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Mahavir, The Reformer And The Divine Soul Of Jain Religion
India is a great nation with splendid features and the most notable being its 'Unity in Diversity' concept. She gave space to all religions on her soil without any partiality. Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism also took birth in India. Mahavir or Mahavira was one of the great reformers of the religion. Rishabh is considered as the first Tirthankara (Jain Guru) and believed to be the founder of Jainism. But the popularity of the religion scaled high only with the 24th Tirthankara - Vardhamana Mahavira.
Vardhamana that was the childhood name of Mahavir. Vardhamana was born on the thirteenth day of the rising moon of Chaitra month (that normally falls in April) of the Lunar calendar in 599 BC. He was born in a village called Kunda in Bihar, a state in India. He was a Kshatriya prince of the Linchchhavis, a group that was part of the Vajji Sangha.
He was sent to 'Gurukula' for higher education at the age of 5. He led a family life up to the age of 30 and thereafter left home and went to live in a forest in search of supreme knowledge. He led a hard and lonely life for twelve years, at the end of which he attained enlightenment.
He traveled throughout the length and breadth of the country. During the journey, he expanded his knowledge and perceptions of the world at large. At the age of 42 he attained a completely detached state of his being and became a naked monk.
Later, he was known as 'Mahavir' as he was freed from the boundaries of sadness and joy, pain and pleasure. The subsequent titles of 'Ativir' and 'Sanmati' were conferred upon him on different occasions during his long journey to enlightenment.
He was also a great reformer of the Jain religion. He preached absolute non-violence in daily life. Among all his teachings, non-injury to living beings is regarded as the highest religion.
He initiated a simple five-fold path for the householders- Ahimsa (non-injury, physical or mental to others), Asatya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (temperance in sexual pleasures), Aparigraha (non-acquisition of property) and Arjava (simplicity).
He bestowed social prestige upon downtrodden individuals. He also preached every individual should enjoy religious freedom without any distinction. His preaching and actions led to the development of self-respect in all people, especially among the lower society, easing of tension and stoppage of conflicts among states.
The teachings of 'Aparigraha' or non-possessiveness stresses on the point that one should keep with oneself that which is needed for one's living, and the rest should be returned to society for its welfare.
Mahavir also made religion simple. He made it free from elaborate ritual complexities. Followers of Mahavira, who were known as Jainas had to lead a very simple life, begging for food. They had to be totally honest. Also, they had to observe celibacy. And men had to give up everything, including their clothes.
These strict rules were very difficult for most men and women to follow. Still, thousands left their homes to learn and teach this new way of life. Many more remained behind and supported those, who became monks and nuns, providing them with food.
The teachings of Mahavira and his followers were transmitted orally for several centuries. They were written down in the form in which they are presently available at a place called Valabhi in Gujarat, about 1500 years ago.
The notable feature of the religion is that even after 2600 years of its great reformer's death, the pure and finest traditions of the monks has been maintained well. His teachings have great relevance even in today's world.
Mahavira, who preached absolute non-violence in daily life, died in 527 BC at Pawapuri in Bihar, India.
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