At a time, when the human race, despite its scientific and technological achievements, is caught in the grips of want, scarcity, suspicion, misunderstanding, conflicts, terrorism and war, there is being celebrated everywhere the 2500th anniversary of the Nirvana of Bhagavan Mahavira, one of the greatest humanists the civilised world has ever produced. The highest value which he set for judging human behaviour is man's reverence for life in all its forms: no violence is to be intended, expressed or inflicted through thought, word or act on any living being. This is known as ahimsa. Similarly, though a prince by birth, Mahavira adopted a mode of living with minimum attachment for the world and its ties. He controlled his desires and put limits to his needs; thus he found solutions to various problems of life and death. Not only he preached non-attachment but he lived a life which fully illustrated what it means.
His preachings are meant for one and all who seek guidance from him. Intellectual tolerance, i.e., appreciation of the point of view of others, is the hallmark of his philosophy.
It is necessary that authentic details about Mahavira and his times, and about his outlook on life are presented so that we understand him better and try to put his principles in practical life to the best of our ability. With this objective in view, here is presented a brochure, Mahavira: His Times and His Philosophy of Life. It contains two essays which are supplementary to each other with very little common details.
The first is by the late Dr. Hiralal Jain. He wrote it in Hindi by way of Introduction to his edition of the Vira-jinimda-cariu published by the Bharatiya Jnanapitha, This is rendered into English by his colleague Dr. A.N. Upadhye and presented here.
The second essay is by Dr. A.N. Upadhye. It is practically the same as his lecture delivered under the auspices of the Indian Institute of Culture, Bangalore, some years back. Both these essays are serious studies, and it is hoped that they would be welcome to the English knowing public for appreciating and understanding the personality and philosophy of Mahavira.
On behalf of our colleague, the late Dr. Hiralal Jain, and ourselves, we offer our sincere gratitude to Smt. Rama Jain, the President of Bharatiya Jnanapitha and to Shriman Sahu Shanti Prasadji, the benign founder of it. We are thankful to Shri L.C. Jain for his speedy arrangements to publish this book.
On the auspicious occasion of 2500th Nirvana Year of Bhagavan Mahavira, it is the privilege of Bharatiya Jnanapitha to publish this book, Mahavira: His Times and His Philosophy of Life, written by the two eminent Indologists and Jainologists of our times, late Dr. Hiralal Jain and Dr. A.N. Upadhye. This is, in fact, an edited collection of two separte pieces; one, the English translation of an essay written in Hindi by Dr. Hiralal Jain, as a preface to Vira-Jinimda-cariu and the other, a speech by Dr. A.N. Upadhye delivered to a gathering of distinguished persons under the auspices of the Indian Institute of Culture, Bangalore. Though the two pieces were written and conceived differently, they make an excellent unit covering different aspects connoted by the title of the book. A careful eye, however, will not fail to see slight repetition, here and there, which is bound to occur under the circumstances.
We have long been wanting to see a book on Mahavira which would be comprehensive enough to cover all the essentials, and yet not too technical to tax the understanding of the general reader. This publication seems to be the best answer so far. Its special virtue is that it presents Bhagavan Mahavira's biographical particulars without any sectarian overtones; the common human problems of his times in conjunction with those faced by Buddha; and the tenets of Mahavira's philosophy as they were and ,are ever relevant to the past and the present generations. To harmonise authors' intellectual authenticity with a devout reader's acceptability is a work of distinction.
This publication might not have come into being had not Shri Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain, Founder Trustee of Bharatiya Jnanapitha, felt keenly that since the question of an agreed biography of Bhagavan Mahavira proposed to be published under the aegis of Bhagavan Mahavira 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava Mahasamiti continues to elude solution due to diversity and varied interpretation of the basic material, this book in the meantime, is likely to serve the best purpose as the learned and experienced authors have consciously tried to achieve historical objectivity. May it be so.
I have every hope that this book, small as it is, will fill a longfelt need and will serve as a friendly guide to all those who want to know for themselves and to convey to the multitudes the immortal life and message of Mahavira.
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