|Sages,Rushis & Saints
|Biographies of Great
Indians & Hindus
He ate a very small and limited quantity. He had no vessels with him. He was naked. He was
empty-handed. How was he to eat? The hand itself was his vessel! Mahaveera followed very
strict rules about his food. He did not want to trouble any one on his account. He would
not touch food, which was specially prepared for him. Food, which makes the senses,
sharper was not for him. He did not want a sumptuous meal. He ate only once a day. And
then he would not have even a drop of water till mealtime the next day. He was very strict
even on his rounds seeking food. While walking he would closely observe ten feet of the
ground before him. He did not want ants or insects to be crushed under the feet. He would
touch no food if he saw a hungry crow. He fasted if he chanced to see a thirsty animal. He
would go back it a cat or dog crossed his
path. Sometimes, because of such rigorous rules he used to fast for twelve days
continuously. Fasts of six to seven days' duration were countless. A month's fast too
became a matter of course. He would accept food only in houses to which he was invited
with love. Cottage and palace he treated alike. He was satisfied if the family was
vegetarian - or even it there was a single vegetarian preparation. Cleanliness, and not
taste, was important. He ate very little. How was he to eat even that much? Seated
comfortably? Sifting on a plank or mat? In a silver or gold plate? All these have no place
here. He used the vessel that he had brought with him at birth - his hand. He stood as he
ate. Those offering food had to do so gladly. Whatever they could offer was enough. He had
no rules about the quality or the quantity of the food. Those offering food
had to stand before their houses and pray Mahaveera with devotion to accept bhiksha. If he
stopped it was a sign of acceptance. First they washed his feet at the doorstep.
Then, when he entered the house, they poured water on his hand. After washing his hands he
would place his right palm on the left palm, still standing. The right palm was itself the
cup, the plate and the spoon. People who offered food did so in morsels placing each
morsel in the palm. Mahaveera would examine it with his fingers to see it there were hairs
or insects. It there was an insect or a hair in the food, he ended his meal at once. He
would wash his hands and leave silently. He fasted on that day. And then he would go out
seeking food only the next day.
For six months after ordination, he ate nothing. It was a long fast. Only after that he
went for bhiksha (food offered by devotees). The chief of Kulapura gave the first bhiksha.
Mahaveera spent 12 years 5 months and 15 days in tapas. During this period he had food
only 349 times. Mahaveera would not stay in one place for a long period. He used to move
like mercury from place to place. He used to remain in a village only for a day. He spent
four days in a town and ten days in a forest. Only during the rainy season
he would live in one place. This is called chathurmasayoga. Mahaveera spent his very first
chathurmasa in Asthigrama. This town is in Bengal now and is known as
Burdwan. Mahaveera had no anger, pain or pride. And no greed whatever. His mind was always
at peace. Like the sky Mahaveera depended on no one and needed no help. He was majestic
like the ocean and gentle as the moon. What fear has a man who has given up everything? On
the outskirts of Asthigrama isShoolpani Mandir. No one used to go near it at night. Even
during the day people was afraid to go there. The reason was that there was an evil spirit
in that Mandir. Mahaveera camped in that Mandir itself. The evil spirit gave him much
trouble. In the same way he spent chathurmasa in places like Siddagrama, Vaishali,
Vanijagrama and Shravathsi.
The path of this kind of tapas is very difficult. Many are the obstacles. In North India
some sanyasis were creating havoc. Their gang troubled Mahaveera also. But by his
self-discipline Mahaveera overcame the obstacles placed by them.Mahaveera's trials did not
end here. He had to face two other difficult trials. He stayed in Shravathsi for the
eleventh chathurmasa. There he was troubled by a man called Sanghamakha who had fallen
into evil ways. He tormented Mahaveera for months, following him everywhere. He disguised
himself like a disciple of Mahaveera. He committed thefts in houses. He got caught
willfully and lied, saying 'Mahaveera sent me'. People cursed Mahaveera as a false Guru.
They punished him. Sanghamakha did not stop at all. When Mahaveera started for bhiksha he
cowed like hungry crows. He came in
Mahaveera's way when he was eating. On another day when Mahaveera went for bhiksha
Sanghamakha posed like a beggar and deprived him of food. On another day he mewed like a
cat from the kitchen just as Mahaveera was about to put the morsel of food in his mouth.
Thus Mahaveera burned in the furnace of difficulties. Fie shone like pure molten gold.
Sanghamakha was totally defeated. He ran away afraid to show his face. Mahaveera came to
Ujjaini. On its outskirts was a fearful burning ground called
Athimuktha. No one dared to stop there. It was evening when Mahaveera came there. He had
to spend his night in that place. Mahaveera began his prayers. Total darkness descended.
Immediately there was thunder and lightning. Thunderbolts roared. Wild animals surrounded
him. Lions and tigers roared. The cries of cheetas would have made anyonetremble.
Scorpions moved all round. Snakesmoved about with raised hoods. But Mahaveera did not
break his great silence. Terrifying masks appeared. But Mahaveera did not fear even for
evil spirits. Day dawed. Mahaveera had spent the fearful night calmly.
Mahaveera spent his twelth chaturmasa at Kaushambi. Here he undertook a fast known as
Abighraha. On the day of breaking the fast he started for bhiksha. He heard a call,
"Oh! Great saint! Stop." That was the voice of a woman appealing to him. He
turned to where the sound had come from. She was Chandane, the daughter of King Chetaka.
She had remained unmarried and led a life of purity. She had firm faith in Jainism. She
had suffered much and was in rags. But she was rich in piety. She had no milk or ghee; not
even fruits. Chandane gave him thick rice which had been boiled. Mahaveera accepted it
with joy. Chandanes joy knew no bounds.
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