However, our curiosity is to know only about nonessential things. Seldom does someone reach out to know the semi-essential. And our curiosity or desire never extends to knowing that which is essential and unavoidable, that which cannot be changed even if known.
Mahavir was passing through a village with his disciple, Goshalak – who later became his opponent – when they came across a small plant, and Goshalak said to Mahavir: “Listen, here is a plant. What do you think? – will it grow to produce a flower, or will it die before it can flower? What is its future?”
Mahavir immediately closed his eyes and sat in front of the plant.
Goshalak cunningly said, “Do not avoid the issue. What will happen by closing your eyes?”
He did not know why Mahavir had become silent and closed his eyes – that he was looking for the essential. It was necessary to go deep down into the being, into the soul of that plant. Without doing so, it would not be possible to say what was going to happen.
After a while Mahavir opened his eyes and said, “This plant will survive to flower.”
Goshalak immediately pulled the plant up by its roots, threw it away and laughed mockingly. There was no better way to refute Mahavir’s statement.
Mahavir had nothing more to say now, because Goshalak had uprooted the plant and thrown it away as a challenge. He was laughing, Mahavir was smiling, and they continued their journey.
Then it began to rain heavily. There was a storm, and for seven days continuously torrential rain fell, so they were not able to go out for seven whole days.
When the rains had subsided and they were returning, on the way they reached the same spot where seven days previously Mahavir had closed his eyes to know the inner being of the plant. They saw that the plant was again standing with its roots in the ground. Due to the heavy rains and winds, the earth had become wet and loose, and the roots of the plant had dug in.
Mahavir again closed his eyes and stood beside the plant. Goshalak became very embarrassed – he had uprooted and thrown away the plant. When Mahavir opened his eyes, Goshalak said, “I am surprised and confused. I uprooted this plant and threw it away, and it is growing again.”
Mahavir replied, “It will survive to flower. I closed my eyes to see the inner potentiality and the condition of the seed: whether it was capable of taking root again even though it was uprooted, whether it was suicidal or not, whether it had a strong instinct or desire for death. If it’s instinct was suicidal it would have used your help to die. I wanted to see whether it was yearning to live; if it was determine to live, it would live. I knew that you were going to uproot it and throw it away.”
Goshalak asked, “What are you saying?”
Mahavir said, “When I was looking into the inner being of the plant with my eyes closed, I also saw you standing by, determined to uproot it. I knew that you would uproot the plant. That is why it was necessary for me to know the inner capacity of the plant to live, how much self-confidence and willpower it had. If it was waiting to die and looking for an excuse, you would have been excuse enough for it to die; otherwise, the uprooted plant would take root again.”
Goshalak lacked the courage to uproot the plant again. He was afraid. Previously Goshalak had gone laughing to the village; this time, Mahavir walked ahead smiling.
Goshalak then asked, “Why are you smiling?”
Mahavir said, “I was watching and just thinking about your capacity – whether you could uproot the plant a second time or not.”
Goshalak said, “You could see whether I would do it or not?”
Mahavir replied, “It was nonessential. You might have uprooted it, you might not have uprooted it. But it was essential and unavoidable that the plant still wanted to live. Its whole being, its whole vitality wanted to live. That was essential. What was nonessential was your throwing it away or not, and that was dependent on you. But you have proven weaker and less determined than the plant. You have been defeated.”
One of the reasons why Goshalak was displeased with Mahavir was this incident with the plant.Tags: Jainism Mahavir