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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
  Jain Books
  Catalog of Books in English
  Catalog of Books in Hindi
  Catalog of Books in Gujarati
  List of Books, Topics & Sub-topics and Authors

ENLIGHTENMENT


 

 

After Gosala�s withdrawal, Mahavira continued his wanderings and practice of asceticism alone. Gosala proclaimed himself a Jina and started collecting followers after acquiring supernormal powers, but Mahavira persisted in his search. From Siddharthagrama he went to Vaisali and thence to Vanijyagrama, where he was visited by Ananda, a wealthy merchant of the place and then traveled to Sravasti (which has been identified with Sahet-Mahet on the south bank of the river Tapti) for his tenth chaturmas.

 

On the expiry of the tenth chaturmas began the sad episode of Sangamaka, the tempter-god, who made his appearance and began his attack, which in its various forms lasted for about six months. The eleventh chaturmas was spent at Vaisali and the twelfth at Campa. The interval between the eleventh and twelfth was marked by the famous abhigrah at Kausambi, which took five months and twenty-five days to be fulfilled and meant a forced fast for Mahavira of this duration. During the thirteenth year, in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaiskha, on its tenth day, called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vijaya, while the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttarapalguni, when the shadow had turned towards the east and the first wake was over, outside the town Jrmbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rjupalika, in the field of the householder Samaga, under a Sala tree, in a squatting position with joint heels exposing himself to the heat of the Sun, with the knees high and the head low, in deep meditation, in the midst of abstract meditation, he reached the complete and full, the unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite and supreme, best knowledge and intuition, called Kevala.�

 

Kevalin:

 

On the attainment of Kevala jnana, says the Kalpautra, the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira became omniscient. �He knew and saw all conditions of the worlds, of gods, men and demons; whence they came, whither they are born as men or animals or became gods or hellish, beings, the ideas, the thoughts of their mind, the food, doings, desires, the open and secret deeds of all the livings in the whole world; the Arhat, for whom there is no secret, knew and saw all conditions of all living beings in the world, what they thought, spoke, or did at any time.� It is notable that frequently in the course of audience and in his preaching after this great event he would refer to the earlier existence of a person or what one was going to be in the next birth; this extended vision of the past, resent and future became obviously an essential attribute of Mahavira�s personality. Even the Buddhist texts always refer to him as possessing such vision.

 

It would be helpful in this connection to understand the Jaina theory of knowledge. According to Jainism, consciousness is the very essence of the soul, not a mere characteristic of it. The soul (jeev) can know unaided everything direct and exactly as it is. Of consciousness, there are two manifestations, perception (darshan) and knowledge (gyan). The former is simple apprehension, the latter conceptual knowledge. In the former details are not perceived, in the latter they are; darshan is a perception of generalities (samanya) of things without particularities (vishaish). There can be no jeeva without consciousness or cognition, as there can be no consciousness without a jeeva. Incidentally, this is a point which illustrates the distinction of Jainism from Buddhism, where not the mind but only states of consciousness are admitted as real. The fact that the knowledge which a jeeva actually has is fragmentary in its character is due to the obstruction caused by Karma, which interferes with its power of cognition. The Karmas which obscure the different kind of jnana are called the knowledge- obscuring (jnanavaranr) those which obscure the different varieties of darsan are called the perception-obscuring (darshanavaranr) karmas. The different kinds of jnana recognized by Jainism are: (1) matigyan which is ordinary cognition obtained by normal means of sense perception. It includes remembrance (smriti), recognition (Prtyabhigya), induction based upon observation (tark), and deductive reasoning (anuman) and it is acquired by means of the senses and mind; (2) shrut or testimony, i.e., knowledge derived though signs, symbols, or word; (3) Avadhi which is direct knowledge of things even at a distance of time and space. It is knowledge by clairvoyance, limited by and coextensive with the material object of the knowledge; (4)Manprya direct knowledge of the thoughts of others, a telepathic knowledge of others� minds; and (5) Kaival perfect knowledge comprehending all substances and their modifications. The last three categories of knowledge are direct in the sense that they are derived without the medium of senses and mind.

 

Darshan or Perception is of four kinds; perception through visual sensations (chakshudarshan), perception through non-visual sensations, perception through the faculty of Avadhi or clairvoyance (Avadhidarshan), and lastly Kevaldarshan perception through Kevala or infinite perception, which is unlimited and apprehends all general reality.

 

All accounts of Mahavira�s life are agreed that he possessed a highly active and clever mind from the very beginning. He is mentioned to have possessed from his very childhood the Mati, Sruta and Avadhhi jnana; the Svetambara books say that he was in possession of Abhogika-Jnana, which is inferior to the Avadhi knowledge but is essentially of the same class. Direct knowledge of the thoughts, he obtained while renouncing the world and adopting the career of an ascetic. The Kalpasutra refers to his having perceived with �his supreme unlimited knowledge and intuition� that the time of his renunciation had come. Now he came to acquire Kevala-jnana, Kevala-darsana, and approximation to the perfect condition of the soul. Perfect knowledge is completely free from doubt (sanshey), perversity (viprya), and indefiniteness (andhyavaseya). It is absolute apprehension without media, �soul-knowledge,� knowledge par excellence which is higher than all the other varieties of normal and supernormal knowledge. Such knowledge, of course, comprehends knowledge of the soul itself, for contrary to the Nyaya-Vaisesika theory which believes that knowledge reveals only external relations but not itself, the Jaina Siddhanta asserts that in knowing any object the soul knows itself simultaneously. After the attainment of Kevala-jnana a jeeva may lead an active life, but the activity would not taint him, would exert no fresh Karmic influence of the obstructive type upon the soul. During the period between Enlightenment and actual death the person is termed as �Arhat�; at actual liberation he becomes a �Siddha�. The Stage of Arhat-ship corresponds roughly to the Hindu ideal of jivan-mukti.

