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Mahavira
Mahavira
(/məˌhɑːˈvɪərə/; IAST: Bhagavān Mahāvīra), also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth Tirthankara
Tirthankara
(ford-maker) of Jainism. In the Jain tradition, it is believed that Mahavira
Mahavira
was born in the early part of the 6th century BC into a royal family in what is now Bihar, India. At the age of thirty, abandoning all worldly possessions, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening and became an ascetic. For the next twelve and a half years, Mahavira
Mahavira
practiced intense meditation and severe austerities, after which he is believed to have attained Kevala Jnana
Kevala Jnana
(omniscience). He preached for thirty years, and is believed by Jains to have died in the 6th century BC. Scholars such as Karl Potter consider his biographical details as uncertain,[4] with some suggesting he lived in the 5th century BC contemporaneously with the Buddha. Mahavira died at the age of 72 in Pawapuri
Pawapuri
(now Bihar), and his remains were cremated.[5][6] According to the Jain tradition, Mahavira
Mahavira
had 14,000 muni (male ascetics), 36,000 aryika (nuns), 159,000 sravakas (laymen), and 318,000 sravikas (laywomen) as his followers. Some of the royal followers included Srenika (popularly known as Bimbisara) of Magadha, Kunika of Anga
Anga
(Ajatashatru), and Chetaka of Videha. After he gained Kevala Jnana, Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the observance of the vows ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-attachment) is necessary for spiritual liberation. Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the doctrine of non-injury must cover all living beings, and causing injury to any being in any form creates bad karma which affects one's rebirth and future well-being and suffering. According to Mahatma Gandhi, Mahāvīra was the greatest authority on Ahimsa. He gave the principle of Anekantavada
Anekantavada
(many-sided reality),[7] Syadvada and Nayavada. Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the soul is permanent and eternal with respect to dravya (substance) and impermanent with respect to paryaya (modes that originate and vanish). The teachings of Mahavira
Mahavira
were compiled by Gautama Swami (his chief disciple) and were called Jain Agamas. These texts were transmitted through oral tradition by Jain monks, but are believed to have been largely lost by about the 1st century when they were first written down. The surviving versions of the Agamas taught by Mahavira
Mahavira
are some of the foundational texts of Jainism. Mahavira
Mahavira
is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him. The earliest iconography for Mahavira
Mahavira
is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The day he was born is celebrated as Mahavir Janma-kalyanak (popularly known as Mahavir Jayanti), and the day of his liberation is celebrated by Jains as Diwali. In 1973, which was the 2,500th anniversary of the Nirvana
Nirvana
(or Moksha) of Mahavira, monks of the various sects of Jainism
Jainism
assembled to resolve their differences and arrive at some commons points of agreement about the history and philosophy of Jainism
Jainism
.

Contents

1 Titles and names 2 Historical Mahavira 3 Biography per Jain traditions

3.1 Birth 3.2 Early life 3.3 Renunciation 3.4 Omniscience 3.5 Disciples 3.6 Nirvāṇa, death 3.7 Previous births 3.8 Sources

