21 August 2014
Bhagwan Mahavir - 24th Tirthankar
Bhagavan Mahavir was the last and the twenty fourth Tirthankar of this era in the Jain tradition. He had a highly developed multifaceted personality. He scintil-lated with the infinitely intense glow of the pure soul. All the virtues and powers of his soul were completely awakened and active. He had infinite power but, at the same he also had infinite compassion. Possessing ultimate powers of the soul, he was unconquerable, fully developed and absolutely composite human being.
But the seeds of this grandeur and greatness of Bhagavan Mahavir were sown in the remote past. He had been doing vigorous penance, indulging in altruism and practicing deep meditation in many of his past incarnations. From this angle the incidents from earlier incarnations of this supreme soul are very important and inspiring. The first incident in this sequence is known as "the first touch of righteousness". It is from the 27th birth before the final birth of the soul of Bhagavan Mahavir. The story of this birth as the village elder Nayasar, goes like this-
First Glimpse of Right Knowledge: Nayasar
In the twenty seventh birth before being born as Bhagavan Mahavir, this soul was a village elder and forester working for king Shatrumardhan for Pratisthan city in the west Mahavideh area. He used to bring all the wood required for construction purposes from the forest. One day at noon time all the workers were taking rest after their lunch. Nayasar also sat under a tree in order to take the food he had brought along. Before starting to eat he saw some ascetics wandering at the foot of nearby hills. Nayasar thought that these ascetics are wandering without food or water in this scorching sun. If they happen to come this side, I will offer a part of my food to them. I will be benefited by this simple act of serving guests and my day will become purposeful.
Innocent Nayasar waited looking at the approaching ascetics. With deep devotion he offered them this pure food. When they proceeded towards the town, Nayasar accompanied them for some distance to show the way. When Nayasar bowed before the ascetics before taking their leave, they gave him sermons of the true path, the simple code of compassion, pity, simplicity, humility and equanimity. Devoted and respectful, Nayasar got enlightened and the seed of righteousness (Samyaktva) sprouted in his mind. As this is the starting point of the spiritual evolution, the moment when a soul lost in the darkness of illusion got the first glimpse of spiritual light, the counting of the earlier incarnations of the soul that became Bhagavan Mahavir begins here.
The Third Birth: Marichi
After completing his age (the age of being, according to Jainism, is a fixed period determined by actions in the immediately preceding birth), the soul of Nayasar was reborn as a god in the Saudharm Kalpa. He then took birth as Marichi, the son of Chakravarti (sovereign of six continents) Bharat in the city of Ayodhya. After hearing the first dicourse of Bhagavan Rishabhdev he became a Shraman. But as he could not sustain the rigorous ascetic codes, he abandoned the dress of a Shraman, made desired relaxations in the harsh code of Shraman conduct, and became a Tridandi Parivrajak (a class of mendicants). He started keeping an umbrella and a pair of wooden slippers. He also used to take bath and apply fragrant pastes like sandal wood pastes. However, he still believed the path of Rishabhdev to be the best. He would sit just outside the divine pavilion (Samavasaran) of Rishabhdev and when asked about his strange dress, he would innocently accept his weaknesses and preach to the people around, inspiring them to accept the religion of Shramans.
One day Bharat Chakravarti asked Bhagavan Rishabhdev, "Prabho ! Is there any great being (soul) present in this congregation who will become a Tirthankar like you?" Rishabhdev replied, "Bharat ! Outside this religious congregation sits your son Marichi dressed as a Parivrajak. After penances and other practices for many reincarnations, he will become the last Tirthankar of this cycle of time. during his passage from Marichi to Mahavir, he will also be born as Triprishtha Vasudev (the lord of three regions) in one birth and in another reincarnations Priyamitra Chakravarti."
Hearing about the astoundingly bright future of the soul of his Marichi, Emperor Bharat burst with joy. He went to Marichi with the happy news and said, "Marichi ! You are extremely lucky, I greet you as the future Tirthankar."
Marichi was overjoyed hearing the prophecy of Bhagavan Rishabhdev. His happiness was boundless. But at the same time, thoughts of the glory of his clan stirred his conceit. Filled with pride for his clan, he uttered, "How great is my clan and what a superior family is that to which I belong! My grandfather is the first Tirthankar, my father is the first Chakravarti, and I will became a Vasudev, a Chakravarti, and finally the last Tirthankar of this cycle of time. How great, indeed!" And thus Marichi almost burst with conceit. Slowly he slid down from the heights of spiritual excellence, and was drawn into the whirlpool of the egoism of racial supremacy.
According to the Jain tradition, Marichi was the founder of the Parivrajak school. Marichi used to say that the Shramans were free of the distortions of mind, speech, and body, but the Parivrajaks had these. As such, the Parivrajaks started keeping a trident, there symbol. In his last days he made prince Kapil his disciple. From that point on the derivative Parivrajak school gradually distanced itself from the Shraman school.
The soul of Marichi moved from the human dimension to that of gods and back again alternatively for twelve incarnations. When born as human he became Parivrajak many a time and observed numerous austerities. In his sixteenth reincarnation he was born as prince Vishvabhuti the nephew of king Vishvanandi of Rajgrih. He became an ascetic and did harsh penance before breathing his last. In the seventeenth reincarnation he took birth as a god in the Mahashakra dimension of gods and in eighteenth as Triprishtha Vasudev.
Queen Mrigavati of king Prajapati of Potanpur gave birth to an extremely powerful son. He was named Triprishtha. Prajapati was an ordinary king of subordinate kingdom of the Prativasudev Ashvagriv. Triprishtha was a very brave and valorous young man. When the fame of his powers and strength reached Ashvagriv he became apprehensive. He asked his astrologer about how he would meet his end. The astrologer said, "The man who would crush your powerful emissary-Chandamegh and also kill the ferocious lion of Tunga mountain will be the messenger of death for you." One day Ashvagiv sent Chanda to Potanpur. When this emissary misbehaved, Triprishtha threw him out. Then an order was issued to Prajapati, "A ferocious lion has created havoc in the Shali area. Immediately proceed to that area and protect the farmers from the lion. " When Prajapati prepared to go, prince Triprishtha requested, "Father ! When we are available you need not take the trouble to proceed for this insignificant venture. Your sons can easily take care of that petty beast."
Triprishtha and his elder brother Baldev Achal Kumar went to that forest and inquired about the lion from the local populace. As directed , they proceeded toward the den of the lion. Disturbed by the noise of the village folk, the lion came out of its den and charged towards the princes. Looking at the approaching lion Triprishtha thought, "The creature is alone moving on its feet, why do I need my bodyguards and the chariot? When it dose not carry any weapon, why should I ? I will face it alone and bare handed." Triprishtha got down from the chariot and threw away his weapons. He fought alone and bare handed with the ferocious men-eater. In the end he caught hold of the jaws of the lion and tore it apart. The driver of the chariot of the prince went near the writhing lion, said a few words of sympathy, and covered its wounds with medicinal hers. The dying moments of the beast became peaceful. This act infused a feeling of affection for the driver in the mind of the dying lion.
When the driver reincarnated as the chief disciple of Bhagavan Mahavir, Indrabhuti Gautam, this lion was born as a farmer. When the farmer saw Gautam he was infused with a feelings of fear and vengeance surfaced. Bhagavan Mahavir then revealed the cause of these dormant feelings by narrating the story of his earlier life. Prince Triprishtha conquered the evil king, Prativasudev Ashvagriv, and established his own empire over three continents. He became the first Vasudev of this cycle of time.
Lead in the Ears
Once the Vasudev was enjoying a musical concert in his assembly. When his eyelids became heavy with slumber he instructed his bed attendant, "When I am asleep stop the program?"
After a few minutes Triprishtha closed his eyes and went to sleep. Everyone present was engrossed in the lilting music. The concert went on throughout the night. Suddenly Vasudev was awake. When he heard the music going on, he turned crimson with anger. He shouted angrily at the attendant, "Why the music has not been stopped yet ?" With folded hands the bed attendant submitted, "Everyone was lost in the intoxicating waves of the melodious music. Pardon me, Sire! I too became lost." The negligence in following his instructions added fuel to the fire of Triprishthas anger. Directing all his anger on the negligent aide, he said, "Pour molten lead in the ears of this music buff. Let him realize the consequences of ignoring the instructions of his master for the sake of his live for music." Vasudevs order was carried out. Writhing with extreme and intolerable agony the bed attendant died on the spot.
The soul in the form of Triprishtha accumulated the bondage of tarnishing Karmas due to its extremely cruel attitude. It had to suffer the excruciating result in the form and life as Mahavir. The aide reincarnated as a farmer and hammered nails in Mahavirs ears when he did penance as a Shraman. As a result of the intoxication of power, passion for grandeur, and cruelty of attitude, Triprishtha Vasudev, after living his age was reborn in the seventh hell. In his twenty first incarnation he became a lion; in the twenty second he again went to the fourth hell, and after that he was born as Priyamitra Chakravarti in the twenty third birth.
The Right Direction : Priyamitra Chakravarti
After seeing many auspicious dreams, the queen of Dhananjay, the ruler of Mukanagari, gave birth to a son. He was named as Priyamitra. As a result of his virtuous Karmas and his bravery he conquered all the six continents and became a Chakravarti. He enjoyed all these pleasures and grandeur befitting a Chakravarti. In the end, he got detached and became a Shraman by taking Diksha (the formal act of renouncing the mundane life style) from Pottilacharya. For about ten million years he indulged in serving the guru, studying and pondering over the scriptures, meditation, and a variety of austere penances. Though these he continued to wipe out the tarnishing Karmas acquired during previous lives. Living his age, he was reborn as a god in the Mahashukra Kalpa from where, in his next incarnation, he was born as the son of king Jitshatru of Chhatranagari.
