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The Quest for the Royal Road: We Need Another Mahavira Today

Published: 22.01.2016

I had come to Bhatinda nearly thirteen years ago (in 1966). After the passage of thirteen years, everything looks new. In those days there were no roads like these. There were no factories and no fertilizers, no thermal plants and no lake and there were no bright and enlightened young faces before me. In the light of these changed conditions, it may be said that this is my first visit to this place.

Change is the definite law of the universe. There is no exception of this rule. Bhagwan Mahavira, dealing with this Principle of change said, "Every material object is sat (real). Every real substance has three characteristics creation, existence and destruction or permanence. Everything that moves in the circle of creation, use of what'is created and penance is real. New forms manifest themselves in the process. Old forms vanish and the original reality continues to exist. Creation itself is not a reality. Destruction by itself is not a reality either. Nor is permanence by itself a reality. But all these three combination to constitute the reality. The resultant doctrine of nityavada or permanence applies from the atom to the entire universe. The Soul and the Supreme Being also do not fall outside the purview of this doctrine. I bow respectfully to Bhagwan Mahavira who demonstrated such an universal doctrine that is valid for all times.

I bow to him not because I have faith in him or because I have any close relation with him.[1] Not only I, but even my past seven generations have not seen Mahavira in person. And then, I am a rational individual, living in an age in which the traditional values are losing their ground. How can I have any faith in Mahavira as he is traditionally viewed? My Mahavira is living Mahavira. I have put him to severe test. I have judged him and have accepted him without any conventional fascination. Acharya Hemchandra has said- Mahavira, we have no special feeling for you due to any faith in the traditional sense. Nor do we have dislike for anyone on account of malevolence. We have tested your principles and therefore we can trust you. That is why we have surrendered to you.[2]

Who can be trustworthy? A trustworthy is that one in whom one can have complete faith-the kind of faith or trust one would have for parents or for the guru or for someone who is completely free from all attachments. Mahavira was free from all attachments and so he was the one in whom one can have total faith. He is trusted and worshipped by people everywhere. He has realised Truth and communicated that Truth to us. That is why we bow to him.

What did Mahavira do? He abandoned his kingdom and life of luxury and comfort. He became a recluse, an ascetic. He meditated and made the forest his abode. He attained the Ultimate knowledge and reached the state of nirvana. But so what? How did the world benefit from his personal attainments? What did he give to humanity in his own time?

Mahavira was not completely detached from the environment in which he lived. After attaining exceptional knowledge through his sadhana, he met the wealthy people. He met the prosperous men like Anand and Shakdal, This invited grumbling from people—"Mahavira should go to the poor people. What has he got to do with the rich?"

Mahavira replied—"I have got to go to those people because they are given to the life of luxury. They are intoxicates. They are extroverts and have lost their sense. I have to awaken them. I have to show them the right path".

Smiling in the face of the harsh criticism from his detractors, he called on those two wealthy men and shook them out of their ignorance. He awakened them and showed them the right path. Both of them rose from their slumber as it were. They learnt the essence of living. They recognised their true selves. They found the precious jewel in the form of a comprehensive view of life. They could not become co- travellers with Mahavira, but became his followers. They could not accept the life of absolute poverty but they were now free from their attachment to wealth and modified their sense of ownership of wealth. They realised that all the wealth they had, did not really belong to them. They were only the protectors or the trustees of their wealth, not the owners. Mahavira gave the principle of trusteeship two thousand five hundred years ago. In the same context he said—"A person may become the richest man in the world. But he should keep two things in mind:

  1. The means of acquiring wealth should not be unfair, and
  2. He should not consider himself the master of that wealth.

This philosophy of Mahavira appealed to the people. They withdrew from the ranks of his critics and became his followers. Their faith was not for Mahavira as a person but for Mahavira as the embodiment of Eternal Truth.

Mahavira was moving from forest to forest in those days. One day he was proceeding towards a desolate forest which did not have any road or even a pathway. But Mahavira was not bothered about it. A cowherd cautioned him, "Oh, holy one, please come back. That is not the road to go. Whoever has gone along that way has not come back alive. Why are you deliberately jumping into the jaws of death? Please do not go that way!"