4 Teachings

4.1 Jain Agamas 4.2 Five vows 4.3 Soul 4.4 Anekantavada 4.5 Gender 4.6 Rebirth and realms of existence

5 Legacy

5.1 Ascetic lineage 5.2 Festivals 5.3 Adoration 5.4 Influence 5.5 Iconography 5.6 Temples

6 See also 7 Notes 8 References

8.1 Citations 8.2 Sources

9 External links

Titles and names[edit] The early Jain and Buddhist
Buddhist
literature that has survived into the modern era uses other names or epithets for Mahavira. These include Nayaputta, Muni, Samana, Niggantha, Brahman, and Bhagavan.[8] In early Buddhist
Buddhist
Suttas, he is also referred to by the names Araha (meaning "worthy"), and Veyavi (derived from the word "Vedas", but contextually it means "wise" because Mahavira
Mahavira
did not recognize the Vedas
Vedas
as a scripture).[9] Buddhist
Buddhist
texts refer to Mahavira
Mahavira
as Nigaṇṭha Jñātaputta.[10] Nigaṇṭha means "without knot, tie, or string" and Jñātaputta (son or scion of Natas), refers to his clan of origin as Jñāta or Naya (Prakrit).[11][12][13] The Jain text Kalpasutras states that he is also known as Sramana
Sramana
because he is "devoid of love and hate".[14] According to later Jain texts, Mahavira's childhood name was Vardhamāna ("the one who grows"), because of the increased prosperity in the kingdom at the time of his birth.[15] According to the Kalpasutras, he was called Mahavira
Mahavira
("the great hero") by the gods because he stood steadfast in the midst of dangers and fears, hardships and calamities.[14] Mahavira
Mahavira
is also called a Tirthankara.[11] Historical Mahavira[edit] Though it is universally accepted by scholars of Jainism
Jainism
that Mahavira was an actual person who lived in ancient India, the details of his biography and the year of his birth are uncertain,[4] and continue to be a subject of considerable debate among scholars.[16] Digambara text, Uttarapurāna mention that Mahavira
Mahavira
was born at Kundpur kingdom of Videh.[17] and Svetambara
Svetambara
text, Kalpasūtra use the name Kundagrama.[8][18] It is said to be located in present-day Bihar, India. This is assumed to be the modern town of Basu Kund, which is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Patna, the capital of Bihar.[19][3] However, it is unclear if the ancient Kundagrama is the same as the current assumed location, and the birthplace remains a subject of dispute.[4][8][20] Mahavira
Mahavira
renounced all his material wealth and left his home when he was twenty-eight by some accounts,[21] or thirty by others,[22] then lived an ascetic life and performed severe austerities for twelve years, and thereafter preached Jainism
Jainism
for a period of thirty years.[21] The location where he preached has been a subject of historic disagreement between the two major sub-traditions of Jainism – the Svetambaras and the Digambaras.[8] The Jain Śvētāmbara
Śvētāmbara
tradition believes he was born in 599 BC and died in 527 BC, while the Digambara
Digambara
tradition believes 510 BC was the year he died.[21][2] The scholarly controversy arises from efforts to date him and the Buddha, because both are believed to be contemporaries according to Buddhist
Buddhist
and Jain texts, and because, unlike for Jain literature, there is extensive ancient Buddhist
Buddhist
literature that has survived.[2] Almost all Indologists and historians, state Dundas and others, accordingly date Mahavira's birth to about 497 BC and his death to about 425 BC.[2][3] However, the Vira era tradition that started in 527 BC and places Mahavira
Mahavira
in the 6th century BC is a firmly established part of the Jain community
Jain community
tradition.[2] The 12th-century Jain scholar Hemachandra
Hemachandra
placed Mahavira
Mahavira
in the 5th century BC.[23][24] According to Kailash Jain, Hemachandra made an incorrect analysis that, along with attempts to establish Buddha's nirvana date, has been a source of confusion and controversy about Mahavira's year of nirvana.[25] Kailash Jain states the traditional date of 527 BC is accurate, adding that the Buddha was a junior contemporary of the Mahavira
Mahavira
and that the Buddha
Buddha
"might have attained nirvana a few years later".[26] The place of his death, Pavapuri (now in Bihar), is a pilgrimage site for Jains.[21] Biography per Jain traditions[edit] See also: Panch Kalyanaka According to Jain texts, 24 Tirthankaras have appeared on earth in the current time cycle of Jain cosmology. Mahavira
Mahavira
was the last Tirthankara
Tirthankara
of Avasarpiṇī
Avasarpiṇī
(present descending phase or half of the time cycle).[note 1][28] A Tirthankara
Tirthankara
(Maker of the River-Crossing, saviour, spiritual teacher) signifies the founder of a tirtha, which means a fordable passage across the sea of interminable cycles of births and deaths (called saṃsāra).[29][30][31] Birth[edit] See also: Mahavir Jayanti

