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In Jainism, a Tirthankar : “Fordmaker or Propagator“; also Tirthankara or Jina) is a human being who achieves enlightenment (perfect knowledge) through asceticism and who then becomes a role-model teacher for those seeking spiritual guidance.

A Tirthankar is a special sort arihant, who establishes the fourfold religious order consisting of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen after achieving omniscience. After achieving enlightenment, a Tirthankar shows others the path to enlightenment.  At the end of his human life- span, a Tirthankar achieves liberation (‘moksh’ or nirvan’), ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths. Jains believe that exactly twenty four Tirthankars are born in each half cycle of time in this part of the universe.

As Tirthankars direct us to enlightenment, their statues are worshipped in Jain temples by Jains aspiring to achieve enlightenment. Tirthankars are not God or gods. Jainism does not believe in the existence of God in the sense of a creator, but in godss as beings, superior to humans but, nevertheless, not fully enlightened. Twenty-one of the Tirthakaras are said to have attained Moksha in the Kayotsarga (standing mediation) posture; Rishabha, Nemi; and Mahavira on the padmasana (lotus throne poisture).

The 24 Tirthankaraswho achieved liberation (‘moksha’ or nirvana’), ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths, are considered to be the creator of Jain religion. They are divine elements of Jainism. They have attained all the achievement of ultimate nature including the ultimate knowledge after making vigirous efforts.

Our world is located in Bharat Kshetra according to Jain Geography. World will see the next arihant Bhagwan in the next time cycle called ARA. For we are nearing the end of the current time cycle and living in an era called Kalyug.

Thus no Tirthankar can be brn here until the 3rd ARA of the next time cycle. It is however important to note that currently Simandhar Swami is prevailing as a living Tirthankar in Mahavidekshetra of Jain Gepgraphy.

 

The last (twenty-fourth) Tirthankar, Mahavira, was an historical personality. He was born in 599 BC at Kshatriya Kund in the democratic republic of Vaishali (Bihar), the son of King Siddharth and Queen Trishla Devi. His original name was Vardhman.

From his childhood, he was soft, kind-hearted. He was very upset by the ritual sacrifice of animals, and vowed to fight for the rights of animals. He also wished to fight for the advancement of women and untouchables.

He left his kingdom at the age of thirty to begin an ascetic life. He entered the forest to commune with all living beings, including animals, trees, and other plants. He practiced meditation, austerity, and samadhi for twelve and a half years, getting enlightement. By self-purification and severe spiritual pactices, finally, at the age of forty-two, Mahavira attained Kaivalya (perfection).

For the next thirty years, Mahavira spread the message of non-violence (Ahimsa), truth, non-stealing, right conduct, and non-posession. He campaigned against the barriers of caste, creed, and faith. He also advocated protecting all living creatures.

Lord Mahavira gave us several analytical theories of Karma, multiplicity of truth, Syadvad, etc. All these theories helped people to reach higher levels of consciousness and to create happinesss and peace in society. His doctrines of Right Knowing, Right Vision, and Right Conduct are considered the three Jewels of Jain philosopy, by which to achieve the ultimate goal in life.

The symbol of Lord Mahavira is the Lion, indicating what a fearless life he led. He is the most important of all the Tirthankaras, as most of the Jain scriptures were taken from his teachings.

Lord Mahavira advocated Ahimsa, which was carried further by later great men of history including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Mahavira attained Nirvana at the age of seventy-two at Pavapuri in Bihar.

Descending from the Pranat dimension of gods, the being that was Marubhuti came into the womb of Vama Devi, wife of King Ashvasen of Varanasi. On the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Paush Vama Devi gave birth to a son. At the time of his naming ceremony king Ashvasen announced that during her pregnancy Vama Devi one night saw a snake slithering on the bed near his flank. She woke him up and saved him from the impending danger. As such, he was naming the new born as Parshva (flank).

On the eleventh day of the dark half of the month of Paush he became an ascetic under an Ashok tree.

According to history, Bhagwan Parshvanath got Nirvana in 720 B.C., after attaining Kaivalya. Twenty-three monks accompanied him.

His symbol is snake; and he lived one hundred years. He is worshipped by all the sects of Jainism with equal faith and respect.

It is believed that Parshvanath and Lord Mahavir were historical entities.The name of Rushabhdev occurs in Vedic literature. This makes Jainism as old as the Vedic religion, if not older. Similarly, the existence of Jainism is mentioned in the canonical books of the Buddhism. Historians also agree that the Jainism is a pre-historical religion. Recent archeological discoveries like figures of Rushabhdev substantiate the Jain religion’s existence since five thousand years. There are tens of thousands of years old caves that have paintings echoing Jainism.

There have been countless time-cycles in the past. During each half time cycles (trillions and trillions of years long), we have 24 Tirthankars. Therefore, the Jain religion has been preached by our Tirthankars during each half cycle.

Extraordinary details on the practice “non-violence”, the concept of six substances of the universe, nine realities and many similar things preached in Jainism do support, represent and substantiate the laws of nature and the laws of universal balance. The Jain religion and the laws of nature are synonymous. Therefore, our religion has been in existence since the laws of nature have been in existence. Therefore, Jains believe that the Jain religion has been in existence since the time without beginning and will have no end.

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