Mahavira, the sage of total non-violence

MAHAVIRA was born as Prince Vardhamana Jnataputra in Khatriyakunda near present day Vaishali on the 13th day of brighter half in the month of Chaitra in 599 BC. Later he earned the sobriquet of Mahavira for his courage and valour.

Leaving behind the luxuries of life of a prince, a loving wife and an infant daughter, Mahavira became an ascetic at the age of thirty. He practiced stringent austerity, owned nothing, went about naked, allowed insects to crawl over him and kept fasts for long periods extending even up to 200 days. After the hard penance of twelve and half years Mahavira attained kevala-gnana or the highest knowledge on the bank of the river Rjuwalika on the evening of the tenth day of the bright half of Vaisakh. He became the Jina - one who had conquered attachment and greed.

Standing firmly against the prevalent brahminical rituals, which emphasized on animal sacrifice, he preached the doctrine of Ahimsa - prohibiting violence even in thought. In fact, as the latter precedes the former, he considered it as a greater form of violence. According to Jaina philosophy, four Bandhanas, viz, Prakriti, Sthiti, Anubhava and Pradesha and four Kashayas, viz, Krodh, Maan, Maya and Lobha bind one to the eternal cycles of rebirths and the resultant sufferings. To get freedom from this bondage one has to posses the three jewels, Ratna-traya, viz, Samyag Darshana (right vision), Samyag Jnyana (right knowledge) and Samyag Charitra (right conduct). In his non-theistic approach, he emphasised on the human possibility of self-overcoming and moral excellence without reliance on a God-creator figure.

Mahavira established rules for ascetics and laity in the Jaina sangha. Ascetics must undertake Mahavrata, a vow to observe 5 karaniyas, viz., Ahimsa (non-violence), Sunrta (truth), Asteya (refrain from unjust possession), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (getting rid of desire). Mahavrata even prohibits taking of meals after sunset to avoid injury to minute insects. Anuvrata for the laity are similar to Mahavrata but less stringent. For example as against the total celibacy in Mahavrata, they enjoin one to contentment with one’s own spouse.

The human side of Jainism led his followers to contribute in all branches of knowledge, making unique contributions in the fields of Astronomy, Medicines, Philosophy and particularly Mathematics. In fact, “Ganitanuyoga” and “Sankhyayana”- the science of numbers and astronomy - was a must for the Jaina priests. Their various achievements include applications of place value, law of indices, theory of logarithms, special methods for dealing with the fractions and methods used in geometry and mensuration.

Jaina philosophy avers that everything in this universe even the dust particles have jeeva - a soul. To tackle the realistic enumeration of this huge number of jeevas, Jaina theologians made an early crack in the theory of numbers. Advanced ideas in practical sciences and medicine are also abundant in Jaina scriptures. Much attention had also been paid to architectural sciences resulting in some beautiful creations.

Like all religions, Jainism attempted to bring the entire mankind into the folds of universal brotherhood. At the same time, like most other religions it suffered schism after some time. Even considering all the sects together, the Jainas are numerically a small fraction of Indian population. Yet in every sphere of life, economic or otherwise, the Jainas hold glorious positions far in excess to their proportional numerical strength. May be this is due to their inherent philosophy of positive humility as expressed in the immortal shloka: Khammami savvajeevanam, savve jeeva khamantu me. Mitti me savvajeeveshu veran majjanan kena vi. – ‘I forgive all creatures. All creatures may forgive me. I am friendly to everybody. I bear no enmity to any one. One only wishes that it becomes a universal statement to end bitterness in the world.’

This great seer and savant attained his Nirvana in Pavapuri near Rajgir in Bihar on Diwali in 525 B.C.

Basics of Jaina philosophy

LORD MAHAVIRA - Great Reformer and Architect of Modern Society: Dr. C. R. Bhansali; M and P Consultancy and Marketing Co., F-33, Manasarovar Garden, New Delhi-110015. Rs. 150.

THIS BOOK gives a vivid picture of the fundamental teachings of Lord Mahavira, the chief architect of Jaina faith and philosophy.

The message of the great master has been grouped under 11 heads such as spiritual discipline, pathway to liberation, self concept of passions, doctrine of Karma, conquest of mind, concept of transmigration, meditation, wisdom, precepts on learning and code of conduct.