The Birth of Mahavira, from the Kalpa Sutra, c. 1375–1400

Belonging to Kashyapa gotra,[14][19] Mahavira
Mahavira
was born into the royal Kshatriya
Kshatriya
family of King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala
Trishala
of the Ikshvaku dynasty.[32][note 2] This is the same solar dynasty in which Hindu epics place Rama
Rama
and the Ramayana,[33] and in which the Buddhist
Buddhist
texts place the Buddha,[34] and the Jains attribute another twenty-one of their twenty-four Tirthankaras over millions of years.[35][36] According to the Digambara
Digambara
Jains, Mahavira
Mahavira
was born in 582 BC.[37] According to the Svetambara
Svetambara
Jain texts, he was born in 599 BC. Mahavira's birthday, in the traditional calendar, falls on the thirteenth day of the rising moon in the month of Chaitra in the Vira Nirvana Samvat
Vira Nirvana Samvat
calendar.[21][38][39] In the Gregorian calendar, this date falls in March or April and is celebrated by Jains as Mahavir Jayanti.[40] Kundagrama, the site of Mahavira’s birth is believed by tradition to be near Vaishali, a great ancient town in the Gangetic plains. The identity of this place in the modern geography of Bihar
Bihar
is unclear, in part because people migrated out of ancient Bihar
Bihar
for economic and political reasons.[8] Dundas states that, according to the "Universal History" in Jain mythology, Mahavira
Mahavira
had undergone many rebirths before his birth in the 6th century. These rebirths included being a hell-being, a lion, and a god (deva) in a heavenly realm in Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology
just before his last birth as the 24th fordmaker.[41] According to the texts of Svetambara
Svetambara
sect, his embryo was first formed in a Brahman
Brahman
woman, but his embryo was then transferred by the divine commander of Indra's army, Hari-Naigamesin, to the womb of Trishala, the wife of Siddhartha.[42][43][note 3] The embryo transfer legend is not accepted by the adherents of the Digambara
Digambara
tradition.[45][5] Jain texts state that, after Mahavira
Mahavira
was born, the god Indra
Indra
came from the heavens, anointed him, and performed his abhisheka (consecration) on Mount Meru.[41] These events are illustrated in the artwork of numerous Jain temples and play a part in modern Jain temple rituals.[46] The Kalpa sutras describing Mahavira's birth legends are recited by the Svetambara
Svetambara
Jains during annual festivals such as Paryushana, but the same festival is observed by the Digambaras without the recitation.[47] Early life[edit] Mahavira
Mahavira
grew up as a prince. According to the second chapter of the Śvētāmbara
Śvētāmbara
text Acharanga Sutra, both of his parents were followers and lay devotees of Parshvanatha.[48][15] Jain traditions do not agree on whether Mahavira
Mahavira
ever married.[5][49] According to the Digambara tradition, Mahavira's parents wanted him to marry Yashoda but Mahavira refused to marry.[50][note 4] According to the Śvētāmbara tradition, he was married to Yashoda at a young age and had one daughter, Priyadarshana,[41][19] also called Anojja.[52] Jain texts portray Mahavira
Mahavira
as a very tall man, with his height stated to be seven cubits (10.5 feet) in Aupapatika Sutra.[53] In Jain mythology, he was the shortest of the 24 Tirthankaras, with earlier teachers believed to have been much taller, with the 22nd Tirthankara Aristanemi, who lived for 1,000 years, stated to have been forty cubits tall (60 feet).[54] Renunciation[edit] See also: Jain monasticism At the age of thirty, Mahavira
Mahavira
abandoned the comforts of royal life and left his home and family to live an ascetic life in the pursuit of spiritual awakening.[27][55][56] He undertook severe austerities of fasting and bodily mortifications,[57] meditated under the Ashoka tree, and discarded his clothes.[27][58] There is a graphic description of his hardships and humiliation in the Acharanga Sutra.[59][60] According to the Kalpa Sūtra, Mahavira
Mahavira
spent the first forty-two monsoons of his life at Astikagrama, Champapuri, Prstichampa, Vaishali, Vanijagrama, Nalanda, Mithila, Bhadrika, Alabhika, Panitabhumi, Shravasti, and Pawapuri.[61] He is said to have lived in Rajagriha
Rajagriha
during the rainy season of the forty-first year of his ascetic life. This is traditionally dated to have been in 491 BC.[62] Omniscience[edit] See also: Kevala Jnana
Kevala Jnana
and Samavasarana

The āsana in which Mahavira
Mahavira
attained omniscience.

After twelve years of rigorous penance, at the age of forty-three Mahavira
Mahavira
achieved the state of Kevala Jnana
Kevala Jnana
(omniscience or infinite knowledge) under a Sāla tree, according to traditional accounts.[55][63][64] The details of this event are mentioned in Jain texts such as Uttar-purāņa and Harivamśa-purāņa.[65] The Acharanga Sutra
Acharanga Sutra
describes Mahavira
Mahavira
as all-seeing. The Sutrakritanga elaborates the concept as all-knowing and provides details of other qualities of Mahavira.[8] Jains believe that Mahavira
Mahavira
had the most auspicious body (paramaudārika śarīra) and was free from eighteen imperfections when he attained omniscience.[66] The Śvētāmbara believe that Mahavira
Mahavira
traveled throughout India
India
to teach his philosophy for thirty years after gaining omniscience.[55] The Digambara, however, claim that after attaining omniscience, he sat fixed in his Samavasarana, giving sermons to his followers.[67] Disciples[edit] The Jain texts state that Mahavira's first disciples were eleven Brahmins who are traditionally called the eleven Ganadharas.[37] Gautama was their chief.[67] Others were Agnibhuti, Vayubhuti, Akampita, Arya Vyakta, Sudharman, Manditaputra, Mauryaputra, Acalabhraataa, Metraya, and Prabhasa. Mahavira's disciples are said to be led by Gautama after him, who later is said to have made Sudharman his successor.[55] These eleven Brahmin–Ganadharas, as the early followers, were responsible for remembering and verbally transmitting the teachings of the Mahavira
Mahavira
after his death, which came to be known as Gani-Pidaga or Jain Agamas.[68] According to the Jain tradition, Mahavira
Mahavira
had 14,000 muni (male ascetics), 36,000 aryika (nuns), 159,000 sravakas (laymen), and 318,000 sravikas (laywomen) as his followers.[69][70][71] Some of the royal followers included King Srenika (popularly known as Bimbisara) of Magadha, Kunika of Anga, and Chetaka of Videha.[61][72] Mahavira initiated the mendicants with the Mahavratas (Five vows).[37] He delivered fifty-five pravachana and answered thirty-six unasked questions (Uttaraadhyayana-sutra).[55] Nirvāṇa, death[edit]

