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{{short description|24th Tirthankara of Jainism, last in current cycle of Jain cosmology}}{{about|the Jain Tirthankara|the Jain mathematician|Mahāvīra (mathematician)}}{{redirect|Mahaveera|the 1988 Bollywood film|Mahaveera (film)}}{{distinguish|Mahavihara}}{{good article}} {{Use dmy dates|date=December 2015}}{{Use Indian English|date=September 2015}}

Lion{{sfn>Tandonp=45}}Gold (color)>GoldenSiddhartha of Kundagrama>Siddhartha| mother = Trishala| age = 72 yearsShorea robusta>Shala| predecessor = Parshvanatha540 BCE}} {{smallDundasp=24}}{{sfnMartyp=126}}{{circa(traditional)}}{{sfn2002|p=24}}Vaishali (ancient city)>Vaishali, Vajji (present-day Vaishali district, Bihar, India)468 BCE}} {{smallDundasp=24}}{{sfnMartyp=126}}{{circa(Svetambara)}}{{sfn2002510 BCE}} {{smallDundasp=24}}| death_place = Pawapuri, Magadha (present-day Bihar, India)}}{{Jainism}}Mahavira, also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth tirthankara (ford-maker and propagator of dharma) who revived and reorganized Jainism. He expounded the spiritual, philosophical and ethical teachings of the previous tirthankaras from the remote pre-Vedic era. He was the spiritual successor of 23rd tirthankar Parshvanatha. In the Jain tradition, it is known that Mahavira was born in the early part of the 6th century BCE into a royal Kshatriya Jain family in present-day Bihar, India. He abandoned all worldly possessions at the age of 30 and left home in pursuit of spiritual awakening, becoming an ascetic. Mahavira practiced intense meditation and severe austerities for 12 years, after which he is believed to have attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience). He preached for 30 years and is believed by Jains to have attained moksha in the 6th century BC, although the year varies by sect. After attaining Kevala Jnana, Mahavira taught that observance of the vows of ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-attachment) is necessary for spiritual liberation. He taught the principles of Anekantavada (many-sided reality): syadvada and nayavada. Mahavira's teachings were compiled by Indrabhuti Gautama (his chief disciple) as the Jain Agamas. The texts, transmitted orally by Jain monks, are believed to have been largely lost by about the 1st century (when they were first written down). The surviving versions of the Agamas taught by Mahavira are some of Jainism's foundation texts.Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture, with the symbol of a lion beneath him. His earliest iconography is from archaeological sites in the North Indian city of Mathura, and is dated from the 1st century BCE to the 2nd century CE. His birth is celebrated as Mahavir Janma Kalyanak, and his nirvana is observed by Jains as Diwali.

{{anchor|Titles & Names}}Names and epithets

Surviving early Jain and Buddhist literature uses several names (or epithets) for Mahavira, including Nayaputta, Muni, Samana, Niggantha, Bramhan, and Bhagavan.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}} In early Buddhist suttas, he is referred to as Araha ("worthy") and Veyavi (derived from "Vedas", but meaning "wise" in this context; Mahavira did not recognize the Vedas as scripture).{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=25–26}} He is known as Sramana in the Kalpa Sūtra, "devoid of love and hate".{{sfn|Heehs|2002|p=93}}According to later Jain texts, Mahavira's childhood name was Vardhamāna ("the one who grows") because of the kingdom's prosperity at the time of his birth.{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|p=32}} According to the Kalpasutras, he was called Mahavira ("the great hero") by the gods in the Kalpa Sūtra because he remained steadfast in the midst of dangers, fears, hardships and calamities.{{sfn|Heehs|2002|p=93}} He is also known as a tirthankara.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=223}}

Historical Mahavira

(File:Mahajanapadas (c. 500 BCE).png|alt=Map of India during the 6th century BCE|thumb|upright=1.15|Ancient kingdoms and cities of India at the time of Mahavira)Although it is universally accepted by scholars of Jainism that Mahavira lived in ancient India, the details of his life and the year of his birth are subjects of debate.{{sfn|Potter|2007|pp=35–36}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=24–25}} According to the Digambara Uttarapurana text, Mahavira was born in Kundpur in the Kingdom of the Videhas;{{sfn|Pannalal Jain|2015|p=460}} the Śvētāmbara Kalpa Sūtra uses the name "Kundagrama",{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}}{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=682}} said to be located in present-day Bihar, India. Although it is thought to be the town of Basu Kund, about {{convert|60|km|mi|abbr=off}} north of Patna (the capital of Bihar),{{sfn|Taliaferro|Marty|2010|p=126}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=29}} his birthplace remains a subject of dispute.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}}{{sfn|Potter|2007|pp=35–36}}{{citation |last=Chaudhary |first=Pranava K |title=Row over Mahavira's birthplace |url= |work=The Times of India |date=14 October 2003 |location=Patna |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=3 November 2017 |df=dmy-all }} Mahavira renounced his material wealth and left home when he was twenty-eight, by some accounts{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549}} (thirty by others),{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=3}} lived an ascetic life for twelve years and then preached Jainism for thirty years.{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549}} Where he preached has been a subject of disagreement between the two major traditions of Jainism: the Śvētāmbaras and the Digambaras.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}}Jains believes that Mahavira was born in 599{{nbsp}}BCE and died in 527{{nbsp}}BCE.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=24}}{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549}} The controversy arises from efforts to date him and the Buddha; according to Buddhist and Jain texts they are believed to have been contemporaries, and (unlike Jain literature) much ancient Buddhist literature has survived.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=24}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=24}}{{sfn|Taliaferro|Marty|2010|p=126}} However, the Vira Nirvana Samvat era began in 527{{nbsp}}BCE (with Mahavira's nirvana) and is a firmly-established part of Jain tradition.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=24}}The 12th-century Jain scholar Hemachandra placed Mahavira in the 5th{{nbsp}}century BCE.{{sfn|Rapson|1955|pp=155–156}}{{sfn|Cort|2010|pp=69–70, 587–588}} Kailash Jain writes that Hemachandra performed an incorrect analysis, which along (with attempts to establish Buddha's nirvana) has been a source of confusion and controversy about Mahavira's nirvana.{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|pp=74–85}} According to Jain, the traditional date of 527{{nbsp}}BCE is accurate; the Buddha was younger than Mahavira and "might have attained nirvana a few years later".{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|pp=84–88}} The place of his nirvana, Pavapuri in present-day Bihar, is a pilgrimage site for Jains.{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549}}

{{anchor|Biography per Jain traditions}}Jain tradition

{{see also|Panch Kalyanaka}}According to Jain cosmology, 24 Tirthankaras have appeared on earth; Mahavira was the last Tirthankara of Avasarpiṇī (the present time cycle).{{refn|group=note|Heinrich Zimmer: "The cycle of time continually revolves, according to the Jainas. The present "descending" (avasarpini) period was preceded and will be followed by an "ascending" (utsarpini). Sarpini suggests the creeping movement of a "serpent" ('sarpin'); ava- means "down" and ut- means up."{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=224}}}}{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=54}} A Tirthankara (ford-maker, saviour or spiritual teacher) signifies the founding of a tirtha, a passage across the sea of birth-and-death cycles.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=181}}{{sfn|Upinder Singh|2016|pp=312–313}}{{citation | url= | title=Britannica Tirthankar Definition | publisher=Encyclopaedia Britannica}}


File:Detail of a leaf with the birth of mahavira.jpg|thumb|upright|alt=Painting of Mahavira's birth|The birth of Mahavira, from the Kalpa SūtraKalpa SūtraA member of the Kashyapa gotra,{{sfn|Heehs|2002|p=93}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=29}} Mahavira was born into the royal kshatriya family of King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku dynasty.{{sfn|Sunavala|1934|p=52}}{{refn|group=note|Trishala was the sister of King Chetaka of Vaishali in ancient India.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=29}}}} This is the dynasty in which Hindu epics place Rama and the Ramayana,{{sfn|George M. Williams|2008|pp=52, 71}} Buddhist texts place the Buddha,{{sfn|Evola|1996|p=15}} and the Jains attribute another twenty-one of their twenty-four tirthankaras.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|pp=220–226}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|pp=15–17}}According to Jains, Mahavira was born in 599{{nbsp}}BCE. His birthday falls on the thirteenth day of the rising moon in the month of Chaitra in the Vira Nirvana Samvat calendar era.{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549}}{{sfn|Dowling|Scarlett|2006|p=225}}{{sfn|Upinder Singh|2016|p=313}} It falls in March or April of the Gregorian calendar, and is celebrated by Jains as Mahavir Jayanti.{{sfn|Gupta|Gupta|2006|p=1001}}Kundagrama (the place of Mahavira’s birth) is traditionally believed to be near Vaishali, an ancient town on the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Its location in present-day Bihar is unclear, partly because of migrations from ancient Bihar for economic and political reasons.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}} According to the "Universal History" in Jain texts, Mahavira underwent many rebirths (total 27 births) before his 6th-century birth. They included a denizen of hell, a lion, and a god (deva) in a heavenly realm just before his last birth as the 24th tirthankara.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=21}} Svetambara texts state that his embryo first formed in a Brahman woman before it was transferred by Hari-Naigamesin (the divine commander of Indra's army) to the womb of Trishala, Siddhartha's wife.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=21, 26}}{{sfn|Mills|Claus|Diamond|2003|p=320, note: Indra is referred to as Sakra in some Indian texts.}}{{refn|group=note|This mythology has similarities with those found in the mythical texts of the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism.{{sfn|Olivelle|2006|pp=397 footnote 4}}}} The embryo-transfer legend is not believed by adherents of the Digambara tradition.{{sfn|Mills|Claus|Diamond|2003|p=320}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=22}}Jain texts state that after Mahavira was born, the god Indra came from the heavens along with 56 dipkumaries, anointed him, and performed his abhisheka (consecration) on Mount Meru.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=21}} These events, illustrated in a number of Jain temples, play a part in modern Jain temple rituals.{{sfn|Jain|Fischer|1978|pp=5–9}} Although the Kalpa Sūtra accounts of Mahavira's birth legends are recited by Svetambara Jains during the annual Paryushana festival, the same festival is observed by the Digambaras without the recitation.{{sfn|Dalal|2010|p=284}}

