[A study in Historical Perspective]




BOOL CHAND,  M.A. Ph.D (Lond.)



P. V. Research Institute Series: 39

Editor: Dr.  Sagarmal Jain



With an introduction by


Prof. Sagarmal Jain






Published by

P.V. Research Institute

I.T.I. Road




2nd Edition  1987


Price Rs.40-00




Printed by

Vivek Printers

Post Box No.4, B.H.U.











The book ‘Lord Mahavira’, by Dr. Bool Chand was first published in 1948 by Jaina Cultural Research Society which has been merged into P.V. Research Institute.  The book was not only an authentic piece of work done in a historical perspective but also a popular one, hence it became unavailable for sale soon.  Since long it was so much in demand that we decided in favor of brining its second Edition.  Except some minor changes here and there, the book remains the same.  Yet a precise but valuable introduction, depicting the relevance of the teachings of Lord Mahavira in modern world has been added by Dr. Sagarmal Jain, the Director, P.V. Research Institute.  As Dr. Jain has pointed out therein, the basic problems of present society i.e. mental tensions, violence and the conflicts of ideologies and faith, can be solved through three basic tenets of non-attachment, non-violence and non-absolutism propounded by Lord Mahavira and peace and harmony can certainly be established in the world.


We feel immense pleasure in bringing this book before the readers on the eve of the Golden Jubilee celebration of the P.V. Research Institute.


We are thankful to Sri Ashok Kumar Singh for its proof reading and to Vivek printers for its speedy printing.


Bhupendra Nath Jain


Sohanalal Jain Vidya Prasarak

Samiti, Amritsar






In  preparing this book, the first large one to be published by Jain Cultural Research Society,  I have been assisted at every step by Pandit Dalsukh Malvania, Asstt. Prof. of Jaina Philosophy at the College of oriental Studies, Benares Hindu University.  I am deeply indebted to him for his help.


Sriyut Nathmal Tatia, M. A., Research Scholar, Calcutta University has very kindly read the proofs and added the concluding chapter, which I had not been able to complete owing to various preoccupations.


With Pandit Sukhlalji, Pandit Mahendra Kumarji and other Scholars I have had the benefit of discussing portions of the book.  Such discussion has always been of the utmost help to me.  The responsibility for opinions stated here is, however, fully mine.












Prof. Sagarmal Jain



We are living in the age of science and technology.  The growth of the scientific knowledge and technology have given new dimensions to our life and influenced each and every field of our living.  Science has done a great service to mankind by providing amenities of pleasant living and saved him from many miseries and uncertainties of the primitive past.  It has also destroyed many superstitions and religious dogmas, but at the same time it has also uprooted the moral, religious and cultural values of our society.  Our traditional religious values and beliefs have been thrown away by this growth of scientific knowledge and out-look.  We know much about the atom but not about the values needed for a meaningful and peaceful life.  We are living in the state of chaos.  Our life is full of excitements, emotional disorders and value conflicts.  Thus our age is also the age of anxiety and mental tensions.


Today what is needed for  a man, is mental peace and a complete integration with his own personality as well as with his social environment.  Can religion, in general and Jainism in particular meet this need of our times? Yes, it can.  Religion for Jain thinkers, does not mean some superstitions, dogmas and rituals, it has some eternal virtues and values, which can meet the needs of the time.  First of all we should try to understand its real meaning and essence.


The Essence of Religion


Our fundamental question is what we mean by the term religion? Many of the western scholars define religion as faith.  Prof. E. B. Taylor writes “Religion is the belief in spiritual beings.”1 Prof., Hoffding mentions “Religion is faith in the conservation of values.”2  According to Jaina thinkers also the inner core of religion is faith, but it is the faith in our own existence and our own real nature, religion is a firm belief in some eternal and spiritual values which are more essential for the uplift and existence of mankind.  In the famous Jaina text, Kartikeyanupreksa dharma (religion) is defined as the real nature of the things.3  If it is so, then question arises what is the real nature of human being? Lord Mahavira has given two definitions of religion in Acarangasutra.  He says “Worthy people preach that the religion is mental equanimity.”4 Equanimity is considered as a core or essence of religion, because it is the real nature or essence of all the living beings including human beings also.  In a Jaina text known as Bhagavati-sutra there is a conversation between Lord Mahavira and Gautama.5  Gautama asked Mahavira “What is the nature of soul?” and Mahavira answered “The nature of soul is equanimity.” Gautama again asked “What is ultimate end of soul?”  and Mahavira replied “The ultimate end of soul is also equanimity.” Acarya Knndakunda also equated the word ‘samaya’ or ‘samata’ with svabhava or essential nature of soul, further he also explained “Sva-samaya or sva-svabhava is the ultimate goal of our life.”


In Jainism, religion is nothing but a practice for the realization of our own essential nature of sva-svabhava.  This enjoying of one’s own essential nature means to remain constant in sakibhava or drastahava.  It is the state of pure knowership or subjectivity.  In this state the consciousness is completely free from constant flickerings, excitements and emotional disorders and mind becomes pacific.  It is the pre-condition for enjoying spiritual happiness and the way to get freedom from mental tensions, which are the vibhavas or impure states of mind.  This is known in Jainism as samayika or practice for equanimity of mind.  Nobody wants to live in a state of mental tensions, every one would like no tension but relaxation, not anxiety but satisfaction.  This shows that our real nature is working in us for a mental peace or equanimity and religion is nothing but a way of achieving this mental peace.  According to Jainism the duty of a religious order is to explain the means by which man can achieve the equanimity of mind or mental peace.  In Jainism this method of achieving mental peace and equanimity is called samayika, which is the first and foremost duty among six essential duties of the monks and the householders.


The three-fold path of right knowledge, right attitude and right conduct is only an application of equanimity (samatva) in the three aspects of our conscious life i.e. knowing, feeling and willing.  Even mindedness, broader and unbiased outlook and regard for others ideologies and thoughts are regarded as equanimity of knowledge or right knowledge.  Detachment from the objects of worldly pleasures, balanced state of mind and the feeling of equality are considered as equanimity of feeling i.e. right attitude or samyak-darsana and control over one’s desires, regard for other’s life and property, equal treatment in social life are known as equanimity of willing or right conduct.  Again, right conduct consists of three organs i.e. mind, body and speech.  According to Jaina thinkers

 equanimity of mind, body and speech should be a directive principle of religious life.  The equanimity of mind is non-attachment (anasakti or aparigraha), equanimity of body is non-violence (ahimsa) and equanimity of speech is non-absolutism (anekanta or syadvada).  Non-attachment, non-violence and non-absolutism are the three pillars of Jainism, and are fully competent to meet the needs of our age and to establish peace and harmony in the world.


Non-attachment and Regard for Other’s Necissities


As I have already mentioned that most burning problem of our age is the problem of mental tensions.  The nations, who claim more civilized and economically more advance are much more in the grip of mental tensions.  The main objective of Jainism is to emancipate man form his sufferings and mental tensions.  First of all we must know that what is the cause of these mental tensions.  For, Jainism, the basic human sufferings are not physical, but mental.  These mental sufferings or tensions are due to our attachment towards worldly objects.  It is the attachment, which is fully responsible for them.  The famous Jaina text Uttaradhyayana-sutra mentions “The root of all sufferings physical as well as mental of every body including gods, is attachment towards the objects of worldly enjoyment.”7  It is the attachment which is the root cause of mental tensions.  According to Lord Mahavira to remain attached to sensuous objects is to remain in the whirl.  He says “Misery is gone in the case of a man who has no delusion, while delusion is gone in the case of a man who has no desire, desire is gone in the case of a man who has no greed, while greed is gone in the case of a man who has no attachment.”8  The efforts made to satisfy the human desires through material objects can be likened to the chopping off of the branches while watering the roots.  Thus we can conclude that the lust for and the attachment towards the objects or worldly pleasure is the sole cause of human suffering.


If mankind is to be freed from mental tensions it is necessary to grow a detached outlook in life.  Jainism believes that the lesser will be the attachment the greater will be the mental peace. It is only when attachment is vanished, the human mind will be free from mental tensions and emotional disorders.  For this Jainism preaches the vow of complete nonpossession for the ascetics and the vow to limit ones own possession for the house holders, which are technically called as aparigraha-mahavrata and parigraha-parimana-vrata respectively.


Non-Violence or Regard for Life


Samata or equanimity is a personal or inner aspect of our religious life, when it is applied in the social life or it is practiced outwardly, it becomes non-violence.  Thus non-violence is a social or outer aspect of our religious life.  In Acaranga Lord Mahavira give another definition of religion.  He remarks--


“The worthy men of the past, present and the future all say thus, speak thus, declare thus, explain thus: all breathing, existing, living and sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented.  This is the pure, eternal and unchangeable law or the tenet of religion.”9 In other words, non-violence is the eternal and pure form of religion. In Jainsim non-violence is the pivot on which its whole ethics revolves.  For Jains violence represents all the vices and non-violence represents all the virtues.  Non-violence is not a single virtue but it is a group of virtues.  In Prasnavyakarana-sutra the term non-violence is equated with sixty virtuous qualities, just as peace, harmony, welfare, trust and fearlessness, etc.10  Thus non-violence is a wider term, which comprehends all the good qualities and virtues.


The concept of non-violence and the regard for life is accepted by almost all the religions of the world.  But none of the religions obsere it so minutely as Jainism.  Jainism prohibits not only killing of human beings and animals but of the vegetable kingdom also.  To hurt the plants is also an act of violence or himsa.  It’s basic principle is that the life, in whatever form it may be, should be respected, we have no right to take another’s life, because everyone wants to live as we do.  The Dasavaikalika mentions that everyone wants to live and not to die, for this simple reason, Nigganthas prohibit violence.11  It can be said that the Jaina concept of non-violence is extremist and not practical, but we cannot challenge its relevance for human society.  Though Jainism sets its goal as the ideal of total non-violence, external as well as internal, yet the realization of this ideal in the practical life is by no means easy.  Non-violence is a spiritual ideal, which is fully realizable only in the spiritual plane.  The real life of an individual is a physio-spiritual complex; at this level complete non-violence is not possible.  According to Jaina thinkers the violence is of four kinds (i)Deliberate or aggressive violence i.e. intentional killing. (ii) Protective violence i.e. resorting to violence to save the life of one’s own or his fellow being or to ensure peace and justice in the society, (iii) Occupational violence i.e, the violence which one commits in his occupation such as farming, tilling the soil or running factories and industries, (iv) Violence, which is involved in performing the daily routine work of a house-holder such as bathing, cooking, walking etc.  A person can proceed toward the fullness of non-violent life to the extent as he rises above the physical level.  The first form of violence, which is deliberate, is to be shunned by all, because it relates to our mental proclivities.  So far as the thoughts are concerned, a man is his own master, so it is obligator for all to be non-violent in this sphere.  The other forms of violence i.e. protective, occupational and violence involved in daily routine work are inevitable so far as man is living on a physical level, but this does  not mean that the ideal of nonviolence is not practicable and so it is not necessary for human race.


Non-violence is nothing but to treat all living beings as equal.  The concept of equality is the core of the theory of non-violence.  The preaching of non-violence is to honor the each and every form of life.  Jainism does to discriminate the human beings on the basis of their caste, creed and color.  According to Jaina point of view, all the barriers of caste, creed and color are artificial.  All the human beings have an equal right to lead a peaceful life.  Though violence is unavoidable, yet it can not be the directive principle of our living, because it goes against the judgments of faculty of reasoning and the concept of natural law.  If I think that nobody has any right to take my life then on the ground of same reasoning I have also no right to take another’s life; the principle ‘live on others’ or ‘living by killing’ but ‘Living with others’ or ‘Live for others’ (parasparopagrahaojivanam).12 Though in our world complete non-violence is not possible, yet our motto should be ‘lesser killing is better living’.


Further we must be aware of the fact that in Jainism non-violence is not merely a negative concept i.e. not to kill; but it has positive side also as service to mankind.  Once a question was raised to Mahavira: “O Lord, one person is rendering his services to the needy persons while other is offering puja to you, between these two, who is the real follower of yours!”  Mahavira answered “First one is the real follower of mine, because he is following my teachings”.13


Through some one or other form of violence is inevitable in our life, yet on this basis we can not conclude that the non-violence is not necessary at all.  Just as violence is inevitable for living, non-violence is also inevitable for social living.  So far the existence of human society is concerned it depends on mutual co-operation, sacrifice of our interest for the sake of our fellow-beings and regard for others life.  If above mentioned elements are essential for our social life, how can we say that the non-violence is an inevitable principle of the existence for human society.  At present we are living in an age of nuclear weapons and due to this the existence of human race is in danger.  It is only the firm faith in observance of non-violence, which can survive the human race.  It is mutual credibility and the belief in the equality of human beings which can restore the peace and harmony in human society.


Regard for Other’s Ideologies and Faiths


Jainism holds that the reality is complex.  It can be looked and understood from various view points or angles.  For example we can have hundreds of photographs of the same and one tree from different angles.  Though all of them give a true picture of it from certain angles, yet they differ from each other.  Not only this, but neither each of them, nor the individually as well as jointly will give us a complete picture of that tree.  They individually as well as jointly will give only a partial picture of it.  So is the case with human knowledge and understanding : we can have only a partial and relative picture of reality, we can know and describe the reality only from certain angle or view-point.  Though every angle or viewpoint can claim that it gives a true picture of reality, yet it gives only a partial and relative picture of reality.  In fact we can not challenge its validity or truth value, but at the same time we must be aware of the fact that it is only a partial truth or one sided view.  One, who knows only partial truth or has a one-sided picture of reality, has no right to discard the views of his opponents may also be true from some other angles.  Jaina theory of anekantavada emphasizes that all the approaches to understand the reality give partial but true picture of reality and due to their truth-value from certain angle, we should have a regard for other ideologies and faiths.  Thus anekanatvada forbids us to be dogmatic and one-sided in our approach.  It preaches us a broader outlook and open-mindedness, which is more essential to solve the conflicts due to the differences in ideologies and faiths.  Prof. T.G. Kalghatgi rightly observes “The spirit of anekanta is very much necessary in society, specially in the present day, when conflicting ideologies are trying to assert supremacy aggressively.  Anekanta brings the spirit of intellectual and social tolerance.”14


For present day society what is awfully needed is the virtue of tolerance.  This virtue of tolerance i.e. regard for others ideologies and faiths is maintained in Jainism from its earlier times to the present days.  Mahavira mentions in Sutrakrtanga “those who praise their own faiths and ideologies and blame that of their opponents and thus distort the truth will remain confined tot he cycle of birth and death.”15  Jaina philosophers all the time maintain that all the view-points are true in respect of what they have themselves to say, but they are false in so far as they refute totally others view-points.  In one famous Jaina text of 3rd century B.C. namely Isibhasiyaim, the views of different teachers of Sramanic and Brahmanic trends like Narada, Bharadvaja, Gautam Buddha, Mankhali Gosala and many others, have been presented with regards.  They are called as Arhatrsis and their preaching are regarded as Agamas.  Here I would like to quote two beautiful verses of Haribhadra (8th century A.C.) and Hema Candra (12th Century A.C.) respectively which are the best examples of religious tolerance.  Haribhadra says:


“I bear no bias towards Lord Mahavira and no disregard to Kapila and other saints and thinkers, whatsoever is rational and logical ought to be accepted.”


Hemacandra says:

“I bow all those who have overcome the attachment and hatred, which are the cause of worldly existence, be they Brahma, Vishnu, Siva or Jina.”


Jaina saints tried all the times to maintain the harmony in different religious faiths and to avoid religious conflicts.  That is why Jainism can survive through the ages.


The basic problems of present society are mental tensions, violence and the conflicts of ideologies and faiths.  Jainism tried to solve these problems of mankind through the three basic tenets of non-attachment, (aparigraha), non-violence (ahimsa) and non absolutism (anekanta),  If mankind observes these three principles, peace and harmony can certainly be established in the world.






1.      Quoted in Dharma-darsana, p. 28.

2.      Ibid., p. 39

3.      Kartikeyanupreksa , 478

4.      Acaranga, 1/1/8/3.

5.      Bhagavati-sutra, 1/9.

6.      Samayasra.

7.      Uttaradhyayana-sutra

8.      Ibid., 32/7-8

9.      Acaranga, 2/4/127

10.  Prasanavyakaran-sutra, 2/1/21

11.  Dasavaikalika-sutra, 6/10

12.  Tattvartha-sutra, 5/21

13.  Avasyaka-vrtti, pp. 661-662

14.  Vaisali Institute Research Bulletin, No. 4. P. 31.

15.  Sutrakrtanga, 1/1/2/23
















Character of the Age: Social Conditions: Religion and Philosophy: Economic Conditions: Political Conditions:



Tirthankara Parsva: The Jaina Idea of Biography: Mahavira’s Biographies: Parentage and Birth: Facts of Early Life:



Mahavira’s Natural Bent of Mind: Renunciation: The Ascetic life: Penance: His wanderings: Gosala Mankhaliputra:



Kevalin: Jina: Tirthankara:



Mahavira’s Teachings: View of the world: Fundamental Truths: System of Ethics: Jaina Atheism:



Conversion of the Ganadharas: Influence at Royal Courts: Licchavis and other Republican Clans: map of Mahavira’s travels: Mahavira’s Community of Followers: Nirvana:



Classification of Creeds: Buddhists: Ajivikas: Brahmanic Schools: Nihnavas:








Character of the Age:


6th century B.C., the age in which Mahavira was born, was a period of great intellectual stir practically all over the world.  Greece, Persia and China as well as India- all centers of important civilizations- experienced ferment in the realm of thought.  The advent of Socrates and his distinguished pupils and contemporaries in Greece, of Zoroaster in Persia, and of Lao Tse and Confucius in China marked a revolution in the thought of those countries in just the same way as the coming of Mahavira and the Buddha meant the advent of philosophical rationalism in our own country.


In Indian society this age was in many ways a period of transition and uncertainty.  The state of society which is revealed in the religious literature of the Jainas and the Buddhists is quite different from that which is depicted in the Epics of the later Vedic literature and is, of course, fundamentally different from that depicted in the Vedas.  From the simple and on the whole republican social organization of the Vedic times the country and been passing through a process of gradual statification until by the time of the birth of Mahavira caste distinctions and priestly oligarchy had become a source of enormous social irritation and a means of popular exploitation.  The simple religion of nature worship implied in the hymns of the Rigveda had similarly been developing into a curious combination of theoretical monotheism and practical worship of a multiplicity of gods and divine satellites with an admixture of elaborate rituals and superstition.  This development was disturbing to the equanimity of the thinking part of the population, and already there had grown up a school of mediators who discarded the rituals and pantheistic worship under priestly auspices and retired to forests for meditation and contemplation of the truth, thus giving rise to a form of philosophical pantheism.  In economic life agriculture was still the main occupation of the people and the village (gram) the unit of administration and the center of all activities, but the period was marked by a transition to cottage industrialism and a remarkable growth of trade and commerce.  Politically, a new type of republican and tribal kingdom was arising, which was rapidly assuming a monarchical form of government and imperialistic designs in the sense of territorial conquests.  The whole life of the community was in short undergoing fundamental transformation.  The geographical outlook of Indo-Aryans, limited for a long time to the Gangetic valley, had extended to the eastern and southern regions.  The art of writing had got diffused among men and women, and because of the development of commercial contacts with foreign lands the mental horizon of the people had greatly broadened.  These changes had their impact on the social, religious, economic and political conditions of the country, and this needs to be examined in some detail.


Social Conditions:


Society in 6th century B.C. had definitely come to be organized on the basis of caste.  Historians are not always agreed on the origin of the caste system in India.  When the Aryans came to India, it seems quite certain that they were a homogenous mass of people and were not divided into distinct castes or even classes.  The formation of classes did not occur until after their settlement over extensive territories in the Gangetic plains, and it took place in the age of the later samhitas, but not in the form of a rigid caste system at first.  There are passages in Sruti literature which indicate quite clearly that the knowledge of Vedic texts and ceremonies rather than the fact of birth in a Brahmana family, qualified a person to be a Brahmana.  The development of caste rigidly can be traced through the period of latter samhitas, the Vajasaneya Samhita for instance prefers a Brahmana for priestly duties descended from three generations of Rsis.  Such rules are evidence of a deliberate attempt to make caste system more and more static.  But as yet those essential features, the prohibition of inter dining and inter-marriage, which are the special characteristics of caste system today, had not developed in their fulness, nor had the Brahmana yet attained and unquestioned position of supremacy, the Ksatriya being able to contest it with him at every step.  In establishing the supremacy of the Brahmanas the most important part was played by the sacrifice (yagya), the ritual.


The early Vedic age was one of creative impulses.  It was marked by “a charming appreciation of all that is good and sublime in nature, leading to outburst of individual enthusiasm in inspiring stanza addressed to various divinities.”  The theology of the later Vedic literature did not much differ from the theology of the hymns, but the religious spirit had undergone a change.  The creative age had changed into an age of criticism, and inspiration naturally yielded place to formalism.  Of this formalism the priestly class now devoted its whole attention to find out the hidden and mystic meaning of the rites and ceremonies.  The ceremonies were multiplied until they comprehended both domestic and other great sacrifices.  The domestic ceremonies embraced the whole course of a man’s life, right from the conception in the mother’s womb up to death, or rather beyond it, for several ceremonies refer to the departed souls.  The well known forty samskaras or sacraments, although finally drawn up at a later period, reflected the conditions of the age before the birth of Mahavira.  These sacraments included twenty-six Grhya-rituals (1) Garbhadhan, the rite to cause conception: (2) Punsvan, the rite to secure the birth of a male child; (3) Simnthotryan, the parting of the pregnant wife’s hair by the husband; (4) Jatkarm, the rite for the new-born child; (5) Namkaranr, the ceremony of naming the child; (6) Atrprashan, the first feeding of the child with solid food; (7) Choodakarm, the tonsure of the child’s head; (8) Upnyan, initiation ceremony; (9) to (12) the four vows undertaken for studying the different Vedas; (13) Smavartan, the completion of studentship; (14) Sehdharmcharinreesanyog, marriage; (15) to (19) five great daily sacrifices to the Gods, manes, men, goblins and Brahmana; (20) to (26) the seven Pakyagya small sacrifices-which had to be performed mostly by the householder himself, and fourteen major rituals-the seven kinds of Haviryagya and seven kinds of somyagya  in which three sacred fires were kindled, to which offerings of cake, grain, milk, honey, etc.,  were  made.  In the Samayajnas even animals were killed.  To this list could be added numerous other sacrifices, like the vratya-stoma, the Rajasuya, the Asvamedha, and the Purusamedha.  Some of these sacrifices were informed by a new spirit of symbolism and spirituality, evident for instance in the building of the altar, and lasted from twelve days to a year or years.


The elaboration of these rituals led to the growth of Brahmanism, or the hierarchy of Brahmanas; and  with Brhmanism came the rigidity of the caste system.  Under rigid caste system, in which a man’s caste was determined by the fact of birth, the Brahmanas became parasites living on the resources of the industrial classes without doing anything worthwhile to compensate the other classes.  The Ksatriya class which had always been active evolving philosophical system and which had stood for experience as against the Brahmanic emphasis on intellect, felt the inequity and injustice of this position and revolted against it.  Mahavira and the Buddha freely denounced the arbitrary distinctions of caste and proclaimed the equality of all human beings, and in doing so they were giving an effective expression to the innermost feeling of the masses.


With the growing rigidity of the caste system, the position of women had also deteriorated.  During even the later Vedic age there were exceptional cases of women attaining a high position in society and in the learned world. The stories of Gargi and Maritreyi mentioned in Brihdaranryak  Upanisad are remarkable examples of this.  But by the 6th century B.C.  the position had become deteriorated.  With the increase in royal power, Indo Aryan chiefs had become polygamous.  Women were denied the right of inheriting property, and a father had the right to divide his property among his sons according to his will.  On the death of her husband, a widow passed on to his family like his property.  The prevailing attitude towards women is apparent in the initial reluctance of the Buddha to admit them into his religious order.  A little later, Megtasthenes also said that “the Brahmans do not communicate a knowledge of philosophy to their wives.”  But Mahavira and the Buddha took a highly rational attitude in this matter; both permitted the inclusion of women into their sanghas, and this step marked a revolutionary improvement of their status in society.


