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THE PATH OF ARHAT

Justice T.U.Mehta

Significant Events

At this distance of time, having been brought up in the society where the principles of Ahimsa, Truth and Brahmacarya are taken for granted as the necessary constituents of a cultured life in India, we would not be in a position to appreciate the tremendous task which lay ahead of Mahavira in the orthodox rigidity of his times. We have no historical record of the working of his mind when he must have faced with different and difficult problems of the society, he lived in. Whatever fragments of his life and work are available, are from different sutras-Kalpasutra being prominent. However, as is usual with ardent devotees, much of it seems to have been glossed with mysteries and exaggerations. It is nonetheless possible to know how this great soul was able to revolutionise the current thinking and had his impact not only on human beings but also on other creatures, whom he considered equal partners in the Universal scheme. We shall therefore consider some important events of his life as mentioned in scriptures. It is interesting to note that though contemporary Buddhist scriptures make good deal of reference to Mahavira and his philosophy, the Hindu scriptures are totally silent about him or his work to the extent that but for the existence of the Jainas and Jaina as well as Buddhist literature, the world would have no record to show that such a great soul ever existed and moved in human form in India whose culture owes so much to him. This was the reason why initially some western scholars, genuinely though wrongly believed that Jainism is a branch of Buddhism which is better known internationally. It was H. Jacobi, a German scholar-philosopher who initiated research in Jainism and knew more about the historicity of Jainism than the Jainas themselves.

We have already noted some facts relating to the birth of Mahavira. His Birth place was ‘Kundapura' a suburb of Vaisali situated at the modern village ‘Besadha Patti' , 27 miles from Patna in Mujaffarpur District of Bihar. His real name was ‘Vardhamana' meaning ‘growing'. He was given this name because his birth heralded the prosperity and peace in his family and the country began to grow. The epithet ‘Mahavira' was given by people to him after seeing the severest austerities practiced by him for long twelve years. He was very handsome, tall and strong and had begun to show his talents and strength from his boyhood. We shall not detain ourselves in the narration of the events of his boyhood. According to Svetambara school he was married to Yasoda, the daughter of king Samaravira of Saketa and had a daughter by this marriage named Priyadarsana, married to Jamali. Both of them entered the Jaina monastic order but Jamali having some theoretical differences (noted elsewhere in this book) established his own order separately along with his wife who subsequently returned back to the fold of Mahavira.

We have elsewhere in this book noted how Mahavira renounced the world and became a recluse.