Jal Mandir
Jal Mandir
marking Mahavira's nirvana at Pawapuri

Jains believe Mahavira
Mahavira
attained omniscience at the age of 42, under a Sala tree on the banks of River Rijupalika near Jrimbhikagrama.[73] He preached, then died at the age of 72. The Jain Śvētāmbara
Śvētāmbara
tradition believes his death occurred in 527 BC, while the Digambara
Digambara
Jain tradition believes this happened in 510 BC.[2] His jiva (soul) is believed in all Jain traditions to be in Siddhashila
Siddhashila
(abode of the liberated souls).[74] According to Jain texts, Mahavira's nirvana[note 5] (death) occurred in the town of Pawapuri
Pawapuri
(Bihar).[76][77][78] His life as a spiritual light and the night of his nirvana is remembered by Jains as Diwali
Diwali
on the same night that Hindus celebrate their festival of lights.[78][74] On the night that Mahavira
Mahavira
died, his chief disciple Gautama is said to have attained omniscience.[71] The accounts of Mahavira's death vary among the Jain texts, some describing a simple death but others describing grandiose celebrations attended by gods and kings. According to the Jinasena's Mahapurana, the heavenly beings arrived to perform his funeral rites. According to the Pravachanasara, only the nails and hair of Tirthankaras are left behind; the rest of the body is dissolved in the air like camphor.[79] In some texts he is described, at age 72, to be giving his final preaching over six days to a large crowd of people. Everyone falls asleep, only to awaken to find that he has disappeared, leaving only his nails and hair, which his followers cremate.[80] Today, a Jain temple
Jain temple
called Jal Mandir
Jal Mandir
stands at the place of Mahavira's nirvana (moksha).[81] Jain artwork in temples and texts depicts the final liberation and cremation of Mahavira, sometimes symbolically shown as a miniature pyre of sandalwood and a piece of burning camphor.[82] Previous births[edit] Mahavira's previous births are discussed in Jain texts such as the Mahapurana and Tri-shashti-shalaka-purusha-charitra. While a soul undergoes countless reincarnations in the transmigratory cycle of saṃsāra (world), the births of a Tirthankara
Tirthankara
are reckoned from the time he determined the causes of karma and developed the Ratnatraya. Jain texts discuss 26 births of Mahavira
Mahavira
before his incarnation as a Tirthankara.[61] According to the texts, Mahavira
Mahavira
was born as Marichi, the son of Bharata Chakravartin, in one of his previous births.[41] Sources[edit]

Folio from Kalpa Sūtra, 15th century

Tiloya-paṇṇatti of Yativṛṣabha
Yativṛṣabha
discusses almost all of the events connected with the life of Mahavira
Mahavira
in a form convenient to memorisation.[83] Acharya Jinasena's Mahapurāṇa include Ādi purāṇa
Ādi purāṇa
and Uttara-purāṇa. It was completed by his disciple Acharya Gunabhadra in the 8th century. In the Uttara-purāṇa the life of Mahavira is described in three parvans (74–76) in 1,818 verses.[84] Vardhamacharitra is a Sanskrit
Sanskrit
kāvya (poem) describing the life of Mahavira
Mahavira
written by Asaga in 853.[85][86][87] Kalpa Sūtra
Kalpa Sūtra
is a collection of biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, notably Parshvanatha
Parshvanatha
and Mahavira. Samavayanga Sutra
Samavayanga Sutra
is a collection of texts containing Lord Mahavira’s teachings. Acharanga Sutra
Acharanga Sutra
describes the penance of Mahavira.

Teachings[edit] Main article: Jain philosophy Colonial-era Indologists, considered Jainism
Jainism
and Mahavira's followers to be a sect of Buddhism because of the superficial similarities in their iconography, meditative and ascetic practices.[10] However, as studies and understanding progressed, the differences between the teachings of the Mahavira
Mahavira
and the Buddha
Buddha
were found to be so markedly divergent that the two gained recognition as separate religions.[88] Mahavira, states Moriz Winternitz, taught a "very elaborate belief in the soul" unlike the Buddhists who denied it[clarification needed], the ascetic practices in his teachings have been of a higher order of magnitude than those found in either Buddhism or Hinduism, and his emphasis on Ahimsa
Ahimsa
(non-violence) against all life forms is far greater than in all other Indian religions.[88] Jain Agamas[edit] Main article: Jain Agamas See also: Jain councils Mahavira's teachings were compiled by his Ganadhara
Ganadhara
(chief disciple), Gautama Swami.[89] The sacred canonical scriptures comprised twelve parts.[90] The Mahavira's teachings were gradually lost after around 300 BC, according to the Jain tradition, when a severe famine in the Magadha
Magadha
region of ancient India
India
caused a scattering of the Jain monks. Thereafter, attempts were made by Jain monks to gather again, co-recite the canon, and re-establish it in its entirety.[91] These efforts identified differences between recitations of the Mahavira's teachings, and an attempt was made in the 5th century AD to reconcile the differences.[91] However, the reconciliation efforts failed, with Svetambara
Svetambara
and Digambara
Digambara
Jain traditions continuing with their own incomplete, somewhat different versions of the Mahavira's teachings. In the early centuries of the common era, Jain texts containing Mahavira's teachings were written down in palm leaf manuscripts.[68] According to the Digambaras, Āchārya Bhutabali
Bhutabali
was the last ascetic who had partial knowledge of the original canon. Later, some learned Āchāryas restored, compiled, and wrote down the teachings of Mahavira
Mahavira
that were the subject matter of the Agamas.[92] Āchārya Dharasena, in the 1st century CE, guided Āchārya Pushpadant and Āchārya Bhutabali
Bhutabali
as they wrote down these teachings. The two Āchāryas wrote on palm leaves, Ṣaṭkhaṅḍāgama – among the oldest known Digambara
Digambara
Jain texts. Five vows[edit] Main article: Ethics of Jainism

