Bhagavan Mahavira Life and Philosophy ► 02 ► [02.11] Mahabbiniskramana (The Great Renunciation)

Posted: 05.08.2005

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Thirty Years Of Family Life

he Wheel of Time revolves ceaselessly producing changes in the states of all things. Poised on this wheel the child becomes young and the young man enters into old age. The young prince arrived at the age of twenty-eight. Having grown old his parents passed away. The royal family was plunged into sorrow as a result of their death. The prince loved his parents, but their death did not affect him at all. The spiritual heights he had attained made him averse to pleasures and pains. He was not a sheer philosopher. He had a direct perception of Truth. He did not take death seriously. It was to him a normal happening in life.

The ties of affection, which bound him to his parents, broke. His resolve to serve his parents during their lifetime had served its purpose. There now arose in him the great desire to renounce the world. He apprised his elder brother of his intention. Nandivardhana was shocked to hear of his plans. His whole being trembled and he began to weep. He had hardly recovered from the shock of the death of his parents when he was called upon to face a new situation. He knew that relieved by the death of his parents his brother thought it the right time to renounce the world. His mind had already been seized of a spiritual fervour. The death of the near and dear ones does produce a mood of aversion to the world. One, who has a spiritual inclination, is all the more prone to the desire for renunciation. Nandivardhana felt that his younger brother had been seized of a strong inclination to renounce the world, but he felt nervous and was un-willing to part Company with his younger brother at this stage. He would not be able to stand two successive shocks.


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Prince Vardhamana did not like to cause any kind of inconvenience to anybody. His mind was full of love and compassion and this forced him to remain with his family for another two years. He passed through a strange state of mind. He was neither a householder nor a recluse during these two years. He realized his self and remained in a state of complete surrender of all worldly activities. He had developed a feeling of complete equality with all the living beings of the world. He saw life in raw water and left using it. He acquired complete control over his sense organs. He had mastered the process of meditation with a full control over his speech. Although he lived in the family, his life was that of a recluse. He still had the responsibilities of his family on him and could not be called a recluse even.

A year passed. Now there was an interval of only a year between Vardhamana 's present way of life and the one he intended to follow in the future. Though he led a worldly life, his mind remained occupied with the idea of renouncing the world. He was no doubt surrounded by the grandeur of the royal family, but his conscience was busy planning a friar's career for himself. He did not like wealth accumulating in the hands of a few. Every morning he would give up a part of his wealth and income, and share them with thousands of needy persons. This continued for a full year. He had now nothing left to give up. The course of dana (giving) ended and that of aparigraha (non-possession) was to begin.

Two years went by. Nandivardhana's imposition of the time-limit was over. The prince felt that now it was time for him to renounce the world. He had no hitch whatsoever. He, therefore, placed again his proposal to leave the family before brother Nandivardhana and uncle Suparsva. They agreed with him. The Great Exit took place at the muhurta called Vijaya, in the third quarter of the tenth day of the first half of the lunar month of Margasirsa in the season of Hemanta (autumn) (corresponding to the month of November).

Prince Vardhamana had been fasting for the last two days. He had a peculiar way of fasting because he was realizing that his body was entirely different from his soul. One who is not able to distinguish between the soul and the body attaches value to the body, but one who has the right knowledge to distinguish between the two puts a premium on the soul alone. For him living for the body is no life at all, He lives in order to liberate the soul from the bondage of the world. It is necessary to free oneself from the limitations imposed by the body in order that the soul might be liberated. Fasting is a part and parcel of this process of liberation. Fasting leads a man into the independent world of the soul. The prince had attained this state and renounced the world. Only those who have attained self-enlightenment can renounce the world.

Vardhamana 's renunciation was remarked by rejoicings in the family. Young girls sang songs of joy and the sky resounded with the music of Instruments. The bards recited auspicious hymns. There was a happy commotion everywhere. But Vardhamana sat engulfed in his own loneliness, forgetful of the noisy atmosphere.

Seated in a palanquin the prince left home for the Jnatakhanda forest. Nandivardhana and Suparsva and a crowd of thousands of people escorted him to the forest. The prince alighted from the palanquin, stood under an Asoka tree, took off the householder's garments and became a nirgrantha (ascetic). The strain of music stopped and everyone began to gaze at the prince. Nature seemed to be engulfed in a strange calmness. The prince plucked off the hair of his head and stood looking towards the horizon between the east and the north. His face beamed with joy and a divine light shone on his forehead. The whole atmosphere pulsated with joy and enthusiasm. Folding both his hands, the prince said, "I bow to the Perfect Beings." As soon as he had dedicated himself to the attainment of liberation, his egotism and attachment disappeared. He resolved whole-heartedly to follow the principle of equanimity and not to do any action born of attachment or aversion.

Attachment and aversion give birth to inequality and sin. One who renounces passions becomes unfettered - a nirgrantha. A nirgrantha is one who is free from inhibitions. Prince Vardhamana assumed the status of Sramana Vardhamana in the presence of the people of Ksatriya Kundapura. He no more belonged to the kingdom he had left behind. He had now entered into an empire where there were no rulers and the ruled. He left behind the lies of his family and entered into a new family where there was no distinction between 'mine' and 'thine'. Thousands of people shed tears to see him leave the boundaries of Ksatriya Kundapura and followed him feeling sad at the solemn parting. It is a strange custom of the world to treat one as our own till he lives with us and to treat him as a stranger as soon as he had estranged himself from us. Saramana Vardhamana now appeared to be such a stranger to the people of Ksatriya Kundapura. Vardhamana remarked:

"Now I am a Sramana. I have risen above the limitations of the state and the nation. You are citizens of a state living within its boundaries. No boundaries surround me. I am a wandering ascetic. How far will you be able to accompany me?" He then took leave of the followers and went ahead alone. The last stage of the individual's development is a state of loneliness. Sramana Vardhamana appeared to be an example of this. He transcended the limitations of time and space, completely cut off from his people. People watched him disappear in the distance and returned home. Nandivardhana took charge of the affairs of the State and Sramana Vardhamana installed himself as the emperor of the Kingdom of the Spirit. Nandivardhana 's duties were of a gross and simple nature; those of Sramana Vardhamana were subtle and complex. But he was bent on changing the complex into the simple.

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