When the world is suffering from violence and contradictions, the present or vartmaam needs vardhmaan more than ever. The world is now looking up to Bhagwan Mahavir and his teachings. Therefore, his life is a lesson in truth, non-violence and humanity. His teachings have the capacity to bring peace in a materialistic world.
The Nirvana Divas of Bhagwan Mahavir, the last Jain Tirthankar, is a beacon to the world which is seeking peace and stability. His soul was the spirit of the universe. A man is limited by the constraints of space and time. It cannot, therefore, acquire an infinite dimension. But Bhagwan Mahavir is infinite. The light of his wisdom is eternal. It pushes the boundaries of time and keeps moving towards the realm of timelessness.
His teachings are all-encompassing. On the one hand, it purifies your inner soul, while on the other hand, it relieves you of worldly attachments. It is certain that the enlightenment he has blessed his disciples with shall never diminish. Simplifying this principle established by previous Tirthankars, Bhagwan Mahavir took wisdom to the doorstep of the common man. Till his time, the word Jain was not commonly used. It was the word ‘Jim,’ implying the one who has triumphed his sense organs and hence desire. The word ‘Jain’ comes later. It’s used in the sense of victory or unvanquished. It refers to someone who is constantly seeking self-control.
Every spiritual tradition that took birth in India emphasises on purity of the soul and the pursuit of divine through mastery over the self. Even though their paths may differ, their final vision is the same. The saints of India have laid out elaborate principles so that we may undertake this journey from Atma to Parmatma. Following these principles when the Atma rescues itself from all the worldly ties, it becomes pure, formless and guileless — in a sense it comes closer to what we call Parmatma. The notion of Sthit Pragya in Geeta and the idea of Parmatma Pad, as elaborated in Jain philosophy, can be read as similar.
The philosophy of Bhagwan Mahavir heralded a unique revolution. He argued that Jain is neither a signboard nor it is a caste or a sect. Any person—regardless of nationality, faith, and caste—who succeeds in conquest of the soul is a Jain. Uma Swami has recast the teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir has 10 religious principles.
“उत्तम क्षमा मार्दवार्जव, शौच सत्य संयम।
तपस्तयाग किंचन्य ब्रह्मचर्मानी धर्मा” ।।
This is similar to the definition of Dharma in Manusmriti.
“धृति क्षमा दमोस्तेयम शौचम इंद्रिय निग्रह।
धीः विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकम धर्मलक्षणम।।
The Jain dharma is based on five pledges. Non-violence, truth, celibacy, non-possession and no stealing. Bhagwan Mahavir placed greater emphasis on nonviolence. For a civilisation that is afflicted with mental and physical violence, his emphasis on nonviolence is the much-needed therapy. Ahimsa Parmo Dharma is the central theme of Jainism. A glance at history of human civilisation reveals that kindness, spirit of sacrifice, empathy, friendship et cetera are different aspects of non-violence that remain at the core of its foundation. The scenario today makes it clear that the secret to progress lays in renunciation of our violent tendencies.
A unique feature of Jainism is the principle of Syaywaad which translates as relativity of knowledge. This principle allows a seeker of knowledge to engage with all the perspectives available on the subject. It also teaches us to be tolerant towards other views that may exist. No matter how vicious the opponent is, a true adherent of the Jain faith will establish dialogue and even consensus with his adversary. “Every perspective has a bit of truth inherent to it.” If viewed with the right intention and from the right vantage point, there’s always something to learn and imbibe. As a consequence, the natural assumption that only “my position is right and valid” disappears. Only such a perspective is capable of establishing global peace, consensus and friendship.
Theory of Karmavaad or the doctrine of Karma is among the many unique principles of Jainism. The agency to act as well as the fruits of such an action, both lie with the doer. Through right actions, one can rescue oneself from the chain of action and consequences. Man is the master of his destiny, responsible for all his actions — good or bad.
The wisdom of Bhagwan Mahavir wasn’t limited to the spiritual dimensions of faith. His philosophy is not divisive because it does not look at life as fragmented. It visualises human life as one organic whole. No doubt, His teachings created the possibilities of not just spiritual and philosophical revolution but also a deep social churning. Bhagwan Mahavir liberated women from the shackles of the past, creating possibilities for a better future. The revolutionary tone in Bhagwan Mahavir’s teachings has also spoken against slavery and untouchability. History tells us that on several locations, Bhagwan Mahavir inter-dined with the so-called untouchables.
He also challenges the idea of innate supremacy wedded to consideration of caste and clan. As opposed to the circumstances of one’s birth, He placed greater emphasis on Karma. Many of his disciples, like Harikesh, came from the most downtrodden segments of the population. What mattered to Bhagwan Mahavir was a man’s virtue – qualities which even the Gods bow in obeisance.
Future will tell us that Bhagwan Mahavir’s teachings that embolden us to rise beyond the considerations of “us versus them” hold the key to the world’s well-being
Through his teachings, Bhagwan Mahavir questioned many superstitions, laying bare the reality they were based on. Bhagwan Mahavir’s visualisation of a classless society, free from all forms of oppression, is an aspirational benchmark for the entire world. The future will tell us that Bhagwan Mahavir’s teachings that embolden us to rise beyond the considerations of “us versus them” hold the key to the world’s well-being.
Taking cognisance of the teachings of Mahavir Swami and the role that Jainism can play in global human progress, thinkers from all parts of the world have expressed their views on Bhagwan Mahavir. Famous philosopher and India’s former President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan opines, “The Great principles of Jainism such as non-violence, secularism and tolerance for multiple viewpoints etc. are some of the foundations of India’s national policy.”
Keeping in mind the significance of Mahavir Swami’s message and the significance of his 2550th parinirvan, the honourable Sarkaryawah of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Dattatreya Hosabale has issued a public appeal asking people to embrace Bhagwan Mahavir’s teachings for the greater good of humanity and the world at large.
(The writer is Joint General Secretary, VHP)