Lord Mahavira is the
twenty-fourth Tirthankar. He was born in 599 B.C. at Kshatriyakund which was
a part of the well known Vaish�li republic. His father's name was King
Siddh�rtha and his mother's name was Queen Trishal�. They were very
religious people and were followers of Lord P�rshvan�th. Queen Trishal� had
fourteen dreams (some believe sixteen dreams) when she conceived Lord
Mahavira. While she was pregnant, the prosperity of King Siddh�rtha grew.
The parents attributed their success to the baby. So when the baby was born,
he was named Vardhaman, which means continuously increasing.
He was very bold and while
playing he once saved his friends from a snake. Another time, a heavenly
angel joined them in the disguise of a young boy. According to the rules of
the game, Vardhaman had a chance to ride on the boys back. While he was
riding, the boy turned into a monster in order to scare him. Vardhaman
however overcame the monster. The heavenly angel then appeared in his true
form. He praised Vardhaman for his boldness and called him "Mahavira"
meaning very brave.
Though Mahavira was born with
worldly comforts and luxuries, they never attracted him. He lived a simple
life. So when his parents died, he decided to be a monk. He asked for
permission from his brother. His brother was still mourning the loss of
their parents. He therefore requested Mahavira to wait for a couple of years
before leaving. Mahavira waited for two years, during which he led a totally
detached life. After realizing this, his brother gave him permission to
become a monk. Mahavira was thirty years old when he gave up his worldly
life and all worldly activities. He spent most of his time in austerity and
in meditation. He suffered a great deal of physical pain and torture from
various sources. Among them, the most severe was the biting by the highly
poisonous snake Chandakaushik. Lord Mahavira remained calm and peaceful in
the midst of all these torturous events. He never lost his serenity and
never developed hatred for anyone. He magnanimously forgave all of them. He
led such a highly austere life for twelve and a half years. At the age of
forty-two he attained omniscience, Kevaljnan. He became Jina, the
twenty-forth Tirthankar of the present era. As omniscient he knew everything
of the past present and future.
As the last Tirthankar, he
revived the religious order (Tirth) consisting of monks, nuns, Shravaks and
Shravikas. This order is known as the Jain Sangh. His first disciple, called
Ganadhar, was Gautamswami. He was a well known Brahmin scholar of the time.
Lord Mahavira had eleven Ganadhars. Those Ganadhars compiled twelve
scriptures based on what Lord Mahavira taught. These scriptures are called
�gamas which were passed verbally from preceptor to pupil for a long time.
They were put into writing about 890 years after the death of Mahavira.
During the time of Lord
P�rshvan�th there were four great vows followed by monks and nuns. Realizing
the status of mind of current and future sadhus and sadhvis, Lord Mahavira
added one more vow to them. The five vows are:
1) Non-violence (Ahimsa)
2) Truth (Satya)
3) Non-stealing (Asteya)
4) Chastity (Brahmacharya,
added by Mahavira)
5) Non-possession (Aparigraha).
During his times violent
sacrificial rituals were conducted by people in the name of religion. The
teachings of Lord Mahavir opened their eyes, and they also adopted the
principle of non-violence. His sermons encouraged people to build a happy
and harmonious society.
After offering guidance to
the public for thirty years, Lord Mahavira attained Nirv�n in 527 B.C., at
the age of seventy-two. Nirv�na means that he attained liberation and became
a Siddha who no longer has to undergo the cycle of birth and death.
1) Who was Lord Mahavir?
2) What were his parents
3) How old was he when he
became a monk?
4) For how many years did he
perform austerity and meditation?
5) How old was he when he
became a Tirthankar?
6) What are the four
different parts of the Jain Sangh?
7) How old was Mahavir when
he attained Nirv�na?
8) How many years ago did
Mahavir attain Nirv�na?