This needs was supplied by Mahavira and subsequently by
Buddha. Mahavira did not establish any new order. He merely carried out
the work of previous Tirthankaras, the last of whom was Parsva. The
Sramana tradition, not subscribing to the Vedic words as last words, was
itself divided into many schools of thought as we have already, noted.
Mahavira's task was to evolve a complete synthesis of those different
schools and to put the whole line of thinking into a sound and organised
basis. This he did by the theory of Nayavada and Syadvada, which gave its
due place to every line of thinking. When a proper time came, and after he
himself got the realization of the truth, he moved from place to place and
like a whirlwind, took every body who counted in the society under his
powerful influence, which was solidified by organizing the Jaina Sangha
into four sections of monks, nuns, male and female householders, by
appointing different heads of each and sending emissaries of faith to
different parts of the country. He himself was a powerful speaker. He
spoke to people in parables and in their own language breaking the
monopoly of the knowledge of Samskrta. People appreciated this very much.
They were made to participate in religious discourses. In his age,
Mahavira was the first to give a fatal blow to the notions of Brahmanical
superiority and caste distinctions based on birth as he declared :
"One is a Brahmin by action, a Ksatriya by action, a
Vaisya by action and a Sudra also by action."
He interpreted Vedas and showed that real sacrifice is
the sacrifice of one's baser instincts and not the sacrifice of innocent
creatures. He declared that each soul is its own master, and it is not in
hands of any god to make you really happy in this life or in the next.
Your real enemy, he said, is not outside you and you are the author of
your own happiness and misery.
"Soul is the author of its own miseries and happiness;
Soul is its own friend and foe as the maker of good and bad deeds."
This infused self confidence and the spirit of liberty
as well as equality in the common man, taught by Brahmanical clergy to
rely only on the favours of an unpredicatable divinity.
To the powerful kings, out to conquer their political
enemies, he admonished :
Uttaradhyayana-sutra, 9/35, 34.
"Oh man, (if you have to fight) fight with your own
self, what is the use of fighting with an outside foe? Conquer yourself by
your own self. That is the supreme victory more difficult than thousand
and thousands of victories in the battle fields."
Emphasising the real nature of religion, he said that
real religion is not to try to please gods by sacrificial rituals and
violence. Real religion is :
"Ahimsa (non-violence), Restraint (of mind, speech and
action) and Austerities (religious penances) constitute real religion
which brings benedictions and freedom. Even Gods bow down to them who
practice this religion."
He did not preach any sectarian doctrines and did not
insist on following only a particular path. Nor did he claim to be the
sole messenger of the Divine because his theory was that Divinity is
inherent in every soul. To a questioner, who wanted to know how one should
behave so as not to commit any sin his answer was totally direct and of
universal utility. He was asked :
"How shall we move, stand, sit, sleep, speak and eat so
that we may not be bound by sinful actions. "He replied :
"Move, stand, sit, sleep, speak and eat with all
discrimination, You shall not be bound by sinful actions." Discretion
means awareness in whatever we do, is the corner stone of an intelligent
And he came out with the message of friendship as well
as fraternity for all and enmity for none when he exhorted his disciples
to repeat these words constantly in their minds :
"I offer my apologies to all the sentient beings of the
universe and shed all ill feelings for them. I declare my friendship for
them all. I have enmity towards none."
He gave equal status to women and established the order
of nuns under the leadership of Canadian, a princess of the king of Camp,
on whose defeat in a battle, she was taken as a slave and sold to a
wealthy man named Dhaka. In the four-point discipline of Parsva, celibacy
had not a separate place as it was treated as included in ï¿½Aparigraha',
restraint in possession of number of wives. A woman was impliedly treated
as an object of possession Mahavira, added the concept of Brahmacharya for
all men, women, monks and nuns, thus giving a dignified place and equality
of treatment to both the sexes.
It is believed that the emphasis of Mahavira and Buddha
on ï¿½Samnyasa' was responsible for the addition of fourth Asrama, namely
ï¿½Samnyasarama' as the last stage in a man's life. Whatever it may be, the
fact remains that the impact of the rational and logical thinking of
Mahavira and then of Buddha was so great that the Indian culture took
altogether a new turn from 6th century B.C. onwards. It is not that the
principles of Ahimsa, Truth, Asteya, Aparigraha and Brahmacarya were
unknown to the Aryan society. As already noted above, Sramana line of
thinking existed side by side with Vedic line from time immemorial and the
great Rsis of Upanisadas had already initiated philosophical
interpretation of Vedas much before Mahavira. However, on account of
priestly stronghold and language monopoly of scriptures the ideas of
Ahimsa, etc., had not reached the masses. This was achieved by Mahavira
and Buddha, both of whom condemned cast superiority and inequality. The
great Jaina saint of Mahavira's time Sri Harikesi was a Candala
(untouchable of untouchables). He was very highly respected by the whole
society. He furnishes a shining example of the way in which the
down-trodden section of the contemporary society was elevated to its
rightful position as a result of Mahavira's preaching.