Tirthankara Parsvanatha

40. Tirthankara Parswanatha is undoubtedly a historic personage who flourished 250 years earlier than Mahavira (850 B.C.) at Varanasi to a non-Aryan Naga race of the Vratya-Ksatriyas. His father’s name was king Asvasena and that of the mother was Vamadevi. He reached an age of 100 years and height was 7 ells. His concept of Caturyamadharma is clearly mentioned in the early Pali literature of Buddhism. Parsva tried throughout his life to purge the asceticism of corrupt practices such as Pancagnitapas and violent sacrifices and taught the real type of penance and religion. His conceptual impact can be observed on the Upanisadic speculations. After practicing severe austerities, he attained Keivalya in forest of Ahicchatra (Bareilly, U.P.) and then attained Nirvana at Mount Sammeda-sikhara in Bihar in 777 B.C.

41. The Parsvanatha’s asceticism is very important point from the view of history of Jain asceticism. It is related with the fundamental difference between Digambaras and Svetambaras. We can also observe some differences between Parsvanatha and Mahavira traditions some of them are as follows: l) Caturyama-samvara (Dharma) has been mentioned in the early Pali literature. It involves restraint from four sorts of activities-I) injury,ii) non-truthfulness,iii) taking what is not given, and iv) possession. Here no possession includes celibacy, which was made the separate one by Mahavira. This Caturyama is not mentioned in Digambara literature. Likewise, the Kesi-Gautama dialogue of the Uttaradhyayanasutra is not available in Digambara Texts, which poses the question of principle of nudity. Digambaras reject the authenticity of such dialogues and establishes nudity as the fundamental principle. This is even fully supported by Svetambara Agamas. Sthanangasutra (Sutra 916) shows Mahavira saying, “I uphold the practice of nudity (�acelae dhamme pannatte). Digambaras are of view that all Tirthankaras from Rsabhadeva to Mahavira followed the nudity, the basic practice of the Jain mendicant. The Svetambara Texts have so many references where they made nudity as an original, main but an optional practice. The Acarangasutra (Sutra 433) clearly says that weak men, who cannot tolerate going in nude form but wish to practice fasting and other virtuous activities should do so while continuing to wear clothing. They have traditionally accepted two sorts of monks, the Jinakalpins who follow complete nudity and the Sthavirakalpins who bear the clothes. Both these ways are considered equally valid for attainment of salvation. It may also be mentioned here that the word “eka- sataka” occurred in the Anguttaranikaya ( 111, 384) does not recognize the clothed state but it, in fact, indicates the eleventh stage of a Jain mendicant. Considering all these facts, Digambaras refused altogether the authenticity of Svetambaras Agamic Texts. They are in favor of strict renunciation of all possessions, internal as well as external since inception. The Caturyama may be a part of Samayikacaritra or Samayika-samyama as indicated in the Mulacara (7.23). It is also said that the first and the last Tirthankara prescribed the Pancayamas while second to twenty-third Tirthankaras laid down the Caturyamasamvara.2) From Ajitanatha to Parsvanatha Tirthankaras prescribed four types of Caritras, Samayika, Pariharavisuddhi, Suksmasamparaya and Yathakhyata, while Rsabhadeva and Mahavira laid down five types of Caritras, which include Chedopasthapana into the list.3) The religion of first and the last Tirthnkara was Acelatva (nudity) while the remaining Tirhtankaras allowed the Sacelata (clothing) simultaneously.4) The first and the last Tirthankaras included the renunciation of night- eating (Ratribhojanatyaga) into Vratas while other Tirthankaras made it as the part of Ahimsavrata.5) The Pratikramana was observed in Parsvanath tradition only on offences while Mahavira made it compulsory.Tirthankara Mahavira or Vardhamana

42. Mahavira or Nigantha Nataputta, the Samana ascetic or Digha- tapassi” of Pali literature is the 24th and last Tirthankara of the present evolutionary cycle. The last two Tirthankaras are more known historically to us naturally as they are immediately precede the present age. Almost all the Tirthankaras were born and actively engaged in their propagation in the middle part of India bounded by the Himalayas on the North, the Vindhya Mountains on the South, Allahabad on the East and Kuruksetra on the West, particularly the plain part of middle-Ganges and Bihar. Though the historicity of this region commences from 6th century B.C. but the human existence prior to 6000 years B.C is hereby proved through archaeological evidence. Therefore the mythological tradition cannot be altogether rejected.