Religion and Philosophy


In the domain of religion and philosophy, 7th and 6th centuries B.C.  were a period of great confusion and doubt.  The period was marked by growing orthodoxy on one side and extensive revolt against it on the other.  The Buddhist literature mentions as many as sixty-three different philosophical schools, all presumably non-Brahmana, existing at the time of the Buddha; Jaina literature, which is more analytical in its approach, mentions an even larger number of such heretical doctrines.


The religion of the early Aryans had been simple nature-worship.  Its simplicity stands in striking contrast to the later elaboration of the religious side of life by the priests.  The objects of worship were the great phenomena of nature, conceived as alive and usually represented in anthropomorphic shape like dyo: (the Heaven), Prithvee (the Earth), Surya (the Sun), Usha (the dawn), Agnee (the Fire) and Som (the well-known sacrificial drought).  In the late tenth book of the Rgveda, beginning of philosophy made its appearance; the multiplicity of Gods was questioned and the unity of the universe asserted. As the center of culture shifted from the west to east, new gods- originally perhaps of the aborigine-like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, came to be included in the Hindu pantheon, the original Vedic gods were thrust into the background, and as a result a change occurred in the spirit of religion and in the spirit of worship.  The borrowed gods belonged to a system which was nurtured under a different conception of godhead from that underlying the Aryans nature-gods; they had to be dreaded and appeased by the performance of sacrifices and not approached in confidence, but once propitiated they were supposed to help their worshippers against their enemies, open or hidden.  Their gods were terrific, and so the propitiatory ritual became weird and mystic. Originally the post-priest of the Rgveda was content to invite the gods, in the fullness of his heart, to partake of his offerings; now the priest becomes more anxious to secure a monopoly of the God to himself and to his patrons and to avert him and his grace from his rival worshippers.  So the technique of sacrifice became enormously elaborated and obscured, religion became formalized and completely divorced from ethics.


This development was a particular characteristic of the age which marked the composition of the Brahmanas.  The growth of ritualism led to the increase of the priestly class, and since the priestly class was the beneficiary of the performance of these rituals and sacrifices it was in its interest to develop ritualism still further.  It became a vicious circle.  The earlier sacrifices used to occupy one day, now they began to last for weeks, months and even years.  The earlier sacrifices used to require as the most seven priests, hotri, potri, naishtri, Anidhr, Prshastri, Advaryu and brhamn; now the sacrifices required seventeen.


1.      Hotri  with maitravarunr, achhavak, and gravrutut

2.      Udgatri with prstot, pratihartri, subrhanyi

3.      Adhvryu with pratiprasthapu,  naishtri and unaitri

4.      Brahman with brahmanrhachhansin, agneedhr and potri


On its part, the priestly class directed all its energies to the further development of ceremonial side, which they worked out in endless detail and to which they attached the most fanciful and mystic significance.  The elaboration of the technical part of the sacrifice and the growth of a special class of experts who make a monopoly often art became so marked that intellectualism of this kind began to be confused with morality, and virtue became a by-word for fineness and fussiness over little things.


This state of things was very disconcerting to the serious-minded section of society, and many people took recourse to meditation and contemplation of the truth.  They discarded the rituals and the pantheistic worship of the priests, and developed what is known as the way of knowledge(gyanmarg) distinguished from the way of ritualism (karmmarg) of the Brahmana.  From out of their philosophical and metaphysical speculation there developed the six famous schools of Indian philosophy- the Samkhya school of a Kapila, the Yoga school of Patanjali, the Nyaya school of Kapila, the Yoga school of Patanjali, the Nyaya school of Gautama, the Vaisesika school of Kanada, the purva-Mimamsa of Jaimini, and the Uttara-Mimamsa or Vedanta of Vyasa.  These Upanisadic philosophers concerned themselves with the problems of the origin of the world, the nature of godhood and the creative process in general; and in seeking to solve these problems they expounded in fact a new religion which aimed at the achievement of deliverance from mundane existence by the absorption of the individual soul (atma) in the world-soul (Brahma)  by virtue of correct knowledge.  The underlying principles of this new religion upon which all philosophers were agreed were, first, that all reality in the ultimate issue must be reduced to one, called variously the holy power or the soul; and secondly, that a man may die repeated deaths in the next world, the doctrine, that is to say, of transmigration of soul, first mentioned in an outline form in the Chhandogya Upanisad  and then involved in the form of the gospel of karma or action which determines on a man’s death the nature of his next birth in the Vrihdaranryak Upanishad.  But these philosophers disagreed on many other points.  Pantheistic ritualism was producing its parallel in the world of thought, a philosophical pantheism.  The excessive devotion of the priest to the ritual had thus produced a reaction, but the reaction was proving as confused as the stimulus itself.  Neither ritualism nor philosophy really succeeded in restoring to religion that element of ethical values which it had possessed in an eminent degree in the early Vedic period but which had inevitably got eroded from it during its progress from Kuru-Panchala country to Kosala-Videha and the country to the further east.  The prevailing religion in 6th century B.C., therefore, when Mahavira was born, was significantly unsatisfying and in a chaotic state.


Economic Conditions:


From the point of view of economic structure, Indian society in 6th century B.C. was passing through a transition from a cultivating and handicraft to a cottage industry stage.  Early Aryans were a pastoral people, their chief occupations being cultivation and cattle -rearing.  The land was ploughed, the plough was drawn by oxen.  Cattle consisted of kine and sheep.  Weaving in cotton and wool was done but of industries very little was known.  As the Aryans spread towards the east and the south and occupied the fertile plains of the Ganges and the Yamuna, their material prosperity considerably increased.  The plough gradually assumed a large and heavy form; there is mention at one place of twenty-four oxen being harnessed to one plough.  Irrigation also improved, and along with it the quality and variety of grains raised from the ground.  At this time the society got divided into a number of classes and castes; and among the servile castes we find mention of such as fishermen, shepherds, fire-rangers, charioteers, workers in jewelry, basket-makers, washer-men, rope-makers, dyers, chariot-makers, weavers, slaughters, cooks, professional acrobats, musicians, etc.  In the literature collectively known as the later Samhitas there is frequent mention of merchant and also users.  The knowledge and use of metals had become quite extensive; besides gold, we find mention of tin, lead and silver, and possibly copper and iron.  But during this period Indian economy remained on the whole a purely rural economy, with arts and crafts only incidentally developed.


In the 6th century B.C., however, and about this period our information is both large and accurate, the structure of economy began to get fundamentally transformed. (1) The gram was still the unit of administration and the center of all activities; but the grama was apparently a generic term, meaning almost anything from a group of two or three houses to an indefinite number.  In the Buddhist texts there is also an occasional mention of cities in northern India, about twenty such having been recounted, six of which are reckoned as sufficiently important ones.  (2) Further, rural economy was based upon a system of village communities of land-owners and marked by instances of collectivist initiative.  The peasant proprietors had a nominal head in the bhojak  (or headman) who, as their representative at political headquarters and municipal head, was paid by certain dues and fines.  (3) Above all in the arts and crafts considerable proficiency and specialization of industry had been reached.  “A list of callings given in the Milindapanho reveals three separate industries in the manufacture of bows and arrows, apart from any ornamental work on the same.  In the same work, the allusion to a professional winnower of grain indicates a similar division of labor to our own threshing-machinists and steam plough-owners who tour in rural districts.”  Important handicrafts were organized into guilds, and at the head of each guild as a president  (prmukh) or elder man (jaithak), and these leaders were often important ministers in attendance upon and in favor with the King. There is evidence that regulation of industrial life was on a corporate basis; not only individual but families were often referred to in terms of traditional calling. (4) The age was marked by freedom of initiative and a high degree of mobility in labor.  This finds exemplification in stories like those of enterprising woodworkers who, failing to carry out the orders for which prepayment had been made, were summoned to fulfill their contract and, instead of abiding in their lot, secretly made a mighty ship and emigrated with their families shipping down the Ganges by night and so out to sea till they reached a fertile island.  (5) Trade and commerce was fast developing.  Partnership in commerce either permanent or on specified occasions only, are frequently mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina texts.  The overland caravans are sometimes represented as going ‘east and west’ and across deserts that took days and nights to cross.  They may have gone from Benares, the chief commercial and industrial center in early Buddhist and Jaina age, across the deserts of Rajputana to the seaport of modern Broach or the seaboard of Sovira and its capital Roruka.  Westward of these ports there was traffic with Babylon.  The nature of exports and imports is not always specified, but they would seem to include such articles as “silks, muslin, the finer sorts of cloth, cutlery and armor, brocades, embroideries and rugs, perfumes and drugs, ivory and ivory work, jewelry and gold.” It appears that trade was free, in the sense that it was determined solely by supply and demand and unhampered by any system of statutory fixed prices.  The use of standard currency and of substitutes for money, like instruments of credit, also appear to have become common.  The taking of interest was considered legitimate and the payment of debts an honorable obligation.


Of this developing capitalist economy the natural need was that there should be a theory of economic individualism to support it.  This found its echo in spiritual doctrines like Jainism and Buddhism, which placed their emphasis upon the individual rather than upon a World-Soul.  The prevailing Brahamnic religion with its traditional restrictions, its caste system, and its expensive sacrifices had begun to collide at an ever-increasing number of points with the existing economic ethics, and this made the growth of “heretical” sects inevitable which, originating outside heiratic circles, would offer a philosophic justification for a concept of individualism and a development of individual personality.


Political Conditions


The economic changes leading to the growth of capitalism in society caused corresponding changes in the political constitution of the country.  The power of the tribal chieftain of old increased and he became more or less a real king, with power to deprive any commoner of his private property.  The nobles obtained the position of landlords or intermediaries between the cultivators and the king.  Slaves and serfs also increased in number.  Within the framework of autocracy, there were still operative certain democratic elements, e.g. (1) the people’s voice in choosing the king; (2) the promises made by the king at his coronation; (3) the king’s dependence on the ministry; (4) the popular assemblies the Sabha and the Samiti; but these democratic limitations upon the powers of the king were becoming increasingly obsolete.  The territorial concept of the state was becoming more pronounced.


In the 6th century B.C. northern India seems to have been divided into the following sixteen states: (1) Anga, covering possibly the Patna and Monghyr districts, (2) Magadha, covering the Patna and Gaya, (3) Kasi, covering Benares, Ghazipur and Mirzapur districts, (4) Vajji, covering Muzaffarpur, Saran and Champaran districts of north Bihar, (5) Kosala, possibly covering the Gorakhpur district, (7) Vamsa, covering the modern Allahabad and Banda districts, (8) Cheti, possibly the present Kanpur and Unnao districts, (9) Panchala, which may by identified with modern Rohilkhand, (10) Kuru, covering the Aligarh, Meerut, Delhi and Karnal districts, (11) Matsya, possibly covering the present Gurgaon district along with portions of Alwar and Jaipur states, (12) Surasena, possibly covering the Muttra district and portions of Bharatpore and Jaipur states, (13) Asuraka, on the Godavari, (14) Avanti, which seems to be just another name for Malwa, (15) Gandhara, presumably covering the northwest districts of the Punjab as far as Peshawar and adjoining districts, and (16) Kamboja, which may possibly be identified with the modern districts of Kabul and Jalalabad.  These sixteen names are given in several places in the Buddhist text, Anguttara-Nikaya and partially repeated in the Sanskrit work Mahavastu.  The Jaina text Bhagavati, which also enumerates sixteen names, described the delimitation of states at a somewhat later period; the geographical margins of states mentioned there is much wider.


Among these states four seem to have been particularly powerful Kosala with its capital at Sravasti, Avanti with its capital at Ujjaini, Vamsa (or Vatsa) with its capital at Kausambi, and Magadha with its capital at Fajgriha; and the period was marked by perpetual military contests between them.  Ultimately Magadha, under its king Bimbisara (or Srenika), rose to the position of paramountcy.  It is possible that the big states included certain more or less autonomous clan or tribal areas, which enjoyed a form of home rule.  The Sakyas, for instance, were a tribe of the Kosalas, but held an autonomous tenure.


Besides kingdoms, republic states also existed.  Among the republics the following names were prominent:

The Sakyas, with their capital at Kapilvastu;

The Bulis, with their capital at Amalkappa;

The Kalamas, with their capital Kesaputta;

The Bhaggas, with their capital at Sumsumara;

The Koliyas, with their capital at Ramagama;

The Mallas, with their capital at Pava;

The Mallas, with their capital at Kusinara;

The Moriyas, with their capital at Pipphalivana;

The Videhas, with their capital at Mithila; and

the Licchavis, with their capital at Vaisali.


These tribal republics seem to have occupied in 6th century B.C. the whole country east of Kosala between the mountains and the Ganges.  Each one of them included several big towns besides the capital.  In the territory of the Sakyas, which covered the lower slopes of the Himalayas, there is mention of a number of towns like Catuma, Samagama, Khomadussa, Silavati, Medalumpa, Negaraka, Ulumpa, Devadaha, and Sakkara.  The administrative business of these tribal republics and the more important judicial work was carried out in public assembly at which the young and old were alike present.  The meetings were held in motehalls, i.e. roofy structure supported by pillars without walls, and the procedure adopted in these meetings seems to have been as in modern parliaments.  A single chief was elected as office-holder; he bore the title of raja, although the term did not mean king.  He was something like the Roman consul.  There were tribal confederacies also, a classical example of which was the Vijjian confederacy, comprising the Licchavis, the Videhas and other clans.









The preceding description of Indian society in 6th century B.C. has been given in such detail, for it is only with a full knowledge of that background that a correct evaluation of the noble work and achievements of Mahavira is really possible.  Mahavira was born in the year 599 B.C. at Kundagrama, which was a suburb of the flourishing town of Vaisali, about twenty-seven miles north of Patna.  His father Siddhartha was apparently the chieftain of the place and his mother, Trisala, was the sister of the Vaisali ruler, whose name has been given in the Jaina texts as Cetaka.  According to the Jaina belief, Mahavira’s parents were worshippers of Parsva and followers of the Sramanas.


Tirthankara Parsva:


There is a Jaina tradition that Jainism is as old as the human race, that the religion shall remain in existence till eternity, and that it has been and will be revealed again and again in the endless succeeding periods of the world by innumerable Tirthankaras.  In each of these periods there are twenty-four Tirthankaras, the first Tirthankara of present age being Rsabha and the last two being Parsva and Mahavira.  Historical research in India was so crude and unorganized at one time that all these Tirthankaras, including Mahavira, were looked upon by the historians of ancient India as just mythical personages.  The credit of recognizing the historical existence of Mahavira goes surprisingly enough, to a German scholar in the field of Indology, Professor Herman Jacobi, who made an English translation of the first Jaina Anga: Acaranga, and published it with a masterly introduction in the series called the “Sacred Books of the East” in 1884.  Ancient historical research has made some progress since then, and today Indian historians are prepared to freely recognize not only that Mahavira was a historic personage but also that the twenty-third Tirthankara, Parsva, and some at least of his predecessors had historical existence.


Parsva was the son of King Asvasena of Benares, who belonged to the Iksvaku race of the Ksatriya.  In his marital relations he was connected with the royal family of King Prasenajit, whose father Naravarman designated himself as the lord of the universe.  It has not been possible so far to historically identify Asvasena of Benares or Prasenajit and his father Naravarman of Kusasthala; but in spite of that limitation historians have been willing to accept the historicity of Parsva because of certain other historical and geographical coincidences.  The existence of the great tirtha, the hill of Samet-Sikhara (which is locally known as the Parsvanatha Hill), on the spot at which the twenty-third Tirthankara attained his final liberation (Nirvana) affords a monumental proof of his historicity.  Jaina literature, of course, contains numerous references to Parsva and records the facts of his life, but even contemporary Buddhist and other literature affords striking evidence about the existence of Nirgranthas before the time of Mahavira.


These Nirgranthas or followers of Parsva were undoubtedly Jaina monks; Mahavira himself was referred to as such, and he insisted on calling his followers by the same name.  This system preached by Parsva must have been philosophically founded upon the same presuppositions that mark the present-day Jaina Siddhanta, but it is presumable that it did not quite offer the same pattern of ethical conduct or moral discipline.  First, the religion of Parsva laid down only four vows (chaturiam) for the observance of his followers: ahinsa (non-killing); sunirij  (truthful speech), astay (non-stealing), and aprigreh  (renouncing of all illusory objects) ; while Mahavira specified, and present day Jainism recognizes, five great vows, the vow of chastity being given the same status as the vow of ahimsa.  Jacobi is of the opinion that ”the augmentation in the text presupposes a decay of the morals of the monastic order to have occurred between Parsva and Mahavira.”  It was possibly a reflection in the domain of social ethics of the newly growing ideas of sanctity of property which marked the rise of economic capitalism in Indian society.  Secondly, although it is clear that Parsva’s sanha as well as Mahavira’s comprehended the monk and the nun, and the layman and the laywoman, the type of distinction between an ordinary layman (shravak) and a layman who took a special type of diksha and undertook to observe the twelve lay vows (shramano pasak), which undoubtedly formed a peculiar feature of Mahavira’s sangha, did not seem to characterize Parsva’s sangha at all.  The difference between a sravak and sramano pasek in Mahavira, sangha consisted presumably in this, that a Sravaka took no definite vows but merely expressed sympathy and his faith as a Jaina while a Sramanopasaka took definite vows: Mahavira drew a distinction between the five great vows which laid down the practice of right conduct for the ascetic, and the five lesser vows which indicated the rules of discipline for the layman and were reinforced by seven more lay vows under which the layman imposed on himself voluntary limitations regarding the areas of his desires, his travel, the things of his daily use, the performance of meditation every day and every month, and the giving of alms to the ascetic.  There is an occasional mention of the twelve vows of the sravaka in Parsva’s sangha also, but that appears to be no more than a conventional way of writing for it is obvious that there could not be twelve-there could be at best only eleven-vows of Parsva’s sravakas.  What is significant is that Parsva’s sravakas.  What is significant is that Parsva’s system is invariably spoken of as catuyram in the Buddhist and the Jaina texts, and such invariable use of the term does not warrant the type of distinction which Mahavira felt impelled to draw between the great and the lesser vows.


The Jaina Idea of Biography:


It is amazing that historical scholars should have ever been inclined to doubt the existence of Mahavira.  Jaina literature, particularly Jaina canonical literature, which is avowedly older than the classical Sanskrit literature and which vies in its antiquity with the oldest books of the northern Buddhists, is replete with the facts of Mahavira’s life.  Jacobi is of the view that European scholars were confounded by the similarities between Buddhism and Jainism and between Buddha’s and Mahavira’s life and that they came to this conclusion due to their lack of study on the subject. The numerous names and appellations by which these two prophets were called Jina, Arhat, Mahavira, Sugatta, Sarvajna, Tathagata, Siddha, Buddha, Sambuddha, Parinivrtta, Mukta, etc., and the fact that both of them were given the same titles and epithets further confused historical scholars.  But, Jacobi has stated, with the exception of Jina and perhaps Sramana, which were quite commonly used by both the sects, the Buddhists and the Jainas made a preferential selection of certain titles only.  Thus, Buddha, Tathagata, Sugata and Sambuddha are common titles of Sakyamuni and are only occasionally used as epithets of Mahavira.  On the other hand, Mahavira is often referred to in the Jaina Agama as Vardhamana, Because of the ‘increase that had taken place in the popularity of his parents ever since the moment he had been begotten’, still more often as Jnatrputra.  The Buddhist texts refer to him as Nataputta, and it was not until quite late that Jacobi identified the term Nataputta to be a variation of Janatrputra.  He is also called Vira, Ativira, Sanmati and by a host of other names in the later literature of the Jainas.


These names are clearly qualitative names, that is to say, they are meant to draw attention to certain qualities possessed by Mahavira; and they are all indicative of a distinct point of view which underlay the Jaina idea of biography.  The Jaina viewpoint while writing a biography is not that of the usual historical biographer.  The Jaina interest is not diffused over the whole range of the subject’s activities; it is all centered at one point, and that point is the attainment by his subject of salvation.  The Jaina biographer writes about other things only in so far as they have to do with the attainment of his ultimate object.  Interest would be spread over the whole wide field of activity when a biography like that of Rama or Krishna, is written with a view to help the codification of the principles of dharma.  The Brahmanic view, which was based on a desire for success in the world as well as the next and which linked up, in the significant phrase of Sir S. Radha-Krishna, “the realm of desires with the prospective of the eternal’, thought in terms of the purusharth or human values- Dharma, artha, kama, and moksa- and considered the acquisition of wealth and the enjoyment of the present life as worthwhile as the ultimate attainment of the moksa.  But to the Jaina there is no such thing as a real enjoyment of material things.


The Jaina siddhanta is based upon the presupposition that the whole universe can be classified into one or other of the two everlasting, uncreated, coexisting but independent categories, the jiva and the ajiva; and the Jaina metaphysics proceeds on the assumption that the Jiva (which corresponds in general to the atman of the other schools of Indian thought) not only exists but that it also acts and is acted upon.  The intrinsic nature of the Jiva is one of perfection and is characterized by infinite intelligence (anantgyan), infinite perception (anantdarshan), infinite peace (anantsukh), and infinite power (anantveeriya).  During the period of the union, however, of the Jiva with matter which constitutes samsara, the characteristic features of the Jiva’s qualities are obscured, although not destroyed, and “the exterior semblance of the Jiva belies its innate glory’; and from this obscuration it becomes the duty of each individual soul to free itself.  Man’s personality in this view consists of two elements, the spiritual and the material; and according to Jainism, the object of life is so to subdue the latter as to completely sake off its malignant influence and thereby enable the Jiva to all its inherent excellencies in their fullness.  A man’s action in life may be of two kinds, that which maintains, or even strengthens, the bond of union between Jiva and the matter, and thus-whether it brings pleasure or pain to the doer-effectually keeps the Jiva in a state of bondage, and that which tends to cut asunder the union between Jiva and matter and thus helps the Jiva to attain its freedom and ultimately perfection.  The first kind of action, and its is just this action which is germane to what we call worldly achievements, is from a spiritual point of view undeserving of very much attention; and so the Jaina biographer, whose main interest is centered on the attainment of the ultimate, has been on the whole inclined to omit it from his analysis.  It is only the spiritual activity of the individual about which he has written.


Mahavira’s Biographies:


Thus, there is no dearth of biographical material for Mahavira, who holds the honored position of being the twenty-fourth and last in the galaxy of Tirthankaras of the present age and who is also the ruling personality of the present patriarchate; but this material is primarily and essentially concerned with the details of the spiritual activities of Mahavira.  Of the purely material side of his life, the details provided are not many and not sufficiently lucid or specific.


Jacobi is of the opinion that the first book (Shrutskandh) of the Acarangasutra and of the Sutrakrtanga sutra may be reckoned among the most ancient parts of the Jaina siddhanta.  Their style and meter prove the correctness of this opinion. 

The date of these Sutras would be somewhere between the Pali literature and the composition of the Lalitavistara, and has been worried out by Jacobi to be in the 4th century B.C.  It is in the first book of the Acaranga that the outlines of Mahavira’s life appear for the first time, but these outlines have been drawn in a rather rough and limited way.  There is no mention here of early or householder’s life at all; the story begins with Mahavira’s ‘entry into the order’ and goes on to the narration of his daily habits of life as a monk and the numerous penance’s he went through.  The second book of the Acranga, which obviously is a later composition and which does not even fit in with the scheme of writing adopted in the first book, refers possibly, in point of time, to the first part of the 3rd century B.C. when the whole canon was brought together under the patriarchate of Sthulibhadra; and in this book we can obtain the first glimpse of the detailed account of Mahavira’s birth and early life.  Certain specific details mentioned here, like the change of embryo, the periodic attendance upon Mahavira of the four orders of Bhavanapati, Vyantara, Jyotiska and Vaimanika gods and goddesses, the enunciation of the five great vows, etc. were described more elaborately and certainly with an element of exaggeration by later writers on the life-history of Mahavira.


