So Mahavira did not talk about the ultimate reality. He said, “There is no universal soul, only the individual soul exists. You must become pure. Sin is sin, virtue is virtue – the same reality is not present in all. Bad is bad and good is good and the difference between the two should be kept clear. That dividing line should not be dissolved.”
Mahavira has called his insight bheda-vigyan, the science of differentiation. The Upanishads say abheda, no difference. But Mahavira has called his whole technique bheda-vigyan, the clear awareness of difference: what is wrong and what is right, where is wrong and where is right, where is good and where is evil, from where does goodness begin and from where does evil begin, where does worldliness end and where does liberation from it begin? Mahavira made the understanding of this clear distinction the basis of spirituality. He said that each individual is separate, he has not to dissolve. And when each individual is separate then the whole responsibility for his life is his own. If you are suffering it is your own responsibility, not the divine’s. If you experience bliss then only you are responsible and it is not by the blessing of any divine. Mahavira dropped prayer, only meditation remained. Meditation to him means that one has to purify oneself so much that one day only pure consciousness is left. Mahavira called that pure consciousness paramatma. Paramatma does not mean God, it means param-atma, the ultimate soul, the purest soul.
Mahavira’s intention was to help people to overcome their lethargy. People are sleepy and unconscious because they are living in a deception which has been created by the principles which they believe in and which give them the permission to remain asleep. Mahavira wanted to destroy the whole basis of these theories so that man would become more aware, more silent, more conscious. He should stand on his own feet: he should not wait for any divine blessing or grace or support. This was a very important technique for the purification of man – but the end result of this too was exactly the same as it has always been and will always be.
Mahavira wanted that man should purify himself and rise to his divinity, but the ignorant understood, “I exist, and there is no divine to dissolve myself into; my existence is the end, the only reality.” Mahavira’s concept of the individual soul simply enhanced the egos of the ignorant: neither did they realize the soul nor did they purify themselves and rise to their own divinity. Instead they became full of a very strong ego that believes that there is no God and that only “I am.”
And as this ego of “I am” becomes stronger, unconsciousness also becomes stronger because then the ego is an intoxicant. This intoxication increases in the same proportion as the ego; to the same extent, a man’s life becomes more unconscious. When there is no divine there is no reason to bow down, so the people who were egoistic were supported by this. They were happy with the idea that there is no need to bow down, no need to surrender. Humbleness was no longer seen as a quality of saintliness; there was only pride and arrogance.