Mahavira



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Fast Facts
mahavira.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Mahavir
Function: 
Guru
Traditions: 
Jainism
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
527BCE
Place of Birth: 
India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
599BCE

Biography

Mahavira (महावीर lit. Great Hero) is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamana (Sanskrit: वर्धमान "increasing") who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. He is also known in texts as Vira or Viraprabhu, ...Sanmati, Ativira,and Gnatputra.
Sthanakvasi · Bisapantha, Deravasi

In a place called Kshatriyastan in the ancient kingdom of Lachuar in Jamui District (modern day South Bihar, India), Mahavira was born to King Siddartha and Queen Trishala on the 13th day under the rising moon of Chaitra (April 12 according to the Gregorian calendar). While still in his mother's womb it is believed he brought wealth and prosperity to the entire kingdom, which is why he was also known as Vardhaman. An increase of all good things, like the abundant bloom of beautiful flowers, was noticed in the kingdom after his conception. Queen Trishala had 16 (14 in Swetambar Sect) auspicious dreams before giving birth to Vardhaman, signs foretelling the advent of a great soul. Five km away from the 125 -year old Lachaur temple is Talhatti.After another gradual climb is 'Ksatriyakund' atop another quiet , verdant hill.A temple is under construction here. It is said that the statue of Lord Mahavira was placed here by his elder brother Nandavardhan about 2600 years ago.

Jain tradition states that after his birth, Indra bathed him in celestial milk with rituals befitting a future Tirthankar and he was returned to his mother, Trishala.

Vardhaman's birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti, the most important religious holiday of Jains around the world. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with prayers, decorations, processions and festivity.

Early years
As King Siddartha's son, he lived as a prince. However, even at that tender age he exhibited a virtuous nature. He started engaging in meditation and immersed himself in self-contemplation. He was interested in the core beliefs of Jainism and started to get further away from worldly matters.

Twelve years of spiritual pursuit

India at the time of MahaviraAt the age of thirty Mahavira renounced his kingdom and family, gave up his worldly possessions, and spent twelve years as an ascetic. During these twelve years he spent most of his time meditating. He gave utmost regard to other living beings, including humans, animals and plants, and avoided harming them. He had given up all worldly possessions including his clothes, and lived an extremely austere life. He exhibited exemplary control over his senses while enduring the penance during these years. His courage and braveness earned him the name Mahavira. These were the golden years of his spiritual journey, at the end of which he achieved Kaivlya Gyan. He was now a person of infinite harmony, knowledge and self-control.

Later years
Mahavira devoted the rest of his life to preaching the eternal truth of spiritual freedom to people around India. He traveled barefoot and without clothes, in the hardest of climates, and people from all walks of life came to listen to his message. At one point Mahavira had over 400,000 followers. Mahavira's preaching and efforts to spread Jain philosophy is considered the real catalyst to the spread of this ancient religion throughout India and into the mainstream.

At the age of 72 years and 4.5 months, he attained Nirvana (In Jainism, this is called as Moksha) in the area known as Pawapuri on the last day of the Indian and Jain calendars, Dipavali. Jains celebrate this as the day he attained liberation or Moksha. Jains believe Mahavira lived from 599-527 BCE, though some scholars prefer 549-477 BCE.[1]

Mahavira's philosophy
Mahavira's philosophy has eight principal cardinals - three metaphysical and five ethical. The objective is to elevate the quality of life. These independent principles reveal exceptional unity of purpose, and aim at achieving spiritual excellence by ethically sound behavior and metaphysical thought. Mahavira's metaphysics consist of three principles - Anekantavada, Syādvāda, and Karma; and his Panchavrats, five codes of conduct - Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha. He talks of Tri-ratnas - three gems, which are the means and the goal.

The Jina, or Mahavir, as Guru folio from a manuscript,Gujarat, India, Circa 1411Mahavira preached that from eternity, every living being (soul) is in bondage of karmic atoms accumulated by good or bad deeds. Under karma, the soul seeks temporary and illusory pleasure in materialistic possessions, which are the deep rooted causes of self-centered violent thoughts, deeds, anger, hatred, greed, and other vices. These result in further accumulation of karmas.

To liberate one's self, Mahavira taught the necessity of right faith (samyak-darshana), right knowledge (samyak-gyana), 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.
Jains believe these vows cannot be fully implemented without accepting the philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekantvada) and the theory of relativity (Syādvāda, also translated "qualified prediction"). Monks and nuns follow these vows strictly, while common people follow them as far as possible.

Mahavira stated men and women are spiritually equal and that both may renounce the world in search of moksh or ultimate happiness.

