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also known as Banaras. It is situated on the bank of holy river Ganga. He was a benevolent and popular ruler. He had a queen named Vamadevi. She gave birth to a son. During her pregnancy she had once observed a snake passing by her side. In memory of that incident the boy was named as Parshvakumar, because Parshva in Sanskrit language means beside. He was dark complexioned but very handsome like Lord Neminath. Parshvakumar started growing up in the midst of wealth and happiness. In due course he grew up to be a very attractive young man known for his courtesy, bravery and valor. His reputation spread all round and many rulers were eager to get their daughters married to him. He however did not develop much attachment for the worldly life and showed no eagerness for getting married. During that time there was another well known city named Kushasthal and king Prasenjit was ruling there. He had a very beautiful and talented daughter named Prabhavati. As she became young, her parents started looking for a suitable match for her. Once while Prabhavati was playing in a garden with her girl- friends, she heard a song to the effect that prince of Varanasi is very handsome and brave and that the girl who marries him would be a very lucky girl. Prabhavati was impressed by that. She obtained all possible information about Parshvakumar and got enamored of him. As her friends came to know of her attachment for Parshvakumar, they gave hints to her parents. Thereupon Prasenjit decided to convey her wishes to the king of Varanasi. At that time another powerful ruler named Yavan was ruling over Kaling. He knew about Prabhavati and wanted to marry her. When he heard about the plan of Prasenjit to offer Prabhavati to the prince of Varanasi, Yavan decided to get her by force. Accordingly, he took a large army with him and surrounded Kushasthal. Prasenjit was no match for him. He therefore secretly sent a messenger to king Ashvasen with a request for help. When Ashvasen heard the messenger, he got ready with his army. Parshvakumar however did not like that his father should take that trouble. He therefore volunteered to go in his place and proceeded towards Kushasthal with a large force. For a while, Yavan tried to belittle the force of Varanasi. Ultimately however he heeded to saner advice and agreed to retreat from Kushasthal. Prasenjit then welcomed Parshvakumar with valuable presents and due respect. He then put forth his proposal for marrying his daughter. Parshvakumar was however not inclined to get married and indicated his intention to go back to Varanasi. Prasenjit then decided to use the good offices of king Ashvasen for that purpose. Accordingly, he decided to go with Parshvakumar to Varanasi along with his daughter. King Ashvasen was very impressed by the beauty, grace and talents of Prabhavati. He and Vamadevi therefore prevailed upon their son to marry Prabhavati. The wedding ceremony was performed with all the pomp and splendor and Parshvakumar started passing happy days with Prabhavati. At that time there was a Tapas (penancing monk) named Kamath. He had lost his parents in childhood and was raised as an orphan. Being disgusted of his miserable life, he had become a monk and was undergoing severe penance. He came to Varanasi for performing a Panch Agni (five fires) penance. Many people were impressed by his penance and were going to that place for worship. When Parshvakumar came to know of that, he realized the violence of live beings involved in the fire. He came there and tried to dissuade Kamath from the sacrificial fire. Kamath did not agree that life of any being was at stake on account of his performance. By his extra sensory perception, Parshvakumar could observe that there were snakes in the wood that was put in the sacrificial fire. He asked his men to take out that wood and to shear it carefully. To the amazement of the onlookers a half burnt snake came out. It had too severe burns to survive. Parshvakumar recited the Navakar Mantra for benevolence of the dying snake, who died and was reborn as Dharanendra Dev. Kamath was too much annoyed by this interference but was unable to do anything at that time. He started observing more severe penance and at the end of his life was reborn as Meghmali Dev. Observing the miseries that living beings had to experience, Parshvakumar developed a high degree of detachment. At the age of 30 he renounced everything in the world and became a possessionless Muni. He spent most of his time meditating in search of ultimate bliss for all. Once while he was in meditation, Meghmali saw him. He remembered how Parshvanath had interfered in his penance in earlier life. He saw this opportunity to take revenge. By his supernatural power, he brought forth all kinds of fierce and harmful animals like elephants, lions, leopards, snakes etc. As Muni Parshvanath stayed in the meditation unperturbed, Meghmali brought forth heavy rains. It started raining like cats and dogs. The rain water touched the feet of Parshvanath and started rising. It came up to his knees,
then to waist and in no time it came up to his neck. At that time Dharanendra noticed the plight of his benefactor. He immediately came there and raised a quick growing lotus below the feet of the Muni so that he could stay above water. Then he spread his fangs all around the head and sides of the Muni so as to protect him from the rains. All efforts of Meghmali to harass the Muni thus came to nothing. He was disappointed and did not know what to do. Dharanendra then severely reproached him and asked him to understand that he was unnecessarily creating trouble to the graceful, merciful Muni. Meghmali realized the futility of his efforts. He withdrew all his supernatural power and fell at the feet of the Muni with sense of heavy remorse. He sincerely begged the Muni to forgive him for his evil acts. During the period of that distress, the Muni was deep in meditation. He had attained a high level of ecstasy and had developed perfect equanimity. As such, he did not have any affection for Dharanendra for the protection that he had extended nor any hatred for Meghmali for the distress caused. Developing higher and higher purity of consciousness, he ultimately attained Kevalgnan (omniscience) on the 84th day of his renunciation. Then he started preaching the true religion. He set up the Tirtha or religious order afresh and became 23rd Tirthankar. He had many followers. The principal disciples of Tirthankars are known as Gandhars. Lord Parshvanath had ten such Gandhars. His parents and Prabhavati too renounced and became his disciples. Thereafter he lived long life spreading the true religion and left his mortal body at the age of 100 years and attained Nirvana on Samet Shikhar Mountain. This is located in the state of Bihar and is the most famous place of pilgrimage for Jains.
king Ashvasen ruled Varanasi along with his wife Vamadevi. Their extraordinary son was prince Parshvakumar. One day, when Parshvakumar was seated in his palace, he heard a loud and boisterous noise in the street. He looked out of his window and saw a great parade underway. A large number of people were carrying sweets, garments and precious jewelry. He asked his mother what the parade was about. Queen Vamadevi found out that the Brahmin hermit Kamath, who was renowned for his five-fire penance (Pancha Agni Tap), had arrived in their city, and the people were all going to the hermitage to greet him. The queen had a strong desire to meet with Kamath, and asked the prince to accompany her. Parshvakumar had heard of the hermit and had mixed feelings about him. He knew something did not sound right about Kamath and his penance. Nevertheless, Parshvakumar understood his mother\u2019s feelings and agreed to accompany her to Kamath\u2019s hermitage. When they arrived at their destination, they saw Kamath performing the difficult penance of all five fires. It was quite an impressive show. Huge logs were burning on all four sides of Kamath and the summer sun was shining from above. The hermit was seemingly meditating about God, soul, and worldly delusions (Maya). People were bowing to him with deep respect. On seeing the hermit in meditation, the great many thoughts came to Parshvakumar. Through his intellectual knowledge and experience, he knew that Kamath\u2019s penance was to no avail. He said to himself, \u201cWhat kind of meditation is this? It is wrong, meaningless. Many living beings including humans are suffering in the heat. Many lives are being lost in the fire. There are living creatures in the logs of wood. It appears as if this entire show is being put on to charm the people. This indiscriminate act of punishing the body is not a religious or spiritual practice and should be initiated only after a careful study.\u201d Parshvakumar was in a dilemma, because he did not want to hurt the feelings of the hermit and his followers, but then he also strongly felt as if is was his duty to try to distinguish right from wrong. Finally, Parshvakumar stepped forward and said to Kamath, \u201cOh respected hermit, have you ever thought that by destroying these logs, you are destroying the homes of many creatures? Have you ever thought of the millions of creatures you are killing in the fire? What good is this type of meditation? How can this give you any peace and spiritual experience?\u201d The hermit became very angry. He was burning with rage, and replied, \u201cParshvakumar, you are a prince belonging to the caste of warriors. You are not a Brahmin or a scholar. How do you know what is meditation? A prince should not interfere in religious matters. You should look after the kingdom, play sports and enjoy yourself.\u201d Parshvakumar stayed calm. However, he wanted to prove his point. A wood cutter was called and asked to chop the burning logs as carefully as possible. Inside one of the logs was a pair of half-burned snakes. All the people in the crowd saw it. Hermit was bewildered and had no way to express himself. Ashamed and fallen from2
grace, he asked the prince for forgiveness. Parshvakumar saw that the snakes were near death, so he recited the Navakar Mantra. The snakes then had good thoughts at the time of their deaths and consequently were born as a Dev and Devi. This incidence shows us that listening to Navakar Mantra can lead to understanding the principles of religion and thus improve our lives. Parshvakumar eventually became the 23rd Tirthankar.
