Mahävir said, “Indrabhuti, do you doubt the existence of soul?” Then he explained that the soul exists, and it is eternal. He provided proper interpretation of the Hindu scriptures (Vedas) and convinced Indrabhuti that the soul does exist. Indrabhuti was shocked and surprised that Mahävir knew his doubts about the existence of the soul and the proper interpretation of his scriptures. He felt awakened, refreshed, and realized how incomplete his knowledge had been. He became Mahävir’s first and chief disciple. Indrabhuti was fifty years old at the time and from then on, he was called Gautam-swämi, as he came from the Gautam family.
Meanwhile, Somil and the other ten scholars were waiting to greet the expected winner of the debate, Indrabhuti Gautam. However, they were stunned to learn that Indrabhuti had become a disciple of Mahävir. The other ten Brahmin scholars, with their disciples, immediately set out to debate with Mahävir and became his disciples too. Dejected and abandoned, Somil cancelled the ceremony and set all the animals free. These eleven learned scholars were the main disciples of Lord Mahävir and they are called the Eleven Ganadhars.
Änand Shrävak’s Clairvoyance Knowledge:
Gautam-swämi was living his life as a Jain monk observing all the austerities and following the five great vows. Once, while returning from Gochari (getting food or alms), he learned that many people were going to pay homage to Änand Shrävak (a Jain layman). He also learned that Änand Shrävak had attained clairvoyance knowledge known as Avadhi-jnän by performing severe penance and austerities. Since Änand Shrävak was one of Mahävir’s followers, Gautam-swämi decided to visit him.
When Änand saw Gautam-swämi approaching his house, he was very happy. Though weak, due to his austerities, he got up and welcomed Gautam-swämi. He inquired about Änand’s health and asked about his special knowledge. With respect, Änand replied to Gautam-swämi, “Reverend Guru, I have attained Avadhi-jnän. With this knowledge I can see as high as the first heaven and as low as the first hell.” Gautam-swämi explained to Änand, “A layman (Shrävak) can attain Avadhi-jnän, but not to this magnitude. You need to do Präyashchitta (atonement) for believing you can do this.” Änand was puzzled. He knew that he was correct, but his guru questioned his truthfulness and told him to repent for it. He therefore politely asked Gautam-swämi, “Does one need to repent for speaking the truth?” Gautam-swämi was equally puzzled and replied, “No one has to repent for speaking the truth.” Thinking that he would confirm this with Bhagawän Mahävir, Gautam-swämi left Änand.
Gautam-swämi returned to Bhagawän Mahävir and asked about Änand’s clairvoyance knowledge. Mahävir replied, “Gautam, Änand was telling the truth. He can see as high as the first heaven and as low as the first hell. Rarely can a layman attain such a level of Avadhi-jnän. You should repent for your mistake of doubting him.” Mahävir valued truth and would never conceal the mistake of his disciple to protect his own image. Gautam-swämi set aside his alms and immediately returned to Änand and asked for his forgiveness.
Offering food to 1500 Hermits:
On another occasion, Gautam-swämi went to a temple on Mount Ashtäpad to pay homage to the 24 Tirthankars. The mountain was very difficult to climb. At the foothill of the mountain fifteen hundred hermits were trying to climb the mountain but they were not successful. They saw Gautam-swämi complete this difficult journey and were very impressed. They decided to be his disciples. Gautam-swämi preached to them about true religion and the correct ways of penance and accepted them as his disciples. All fifteen hundred hermits became Jain monks. Gautam-swämi realized that they were hungry and offered them Kheer (rice pudding) from a small Pätra (bowl).
They began to wonder how Gautam-swämi would feed all of them. Gautam-swämi requested all the hermits to sit down. Since he possessed a special power called Akshin-mahänasi Labdhi (non-diminishing power), he served everyone Kheer from his small bowl. While serving Kheer he kept his thumb in it to invoke the power. To everyone’s surprise, they all were well-served from this small Pätra.
As time passed, all the disciples of Gautam-swämi attained Keval-jnän, the ultimate knowledge. However, Gautam-swämi was still unable to attain it. He was worried that he may not attain Keval-jnän in this life. One day Gautam-swämi asked Lord Mahävir, “Ten other scholars joined me on the day that I accepted Dikshä and all eleven of us became your disciples. Nine of them have attained Keval-jnän. All my disciples have attained Keval-jnän. Why am I so unlucky that I am not able to attain Keval-jnän?” Lord Mahävir replied, “Gautam, it is because you have too much affection for me. In order to attain Keval-jnän you must overcome all types of attachment, including attachment to your beloved Guru. Until you give up your attachment towards me, it will not be possible for you to attain Keval-jnän.”