“The Art of Teaching is the Art of Assisting Discovery”

A true follower of any religion needs to understand its philosophies and doctrines. Similarly, followers of Jainism too need to understand its philosophies and principles. For instance, one of the principle teachings of Jainism is that “all living organisms depend on each other”. Typically, people misinterpret “all living organisms” as human beings which is actually not the case; “all living organisms” refer to any and every living organism present on Earth i.e. it includes human beings, animals, insects and so on. Hence, it is of utmost importance that Jains truly understand and grasp the core concepts of Jainism.

Now, a question arises: Who is responsible for helping Jains understand the philosophies of Jainism?

The answer is “Guru”. A Guru teaches his/her disciples the doctrines and principles of Jainism and ensures that every disciple has truly understood the teachings of Jainism. However, the role of a guru isn’t only limited to only teaching the principles of Jainism to his/her disciples. A Guru understands the importance of holistic development and tries to ensure the same for his/her disciples. Gurus act as mentors to help their disciples learn new things and show them the right path. A guru is an “Enlightened master” who helps his/her disciples attain the state of “no sadness” (Self-Realization). Although, the disciples have to completely trust their Guru and devote themselves to him/her without any scepticism. With the right Guru, one can drastically improve his/her life.

Keeping in mind the auspicious day of Diwali when Lord Vardhman, perhaps one of the best Gurus ever, attained Moksha, let’s discuss how he and Gautam Swami, one of his disciples, revolutionized the world of Jainism.

Gautam Swami, we know, was an enlightened being with the simplicity of a saint; however, he was full of compassion for everyone and devoted to his Guru! Aryapurush has defined religion to be Samabhava – equanimity. Samata is the prerequisite to being a Sramana. Indrabhooti Gautama, was born eight years before Lord Mahavira and was a Brahmin. We can visualize those days when Saumil performed a Yajna in the kingdom of Apapa. A religious conference of Mahavira, along with many deities, was attending the Yajna. Indrabhooti Gautam was an Vedik Scholar who wanted to defeat the all-knowing Lord Mahavira with his knowledge and wanted to make his presence felt.

When Indrabhooti arrived, Lord Mahavira called him by his name and Indrabhooti experienced love, compassion, and non-violence prevailing all over the place. He was pulled to the Lord, but soon his arrogance erupted in him, and he did not allow himself to be immersed into Lord’s soothing company. However, Lord Mahavira again called Indrabhooti by his name and went on winning his heart! Aha! What a divine moment would that be when, on the one hand, there was reluctant ‘arrogance’ and constant ‘compassion’ on the other! Without asking anything about Indrabhooti’s skeptical mind, Lord Mahavira resolved all his inner conflicts. He explained the meaning of the existential nature of the soul by citing from books which referred by Indrabhooti. If life had an end with death, who would ever experience heaven or hell? The soul is a dimension of existence beyond the body and thus can be called ‘consciousness’ or ‘spirit.’ Having listened to the profound knowledge of the Lord, content Gautama became his discipline. After him, the queries of all the ten scholars were also responded to by Lord, and they too were fully satisfied with it and became Lord’s disciples. That scholarly conversation is famously known as ‘Gandharavad.’

Gautam Swami took Diksha from Lord Mahavira and set out on his path of seeking and Sadhana. Gautam Swami’s nature was as simple as that of a child; his heart was pure, his nature humble and polite, and his language was serene and used for the good of all. Whenever he spoke, the atmosphere would be filled with goodness and positivity. He spoke from the purest core of the soul. His behavior and dealings with others were also compassionate and caring. In fact, attaining such qualities in one’s personality was the greatest of all miracles because such a person can help any soul immerse into the divine. His powers were clubbed with devotion. As Diwali approaches, I am constantly reminded of the questions of Gautam Swami. Those questions introduce to us a child-like curiosity, inquisitiveness for being a disciple of the Guru, and sound cravings for gaining more and more knowledge. If we can develop such curiosity and devotion like Gautam Swami, we can also attain Kevalgyan – pure and ultimate knowledge.

Just look at the Gautam’ Swamis modesty and curiosity. Although he was extremely knowledgeable, an expert in several disciplines, he went to meet Lord Mahavira to seek guidance rather than showing off his expertise. Being extremely humble, Gautam Swami imparted knowledge of Lord Mahavira. Parallel to that, he went on, moving on the path of self-realization. What we aspire for goes farther away, which is why we stay aloof from liberation. Although he was enlightening others with his knowledge, he was not able to experience the ultimate knowledge. The result being, Gautam Swami, had an enormous love for the love! The message of not wasting a single moment and not being lethargic on the path of self-realization is fundamental to everyone even today. On the other hand, Gautam Swami was so humble that even if his students gain more knowledge, he will seek guidance from them too. Such was the accepting and broad nature of Gautam Swami. Thus, he became the savior of many.

