On: Birthday Of Mahavir
Two Sects Of Jains: Digambaras And Swetambaras
Philosophy Of Jainism: Ahimsa And Karma
The main Jain festival
of the year is Mahavira Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahavira,
the founder of Jainism. Today the followers of the Jain religion
form a community of more than one million and a half living in India,
and they celebrate this day with great zeal and devotion.
Philosophy Of Jainism
Mahavir is the "Jina" or "Conqueror", under
whose guidance his devotees are encouraged to conquer the karma-rebirth
cycle, this being the goal of the Jain religion. Mahavir was a kshatriya
prince (warrior caste) of North Bihar in Northern India. At the
age of 30 he became a wandering ascetic. Thirteen years later he
reached illumination. His followers form four orders: monks ('Muni'
or 'Sadhu'), nuns ('Sadhvi'), laymen ('Shravaka') and lay-women
('Shravika'). Around the year 80 AD the Jains split into two sects,
the Digambaras and Shvetambaras.
Ahimsa And Karma
Ahimsa or non-hurting of life is the main principle of Jainism.
Even unintentionally and the involuntary stepping on an ant may
have serious consequences for the soul. Not only living things,
but everything in nature must be respectfully treated.
There is no place for God in Jainism,
which has constructed a complicated theory of karma and karmic matter.
Karma is that general energy of the soul that causes its attachment
to matter and its subsequent defilement, a kind of link between
matter and spirit. All the effort at liberation, therefore, must
be directed to controlling karma, and all by autonomous activity.
Any mediation of divine grace or
forgiveness is rejected as evading the problem of sin, suffering
and redemption. Each person must work out his own deliverance. According
to Jain tradition the wheel of time in this visible world is forever
turning. The flow of time is without beginning and without end.
Whatever may be said about the philosophy
of Jainism, it must be acknowledged that its practice to a large
extent seems to achieve results.
Two Sects Of Jains
The two sects namely the Digambaras and the Swetambaras have slightly
different stories of Lord Mahavira.
According to the Digambar school
of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in 615 BC but according to the
Swetambaras, he was born in 599 B.C. Though the two sects believe
that he was a son of Siddhartha and Trisala, Digambaras believe
that the expectant mother had 16 auspicious dreams before the child
was born and 14 dreams according to the Swetambaras.
According to the legends Lord Mahavira
was conceived by Brahmin Rishabhdeva's wife Devananda. However the
Gods transferred the embryo to Trisala's womb. The dreams of the
expectant mother were interpreted by the astrologers who stated
the child would be either an Emperor or a Teerthankar.
Other doctrines held by the Digambaras
but rejected by the Shvetambaras are:
1. Only men can obtain final liberation (moksha), women must be
reborn as men.
2. The images of the Tirthankars must be represented with downcast
eyes, nude and unadorned.
3. Mahavir never married.
4. Once the highest stage of knowledge is reached, a saint can sustain
life without eating
5. By the 2nd century AD the entire canon of sacred books was lost.
Mahavir Jayanti is largely spent in prayer rather than in any ostentatious
display of jubilation. On this day Jain devotees visit sacred sites
and worship the Teerthankars or the religious gurus. The event holds
special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, due to the ancient
shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat.
In places with a sizeable Jain population
peaceful processions are organised where children put up skits depicting
different phases of Mahavira's life. This day is considered to be
auspicious enough to undertake new ventures or organise other social