Mahavira attracted people from all walks of life, rich and poor, men and women, touchable and untouchable. He organized his followers into a fourfold order; monk (Sadhu), nun (Sadhvi), layman (Shravak), and laywoman (Shravika). This order is known as Chaturvidh Jain Sangh.

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 Agam Sutras have been lost, destroyed, or modified. About one thousand years later the Agam Sutras were recorded on Tadpatris (leafy paper used in those days to preserve records for the future). Swetambar Jains accept these sutras as authentic teachings while Digambar Jains use them as a reference.

Jainism existed before Mahavir, and his teachings were based on those of his predecessors. Thus Mahavira was a reformer and propagator of an existing religion, rather 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 Nirvana, the Jain religious order (Sangh) grew more and more complex. There were schisms on minor points, although they did not affect Mahavira's original doctrines. Later generations saw the introduction of rituals and complexities that some criticize as placing Mahavira and other Tirthankars on the throne similar to those of Hindu deities.

Teachings

Jainism differs from other religions in its concept of a god. Jainism regards every living soul as potentially divine. When the soul sheds its karmic bonds completely, it attains God-consciousness. It prescribes a path of non-violence to progress the soul to this ultimate goal.

A Jain is a follower of Jinas ("conquerors"). Jinas are spiritually advanced human beings who rediscover the dharma, become fully liberated and teach the spiritual path to benefit all living beings. Practicing Jains follow the teachings of 24 special jinas who are known as Tirthankaras "('ford-makers", or "those who have discovered and shown the way to salvation"). Tradition states that the 24th, and most recent, Tirthankar is Shri Mahavir, lived from 599 to 527 BC. The 23rd Tirthankar, Shri Parsva, lived from 872 to 772 BC.

Jainism encourages spiritual development through reliance on and cultivation of one's own personal wisdom and self-control. The goal of Jainism is to realize the soul's true nature. "Samyak darshan gyan charitrani moksha margah", meaning "true/right perception, knowledge and conduct" ( known as the triple gems of Jainism) provides the path for attaining liberation (moksha) from samsara (the universal cycle of birth and death). Moksha is attained by liberation from all karma. Those who have attained moksha are called siddha (liberated souls), and those who are attached to the world through their karma are called samsarin (mundane souls). Every soul has to follow the path, as described by the Jinas (and revived by Tirthankaras), to attain the ultimate liberation.

Jaina tradition identifies Rishabha (also known as Adhinath) as the First Tirthankar of this declining (avasarpini) kalachakra (time cycle). The first Tirthankar, Rishabhdev/ Adhinath, appeared prior to the Indus Valley Civilization. The swastika symbol and naked statues resembling Jain monks, which archaeologists have found among the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, tend to support this claim.[citation needed]

Jains hold that the Universe and Dharma are eternal, without beginning or end. However, the universe undergoes processes of cyclical change. The universe consists of living beings ("Jīva") and non-living beings ("Ajīva"). The samsarin (worldly) soul incarnates in various life forms during its journey over time. Human, sub-human (animal, insect, plant, etc.), super-human (deity or devas), and hell-being are the four macro forms of the samsari souls. All worldly relations of one's Jiva with other Jiva and Ajiva (non-living beings) are based on the accumulation of karma and its conscious thoughts, speech and actions carried out in its current form.

The main Jain prayer (Namokar Mantra) therefore salutes the five special categories of souls that have attained God-consciousness or are on their way to achieving it, to emulate and follow these paths to salvation.

Another major characteristic of Jain belief is the emphasis on the consequences of not only physical but also mental behaviours.

Jain practices are derived from the above fundamentals. For example, the principle of non-violence seeks to minimize karmas which may limit the capabilities of the soul. Jainism views every soul as worthy of respect because it has the potential to become Siddha (Param-atma - "highest soul"). Because all living beings possess a soul, great care and awareness is essential in one's actions in the incarnate world. Jainism emphasizes the equality of all life, advocating harmlessness towards all, whether these be creatures great or small. This policy extends even to microscopic organisms. Jainism acknowledges that every person has different capabilities and capacities and therefore assigns different duties for ascetics and householders. The "great vows" (mahavrata) are prescribed for monks and "limited vows" (anuvrata) are prescribed for householders.

There are five basic ethical principles (vows) prescribed. The degree to which these principles must be practiced is different for renunciant and householder. Thus:

* Non-violence (Ahimsa) - to cause no harm to living beings.

* Truth (Satya) - to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.

* Non-stealing (Asteya) - to not take anything that is not willingly given.

* Celibacy (Brahmacarya) - to not indulge in sensual pleasures.

* Non-possession (Aparigraha) - to detach from people, places, and material things.

