(c. 6th Century BC)
"Desistance from sin makes one entirely happy."
Mahavira was born into a royal family in India but turned instead to a life of self denial. After 12 years of meditating to overcome cravings and desires, he traveled to remote places teaching how to gain freedom from suffering and freedom from the cycle of birth and death. It is claimed that he traveled barefoot with very little food. This simple living attracted followers from kings to the very poor. He died of starvation at the age of 72.
JAINISM: A dualistic religion founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against current Hinduism and emphasizing the perfectibility of human nature and liberation of the soul, esp. through asceticism and nonviolence toward all living creatures.
Followers of Jainism: Less than 1% of the world's population (note).
Authoritative Texts: Mahavira's followers memorized his teachings and compiled his words into texts to pass down to future generations but many of the original teachings have been lost over time. Debates continue as to which texts are authentic. Mahavira's words are viewed as unimportant because Jains believe their traditions to be fixed truths without origin.