Early life

Mahavira grew up as a prince. According to the second chapter of the Śvētāmbara Acharanga Sutra, his parents were lay devotees of Parshvanatha.{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|p=32}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=30}} Jain traditions differ about whether Mahavira married.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=22}}{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=99, Quote: "According to the Digambara sect, Mahavira did not marry, while the Svetambaras hold a contrary belief."}} The Digambara tradition believes that his parents wanted him to marry Yashoda, but he refused to marry.{{sfn|Shanti Lal Jain|1998|p=51}}{{refn|group=note|On this Champat Rai Jain wrote: ""Of the two versions of Mahavira's life — the Swetambara and the Digambara— it is obvious that only one can be true: either Mahavira married, or he did not marry. If Mahavira married, why should the Digambaras deny it? There is absolutely no reason for such a denial. The Digambaras acknowledge that nineteen out of the twenty-four Tirthamkaras married and had children. If Mahavira also married it would make no difference. There is thus no reason whatsoever for the Digambaras to deny a simple incident like this. But there may be a reason for the Swetambaras making the assertion; the desire to ante-date their own origin. As a matter of fact their own books contain clear refutation of the statement that Mahavira had married. In the Samavayanga Sutra (Hyderabad edition) it is definitely stated that nineteen Tirthankaras lived as householders, that is, all the twenty-four excepting Shri Mahavira, Parashva, Nemi, Mallinath and Vaspujya."{{sfn|Champat Rai Jain|1939|p=97}}}} The Śvētāmbara tradition believes that he was married to Yashoda at a young age and had one daughter, Priyadarshana,{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=29}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=21}} also called Anojja.{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=188}}Jain texts portray Mahavira as tall; his height was given as seven cubits (10.5 feet) in the Aupapatika Sutra.{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=95}} According to Jain texts, he was the shortest of the twenty-four tirthankaras; earlier teachers were believed to have been taller, with Aristanemi—the 22nd tirthankara, who lived for 1,000 years—said to have been forty cubits (60{{nbsp}}feet) in height.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=16}}


{{see also|Jain monasticism}}At age thirty, Mahavira abandoned royal life and left his home and family to live an ascetic life in the pursuit of spiritual awakening.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=224}}{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}}{{sfn|Jacobi|1964|p=269}} He undertook severe fasts and bodily mortifications,{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=5–7}} meditated under the Ashoka tree, and discarded his clothes.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=224}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=30}} The Acharanga Sutra has a graphic description of his hardships and self-mortification.{{sfn|Sen|1999|p=74}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=27}} According to the Kalpa Sūtra, Mahavira spent the first forty-two monsoons of his life in Astikagrama, Champapuri, Prstichampa, Vaishali, Vanijagrama, Nalanda, Mithila, Bhadrika, Alabhika, Panitabhumi, Shravasti, and Pawapuri.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=327}} He is said to have lived in Rajagriha during the rainy season of the forty-first year of his ascetic life, which is traditionally dated to 491{{nbsp}}BCE.{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|p=79}}


{{see also|Samavasarana}}(File:Kevalajnana.jpg|right|thumb|alt=Painting of Mahavira meditating under a tree|The āsana in which Mahavira attained omniscience) According to traditional accounts, Mahavira achieved Kevala Jnana (omniscience, or infinite knowledge) under a Sāla tree on the bank of the River Rijupalika near Jrimbhikagrama at age 43 after twelve years of rigorous penance.{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}}{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=30}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=30, 327}} The details of the event are described in the Jain Uttar-purāņa and Harivamśa-purāņa texts.{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=31}} The Acharanga Sutra describes Mahavira as all-seeing. The Sutrakritanga expands it to all-knowing, and describes his other qualities.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=25}} Jains believe that Mahavira had a most auspicious body (paramaudārika śarīra) and was free from eighteen imperfections when he attained omniscience.{{sfn|Vijay K. Jain|2016b|p=5}} According to the Śvētāmbara, he traveled throughout India to teach his philosophy for thirty years after attaining omniscience.{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}} However, the Digambara believe that he remained in his Samavasarana and delivered sermons to his followers.{{sfn|Upinder Singh|2016|p=314}}


Jain texts document that Mahavira's first disciples were eleven Brahmins, traditionally known as the eleven Ganadharas.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|p=6}} Gautama was their leader,{{sfn|Upinder Singh|2016|p=314}} and the others were Agnibhuti, Vayubhuti, Akampita, Arya Vyakta, Sudharman, Manditaputra, Mauryaputra, Acalabhraataa, Metraya, and Prabhasa. Gautama is said to have appointed Sudharman his successor.{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}} The Ganadharas remembered and verbally transmitted Mahavira's teachings after his death; his teachings became known as Gani-Pidaga, or the Jain Agamas.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=6–8, 26}}According to Jain tradition, Mahavira had 14,000 muni (male ascetic devotees), 36,000 aryika (nuns), 159,000 sravakas (male lay followers), and 318,000 sravikas (female lay followers).{{sfn|George|2008|p=326}}{{sfn|Heehs|2002|p=90}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=39}} Royal followers included King Srenika of Magadha, Kunika of Anga (popularly known as Bimbisara) and Chetaka of Videha.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=327}}{{sfn|Caillat|Balbir|2008|p=88}} Mahavira initiated his mendicants with the mahavratas (Five Vows).{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|p=6}} He delivered fifty-five pravachana (recitations) and a set of lectures (Uttaraadhyayana-sutra).{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}}

{{anchor|Nirvāṇa, Moksha}}Nirvana and moksha

File:Pawapuri - 001 Temple marking Mahavira's Passing (9243092471).jpg|thumb|alt=Large, white temple on the water|Lord Mahavira's Jal Mandir (water temple) in PawapuriPawapuriHe preached, and attained Nirvana at the age of 72.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=22|quote=Mahavira died aged seventy-two at the town of Pava in what is now the state of Bihar. His body was cremated, with the gods taking his bones to heavens and his ashes being distributed throughout the Ganges region.}}{{sfn|Sharma|Sharma|2004|p=39|quote=The body of Mahavira was cremated in Pava, and to this day the town of Pava in the province of Bihar is the holy ground for his followers.}} The Jain Śvētāmbara tradition believes that Mahavira's nirvana occurred in 527 BCE, and the Digambara tradition holds that date of 468 BCE. In both traditions, his jiva (soul) is believed to abide in Siddhashila (the home of liberated souls).{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549-550}}According to Jain texts, Mahavira's nirvana (death){{refn|group=note|Not to be confused with kevalajnana (omniscience).{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|pp=29–31, 205–206: "At the end of almost thirty years of preaching, he died in the chancellory of King Hastipala of Pavapuri and attained Nirvana."}}}} occurred in the town of Pawapuri in present-day Bihar.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=222}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=22-24}}{{sfn|Melton|Baumann|2010|p=897}} His life as a spiritual light and the night of his nirvana are commemorated by Jains as Diwali at the same time that Hindus celebrate it.{{sfn|Melton|Baumann|2010|p=897}}{{sfn|Doniger|1999|p=549-550}} His chief disciple, Gautama, is said to have attained omniscience the night that Mahavira achieved nirvana.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=39}}Accounts of Mahavira's nirvana vary among Jain texts, with some describing a simple nirvana and others recounting grandiose celebrations attended by gods and kings. According to the Jinasena's Mahapurana, heavenly beings arrived to perform his funeral rites. The Pravachanasara of Digambara tradition says that only the nails and hair of tirthankaras are left behind; the rest of the body dissolves in the air like camphor.{{sfn|Pramansagar|2008|p=38–39}} In some texts Mahavira is described, at age 72, as delivering his final preaching over a six-day period to a large group of people. The crowd falls asleep, awakening to find that he has disappeared (leaving only his nails and hair, which his followers cremate).{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=328}}Mahavira's Jal Mandir stands at the place where he attained nirvana (moksha).WEB, Destinations : Pawapuri,weblink Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation, no,weblink" title="">weblink 22 July 2015, dmy-all, Artworks in Jain temples and texts depict his final liberation and cremation, sometimes shown symbolically as a small pyre of sandalwood and a piece of burning camphor.{{sfn|Jain|Fischer|1978|pp=14, 29–30}}

Previous births

Mahavira's previous births are recounted in Jain texts such as the Mahapurana and Tri-shashti-shalaka-purusha-charitra. Although a soul undergoes countless reincarnations in the transmigratory cycle of saṃsāra, the birth of a tirthankara is reckoned from the time he determines the causes of karma and pursues ratnatraya. Jain texts describe Mahavira's 26 births before his incarnation as a tirthankara.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|p=327}} According to the texts, he was born as Marichi (the son of Bharata Chakravartin) in a previous life.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=21}}


File:Kalpasutra Mahavira Nirvana.jpg|thumb|alt=Old illustrated manuscript|FolioFolioYativṛṣabha's Tiloya-paṇṇatti recounts nearly all the events of Mahavira's life in a form convenient for memorisation.{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=45}} Jinasena's Mahapurana (which includes the Ādi purāṇa and Uttara-purāṇa) was completed by his disciple, Gunabhadra, in the 8th{{nbsp}}century. In the Uttara-purāṇa, Mahavira's life is described in three parvans, or sections, (74–76) and 1,818 verses.{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=46}}Vardhamacharitra is a Sanskrit kāvya poem, written by Asaga in 853, which narrates the life of Mahavira.{{sfn|Kailash Chand Jain|1991|p=59}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=19}}{{sfn|Jain|Upadhye|2000|p=47}}The Kalpa Sūtra is a collection of biographies of tirthankaras, notably Parshvanatha and Mahavira. Samavayanga Sutra is a collection of Mahavira’s teachings, and the Acharanga Sutra recounts his asceticism.


Colonial-era Indologists considered Jainism (and Mahavira's followers) a sect of Buddhism because of superficial similarities in iconography and meditative and ascetic practices.{{sfn|Winternitz|1993|p=408}} As scholarship progressed, differences between the teachings of Mahavira and the Buddha were found so divergent that the religions were acknowledged as separate.{{sfn|Winternitz|1993|pp=408–409}} Mahavira, says Moriz Winternitz, taught a "very elaborate belief in the soul" (unlike the Buddhists, who denied such elaboration). His ascetic teachings have a higher order of magnitude than those of Buddhism or Hinduism, and his emphasis on ahimsa (non-violence) is greater than that in other Indian religions.{{sfn|Winternitz|1993|pp=408–409}}

{{anchor|Jain Agamas}}Agamas

{{see also|Jain councils}}Mahavira's teachings were compiled by Gautama Swami, his Ganadhara (chief disciple).{{sfn|Cort|2010|p=225}} The canonical scriptures are in twelve parts.{{sfn|Vijay K. Jain|2012|p=xi}} Mahavira's teachings were gradually lost after about 300{{nbsp}}BCE, according to Jain tradition, when a severe famine in the Magadha kingdom dispersed the Jain monks. Attempts were made by later monks to gather, recite the canon, and re-establish it.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=6–8}} These efforts identified differences in recitations of Mahavira's teachings, and an attempt was made in the 5th{{nbsp}}century AD to reconcile the differences.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=6–8}} The reconciliation efforts failed, with Svetambara and Digambara Jain traditions holding their own incomplete, somewhat-different versions of Mahavira's teachings. In the early centuries of the common era, Jain texts containing Mahavira's teachings were written in palm-leaf manuscripts.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=6–8, 26}} According to the Digambaras, Āchārya Bhutabali was the last ascetic with partial knowledge of the original canon. Later, some learned achāryas restored, compiled, and wrote down the teachings of Mahavira which were the subjects of the Agamas.{{sfn|Vijay K. Jain|2012|p=xii}} Āchārya Dharasena, in the 1st{{nbsp}}century CE, guided the Āchāryas Pushpadant and Bhutabali as they wrote down the teachings. The two Āchāryas wrote Ṣaṭkhaṅḍāgama, among the oldest-known Digambara texts, on palm leaves.

Five vows

File:Five Vows.jpg|thumbnail|alt=Tan stone relief of the Jain swastika and its five vows|The swastika and five vows]]The Jain Agamas enumerate five vratas (vows) which ascetics and householders must observe.{{sfn|Sangave|2006|p=67}} These ethical principles were preached by Mahavira:{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}}{{citation |last=Shah |first=Umakant Premanand |authorlink=Umakant Premanand Shah |title=Mahavira Jaina teacher |url= |publisher=Encyclopædia Britannica |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=5 September 2015 |df=dmy-all }}
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence or non-injury): Mahavira taught that every living being has sanctity and dignity which should be respected as one expects one's own sanctity and dignity to be respected. Ahimsa, Jainism's first and most important vow, applies to actions, speech, and thought.
  2. Satya (truthfulness): Applies to oneself and others.
  3. Asteya (non-stealing): Not "taking anything that has not been given"{{sfn|Vijay K. Jain|2012|p=68}}
  4. Brahmacharya (chastity): Abstinence from sex and sensual pleasures for monks, and faithfulness to one's partner for householders{{citation |last=Shah |first=Pravin K |authorlink=Pravin K Shah |title=Five Great Vows (Maha-vratas) of Jainism |url= |publisher=Harvard University Literature Center |date=2011 |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=31 December 2014 |df=dmy-all }}{{sfn|Long|2009|p=101–102}}
  5. Aparigraha (non-attachment): For lay people, an attitude of non-attachment to property or worldly possessions; for mendicants, not owning anything{{sfn|Long|2009|p=109}}
The goal of these principles is to achieve spiritual peace, a better rebirth, or (ultimately) liberation.{{sfn|Cort|2001|pp=26–27}}{{sfn|Appleton|2014|pp=20–45}}{{sfn|Adams|2011|p=22}} According to Chakravarthi, these teachings help improve a person's quality of life.{{sfn|Chakravarthi|2003|p=3–22}} However, Dundas writes that Mahavira's emphasis on non-violence and restraint has been interpreted by some Jain scholars to "not be driven by merit from giving or compassion to other creatures, nor a duty to rescue all creatures" but by "continual self discipline": a cleansing of the soul which leads to spiritual development and release.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=88–89, 257–258}}Mahavira is best remembered in the Indian traditions for his teaching that ahimsa is the supreme moral virtue.{{sfn|George|2008|p=319}}{{sfn|Jain|Jain|2002|p=13}} He taught that ahimsa covers all living beings,{{sfn|Titze|1998|p=4}} and injuring any being in any form creates bad karma (which affects one's rebirth, future well-being, and suffering).{{sfn|Taylor|2008|pp=892–894}} According to Mahatma Gandhi, Mahavira was the greatest authority on ahimsa.{{sfn|Pandey|1998|p=50}}{{sfn|Nanda|1997|p=44}}{{citation |url= |title=Great Men's view on Jainism |quote=Jainism Literature Center |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=16 May 2018 |df=dmy-all }}


Mahavira taught that the soul exists, a premise shared with Hinduism but not Buddhism. There is no soul (or self) in Buddhism, and its teachings are based on the concept of anatta (non-self).{{citation |url= |title=Anatta |work=Encyclopædia Britannica |year=2013 |quote=Anatta in Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying soul. The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman (“the self”). |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=10 December 2015 |df=dmy-all }}{{sfn|Collins|1994|p=64|quote=Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence.}}{{sfn|Nagel|2000|p=33|quote=The dispute with Buddhists, who do not accept an imperishable Self, gives the Atman schools a chance to articulate the intellectual aspects of their way to meditative liberation.}} Mahavira taught that the soul is dravya (substantial), eternal, and yet temporary .{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–76}}To Mahavira, the metaphysical nature of the universe consists of dravya, jiva, and ajiva (inanimate objects).{{sfn|Caillat|Balbir|2008|p=88}} The jiva is bound to saṃsāra (transmigration) because of karma (the effects of one's actions).{{sfn|Caillat|Balbir|2008|p=88}} Karma, in Jainism, includes actions and intent; it colors the soul (lesya), affecting how, where, and as what a soul is reborn after death.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=99–103}}According to Mahavira, there is no creator deity and existence has neither beginning nor end. Gods and demons exist in Jainism, however, whose jivas a part of the same cycle of birth and death.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=90–99}} The goal of spiritual practice is to liberate the jiva from its karmic accumulation and enter the realm of the siddhas, souls who are liberated from rebirth.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=91–92, 104–105}} Enlightenment, to Mahavira, is the consequence of self-cultivation and self-restraint.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=88–89, 257–258}}


Mahavira taught the doctrine of anekantavada (many-sided reality).{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–79}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=229–231}}{{sfn|Sharma|Khanna|2013|p=18}} Although the word does not appear in the earliest Jain literature or the Agamas, but the doctrine is illustrated in Mahavira's answers to questions posed by his followers.{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–79}} Truth and reality are complex, and have a number of aspects. Reality can be experienced, but it is impossible to express it fully with language alone; human attempts to communicate are nayas ("partial expression[s] of the truth").{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–79}} Language itself is not truth, but a means of expressing it. From truth, according to Mahavira, language returns—not the other way around.{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–79}} One can experience the "truth" of a taste, but cannot fully express that taste through language. Any attempt to express the experience is syāt: valid "in some respect", but still a "perhaps, just one perspective, incomplete".Jain philosophy {{webarchive|url= |date=21 February 2015 }}, IEP, Mark Owen Webb, Texas Tech University Spiritual truths are also complex, with multiple aspects, and language cannot express their plurality; however, they can be experienced through effort and appropriate karma.{{sfn|Charitrapragya|2004|pp=75–79}}Mahavira's anekantavada doctrine is also summarized in Buddhist texts such as the Samaññaphala Sutta (in which he is called Nigantha Nātaputta),{{refn|group=note|Samaññaphala Sutta, D i.47: "Nigantha Nātaputta answered with fourfold restraint. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango, were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit, were to answer with a mango: In the same way, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Nigantha Nātaputta answered with fourfold restraint. The thought occurred to me: 'How can anyone like me think of disparaging a brahman or contemplative living in his realm?' Yet I [Buddha] neither delighted in Nigantha Nātaputta's words nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and left."Samaññaphala Sutta {{webarchive|url= |date=9 February 2014 }}, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1997)}} and is a key difference between the teachings of Mahavira and those of the Buddha. The Buddha taught the Middle Way, rejecting the extremes of "it is" or "it is not"; Mahavira accepted both "it is" and "it is not", with reconciliation and the qualification of "perhaps".{{sfn|Matilal|1998|pp=128–135}}The Jain Agamas suggest that Mahavira's approach to answering metaphysical, philosophical questions was a "qualified yes" (syāt). A version of this doctrine is also found in the Ajivika school of ancient Indian philosophy.{{sfn|Matilal|1990|pp=301–305}}{{sfn|Balcerowicz|2015|pp=205–218}}According to Dundas, the anekantavada doctrine has been interpreted by many Jains as "promot[ing] a universal religious tolerance ... plurality ... [and a] ... benign attitude to other [ethical, religious] positions"; however, this misreads Jain historical texts and Mahavira's teachings.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=232–234}} Mahavira's "many pointedness, multiple perspective" teachings are a doctrine about the nature of reality and human existence, not about tolerating religious positions such as sacrificing animals (or killing them for food) or violence against nonbelievers (or any other living being) as "perhaps right".{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=232–234}} The five vows for Jain monks and nuns are strict requirements, with no "perhaps".{{sfn|Long|2009|pp=98–106}} Mahavira's Jainism co-existed with Buddhism and Hinduism beyond the renunciant Jain communities, but each religion was "highly critical of the knowledge systems and ideologies of their rivals".{{sfn|Dundas|2002|p=233}}


