Center for Interfaith Cooperation

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Join in wishing Jains a sacred Mahavir Jayanti

We asked CIC board member Sonal Sanghani about the Jain holiday of Mahavir Jayanti

Mahavir Jayanti’s literal translation is “Mahavir’s birthday”.  Based on the moon calendar, Lord Mahavir was born in 599 B.C., on the thirteenth day of rising moon of Chaitra month. This day falls in the month of March or April as per English calendar and the date changes each year. Iin 2019 Mahavir Jayanti is on April 17th

Lord Mahavir was the twenty fourth tirthankar. According to Jain philosophy, all tirthankars were human beings who attained enlightment and paved the path for others to break the cycle of birth and death and achieve liberation.  Tirthankar’s are responsible for organizing the Jain religious order based on the needs of that time.

Lord Mahavir preached anekantvada or philosophy of non‑absolutisim, that there are multiple viewpoints and they may all be right, that right faith (samyak darshana), right knowledge (samyak jnana), and right conduct (samyak charitra) together is the real path to attaining liberation.  

The right conduct is achieved by taking 5 vows non-voilence (Ahimsa) towards all living beings, speak the truth (Satya), do not steal (Asteya), Chastity (Brahmacharya) and non-possessive or non-hoarding (Aparigrah).

Mahavir Jayanti is one of the auspicious days for Jains and they celebrate his birth ritualistically by visiting temple and performing pujas in a manner similar to celebration of his actual birth.  They listen to sermons from monks on Jain principles/virtues. In alignment with Mahavir’s teachings many Jains meditate, fast, make charitable donations on Mahavir’s birthday.

[stextbox caption=”Today’s Jain Vocabulary Lesson” id=”download”]

Tirthankar — In Jainism, a tirthankara (Sanskrit: tīrthaṅkara; English: literally a ‘ford-maker’) is a saviour and spiritual teacher of the dharma (righteous path). The word tirthankara signifies the founder of a tirtha, which is a fordable passage across the sea of interminable births and deaths, the saṃsāra.

Anekāntavāda  — Anekāntavāda (Sanskrit: अनेकान्तवाद, “many-sidedness”) refers to the Jain doctrine about metaphysical truths that emerged in ancient India. It states that the ultimate truth and reality is complex and has multiple aspects.

Samyak darshana — Right faith – Samyak darshana. This doesn’t mean believing what you’re told, but means seeing (hearing, feeling, etc.) things properly, and avoiding preconceptions and superstitions that get in the way of seeing clearly. Some books call samyak darshana “right perception”.

Samyak jnana — Right knowledge. This means having an accurate and sufficient knowledge of the real universe – this requires a true knowledge of the five (or six) substances and nine truths of the universe – and having that knowledge with the right mental attitude. One writer puts it like this: “if our character is flawed and our conscience is not clear, knowledge alone will not help us achieve composure and happiness”.

Samyak charitra — Right conduct. This means living your life according to Jain ethical rules, to avoid doing harm to living things and freeing yourself from attachment and other impure attitudes and thoughts. Jains believe that a person who has right faith and right knowledge will be motivated and able to achieve right conduct. Many Jains believe that a person without right faith and right knowledge cannot achieve right conduct – so it’s no use following scripture and ritual for the wrong reasons (e.g. so that other people will think you are a good person). Not all Jains hold this view.

Ahimsa — Non-harmfulness (harmlessness). To not wish harm to any living creature — not even to any lifeless object. Ahimsa is about the intent, rather than the action itself. It is an attitude of universal benevolence.

Satya — the Sanskrit word for truth. It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. 

Asteya — the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”. It is a virtue in Jainism . The practice of asteya demands that one must not steal, nor have the intent to steal another’s property through action, speech and thoughts. Asteya is considered as one of five major vows of Jainism.

Brahmacharya — a concept within Indian religions that literally means “conduct consistent with Brahma”. … In the Hindu,Jain, and Buddhist monastic traditions, brahmacharya implies, among other things, the mandatory renunciation of sex and marriage.

Aparigraha — In Hinduism and Jainismaparigraha (Sanskrit: अपरिग्रह) is the virtue of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. Aparigrah is the opposite of parigrah, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one’s life stage and context.


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