Lord Vardhamana Mahavira
Vardhamana Mahavira (also Lord Mahavira) was the 24th and last Tirthankar and it was he who made Jainism a separate religion.
Life of Vardhamana Mahavira
The early name of Lord Mahavira was Vardhamana. He was born in 599 B.C. in a village near Vaishali in north Bihar. He was the son of King Siddhartha. Born of Kshatriya noble family, Vardhamana was related on his mother’s side to the Lichchavis. He married Yashoda and had a daughter by her. Then after the death of his parents at the age of thirty, he renounced his family and became an ascetic. Vardhamana Mahavira joined the ascetic order of Parshwanath but eventually he started his own account, gave up clothing, and began to wander as a naked monk. Fore twelve years he meditated for seeking the truth and at last gained enlightenment. He probably attained moksha on 527 B.c.
( *There is controvercy regarding the date of the birth and moksha date of Vardhamana Mahavira. Some scholar have suggested the birth date to be 540 B.C and moksha date to be 468 B.C respectively. The dates mentioned above are probable dates.)
The teachings of Lord Vardhamana Mahavira
Lord Vardhamana Mahavira can hardly be said to have intended to found a new religion. In fact, the Jain ideas were in circulation in the seventh century, but it was Mahavira who gave shape to them in the sixth century. His teaching led to the rapid spread and organization of the Jain sect.
The cardinal principles of Jainism called `Chaturyam’ or the four great vows were preached by Parshwanath. Those comprised the vows of non-injury, truthfulness, absentation from stealing, and non-attachment. To these Mahavira added the vow of Brahmacharya or continence.
Vardhamana Mahavira held that not only men and animals but also inanimate objects like plants, minerals, and fire possess souls endowed with various degrees of consciousness. Therefore,everybody must abstain from inflicting pain on anything around him. The great moral is ahimsa and non-injury were preachen by him. Vardhamana Mahavira also laid stress on the purification of the soul because the purification of the soul is the purpose of living. For freeing the soul from its earthly bondage. Lord Mahavira enjoined on his disciples the three jewels of Jainism, namely, right-faith, right-knowledge and right-action.