Mahavira, a great teacher of Jainism, lived in the same time as Buddha did. His birth was announced by miraculous events, and his mother, Trisala, had a series of sixteen dreams which predicted the birth of a son and his future greatness. In the dreams she had, she saw a white elephant, white bull, white lion, Sri or Lakshmi (title of respect given to a distinguished Indian), fragrant Mandara flowers, the moon lighting the universe with silvery beams, the radiant sun, a jumping fish symbolizing happiness, a golden pitcher, a lake filled with lotus flowers, the ocean of milk, a celestial palace, a vase as high as Meru (filled with gems), a fire fed by sacrificial butter, a ruby and diamond throne, and a celestial king ruling on earth. The dreams Trisala had were events of the birth of a great emperor or a Tirthankara (a being higher than a God) who teaches here on earth and whose soul is freed by the five kinds of knowledge. The gods transferred the unborn child from the womb of a Brahminís wife named Devananda to that of Trisala, and then Vardhamana was born. Vardhamana had exceptional beauty and great physical and spiritual strength. For example, when he was a boy, he overcame a mad elephant by taking its trunk, running up his head, and riding on it. He also tore a godís hair out and beat him when that god was trying to test his nerve. Vardhamana had possessed his enlightenment when fasting for two and a half days while sitting under an Asoka tree. The gods all gathered to watch him, and at the moment when Vardhamana possessed his enlightenment, the gods carried him in a palanquin to a park, and set him on a five-tiered throne and addressed him as Mahavira. He stripped himself of all his clothes and tore his hair out by the roots. After that, he wore no clothes and wore a white robe from now on, because white robes didnít hinder liberation of the soul by catching it in the cycle of the life here on earth. After Mahaviraís enlightenment he gave away all of his things and had nothing else except his robe. For example, Mahavira gave half of his robe to a brahmin named Somadatta, and Somadatta knew that he couldnít wear the garment without the other half, so he decided to steal it. He tried stealing it when Mahavira was engaged in penances, but Somadatta injured himself when he drew the robe away. Mahavira became aware of the theft, but he didnít say a word to him and taught him a lesson. Another example is when a farmer asked him to guard his bullocks. The farmer left a while and then came back and found out that his bullocks had strayed away. He searched for his bullocks, and found out that they were in his field again. The farmer thought that Mahavira was trying to steal his animals, and then he started to twist Mahaviraís neck. Mahavira didnít do anything, but his bodyguard, Indra, saved him. Mahavira spent seven days preaching to all the rulers of the world when he felt that he was to die soon. They all learned of the beliefs of Jainism and of the prohibition on killing. Mahavira died on his seventh day of preaching. He ascended up on a diamond throne bathed in supernatural light. His followers didnít witness his death, for they were asleep when it happened. As all of the lights of the universe went out, Mahaviraís followers illuminated the city with torches. Mahavira then became a Siddha, a freed soul of the greatest perfection, when he died. He was declared as the highest Siddha, which is known as the Tirthankara, who obtained the five kinds of knowledge and has been a teacher here on earth. Every Tirthankara has to have passed through four stages to have their soul free. These four stages are Sadhus (ascetics), Upakhyayas (teachers), Acharyas (heads of orders), and Arhats (freed souls which are still attached to the mortal condition).
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Jain Mythology by Joseph Laurente