Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jainism: Mahavira's birth and "liberation"

Wisdom Quarterly; Times of India (TOI)

Prince Vardhamana who became Mahavira was the contemporary of Prince Siddhartha who became the Buddha. He renounced the world, rejected the authority of the brahmin's Vedas, and became a wandering ascetic. He reached what he understood to be "nirvana," not what Buddhism calls nirvana, and established a school of wandering nuns and monks before the Buddha did. But it was the Buddha's message that survived, prospered, and spread outside of India as a universal teaching. Mahavira the Jain, known in Buddhism as Nataputta the Nigantha (possessionless), never gave up the wrong views that asceticism leads to purification of an "eternal soul" (atta) or that liberation (moksha) can mean rebirth in an exalted insensate heavenly state. By contrast, the Buddha taught the "soul" or self is ultimately impersonal and unreal (anatta). Clinging to the illusion that the soul is real or permanent binds one to rebrith. Insight into the truth about the self is necessary to reach enlightenment and nirvana, the final end of suffering that brings about the end of otherwise endless wandering (samsara) in rebirth. What Mahavira referred to as his "nirvana" was, according to the Buddha, only another temporary respite in one of the many heavens, all of which one eventually falls away from (with the exception of the Pure Abodes that are only accessible for rebirth to those who have reached the first three stages of enlightenment but not the fourth stage, full enlightenment). Only insight-wisdom (pañña, prajña) leads to final liberation.

City Celebrates Mahavira Day
LUCKNOW, India - Mahavira Jayanti, the birth and "nirvana" day of the last ford-finder (tirthankara) or "great hero" Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, known in Buddhism as the rival teacher Nigantha Nattaputta, was celebrated with fervor and gaiety in the city on [Maundy] Thursday.

On this auspicious occasion the wealthy Indian Jain community reiterated the message of non-violence (ahimsa), while being accused of funding all manner of violence by engaging in banking and trade.

Mahavira, who was the last ford-finder across the flood of samsara among 24 others, is thought to have been born in 599 BCE.

The Indian sage Vardhamāna (Sanskrit, वर्धमान)

Adeesh Jain, member of SJDPS (Shri Jain Dharma Pravardhani Sabha) in Lucknow says, "Ahimsa or non-hurting anyone in life is the main principle of Jainism.

Even unintentionally stepping on an ant may have serious consequences for the soul, according to Jainism. [The Buddha treated karma differently, clarifying that it was intention that created deeds and brought about corresponding consequences.] It is believed that not only living things, but everything in nature [such as fire, which is also thought to have a "soul" in Jainism] must be treated with respect. We have to be cautious with everything."

Another SJDPS official explains that "Jains believe in the wheel of time. Whatever we do is sure to come back to us. If we do bad deeds, the same will come back to us in one or other form before we die. This is why we support ahimsa."

On Thursday, Jains gathered at Mahavira Park near Chowk, where various customs associated with the reverence of Mahavira were observed. "Our principles have been in existence since long time. The idea of truth and ahimsa has been followed by Jains even before they were made famous by Mahatma Gandhi," said Jain. Source

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