Jain emblem
Jain emblem
and the "five vows"

Jain Agamas
Jain Agamas
prescribe five major vratas (vows) that both ascetics and householders have to follow.[93] These ethical principles were preached by Mahavira:[55][94]

Ahimsa
Ahimsa
(Non-violence or Non-injury). Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that every living being has sanctity and dignity of its own and it should be respected just as one expects one's own sanctity and dignity to be respected. Ahimsa
Ahimsa
is formalised into Jain doctrine as the first and foremost vow. The concept applies to action, speech, and thought.[95] Satya
Satya
(Truthfulness) – Neither lie, nor speak what is not true, do not encourage others or approve anyone who speaks the untruth.[95] Asteya
Asteya
(Non-stealing) – Theft is explained as "taking anything that has not been given".[96] Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
(Chastity) – Abstinence from sex and sensual pleasures for Jain monks, faithfulness to one's partner for Jain householders.[95][97] Aparigraha
Aparigraha
(Non-attachment) – For laypersons, the attitude of non-attachment to property or worldly possessions; for mendicants, not owning anything.[98]

The goal of these principles is to achieve spiritual peace, better rebirth, or, ultimately, liberation.[99][100][101] According to Chakravarthi, these teachings help elevate a person's quality of life.[102] In contrast, states Dundas, the emphasis of Mahavira
Mahavira
on non-violence and restraint has been interpreted by some Jain scholars to "not be driven by merit from giving or compassion to other creatures, nor a duty to rescue all creatures", but resulting from "continual self discipline", a cleansing of the soul that leads to one's own spiritual development and ultimately brings about spiritual release.[103] Of these precepts, Mahavira
Mahavira
is most remembered in the Indian traditions for his teachings of ahimsa (non-injury) as the supreme ethical and moral virtue.[55][104] Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the doctrine of non-injury must cover all living beings,[105] and causing injury to any being in any form creates bad karma which affects one's rebirth and future well-being and suffering.[106] According to Mahatma Gandhi, Mahāvīra was the greatest authority on Ahimsa.[107][108][109] Soul[edit] Main article: Jīva (Jainism) Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the soul exists, a premise that Jainism
Jainism
shares with Hinduism but not Buddhism. According to Buddhism, there is no soul or self, and its teachings are based on the concept of anatta.[110][111][112] In contrast, Mahavira
Mahavira
taught that the soul is permanent and eternal with respect to dravya (substance).[113] Mahavira
Mahavira
additionally taught that the soul is also impermanent with respect to paryaya (modes that originate and vanish).[113] To Mahavira, the metaphysical nature of the universe consists of dravya, jiva, and ajiva.[72] The jiva gets attached and bound to samsara (wordly realms of suffering and existence) because of karma (activity).[72] Karma, in Jainism, includes both actions and intent, and it colors (lesya) the soul; its particles stick to the soul and affect how, where, and what the soul is instantaneously reborn into after a being dies.[114] There is no creator God, according to Mahavira's teachings, and existence has neither beginning nor end. However, there are gods and demons in Jain beliefs, whose jivas are a part of the same cycles of births and deaths depending on the accumulated karmic particles.[115] The goal of spiritual practice is to liberate the jiva from all karmic accumulation, and thus enter the realm of the siddhas who are never reborn again.[116] Enlightenment, to Mahavira, is the consequence of a process of self-cultivation and self-restraint.[103] Anekantavada[edit] Main article: Anekantavada Mahavira
Mahavira
taught the doctrine of "many-sided reality". This doctrine is now known as Anekantavada
Anekantavada
or Anekantatva.[117][118] This term does not appear in the earliest layer of Jain literature
Jain literature
or the Jain Agamas, but the doctrine is illustrated in the answers of Mahavira
Mahavira
to questions his followers asked.[117] According to Mahavira, truth and reality are complex and always have multiple aspects. Reality can be experienced, but it is not possible to express it completely with language. Human attempts to communicate are Naya, or a "partial expression of the truth".[117] Language is not Truth, but a means and attempt to express Truth. From Truth, according to Mahavira, language returns and not the other way around.[117][119] One can experience the truth of a taste, but cannot fully express that taste through language. Any attempt to express the experience is syāt, or valid "in some respect" but still remaining a "perhaps, just one perspective, incomplete".[119] In the same way, spiritual truths are complex, with multiple aspects, and language cannot express their plurality, yet through effort and appropriate karma they can be experienced.[117] The Anekantavada
Anekantavada
premises of Mahavira
Mahavira
are also summarized in Buddhist texts such as the Samaññaphala Sutta, wherein he is called Nigantha Nataputta.[note 6] The Anekantavada
Anekantavada
doctrine is another key difference between the teachings of the Mahavira
Mahavira
and those of the Buddha. The Buddha
Buddha
taught the Middle Way, rejecting, in answer to questions, extremes of the answer "it is" or "it is not". The Mahavira, in contrast, accepted both "it is" and "it is not", with the qualification of "perhaps" and with reconciliation.[121] The Jain Agamas
Jain Agamas
suggest that Mahavira's approach to answering all metaphysical philosophical questions was a "qualified yes" (syāt). A version of this doctrine is also found in the Ajivika
Ajivika
tradition of ancient Indian philosophies.[122][123] In contemporary times, according to Dundas, the Anekantavada
Anekantavada
doctrine has been interpreted by many Jains as intending to "promote a universal religious tolerance", and a teaching of "plurality" and "benign attitude to other [ethical, religious] positions", but this is problematic and a misreading of Jain historical texts and Mahavira's teachings.[124] The "many pointedness, multiple perspective" teachings of the Mahavira