43. Tirthankara Mahavira, the propagator and not the founder of Jainism were a great spiritual leader of India in sixth-fifth century B.C. This was not his personal name. His contemporaries better knew him as Nigantha Nataputta. Nigantha is a religious epithet while the Nataputta epithet indicates that he belongs to Naya, Nata or Jnatri clan of the Ksatriyas just as the Buddha was called Sakyaputta because he was the young member of his clan. The term Nigantha or Nirgratha for a Jaina came to be used perhaps along with the origin of Jainism itself.

44. Mahavira or Vardhamana was born on the 13th day of the Caitra Sukla, corresponding to 30th March 599 B.C. at Kundalapur or Kundagrama (Vaisali) from the womb of Trisala or Priyakarini or Videhadatta, the daughter of Licchavi king Cetaka of Videha. His father king Siddhartha, belonged to Kasyapa Gotra and the clan of Jnatrika or Vratya Ksatriya. Jacobi identified Kottigama of the Mahavagga with Kundagama of the Jain Texts. Mahavira’s perents Siddhartha and Trisala were the chief of Vaisali and followers of Parsvanatha tradition (Pasavaccijja- Ayaranga, 2.l5-l6). They named him “Vardhamana because with his birth, the wealth, fame, and merit of the family increased. So many legends tell about Vardhman’s supreme velour as how easily he excelled all his companions in strength and physical endurance during boyhood. As he was in the midst of dangers and fears, patiently enduring all hardships and calamities, adhering to the chosen rules of penance and asceticism and as he was wise (Sanmati) , indifferent to pleasure and pain alike, rich in self-control and gifted with fortitude, the name Mahavira was given to him. Not much is found about his childhood and householder life in early Prakrit and Pali literature. Mahavira’s paternal uncle was Suparsva. His elder brother was Nandivardhana and his elder sister Sudarsana. His parents died when he was thirty years old. There are some controversies and differences between Digambara and Svetambara traditions regarding his life and practices.

45. Regarding Mahavira’s ascetic life, of course, we find some valuable references in the Acarangasutra, Kalpasutra, Adipurana and other literature. Accordingly, he renounced the worldly life at the age of thirty and gave up all possessions and became unclothed with the vow of asceticism. After devoting himself to self-discipline and self-purification, practicing the severest penance and austerities for twelve years, he attained Kevalajnana (Perfect knowledge) while sitting in transcendental spiritual concentration under the Sala tree at the age of forty-two in Jambhiyagrama (modern village Jamui) situated on the bank of quil (Rjukula) near Rajagraha. During these years of his pursuit, a number of incidents occurred in his life, viz. Calamities of Gopalakas, Sulapani, Agni, Taptadhuli, Lohargala, Kataputana, Sangama, Candakausika, Karnasalaka-niskasana, Meetings with Makkhali Gosalaka, sages of Parsvanatha tradition, separation with Gosalaka, etc. which he bore with the greatest equanimity. He is said to have pursued the hardest austerity practices, which are described in the Acarangasutra.

