ancient times there was a town named Ilavardhan in which there
lived a businessman named Dhandatta. He had a wife named Ilächi
who gave birth to a very lovable and handsome boy. That being
the only son, the parents deliberately kept him nameless. As a
son of Ilächi, he came to be known as Ilächiputra. He
was reared with all the loving care and attention in the midst
of luxuries. In due course he grew to be a handsome youth and
as such started being called Ilächikumar. His parents were
now eager to get him married. Being the only son of a well to
do family, many people offered their daughters in marriage. His
parents prepared a list of selected names out of them and asked
Ilächikumar to choose any one that he liked the most. But
Ilächikumar could not make any selection.
day a party of acrobats came to the town. During those days, there
were no stadiums where acrobats could play. They had to show their
skills on the open streets. Beating the drums in token of their
arrival, those acrobats planted the poles in an open area off
the main street and connected them with ropes. Many people assembled
there to watch the show. The acrobats ascended the pole one after
another and started demonstrating their skill of playing on the
rope. They were walking and jumping over the high rope. People
were very fascinated by the performance. Ilächikumar also
had come there to watch the show. While watching the performance
of the acrobats, his attention was drawn to the young girl of
the chief of acrobats. She looked very smart and was dancing very
gracefully to the tune of the drums with ringing jingle bells
on her feet. Ilächikumar got too much enamored by her and
could not move his glance from her.
the end of the show, the acrobats came down the rope and started
collecting money from the people who had assembled for the show.
People were very pleased with the performance and paid handsomely.
Thus collecting good amount, the acrobats left the place and every
one went home. Ilächikumar also had to go home. He was however
so much fascinated by the girl that he remained absorbed in thoughts
about her and could not fix his mind anywhere else. At lunchtime
his parents called him to join. There too, he remained silent
and finished the lunch without uttering a single word. His parents
had never seen him so serious and wondered about his absent-mindedness.
His father asked him about the reason for his seriousness, but
he kept quiet. After the father left, the mother lovingly asked
him to speak out whatever was in his mind. Ilächikumar said
that it was no use telling her about that. As she repeatedly asked
him, he finally replied that his mind was attracted towards the
girl of the acrobats and he wanted to marry her.
mother was taken aback to hear that. She said that she could get
him very beautiful and lovable girls from well to do families
and asked him to forget that wretched acrobat girl. He replied
that no other girl would attract his mind and he wanted to marry
only that girl. Realizing the firmness of his mind, the mother
told her husband about their son’s intentions. Dhandatta
was shocked to hear this. He tried to dissuade the son from his
intention but Ilächikumar remained firm. Dhandatta was a
sensible man. He could see that Ilächikumar would not stay
peaceful without that girl. He did not want to lose his son for
the sake of prestige. He therefore called the chief of acrobats
and requested him to give his daughter in marriage to Ilächikumar.
acrobat however said that he could not do that because he was
bound by the convention of his tribe. Dhandatta thought that he
might be looking for getting money for the girl. He therefore
offered to give as much wealth as the acrobat wanted for agreeing
to marry his daughter to his son. The acrobat however declined
his offer and replied that he could not break the convention.
Dhandatta then asked him about his tribal convention. The acrobat
said that he could give his daughter only to the person who could
win an award from a royal court by pleasing the king with his
acrobatic skill and would give dinner to his community out of
the prize money. Dhandatta was disappointed to hear that because
it was apparently impossible for his son to fulfill that condition.
He explained to his wife what had happened. She called her son
and said that the girl would marry only to an expert acrobat and
asked him to forget her.
did not give any reply. He however could not change his mind.
He felt that he could not survive without that girl and was willing
to make any sacrifice for her. He was even prepared to learn the
acrobatic skill for that purpose. His parents were baffled by
his silence but thought that he would come to senses in due course.
