Mahaveer Bhagwan | Bhagwan Mahavir Life History | Mahavir Swami Story | Jain Stuti Stavan

 Bhagvan mahavir life history

Pranam, Today I Will Discuss Lord (Bhagvan) Mahaveer Swami Life History.  
Bhagvan mahavir


About 2600 years ago, religion in India took a very ugly turn.  The management of the original four classes of society, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, had deteriorated.  Brahmins were learned people and considered themselves to be very superior.  The fate of Shudras, or untouchables, was terrible.  They were required to serve the other castes, forever performing the most degrading tasks.  They were not allowed to engage in other professions.  The importance of sacrifice as a symbol of giving up and renouncing had been misconstrued and it had taken on a very violent form.  Animal sacrifices were performed regularly.  People believed that these sacrifices would please the Gods and, in return, their wishes would be fulfilled.  This was the social and religious conditions that existed during Mahävir’s time.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Previous Lives

The lives of Bhagawän Mahävir are counted from his life as Nayasär when he attained self-realization (Samyaktva). Jain literature accounts indicate 27 lives of Bhagawän Mahävir.  The significant lives are Nayasär (life no.1), Marichi (life no. 3), Vishvabhuti (life no. 16), Triprushtha Väsudev (life no. 18), Priyamitra Chakravarti (life no. 23) and Nandan Muni (life no. 25).

In the life of Nandan Muni, he attained Tirthankar Näm-karma.  At the end of that life, he was born as a Deva.  In the third life after Nandan Muni, he was born as Vardhamän Mahävir.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Chyavan (Conception) Kalyänak - च्यवन कल्याणक

Jain tradition believes that all Tirthankars are born in the Kshatriya (warrior) royal family because it provides an environment that helps the Tirthankar experience the fact that that there is no permanent happiness in material comfort.

Lord Mahävir’s parents were queen Trishalä and king Siddhärtha. Queen Trishalä, like the mother of all other Tirthankars, saw 14 objects in her dreams as per Shvetämbar tradition: lion, elephant, bull, Lakshmi, garland, full moon, sun, flag, vase, lotus lake, ocean, celestial plane, heap of jewels, and smokeless fire.  According to Digambar tradition, she also saw two additional objects a pair of fish and a lofty throne.  The next day King Siddhärtha asked the dream interpreters and scholars the meaning of the dreams, they proclaimed that Queen Trishalä would give birth to a Tirthankar.  While in the womb, once Bhagawän Mahävir remained still (without any movement) so as not to disturb or cause any pain to his mother.    Not feeling any movement, Queen Trishalä was very worried that something was wrong with the baby in the womb.  Realizing how worried his mother was on his behalf, he decided not to take the religious vow of renunciation and leave his family as long his parents were alive.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Janma (Birth) Kalyänak

Mahävir was born in the month of Chaitra on the 13th day of the waxing (increasing in size) cycle of the moon in 599 BCE  as per the Indian calendar.  This day falls in the month of April and is celebrated as Mahävir Janma Kalyänak day.  He was born in the region known as Kshatriya-Kund or Kundalpur in the present-day state of Bihar, India.  His parents were King Siddhärtha and Queen Trishalä. Queen Trishalä was the sister of King Chetak, the King of Vaishäli.  

There was great rejoicing in the country.  Since the moment the Tirthankar’s soul was conceived, there was a continued enhancement in the glory, wealth, health, and fame of the kingdom, and respect and goodwill for the family.  This is the reason the baby was named Vardhamän, which means ever-increasing prosperity.

Vardhamän (Bhagawän Mahävir) had an older brother named Nandivardhan and a sister named Sudarshanä.

Soon after his birth, Indra (King of heavenly gods) took the baby Tirthankar to Mount Meru and performed the birth ceremony (Janma Abhishek) with great rejoicing and celebration.  After that, he returned the baby to mother Trishalä’s bedside.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Childhood

There are numerous incidences of courage and forgiveness throughout Vardhamän’s life as a child and an adult.  One day, prince Vardhamän, a young boy of eight, was playing with his friends on the outskirts of the city.  At that very moment, Indra, the King of heaven, started praising the courage and fearlessness of prince Vardhamän.  Another heavenly god challenged the statement, believing that fear is present in all humans.  He decided to test Vardhamän’s courage.  He assumed the form of a frightening cobra and slithered near the children.  All of the boys started screaming, but Mahävir stood there calmly and fearlessly.  He gently caught the cobra with his hands and placed it in the grass on the side.

