THE TWENTY FOUR TIRTHANKARAS AND SIDHAS.
Meaning of Tirthankara:- Tirthankara is a compound Sanskrit word comprised pf Tirtha
meaning a ford*
and Kara a maker. So that Tirthankara is a maker of the ocean crossing, the ocean being the sansara,
the earthly existence or births and deaths. He is thus a Proclaimer of Liberation and a guide on the path
The thing remarkable in respect of a Tirthankara is that He is not an Avtara or an incarnation of some Great soul, or some separate Supreme Being. He is one from amongst us, who in course of several births. Cleanses is soul of all impurities , physical short comings, delusion and ignorance, nay all sorts of karmic matter except the Ayuh or age Karma through undisturbed meditation and thus gains its true nature, which comprises of the infinite knowledge. Perception, Bliss Power and immortality. He is then himself a Supreme Being on earth, a teaching God who teaches mankind the way to liberation
This does not mean that it is alone who have attained or they are liable to attain Godhood. All those who tread the prescribed path of Right Faith, knowledge and conduct can attain liberation but only 24 of them become famous. Mention is made of these 24 Gods in almost all the ancient scriptures of the world. For instance the ancient religion of the Zoroastrains or the Parsses in the number of Ahursa, meaning Lords, is as precisely four and twenty. These Great Ones thus addressed in one of their sacred books.
Your blessing shall ye give us, all ye that are one in with Right God Thought, Piety and Mazda when worshipped with reverence”(Yasna li,20).
*Ford=Awarding place in a lake, a river or an ocean.
A more remarkable case of identity of thoughts between Jainism and a non-Jain creed is furnished by Jewish Apocrypha* which acknowledges exactly four and twenty “faces” on the ladder of Jacob. The explanation given is as follows:
“The ladder which ad twelve steps having two human faces which changes their appearance. Now this ladder is this age and the twelve steps are the aims of this age, and twenty four faces are the Kings of the lawless heathen of this age. Under these Kings will be tried (thy Children’s Children and the line of) thy sons....................”
(The Lost Apocrypha of Old Testament, pp.96, 98 &99)
In the above passage the term “beathen” refers to the non-Israelites, and the “lawless” are these who have risen above the dead letter of the law, that is to say, who conform to the spirit of the teaching and who have rid themselves of the petrifying outer encrustation, namely the mere rules and regulations of the scriptures. Hence those who have realized the Self i.e. the divinity of their Soul are the lawless and their four and twenty Kings are the four and twenty Tirthankaras under whom shall be judged, all those who seek to attain salvation. In other words, the four and twenty Tirthankaras are models of Perfection for men, who must raise themselves to. Their standard to be saved’.
Turning to Budhists one finds the same number of the previous incarnations of Budha.
Even the number of Babonian “counsellor*-Gods” was twenty four.
*Apocuypha=Books of doubtful authority or credit.
Way=I am the way, the truth & Life Stolm XIV 60.
** Councelor=One who tenders advice, a barrister.
The number of Hindu Avtars of wom Rsabha is regarded as the ninth is also the same,
Turning to Christianity the 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism are referred to in the fourth, the fifth and the sixth chapters of the Revelation of St.John, the Divine, as Twenty four Elders. The description as also the interpretation of this Biblical allegory which is as below-
9-I John was in the isle that is called Patmos.
9-An island stands for the isolated state of the mind; Patmos* on account of its barren soil and small size represents the mind that has withdrawn itself from the world.
2-i) And immediately I was in Spirit.
2-i) To be in spirit is to became engaged in the contemplation of spiritual things.
ii)And, behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
ii) The scene is laid in the Divine Court of Life. The ‘One’ on the throne is life (Soul or Atman) itself without which there would have been no Court.
.N.B: Worlds in bold letters are the Chapter and the numbers are fixed are those of Bible
3-i) And he that sat was to look upon like a Jasper and a sardine stone.
3-i) An Emancipated Soul is without any Karmic matter. It is now God.