A close study of these memorable teachings as well as preaching gives a solace to the tormented souls of the modern world. The structure of the book is like the couplets of the Tirukkural, very simple to read and reflect.

The present day world is confronted with political turmoil, social inequalities, racial discriminations, colour contrast, linguistic bias, cultural upheavals and all the more endangering to peaceful co-existence.

A thorough study of the preaching of Lord Mahavira will certainly bring forth tranquillity of mind, illumination of the spirit and the enhancement of genuine love among the living species. In this sense, the book gives a comprehensive and complete Jain way of life.


Culamani: A Jain Epic

CULAMANI VOLUMES I AND II: Translated by P. Pandian; Research Foundation for Jainology, 18, Ramanjua Aiyar Street, Sowcarpet, Chennai-600079. Rs. 700 (for the set).

"CULAMANI" LITERALLY means the crest-jewel or diadem. Here, it denotes the Tamil narrative, named after the righteous monarch Payapathi, the ruler of Suramai country, who has been extolled as "Culamani", the invaluable gem among kings, due to his rare martial and spiritual achievements. This narrative is indited by the erudite Jain poet, Tolamozhidevar, who lived in the last part of the ninth and the early part of the 10th centuries A.D. He was patronised by the Pandya King, Sendan, identified as Culamanivarman by the eminent South Indian historian, K. A. Neelakanta Sastri.

Though the tradition reckoned Culamani as one among the five minor Tamil epics, it richly deserves to be deemed as a Mahakavya, since it fulfils all the requirements of a great epic as prescribed in Kavya Darsa of Dandin, the court-poet of Rajasimha Pallava (710 A.D.), of Kanchi. This epic is a Sarga-bandha Kavya, consisting of 12 sargas and 2131 poems of different types of "vritta" meter. Despite the author having chosen the main story from the Jain text, Sripurana, the structure and the texture of the epic are organised as per the architectonics of Tamil literary tradition.

Since the main characters, Tivittan and Vijayan, the princes of emperor Payapathi, are considered respectively to be the incarnations of Sri Krishna and Balarama, while the villainic hero, Asvagriva of the epic, resembles in all respects Prati Vasudeva, the closeness of the myths of Jain and Hindu traditions project an interesting comparative study.

The epic connects the terrestrial and celestial spheres through the solemn wedding of the earthly prince Tivittan with the Vidhyadhara royal damsel, Svayambrabha. In all aspects, Tivittan deserves to be treated as the hero of the narrative and his extraordinary prowess is established through his rare feats of tearing the lion's mouth in its own den, rooting out totally the villianic forces, headed by Asvagriva.

The poet's creative genius, fertile imagination, description of the manifestations of nature, depiction of different emotions and feelings, felicity of expression, chosen diction, cadence and harmony contributed to the aesthetic excellence of the epic poem and tempted the subsequent commentators to quote them as adequate and apt illustrations of the manifold "vritta" metres, of the Tamil prosodial texts.

It is pertinent to note that the poet never forgot to introduce the basic tenets of Jainism, one of the ancient heterodox systems of Indian philosophy.

Such a superb text has been now rendered beautifully by the translator into elegant and excellent English free verse form. The translation is mostly faithful to the original and palatable. Wherever necessary, he has presented sufficient notes for the easy comprehension.

The translator who is well known to the learned world through his previous renditions of ancient Tamil classics like Paripadal and Manimekalai, richly deserves the appreciation of those interested not only in the Tamil classics but also in the study of Jain philosophy.


(From: The Hndu)


Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation

Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation

By Helmuth von Glasenapp, Shridhar B. Shrotri
Translated by Shridhar B . Shrotri

A description of Jainism, its history, its literature and doctrines, its caste-order and various sects, its cults, rites and rituals, the place of Jainism in the history of the religions of the world and much more.

Life Force: The World of Jainism

Life Force: The World of Jainism
By Michael Tobias
Front Cover

Published 2000
By Jain Publishing Company Inc.
Outside India, little is known of Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world; a gentle faith whose ancient precepts have always nurtured an ecological way of life, and which numbers today nearly ten million adherents. At the root of Jainism's compassionate philosophy is the practice of ahimsa, meaning non-violence, an approach to the world that greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi. Today, with the earth's environment and everyone of its species under constant siege, Jainism has more of a role to play than ever before. In this accessible and thought-provoking portrait of a religion, the Jain antidotes to human violence and environmental abuse come elegantly and persuasively to light.