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Bhagwan Mahavera and jain dharma


Bhagavan Mahavira and Jain Dharma

  According to Jaina tradition nine of the eleven disciples attained the highest knowledge of kevala during Mahavira's lifetime, usually many years before their nirvana and final death. Indrabhuti Gautama, the first disciple, attained kevala and nirvana the same night Mahavira died. The other disciple, Sudharma, became the leader of the Nirgrantha community (Nirgrantha means unfettered ones.) and attained kevala knowledge after twelve more years and died eight years later at the age of one hundred. Thus Sudharma led the Order (Samgha) for twenty years and was succeeded by Arya Jambu Swamy, who had been initiated at the age of 16, attained kevala knowledge twenty years later, and directed the community until his nirvana death when he was 80. According to Jaina tradition he is the last person to have attained omniscience and nirvana.

   The essential metaphysical ideas of Jainism

  The essential metaphysical ideas of Jainism are nine cardinal principles. The universe is divided into that which is alive and conscious (jiva) and matter which is not (ajiva). Jivas (souls) are either caught by karma (action) in the world of reincarnation (samsara) or liberated (mukta) and perfected (siddha). Though their number is infinite, jivas are individuals and each potentially infinite in awareness, power, and bliss. Matter (ajiva) is made up of eternal atoms in time and space which can be moved and stopped.

  The other seven principles explain the workings of karma and the souls liberation from it. The soul (jiva) is attracted to sense- objects by the principle of ashrava which leads to the bondage (bandha)of the soul by karma, which covers up and limits the souls natural abilities to know and perceive in its blissful state, resulting in delusions and a succession of births. The next two principles are virtue (punya) and vice (papa) by which all karma either works beneficially toward liberation or negatively toward bondage.

Lord Mahavira

     Bhagawan Mahavira

 The seventh principle samvara is how the soul prevents ashrava (the influx of karma) by watchfulness and self-discipline of mind, speech, and body. This eventually leads to nirjara,the elimination of karma. Finally moksha or liberation is attained. In ones last life at death, nirvana (literally "being extinguished") describes the end of worldly existence for the soul, which then rises to the highest heaven. 

  Although Jainas believe that souls may have some lives as gods and goddesses in heavenly worlds or suffer in hell and become demon-like, there is no total God lifting up souls or punishing them in hell. Rather each individual jiva is responsible for itself and completely determines its own destiny, although these jivas do have the divine attributes of infinite knowledge, power, and bliss. This doctrine of individual responsibility makes Jainism a primarily ethical religion, as does the severity of their five vows of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possession.

  Ahimsa (nonviolence) means not injuring any living thing in any way, and the Jainas took it very seriously. Injuring an animal or causing anyone to do so was considered a sin. This meant walking carefully so as not to injure even the tiniest creatures. The mind had to be watched to prevent thoughts and intentions that might lead to quarrels, faults, pain, or any kind of injury. Similarly ones speech had to be carefully monitored. The Jaina must be careful in laying down their begging utensils so as not to hurt a living being, and food and water must be carefully inspected to make sure no living things are hurt or displaced. 

  Truth means one must not speak any lies nor cause any lies to be spoken nor consent to any lies being spoken. Thus the Nirgrantha (Jaina) speaks only after deliberation and renounces anger, greed, fear, and mirth so that no falsehoods will be uttered. This vow combined with non- hurting (ahimsa) meant that speech must be pleasant and not painful or insulting in any way.

  Non-stealing means that nothing must be taken that is not freely given. Thus the Nirgrantha begs only after deliberation and according to strict rules, consumes food and drink only after permission is granted, occupies only limited ground for short periods of time, continually renewing the grant to be there. 
  Chastity means  renunciation of all sensual pleasures. To achieve this discipline monks do not discuss women nor contemplate their lovely forms nor recall previously enjoyed pleasures nor occupy a bed or couch used by women, animals, or eunuchs.

  Finally all attachments must be renounced, even to the delight in agreeable sounds or being disturbed by disagreeable ones. Similarly with all the five senses, one may not be able to avoid all experiences, but one is not to be attached to the agreeable ones, for those who acquiesce and indulge in worldly pleasures are born again and again. By these disciplines the wise avoid wrath, pride, deceit, greed, love, hate, delusion, conception, birth, death, hell, animal existence, and pain. 

 In order to find liberation four things must be attained: human birth, instruction in the teachings, belief in them, and energy in self-control. This meant freeing oneself from family bonds, giving up acts and attachments, and living self-controlled towards the eternal. Collecting alms one may be insulted and despised, but the wise with undisturbed mind sustains their insults and blows, like an elephant in battle with arrows, and is not shaken any more than a rock is by the wind. The sage lives detached from pleasure and pain, not hurting and not killing; bearing all, ones luster increases like a burning flame as one conquers desires and meditates on the supremacy of virtue, though suffering pain. 

  The great vows, which are a place of peace, the great teachers, and the producers of detachment have been proclaimed by the infinite victor (Jina), the knowing one, as light illuminating the three worlds (earth, heaven, and hell). The unfettered one living among the bound should be a beggar, unattached to women, and speak with reverence, not desiring this or the next world. The dirt of former sins committed by a liberated mendicant walking in wisdom who is constant and bears pain vanishes like the tarnish from silver in the fire. Free from desire with conquered sensuality, one is freed from the bed of pain like a snake casts off its skin. Renouncing the world the sage is called "the maker of the end," for that one has quit the path of births. 

