This is a group of people that are part of Jainism, a part of the ancient Indian religions. The followers are called Jains, a word that translates to Victor, representative of people that are victorious in regard to our life streams that each of us has that pertain to rebirth. Tirthankaras are specifically called arihants, individuals that have been successful at conquering inner passions. They are able to avoid thoughts of anger, attachment, greed and pride. These are emotions that adhere us to returning time and time again. The Tirthankaras have been able to attain what they call pure infinite knowledge, and they spend their time discussing and preaching about what is called Dharma.
In some translations, this is simply a word for religion. In one context, this could refer to Jainism, the ancient Indian religion which preaches nonviolence, nonattachment, and truth. There are subsets of this religion, each of which has its own interpretation of what Jainism is, a religion that today has about 5 million followers. Dharma refers to the principles that they follow which include 10 virtues. These virtues include humility, celibacy, renunciation, and forgiveness to name a few. Therefore, Tirthankaras are those that follow the Dharma as presented by Jains, allowing them to access what are called siddhis.
What Are Siddhis?
When you are able to adhere to a life that is free from attachment, and negative emotions, you have access to these siddhis or powers. These are spiritual powers, those that are only available to those who have become more enlightened, allowing them to connect more fully with what some call the righteous path. The goal in Hinduism has always been to escape the Wheel of Samsara, the never ending cycle of death and rebirth. Those that follow these religions believe that life represents suffering, and it is through Dharma that Tirthankaras can escape this never ending cycle and interact directly with that from which we come.
Tirthankaras are simply people that follow the teachings of Jainism, hoping to conquer the cycle of death and rebirth. By following the many virtues, which can only happen through avoidance of worldly temptations like alcohol or cars, they can hopefully prevent their rebirth after they die. Although this is very similar to many of the other Hindu teachings, it has its own unique take on life and life’s purpose. If followed properly, they will eventually be able to remain in the realm where their soul dwells throughout eternity finally obtaining spiritual purity.
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