Tirthankar Mahaveer was
the last and the twenty-fourth Tirthankar of this epoch. There were
twenty-three Tirthankaras before him e. g. Rishabhdeo and others.
Bhagwans (Gods) are
infinite, but Tirthankaras in one epoch and in Bharatkshetra are twenty-four
only. Every Tirthankar, as a rule, is a Bhagwan, but every Bhagwan is not a
Tirthankar. A soul can attain godhood without being a Tirthankar. Every soul
can become a God. That which leads to the attainment of perfection is called
Tirtha and those who reach that supreme state themselves and show others the
path of emancipation are called the Tirthankaras.
Bhagwan is not born, he
grows to be one. Nobody is a Bhagwan since his birth. Mahaveer also was not
a Bhagwan since his birth. He became a God, when he conquered himself. To
conquer delusion, attachment and aversion is to conquer oneself.
Though the principles
enunciated by Bhagwan Mahaveer are very deep, intricate, impressive and
acceptable, his life is very easy, straight and eventless; there is no place
for varieties in it. The story of his life, in brief is that he spent the
first thirty years of life in the midst of wealth and splendour
indifferently as a lotus in water. For the next twelve years he was engaged
in the pursuit of the supreme soul and lived in jungles in deep meditation
and during the fast thirty years, he expounded Sarvodaya i.e. the welfare of
all living beings, propagated it and spread it throughout the four corners
of the land, The life of Mahaveer is not eventful. It is vain to
search for his personality in the course of events. However, there can be no
event that did not happen in the infinite previous lives through which he
Mahaveer was born in
Kundgram from the womb of queen Trishala, the wife of the Lichhavi King
Siddhartha, the famous leader of the Vaishali Republic. His mother was the
daughter of King Chetak, the President of the Vaishali Republic. He was born
in the Nath family of Kshatriya clan, 2600 years back, on the thirteenth day
of the second fortnight of Chaitra month. Looking at his constant growth,
his parents named him Vardhman.
The festival of his birth
was, celebrated with great zeal not only by his parents, relations and
subjects of the kingdom, but also by gods and their lords, since he was
going to be a Tirthankar. This festival is called Janma Kalyanak Mahotsava.
The lord of the gods, Indra seated him on the elephant Erawat and performed
the anointing ceremony with great pomp and show. The Jain epic texts give a
vivid description of this event.
Even before his coming in
the womb of his mother, it was known that a Tirthankar was to be born. One
night, in the last hours, mother Priyakarini Trishla in her quiet sleep saw
the following sixteen dreams indicative of a very auspicious happening .-
1. An elephant mad with
2. A white ox with high
3. A thundering lion.
4. Laxmi, the goddess of
wealth, seated on the lotus throne.
5. Two fragrant garlands.
6. Moon in the assembly of
7. Rising sun.
8. Two gold pitchers
covered with lotus leaves.
9. Two fish playing in the
10. A tank full to the
brim with clean water.
11. The roaring ocean.
12. A throne inwrought
13. A chariot of gods
illuminated with gems.
14. The spacious sky
touching the abode of Dharnendra.
15. A pile of gems, and
16. Fire without smoke.
Free from the morning
engagements, mother Trishla to King Siddhartha and so a went to King
Siddhartha and told him of the sixteen dreams. She wanted to know their
effect. The king was well versed in Nimitta Shastra (scripture of
instrumental causes). He was very happy to know of the dreams. The
auspicious effect of the very happy dreams was conveyed to mother Trishla by
his very happy facial expressions. He told her that she was going to be
blessed with a son, who would become a Tirthankar and rule over the hearts
of the creatures of the three worlds, would propagate the principles of
emancipation and would be very fortunate. The womb of Trishla became as holy
as that of Marudevi who gave birth to the first Tirthankar Adinath or
All in all, these dreams
indicate that the son to be born to Trishla would be as soft as leaves of
flowers, as cold as the moon, as illustrious as the sun, a destroyer of the
darkness of ignorance, powerful as an elephant, active as a bull, deep as an
ocean, pure as the pile of jewels and bright as the flame of a smokeless
Boy Vardhman entered his
mother's womb on the sixth day of the second half of Ashad month.
Boy Vardhman was healthy,
handsome and possessed of an attractive personality, since birth. He
justified the name Vardhman given to him, growing like the digit of the moon
on the second day of the bright fortnight. His gold like physique attracted
all and sundry. The lord of gods himself assumed a thousand eyes to drink
deep the beauty of the frame of the Lord.
He was a sentient,
thoughtful, discriminate and fearless boy. He did not know any fear. He was
an embodiment of courage. He was, therefore, known as Veer and Ativeer since
his childhood. Five of his names are famous -Veer, Ativeer, Sanmati,
Vardhman and Mahaveer.
He was prompt and
ready-witted and never lost his balance in difficulties. One day, boy
Vardhman delighting his parents and citizens by his childlike playfulness,
was playing in the garden with other princes. He climbed a tree in his
playful spirit. Meanwhile a terrible black snake encircled the trunk of the
tree and began to emit fumes out of a fit of anger that would shake even the
very strong. Finding themselves in adverse circumstances, the children began
to shiver with fear, but that terrible snake could not disturb patient and
strong child Mahaveer. Seeimg Mahaveer fearlessly and without hesitation
coming near it, the furious snake left the fury and went his way.
In the same way, once, an
elephant became made and began to spread havoc in the city, breaking away
from the pillar of the building in which elephants are kept. The whole city
was agog and people began to run from one place to the other in panic.
Prince Vardhman, however, did not lose his presence of mind and controlled
the elephant with his power and cleverness. The bravery and patience of the
Prince became a talk of the common men in the city.
He was a genius and could
solve great problems easily. He was quiet by nature; the seriousness grew
with his entry into youth. He loved loneliness. He was always busy pondering
over the fundamentals of life and death and indulged in deep discussions.
Those eager to get to truth, placed their misgivings before him and he
solved them in no time. Most of the doubts and misgivings were resolved by
the sight of his calm posture. The big doubts about the fundamentals of
religion of the big monks were removed by just having a look at his physical
frame. He was himself a solution of these misgivings.
One day he was sitting in
the fourth storey of his palace deeply engrossed in contemplation. His
comrades came and asked mother Trishla where Vardhman was. Busy in her
household, the mother just pointed to the upper storey. The boys ran to the
seventh storey, but did not find Vardhman there. When they asked King
Siddhartha, who was studying religious texts, where Vardhman was, he just
pointed to the lower storeys. Hearing the contradictory statements of the
father and the mother, the boys were confused. They searched every storey
and found Vardhman in the fourth one, studying. The boys complained that
they had searched all the storeys of the palace and Mahaveer was hiding
there as a philosopher. Vardhman asked them why they did not ask the mother
to tell them where he was. The boys said that the whole trouble arose out of
the asking. The mother told them that he was up, while the father told them
that he was downstairs. The problem was where to find and where the truth
lay. Vardhman told them that both were correct; that he was on the fourth
storey, up from the point of view of the mother and down from the point of
view of the father. The mother was on the first storey, while the father on
the seventh. The positions downwards and upwards are relative. Without
relativity there is no question of downwards or upwards. Though the nature
of the substance is without any relation with any other substance, the
description is relative. Thus boy Vardhman used to explain lofty principles
to the boys easily.
The world tried to
persuade him to follow their path but Mahaveer was engrossed deep in the
depths of his soul and so the world could not entangle him to follow their
path. Youth threw its die on him, but in vain. The parental affections tried
to block his way, but he did not float on the flood of his mother's tears.
Accordingly he left his
home in the thirtieth year of his youth, on the tenth day of the first half
of Magsir. He became naked and engaged himself in the pursuit of his self in
that solitary forest. The Laukantik gods came from the heavens and praised
him for his resolve with great reverence. Monk Vardhman used to remain
silent and did not talk to anybody. He was always engrossed in the
contemplation of his soul. He did not even remember that he needed a bath or
the cleaning of his teeth. He used to rest in the caves of the mountains,
holding friends and foes alike, and was not disturbed by the fury of the
inclemencies of weather.
The cruel animals of the
forest saw is calm posture, natural ease and non-violent life and forgot
their natural enmity and became friends. Snakes and mongooses, tigers and
cows used to drink water from the same wharf. Wherever he stayed, the whole
atmosphere was full of peace and quiet.
If sometimes he happened
to have a liking for food, he would go to the nearest town with strange
mental reservations. If some householder gave him pure food according to the
scriptures' command and with nine types of rituals, he would take his meals
and soon return to the forests. He also accepted food once at the hands of
grief-ridden Sati Chandanbala.
Thus engaged in external
and internal penances, he spent twelve years. At the age of forty-two in
this state of deep self-absorption he annihilated subtle attachment and
attained the completely detached state of his being. With this state of
spiritual development he attained omniscience also. He became real Mahaveer
having conquered the enemies of delusion, attachment and aversion
completely. He became a Bhagwan being an omniscient and a completely
detached being. In theite fruition of Tirthankar Namkaram, he got that
status and was known as Bhagwan Mahaveer. His divine message was delivered
first on the first day of the. month of Shravan, on account of which this
day has been celebrated in the whole of India as Veer Shasan Jayanti.
Kuber was ordered by the
Lord of the gods to construct a huge meeting-hall called the Samavsharan for
the worldly creatures to meet and hear the divine message of Lord Mahaveer.
Every being was entitled to go there and hear the message. There was no
distinction of big or small. One whose conduct is non-violent, who has
touched the intrinsic nature of substances, who has dived deep in his own
self, is greater than not only human beings but also gods, though he may be
born in a low family.
In his religious
congregation kings and the commons, rich and poor, black and white, all sat
together and listened to his message. Animals along with gods and humans
also sat there and listened to the divine teachings of the Lord. Such
equality amongst the creatures of this world is difficult elsewhere. In the
fourfold federation of the Lord, there were monks, she-monks, male and
Many learned scholars
opposed to him, became his disciples shunning their own wrong conceptions,
after being influenced by his message of universal love and goodwill. The
chief amongst them was his chief disciple Indrabhuti Gautam. He was accepted
as the first preceptor of the Lord and became famous as Gautam Swami. The
story of how he was initiated into Digamber Jain monkhood is quite
Indrabhuti Gautam was well
versed in the Vedas and Vedangas. He had five hundred disciples. When the
Indra realised that Indrabhuti Gautam alone could become the chief preceptor
of the Lord, he went to his abode in disguise of an old Brahmin, Indra
introduced himself as a disciple of Mahaveer and asked Gautam the meaning of
a Sanskrit verse.
thoughtful. "What are these six substances, nine matters, five Astikayas
etc. ?" He concealed his ignorance in his pride and told Indra that he would
like to discuss these with his master i. e., Lord Mahaveer. He
expressed his desire to accompany lndra to the place where the Lord was
delivering his sermons. The time was ripe for the reception of real
spiritualism in the case of Gautam and for the Lord to start delivering his
long awaited message of religion. As Indrabhuti Gautam came near the
Samavsharan his rigidity suddenly turned into softness. His pride
disappeared at the sight of the Manstambha, (a pillar just in front of the
Samavsharan) and he approached the Lord with a request for his own
initiation into monkhood. By his own ability and the magnanimity of Mahaveer,
he became the first Gandhar of the Lord. There were ten other Gandharas
whose names were; (1) Agnibhuti, (2)Vayubhuti, (3) Aryavyakta, (4) Sudharma,
(5) Mandit, (6)Mauryaputra, (7) Akampit, (8) Achaibhrata, (9) Metarya and
Amongst his householder
disciples Maharaj Shrenik (Bimbsar), the king of Magadh, was the chief.
He traversed the length
and breadth of India continuously for thirty years. Different beings
understood his teachings in their own languages. His sermons were called
Divya Dhwani. He has upheld the independence of the soul and all other
substances. He declared that every soul is independent; none depends upon
the other; self-reliance is the way to achieve complete independence.
Self-reliance is nothing but centralisation of one's vision on one's soul
only, different from colour, attachment and division. Independence can only
be achieved on one's own strength; you can't get infinite bliss and
independence in charity or achieve them on others' strength.
All souls are separate and
independent, not one, but like one, similar, none big or small. He,
therefore, ordained :-
1. Regard other souls as
2. All souls are equal,
but not one.
3. If our efforts are
directed towards right direction, every soul can attain godhood.
4. Every creature is
unhappy on account of his own mistakes, and can become happy by removing the
Mahaveer did not propagate
any new truth; there is nothing like old or new in truth. Whatever he said
is true and eternal. He did not establish truth; he only inaugurated it. He
did not found any new religion. Religion is the nature of substances. The
nature of substances cannot be built. How can that which can be built be
called nature ? It can only be known. Remaining away from the pride of doing
and detaching himself from non-self entities one who knows the self and the
non-self, without in any way being influenced by others, and in all their
perspectives, is God. Tirthankar Bhagwan knows and exposes the nature of
things, does not create them.
He was a Tirthankar. He
propounded the Tirtha i.e., the way to the liberation of the soul. Acharya
Samant Bhadra has called his teachings Sarvodaya Tirtha (religion that
preaches the welfare of all living beings).
Oh Lord Mahaveer - Your
religion is for the welfare of one and all. There is no contradiction in
your teachings, only whatever you say is relative i.e. described from
different perspectives, one predominating the other according to contexts;
the assertions of other preachers, not being relative, are not able to
propound the nature of things, as they are. Your exposition of the truth of
life is capable of destroying all the miseries and misfortunes of this world
and of leading worldly beings to their supreme happiness and as such it is
Sarvodaya Tirtha i.e., religion for the welfare of all living beings."
That which leads to the
welfare of all is Sarvodya. The religion for the welfare of all as
propounded by Lord Mahaveer and his exposition of truths of life and
immortality, have no narrowness or limits. The religion of the soul is for
all creatures. It is a kind of narrowness to associate religion with human
beings only. It is a religion of all the living beings. The term "religion
of man" is also not liberal enough. It limits the scope of religion to the
community of human beings only, while religion extends to all the sentient
world, for all the creatures want to live in peace and happiness.
Mahaveer has expounded the complete independent existence of every substance
and that every substance changes its modifications itself. No other
substance can interfere in this natural procedure. Even God, the almighty,
is not the creator or the destroyer of, this existence of the things. The
preachings of Mahaveer upheld the independence not only of the living
beings, but of all the atoms, which are the smallest (indivisible) particles
or units of matter substance and which cannot be further divided. The desire
to interfere in the activity of others is false, of no avail and causing
unhappiness, for it is sheer ignorance to regard others as the creator or
destroyer of happiness and misery, life and death, of other beings.
It has been well said that
our own merits and demerits will be meaningless if one being is regarded as
the creator of others' happiness and misery, life and death. The question is
- can anybody, however strong, make us happy, even, if we indulge in
demerits ? Likewise can anybody, be it God himself, harm us, if we keep
ourselves busy in meritorious engagements ? If yes, it would be worthless to
do good and be afraid of the bad, because it is not necessary to reap the
consequences of one's actions. If it is true that we have to reap the
consequences of our own actions, good and bad, the concept of any
interference is meaningless. The same truth has been expressed by Acharya
Amitgati in Slokas 30-31 of Bhawna Dwatrinshatika.
In the end, at the age of
seventy-two, on the Dipawali day, the last Tirthankar of this epoch Bhagwan
Mahaveer, abandoned this physical frame and attained Nirwan (complete
liberation). The same day, his chief disciple Indrabhuti Gautam achieved
omniscience. According to Jain tradition, the great festival of Deepawali is
celebrated in honour of the liberation of Bhagwan Mahaveer and attainment of
complete sentience by his chief disciple Gautam.