Mahavira's Message Of Ahimsa &
By PRADIP KUMAR JAIN
the Jain calendar, tirthankar Mahavira's birthday is celebrated as Mahavir
Jayanti. This year it becomes special as the whole world joins the Jains, a
5-million strong minuscule community in remembering Lord Mahavira and his
immortal teachings in this, his 26th birth centenary year which is being
observed as `Ahimsa Year'.
Mahavira, born as Prince Siddhartha, was brought up amidst immense wealth and
luxuries. Never inclined towards worldly pleasures, he renounced everything when
he was thirty and became a wandering monk in search of knowledge of the Self. He
kept his bodily needs of food and water to the bare minimum, often observing
fasts. He became a digamber monk practising the highest level of penances in the
wilderness. He attained Kevaljnana (self-enlightenment) after over 12 years of
severe penances. On gaining self enlightenment he became a tirthankar or
propagator of faith. Thereafter he devoted his life in re-establishing and
preaching dharma and showing the path of liberation to the masses.
Mahavira asked people to vanquish four Kasayas or great vices - Krodha, Moha,
Mada and Lobha (anger, desires, vanity and greed) and practise the panchayama
dharma or five principal virtues - Ahimsa, Satya, Achaurya, Brahmacharya and
Aparigraha. He reiterated that freeing the Atman of Kasayas is one's greatest
triumph. The Atman can then follow unhindered the panchayama dharma to attain
self realisation or eternal bliss.
Mahavira preached the path of peace, ahimsa, equality and Anekant. His
philosophy aims at welfare of both the individual and the society. Everyone is
equal in Jainism and the utmost importance is given to refining the individual
character and behaviour to achieve the knowledge of the self.
is unique in according equality to women in the practice of religion and other
social spheres. Women were actively encouraged to get themselves educated and
playing social roles equal to men. The roots of this empowerment of women can be
traced to the teachings of Lord Mahavira on religious organisation and the
respective roles of householders and monks.
is the most distinct contribution of Jainism and tirthankar Mahavira to the
society. Ahimsa implies a love of life in all living beings and a firm belief in
the principle of "Live and let live". Lord Mahavira said that thoughts
of attachment and aversion i.e. raga and dwesha and any action under their spell
constitutes violence. He propounded that complete detachment from worldly
possessions and vanity is a pre-requisite for the perfect practice of
non-violence. Ahimsa, i.e. non-injury and non-offence to the maximum extent
possible to all living beings, has become synonymous with Jainism. In modern
times, Ahimsa in its most convincing form along with truth and love for humanity
was practised by Mahatma Gandhi. Nelson Mandela has been another famous
practitioner of the path of Ahimsa.
Mahavira put forward the doctrine of Anekantavada, that is many-sidedness. He
always advised his disciples to discover the truth after taking into account all
aspects and giving them due weight. This broadens one's outlook and trains the
mind to accommodate the feelings and the way of life of other faiths and
encourages interpersonal and communal harmony by promoting tolerance in the
community. The same principle of tolerance can be extended to intellectual,
social, religious and other fields of activities. Tolerance as enunciated by
Anekant, will end all inter-caste strife and communal violence. Anekant is thus
the pillar of religious and social harmony and the sheet anchor of secularism.
Anekant ensures peaceful coexistence of all shades of philosophical and
religious opinions, paths as well as as their followers.
regarded the individual and his social responsibilities as the key to the
progress of both the individual and the society. The teachings of Lord Mahavira
are as useful and timely as they were 2600 years ago. They point to a new era of
hope and promise for the masses delivering social equality, peace, empowerment
of women, non-violence, tolerance and social justice.
Mahavira was a towering personality who has left a lasting impact in the form of
his teachings for the spiritual advancement of the individual, protection and
conservation of all forms of life, and a rational, just, peaceful and secular