ation, and the auspicious liberation.
Border on Pages : Every page of this book has a multicolored
border. At the top and bottom are twenty-
four Symbols (Lanchhan) of the Tirthankars
and at the sides are the fourteen great dreams.
In the theist world the loftiest entity is The God!
It has thousands of names like Paramatma (the ultimate soul), Bhagavan (the most glorious one), Siddha (the liberated), Buddha (the enlightened), The God, etc.
In the Jain tradition there are two forms of this entity-
(1) The formless God or Siddha (the liberated) and
(2) The God with a form or Tirthankar / Arihant.
The Tirthankar is a detached individual who is the ultimate altruist and benefactor of not only mankind but every living being. He propagates the religious path and preaches about it for their benefit. His benevolent voice promotes happiness, peace, and infinite bliss for every being.
In the Jain tradition there have been twenty-four Tirthankars during the current descending cycle of time, Bhagavan Rishabhdev being the first and Bhagavan Mahavir being the last.
For every Jain these Tirthankars are the entities to be worshipped and revered. The ultimate goal of Jainism is to tread the path shown by them and acquire infinite powers and virtues.
Out of these twenty-four Tirthankars, many authors have written the biographies of Bhagavan Rishabhdev and Bhagavan Mahavir. But very little has been done about authentic and complete biographical sketch of all the twenty-four Tirthankars. And it is even harder to get this material.
When we edited the Illustrated Kalpasutra we compiled brief life-sketches of all Tirthankars. As it is already a large volume we had to be selective in any further additions. It was at that time that we thought to compile life-sketches of all the Tirthankars in an independent book; it would be useful for all. The original plan was to include these brief biographical sketches within a 50 page book, but as the work progressed it became impossible to follow the plan. Although most of the inspiring incidents from earlier incarnations of the Tirthankars had to be left, the book became much larger than we originally thought of. However, whatever has been included will hopefully prove to be adequately useful, educative, interesting, and inspiring for our readers.
Scriptures like Bhagavati Sutra, Acharanga, Jambudvipa Prajnapti, Samvayang and others contain stray incidents from the lives of Tirthankars. Kalpasutra just lists all the Tirthankars and their periods besides giving brief details about Rishabhdev, Parshvanath, Arishtanemi, and Mahavir. It was Acharya Bhadrabahu who first of all attempted to compile biographical sketches of all Tirthankars in brief. Later others worked on providing more detailed biographies in a variety of styles, both interesting as well as informative. Some of these later works are: Pravachansaroddhar, ChauppannaMahapuris Chariyam (Shilankacharya), Trishashtishalaka Purush Charitra (Hemchandracharya), Adipurana (Acharya Jinasen), Uttarpurana (Gunabhadra), Tiloyapannatti (Yativrishabhacharya), etc. Considerable material is available about the lives of Tirthankars from various works in Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Apabhramsha languages.
Shri Ratan Lal Doshi has compiled and edited the biographies of Tirthankars, based on Trishashtishakaka Purush Charitra, in Hindi in three volumes. Acharya Shri Hastimal ji M., a recognized Jain historian himself, has compiled these biographies with authentic references and his comments, in the first volume of the voluminous Jain Dharma ka Maulik Itihas. It is an unique effort.
In this context other important reference works are Bhagavan Mahavir by Upadhyaya Shri Kewal Muni ji and four research works on four Tirthankars by Acharya Shri Devendra Muni ji.
With the help of all these works we have selected and compiled this book; a brief but attractive presentation.
A useful and informative part of the book is its Appendix. All these dates are rarely available at one place. Vitaraga Vandana has been very useful in compiling the appendices.
I am grateful to all those authors, editors, and publishers whose knowledge, hard work, and experience has been conveniently available through their works listed above.
Although it is based on information available in ancient scriptures, this book has some unique features:
1. The most important features of this book are the 52 multicolored illustrations on incidents from the lives of Tirthankars made in attractive style. Acharya Shri Vijay Yashodev Suri had published a set of illustrations based on Bhagavan Mahavir’s life, it became very popular. There have been some other illustrated publications also, but this is the first attempt to present a neat and organized compilation of text and illustrations.
2. The biographical sketches have been compiled after a study of relevant literature from Digambar to Shvetambar traditions. Care has been taken to select only the incidents that are useful and inspiring and without any sectarian controversy.
3. Common man looks for a variety of specific data about Tirthankars and fails to find it in some commonly available book. This work attempts to fulfill that want with its functionally compiled appendices.
4. The combination of Hindi and English versions makes it useful for non-Hindi speaking readers, thus expanding its scope from Hindi speaking belt to the whole world.
We are sure, with these unique features, this Tirthankar Charitra will prove to be very useful for all and sundry.
