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A Historical Dialogue ?

Sanyama (restraint), ashrav (inflow of karma), tap (penance) and vyavadaan (nirjara, eradication of karma) – these are the principle causes of higher forms of life. In this context, Acharya Tulsi has explained the conversation between the sthavirs (scholarly monks), disciples of Bhagawan Parshvanath, and the shravaks belonging to the city of Tungiya. This conversation gives a glimpse of the shravaks of Aagamic age. Those shravaks had intense faith in religion, curiosity to have profound knowledge, and were socially established. Their code of conduct inspires one to lead a life of self-control and penance.
‘Tungiya’ nagari nivaasi shravakon ki sankatha,
‘Bhagavati’ ki vaachana se mite maanas ki vyatha.
gahan jigyaasa bhare var prashna shri Gautam kare,
samaadhaan pradhaan shri Bhagawan vachanaamrita jhare.

Bhagawan Mahavira, with his disciples, was sojourning in Magadh. At that time, some sthaviras of Parshvanath’s tradition came to the famous city of Tungika. The shravaks of Tungika were well-versed with both social as well as religious aspects. They were prosperous. They did not just aspire to accumulate wealth but would donate actively. They were quite influential amongst the locals and were learned in metaphysics. Being trustworthy to everyone was one of their prominent qualities. They were endowed with unshakable faith in Nirgranth pravachana (the philosophy of tirthankar). They would observe the vows, practice penance and were devotee of the monks. After knowing the arrival of sthaviras of the Parshvanath order, the shravaks of Tungika visited them. Those sthaviras preached the discipline of four great vows to their laymen. After listening to the discourse, they had some queries. They humbly asked, ‘What is the result of self-restraint? What is the fruit of penance?’ The sthaviras replied,‘Self-restraint results in anaashrav (the inhibition of inflow of karma). Penance results in vyavadaan (eradication of the past karma).’ Shravaks: ‘If self-restraint results in inhibition of inflow of karma, and penance results in the eradication of the past karma, then what causes one to take birth in heaven as god?’
Among them, a sthavira named Kalikaputra came forward and said, ‘Gods are born in heaven on account of their past tap.’ Another sthavira Mehila answered, ‘On account of their past sanyam (self restraint), gods are born in heaven.’ Then sthavira Anandarakshita addressed them and said, ‘On account of the karma-satta (existence of past karma), gods take birth in heaven.’ And sthavira Kashyap said, ‘On account of aasakti (attachment) gods are born in heaven.’ Gods are born in heaven because of their past austerity, past self restraint, effect of their karma and attachment. All four of them had different answers, but collectively they constitute the complete answer. When this conversation between the shravak of Tungika and the sthavira of Parshvanath was going on, some shravaks from Rajagrih were also present there. Those shravaks after returning to Rajagrih explained the entire conversation to the other shravaks. Bhagawan Mahavira was also in Rajagrih during that period. That very day Ganadhar Gautam was finishing his two-days fasting. So, in the afternoon he went to the city to have alms. He listened to the conversation going among the shravakas. It roused some questions in his mind and made him restless. After getting alms, he went back to his place and explained the entire discussion to Bhagawan Mahavira and asked him, ‘O lord! Are those sthaviras of Bhagawan Parshvanath able to answer the questions asked by the people of Tungika city? Have they answered correctly?’ Bhagawan Mahavira affirmatively responded, ‘Yes Gautam! They are capable of answering the questions. The answers are right. I also say that there are four reasons behind taking birth in heaven – self-restraint, penance, karma, and attachment.’

Excerpts from "Who is a Jain Shravak ?" by Acharya Mahaprajna 

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