An historically-contentious view in Jainism is partially attributed to Mahavira and his ascetic life; he did not wear clothing, as a sign of renunciation (the fifth vow, aparigraha). It was disputed whether a female mendicant (sadhvi) could achieve the spiritual liberation of a male mendicant (sadhu) through asceticism.{{sfn|Long|2009|pp=36–37}}{{sfn|Harvey|2014|pp=182–183}}The major Jain traditions have disagreed, with Digambaras (the sky-clad, naked mendicant order) believing that a woman is unable to fully practice asceticism and cannot achieve spiritual liberation because of her gender; she can, at best, live an ethical life so she is reborn as a man.{{refn|group=note|According to Melton and Baumann, the Digambaras state that "women's physical and emotional character makes it impossible for them to genuinely engage in the intense [ascetic] path necessary for spiritual purification. (...) Only by being reborn as a man can a woman engage in the ascetic path. Later Digambara secondary arguments appealed to human physiology in order to exclude women from the path: by their very biological basis, women constantly generate and destroy (and therefore harm) life forms within their sexual organs. Svetambara oppose this view by appealing to scriptures."{{sfn|Melton|Baumann|2010|p=1396}}}} According to this view, women are seen as a threat to a monk's chastity.{{sfn|Arvind Sharma|1994|pp=135–138}}Mahavirasvami had preached about men and women equality. The clothes-wearing Svetambaras have interpreted Mahavira's teaching as encouraging both sexes to pursue a mendicant, ascetic life with the possibility of moksha (kaivalya, spiritual liberation).{{sfn|Arvind Sharma|1994|pp=135–138}}{{sfn|Harvey|2014|pp=182–183}}{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=55–59}}

Rebirth and realms of existence

Rebirth and realms of existence are fundamental teachings of Mahavira. According to the Acaranga Sutra, Mahavira believed that life existed in myriad forms which included animals, plants, insects, bodies of water, fire, and wind.{{sfn|Taylor|2008|pp=892–894}}{{sfn|Chapelle|2011|pp=263–270}} He taught that a monk should avoid touching or disturbing any of them (including plants) and never swim, light (or extinguish) a fire, or wave their arms in the air; such actions might injure other beings living in those states of matter.{{sfn|Taylor|2008|pp=892–894}}Mahavira preached that the nature of existence is cyclic, and the soul is reborn after death in one of the trilok{{snd}}the heavenly, hellish, or earthly realms of existence and suffering.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=41–42, 90–93}} Humans are reborn, depending on one's karma (actions) as a human, animal, element, microbe, or other form, on earth or in a heavenly (or hellish) realm.{{sfn|Taylor|2008|pp=892–894}}{{sfn|Long|2009|pp=179–181}}{{sfn|Gorski|2008|pp=125–128}} Nothing is permanent; everyone (including gods, demons and earthly beings) dies and is reborn, based on their actions in their previous life. Jinas who have reached Kevala Jnana (omniscience) are not reborn;{{sfn|Taylor|2008|pp=892–894}} they enter the siddhaloka, the "realm of the perfected ones".{{sfn|Long|2009|pp=179–181}}


{{anchor|Ascetic lineage}}Lineage

Mahavira has been erroneously called the founder of Jainism.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|p=5}} Jains believe that there were 23 teachers before him, and Jainism was founded well before Mahavira (whom they revere as the 24th tirthankara.{{Sfn|Wiley|2009|pp=5–7}} ; the 22nd tirthankara (Neminath) is believed to have been born 84,000 years before the 23rd tirthankara, Parshvanatha.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=226}} Although Mahavira is sometimes placed in Parshvanatha's lineage, this is contradicted by texts stating that Mahavira renounced the world alone.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=30–33}}Jain texts suggest that Mahavira's parents were lay devotees of Parshvanatha. The lack of detail and the mythical nature of legends about Parshvanatha,{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=220}}{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|pp=16–17}} combined with medieval-era Svetambara texts portraying Parsvites as "pseudo-ascetics" with "dubious practices of magic and astrology", have led scholars to debate the evidence of Parshvanatha's historicity.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=30–33}} According to Dundas, Jains believe that Parshvanatha's lineage influenced Mahavira. Parshvanatha, as the one who "removes obstacles and has the capacity to save", is a popular icon; his image is the focus of Jain temple devotion.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=30–33}} Of the 24 tirthankaras, Jain iconography has celebrated Mahavira and Parshvanatha the most; sculptures discovered at the Mathura archaeological site have been dated to the 1st{{nbsp}}century BCE.{{sfn|Dundas|2002|pp=30–33}}{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|pp=9–11}}{{sfn|Cort|2010|pp=25–32, 120–122, 166–171, 189–192}} According to Moriz Winternitz, Mahavira may be considered a reformer of an existing Jainist sect known as Niganthas (fetter-less) which was mentioned in early Buddhist texts.{{sfn|Winternitz|1993|p=408}}


Two major annual Jain festivals associated with Mahavira are Mahavir JanmaKalyanak and Diwali. During Mahavir JanmaKalyanak, Jains celebrate Mahavira's birth as the 24th and last tirthankara of avasarpiṇī (the current time cycle).{{sfn|Gupta|Gupta|2006|p=1001}} During Mahavir JanmaKalyanak, the five auspicious events of Mahavira's life are re-enacted.{{sfn|George|2008|p=394}} Diwali commemorates the anniversary of Mahavira's nirvana, and is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival. Diwali marks the New Year for Jains.{{sfn|Bhalla|2005|p=13}}


(File:Adoration of the Jaina Tirthankara, Mahavira (6124596033).jpg|thumb|alt=See caption|Mahavira woship in a manuscript c.{{nbsp}}1825)Samantabhadra's Svayambhustotra praises the twenty-four tirthankaras, and its eight shlokas (songs) adore Mahavira.{{sfn|Vijay K. Jain|2015|p=164–169}} One such shloka reads:}} Samantabhadra's Yuktyanusasana is a 64-verse poem which also praises Mahavira.{{sfn|Gokulchandra Jain|2015|p=84}}