The god, who had failed to frighten prince Vardhamän in the form of a cobra, decided to test his bravery once more.  Assuming the form of an ordinary child, he joined the group of children and suggested racing to a target tree.  The winner was to get a piggyback ride on one of the losers and return to the base.  The heavenly god lost the game to prince Vardhamän and offered to carry him on his shoulders.  However, as soon as he had the prince on his shoulders, the god assumed a gigantic form.  Without any fear, Prince Vardhamän gave a mighty blow to his shoulders with clenched fists.  The god could not withstand the blow and, assuming his original form, bowed to the prince and returned to heaven.  Indra and all the other heavenly gods hailed the victory of prince Vardhamän and exclaimed that he was “Mahävir”, meaning “The Great Hero.”

When Vardhamän was nine years old, his parents thought that it was time to impart formal education upon him.  They wanted him to learn martial arts befitting of a Kshatriya prince, so they decided to send him to school. When Vardhamän went to school he offered his respects to the teacher just like an ordinary child.  However, after teaching the first lesson, the teacher realized Vardhamän was more knowledgeable than he was.  After this, Vardhamän’s schooling ended and he returned to the palace.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Dikshä (Renunciation) Kalyänak

Preparation for Renunciation

As a youth, Prince Vardhamän lived a very simple and disciplined life.  Although he wanted to renounce the world in search of eternal happiness, he had already decided not to leave the family while his parents were alive while in his mother’s womb.

 At an early age, he realized that worldly happiness and pleasures do not last forever and are based mostly on the inconvenience, miseries, and unhappiness of others.  He, therefore, planned to renounce his worldly life, his possessions, and worldly pleasures in search of true spiritual happiness.  However, he knew that his parents would be very sad and hurt if he did this so he decided not to renounce his current life while they were alive.  His parents passed away when he was 28 years old.  He was now ready to renounce his worldly life by giving up his family, friends, and possessions; but again postponed it for two more years at the request of his older brother, Nandivardhan.

Prince Vardhamän led a very simple life for one year.  When he had exactly one more year of a householder’s life left, he began donating all of his belongings and wealth to the needy and to those who came to him.  Every day he would donate many gold coins, jewels, precious stones, and clothes.  This unique and unprecedented charity impressed upon the minds of the people that “Charity is a double blessing - it blesses those who give as well those who receive”.

At the end of the year marked by generosity, Prince Vardhamän attained perfect “Aparigrahatva”, freedom from attachments and possessions.  He was now fully prepared for the life of a monk.  His elder brother made elaborate preparations for the initiation and the country was filled with great excitement.  Indra and other heavenly gods participated in the ceremony.  Gold and silver pitchers were filled with water from various holy places.  The prince was bathed with the holy waters, anointed with perfumed pastes, dressed in royal garments, and decked with precious ornaments.  At an auspicious moment on the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Margashirsha, Prince Vardhamän left the palace forever in a palanquin carried by Indra and the other gods.

Renunciation

After alighting from the palanquin, Prince Vardhamän removed all of his garments and ornaments except a piece of cloth resting on his shoulders to cover his body. It was and provided by Indra. Then he stood under an Ashok tree and took the solemn vow of renunciation in the presence of thousands of people.  He then plucked all the hair on his head in four handfuls and the hair on his chin and lips in one handful, known as Panchamusthi loch.  After solemnly reciting the words, “I bow down to all the liberated souls”, Mahävir accepted life-long renunciation.  He took the five great vows of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession in order to avoid accumulating new karma and to annihilate past karmas.  Right after initiation (Dikshä), Mahävir acquired the “Manah-Paryäya Jnän”, the knowledge that allowed him to perceive the feelings and thoughts of all living beings.

Removal of Poverty

After the renunciation, his heart was filled with equanimity and compassion.  He walked with a firm and steady steps towards the jungle without turning around or hesitating.

On his way, he met a wiry and weak poor man, moving briskly with the help of a stick.  The poor man fell at the feet of the ascetic Mahävir.  Tears were flowing from his eyes and there was an expressive pain on his pitiable face.  He uttered humbly, "Prince Vardhamän!  have pity on this poor destitute.  Remove my poverty with your kind hands.

Mahävir was filled with compassion, but today he had nothing to give.  He suddenly thought of the divine cloth on his shoulder.  He tore it into two and gave one to the poor person.  He was filled with joy.

Mahaveer Bhagwan Keval-jnän (Absolute Knowledge) Kalyänak

Mahaveer Bhagwan Keval gyan


Mahävir swämi remained in deep meditation and practiced severe austerities for a period of twelve and a half years.

