Illustrated Jain Ramayana (A Unique Combination of Universal Philosophy and Jain Culture)


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Since times immemorial Ramayana and Mahabharata have inspired, moulded and impressed the psyche, personality and social relations of the Indians, belonging to any state, any linguistic or ethnic group, following any sect or religion. These epics have originated in ancient aryaland. People of different racial stocks, people speaking differ- ent languages, people beleiving in diverse faiths and rituals resided here. Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata kept the intrinsic unity of India alive, inspite of the apparent diversity. Starting from India, this epic reached China, Japan, Malaysia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo Kambodia. It has also reached Iran, Arabian nations and Israel. This epic Ramayana mingled easily in these diversed cultural backgrounds and at times assumed a totally new form.

In India, Ramayana has influenced and moulded our behaviour towards our parents, progeny, spouses and friends, more than any other book, religious edifice, statuto- ry laws, and the preaching of spiritualists. An Indian, wheth- er he is a Muslim, Parsee, Christian or a Jew, is fully or partly conversant with Ramayana. There might not be a sin- gle person in India, who is ignorant about the noble life of Rama. Some scholars believe that the stories of Rama exist- ed in scattered forms, much before Valamiki Ramayana was compiled. Besides the Valamiki Ramayana, mahakavi Tulasidasa wrote Ramcaritamanasa in Vraja language, which is held high in esteem by most of the hindi speaking North Indians. Durgavar compiled Mita Ramayana in Bengali language. Divakara Bhatta wrote Ramayana in Kashmiri language. Ekanatha wrote Bhavartha Ramayana in Marathi and Mahakavi Kampana wrote the Pampa Ramayana in Kannada. Most of these versions are loyal to the epic compiled by Valamiki, but they have a regional fervor of their own. These writers using their muse and genius have at times made additions which are very aesthetic and add to the beauty of the original Ramayana.

The Jain culture is an integral part of the Aryan cul- ture. Contrary to the popular belief that lord Mahavira found- ed Jainism, the Jains believe that their pantheon is ageold. It existed much before the advent of Mahavira. Ahimsa, sa- tya, asteya, brahmacarya and aparigraha are some of the gifts of Jainism to the modern world. The Jain culture is ex- tensively found in India and some of the nations, surround- ing India. However, we must remember that these nations were a part of the ancient undivided aryavrata.

Jain Ramayana : The Jain pantheon states that Lord Munisuvrat Svami, a Tirthankara, was born more than 11,75,000 years ago. Suvrata Muni, the spiritual teacher and master of Sri Rama, was a descendant of Munisuvrat Svami. King Anaranya, the grand father of Rama, was born during his regime. The average life span of a man at that time was much longer. Rama must have been born much later. The Jain pantheon mentions that Lord Mahavira Svami learnt about Ramayana with his Kev- alagyan and narrated it to his disciple Ganadhara Gautama, who compiled it in the form of sutras. It reached Sri Vimalasuri through the oral tradition. About 1996 years ago, he compiled the Ramayana in Magadhi language. This epic was called Paumacariyam.

Most of the people who follow other faiths, and to a certain extent even jain children and youths are ignorant of the fact that there exists a jain version of Ramayana. The hectic pace of modern life makes the pursuit of Sanskrta and Magadhi an impossible contingency. The chances of their learning and mastering these nearly extinct languag- es and then studying the original Ramayana are very remote. | therefore felt that Ramayana should be presented to them in hindi, english and gujarati. What’s more, it should also be translated in languages like marathi, kannada, tamil, telgu etc to acquaint the people of other faiths with this epic.

Jain Ramayana attracts and enchants the readers of any age group. The message of renouncement that this book preaches el- oquently appeals the serious readers. After having experienced the bitter and sweet les- sons from life, and after seeing many of the near and dear ones willingly or unwillingly em- brace the death, they too are shattered like Rama. When Rama was in a state of delirium because of Laksmana’s death, diety Krtantavadana and diety Jatayu opened his eyes. They acquainted him to the harsh and yet essential reality that Laksmana was dead and Rama too was going to follow him one day. | am sure, what the celestial duo did for Rama, this book would do for you.

The valour and detachment found in abundance in this book will definitely attract the youth. Ravana commited a sinful act by kidnapping Sita. Rama and Laksmana did not hesitate for a moment before him for his wrong action. Even today, we see a perpetual battle between the good and evil in every walk of life and therefore, like Rama and Laksmana, we too must not wince before taking restrictive measures against evil.

The complex relationship between the major characters in Ramayana is some- thing unique. These relations have the background and bonds of previous lives. Love, hatred, anger, replusion and other vista’s of emotions have deep roots in the past lives and unseen fruits in the future. Rama, Laksmana Bharata and Satrughna are always ready to put the ‘U’ before the ‘I’, together they are willing to lay their lives for the happi ness of their parents. Rama abandons his luxurious life, without think- ing twice, so that his father could renounce the world without any unpaid debt.