They felt confident that Ilächikumar could never become an
expert acrobat. As Ilächikumar continued to remain absent
minded, they tried to divert his mind. All their efforts however
failed and Ilächikumar stayed bent upon getting that girl
somehow. When the acrobat group therefore decided to leave Ilavardhan,
Ilächikumar secretly slipped from his home and left town
along with them.
discarded his fancy clothes and donning the course clothes of
the acrobats, he started learning their skill. He was smart by
nature and used all his diligence to learn the acrobatics. The
girl too got enamored of him and helped him in all possible ways
to learn the skill. With her help, he could easily master the
skill and soon became an expert acrobat. In due course, when the
group reached the city of Benatat, he requested the father of
the girl to organize a show at the royal court there. Thereafter,
the chief went to the king and requested him to watch the performance
of the young acrobat and to award a suitable prize, if it was
king agreed and accordingly the acrobats fixed the poles in the
compound of the royal palace, where the officers of the state
and elite of the city were invited to watch the performance. At
the right time, the king occupied his seat in the balcony of the
palace. Bowing to him, Ilächikumar went over the pole and
then jumping over the rope, he started displaying his acrobatic
skill. He was tightly walking over the high rope intercepted with
risky jumps and summersaults. It was a superb performance. No
one had ever watched such acrobatic feats. Every one was highly
fascinated by his skill. Ilächikumar was feeling gratified
by the appreciation of the people. He thought that it should have
been enough for pleasing the king too. He therefore came down
and bowing to him again, he requested for an appropriate award.
king was however more fascinated by the young girl than by the
performance. He thought that he could easily gain her, if he somehow
got rid of the acrobat. He therefore pretended that his mind was
too much occupied with the problems of the state and could not
give attention to the performance. He therefore requested Ilächikumar
to show his skill again. Accordingly, Ilächikumar got over
the rope again and displayed his skill. At the end of that show
when he came down, the king pretended to be drowsy and asked him
to show the performance again. Ilächikumar could not believe
that. He suspected that there was something wrong somewhere. Since
he was however keen to gain his long cherished goal of getting
married to the girl, he decided to try again.
again started the ropewalk, which to him was as easy as walking
on the plain surface. He triumphantly looked around. From that
height, he noticed, at a little distance, that a beautiful woman
was offering sweet food to a monk. She was in the prime of her
youth and was very attractive and highly graceful. Ilächikumar
was however surprised to observe that the monk was not even looking
at her. He was amazed to see that while he himself was hankering
for the acrobat girl, the monk remained totally unaffected in
the presence of that lovely woman. He was struck by the detachment
of the monk. He compared the girl of his choice with that woman.
The acrobat girl was no doubt attractive but the woman there was
far more attractive. What could have been the force that kept
the monk aloof in presence of that woman? And while remaining
aloof, happiness was evident on his face! This detachment of the
monk raised a quick train of thoughts in the mind of Ilächikumar.
come, I do not get detached, even though I have been repeatedly
asked by the king to show the performance!" He recalled the
excuses of the king for making him perform on the rope again and
again. He could suspect that the king was in all probability attracted
by the girl and was waiting for his fall from the rope. "In
that case I would never secure the girl for whom I have abandoned
my home and the parents.” The happiness that he was looking
for, was an illusion. At home, he had been a little exposed to
the religious principles. He had learned about the soul within
the body and its immense capabilities. He realized that his achievements
as an acrobat must have been due to that inner capability. That
monk could remain unaffected, because he remained tuned to his
soul and stayed vigilant about the pitfalls. "As an acrobat,
I also have to remain constantly vigilant, because the slightest
unawareness on my part can result in fall from the height and
consequent death. Why then, should I not use the same vigilance
for the sake of the spiritual uplift?"
had treaded a long path of spiritual pursuit in earlier life.
The impact of that achievement was lying subdued within, waiting
for an opportunity to manifest itself. The sight of the monk provided
the needed opportunity. He became fully awakened realizing that
he was the soul and all the other situations were simply illusory.
While on the rope, he dwelt deep into his Self and attained omniscience.
Then he quietly climbed down and bid farewell to every one, as
he left the place.
focus of this is on the principle of detachment. Attachment can
be to materialistic things or to people/feelings. Often times,
attachment causes us to behave in ways that may be hurtful to
others and/or inconsistent with the principles of Jainism. We
should strive to minimize our attachments (i.e. detach ourselves)
and focus on our souls. Our souls don’t require any type
of attachment to materialistic things or people in order to attain
omniscience. A soul is completely detached and leaves everything
behind when it moves to the next life