Justice T.U.Mehta

Indra's Offer of Protection

As a wandering recluse, he arrived at ‘Kumara Grama' and in its outskirts he was sitting in silent meditation, one shepherd asked him to look after his cattle as he wanted to go elsewhere for a while. Mahavira being in meditation did not respond, but the shepherd went away taking his silence as his consent. When he returned, he did not find his cattle there and on enquiry, could not get any response from the meditating saint. The shepherd then roamed about in search of his cattle but in vain. On returning he found his cattle, near the place where Mahavira was meditating. He thought that the man in meditation must be pretending to be a saint and must have stolen his cattle. His suspicion grew stronger as he did not get any response from Mahavira. The shepherd, therefore, was angry and began to beat Mahavira mercilessly with a rope. Mahavira, however, did not utter a word. This infuriated the simple shepherd more. Finally, someone (according to scriptures it was Indra, the King of gods) who could identify Mahavira, intervened and revealed to the shepherd the real identity of his victim. Shepherd realized his mistake and made amends. But the story goes on to say that at this stage ‘Indra' told Mahavira that he was ready to arrange for his protection in future from such events so that he could carry out his austerities peacefully. Whether Indra made this proposal or someone else made it, is not material. What matters is Mahavira's reply. He politely rejected Indra's offer and told him that Salvation can be obtained by ones own efforts and not through the help of others (i.e. ‘lift your soul by your own self' as Gita puts it) and that every one, however, exalted he may be, has to suffer the results of his Karmans. It is only through such sufferance that one can shed his accumulated karmas. This process is known as Nirjara.

Thereafter, Mahavira had to undergo troubles and tortures of various types at places from various sources, but had silently suffered the same without seeking any help from others. The incident illustrates a genuine Jaina approach towards the problems of life.