The inspiration from U. B. Pravartak Gurudev Shri Bhandari Shri Padma Chandra ji M., and the guidance from Up-pravartak Shri Amar Muni ji and the collection of his articles and books have been vitally useful in compiling this work. I convey my heart felt regards to all these. I hope that the readers will like this work and that this will be frequently used as a reference book.
-Srichand Surana ‘Saras’
Who is A Tirthankar?
In this universe, which is without a beginning or an end, he soul continues to experience sorrow and joy, traversing though numerous dimensions and forms including those of gods, animals, human-beings, and hell-beings.
The principle causes of these unending cycles of rebirth are the inherent attitudes of attachment and aversion, and their consequences. The attitudes of attachment and aversion result in the bondage of good and bad Karmas and as a consequence the soul continues its passage from one dimension to the other.
Every soul is a dormant source of infinite energies, uninterrupted light of knowledge and unending joy and happiness. Knowledge and happiness are the fundamental natural activities of the soul. But the accumulated inertia of ignorance and illusion acts as an impediment to its endeavor to activate these inherent infinite energies. Even when it launches its efforts, the dense accumulation of attitudes of attachment and aversion does not allow these efforts to become successful. As such, the disciplining of these attitudes of attachment and aversion becomes the prime need on this path of salvation.
When its own true form is revealed on the soul it recognizes its inherent potential and gradually starts the efforts to win over the attitudes of fondness, attachment and aversion, as a result of its intense craving for salvation and practices of equanimity, penance, and meditation, it becomes tireless or Nirgranth (a term for Jain ascetic).
Continuing its un-dogmatic practices or the Nirgranth attitude, a day comes when the soul destroys all attachment and aversion and conquers fondness. As a result of this victory the soul attains the status of Jina.
Jina means the victorious one.
The individual who has destroyed attachemtn and aversion; who is absolutely free of fondness and ignorance; who has shed the four vitiating Karmas; namely illusory (Mohaniya), knowledge obstructing (Jnanavaraniya), perception obstructing (Darshanavaraniya), and power hindering (Antaraya); is known as vitarag (the detached one), Jina (the victorious) and Sarvajna or Kewali (the omniscient).
Any deserving soul may attain the status of Jina, omniscient, ultimate or pure soul (Param-Atma), but not a Tirthankar. This is because of the fact that it is only as the result of a specific pious type of Karma that one may become Tirthankar.
The lofty person, an omniscient Arihant, who defines, elaborates, and propagates Ahimsa, Truth, Brahmacharya etc., establishes the four pronged (Sadhu, Sadhvi, Shravak and Shravika) religious organization, and is endowed with unique powers is known as the Tirthankar.
It is a belief, mentioned in Jain scriptures, that it is only the soul who earns the pious bond of the Tirthankar-nam-karma through a very high level of penance and meditation, can attain the status of Tirthankar.
During one descending cycle of time there may be innumerable omniscients but only twenty four Tirthankars. Acharya Somdev Suri has given an explanation about why there can only be this specific number of Tirthankars-
“If the number of things existing in nature is not a fixed figure why the number of things like date, day constellations, stars, planets, oceans, mountains are believed to be fixed? It means that although they are numerous their exact number is fixed as per the law of nature.” During one descending cycle of time only these twenty four Tirthankars are the originators of religious founders of religious order and persons with divine powers.
A Tirthankar is not an incarnation of the God. He is an ordinary soul that born as a human and attains the states of a Tirthankar as a result of intense practices of penance, equanimity and meditation. As such, the Tirthankar is not defined as an Avatar (god-incarnate) but is the ultimate pure developed state of the soul. Thus he may be called as the God in human form.
In the current descending cycle there have been twenty-four Tirthankars from Bhagawan Rishabhdev to Bhagawan Mahavir.
There names are as follows:
1. Rishabhdev 9. Suvidhinath 17. Kunthunath
2. Ajitnath 10. Sheetalnath 18. Arnath
3. Sambhavnath 11. Shreyansnath 19. Mallinath
4. Abhinandan 12. Vasupujya 20. Munisuvrat
5. Sumatinath 13. Vimalnath 21. Naminath
6. Padmaprabh 14. Anantnath 22. Arishtanemi
7. Suparshvanath 15. Dharmnath 23. Parshvanath
8. Chandraprabh 16. Shantinath 24. Mahavir
RISHABHDEV BHAGAVAN, THE FIRST TIRTHANKAR - 1
“He was the first king of this age and also the first ascetic. Who also was the first ford-maker (Tirthankar), my salutations to hat Rishabh Swami.” -Acharya Hem Chandra
According to the Jain measurement of cosmic time one cycle of time has two divisions. These two divisions, ascending time-cycle there is a gradual improvement in physical and mental conditions, including physical strength, health, happiness and simplicity, of beings as well as climatic and life supporting conditions. During the descending time-cycle there is a gradual deterioration in these conditions.