Live and Let Others Live: A Book Review on Life Lessons from Mahavira


A simple cross-legged posture, and a demeanour of stillness and contentment graces the cover of ‘Live and Let Others Live’: Life Lessons from Mahavira by Nanditha Krishna. The ordinary Indian has come across this stance several times in his or her life. Perhaps when Shiva sits in a yogasana, or Buddha glows under the Bodhi Tree in a similar fashion. But Mahavira, ‘with his eyes closed’, as Sadhguru would say, seems to resemble nothing but the truth of the stance – perhaps for himself and for others around him. 

On contemplation upon the figure, one lets this quiet confidence, alertness and tapas guide an individual into a book that quite simply, describes the aphorisms of one of the greatest spiritual tapasvis of India. Mahavira, born around 2500 years ago, brought much of life’s lessons to people the way Buddha did at around exactly the same time. 

Mahavira was a prince who left his world of luxuries and comfort at 30 years of age to contemplate the meaning of life. He is known as the 24th Tirthankara in a canon of Jain teachers and spiritual leaders. His practice and teaching of non-violence were deeply influential in Mahatma Gandhi’s political philosophy for laying the foundations of Ahimsa in our freedom struggle. Mahavira’s followers today live a life of quietude and simplicity and are respected within society for their principles and ways of life. 

Life Lessons on Mahavira is a glimpse into the common Jain livelihood, as each pithy nugget of wisdom in chapters titled ‘Liberate the Soul’, ‘Conquer Your Senses’, ‘Gender and Caste’ tend to put one at ease and calm the soul. Some couplets from chapters such as ‘Detachment and Austerity’ awaken thoughts that linger on beyond the book. If an ‘excess of wealth in your hands is for society and you are its trustee’ is a simple thought to understand, then why does it disappear in the annals of time, and books? 

‘To Be Born Human’ is to be able to build values of compassion, take root in Dharma, practice non-injury and non-violence, live in peace and harmony with the ecosystem and, follow someone as proficient an eco-warrior as Mahavira in knowledge and in one’s faith. 

A simple Life Lesson from Mahavira on ‘Humility is the Root of Dharma’ can bring a colossal transformation in one’s own life, even as ‘Live and Let Others Live’ closes on ‘The Path to Liberation’. 

Some of the aphorisms that Nanditha Krishna has researched and collected here are pithy but need further thought and explanation. Mahavira says ‘The mind is like a furious elephant but can be controlled by the goad of right knowledge’ giving access to the reader about learning the human condition. However, ‘Live and Let Others Live’ is a collection of succinct words, a deeper dive into Jain literature perhaps can lead the avid reader to his or her contentment. 

Similarly, Mahavira’s precautions for fasting are relevant even today. The two main sects in Jainism are still known to practice rigorous fasting and penance during Paryushan. In fact, this could be useful for anyone who desires to abstain from food and water to understand that fasting is good when the person fasting does not have evil thoughts, his senses do not become weak and his mind, speech and body are not damaged. 

To the seeking mind, perhaps things would become clearer with another aphorism that, 

‘With knowledge, one knows the truth;
with austerity,
one purifies the soul;
with self-restraint,
one gives up forbidden deeds.
The accomplishment of all three leads to emancipation’. 

From the hook, to the reasonable and practical, and deeply philosophical, Life Lessons of Mahavira contains simple yet beautiful aphorisms such as these on the possibilities of controlling a mind which is full of delusion, rage, dullness, distraction and other negative karmas affecting one’s poise and equanimity. The wisdom of fasting literally serves as a brief guide to bring about benefits of abstaining from food and water. The brief aphorism on emancipation astonishingly says it all in the fewest of words. ‘Live and Let Others Live’: Life Lessons from Mahavira is a small book leaving the reader wanting for more in greater detail by the author. Nevertheless, a modern day handbook for Mahavira’s wisdom for the person mired in life’s ever-rushing waters is quite the answer for the searching and inquisitive soul.

Life as we all know it to be is beautiful and simple, and yet at times, it is one of the most difficult jewels to safeguard by a lot of people around us. Mahavira shines as a precious jewel who radiates his light amongst people seeking the calming of the mind, repentance and penance for karmas known and unknown, and the emancipation of the soul. Begin by living and letting others live. That itself could be the ultimate liberation for the soul.

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Price: 350 INR 

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