The Kalpasutra, written and composed by Bhandrabahu I, is elaborated upon these details with poetic imagery and in picturesque style and further added to them the new element of the fourteen dreams according to Svetamber and 16 according to Digambara sect-the dreams of (1) an elephant; (2) a land; (3) a lion; (4) the anointing of the Goddess Sri; (5) a garland; (6) the moon; (7) the Sun; (8) a flag; (9) a vase; (10) a lotus lake; (11) the ocean; (12)a celestial abode; (13) a heap of jewels; and (14) a flame which a Tirthankara’s mother was believed to have seen.  The final forms of Mahavira’s life was attained in the Avasyaka-Niryukti of Bhadrabahu II, which may be ascribed to the 5th century A.D. and in an anonymously written commentary on it added some time in the 6th or 7th century A.D.  These books, however, represent the Svetambara version of Mahavira’s life.  At the hands of the Digambara acaryas a somewhat different version was prepared on the basis of pumchriya written by Vimala, whose date may be somewhere between the 1st and 3rd century A.D., fist in the Padmapurana, which may be ascribed to the 8th century A.D. and later on by others in various Puananas.  The Digambara version gave the facts of life with the usual and in certain ways with more than usual embellishment, but it differed from the prevailing Svetambara version in one or two major details.


Parentage and Birth:


The first difference between the Svetambara and Digambara version relates to the fact of Mahavira’s birth.  Both versions agree that Mahavira  was the son of Siddharatha and Trisala, that he belonged to a clan of the Ksatriyas called Jnatrkas (known as Natikas in the Buddhist works), and that he was a Kasyapa by gotra.  But the Svetambara version speaks of a transfer of embryo; the Acaranga says-


“Here, forsooth, in the continent of Jambudvipa in Bharatavarsa, in the southern part of it, in the Brahamanical part of the place Kundapura, he took the form of an embryo in the womb of Devananda, of the Jalandhrayana gotra, wife of the Brahmana Rsabhadatta, of the gotra of Kodala....... “Then in the third month of the rainy season, the fifth fortnight, the dark (fortnight) of Asvina, on its thirteenth day, while the moon was in conjunction with Uttaraphalguni, after the laps of eighty-two days, on the eighty-third day current, the compassionate god (Indra) reflecting on what was the established custom (with regard to the birth of the Tirthankaras), removed the embryo from the southern Brahmanical part of the place Kundapura to the northern Ksatriya part of the same place, rejecting the unclean matter, lodged the fetus in the womb of Trisala of the Vasistha gotra, wife of the Ksatriya Siddhartha, of the Kasyapa gotra, of the clan of Jnatrs, and lodged the fetus of the Ksatriyani Trisala in the womb of Devananda, of the Jalandhrayana gotra........”


The Digambara account rejects this legend as ‘absurd’, but the Svetambaras strongly uphold its truth.  As the legend is found in the Acaranga, the Kalpasutra, and many other books it cannot be doubted that it is very old; but it is not at all clear why it was invented and given such currency.  There are, however, in the Bhagavati-another sutra in the Svetambara canon, two references that would throw further light on the question and would possibly help us in finding a solution.  In Sataka V Uddesa IV, in reply to a question regarding the possibility and the procedure of the change of embryo, Mahavira declared that a change of embryo was quite possible and stated his position regarding the procedure by which the change might take place, but significantly omitted to mention- although it would have been quite proper for him in that context to do so- the change of his own embryo.  Again, in Sataka IX, Uddesa XXXIII, there is reference to the visit to Mahavira’s camp of the Brhmana Rsabhadatta and his wife Devananda.  On the sight of Mahavira, Devananda had a sudden maternal emotion and milk started coming out of her breast.  Asked by his chief disciple Gautama to explain the reason of this unusual occurrence, Mahavira plainly stated that Devananda was his mother.  He made no mention whatever of Trisala or of the episode of the change of embryo.


These two references are  pointer to the fact that actually there was no change of Mahavira’s embryo.  The Bhagavati, which makes a record of the actual conversations and sayings of Mahavira, is certainly more trustworthy as a source of information than the Kalpasutra.  Which after all is the work of an acarya, however learned.  It is not impossible that the story was invented by the author of the Kalpasutra as an occasion to express the prevailing sentiment of contempt for the Brahmanas, and that it was later on embodied in the second book of the Acaranga.  But that alone does not solve the problem.  In the Bhagavati Mahavira says that Devananda is his mother and in the Acaranga and the Kalpasutra the name of Mahavira’s mother is given as Ksatriyani Trisala.  Of this Professor Jacobi offered a some what fanciful solution.  “I assume”, he said “that Siddhartha had two wives, the Brahmani Devananda, the real mother of Mahavira, and he Ksatriyani Trisala; for the name of the alleged husband of the former, viz. Rsabhadatta, cannot be very old, because its Prakrit form would in that case probably be Usabhadinna instead of Usabhadatta.  Besides, the name is such as could be given to a Jaina only, on to a Brahmana.  I, therefore, make no doubt that Rsabhadatta has been invented by the Jainas in a order to provide Devananda with another husband.  Now Siddhartha was connected with persons of high rank and great influence through his marriage with Trisala.  It was, therefore, probably thought more profitable to give out that Mahavira was the son, and not merely the stepson, of Trisala, for this reason that he should be entitled to the patronage of her relations.”  This is obviously far-fetched and also incorrect, for it is certain that in the days of Mahavira the marriage of a Brahmana girl with a Ksatriya was not at all an easy adventure and that anyhow the offspring of such a marriage would not be considered very respectable.  What seems more likely is that Devananda was Mahavira’s foster-mother.  This likelihood finds substantial support in the text of the Acaranga (second book) which specifically speaks of Mahavira as having been attended by five nurses, one of them being a wet-nurse. 


Facts of Early Life:


The facts of the early life of Mahavira given in the several biographies whose names we have recounted above are very few indeed.  The later accounts have connected him with certain anecdotes, myths and miracles; but they appear to have been allied from the other traditional sources and cannot, therefore, be justifiably recounted as the facts of Mahavira’s life.  There is, for instance, an anecdote in one of the Digambara books, illustrative of Mahavira’s supreme valour, which runs thus: “One day, while playing with his friends in the garden of his father, Mahavira saw an elephant, which was mad with fury with juice flowing from his temples, rushing towards him.  His companions, all boys, shocked and frightened on the sight of the impending danger, deserted their comrade and ran away.  Without losing a moment, Mahavira made up his mind to face the danger squarely, went towards the elephant, caught hold of his trunk with his strong hands and mounted his back at once.”


It is nevertheless a fact that the Jainas never attempted to give a connected account of the life of his great Master as the Buddhists gave a life of the Buddha in the Mahavagga, from the obtainment of the Enlightenment to the admission of Sariputta and Moggallana into the order and in the Mahaparinibbana sutta, which recounts the events of Buddha’s last days.  The Kalpasutra used a somewhat conventional style while writing about the great rejoicing that took pace in the family and the town on the birth of Mahavira, about illumination of the streets, about he liberation of prisoners, and about the performance of numerous other charitable deeds.  At the core of much that is conventional, however, a few facts would seem to clearly emerge.  In person Mahavira seems to have been handsome and impressive; all descriptions agree on that point.  The several names by which he is called in the Jaina books-Vira, Ativira, Mahavira, etc., all clearly indicate that the chief quality of his character was courage and valour.  Being the scion of a Ksatriya chieftain and brought up in the free atmosphere of a republican society, he must have right from his childhood taken the most vigorous interest in the outdoor games and material exercises.  He was naturally intelligent and possessed of a very keen intellect.  The Kalapasutra mentions that from his very birth he possessed ‘supreme, unlimited and unimpeded knowledge and intuition’ and that he had the aspirations of a man of knowledge.  That his education was carefully looked after may be safely presumed: the Jaina scriptures speak again and again of princes who were trained in “the seventy-two arts,” the list including dancing, music gambling, rules of society, fighting, archery, knowledge of birds, animals and trees, etc.  besides purely literary and philosophical attainments.


The Svetambara books say that Mahavira had an elder brother, whose name was Nandivardhana, with whom he lived in his boyhood.  This fact is omitted, but not positively denied, by Digambara books.  Both books, however, agree that Mahavira was very well- connected.  By birth he was a member of at least the ruling class in a republican democracy.  The description of his father’s palace and the dimensions of rejoicing made there on the birth of Mahavira, who according to the Svetambara version was only a second son, would lead one to the conclusion that Siddhartha was a ruling prince.  Jacobi, however, does not feel inclined to that view.  According to him, Kundagrama (or Kundalapura) was “a halting place of caravans, an insignificant place and an outlying village and a suburb of Vaisali, the capital of Videha”, so that Siddhartha was only  “a petty chief, a baron, no king, nor even the head of his clan, but only a landowner, and exercised only the degree of authority which in the East usually falls to the share of one belonging to the recognized aristocracy of the country.”  Such description is belied by later historical research.  Historians are now prepared to accept that Kundagrama was the headquarters of the Jnatrka Ksatriya, “who were already known for their piety and non-violence, and abstention from sin and meat-eating,” and that the republic was governed by an assembly of elders, one of whom assumed the position of the president.  It is presumable that Siddhartha occupied the position of the president of this republic; for otherwise it might be somewhat difficult to explain his marriage with the sister of Cetaka, whom even Jacobi recognizes as ‘the powerful king of Videha,’ belonging to the Licchavi sect of the Ksatriya. Through his wife, Siddhartha-and following him, Mahavira-was related tot he ruling dynasty of Magadha and the dynasties of Sauvira, Anga, Vatsa (Vamsa) and Avanti.  Cetaka had seven daughters, one of whom became a nun, but the other six were married in one or the other royal family of Eastern India.  The youngest Celana became the wife of Srenika (Bimbisara), king of Magadha: one Prabhavati was married to King Udayana of Vitabhya, which has been identified at various places in Jaina literature with a town in Sindhu-Sauvira country; another Padmavati was married to King Dadhivahana of Campa, the capital of Anga; Mrgavati was married to King Satanika of Kausambi, the capital of Vatsa; and Shiva was married to Canda Pradyota of Ujjani, which was the capital of Avanti.  That the tie of these relationships was real and strong, may be judged from the fact that the books are always very particular in stating the names and Gotra of all relations of Mahavira, although they have recorded little further information about them.


From the above it is clear that the environment in which Mahavira grew up was necessarily royal atmosphere tempered with healthy influenced of a republican character.  His maternal relatives were practically all of them ruling princes, but his father was a republican chief and even his maternal uncle was a territorial ruler under the auspices of a republican confederacy- the famous Vajji confederacy of which eight republics, Vajji, were constituent units.  The real strength of the republic in Mahavira’s time as, to a large extent, today lay not so much in its government as in the character of its people.  The Buddha mentioned in one of his discourses that republican population was free from luxury and sloth, ‘sleeping on logs of wood as pillows and not on cushions of the finest cotton, active in archery, and not delicate, tender and soft in their arms and legs.’  The youths were rowdy, but by no means devoid of honor or lacking in moral courage; they frankly admitted their mistakes, and were inspired by a fundamental sense of respect for elders and women, and their national institutions.  It was in this atmosphere that Mahavira’s early life was spent.  His upbringing must have been quite exceptionally balanced and his development proportionate, for his life was a life of comfort but not luxury and his ambition was an ambition to conquer but not with view to mastery over others.  He was deeply influenced by the democratic ethos of the society in which he lived.  He was impressed by the inadequate application of this ethos in the political, economic and social life of the community without its being based upon a really democratic religious system; and he took it upon himself to workout and propagate a system of complete spiritual democracy in the form of Jainism.






Mahavira's Natural Bend of Mind


All biographies of Mahavira are agreed upon one point, namely, that he led the life of a householder for thirty years.  With what mental attitude this period of life was lived, of that we have no certain knowledge.  Certain Digambara books suggest that Mahavira lived his life as a house-holder in a normal manner, taking a healthy interest in his environment and enjoying the many opportunities of work and play afforded to him by his exalted station in society, until all of a sudden in his thirtieth year he began to reflect and meditate and feeling dissatisfied with the prospect of an ‘unending mundane existence’ made up his mind to renounce the world.  The Svetambara accounts, on the other hand, depict Mahavira as having been an unusually reflective lad from the very beginning.  Even in his early youth he seems to have thought of renouncing the world, but he was always prevailed upon by his affectionate parents to change his resolve.  Nor did Mahavira desired to hurt his parents, if he could help it.  It appears that Mahavira’s parents were quite assiduous in making attempts to engage the boy’s mind in worldly things and in creating around him a luscious atmosphere of amusement and pleasure. Fairly early in life he was married to a charming princess, Yasoda, belonging to the Kaundinya gotra. 


On the question of Mahavira’s marriage there is a fundamental difference of detail between the Digambara and Svetambara accounts.  While the Svetambara books distinctly mention that Mahavira lived married life for about 10 years and begot a daughter named Anojja or Priyadarsana, the Digambara books deny the fact of marriage altogether.  But from a critical study of the several old biographies of Mahavira, it is possible to establish that the Digambara view is based upon a misconstruction of certain verses in the Paumacariya and Avasyaka Niryukti.  These books give in a comparative form the various details about the life of the Tirthankaras; with reference to their status at the time of renunciation these books mention hat while the other Tirthankaras renounced the world after having been actual rulers over their states, Vasupujya (the 12th Tirthankara), Malli (the 19th Tirthankara), Nemi (the 22nd Tirthankar), Parsva (the 23rd Tirthankara), and Mahavira were still kumar (i.e. princes). 


 Mali Arithnaimee paso veero ya vasupunjay  (57)

Aiai kumarsiya gayaho nigya jinrvarinda

Saisa vi hu rayanro puhee bhotunr nikhanta  (58)



Veeram aritoothanaimee pasem malim cha vasupunjam cha

Aiai mutoonr jinrai avsaisa asee rayanro

Raikulaisu vi jaya visudhvanyaisu khtiykulaisu

Na ya ichhiyabhisaya kumarvsami pviya



 The same couplets, in Sanskrit, have been repeated in the Digambara books such as Padma-Purana and Harivamsa-Purana. 


Vasupoojyo bhaveero mali pasharvo yadutam

Kumara nirgata gaihat prithveepatyoparai

                                  -Padyapuran 20.67


Nishkrantivrasupoojysy malairnaimijinantyo

Panchanan tu kumarakhyan ragyan  -shaishjinaishanam

                                                -Harivanshpuranr 60.214


It is clear that the word kumar in these verses has been interpreted in its other meaning of ‘celibate’ by the later Digambara acaryas1; but it is also obvious that this meaning will not possibly bear in the context.  There is no particular reason in these circumstances to disbelieve the facts of Mahavira’s marriage.  It is possible, however, that the marriage when made was against his own inclination and desire and was made in difference to the wishes of the parents; but that he lived a marriage life for several years and became father seems to be well-founded.


The Digambara and Svetambara versions differ also on another point, whether in the thirtieth year of Mahavira’s life when he actually renounced the world his parents were alive or dead.  The Svetambara accounts mention hat Mahavira had made a promise to his mother that he would not renounce the world so long as the parents were alive.  This would seem to follow quite logically from what has been said before about Mahavira’s leaning toward ascetic life and the parent’s objection to his renouncing the world and taking up an ascetical career and from the further fact that Mahavira was naturally a dutiful and considerate son, although strong in his determination at the same time.  The story goes that Mahavira’s parents died when he was in his twenty-eighth year, that ‘perceiving that the time of his renunciation had come’ he repeated his desire to enter the Order to his elder brother who was now the eldest member of the family, and that the brother dissuaded him from acting on that desire forthwith, for ‘the deaths of our parents are still fresh in our memories, your leaving us at this time would render our bereavement the more unbearable and painful.”  Mahavira lived for two years more in the palace and then ‘with the consent of those in power entered the spiritual career’.  The Digambara books, on the other hand, mention that Mahavira’s parents were alive at the time when he renounced the world, that they tried first to dissuade him from his resolve but yielded in the end when they found that Mahavira was definitely bent upon executing it.




Be that as it may, the fact remains that disgusted with the non-finality of the things of the world and persuaded by a desire to search for the ultimate Truth, on the tenth day of Margasirsa Mahavira formally renounced all his secular bonds, left his silver, gold and riches, quitted and rejected his real, valuable property, distributed his wealth in presents, set out for the life of a homeless monk.  The great event has been somewhat poignantly described in the Kalpa-sutra.


       “In that period, in that age, in the first month of winter, in the first fortnight, in the dark (fortnight) of Margasirsa, on its tenth day, when the shadow had turned towards the east and the (first) Paurusi was full and over, on the day called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vijaya, in the palanquin Candraprabha, Mahavira was followed on his way by a train of gods, men, and asuras, and surrounded by a swarm of shell-blowers, proclaimers, pattivalas, courtiers, men carrying others on the back, heralds, bell beaters.  They praised and hymned him with kind, pleasing, sweet and soft words.............


“Then the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira-gazed on by a circle of thousands of eyes, praised by a circle of thousands of mouths, extolled by a circle of thousands of mouths, extolled by a circle of thousands of hearts, being the object of many thousands of wishes, desired because of his splendor, beauty, and virtues, pointed out by a circle of thousands of forefingers, answering with (a greeting) of his hands a circle of thousands of jointed hands of thousands of men and women, passing along a row of thousands, of palaces, greeted by sweet and delightful music, as beating of time, performance on the Vina, Turya and the great drum, in which joined shouts of victory, and the low and pleasing murmur of the people; accompanied by all his pomp, all his splendor, all his army, all his train, by all his retinue, by all his magnificence, by all his grandeur, by all his ornaments, by all the tumult, by all the throng, by all subjects, by all time-beaters, by the whole seraglio, adorned with flowers, scented robes, garlands, and ornaments, and under the continuous din and sound of trumpets, with great state and splendor, with a great train of soldiers, vehicles, and guests, under the sound, din, and noise of conches, cymbals, drums, castanets, horns, small drums, kettle drums, Muajas, Mrdangas, and Dundubhis, which were accompanied at the same time by trumpets-went right through Kundapura to a park called the Sandavana of the Jnatrkas and proceeded to the excellent tree Asoka.  There under the excellent tree Asoka he caused his palanquin to stop, descended from his palanquin, took of his ornaments, garlands and finery with his own hands, and with his own hands plucked out his hair in five handfuls.  When the moon was on conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni, he after fasting two and a half days without drinking water, put on a divine robe, and quite alone, nobody else being present, he tore out his hair and leaving the house entered the state of houselessness.”


The Ascetic Life:


Mahavira’s ascetic life before his attainment of the highest spiritual knowledge lasted for more than twelve years.  Since his parents were lay disciples of the Order of Parsva, it would be justified to infer that he began his novitiate as an ascetical member of the same Order.  At the same time it appears that he did not abide rigorously by all the specified rules of the Order: there is a tradition current in Jaina literature that a Tirthankara does not adopt a guru and, presumably, the prevailing practice of an earlier Tirthankaras Order.  There seems to be no doubt that the monks of Parsva’s Order wore clothes.  In the Uttaradhyayayana sutra there is an account of a meeting between Kesi, a young Sramana of the school of Parsva, and Gautama, the chief disciple of Mahavira, in which ‘knowledge and virtuous conduct were for ever brought to eminence and subjects of the greatest importance were settled.’ The matter that had been occasioning controversy was hat Parsva’s law recognized only four vows and permitted the wearing by the monks of an under and an upper garment, while Mahavira’s law enjoined five vows and forbade the wearing of clothes altogether; and Gautama explained away the difficulty by stating that ‘the various outward marks of religious men introduced to distinguish them do not count towards final liberation but only knowledge, faith and right conduct. In conformity with the rules of Parsva’s Order, Mahavira also wore clothes for a year and a month, but then adopted nudity and stuck to it throughout the rest of his life.  The Digambara tradition credits him with having adopted nudity from the start.


His habits of life during this period may be briefly mentioned. He went about naked and without any outfit of any kind.  He did not even possess a bowl for collecting food, which he collected in the hollow of his hands.  He completely neglected his body and abandoned care of it.  Many insects crawled on his person, bit him and caused him pain, but he bore it with patience.  People were shocked at the sight of him; they shouted at him and at time even struck him.  He bore everything patiently and with equanimity.  For days and months he would observe silence and remain absorbed in his own thoughts.  The Digambara tradition mentions that he observed the vow of silence for twelve years, but that is possibly an exaggeration.  He avoided men as well as women, often gave no answers to questions put to him and omitted to return greetings.  Diversions of all kinds he positively avoided.  The ascetic life of Mahavira strongly contrasted with the probationary period in Buddha’s life.  The Buddha created an agreeable impression wherever he went; he was welcomed by teachers like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta and their pupils, and even when he followed a graduated course of austerities and consequently reduced himself to a mere skeleton, skin and bone, he did not arouse the hostility of the onlooker.  Mahavira’s troubles were partly due to his unkempt appearance and partly to his somber silence and look of grim determination.  Not without justification do the Jaina accounts say that unusually large for a Tirthankara was Mahavira’s share of the defilement of Karma which he had to suppress before obtaining enlightenment.




Mahavira performed a very prolonged course of severe penance for twelve years for the destruction of the karma.  This course of penance’s comprehended ‘uninterrupted meditation, unbroken chastity, and the most scrupulous observance of the rules concerning eating and drinking.’  The account of his sadhana given in the Acaranga is literally soul -stirring.


He mediated day and night, undisturbed and non-perturbed.  Avoiding women and giving up the company of householders, he realized singleness.  He lodged in workshops, assembling places, manufactories, shed of straw, towns, garden-houses, in cemeteries and burial grounds, or at the foot of a tree, wherever shelter was available.  He did not care for sleep for the sake of pleasure and slept only for short hours.  In winter when cold winds blew, he did not seek sheltered places or kindle wood or seek to cover himself with clothes.  In the cold season he mediated in the shade, in summer he exposed himself to the heat.  He would mediate with his eyes fixed on a square space before him of the length of a man or in some of the posture without the smallest motion.  While mediating he would concentrate on the things above, below, or beside.  He meditated free from sin and desire, not attached to sounds or colors, and never acted carelessly.  Being averse from the impressions of the senses, he spoke very little and was always calm.


‘Thoroughly knowing the earth-bodies and water-bodies and fire-bodies and wind-bodies, the lichens, seeds and sprouts’ and comprehending ‘that they are, if narrowly inspected, imbued with life’, he avoided all kinds of sin and abstained from all sinful activities.  He did not use another’s robe, nor did he eat out of another’s vessel.  He did not rub his eyes or scratch his body.  Knowing measure in eating and drinking he was not desirous of delicious food, nor had he a longing for it.’  For more than a couple of years he led a religious life without using cold water.  He completely abstained from indulgence of the flesh; whether wounded or not, he took no medical treatment.  He lived on rough food-rice, pounded jujube and beans.  Sometimes he ate stale food.  He accepted moist or dry or cold food, old beans, old pap, or bad grain, whatever was available. But where there were hungry crows or thirsty beings or other beggars standing in his way, he would go past that place without begging alms.  He kept fasts; sometimes he ate only the sixth meal, or the eighth, or the tenth, or the twelfth; sometimes he did not drink for half a month or even for a month or for more than two months or even six months.


In accordance with the rules of the order he wandered about unceasingly, except for the four months of the rainy season.  During the rest of the year, he lived in villages only a single night and in towns only five nights.  He was indifferent alike to the smell of ordure and the sweet scent of sandal, to straw and jewel, dirt and gold, pleasure and pain, his world and the world beyond, to life and death.  His mind was completely free from attachment.  Circumspect in his thought, words and acts, he moved without wrath, pride, deceit and greed.  Like water in a vessel, he was unattached in the midst of sin.  During the course of his travels, he visited the pathless country of the Ladhas, in Vajjabhumi and in Subbhabhumi; and here his troubles were endless.  The rude natives of the place attacked him and set dogs to bite him, but he did not use as much as a stick to keep off the dogs.  He endured the abusive language of the rustics and bore pain, free from desire.  “When he approached the village the inhabitants met him on the outside and attacked him, saying ‘Get away from here’.  He was struck with a stick, the fist, a lance, hit with a fruit, a clod a potsherd.  Beating him again and again many cried.  When he once sat without moving his body they cut his flesh, tore his hair under pains, or covered him with dust.  Throwing him up they let him fall, or disturbed him in his religious postures”.  But like a hero at the head of a battle, bearing all hardships he proceeded on his path wholly undisturbed.


