Lord Mahaveera - An Evaluation
It is well over two and a half thousand years that the personality of Baghwan Mahavir illumined the religious horizon of India . And yet with the passage of several centuries, the influence of his teachings is on the increase. His name still remains a revered memory and an invigorating spiritual force to thousands of people. What then, is the secret of this everlasting popularity?
I wonder whether to put Baghwan Mahavir in to the category of great leader or great motivator or great manager or great dictator or great teacher or great reformer or great visionary or great revolutionary??
Here is an attempt to answer this………..
Challenge before Baghwan Mahavir:
The two hundred and fifty years which are supposed to have elapsed between Parshvanatha and Mahavir possibly saw, as evidenced by the Sutrakritanga, the rise of numerous sects and subsects loosely grouped into several monastic communities. The ritualistic practices in Brahmanism were again coming up to the forefront. The ideas about the superiority by birth and the privileged position of the priestly class were gaining ground. The commanding personality of Parshvanatha was no more on the scene. Against such a chaotic background Mahavir had to work.
Baghwan Mahavir’s reaction:
He immediately grasped the situation and had the courage to declare-
1. The external appearances are of no use. What is really required is the mental purity and the behavior which would lead to such mental purity and the consequent equanimity.
2. It is the penance and celibacy that make a real brahmin. It is the ideal behavior which implies non-attachment towards worldly matters that idealizes a person.
3. Once this emphasis on actual behavior, rather than mere sermons on it, was laid bare before the then somewhat demoralized society, Mahavira led this attack on the caste system. He had the courage to declare that- It is the Karman and not the birth that determines the social status of a person. These ideas were revolutionary ideas indeed! And the receptive intelligent ideological elements in Brahmanism welcomed these ideas. It is significant to note that the ganadharas of Lord Mahavira were brahmins!
4. Yet more significant reformist aspect of Mahavira’s life is that he did not simply point the faults of others, and rest content. With the sweeping grasp of a real reformist, he expanded the chaujjama dhamma of Parshvanatha into the panchajama dhamma. The addition of the vow of celibacy to the fourfold dharma of Parshvanatha has been explained in the Uttaradhyayana.
What is, however, still more important is that Mahavira showed the timely courage to emphasize this most important aspect of monastic life.
So far we have seen how Lord Mahavira denounced the caste system and at the same time set right the Jaina monastic order. He kept the doors of his church open to all deserving persons and thus became pioneer in the field of spiritual democracy.
This spiritual democracy was applicable to all irrespective of caste or class. Therefore, besides persons belonging to the kshatriyas, Brahmans or vaishyas, even high dignitaries like kings, queens and princes, became the disciples of Mahavira. Kings like Seniya, Pajjoya, Udayana, queens like Pabhavai, Migavai and others became his devotees. Thus it goes to the credit of Mahavira that he channelled the political personalities of his times into the more ennobling field of spiritualism.
It is therefore due to these rare qualities of an ideal reformer, an able organizer, a patronizing guru, a convincing debator, a zealous missionary and an upholder of the equality of all human beings, that the name of Lord Mahavira still remains and shall ever remain a cherished inspiration to humanity at large.