Mahavira
is a doctrine about the nature of reality and human existence, and it was not a doctrine about tolerating religious positions such as on sacrificing or killing animals for food, violence against disbelievers or any other living being as "perhaps right".[124] The five vows for Jain monks and nuns, for example, are strict requirements, and there is no "perhaps".[125] Beyond the renunciant Jain communities, while Mahavira's Jainism
Jainism
co-existed with Buddhism and Hinduism through history, according to Dundas, each were also "highly critical of the knowledge systems and ideologies of their rivals".[126] Gender[edit] One of the historically contentious views within Jainism
Jainism
is in part attributed to Mahavira
Mahavira
and his ascetic life where he never wore any clothes as a mark of disowning everything (interpreted as a consequence of the fifth vow of Aparigraha). The disputes triggered by this teaching of Mahavira
Mahavira
are those related to gender and whether a female mendicant (sadhvi) can achieve spiritual liberation just like a male mendicant (sadhu) through Jain ascetic practices.[127][128] The main sub-traditions of Jainism
Jainism
have historically disagreed, with Digambaras (sky-clad, naked mendicant order) stating that a woman is by her nature and her body unable to practice asceticism, such as by living naked, and therefore she cannot achieve spiritual liberation because of her gender. She can at best, state the Digambara
Digambara
texts, live an ethical life so that she is reborn as a man in a future life.[note 7] In this view, she is also viewed a threat to a monk's chastity.[130] In contrast, Svetambaras (white-clad, wear clothes) have interpreted Mahavira's teaching as encouraging both males and females to pursue a mendicant ascetic life with the possibility of moksha (kaivalya, spiritual liberation) regardless of gender.[130][128][131] Rebirth and realms of existence[edit] Main article: Saṃsāra
Saṃsāra
(Jainism) Rebirth and realms of existence are foundational teachings of Mahavira. According to the Acaranga Sutra, Mahavira
Mahavira
comprehended life to exist in myriad forms, such as animals, plants, insects, water bodies, fire bodies, wind bodies, elemental forms, and others.[106][132] He taught that a monk should avoid touching or disturbing any one of them including plants, never swim in water, nor light a fire or extinguish it, nor thrash their arms in the air as such actions can torment or hurt other beings that live in those states of matter.[106] Mahavira
Mahavira
preached that the nature of existence is cyclic, where the jiva (soul) of beings is reborn after death in one of the triloka – heavenly, hellish, or earthly realms of existence and suffering.[133] According to Mahavira, human beings are reborn, depending on one's karma (actions) as a human, animal, element, microbe, and other forms, on earth or in a heavenly or hellish state of existence.[106][134][135] Nothing is permanent, everyone, including gods, demons and beings on the earthly realms, die and are reborn again based on their karma merits and demerits. It is the Jina who have reached Kevala Jnana
Kevala Jnana
who are not reborn again,[106] and attain the Siddhaloka or the "Realm of the Perfected Ones".[134] Legacy[edit] Ascetic lineage[edit] Mahavira
Mahavira
has been mistakenly called the founder of Jainism.[136] Jains believe that there were 23 teachers before the Mahavira, and they believe that Jainism
Jainism
was founded in far more ancient times than that of the Mahavira, whom they revere as the 24th Tirthankara.[57] The first 22 Tirthankaras are placed in mythical times. For example, the 22nd Tirthankara
Tirthankara
Arishtanemi
Arishtanemi
is believed in the Jain tradition to have been born 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara
Tirthankara
named Parshvanatha.[137] Mahavira
Mahavira
is sometimes placed within Parshvanatha lineage, but this is contradicted by all Jain texts, which state that Mahavira
Mahavira
renounced the world alone.[138] Jain texts suggest that Mahavira's parents were lay devotees and followers of Parshvanatha. However, the lack of details and mythical nature of the legends about Parshvanatha,[139][140] combined with medieval-era Svetambara
Svetambara
texts portraying Parsvites as "pseudo-ascetics" with "dubious practices of magic and astrology" have led scholars to debate the evidence for Parshvanatha's historicity.[138] Regardless of scholarly speculations, according to Dundas Jains believe that Parshvanatha
Parshvanatha
lineage influenced Mahavira. Parshvanatha, as the one who "removes obstacles and has the capacity to save", has been a highly popular icon and his image the greatest focus of Jain devotional activity in temples.[138] Of the 24 Tirthankaras, the Jain iconography has celebrated Mahavira
Mahavira
and Parshvanatha
Parshvanatha
the most since the earliest times, with sculptures discovered at the Mathura
Mathura
archaeological site that have been dated to the 1st century BCE by modern dating methods.[138][141][142] According to Moriz Winternitz, Mahavira
Mahavira
may be considered as a reformer of a pre-existing sect of Jains called Niganthas (fetter-less) that is mentioned in early Buddhist
Buddhist
texts.[10] Festivals[edit] The two major annual festivals in Jainism
Jainism
associated with Mahavira
Mahavira
are Mahavir-Jayanti and Diwali. During Mahavir Jayanti
Mahavir Jayanti
, Jains celebrate the birth of Mahavira, 24th and last Tirthankara
Tirthankara
(Teaching God) of Avasarpiṇī.[40] In Mahavir Jayanti, the five auspicious events (Kalyaans) of Mahavira's life are re-enacted.[143] Diwali
Diwali
marks the anniversary of Nirvana
Nirvana
or the liberation of Mahavira's soul, the last Jain Tirthankara
Tirthankara
of the present cosmic age. It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival of Diwali. Diwali
Diwali
marks the New Year for Jains and commemorates the passing of their 24th Tirthankara Mahavira
Mahavira
and his achievement of moksha.[144] Adoration[edit]

