Bhagwan Mahavir's teachings through the scriptures of Shri Kundkundacharya had a great influence on Pujyashri Atmanandji. It satiated his long yearning of truth and as a result completely transformed his course of life.
Time and again, Tirthankars are born and revitalize Jain religion. In this current time-cycle, there were 24, the first was Rushabhdev and the last was Mahavir.
Mahavir Swami (599 BC to 527 BC) was the 24th Tirthankar of this era, born about 2600 years ago. He was a slightly older contemporary of Lord Buddha. Bhagwan Mahavir's 2500th (passing away) anniversary was celebrated world-wide in 1972. He revitalized Jainism, showed the path of liberation and revolutionized the social structure including women's rightful position in society, futility of animal sacrifice in rituals, and dogmatism as well as misconceptions in religion.
Mahavir was a prince, but gave up everything and became ascetic (monk, Sadhu) in search of Truth and to experience his pure soul, at the age of 30. He attained omniscience at the age of 42, after about 12 years of penance, meditation and self-cleansing. He preached for 30 years and left body at the age of 72 to become liberated soul (Siddha).
He gave 5 vows:
His first major contribution is awakening the humanity by the principle of existence of the soul in each living being: humans, animals, plants and micro-organisms on this earth. He also made us realize that all souls are equal and each soul is potentially divine. Surprisingly, over the period of time, we have forgotten that we are the "soul" and not the body in which the soul resides. We have assumed that we are the human body which in reality, is a non-living entity made up by the synthesis of various organic and inorganic materials from the earth. By the process of purification, each soul can attain perfection and can reach its pristine state of all-knowing-power (omniscience) with bliss & joy. That is the Godhood.
His second contribution is Ahimsa or non-violence. In today's world the earth is plagued with disruptions both in human life and in vegetation. Human society is gravely suffering from violence and ecological disasters. Mahavir said "There is no quality of soul more subtle than nonviolence and no virtue greater than reverence for life." He proclaimed a profound truth when he said "One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence because it is entwined with them." The ancient scriptural aphorism "Parasparopagraho Jivanam" means, all lives are bound together by mutual support and interdependence. All aspects of Nature belong together and are bound in a physical as well as metaphysical relationship. This is the basis of modern science of ecology.
The third contribution of Mahavir is the doctrine of Multiplicity of Viewpoints. It describes the world as a multifaceted, ever changing reality with infinite viewpoints depending on time, place, viewer and that which is viewed. In order to grasp the total truth, it is inevitable to consider other viewpoints. Two opposing viewpoints can be right from their particular standpoints. This doctrine teaches respect and tolerance for viewpoints of different individuals, religions or nations. Nonviolence is an underlying core of above principles. It is the philosophy of "Live and let Live". Nothing on this planet should be destroyed for selfish motives. The concept of vegetarianism arises out of this theory of nonviolence.
Lord Mahavir gave a very practical recipe for peaceful living:
What Mahavir preached more than 2500 years ago, is still valid. The world needs the understanding & application of non-violence, multiplicity of viewpoints and non-possessiveness, now more than ever. By following the path & principles of Mahavir, it will lead to stable happy world with peace & goodwill. That will be the lasting contribution of Mahavir to humanity.
In this world full of wars, hatred and destructions, Mahavir teaches us equality of souls, reverence for life and compassion for all living beings. If we all follow His teachings, our planet will be the most beautiful and healthy place to live in.