Mahavira – The Founder of Jainism
Mahavira Brief History:
Mahavira’s original name was Vardhamana, Later called Mahavira, which means great hero. He is also famous as Vardhamana Mahavira. Mahavira born in 599 B.C in Kundagrama, Vaishali, present in Bihar state. A memorial was built at the believed site of Vardhamana was born and set up a centre for studying Jainism and Nonviolence. His father belonged to a wealthy Kshatriya family. He married a prince named Yashoda, who took him a daughter.
Mahavira Attain Enlightenment:
Gautama Buddha was a great thinker who strongly desired salvation for sorrows; according to ancient custom, they got 30 years left home and bondage with their family to attain enlightenment. According to tradition, Mahavira also left his home, wife, and child and went to the forests at 30 to achieve enlightenment, which means understanding the ultimate truth. He leads a solid ascetic life and spent 12 years spending his time doing meditation and fasting. He did services to the monks to gain wisdom. Finally, in the 13th year, he attained enlightenment and became Jina, which means he conquered all desires.
As a Preacher:
Then he became a religion teacher and started preaching religious concepts to the public. His followers believed Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara in a line of great teachers. The first Tirthankara is Rishabha. He mainly preached about Nonviolence and encouraged his followers to show kindness to all living creatures. He also forced his followers to become vegetarians so that animals would not be killed for food. His followers came to be called Jinas or Jains. He travelled abruptly in Anga, Vidaha, and Magadha, preached the importance of Nonviolence, and influenced the devotees to conquer some desires. The rest of his life was spent lecturing and enlighting the people to know the real purpose of the birth.
Who Founded Jainism
Mahavira gave his preaches in soft language, which was understandable to ordinary people. So he succeeded in sending his message to the people. Anga, Videha and Magadha rulers patronaged him and followed his speeches. He set up a religious organization to look after the principles and doctrines of Jainism called Sangha. The Sangha is the leading organization in practising the principles of Jainism. He died in 527 B.C. at the age of 72. At the time of his death, 14,000 followers followed him. At first, all followed austere life and renunciation of wearing clothes. After his death, the Sangha divided into Digambaras and Svetambaras. Digambaras are the Orthodox followers of Mahavira and do not wear clothes. They follow long fasts and lead an extremely austere life. Svetambaras wear white garments and keep fast but don’t believe in profound penance and austerity.
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