Mahavira’s teachings

CHENNAI: Bhagwan Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara who propagated Jainism. Before him there were 23 Tirthankaras, the first and foremost being Lord Rishabhadeva. Mahavira advocated Ahimsa, Anekantavada (logic of probability and relativism), right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. According to Jain principles, a householder should observe five vows in thought, deed and in action: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non-possession).

On the occasion of the 2607th birth anniversary of Mahavira it is appropriate to discuss the relevance of his philosophy and teachings to this age. His three contributions, Ahimsa, Syadvada or Anekantavada, and Aparigraha, have eternal significance. He never asked anyone to follow him. He said, “Try to understand the real nature of things surrounding you. Without understanding them it will not be possible to understand oneself.” He pointed out that religion is that which helps all souls to attain the highest bliss, and which believes in the welfare of all without discrimination of caste, creed, colour, sex, community or class.

Non-violence is the greatest contribution of Jainism. The scope of “life” and “living” is extended by Jains to all including the most insignificant life form. The first step of Ahimsa must be taken at the individual level. Ahimsa means reverence for life, which in turn calls for compassion and service to all living beings. Anekantavada as preached by Mahavira was not a dogma. It was very simple for him meaning everything has its own nature and attributes. Truth is multiple and manifold. It has many facets. Difference in opinion or outlook is not to be condemned but must be understood as different aspects of truth. He said that differences are due to the nature of things.

He prescribed Aparigraha as remedy to the ills of economic inequality which disturb society, and lead to exploitation and enslavement of man. When practised Aparigraha limits wealth and essential commodities to what is necessary for one’s living and the rest returned to society.

Himmatmal Mardia,