3rd OCTOBER 2015 ROHINI VRAT (JAIN FAST)_BHAGWAN VASUPUJA – VARDHAMAN MAHAVIR (GREAT SAINT)

Jainism advocates a lot of vrats as part of an involved spiritual life. Rohini Vrat is one such vrat very popularly observed by the women in Jain households. Rohini Vrat is observed when the Rohini Nakshatra rises in the sky once in every 27 days. The procedure for observing Rohini Vrat is very simple since it is meant for women who cannot undergo rigorous sadhana.

On the day of Rohini, the women wake up early in the morning and take a holy bath. They set up an idol or photograph of one of the Jain Bhagwans namely Vasupujya. An elaborate puja is performed with a holy bath to the idol and offerings are made. At the end of the puja, the ladies start the fasting process that stretches up to the rise of next star namely Margashirsha Nakshatra.

Lord Mahavir lived the life of an ascetic. He advocated non-violence as the primary duty of all men and women. Being heralded as the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavir was preceded by twenty three holy men called as Tirtankaras or path finders who all lived the lives of ascetics and were engaged in severe spiritual sadhana. Lord Mahavir strongly advocated that only when an individual crosses his attachment to the physical body, can he attain self-realization, which is the final culmination of human birth.

Jainism advocates a very severe ascetic life of complete renunciation for those who give up worldly pleasures and commit themselves to spiritual life. For those in the regular household life, strict observances are not a mandate. They can follow the commandments of Jainism and live a normal life however without giving themselves away to over indulgence. Amidst this background, Rohini Vrat is prescribed for the women in the Jain community as a spiritual practice.

The ultimate benefits of Rohini vrat are considered to be the happiness and prosperity of the household and the inmates of the family, long life of the husband and relief from the troubles of life. It is said that if the women in the Jain households observe this vrat with all sincerity and diligence, then peace and tranquility will rule over the household.

A large number of devout Jain women observe Rohini Vrat continuously. They also give out many things in charity during the vrat to please Bhagvan Vasupuja and win his blessings. In many households, the women alone observe this vrat while the normal life goes on for the others in the family.

The Nakshatras system in the Hindu and Jain astrological systems are very much same. In a typical year, one comes across twelve Rohini vrat days. The observance of Rohini vrat is advocated continuously for three, five or seven years. Therefore, once they take up, the women in Jain households continue this vrat for such a long period. The ideal duration advised for the observance of Rohini vrat is five years and five months. At the end of the Rohini fasting, the recommended Udyapana (the mode of conclusion) is feeding the poor, visiting the temple of Bhagvan Vasupuja and performing charity deeds.

Vardhamana Mahavira
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Vardhaman MahaviraMahavira (599?-527? B.C.) was a teacher of the religion of Jainism. He lived in India. His followers believed that he was the 24th in a line of great teachers. These teachers were called tirthankaras. Rishabha was the first tirthankara. Mahavira preached non-violence, urging his followers to show kindness to all living creatures, and to become vegetarians so that animals would not be killed for food.

His original name was Vardhamana. But later he was called Mahavira, which means The Great Hero. Mahavira was set to have been born in Kundagrama, Vaishali, in Bihar state. A memorial has been built there, and a center set up for the study of Jainism and nonviolence.

His father was a rich kshatriya. He was married to a Princes named Yashoda who bore him a daughter. According to tradition, at the age of 30, Mahavira left his home, wife, and child. He became an ascetic, a person who practices strict self-denial. During the next 12 years, he spent much time meditating, fasting, and undergoing severe self-punishment to gain wisdom. In the 13th year, he attained enlightenment (understanding of ultimate truth) and became Jina or the conqueror. He then became a religious teacher and founded an order of monks and nuns. His followers came to be called Jinas or Jains – those who conquered their desires. He traveled much in the next thirty years and preached in the neighborhoods of Anga, Videha & Magadha.

Mahavira spoke the language of the people and enjoyed the patronage of the rulers of his time – rulers of Anga, Videha and Magadha. He set up a well-knit religious organization known as the Sangha. Mahavira died at the age of 72, near Rajgir in Bihar. At the time of his death he had about 14,000 followers. Some followers of Mahavira followed a severe path of renunciation to the extent of discarding clothes. They were called digambaras (the sky clad). Digambaras were orthodox followers of Mahavira. They kept long fasts and led an extreme austere life. Others who used to wear white tunics, considered it a duty to fulfill their obligation to society. They were called svetambaras (the white clad). They kept fasts but did not believe in extreme penance and austerity.

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Vardhman Mahavir

Birth name of Mahavir was Vardhman. The different names Ativir , Sanmati , Mahavir were the titles conferred upon him for his acts of boldness and bravery at different occasions. He was born in a princely family with all the comforts of life were available to him but child Mahavir did not evince interest in worldly pleasures. Having strong spiritual inclination and desire to do good of the people, he had a strong urge of renunciation of worldly attach- ments. Spiritualism and renunciation so much prevailed over him the ultimately on November 11, B.C 570 (Marga-sirsha Krishna – dasmi) , at the age of 30 years, he left the place and proceeded to the park, Jnatrkhanda -Vana, close to Kundapur, and relinquished his ornaments and clothes . He pulled out his hair by his hands and initiated himself as a Digamber Jain monk. He observed fast for 3 days and then plunged himself into meditation. After some- time he started touring various parts of the country. He lived in gardens park, but as required by the rules of his vows and fast, he entered a town or a village once in a day and accepted the food offered to him according to the norms laid down for Jain ascetics. In a standing or squatting posture, and with his eyes fixed on the tip of nose, he spent his time in meditation and in reflecting on the Atman ( soul ) and in cultivating the attitude of equanimity towards one and all. Strictly observing his five great vows & other principles, he got himself habituated to endure with peace & patience all physical tortures, know as �pariahs�, like hunger, thirst , cold, heat, mosquito bites etc.,

Mahavir spent twelve years as an ascetic, practising various austerities. One day on Baisakh – Shukla – Dasmi , April 26, B.C. 557 at the age of 42 years, while he was seated beneath a sal tree plunged in meditation close to the village Jrmbhaka by name, on the bank of river Rijukula infinite knowledge ( Ananta – Gnana ), which has no limitations of time and space, dawned on him. He got satisfactory solutions for all those problems and questions connected with life and the universe which occur to any inquisitive soul. He fully comprehended the Six Substances (dravya) and Seven Principles (tattva) whereby one gets explained the nature of all the objects and their activities. It was crystal clear to him that the very basic principle of life in Jive Atma – tattva, which is distinct from matter (body).

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