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Mahavira's Message Of Ahimsa & Anekant 

IN 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'.

Lord 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.

Tirthankar 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.

Lord 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.

Jainism 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.

Ahimsa 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.

Lord 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 communities.

Anekant 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.

Mahavira 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.

Lord 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 social order.



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