Time rolls along in eternal cycles of
rise and decline. Utsarpini is a "rising" era in which human morale and
natural conditions improve over time. At the end of Utsarpini, begins
Avasarpini, a "declining" era of the same length, in which human morale
and virtues deteriorate. During the middle of every rising and declining
era twenty-four souls become Tirthankaras. They are the humans like us who
rise to that level. While accumulating different karmas, they also
accumulate get a special karma called Tirthankar Nam Karma in the last 3rd
of their life by performing one or more of the 20 special austerities.
Tirthankar Nam Karma matures in the final life and leads the person to
become a Tirthankara. After attaining omniscience, Tirthankara reorganize
Jain religion to suit the changing times. Tirthankaras are also called
Arihantas, Jinas, Kevalis, and Vitragi. Arihant means "destroyer of inner
enemies," Jina means "victor of inner enemies," and vitragi means "one who
does not have anymore attachment or hatred towards anyone." This means
that they are totally detached from worldly aspects. They have destroyed
the four ghati karmas, namely Jnanavarniya Karma, Darshanavarniya Karma,
Mohniya Karma, and Antaraya Karma. They are Kevaljnani meaning that they
know everything everywhere that happened in the past, that is happening
now, and that will happen in the future at the same time. They are also
Kevaldarshani, meaning that they can see all that happened in the past,
that is happening now, and that will happen in the future all at the same
time. They reinstate the fourfold order of sadhus (monks), sadhvis (nuns),
shravaks (male householders), and shravikas (female householders).
Jains celebrate five major events in the
life of a Tirthankar. They are called Kalyanak (auspicious events). They
- This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul departs
from its last life, and is conceived in the motherís womb.
- This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul is born.
- This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul gives up all his/her
worldly possessions and becames a monk/nun. (Digambar sect does not
believe that women can become Tirthankar or be liberated.)
- This is event when Tirthankarís soul destroys the four ghati karmas
completely and attains the Kevaljnana (absolute knowledge). Celestial
angels set Samavsaran for Tirthankars from where he/she delivers the
first sermon. This is the most important event for the entire Jain order
as the Tirthankar reinstates Jain Sangh and preaches the Jain path of
purification and liberation.
Nirvana Kalyanak -
This event is when a Tirthankarís soul is liberated from this worldly
physical existence forever and becomes a Siddha. On this day, the
Tirthankarís soul destroys the four aghati karmas completely, and
attains salvation, the state of eternal bliss.
There are other significant events also
in the final life of a Tirthankars. When a Tirthankarís soul is conceived,
his/her mother has fourteen dreams (some texts mention sixteen dreams). A
Tirthankarís soul, while even in motherís womb, has three types of
knowledge, namely Matijnan, Shrutjnan, and Avadhijnan. One year before the
time of renunciation, a group of celestial angels come to pay homage to
the future Tirthankar. They remind him/her that the time to renounce the
world is arriving. When a Tirthankar renounces the worldly life, he
attains Manahparyavjnan, the fourth type of the knowledge, which enables
him/her to know peopleís thoughts.