During this meditation period:

He resided in parks, forests, and deserted places and observed fasts lasting from a single day to up to six months

He was saved from a whipping by a cowherd who felt that Bhagawän Mahävir had hidden his cows. Bhagawän Mahävir refused the help of the angels to look after him through his meditation from similar incidences

He faced a fierce and poisonous snake, Chandkaushik, and calmed him down with his compassionate approach

He accepted food from a house-maid, Chandanbälä, to break his approximately 6 months long fast

He suffered peacefully when a farmer hammered nails in his ears

He endured all adverse conditions and hardships caused by rustic aborigines with patience and forgiveness

During this period, he progressed spiritually and ultimately destroyed all four destructive (Ghäti) Karmas and attained absolute knowledge on the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha. In doing so, he realized perfect perception, perfect knowledge, perfect power, and perfect bliss.

This realization is known as Keval-jnän (omniscience or perfect enlightenment). Now, Mahävir became an Arihanta and is called Bhagawän Mahävir or Mahävir-swämi.

The thrones of Indra and the other heavenly gods trembled the moment Bhagawän Mahävir attained omniscience.  Immediately, hosts of gods thronged there to celebrate the fourth Kalyänak or auspicious occasion.

They constructed a divine assembly hall known as a samavasaran for Bhagawän Mahävir’s first sermon.  He delivered the first sermon at night when only the gods were present.  Then, Bhagawän Mahävir traveled to Päväpuri and stayed in the garden named Mahäsen.  Here, the gods constructed another samavasaran hall.  Sitting under the Ashok tree, Mahävir delivered a sermon in the Ardha-Mägadhi language.

Bhagawän Mahävir spent the next thirty years traveling on bare feet throughout India preaching the eternal truth that he had realized.  He attracted people from all walks of life, rich and poor, kings and commoners, men and women, princes and priests, touchable and untouchables.  In matters of spiritual advancement, Bhagawän Mahävir envisioned that men and women were equal.  The lure of renunciation and liberation attracted men as well as women.  Many women followed Mahävir’s path and renounced the world in search of ultimate truth and happiness.  He categorized his followers into a fourfold order: monks (Sädhus), nuns (Sädhvis), laymen (Shrävaks), and laywomen (Shrävikäs).  This order is known as the Jain Sangha.

Eleven Learned Brahmins Initiated as Ganadhars

Bhagawän Mahävir, endowed with many Atishaya or distinguished attributes, delivered a soul-stirring and heartfelt sermon in the assembly of gods, human beings, and animals.  Even though a great sacrifice was simultaneously in progress in another part of the city, huge crowds were seen going in the opposite direction towards the samavasaran.  Indrabhuti of Gautam Gotra, the chief priest at the sacrifice, inquired where they were going and was told about Bhagawän Mahävir’s samavasaran.  Upon hearing that it was attracting more people, his vanity was hurt and he decided to put to test the so-called omniscience of the saint.  Therefore, he decided to visit the samavasaran accompanied by his disciples.

Mahävir called him by his name and, without being asked, resolved his doubts about the soul, upon which Gautam along with his 500 disciples accepted monk hood.  Hearing this, the remaining ten learned scholars at the sacrifice came to the samavasaran and, upon having their secret doubts resolved, accepted initiation with 4400 disciples.  In this way, Mahävir established the four-fold Sangh and preached the path to liberation.  Eleven learned Brahmins became his principal disciples, known as Ganadhars.

Bhagawän Mahävir’s Last Sermon at Päväpuri and Liberation

During the thirty years of his life as a Tirthankar, Bhagawän Mahävir preached his gospel of Ahimsä to millions of people and initiated thousands of disciples into monkhood.  At the age of seventy-two, he came to Päväpuri to spend his final monsoon season, in the year 527 BCE.  In the month of Ashwin, he observed a two-day fast, taking neither food nor water.  Sitting in the lotus posture on a golden lotus, he delivered his last and longest sermon which lasted for forty-eight hours before the four-fold Sangh.  (This sermon was later compiled in the Jain scriptures and is known as Uttarädhyayan Sutra)

Mahaveer Bhagwan Nirväna Kalyänak

At the age of seventy-two (527 BCE), Bhagawän Mahävir attained Nirväna and his purified soul left his mortal body and achieved complete liberation.  He became a Siddha, a pure consciousness, a liberated soul, living in a state of complete bliss forever.  This event, known as Nirväna, occurred on the last day of the Hindu and Jain calendar.  We celebrate it as Diwäli or Deepävali (festival of lights).

In the early morning of the new-moon night, Bhagawän Mahävir’s remaining four types of non-destructive (Aghäti) karma were destroyed.  And thus, with all the eight karmas completely annihilated, his soul soared high, reached the pinnacle of Loka, and went to the permanent abode of Siddhas, never to return again.  And thus Bhagawän Mahävir achieved the highest goal: liberation.