Austere Practices : Nandan Muni
The life of prince Nandan (son of king Jitshatru) was like a lotus flower in the swamp of passions and mundane indulgences. The attraction of the beauty and love of beautiful damsels did not divert him from his spiritual quest. Finally he became a disciple of Pottilacharya. Becoming an ascetic, he started purifying his soul with the fire of penance. He undertook the tough practice of the twenty step penance that includes discipline, penance, devotion for Arihant, service of the ascetic, and other such purifying acts. As a result of these practices, he earned the Tirthankar-nam-and-gotra-karma (the Karma that would make him a Tirthankar if future birth). He spent about a hundred thousand years as a Shraman with perfect discipline. During this period he did one hundred and sixty thousand one month fasts. Living his age with austure Pranat Pushpottar Viman (a specific dimension of gods). This was the birth preceding his reincarnation as Mahavir.
Life as Householder
Conditions before the Birth
About 2594 years back (599 BC) in the eastern region of India, a bright source of spiritual light dawned. He became famous as Vardhaman Mahavir.
During the period of Bhagavan Parshvanath, the feudal system of rule prevailed in India. However, the beginnings of democratic system had started appearing on the political scene. It was the dawn of the localized republics. After his Nirvana the republics started expanding and Vaishali emerged as the capital of the federation of small republics. Maharaj Chetak, a staunch follower of the Parshva Tradition, was the president of the Vaishali republic and the federation.
On the northern shore of the Ganges a large and powerful group of Lichhavi Kshatriyas favoured democratic system. The six prominent clans that formed this republic were-Ugra, Bhog, Rajanya, Ikshvaku, Lichhavi, Jnat, and Kaurav, and nine chiefs represented them.
Another union was named Malla and it was divided into two parts-northwestern and south-eastern. The capital city of north-west was Kushinara and that of south-east was Pava. The nine chiefs of the Federation of Malla republics were also staunch supporters of the democratic system. Nine Mallas and nine Lichhavis combined to form a well organized apex union called the Union of Vajji Republics. The Lichhavis of the Vaishali republic were Suryanvanshi Kshatriyas, the descendants of Maryada Purushottam Ram. Before the advent of Bhagavan Mahavir and the Buddha, these were famous as the Videhas, but later, the name Lichhavi became more popular. Still, as a cultural group they always retained their identity as the Videhas. In the Jain literature Maharaj Chetak has been mentioned as Videgraj, his sister, Trishla, as Videhdinna. Mahavir has also been mentioned as Videh Sukumal. All this is indicative of the higher religious and cultural status of the state of Videh.
The Royal Family of Vaishali
To the north of Vaishali, there was a suburb named Kundpur Sannivesh. There was a colony of Brahmans in the southern parts of Kundpur. The chief of these Brahamans was Rishabhdatta and his wife was Devananda. Although a rich Brahman and a scholar of the Vedas and Vedangas, Rishabhdatta was a devotee of Bhagavan Parshvanath.
In the northern parts of Kundpur there was a colony of Kshatriyas of the Jnat clan. The colony was known as Kshatriya Kundpur. Siddharth was the chief here. Because of his great valor and wealth he was respectfully addressed as Raja or Narendra. He was a highly influential member of the Vaishali republic.
Trishla, the sister of president Chetak of Vaishali, was married to Siddharth; she was also known as Videhdinna and Priyakarini, Chetaks elder son Simhabhadra (commander-in- chief of the army of the Vajji Republic. Maharaj Chetak had seven daughters-
1. Chelana-Queen of king Bimbsar Shrenik of Magadh.
2. Shiva-Queen of king Chandapradyot of Avanti.
3. Mrigavati-Queen of king Shatanik of Kaushambi.
4. Pradmavati-Queen of king Dhadhivahan of Champa (mother of Chandanbala).
5. Prabhavati-Queen of king Udayan (Udayi) of Sindhu-Sauvir.
6. Jyeshtha-Wife of prince Nandivardhan, elder brother of Bhagavan Mahavir.
7. Sujyeshtha-Did not marry. Became ascetic in Mahavirs organization.
Ajatshatru (Kunik), the famous warrior character in Jain and Buddhist literature, and king Udayan of Vats were own grandsons of Maharaj Chetak.
Dreams: The Premonition
One night mother Trishla is sleeping in her soft and cozy bed. Suddenly she dreams of auspicious things and gets up. She is filled with an hitherto inexperienced joy and ecstasy. She leaves the bed, sits on a chair and contemplates, "So many divine and auspicious things together in my dream. I had such astonishing dream for the first time in my life, what does this indicate, indeed some benefits in the near future?" She goes to king Siddharth and tells him about the dreams.
King Siddharth beams with joy and says," Devi! Your dreams are bounteous. We will gain wealth, pleasures, happiness, and a son. We shall also have territorial gains. The interpretation of these dreams indicates that the son born to you will be the embodiment of the combined of the combined virtues of all the virtuous things and signs existing on the earth. (In scriptures like Acharang and Kalpasutra, it is mentioned that the descent of the soul that was to be Mahavir was originally the womb of Devananda Brahmani. The fetus was then transplanted into the womb of Trishla Kshatriyani by god Harinaigamehsi under instructions from Shakrendra.)
After their morning chores, Maharaj Siddharth and Devi Trishla came and took their seats in the assembly hall. His younger brother Suparshva, his wife and other members of the royal family also took their seats nearby.
Famous dream readers of Vaishali arrived into the assembly hall. Maharaj Siddharth and Devi Trishla greeted the dream readers and scholars of eight pronged system of augury, and offered them high seats. The king said to them, "Scholars of augury! Last night in the early hours of the morning, Priyakarini, Videhdinna Devi Trishla saw 14 auspicious dreams. Kindly interpret these dreams on the basis of your knowledge and experience of the science of augury and satisfy the curiosity of all of us."
The augurs listened to the details of the dreams from Devi Trishla and beamed with joy. Pondering over, they interpreted the dreams as follows-
"O king of kings! Maharaj Siddharth ! According to the science of dreams there are 72 auspicious dreams. Out of these, 42 indicate of ordinary benefits and remaining 30 of great benefits. The dreams the fortunate Devi Trishla has seen are the fourteen great dreams that indicate extremely auspicious and divine gains in the near future. According to these dreams Devi Trishla will give birth to a son who will become a Chakravarti, but..... Maharaj ! According to the scriptures there already have been 12 Chakravartis, the prescribed number for this cycle of time. However, one Dharm-Chakravarti (Emperor of religion) is still to be born. As such, all the signs and circumstances point at the fact that your son, the benefactor of mankind, will be a Dharm-Chakravarti.". King Siddharth amply rewarded the dream-readers and sent them home with due honor.
The Auspicious Birth
It was spring time and the nature was in full bloom. The atmosphere was clean and pure. Cool and fragrant breeze infused joy in every particle in the nature. In the soundless quietude of the midnight, the sky was fluorescent with milky moonlight. The auspicious date was the thirteenth of the bright half of the month of Chaitra. The moon was in conjunction with the Uttaraphalguni Nakshatra (lunar mansion), the sign of victory. At that auspicious moment Mother Trishla gave birth to a divine child.
The child was the embodiment of divine light. As soon as it was born, the world was filled with radiant light. It appeared as if, to behold this divine light even the blind were blessed with eyes. This light penetrated even the oppressive dense darkness of the hell. The hell beings forgot their pain. Quarrels, fights, and battles stopped. Those suffering from a life time of hunger and thirst experienced a divine feeling of fulfillment. All around cool and fragrant breeze started blowing. Patients of chronic ailments felt cured. Natural enemies too had a surge of a feeling of mutual goodwill and love. All the three worlds (heaven, earth and hell) were filled with waves of happiness. With the birth of the child, the whole atmosphere underwent a strange change for sometime. Hearing the news of the birth of Bhagavan Mahavir all the inhabitants of the dimensions of gods danced with joy. First of all the king of gods, Shakrendra, came and bowed before the Bhagavan and then circumambulated mother Trishla three times. All the gods goddesses and lower gods (Gandharva, Kinner etc.) sang and danced and celebrated the birth of the Tirthankar with gaiety.
According to the Kalpasutra, on the night of the birth of the child, first of all 56 divine maidens from all directions (Disha Kumaris) performed the first cleaning and other necessary post birth duties. Shakrendra and other gods, then, took the child to the peak of the Meru mountain and gave him the first bath and annointment. They sang songs in honor of the divine birth.
At dawn a maid named Priyamvada rushed to king Siddharth and announced, "Congratulations Sire! Many congratulations! Queen Trishla has given birth to a male child."
Filled with joy and ecstasy the king gave away all the ornaments on his body, save state emblems, to Priyamvada. He also released her from slavery. Thus, a slave woman was freed of her life long slavery just because she was the bearer of the good news of the birth of the Tirthankar.
King Siddharth called his prime minister and ordered, "Tell the officer-in-charge of celebrations to organize unique and special birth celebrations."
