Shri Amar Muni
The Basis of Becoming a Tirthankar: The Twenty
To reach the status of a Tirthankar it is not enough to do certain
practices during certain birth. It is the result of a progressive process
of unvieling the potential energy through endeavors in right direction
during a series of incarnations. It seems that the chief disciples or gods
must have expressed their curiosity about the journey towards ultimate
purity and the Tirthankars must have provided the details. That is why
details of earlier births of all Tirthankars are available.
The counting of these births starts from the birth in which the soul gets
the first glimpse of righteousness. This is considered to be the most
important turning point for a soul because once the right direction is
attained, liberation is certain.
The Earning of Tirthankar-nam-karma
The loftiest of the pious category of Karmas is said to be the
Tirthankar-nam-karma. It is important to know when and how it is acquired
because this is the basis over which the status of Tirthankar is founded.
This Karma is acquired one birth earlier. It is the physical or normal
human body that acquires this Karma. The aural alternate body (Vikriya
Sharir) does not have the capacity to acquire this Karma. The future
Tirthankar descends from the dimension of gods or ascends from the
dimension of hell. In both these dimensions the souls have aural bodies.
As the aural body does not have the capacity of long-term spiritual
practices, this Karma is not acquired during this immediately preceding
birth. That is the reason that all the Tirthankars do their final
spiritual practices of acquiring this Karma during their last but second
birth as human beings. During that birth they acquire a high degree of
purity perception. They become Kshayak Samyaktvi (the level of purity
where the past Karmas are destroyed not suppressed).
The Acharyas say that the goal of spiritual pursuit should not be the
status of a Tirthankar. Though its status is very high the Tirthankar-nam
type of Karma is still a Karma and as such a tie. On the path of purity
and effort to earn pious Karma is not advisible. The spiritualists never
indulge in any activity that leads to bondage, irrespective of its being
All activities by spiritualists are directed toward shedding of the
Karmas. As a result of certain activities or practices certain Karmas are
wiped and as a consequence this specific bondage is achieved without
striving for it. These practices are numbered twenty. These are also known
as the twenty practices leading to the Tirthankar status and are believed
to be the fundamental guiding factors for attaining the status of
1. Worship of the Arihant (Tirthankar).
2. Worship of the Siddha (liberated soul).
3. Faith in discourses.
4. Worship of the teacher.
5. Worship of the senior ascetic.
6. Worship of the scholar.
7. Worship of those whom indulge in penance.
8. Continued application of knowledge for maximum possible time.
9. Purity of perception.
10. To praise the virtues of others and be happy at the progress of
11. To practice the six essentials including Pratikraman (self analysis)
in the prescribed way and at the prescribed time.
12. Observe all the vows and codes of conducts with ever increasing
13. Detachment�always practice apathy for attachment, fondness, conceit,
and greed. Develop the attitude of being detached.
14. To activate the potential or to practice penance with all intensity.
15. To give due importance and respect to the four pronged religious
16. To look after and take care of the detached.
17. To enhance knowledge regularly.
18. To have faith on the sermons of the detached.
19. To give charity to the deserving.
20. Devotion for Tirthankar�s sermons and the discipline of the order.
In the eight chapter of the Jnatasutra and in Avashyak Niryukti these
twenty practices are mentioned. Intense practice of even one or two of
these practices may lead to earning Tirthankar-nam-karma. In the Mahapuran
and the Tattvarth Sutra there is a mention of sixteen practices of
feelings or attitudes. These encompass all the above twenty practices.
Importance had been given to spiritual practices in both of these sets of