Ii) And there was rainbow round about the throne-
ii) This refers to Philosophy and Metaphysics.
4-i) And round about the throne were four and twenty seas; and upon the seates I saw four twenty elders sifting.
4-i) These are the twenty four Tirthankaras of Jainism , where too they are spoken of as Elders. In the Bible they ae also referred to as “ 24 Brethren.”
ii) Clothed in white reiment*
ii) The are Embodiments of the purified Effulgence of Life, the white of Their raiments being an emblem of the absence of all kinds impurities that are ultimately material in nature. In plain English They are only robed in their own Effulgence.
iii) And they had on their heads crowns of gold: iii) It is to be noticed that the crown of gold are not worn by any one else in that assembly. The crowns are the emblems of supreme status of Divinity.
The Siwetmbra sect of Jainism puts crowns of gold and silver on the head of the images of the Tirthankaras.
Raminder= Clothes , Germments.
5-i) And out of the throne proceeded lightning and thoudering and voice
5-i) Thunders and lightning are emblems of Life’s explosiveness,
since dead things move
ii) And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are the seven spirits of Gods.
ii) The seven lamps of fire signify the burning up of the seven constituents of the lower nature, the senses, Manas and intellect symbolized by the seven tongues of Agni in Hindu symbology.
6-i) And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto Crystal:
6-i) This signifies infinite unclouded perception.
ii) and in midst of the throne and round about the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
ii) The four beasts with eyes in both directions are the four classes of living beings, whose bodies are made of the four different elements of matter-the air, the fire, water and the earth- Eyes are symbolical of perception or knowledge which is a function of Life.
7) And the first beast was like a lion, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was the flying eagle.
As already stated above.
1. The lion walks on earth and represent earth;
2. The calf is the sea-calf or lion and represents water;
3. The flying eagle sands for air;
4. The face of man represents s the sun which gives us the fourth elements, fire.
8-i) And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and thy were full of eyes within:
8-i) The six wings of each of these beasts have reference to the descending and ascending arcs of time called averarpni and utasarpni which are devided into six spokes(aras) each, in which four kinds of experiences of account of the changes of conditions.
ii) and thy rest not day and night saying Holy ,Holy holy Lord God Almighty which was and is and is to come.
ii) The unceasing glorification and praise of Godhood on the part of the fur beasts is expressive of the fact that Life is loved by and dear to all. We lie prostrate before One whom we worship.
10) The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne & worship him that liveth for ever and ever & cast their crowns before the throne saying:
10) The 24 Elders too, acknowledge the Divinity of Life, because they are its greatest expressions in themselves.
They also worship Lamb= (The ideal) for that is the cause of Their own greatness,
11) Thou are worthy O Lord to recive glory & honour and power: for thou hast created all things & for thy pleasure they are & were created.”
11) It only means this that Life is the source of form: every soul being the author of its own body evolved out in consequence of the pleasure – seeking nature of the living substances.
1-i) And I saw in The right hand of him that sat on the throne as book
written within and on the back side.
1-i)The Sealed Book is the Soul itself which is in its naure omniscient; but whose omniscience is unmanifest owing to the operation of:
ii) Sealed with seven seals.
ii) the seven kinds of hostile forces.
The seven seals.
+4 furious passions.
The 3 Perversions are:
a. False or perverse convictions and beliefs.
b. Adulterated mixture of Truth and falsehood.
c. Truth Chilled and dominated by falsehood.
The 4 Furious Passions are:
Anger, pride, deceit and greed,
6-i) And to in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts and in the midst of the elders stood a lamb.
6-i) The Lamb is the symbol of the soul, because it is the object of much tender regard on the part of the Shephered (Teacher) and because the sheep if itself the symbol of Life.
ii) as it had been slain.
ii) The sol is slain by the materialistic view which denies its existence. The immortal soul cannot of course actually cease to exists by any such denial of its existence , but it behaves in every way, as if it were mortal and remains subject to Metempsychosis* till it acquires self-knowledge.
iii) having seven horns.