Mahavira
Mahavira
adoration in a manuscript, c. 1825 CE

The Svayambhustotra by Acharya Samantabhadra is the adoration of twenty-four Tirthankaras. Its eight shlokas (aphorisms) express adoration of the qualities of Mahavira.[145] One such shloka is:

O Lord Jina! Your doctrine that expounds essential attributes required of a potential aspirant to cross over the ocean of worldly existence (Saṃsāra) reigns supreme even in this strife-ridden spoke of time (Pancham Kaal). Accomplished sages who have invalidated the so-called deities that are famous in the world, and have made ineffective the whip of all blemishes, adore your doctrine.[146]

The Yuktyanusasana by Acharya Samantabhadra is a poetic work consisting of 64 verses in praise of Mahavira.[147] Influence[edit] Mahavira's teachings influenced many personalities. Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

Mahavira
Mahavira
proclaimed in India
India
that religion is a reality and not a mere social convention. It is really true that salvation can not be had by merely observing external ceremonies. Religion cannot make any difference between man and man. — Rabindranath Tagore[108][109]

The Mahavira
Mahavira
iconography is recognized by the lion stamped or carved below his feet. On his chest is a Shrivatsa
Shrivatsa
mark, found on other Jinas as well.

A major event associated with the 2,500th anniversary of the Nirvana of Mahavira
Mahavira
took place in 1974. According to Padmanabh Jaini:[148]

Probably few people in the West are aware that during this Anniversary year for the first time in their long history, the mendicants of the Śvētāmbara, Digambara
Digambara
and Sthānakavāsī
Sthānakavāsī
sects assembled on the same platform, agreed upon a common flag (Jaina dhvaja) and emblem (pratīka); and resolved to bring about the unity of the community. For the duration of the year four dharma cakras, a wheel mounted on a chariot as an ancient symbol of the samavasaraṇa (Holy Assembly) of Tīrthaṅkara Mahavira
Mahavira
traversed to all the major cities of India, winning legal sanctions from various state governments against the slaughter of animals for sacrifice or other religious purposes, a campaign which has been a major preoccupation of the Jainas throughout their history. — Padmanabh Jaini

Iconography[edit] Mahavira
Mahavira
is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him.[149] Every Tīrthankara has a distinguishing emblem that allows worshippers to distinguish similar-looking idols of the Tirthankaras.[150] The lion emblem of Mahavira
Mahavira
is usually carved below the legs of the Tirthankara. Like all Tirthankaras, Mahavira
Mahavira
is depicted with Shrivatsa[note 8] and downcast eyes.[153] The earliest iconography for Mahavira
Mahavira
is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD.[154][155] The use of the srivatsa mark on Mahavira's chest, along with his dhyana-mudra posture, appears in Kushana Empire-era artwork. The differences in the Mahavira
Mahavira
artwork between the Digambara
Digambara
and Svetambara
Svetambara
traditions appear in the late 5th century AD and thereafter.[154] According to John Cort, the earliest archaeological evidence of Jina iconography with inscriptions precedes its datable texts by more than 250 years.[156] Many images of Mahavira
Mahavira
have been dated to be from the 12th-century and earlier.[157] An ancient sculpture of Mahavira
Mahavira
was found in a cave at Sundarajapuram, Theni district, Tamil Nadu. K. Ajithadoss, a Jain scholar based in Chennai, dated the sculpture to the 9th century AD.[158]