Funeral Rites performed by Heavenly Gods and Human Beings

At the time of Bhagawän Mahävir’s nirväna, eighteen rulers of various states were present.  When the light of his knowledge was extinguished from the world, they lit numerous earthen lamps, beginning the tradition of the Festival of Lights known as Deepävali or Diwäli.  Upon Bhagawän Mahävir achieving the fifth Kalyänak, Indra and the other gods flew down to earth to celebrate.  They bathed his body with holy waters, applied sandal paste, dressed the body in rich garments, and adorned it with a crown and other ornaments.  He was carried in a palanquin. Millions joined the procession to pay their last homage.  There was solemn music accompanied by musical instruments.  The palanquin was placed on a pyre of fragrant sandalwood; after the final prayers were offered, the fire was lit.  Later, perfumed water was sprinkled to extinguish the fire and the gods carried the molars and the bones to heaven.

Bhagawän Mahävir’s sermons were compiled orally by his immediate disciples in 12 books in the form of sutras.  These books are called Anga Ägam Sutras.  Later, several learned Ächäryas (Shruta Kevali monks) compiled many more books to further explain the Anga Ägam Sutras.  All these books are called Ägams or Ägam Sutras and are considered the scriptures of the Jain religion.  These Ägam Sutras were passed on orally to future generations of ascetics, although over the course of time, some of the Ägam Sutras were lost.  Approximately one thousand years later, the memorized Ägam Sutras were organized and recorded on tädpatris (palm leaves used as paper to preserve records for future references).

Bhagawän Mahävir preached that Right Faith (Samyag-Darshan), Right Knowledge (Samyag-Jnän), and Right Conduct (Samyag-Chäritra).  Together with form the real path to get rid of karmas that are attached to the soul.

At the heart of right conduct, lie the five great vows:

Ahimsä

Non-violence

Not to cause harm to any living beings

Satya

Truthfulness

To speak only the harmless truth

Achaurya

Non-stealing

Not to take anything that is not properly given

Brahmacharya

Celibacy

Not to indulge in sensual pleasures

Aparigraha

Non-possession/Non-attachment

Complete detachment from people and material things


Jains hold these vows as the guiding principles of their lives.  These vows can be fully implemented only with the acceptance of the philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekäntaväda).  Monks and nuns follow these vows strictly and totally, while Shrävaks and Shrävikäs (lay followers) follow the vows as far as their ability and desire permits.

The ultimate objective of his teaching was how to attain total freedom from the cycle of birth and death and achieve a permanent blissful state.  This blissful state is also known as liberation, Nirväna, absolute freedom or Moksha.

This state is achieved when we get rid of all our karmas.  We accumulate negative karma through our vices such as anger, ego, deceit, and greed.  Under the influence of Karma, the soul seeks pleasure in materialistic belongings and possessions.  This is the deep-rooted cause of selfishness, anger, hatred, greed, violent thoughts & deeds, and other such vices.  These result in further accumulation of Karmas.

If the principles of Jainism are properly understood and faithfully adhered to, they will bring contentment, inner happiness, and joy in the present life.  This will elevate the soul in future reincarnations to a higher spiritual level, ultimately achieving perfect enlightenment.

Significant points of the Teachings of Bhagawän Mahävir:

Mahävir-swämi made religion simple and natural, and free from elaborate ritual complexities.  His teachings reflected the internal beauty and harmony of the soul.

Mahävir-swämi taught the significance of human life and stressed the importance of a positive attitude in life.

Bhagawän Mahävir’s message of non-violence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya), non-stealing (Acharya), celibacy (Brahmacharya), and non-possession/non-attachment (Aparigraha) is full of universal compassion.

Bhagawän Mahävir said, “A living body is not merely an integration of limbs and flesh, but it is the abode of the soul which has the potential for infinite knowledge (Anant-Jnän), infinite perception (Anant-Darshan), infinite happiness (Anant-Sukha), and infinite power and energy (Anant-Virya).” Mahävir’s message reflects the freedom and the spiritual joy of living beings.

Mahävir-swämi emphasized that all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, form, and level of spiritual development are equal and that we should love and respect them all.  In this way, he preached the gospel of universal love.

Mahävir rejected the concept of God as a creator, protector, and destroyer of the universe.  He also denounced the worshiping of gods and goddesses as a means of material gain and personal benefit.

Moral:

In each incidence of difficulty, we see the conquest of Mahävir’s soul and mind over his physical pain and suffering.  His meditation and penance purified his soul.  It helped him to separate himself from perishable and mortal worldly things, and concentrate on the liberation of his immortal soul


01 - Questions:

1.  Name the previous lives of Bhagawän Mahävir.

2.  Name the five kalyänaks of a Tirthankar.

3.  How does the mother know that she will give birth to a Tirthankar? Describe in detail.

4.  Describe an incident from Bhagawän Mahävir’s childhood.

5.  At what age did Bhagawän Mahävir take dikshä, attain keval-jnän, and attain Nirväna?

6.  Explain five of his teachings

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