jain religion and teachings of bhagwan mahavir



(Continued from Chapter 6b)

He attained a state of infinite knowledge, infinite intuition, infinite energy and infinite bliss. He radiated unique peace, equanimity, tranquility, fearlessness and compassion. His human personality was shaped into a SARVODAYA TIRTH (Enlightened Center) and he emerged as a role model for all human beings. The unparalleled depth of his penance and meditation opened in his teachings wider vistas and deeper vision of ethical and spiritual thought and conduct and of rationally and scientifically tapping the immense potentialities of the human soul through self-restraint, self-purification and self-realization.

Meditating in silence and deep contemplation under a sal tree called tree on the banks of river Rijkula, Mahavir delivered his first Sermon (Divya Dhwani) after achieving omniscience at a religious congregation. The congregation called Samavasharan in Jain scriptures was attended not only by human beings, but also a wide variety of species from the animal, bird and vegetable kingdom besides a number of celestial beings showering petals of flowers.

The gathering listening to Mahavir’s first sermon as Tirthankar was reflective of human destiny being entwined with other living beings as well as forces of nature in an ambience of mutual supportiveness very aptly described in Jain scripture TATWARTHA SUTRA as PARASPAROPGRAHA JEEVANAM. The concept became one of the fundamental tenets of Jainism in its comprehensive interpretation of Ahimsa (non-violence). Mahavir observed to his principal pupil (Ganadhar) Indrabhooti Gautam:

One who ignores the existence of earth, water, fire, wind and vegetation, ignores infact the very basis of one’s own existence which is entwined with them.”

  • Spiritual mission as Tirthankar

Recognized as Tirthankar (path-finder) at the age of 42, Mahavir began his spiritual mission as a teacher, guide and preacher for the next 30 years. During this period, he traveled on foot all over India, and delivered his sermons and discourses in Prakrit and Ardhamagadhi, the languages of the masses. Mahavir’s coming heralded a significant era in the history of the age-old Jain religion. In his simple yet profound manner, he brought a lot of clarity and lucidity in the interpretation of the basic principles of Jain philosophy in a wider universal and environmental perspective.

He enunciated complex and deep philosophical thoughts cogently and persuasively by relating them to the day-to-day life of his devotees, and the prevailing contemporary environment. He continued to follow the tradition of previous Tirthankars of orally transmitting religious doctrines and philosophical concepts. Beginning with his first sermon the process of describing different facets of Jain religion and its practices was initiated to his eleven disciples (ganadhars) led by the renowned saint-scholar Indrabhuti Gautam.

Indrabhti Gautam others were persuasively and convincingly won over by Mahavir after extensive debate. In fact Mahavir encouraged free debate, dialogue and discussion. He used to say that, “He who knows his doubts knows the world.” It is interesting that after his very first sermon, he attracted to his fold 4400 disciples, and in due course as many as 14000 monks and 36000 nuns. Such was the impact of his endeavor to convince others by winning them over by logical reasoning.

(to be continued)