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Jain Stories
Abhaykumar and Rohineya

In times of Lord Mahävir, there was a burglar named Lohkhur. He lived in a remote cave of Vaibhargiri near Räjgruhi. He was very smart in his activity and never left any trace of his burglary. His wife’s name was Rohini and they had a son named Rohineya. As Rohineya grew up, he picked up the art of burglary from his father and eventually became an expert burglar. In smartness, he even surpassed his father. It was almost impossible to recognize him, when he was in disguise. If some one pursued him, he could outrun anyone. He could even jump over walls when necessary. He committed burglary mostly from houses of noblemen and rich people and hid the treasure of his burglaries in the most unexpected and inaccessible places. To the poor, he extended help from the wealth that he had so accumulated. Many of them therefore felt grateful and were pleased with him. Therefore, they were not willing to help the Government officials in tracking him down.

Lohkhur was now very old and could see that his life was soon to end. When he was on his deathbed, he called Rohineya by his side and said that he was very happy with the expertise that he had shown in committing burglary, which had been their ancestral profession. In order to stay successful, he however advised his son never to listen to the sermon of Lord Mahävir, because his teachings were not conducive to their profession. Rohineya promised his father to abide by his advice. So, Lohkhur could breathe his last breath with the sense of satisfaction.

After he died, Rohineya expanded his burglary to a large scale. So much, that it became almost impossible for the well to do families to experience safety of their property, if they needed to go out. They were constantly afraid that Rohineya would reach their home during their absence and take away jewelry and other valuables from the house. Such people once came to king Shrenik and requested him to take some effective action to protect them from Rohineya’s burglaries, since police officers had failed to do anything about the matter. The king therefore asked Abhaykumar to undertake suitable action for getting hold of Rohineya.

Once, while Rohineya was secretly on his way to Räjgruhi, he had to pass by the side of Lord’s assembly. He remembered his father’s advice. He therefore put his hands on his ears in order to prevent the voice of the Lord from reaching him. Unfortunately however, a sharp thorn pricked deep into his foot that very instance. He had therefore to take his hands off from the ears in order to take out the thorn. During this time, words of the Lord reached his ears. He heard the following words: ‘Human life is the best of all lives. It is possible to attain liberation only during human life. Every human being can attain salvation irrespective of caste, creed, or color. By virtuous deeds, one would gain life in heaven where there are all sorts of material pleasures and happiness. The heavenly beings move above the ground and their feet do not touch it. Their bodies are shadowless; their eyes remain steady and their garlands do not wither. That life however does not lead to ultimate liberation which provides eternal bliss. Therefore, heavenly beings too crave for obtaining human life.’ By that time Rohineya removed the thorn from his foot and covering his ears with his hands again, he proceeded towards the city.

Since being entrusted with the task of trapping Rohineya, Abhaykumar had secretly posted trained soldiers in disguise at the gates and all important corners of the city. He himself also remained watchful. Next time Rohineya came to the city, a watchman saw him. Rohineya was in the guise of a farmer. The watchman sent a message to Abhaykumar that some unidentified person had entered the city. Abhaykumar became very alert. As Rohineya passed by, Abhaykumar glanced at him from a secret place. He did not fail to recognize the burglar even in disguise and instructed his men to surround him. Smart as Rohineya was, he quickly recognized the danger. He ran towards the city wall. Unfortunately for him, there were soldiers near the wall to capture him. He was thus easily apprehended and was put in jail.

The next day, he was appeared in court. As Rohineya was in disguise, it was hard to identify him as the burglar. Abhaykumar was of course sure, but how could the accused be punished without proof of his identity? When the king asked him about his identity, Rohineya replied that he was a farmer named Durgachandra and belonged to Shaligram village; he had come to Räjgruhi for seeing the capital and was returning home when watchmen tried to apprehend him. Rohineya had made arrangements for that assumed identity with the residents of that village. When the inquiries were therefore made in that village, the people corroborated what Rohineya had stated in the court.

Abhaykumar had to devise a plan for getting a confession of Rohineya regarding the burglaries. He came to know that Rohineya was fond of drinks. He therefore arranged for serving excessive wine to the accused to the extent of making him unconscious. In that state, Rohineya was neatly cleaned, dressed in extravagantly perfumed royal garments and was adorned with valuable jewelry. He was then placed on a luxurious velvet bed on a sandalwood cot on the top floor of a palatial building. As Rohineya regained his senses, he saw himself in heavenly surroundings. There was breath taking view all around; walls, ceiling and floor were crystalline; beautiful maidens were waving scented air with diamond studded fans; slow sweet music was flowing from the background; fairylike damsels were dancing in tune with that music and apparently divine musicians were getting ready for a musical concert.

Rohineya could not make out where he was. He asked one of the girls where he was and why all of them were serving him so well. The girl replied that he was their Lord in the heaven that he had attained all the divine comforts, which now belonged to him. He could live like Indra, the king of heaven and enjoy with the heavenly damsels the way he wanted. ‘Could this be true for a burglar like him?’ he asked himself. But he then remembered that he was helpful to the poor and needy and he was sure that God must have been just. ‘Or could this be the plan of Abhaykumar?’ he thought again. It was real hard for him to decide what was truth. He therefore thought it was best to wait and see.

After a while, a luxuriously clad person entered with a golden staff and book in his hand. ‘Is your new Lord awake?’ he asked one of the damsels. The girl replied that their new lord had just woken up and they had been getting ready to celebrate his arrival in the heaven by presenting the divine concert. ‘Let me make sure that all preparations pertaining to his arrival have been completed before you start your concert; and let me also get from him some information that the heavenly realm needs to know.’ As he was saying this, he came to Rohineya. Opening his book, he asked Rohineya to narrate his deeds from his previous life, before prior to enjoying the amenities of heaven.

Meanwhile, Rohineya was watching all around. He remembered what he had heard from Lord Mahävir about heavenly beings, at when the thorn had pricked his foot. He observed the movements of the so called heavenly beings in front of him. He noticed that their feet were touching the ground, their bodies had shadows, and their eyes were blinking like human beings. He immediately made out that the heaven was a fake and it was only a trick of Abhaykumar to gain evidence of his burglaries. He therefore replied that in the previous life he had given donations for all worthy causes, he had constructed temples, and he had been for pilgrimage to holy places and had rendered service to the deserving entities. That person took note of his statement and asked him to narrate any wrong deeds that he might have indulged in. Rohineya said that he had scrupulously avoided misdeeds and therefore he was born in heaven. Abhaykumar’s plan back fired and Rohineya was set free as being the innocent farmer that he pretended to be.

Rohineya was released, however, he constantly thought about what had happened. He realized that what he had accidentally heard from Lord Mahävir, had saved his life. Then how could his father be right in the advice that he had given? That Lord must have been a real grateful entity. ‘If those accidentally heard words were so helpful, imaging how helpful his entire teachings could be?’ he asked himself. Did he waste his years avoiding sermons of the Lord? After pondering at length, he decided to go to the Lord and to serve at his feet. He went to the assembly and humbly requested the Lord to accept him as his pupil. He also offered to become a monk, if the Lord considered him fit for renouncement. As the Lord thought him worthy to become his pupil, he sought his permission to make confession to the king before he renounced. He then disclosed his real identity to the king who was present in the assembly and offered to accept any punishment. He also requested Abhaykumar to order some of his officials to take back all the valuables that he had stored. That way the stolen materials were recovered and handed over to their respective owners.

Since Rohineya had voluntarily confessed and had willingly returned everything that he had taken during burglaries, the king decided to pardon him and permitted him to be the Lord’s monk. Rohineya highly repented for what he had done in his life. He started observing severe austerities in order to erase the Karmas acquired by his misdeeds. When his body was unable to bear more, he adopted Anashan (Avoiding food and staying in meditation) with the permission of the Lord and attained entry into heaven at the end of his life.

Key Message:

Theme here focuses on honesty and principle of non-stealing. One should not steal from others even if one takes the stolen items and donates them to poor people. Wrong doing is still wrong doing regardless of how much good you are doing in other areas. One must repent for it in order to destroy the bad karma that accumulate as a result of it. Second thing we learn from this story is that we can only attain liberation from human form. Even heavenly beings can’t attain liberation without taking a birth as a human being first. So we should all realize how fortunate we all are to have this human birth and make the most of it and wash away as much bad karma as we possibly can.