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Founder of Jainism
Tirthankara- The founder of Jainism
There is a special fascination in the number four and twenty; the Hindus have twenty-four avataras (incarnations) of their favourite god, Vishnu; there were twenty-four counsellor gods of the ancient Babylonians; the Buddhists posit four and twenty previous Buddhas, that is teaching gods. The Zoroastrians also have twenty-four Ahuras who are regarded as the mightiest to advance desire and Dominion of blessings !"
These Great Ones are thus addressed in one of the sacred books of the Parsis :- " Your blessings shall ye give us, all ye that are one in will, with whom right good thought, Piety and Mazda (are one), according to promise giving your aid when worshipped with reverence " (Yasna, li. 20). But the more remarkable case of identity of thought between Jainism and a non-Jaina 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 thou sawest which had twelve steps having two human faces which changed their appearance-now this ladder is this age, and the twelve steps are the times of this age, and the 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 the Old Testament, pages 96, 98 and 99.)
Of course, the language would not have been apocryphal had it been a little more lucid! But the true interpretation of the passage is not difficult. The term heathen refers to the non.:. Israelites; and the lawless are those 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, that is to say, by whose standard, 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.'
Such is the testimony furnished by the Jewish Esotericism, which is the only true side of their religion. Its true merit has been lost sight of owing to the allegorical vogue. which has estranged us from one another and from the Truth. When the true interpretation of the world's apocrypha is reached, the differences will simply melt away, leaving men gaping at each other, in sheer astonishment and wonder!. Let the reader read 'The Key of Knowledge,' the 'Confluence of Opposites' and the 'Jainism Christianity and Science' to realize this great truth for himself.
But what are we to say to those wiseacres who think that Jainism only came into existence in the time of Mahavira or at the earliest in that of Parsva Nath, and the earlier two and twenty Tirthamkaras are the outcome of the Jaina imagination ? Some of these intellectual giants had at one time relegated the Jaina Creed to the position of an offshoot of Buddhism, that was deemed to have arisen in the sixth century of the Christian era! But to-day the historicity of Parsva Nath is beyond dispute. What is really remarkable about the Jaina account is the confirmation of the number four and twenty itself from non-Jaina sources.
In present cosmic age, Rishabhdeva (the first Tirthankara) is the "Founder of Jainism". In other words, Rishabhdeva is the Historical Founder of Jainism. Jainism (Science of Salvation) like all sciences is eternal. Anyone having a good understanding of Jain philosophy and knowledge of true history will have no problem in accepting Jainism's claim of eternity.