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The Quest for the Royal Road: Celebration of Mahavira's Nirvana: Our Responsibility

Published: 23.01.2016

Every individual has certain responsibilities. As the individual extends his horizons, his responsibilities would also grow in proportion. A lone individual is only interested in his individual progress in life and earning his livelihood. But when he has a family and lives in a society, his responsibilities at the familial and the social levels grow. When he goes beyond the boundaries of his province and his country, his responsibilities become much wider from the international point of view. Bhagwan Mahavira broke all these boundaries with the result that his action-plan was meant for all living beings of this universe and included all living beings. He thought in terms of universal good and towards that object.

Bhagwan Mahavira does not physically exist today. He had dedicated his physical body to sadhana two thousand five hundred years ago. We are refreshing his memories after this long passage of time. Rather, we are trying to learn something from his transcendental personality and his phenomenal achievements. One of these attempts is the great celebration of his nirvana. In that connection, it seems to me that the closer an individual feels to Bhagwan Mahavira, the greater is his responsibility.

Mahavira did not belong to any particular class or sect. The vision of life he gave was meant for Jains and non-Jains alike. Still, it is not necessary that all people should have been influenced by him. But all those who have been influenced by his ideas have a responsibility for this celebration. The first thing that is necessary is to understand our responsibility and prepare ourselves for the celebration.

When I think about the present situation with regard to the celebration of Mahavira's nirvana, I feel that there is a great deal of discussion and less work. Even when some work is done, it is less concrete and more formal. There are very few people ready to work at grass-root level but most are only interested in publicity. This is something which is contrary to what Bhagwan Mahavira thought and taught. Whatever he did in his life was never from the point of view of self-publicity. In his view, the tendency to give publicity to oneself is the expression of feeling of inferiority. One's feeling of inferiority is as much an impediment in self-realisation as one's vanity. The root of self-publicity is one's feeling on inferiority and it is expressed through vanity. That is why Bhagwan Mahavira said, "Feeling of inferiority and superiority are both curses.[1] The followers of Mahavira can successfully carry out their responsibility by accepting and practising what Bhagwan Mahavira taught and the manner in which he taught. A flower has its fragrance. But it is the function of the wind to carry that fragrance to others. It is our duty to take Bhagwan Mahavira's original doctrines to all people. The Buddhist scholars made known to everyone what Buddha preached in his own time. That is the reason why a great deal of work has been done on Buddha's teachings. It is a very important task to carry Mahavira's teachings to the common people. For that purpose we shall have to create an atmosphere by vast public contacts and organising discussions and seminars on Mahavira's basic doctrines. There is a great need of bringing before the enlightened public the original teachings of Mahavira in a well-edited form. After that, it is an equally valuable task to bring out their translations in different languages as well as their critical analysis.

Understanding and assimilating as well as translating into practice Bhagwan Mahavira's original and unusual views is a noteworthy aspect of worshipping Mahavira. Equality, harmony and restraint were most favourite principles of Mahavira. Before giving us the philosophy of equality, he experienced affinity with everyone. On the basis of experience, he accepted the existence of consciousness in all living creatures. Let us spread this principle of equality all over the world. If we cannot reach all living creatures, let us atleast attain harmony among human beings. Even now it is possible to bring down the dividing walls of community, class, etc. and to root out the seeds of inequality that have sprouted because of feelings of touchability and untouchability.

A large section of our society has been deprived of basic human rights. If there is a keen attempt to bring them at the human level during these celebrations ofMahavira's nirvana, it would mean accomplishing a great objective.

With regard to harmony, Bhagwan Mahavira adopted the path of co-existence and compromise. This policy has found acceptance in the political field and even in the international field, but it could not be appropriately used for bringing about unity among the Jains. Difference of opinion is inevitable in the world. It is a reality, which cannot be eliminated but should be fitted into harmony. Syadvada that is the principle of multi­dimensional nature ofTruth, is an effective approach to attain this end. Syadvada is a potent medium to attain this end. Syadvada is a complex philosophical enigma. Freeing it from the linguistic entanglements and presenting it in simple terms will solve many problems of the intellectual world.

Dogmatism is a hindrance to the realisation of Truth. Man's insistence that what he says is the only Truth leads him away from the path of Truth. Saying that the light of the sun or electricity is the only light and there is no light elsewhere is nourishing an untruth. It is unscientific to assert that a particular action would bring only one particular result. When we engage ourselves in an activity, how can we say that would be its reaction and what would be its result? The one-sided statement that religion necessarily brings happiness can disappoint man. The hard life of a religious person can rob man of his faith in religion. Hence, our thinking should follow such a course where religion is seen as a means leading to purity. Happiness and unhappiness, karma, environment and one's condition are all relative. This way of thinking is the result of syadvada, which does not mean scepticism, but relativism. It is possible to examine a particular thing from various points of view and establish the existence of its several properties. Syadvada rules out insistence and makes community life easier. The tendency to insist doggedly creates unnecessary complications. It is the responsibility of Bhagwan Mahavira's followers to properly understand these points and present them today in the language of the day.

Restraint is the greatest need of the present age. Violence, dissatisfaction, accumulation of wealth, exploitation, injustice-these are the consequences of unrestrained mentality. Non-restraint has infected the sub-conscious mind in a very subtle manner. The principle of self-restraint can act like a vigilant sentry that could stop this infection. It would be more advantageous to accept restraint through inner inspiration instead of giving it the form of suppression. Harmony, freedom, non-violence and non-possession come through self-restraint. It is also necessary to study this subject further so that even restraint does not become rigid or stereotyped. After research, training and practice have to be continued. Only by doing that, we shall be able to celebrate Bhagwan Mahavira's nirvana in an appropriate manner.

Starting from this Deepavali day (1974) there would be a year-long celebration of Mahavira's nirvana. On that occasion, we have to seek inspiration for self-elevation through propaganda, planning, discussion, seminars, cultural programmes, literature, penance, special sadhana, etc. We have to prepare ourselves to make an attempt to turn Jainism into the religion of the people and do all we can to make Jainism the rule of governance.


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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bhagwan Mahavira
  2. Body
  3. Buddha
  4. Consciousness
  5. Deepavali
  6. Environment
  7. Jainism
  8. Karma
  9. Mahavira
  10. Nirvana
  11. Non-violence
  12. Sadhana
  13. Syadvada
  14. Violence
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