His Wanderings:


The Jaina books give a precise description of Mahavira’s wanderings during this period of over twelve years, the various places he visited and the several contacts he formed.  The Kalpasutra and the Bhagavati supplement, and do not as certain scholars are inclined to think, contradict, each other; together help to frame a complete picture of his travels from place to place.


Kummaragrama may be supposed to be the starting point of Mahavira’s travels.  The Acaranga mentions that renunciation implied the quitting of  “the northern Ksatriya part of the place Kundapura’ and arrival in the village Kummara,- which was presumably a suburb of Kundagrama.  From Kummara he moved on to the settlement of Kollaga (situated close to Nalanda), where he was hospitably received by the Brahman Bahula.  After roaming about in that area for some six months, Mahavira ultimately came to Asthigrama to spend his first rainy season there.  The commentary on the Kalpasutra refers to Vardhamana as the former name of Asthigrama; Dr. B.C. Law is inclined to identify it with modern Burdwan.  On the way to Asthigrama Mahavira had the first taste of those bitter experiences, which were going to be such a common feature of his Sadhaka life, (1) of hostility towards him of the parivrajaka sects living in north India at time, and (ii) of his persecution at the hands of various tempter gods in a similar way to the temptation of the Buddha by the traditional Mara.  On both these a few words may be parenthetically added.


In the 6th century B.C. north India generally and the north-eastern provinces in particular were buzzing with ascetic life. A whole legion of ascetic orders was flourishing in these regions.  Scholars are of the opinion that asceticism has its roots in the Vedas; the center of Vedic religion is the Rsi (seer) who is capable of a direct realization of Truth by practice of Tapasaya or asceticism.  There is no doubt that asceticism received great encouragement in the age of the Aranyakas and the Upanisads when, dissatisfied with growing rituals and superstition under the aegis of the priestly class, serious-minded people openly questioned the prevailing intellectualism of religion and retired to  the forests in their search for the highest knowledge and for a new world of experience.  The Sruti practice of asceticism was accordingly regularized into a system in the Smrtis, which made it obligatory upon every Hindu to devote the latter part of his life to the two ashrams of Vanaprastha and Samnyasa.  It may be mentioned that the Brahmanical system did not confine asceticism only to elderly people or advanced householders; even youths could be permitted to take up the ascetic career, if they wanted to shun the world in their quest for the Ideal, such youths being known as the naishthik brahamchari.   Thus in the normal brahmanic system quite about half of society would be wandering about as mendicants and ascetic in pursuit of Truth under the guidance of chosen teachers.  This floating mass of houseless population was organized into different orders or sects in accordance with the different systems of doctrines and discipline they followed.  The Buddhist text Udana bears testimony to the fact that the characteristic feature of the religious life of India during this period was a multiplicity of ascetic groups, secretaries of Sramanas and Brahmanas, all parivrajakas, followers of different dittis (viewpoints),  darshan system, gyanti (beliefs), ruchi (aims), and ashray (organizations)”, the Jaina texts also mention numerous sects and schools, with their own beliefs and practices, existing in the country at the time.  In his introduction to the Acaranga, Jacobi has elaborately compared the rules and religious practices of Brahmanic and Sramanic ascetics, and stated his conclusion that certain rules were commonly observed by most of the ascetic orders, for instance, (1) the injunction that the Bhiksu must station himself in a fixed retreat during the rains, (2) the injunction that the Bhiksu must not store up articles of consumption, nor kill life, and (3) various rules regarding beggings etc.  Tapas (or austerities), in some form or other, it appears, was common to particularly all orders.  But Mahavira was now giving a new meaning to the term, which conflicted with all its prevailing notions and which raised the practice of tapsaya to a spiritual height, unattained and not even intended to be attained, by any of the existing parivrajaka orders.


Mahavira’s idea of tapas was that of self-restraint with regard to the body, speech and mind; in his view, austerities had to be inward as well as outward, and fasting, absolute chastity and unmitigated meditation were its several forms.  The practice of austerities or penance’s was to be restored to as a means of wearing out and ultimately destroying the effect of sinful deeds committed in former existence’s, and the practice of the threefold self-restraint, of the body, speech and mind, as a means of stopping the production of new karmas.  As justified forms of penance’s, Mahavira was prepared to recognize only anshan (fasting), unrodaree (limiting the food that one eats), bhikshacharya (eating only begged food), rasparityag (abstaining from special items of food which one most enjoys, kaeyklaish (bodily austerity), Pratisanleenta (avoidance of temptation by control of senses and mind), Prayishchit (confession and penance), vinay (reverence), veyivritay (service rendered to the aged and the helpless), swadhyai (the study of the scriptures), dhyan (meditation), Kayotsarga (feeling and showing absolute indifference to the body and its needs).  He gave no honored place to practices like the tending of a fire the exorcising of evil spirits; the performance of agnihotras; the taking of regular bath; the living under water, or in caves, or on trees; the eating of roots, leaves, moss, flowers or bark of trees, or of grass; the besmearing of body with ashes, etc., just the practices in which the other parivrajaka orders had gloried.  It appears that Parsva’s monks had been fairly lax in their morals and discipline, but they were far more regulated in their conduct than the other parivrajakas, for there is an occasional mention in the Jaina texts of the weaker spirits in Parsva’s order finding it hard to observe the rules and consequently joining the other parivrajaka sects with less rigorous rules of discipline.  But it is certain that the austerities prescribed by Mahavira for himself, and later on for the members of his Order, presented an infinitely harder code of penance’s and were combined with a far more rigorous discipline of ethical and spiritual conduct than was prevalent in any parivrajaka sect at that time; and there is no doubt that Mahavira earned the hostility of the other sects for doing so.


As regards the persecution of Mahavira by the tempter-gods, it is a reminder of the story of Mara in Buddha’s life.  Mara is looked upon in Buddhist literature as the supreme lord of all evil, the chief seducer to evil thought, word and deed.  He is supposed to have followed the Buddha step by step and watched for a moment of weakness to over-power his soul and deflect him from the pursuit of knowledge.  As a god of evil he is not associated with that gloomy tragedy with which we are accustomed to fancy the diabolical, deadly foe of good surrounded; and as seducer his methods of work are fairly commonplace, ‘appearing at one time as a Brahmin, at another as a husband man, at another as an elephant king, and in many other different forms’ in order to shake Buddha’s life.  Instead of the traditional Mara, however, Jaina books speak of different gods appearing at different times and the methods of their attack are not always non-violent as in the case of Mara, but comprehend elaborate bodily pain and torture.  The first encounter with the temper-god in Mahavira’s life took place on the ever of his firs chaturmus.  While on the way to Asthigrama, he came across a small temple dedicated to the God Sulapani, which used to be left completely untenanted at night but where Mahavira decided to stay and meditate.  He suffered frightful tortures at the hands of the god in the course of his meditation at night.  But the real battle with temptations took place in the eleventh year of his sadhaka life, when Sangamaka, another temper-god, set about his task with a view to confuse Mahavira and, if possible, to shake him from his search for Truth, followed him step by step for a period of six months giving him all sorts of torture and creating all conceivable difficulties in his way in order to overpower his soul in a moment of weakness.  Adopting the garb of a disciple of Mahavira, he started committing theft in a house, got caught, put the blame upon his guru and had him severely beaten.  He had Mahavira arrested on suspicion of being a spy.  Several times he made Mahavira’s excursions for alms fruitless by various devices he had him ridiculed by people with derisive gestures; and gave him troubles in a hundred other ways.  But Mahavira remained steadfast, bore all his trials with fortitude, and therefore the god was ultimately obliged to depart.


Gosala Mankhaliputra:


Mahavira’s second chaturmus was spent in Nalanda, a suburb of Rajagrha.  While here he was met by Gosala Mankhaliputra (or Maskariputra), the Ajivakas teacher.  Gosala was then wandering about in the country showing pictures to the people, and was attracted by Mahavira owing to his extra-ordinary self-restraint and impressive habits of medication and by the fact that a rich householder of Rajagrha, by name Vijaya had shown respect and hospitality towards Mahavira.  Possibly another factor, Mahavira’s capacity to prophesy things correctly, also helped to increase Gosala’s keenness, as it certainly helped towards the diffusion of Mahavira’s influence and following in the later part of his career.  The Jaina books mention that Gosala approached Mahavira with a request that he may be adopted as his disciple, but that Mahavira declined his request, presumably because he at once sensed the great difference between their temperaments.  Gosala’s request was repeated on two later occasions and on each successive occasion with greater earnestness, and was ultimately granted by Mahavira.  It appears that from this time onwards, Mahavira and Gosala lived and traveled together for period of six years.  The third and the fourth chaturmas were spent at Campa, at different quarters of the same town.  After the fourth chaturmas for a short period, they seem to have trekked into the Ladha country, which they visited again in the ninth year.  The fifth and the sixth chaturmas were spent at Bhaddila, the capital town of the Mallas; the seventh at a place in the kingdom of Magadha; and the eighth at Rajagrha.  In the ninth year Mahavira traveled again into the Ladha-desa and stayed there for over six months; in the absence of any settled retreat to spend the rainy season he had to wander about during the period.  Presumably Gosala was with him this time also, although the fact that no incidents are mentioned of his use of his undeniably harsh tongue during the sojourn in Ladha- desa is somewhat remarkable.  On return from Ladha country, while they were traveling from Kumaragrama to Siddharthagrama, they met the ascetic Vesayana, who was seated with upraised arms and upturned face in the glare of the Sun while his body was swarming with lice.  Gosala jesting and indiscreetly asked whether this man was a sage or a bed of lice.  Provoked at this, Vesayana attempted to strike Gosala with his super-normal powers, but was shielded by Mahavira.  Gosala, however, was so impressed with the fact of the possession of supernormal powers that he felt inclined to give up Mahavira’s company and to devote all his energies to the practice of the severest penance’s with a view to acquire these powers, and after that he proclaimed himself a Jina and founded the order of the Ajivakas.


            On the Gosala episode, the opinions of the scholars are very different and highly conflicting.  Gosala figures in the early tradition of Buddhism as an independent leader of thought, the head of an order, of a following, the teacher of a school, well known and of repute as a sophist......a man of experience who has long been a recluse”; there is no suggestion made of his personal relation with Mahavira.  From the point of view of thought and belief, the Jaina and the Ajivakas sects are undoubted allied, having many points in common between them.  In the immediate background of both were the teachings of Parsva, Parsva being honored by both as the last but one Tirthankara, while Mahavira and Gosala were sharply divided in their claim to the position of the last Tirthankara.  The eight Mahanimittas of the Ajivakas canon were in fact extracts made from the Ten Purvas, which are recognized as the literary authority of the sect of Parsva.  The commonness of their tradition and the fact that Gosala proclaimed himself a Jain and was recognized as a teacher for at least two years before Mahavira, were considered by Jacobi and Barua as adequate reasons for advancing the somewhat fanciful opinion that contrary to the Jaina account Mahavira was a disciple of Gosala for sometime.  Such an opinion is clearly unfounded for if Gosala had ever been Mahavira’s teacher, it is presumable that the Buddhist texts would have at least recorded something to that effect, and anyhow Gosala would have put forward that claim when he visited Mahavira to upbraid him for calling him his own disciple.  Thus, even if the Bhagavati version of the relationship between Mahavira and Gosala is not accepted a reversal of that relationship cannot surely be accepted at all.  That the Bhagavati account may be somewhat exaggerated is warranted by the fact that neither in the Acaranga nor in the Kalpasutra is there any mention of Gosala.  It may also be mentioned that the Digambara accounts of Mahavira’s life also do not refer to his contact with Gosala.  What appears on the basis of available materials to be well- founded is that Mahavira and Gosala did not have a teacher and disciple relationship at all.  It is highly doubtful that Mahavira had started taking disciples before his attainment of Enlightenment.  Mahavira and Gosala were just two associates in a common concern, two sadhakas who lived together for six years in asceticism.  Later on there sprang up acute differences of opinion between the two.  They separated from each other and became irreconcilable opponents, fighting out their differences generally through their followers.





1.      It seems necessary to point out in this connection that the same interpretation has been accepted in a passage in the Samavayanga, a sutra in the Svetambara canon.  As this is a solitary instance of such construction in the whole Svetambara literature, it points to the influence of the prevailing Digambara tradition and should help us to determine the date of the present text of this particular Sutra. The passage reads-

Aigunrveesam titthyera agarvasmajay vasita mundai bhavita nran agarao anrgarian pviya -  Samvayang-16


     On the other hand, a Digambara text ‘Harivanspuran’ admits that Mahavira was engaged to Yashodhara, but says he was obstinate in his refusal and that  therefore the proposal had to be dropped.






After Gosala’s withdrawal, Mahavira continued his wanderings and practice of asceticism alone.  Gosala proclaimed himself a Jina and started collecting followers after acquiring supernormal powers, but Mahavira persisted in his search.  From Siddharthagrama he went to Vaisali and thence to Vanijyagrama, where he was visited by Ananda, a wealthy merchant of the place and then traveled to Sravasti (which has been identified with Sahet-Mahet on the south bank of the river Tapti) for his tenth chaturmas.


On the expiry of the tenth chaturmas began the sad episode of Sangamaka, the tempter-god, who made his appearance and began his attack, which in its various forms lasted for about six months.  The eleventh chaturmas was spent at Vaisali and the twelfth at Campa.  The interval between the eleventh and twelfth was marked by the famous abhigrah at Kausambi, which took five months and twenty-five days to be fulfilled and meant a forced fast for Mahavira of this duration.  During the thirteenth year, in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaiskha, on its tenth day, called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vijaya, while the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttarapalguni, when the shadow had turned towards the east and the first wake was over, outside the town Jrmbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rjupalika, in the field of the householder Samaga, under a Sala tree, in a squatting position with joint heels exposing himself to the heat of the Sun, with the knees high and the head low, in deep meditation, in the midst of abstract meditation, he reached the complete and full, the unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite and supreme, best knowledge and intuition, called Kevala.”




On the attainment of Kevala jnana, says the Kalpautra, the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira became omniscient.  “He knew and saw all conditions of the worlds, of gods, men and demons; whence they came, whither they are born as men or animals or became gods or hellish, beings, the ideas, the thoughts of their mind, the food, doings, desires, the open and secret deeds of all the livings in the whole world; the Arhat, for whom there is no secret, knew and saw all conditions of all living beings in the world, what they thought, spoke, or did at any time.”  It is notable that frequently in the course of audience and in his preaching after this great event he would refer to the earlier existence of a person or what one was going to be in the next birth; this extended vision of the past, resent and future became obviously an essential attribute of Mahavira’s personality.  Even the Buddhist texts always refer to him as possessing such vision.


It would be helpful in this connection to understand the Jaina theory of knowledge.  According to Jainism, consciousness is the very essence of the soul, not a mere characteristic of it.  The soul (jeev) can know unaided everything direct and exactly as it is.  Of consciousness, there are two manifestations, perception (darshan) and knowledge (gyan).  The former is simple apprehension, the latter conceptual knowledge.  In the former details are not perceived, in the latter they are; darshan is a perception of generalities (samanya) of things without particularities (vishaish).  There can be no jeeva without consciousness or cognition, as there can be no consciousness without a jeeva.  Incidentally, this is a point which illustrates the distinction of Jainism from Buddhism, where not the mind but only states of consciousness are admitted as real.  The fact that the knowledge which a jeeva actually has is fragmentary in its character is due to the obstruction caused by Karma, which interferes with its power of cognition.  The Karmas which obscure the different kind of jnana are called the knowledge- obscuring (jnanavaranr) those which obscure the different varieties of darsan are called the perception-obscuring (darshanavaranr) karmas.  The different kinds of jnana recognized by Jainism are:  (1) matigyan which is ordinary cognition obtained by normal means of sense perception.  It includes remembrance (smriti), recognition (Prtyabhigya), induction based upon observation (tark), and deductive reasoning (anuman) and it is acquired by means of the senses and mind; (2) shrut or testimony, i.e., knowledge derived though signs, symbols, or word; (3) Avadhi which is direct knowledge of things even at a distance of time and space.  It is knowledge by clairvoyance, limited by and coextensive with the material object of the knowledge; (4)Manprya direct knowledge of the thoughts of others, a telepathic knowledge of others’ minds; and (5) Kaival perfect knowledge comprehending all substances and their modifications.  The last three categories of knowledge are direct in the sense that they are derived without the medium of senses and mind.


Darshan or Perception is of four kinds; perception through visual sensations (chakshudarshan), perception through non-visual sensations, perception through the faculty of Avadhi or clairvoyance (Avadhidarshan), and lastly Kevaldarshan perception through Kevala or infinite perception, which is unlimited and apprehends all general reality.


All accounts of Mahavira’s life are agreed that he possessed a highly active and clever mind from the very beginning.  He is mentioned to have possessed from his very childhood the Mati, Sruta and Avadhhi jnana; the Svetambara books say that he was in possession of Abhogika-Jnana, which is inferior to the Avadhi knowledge but is essentially of the same class.  Direct knowledge of the thoughts, he obtained while renouncing the world and adopting the career of an ascetic.  The Kalpasutra refers to his having perceived with ‘his supreme unlimited knowledge and intuition’ that the time of his renunciation had come.  Now he came to acquire Kevala-jnana, Kevala-darsana, and approximation to the perfect condition of the soul.  Perfect knowledge is completely free from doubt (sanshey), perversity (viprya), and indefiniteness (andhyavaseya).  It is absolute apprehension without media, ‘soul-knowledge,’ knowledge par excellence which is higher than all the other varieties of normal and supernormal knowledge.  Such knowledge, of course, comprehends knowledge of the soul itself, for contrary to the Nyaya-Vaisesika theory which believes that knowledge reveals only external relations but not itself, the Jaina Siddhanta asserts that in knowing any object the soul knows itself simultaneously.  After the attainment of Kevala-jnana a jeeva may lead an active life, but the activity would not taint him, would exert no fresh Karmic influence of the obstructive type upon the soul.  During the period between Enlightenment and actual death the person is termed as ‘Arhat’; at actual liberation he becomes a ‘Siddha’.  The Stage of Arhat-ship corresponds roughly to the Hindu ideal of jivan-mukti.


The concept of such absolute and perfect knowledge may not be unique to the Jainas but their ways of attainment of knowledge are certainly unique.  The Upanisadic seers drew a distinction between lower knowledge and higher knowledge, the higher knowledge being conceived as the knowledge by which alone the imperishable being is reached.  The Greek philosophers also drew a similar distinction between Doxa and Episteme, between opinion and truth (or knowledge).  Plato, in his Republic, brought out the distinction by means of a parable.  “Imagine human beings living in a sort of underground den, which has a mouth wide open towards the hight, and behind them a breastwork such as marionette players might use for a screen; and there is a way beyond the breastwork along which passengers are moving, holding in their hands various works of art, and among them images of men and animals, wood and stone, and some of the passers of talking and others silent.  They see nothing but the shadows which the fire throws on the wall of the caves, to these they give names; and if we add an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of passengers will seem to proceed from the shadows.  They are ourselves, and to us, brought up in the limited-atmosphere of such a den from our childhood, “truth is just nothing but the shadows of the images.”  But the released from the prison of the den and compelled suddenly to go up, we can gradually have a clear view of the Truth, perceiving at first only shadows and reflections in the water, then recognizing the moon and the stars, and beholding finally the sun ‘in his own proper place.’  Thus, their knowledge will come to have clearness of certainty and rescue itself from the cloudiness of opinion.”


Incidentally, this parable of Plato also presents a theory of knowledge, which is wholly akin to the Jain theory.  Knowledge is not something which has to be put into the soul and which was not there before.  “The power is already in the soul; and as the eye cannot turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too when the eye of the soul is turned round, the whole soul must be turned from the world of generation into that of being.”




The attainment of Kevala-Jnana was achieved by Mahavira after a prolonged practice of profound meditations and austerities for over twelve years, and this entitled him to be called the Jina (conqueror).  It may be mentioned that Buddha also led a life of austerities of six years, but that he thought these years wasted and his penance’s useless for attaining his end; while Mahavira was not only convinced of the necessity of his penance’s and thought them essential for obtaining perfection, but persevered in some of them even after becoming a Tirthankara.  In Mahavira’s view, “the full blaze of omniscience” in the jiva is impossible of accomplishment without the practice of a regulated course of self-discipline and the conquest of karmas.  The Karma in Jaina Siddhanta is recognized as a substantive force, matter in a subtle form, which builds up a special body, called Karmana-sarira and which retards the inherent radiance of the soul. “As heat can unite with iron and water with milk, so karma unites with the soul”.  The kind of matter fit to manifest karma fills all cosmic space, and it has the peculiar property of developing the effects of merit and demerit.  Except in final release the soul is always in connection with matter, and the Karma forms the link between the two.


The Jaina Siddhanta recognizes eight kinds of karma.  (1) Gyanavaranr which obscures right knowledge of detail and prevents our receiving mental illumination.  It may not only impede us in gaining true knowledge, but may actually give rise to false and hurtful knowledge and misuse of intellectual powers.  (2) Darshanavaranr which obscures right perception and prevents our having general comprehension of things.  (3) vaidniye which obscures the bliss-nature of the soul and causes us to experience either the sweetness of worldly pleasures sukhvaidniye or the bitterness of misery (Dukhvaidniye).  In the Jaina view, it is not only evil action but also good action that has to be worked off before one can obtain liberation.  (4) mohneeya which obscures the right attitude of the soul towards faith and right conduct and prevents us from speaking and thinking clearly, which in short “bemuses all our faculties.”  (5) Ayoo which determines the length of time a jiva must spend in the form with which is Karma has endowed him. (6) nam which determines the peculiar body of the soul with its general and special qualities and faculties.  (7) Gotra which determines the nationality, caste, family, social standing etc., (8) antray which causes such energy in the soul as obstructs the performance of good action when there is a desire to do so.  It causes hindrances in life and has the effect of “muddling away every opportunity that life offers.”  These Karmas are classified into the Ghatii, which are particularly obstructive to the accomplishment of the natural perfections of the pure soul and which can only be destroyed by great labor and effort, and the Aghati, which are not very injurious and can be more easily destroyed.  The Ghati-karmas are gyanvaran, darshanavaranr, mohniye and antrayeand once they are burnt up in the burning glow of austerities, the Aghati can be snapped as easily as a piece of burnt string.


This is clearly admitted in the analysis of the fourteen steps (ghunrsthan) by which a jiva is supposed to ascend to the state of liberation.  The analysis of these stages through a developing soul passes is but one instance of “the amazing knowledge of human nature which Jaina ethics display.”  Deliverance is impossible so long as the soul is bound by and does not fully annihilate the Ghati-karma, but once freed from the Ghati-karma the soul may retain its connection for sometime with the Aghati-kamras without being effectively bound by them.  In the ladder of the fourteen steps, the first step (miyhyatv) is when the soul is completely under the influence of Karma and does not know its true good at all.  From the first step, either through the influence of the past good karma or in response to some external stimulus, the soul obtains a glimpse of the true faith and thus immediately rises to the fourth stage (avirat) when although unable to take those vows which help in the fight against Karma, it can, if it likes, control the grossest form of anger, conceit, intrigue and greed, the four anantanubandhee  kasayas.  In the absence of active effort to control these passions, there may be a falling back of the soul to the second stage (sasvdan) which is characterized by a very faint sense of discrimination between what is false and what is true, and from here to either further descent to the first stage or gradual ascent to the third mishr which typifies a state of uncertainty, one moment knowing the truth and the next doubting it.  The second and the third steps are thus merely transitional and transitory; it is the fourth step, which is really stable after the first stage.