Laksmana follows Rama during the exile, in order to serve him. He too does not hesitate a moment before taking this major decision. Bharata bears the burden of the crown and scepter only when Rama orders him to do so. Sita too follows Rama, and leaves the palace and cosy life without grumbling. Though Kaikeyi hatches out the evil conspiracy of exiling Rama, he does not grudge. He bows down to Kaikeyi before leaving the palace and also after he returns. For him, Kaikeyi is not just a stepmother, but a true mother. These relations might be utopian to be true to modern man, but they too can set new ideals for themselves.

In Jain Ramayana, we find sati Sita fully dedicated to Rama. While she was at Lanka, her mind was fully focused on Jinesvara and Rama. This total surrenderance gave her the strength to endure the enticements and threatenings of Ravana. She does not blame Rama, when he abandons her or when he asks her to perform the ordeal. She faces it with stoic courage. Mandodari, on the other hand, loves her husband to such an extent that she is not only will- ing to share her love, but becomes his envoy and pleads Sita to accept his love.

KauSsalya’s heart aches while granting Rama the per- mission to leave Ayodhya, but when the time comes to bid goodbye to Sita, it bleeds profusely. She is an ideal mother-in- law. Every character in Ramayana represents lofty ideals. Rama is an ideal son, brother, husband, foe and a monk. Sita is an ideal daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, mother and an ideal as- cetic.

The characters like, Sugriva, Hanumana, vidhyadhars who can fly, Jatayu and other celestial beings who can perform miracles, attract the children. Hanumana, who not only posseses enor- mous strength but also intelligence and humble nature, enthrall the children. The plot of Ramayana unfolds not only on the earth, but also in the different levels of the celestial world and the under world. It also embodies the present, past, very remote past and future, in the most fascinating way, and the plot changes these tracks in such a smooth way that mind of the readers is not distracted.

There is a school of thought which believes that when the ksatriya kings accept- ed Jainism as a way of life, they began to abhor violence in any form and became totally submissive and docile. This gradually killed the patriotic fervour in their hearts and they became puppets in the hands of destiny. This has brought the downfall of India. Only those who can endure its austerities and the spirit of detach ment can be true followers of Jainism. On the contrary, the epics like Jain Ramayana and Mahabharata state that Rama, Laksmana and Pandavas re- sorted to violence in order to vanquish their foes, who were menace to the mankind. In the whole, Jainism preaches its followers to crusade against injustice, immorality and evil behaviour. This aspect of Jainism is clearly seen in the Ramayana.

"Vasudeva hindi", the composition of P. P Sanghadasa Gani is the most ancient treatise on Ramayana, but "Paumacariyarm" written by P. P. Vimalasuriji is the most popular. "Uttarapurana" composed by P. P. Gunabhadra M. S. and "Kathavali" written by P. P. Bhadresvara M. S. are also the Jain Ramayanas. | have used the following books for reference, "Padmapurana’" written by P. P. Ravisena M. S.. "Mahapurana" written by P. P. Svayambhu M. S.. "Punya Candrodaya Puran" of P. P Krsnadasa M. S.. "Satrunjayamahatmya’ written by P. P. Dhanesvara Suri M. S.. "Covana Mahapurisa Cariyarn" by P. P. Silacarya M. S. and Trisasti Salaka Purusa Caritra of P. P. A. Hemacandracarya Suri M. S. and its english version, translated by Helen M. Jhonson P.hd. I expressed my gratitudes to all of them.

How will this book help the reader ? At first, today we Indians take a perverst pride in aping the western world. We are gradually throttling our own culture, in the name of spirit of modernity and progress. The media is working overtime to create a uniform culture, based on consumerism. We are running after a mirage called comfort- able life, which have names like secure life, healthy life, unbiased life. The ancient Arya values like brotherhood, selflessness, loyalty to the husband etc have become outdat- ed, and self-centeredness is replacing them. We care for "my self", "my love", "my opinion", "my freedom’, "my money". Family values are disintegrating. In crucial times like this, Ramayana can be our excellent guide. It acquaints us with the basic tenets of Arya culture, and finally explains now to achieve Moksa through asceticism.

This book also guides us to take proper decision in the hour of crisis. Everything like conversations, actions, inactions and reactions pauses in this greatest book and help us in our spiritual elavation. Weapons, missiles aircrafts, spacecrafts and architec- ture that are mentioned in Ramayana, speak of their civilization.

A special missile gifted to the King Madhu by Camarendra had a range of thirteen thousand kilometers. It could cover this distance, hit the target, and return into the hands of its owner. This might have been the base for the modern scientists, in the invention of missiles and many more.

The study of Ramayana would help us to cope up our personal tensions. Though Rama was tormented by Sita’s separation, he helps Jatayu, Vajrakarna and Sugriva. To- day when all our personal and social relations are gradually loosing their meaning and value, only Ramayana could give it, a new mean- ing and purpose.

The personal, social, political and religious references in Ramayana are eternal and can be applied to any situation at any time. Savage barbarians attacked India and demolished the tem- ples and plundered the palaces. They used co-ercion to propogate their religious ideology, but they could not damage our greatest her- itage of all times, i.e. Ramayana. No amount of their torture and cruel laws reduced the reverence that we have for it. For, it is inter woven in every fibre of our being and it flows in cur blood.