Rock cut sculpture depicting Mahavira
Mahavira
at Samanar Hills, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

The tallest known image of Lord Mahavira
Mahavira
(in seated position)

Four-sided sculpture depicting Mahavira
Mahavira
(found during excavation at Kankali Tila, Mathura)

Tirthankara
Tirthankara
Rishabhanatha
Rishabhanatha
(left) and Mahavira
Mahavira
(right), 11th century. British Museum.

Temple relief of Mahavira, 14th century. Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Relief depicting Mahavira
Mahavira
(Thirakoil, Tamil Nadu)

16-foot 2-inch-high single stone statue of Mahavira
Mahavira
at Ahinsa Sthal, Mehrauli, New Delhi[159]

Mahavira
Mahavira
Statue in Cave 32 of Ellora Caves

Temples[edit] According to John Cort, the Mahavira
Mahavira
temple at Osian, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is the oldest Jain temple
Jain temple
surviving in western India. It was constructed in the late 8th century AD.[160] Other temples of Mahavira
Mahavira
include:

Jal Mandir, Pawapuri Shri Mahavirji, Karauli, Rajasthan Muchhal Mahavir Temple, Rajasthan Sankighatta, Karnataka Lakkundi Jain Temple
Lakkundi Jain Temple
in Lakkundi Rata Mahaveerji, Bijapur, Rajasthan Bhandavapur Jain Tirth

Shri Dharmachakra Prabhav Tirth, Gajpanth

Meguti Jain Temple

Lakkundi
Lakkundi
Jain Temple

Shri Mahavirji

Osian Jain temple

Sankighatta, Karnataka

Gaon mandir, Pawapuri

Daman Jain Temple

See also[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mahavira.

Jainism
Jainism
portal

Jivantasvami Arihant (Jainism) God in Jainism History of Jainism Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence Timeline of Jainism

Notes[edit]

^ Heinrich Zimmer: "The cycle of time continually revolves, according to the Jainas. The present "descending" (avasarpini) period was preceded and will be followed by an "ascending" (utsarpini). Sarpini suggests the creeping movement of a "serpent" ('sarpin'); ava- means "down" and ut- means up."[27] ^ Trishala
Trishala
was the sister of King Chetaka of Vaishali in ancient India.[19] ^ This mythology has similarities with those found in the mythical texts of the Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
tradition of Hinduism.[44] ^ On this Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain
wrote: ""Of the two versions of Mahavira's life — the Swetambara and the Digambara— it is obvious that only one can be true: either Mahavira
Mahavira
married, or he did not marry. If Mahavira
Mahavira
married, why should the Digambaras deny it? There is absolutely no reason for such a denial. The Digambaras acknowledge that nineteen out of the twenty-four Tirthamkaras married and had children. If Mahavira
Mahavira
also married it would make no difference. There is thus no reason whatsoever for the Digambaras to deny a simple incident like this. But there may be a reason for the Swetambaras making the assertion; the desire to ante-date their own origin. As a matter of fact their own books contain clear refutation of the statement that Mahavira
Mahavira
had married. In the Samavayanga Sutra (Hyderabad edition) it is definitely stated that nineteen Tirthankaras lived as householders, that is, all the twenty-four excepting Shri Mahavira, Parashva, Nemi, Mallinath and Vaspujya."[51] ^ Not to be confused with Kevalajnana (omniscience), which he achieved at age 42.[75] ^ Samaññaphala Sutta, D i.47: "Nigantha Nataputta answered with fourfold restraint. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango, were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit, were to answer with a mango: In the same way, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Nigantha Nataputta answered with fourfold restraint. The thought occurred to me: 'How can anyone like me think of disparaging a brahman or contemplative living in his realm?' Yet I [Buddha] neither delighted in Nigantha Nataputta's words nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and left."[120] ^ According to Melton and Baumann, the Digambaras state that "women's physical and emotional character makes it impossible for them to genuinely engage in the intense [ascetic] path necessary for spiritual purification. (...) Only by being reborn as a man can a woman engage in the ascetic path. Later Digambara
Digambara
secondary arguments appealed to human physiology in order to exclude women from the path: by their very biological basis, women constantly generate and destroy (and therefore harm) life forms within their sexual organs. Svetambara oppose this view by appealing to scriptures."[129] ^ A special symbol that marks the chest of a Tirthankara. The yoga pose is very common in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Each tradition has had a distinctive auspicious chest mark that allows devotees to identify a meditating statue to symbolic icon for their theology. There are several srivasta found in ancient and medieval Jain art works, and these are not found on Buddhist
Buddhist
or Hindu art works.[151][152]

References[edit] Citations[edit]

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Wikisource
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