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LORD MAHAVIRA

 

LORD MAHAVIRA

 

PUBLISHER�S NOTE

 

THE RELEVANCE OF THE TEACHING OF LORD MAHAVIRA IN THE PRESENT WORLD (INTRODUCTION)

  CONTENTS
 

THE AGE OF MAHAVIRA

  EARLY LIFE OF MAHAVIRA
  ASCETIC LIFE OF MAHAVIRA
  ENLIGHTENMENT
  JAINA ATHEISM
  PROPAGATION OF THE DOCTRINE
  RIVAL SECTS
  CONCLUSION
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PROPAGATION OF THE DOCTRINE


 

 

The last thirty years o his life. Mahavira spent in the propagation of his doctrine. He traveled through many parts of India, preaching and converting people to his faith, stopping as before for the four months of the rainy season at one place. It is possible to reconstruct a complete account of his travels from the names of the places where he passed his rainy seasons, mentioned in the Jaina texts.

 

CONVERSATION OF THE GANADHARAS

 

The Lord attained the Kevala-jnana while sitting in meditation under a Sala tree in the field of the householder Samaga outside the town Jrmbhikagrama. Immediately on the attainment of Kevalajnan, there is a Jaina tradition, the Tirthankara holds a public conference in Samavsarana and preaches the doctrine, making converts. But Mahavira made no converts in his first public audience. This in Svetambara Jaina texts is regarded as having been a very �unusual occurrence.� Probably the reason was because the public was nor available at the spot to listen to his preaching. The Digambara tradition does not admit the holding of the first samavasarana in the field of Samaga immediately of the attainment of Kevala-jnana.

 

Knowing that a big Yajna had been organized by a Brahman Somilacarya at a place at some distance from Jrmbhikagrama, he moved on to that place and held his second public audience there. He explained his own doctrine of the, Karma, Asrava, Bandha, Nirjara and Moksa and then went on to say that �four things of paramount value are difficult to obtain here by a living being; human birth, instruction in the Law, belief in it and energy in self-control. The Universe is peopled by manifold creatures, who are in this samsara born in different families and castes for having done various actions. Sometimes they go to the world of gods, sometimes to the bells, sometimes they become Ksatriyas, or Candalas or Bukkasas, or worms and moths, or (insects called) Kunthu and ants. Thus living beings of sinful actions, who are born again and again in ever-recurring births, are not disgusted with the samsara, but they are like warriors (never tired of the battle of life). Living beings bewildered through the influence of their actions, distressed and suffering pains, undergo misery in non-human births. But by the cessation of Karman, perchance, living beings will reach in due time a pure state and be born as men. And though they be born with a human body it will be difficult for them to hear the Law, having heard which they will do penance's, combat their passions and abstain from killing living beings. And though, by chance, they may hear the Law, it will be difficult for them to believe in it; many who are shown the right way, stray from it. And though they have heard the Law and believe in it, it is difficult for them to fulfill it strenuously; many who approve of the religion, do not adopt it. Having been born as a man, having heard the law, believing in it, and fulfilling it strenuously, an ascetic should restrain and shake off sinfulness. The pious obtain purity, and the pure stand firmly in the Law; (the soul afterwards) reaches the highest Nirvana, being like unto a fire fed with ghee.� Mahavira�s fame as an omniscient seer began to spread fast and widely; and among others, eleven of the learned Brahman teachers, who had come with a band of disciples to participate in the Yajna, felt persuaded to visit him.

