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Born a prince, he gave up on all worldly things at age 30 to practice meditation and become a monk. He spent the rest of his life imparting knowledge about ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth) until he achieved moksha at age 72. Lord Mahavira’s philosophies greatly influence the Jain community the world over but can perhaps benefit us too.

On Mahavir Jayanti today, let’s try to understand how his simple, yet profound principles can soothe our worked up minds and help us gain a better perspective on life.

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1. Non-violence

Mahavira was against the sacrificial rituals included in the Vedas. He believed that everything around us possesses life, from plants and animals to rocks and stones. His lesson of ahimsa (non-violence) is not just about eating vegetarian food as the common misconception goes. It is about have a peaceful, non-violent frame of mind, which further helps you in clarity of thought. Even the thought of violence jolts our minds with negativity, which is why ahimsa is the first step towards cleansing the mind.

2. The Power of Karma

According to Lord Mahavira, it is important for every living being to help his or her soul break the bondage of karma (your actions). This means that one should get rid of any bad karma and avoid any future karma. This will enable the release of the soul from the state of bondage to a blissful, purely spiritual state called Paramatma. Stocking up on good karma or doing good, will give you peace not only in this life but the next one too, according to Mahavira.

3. Non-attachment

One of the most liberating principles by Mahavira is aparigraha (non-attachment or non-possessiveness). When we get attached to someone or something emotionally, we tend to build our expectations towards them and when such expectations are not fulfilled, it leads to suffering. This is when the idea of renunciation comes in to rescue our mind from such emotionally jailed thoughts and leads us towards individual freedom.

26-year-old Rima Shah explains this virtue by recalling a childhood memory. “As a child I used to be a little hoarder. I used to stock up on toys, clothes, and many other knick-knacks and absolutely refused to part with my things or share anything. A very simple thing that my dad told me at that point, probably changed my life. He said that Mahavira teaches us not to be possessive or get too attached to anything. That small piece of advice changed the way I thought about holding onto things! I learned that “letting go” is a beautiful thing, be it your material objects, or your past grudges or anxieties.”

4. Happiness & Suffering

The principle of Right Conduct laid out by Mahavira throws light on the concept of equality. This implies that one should have the same outlook towards ‘suffering’ and ‘happiness’. Once you accept that suffering and happiness are both part of life—two sides of the same coin—you will start having a more balanced, peaceful state of mind and be more content with whatever comes your way.

5. Knowledge of Liberation

Enlightenment is the ultimate goal of the soul, according to Lord Mahavira. When your mind gets clogged with materialistic ambitions and dissatisfaction, remember that a free, open mind is the only thing that will help you inch towards enlightenment.

These principles by Mahavira, if followed earnestly, can help get rid of most of the modern day pressures that cage our intellect and make us slaves of time.

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