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The Inspiring Story of Lord Mahavira: From Prince to Enlightened Leader

Explore the extraordinary life of Lord Mahavira, the 24th and final Jain Tirthankara. Witness his journey from royal prince to spiritually awakened leader and discover the core principles of Jainism.

Lord Mahavira

Early Life as Prince Vardhamana (599 BCE):

Mahavir was born and brought up in the crib of Royalty in Kshatriya Kund, a part of the Vaishali Republic (present-day Bihar, India). The son of King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala, was named Vardhamana which translates to "one who grows," as a reflection of the prosperity of King Siddhartha followed by his son’s birth. 

Growing up he was nurtured in an atmosphere saturated with opulence, where luxury flowed abundantly serving all the comforts to the royal heir. Vardhamana displayed a quiet introspection and detachment from material pleasures despite this extravagant royal lifestyle. 

Renunciation and Asceticism:

The major turning point in Vardhman’s life arrived with the passing of his parents. Witnessing the impermanence of life even within the opulent walls of the palace struck him deeply. At 30, he decided to surrender his royal possessions and lifestyle to embrace a path of asceticism. Leaving behind his family and wealth, Vardhaman embarked on a rigorous spiritual quest. He strictly followed the principle of ahimsa, dressed up in simple clothes, practiced strict vegetarianism, and vowed to cause no harm to any living being. He also practiced severe austerities for a period of twelve and half years, merely meditating under trees and enduring hardships. He religiously followed the aparigraha principles of Jainism by living a minimalist life and owning as little as possible. 

Attaining Enlightenment (at age 42):

On the night of Diwali, while immersed in deep meditation under a Sal tree at Jrimbhikgrama (present-day Bihar), Vardhman attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience), which marked the moment of his enlightenment. Free from the cycle of rebirth he transcended the limitations of human knowledge. He became fully conscious of his existence and its meaning. This individual was no longer a mere mortal named Vardhman, but the profound soul was now Mahavira (great hero). 

Life as a Tirthankara (for 30 years):

Following his enlightenment Mahavira made it his purpose to preach his teaching of non-violence and embarked on a journey of 30 years as a Tirthankara. He traveled from villages to towns to deliver sermons on the core principles of Jainism 

  • Ahimsa: Non-violence in thought, word, and deed.

  • Right Conduct: Living ethically and morally while respecting all living beings.

  • Right Knowledge: Attaining a true understanding of the self and the universe.

  • Right Liberation: Achieving freedom from the cycle of rebirth through detachment and self-realization.

Mahavir’s teaching resonated deeply with people from all fields while attracting a substantial number of followers both ascetics and householders. These dedicated disciples of Jainism later on formed a religious community that followed the rules of Jainism through absolute compassion. 

Nonetheless in his journey, Mahavir faced various opposing views from people of other religious ideologies which were in line with the principles of Jainism. However, he remained calm and steadfast in his messages, being the advocate of peaceful dialogue and mutual respect. This unwavering commitment of ahimsa later on became the cornerstone of Jain philosophy and shaped a legacy of non-violence inspiring social movements and peace initiatives worldwide.

Liberation and Legacy:

In 527 BCE, at the age of 72, Mahavira attained moksha at Pavapuri (present-day Bihar) as his departure marked the end of his mortal journey. Begun from the realization of the impermanence of life his teachings and the foundation of Jainism stood immutable among his followers. 

Mahavir’s life exemplifies the transformative power of spirituality. It is not only the story of him. It is an example of how a spiritual journey could lead to liberation and enlightenment. This trip from a prince to an omniscient being is an example of how one can achieve salvation and spiritual advancement through the uncompromising practice of ethical behavior and self-realization.