The last (twenty-fourth) Tirthankara, Mahavira, was a historical personality. He was born in 599 BC at Kshatriya Kund in the democratic republic of Vaishali (Bihar), the son of King Siddharth and Queen Trishla Devi. His original name was Vardhman. From his childhood, he was soft, kind-hearted. He was very upset by the ritual sacrifice of animals, and vowed to fight for the rights of animals. He also wished to fight for the advancement of women and untouchables. He left his kingdom at the age of thirty to begin an ascetic life. He entered the forest to commune with all living beings, including animals, trees, and other plants. He practiced meditation, austerity, and samadhi for twelve and a half years, getting enlightenment. By self-purification and severe spiritual practices, finally, at the age of forty-two, Mahavira attained Kaivalya (perfection).
For the next thirty years, Mahavira spread the message of Ahimsa non-violence , truth, non-stealing, right conduct, and non possession. He campaigned against the barriers of caste, creed, and faith. He also advocated protecting all living creatures. Lord Mahavira gave us several analytical theories of Karma, multiplicity of truth etc. All these theories helped people to reach higher levels of consciousness and to create happiness and peace in society. His doctrines of Right Knowing, Right Vision, and Right Conduct are considered the three Jewels of Jain philosophy, by which to achieve the ultimate goal in life.
Bhagavan Mahavira and Jain Dharm
Bhagavan Mahavira made religion simple and natural, free from elaborate rituals. His teachings reflect the internal beauty and harmony of the soul.
Bhagavan Mahavira taught the idea of supremacy of human life and stressed the importance of a positive attitude towards life.
Bhagavan Mahavir's message of nonviolence (Ahimsä), truth (Satya), non-stealing (Achaurya), celibacy (Brahmacharya), and non-possession (Aparigraha) is full of universal compassion.
Bhagavan Mahavira said that, "A living body is not merely an integration of limbs and flesh but it is the abode of the soul which potentially has infinite perception (Anantdarshana), infinite knowledge (Anantjnäna), infinite power (Anantvirya), and infinite bliss (Anantsukha). Mahavir's message reflects freedom and spiritual joy of the living being.
Bhagavan Mahavira emphasized that all-living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, form, and how spiritually developed or undeveloped, are equal and we should love and respect them. In this way, he preached the universal love.
Bhagavan Mahavira taught that the true nature of reality is timeless, with no beginning or end and rejected the concept of God as a creator, a protector, and a destroyer of the universe. He also taught that worshiping heavenly gods and goddesses, as a means of material gain and personal benefits is contrary to the path of liberation.
One time Bhagavan Mahavira was asked what is the religion from a realistic point of view. Bhagavan Mahavira said, “ the realistic religion consists of four parts:
1) equality of all living ones, 2) every living soul has right to put self-effort to improve itself and should not to be stripped of that right, 3) no one should rule over other living beings, and 4) all situations should be viewed with equanimity - without like or dislike." If one adopts only one of these four, other three will automatically be adopted.