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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jain Diwali: Celebrating the Light of Mahavira

Mahavira (Photo by Dayodaya) 
Although Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike - for Jains this celebration particularly focuses upon the Light of Mahavira.

Diwali (aka Devali, Deepavali, Dipalika, or “Festival of Lights”) not only commemorates the day (October 15, 527 BCE) that Lord Mahavira attained Moksha (Nirvana), but also commemorates Mahavira’s chief disciple’s attainment of Kevalgyana (“complete knowledge”) on that same day.  The third-century BCE Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu reports that Mahavira attained Nirvana by the faint light of the new moon.  The many gods who gathered round served to illuminate the darkness with their own Light. 

Wikipedia reports that many kings, plus others, began illuminating their doors the very next night, saying:  Since the light of knowledge is gone, we will make light of ordinary matter. reports that “the first day of the month of Kartik, i.e. the next day after Diwali is known as the NewYear Day.”  This, too, is a joyous Jain occasion - and is celebrated with festive

Mahavira (“Great Hero” – aka Arukan, Vira, Sanmati, Gnatputra, and Nigantha Nataputta) was born Prince Vardhamana  near modern-day Bihar, India circa 599 BCE.  Wikipedia reports:  “According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara.  His father was King Siddartha, and his mother was Queen Trishala.  While still in his mother’s womb, it is said that Prince Vardhamana brought “wealth and prosperity to the entire kingdom.”  Even the flowers began blooming more abundantly than usual.

When he was 30, Prince Vardhamana went through a period of great renunciation and spent the next 12 years as a wandering ascetic.  Although he spent most of this time meditating, he also “gave utmost regard to other living beings, including humans, animals, and plants, and avoided harming them.”  The remainder of his long life was then devoted to “preaching the eternal truth of spiritual freedom…”  When he attained Moksha at that sacred Diwali time back in 527 BCE, Mahavira was 72 years old.


Copyright October 23, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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