After the kings order, all the highways, roads, and lanes in the town of Kshatriyakund were cleared, perfumed water was sprayed, and buntings, garlands, and leaves were lavishly put everywhere. Sweets and gifts were distributed. People danced with joy. The whole town echoed with felicitous songs and music. Maharaj Siddharth had an inspiration. He called the prime minister and said, "The celebrations of child birth in the royal family are part of the tradition. However, on this particular occasion I want something new, something unique."
The minister humbly submitted, "Sire ! Express your wish and it will be carried out like an order." King Siddharth said, "Today announce a general amnesty. Free all the prisoners; right off all the debts; distribute money to the needy; allow fifty per cent subsidy on all purchases from all traders; open centers for distribution of food and clothes to the poor, old, and invalid; and liberate old and sick slaves. Thus let the townsfolk join the celebrations free from misery, hunger and bondage.
The order of king Siddharth was carried out. The celebrations continued for ten days with unprecedented enthusiasm. People hailed the occasion and muttered, " Some divine great soul has descended on the earth to liberate the world from pain and misery." When the name giving ceremonies approached, king Siddharth said to Devi Trishla, "Devi! There has been a continued increase in our wealth, power and happiness. As such I think we should name the child as Vardhaman (ever increasing)."
Queen Trishla consented with joy, "Maharaj ! You are absolutely correct. This child is certainly going to accelerate our all around development."
Vardhaman : The Name
On the twelfth day after the birth of the child, king Siddharth organized a great feast and invited all his relatives and friends. After meals and other state courtesies, king Siddharth addressed the guests, "Since the day this child was conceived, our family has been blessed with increasing goodwill, respect, wealth, and mutual affection. Cash, gold, and gems have increased in our treasury. The public has gained health, peace, happiness, and goodwill. Thus since the moment this soul has descended, there has been a continued enhancement in our glory, wealth, health, and fame. As such I and Devi Trishla have thought of a befitting name for this child Vardhaman"
King Siddharth suggestion was unanimously approved and the child was formally named Vardhaman.
One day Shakrendra, while talking in the assembly of gods, stated, "There is no person more brave, courageous and strong than price Vardhaman." Praising an eight year old boy's bravery in the assembly of gods was a strange thing. A skeptic god jokingly said that Shakrendra was exaggerating. And he proceeded to test prince Vardhaman. Vardhaman was playing with children of his age in the Jnatkhand jungle. The game was to race to a target tree, climb up, and come down. The first one to reach the ground was the winner. Vardhaman ran the race and was first to climb the tree. Just then the boys on the ground, saw a ferocious cobra slithering up around the trunk of the trunk of the tree and hissing with its raised hood. The boys stated trembling with fear and ran away. From a safe distance they shouted, "Vardhaman, do not come down. There is a black serpent of the tree-trunk.
Vardhaman, on his way down saw the snake and also heard the call of his friends. He shouted back, "Be quiet, and dont be afraid." He jumped down. The snake followed and, hissing, it leapt a Vardhaman. With astonishing agility, the prince caught the snake by its hood and with a jerk threw it away like a piece of rope.
After this, the boys started playing another game called Tindushak. This game was also a race to a target tree. The winner was to ride piggy-back on the losers and return to the base. The god who had come to test Vardhaman also joined the group in the disguise of a boy. In the game when Vardhaman won, the god got Vardhaman on his back and started back for the base. On way he transformed himself into a giant. With the prince on his back the god flew in the sky. The boys shouted with fear. Vardhaman, undaunted, hit the giant with his mighty fist. The god cried with pain and landed back on the ground. Vardhaman jumped from his back. The culprit disappeared and in his place appeared a god, who begged Vardhaman's pardon.
Test by Indra in the School
When Vardhaman entered the ninth year of his age, his parents thought that it was time to impart martial and formal education befitting a Kshatriya boy to him. They decided to send him to school.
When he went to the school he offered his respects to the teacher just like any other ordinary student. In spite of having all worldly knowledge since his birth, by offering respect to his teacher, Vardhaman honored the age old traditional ideals. The teacher gave him the first lesson of the alphabets. Vardhaman listened silently. After sometime the teacher called him and asked, "Prince! You are just idling, why dont you repeat the lesson and memorize it ?" In reply, Vardhaman recited the full alphabets. The teacher was surprised.
While he was trying to fathom the surprising capacity of the little boy, an old Brahman, with a Tilak on his forehead, entered the school. The teacher greeted him and offered a seat. The Brahman asked some complex questions on grammar. The teacher could not reply and remained silent looking down in disgust. The Brahman smiled and said, "Acharya! Please do not bother yourself. May be, This new student of yours will solve my problem. If you allow me, I may ask him?"
The teacher consented and the old Brahman put the complex questions before Vardhaman. Little Vardhaman, Without hesitating, gave correct and appropriate answers. The teacher stared dumbfounded at the little boy. The Brahman smiled and said, "Acharya! Please dont feel insulted. You are not aware that the sun of knowledge of this era is present before you as prince Vardhaman. He is the future Bhagavan Mahavir, the omniscient."
It is believed that Indra compiled his questions and Vardhamans answers into a book named Aindra Vyadaran (the grammar of the Indra).
Jnat clan to which king Siddharth belonged, was same as the Ikshvaku clan to which belonged Bhagavan Rishabhdev. Siddharth and Rishabhdev both also belonged to the Kashyap family. It is a matter of pride for the Ikshvaku clan and Kashyap family that 22 Tirthankars came from the same family. Devi Trishla was the sister of Chetak, the president of the Vaishali republic. Because of the paternal connection with Videh area she was also known as Videhadatta (dinna); her third name was Priyakarini.
Vardhamans uncle or king Siddharths younger brother was Suparshva. Siddharthas elder son was Nandivardhan. Nandivardhan's wife was Jyeshtha. Vardhaman also had a sister named Sudarshana. When and to whom Sudarshana was married is not mentioned anywhere. However, her son Jamali was a famous figure. Although surrounded by unlimited wealth and grandeur, prince Vardhamans mind and attitude was completely detached and purified by the fire of discipline. It was like a lotus
flower in the pond.
The power and glory of the kingdom never attracted him. Even his marriage to Yashoda, daughter of prince Samarvir, was due to the affectionate persuasion and pressure by and from his parents. Yashoda gave birth to a daughter, who was named Priyadarshana. Prince Jamali married Priyadarshana. According to Acharang Sutra, three names of Vardhaman became very famous:
1. Vaddhamane - This name, Vardhaman, was given by his parents.
2. Samane Saman - or Shraman indicates his natural unblemished intellect.
3. Mahavir - This indicates his unique bravery, courage, and tolerance. This name was given by the gods.
Another of his names was Sanmati. Because of his purity of thoughts he also became famous by his name. Other names of Bhagavan Mahavir, found in canonical literature are as follows: Jnatputra, Vaishlik, Vir, Ativir, Antya Kashyap, etc.
Death of Parents
Detached from all mundane activities and desirous of becoming an ascetic in order to pursue the spiritual goal, Mahavir was keeping the matter pending due to his earlier resolution. "As long as my parents are alive I shall not think of taking Diksha."
When Mahavir became 28 years old his parents took the last vow of continued meditation without food. They gradually purified their souls and left their mortal bodies with a serene mental state. After their death Vardhaman told his elder brother, now king Nandivardhan, about his decision to become ascetic. Nandivardhan replied in a choking voice, "Prince! Loss of parents followed by your renunciation; how will I be able to bear these shocks at the same time? Honor my desire and postpone your program for two years."
Vardhaman accepted his elder brothers request and stayed back for two more years. But during this period he lived like an ascetic. Indulging in spiritual practices with due discipline, he prepared himself for his impending renunciation. Knowing about his resolve for renunciation, gods from the edge of the universe arrived and put forth the formal request, "O benefactor of the world! Your resolve is great. Please proceed on the path of renunciation and propagate religion for the welfare of the world." Prince Vardhaman gave charity three hours everyday for one year. Rich or poor, whoever came to Vardhaman was awarded whatever he desired. At the end of one year Vardhaman was ready for renunciation.
THE LIFE AS AN ASCETIC
The Great Renunciation
It was the tenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Margshirsh. Prince Vardhaman had observed a ritual fast of two days. A palanquin named Chandraprabh was prepared for his great renunciation. Sometime in the afternoon, Vardhaman came out of the palace and climbed into the palanquin. The procession with the palanquin proceeded to Jnatkhand garden in the north-east of Kshatriyakund. The palanquin was placed near an Ashok tree. Vardhaman got down from the palanquin. Thousands of eyes were staring at the prince. His golden body was adorned with a beautiful dress and scintillating ornaments. The next moment he had removed all the ornaments and his dress. The only cover on his body was a piece of cloth resting on his shoulders and provided by Indra. Vardhaman pulled out his hair in five fistfuls. Indra collected his dress, ornaments, and hair in a golden vessel.
After this he uttered in his deep resonant voice, "Namo Siddhanam," (I bow to the Siddhas or liberated souls). Then he took the vow of ascetic life, "I take the vow of practicing equanimity all through my life and abandon all intentional sinful activities." Bhagavan Mahavir, accepting the rigorous ascetic vow, resolved, " In my ascetic life I will remain equanimous in all conditions and circumstances. I will tolerate every affliction of predicament caused by man, god, demon or animal equally, no matter how fearsome it is. As long as I do not attain omniscience, I will continue to tread the fire paved path of purity with unflinching and firm steps." A wave of reverence started and thousands of heads bowed with reverence and thousands of the throats uttered in unison, "Victory be to Shraman Mahavir."