The distinguishing mark of the fourth stages is that the soul has belief in the path of liberation but is unable to observe the rules of conduct for attaining liberation; the thought-activity characterizing this stage is that the soul has destroyed excessive anger, pride and greed but not entirely escaped from their influence.  In this stage, the Jiva however develops the power of curbing anger (Prasam), the realization that the world is evil (sanvaig), the capacity for non-attachment (nirvaid), compassion (anucampa) and true faith (astikya).  In the fifth stage (Daishvarti) the desire to realize the objective by the proper regulation of conduct first manifests itself, and the individual takes partial vows, e.g., the vow not to drink intoxicant or eat flesh (madyamanstyag) or to keep all twelve vows of a householder (Shremanropasek) or to maintain absolute chastity etc.  The sixth stage (Premet) can be ascended by a professed ascetic, who renounces all worldly objects, and who controls even the slight passions.  But as yet the jiva remains slack in concentration.  By further effort the soul mounts to the seventh stage (Apremat) when renouncing all carelessness, it becomes fully absorbed in spiritual contemplation.  From the seventh stage onwards the path of ascent follows two different routes, (1) the route in which the several right-conduct-deluding karmas become quiescent and controlled, and (2) the route in which they get actually destroyed.  Thus the eighth stage (Apoorvkerenr) marked by an absolute control or conquest of pride and consequently by an unusual intensification of the power of meditation and concentration.  That is the beginning of the first Sukla-dhyana pure concentration and gives a joy to the jiva the like of which he has never experienced before.  The ninth stage is marked by an absolute control or conquest of deceit and consequently, by a special thought activity of still greater purity.  The tenth stage (Sookshemsampraye) is marked by an absolute control or conquest of greed the last of the great passions.  From the tenth stage the soul that has followed the route of actual destruction of the karmas directly mounts to the twelfth stage which is characterized by complete freedom from all the Ghati-karmas and which inevitably leads to the attainment of Kevala-jnana; but the ascetic who has followed the route of merely controlling the karmas instead of destroying them has to pass through the eleventh stage (Upshantmoh) which is a really critical experience.  The subsided karma may at any time “like a flood burst its dam, and force of its current may carry the soul far down the slope he has been climbing, depositing him on either the sixth or the seventh step, or even on the lowest.”


There is no falling back from the twelfth stage, because the Ghati-karmas have already been destroyed; and although the Aghati-karmas still persist, they have little power to bind the soul and “can be snapped as easily as piece of burnt string.”  So limited the fact is the power of the Aghati-karma that at death a soul passes at once through the two remaining stages and enters Moksa without delay.  The thirteenth stage (Senyogikaiveli)  is that of a vibrating perfect soul, that is to say, when the soul has after the destruction of the obstructive karmas, obtained the Kevala but continues to retain its human body; and the fourteenth and last stage (Ayogi kevali) is that of the vibration-less perfect soul, that is to say, when the perfect soul is leaving its human body in order to proceed to Moksa there to reside for ever in perpetual peace and bliss above the land called Siddhasila.




Mahavira was now in the Thirteenth stage of his spiritual career.  He had purged away all his Ghati-karmas and had consequently attained Kevala-jnana and Kevala-darsana.  Now he devoted himself to the noble task of the active propagation of the truth and for this purpose of organizing the community or Tirtha, he assumed the role of the Tirthankara.


The difference between a Tirthankara and any other Kevalin consists in just this, that the Tirthankara is master of a special Nama-Karma, which gives him a position of peculiar respect and eminence and makes him responsible for the organization and establishment of a Sangha.  Most Kevalins in the Sayogikevali stage go about preaching truth; but it is-only a Tirthankara who forms the Tirthas (or fords) by means of which a jiva can cross this samsara over to the other side (i.e., Moksa).  It was in the organization of the Jaina sangha that the Tirthankara Mahavira showed his real abilities.  He welded together into the Sangha the ascetic as well as the layman, and men as well as women, prescribed for all their respective duties, and provided for a rigid discipline and rigorous form off control.  In the Buddhist Sangha laymen were not originally connected with the clergy: Buddha’s church was a church of monks and nuns only and no attempt was ever made to organize a quasi-church of lay-brothers and lay-sisters, or to establish an organic relationship between the clergy and the laity.  But Mahavira welded together the two sections of the Order, the clergy and the laity, and accorded to the latter a definite and honorable place in the ecclesiastical scheme and made it incumbent upon them, both as a duty and as an act of merit, to support the clergy by giving alms liberally.  As there was a de jure relationship involved in the concept of the clergy, so was a de jure relationship involved in the concept of the laity; as there was definite procedure for the initiation of the monks and nuns, so a special procedure was prescribed for the initiation of lay disciples of the Sramanopasaka variety.  Above all, the laity was enjoying to be exclusive in their loyalty and patronage.  Intercourse with adherents of a rival creed was disapproved, as is clear from the following declaration made by Ananda, a newly converted disciple of Mahavira:  “Truly, Reverend sir, it does not befit me from this day forward to praise and worship any man of a heretic community or any of the Devas or objects of reverence of heretic community or without being first addressed by them to address them or converse with them; or to give them or supply them with food and drink or delicacies or dainties except it be by the command of the King or the community or any powerful man or a deva or by the orders of one’s elders or by the exigencies of living.”


For initiation into the Sangha, a layman was required first to renounce five faults ((atichar), first, doubt, secondly, the desire to belong to another faith, thirdly, misgivings about the reality of the fruits of Karma (Vichikitsa), fourthly, praise of hypocrites (Parprshansa) and fifthly, all association with them (Sansatvan).  That done, he was to take the twelve lay vows.  (1) The vow never intentionally to destroy a jiva that has more than one sense.  This vow would not prevent a king leading any army in defense of his kingdom; but it forbids the killing of weak creatures and of acting as agent provocateur.  It forbids animal sacrifice.  (2) The vow never to indulge in falsehood or exaggeration (sthooolmrishavadviremenrh).  This vow enjoins commercial honesty and forbids rash speech, of secrets relating to one’s wife, giving false evidence, forgery etc.  (3) The vow never to steal (Sthooladetadanviremanr), the vow including stealth from a house, highway-robbery, misappropriation of funds, etc., (4) the vow of chastity (Savdaranstosh) by which a man promises to be absolutely faithful to his own wife at all times and never to allow any evil thoughts in his own mind about other women.  The vows may be infringed by such activity as evil talk, excessive sexual indulgence, match- making and match-brokerage, unfaithfulness before marriage, and consummating marriage with a girl before she has attained her puberty.  (5) The vow of limitation of possessions (parigreh parimanr), by which a man promises that he will never allow himself to retain more than a certain fixed quantity of houses and fields, gold and silver, cash and corn, servants and cattle, furniture and plenishing.  These five vows are called the five Anuvratas and they resemble in their subject matter the five great vows a monk takes.  If layman keeps all these five vows and also abandons the use of intoxicants, animal food, and honey, he is entitled to be called a Sravaka.


The next three vows are called the Gunavratas, for they help the keeping of the first five vows.  (6) (Digviriti) which sets bounds to one’s travels and thus helps to curtail sin by restricting the area in which one can sin.  (7) (Bhogopbhogenriman) which imposes a limit on the number of things a man may use and is intended thus to help people to keep their vows against lying, covetousness and stealing. (8) (Anarthdandvirti) by which a man vows not to think evil of others, nor to persuade people to do evil, nor to be careless about keeping or using weapons. The keeping of these vows which need not to be taken by ascetics but only laymen, would help the curtailment of sin by limiting the motive for sinning.   


The remaining four vows are called Siksavratas, for they tend to encourage the laity in the performance if their religious duties. By the 9th vow samayik a man promises to perform Samayika, that is to say, to spend at least forty eight minutes every day in meditation, thinking no evil of anyone, but being at peace with all the world, to meditate on what heights one’s soul may reach. By the tenth vow (daishviramanr) he promises for one particular day to still further contract the limits he has undertaken not to transgress, possibly binding himself during that day not to go outside the village or the house, to have only one meal or to drink nothing but water. The eleventh vow (poshdopvas) is of special significance as connecting the laity closely with the ascetics; it compels the layman to spend at least twenty-four hours every month as a monk, observing celibacy, and committing no sort of sin, touching neither food, water, fruit, betelnut, ornaments, scents, nor any sort of weapon. The twelfth vow (Atithisanvibhag) encourages the laity to support the ascetic community by giving food, water, etc.


A definite procedure for initiation was also prescribed. The person who is desirous of being initiated tells a Guru of his wish. The guru reads out he vows and gives him an instruction on each one and its infringements. The layman assents to the instruction and fixes the limits under various vows for himself. Every year he must confess to the ascetic who happens to be available the infractions of the vows and accept the penance given. The vows may be taken for the whole life or for a limited period of time, on the expiry of which they may be taken afresh.


As in the case of a Sravaka, so for an ascetic there is a definitely prescribed procedure for initiation (prvrjya) An ascetic is usually initiated into the order with the permission of his guardians after a certain period of probation, during which he receives preliminary training at the hands if a guru, which may last from several days to one or two years. At the end of the probationary period, the novice is initiated into monkhood, the ceremony of initiation being fairly elaborate and highly solemn. After being led in a great procession, the candidate takes off his jewels and clothes, plucks his hair by the hand, and solemnly takes up the five great vows and the life of a homeless wanderer. The five great vows of the ascetic are. (1) Ahimsa, never to destroy any living thing. In order to keep this vow, the ascetic is expected to be careful in walking, watchful in speech so as to not give rise to quarrels or murders, and cautious in his whole daily conduct. He must be careful as to the alms he receives that they can contain no living insects etc. (2) Asatya      -tyaga, never to indulge in untruthfulness. The five bhavanas, or strengthening clauses to this vow supply a remarkable psychological analysis of the causes which lead to untruthfulness. They condemn speech without deliberation, speech in anger, speech when moved by avarice, or by fear, and speech in fun. One should respect the vow of truthfulness by always avoiding jesting, greed, cowardice, and anger and by thinking before speaking. (3) Asteya vrata, never to steal. A monk must ask permission of owner before occupying any one’s house; he must repeat such a request from time to time. A junior monk must always show to his guru whatever he has received in alms and then eat it after receiving his permission. (4) Brahmacaryavrata, to remain chaste always. A monk is enjoined not to talk about a woman, or look at the form of a woman, or live in the same building as a woman lives in. He must not recall to mind, the former amusement and pleasure woman afforded him when he lived in the world; nor must he eat or drink to excess, or partake of too highly spiced dishes. (5) Aparigraha vrata, never to have attachment for anything or any person. “Renouncing liking for pleasant touch, taste, smell, from or word, and for all the objects of the five senses, renouncing hatred for unpleasant things, these are the ways to maintain the vow of Aparigraha.”


Apart from the maintenance of these five great vows the discipline of the ascetic’s daily life is very rigid. Getting up at about four o’clock, before sunrise, he performs the daily pratikrmanr which is a form of confession of the sins of the past night, then carries out pratilaikhan a daily search for any insect life that may be sheltering in his clothing etc., and after that attends to the list of his morning duties, which include, preaching, begging for alms, auricular confession to the Guru, study of the scriptures and mediation. There are innumerable rules that should be observed when begging, and they differ from sect to sect but all sects agree in only taking what may be reasonably considered to be left over after the needs of the household have been satisfied, and in refusing things specially prepared for the ascetic, In the afternoon pratilaikhan is performed again and so the evening pratikarmanr which now is a confession of sins for the day.


The individual ascetic formed an integral part of the Sangha, which was given by the Master a constitution and a code of laws. During his own lifetime Mahavira attracted a large number of disciples, both men and women. He collected an excellent community of fourteen thousand monks, thirty six thousand nuns, one hundred and fifty nine thousand laymen and three hundred and fifty-eight thousand lay women. At the head of these were eleven Gaadharas or chief disciples. This was an important item in the organization of the Sangha. Mahavira had seen in the case of Gosala what special temptations and dangers beset ascetics in their wandering life. He had made the life of his own ascetics fairly full. Unlike the Buddhist Sramanas, who had a lot of free time and were often guilty of indolence or indulged in dissension’s, disputes and strifes, Mahavira’s Nirgrantha ascetics had plenty of work to do by way of the practice of austerities, penance’s and fasts, besides meditation and the daily routine of duties, to keep them engaged. Anyhow, he insisted on his was the case with the Buddhist sramanas. But he also resolved to combat the degenerating tendencies inherent in all monastic orders by a strong organization and detailed set of regulations, and above all, as we have mentioned above, by organically connecting it with the lay element in society. This gave to the Jaina Sangha “a roof in India which the Buddhists never obtained, and that roof firmly planted amongst the laity enabled Jainism to withstand the storm that drove Buddhism out of India.”


The Sangha as well as the controlling Ganadharas and their succeeding Acarya were not law-makers in any sense of the term. The fundamental truths and the law were recognized to have been formally and finally enunciated by Lord Mahavira. The Sangha had only to apply and expound his regulations, and that was provided to be done by the general assembly of all the monks resident in a particular locality under the ultimate supervision of the Ganadhara or Acarya. The procedure was likely to raise an insuperable problem, such as faced. Buddhism itself when its band of disciples grew into a large spiritual force preaching and begging throughout all India and even beyond it; the problem was to effectively administer the spiritual regency in church-government in which the center of gravity lay within the circumference, within the small corps of brethren dwelling in the same circuit. The Jaina Sangha also rapidly grew, both in numbers and in the area of its activity. From Bihar its influence spread to Kalinga and from there presumably to South India on one side and to the Mathura, Gujrat and the Punjab on the other. Yet the spiritual regency of the Jainas has continued to be administered right up to this day with an honesty, a rigour, and a desire not to lose grip of the fundamental truths enunciated by the Master, which is wholly antique in the annals of any religion with such long history. The anxiety to stick to the original doctrine as closely has enabled Jainism to weather the storms that in India wrecked so many of the other faiths. “The inflexible conservatism of the Jaina community has probably been the chief cause of its survival during period of severe affliction; for there can be little doubt that the most important doctrines of the Jaina religion have remained practically unaltered since the first great separation in the time of Bhadrabahu, about 300 B.C. And although a number of less vital rules concerning the life and practices of the monks and laymen, which we find recorded in the holy scriptures, may have fallen into oblivion or disuse, there is no reason to doubt that the religious life or the Jaina community is now substantially the same as it was two thousand years ago. It must be confessed from this that an absolute refusal to admit changes has been the strongest safeguard of the Jainas.”






Mahavira's Teachings:


The teachings of Mahavira have come down to us as a living tradition which grew up and took a complete literary form through ten centuries from his demise. The original doctrine was contained in the Purvas of which there were fourteen, which Mahavira himself taught to his disciples. The fourteen Purvas were  presumably preceded by the existence of ten Purvas, which had embodied the religious traditions of Parsva and which formed, as we are led to believe by a legend mentioned in the Bhagavati, a common basis of the Jaina and Ajivika canons. The knowledge of the Purvas was gradually lost till it became totally extinct. Only one of the Mahavira’s disciples, Arya Sudharma, handed them down, and they were preserved during six generations more. In the second century after Mahavira’s death there was a horrible famine in the land of Magadha, which lasted for twelve years. Bhadrabahu was then the head of the Jaina Sangha. There is a legend which connects this Bhadrabahu with the Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya and says that owning to the famine Bhadrabahu emigrated with a host of his disciples including Chandragupta himself to Karnataka in South India. This is clearly unwarranted by the chronology of the event. When the famine took place, Bhadrabahu took recourse to the neighboring Nepal hills and there started his Sadhana. During the absence of Bhadrabahu it became evident that the knowledge of the sacred texts was threatening to lapse into oblivion; and so a Council was called at Pataliputra to compile a recession of the canon. The Jaina belief is that the Tirthankara himself taught the Purvas to his disciples, the Ganadharas, and the Ganadharas then composed the Angas  . The Council performed its task successfully, although there was great difficulty in the compilation of the twelfth Angas, the Drstivada, which is believed to have incorporated the fourteen Purvas at the time when they ceased to exist independently of the Angas literature. The difficulty was that the head of the community in the Magadha did not have a complete knowledge of the Purvas and so was not able to proceed with the business without the guidance from a distance of Bhadrabahu himself.


It may be mentioned that the famous Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela furnishes a confirmation of the Jaina tradition regarding the Council of Patalipurta and the compilation of a recession of Angas “in sixty-four section.” “It is not by accident that the knowledge of the Purvas” says Jacobi, “is said to have commenced to fade away at the same time when the Angas were collected by the Sangha of Pataliputra.” The loss of Purvas and later on of Drstivada was due largely to the rise of other books on their basis. The very name Purva (which means the former, the earlier) testifies to the fact that they were superseded by a new canon. It may be inferred that the Purvas were, like the Upanishads, a heterogeneous type of literature presenting a wide diversity of sometimes mutually conflicting views, and therefore extremely difficult to master, is of the opinion that they were devoted to the description of controversies held between Mahavira and rival teachers. It is true that the Drstivada, which is said to have included the fourteen Purvas, dealt chiefly with the drstis or philosophical opinions of the Jainas and other sects. The title which is added to the name of each Purva, would  seem to support this view. When the opponents of Mahavira died and the sects headed by them became extinct, the controversies related in the Purvas evidently lost their interest and ceased to be of any practical significance. That reason may have been partly responsible for their neglect.


The Angas came in the course of time to be known and acknowledged as the only authoritative sacred books of Jainism. They were expressly referred to in the Sutrakrtanga as the “Canon of the Jinas, which has been taught, produced and declared by the Sramana, the Nirgrantha.” The Digambara, however, refuse to recognize the authenticity of the Angas. After the famine and the Council of Pataliputra which had compiled the recession of the Angas, the adherents of Bhadrabahu returned to Magadha but refused to consider the compilation satisfactory and so declared that the Purvas and the Angas had been irrecoverably lost. This became the basis of the belief of the Digambara who hold that what exists as the Siddhanta is not in its original form at all. Such contention does not appear to be well grounded on the facts of history, although it is undoubtedly true that the works of Siddhanta are the product of a process of compilation which extended over a long period of at least one thousand years. After compilation by the Council of Pataliputra the Canon fell into a state of great disorder again and was on the verge of being lost, when it was ultimately reduced to writing at the Council of Valabhi under the presidency of Devardhi Ganin in the 5th century A.D. During the period between the two councils, that is to say between the Council of Pataliputra in the 4th century B.C. and the Council of Valabhi in the 5th Century A.D., written copies of the Siddhanta were not easily extant. Some privately owned copies must have existed, but it is certain that the teachers made no use of written books when teaching the Siddhanta to novices, as they undoubtedly began to do afterwards. What the Council of Valabhi presumably did was to issue a large edition of the Siddhanta so as to provide every teacher with copies of the sacred books. This edition of course was merely a redaction of the sacred books, which existed already. But in the course of ages, passages must have crept into the text at any time and additions must have been made to the several books, as is clear from the variety of language forms in which different parts of the canon are written. Arguing from the language of the composition, Jacobi is of the opinion that “the first book of the Acaranga and that of the Sutrakrtanga sutra may be reckoned among the most ancient parts of the Siddhanta.” The earliest portions of the Canon do undoubtedly belong to the period of the first disciples of Mahavira himself, while the latest portions would presumably be nearer the time of Devardhi Ganin.


Notwithstanding occasional later accretions, however, the text of the Angas and of some at least of the Upangas offer a substantially correct description of the state of society, religion and thought in which Mahavira performed his Sadhana and attained omniscience and of the teachings of the Lord himself.


View of the World:


Like Buddha, Lord Mahavira presented a gloomy picture of the world. “The (living) world is afflicted miserable, difficult to instruct and without discrimination.”


Thus begins the second lecture of the first book of Acaranga “Quality is the seat of the root, and the seat of the root is quality. He who longs for the qualities, is overcome by great pains, and he is careless. (For he thinks) I have to provide for a mother, for a father, for a sister, for a wife, for sons, for daughters, for a daughter-in-law, for my friends, for near and remote relations, for my acquaintances, for different kinds of property, profit, meals, and clothes.


Longing for these objects, people are careless, suffer day and night, work in the right and wrong time, desire wealth and treasures, commit injuries and violent acts, direct the mind, again and again, upon those injurious things (described in the first lecture). (Doing so) the life of some mortals (which by destiny would have been long) is shortened. For when with the deterioration of the perceptions of the ear, eye, organs of smelling, tasting, touching, a man becomes aware of the decline of life, they (i.e., those failing perceptions) after a time produce dotage. Or his kinsmen with whom he lives together will, after a time, first grumble at him and he will afterwards grumble at them. He is not fit for hilarity, playing, pleasure, show. Therefore proceeding to pilgrimage, and thinking that the present moment is favorable (for such intentions), he should be steadfast and not, even for an hour, carelessly conduct himself. His youth, his age and his life fade away.


“A man who carelessly conducts himself, who killing, cutting striking, destroying, chasing away, frightening (living beings) resolves to do what has not been done (by anyone)-him his relations with whom he lived together, will first cherish, and he will afterwards cherish them. But they cannot help thee or protect thee, nor canst thou help them or protect them.”


In bold relief against this gloomy view of the Samsara, there is presented the bright prospect of religious life as lived and taught by Lord Mahavira. Mahavira developed a systematic exposition of Kriyavada or Karmavada which he clearly distinguished from (1) the Akriyavada of Gosala, who was essentially fatalist, (2)  Ajnanavada or agnosticism of Sanjaya, and (3) Vinayavada of the average ascetic, who believes that the goal of religious life is realized by conformation to the rules of discipline. He also distinguished it from the other brands of Kviyavada, by defining his own creed as follows. “The painful condition of the self is brought about by one’s own action, it is not brought about by any other cause (fate, creator, chance or the like)”. “Individually a man is born, individually he dies, individually he falls (from this state of existence), individually he rises (to another). His passions, consciousness, intellect, perceptions and impressions belong to the individual exclusively. Here, indeed, the bonds of relationship are not able to help or save one.”  “All living beings owe their present form of existence to their own Karman; timid, wicked, suffering latent misery, they err about (in the circle of births), subject to birth, old age and death.” Mahavira declared that there are as many souls as living individuals, and that Karman consists of acts, intentional or unintentional, that produce effects on the nature of the soul. The soul is not passive in the sense that it remains untouched or unaffected by what a person does for the sake of some interests. It is susceptible to the influences of Karma, and it possesses the capacity to actively annihilate Karma. By the practice of austerities and penance’s the jiva can wear our, and ultimately destroy the effects of sinful karma committed in former existence’s and by the practice of far-reaching self-restraint it can free itself from the production of new karmas. The result of this freedom from the bondage of Karma will be a non-guiding of the self in the course of samsara in future, and the attainment of the eternal and blissful condition of the soul in its perfection.

 This condition of the soul is realizable in this very existence and solely by human efforts, if rightly directed. The life of the Master stood for all his disciples as a living example of such realization. The development and manifestation of supreme personality, such as was attained by Lord Mahavira himself, was the visible fruition of religious effort and self-discipline; and this self-discipline was set out and preached by him for the adoption of all persons, male or female, irrespective of any class or caste distinctions.




But, said Mahavira, there is no right conduct without right knowledge and no right knowledge without the right belief. It is therefore, desirable to first explain the fundamental ideas of Jaina Philosophy.


The foundation of true metaphysics, according to Jainism, consists of nine categories Jiva, Ajiva, Punya, Papa, Asrava, Samvara, bandha, nirjara, and Moksa. Sometimes the number of categories is reduced to seven by including two of them, Punya and papa under other heads.


Jiva or soul, according to Jaina metaphysics, is a substance, its chief characteristic being Caitanya (consciousness); but as a substance it is absolute and permanent, unlike the Buddhist belief. The Jaina idea of the jiva differs from the Brahmanic idea, in so far as it is the Jiva which, in consequence of the karma it has acquired, is believed to go through the succession of rebirths and finally, obtaining freedom through the destruction of its karmas, to soar upwards to moksa. “It performs different kinds of actions, it reaps the fruit of those actions, it circles round returning again; these and none other are the characteristics of the soul.” The soul in its pure state is possessed of infinite perception (Anantdarshen), infinite knowledge (Anantgyan), infinite bliss (Anantsukh) and infinite power (Infinite virya). It is perfect. Ordinarily however, with the exception of a few released pure souls (Sidh) all the other jives have all their purity and power covered with a veil of karmic matter which has been accumulating in them from the beginning-less time. Ajiva is in all respects the opposite of jiva, it means things inanimate, matter. Karma is Ajiva, which comes into contact with the jiva and bedims its power; but the union of jiva with ajiva can never be so complete as to make their separation impossible. The jiva is a substance (drvya) in the sense that it occupies a space-point in our mundane world, has a limited size and is not all-persuasiveness. But the jiva is not matter, for it has consciousness which matter cannot have. Of the jiva the Jainas have made a fivefold classification according to the number of senses it possesses. The sthaver jiva possesses only one sense, the sense of touch, but has four pranr, touch, body, the power of exhaling and inhaling, and allotted term of life. Water, fire, wind, and all vegetables are supposed to have Jives. The Dvindrya jiva possesses two senses, the sense of taste and the sense of touch, and has six pranr, taste and speech in addition to the four pranr of the sthaver jiva. Such jives are in worms, leeches, earth- worms, etc. The Trindriya jiva similarly possesses three senses, the sense of smell in addition to those of taste and touch and seven pranr examples of such beings ants, bugs, moths etc. The chaturindriya jiva possesses four senses, of touch, taste, smell and sight and eight pranr, the category including such beings as wasps, scorpions, mosquitoes, gnats, flies, locusts and butterflies. The panchindriya jiva possesses all five senses, of hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight and includes human beings as well as animals, besides hell-beings and demigods. But all these classes of jiva are to be clearly distinguished from Ajiva which is classified into Roopee and aroopee. Roopee division is pudgel or matter, which possesses color, smell, taste and form and is perceptible to touch. Its Aroopee division is further subdivided into which helps the jiva associated with Pudgala to progress, Adhermastikaye which keeps it motionless, akashastikaye which gives it space and kal which gives it a continuity of changes.