 

The visit and conversion of these eleven Brahman teachers has been described in some detail by the Jaina texts, both Svetambara and Digambara. Digambara accounts mention that Indrabhuti, who had become a very learned pandit and grown extremely vain of his learning, was once questioned by an old man and asked to explain the meaning of a verse. The verse had been repeated to him by Mahavira, who had immediately afterwards become so lost in meditation that he did not get an explanation of it from the saint. It contained references to kala and dravya, pancastikaya dravya and lesya not one of which terms did Gautama Indrabhuti really understand. Nor, being a true scholar, could he pretend to have a knowledge which he did not possess. So he sought our Mahavira for an explanation. In the presence of the great ascetic all his pride fell from him and he became a pupil of Mahavira along with his band of disciples and learned brothers. The Svetambara account ascribes the meeting between Mahavira and Gautama Indrabhuti and others to a denunciation on the part of Mahavira of the animal sacrifice at which they were assisting. They were naturally much enraged at his audacity and came forward to oppose him and expose the falseness of his teaching; but when they listened to Mahavira�s discourses and heard the gentle and thoughtful answers he gave to all questioners, they became convinced of the truth of his way, decided to cast in their lot with his and became his chief disciples or Ganadharas. Under these Ganadharas were placed all the monks of the Order.

 

�Why has it been said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas? The oldest monk of the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira was Indrabhuti of the gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the middle aged monk was Agnibhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the youngest was Vayubhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas. The Sthavira Arya-Vyakta of the Bharadwaja gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Arya-Sudharman of the Agnivaisyayana gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Mandikaputra of the Vasisthagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Mauryaputra of the Kasyapagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Akampita of the Gautama gotra and Sthavira Acalabhrata of the Haritayana gotra, both Sthaviras instructed together three hundred sramanas each; the Sthaviras Metarya and Prabhasa, both of the Kaundinyagotra, instructed together three hundred sramanas each. Therefore it has been

said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas.�

 

These conversions gave to Mahavira a respectable community of 4,411 Sramanas. It is presumable that at this place not only Sramanas but also lay disciples joined Mahavira�s order; in Jaina texts there are references to the Lord having established a community of four orders i.e., monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen at the same time. We have already mentioned that unlike Parsva, who seems to have grouped all the laymen and similarly laywomen together, Mahavira made a clear distinction between ordinary laymen who merely expressed their sympathy with the Jaina doctrine and faith as Jainas and the body of laymen who took a special type of Diksa and who clearly undertook to observe the twelve lay vows. As Mrs. Stevenson has said, the genius for organization which Mahavira possessed is shown in nothing more clearly than in the formation of this and the order of laywomen Shramanro- pasika. These two organizations gave the Jaina a root in India that the Buddhists and, the other systems of Parivrajaka orders, never obtained, and that root firmly planted amongst the laity enabled Jainism to withstand the storm that drove Buddhism out of India.

 

 

INFLUENCE AT ROYAL COURTS-

 

Magadha : From the scene of Somilacarya�s Yajna Mahavira proceeded to Rajagrha, old capital of Magadha, where Srenika (Bimbisara) was the ruling monarch. As we have stated before, Mahavira was a Jnatrka from his father�s side, but his mother was sister to Cetake, the king of Vaisali, who belonged to the Licchavi sect of the Ksatriyas. Cetaka had seven daughters, out of whom one preferred to be a nun and the other six were married in one or the other royal family of Eastern India. Srenika, the ruler of Magadha, was the husband of the youngest of these princesses, Cellana, who became a lay follower of Mahavira, of the Sramanopasak variety. It is possible that there had been some connection between Magadha and the Jaina Church of the age previous to that of Mahavira. The Jaina text Uttaradhyayana mentions two early kings of Rajgrha named Samudravijaya and his son Jaya; of these Jaya, the eleventh cakravartin, �together with thousands of kings, renouncing the world, practiced self-restraint and reached perfection which has been taught by the Jinas.� But during the rule of the Saisunagas, right from the beginning there undoubtedly existed strong personal connections between Mahavira at Rajgrha, during the period of his preparation and after his attainment of the Kevala; and it is certain that at least during the later period he repaired to the city �not merely as an independent preacher but as one who had the State behind him to directly patronize and sympathize with him in his great mission.�

 

