Justice T.U.Mehta

Final Act of Nirjara

Twelfth year of the master's penances records an incident which shows that even a great soul like that of Mahavira had to bear the fruits of his Karmas (actions). While depicting the life of Mahavira the Jaina scriptures do not begin with the birth of last as Vardhamana. They begin with several lives which his soul had to live before the last birth. This stands to reason because Jaina philosophers, like all Indian philosophers, do not subscribe to the view that the history of soul's journey begins with the present life only. According to them, present life is but a step in the long journey which extends from one life to the other till one gets salvation.

In one of his lives as a king fond of music, he had ordered one of his attendants to stop the music after he went to sleep. The attendant however, liked to hear the music and so did not stop the same as directed. When the king that his order was flouted, he ordered to punish the attendant by pouring boiling lead in his ears. Mahavira's soul had to pay for this cruelty in the twelfth year of his ascetic life when he visited ‘Chammanigama'. There it happened that while he was in meditation, a cowherd inquired from him the whereabouts of his bullocks, grazing in the vicinity. He, however, did not get any reply from the meditating Yogi. Enraged by this act Yogi of the cowherd punished the master by inserting pointed nails in his ears. The pain of this punishment was so severe that a doctor, at the town Apapa where the master had gone on a visit, believed from his face to be suffering from some painful disease. Later on the doctor knowing the real cause of the pain, took out the nails when, as the story runs, even Mahavira gave a shriek of pain. By observing voluntarily, very severe penances for a long period of twelve years, Mahavira had practically completed the process of Nirjara (shedding of accumulated karmas). However, the karma of putting boiling lead in the ears of a helpless attendant for a minor breach was of the type, which could not be shed by voluntary penances (known as Sakama Nirjara). Fruits of that karma were bound to be enjoyed and Mahavira's soul was no exception to this rule. The theory of karma as understood by Jaina thinkers classify the Karmas of different categories. One category is of the karmas, the result of which can not be avoided by Sakama Nirjara even by practicing penances. Such results have to be suffered with equanimity, patience and fortitude so that while suffering the same new karmas are not earned.

Mahavira's soul had now become free from the burden of past karmas. He had already ceased to earn fresh karmas as the process of ‘Samvara' was already over when he took to the life of an ascetic at the age of 30 years.