Mahavira was a sixth-century reformer and philosopher, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara of
the Jains, who established Jainism as a new faith. Born into the royal family in Kundagrama(near Patna in present day Bihar), he renounced his family and all material possessions and became an ascetic at the age of thirty. Having attained omniscience (kevala jnana) after performing austerities for twelve years, Mahavira began travelling on foot, preaching and gaining followers. A great believer in the equality of all, he ordained men and women from
all classes and castes. He taught his followers how to overthrow the fetters of karma and
liberate the soul from the cycle of birth and rebirth as well as lessons on how to live a life of
truthfulness, compassion, humility and non-attachment. The Upanishadic dictum—ahimsa
paramo dharmah (non-violence is the greatest Truth)—saw its apogee in the teachings of
Mahavira. His teachings on the symbiosis between all living beings and the five elements—
earth, air, fire, water and vegetation—form the basis of environmental sciences today.
Edited by Nanditha Krishna, the aphorisms in ‘Live and Let Others Live’ contain the core
teachings of Mahavira that show us how to lead a peaceful and fulfilling life.