Justice T.U.Mehta

Association with Gosala

Mahavira's association with Gosala is of historical significance as Gosala was the acknowledged leader of Ajivika philosophy and had a great following both during and after the life of Mahavira. He started as a pupil and ended as a frustrated rival of Mahavira. We have already referred to him elsewhere in this book and will shortly refer to some incidents, which lead him to a firm belief of his ‘Niyativada', the theory of pre-destination. He came in contact of Mahavira at Nalanda and was attracted by the latter's immense capacity to perform severe penances. He offered his pupilship repeatedly to Mahavira but the latter did not respond. He, however, voluntarily began to move with Mahavira and introduced himself as his pupil to everyone. Mahavira did not object to it also. It is said that he was very impetuous, rash and indiscreet, and many a times put himself and Mahavira in awkward situations. Once at Nalanda he inquired from Mahavira what type of alms he would get on that day. Mahavira said he would get some rotten food to eat. He tried his best to get good food by moving from place to place but got what was exactly predicted. At some other time while moving from one place to another he saw some persons in the forest cooking ‘Khira' (sweet made of milk and rice) in an earthen pot. On inquiry Mahavira told him that ‘Khira' would not be available for eating. And it exactly happened like that as the pot in which it was being cooked broke down though many efforts were made to save it. Third incident was when a plant of sesamum was noticed and Gosala inquired from Mahavira whether that plant would survive the next weather. When Mahavira replied in the affirmative, Gosala uprooted it and threw it away aside. Next weather, on their return journey, Gosala saw that the uprooted plant had grown at the place where it was thrown away. All thesse incidents, and especially the last one, confirmed Gosala's belief in Niyati, i.e.,pre-destination. These incidents lead him to believe that human efforts are of no avail and we cannot change our destiny. Mahavira was a firm believer in the theory of Karma. According to him if persuant to the theory of cause and effect one has to bear the fruits of his karma, one can also have an impact of his present karmans on the fruits of past karmas, the results of which can be mitigated, if not totally obliterated. Moreover, present karmas are in one's own hands and so future which is the fruit of present karmas can surely be moulded by us by proper efforts. Mahavira was, therefore, opposed to Gosala's ideas of Niyati which took away soul's volition to choose its own path of salvation. After the incident of sesamum plant, Gosala parted the company of Mahavira, established his own school of Niyati, declared himself a Tirthankara. He had a large following which lasted till number of years even a after his death. But at present we have not got any literature to reveal the principles of his philosophy except the tendentious references in Jaina and Bauddha scriptures. Mahavira himself considered him as the last authority on Ajivika philosophy by which his Niyativada was known. According to Mahavira, Gosala's soul has attained higher level of life because at the end he repented for his behaviour.

Mahavira's association with Gosala is an unhappy episode in his life. It was an association of long six years when Gosala also had undergone many austerities, trials and tribulations along with Mahavira. Once when Gosala saw an ascetic performing severe penances and putting lices on his body to feed them. Gosala repeatedly mocked and cut jokes at him which infuriated the ascetic who cursed and threw his ‘Tejo-lesya' (magic fire) at him. This would have reduced Gosala to ashes but for the counter action of Mahavira, who threw his cooling power to extinguish the said fire. This intervention of Mahavira saved the life of Gosala, but the latter himself mastered the power of throwing ‘Tejolesya' on his adversary.

There is no historical record to show what was the root cause of the final quarrel between these two great men. However, the available material shows that many of the prominent followers of Gosala were influenced by Mahavira's philosophy and were deserting the Ajivika faith of Gosala. ‘Sad-dalaputta' was a very rich and influential disciple of Gosala. He came in contact with Mahavira and was convinced that the theory of determinism does not explain fully the events of the phenomenal world and that man's own efforts do play a great part in the moulding of life events. He was converted to Mahavira's line of thinking. When Gosala knew this, he tried to reconvert ‘Saddalaputta' but in vain. Gosala also tried to convert Ananda, a well known disciple of Mahavira but failed. These incidents show that Gosala was not happy with the increasing popularity of Mahavira's doctrines. As a matter of fact, he was proclaiming himself to be the last of the Tirthankaras. When Mahavira came to know this, he revealed the past life of Gosala and his associations with him, and when Gosala found that he would stand completely exposed, he went to Mahavira and picked up an unprovoked quarrel with the latter. Mahavira knew what was going to happen. He had, therefore, warned his disciple to keep perfect silence even if they felt offended by Gosala. However, two of them could not restrain at the violent behaviour of Gosala and met with death as Gosala threw his ‘Tejolesya' at them. When Gosala noticed that Mahavira was not provoked nor was he found threatened he threw his ‘Tejolesya' at Mahavira with a view to kill him. But the fire power released by him could not kill Mahavira and returned back to him, penetrated his own body and brought Gosala into a state of delirium. He began to drink spirit and danced, and cooled the intense heat generated in his body by applying potters mud all over his body, and eventually died. But before his death, he is said to have repented for his action and proclaimed to his disciples that he was wrong and was not fit to be called a Tirthankara.

This incident took place after Mahavira had attained ‘Kaivalya' (perfect and pure knowledge). This, therefore, explains why he did not release his own cooling power to save his two disciples and himself from the efforts of Gosala's ‘Tejolesya' as he died previously to save Gosala himself from the wrath of an ascetic. A ‘Kevalin', i.e., the soul who has attained ‘Kaivalya' is never overtaken by emotions as he has attained the steadfastness of an objective ‘seer' and ‘observer' (Jnata and Drasta).

Though Mahavira was not killed by Gosala's Tejolesya he was indeed affected in his health for a out six months and was ultimately cured by some medicine prepared by a devotee. He lived for more than sixteen years after the death of Gosala. Ajivika faith lasted for numbers of years even after the death of Gosala. Jainism is greatly influenced by Ajivika thinking. In fact the theory of determinism has its own place in Nayavada, but it is not taken as the final word in shaping the destiny of every Jiva. It is only a factor which contributes to that destiny.