Mahavira: A Great Warrior
Today is the birthday of a great enlightened master, Mahavira who is also the last i.e. 24th, Teerthankar of Jainism. Mahavira real name was Vardhmaan. He was born in the early times of 6th century BC in a royal family of Bihar, India. His parents were the devotee of parshavnatha, the 23rd teerthankar. His mother’s name was trishala, and father’s was Siddharat. At the age of 30 he left his home in search of spiritual awakening, after 12 years he attained kevala gyan, that is omniscience in Jainism. After this he preached for 30 years and attained MOKSHA. He taught the lessons of anekantavada, nyayvada and syadvada. His nirvana (salvation) and also the enlightenment of his first shishya Shri Gautam swami is observed by Jains as Diwali.
Osho says “Except Mahavira, nobody has become enlightened on amawas, no-moon night. Mahavira’s name was not Mahavira — Mahavira means a great warrior. His name was Vardhaman. But because he became enlightened on amawas, no-moon night, he proved that he could go against the current. It was natural for everybody to become enlightened on the fullmoon night, but this fellow Mahavira tried to go against the normal order of things, and still managed to become enlightened. He certainly did something unique which never happened before and never happened afterwards. So it is perfectly right to call him Mahavira, a great warrior. A very strong man … otherwise it is almost impossible for anyone to become enlightened on the no-moon night.”
Mahavira was naked since the days of His search for spiritual awakening and remained naked even after attaining to enlightenment till he left the body. Osho explains “Mahavira, as far as I understand, was such a beautiful man — perhaps in the whole history of men there has never been such a proportionate body with such an exquisite beauty. I don’t accept the Jainas’ idea that he is an ascetic, that’s why he is naked. No. My own understanding is that he loves beauty, and he is so beautiful that any clothing on him will simply destroy his beauty. Naked, he is just pure beauty. I don’t think Mahavira is an extremist. I simply conceive that the man is so beautiful he does not need clothes; and he is so healthy that the changing seasons make no difference to him. It is because of his health and his beauty.”
I FOUND THE STORY YOU TOLD US ABOUT MAHAVIRA WHEN HE WENT BEGGING VERY ODD. THAT HE SHOULD STIPULATE HOW EXISTENCE SHOULD PRESENT HIS DAILY FOOD SEEMED TO ME LIKE A TRIP, AND NOT THE ATTITUDE OF SOMEONE TOTALLY AVAILABLE TO, AND ACCEPTING OF, LIFE’S WAYS. PROBABLY I HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD THE WHOLE POINT. YOU HAVE SAID WE NEED NOT BE IN A HURRY IN OUR SEARCH; BUT AROUND YOU I ALWAYS FEEL SUCH A GREAT SENSE OF HOW PRECIOUS TIME IS, SO I WANT TO USE IT TO THE MAXIMUM. AND TO ME AT THE MOMENT THAT MEANS ASKING ALL AND ANY QUESTIONS I ONCE MIGHT HAVE HELD BACK, FROM FEAR OF APPEARING STUPID. I REALLY DO WANT TO STAND BEFORE YOU, “NAKED, EMPTY, AND ALONE.”
The story of Mahavira has always been misunderstood — it is not only you who have misunderstood it — because we understand things according to our minds. If you were in place of Mahavira then perhaps it would be stipulating existence, but for Mahavira it is not so; it is not stipulating existence. As far as Mahavira is concerned, he simply wants a signal from existence — whether he should continue, or he is no longer needed. He never complains. At times he has remained fasting for three months continuously, but not a single word of complaint. If he was stipulating then there would be frustration, there would be complaint. If he was trying to manipulate existence then there would be a certain sense of failure. For three months he had not been able even to get food — but there was no complaint. He was one of the most peaceful, loving, silent beings.
Why did he make this decision after his morning meditation? — simply not to be a burden on existence. Let existence decide. He is not stipulating existence; he is allowing existence to take total charge of his life, even of his breathing, of his food. Everything he is leaving in the hands of existence. But how will he know? There is no linguistic communication between you and existence; there can be only a symbolic communication — and that was nothing but a symbolic communication. He wanted a symbol. One thing has to be remembered, that these people like Mahavira, Parsunatha, Buddha, are very unique beings. They have their own ways, and their ways fit perfectly with their personality.
Now I will never do that kind of thing. I am a totally different person — but I will not misunderstand Mahavira either. I accept his uniqueness, and I respect the way he lived his life — always undemanding. This was not a demand — that existence should fulfill this condition — it was simply an agreement: “Because language is not possible, I will choose a certain symbol, and then it is up to existence.” He is leaving himself in the hands of existence so totally that he does not want to breathe even a single breath on his own. But I am a totally different person, almost the very opposite of Mahavira. I will never ask such a thing from existence. My whole way is of let-go — and why bother? Once and for all, leave it to existence, and when existence does not need you, you will be absorbed into the universe. There is no need every day to ask again and again — that is a kind of nagging. I have done it once, and that’s all. I will not do it twice, because to do it twice means that the first time you were not total; otherwise who is doing it again?…In my understanding, let-go is only once. If you need it again, that means the first time… whom were you deceiving? And what is the guarantee that the second time is not going to be just like the first?