Every version of Ramayana is in some way different than the other versions because every writer has used his genius to make it dramatic and interesting. We must not really search for the discrep- ancies and difference in details, but concentrate on the contents. For example, one writer says that Sita had seen white flowers in the Asokavana at Lanka while others said that the flowers were actually red. We can have aimless and endless debates on this topic and yet would not reacn any conclusion. What we must remember is that though Asokavana was one of the best gardens in Lanka, Sitaji could not enjoy its beauty for she perpetually thought of Rama. It is quite feasible that due to constant weeping, her eyes must have turned red, and those white flowers appeared red to her. Instead of resorting to fruitless discussion, we must try and understand the true essence of the story.

In the same way, while the Valamiki Ramayana mentions that Sri Rama was mar- tied to Sita and had only one wife, he had no other woman in his life. Uttarapuran, Mahapuran and Paumacariyarn mentions that he practiced polygamy. Instead of creating rifts over how many women Rama really married, we should talk about his valour, loyalty and other positive traits. Some believe that Hanumana was unmarried. Some say that he was married. What we must remember is his loyalty towards Rama, his strong mind and gentle nature and the enormous physical strength. Valamiki Ramayana states that Rama had dark complexion while Laksmana was fair. Uttarapuran mentions that Laksmana was dark and Rama was fair. We must forget the colour of their complexion and remember the love that they had for one another and their valour. Some say that Rama was born with supernatural powers and some say that he acquired them after the Diksa. Kavi Kalidasa mentions that the rulers belonging to dynasty of Surya, displayed the traits of ascetics in the advanced age. Whether they had the traits of ascetics or whether they were actually ascetics is really insignificant.

Some scholars believe that Rama was born about 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Some believe that he was born about 11,75,000 years ago. It is quite feasible that his enchanting drama is unfolded again and again after a specified time gap and with minor changes.

The Mahabharata, belonging to the followers of Vedic tradition, depicts the last moments in the life of Karna, the unsung hero of Mahabharata. Badly wounded by Arju- na’s arrow, he was wriggling in pain. Sri Krsna appeared before him disguised as a brahmin and demanded alms. The generous Karna did not have anything that he could give to the brahmin. With a sharp stone, he began to knock down his golden teeth. Pleased with his conviction, Krsna stopped him and appeared in his original form. He asked Karna to ask for a boon. Karna requested him to perform his funeral rites on a virgin land, unexplored by any human being. After an extensive search, Krsna found a summit of a mountain in the mid ocean, which he thought would be an unexplored land. He reached there and prepared a funeral pyre. When he was about to lay the mortal remains of Karna on the fire, he heard a resonant voice recite this verse from the lofty skies. ‘Hundreds of Dronacaryas have been cremated here, three hundred Pandavas began their last journey from here. Thousands of Duryodhanas were brought here for their last rites and innumerable Karna’s have been brought here for their eternal repose.’ This proves that since the time immemorable, Mahabharata has been unfolded on the earth many a times. In the same way, Ramayana too may have repeated itself many times. We must remember the noblest traits of the descendants of Surya dynasty and try to inculcate them in us.

Jain monks and nuns hold Sita in such a high esteem that when they abandon the sleep in the early morning, they do not even walk a hundred steps, until they remember sati Sita. Sita may not be present on this planet right now, but she would remain immortal in the hearts of every Indian. We must remember Ramayana and endeavour to enrich our lives through it.

In conclusion, it can be said that, in the beginning, Ramayana preaches us our duties towards parents, siblings, spouse, in laws, offsprings and friends, and finally leads us to the abstract and the loftiest concepts like Samyakdarsana, Desavirati, Sar- vavirati and finally Moksa. The plot of Ramayana reveals these ideals step by step. It is said that Ramayana is a treasure trove of detachment and diksa. The missive from his friend, inspires Dasaratha’s father Anaranya, to renounce the world. On seeing the frail and aged chamberlain, Dasaratha remembers the ephemeral nature of the world. Laksmana’s death leads Lava, Kusa and Rama to ascetic life. Ravana’s death leads Man- dodari, Kumbhakarna and Indrajit to the path of salvation. The setting sun brings about a radical change in heart of Hanumana. These and many other Diksa’s proclaim the ulti- mate purpose of life in a clear voice.

There are four kinds of purusarthas i.e. efforts in life. They are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa. Artha i.e. money and Kama i.e. fulfillment of carnal desires are purusarthas for namesake and they generally create an havoc and compel a soul to reap harvest of karmas birth after birth. Moksa is the true purusartha and Dhar- ma is a mean to achieve it. Retrospection of Ramayana would reveal that most of the characters in it have laid emphasis on Moksa purusartha. May the reading of Ramayana inspire you to the purushartha called Moksa and finally lead you to your goal. If | have written anything against the dharmasastra i.e. holy scripts in this book, then Micchami Dukkadam - forgive me.

**Contents and Sample Pages**