Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

35
The Ideal King
Mahaviracarita The Jain attitude of rulership and government varied considerably. The state is a necessary feature of society in the period of decline in which we now find ourselves. It maintains the social order and is conducive to the good life, leading to liberation. In this respect Jain thought differs very little from that of Hinduism. In fact Jain writers set much the same ideals before rulers as do those of Hinduism, and their thought on the subject has few original features. A sample of typical Jain advice to kings is given later. Exceptional ideas, however, are to be found in the writings of Hemachandra, who appears to have had real influence on politics, which may still be indirectly felt in India to the present day. This teacher, the greatest doctor of Jainism, was born in or about 1089 in Gujarat. Entering the Jain order as a boy, he rapidly acquired a great reputation for learning, and was much patronized by the powerful king of the Chaulukya dynasty, Jayasimha (1094-1143), despite the fact that the latter was an orthodox Hindu. Jayasimha died childless, and was succeeded by Kumārapāla (1143-1172) a distant relation who seized the throne by force. Under Hemachandra's influence Kumārapāla became a Jain, and if we are to believe later Jain sources, enforced ahimsā so rigorously that two merchants were mulcted of all their wealth for the crime of killing fleas. There is no doubt that Kumārapāla did attempt to enforce ahimsā quite stringently, under the guidance of his Jain mentor, who composed several works in his honor. Hemachandra died a little before his pupil at the age of eighty-four, by fasting to death; Kumārapāla is said to have died in the same manner. His successor, Ajayapāla, introduced something of an orthodox reaction, and is referred to by the Jains as a violent persecutor of their faith.Hemachandra was evidently a man of great versatility; among his works are philosophical treatises,grammars of Sanskrit and Prākrit, lexica of both languages, a treatise on poetics, and much narrative poetry which, if judged according to the canons of the time, is often very beautiful and brilliantly clever. The longest of his poems is The Deeds of the Sixty-three Eminent Men (Triaṣṭiśalākāpuruacarita), an enormous work telling the stories of the twenty‐ four Tīrthankaras and of other eminent figures in Jain mythology, including the patriarchs and various legendary world emperors. The last section of this forms an independent whole, The Deeds of Mahāvīra, and records the life story of the historical founder of Jainism. In its course Mahāvīra is said to have prophesied in his omniscience the rise to power of Hemachandra's patron Kumārapāla, and to have forecast the reforms he would inaugurate. It will be seen that Hemachandra's ideal king is a rigorous puritan, and that he has a rather pathetic faith that man could be made good by legislation.[From Mahāvīracarita, 12.59-77]
The vows, especially those concerning ... food,
He will keep regularly, and he will be generally celibate.
The king will not only avoid prostitutes
But will encourage his queen to remain chaste....
He will not take the wealth of men who die sonless 1
This is the fruit of insight, for men without insight are never satisfied.
Hunting, which even the Pāndus 2 and other pious kings did not give up,
He will abjure, and all men will do likewise at his command.
When he forbids all injury there will be no more hunting or other cruel sports.
Even an untouchable will not kill a bug or a louse.
When he puts down all sin the wild deer of the forest
Will ever chew the cud unharmed, like cows in a stall....
Even creatures who eat meat by nature, at his command,
Will forget the very name of meat, as an evil dream. 3
____________________
From Mahaviracarita, "The Ideal King," in I. De Bary, ed., Sources of Indian Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp. 86-87. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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