As was said above, it is the union of jiva with matter, which causes and constitutes samsara. The form of this union is determined by the force of Karma. Karma is a substantive force a sort of infra- atomic particles of matter, which have the peculiar property of developing the effects of merit. Karma acts in such a way that every change which takes place leaves a mark, which is retained and built into the organism to serve as the foundation for future action. Punya is the name of those actions which lead to the good karma, which in its turn is productive of peace of mind; Pap is just the opposite of Punya, may be laid up in the following nine ways; by giving food to deserving people who are hungry, weak, destitute of help and needy (anpunrya), by giving water to the thirsty (panpunrya); by giving residence, by giving sleeping accommodation, by giving clothes, by thinking well of every one and wishing them well (snkelp); by exerting ourselves to render service to others or to save life; by speaking sweetly and so as to influence others towards religion and morality (stevan); and by reverent salutations (Namaskar). Pap may be earned in eighteen ways; by destroying life (pranrtipat) by speaking untruthfull (mrishavad); by acting dishonestly (adetadan); by unchaste conduct (Methuen); by excessive love of one’s own possessions (prigreh); by getting angry without a cause (krodh); by conceited behavior (man); by intrigue or cheating (Maya); by avarice (lobh); by over- foundness (rag) for a person or a thing; by hatred or envy (dvaish); by quarrelsomeness (klah); by slander of others (abhyakhyan); by telling stories to discredit any one (peshunya); by continually thinking of other’s faults (parprivad); by excessive attachment to temporal and transitory objects of affection (Rti); by hypocrisy (mayamrisha); and by false faith (mithyatv). It is needless to labor the point that such detailed analysis of the acts of merit and demerit entitles Jainism to be considered as primarily an ethical philosophy.


Karma, the accumulated result of action, is one of the central ideas of Jaina philosophy, and Asrava deals with the way in which karma is acquired by the human soul. There are forty-two chief channels of Asrava through which karma affects a jiva; of these seventeen are regarded as major- the five senses, the four kasayas i.e., anger, conceit, intrigue and avarice, the five avrt or omission to take the vows, and the three yoga’s, that is to say entanglement with a material object of the mind, speech and body. But there is a distinction between the channels and the Karmas which actually enter through these channels, the distinction is represented by two terms Bhavasrava and Karmasrava. Bhavasrava means the thought activities of the soul through which or on account of which the Karma particles affect the soul; Bhavasrava is that kind of change in the soul which enables the karma to affect the soul while karmasrava is the actual movement of contiguous karma matter towards the soul. Bhavasrava is of five kinds, namely mithyatv (delusion), Avirti (want of control), Prmad (inadvertence), Yog (activities of body, mind and speech) and kshaye (passions). Karmasrava, which means the actual movement of matter towards the soul, affects the soul in eight different ways, gyanavaranr, drshanavaranr, vaidniya, mohniya, ayu, nam, gotr, and antraya all of which have been explained in another connection before.


Opposed to Asrava is Samvara, which means the arrest of the inflow of karmas into the soul. The subject is of supreme importance in so far as it implies a discipline which every individual is expected to practice in his own life. There are fifty-seven ways of impeding karmas; the five samitis consisting of the use of trodden tracks in order to avoid injury to insects Eeryasmiti, gentle and holy talk (Bhashase), care in eating (Aishanra), cleanliness (adan) and the careful disposal of rubbish and refuse (prishthapnika); the three guptis or restraints of body, speech and mind; the twenty-two parishes or endurance of hardships, of hunger, thirst, cold, heat, cloth, lodging etc., ten duties (dharm) particularly incumbent upon monks, like forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness, freedom from greed, fasting, control of mind, body and speech, truth, cleanliness, non-attachment, chastity; five Caritra or rules of conduct, twelve bhavanas or reflections about the transient character of the world, about our helplessness without  the truth, about the cycles of world-existence, about our own responsibilities for our good and bad actions, about the difference between the soul and the non-soul; about the uncleanliness of our body and all that is associated with it, about the influx of karmas and its stoppage and destruction of those karmas which have already entered the soul, about soul, matter and the substance of the universe, about the difficulty of attaining true principles of the world. Corresponding to the two modes of inrush of karma into the soul. Bhavasamvara means thought modifications with a view to stop the inflow of karmas and Karmasamvara or dravyasamvara means the actual stoppage of the inflow of karma.


Bandha is the name of the stage after Karmasrava as nirjara is the name of the stage after Karmasamvara. Bandha means the bondage of the soul by karma, that is to say, subjection of soul to the laws of birth and death, old age and decay, pleasure and pain and other vicissitudes of life brought about by the effect of karma. The jaina view is that we are, by our actions of mind, speech and body, continually producing subtle karma matter, which in the first instance is called bhavakarma and later on transforms itself into dravyakarma, thus pouring into the soul and sticking there by coming into contact with the passions of the soul. The process of generation of Karma and its pouring into and sticking to the soul has been analyzed into four stages, which can be clearly distinguished from each other but not described in the spoken language with sufficient  lucidity, Bhavasrava, karmasravava, bhavabandha and karmabandha. Accordingly as good or bad karma matter sticks to the soul, the soul gets colored respectively golden, lotus-pink, white, black, blue and gray; these are known as. Like Asrava, bandha, karma etc., also have been considered in two forms, as bhavalesya i.e., the feelings generated by the accumulation of the karma matter, and the dravya- lesya i.e., the actual coloration of the soul by it. Bandha or bondage of the soul by the karma is of four kinds according to its nature, (prakriti), duration (sthiti), essence (anubhav), and content (Pradaish). Man’s passions are responsible for the nature and duration of Karma and intensity and mass of Karma is largely determined by his exertion.


After the effect (vipak) of a particular karma matter has been once produced, it is discharged and purged off the soul. The process of purging off of the karma is called Nirjara. Nirjara also is of two kinds, bhavanirjara, i.e., the change in the soul by virtue of which the karma particles are destroyed, and dravya-nirjara i.e., the actual destruction of the karma particles. Destruction of the karma is automatic after reaping its effects vipak but is possible by proper exertion even before its time of fruition (Opkrmik). The best way is by burning up karma in the glow of austerities (tap). These austerities are of two kinds, exterior or bodily and interior or spiritual. The six exterior austerities are anshan (fasting), unreedree (graduated decrease of the quantity of food), Bhikshacharya (begging), Resprityag (giving up dainty foods), kayaklaish (mortification of the flesh), and Sanleenta (avoidance of temptation by control of limbs etc.); and the six interior austerities include Prayshchit (confession), Vinay (reverence and humility), vyavrit (service), (study), Vinay (Meditation), and Kayotserg (showing and feeling absolute indifference to the body and its needs).


When the soul is freed from all bonds to Karma, it gets released from the circle of births. It then attains Moksa or complete deliverance. It becomes a Siddha or a perfect soul, there is no returning again to a worldly state. The Siddha has been defined as a being “without caste, unaffected by smell, without the sense of taste, without feeling, without form, without hunger, without pain, without sorrow, without joy, without birth, without old age, without death, without body, without karma, enjoying an endless and unbroken calm.” The attainment of Siddhahood is by no means restricted to Jaina ascetics, it is equally possible for householders of eminent holiness (Grihasthlingsidh) and even for non-Jainas who live a perfectly holy life (Anyalingsidh). Jaina ascetics obtaining Siddhahood would be known Svlingsidh. It has sometimes been debated whether Moksa is a place situated somewhere in the Universe or merely a state or condition of freedom. In the Moksa state the soul has absolute knowledge and absolute perception so that it knows all things simultaneously: it also has infinite capacity or power for right action (anantveerye), so that karma can never subdue this freedom and absolute bliss (Anantsukh).




From the foregoing analysis of the fundamental truths of Jainism, it will be clear that Jainism may fairly be regarded as a system of ethics rather than a religion. Its extremely severe practical discipline is a special feature of Jainism. Not only for the ascetic but also for the householder does Jainism prescribe a highly rigorous discipline. Like many other Indian doctrines, it emphasizes enlightenment and conduct, but to these it adds faith, and so insists upon right faith, right knowledge and right conduct as the three precious principles (Gunrratntriya) of life. Right conduct includes the five vows, which have been mentioned before, -viz., Ahimsa, Satya, Astay, Brahmcharya, and aprigreh and a long list of items of self-control and self-restraint. Practically each one of these vows was enjoined in some form or other by other faiths also, but they were quite distinctively interpreted by Jainism. The way in which the doctrine of Ahimsa is made to pervade the whole code of conduct is peculiarly Jaina. Ahimsa has been understood to comprehend Ahimsa in thought, by word or act. It is important to add that it has not been explained merely as negative principle, it has been taken to mean the rendering of active service to others, for we shall be really injuring a person when we can help him but do not. The social or objective side of ethics is not ignored; but in so far as the final aim of Jainism is the development of one’s personality, it emphasizes the individualistic aspect.


Purification of the mind is insisted upon as the starting point of all ethical life. No kind of asceticism can be of any good until the mind is purified, for with purification of the mind is the removal of attachment (rag) and antipathy (dvaish) really possible. Purification of the mind is achieved by continuous meditation and constant self-control. During his sadhakas life Mahavira devoted himself intently to meditation and the practice of the ten dharmas including Senyem (self-control or control of the senses), Stya (truthfulness), Showch  (purity), Brahmcharya (chastity), Akinrchanya (absolute want of greed), tep (asceticism), Kshma (forbearance and patience), Mardv (mildness), Arjv (sincerity), and Mukti (freedom or emancipation from all sins). It was by that means that he ultimately obtained enlightenment and true self-knowledge. Samtv (the capacity to look on all beings with equality) and Dhyan (or meditation) are interdependent; there can be no Dhyan without samatva, nor can there be samatva without Dhyan. The Jaina Dhyan, consists in the concentration of the mind on the syllables of the prayer phrases, and is enjoined to be practiced as an aid to making the mind steady and perfectly equal and undisturbed towards all things. Further aids to making the mind steady have been mentioned in the Jaina texts. They comprehend Metree (universal friendship), Prmad (the habit of emphasizing the good sides of men), Krunra (universal compassion) and Madhysthya (indifference to the wickedness of people, i.e., the habit of not taking any note of sinners).


Jaina texts give a very close description of the system of ethics in their analysis of Bandh and Moksh. Unlike Hinduism, Jainism has correlated ethical teaching with its metaphysical system. The four most important sins are the kasayas, anger, conceit, intrigue and greed. They are sister sins, that is to say, a person committing one of them invariably goes to the commission of others. Krodha or anger has been stressed first, for it is the source of all sins then there is mana or conceit, Maya or cheating and or avarice. Jainism argues that the length of time, a sin is indulged in, affects the nature of the sin. The worst degree to which any of  these four sins may be indulged in is called Anantanubandhi when the sin is cherished as long as life lasts; while under the sway of sin to this degree it is impossible for a man to grasp any ideas of religion or to give his mind to study, The next, i.e., Apratyakhyana degree is when the sin, though nursed for a year, is confessed at the great annual confession. Under the influence of these degrees of sins a man might possess an intellectual grasp of religious principles, but cannot possibly carry them our into his daily life, for he cannot really give up attachment to the world. The least harmful of the degrees of sins is sanjvalana, when they are renounced at the evening confession. The matter has been brought home to the disciple by means of a number of parables. In the case of anger the least harmful degree has been likened to a line drawn on water which soon passes away; the next to one drawn to the dust, which is stamped out and effected in a day, the third to a crack in the dried mud at the bottom of an empty village tank which will not disappear till the yearly rains fill the tank and cover it, and the worst of all to a fissure in a mountain side, which will remain till the end of the world. In the case of Maya or deceit, which leads to crookedness, the last degree can be straightened as one can straighten a bamboo cane; the second degree has been likened to the crooked crack of moisture left in the dust by the dripping from the water carrier’s leather bucket; the third degree to a ram’s horn; and the worst degree to the knot in the root of a bamboo, the most crooked thing in the world. The result of any of these four sins, if indulged in the worst degree, is to condemn a man to rebirth in hell; the next worst forces him in his next life to become a bird or a beast, or an insect; it is only the less harmful degrees which would enable him to be reborn as a man or a god; and in order to become a siddha one must completely renounce all wrath, conceit, intrigue and greed.


It is important to point out that not only wrath, conceit, intrigue, greed, attachment and enmity are sins in the Jaina view, but also such personal characteristics as quarrelsomeness, slander, the telling of stories to discredit others, undue fault-finding, excessive attachment to worldly objects of affection, hypocrisy and false faith. The list is a comprehensive one, and when one remembers that the Lord enjoined upon every Jaina ascetic or householder, to make a daily confession of these sins, one cannot help being impressed by the significantly ethical character of the whole system. Jaina ethics is not simply negative as some critics have been often inclined to point out. The chapter on Pun gives a list of positive social duties, the performance of which is regarded as bringing peace of mind to the individual. These duties are the giving of food to the hungry, the weak and the needy, the giving of water to the thirsty, the giving of clothes to the destitute, the giving of shelter and lodging to the homeless. By thinking well of every one and by exerting ourselves to render them services also we accumulate merit. Sweet and fruitful speech, reverential behavior and generally amiable disposition are among the other acts of Punya. All these are virtues which are the only firm basis of a truly civic and socially useful life; and even Mrs. Stevenson admits “not in vain are practical ethic wedded to philosophical speculation” in Jainism.




It is sometimes said that Jainism is atheistic nastika. If nastika means an unbeliever in a life beyond, i.e., “one who does not believe in a surviving self,” then surely Jainism is not at all nastika. If nastika, means one who repudiates the authority of the Veda, then Jainism is certainly nastika. If nastika means one who does not believe in God, then a categorical answer is not possible to make, for although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Jainism deliberately rejects the conception of a supreme personality responsible for the creation of the world. The Nyaya philosopher says that the world is of the nature of an effect and that it must have been created by an intelligent agent, the agent being God (Ishwar); but the argument is conclusively controverted by the Jaina.  (1) The cause of an effect need not necessarily be intelligent, and if God who is regarded as the cause of the creation be regarded as intelligent on the analogy of human causation, then he must be admitted to be imperfect like human beings. (2) Also God must be admitted to have a body, for we have never seen any intelligent creator without a body. (3) Even if it is admitted for the sake of argument that a bodiless God can create the world by his will and activity, did he take to creation through a personal whim and give high status to some and poverty to others quite arbitrarily? If the creation took place simply through his own nature, then what is the good of admitting him at all? Professor Dasgupta sums up the rest of the argument like this:


“Assuming for the sake of argument that God exists you could never justify the adjectives with which you wish to qualify him. Thus you say that he is eternal. But since he has no body, he must be of the nature of intelligence and will. But this nature must have changed in diverse forms for the production of diverse kinds of worldly, things which are of so varied a nature. If there were no change in his knowledge and will then there could not have been diverse kinds of creation and destruction. Destruction and creation cannot be the result of one unchangeable will and knowledge. Moreover, it is the character, of knowledge to change, if the word is used in the sense in which knowledge is applied to human beings, and surely we are not aware of any other kind of knowledge. You say that God is omniscient but it is difficult to suppose how he can have any knowledge at all, for as he has no organs he cannot have any perception, and since he cannot have any perception, he cannot have any inference either. If it is said that without the supposition of a God the variety of the world be inexplicable, this also is not true for this implication would only by justified if there were no other hypothesis left. But there are other suppositions also. Even without an omniscient God you could explain all things merely by the doctrine of moral order or the law of “Karma.”


Jainism rejects the conception of creative divinity as self-discrepant. Its belief is that there is no God and that the world was never created. In the view the Jaina is curiously enough in agreement with the Mimansaka, the upholder of strict orthodoxy. But as we mentioned above, although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Theistic systems are generally anthropomorphic, they bring down God to the level of man. Jainism, on the other hand, looks upon man himself as God when his inherent powers are fully in blossom. Every liberated soul is divine. God in Jaina theory being only another word for the soul at its best. In rejecting God who is so by his own right and with it also the belief that salvation may be attained through his mercy, Jainism recognizes that karma by itself and without the intervention of any divine power is adequate to explain the whole world of experience and thus impress on the individual his complete responsibility for what he does. “Jainism more than any other creed gives absolute religious independence and freedom to man. Nothing can intervene between the actions which we do and the fruits thereof. Once done they become our masters and must fruitify.”


God in Jainism is the ideal man, that is to say, the ideal of man; there is a way to achieve it and that is the Jaina ethical way. Others have striven in that way and achieved it in the past, and their example is a constant inspiration to us. “Such an ideal carries with it all necessary hope and encouragement, for what man has done, man can do.”








The last thirty years o his life. Mahavira spent in the propagation of his doctrine. He traveled through many parts of India, preaching and converting people to his faith, stopping as before for the four months of the rainy season at one place. It is possible to reconstruct a complete account of his travels from the names of the places where he passed his rainy seasons, mentioned in the Jaina texts.




The Lord attained the Kevala-jnana while sitting in meditation under a Sala tree in the field of the householder Samaga outside the town Jrmbhikagrama. Immediately on the attainment of Kevalajnan, there is a Jaina tradition, the Tirthankara holds a public conference in Samavsarana and preaches the doctrine, making converts. But Mahavira made no converts in his first public audience. This in Svetambara Jaina texts is regarded as having been a very “unusual occurrence.” Probably the reason was because the public was nor available at the spot to listen to his preaching. The Digambara tradition does not admit the holding of the first samavasarana in the field of Samaga immediately of the attainment of Kevala-jnana.


Knowing that a big Yajna had been organized by a Brahman Somilacarya at a place at some distance from Jrmbhikagrama, he moved on to that place and held his second public audience there. He explained his own doctrine of the, Karma, Asrava, Bandha, Nirjara and Moksa and then went on to say that “four things of paramount value are difficult to obtain here by a living being; human birth, instruction in the Law, belief in it and energy in self-control. The Universe is peopled by manifold creatures, who are in this samsara born in different families and castes for having done various actions. Sometimes they go to the world of gods, sometimes to the bells, sometimes they become Ksatriyas, or Candalas or Bukkasas, or worms and moths, or (insects called) Kunthu and ants. Thus living beings of sinful actions, who are born again and again in ever-recurring births, are not disgusted with the samsara, but they are like warriors (never tired of the battle of life). Living beings bewildered through the influence of their actions, distressed and suffering pains, undergo misery in non-human births. But by the cessation of Karman, perchance, living beings will reach in due time a pure state and be born as men. And though they be born with a human body it will be difficult for them to hear the Law, having heard which they will do penance's, combat their passions and abstain from killing living beings. And though, by chance, they may hear the Law, it will be difficult for them to believe in it; many who are shown the right way, stray from it. And though they have heard the Law and believe in it, it is difficult for them to fulfill it strenuously; many who approve of the religion, do not adopt it. Having been born as a man, having heard the law, believing in it, and fulfilling it strenuously, an ascetic should restrain and shake off sinfulness. The pious obtain purity, and the pure stand firmly in the Law; (the soul afterwards) reaches the highest Nirvana, being like unto a fire fed with ghee.” Mahavira’s fame as an omniscient seer began to spread fast and widely; and among others, eleven of the learned Brahman teachers, who had come with a band of disciples to participate in the Yajna, felt persuaded to visit him.


The visit and conversion of these eleven Brahman teachers has been described in some detail by the Jaina texts, both Svetambara and Digambara. Digambara accounts mention that Indrabhuti, who had become a very learned pandit and grown extremely vain of his learning, was once questioned by an old man and asked to explain the meaning of a verse. The verse had been repeated to him by Mahavira, who had immediately afterwards become so lost in meditation that he did not get an explanation of it from the saint. It contained references to kala and dravya, pancastikaya dravya and lesya not one of which terms did Gautama Indrabhuti really understand. Nor, being a true scholar, could he pretend to have a knowledge which he did not possess. So he sought our Mahavira for an explanation. In the presence of the great ascetic all his pride fell from him and he became a pupil of Mahavira along with his band of disciples and learned brothers. The Svetambara account ascribes the meeting between Mahavira and Gautama Indrabhuti and others to a denunciation on the part of Mahavira of the animal sacrifice at which they were assisting. They were naturally much enraged at his audacity and came forward to oppose him and expose the falseness of his teaching; but when they listened to Mahavira’s discourses and heard the gentle and thoughtful answers he gave to all questioners, they became convinced of the truth of his way, decided to cast in their lot with his and became his chief disciples or Ganadharas. Under these Ganadharas were placed all the monks of the Order.


“Why has it been said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas? The oldest monk of the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira was Indrabhuti of the gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the middle aged monk was Agnibhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the youngest was Vayubhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas. The Sthavira Arya-Vyakta of the Bharadwaja gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Arya-Sudharman of the Agnivaisyayana gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Mandikaputra of the Vasisthagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Mauryaputra of the Kasyapagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Akampita of the Gautama gotra and Sthavira Acalabhrata of the Haritayana gotra, both Sthaviras instructed together three hundred sramanas each; the Sthaviras Metarya and Prabhasa, both of the Kaundinyagotra, instructed together three hundred sramanas each. Therefore it has been

said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas.”


These conversions gave to Mahavira a respectable community of 4,411 Sramanas. It is presumable that at this place not only Sramanas but also lay disciples joined Mahavira’s order; in Jaina texts there are references to the Lord having established a community of four orders i.e., monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen at the same time. We have already mentioned that unlike Parsva, who seems to have grouped all the laymen and similarly laywomen together, Mahavira made a clear distinction between ordinary laymen who merely expressed their sympathy with the Jaina doctrine and faith as Jainas and the body of laymen who took a special type of Diksa and who clearly undertook to observe the twelve lay vows. As Mrs. Stevenson has said, the genius for organization which Mahavira possessed is shown in nothing more clearly than in the formation of this and the order of laywomen Shramanro- pasika. These two organizations gave the Jaina a root in India that the Buddhists and, the other systems of Parivrajaka orders, never obtained, and that root firmly planted amongst the laity enabled Jainism to withstand the storm that drove Buddhism out of India.





Magadha : From the scene of Somilacarya’s Yajna Mahavira proceeded to Rajagrha, old capital of Magadha, where Srenika  (Bimbisara)  was the ruling monarch. As we have stated before, Mahavira was a Jnatrka from his father’s side, but his mother was sister to Cetake, the king of Vaisali, who belonged to the Licchavi sect of the Ksatriyas. Cetaka had seven daughters, out of whom one preferred to be a nun and the other six were married in one or the other royal family of Eastern India. Srenika, the ruler of Magadha, was the husband of the youngest of these princesses, Cellana, who became a lay follower of Mahavira, of the Sramanopasak variety. It is possible that there had been some connection between Magadha and the Jaina Church of the age previous to that of Mahavira. The Jaina text Uttaradhyayana mentions two early kings of Rajgrha named Samudravijaya and his son Jaya; of these Jaya, the eleventh cakravartin, “together with thousands of kings, renouncing the world, practiced self-restraint and reached perfection which has been taught by the Jinas.” But during the rule of the Saisunagas, right from the beginning there undoubtedly existed strong personal connections between Mahavira at Rajgrha, during the period of his preparation and after his attainment of the Kevala; and it is certain that at least during the later period he repaired to the city “not merely as an independent preacher but as one who had the State behind him to directly patronize and sympathize with him in his great mission.”


