Diwali: The Festival of Lights
Diwali, the festival of lights, has a pride of place in the history of Jainism. It was on Aso Vad Amas
(the dark later half of the month Aso, the last in the Hindu calendar)
at midnight that Bhagwan Mahavir left his mortal body in Pavapuri
Village in Bihar. On that auspicious day, he was a liberated soul.
Bhagwan Mahavir finished 42nd monsoon in Pavapuri and took shelter in the office of king Hastipal's talati
(village accountant). Three months passed and fourth was about to be
over. Bhagwan foresaw his end approaching and informed everyone about
it. As soon as the news spread, Pavapuri was plunged into gloom.
Nature also felt the impending doom, as it were, and looked crestfallen
at the thought of Mahavir's impending departure. The cognoscenti said,
"Be happy! God's a liberated soul now! The shackles will break and He
will attain complete freedom". The common people began to grieve:"Alas!
The lord will be no more and we will not be able to behold him
anymore. When would we hear the divine speech again? We are trying to
dispel the encircling clouds of gloom but in vain. Is it true that God
will disappear from our midst forever?"
The devotees were all
grieving. "It is only yesterday that he came in our midst and today he
will be on his eternal voyage", they said. They were not in a position
to rejoice. How can they when Bhagwan was to leave this world? They
argued, "For him death is not a matter to be grieved over but how can we
be happy at the thought of his death? A night is a night, howsoever
bright the moon may be".
Bhagwan began his last discourse. It
was a marathon one and the world was bathed in the words of wisdom
emanating from his lips. Indra, the chief of Gods, who had prepared for
God's death, lost his equanimity and was sad too.
thought of Mahavir's death pained him to no ends. Indra, on behalf of
the anxious people, asked, "Lord your conception, birth, renunciation
and attainment of absolute knowledge were all in the hastottara nakshatra?" Bhagwan nodded his head in agreement.
"Your departure coincides with the entry of Bhasmagraha in the nakshatra.
Does it indicate the impending misfortune?", asked Indra. "Yes", said
Mahavir. "You are omnipotent and omniscient; can't you delay the moment
of your departure?" asked Indra anxiously. He thought that if that
moment passed then God would have a new lease of life.
thereupon, said in a grave tone: "Indraraj, lust blinds one. You love
my body and hence your request. You are knowledgeable and yet you
forget that no one - God, demon or a human being - can extend the
lifeline by even a fraction. The mission for which I was born as a
human being is accomplished and a moment more here is a great burden to
me. See Indra, there is spring blooming and there is a new dawn of sat, chit, anand. Welcome it."
The inmates of Bhagwan were trying to console the congregation of people saying, "Bhagwan will not attain nirvan
(liberation) now. We know it for sure." "How?" asked the people.
They said, "We remember Bhagwan once said to his favorite disciple,
Maharshi Gautam, that he would not think of leaving the world without
him. Maharshi Gautam has been sent out by Bhagwan for a religious
discourse and he will not leave the world in his absence. Have
patience." People, on hearing these words, kept quiet but Bhagwan was
preparing for the ultimate journey. He transcended Badar Manyog and Vachan-yog and rested in kayayoga
the last vestige of life on the planet. The congregation looked, with
rapt attention, at his face, which shone, very rightly. Everyone
appeared tense, anxious. At last God transcended kayayoga , and a luminous circle of light appeared. The dark night of amavasya brightened and whispers were heard: Bhagwan has attained nirvana.
The lamp, which had shed its luminous light and enlightened many a
soul, had burnt out. Indra, who had regained his composure said, "Light
the lamps. God has attained nirvan ".
night was aglow with myriad lamps but people were eager to know why
Bhagwan chose to depart in the absence of Guru Gautam, breaking his own
promise. They felt they would not be able to live and decided to
undertake fasting. On the other hand the festival of Bhagwan's nirvan was on and the skies reverberated to the sounds of mridang and conch.
Mahavir had discoursed the day before his nirvan and kali chaudas, the day before Diwali, and the discourse in found in the aagam sutra Uttaradhyayan. That is why Shri Uttaradhyayan sutra is recited on the last two days (kali chaudas , and amaas ) of the month of Aso , the last month in the Hindu Calendar.
On the night of amaas -
Diwali day - devotees worship Bhagwan Mahavir and at midnight special
prayers are offered. On the first day of the month of Kartak, the first
month in Hindu Calendar, Bhagwan's first disciple Gautamswami attained
absolute knowledge. People, therefore, worship him on that day. Thus kali chaudas, Diwali and the New Year day witnessed events of great significance, and some fast of these days and undertake elaborate worship.
This story has lot to do with the Jain teaching
Kirit C. Daftary