46. After the attainment of Kevalajnana, he entered into new stage of life, the life of a religious teacher and head of the sect called the Nirgranthas. A Samavasarana (religious conference) was held on the bank of the river Ujjuvaliya, but it is said that the first discourse of Mahavira remained unsuccessful. He is said to have returned to Majjhima Pava and wandered continuously for sixty-six days in silence reached Rajagrah, the capital of Magadha. Outside the city of Rajagrah, at Vipulacala where he settled, a second Samavasarana was convened in the garden of Mahasena for his first sermon. Here first of all, after a long discussion on various religious and philosophical points, Mahavira converted the eleven Brahmana Vedic scholars headed by Indrabhuti Gautama to his fold who came to attend a sacrifice at Rajagrah where he preached before masses for the first time. They became his disciples and heads of monastic orders called Ganadharas. The eldest Indrabhuti became first and prominent Ganadhara. The name of his congregation was given Samavasarana where all beings had equal religious opportunities. All these Ganadharas except Indrabhuti and Sudharma, died during the lifetime of Mahavira.

47. He then traveled on foot from place to place, preaching his message of peace and goodwill for all the beings, without any distinction of race, caste, class, age or sex for about thirty years through Ardhamagadhi Prakrit language. We should bear in mind here in this context one fact that Mahavira’s medium of preaching was spoken Ardhamagadhi consisting of so many dialects including Magadhi and Sauraseni, and the language of the canon is literary Ardhamagadhi which is also called Arsa Prakrit or old Ardhamagadhi. Another important feature of Mahavira’s mode of teaching is his question-answer or dialogue method through illustrations keeping before his eyes the social grade and the receptive capacity of his listeners.

48. Tirthankara Mahavira camped these years in the rainy sessions and visited different places mostly in Bihar and some areas of Bengal and U.P. for the spiritual upliftment and betterment of the society .He added Chastity (Brahmacarya) as the fifth vow to the Caturyamadhamma of Parsva and made it Pancayamadhamma. Among the manifold contributions of Lord Mahavira to human life and wisdom, the most outstanding ones may be said to be his gospel of Ahimsa (Non-violence), Aparigraha (non-possession), Anekantavada (the multi- dimensional theory), Kriyavada (the doctrine of action), and Sakahara (vegetarianism). He tried to tackle the problems of slavery, status of women in family, society and religion, caste system, untouchability, exploitation, economic inequality, violent sacrifices, desires and passions of the flesh etc. All these concepts make man him responsible for all his deeds, physical, mental and verbal. The God is nothing to do with. His path may enlighten him to walk on the road of life safely and piously.

49. The great kings like Prasenajit of Sravasti, Srenik Bimbisara of Magadh, Dadhivahana of Campa, Satanik of Kausambi; Jitasatru of Kalinga etc. were the followers of Mahavira. It appears that Jainism had spread all over India. We do not know whether Mahavira ever visited South India. But Jain literature is of the view that Jainism was prevalent there even prior to Mahavira. The Pali sources inform that Jainism was the state religion of Srilanka well before Sanghabhadra and Sanghamitra reached there.

50. After passing twenty- ninth Varsavasa at Rajagraha, Mahavira reached to Apapuri or Pava (may be Majjhima), the capital of Mallas where he spent his last Caturmasa. At the morning of the fourth month Kartika Krisna Amavasya, he left the mundane world and entered into salvation at the age of 72 years at Pava in 527 B.C. At that time the king of Kashi, Licchavis of Kausala, nine Mallas and eighteen Ganarajas were present who celebrated the Nirvana Mahotsava by lighting the lamps. The Samannaphalasutta of the Dighanikaya (I, p.57) refers to this event. . Mahavira achieved this highest religious status of Tirthankaratva after a long series of his rebirths, which started from Marici, the son of Rsabhadeva’s Bharata. In the birth of lion, he got the opportunity to here the sermon of Ajitanjaya and changed his mind towards religious performances and asceticism and then finally became Mahavira.

51. Makkhali Gosala was originally a follower of Mahavira but due to personal enmity he founded his own sect called Ajivika. The Ajivikas used to practice nudity and other forms of Digambaras and hence they were absorbed into the Digambara community in medieval times.

52. The scripture whatever we have at present reached to us through Mahavira. It may be mentioned here that the Indrabhuti Gautam is quite deferent from the Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and contemporary of Mahavira.