King Shrenik of Magadh had a beautiful queen named Dharini. Once while she was sleeping, she dreamt that a white elephant was entering her mouth. She immediately woke up and told the king about the dream. Shrenik knew that it was an auspicious dream. He called the fortunetellers who stated that the queen would get a handsome and lovable son who would have marvelous achievements to his credit. The king and queen were very much pleased to hear this.
During the third month of her pregnancy, Dharini had an irresistible urge to ride in the country on an elephant with the king during rain, while the sky is full of clouds of different hues and there are frequent flashes of lightening. In most of India, it rains only during the monsoon, which occurs from June to October. Dharini however had the urge during off-season. The fulfillment of her urge was therefore a problem. In order to see that she is not affected by the unsatisfied urge, king asked his eldest son and the Prime Minister Abhaykumar to devise some way to satisfy that urge. Abhaykumar had a friend who could make miracles. He exhorted that friend to cause untimely rain etc. for the sake of his step mother. That friend arranged exactly according to Dharini’s urge. She therefore could ride on an elephant with the king and satisfied her urge.
In due course she gave birth to a very handsome, attractive boy. Rain in Indian language is called Megh. In memory of the pregnancy urge of Dharini, the boy was named Meghkumar. At the age of 8 he was sent to school where he learned all 72 arts and crafts and became known as an accomplished youth. He was then married to 8 beautiful girls with whom he enjoyed all the pleasures of the worldly life. Once Lord Mahaveera came to Rajgruhi and camped in Gunashil monastery. Almost every resident of Rajgruhi used to go to His sermon. Meghkumar went as well, and was very much impressed. Realizing the transitory nature of the worldly situations, as explained by the Lord, he decided to renounce his worldly life. But his parents were sad to hear about his intentions. They tried every means to stop him from renouncing. He however remained very firm. But in order to satisfy his parents’ wish, he agreed to become the king for one day and was coronated with all the royal pomp. Immediately after that, he left everything and became a possessionless monk of Lord Mahaveera.
At night, he was allotted a place near the door for spreading his bed. During the night, monks going for bathroom had to walk past his side. Since no lamps are allowed in the monks’ residence, they happened to trample his bed and at times his body as well. Poor Meghkumar could not sleep for the whole night. He was raised in all the luxuries and even monks used to treat him with regards. It was therefore awful for him to face the feet of the monks and the dirt that was brought all over his bed and body. He had to stay sleepless for the entire night. He felt that he could not bear that sort of miserable life and decided to give up renouncement.
In the morning, he went to the Lord to seek permission to return home. The Lord was aware of the discomforts that he had faced. He however asked him, ‘Megh, do you remember the discomforts that you had faced during the previous life?’ Since Meghkumar did not, the Lord described it as the following:
“During the previous life you were the king of elephants and were known as Meruprabha. Once there was a fire, which you escaped narrowly. That reminded you of the terrible fire you had faced in still earlier life. For a shelter from fire, you therefore opened up a vast stretch of land by removing all plants, bushes, and trees so that all animals could get refuge in case of a fire. You also weeded out grass that grew there.
Again, there was a wild fire in your forest. All the animals came running and took refuge on that stretch. You also were there. During that time, you raised your foot to scratch your body because of an itch. That very time a rabbit was pushed in that space by the pressure of other animals. As you tried to put the foot back, you felt the presence of the rabbit and decided to hold the foot up in order to save it. The fire raged for two and a half day during which you continued to hold your foot up out of compassion for the rabbit.
At the end of fire as the animals retreated, you tried to lower your foot. It had however stiffened during that time. You could not maintain your balance and fell down. You felt agonizing pain and could not get up. That way you spent three days and night facing much affliction and acute pain. Ultimately you left that body and were born here as the prince of Shrenik, because of your compassion for the rabbit. If you could face that much distress for the sake of rabbit and gained the valuable human life in return, how come you cannot face the foot dirt of your fellow monks in the interest of gaining lasting happiness?”
Meghkumar was impressed by the Lord’s words and realized that he should stay on in his own interest. He requested the Lord to initiate him afresh since he had virtually broken his vow of the monkhood by strongly desiring the worldly life. The Lord did accordingly and Meghmuni, as he was called after that, started leading rigorous, austere life. Fasting for days together, he stayed, most of time, in meditation in order to eradicate his Karmas. The Lord and Gautam-swami too praised him for that. When his body became very weak and could no longer observe the rigors of monkhood, he decided to observe fast unto death. That he did for a month on mount Vaibhargiri near Rajgruhi and took birth in heaven. The Lord has stated to Gautam-swami that at the end of the heavenly life, he would be reborn in Maha-Videha and would attain salvation.
Here is a great example of compassion. An elephant bears discomfort and pain to save a little animal. We are more developed and rational beings. We should learn from these animals to be helpful to each other. Besides, when one takes an oath to lead the life a monk, one should not revert to worldly life. This is a very tough and rigorous life meant to give an understanding of the true nature of the soul. In order to achieve this understanding, one must put aside the worldly life permanently because it tends to distort thing. Suffering occurs because of one’s past karma so one should accept it and focus on the soul and self-realization.