The Removal of Poverty
After the austere vow the Mahashraman acquired Manahparyav Jnan which allowed him to perceive the feelings and thoughts of all beings. His heart was filled with equanimity and compassion. His face beamed with a spontaneous smile. He walked with firm and steady steps towards the jungle without turning around or hesitating. Suddenly there was a feeble call from behind. The call of a pain filled heart retards the movement of a Mahashraman also. Next moment a wiry and weak Brahman, moving briskly with the help of a stick, arrived and fell at the feet of the Mahashraman. Tears were flowing from his eyes and there was an expressive pain on his pitiable face. he uttered humbly, "Prince Vardhaman! Kindly liberate me; give me something; remove my poverty."
Shraman Mahavir recognized the old man to be Som Sharma of Brahmankund. Long back he used to come to king Siddharths court. The charitable king extended him all help by giving what he needed. He was happy then. But he was not seen after the kings death.
Som Sharma said, "Prince, I wandered around from one state to another after the death of king Siddharth, my mentor. Wherever I went, my bad luck followed me. After two years of wandering in vain, I have returned home this morning. On my return my family members informed me about your year long charity. Everyone got what he desired, but I, the ill-fated, got nothing from your charitable hands. Prince! As soon as I reached home I came to know that abandoning everything, you have become ascetic only today. Prince Vardhaman, have pity on this poor destitute. Remove my poverty with your kind hands."
Mahavir was filled with compassion, but today he had nothing to give. He suddenly thought of the divine cloth on his shoulder. He tore it into two and gave one to the Brahman. The Brahman was filled with joy. He took this piece of cloth to a mender and inquired about its value. The mender said, "Brahman! How did you get this divine cloth? It is just a part of a whole. If you could bring the other part also, I will mend it back to its original form and you could sell it for a hundred thousand gold coins."
The greedy Brahman ran back to Mahavir and followed him wherever he went. After about a year the remaining piece of the divine cloth fell from Mahavirs shoulder. Som Sharma picked it up, got it mended, and sold it to king Nandivardhan for a hundred thousand gold coins.
The Period of Practices: The Afflictions Rejection of the Divine Help
The day after his renunciation Mahavir left Jnatkhand garden. At sunset he arrived near a small village called Kurmargram (identified as Kaman Chhapra today). He stopped under a tree, and, standing rock still, started his meditation. After some time a cowherd arrived there with his oxen. He wanted to go into the village to do his job of milking cows. He approached the meditating Shraman and said, "Ascetic! Please look after my oxen while I go into the village to milk cows. I will return soon." Without waiting for a reply the cowherd went away. The oxen, untethered and uncared for, strayed into the nearby jungle. On his return when the cowherd did not find his oxen, he asked, "Ascetic! Where are my oxen?" Mahavir remained silent. The cowherd grumbled and started looking around. He searched all around throughout the night in vain. The oxen, in the mean time, returned and lay down near Mahavir. When the exhausted cowherd returned in the morning and beheld this scene, he lost his temper. He took Mahavir to be a thief in disguise, whom he had caught just before the thief was to flee with the oxen that he must have hidden during the night. Without a second thought he started hitting Mahavir with the rope he carried for tying the oxen. The hard sisal rope left large inflamed welts on Mahavirs naked body. Even this excruciating pain did not distract Mahavir from his meditation.
Just then an overpowering divine person appeared and said in his commanding voice, "Stop it, you ignorant idiot! You are committing a grave crime. This person is no thief. He is the son of king Siddharth. He is Shraman Mahavir, a great yogi and a meditating ascetic." The cowherd fell prostate at the feet of Mahavir and, repenting for his ignorance, begged his pardon. The divine person who had interfered was none else but the king of gods, Indra. He bowed before Mahashraman. Disturbed by the inflamed marks on the body of Mahavir he said, "Prabhu! These ignorant people will continue to cause you pain due to their foolishness. Please allow me to be in your attendance to provide you protection. Mahavir replied in all humility, "Devraj ! You should know that an ascetic on the spiritual path reaches the goal of purity with the help of his own practice, courage, and discipline. It is never with the help of the king of gods or the king of demons that a soul sheds all its Karmas and becomes an Arhant or gets liberated." Full of reverence and praise, the king of gods bowed before Shraman Mahavir and departed.
The Afflictions by Shulpani
Wandering Mahavir one day arrived near a small forlorn village on the banks of river Vegvati. Outside the village on a small hillock stood a temple surrounded by scattered heaps of bones and skeletons. Considering it to be an appropriate place for his practices, Mahavir sought permission from the villagers. The villagers informed him that this forlorn village was once a prosperous town. The ferocious lance wielding demon, Shulpani Yaksha, who dances and laughs on heaps of bones, had turned this Vardhaman village into Asthik-gram, the village of bones. The temple under questions was his temple and he did not allow any one to stay there. If at all someone stayed he did not come out alive. The villagers tried to dissuade Mahavir from staying in the temple.
But Mahavir was determined to root out fear and sow the seeds of courage. He insisted, and by evening he was standing at a spot within the temple, completely lost in his meditation. When darkness descended, the air was filled with eerie sounds. Shulpani, the Demon with a lance, appeared in the courtyard and started emitting fearful trumpeting noise. He was surprised to see a human being standing fearlessly in meditation. He produced thunderous roar that shook the thick walls of the temple. But the ascetic still did not move, nor did he show horrifying atrocities. A mad elephant appeared and goaded Mahavir with its pointed tasks. It lifted him in his trunk and tossed around. When this had no effect on Mahavir, a horrible ghost appeared and attacked Mahavir with its large canines and claws. Next appeared a black serpent that attacked Mahavir with its large venomous fangs and toxic breath. Finally he caused extreme pain in seven delicate spots within Mahavirs body (eyes, ears, nose, head, teeth, nails, and the back). Mahavir had an endless capacity to tolerate pain. Even this extreme agony failed to pierce the serenity of his composure.
Drained of all his demonic energy, Shulpani became apprehensive. He thought that he was facing some divine power much stronger then he and he was heading towards his own destruction. All of a sudden a divine spiritual light illuminated his inner self. Slowly his anger subsided, fear dissolved, and a feeling of goodwill took over. He touched Mahavir for his pardon. Mahavir opened his eyes and, raising hand, said, "Shulpani ! Anger supplements anger and love begets love. If you do not cause fear, you will become free of all fears always. So destroy the poison ivy of anger." Mahavir spent his first monsoon-stay at Asathik-gram.
The Embodiment of Love
Leaving Asthik-gram Mahavir proceeded in the direction of Shvetambika town. The trail to this town passed through a dense and desolate forest. When some shepherds saw Mahavir entering the forest they shouted, "O Monk, stay put for a minute. This is a dangerous trail. There is a black serpent with venomous gaze on this trail. His hissing and gaze burn plant and trees. Even flying birds and standing humans drop dead. Please leave this trail and take a different route."
Mahavir heard this fear filled call of the shepherds. With a serene smile he raised a hand as a gesture of assurance. With firm steps Mahavir went near the snake-hole. All around human and animal skeletons could be seen. There was not a single green leaf as far as the eye could see. Close to the snake-hole was a delepidated temple. Mahavir stood in the shade of this temple and started his meditation.
After some time the giant black serpent came out of its hole hissing fiercely. It had seen a human being after a long time. The man was standing firm and fearless with closed eyes. The serpent was surprised. It looked at Mahavir with its venomous red eyes. Like flames from a ball of fire, its poisonous eyes emitted waves of venom. It hissed awesomely. But all this had no effect whatsoever on Mahavir. The serpent was astonished, "Till today every man I came across has been consumed by my first venomous hiss and this man stands still, absolutely unmoved."
The serpent glanced at the sun and once again focused its gaze at Mahavir and hissed at him with renewed anger, but in vain. It slithered from the line of the expected fall of the body and than with all its force sank its fangs in Mahavirs toe and injected all its venom. It drew back and waited expectantly again in vain. The angry serpent, vexed further by its failure stung Mahavir twice again. All its three attacks were wasted. Mahavir stood undisturbed. The serpent was astonished to see milk oozing out instead of blood from the spots where it has stung on Mahavirs toe. Bhagavan Mahavir was standing unmoved. His face was glowing and on his lips was a charming smile, like a blooming rose. His eyes reflected the inner compassion. The serpent continued to stare with surprise. Confused by its failure it was lost in its thoughts.
Involved in his spiritual pursuits, Mahavir uttered din his deep and tranquil voice, " O Chandakaushik ! Open your inner eyes. Be calm and remember your past life. do not inject venom of anger in your life. Rise above the deadly poison of anger.
Mahavir opened his ambrosia filled eyes. When the serpent met his gaze, it felt as if a wave of peace and tranquillity had engulfed its inner self. It appeared that its venom was slowly vanishing. It was lost in deep thoughts. Its dormant memory started unfolding and it acquired Jatismaran Jnan. Incidents from its past two births surfaced in its memory. It realized that it had suffered excruciating pain and degradation due to extreme anger and acute attachment during those births. The heat of repentance melted its vices. Its spirit embraced enlightenment and mind became tranquil. It touched the pious feet of Bhagavan Mahavir and resolved, "O Lord ! Now I will not look at any one at all throughout my life. I will not eat anything. I will not drink also. I will just put my mouth in the hole and lie still in the shadow of your feet. I will now at one for all my sins committed during the last three births and improve my future."