Ahimsa, "Non-violence", is sometimes interpreted as not killing, but the concept goes far beyond that. It includes not harming or insulting other living beings either directly or indirectly through others. There can be even no room for thought to injure others, and no speech that influence others to inflict harm.[19] It also includes respecting the view of others (non-absolutism and acceptance of multiple view points).

Satya, "truthfulness", is also to be practiced by all people. Given that non-violence has priority, all other principles yield to it, whenever there is a conflict. For example, if speaking truth will lead to violence, it is perfectly ethical to be silent. Thiruvalluvar in his Tamil classic devotes an entire chapter clarifying the definition of 'truthfulness'.

Asteya, "non-stealing", is the strict adherence to one's own possessions, without desire to take another's. One should remain satisfied by whatever is earned through honest labour. Any attempt to squeeze others and/or exploit the weak is considered theft. Some of the guidelines for this principle are:

* Always give people fair value for labor or product.

* Never take things which are not offered.

* Never take things that are placed, dropped or forgotten by others

* Never purchase cheaper things if the price is the result of improper method (e.g. pyramid scheme, illegal business, stolen goods, etc.)

Brahmacarya, "monastic celibacy", is the complete abstinence from sex, which is only incumbent upon monastics. Householders practice monogamy as a way to uphold brahmacarya in spirit.

Aparigraha, "non-possession", is the renunciation of property and wealth, before initiation into monkhood, without entertaining thoughts of the things renounced. This is done so one understands how to detach oneself from things and possessions, including home and family, so one may reach moksa.[21] For householders, non-possession is owning without attachment, because the notion of possession is illusory. The reality of life is that change is constant; thus, objects owned by someone today will be property of someone else in future days. The householder is encouraged to discharge his or her duties to related people and objects as a trustee, without excessive attachment.

Locations

There are many Jain temples all around India, mostly in Rajasthan, in which anyone can visit.

The most important Jain temples of India are:

- Dilwara Temples, Rajasthan
- Palitana Temples, Rajasthan
- Ranakpur, Rajasthan
- Sravanabelagola, near Mysore
- Falna Ranakpur, Rajasthan

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Jainism ; Rishabha Deva to Mahavira

by K.L. Chanchreek

(Hardcover)

Pro Opinions

GURU

NIDHI PARKASH's picture

TO JAINISM MAHAVIR HAS BEEN THE LAST AS TIRATHANKAR,APOSTLE; AS ShRI GIBIND SINGH HAS BEEN LAST GURU TO SIKHISM.

kunth's picture

reply

there is of no end thirthankara it will continue for ever

kunth | Sat, 11/06/2010 - 02:25
NIDHI PARKASH's picture

Who is next tirthankar after Mahavira

Please tell who is the next Tiranthkar after Mahavira who was available on this earth 2500 years ago and as per jain authorities both Swetamber and Digamber he has been accepted as 24th and last tiranthkar.

NIDHI PARKASH | Mon, 11/08/2010 - 18:18
jasdir singh jaura's picture

It was the end of Guru gaddi not Guru's.

Why guru gobind singh has been last guru to sikhism ?

First of all there is need to understand about SIKHISM,
SIKH means simply a STUDENT or SEEKER,
Any Student of any guru or teacher can be called as SIKH,
Guru's never mentioned Sikh's as different religion or faith.

One day 3rd Guru Amar Das ji was having a head bath and his daughter Bibi Bhani was pouring water for his Ishnan. One leg of the Chownki on which Guru Amar Das Ji was sitting broke and immediately Bibi Bhani his daughter put her foot under it so that her father Guru Amardas ji may not fall. A nail of the broken Chownki pierced the foot of Bibi Bhani and blood started flowing. When Guru Amar Das ji completed his bath he noticed a trail of blood flowing and was so pleased with his daughter that he told her Bibi I am very happy with you Please ask any wish and I will grant it. Bibi Bhani immediately said Guru Sahib my wish is that” ghar di cheez ghar vich he rawa” further she sait that guruai mera pati noon mila aur mur is ghar vichon bahar noon jawa (she said that the relics of Guru Nanak and the Gur Gaddi should not go out of the family). In other words she had asked that the Gur Gaddi should remain within the family she also specified that the Gur Gaddi should be given to her husband and should remain in the family forever.

4th guru ram dass "SODHI" was the husband of bibi bhani who was "SODHI" by caste,

As the wishes of "Saints" never go blank, So 10th guru gobind singh was the last "SODHI" on guru gaddi, it was the end of "Guru Gaddi" but not the end of "Guru's",

True Guru,s or teachers, never die they change body,
Similarly,
True Students or Sikhs, never die they change body,

Later on this cycle of guru's & seeker's was continued by "Tulsi Sahib of Hethras" as "SANTMATS".

jasdir singh jaura | Sat, 11/06/2010 - 06:03