Videha : As with the rulers of Magadha, so with the other ruling houses in Eastern India, Mahavira had personal connections; and these connections must have inevitably helped him to gain followers for his order. From Rajgrha, where he gained numerous, both monks and laymen, including the princes Megha Kumar, Abhaya Kumar and others, the Lord proceeded towards Videha country. The capital of Videha was Mithila, which is identified by some scholars with the small town of Janakapura just within the Nepal border. The Videhans seem to have been an adventurous people, scattered as far as Vaisali itself. Mahavira’s mother, who was a princess of Vaisali, is spoken of in the Jaina texts as Videhadatta; and there is ample evidence to prove that Mahavira was closely connected with the Videhans. The Videhans has a living interest in the Jaina Church. Form Kalpa-sutra we know that Mahavira spent six rainy seasons at Mithila, the Metropolis of Videha,.


Vatsa : The capital of Vatsa, Kausambi, was also visited by Mahavira several times both during the period of preparation and after the attainment of the Kevala. The ruler of Kausambi was King Satanika, Mrgavati the third daughter of Cetaka was married to him. Both the King and the queen were devotees of Mahavira and followers of the Jaina order. The Jaina tradition also affirms that the king’s amatya  (minister) and his wife were Jaina by faith. Satanika’s son and successor, Udayana, was a great king who made some conquests and contracted matrimonial alliance with the royal houses of Avanti, Anga and Magadha. The Jaina literature claims him as a follower of the Jaina order.


Avanti. Canda Pradyota the ruler of Avanti (Capital, Ujjain)  had married the fourth daughter of Cetaka, by name Shiva. Pradyota was called ‘Canda” or fierce, for he was temperamentally very excitable and was also the possessor of a large army. There is a story which says that he was fond of Mrgavati, the elder sister of wife, who had been already married to King Satanika of Vatsa, that he asked for Queen Mrgavati from Satanika, and that on the refusal of the latter he declared a war against him.    Satanika appears to have died before actual hostilities could start; and when Mahavira visited Kausambi a little later, he induced Canada Pradyota to give up his feeling of revenge and to allow Mrgavati to become a nun. Thereupon Satanika’s son, Udayana, became the king of Kausambi. Between this Udayana and Pradyota’s daughter, the peerless Vasavadatta, there developed a long romance, round which a large cycle of Sanskrit stories has been written. Udayana, as we mentioned above, is claimed by Jaina tradition as having had respect and sympathy for the Jaina church; but Pradyota also had undeniable sympathy for the Jaina faith. There is a mention that along with Mrgavati of Kausambi , eight of his own queens, Angaravati and others, with his permission, joined the order.


Campa, capital of Anga.  The ruler of Campa, which was always recognized to be a great center of Jainism, was Dadhivahana, who married Padmavati, the second daughter of Cetaka. Dadhivahana’s daughter, Candana or Candanabala, was the first woman who embraced Jainism shortly after Mahavira had attained the Kevala. Jaina literature described in great detail the story of Candana. During the invasion of Campa by King Satanika of Kausambi, Candana was caught hold of by one of the enemy’s army and was sold in Kausambi to a banker named Dhanavaha. After a short time the banker’s wife Mula, felt jealous of her and having cut her hair, put her into custody. In this condition she served a part of her food to Mahavira, and finally joined his ranks as a nun. She headed the order of nuns in Mahavira’s sangha. Campa seems to have been situated at a distance of a few miles in the neighborhood of modern Bhagalpur. Its importance as a center of Jaina influence is evident from the fact that Mahavira spent three of his rainy seasons in Campa. After Mahavira’s death Campa was visited by Sudharman, the head of the Jaina Sangha, at the time of Kunika or Ajatasatru. Ajatasatru seems to have transferred his capital from Rajgrha to Campa of the death of his father; and Jaina tradition mentions that the King “came bare-footed to see the Ganadhara outside the city where he had taken his adobe,” Sudharman’s successor, Jambu, and Jambu’s successor, Svayambhava, lived at the city where he composed the Dasavaikalikasutra, containing in ten lectures all the essence of the sacred doctrines of Jainism.




From this brief account of the several ruling houses of Eastern India, it will be clear that Mahavira obtained good support everywhere. His personal connections with the various rulers reached through his mother Trisala, the Licchavi Princess, and his maternal uncle Cetaka, the king of Vaisali. The Licchavis were recognized all round as high born Ksatriyas, with whom the highest born princes of Eastern India, and not only Eastern India but also as far west as Sindhu-Sauvira, considered it an honor to enter into matrimonial alliance. We have already seen that out of the seven daughters of Cetaka, Padmavati, Mrgavati, Shiva and Cellana were married respectively to the lords of Anga, Vatsa, Avanti and Magadha. The eldest Prabhavati was married to King Udayana of Vitabhaya, which has been identified at various places in the Jaina literature with a town of Sindhu-Sauvira desa. As to what part of the country is Sindhu-Sauvira-desa, whether it is “the province of Badari or Eder, at the head of the Gulf of Cambay” ) Cunningham), or “to the north of Kathiawar and along the Gulf of Cutch” (Rhys Davids) or “the

province of Multan and Jahravar” (Alberuni), or “in Sindhu or Sindh” (Satrunjaya-Mahatmya), historians are not quite in agreement about; but according to Jaina sources Udayana was the overlord of three hundred and sixty three other towns. Through his relationship Licchavis, Mahavira’s religion was greatly helped in the course of its spread over Sauvira, Anga, Vatsa, Avanti, Videha and Magadha, all of which were the most powerful kingdoms of the time. It is significant that Buddhist books do not mention Cetaka at all, though they tell us about the constitutional government of Vaisali used to be a stronghold of Jainism, while being looked upon by the Buddhists as a seminary of heresies and dissent.”  


The Licchavis were naturally favorable to Mahavira’s order. There are many stray references in the Jaina Sutras which confirm the fact that the Licchavis were followers of the Jaina faith. The capital of the Licchavis formed one of the headquarters of the Jaina community during the days of Mahavira. Out of forty-two rainy seasons  spent as a missionary during his later ascetic life, twelve were passed at Vaisali. Like the Licchavis, the Vajji, who in fact cannot be strictly differentiated from the Licchavis, came under the influence of Lord Mahavira, for Vaisali seems to have been regarded also as the metropolis of the entire Vajji confederacy. These republics in Eastern India had a type of Government which was senatorial, like the government in the city-state of Rome. The Jnatrkas, whose most noble scion was Mahavira, also formed one of the most important clans included in the Vajjian confederacy. The several clans of the Vajjian confederacy must have been naturally affected by the doctrines of the Nataputta. The canonical literature of his bitter antagonists, the Buddhists, does not fail to make this admission, and preached his faith of unbounded charity to all living beings, the number of his followers among the Licchavis appears to have been large and some men of the highest position appear to have been among them.”


The Mallakins also seen to have cherished a feeling of respect and sympathy for the great prophet and his doctrines. Both the Buddhist and the Jaina texts agree that the country of the Mallas formed one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. At the time of Mahavira the Mallas appear to have been divided into two confederacies one with its capital Pava and the other at Kusinara the two places being respectively the cities where the Jaina prophet Mahavira and the Buddha reached their final liberation. With the Mallas, Jainism seems to have established almost a good connections as with the Licchavis. According to Dr. B.C. Law, we get ample proof for this even from the Buddhist literature,


Geographically Kosala roughly corresponds to modern dern Oudh, and it seems to have contained three great cities namely Ayodhya, Saketa and Sravasti- the first two sometimes being often supposed to be one and the same. When one remembers that Sravasti was visited by Mahavira more than once and that he was always well received there one cannot but admit that the Kosalas also came under the influence of Mahavira.





From this analysis of the various kingdoms and republics of Eastern India, it would appear that Mahavira’s reformed church gained followers practically all over the vast stretches of the country. The references in the Jaina texts enable us to draw a complete map of Lord Mahavira’s travels and to recount the names of some of his prominent followers during the period of his propagation of the faith. The following is the list of the places where he stayed for the successive rainy seasons after the attainment of Kevala-Jnana.


It has been stated above that Mahavira attained the Kevala while sitting in meditation in a field outside the town Jrmbhikagrama and that he made his first converts and established the Sangha at a Samavasarana near the place of Somilacarya’s Yajna. From there the Lord proceeded to Rajgrha, the capital of Magadha, where he initiated the princes Meghakumar and Nandisena into the order of monks, gained numerous lay followers including Sulsa, Abhayakumar, and the King Srenika (Bimbisara) himself. The first rainy season he spent at Rajgrha.


After the rains were over, the Lord turned towards Videha, and passing through many villages ultimately reached Kundagrama, his birth place. The town of Kundagrama seems to have been divided into two settlements, a Ksatriyakunda where Mahavira’s father had lived and a Brahmanakund where lived Devananda, Mahavira’s Brahman foster-mother and her husband by name Rsabhadatta.  Mahavira made his stay in Brahmanakund and there converted to his order the Brahman Rsabhadatta and his wife Devananda.  It was on this occasion that on the sight of Mahavira Devananda had that sight of Mahavira Devananda had that sudden material emotion to which reference has been made earlier in this book.  Another important convert at Kundagrama was the Ksatriya Jamali who joined the order with his five hundred companions.  This Jamali later on organized a schism in the Jaina church.  From Kundagrama Mahavira proceeded to Vaisali, where he passed the second rainy season.


On the completion of the 2nd rainy season the Lord proceeded towards the Vatsa country.  The ruler of Vatsa, Satanika, had died and the kingdom was administered by the widow, Queen Mrgavati, on behalf of her minor son Udayana.  At Kausambi, the capital of Vatsa, Mahavira held a public audience and converted to his order the Queen Mrgavati and an aunt of the King, by name Jayanti.  From there, he proceeded further to Kosala, where at Sravasti a number of sympathizers and followers were gained for the Jaina faith.  The rainy season was passed at Vanijyagrama in Videha, to which Mahavira returned from Kosala.  At Vanijyagrama in Videha, to which Mahavira returned from Kosala.  At Vanijyagrama, the merchant Ananda and his wife Sivananda accepted the Sramanopasak vows.  Ananda became one of the loyal and highly trusted followers of the Lord.


From Vanijyagrama Mahavira repaired at the end of the rainy season to Magadha, where after roaming about the kingdom for several moths he settled down for the rainy Season at Rajgrha.  Among the new converts this year there were the merchants Dhanya and Salibhadra.


 Campa was the next place, which the Lord visited on the completion of the rainy season.  Here he converted the prince Mahacandra Kumar.  From Campa he proceeded to the province of Sindhu Sauvira, where Udayana was ruling over Vitabhaya.   It has been already explained how this Udayana was related to Mahavira through his wife Prabhavati.  The journey to Sindhu Sauvira was very difficult, involving travel in desert areas and hard country; but Mahavira went to the place in order to give to King Udayana Diksa as a ‘Sramanopasaka’.  Returning from Sindhu-Sauvira, he spent the rainy season at Vanijyagrama.


After the rainy season, a visit was paid to Benares and certain other places in the kingdom of Kasi, where numerous followers were gained for the Jaina church.  For the rainy season, the Lord returned to Rajgrha.  At Rajgrha he spent a highly fruitful season King Srenika had proclaimed that he would personally undertake to feed and otherwise overlook the dependents of anybody who desired to join Mahavira’s order of monks.  As a result of this proclamation, thousands of people joined the order and Mahavira stayed on at Rajgrha giving Diksa to the comers for sometime even after the finishing of the rainy season.  Enraged, probably at the success of Lord Mahavira’s ministry, Gosala Mankhaliputra, of whom mention has been made already, began his public criticism of Mahavira’s faith, although unsuccessfully, in the course of an argument with Ardraka, a monk of Mahavira’s order.  The rainy season was spent by Mahavira again at Rajgrha.


Having spent two rainy seasons at Rajgrha, Mahavira proceeded towards Vatsa country, visiting on the way Alabhiya in the kingdom of Kasi.  At Kausambi he converted queen Mrgavati and several queens of Canda Pradyota.  From here he proceeded towards Videha, and spent the rainy season at Vaisali.


On the completion of the rainy season he went to Mithila, thence to Kakandi, Sravasti, and the republics of the west, and made numerous conversations.  The rainy season was passed at Vanijyagrama.


 From here Mahavira proceeded after the rainy season to Magadha, where there was the famous meeting between his followers and the monks of Prasva’s order.  As a result of discussion of the several points of difference between the practices of the two orders, Mahavira’s leadership of the Jaina community was accepted by all. The rainy season was spent at Rajgrha.


From Rajgrha, Mahavira repaired at the end of the season to the Western kingdoms, but returned to Vanijyagrama for spending the next rainy season.


The next year was marked by the occurrence of the first schism in the community, when Jamali separated from the Lord with a small band of his companions.  Mahavira himself repaired to Kausambi, then to Rajgrha, where he spent the next rainy season; then after the end of the rains to Campa, where after the death of Srenika, his son, Kunik, had transferred his capital.  From Campa he turned towards Mithila and spent the next rainy season there.


It was when Mahavira proceeded to Sravasti after the rainy season that he had his famous encounter with Gosala, who after separating from Mahavira had continued to hang about the city claiming among his followers the potter-woman Halahala and the minstrel Ayampul.  Gosala had of course, claimed for himself the status of a Tirthankara, so that arose the anomaly of two Tirthankaras staying at the same town.  When questioned about it, Mahavira denounced Gosala and stated in a public audience that he was not a Tirthankara nor a true believer, whereupon got enraged, and visited Mahavira for a religious discussion.  The discussion was, of course, inconclusive, but two disciples of Mahavira who intervened were burnt up by his fiery power.  Gosala attempted to burn Mahavira himself, but was unsuccessful. The after-effects of Gosala’s fiery attack were, however, felt by Mahavira and he suffered great pain later on.  The rainy season was passed at Mithila.


From Mithila, Mahavira went towards Kosala-Pancala, visiting Sravasti, Ahicchatra, Hastinapur and other towns, and returned for the next rainy season to Vanijyagrama.  The last few rainy seasons were spent at Rajgrha, Vanijyagrama, Vaisali, Vaisali again, Rajgrha Nalanda, Vaisali, Mithila, Rajgrha, Nalanda, Mithila, Mithila again, Rajgrha, until at the age of 72 he attained Nirvana on Kartika Amavasya at Pavapuri.


Mahavira’s Community of Followers:


Mahavira succeeded in attracting a large number of disciples, both men and women, and organized his community into four orders.  Chief among his followers were fourteen thousand monks, at the head of whom stood the eleven Ganadharas, and thirty-six thousand nuns, at the head of whom was Candana.  These included “three hundred sages who knew the fourteen Purvas, who though not Jinas came very near them, thirteen hundred sages who were possessed of the Avadhi-knowledge and superior qualities; seven hundred Kevalins; seven hundred who could transform themselves; five hundred sages of mighty intellect; four hundred professors who were never vanquished in disputes; seven hundred male and fourteen hundred female disciples who reached perfection; and eight hundred sages in their last birth,”  During Mahavira’s own lifetime nine of the Ganadharas attained Kevalajnana.  Two survived him, Gautama and Sudharma, and as Gautama attained Kevala-jnana just as Mahavira breathed his last and obtained Nirvana, Sudharma became the head of the Order.  From Sudharma it is possible to trace a whole of succession of the leaders of the order right up to the present time.


Mahavira’s third order consisted of laymen.  They were householders who did not actually renounce the world but who could and did keep his rules in a modified form, while their alms supported the professed monks.  As Mrs. Stevenson says, the genius for organization which Mahavira possessed is shown in nothing more clearly than in the formation of this and the order of laywomen.  The laymen are said to have numbered during Mahavira’s lifetime one hundred and fifty-nine thousand men; according to the Digambara version the number given is one hundred thousand; the laywomen numbered three hundred and fifty-eight thousands.


In one of the well-known Jaina Agamas, Uvasagadasao, the names of ten of the more important lay followers of Mahavira are given.  Vanijyagrama, Campa, Baranasi, Alabhiya (or Alai), Kampilyapura, Polasapura, Rajagrha and Sravasti are mentioned as the important ones along the places that were visited by the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira.  The town of Campa had near it the shrine of Purnabhadra, Vanijyagrama, the shrine called Dutipalasa;



Baranasi the Kosthaka shrine; Alabhiya, the garden called Sankhavana; Kampilyapura, the garden Sahasramravana: Polaspura, a garden known by the name of Sahasramravana; Rajgrha, a shrine called Gunasil; and Sravasti, the Moshthaka shrine.  In Vanijyagrama the great lay disciples of Mahavira and the lay supporters of his order were Ananda and his wife Sivananda; in Campa; Kamadeva and his wife Bhadra; in Baranasi.  Culanipiya and his wife Syama, and Suradeva and his wife Dhanya; in Alabhiya, Cullasataka and his wife Bahula; in Kampilyapura, Kundakolita and his wife Pusya; in Polasapura, Sakadalaputra and his wife Agnimltra; in Rajgrha, Mahasataka; and in Sravasti, Nandinipriya and his wife Asvini, and Salatipiya and his wife Phalaguni.  These lay disciples are all mentioned as persons of opulence and influence, and as those noted for their piety and devotion.  Ananda of Vanijyagrama is described as householder who “possessed a treasure of four kror measures of gold deposited in a safe place, a capital of four kror measures of gold put out on interest, a well stocked estate of the value of four kror measures of gold, and four herds, each herd consisting of ten thousand herds of cattle.”  He “was a person whom many kings and princes and merchants made it a point to refer to, and to consult, on many affairs and matters needing advice,............in short, on all sorts of business.  He was also the main pillar, as it were, of his own family, their authority, support, mainstay and guide.  In short, he was a cause of prosperity to whatever business he was concerned with.”  Even the Buddhist texts bear testimony to numerous rich householders being among he lay disciples of Mahavira.




Mahavira attained nirvana at Pava in 527 B.C. at the age of 72.  The Licchavis and Mallas were two peoples to whom the rise of Mahavira was an object of national pride, and accordingly, it is said in the Kalpasutra that when Mahavira died, the eighteen confederate kings of Kasi and Kosala, the nine Mallakis and the nine Licchavis, instituted an illumination saying ‘Since the light of intelligence is gone, let us make an illumination of material matter!’








As has been said before, India was during Mahavira’s age passing through a period of unusual religious enthusiasm.  The county as a whole, and in particular the eastern provinces, were bristling with conflicting views and rival schemes.  Numerous individual philosophers and religious sects were preaching their doctrines, and the relations between them were not always of the happiest kind.  The animosities of the time may be well illustrated by the remark made by Mahavira’s newly ordained lay disciple, Ananda, in Uvasagadasao sutra; “Truly, Revered Sir, it does not befit me from this day forward to praise and worship any man of a heretical community, or any of the objected of reverence to them; or without being first addressed by them, to address them or confuse with them; or to give or supply them with food or drink except it be the command of the King or the community or any powerful man or deva or one’s own elders or by the exigencies of living.” Even the Acaranga sutra explicitly says that “to friendly or hostile one should not give alms, drink, dainties and spices...... nor do them service......” The insistence on the necessity of right faith is indicative of the same thing.  Faith has been held to be easier to obtain by those who, though not versed in the sacred doctrines, are not acquainted with other systems and hold no wrong doctrines.  Among the eight principles on which the excellence of faith rests, the most important have been mentioned as the absence of preference for heretics and the non-shaking of right belief at the prosperity of heretical sects.


Classification of creeds:


The account of philosophical schools mentioned in the Jaina canonical literature refers to three hundred and sixty three different creeds divided into four great schools-Kriyavada, comprising 180 different doctrines; Akriyavada 84, Ajnanavada 67, and Vinayavada 32.


Kriyavadais the school which admits the existence of the soul by itself (svta) for all eternity (nitya).  Among the Kriyavadins there may be those who believe that the soul exists in its own nature and is eternal but acts through time (kalvadi) and those who believe that the soul exists in itself eternally through Isvara or those who believe that the soul exists by itself eternally through Atma (atmvadi) or those who believe that the soul exists in itself eternally through Niyati (the fixed order of things niyativadee) or those who believe that the soul exists by itself eternally through Svabhava or nature (savbhavvadee).  There may be further divisions of the Kriyavadins according to whether they consider that the soul exists but is not eternal or that the soul exits but not of itself, that is to say, that it can be known only by contrast with other things.  The Kriyavadins, among whom Jainism may also be included, hold the belief that unless a sinful thought is translated into action or a sinful act performed with a sinful motive, the full karmic consequences will not follow and the soul will be affected but slightly, and further that misery is produced by one’s own acts and not by the act of somebody else, viz., fate, creator etc.


Akriyavada denies the existence of the soul and considers that everything has a momentary existence and that a state comes to an end the moment it comes into existence.  Without continuity of existence no Kriya is possible, so that when existence is believed to be momentary in its character, the philosophy is essentially Akriyavada.  The Akriyavadins are mentioned in the texts as not admitting that the action of the soul is transmitted to future moments and as holding that nothing exists and all forecasts of the future are false.  The Buddhists are obviously included in this school, for their doctrine is that everything has but a momentary existence and that there is no continuous identity of existence between a thing as it is now and as it will be in the next moment.  By not admitting the existence of Jiva, they were considered by the Jainas denying Karman as well.


The Ajnanavada school denies the necessity of importance of.  According to them knowledge is not the highest accomplishment, for where there is knowledge, there is contradiction, dispute and discussion.  On the other hand, ajnana or negation of knowledge may be the condition of the absence of pride and ill- will and so removal of bondage.  Knowledge produces volition, and the result of volition is karma and therefore bondage, while ajnana generates absence of volition.


Vinayavada upholds the supremacy of reverence as the cardinal virtue that leads to perfection.


In Buddhist literature also there is an elaborate description of contemporary schools.  The classification given in the Brahmajala Sutta in the Digha Nikaya divides contemporary philosophical thought into sixty-two schools, like the Eternalizes, holding that the soul and the world are both eternal, the semi Eternalizes, believing that the Brahma is eternal but not individual souls, the Extensionists, who built up their doctrines round the finiteness or infiniteness of the world, and the Eal-Wrigglers, who gave no categorical replies to any questions but specialized in ambiguous and equivocating replies.  It may be pointed out that the disputes between the various schools did not always arise on properly religious subjects.  At times disputes arose over cosmographic details, as illustrated in Bhagavati Sutra in the story of Prince Shiva where the duration of the God’ lives in different heavens became a matter of hot debate.




We know that the most important rival creed with which the Jaina preachers were faced was that of the Buddhist and that it was at the hands of the Buddhists that the Nirgrantha suffered most in latter times.  But in the Jaina canonical literature there are very scanty references to Buddhism, although Buddhist literature on the other hand abounds with criticisms of the Jaina doctrine.  For this there may be several reasons.  The Buddha was a junior contemporary of Mahavira and had therefore greater need for counter-acting and criticizing the creed of the latter than Mahavira had for combating the doctrine of a junior.  Not only was Mahavira senior, the system which he was preaching was also, as we have stated before an ancient system.  The rivalry between the two sects grew stronger after Mahavira’s death.


Nevertheless references to the Buddhists as heretical order are there in the Jaina canons.  In Acarangasutra there is mention of a school of heretical order are there in the Jaina canons.  In Acarangasutra there is mention of a school of heretics who justify the use of water on the ground of having permission to drink it or take it for toilet purposes; this undoubtedly refers to the Buddhists for the Buddha had declared that there was no sin in either drinking water or in using it for bath and wash.  He permitted bath and washing to is ascetic disciples.  Their doctrine of the five Skandhas of momentary existence has been ascribed to “some fools,” There is an undeniable reference in this to the Rupa, Vedana, Vijnana Samjna and Samskara skandhas of the Buddhists.  Akriyavadins who deny karman and do not admit that the action of the soul is transmitted to future moments, are possibly the Buddhists also.  In Sutrakrtanga Sutra, in the discussions of Adda a man appears and argues that if one pierces a lump of oilcake with spit mistaking it for a man or a gourd, mistaking it for a baby and roasts it, one will be guilty of murder; while of a savage puts a man on a spit and roasts him mistaking him for a lump of oilcake or a baby mistaking it for a gourd, he will not be guilty of murder.  This is an account, although exaggerated, of the Buddhist view that motive determines whether an act is sinful or not.