 

The concept of such absolute and perfect knowledge may not be unique to the Jainas but their ways of attainment of knowledge are certainly unique. The Upanisadic seers drew a distinction between lower knowledge and higher knowledge, the higher knowledge being conceived as the knowledge by which alone the imperishable being is reached. The Greek philosophers also drew a similar distinction between Doxa and Episteme, between opinion and truth (or knowledge). Plato, in his Republic, brought out the distinction by means of a parable. �Imagine human beings living in a sort of underground den, which has a mouth wide open towards the hight, and behind them a breastwork such as marionette players might use for a screen; and there is a way beyond the breastwork along which passengers are moving, holding in their hands various works of art, and among them images of men and animals, wood and stone, and some of the passers of talking and others silent. They see nothing but the shadows which the fire throws on the wall of the caves, to these they give names; and if we add an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of passengers will seem to proceed from the shadows. They are ourselves, and to us, brought up in the limited-atmosphere of such a den from our childhood, �truth is just nothing but the shadows of the images.� But the released from the prison of the den and compelled suddenly to go up, we can gradually have a clear view of the Truth, perceiving at first only shadows and reflections in the water, then recognizing the moon and the stars, and beholding finally the sun �in his own proper place.� Thus, their knowledge will come to have clearness of certainty and rescue itself from the cloudiness of opinion.�

 

Incidentally, this parable of Plato also presents a theory of knowledge, which is wholly akin to the Jain theory. Knowledge is not something which has to be put into the soul and which was not there before. �The power is already in the soul; and as the eye cannot turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too when the eye of the soul is turned round, the whole soul must be turned from the world of generation into that of being.�

 

Jina:

 

The attainment of Kevala-Jnana was achieved by Mahavira after a prolonged practice of profound meditations and austerities for over twelve years, and this entitled him to be called the Jina (conqueror). It may be mentioned that Buddha also led a life of austerities of six years, but that he thought these years wasted and his penance�s useless for attaining his end; while Mahavira was not only convinced of the necessity of his penance�s and thought them essential for obtaining perfection, but persevered in some of them even after becoming a Tirthankara. In Mahavira�s view, �the full blaze of omniscience� in the jiva is impossible of accomplishment without the practice of a regulated course of self-discipline and the conquest of karmas. The Karma in Jaina Siddhanta is recognized as a substantive force, matter in a subtle form, which builds up a special body, called Karmana-sarira and which retards the inherent radiance of the soul. �As heat can unite with iron and water with milk, so karma unites with the soul�. The kind of matter fit to manifest karma fills all cosmic space, and it has the peculiar property of developing the effects of merit and demerit. Except in final release the soul is always in connection with matter, and the Karma forms the link between the two.

 

The Jaina Siddhanta recognizes eight kinds of karma. (1) Gyanavaranr which obscures right knowledge of detail and prevents our receiving mental illumination. It may not only impede us in gaining true knowledge, but may actually give rise to false and hurtful knowledge and misuse of intellectual powers. (2) Darshanavaranr which obscures right perception and prevents our having general comprehension of things. (3) vaidniye which obscures the bliss-nature of the soul and causes us to experience either the sweetness of worldly pleasures sukhvaidniye or the bitterness of misery (Dukhvaidniye). In the Jaina view, it is not only evil action but also good action that has to be worked off before one can obtain liberation. (4) mohneeya which obscures the right attitude of the soul towards faith and right conduct and prevents us from speaking and thinking clearly, which in short �bemuses all our faculties.� (5) Ayoo which determines the length of time a jiva must spend in the form with which is Karma has endowed him. (6) nam which determines the peculiar body of the soul with its general and special qualities and faculties. (7) Gotra which determines the nationality, caste, family, social standing etc., (8) antray which causes such energy in the soul as obstructs the performance of good action when there is a desire to do so. It causes hindrances in life and has the effect of �muddling away every opportunity that life offers.� These Karmas are classified into the Ghatii, which are particularly obstructive to the accomplishment of the natural perfections of the pure soul and which can only be destroyed by great labor and effort, and the Aghati, which are not very injurious and can be more easily destroyed. The Ghati-karmas are gyanvaran, darshanavaranr, mohniye and antrayeand once they are burnt up in the burning glow of austerities, the Aghati can be snapped as easily as a piece of burnt string.

 

This is clearly admitted in the analysis of the fourteen steps (ghunrsthan) by which a jiva is supposed to ascend to the state of liberation. The analysis of these stages through a developing soul passes is but one instance of �the amazing knowledge of human nature which Jaina ethics display.� Deliverance is impossible so long as the soul is bound by and does not fully annihilate the Ghati-karma, but once freed from the Ghati-karma the soul may retain its connection for sometime with the Aghati-kamras without being effectively bound by them. In the ladder of the fourteen steps, the first step (miyhyatv) is when the soul is completely under the influence of Karma and does not know its true good at all. From the first step, either through the influence of the past good karma or in response to some external stimulus, the soul obtains a glimpse of the true faith and thus immediately rises to the fourth stage (avirat) when although unable to take those vows which help in the fight against Karma, it can, if it likes, control the grossest form of anger, conceit, intrigue and greed, the four anantanubandhee kasayas. In the absence of active effort to control these passions, there may be a falling back of the soul to the second stage (sasvdan) which is characterized by a very faint sense of discrimination between what is false and what is true, and from here to either further descent to the first stage or gradual ascent to the third mishr which typifies a state of uncertainty, one moment knowing the truth and the next doubting it. The second and the third steps are thus merely transitional and transitory; it is the fourth step, which is really stable after the first stage.