Knowing that the serpent had become harmless, throngs of people started arriving from nearby villages. They worshipped the serpent-god by offering milk and sweets. But the serpent was lying, keeping its hood in the hole, in meditation without even a trace of movement . Swarms of ants were attracted by the sweets. They started stinging the serpent. But the serpent tolerated these afflictions with equanimity. It silently took the last vow (fast unto death). It tolerated the agony of hunger, thirst and the stings of ants. Its body became almost perforated, but it did not react at all. After fifteen days it died and was reborn as a god in the Sahasrar dimension.
Quashing of the Flames
Once, leaving Shravasti, Shraman Vardhaman was going to Haliddug village. On the way he saw a large banyan tree. finding it suitable, he went under it and started his night meditation. It was winter and a cold wind was blowing. Gaushalak was also following him. As Gaushalak could not tolerate the piercing wind, he shifted to the other side of the tree. After some time some wayfarers also stopped under the tree. They collected dry wood and started a fire to cook food. They spent the night there and kept the fire burning. Early in the morning they broke camp and went away. The fire was left burning. Slowly it spread and engulfed the surrounding dry twigs and leaves gathered under the tree. The wind was blowing in the direction of meditating Mahavir. The fire slowly spread and reached the spot where Mahavir was standing. Gaushalak shouted a warning. But Mahavir had no awareness besides that for his soul. He was unmoved by the heat of the approaching flames. He was busy quashing the ultimate fire, the fire of rebirth. The flames reached him and scorched his feet. Even this acute pain did not reach the depth of his tranquillity. After some time the fire subsided on its own
Torture by Kalahasti
Leaving Chorak village Mahavir arrived at the out skirts of Kalambuka village. This village was ruled by two brother, Megh and Kalahasti. Although they were landlords and chieftains. they were still involved in unlawful activities like looting the neighboring kingdom. Tying people with ropes, he tortured them inhumanely. When he still could extract no information from them he ordered them, to be taken to his elder brother, Megh, for further torture and interrogation.
Shackled like criminals, they were produced before Megh, who felt as if he was looking at a known face. He suddenly recalled that once he had seen prince Vardhaman at the court of king Siddharth. This shackled spy seemed to have an uncanny resemblance with the prince. He came closer and recognized that the person in bondage was none else but prince Vardhaman who had become a Shraman. He fell at the feet of Mahavir and, with tears of repentance in his eyes he begged to be forgiven. When released Mahavir resumed his journey.
Among the Aborigines
It was the fifth year of practices of Bhagavan Mahavir. He moved into the Radh (or Ladh) country. This area was also known as Vajra Bhumi or Shubhra Bhumi and was inhabited by scant and scattered population of rustic aborigines. Gaushalak also followed Mahavir wherever he went. The people of this area did not know anything about ascetics and their ways. They stared in astonishment when they saw a naked person standing like a statue at godforsaken places. When they did not get any response or even reaction on shouting at him, they would get irritated and hit him with sticks, lances, bones and stones. Some on his body. Shraman Mahavir equally tolerated all these tortures and continued his advance toward purity.
He wandered from one place to another and once in a while came across small villages. Not so very often he would enter a village to beg food and mostly got dry and stale food. However, most of the time he went without any food. People would curiously stare at him and wild dogs would pounce on him and bite. For their crude entertainment, the aborigines would pick up Mahavir and throw him on the ground. Mahavir spent almost five months in that area during his first visit. Once again, during the ninth year of his practices, Mahavir returned to this area for about six months.
Once, while moving from Siddharthpur to Kurmar village Mahavir was passing through a dense forest. All of a sudden Gaushalak saw a Tapas ascetic in an opening on one side of the trail. On closer observation he saw that the hermit was busy doing some strange penance. He was standing facing the sun with his head hanging down and arms straight up. Long strands of his hair were hanging on the ground like roots of some old banyan tree. Due to the heat of sun rays, small insects, falling from his unkempt hair were writhing, and out of compassion, he was picking them up and putting them back in his dense locks of hair.
Gaushalak could not control his laughter seeing this strange activity. Jokingly he said, "O abode of insects! What do you think you are doing? You are gathering insects and considering this act to be a penance." The hermit remained calm the first time. But when Gaushalak did not refrain from making biting remarks, the hermit looked at him with his burning eyes and said, "O vicious person! My name is Vaisyayan Tapas and I am the doom of ignorant fools like you." Instead of jolting him to sanity, this scornful comment drew an insulting laughter from Gaushalak. The hermit now took a few steps back and angrily started emitting fire from his mouth (this is a miraculous power called Tejoleshya, acquired through long and harsh penance). Within no time, a ball of fire rushed towards Gaushalak, who retreated with fear and ran to Mahavir shouting in panic, "Sire! Save me. This Tapas will burn me." Reaching Mahavir, Gaushalak fell at his feet.
Hearing the pathetic call of Gaushalak, Mahavir was moved. Turning back he saw the approaching fire ball. From the compassionate heart of Shraman Mahavir flowed a spontaneous stream of cool pacifying energy. When the nectar-glance of Mahavir fell on the fire-ball, it subsided. The angry hermit was astonished to see his fire-ball extinguished. He recognized Mahavir as a much greater and more benevolent power than he, and said, "Pardon me, O embodiment of benevolence! I did not know that this man was your disciple." Gaushalak was saved from his imminent death.
Gaushalak was relieved. He asked, "Sire! What does this abode of insects say?" Mahavir replied, "He was just going to turn you to ashes with his fire-power. You were saved by me by my pacifying power. Do not disturb anyone in the future."
Afflictions by Kataputna
It was an incident from the sixth year of the period of spiritual practices of Shraman Mahavir. It was the month of Magh, the peak of winter season. Chilling and biting winds were blowing. During the quiet part of the night in a lonely jungle, Mahavir was standing in meditation. All of a sudden, a witch named Kataputna came there. Seeing Mahavir deep in meditation she became angry for no apparent reason. But there is nothing that happens without reason. There must certainly been some antagonism from some previous birth. As soon as the feeling surfaced, Kataputna lost her reason, and, in order to take her revenge of some forgotten deed from some past life, she started torturing Mahavir. She took the form of a giant and ominous looking Parivrajak with long strands of hair. Filling ice cold water in her braided hair she sprayed that freezing water on Mahavir. The atmosphere was filled with the moaning sound of icy winds and demonic laughter of the witch. It was a horrific scene.
Mahavir, elevated completely into a higher spiritual realm, remained unmoved and serene. At last the witch accepted her defeat. She bowed to the feet of Shraman Mahavir and left. As a result of his total absorption in the self and his high purity of soul, Mahavir acquired the special mental powers of perceiving the whole physical world at will.
In the Prison
During the sixth year of his practices, Mahavir one day went to the Kupiya village in the state of Videh, east of Vaishali. The village guards caught him and, taking him to be a spy, put him in prison. There were two female mendicants in the village. When they, Vijay and Pragalbh, heard that a spy disguised as a nude ascetic had been apprehended, they came to see him. Shraman Mahavir, tied up, was standing in meditation in the prison. The mendicants recognized him and became sad. They approached the guards and said, "You call yourself guardians of the state and people and you fail to distinguish a thief from a honest citizen. You do not find any difference between a Shraman and a smuggler. For your information, you are torturing Shraman Vardhaman, the ascetic son of king Siddharth. Have you no fear of the wrath of the gods?"
With this revelation the soldiers started trembling. They, at once, released Mahavir and sought his forgiveness. Shraman Mahavir just raised his palm a gesture of pardon and assurance and left for some other solitary place.
Deadly Torture by Sangam
One day Shraman Mahavir was doing a special one night meditation in the Polash temple in Pedhal garden outside the Pedhal village. In this practice one makes his body, mind, psyche and soul absolutely still and tranquil. Observing the high degree of engrossment in meditation, Indra exclaimed, "You are great, Prabhu Vardhaman! Today you have no equal as an ascetic and serene, brave, and equanimous spiritualist." Sangam, a god in Indras assembly, was peeved at this praise of a moral being. He retorted, "If Devraj promises not to interfere, I can disturb the concentration of Mahavir. It is a childs play for me."
Indra remained silent, through unwillingly. Considering it to be affirmative, Sangam, with all his cunning and power came to Polash temple. One after another he crated twenty almost fatal predicaments to disturb Mahavirs meditation.
He created a terrible sand storm an in no time Mahavir was submerged in a heap of sand. Mahavir, in his unshakable determination did not even close his eyes. As soon as the storm stopped, arrived a swarm of ants. Mahavirs body was covered with biting and stinging ants, but he remained still. After this, innumerable mosquitos attacked Mahavirs body. After mosquitoes, came an attack by white ants turning him into a termite-hill. Scorpions crawled over his body and pierced it with poisonous stings. This was followed by biting mongoose, large cobras, and giant field rats.
After all this, appeared a white elephant that goaded Mahavir with its large pointed tusks. This elephant than lifted Mahavir in its trunks and tossed him up. When Mahavir fell on the ground, it crushed him with its legs. This was followed by an attack by an ominous looking ghost. Then a tiger attacked and gored Mahavir with its sharp talons.
