Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
I truly wonder how this article is going to shape up. Lord Mahavir stands for serious self-discipline and hard core austerity. He is The Master of asceticism and I hold a very coveted portfolio in the Department of Indulgence.
Thus, I was in two minds to write on Him. Not because of any other reason but darn it, it is like telling an intellectually challenged yak to write on the Laws of Relativity.
I could only read about Him in awe; He was so focused on self-realization thus detached from the body and from all the pull and push of the senses and in complete surrender to whatever Karma had in store for Him, as long as the jar of cause and effect got completely empty, not even a crumb left. Yes, I am certain, there are Yogis who go through various austerities for years if not decades, but usually they are defrosting in some swanky cave in the Himalayas, far from the prejudiced glare and temperament of people.
I have known only one Jain family and they really treated me well and welcomed me in their home, in spite of the fact that they were pure, pure, pure, vegetarians and in those days I was religiously a dedicated carnivorous.
I remember being told that the eldest living member of the family, who lived someplace else, ate food and drank water only till the Sun shone in the sky, so unlike most youngsters nowadays who only wake up, eat, drink, sms, mms, facebook, internet and vegetate when the Sun has left the sky; in a very Laloo Prasad Yadav default way, same difference.
I was very young when I was taken to a friend’s house and there were many people there and all were in awe of this extremely handsome man, he actually glowed, and he was on fast, having had just warm water for over seventy odd days and he looked at me and smiled and I stood looking at him, in absolute awe of a man who willingly went hungry for so many days. My friend came and told me that he was starving as my friend hadn’t eaten for three hours, which was loud enough for folks living in the adjacent building to hear. I looked at the beautiful glow which emitted from this man, wanting to apologize for my friend’s absolutely unnecessary and unexplainable existence on planet Earth, and he smiled once again at me, and I gave him a smile and walked out of the house with my friend and then swore at him in five different languages. We all have our strengths, I guess.
Lord Mahavir, who lived a life of luxury, at the age of thirty, to give it all up, and for twelve years to go about without even a bowl of food and water and also without a stitch of clothing on Him, notwithstanding the extreme weather and the ridicule and physical abuses of society, just being within, always in a deep search of ‘who am I’, I mean when an individual goes beyond His limited self, what a miracle mankind can be.
It is said by the Sages and wise men and women in the know, that we are an accumulated mass of Karma. Baba Sai of Shirdi often in channeling mentions that a human being is a composition of his or her own Karma, inherent nature carried forward through lifetimes and DNA. Now we are said to have three bodies. The physical, the astral and the causal and our Karma is encased in the causal body….cause and effect body; our emotions and desires and inherent self encased in the astral body and the physical body encases apart from piss and puss, other parts of the anatomy. Mankind is so full of shit that God in His wisdom had to make our large intestine seven meters or twenty one feet long, all curled up. I mean why do we need a twenty one feet long intestine if we weren’t so full of ourselves.
It is believed that all our actions, thoughts, desires, words and intentions lead to the accumulation of Karma; good and not so good. Thus, through every lifetime that we have lived, we have accumulated Karma, which necessitates one to keep taking birth to go through the Karmic grind or Karmic fruits. Baba Sai says that when an individual realises that the only way to stop the accumulation of Karma is when an individual stop operating from attachment and results, and starts operating from Oneness and complete detachment from the consequences, the results and the gains. When one operates from Seva i.e. to serve The Lord Who exists in every living being and non-living thing, tangible or intangible, and becomes One with the coexisting throb of Creation, then the individual stops accumulating Karma.
But what is to be done about the accumulated Karma which already exists which we carry along in our causal body. For that, prayers, charity, meditation, are a must. The Divine Fire that ensues through prayer and meditation and also by helping those less privileged (but without expecting any reward, including blessings, and without the thought of it erasing the Karmic sludge) slowly burns away the Karmic balance sheet.
Lord Mahavir understood this Law and thus undertook suffering by leaving Himself in the hands of the Cosmos to do as It wished with Him.
There is a lot of debate regarding Lord Mahavir’s life. Two schools of thought prevail about everything related with His personal life.
So I will write my stuff from my understanding. Whether He came from a princely family or a very rich and powerful family, the fact is that Lord Mahavir was born in an affluent and well known family. In fact He was very fortunate for His father, as, at the moment that He was conceived the family fortunes increased and thus He was named Vardhamana, which means ‘continuous increase in wealth’. He was born in the sixth century before the Birth of Christ.
He was very brave, strong and well educated. He must have been very courageous and good at sport and without fear as He was then named Mahavir…The Great Warrior. Why would He be named by the good people of His township as a Great Warrior if He was not great at warfare.