File:24th Tirthankara Mahavira Bhagwan Vardhamana Nigantha Jainism.jpg|thumb|upright=0.9|alt=Statue of Mahavira in a meditative pose|Mahavira iconography is distinguished by a lion stamped (or carved) beneath his feet; a Shrivatsa is on his chest.]]Mahavira's teachings were influential. According to Rabindranath Tagore,}}An event associated with the 2,500th anniversary of Mahavira's nirvana was held in 1974:{{sfn|Jaini|2000|p=31}}


Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting (or standing) meditative pose, with a lion symbol beneath him;{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=192}} each tÄ«rthankara has a distinct emblem, which allows worshippers to distinguish similar idols.{{sfn|Zimmer|1953|p=225}} Mahavira's lion emblem is usually carved below his legs. Like all tirthankaras, he is depicted with a Shrivatsa{{refn|group=note|A special symbol that marks the chest of a Tirthankara. The yoga pose is very common in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Each tradition has had a distinctive auspicious chest mark that allows devotees to identify a meditating statue to symbolic icon for their theology. There are several srivasta found in ancient and medieval Jain art works, and these are not found on Buddhist or Hindu art works.{{sfn|von Glasenapp|1925|pp=426–428}}Jainism: Jinas and Other Deities {{webarchive|url= |date=26 May 2017 }}, Victoria and Albert Museum, London}} and downcast eyes.{{sfn|Melton|Baumann|2010|p=1553}}Mahavira's earliest iconography is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura, dated from the 1st{{nbsp}}century BCE to the 2nd{{nbsp}}century CE.{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1995|pp=15–17}}{{sfn|Cort|2010|pp=273–275}} The srivatsa mark on his chest and his dhyana-mudra posture appears in Kushana Empire-era artwork. Differences in Mahavira's depiction between the Digambara and Svetambara traditions appear in the late 5th{{nbsp}}century CE.{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1995|pp=15–17}} According to John Cort, the earliest archaeological evidence of Jina iconography with inscriptions precedes its datable texts by over 250 years.{{sfn|Cort|2010|pp=48–49}}Many images of Mahavira have been dated to the 12th century and earlier;{{sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1987|p=193}} an ancient sculpture was found in a cave in Sundarajapuram, Theni district, Tamil Nadu. K. Ajithadoss, a Jain scholar in Chennai, dated it to the 9th{{nbsp}}centur.{{citation |last=Saju |first=M T |title=Ancient Mahavira sculpture found in cave near Theni |url= |work=The Times of India |date=3 October 2015 |location=Chennai |deadurl=no |archiveurl= |archivedate=17 May 2017 |df=dmy-all }}Jivantasvami represents Mahavira as a princely state. The Jina is represented as standing in the kayotsarga pose wearing crown and ornaments.{{Sfn|Umakant P. Shah|1995|p=15}}File:Vardhaman Keezhakuyilkudi.jpg|alt=See caption|Rock-cut sculpture of Mahavira in Samanar Hills, Madurai, Tamil NaduFile:Mahavira Pratimaji.jpg|alt=See caption|Tallest known image of the seated MahaviraFile:Mahaveer.jpg|alt=See caption|Four-sided sculpture of Mahavira in Kankali Tila, MathuraFile:Tirthankaras.jpg|alt=Two nude statues|Tirthankaras Rishabhanatha (left) and Mahavira, 11th century (British Museum)File:Mahavira Seattle 01.JPG|alt=Mahavira, seated|Temple relief of Mahavira, 14th century (Seattle Asian Art Museum)File:Thirakoil-mahaaveerar.JPG|alt=See caption|Relief of Mahavira in Thirakoil, Tamil NaduFile:Ahinsa_Sthal.jpg|16-foot, 2-inch stone statue of Mahavira in Ahinsa Sthal, Mehrauli, New Delhi{{sfn|Titze|1998|p=266}}|alt=Large outdoor statue of Mahavira, with a seated worshipper for scaleFile:Ellora Cave 32 si0339.jpg|alt=See caption|Mahavira statue in Cave 32 of the Ellora CavesFile:Jain temple at Ambapuram.jpg|Mahavira inside cave in Ambapuram village, 7th century


According to John Cort, the Mahavira temple in Osian, Jodhpur, Rajasthan is the oldest surviving Jain temple in western India; it was built in the late 8th{{nbsp}}century.{{sfn|Cort|1998|p=112}} Other Mahavira temples include: File:Dharmachakra,_lord_mahaviras_temple.jpg|alt=Large temple|Temple in GajpanthFile:Jain_temple_at_Lakkundi.jpg|alt=Large, low, grey temple|Jain Temple, LakkundiFile:Shri Mahavirji - Main Temple (4).jpg|alt=Large temple, with people outside for scale|Shri Mahavirji templeFile:Dallina_Vardamana_Mahaveera_Jain_temple.jpg|alt=White temple|Sankighatta, Karnataka (12th century)File:Jain Temple -02 by Jain Center of Greater Phoenix (JCGP).jpg|Jain Center of Greater PhoenixFile:Jain Temple Oshwal Centre Pottersbar Hertfordshire UK ground.jpg|Jain temple, Potters Bar

See also

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