The best known heresy to the Nirgranthas was, however, the doctrines of the Ajivika.  They have been referred to with the greatest frequency and their doctrines have been denounced with very great vehemence and care.  From descriptions in the Jaina sutras the Ajivika doctrine would appear to be an extreme form of Niyativada, that there is no such thing as exertion or labor or power or manly strength but that all things are caused by destiny which is unalterably fixed.


“Saddalaputta, the follower of the Ajivika, one day brought out his air dried potter’s ware from within his workshop, and placed them in the heat of the sun.


Mahavira, who happened to go there, asked “Saddalaputta, how is this potter’s ware made?”


Saddalaputtra: “Reverend Sir, this ware is at first clay, then it is kneaded with water, and then it is mixed well together with ashes and dung; then it is mixed well together with ashes and dung; then it is placed on the wheel, and finally many bowls and jars of various sizes are made.”


Mahavira: “Saddalaputta, is your ware made by dint of exertion and manly strength, or on the other hand, is it made without exertion and manly strength?”


Saddalaputta: ”Reverend Sir, it is made without exertion and manly strength, and all things are unalterably fixed,”


Mahavira: “Saddalaputta, if any one of thy men were to steel thy unbaked or baked ware or scatter it about or make holes in it or let it drop into pieces or place it outside unguarded or if he were to indulge in outrageous familiarities with thy wife Aggimitta, what punishment would thou inflict on that man?”


Mahavira then pointed out that if all things were unalterably fixed and depended not on exertion, then he ought not to take any action again this servant’s conduct for the servant was not responsible for it.  This convinced Saddalaputta of the falseness of Ajivika doctrines and he was converted to the creed of Mahavira.”


Dr. Barua has collected and reviewed exhaustively all the materials available in Jaina and Buddhist texts on the history of Ajivika and the life and teachings of Gosala, the founder of the Ajivika order.  The order did not die with its leader, although it undoubtedly lost its vigor and following to a large extent, The Bhagavati Sutra gives a detailed description of the meeting between Gosala and Mahavira and of the manner of Gosala’s death.


“The headquarters of the Order was in Savatthi in the shop of the potter woman Halahala.  In the twenty-fourth year of Gosala’s ascetic life he was visited by six ascetics with whom he discussed their doctrines and propounded his own theory from the eight Mahanimittas belonging to the Purvas consisting of the principles of obtainment and non-obtaining, pleasure and pain, life and death.  He met a disciple of Mahavira and notified to him his intention of destroying Mahavira by means of his fiery forces.  The threat was conveyed to Mahavira who forbade Nirgrantha ascetic to hold any communication with Gosala[DKCM1] . Gosala called on Mahavira and angrily ridiculed him for having called Gosala a disciple of Mahavira. “Mankhaliputta who was a disciple of Mahavira” said Gosala “was dead and reborn in the heavens as a god.  But I whose name was Udayi was born in the body of Ajjuna and entered in the seventh re-animation the body of Gosala, which I still hold.”  He then went on to narrate in detail the processes of re-animation he had undergone in the bodies of different persons in different places and how in his seventh and last re-animation he obtained omniscience in the body of Gosala in the potter shop of Halahala.  Mahavira in reply told him that he was like a thief who being chased by villagers attempted to conceal his identity under various disguises and in various places of hiding.  Gosala was enraged at this and hotly abused Mahavira.  A disciple of the latter intervened but was burnt up by Gosala’s fiery forces.  Another disciple also met with the same fate.  Mahavira himself now rebuked Gosala who attempted to burn him but was unsuccessful.  A scene followed of trial of strength between the two teachers.  They parted and Mahavira instructed his disciples to go and annoy Gosala with questions.


“After sometime Gosala was stricken with a fever and being delirious he held a mango in his hand, drank liquors, sang, danced and made improper advances to Halahala, and sprinkled on himself the cool muddy water from the potter’s vessels, which acts, Mahavira explained to his disciples, led to the Ajivika doctrines of the eight Finalities (Atthacarimaim).  The first four of he eight Finalities were the last four acts performed by Gosala, viz., the last drink, the song, the last dance and the last improper solicitor.  The other four were the last tornado, the last sprinkling elephant, he last fight with big stones and missiles, and the last Tirthankara who is Golsala himself.


Gosala’s sprinkling himself with the muddy water from the earthen vessels gave rise to the doctrine of the four things that may be used as drinks and the four things as their substitutes by virtue of the coolingness.  Those that may be used as water are the cow’s urine, water accidentally collected in a Potter’s vessels, water heated by the sun, and water dripping from a rock.  Those that may be used as substitutes are holding in the hand a dish or a bottle or a jar or a pot which is cool or moist; squeezing in the mouth a mango or a hogplum or a jujube or a tin-duka fruit when it is unripe or uncooked, but not drinking its juice and feeling the touch of the moist hands of the gods punnabhadda and Manibhadda when they appear on the last night of six months to one who eats pure food for six months, lies successively for two months each on bare ground, on wooden planks, and on kusa grass.  He who submits to touch of the two gods furthers the work of venomous snakes but he who does not do so generates in himself a fire, which burns his body, and he dies and attains liberation.


Ayambula, an Ajivika, came to visit Gosala at the time and felt ashamed finding Gosala in a delirium.  He was about to go away but Ajivika elders called him back, explained the new doctrines and asked him to put his question to Gosala after throwing away the mango in his hand.  Ayambula did so and asked about the halla insect.  Gosala replied “This which you see is not a mango but only the skin of a mango.  You ask about the halla insect, it is like the root of the bamboo; play the lute, man, play the lute.”  Then Gosala feeling the end approaching called his disciples and requested them to observe his funeral with all honors and proclaim that he was the last Tirthankara.  But afterwards he felt that he was not an omniscient but a false, teacher and a humbug but that Mahavira was the true Jina.  Then he called his disciples and asked them to treat him with dishonor after he was dead and proclaim his misdeeds and the Jina hood of Mahavira.  Then he died.  The Ajivika theras closed the door and pretended to carry out Gosala’s last instructions, and then they opened the doors and gave him a funeral according to his original wishes.”


The account may be exaggerated, but seems to be fundamentally well- based.  It is also corroborated by Buddhist texts.  The Buddhists had no cause for special resentment against the Ajivika, yet even the Buddhists do not refer to Gosala with respect. Dr. Hoernle mentions in his article on the Ajivika in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics that in the mouth of the Buddhists, ‘Ajivika’ was a term of reproach, meant to stigmatize Gosala and his followers as professionals.  Gosala’s humble origin and humble connections may have been partly responsible for the contempt with which, he was looked upon by the other religious leaders.


Gosala’s father was Mankhali, who used to wander about from place to place exhibiting a picture.  He once came with his wife to Sarvana and took up his lodging in the cowshed of a wealthy Brahmin called Gobahula, and Gosala is reputed to have been born there.  For some time Gosala himself seems to have followed his father’s calling, but ultimately he took up ascetic life and for sometime was also a companion of Mahavira during the period of his preparation.  The story of Gosal’s separation from Mahavira, assumption of the Jinahood, and the establishment of the Ajivika order, has already been told in a previous  chapter.


Brahmanic schools:


Jaina literature is full of references to numerous schools of popular Brahmanism.  Among heretical doctrines there is mention of some, who hold that the owing of possessions and the engaging in undertakings is quite compatible with the attainment of perfection.  This is obviously a reference to Brahman priests who supported a non-ascetic religion of rituals and ceremonies and themselves possessed wealth and property.  The Sankya, Yoga, Vedanta and other views also have been referred to in order to equip the Nirgrantha ascetic with the usual beliefs of the common people entertained under wrong understanding, and also with a view to show up the apparently contradictory views held by the Vedantists and the Purantists.  The Philosophy of the Nastikas, the materialists, who deny the existence of the soul, is also mentioned as a wrong doctrine.


There is mention of a host of minor schools, holding quite unusual views: (1) That a Jiva performed right conduct and wrong conduct at the same time, (2) That there is no harm in enjoying the pleasures of the senses, for it gave relief to the enjoyer without causing harm to any one else, (3) that the soul and everything else is mere appearance, mirage, an illusion, a dream, a phantasy, etc.




The twenty-seventh year of Mahavira’s ascetic life, that is, the fifteenth year after the attainment of Kevala, the year of his famous encounter with Gosala, was marked by the occurrence of the first schism in the community, when Jamali separated from the Lord with a small band of his disciples who afterwards gradually left him.  The event that had led to the dissension can briefly be stated as follows.  Once Jamali begged permission to go wandering with a large number of ascetics, but Mahavira gave no reply even after being asked three times.  Jamali, however, did not wait for the permission any further and left Mahavira, together with his own disciples.  While thus wandering independently, once upon a time he went to Sarvasti and stayed at the Tinduka garden.  He had been suffering from fever at the time and asked his companion ascetics to stretch a bed to lie down upon.  While they were stretching the bed, he asked them whether it was ready.  They replied in the affirmative.  But when Jamali found that it was only being made ready, he got angry, and ascribed their affirmative answer to their false doctrine that a thing in the making is as good as a thing completely made (karain manrai kedai).  His companions tried to convince him of the soundness of the doctrine, but he would not listen to them.  There was much discussion about Jamali’s refutation of the doctrine, and some of his disciples left him consequently.  Jamili visited Mahavira at Campa in order to inform him that he had attained omniscience.  But when Mahavira refused to admit his claim, Jamali felt humiliated and finally left him to establish his own order.  His order, however, does not appear to have lasted for long.  It is most probable that his order did not survive him.  Jamali is the first Nihnava ‘dissenter’ in the Sangha established by Mahavira.


The texts record six more such Nihnavas belonging to different periods, within the first six centuries of the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira in the history of the Jaina church.  They are Tisyagupta (15 years after Mahavira’s Kevalihood)  the Acarya of the Jivapradesikas; Asadha 214 years after Vira-nirvana) the Acarya of the avyaktikas; Asvam  itra (220A. V.) the Acarya of the Samucchedkas, Ganga (228 A.  V.) the Acarya of the dvaikriyas; Saduluka (also known as Rohagupta, 544 A. V.) the Acarya of the Trairasikas; and Gosthamahila, (584A. V.) the Acarya of the Ababdhikas.


The Jivapradesikas held that the last space-point of the soul was the soul proper in view of the fact that the soul is incomplete and, therefore, not soul proper unless it includes its last space-point which completes its being.  But they did not notice the fact that any and every space point of the soul could be considered as the last space point and as such they insisted on a doctrine which had no sound reasoning behind it.  Tisyagupta formulated the doctrine on the basis of some texts which he failed to understand properly.  The Avyaktikas were skeptics who were suspicious of everybody and so did not bow down to anyone.  The result was that their lay disciples also began to withhold their respectful homage from them.  It is said that the Avyaktikas developed this skeptic attitude after they were made to bow down to the corpse of their Acarya named Asadha, who re-inhabited his own corpse, out of mercy, in order to bring to a speedy end the Yoga of his disciples.  The Samucchedikas were those who believed in the momentariness of all things.  Asvamitra was their Acarya.  He misinterpreted a text and developed the doctrine.  He remained quite blind to the other texts, which clearly stated the permanence as well as constituting the nature of a thing.  The Dvaikriyas upheld the doctrine of the possibility of the experience of two-fold actions at one and the same time.  Ganga the Acarya of Dvaikriyas was one day crossing a river, when he experienced both cold and heat, and jumped to the conclusion that they felt simultaneously.  The Agama text, however, clearly denies the possibility of two-fold experience.  The Trairasikas were those who believed in the three categories of Jiva, Ajiva and No-jiva instead of the two, viz., Jiva and Ajiva as accepted in the Agamas.  Sauluka as their Acarya, who is said to have invented the third category in order to defeat his opponent by confronting him with a new problem.  But afterwards when he was asked by his gura to admit the trick before the judges, he disagreed and was consequently turned out of the Sangha.  The Abaddhikas upheld that the Karma-matter can only touch the soul, cut cannot become one with it, because if it became one with the soul, there would be no possibility of re-separation.  This doctrine openly goes against the accredited view that Karma unites with the soul exactly as heat unites with iron and water with milk, Gosthamahila was the Acarya of the Abaddhikas.


The sects founded by these Nihnavas, it appears from the accounts given, did not survive their founders.  The accounts further reveal the fact that the Jaina Sangha as strong enough to foil the attempts of these dissenters at bringing about any untoward change in it.








Born and brought up in a Society informed with democratic ethos and in an age of great intellectual stir, social dissatisfaction, philosophical doubt and religious confusion, and deeply influenced by the ethical tradition of Parsva, Mahavira chose, when he was thirty, the life of an ascetic seeking after truth and enlightenment.  After twelve years of penance and suffering and rigorous practice of spiritual detachment, he attained such knowledge as was perfect and absolute, and strove so much for its redemption that he came to be regarded a Tirthankara.  Mahavira showed wonderful ability in the organization of his Sangha which consisted of the ascetic as well as the layman, men as well as women.  He did not consider the layman as incapable of spiritual uplift, and., therefore, accorded an honorable place to him in the Sangha.  The layman is as important a limb of the Sangha as the ascetic, and it is incumbent upon both to cooperate and push the Sangha forward towards spiritual uplift, Mahavira’s Sangha was open to all irrespective of caste, color and sex.  Merit and not birth was the determinant of status in society.  Ability and not sex was regarded as the criterion of admission into the higher order.  Superstitious rituals and belief in the capacity of gods to help man were discarded.  The existence of God as the Creator of the world was denied, and man was held responsible for his own fortune as well as misfortune, freedom as well as bondage.  Sacrifice of the animal was replaced by the sacrifice of the brute self.  Mahavira’s life is a symbol of the mortification of the flesh for the development of the Spirit.  It is spiritual joy, and not heavenly pleasure, that is worth pursuit.  Mahavira did not encourage acquisition of supernormal powers for the victimization of the weak. He prohibited the use of such powers even for self-protection.  He disparaged racial inequity, economic rivalry and political enslavement.  Mahavira took it upon himself to work out and propagate a veritable spiritual democracy in the form of Jainism.  He delivered his message in the tongue of the people.  He did not like the aristocratic aloofness and mystifying secrecy of the Brahmanical thinkers in matters religious and philosophical.  There was no need of interpreter of the tongue of gods.  There can be no mediator between man and God.  Mahavira popularized philosophy and religion and threw open the portals of heaven to the down- trodden and the weak, the humble and the lowly.  To him spirituality was not the property of the privileged few, but a valued possession of each and all.  It is only in the form of human being that the spirit can realize itself.  Gods are inferior to the man of conduct.  They symbolize only a stage in the development of the spirit.  The final development, however, is possible only in the human form.  The idea of an ever-free omnipotent Creator God and His incarnation is exploded as a myth, and the responsibility of creation is put on the shoulders of those who inhabit and enjoy it.  Conduct is judged by the spiritual law of ahimsa, perfect and absolute.  The means is not justified by the end.  It is perhaps with reference to these revolutionary ideals that a modern critic, informed with the faith in merciful God has characterized Jainism as “a religion in which the chief insisted upon are that one should deny God, worship man and nourish vermin.”  Philosophy, with Mahavira, is not an intellectual system based on data supplied by psychological analysis, or a metaphysical speculation based on scientific investigation, but an all-comprehensive view based on spiritual realization wherein all other views find proper justification.  These are in brief, the general features of the message of Lord Mahavira.


The roots of Jainism can be traced out in that floating mass of Sramana literature which developed side by side with the ancient Vedic and had, according to Dr. Maurice Winternitz, the following characteristic features: “It disregards the system of casts and asramas, its heroes are, as a rule, not gods and Rsis, but kings or merchants or even Sudras.  The subjects of poetry taken up by it are not Brahmanic myths and legends, but popular tales, fairy stories, fables and parables, It likes to insist on the misery and suffering of Samsara, and it teaches a morality of compassion and Ahimsa, quite distinct from the ethics of Brahmanism with its ideals of the great person who sacrifices and generous supporter of the priests and its strict adherence to the caste system.” “Jainism together with Sankhya Yoga” according to Dr. Hermann Jacobi, “is the earliest representative of that mental revolution which brought about the close of the Vedic and inaugurated the new period of Indian culture which has lasted through the middle ages almost down to the present time.”  We can clearly discern in the formative period, nay, throughout the development, of our culture, two distinct forces perpetually struggling for supremacy and evolving a more and more rational culture.  Of these two forces, one attracts us to the spiritual life by insisting on misery and suffering, while the other strives to keep us attached to the duties and responsibilities of social life.  The advent of Mahavira and the Buddha represents a period of supremacy of the former over the later.  This period was, of course, preceded by a long period of philosophical ferment and religious unrest.  There was strenuous search for the ideal.  Two distinct ways of thought, Brahmanic and Sramanic were struggling for supremacy and were influencing each other.  It was impossible that one should supersede the other.  But they evolved a system, which had a strong note of asceticism and was predominantly Sramanic.  This was embodied in the Caturyama dharma of Parsva and finally developed by Mahavira into what is called Jainism, Buddhism too is a similar, though decidedly later, growth with a wonderfully rational outlook: The investigations about the antiquity of Jainism are by no means complete.  We look to an intense research for more enlightenment.


We have discussed at some length the story of Gosala’s companionship and final separation with Mahavira.  The story of his last encounter with Mahavira has also been related.  We have shown the non-tenability of the fanciful opinion of some scholars that Mahavira was a disciple of Gosala for some time.  Our conclusion is that Mahavira and Gosala did not have a teacher and disciple relationship at all.  Mahavira and Gosala were just two associates in a common concern, two: Sadhakas who lived together for six years in asceticism.  Later on there sprang up acute differences of opinion between the two.  They separated from each other and became irreconcilable opponents, fighting out their differences generally through their followers.  After six months from the separation with Mahavira, it is said, Gosala acquired supernormal powers, proclaimed himself a Jina, and founded the order of the Ajivikas.  It is also probable that the order of the Ajivika was already there and Gosala only assumed its leadership proclaiming himself the last Jina.   The implication of the doctrine of ‘seven re-animation’s’ advocated by Gosala is not very clear; most probably Gosala referred to the six past leaders of the order, and considered himself to be the seventh and the last.  The problem is to be studied afresh, and there is every possibility of fruitful result.  There is, however, no ambiguity about the central doctrine of Gosala.  he was an uncompromising fatalist.  For him there was no such thing as freedom of will, all things being caused by destiny which was unalterably fixed.  This contrasts strongly with Mahavira’s ideal of nirvana as something to be achieved by toil and labor, and not something to be presented by destiny in due course.  There is neither scope nor necessity for voluntary efforts in the system of Gosala.  We do not know whether the Ajivika order served him for long in its original shape, although a reference to an Ajivika order is found in an inscription of as late as the thirteenth century A.D.


The Jaina doctrine of knowledge is assuredly a valuable contribution to the epistemological thought.  Knowledge is inherent in soul and depends for its expression upon the dis-entanglement of the soul from the forces that vitiate its intrinsic capacities.  The Kasayas of attachment and aversion are held responsible for the obstruction of the capacity to know, and it is by the total destruction of these Kasayas that the soul achieves ‘the blaze of omniscience’.  Absolute annihilation of knowledge is impossible, and the knowledge is not at its minimum in the one-sensed organism.  Perfection is achieved not by adding one knowledge to another, but by removing the cause of imperfection, which consists in the Kasayas.  Ignorance is only an incidental effect of a more fundamental cause, namely, the Karma that blurs the right intuition.


The Karma doctrine is another glorious achievement of the Jaina thinkers.  Karma is a substantive force, a sort of infra-atomic particles which have the peculiar property of developing the effects of merit and demerit.  “As heat can unite with iron and water with milk, so Karma unites with the soul.” Life is a struggle between spirit and matter.  The material body is to be subdued by matter.  Evolution means evolution of the body.  The body is the instrument of expression, and so the perfection of the spirit is synchronized with the perfection of the body.  What controls the universe is the law of Karma.  The world is made, not by gods and angels, but by the Karma of the spirits.  The history of man is determined by his own voluntary choice.  Man enters the world of his own creation and fashions it according to his own designs.  He can transcend the inherited limitations by his will and action, and become the architect of his own future.  The theory of fourteen states in the ascent to the state of Final Liberation is the logical consummation of the doctrine of Karma.


Indian religions lay stress on asceticism and life negation, and Jainism does so in a special measure.  Jainism prescribes even the abandonment of the body in case it fails to fulfill the demand of the spirit.  This exposes Jainism to the charge that its ethics is negative and passive.  The Jaina ethics will plead guilty to this charge.  The motive behind ethical practices is that of purging the soul of selfish impulses so that it may realize itself.  Spiritual strenuous, meditation, the freeing of the mind from hatred, anger and lust are emphasized.  What appears to be passivity is intense concentration of consciousness where the soul lays hold immediately upon itself.  Life affirmation is fraught with more dangers and pitfalls than those of life negation.  If affirmation leads to progress, negation certainly leads to peace.  World has suffered more at the hands of the progress-loving peoples than at the hands of the peace-loving nations.  Jainism discourages aggressiveness, but never supports cowardice.  Peaceful courting of death without hatred for the murderer is more praiseworthy than violent defense.  The law of non-violence is regarded as the supreme law. Justice itself is judged by this law.  Consistent application of this universal law of non-violence in practical life exposed Jainism to the ridicule of those who were satisfied merely with the theoretical extolling of the law.  Its appeal to the rational minds, however, was great and gradually it gripped a considerable portion of the populace.


Our study of the position of the rival sects has been very brief.  We have annexed a short note on Nihnavas in order to show the inherent strength of the organization of the Jaina Sangha to deal with internal dissentions.


Mahavira left the world, realized the truth, and came back to the world to preach it.  There was immediate response from the people and he got disciples and followers.  Eleven learned Brahmins were the first to accept his discipleship and became ascetics.  They were the heads of Ganas, of ascetics.  They were the heads of Ganas, of ascetics, and as such were called Ganadharas.  They remained faithful to their teacher throughout their lives.  Indrabhuti Gautama was the eldest disciple of Mahavira.  He was very fond of his master, and had numerous interesting dialogues with him.  Mahavira was never tired of answering questions and problems of various types, scientific, ethical, metaphysical, and religious.  He had broad outlook and scientific accuracy.  His answers were never vague or mystifying.  He had firm conviction and resolute will.  His tolerance was infinite.  He remained unmoved, when two of his disciples were burnt to ashes before his eyes by Gosala, who was then preparing to strike Mahavira himself.  But he would never surrender a single point in argument about spiritual conviction and ethical conduct.  Right conduct is conduct according to right conviction.  Right conviction is conviction based on spiritual realization.  A man of right conviction and right conduct has fear from none and tolerance for all.  Mahavira always surrendered his body, but never his spirit.  Retention of the spirit demands surrender of the body.  Suffering and penance are the conditions of freedom.  Mahavira was a cold realist.  He had not faith in warm idealism.  He had immense faith in human nature, but he always insisted on vigilance against indolence, physical, moral and spiritual.  He is reported to have once exhorted his favorite disciple Indrabhuti Gautama to always retain strenuosness in the following words: You have well- nigh crossed the great ocean.  Why do you loiter on the shore? Make haste to pass on to the other side.  Do not be indolent, O Gautama, for a single moment.’ Inward strenuosness and affirmation of spirit is sometimes associated with outward passivity and negation of life.  This is not non-understandable.  Life is an evil so long as it is rooted in desires.  Negation of life rooted in desires is not an unsocial act.  It is but reinstatement of the society in harmony with the laws of the spirit.  It is self-contradiction on the surface for the sake of self-realization in the depth.  In this sense, individualism is not incompatible with social progress.  Mahavira was never indifferent to the well- being of his Sangha.  He worked strenuously for and took interest in the most minute details of the organization.  One is amazed to find in him this rare combination of absolute negation of desires and immense interest in action.  Mahavira was neither a ‘delicate mystic’ nor an ‘energetic prophet.’ He was a thoroughgoing rationalist who would base his action on his conviction, unmindful of the context of established custom or inherited tradition.  This is the keynote of the personality of Lord Mahavira.