Sunday, April 30, 2006
After his birth he was taken by Indra to bath the child in the celestial milk and perform the ritual befitting a future 'Tirthankar'. He was then returned back to his mother, who had dreamt of 14 auspicious symbols, before giving birth to her son. It was a sign to tell them the advent of a great soul.
Being the son of King Siddartha and Queen Trisala, he lived the life of a prince; married Yashodhara, a princess and had a daughter also. At the age of thirty, he left his family, gave up his worldly possessions (over the course of a year), and spent twelve years as an ascetic. At one point, it is said that Mahavir had more than 400,000 followers.
He shed his body [Moksha] in 527 BC at the age of 72. Jains signify Dipavali, the last day of the Hindu and Jain calendars, as the anniversery of his death and, accordingly, the day he attained Moksha.
It should be noted that "the dates that Jainas attach to Mahavir's life are 599-527 B.C.," though "some modern scholars prefer 549-477 B.C."
Awakening and enlightenment
After he renounced his princehood, he spent the next twelve and half years in deep silence and meditation and took on the discipline of conquering his desires, feelings, and attachments. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings including animals, birds, and plants. He also went without food for long periods. His enduring calm and peaceful character against all unbearable hardships presence the influence of his title, Mahavir (a Sanskrit word, meaning very brave and courageous), given to him by his peers. During this period, Jains believe his that he attained keval-jnana, or perfect enlightenment, in which spiritual powers fully become developed and perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss are realized.
The Jina, or Mahavira, as Guru folio from a manuscript, Gujarat, India, Circa 1411
Mahavira spent the next thirty years travelling around India preaching to the people the eternal truth he realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one's self, or Moksha, Sanskrit for "liberation".
Mahavira preached that from eternity, every living being (soul) is in bondage of karmic atoms that are accumulated by good or bad deeds. Under the influence of karma, the soul is habituated to seek pleasures in materialistic belongings and possessions, which are the deep rooted causes of self-centered violent thoughts, deeds, anger, hatred, greed, and such other vices. These result in further accumulation of karmas.
To liberate one's self, Mahavira taught the neccesity of right faith (samyak-darshana), right knowledge (samyak-jnana), and right conduct (samyak-charitra'). At the heart of right conduct for Jains lie the five great vows:
Nonviolence (Ahimsa)- not to cause harm to any living beings
Truthfulness (Satya)- to speak the harmless truth only
Non-stealing (Asteya)- not to take anything not properly given
Chastity (Brahmacharya)- not to indulge in sensual pleasure
Non-possession/Non-attachment (Aparigraha)- complete detachment from people, places, and material things
As taught by Mahavira, Jains believe that these vows can not be fully implemented without the acceptance of a philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekantvada) and the theory of relativity (Syadvada, also translated "qualified prediction"). Monks and nuns are held to follow these vows strictly and totally, while the common people may follow the vows as far as their life styles will permit.
In the matters of spiritual advancement, as envisioned by Mahavira, both men and women are on an equal footing and were taught by Mahavira that they may equally renounce the world in search of ultimate happiness.
Mahavira attracted people from all walks of life, rich and poor, kings and commoners, men and women, princes and priests, touchable and untouchable. He organized his followers into a four-fold order, namely monk (Sadhu), nun (Sadhvi), layman (Shravak), and laywoman (Shravika). This order is known as Chaturvidh Jain Sangh.
Lord Mahavira's sermons were orally compiled by his immediate disciples in the Agam Sutras. These Agam Sutras were orally passed on to future generations. In the course of time, many of the Agam Sutras have been lost, destroyed, or modified. About one thousand years later the Agam Sutras were recorded on Tadpatris (leafy paper that was used in those days to preserve records for future references). Swetambar Jains have accepted these sutras as authentic version of His teachings while Digambar Jains use them as a reference.
Jainism existed before Mahavira, and his teachings were based on those of his predecessors. Thus, Mahavira was more of a reformer and propagator of an existing religious order than the founder of a new faith. He followed the well established creed of his predecessor Tirthankar Parshvanath. However, Mahavira did reorganize the philosophical tenets of Jainism to correspond to his times.
A few centuries after Mahavira's death, the Jain religious order (Sangha) grew more and more complex. There were schisms on some minor points, although they did not affect the original doctrines as preached by Mahavira. Later generations saw the introduction of ritualistic complexities that some have criticized as almost placing Mahavira and other Tirthankars on the thrones of Hindu deities.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia