Mahavira was the twenty-fourth tirthankara of the Jaina religion. Did the Jaina religion start with the very first tirthankara or with Mahavira? And what is the meaning of the word Jaina?
The word jaina has a very beautiful meaning, just like the word buddha. Buddha means the awakened one. Jaina comes from a root jina. Jina means one who has conquered.
The movement of conquering the ultimate peak of being, started with the first tirthankara, Rishabhdeva.
Perhaps he is the most ancient mystic in the whole history of man, and Jainism the most ancient religion. Because it is very small in numbers, the world is not very well aware of it; otherwise, its contribution is immense.
Rishabhdeva, the first tirthankara, the first Jaina master, is mentioned with great reverence in the oldest book in existence, the Hindu holy scripture, the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda is thought, by scholars, to be at least five thousand years old. But these are Christian scholars who are trying to fix everything within six thousand years – because the world started just six thousand years ago, according to them. So they have a prejudice: nothing can be older that that – there was no world before that. And this is simply stupid.
Even this earth is four billion years old by scientific findings. This solar system is much older; and this is not the oldest solar system. There are millions of other solar systems which are even older. The Christian idea that six thousand years ago the whole existence was created, is very retarded. You cannot even call it wrong, it is simply idiotic.
It is against science, it is against even common sense, because we have found in India cities buried underground which are seven thousand years old. And a city buried underground seven thousand years ago, must have existed before some calamity happened. The city must have existed before that; the calamity happened seven thousand years ago, the city may have existed for longer.
Looking at those cities – because they have been excavated – one can see that they were not primitive, they were far advanced. The roads are as broad as any modern city’s roads, and that is significant. Varanasi has roads where no car can go, you can only walk. That means those roads in Varanasi are really primitive – when there was no vehicle, people were simply walking. In those small streets the sun never penetrates because on both sides are huge buildings. There is always shade; you will not find such coolness anywhere as in Varanasi. Even in the hottest summer you can walk in the streets; it is cool because the sun never reaches there.
Hindus think Varanasi is their oldest city, and they claim it is the oldest in the world. The two cities I am talking about are Mohenjo Daro and Harappa; now they are both in Pakistan. I have been to both the cities.