Mahavira Jayanti Celebrations Are For Humanity

By Zile Singh


“Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being.” – Mahavira

Jains celebrate the 13th day of the Hindu month of Chaitra as Mahavira Jayanti ( the birthday of Lord Mahavira). The day was celebrated on March 29th in India and throughout the world. The President and the Prime Minister of India greeted the Jain community on the occasion.

Though, Lord Mahavira is called the founder of the Jain religion, however, there have already been twenty four Tirthankaras of the Jains. A Tirthankara is an enlightened soul who is born as a human being and attained enlightenment through a life of austerity and intense meditation. Lord Mahavira was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. Born as Vardhaman Mahavira, he later came to be known as Bhagwan Mahavira According to some , the religion might have been founded by Rishabha ( Adinath ), the first Tirthankara who was born in Ayodhya. The names of twenty-four Tirthankars are: Rishabha(Adinath), Ajitnath, Sambhavanath, Abhinandannath, Sumatinath, Padmaprabha, Suparshvanath, Chandraprabha, Pushapadanta, Shiatnath, Shreyansanath, Vasupujya, Vimalnath, Anantnath, Dharmanath, Shantinath, Kunthunath, Aranath, Malinath, Munisurvrata, Naminath, Neminath, Parsvanath and Mahavira

Lord Mahavira was born in 599 BC as a prince in Vaishali (Bihar) to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala.  Lord Mahavira attained Kevala Jnana ( Enlightenment ) at the age of 42 and attained Moksha/ Nirvana in 527 BC at the age of 72 years. It was a Diwali Day. Being a prince, he was brought up in luxury, yet nothing affected him. He led a very simple life. His father passed away when he was 28 years. At the age of 30, Mahavira abandoned his home and embraced the ascetic life of a monk. Mahavira spent 12 and half years moving from place to place leading a life of penance and meditation. On the tenth day of the rising moon in the month of Vaisakh, 557 BC Mahavira sat under a Shal tree on the bank of river Rijuvalika ( now Barakar) and attained the Kevala Jnana or enlightenment. He became a Jina, the one who is victorious over all worldly attachments. He gathered a large following of Monks (munis) Nuns (aryikas), Laymen (shravaks) and laywomen (shravikas ). Several kings of that time also followed him. They were, King Chetaka of Vaishali, King Shrenik Bimbisar and Ajatshatru of Rajgriha, King Udayana, King Chandrapadyot, nine Licchavis kings of Koshal and nine kings of Kashi. He gave his sermons in Pali, the common people’s language of that time. His last sermon was in Pavapuri, Bihar.

Lord Mahavira considered men and women to be equals. He encouraged people from all social standings, rich and poor, men and women and even people of low castes to join him. Lord Mahavira’s teachings are to attain freedom from the cycle of rebirth. According to him, every living being suffers under the bondage of Karma. He preached that through the practice of Samyak Darshan (right faith), Samyak Jnana (right knowledge) and Samyak Charitra ( right character) one can get liberated from the cycle of Karma. His Sermons were compiled by his followers in the form of ‘ Agam Sutras’ He prescribed five vows to be observed. These are: Nonviolence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Chastity and Non-attachment. The followers of Jain religion believe in the eternal existence of the Universe – neither it was created nor can it be destroyed. According to Mahavira, the Universe is made up of six eternal substances – Soul, Space, Time, Material Atoms, Medium of Motion and Medium of Rest. He believed in non-absolutism, means that truth and reality may differ when perceived from different points of views and that no single view represents the absolute truth. The idea of Anekantwad (pluralism ) is Jainism’s greatest contribution to human thought. Also, nonviolence is its most sublime gift to human action. He realized that everyone has the ability to become a Tirthankar or Enlightened by one’s good deeds in life. In Jainism, the physical form of a Tirthankar is not worshiped but his gunas, virtues and qualities are praised. There are two sects of Jainism. The ‘Digamber’ ( practice nudity )and the ‘Swetamber’ ( wear white rob). The ‘Swetamber’ sect came out from the original ‘ Digamber’ some 300 years after Mahavira

In today’s world, infested with violence, hatred, strife and intolerance, Lord Mahavira’s teachings are more relevant than these were during his time. “ I do not know if there is rebirth or not, or life after death. But if it is true, then I would like to be born in India as a Jain.” – Albert Einstein. The Jain religious philosophy, its theory of knowledge and the Jain path all left a profound impression on Mahatma Gandhi and molded his action. Let us on this auspicious occasion resolve to strive for harmony and amity in Canada and across the world.

Om Namo Arihantnam, Om Namo Sidhanam.

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .


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