Videha : As with the rulers of Magadha, so with the other ruling houses in Eastern India, Mahavira had personal connections; and these connections must have inevitably helped him to gain followers for his order. From Rajgrha, where he gained numerous, both monks and laymen, including the princes Megha Kumar, Abhaya Kumar and others, the Lord proceeded towards Videha country. The capital of Videha was Mithila, which is identified by some scholars with the small town of Janakapura just within the Nepal border. The Videhans seem to have been an adventurous people, scattered as far as Vaisali itself. Mahavira�s mother, who was a princess of Vaisali, is spoken of in the Jaina texts as Videhadatta; and there is ample evidence to prove that Mahavira was closely connected with the Videhans. The Videhans has a living interest in the Jaina Church. Form Kalpa-sutra we know that Mahavira spent six rainy seasons at Mithila, the Metropolis of Videha,.

 

Vatsa : The capital of Vatsa, Kausambi, was also visited by Mahavira several times both during the period of preparation and after the attainment of the Kevala. The ruler of Kausambi was King Satanika, Mrgavati the third daughter of Cetaka was married to him. Both the King and the queen were devotees of Mahavira and followers of the Jaina order. The Jaina tradition also affirms that the king�s amatya (minister) and his wife were Jaina by faith. Satanika�s son and successor, Udayana, was a great king who made some conquests and contracted matrimonial alliance with the royal houses of Avanti, Anga and Magadha. The Jaina literature claims him as a follower of the Jaina order.

 

Avanti. Canda Pradyota the ruler of Avanti (Capital, Ujjain) had married the fourth daughter of Cetaka, by name Shiva. Pradyota was called �Canda� or fierce, for he was temperamentally very excitable and was also the possessor of a large army. There is a story which says that he was fond of Mrgavati, the elder sister of wife, who had been already married to King Satanika of Vatsa, that he asked for Queen Mrgavati from Satanika, and that on the refusal of the latter he declared a war against him. Satanika appears to have died before actual hostilities could start; and when Mahavira visited Kausambi a little later, he induced Canada Pradyota to give up his feeling of revenge and to allow Mrgavati to become a nun. Thereupon Satanika�s son, Udayana, became the king of Kausambi. Between this Udayana and Pradyota�s daughter, the peerless Vasavadatta, there developed a long romance, round which a large cycle of Sanskrit stories has been written. Udayana, as we mentioned above, is claimed by Jaina tradition as having had respect and sympathy for the Jaina church; but Pradyota also had undeniable sympathy for the Jaina faith. There is a mention that along with Mrgavati of Kausambi , eight of his own queens, Angaravati and others, with his permission, joined the order.

 

Campa, capital of Anga. The ruler of Campa, which was always recognized to be a great center of Jainism, was Dadhivahana, who married Padmavati, the second daughter of Cetaka. Dadhivahana�s daughter, Candana or Candanabala, was the first woman who embraced Jainism shortly after Mahavira had attained the Kevala. Jaina literature described in great detail the story of Candana. During the invasion of Campa by King Satanika of Kausambi, Candana was caught hold of by one of the enemy�s army and was sold in Kausambi to a banker named Dhanavaha. After a short time the banker�s wife Mula, felt jealous of her and having cut her hair, put her into custody. In this condition she served a part of her food to Mahavira, and finally joined his ranks as a nun. She headed the order of nuns in Mahavira�s sangha. Campa seems to have been situated at a distance of a few miles in the neighborhood of modern Bhagalpur. Its importance as a center of Jaina influence is evident from the fact that Mahavira spent three of his rainy seasons in Campa. After Mahavira�s death Campa was visited by Sudharman, the head of the Jaina Sangha, at the time of Kunika or Ajatasatru. Ajatasatru seems to have transferred his capital from Rajgrha to Campa of the death of his father; and Jaina tradition mentions that the King �came bare-footed to see the Ganadhara outside the city where he had taken his adobe,� Sudharman�s successor, Jambu, and Jambu�s successor, Svayambhava, lived at the city where he composed the Dasavaikalikasutra, containing in ten lectures all the essence of the sacred doctrines of Jainism.