Though he was a busy minister, he never once missed the worship of his Lord. Once, the king sent for him, but the minister was busy worshipping and hastily sent the messenger away. The king understood and sent the messenger ten minutes later. Not surprisingly, the messenger returned empty- handed again. So the king went to inquire into the matter and found the minister deeply engrossed in worship. The king then decided to test the religiousness of his minister. He saw that the servant of the temple was giving flowers to the minister for adoration of the idol. Then the king took the place of the servant and began to offer flowers. But he did not give the flowers in the usual (proper) order. That is when the minister looked up and saw the king instead of the servant. The king was deeply impressed by the devotional concentration of his minister. The king asked him to worship the idol and to also carry out the administrative matters of the kingdom. Only by true worship and devotion can we hope to reach the end of the cycle of birth and death. We should, indeed, strive to reach the pinnacle of human worship of the Gods, that is, pray with undying devotion. Nothing should bother us while praying. Only then can we attain happiness and ultimately Mokhsha.
(23rd Tirthankar) ascetic order. He was calm, self-restrained, practicing penance of high order and possessed Avadhignan and Manah-paryava-gnan. Preaching to the blessed mass he once arrived at the city named Sharavasti. Moving throughout the country and preaching the path of bliss are the duties of the selfless saints. The fame of Muni Keshikumar was widespread and large audiences attended his lectures. Chitra, the trustworthy chariot driver of the king of Shvetambik had also joined the audience. Having listened to the discourses of Acharya Keshikumar attentively, numerous persons were enlightened and the chariot driver Chitra initiated himself into twelve vows of a Jain householder, Shravak, which form the very basis of right knowledge. While seeking permission to leave, he requested the Acharya, \u201cOh, Lord, our city Shvetambik is very pleasant, charming and beautiful. Please pay a visit and oblige.\u201d Chitra, the chariot driver requested twice or thrice and the Acharya replied, \u201cOh Chitra, it is not safe to stay in a forest haunted by fierce animals. Similarly it is not advisable to visit a city governed by a cruel monarch.\u201d Chitra said, \u201cOh master, the beloved of God, do not be concerned with the king Pardeshi. Many wealthy and rich people stay in the capital. They will pay you their homage and will serve you by offering abundant provisions and such other means. Your visit shall mean great obligation. Please do pay a visit.\u201d On realizing the persistency and the politeness of Chitra\u2019s invitation, the Acharya replied, \u201cAs the circumstances shall permit.\u201d On such occasions holy Munis do not use decisive expressions as it is difficult to know where and when the force of circumstances shall lead them. If they affirm and cannot go, they will be guilty of telling lies; and the rumors might prevail that even such great men tell lies. This is not desirable under any circumstance. But Chitra could realize at least from Acharya\u2019s gesture that some day he would certainly visit Shvetambik. So he reached Shvetambik and called the officers in-charge of parks said, \u201cOh good fellows, Acharya Keshikumar of Parshvanath succession, moving from place to place is likely to arrive here. When he arrives, you must pay homage, bow down to him. Permit him to stay, offer him a place and make him comfortable. Thereafter, immediately inform me about his arrival.\u201d After a few days, the officer of the park delivered good news to Chitra, \u201cOh, the fountain-head of intelligence, Shri Keshi, the leader of the Munis, patient, heroic, unrivaled, liberal, unattached, passive and the master of fourfold knowledge has arrived in the park along with the group of his disciples.\u201d On hearing this good news the chief secretary\u2019s heart overflowed with joy and he rewarded the officer of the park with affectionate gifts sufficient for life maintenance. Thereafter, he took bath, dressed himself with clean garments and decorated himself for the holy sight of the Acharya. Having listened to his preaching he said, \u201cOh, blessed one, our king Pardeshi is not religious and does not govern the
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