REMEMBER, REVISIT AND RECALL MAHAVIRA – Why and How? By Dr. Alka Agarwal
In the year 599 B.C. Vardhaman Mahavira was born of Trishala, wife of Siddhartha the Chief of the leading republic Likhiva, on Triyadash: of the moon phase of the month of Chaitra. Born and brought up in the lap of royal affluence, he yet preserved and evolved the spirit of detachment and common, welfare. At the young age of thirty he was initiated into the Nigrantha Diksha of renunciation. Twelve years of rigorous metaphysical meditation and detached self-restraint, discipline and selfless penance produced in him boundless philosophical enlightenment. In the hallowed Jain tradition, the holy lineage of Tirlkankars beginning with Bhashamdeva and moving on to the twentythird, Parshvanath concluded with Mahavira the twentyfourth. For thirty years he preached the action based philosophy of cosmic unity, non-violence and detachment. At the age of seventy two he attained salvation-Mahanirvana- in the last dark phase of the month of Kartika. Authentic Chronicles prove that Mahavira’s message dispelled the darkness of ignorance, rampant in the name of religion, and several contemporary social evils. Many events of his life-time in mythological context are highly inspiring.
The fundamental base of Mahavira’s philosophy is non-violence, not only in action and conduct but also in thought and outlook on life. A life of dignity and security is not merely the matter of right but also of duty towards others. Even to think ill of self or others is a form of violence. He thus linked non-violence with inner chastity and purity. A follower of Mahavira strives to assure all living beings of a life free from fear.
The faith in the doctrine of cosmic harmony and detachment is, in fact, an extension of the basic principle of non-violence. Truth is multi-dimensional. No matter can be discussed in its entirety at a single attempt. The natural inadequacy of verbal expression can attempt only one dimension of revelation of truth. It is therefore, imperative to understand the other aspects. Opening up to others’ viewpoints may cause conflicts but this alone ensures harmony. To bring about a reconciliation and synthesis of diverse individual and collective conflicts is the objective of this philosophy. Communication, and not war or violence, is the only solution to even the most complex of problems.
To build a peaceful and healthy society, Mahavira advocated a minimum of personal acquisition in accordance with real needs, and the rest to be used for society at large. Excessive or covetous acquisition is a crime against society. Economic disparities between the privileged and the exploited causes all kinds of hostility, animosity and violence.
Bhagwan Mahavira himself renounced royal luxury and splendour to adopt the path of self abnegation and non-attachment, and thus evolved from soul to supreme soul. He emphasized the vital need of developing and cultivating one’s own capabilities, abjuring material and earthly temptations and possessions.
Mahavira said :-
1. Without implicit faith, it is impossible to attain salvation despite knowledge and self – penance.
2. Every living being is free. His nature is to acquire knowledge which is covered and conditioned by his actions since eternity. He can redeem himself by following the path of non-attachment. This endeavour may even take more than one birth. This ultimately leads to culmination.
3. The liberated soul is freed from the cycle of birth and death.
4. Restraint, discipline, charity, truthfulness, non-violence etc. Are virtuous qualities and deeds. The antagonistic acts are evil. This is how virtues and view are differentiated. Virtues bring happiness while vices produce sorrows. Collectively, they create destiny.
5. Creation or Cosmos is eternal. Time in its flow brings about changes. There is no Divinity or Almighty governing our destiny. Man is his own destiny – maker. Stressing the primacy of action, Acharya Amitgasi says :
’’स्वयंकृतं कर्म यदात्मना पुरा फलं तदीयंलभते शुभः शुभम्।
परेण दंत यदि लभ्यते स्फुटं स्वयं कृतं कर्म निरर्थकं तदा।।
निजार्जित कर्म विहाय देहिनो न कोऽपि कस्यापि ददाति किंचन।
विचार यन्तेव मनन्यमानसः परो ददातीति विमुच्य शेभुषीम्।।’’
The aforesaid five points constitute Mahavira’s philosophy. Our faith in them, meditation and action in accordance, comprise the tenets of religion. Religion has been defined variously, for example ’’वत्थु सहावो धम्मो’’ the nature of an object is its religion. The nature of water is to cool, fire produces heat and living being is always keen to know. According to Acharya Amitgati, character consists in ’’देश्यामि समीचीनं धर्मं कर्मनिर्वणहम््। संसार दुःखतः सत्वान यो धरत्युत्तमे सुखे।।’’ namely, forgiveness, purity, penance, charity, abstinence and celibacy and deeds. Harmony with all beings, joy in the learned and virtuous company, compassion for the tormented and the downtrodden and meditation with the hostile constitute religion or duty. Mahavira opined that to the comprehensive vision, religion is one, others are only sects. Religion is inclusive and not exclusive. For individual inner growth and collective peace and harmony there is the flawless and pure code of conduct. Acharya Samantbhadra has defined and elucidated religion in Tirthanker Mahavira’s philosophy – ’’उत्तम क्षमा-मार्दनार्जव शौच-सत्य-संयम तपस्टयागाकिन्चन्य-ब्रह्मचर्याणि धर्मः’’
religion is benedictory to all, it releases the doer from the evils of actions, relieves the humanity from sufferings, and blesses all with bliss.
On the auspicious occasion of Mahavira Jayanti, let us resolve to follow his path of enlightenment and the maximum good of the maximum number.