Let-go is an understanding. It is not something that you have to do. It is not something that you have to say to existence; it is simply an understanding: “I will not swim against the current, because that is simply stupid.” You are going to be tired soon, you can never be victorious against the current. Understanding that, you accept the current’s way as your way. That is let-go.
Now, wherever the river leads you… you don’t have to check every day; you simply go with the river. Some day — any day — you may reach the ocean, you may disappear. So I will not suggest to anybody to do what Mahavira used to do. But Mahavira has his own unique being.
His real name was not Mahavira; mahavira means “a great warrior.” His real name was Vardhmana, but nobody remembers his real name for the simple reason that his whole approach is that of a warrior, a fighter. Even with existence he is in a constant fight. He is saying, “I can live only if I am welcome. I don’t want to live even a single moment more if I am not welcome.” Deep down he was fighting, but his fighting had a beauty of its own. He was total in it — that was its beauty. It was not a partial war, it was total. And the secret is, whatever is total transforms you; your let-go, if it is total, will transform you; your fight, if total, will transform you. What transforms is neither let-go nor war, but your totality…he was not a man for let-go, he was a warrior. Truth has to be conquered, according to him, and to conquer it you have to fight totally.
And the story I told you is part of his fight. His whole life is the path of fight. I will tell you one story more.
He remained for twelve years silent, till he became enlightened. Those twelve years are filled with great incidents. One day he is meditating… and his meditation is also not that of a relaxed way. The meditation ordinarily done in the East is in the lotus posture, and the lotus posture physiologically is the most relaxed once you have learnt it, because your spine is straight and the gravitation is the least, and that makes your body hang on the straight spine like a loose cloth. Mahavira meditates standing. In his every attitude he is a warrior. There are people who meditate with closed eyes — this is more relaxed. There are people who meditate with open eyes, just the natural way — blinking. That too is not a fight. Mahavira meditates with eyes half closed and half open, and no blinking.
In those twelve years one day he is standing and meditating by the side of the river, and a man comes and says to Mahavira, “You are standing here, just watch my cows. I am leaving — I have to go urgently to my home; my mother is sick and somebody has come to inform me that she is dying. So I will be back soon, but just… you are standing here for the whole day: just have a look so my cows don’t get lost in the jungle.” And Mahavira, because he cannot speak, is silent. And the man is in such a hurry — his mother is dying — he does not bother that this man is not speaking. He simply takes his silence as a yes.
When he comes back after one or two hours, Mahavira is still standing there but all the cows are gone. Now, he gets furious. He says, “You seem to be a cunning man. So you were standing here the whole day just for my cows. Where are my cows?”
And because he does not speak, the man becomes more and more furious: “So you are trying to be dumb! I will make you speak!” And he takes two pieces of wood and forces those two pieces into Mahavira’s two ears and hits them hard with a rock, so that he becomes deaf for his whole life. But still he will not speak, he will not blink.
The man thought, “He seems to be mad. Anybody would have spoken…” And he goes and looks in the forest. In the evening the cows come back, and when the man comes back, he finds they are all sitting around Mahavira where he had left them before.
He said, “You are really a man! I destroyed your ears and you did not speak! I have been going all over the forest, and the cows are sitting here! Where have you been hiding them?” And he beats him — he is naked. And Mahavira remains standing. The man is thinking that he is really mad — neither beating has any effect… you cannot do anything to him, he will not react. That is total silence — that whatever happens, he will remain centered without any reaction. It is not only a question of speaking.
The story is beautiful. Up to this point it is factual, but it takes a mythological ending. In India there are many gods. India does not believe in one god — one god seems to be like believing in a dictator; it is undemocratic — India believes in many gods, actually thirty-three million. That was the population of India when they invented gods: one god for everyone. That seems to be right and fair. Indra, one of the gods, feels terribly hurt and disturbed by what has happened to Mahavira — a silent man who has done nothing. The cows moved themselves, came back again, and he is utterly innocent.
Indra came — and gods can speak without words — so he spoke to Mahavira, “I can give you two gods as bodyguards, because it is unthinkable, unbelievable! This should not happen.” And to gods you may not speak but they can read your thought.
Indra reads Mahavira’s thought: “Just leave me alone. I don’t want anybody’s help; I want to fight it alone. I don’t want to be indebted to anybody — forgive me. Whatever happens, I am going to fight this whole war alone until I am victorious.”
Now, his victory will sound strange to anybody who has been listening to the idea of let-go, surrender to existence. But this is a good place to remind you:
Be compassionate about others, their uniqueness. It does not mean that you have to follow their path; it simply means a deep understanding that people are unique; and if people are unique then their ways are going to be unique. And sometimes very opposite ways lead to the same goal. It is very easy to misunderstand, but I would like you to understand different ways, different people, different uniquenesses. All that will help to broaden your heart, your compassion, your comprehension. And whatever path you are following, it will be helpful to it. This is broadness — that it can contain contradictions.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Beyond Psychology
Chapter title: A lot — and nothing
15 April 1986 am in
Osho has spoken on ‘Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira, Shiva, Rama, Kabir, Lao Tzu, Bodhidharma, Patanjali and many other enlightened Saints’ in many of His discourses. More on them can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles:
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- Tao: The Three Treasures
- Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
- The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
- The Path of Love
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- When the Shoe Fits
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy
- The White Lotus
- Nowhere To Go But In
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1