He was very intuitive and took interest in the wellbeing of all those around Him. It seems He was married at an early age to Yashoda and had a daughter by the name of Priyadarshana, though another school of thought says He wasn’t. But if He lived with His family till He was thirty years old, I guess it makes sense to believe He was married and had a child.
He always wanted to go away and find His True Self but the obligations of the family and the insistence of His parents were like chains around His feet. By the time He reached twenty eight, both His parents passed over and His brother somehow managed to persuade Lord Mahavir to give up the thought of renunciation. But at the age of thirty Lord Mahavir told one and all to go boil their heads as He had had enough of the worldly life and He wanted to leave everything and go in search of the Eternal Truth.
When all logic, emotion and money failed to convince Him, eventually the family had no choice but to agree to His need for renunciation. So He distributed His share of gold and land to the poor. The day of His going away was done in a lot of style and He tolerated it all until a point when He got down from His carriage, sat under an Asoka tree, removed all the rings and chains He wore and forcefully plucked out His hair. The people still surrounded Him and then I guess He must have politely told one and all to leave Him alone. When left alone, He meditated under the tree for two days and then He attired in a simple robe and left to find Himself and the Eternal Truth. It is not sure when Lord Mahavir did away with the robe too. Some say after the two day meditation itself, some say after one year and one month, whatever be the truth, the fact is that Lord Mahavir did not want to own anything, didn’t want anything to come between Him and the Eternal Truth, and thus didn’t want anything to do with the material world. He discarded His clothes which were a part of the material world, and for the rest of His life He was naked.
One must understand that Lord Mahavir did not start Jainism. In fact He was the twenty fourth Guru or Tirthankara. Lord Mahavir’s family followed the Jain Tirthankara called Parsva, who was the twenty third Guru or Tirthankara.
Now, Parsva had laid down four laws for those who took up sanyas, and not wearing clothes was not one of them. Lord Mahavir thus initiated this fifth law and thus even now you have Jain Sages who go about Their life with not a stitch on Them.
Without clothes and even a begging bowl, He roamed about in deep contemplation. When He sat for meditation and He could sit for days, insects clawed up His body, bit Him, and though often in severe pain, He took the pain as the cleansing of His Karma. Seeing Him naked and those days there were innumerable Sages roaming about but none naked, the people ridiculed Him and hit Him and threw stones at Him, but He did not mind or say a word to anybody. He was in pain. He was not oblivious to pain. He observed silence for months at a stretch (though the Digambara school of thought insists that He didn’t speak for twelve years) and if He got food He ate and if He didn’t get food He starved but He took everything as a blessing and as a mandatory requirement for Him to be cleansed off all Karma and thus bringing Him closer to The One.
The problem was that Lord Mahavir did not interact with people, He often observed silence. Thus, He didn’t speak and when spoken to, He was a naked Man walking about with no care about His appearance and hence He was thought of as deranged and thus He was given serious grief by mankind at large.
So, He went through penances to clear off all His Karmic backlog. He barely spoke to anybody and to make His life more difficult He had rules about what He ate and drank.
It is said that first and foremost He preferred eating stale food as He wasn’t depriving anybody of that food. Then, He accepted dry or cold or moist food, old beans or grain gone bad. If He saw animals, birds, beggars, wanting or waiting for food, He would not beg there, as that would mean that He would be depriving another being of food and hence He would go away from there. He would eat once in two days or three days or four days or five and often went without drinking water for two to six months.
He would meditate night and day and in winter sit in the coldest spot available and in summer the hottest. He wanted to get detached from every discomfort, pain, angst that His body could feel or evoke with Himself. He was hard core.
But the most important part of it all was that He was always calm and had no anger or pride within Him. It was as though He has squeezed out all the filth that accumulates within all of us, in the body, mind and heart and excreted it all and thus was empty, no attachment to anything and anybody.
Once some native idiots hit Him badly and then set the dogs on to Him. The dogs bit Him badly but He didn’t retaliate. I mean, where do These Masters come from. Truly, there must be some special place These Giants come from.
Once the villagers pelted Him with stones and abuses and then once some folks from our country with an ancient heritage of over five thousand years cut Him with sharp objects and pulled His hair out of the roots and Lord Mahavir kept calm and didn’t say a word.
The problem which Lord Mahavir faced was not only from the masses but also from other so called spiritual seekers. They could not understand how a Man could live completely naked and also go through so much pain and hardship with complete detachment. So they made His life more difficult.
The ascetic orders followed a few basic laws. In the rains the ascetic tribe stayed at one place which is something Lord Mahavir would follow most often. Hoarding of anything to eat was a no no and taking life was obviously out of question. There were certain rules of begging and the usual sacrifices depending on the sect and this was generally it.