When all these painful afflictions failed to disturb Mahavirs meditation, Sangam took a different approach. He created a realistic illusion of Siddharth and Trishla weeping and wailing profusely. But this too could not penetrate Mahavirs iron resolve. Sangam then lit a fire almost touching Mahavirs feet and started cooking. After this he took the form of a bird catcher and hung a number of cages on Mahavir. The birds attacked Mahavir with their beaks and talons through the gaps in the cages. Blood oozed from these new wounds. Then came a storm, torrential rain, and hail-storm. Nothing could disturb the rock hard resolve of Mahavir.
Now came a giant whirlwind; lifting and swirling everything that came in its path. Mahavirs body swirled but his mind remained stable. At last Sangam himself lifted a large mace and hit Mahavir. It was a heavy blow that buried Mahavir in the ground up to his knees but he did not even blink. After all these physical blows, Sangam resorted to a psychological attack. He arrived in his divine form riding a Viman (space vehicle) and said to Mahavir, "Why are you suffering so much and still standing on the earth. Come, I will take you to heaven with this mortal body of yours." Mahavir did not respond.
Lastly Sangam produced sparsely clad fairies who approached Mahavir and undulated their voluptuous bodies invitingly. He also created an atmosphere conducive to lust. Mahavir never even shifted his icy gaze and his body remained reactionless. All these twenty afflictions drained Sangrams energy and he was tired. On the other hand even after tolerating these painful tortures Mahavir remained poised in his elevated state of meditation.
Refuge to the Demon King
In the Vindhya range there lived a hermit named Puran. As a result of his rigorous penances he was reincarnated as the king of demons, Chamarendra. He had a bloated ego due to his natural powers and miraculous capacities. When through his demonic perception, he came to know that the king of gods, Shakrendra, had more glory and luxuries, his ego was hurt. He decided to subjugate the king of gods. He prepared to attack the abode of Shakrendra, the Saudharm Viman, with his demonic arsenal. But in case he faced defeat he wanted support from someone more powerful than him. On searching he found that Shraman Mahavir was the most suitable person. He immediately rushed to Sumsumarpur, where Mahavir was standing in meditation. After bowing to Mahavir he said, "Bhante! I, demon king Chamarendra, am going to fight with Saudharmendra Shakra, please protect me." Saying thus and without waiting for a reply, he rushed to the assembly of gods and challenged the king of gods. For a moment Shakrendra was taken aback but when he saw that it was demon king Chamrendra, he calmly lifted his most potent weapon, the Vajra, and launched it at the demon king.
As the Vajra sped in the direction of Chamarendra it emitted bright sparks and thunderous sound. Afraid of this fierce weapon Chamarendra fled in the direction of the tree under which Mahavir stood in meditation. When Shakendra realized where Chamarendra was heading, he became worried about any possible damage the Vajra could cause to Mahavir. He at once rushed after fleeing Chamarendra to defuse the Vajra. It was a strange seen in the sky; first the demon king crying with fear, then the sparkling Vajra followed by the king of gods.
The demon king transformed himself into a tiny being and took refuge behind Mahavirs feet. He uttered, "Prabhu! I am under your protection, kindly save me." As the Vajra was bout to hit him and explode, Indra caught it and disabled it Chamarendra was trembling with fear and Shakrendra was boiling with anger. Mahavir lifted his open palm and blessed them both. Indra said to Chamarendra, "Demon king! What you have done is unpardonable? But by taking refuge with Bhagavan Mahavir you have tied my hands. As he has forgiven you I am leaving you unharmed. You may go." The demon king, free of the fear of fear and the king of gods, free of anger, bowed before Bhagavan Mahavir and left for their respective abodes.
The Deliverance of Chandana
From the capital town Kaushambi, king Shatanik ruled over the state of Vats. His chief queen Mrigavati was the daughter of Maharaj Chetak of Vaishali republic. Anga was neighboring state and its capital was Champa. The king of this state was Maharaj Dadhivahan. His queen Dharini was the younger daughter of Chetak. Dharini had a daughter named Vasumati who was very beautiful as well as graceful.
Once, when king Dadhivahan had gone with his army to assist a neighboring king, Shatanik attacked Champa. The cruel soldiers of Kaushambi plundered Champa. The general and a great Charioteer of Kaushambi, Kakmukh was attracted more by beauty rather than riches. He entered the palace and kidnapped queen Dharini and Vasumati. On the way when Kakmukh intended to violate her chastity, queen Dharini committed suicide. When Vasumati also threatened to do so, he had a change of heart. He took her to his home as a daughter. When his wife did not tolerate Vasumati, he was persuaded by Vasumati to auction her in the slave market and please his wife with the proceeds. Kakmukh took Vasumati to the slave market. In the auction the highest bidder was a courtesan from Kaushambi. There was an altercation when Vasumati refused to go with her.
Just at that moment a rich merchant from Kaushambi arrived there. Seeing the commotion he inquired, "What is going on here?" Someone from the crowd said, "Today a slave girl, lifted from Champa, has been bought for sale at a hundred thousand gold pieces. She looks like a divine beauty. A courtesan has bought her but she refuses to go with her. She appears to be a high born and chaste girl."
Immediately the merchant entered the slave market. He looked at the princes and was immediately drawn to analyzing the situation, "no, she cannot be a slave girl. She is a divine person. O lord! How evil the prevailing conditions have become! Such inhuman torture to such a delicate and cultured girl. A lovely girl in such a wretched predicament." The merchant was moved. He approached Vasumati and said, "Child, I am merchant Dhanavah. I am a follower of Nirgranth Shramans and live in this town. Looking at your troubles I feel depressed. If you do not wish to go with the courtesan I will not allow this to go with the courtesan I will not allow this to happen. I will buy you by paying a hundred thousand gold pieces. Would you come with me? Would you live with me as my daughter?"
An orphan princess, sold as a slave, arrived at the house of merchant Dhanavah. But his wife, Mula, became doubtful as soon as she saw the divinely beautiful girl entering her household. The moment Mula set her eyes on Vasumati she saw a rival for the favors of her husband. Sown were the seeds of doubt even for her upright husband.
Due to her sweet demeanor Vasumati had a magical influence over the household. The fragrance of her poise and coolness of her nature inspired Dhanavah to call her Chandan (sandal wood). His wife Mula was smitten with envy. She thought that this poisonous flower should be nipped in the bud. One day, merchant Dhanavah left the town on some business errand. This was a golden opportunity for Mula. She relieved all the servants of the household, called Chandana, replaced her beautiful dress with rags, took off all of her ornaments, tied her in shackles and shaved her long silky hair. Chandana uttered in surprise, "Mother, what are you doing? I have done no harm to you. For what misdeed are you punishing me?"
Mula silenced Chandana, put her in a dark cell, locked it and left.Dhanavaha returned on the third day. When he saw the house abandoned he was taken aback. He called, "Chandan, O Chandan !" but no one replied. He went at the back of the house and shouted once again. Chandana shouted back, "Father, I am here, in the cellar on the back side."
The merchant went in and saw that the cellar was locked. Looking through the bars of the iron gate he saw Chandana in her wretched condition and started crying, "What happened to my daughter? What evil soul has done this to you?" Chandana replied calmly, "Father, get me out first and then I will tell you everything."
The merchant broke the lock and brought out Chandana. She asked, "Father, I have not taken even a drop of water for last three days. Please give me something to eat and drink." The merchant went around the house but everything was locked. Not even a utensil was available. He saw a basket containing a handful of dried pulse-bran meant for cows. He took the basket and put it before Chandana, "Child, eat some of this. I shall call a blacksmith to cut your shackles."
The Impossible Resolution
It was the 12th year of Bhagavan Mahavirs spiritual practices. Spending the monsoon-stay at Vaishali he came to a garden in Kaushambi. It was the time around which the incidents of Shataniks attack on Champa, fall of Champa, sacrifice of queen Dharini, auction of princess Vasumati as a slave, etc. were occurring. Bhagavan Mahavir with his penetrating knowledge and perception had a glimpse of all this. He made an almost impossible resolution on the first day of the dark half of the month of Paush.
"I will accept alms for breaking my fast only from a princess that has become a slave. And that too only if she has a shaven head, her limbs are shackled, she has not eaten for three days, she is sitting on the threshold of a house, she has pulse-bran lying in a basket and she has a smile as well as tears in her eyes. Unless these conditions are met I resolve to continue my practice and not to break my fast."
Four months passed since Bhagavan Mahavir started going from door to door to beg in the town of Kaushambi. One day Mahavir approached the house of the chief minister of Kaushambi, Sugupta. Suguptas wife, Nanda was a devotee of Bhagavan Parshvanath and was acquainted with the ways of ascetic Shramans. Looking at Mahashraman Vardhaman approaching her house for alms, she became enthralled. She requested Prabhu to accept pure and ascetic food. Mahavir turned back without accepting anything. Nanda became disappointed. Cursing her bad luck she said, "Mahashraman Vardhaman came to my house and, what a misfortune, I could not provide him anything."
Nandas maids reassured her, "Lady, why are you so dejected, this ascetic has been approaching almost every household in Kaushambi for alms and without taking a single grain or uttering a word he is returning back. We have been witnessing all this for the last four months. This is nothing unique at your place so why be dismayed?"
The words of the maid added to Nandas distress, "What! The Mahashraman is returning without alms for last four months. That means Prabhu has been on fast for four months and I have not been able to serve him. How unlucky I am?" At that moment minister Sugupta arrived. Nanda told him everything.
Sugupta also became worried. King Shatanik and queen Mrigavati also got the news that Shraman Mahavir was wandering in Kaushambi without food or water for four months. Everyone was sad and worried. The ruling family for Bhagavan Mahavirs Darshan and requested him to accept food. But he was unmoved.
