Chapter 20: The Rebel Has No Path
Sometimes numbers also have their days. In America, number thirteen is thought to be very dangerous. Now it is just a poor number like any other number; in the whole world nobody thinks anything about number thirteen. But in America hotels simply don’t make the thirteenth floor; they don’t number it. There it is - after twelve comes the fourteenth! The thirteenth simply does not come, because nobody wants to stay on the thirteenth floor. The municipal corporations cannot put the number thirteen on any house; number thirteen is simply missing in every city. After twelve comes fourteen, because nobody is willing to have number thirteen, it is evil.
In the days of Mahavira, the number twenty-four became a very spiritual number. These things happen like fashions; you cannot give any very reasonable evidence for why they happen. Jainas declared that they have twenty-four tirthankaras. Number twenty-four became important because the day has twenty-four hours, and the whole creation is conceived of almost like a day - half will be dark night, and half will be full of light.
In one creation there will be twenty-four tirthankaras.just like old grandfather clocks with a bell that rings every hour. On city towers and in the universities those kinds of clocks still exist. Nobody wants those clocks in the home, because the whole night you cannot sleep. The clock has no consideration whether you are asleep or awake; it simply goes on mechanically.
The mechanics of existence, according to Jainism, is that each hour of existence - that means millions and millions of years - will be preceded by one tirthankara and succeeded by another. That’s why there are twenty-four tirthankaras. Only three, or at the most four - the fourth is a little suspicious.but twenty are certainly a creation of the imagination to complete the number twenty-four.
Gautam Buddha.his followers certainly must have felt, “We are very poor, we have only one buddha and these people have twenty-four tirthankaras, all awakened, all enlightened. Our religion is very poor, something has to be done.” It is clear-cut competition in the marketplace! They could not say that there had been twenty-three buddhas before, because there was no indication in their history, no temple dedicated to any other buddha, no scripture describing any other buddha. It was very difficult for them, so they found a new way.
They created a story that Gautam Buddha himself had been born twenty-three times before. Whatever he had said before, he was going to re-say it completely refined, well systematized, in the twenty-fourth time when he would be coming for the last time to the world - and that’s why no scriptures exist. But they managed the number twenty-four.
Up to that time, Hindus had only ten avataras, ten incarnations of God. Suddenly they felt.up to Mahavira’s time all Hindu scriptures described only ten incarnations of God. But suddenly they saw that they would look poor in the marketplace if anybody asked - just ten? Jainas have twenty-four, Buddhists have twenty-four; twenty-four is the universal law. Because these were the only three religions in India at that time.. Hindus were at a great loss, what to do? - because all their old scriptures said that there were only ten incarnations.