The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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In Jainism, a Tīrthaṅkara (Sanskrit: तीर्थंकर "ford-Maker", Tamil: கடவுள் Kaṭavuḷ) is a human being who helps in achieving liberation and enlightenment as an "Arihant" by destroying their soul-constraining (ghati) karmas, became a role-model and leader for those seeking spiritual guidance.
Jain scriptures define the term tirthankara as follows: the contrivance which help us to cross the great ocean of worldly life is called Tirtha and the person who makes that tirtha is known as tirthankara.
As a result of this, unlimited siddhis, spiritual powers, are readily available to them – which they use exclusively for the spiritual elevation of living beings. Through their darshan, divine vision, and deshna, divine speech, they grant their own state of Keval Gnan, and moksha, final liberation to anyone seeking it sincerely.
Jainism postulates that time has no beginning or end. It moves like the wheel of a cart. Jains believe that exactly twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras are born in each half-cycle of time in this part of the universe. The first Tīrthaṅkara is Rishabha, who is credited for formulating and organising humans to live in a society harmoniously. The 24th and last Tīrthaṅkara was Mahavira (599-527 BC). Digambara Jains believe that Tīrthaṅkara were men, but Svetambara Jains believe that the 19th Tīrthaṅkara, Mallinath, was a woman.
In Jain tradition the Tīrthaṅkaras were royal in their final lives, and Jain traditions record details of their previous lives, usually as royalty. Their clan and families are also among those recorded in very early, or legendary, Hindu history. All but two of the Jains are ascribed to the Ikshvaku dynasty. Munisuvrata, the twentieth, and Neminatha, the twenty-second, were of the Harivamsa. Jain canons state that Rishabha, the first Tīrthaṅkara, founded the Ikshvaku.
Twenty Tīrthaṅkaras achieved siddha status on Shikharji. Vasupujya attained nirvana at Champapuri in North Bengal; Neminatha on Girnar in Gujarat; and Mahavira, the last at Pawapuri, near modern Bihar's capital, Patna.
Twenty-one of the Tīrthaṅkaras are said to have attained moksha in the kayotsarga (standing meditation) posture, while Rishabha, Nemi and Mahavira are said to have attained moksha in the lotus position.