Best Wishes on Mahavir Jayanti

Bhagavan Mahavir, the last of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras, was born in 599 BCE in the kingdom of Vajji (somewhere in present-day Bihar.) Much of the biographical details of his life are, of course, disputed by various scholars but they are not really important. What’s important are his teachings.

It is believed that he was a contemporary of Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha. Maybe they were contemporaries or maybe they were not. Again it does not matter.

Their are parallels in their lives. Like the Buddha, Mahavir was born and raised in a royal family, renounced his family and wealth when he was around 30 years old, and went in search of truth and spiritual awakening. He became an ascetic, gave up all his possessions (including clothing) and meditated under a tree. He even lived in Rajagriha for many years, the same place that the Buddha lived in for a while. Rajagriha appears to have been a special place. It was also the birthplace of the the 20th Jain Tirthankara Munisuvrata.

The wiki notes that “according to traditional accounts, Mahavira achieved Kevala Jnana (omniscience, or infinite knowledge) under a Sāla tree on the bank of the River Rijubalika at age 43 after twelve years of rigorous penance.”

His teachings form the essential core of Jainism. They are Ahimsā (Non-violence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Chastity), and Aparigraha (Non-possession.)

There is a lot of similarity between Jainism and Buddhism but they are far from identical. One major difference appears to be that Jainism has the notion of a soul but Buddhism does not. That’s significant. Be that as it may, among the Indian religions, Jainism stresses nonviolence the most.

As a Hindu and a philosophical libertarian, I naturally value the Jain and Buddhist principles of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, and non-attachment. These things were not taught to us in school but I suppose one generally learns through some osmotic process by just being around people who observe those principles. And of course, because both Jainism and Buddhism are non-theistic, they are specially important to me since I am not a theist.

(A dear Jain friend of mine says that I am like a Jain sadhu but with a few non-Jain habits. Perhaps in a previous life I was one, or perhaps I will be one in a future life. Who knows. ☺)

India’s greatest achievements, in my opinion, has been spiritual and philosophical. India has produced great spiritual teachers like no other place. Seekers from all over the world for the last couple millennia have learned from their gifts. There was something in the land that produced such enlightened beings.

I have a theory why that happened.

For now, I wish you all have a wonderful Bhagavan Mahavir Jayanti. May all beings be happy.



Categories: Indian Festivals

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5 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing the story of Vardhamana Mahavira. Very arresting account. You were referring to the abode of Rajagriha. There is a place called Rajgiri in Bihar; I remember vaguely visiting there as a young man. I think it is the same place. Thanks for making my day. Greetings to all.

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  2. Like a Jain sadhu except for a few non Jain habits 🙂 Perhaps you aren’t a strict vegetarian (violation of ahimsa).

    You are scathing in your opinions about Islamic ideology/socialism and how its most faithful/obedient followers and implementors harm the world and deserve to be ostracized/condemned. I am entirely with you on the former, not as absolute on the latter. I can’t imagine these sentiments jive with Jainism 🙂 Fighting the advent and acceptance of Islamism to the last breath is self-preservation for me. What do Buddhism and Jainism instruct us here? Krishna’s advice and core Hindu philosophy is: war for establishing righteousness and the destruction of evil is a king’s/warrior’s duty. Do you know how the most famous nastika schools deal with forced imposition of stupid and discriminatory laws (common to both Islamism and socialism)?

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    • Ananda,

      I don’t understand what you mean. What sentiments don’t “jive with Jainism”? And why should I care what Jainism and Buddhism have to say about how to deal with aggressive Muslims?

      I don’t know the answer to your question about nastika schools either. Please feel free to elaborate.

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      • Hi Atanu – “why should I care what Jainism and Buddhism have to say about how to deal with aggressive Muslims?” – you don’t have to care. I was contrasting your friend’s statement that you were like a Jain sadhu with your expressed opinion about Islam. I am curious about what religious Jainism teaches and practices, and what its orthodox adherents do when confronted with the atrocities and overt threat of Islam. As we all know, the Jain sadhus wear face masks to avoid harm to small life forms affected by their breathing. I’d assume that violence, even in self-defense, is never permitted. I don’t know the answer, and can’t easily uncover credible accounts on web searches.

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        • My friend was remarking on the simplicity of my life, and that I don’t have attachments to material things. The remark was about non-attachment.

          That way of life does not in any way prevent me from having opinions and judgments about ideologies. I necessarily perceive the world from my point of view and I believe that I have the freedom to express my thoughts on whatever matters strike my fancy. There is no contradiction on how I live and how what opinions I hold.

          Jain sadhus are committed to practicing extreme non-violence, to the point of not responding to aggression. But I don’t think they are committed to closing their eyes and not viewing reality for what it is. They are not expected to lie to themselves or to others.

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