Lord Mahavira spent 39th Monsoon in Mithila. It was during this time when Gautam Swami asked him questions pertaining to the sun, moon, total number of planets, planetary movements, and astronomy. Lord Mahavira, too replied with so much clarity that we have precious ‘Agamgranths’ like ‘Soorya-Pragnapti’ and ‘Chandra-Pragnapti.’ Based on the questions, we realize that infinite curiosity of Gautam at the age of 78. Gautam Swami was a symbol of conscious curiosity and Lord Mahavira’s all-encompassing knowledge. What is stunningly revealing is the kind of contemplation and introspection that took place

When Gautam Swami realized that Lord Mahavira had a great love for him was nothing but his illusion. Actually, it was Gautam Swami who had love, affection, and feelings for the Lord and not the other way round. “Wherever there is any element of affection, self-realization is not possible because affection is a binding-element. Lord taught me detachment but I forgot. I am the biggest block on the path of my own realization. Why is Lord to be blamed?” Thought Gautam Swami.

Such Vilap (constructive lamenting) burnt all the worldly attachments, affection, and binding elements; his soul attained purity and Kevalgyan!

That was the first day of Kartak Month! On the very second day of Lord’s Nirvana, Gautama Swami had Kevalgyan! For these reasons, Diwali is one of the important festivals among the Jains. Lord Mahavira had Nirvana at the dawn of Amavasya. According to Kalpsutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, many deities and angles were present to light up the darkness because then there was no light either of the moon or angels due to Amavasya. As the symbol of keeping the flame of knowledge of his Guru alive, sisteen kings – ganraja of Kashi and Kaushal, 9 Malla, and 9 Lachchhavi had lightened their gates. They said, “As the light of knowledge had gone, we will use trivial things to light up.

The first reference to Dipavali occurs in the Jain scriptures, and it is considered as the day of Nirvana of Lord Mahavira. One of the oldest references to Diwali dates back to the usage of the word ‘Dipalikaya’ mentioned in Harivansh Purana by Acharya Jinsen.

The angels light up Pavapuri with earthen lamps in order to celebrate the day of Nirvana of Lord Jinendra (Mahavira) because, in those days, people in India used to celebrate ‘Dipalika’ for the devotion of Lord Mahavira. The meaning of the word ‘Dipalikaya’ can be taken as the ‘light that leaves the body.’ Dipalika means ‘divine light of the (earthen) lamps,’ and it is used synonymously for Diwali. Jains celebrate Diwali in a very different manner. In everything they do, great emphasis is laid on ‘Sanyama’ – self-regulation and celebration of Diwali is not an exception.

Gautam Swami constantly used his body for the emancipation of the world. At the mature age of 92, when he realized that the Time had come, he went to Vaibhargiri in Rajgruhnagar and observed Anasan (fasting) and won over the body! At the end of Anasan, Gautam Swami attained Mahanirvana. His divine spirit merged with the Ultimate Light of Lord Mahavira and other liberated souls. On that day, Gautam Swami, the first disciple of Lord Mahavira, was liberated to be Buddha – the enlightened being.

The Gunshil Udyan (Gunayateerth of the present day) of Rajgruhnagar stands as Jalmandir in the memory of the last rituals of Gautama Swami.

Samabhava is the ultimate way for the Moksha – liberation. It requires non-violence, which results in compassion. Compassion helps develop love, which enables us to be friends with everyone. Finally, we have fearlessness, non-enmity, and non-jealous for the purpose of experiencing diving love that prevails all over the globe. A seeker, with all these qualities, is prepared to walk the path of self-realization. This is the path devoid of worldly attachments. Once the seeker is detached, one experiences oneness with all the living beings.

Guru Gautam Swami was such a seeker. It was his devotion and humility that allowed him with great skills, knowledge, and miraculous powers. He became a role model for all the living ones. We do not need to seek anything else if we have the same zeal and commitment as Gautam Swami had.

He not only teaches commitment but also guides on how to be aware, craving for liberation through knowledge, how to spread the message of whatever you believe in and how to develop the power to receive and share. I have hardly seen a merger of knowledge and liberation from the attachments elsewhere. In this new year, let me try to attain such a height of knowledge, rise above the attachments, to be a true Jain and justify it, to seek the Mahavira within me, to set a better example of humanity, and to understand the Ultimate Truth.

Sejal Shah