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Bhagvan Mahavira: Life and Philosophy

Published: 07.04.2009
Updated: 02.07.2015

Central Chronicle


Two thousand five hundred years ago India was divided into several principal kingdoms of Magadh, Ang, Bang, Kaling, Vats, Avanti, North Koshal etc.

Licchavi in Vaishali, Shakya in Kapilavastu and Mall in Kushinara and Pava were democracies. The people of these areas were governed by democracy.

In the kingdom states the king was looked upon as a personification of god. In democracy the ruler was looked upon as just another man. Bhagvan Mahavira was the son of Siddhartha, the elected ruler of Vaishali. His mother's name was Trishala. Kshatriyakundgram was a small suburb in Vaishali. On this sacred land Bhagvan Mahavira was born. He was born on the 30th of March, 599 BC. There is very little information available on his childhood or his youth.

When Mahavira turned twenty eight, his parents died. He expressed the desire to become a monk (shraman). His uncle Suparshav and his elder brother Nandivardhan requested him to stay home a little longer. Mahavira was too gentle and humble to turn down their request and yet his resolve could not accept the life of a householder. This internal conflict opened a new route.

Perhaps it is at this time that he developed the following sutra:

The one who has not given up his desires but has become a shraman is neither at home nor away from it. But having given up desires, one can stay at home and yet remain far away from it.

In the following two years that he stayed at home, Bhagvan Mahavir was at home and yet far away from it. In this time he practiced austerities for developing detachment to the human body.

He remained alone even in the midst of his family. The one who does not have attachment can live alone even in a group. He specially practiced curbing the sense of taste. The one who has tasted the bliss that lies beyond the body has no problems in practicing indifference to the palate.

He was absorbed in silence and meditation. The one who does not need to express himself or herself in the outer world finds his speech becoming silent, thoughts zeroing down.

With the austerities practiced by him during these two years, the foundations to monkhood became stronger. The time period sought by his elders now came to an end. He felt that while it is possible to stay home and yet remain detached, this was not society's path. This was the path chosen by a few. That which can fit into society is the act of giving up attachment/ desire and also giving up the home. The one who wishes well for everybody acts as would be conducive to building a harmonious society.

Bhagvan Mahavira got permission to leave home and taking leave left Kshatriyakundgram and went to a garden outside the village. Amidst a gathering of people he was ordained and from thereon he set out on the lifelong path of equanimity.

Bhagvan Mahavira's penance began on the note of resolution:

- From today I will not care about my body. - I will not protect it. - I will tolerate heat and cold. - I will withstand any problems.

- I will not medicate myself during illness. - I will not be constrained by desires of hunger and thirst. I will win over sleep.'

Bhagvan Mahavira experienced: without harnessing fearlessness, equanimity cannot be attained and without harnessing the bodyless state, fear cannot be conquered.

The main source of all weaknesses in man, is fear. The main source of supernatural powers in man is fearlessness. Half the reasons for fear is attachment to body. To give up this attachment, to be in a bodyless state it is mandatory to reach a state of fearlessness. As Bhagvan Mahavira intensified his penance in the bodyless state, his feelings of non-violence (ahimsa), amity (maitri) and peace,(shantt), soared new heights.

Violence (himsa), arrogance (vyr) and chaos (ashantt) are all in the body and are not present in the bodyless state.

Mahavira was meditating in the ashram of Parshvanatha in Kannkhal. The serpent called Chandakaushik raised its venomous hood. That did not have any impact on Bhagvan. It now coiled itself around the legs of Bhagvan and repeatedly started hissing at him.

From Bhagvan's eyes came a continuous flow of the nectar of amity that kept washing away the poison. Non-violence had conquered violence. The serpent's anger subsided.The serpent took the oath of non-violence forever. As Bhagvan Mahavira progressed in his penance he found the sun of equanimity shining with greater brilliance. Also glistening in that brilliance were - Truth (satya), - Non-stealth (achourya), - Celibacy (brahmacharya) and Non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Mahavira was meditating. A milkman came. With him were his oxen. He left them to graze and went back home.

When he came back he found his oxen were not there. He became angry. He ran hither and thither searching for them. Soon he reached the place where Mahavira was meditating.

He was stunned to find the oxen hovering around Mahavira.

The milkman thought, "Oh this monk wants to steal the oxen." This suspicion made him furious. Swirling a lasso in his hand he was about to attack Mahavira when Nandivardhan came on the scene. He assuaged the milkman. Nandivardhan wanted to make some arrangements for Mahavira's security. Mahavira did not accept that: The one who feels insecure cannot tread the path of spirituality. The one who treads the path of spirituality feels forever secure. I need no security Mahavira was standing in the posture of meditation.

Some young maidens came to lure him. Mahavira did not pay any attention to them. They tried all their tricks to attract him, but not even an atom of the energy that was rising towards his psychic kendra (chaitanya-kendra), moved towards the kam kendra.

Bhagvan's meditation went on undisturbed. The young maidens went back as they had come.

Central Chronicle - by the efforts of Mr. Lalit Garg
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Anger
  3. Aparigraha
  4. Body
  5. Brahmacharya
  6. Celibacy
  7. Central Chronicle
  8. Equanimity
  9. Fear
  10. Fearlessness
  11. Himsa
  12. Kam
  13. Kendra
  14. Lalit Garg
  15. Magadh
  16. Mahavir
  17. Maitri
  18. Meditation
  19. Non-violence
  20. Satya
  21. Shraman
  22. Sutra
  23. Trishala
  24. Violence
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