Lord Mahavir took sacrifice or tapas or austerities to another level. He was clear that austerities didn’t have to do only with the physical body but also the mental and emotional. Chastity and meditation were mandatory as only then the immense backlog of Karma would be burnt away and He was very forceful regarding not creating new Karmas which very often were created not only by the mind and heart but often by the tongue. Speech was meant to be observed and controlled. (I guess my Karma’s ain’t going away anywhere for a long time.)
Though Lord Mahavir refused to give importance to take a bath or living in caves or under a tree and was against eating roots and flowers and He wasn’t much into Fire worship or smearing the body with Holy Ash. Thus, there were issues with the ascetic community too. But He remained silent and calm.
If this wasn’t enough, The Warrior had another dimension to deal with. Lower energies tried their level best to harass Him and waylay Him from His path. He was often physically assaulted by the lower energies and He went through serious physical torture and pain while He would sit for meditation. In His eleventh year or when He reached the Eleventh Dimension of His spiritual journey the lower energies (the Buddhist and Jain’s call these lower energies lower God but it doesn’t appeal to my limited demented mind…I mean God, Higher, Lower or Medium, is God…I don’t think God would try to harass His Own. So, I will stick to call these energies as lower energies) went all out to confuse, harass and torture Lord Mahavir.
Often the lower energies entered weaker human beings and gave Lord Mahavir grief. Once it entered an individual who met Lord Mahavir and the former professed to become His devotee. To create hell, our chap, the lower energy bugger, stole something and fair and square laid the blame on The Master who as usual quietly allowed many to beat Him up. Another time Lord Mahavir was arrested on being a spy. I mean Lord love a defrosted duck, how could anybody arrest Lord Mahavir as a spy but knowing the workings of a demented and disgruntled negative dimension and mankind, He was arrested and then later released.
Thus, He basically went through hell and back till His twelve years of wandering ended with His entire backlog of Karma burnt away and He was filled with the powers of Divination and most importantly that of Oneness. Even the Buddhists of those times acknowledge Lord Mahavir’s Powers of prophesy. He could Divine the past, present and the future of anybody, not only those in the physical plane but of those in the spirit and those in between.
Some say in the twelfth year and some say in the thirteenth year, Lord Mahavir became self realised and thus Enlightened. For the next thirty years He spread His teachings and created a ground work for Jainism to flourish and also set up a guide book for all those who wanted to follow the path. The most important aspect of Lord Mahavir was that He not only set up a guide line for ascetics but also for families and the common man. He gave importance to women and also gave them the power and realisation of following the Path.
He was clear that every soul is an independent identity and no two souls are alike, superior or dependent on another being and that focus on the Spirit and detachment from the body is the only way forward. Time and again He emphasized that every being has to blame himself or herself for being miserable, God has nothing to do with all this. Our Old Man is just an observer. He has made the rules and regulations and who ever follows it gains and who doesn’t get another hole in the anatomy and that burning away one’s Karma will eventually lead one and all to Godhood, but this is also if the focus is on the Spirit and self realisation. He was very tender at heart and thus often said that every living being abhors pain and thus one shouldn’t give pain to any being and thus the practice of non-violence in thought, heart and action is the highest religion. More power to Ahimsa.
As a Guru He was tender but practical and He wasn’t emotional. He answered any and every question and He spent time answering till the doubt disappeared. He wasn’t the kind to spend time on chit chat and have light moments. He was always in observance of not creating any Karma. He was different. I doubt anybody ever walked this beautiful and abused Planet of ours as Lord Mahavir. But He was clear that one did not need an intermediary to achieve Godhood. One didn’t need to speak in a different dialect. God was within. Burn the Karma away and realisation is a sigh away.
Lord Mahavir took Samadhi when He was seventy years old. He had a community of over fourteen thousand Sadhus or Monks, thirty six thousand or more women disciples or nuns, nearly six hundred thousand householders of which more than half were women. To keep everything running smooth He appointed Eleven Chief Disciples. He laid the rules and guidelines for each and every thing for each and every body and thus nobody had to use their discretion. All was set by Him. Now follow.
Even now all over the world Jain’s pray the Navkar Mantra. It’s a beautiful prayer.
Namo Arihantanam: (I bow to the Enlightened Souls.)
Namo Siddhanam: (I bow to the Liberated Souls.)
Namo Ayariyanam: (I bow to Religious Leaders.)
Namo Uvajjayanam: (I bow to Religious Teachers.)
Namo Loe Savva Sahunam: (I bow to all the Monks of the world.)
Remember when the prayer mentions Religious Leaders, Teachers, Monks, the prayer is talking about those who work for The Oneness Family, with true and selfless devotion. The True Religious Leaders, Teachers and Monks and doesn’t include those who do business in the name of The Creator.
A simple prayer by a Giant Warrior of Light…Lord Mahavir.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha