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Offline JR

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« on: February 19, 2007, 09:23:02 AM »
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  • On the 13th of November, 1974, the celebrations which are to last for one year, were started in several cities in India to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira, who was the 24th "Tirthankara" of Jainism. Though like Buddhism, Jainism also originated in this land, still at present only a small number professes this religion. Only about two million people at present follow the Jain faith in India.

    Due to our general apathy towards preservation of histori¬cal records, the lives of most of our ancient personalities are in general  shrouded in  mistery.    It has   therefore   provided   lot   of opportunities to research scholars to carry on their research work, but   because of   want of  any   authentic  proof,   the  conclusions arrived at by one scholar are  refuted by another and sometimes the same scholar has to construe the facts in a different manner, when  some new  data is  found out.   In case  of Mahavira also, lot of research work has been carried out so far and efforts have been  made to arrive at nis  authentic   life and  teachings.   From the data available so far,  the scholars have now arrived at 599 (B. C.) as the year of birth of Mahavira  and 527 (B. C.) as the year of his Nirvana.    It is according to these dates that the 13th of November,   1974 is calculated  as the 2500th  day of  Nirvana of  Lord   Mahavira and  in  order to  spread  and   propagate his teachings in the public that the year-long  celebrations have been started from that date.

    Among the  Jains there   are two  different   sects.    They   are known as Digambaras and the Shwetambaras.    Though the followers of. these two sects  have some minor  differences  about the the   rituals  to   be   observed   by  the  Jains,   still   they commonly believe in the general principles preached by their Tirthankaras in their lifetime and that is their common binding factor.

    The jains believe that there are in all twenty four Tirthan¬karas. Though there is a story relating to the birth, Moksha and other details of the life of every Tirthankara, the most important of them are believed to be the last two Viz. Parshwanath and Mahavira. According to Jainism, the Sadhu, Sadhvi, Shrawaka and Shravika are four Tirthas. All those who take refuge within these Tirthas get ultimate salvation. A tirthankara is therefore one who is the founder of these orders that collectively constitute the Sangha
    Some people attribute the starting of the Jainism to Mahavira; but this opinion is refuted by a good many people. The research scholars have now concluded that the Jain religion was already started by Parshawanath, the 23rd Tirthankar and that Mahavira was only a reformer of the same. This latter opinion is now-a-days accepted by the majority. Whatever may be the facts, we have to believe in the conclusions of the scholars in the absence of authentic records contrary to these conclusions.

    The main principle preached by Mahavira was that of "Ahimsa". The word "Vira" is attributed to a warrior or hero who shows great valour in war. It is really paradoxical to call an advocate of "Ahimsa" as a great hero (Mahavira), but the Jains have got an explanation for that. They tell that Mahavira took great pains and observed great restraint in order to win the control over his passions. He practised great austerities for curbing his passions and ultimately got mastery over them. This penance of Mahavira is of greater importance from the point of Jainism than even a thousand victories in War. The Jains, therefore, feel that for this victory, Mahavira really deserves the title, given to him.

    Before the advent of Jainism, the Brahmanical domination on the Hindu religion was supreme. The rituals, especially those followed in sacrifices, were very rigid. The caste system had placed the Brahmins at the top of the Society. They had become dictators. They were ruling over all other communities. The lower castes were all down-trodden. In the sacrifices, animals were killed and all the lower castes had only to toil and moil. On such a social back-ground, it was no wonder if the pendulum took a swing in the opposite direction. In the face of the slaughter, which was being done under the name of the religion, it was quite natural that somebody would be crazy about it and try to preach "Ahimsa" This task was achieved by Lord Mahavira and his theory immediately appealed to a number of people around him. This, however, did not stop there. Even after Mahavira, Gautam Buddha further preached "Ahimsa" and gathered together innumerable followers who ware known as Buddhists.

    The "Ahimsa" preached by Mahavira was not only of the action. He preached that we should observe it in our speech, in our mind and in our actions. Talking harsh words, abusing people, quarrelling at the top of one's voice; all these things lead to "himsa" done by speech. The person speaking these words is not quite aware that he is doing mental torture to the opposite person. He hardly realizes that his words are hurting the mind of the person to whom he is speaking; but after meditation and constant thinking, Mahavira came to this conclusion and he preached his principle of Ahimsa from the bottom of his mind and continued to do it upto the end of his life.

    Next we come to the Ahimsa to be observed in the mind. There is nothing new about this principle. All the religions in the world have advised their followers not only not to wish bad his fellow-beings; but on the other hand, they have advised "e to wish well about everyone else. By wishing ill of others, you cannot say that some calamity will befall them. Because in the first instance, you cannot have that much will power that your mere wish will come true and if you reach the stage of acquiring will power to that extent, then you will go beyond the limit of ordinary person of wishing ill about others. The ordinary people, who wish ill of others, do not achieve anything; but by doing this they stoop to a low mental level. Thus the Ahimsa of mind is also a very sound principle, which can be easily accepted by all.
    The effects of "himsa" of action are quite glaring. The effects of such action are seen by you at once. The atrocities created by violence are seen within a short time and their effects are lasting for a long time. So, no special preaching would be necessary to condemn himsa of action. The principle of Ahimsa of action would, therefore, be welcomed by all and every body would be ready to put it into practice.
    Mahatma Gandhi preached this principle in recent years and made it the sheet-anchor of the civil disobedience movement promulgated by him. During his time, therefore, there were lot of arguments on behalf of "ahimsa" and against it. A section of people argued that the preaching of ahimsa by the Jains and Buddhists killed the war spirit in the people and made them idle. Because of this preaching, the Nation became weak and the enemies of the country took advantage of this particular situation and invaded the country and defeated it. They, therefore, argued that only as a policy against the British rulers, the non-violence might have been a good strategy, but it cannot be the policy of a nation. Their arguments were that Germany could be vanqui¬shed only with the strength of superior arms. Japan could be forced to kneel before an atom bomb, Pakistan and China had to be faced only with a strong armed force, the movements and agitations in the country are required to be put down with the help of police and sometimes even with military help. Of course, these are the points of discussion and decision for the politicians and leaders of the Nation. The principle of Ahimsa as preached by Mahavira is quite appealing and discretion might be required to make use of it in the political field.

    Mahavira preached austerity for bringing control over the passions The importance of fasting has in this connection been widely recognised by the Jains and apart from the religious importance of fasting, it has been recommended on medical grounds also. Complete control over your passions is absolutely necessary for all and hence the austerity preached and practised by Mahavira would be welcomed by all.

    As a part of the preaching of the principle of Ahimsa, Mahavira advocated sympathetic and kindly attitude towards all living beings, howsoever small or insignificant they may be. As per the belief of all prophets all creation is done by God and naturally therefore all his creation must be dear to him. Showing disrespect or giving bad treatment to any living being was therefore equivalent to showing disrespect for the God or the creator Himself. The teaching of Mahavira in this respect was also appropriate. If you go on showing sympathy towards all living beings, they also reciprocate you in the same manner.

    Shri Sai Baba was a saint and an incarnation of God. He had respect not only for all the contemporary saints but for all the old saints and their teachings. We as Sai Devotees should, therefore, pay our homage to all old saints. Keeping this view in mind, the life and teachings of Lord Mahavira and the principles of Jainism were published at length in the issues of this magazine for the months of August, September and October, 1974 and it is hoped that our readers have found all those articles interesting.
    Though Mahavira preached his religious teachings 2500 years ago, still they have not become stale or useless today.    They are required to be remembered and practised even today as rightly pointed out by our President Shri Fakruddin Ali Ahmed in his speech, at Delhi on 13-11-74 while releasing the special commemo¬rative stamp to mark the commencement of the "Nirvana Mahotsava year" of the Jain guru, as follows :

    "Lord Mahavira had preached non-violence, international brotherhood, mutual tolerance and self-sacrifice 2500 years ago, but all these teachings of the Jain guru might be having even greater relevance in the context of the problems today"

    "We must adhere to his teachings to solve difficult problems, being faced by our country today."
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