Lord Mahavira is the twenty-fourth Tirthankar. He was born in 599 B.C. at Kshatriyakund which was a part of the well known Vaishali republic. His father’s name was King Siddhartha and his mother’s name was Queen Trishala. They were very religious people and were followers of Lord Parshvanath. Queen Trishala had fourteen dreams (some believe sixteen dreams) when she conceived Lord Mahavira. While she was pregnant, the prosperity of King Siddhartha grew. The parents attributed their success to the baby. So when the baby was born, he was named Vardhaman, which means continuously increasing.
He was very bold and while playing he once saved his friends from a snake. Another time, a heavenly angel joined them in the disguise of a young boy. According to the rules of the game, Vardhaman had a chance to ride on the boys back. While he was riding, the boy turned into a monster in order to scare him. Vardhaman however overcame the monster. The heavenly angel then appeared in his true form. He praised Vardhaman for his boldness and called him “Mahavira” meaning very brave.
Though Mahavira was born with worldly comforts and luxuries, they never attracted him. He lived a simple life. So when his parents died, he decided to be a monk. He asked for permission from his brother. His brother was still mourning the loss of their parents. He therefore requested Mahavira to wait for a couple of years before leaving. Mahavira waited for two years, during which he led a totally detached life. After realizing this, his brother gave him permission to become a monk. Mahavira was thirty years old when he gave up his worldly life and all worldly activities. He spent most of his time in austerity and in meditation. He suffered a great deal of physical pain and torture from various sources. Among them, the most severe was the biting by the highly poisonous snake Chandakaushik. Lord Mahavira remained calm and peaceful in the midst of all these torturous events. He never lost his serenity and never developed hatred for anyone. He magnanimously forgave all of them. He led such a highly austere life for twelve and a half years. At the age of forty-two he attained omniscience, Kevaljnan. He became Jina, the twenty-forth Tirthankar of the present era. As omniscient he knew everything of the past present and future.
As the last Tirthankar, he revived the religious order (Tirth) consisting of monks, nuns, Shravaks and Shravikas. This order is known as the Jain Sangh. His first disciple, called Ganadhar, was Gautamswami. He was a well known Brahmin scholar of the time. Lord Mahavira had eleven Ganadhars. Those Ganadhars compiled twelve scriptures based on what Lord Mahavira taught. These scriptures are called agamas which were passed verbally from preceptor to pupil for a long time. They were put into writing about 890 years after the death of Mahavira.
During the time of Lord Parshvanath there were four great vows followed by monks and nuns. Realizing the status of mind of current and future sadhus and sadhvis, Lord Mahavira added one more vow to them. The five vows are:
1) Non-violence (Ahimsa)
2) Truth (Satya)
3) Non-stealing (Asteya)
4) Chastity (Brahmacharya, added by Mahavira)
5) Non-possession (Aparigraha).
During his times violent sacrificial rituals were conducted by people in the name of religion. The teachings of Lord Mahavir opened their eyes, and they also adopted the principle of non-violence. His sermons encouraged people to build a happy and harmonious society.
After offering guidance to the public for thirty years, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvan in 527 B.C., at the age of seventy-two. Nirvana means that he attained liberation and became a Siddha who no longer has to undergo the cycle of birth and death.
1) Who was Lord Mahavir?
2) What were his parents names?
3) How old was he when he became a monk?
4) For how many years did he perform austerity and meditation?
5) How old was he when he became a Tirthankar?
6) What are the four different parts of the Jain Sangh?