Five months and twenty five days had passed since Bhagavan Mahavir had eaten anything. The twenty sixth day of the sixth month dawned. It was past noon when Prabhu Vardhaman, wandering for alms, was approaching the house of merchant Dhanavah. An expectant crowd followed him.
Chandana was sitting on the threshold of the cellar, one feet inside and the other outside. In her hand was a basket and in the basket, stale pulse-bran. When she looked at the shackles on her limbs a broken dream emerged in her memory and she became lost. All of a sudden she heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and a murmur of a crowd. She looked up and found that the great savior Sharaman Mahavir was standing at her door. Chandana became enthralled. She thought, "Thank lord! You have yourself come to my rescue from this pitiable condition." A glow of happiness dawned on her face. She forgot all her misery, the pain turned into joy as if every cell in her body was dancing. She tried to stand, "Welcome O lord! Please accept something from these wretched hands." Prabhu took a step forward and stopped. Twelve out of the thirteen conditions were visible, only Chandana had no tears in her eyes, Mahavir turned and started moving away.
As soon as Mahavir turned, Chandanas joy vanished as if struck by lightening, "How unlucky I am that even in this wretched condition Prabhu has returned empty handed from my door." Filled with self pity she started crying.
Mahavir turned back and looked. All conditions of his resolution were visible now. He stepped ahead and extended her cupped palms before Chandana. Joyous Chandana took the pulse-bran from the basket and put it in the extended palms of Bhagavan Mahavir. Mahavir broke his fast.
The next moment Chandanas shackles shattered to pieces. Divine drums sounded in the sky. Divine applause echoed from all directions, "Hail the alms-giving." Flowers, fragrant water and perfumes showered from the sky and the courtyard of Dhanvah was filled with heaps of gems. Her beauty had magnified thousand fol. Gods and goddesses adorned Chandana with beautiful garments and ornaments.
This resolution of the period of penance of Bhagavan Mahavir may be deemed as the first step of the human endeavor for womens liberation.
Last Calamity: Nails in the Ears
After spending the twelfth monsoon-stay of his period of practices in Champa, Bhagavan Mahavir arrived outside a village named Chhammani and stood in meditation. It was dusk and a cowherd was returning home from his farm he said, "Ascetic! Please look after my oxen, I will return in a few minutes", and he left.
The cowherd went into the village and returned a little late. The oxen had drifted away grazing. Not finding his oxen, he asked, "Ascetic, where are my oxen?" Mahavir was in deep meditation and unaware of all this. The cowherd asked again, and once again he did not get any response. He got irritated and shouted, "You hypocrite! Are you deaf, dont you hear anything?" Mahavir still did not respond. The cowherd lost his temper, "You pretender,-it seems that both your ears are useless. Wait a minute, I will give you proper treatment." He picked long nail like thorns from a nearby shrub of Kansa grass and pierced the ears of Mahavir deeply by hammering the thorns in. Even such excruciating agony did not move Mahavir from his meditation, neither did it evoke any feeling of anger or aversion in him.
Completing his meditation in normal course he went inside the village for alms. He arrived at the door of a trader named Siddharth. A friend of the trader was sitting with him. He was a doctor. Both of them gave pure food to Mahashraman with due respect.
Doctor Kharak told Siddharth, "Friend, the face of this Shraman has a divine glow but there is a shade of tiredness too. Some inner pain is visible in his eyes. I feel this great sage suffers from some inner agony." Siddharth replied, "Friend, if such a great sage suffers from some kind of pain, we should immediately go and treat him."
After taking alms Mahashraman returned. Taking Doctor Kharak with him, Siddharth followed. Going into the garden, where Prabhu rested, when the two exclaimed him they found the tow thorns stuck in his ears. Kharak shivered with remorse. The friends then arranged for necessary instruments and medicines. They used some medicated oil and forceps and pulled out he thorns. This caused such an unbearable agony to Mahavir that an anguished cry was forced out of him. Blood oozed out of his ears. The doctor dressed the wound with some coagulant.
Ten Great Dreams
Once after some deep and exhausting spiritual practice Bhagavan Mahavir was extremely tired. The exhaustion resulted in a slumber for a few moments during the last hour of the night and Mahavir saw ten strange drams.
The ten scenes of Mahavirs dream and the interpretations of Utpal are as follows-
1. Scene: Defeating a Tal demon
Int.: You will soon destroy the Mohaniya Karma (illusory Karma).
2. Scene: A bird with white feathers is in attendance.
Int.: You will always have purest attitude or feelings.
3. Scene: A bird with multicolored feathers is around.
Int.: You will propagate multifaceted knowledge through the twelve Angas (canons).
4. Scene: Two gem strings appear in front.
Int.: Utpal could not understand the fourth scene. On his inquiry Mahavir explained....I will preach two way religion....the conduct of ascetics and the conduct of laity.
5. Scene: A herd of white cows is in front.
Int.: The four pronged organization (Shraman, Shramani, Shravak, Shravika) will serve you.
6. Scene: A pond with open lotuses.
Int.: Gods from four dimensions will serve you.
7. Scene: Crossed a waxy ocean swimming.
Int.: You will cross the ocean of rebirths.
8. Scene: Sun rays are spreading in all directions.
Int.: Soon you will get enlightenment or omniscience.
9. Scene: You are encircling the Manushottar mountain with your bluish intestines.
Int.: You will pervade the universe with your pure glory.
10. Scene: You are sitting on a throne placed on the summit of the mountain Meru.
Int.: You will give religious discourse sitting on a high throne.
The Light of Omniscience
Observing the details of Bhagavan Mahavirs twelve year period of spiritual practices it becomes evident that his practices combined four qualities-
1. Deep and undisturbed meditation,
2. Rigorous penance,
3. Extreme tolerance of pain, and
4. Ultimate equanimity.
It was the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh. Twelve years five months and fifteen days had passed since the beginning of Mahavirs spiritual practices. Prabhu Mahavir sat in mediation under a Saal tree in a garden on the back of Rijubaluka river. Sitting on both feet with knees touching his chest, he was feeling calm even in the scorching summer sun. Focusing all his physical, mental and spiritual energies he was engrossed in deep and pure meditation. Gradually the sun was setting in the west and within the soul of Bhagavan Mahavir the sun of omniscience was rising. As soon as the dark clouds of four deeply binding Karmas scattered, the all enlightening sun of omniscience dawned. The physical world was being envelop by the darkness of night but the spiritual would was being filled with the light of infinite rays of knowledge. The endeavor had reached the summit of success and attained the goal. Mahavir had become Bhagavan (God), Jina (Victor), Sarvajna (all knowing), and Sarvadarshi (all perceiving). As soon as he became omniscient a soothing light spread in the three worlds for a few seconds. The living world was filled with a strange feeling of hitherto unknown bliss.
The First Discourse
After a twelve and a half year long period of extreme spiritual practices Shraman Vardhaman acquired the ultimate perception (Kewal Darshan), and ultimate knowledge (Kewal Jnan or omniscience). To greet and eulogize the first ray of the divine sun of Mahavirs infinite knowledge, innumerable gods and goddesses from heavens landed on the earth. Doing Vandana of Prabhu Mahavir they celebrated the ultimate attainment (Kivalya).
Traditionally a Tirthankar preaches the religion of equanimity (Ahimsa) immediately after his gaining omniscience. To take advantage of the first divine discourse of Mahavir the gods created the divine pavilion (Samavasaran) on the pious banks of Rijubaluka river. Numerous gods were engrossed in listening the discourse.
The gods may admire and eulogize truth, discipline, and virtues but they cannot do spiritual practices by taking vows. Only man is Capable of entering the discipline of spiritual practices. As such, it is said that in absence of a human being the first discourse of Bhagavan Mahavir was a failure in context of spiritual gains as none of those present took any vow.
From the bank of Rijubaluka river Mahavir came to Madhyam Pava. A divine pavilion was created in the Mahasen jungle. During that month of Vaishak Som Shrama had organized a great yajna. Eleven famous and great scholars with their 4400 disciples had come to participate in this Yagna. Thousands of people from far and near were arriving to behold the pious flames of the Yajna. Thus, Mhahyam Pava had become a place of pilgrimage. On hearing of the sudden arrival of Bhagavan Mahavir, Pandit Som Sharma become worried and disturbed due to the anti Yajan attitude of the Shraman culture. He went to the chief guide of the Yajna, Mahapandit Indrabhuti. They all confabulated but were short of ideas. Indrabhuti finally said, "Shraman Vardhaman is certainly a person to reckon with. He has the power of spiritual practice and fire of penance but still in knowledge he will prove to be no match for us. Without unmatched power of knowledge we should be able to defeat him now and subjugate a rising adversary in time. We need not worry. It is probable that this pious day may turn out to be the day of our ultimate victory."
This hope filled assurance form Mahapandit Indrabhuti made all the other scholars happy. Som Sharma started dreaming of the victory of the Brahman Yajna organization. Indrabhuti with this 500 disciples proceeded to confront Mahavir.
Indrabhuti and the Self
Indrabhutis mind got a shock the moment he put his first step inside the divine pavilion. His mind got agitated. From the distance he saw the astonishing glow on the face of Shraman Mahavir. When the powerful sun rays fall on the Himalayan ice caps the ice starts melting. Similarly Indrabhutis ego started melting. He felt as if streams of doubt and uncertainty had started emerging and flowing.
