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
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 had passed.
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
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
6. Moon in the assembly
7. Rising sun.
8. Two gold pitchers
covered with lotus leaves.
9. Two fish playing in
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
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
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 female householders.
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
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 (10) Prabhas.
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
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
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
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.
Thus we see that the
story of the life of Mahaveer is the story
of the orderly
development of the soul to Godhood.
Dr. H.C. Bharill