The Quest for the Royal Road ► I. Mahavira: His Fragrant Life ► Explosion in the Centre of Consciousness

Posted: 15.01.2016

Man longs to have an independent life. The flame of freedom constantly burns within his heart. The more an individual's consciousness has developed, the more keenly he would strive to attain freedom. An undying desire for freedom was awakened in the heart of Prince Vardhman. After crossing the threshold of youth, he was about to complete the third decade of his life. His mind was restless within the confines of home, family and kingdom. In order to march towards the Infinite, he broke through the banks of egotism and attachment, and plunged into the unfathomable ocean of Time. Prince Vardhman abandoned the palace at the youthful age of thirty, he arrived at the garden of Kshatriyakundpur where he got initiated into the practice of equanimity and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to sadhana. His dedication was not to any particular time or situation. He continued hard penance by subjecting his physical being to hardship till such time that he was adorned by the pure brilliance of the Ultimate Knowledge. Thus, Prince Vardhman later on became famous as Bhagwan Mahavira.

Bhagwan Mahavira gave no importance to the fickleness of imagination. His thinking was motivated only by the concrete reality. His name Mahavira too is not unrelated to his environment. After accepting the path of sadhana, he had to face hardships without any respite. However, he never thought of retracting his steps. He stood steadfast even in the midst of the raging flames and the fuming ocean of hardships. If his sadhana for fearlessness is startling, his battles against hardships are thrilling.

Let me give here its brief indication.

During the first year of the sadhana, a yaksha called Shulapani put Bhagwan Mahavira to severe tests. In a temple in the Asthika village at the frightening hour of the night, there was the horse-laugh of the yaksha that would have caused shivers through one's entire being. Seeing that his trick did not work, he assumed the form of a wild elephant and then of a poisonous cobra. But Mahavira, true to his name, was incredibly valiant. How could all those tricks affect him? In the end, the yaksha who could not force Mahavira to sway in his penance, had to humbly fall at his feet.

During the second year of the sadhana, Mahavira was travelling from the South Vachala to the North Vachala. While he was standing on the road which passed through the ashrama of Kanakakhala, some devotees wanted to stop him, but he did not stop his onward journey. His mind was not disturbed by the fear of the Chandakaushik serpent. He moved on, drawn by that very attraction. While Mahavira sat in meditation in the pavilion of the temple, the Chandakaushik serpent began his tricks. The serpent glared at Mahavira with its venomous eyes. It kept glaring at Mahavira, enhancing the effect of its poison with the light of the sun. It stung Mahavira on the big toe, it would itself, around surround his body and wounded his entire body with its venomous stings. But Mahavira was unruffled. He opened his eyes. The affectionate look in Mahavira's eyes cleansed the mind and body of the serpent. Now, without its poison, it started moving about freely.

Passing through the hardships, which was like passing through dense forests, Mahavira entered the Lat country. He went to Vraj in the fifth year of the sadhana and to Sufcya in the ninth year. The way in which the tribal people tortured him there cannot be described in words. When the animal instinct in human beings takes a violent form, it goes far beyond the natural calamities or the divine wrath. Mahavira's calm, his equanimity and fearlessness in the face of those harassments from the human and the divine, that would cause mental and physical turmoil in anybody, were absolutely unique.

By the time he entered the eleventh year of the sadhana, Mahavira's fame had spread far and wide. It is a traditional belief that once upon a time, at the assembly of celestials, Indra had uttered a few words of praise for Mahavira. The gist of Indra's remark was-"I am perceiving at this moment the great sage, Bhagwan Mahavira, on the earth. That great yogi is in deep meditation at the moment. His mind is so deeply engrossed in his sadhana that no god or demon, yaksha or monster or a human being can divert him from his meditation".

One of the gods in hat gathering was Sangandev, who could not bear to hear these praises of Mahavira. He challenged Indra's statement and expecting to divert Mahavira's mind from the sadhana, he approached Mahavira. The incident took place in the Paulasa Chaitya, a shrine situated in a garden at the Pedhal village.

Mahavira in his meditation felt a terrible shower of dust on his body and experienced the stings of red ants from head to feet and noticed that he was being invaded by a whole swarm of mosquitoes and termites and innumerable mongeese and snakes and rats. But underterred by that invasion, Mahavira continued his inward journey. Then started the harrassment from the wild elephants to disturb him in his penance. When the elephants failed to disturb Mahavira, the lion tried to do it in his own way. But when the demonic horror of the lion also did not work, there raged a terrible storm. One by one, all kinds of terrifying attempts were made to disturb Mahavira, but he did not relent in anyway.

Since Sangandev did not succeed in attaining his aim by capturing Mahavira in his strategy of striking terror, he started using baser tactics. Mahavira was not fascinated by the immense beauty of all the six seasons: Nor was he swayed by thousands of beautiful women surrounding him with their nymph-like charms. The amorous advances of those lovely women did not move him nor did the pathetic laments of Trishala and Siddhartha divert him from his path. The power of the gods was defeated. The sky reverberated with the cries proclaiming Mahavira's triumphs.

It can be learnt from the above description how unswering was Mahavira's resolve. The sadhana of his backed by his firm determination had two forms-fasting and meditating. While fasting, he completely abandoned food and water for six months at a stretch. While meditating, he remained standing for several days, concentrating his mind on a single point of support. Some people are conversant only with Mahavira's penance and sadhana. They are of the opinion that Mahavira did not follow the path of meditation. But it seems to me that all through his life, there was no occasion when he performed penance without meditation. He faced all the harassments from gods and human beings and rendered ineffective through his experiencing the separateness of the soul and the body. In this experience, it was mainly meditation that gave him the power to forbear.

Twelve years of the sadhana were over, but the purpose of the sadhana was not achieved. But Mahavira did not stop even after this long quest. He continued the pursuit of the leading to the realisation of truth and the self. His journey ended on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Baisakh (May-June). That day he arrived at the bank of the river, Rigubalika in the Jambhika village. There he sat under a Saal tree in the goddhika[1] posture, facing the heat of the" sun. This was done as an attempt of seeing sun of the Ultimate Knowledge rising within him, which had been evading him. He was deeply engrossed in pure meditation. In the fourth prahar[2] there was the conjugation of the moment of triumph and the Uttara Phalguni constellation. There was an explosion in the centre of his consciousness and the chain of all attachments suddenly snapped apart. With that the veils of knowledge and intuition were also gone and gone too were all obstacles in the path of self-realisation. Bhagwan Mahavira emanted lustre both from within and without. The splendour of the sun of the Ultimate Knowledge spread far and wide. That tenth day of the bright fortnight of Baisakh was blessed. We too feel gratified by observing that day and hope that following the path of the sadhana prescribed by Bhagwan Mahavira, we would succeed in seeing the sun of the UJtimate Knowledge rise from the people in general.

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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013