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Jain Stories

Anand Shravak

Once upon a time, there lived a king named Jitshatru in the city of Vänijya, India. A rich householder named Änand also lived in the same city. He was so rich that he had 4 million gold coins, an equal amount of cash, an equal amount invested in business, lots of jewelry, and many other assets. He also owned 40,000 cows. He was highly respected by the king as well as by the people of Vänijya.

One day Lord Mahävir visited Vänijya and delivered a sermon. After listening to the sermon, Änand decided to follow Jainism by accepting the twelve vows of a householder. Änand observed these vows for fourteen years and progressed spiritually. One day Änand Shrävak attained a special ability known as Avadhi-jnän (clairvoyance) by performing severe penance, austerities, and meditation. His Avadhi-jnän was more pure and powerful than that acquired by other laypeople in their spiritual progress.

Gautam-swämi visiting Änand Shrävak

At this time Lord Mahävir and his disciples were in town. While returning from Gochari (getting food or alms), Gautam-swämi learned that many people were going to pay homage to Änand Shrävak for his newly acquired spiritual ability (Avadhi-jnän) and his austerities. He decided to visit him. Änand was very happy to see Gautam-swämi, his guru (spiritual teacher). Though weak due to his austerities, he got up and welcomed Gautam-swämi warmly. Gautam-swämi inquired about his health and then asked about his new special ability. With due respect, Änand replied to Gautam-swämi, “Reverend Guru, I have attained a special ability (Avadhi-jnän) with which I can see as high as the first heaven and as low as the first hell.”

Gautam-swämi explained to Änand, “A layman (Shrävak) can attain the special ability of Avadhi-jnän, but not of this magnitude. You need to do Präyashchitta (atonement) for imagining these visions.” Änand was puzzled. He knew that he was correct but his Guru questioned his truthfulness and told him to repent for it. He therefore politely asked Gautam-swämi, “Does one need to repent for speaking the truth?” Gautam-swämi, equally puzzled, replied, “No one has to repent for speaking the truth.” He then left Änand thinking that he would reconfirm this with Bhagawän Mahävir.

Gautam-swämi returned to Bhagawän Mahävir and asked about Änand’s special ability. Mahävir replied, “Gautam, Änand was telling the truth. He has acquired Avadhi-jnän of such magnitude. Rarely does a layperson attain such power and knowledge. You should repent for your mistake.” Gautam-swämi set aside his alms and immediately returned to Änand and asked for his forgiveness for doubting his honesty and truthfulness.

It is characteristic in Jain religion that if a Guru makes an error he should ask forgiveness from the disciple. Also if monks make an error then they should ask forgiveness from the laypeople.

In the later part of his life Änand fasted until death and then he was reborn as a heavenly being in Saudharma Devaloka (a heavenly region). After the completion of that heavenly life, he will be reborn as a human and will attain liberation.

The essence of human life is to practice one or more of the twelve vows in daily life. This story tells us how householders (Shrävaks) should have faith in truth. It also shows that Gautam-swämi was simple, humble and a true follower of Lord Mahävir. When Lord Mahävir pointed out his mistake, Gautam-swämi went to Änand without any hesitation, to ask for forgiveness even though he was the chief disciple of Mahävir-swämi. It also shows how impartial Lord Mahävir was because even though his chief disciple had made a mistake, he did not cover it up. On the contrary, he took the side of truth and explained his mistake to Gautam-swämi.