*Metempsychosis- Transmigration of soul.
iii) The seven horns are the marks of distinction resulting from the giving up of the 7 great lusts, namely:
2. flesh eating,
3. drinking wine,
4. sexual promiscuity,
6. stealing , and
iv) Seven eyes which are the seven spirit of God sent forh into all the earth.
iv) The 7 eyes of the Lamb indicate insight into the 7 Essentials of knowledge Viz, the seven Tattavas with reference to the salvation of the soul, namely:
1. Soul.= Jina
2. Matter.= Ajiva
3. The influxe of matter into the souls=Asrava
4. The effect of this.=Bandha
5. The Stoppage of the influxe.=Samvara
6. The elimination of matter from the soul substance=Nirjarn
7. And freedom= Moksha
Sidhas. : These Great Ones as well as the other Souls, (including these of the twenty four Tirthankaras. Who are particularly called as such), are designated Sidhas after attaining salution.
Their number, as stated in chapter VI as well as other description agree with that given in the Jain scriptures:
9. A great multitude which no man could number.
11.Ten thousand time ten thousand & thousand of thousand (in short infinite)
13. What are these which are arrayed in white robes and whence came they?
14. These are they which came out of great tribulations & have robes.
15. That one sitting on the throne shall dwell among them, and
15. They have became Gods. The One sitting on the throne in Atman or Soul.
16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. The above is repeated in :
For the incorruptible nature is not the subject of generation; it grows not, sleeps not ,hungers not thirsts not, is not wearid, suffereth not , dies not , is not pierced by nails and spears, sweats not, not with blood.
( Hippolytus, Vol II, P.88)They are free from:
|1. Hunger,||2) thirst,|
|2. Senility||4) disease,|
|5) birth,||6) death|
|9) attachment||10) aversion|
|11) infatuation or delusion,||12) worry,|
|13) conceit,||14) hatred,|
|15) uneasiness,||16) sweat|
|17) sleep, and||18) surprise|
N.B: The holy Bible mentions only a few of these atterbutes of the liberated Souls and leaves the rest.
26. Neither can they die any more (Luck XV).
17. Shall lead them into living fountain of waters. 18. Shall not be hurt of second death. A Thirthankara’s speech is like the voice of many waters.
His countenance is resplendent like a thousand suns shining in one place. His feet resemble fine
brass as it they burned in a furnace His eyes a flame of fie For whom are hid all the treasures a
wisdom and knowledge. (st.Paul).
And there shall in no wise enter into it (the Pure Perfect Spirit) anything that defileth, nor that whatsoever worketh aove nation or market a lie. (Revelation XXI, 27.)
The Doctrine set free from the allegorical imagery and complexities in this:
Life is the most worshipful thing in itself, every soul being a God in potency. This inherent Divinity of the soul-nature has been realised by a very large number of men whom none can count, but in a cycle of time consisting of six divisions, 24 of the number of Those, who attain to the perfection of Godhood, are specially devoted to Teaching humanity and are known as Teaching Gods, Elders, Thirthankaras, and the like. They are Omniscient and All-Perceiving. The world process is due to the pleasure of its own body, which if formed because embodied Life seeks pleasure through forms. The soul after redemption does not suffer from rebirth.
The Panch Parmeshtis (iap ijes'kVh) are referred to as five husbands as below:
16- Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband and come hither.
18. For thou hast had, five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidest thou truly.
19- The woman saith upto him,Sir I perceive that tho art a prophet.
St. John, Chapter IV.
Now who else these twenty four Ahuras, the previous incarnations of Budha, the Counsellor-Gods, Avtars, and Elders can be? The Jains have from a very remote time been daily reciting the holy names of these Lords in their temples. Separate marks of identification such as bull, conch, deer, crescent, lion etc, are fixed for the images of Each of them. Let those wiseacres who dispute the interpretations given above produce an alternative.