"Indrabhuti Gautam! You have arrived?"
The deep resonant voice of Prabhu Mahavir fell on Indrabhutis ears the moment he entered the third gate of the assembly. "Mahavir recognizes me!" Indrabhuti was astonished; he thought, "Of course, he must have heard of me, the world famous scholar."
"Indrabhuti Gautam, although you are a great scholar of Vedas, you are still doubtful of the existence of soul." When these words in the imposing voice of Mahavir echoed in the ears of Indrabhuti he was stunned. Prabhu sweetly uttered in friendly tone, "Indrabhuti Gautam, you doubt about if the soul is based on your knowledge of the Vedas. But the same Vedas contain undeniable proof of independent existence of the soul. Have you ever thought what is a soul? Who is it? and who is it that has this knowledge is the cognizant factor of soul. Soul is an entity that is formless and beyond the sensory realm, it can be perceived not through the sense organs but through direct intuitive experience . . ."
Listening to the Vedic aphorisms and irrefutable logic of Mahavir about the existence of soul, Indrabhutis doubts were removed. His ego melted. With the rising of humility the divine ray of truth became visible. The darkness within Gautam was dispelled. With overflowing respect and curiosity Gautam fell at the feet of Prabhu Mahavir. "Prabhu, I came with a desire to be victorious, but now I am only a seeker of knowledge. Please bestow on me the infinite knowledge of truth. I wish to become a disciple and sit at your divine feet."
"You are welcome, O beloved of gods!" Mahavir uttered equally. Indrabhuti Gautam became the first disciple of Bhagavan Mahavir. His five hundred disciples were also initiated by Mahavir into the order. The sky reverberated with sounds of hailing. The news of initiation of Gautam brought shadow soft gloom over the Yajna site where the scholars were waiting. But the second great scholar, Agnibhuti, summoned courage and said, "I will go and bring back my brother by defeating Mahavir."
Agnibhuti also arrived at the religious assembly with his five hundred disciples. As soon as he entered the pavilion and approached Mahavir, Mahavir said, "Agnibhuti, your senior has his cobwebs of doubt cleared, he has now become unambiguous. Now you should also remove your quandary about the fruits of Karma. As the existence of soul is self evident, it is also established that it is soul that is the doer of the Karma (action) and the sufferer of its consequences (fruit)."
The moment his doubt was removed the shackles of dogmas shattered. With the vanishing of ego a stream of faith started flowing within Agnibhuti. He also submitted before the omniscience of Shraman Mahavir along with his 500 disciples. The youngest brother of Indrabhuti, Vayabhuti, also decided to try his luck with his 500 disciples. As a thirsty person stops at a source of clean water, Vayabhuti stayed with Mahavir and along with his 500 disciples joined Mahavirs order.
Great scholars like Vyakta and Arya Sudharma also came and removing their doubts became Mahavirs disciples along with 500 followers each. Similarly, Mauryaputra and Akampit with their 350 disciples each; Achalbhrata, Metarya, and Prabhas each with 300 disciples got initiated into Mahavirs order. Thus, eleven great scholars were inducted with their 4400 disciples into Mahavirs order during his first discourse.
Establishment of the Ford
The eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh is considered to be the date of the historical glory of the Jain tradition. On the tenth of the same month, Bhagavan Mahavir attained omniscience, so the day is important as the occasion of his personal triumph. But from the view point of establishing the religious organization (Tirth/Ford) the eleventh is the most important day.
It was on this day that the eleven great Brahman scholars rid themselves of their egos of superiority by birth and the misconceptions, and were initiated into the Shraman tradition based on equanimity and Ahimsa. They became the chief disciples or Ganadhars of Mahavir. In Jain tradition, the Ganadhar is the most exalted spiritual person after the Tirthankar. Thousands of other men and women were also converted, many of whom became ascetics and others who took vows for laity.
Princess Chandanbala, who had fulfilled the complex resolve of Bhagavan Mahavir, was also waiting for this auspicious day. As soon as she received the news of Mahavirs omniscience, she was over-joyed. She reached divine pavilion by the fastest available means. She was also accompanied by many worthy women. After listening to the discourse she became the first woman ascetic disciple of Mahavir.
Shankh and Shatak with many other rich and prominent citizens joined Mahavirs order as lay followers. Sulasa and many other women also joined the religious family. Thus, the land of Mahasen jungle in Madhyam Pava and the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh became the blessed land and the blessed day respectively.
The twelve year period of spiritual practices of Bhagavan Mahavir was the basis of his personal achievement of omniscience and the status of Arihant/Tirthankar. After his enlightenment the remaining thirty years of his life were devoted to the welfare of the living world. During this period he revolutionized human thought and shattered many long established misconceptions and curses of traditional dogmas. His deeds and achievements in the fields of human welfare and upliftment as well as his contribution to the storehouse of human knowledge may be briefly summed up as:
1. He opposed the wanton human and animal sacrifice and the misleading rituals in the name of religious Yajnas for benefits in the next life. As a more humane and rational alternative he showed the path of Ahimsa.
2. He broke the established tradition of depriving women in general and men of lower castes from the formal study of scriptures and indulging in many religious activities. He was bold enough to initiate people from this section of society into his religious order. he provided equal rights an opportunities to all for study and practice of religion. He successfully rooted out the caste system in his area of influence at social and spiritual level.
3. Under his influence the established norms of social status based on caste, wealth, power and grandeur were shattered and new norms of social status based on virtues and moral and ethical values were established.
4. He used Ardha-Magadhi, the lingua-franca of that period for his discourses. Giving importance to folk culture and language of the masses over Sanskrit, the language of scholarly few and the upper class, he preached in eloquent and attractive style.
5. For the ascetics of his school pursuing the path of detachment with the help of discipline, penance, chanting and meditation, he also prescribed regular indulgence in activities of social welfare. His order included people from all sections of the society-Indrabhuti Gautam and many others from the Brahmin caste; Shalibhadra, Dhanna, and many others from the Vaishya caste; Megh Kumar, Nandishen, etc. from the Kshatriya caste; and Maitarya, Arjunmali, etc. from the Shudra caste. Among women prominent in his order Chandanabala, Mrigavati, Kali, etc. were from ruling families and Subhadra, Revati, etc. were from the merchant class.
6. The Shravakas (householders) in his organization included people from all walks of life. Udayi, Shrenik, Ajatshatru, etc. were kings; Anand was a farmer, Saddalputra was a potter; and Sulas was a butcher.
7. The religious organization of Mahavir was founded on virtues like detachment, equanimity, knowledge and discipline.
8. The original contributions of Mahavir were Ahimsa as the basis of code of conduct and relativity of thought (Anekant) as the basis of spiritual purity and equanimity.
9. As Mahavir had millions, of admires and followers, he also had opponents like Gaushalak and decenters like Jamali. For 5 to 6 years Jamali moved with Mahavir as his disciple. But later, driven by ambition and lust for popularity he became Mahavirs opponent. He projected himself as omniscient and Tirthankar. The feeling of envy burning within him made him attack Mahavir and try to burn him. But the great pacifying powers of a true Tirthankar defeated him. Compassionate Mahavir still forgave him and advised to work for purity of the soul.
At the request of king Hastipal Mahavir spent his last monsoon-stay at Pavapuri (Apapapuri at the age of 72 years. When about three and a half months passed he became aware that the end of his life is approaching. Ganadhar Gautam was overly attached with Mahavir. He may not be completely swept away by the sorrow of separation- thinking thus Mahavir directed him to go and enlighten Brahman Som Sharma.
On The fifteenth day of the dark half of the month of Kartik Mahavir was observing a two days fast. He sat in the Samavasaran and gave his last discourse which became famous as Uttaradhyayan Sutra, Vipak Sutra, etc. Just before the hour of midnight he shed all his remaining Karmas and attained Nirvana. For a few moments the whole world was enveloped in darkness.
Gods dispelled the darkness with the help of gems and humans lit earthen lamps to have the last glimpse of their savior. In memory of that day people celebrate the festival of lights or Dipawali.
Hearing about the Nirvana of Bhagavan Mahavir, Ganadhar Gautam became sad and melancholic. But soon he came out of it and progressed on the path of purity with help of extreme detachment. Jumping the levels of spiritual purity he acquired omniscience the next morning. Gods and human beings celebrated jointly the events of attainment of Nirvana by Mahavir and omniscience by Ganadhar Gautam. After the Nirvana of Mahavir the responsibility of heading the large religious order came to his fourth chief disciple Arya Sudharmaswami.
After Arya Sudharmaswami the order was headed by his disciple Arya Jambuswami. After the Nirvana of Arya Jambuswami (406 Before Vikram) the tradition of omniscients became extinct from Bharat area for this descending cycle of time.
IMPORTANT DATES OF LIFE OF BHAGAVAN MAHAVIR
Birth : 13th day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra, 542 BV (30th March, 599 BC) at Kshatriyakund
Diksha (initiation) : 10th day of the dark half of the month of Margshirsh, 512 BV (569 BC) at Kshatriyakund
Kewal Jnan (omniscience) : 10th day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh, 500 BV (557 BC) on the bank of Rijubaluka river.
Establishment of the Order : 11th day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh, 500 BV (557 BC) at Madhyam Pava
Nirvana (liberation) : 15th day of the dark half of the month of Kartik, 470 BV (November, 527 BC) at Pavapuri