A Tirthankar is a human being who has attained a highly exalted state due to intense spiritual practices in various lifetimes and signifies the ultimate pure developed state of the soul. Having attained the highest spiritual goal of human life, they help others cross the ocean of Samsara and win freedom against the infinite cycles of birth and death that man has to undergo. According to Jain philosophy Time cycle or the kaalchakra is infinite, it is beginningless and endless. Time is divided into two cycles, Utsarpini and Avsarpini. Utsarpini is progressive which means that during this cycle humanity progresses from its worst to its best in health, ethics, religion and all fields while in Avsarpini humanity moves from its best to worst stage. Aras are the six unequal periods that every Utsarpini and Avsarpini is divided into. At present according to Jainism the fifth Ara of the Avsarpini phase is going on with 19000 yrs approximately until the next Ara. The sixth phase will then begin after this Ara which is supposed to last for approximately 21000 years. This will be followed by the Utsarpini phase which will continue the repetition. Thus it is presumed that there have been infinite sets of 24 Tirthankaras, one for each half of the time cycle which will continue in the future. For the purpose of study, only the 24 Tirthankars of the present half cycle are considered.
Birth and childhood
Abhinandannath in his previous birth was the King of Manglavati or Ratnasanchay town in Purva Mahavideha named Mahabal. He was a simple and humble King who wondered why he was praised by his subjects when he did not have any virtues and was happy when he was criticised as he felt that by pointing out his faults he was being helped in his spiritual progress. He was highly influenced by the teachings of Acharya Vimal Suri about the goal of human life and liberation as the final goal of human existence and a feeling of detachment grew till finally he embraced ascetism and took Diksha from Vimal Suri. His spiritual attainments of many births resulted in him being born as the fourth Tirthankar.
He was born to Queen Siddhartha and King Samvar of Ayodhya. Even when he was in the womb, he had an indelible effect on the external atmosphere. There was love, compassion and fraternity everywhere and this aura of goodness spread in the entire kingdom creating peace and prosperity. Everyone in the kingdom greeted one another in an atmosphere of brotherhood and unity hence he came to be named as Abhinandan(greeting).The royal priests proclaimed that it was due to the greatness of the soul in the womb. He was born on the second day of the bright half of the month of Magh. Soon he grew up and was married. As time passed King Samwar handed over the Kingship to Abhinandan and went to the forests to practice meditation.
Path of Renunciation
Abhinandan ruled the kingdom wisely for many years but soon his sense of detachment grew and one day he handed over his kingdom and left for the jungles to practice meditation and become an ascetic. He underwent rigorous spiritual penances and on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the month of Paush he achieved Omniscience.
He then moved among the people, spreading the teachings of the Jain philosophy and exhorting them to give up leading a mundane life and seek the real goal of all existence. After many years of preaching, he attained Nirvana at Sammed Shikhar on the eighth day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha.
Bhagavan Abhinandannath was born to uplift mankind and lead them on the path of liberation. His compassion and humility endeared him to all and thousands embraced ascetism along with him. Such souls are born to purify the earth and help man to free himself from bondage and the eternal cycles of birth and death.