The Mahavira On Reaching Nirvana Essay, Research Paper
The Mahavira and the Buddha share the same fundamental beliefs in Karma and dharma,
however, their philosophies on how to achieve Nirvana differ greatly. Self denial,
meditation, and enlightenment are the three major ways these two individuals believed
helped to reach Nirvana. The Mahavira believed that self denial and meditation were the
ways to achieving Nirvana, when the Buddha believed that enlightenment was the way.
In the Hinduism religion, the belief is that a person must obey the law of Karma.
Karma refers to all of the actions of a person?s life that affect his fate in the next life. To
Hindus, all existence is ranked. Humans first, then animals, plants, then objects like rocks
and water. This is the caste system. People who live virtuously earn good Karma and are
reborn at a higher level of existence. Those who do evil, acquire bad Karma and are
reborn into suffering. Dharma are the religious and moral duties of an individual. These
duties vary according to age, class, occupation, and gender. By obeying one?s dharma, a
person acquires merit for the next life. The concepts of Karma and dharma helped insure
the social order by supporting the caste system.
Ahimsa, or non-violence, is another key moral principle of Hinduism. All people
and all things are to be respected, according to Hindus. Mahavira was a reformer that
taught and developed an extreme form of ahimsa. He founded Jainism around 500 B.C.E.
This was a new religion that grew out of Hindu tradition. His teachings emphasized
meditation and self denial. He did not believe in Karma and dharma and the the cycle of
being reborn into another life. Reformers like Mahavira rejected Brahmans domination and
offered other paths to truth.
The Mahavira?s beliefs on reaching Nirvana were through self denial and
meditation. His beliefs are taught in the five great vows. These vows were:
1) ?I renounce all killing of living beings, whether subtle or gross, neither
moveable or unmoveable……?
2)?I renounce all vices of lying speech arising from anger, or greed, or fear,
3)?I renounce all taking of anything not given, either in a village or a town or
a wood, either of little or much, of small or great…..?
4)?I renounce all sexual pleasures, either with gods or men, or animals…?
5)?I renounce all attachments, whehter little or much, small or great, living or
He lived his life as a beggar, and committed no sin. His life was tedious so that he could
Another reformer, Siddhartha Guatama founded a new religion, Buddhism.
Buddhism and Hinduism grew out of Vedic traditions. They both accepted the law of
Karma and dharma, and believed in a cycle of rebirth. Non-violence was also central to
Buddhism. Guatama lived a sheltered life and was not aware that suffering and pain were
present in the world. Once this became aware to him, he decided to try and change it. His
teachings eventually spread across Asia to become a very influential religion. Siddhartha
Guatama, known as the Buddha, believed in the four noble truths. These are:
1)All life is full of suffering, pain, and sorrow.
2)The cause of suffering is the desire for things that are really illusions, such
as riches, power and long life.
3)The only cure for suffering is to overcome desire.
4)The way to overcome desire is to follow the Eightfold Path.
Buddha described the Eightfold Path as ?Right Belief, Right Aspirations, Right Speech,
Right Conduct, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Endeavor, Right Memory, and Right
Meditation.? (76) One must be knowledgeable about the Eightfold Path and follow it.
Buddha believed enlightenment was the way to reach Nirvana. The first two steps
are committing one?s self to the Eightfold Path, and understanding the Four Noble Truths.
Then, a person had to live a moral life, avoiding evil. Through meditation, a person might
achieve enlightenment. That is how the Buddha reached enlightenment, through
meditating under a tree. The final goal is Nirvana, which is union with the universe and a
release from the cycle of rebirth.
Unlike Buddha, the Mahavira urged his followers to endure the extreme path of
self denial. He became known as The Great Hero. He was an unusual here. Honored not
because he had only conquered, but because he had conquered himself.
Essentially, the Mahavira achieved Nirvana through self denial and meditation. The
Mahavira achieved Nirvana through meditation and self denial. If one denied himself of
things he did not need, he would reach Nirvana. The Buddha, however, achieved Nirvana
through enlightenment; as soon as one accepts the fact that pain and suffering exist, and
don?t expect certain things, one reaches Nirvana, which ends the Wheel of Rebirth.
The Mahavira and the Buddha both believed that Karma and dharma and the cycle
of rebirth were wrong. Rather they believed in reaching Nirvana. This way any person had
hope of coming out of the rebirth cycle. They had similar views on religious fundamentals,
but very different views on how to reach Nirvana.
The Human Record Volume I: To 1700, written by Andrea/Overfield, 1998 Houghton Mifflin Co.