one must have this much awareness that no living being should be caused any hurt. That’s where the principle of “Non-violence is the highest religion” comes! Killing living beings is gross violence but not to cause hurt to others is the subtlest non-violence.
For most of us, dharma means doing puja, worshipping God, listening to sermons and sitting for some time to repent. However, these all go into activities. Tirthankara Bhagwan has segregated every aspect into two namely, external and internal. Both need to be understood correctly. The external dharma is called vyavahaar dharma and the inner Atma dharma is called the nishchay dharma.
People do vyavahaar dharma; That which brings us from bad to good, which helps us come out of bad karma (paap) and makes us bind good karma (punya) is said to be vyavahaar dharma. All religions show the vyavahaar dharma and everyone follows this dharma too. However, there is ego present in it.
Ego means ignorance of really ‘who am I’. Only when one comes into Atma dharma, ignorance leaves. That’s when one realizes, “I am not in the form of mind, speech and body. I am a Soul.” When Atma (Soul) comes into its nature (in its intrinsic functional properties of knowledge, vision and bliss), it is called Atma dharma. Only when one knows the Soul, one comes into Atma dharma, and that’s when liberation from all types of suffering begins. Later, one goes to Moksha (ultimate liberation) where one experiences eternal bliss forever. Thereafter, one only remains in one’s intrinsic nature.
What is the natural dharma (religion) of Soul? Knowledge, vision and bliss! The Soul is in the form of Absolute Knowledge and bliss. When one experiences that, only then one is said to have really come in Atma dharma. Until then, it is all vyavahaar dharma, which is not in our control. In one’s own control is only one’s swadharma, Atma dharma, i.e., the religion of the Self. Swa means Atma; thus, coming into Atma dharma is swadharma, the religion of the Self. Other than that, i.e., the religion of mind, the religion of the body and the religion of the speech are of the non-Self.
Generally, people consider the sect they belong to as the religion of the Self (swadharma), and the other sects they believe to be pardharma (religion of non-Self). This is how they differentiate the two.
In Shreemad Bhagavad Gita too, Lord Krishna has talked about swadharma, but he refers to the Atma dharma, and not any specific religious sect, as the Swadharma because during that time, there were no sects. He was not a Guru, nor did He establish any religion. It is later that people derived the word Swadharma to mean a specific religious sect that believed in Lord Krishna, and that of Lord Shiva, Lord Ram or Lord Mahavir to be pardharma. That’s absurd! In the Holy Gita, the words ‘I’ and ‘My’ that have been used are all in the context of Atma only, and not for anything physical, not even for the physical body. As far as the physical body is concerned, Lord Krishna has very clearly said - the physical body is temporary; one day it shall die, it will be burnt and that the Soul is eternal, and that is our real Self.
Every God prescribes this to be the fundamental truth. However, in the name of Lord Krishna, different types of sects were established later. The belief that this specific sect is swadharma, and the rest are all pardharma was been established among the masses. However, Lord Krishna did not want to say so.
Until we have not realized the Soul, we have not at all come in swadharma. Till then, we are in anatma (non-Self), where the mind is in the nature of mind. What is the dharma of mind? To think! So, when mind thinks, it is in its nature, in its dharma. Similarly, intellect is in the dharma of intellect. What function does the intellect perform? It decides, based on distinguishing what is good and what is bad. It shows all dualities – happiness-misery, attachment-hatred, right-wrong, hot-cold – and that’s when we ought to understand that the intellect is in its dharma (nature).
The chit (subtle component of vision and knowledge) captures the images of what all we see; hence when sitting right here, we can see images of everything we have seen in the world. Thus, we know that the chit is in its nature. The ego is the signing authority. By believing “I did it!”, it becomes the doer. Similarly, by believing “I’m suffering!”, it becomes the sufferer too. That’s the dharma of ego. Thus, all are in their respective dharma. Hands, legs, body, speech, and so on are all in their dharma; none has missed their dharma (function).
All senses are performing their respective function. The Soul alone is not in its dharma. What is the dharma (function) of the Soul? Knowledge, vision and bliss! However, not remaining in this nature, it believes other’s function to be its own. For instance, while the eye is performing its function of seeing, the Soul believes “I am the body and I am seeing.” Truly speaking, it is the eye that is seeing and the Soul is knowing it. Similarly, the ears are listening and the Soul knows that the ears are listening; the mind is thinking and the Soul knows that the mind is thinking. This is where the senses and Soul fall apart or become separate. So, when this separation is seen during every deed of the mind, speech, body, chit, intellect, and ego, the Soul itself has come into its dharma, which is Atma dharma of seeing and knowing. When the Soul is in the state of knowing and seeing, bliss automatically arises in by-production.
Thus, what is the main production in the life of a human? Following vyavahaar dharma, to finally come into Atma dharma! When we come into Atma dharma, our main production begins in the form of a human being, while the worldly interactions come in by-production; they come free of cost.
So, let’s focus on the main production. Realizing the Soul and remaining still in it is Atma dharma and keeping the mind, speech and body in a manner such that no one feels even slightest hurt by us is vyavahaar dharma. For that, every morning, heartily say five times, “May no living being be caused slightest hurt through my mind, speech or body.”
To know really who am I and how this world is run, what is karma and how are they bound and released, what is liberation and how can it be experienced – one needs to go to a living Gnani Purush. Also, with His grace, one realizes the Self; Self-Realization happens! This is the real religion. Only when this is attained, wandering in this world happening since infinite lives in the form of vicious cycle of birth and death comes to an end and one proceeds towards liberation.
Coming back to the Vasupujya Bhagwan story, through the darshan of the Lord and after listening to His Deshna, crores of people understood the real nature of religion and proceeded towards liberation. Lakhs of Sadhus and Sadhvis too attained liberation through His Deshna. Also, Dvipusht Vasudev, who was the second Vasudev of the current time-cycle, obtained the right vision (Samkit) by listening to the Deshna of the Lord when He had come to the Pottanpur town.
Vasupujya Swami attained Nirvana and went to Moksha from the Champapuri Nagri along with 600 Sadhus.