  The soul cannot be apprehended by the senses, because it possesses no corporeal form and thus is eternal. The fetters on the soul are caused by bad qualities, which cause worldly existence. The golden rule is a part of the Jaina teachings and is extended to all living beings. 

  Once a disciple of Parshva, the 23rd Tirthankara, asked Gautama why Mahavira taught five vows instead of four. Earlier chastity was practiced as part of non-possession or detachment, but Keshi also explained that the first saints were simple and slow of understanding; they could practice the teachings better than they could understand them. The last saints were prevaricating and slow of understanding; though they might understand them, they had difficulty practicing them. Those in between were simple and wise; they easily understood and practiced them. 
   The three gems of Jainism are right attitude, right knowledge, and right conduct. The right attitude takes an unbiased approach, believes in the nine essential principles, and uses discriminating perception. Right knowledge proceeds through the five stages of sense perception, study, intuition, clairvoyance, and omniscience (kevala). Right conduct or character comes from self-discipline, renunciation, and pure conduct in practicing the five major vows. The rationale for self-discipline is explained in the Uttaradhyayana.

  The rules for walking, sitting, begging for food, and evacuating one's bowels were very strict. In order to avoid causing anyone else even to do injury in preparing food, for example, monks must not accept food that is especially prepared for them. The monk must not encourage a lay person to give alms by playing with their children, giving information, praising charity, declaring one's family, expatiating on one's misery, curing the sick, threatening, showing one's learning, and so on. 

  Mahavira theory of knowledge (syadvada) is relativistic and tentative to allow for the relativity of this world. Anything may be or not be or be indescribable or any combination of these to allow for various perspectives.

  Mahavira taught 73 methods for exertion in goodness by which many creatures, who believed in and accepted them, studied, learned, understood, and practiced them, and acted according to them, obtained perfection, enlightenment, deliverance, beatitude, and an end to all misery. Briefly they are: longing for liberation, disregard of worldly objects, faith in the law, obedience to other monks and the guru, confession of sins, repenting to oneself and the guru, moral purity, adoration of the 24 Jinas, expiation, meditating without moving the body, self-denial, praises and hymns, time discipline, penance, asking forgiveness, study, recitation, questioning, repetition, pondering, discourse, sacred knowledge, concentration, control, austerity, cutting off karma, renouncing pleasure, mental independence, using unfrequented lodgings, turning from the world, not collecting alms in only one district, renouncing useful articles, renouncing food, overcoming desires, renouncing activity and the body and company, final renunciation, conforming to the standard, doing service, fulfilling all virtues, freedom from passion, patience, freedom from greed, simplicity, humility, sincerity of mind and religious practice and action, watchfulness of mind and speech and body, discipline of mind and speech and body, possession of knowledge and faith and conduct, subduing the five senses, conquering anger and pride and deceit and greed and wrong belief, stability, and freedom from karma.

  In disciplining the mind, speech, and body, Jainas often stood in one position for a long time. Meditation might focus on such thoughts as the impermanence of worldly things, human helplessness, transitory quality of human relations, aloneness, separateness of the conscious soul from the unconscious body, the impurity of the body, how attachment binds the soul by karma, how good thoughts may release the soul, how karma may be eliminated, the difficulty of attaining perfection, and how the teachings may save one. 

 Mahaviras travels spread Jainism to various parts of northern India, and later migrations of monks enabled the religion to take hold in most of India. A poetic work on the rules of behavior for monks by Arya Sayyambhava written about 400 BC expresses concern that an act might "undermine the prestige of the Jaina order."  This lapse of humility, one of the main virtues emphasized in this work, does indicate that Jainism was very likely respected by many. The examples of these extremely conscientious ascetics surely must have had their affect on people wherever they went; and since they were homeless, they traveled constantly.

  Though they seem to have argued over doctrinal differences, no major schism occurred in the religion until the first century CE, and that was only over whether monks ought to go naked or whether they could wear a garment.

  In evaluating the ethics of Jainism we must keep in mind that the ascetic monks and nuns were probably far outnumbered by the householders, who practiced a minor version of the five vows. The primary goal of those who have renounced the world is spiritual liberation (moksha) from the wheel of reincarnation (samsara). Thus their lives were essentially motivated by this intention of removing their souls from the world. Though they lived lightly on the earth, using as little of its resources as possible, they were still dependent on lay people for their meager survival needs. The complete focus on this other-worldly goal does seem to prevent them from contributing much to society except their example of self-discipline and possibly some teaching. 

  Yet the lay people who practiced Jainism while earning a living and providing for their families were contributing to society while doing their best not to harm others or any living creature. Thus they were vegetarians and, if true to the teachings, lived profoundly ethical lives. Although they provided examples of peace, Jainas often supported the wars that were common in ancient India. Their individual ethic somehow was not able to expand into a larger social ethic to convert society as a whole to the nonviolence they practiced as individuals.

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