Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In Jainism, a Tirthankar ("Fordmaker") is a human who by adopting asceticism achieves enlightenment (perfect knowledge), thus becoming a Jina (one who has conquered his inner enemies - anger, pride, deceit, desire etc.).
A Tirthankar is so-named because he is the founder of a "Tirth" which is a community of Jains which acts as a "ford" across the "river of human misery".
After achieving enlightenment himself, a Tirthankar shows the path to enlightenment to others. His religious teachings form the canon of Jainism. The inner knowledge of all Tirthankars is perfect and the same in all respects. Therefore the teachings of one Tirthankar do not in any way contradict those of another. However, the degree of elaboration varies according to the spiritual advancement and purity of mind of humans during the time of a particular Tirthankar. The higher the spiritual advancement and purity of mind, the lower is the elaboration required.
At the end of his human life-span, a Tirthankar achieves liberation ('moksh' or 'nirvan'), thus ending the beginningless cycle of birth and death.
According to Jainism, time has no beginning and no end. It moves in the same way as the wheel of a moving cart or bicycle. There have been an infinite number of time cycles before the present one and there will be an infinite number of time cycles after the present one. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we are approximately 2,530 years into the fifth era of the present half cycle.
Twenty four Tirthankars are born in each half cycle of time (that is forty eight in each full cycle), in this part of the universe.
In the present (descending) half cycle of time, the first Tirthankar was Rishabh Dev who lived billions of years ago and attained liberation ('moksh' or 'nirvan') towards the end of the third era. The 24th and last Tirthankar was Mahavir Swami (599-527 BC). The historical existence of the last two Tirthankars is accepted by Scholars.
The next Tirthankar in this part of the universe will be born at the beginning of the third era of the next (ascending) half cycle of time, that is in approximately 81,500 years.
Tirthankars should not be confused with God or gods. Jainism does not believe in the existence of God in the sense of a creator and gods are a form of life usually superior to that of humans but nevertheless not enlightened.
List of Tirthankars
The 24 Tirthankars who were born in the present (descending) half cycle of time, in this part of the universe, are as follows:
('Dev', 'Nath' or 'Swami' means Lord)
[Name] - [Symbol]
- Rishabh Dev (Adi Nath) - Bull
- Ajit Nath - Elephant
- Sambhav Nath - Horse
- Abhinandan Swami - Monkey
- Sumathi Nath - Curlew (Kraunea)
- Padmaprabh Swami - Red Lotus
- Suparshva Nath - Swastik
- Chandraprabh Swami - Moon
- Suvidhi Nath - Crocodile
- Shithal Nath - Srivatsa
- Shreyans Nath - Rhinoceros
- Vasupujya Swami - Buffalo
- Vimal Nath - Boar
- Ananth Nath - Bear (Falcon)
- Dharma Nath - Spike-headed Club (Vajradanda)
- Shanthi Nath - Deer
- Kunthu Nath - He-Goat
- Ar Nath - Fish
- Malli Nath - Water Pot
- Munisuvrat Swami - Tortoise
- Nami Nath - Blue Lotus
- Nemi Nath - Shell (Conch)
- Parshva Nath - Serpent
- Mahavir Swami - Lion
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