Those words of the cowherd did reach Mahavira's ears but they did not mean anything. Mahavira did not come back. That urgent warning had no effect on him at all. He reached an old monastery in that desolate forest. The monastery was in ruins. There was a snake-hole close to the monastery. Mahavira sat there in meditation. The serpent in that hole was called Chandkaushik, who was as ferocious as the name suggested. The serpent saw Mahavira and was in flaming rage. The serpent, fixed its fiery eyes on Mahavira who remained unmoved and unperturbed. It went close to Mahavira and started hissing furiously. Mahavira was still unmoved. The serpent stung him on his leg not once or twice but thrice. Warm blood streamed out, gleaming like sweet milk. The rage boiling within the serpent for a moment turned into astonishment. It raised its hood and stared intently at Mahavira who consecrated it with the pure rays of his meditation. He immediately addressed the serpent: "Wake up, Chandkaushik! Look at yourself!" Its consciousness was awakened suddenly. It realised that the one who stood in front was Mahavira, the saviour of mankind, and he had come to this desolate forest to redeem it. The serpent was seized with remorse at what it had done. As the feeling of repentance burnt within, Chandkaushik felt the Mahavira's compassion showering on it like nectar and it gave up its poison for good. Who would not bow respectfully to Mahavira who was so full of the nectar of compassion?

Mahavira was moving around in a city after six months of hard penance, with his body emaciated, but glowing with lustre. During his sojourn, he approached a mansion. People stopped him "Oh, ascetic, do not go there. There is no one in that house now except a maid servant. What would you do with the maid servant?" But Mahavira did not stop. He said- "I want to go only there. I want to turn that maid servant into a human being. I want to end the practice of slavery. Your attitude would not change unless I go there."

Mahavira entered that mansion. He saw a girl of noble origin standing there in a miserable state. Her head was shaven and she was handcuffed, and her legs were in shackles. In a corner of a wicker basket there were pods of black gram and tears were trickling from her eyes. Maliavira's compassionate heart went out to her. He accepted alms from her and with that her bonds were broken with the echoing sound "What a charity!" That unhappy maid was transformed into a charming princess. After that day, like the plums which the Bhil devotee offered to Rama, those pods of black gram of Chandana also became famous. By redeeming that single slave girl, Mahavira dealt a severe blow to the whole system of slavery. The blow was so hard that the system of slavery came down crumbling. Thousands of bonded people heaved a sigh of relief. Who would not wait in eagerness for such Mahavira?

Today there is a need for such a Mahavira who would free the luxury-loving people from their self-indulgent lives, free the cruel people from their cruelty and redeem the bonded people from the clutches of their slavery. You may say, "In the present age there are luxury-loving people and also cruel people but there are no slaves. Where, then, is the question of freedom from slavery?" But I would like to ask, "Who is not a slave? Some may be slaves of their wants and habits and some may be slaves of their physical passions. Some may be slaves of intense sexual desires. Some may be slaves of their instincts and some may be slaves of lust for power. It can be very clearly seen to what extent the person who is a slave of lust for power is mentally unsteady and unhappy. This kind of slavery is much more dreadful than the slavery of human beings. In those days, a person was considered a slave after he was purchased. But today people are slaves without being purchased. Today we are in the need of a Mahavira who would free the people from their slavery.

We do not have Mahavira in our midst at present, but we are trying to follow him. We want to spread the message of Mahavira in every town and village and to every house. We want to end the love for luxury, cruelty and servility in all human beings. We rededicate ourselves wholeheartedly and with deep faith to Mahavira who gave us such a universal and appropriate vision of life.


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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Hemchandra
  3. Anand
  4. Bhagwan Mahavira
  5. Bhatinda
  6. Body
  7. Chandana
  8. Consciousness
  9. Environment
  10. Guru
  11. Mahavira
  12. Meditation
  13. Nirvana
  14. Rama
  15. Sadhana
  16. Soul
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