Jaina Thinkers: Śrīmad Rājacandra, Kānji Swāmi, Pt. Todarmala (1/2)

Posted: 01.07.2008
Updated on: 30.07.2015

Jaina Thinkers: Śrīmad Rājacandra

1.0 Introduction

The Indian situation in the 19th century was different from the situation at the time of the two reformers discussed earlier. India was now under the British rule. Christian missionaries have started their preaching. The British introduced formal education system, science and technology and started criticizing classical Indian religious traditions on the ground that there was no acceptance of GOD, GRACE, FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE.

Against this background we have to understand the works of the three main reformers-

  1. Srīmad Rājacandra (1867-1901 A.D.),
  2. Kānji Swāmi (1889-1980 A.D.), and
  3. Sant Bāla (1904-1982 A.D.).

None of them preached the traditional ascetic oriented religion. They unified spirituality and the day-to-day activities of life. Srīmad introduced BHAKTI MĀRGA in Jaina religion, which is discussed by him in his poems and correspondence with various individuals who had spiritual quest. Kānji swāmi, emphasized JŇĀNA MĀRGA, that is, one should know that one is Suddhātma. Srīmad never took initiation but was a householder. Kānji swāmi was a Sthānakavāsi muni but after reading ‘Samayasāra’ the Digambara text, became a Digambara lay follower.

2.0 SRĪMAD RĀJACANDRA (1867 A.D- 1901 A.D.)

Raichand was born in 1867 A.D. to Ravjibhai and Devabai of Vavania in Morbi. His grandfather was a devout Kŗşņa worshipper and his mother came from a Jaina family. This blend of two religions in his life played an important role. He had four sisters and one bother. His paternal grandfather was a major influence on him. In autobiography ‘Samutchaya Vaya-carya’, which he wrote at the age of twenty-two he says that he was “deeply dyed in the more colorful mode of worship of Kŗşņa cult”1. He listened eagerly to the verses consecrating the image of lord Kŗşņa as also to the lore of various adventures and miracles attributed to him in the different incarnations. This had a profound effect on young Raicand. He even mentions his having been formally initiated while he was yet a boy of less than ten, by a monk named Ramadāsaji. In Samutchaya Vayacarya, however he mentions this only as a phase which he later was to outgrow.

He is said to have astonishing powers of intelligence and memory. At the age of seven he started going to school and it barely took him a month to master the numerals. At the age of 7, when he saw his neighbor being cremated, he obtained jāti smaraņa jňāna (knowledge recollecting his past births) When he was eight years old he is known to have composed some five thousand lines of verse.

In this youth he earned the reputation of being a Śatāvadhāni (one who could attend to a hundred different things simultaneously. He even gave public performance of this rare feet in Bombay in 1886-87. Times of India dated 24th January 1887 have published an article on it. In this 20th year he renounced these powers, as he considered them to be obstructions to his spiritual progress.

He never ran away from any of his responsibilities and duties. On the contrary, he took the uttermost care in performing them. Even in business he could have attained the highest position but he declined any such opportunities.

He was married at the age of sixteen and had five children. He advocated performing marriage and other social functions in a simple and economical way. This shows that a person can live like a householder and even live and aspire for a life of spiritual development. He holds that religion should be followed in every act of life. Whatever he was doing, whether eating, sitting, sleeping, he was firmly detached from every act. He was never attracted to any worldly matters. He lived simple dressed in very simple way and also always satisfied with whatever food was offered to him. “From V.S.1947 to 1951, for the first time he had the direct experience of atman as separate from body. This is called samakit or samyaktva. He then ardently desired to give up worldly life and become a nirgrantha muni. However his fight with external upadhi becomes quite active here. So this stage is marked with terrific battle or conflict between the two opposite forces. He feels like assuming the role of religious teacher for which renouncing worldly life and becoming a monk is a precondition.”2 “Though externally he is a householder of the fourth spiritual stage, internally he has reached the seventh spiritual stage (apramatta samyata guņasthāna) of a monk”.3 While from V.S.1952 TO 1957 when he passed, he almost overcame conflict. But before reaching the zenith of the spiritual development, that is, perfect vitarāgatā and kevala jňāna, the span of his life was unexpectedly cut short and he met a premature death because of extreme weakness”.4

Another important feature of his life is his acquaintance with Mahatma Gandhi was very much influenced by his teachings and was a major influence on him. He was Gandhi’s spiritual guru. Through letters Gandhi and Śrīmad had lot of correspondence. Gandhi Says, “he was absorbed in his thoughts even when he would be walking. He had a miracle in his eyes, which were very shining. He was never in depressed mood. His voice was so much sweet that one would never be tired of listening to him. His face was always smiling and it displayed inner bliss.”5

There were many other people who followed him during his life. He wrote Ātma Siddhi on the request of Sobhāgabhai and completed it in three hours. Sankara, the propounder of Advaita Vedanta and Vivekananda of Ramakrishna Mission also lived a short span life of 33 years with its full meaning. Śrīmad lived only for 33 ½ years.

2.1 Literature

His major works are in Gujarati. They include Bhāvanābodha, Mokşamala, Ātmasiddhi, Apurva Avasara, Mulamārga, about eight hundred letters, personal diaries and notes, more than one thousand aphorisms and good sayings are published in works like Puşpamālā, Bodhavacana and Vacanasapta Sati, Gujarati translation of Kundakunda’s Paňcāstikāya etc.

Some poems, incomplete articles, translations notes and commentaries etc. are available in Manuscripts. His autobiographical article such as Samutcaya-VayaCarya is also valuable. These works show that he was a prolific writer, poet and a mystic who always wrote on the basis of his personal experience. His unfinished and unpublished works include topics like ‘women’s education’, ‘Svadesi’, ‘Who is really rich?’ All these were written before he completed 20 years of his age. But he stopped writing on such topics after the 20th year and concentrated only on spirituality.

Śrīmad can be regarded as a reformer in so far as we find in his views a beautiful blend of householder and of a spiritual aspirant. He proved to the world that religion has to be followed in every act of life and that in spite of performing duties towards parents, wife, children, and doing other social activities one can live a detached life. He earned money only for his simple livelihood devoid of greed.

He also studied various sects of Jaina religion, and found that there was great rivalry amongst them because they had forgotten the welfare of their own souls and the principle of Anekānta preached by Mahāvīra. After his extensive and unbiased study and research, he came to the revolutionary conclusion that all religions preach only Ātmadharma and therefore there is, in essence, only one universal religion of Ātmadharma and hence it is not necessary to belong to any particular religion or sect or not even to the one, in which one is born. This revolutionary idea of Śrīmad goes against the traditionalist view of religion, which regards that, one’s own religion or sect is true and those of others as false (Mithyā). He therefore re-established that permanent and the eternal (dhrauvya) is the ātmadharma and not the sectarian beliefs and outward ways of worship which are really of the nature of origin and destruction (utpāda and vyaya).

In the present age, some aspirants try to find their salvation through the mere observances of rites and some others through dry intellectual knowledge. Merely following the rituals and overlooking their spiritual significance, the ritualists denounce the path of knowledge as they hold that only practicing rituals alone is sufficient. This is so because the traditional Jainism holds that ones the knowledge obscuring karmas are shed off through the 12 forms of nirjara one does not feel the need to aspire for Samyag jňāna of which Śrīmad was critical.

He therefore says that “Samyag darśana is necessary to attain samyag jňāna”. Therefore according to him any action and mere knowledge devoid of samyag darśana is not worthy to follow. Mere external kriyas or dry intellectualism, both of them lead to the development egoistic attitude. Therefore in terms of Śrīmad both self-effort and intellectual understanding are insufficient for the self- realization.

2.2 His Views

In the order of Paňca Parmeşthi, Arihanta and Siddha are the supreme and those who have attained liberation. Therefore the aim of the sādhus, upādhyayas and ācāryas is to attain the supreme state. Even though they may have highest of the scriptural knowledge, they may be less self - enlightened. They are in the four-fold samgha, the part of organized institutional religion. Even though they guide people through their discourses, Śrīmad has seen the lacuna in such a way of guidance. Since they are ordained in a particular institution they have to follow the set of prescribed rules. They solely follow the external rituals mentioned in the agamas. The time required for sādhana is wasted in mere performance of external rituals. They cannot guide people properly about the spiritual development due to their inability to grasp the spiritual level of the people. Śrīmad therefore stresses the need of a sadguru or satpuruşa to whom an individual can completely devote. The sadguru is a real self-enlightened person who is far away from external rituals, passions, completely engrossed in self. At no moment he is away from the self. Such a satpuruşa can hence guide the person rightly on the spiritual ladder.

He laid very much importance on Sadguru. According to him the teacher who is sanctimonious and enlightened and has self-experience is like God himself and devotion to him is devotion to God. Hence the individual who has found such a teacher should totally surrender to him and obey all his commands. The study of scriptures also should be done under the guidance of such a teacher; otherwise a person is likely to be misguided.

An aspirant who aims at attaining liberation has to follow right knowledge, faith and conduct. He says that spiritual knowledge consists in realizing with the help of the preaching of pious teacher, (a)that soul is different from body (b)that it has the inherent quality of knowledge and (c)that it is indestructible. Here what he tries to clarify is that in the process of acquiring right knowledge a teacher plays an important and significant role.

In his book Moksa Mala he has stressed on the importance of satpuruşa and his satsanga. He explains that good company helps the person to be free from passions etc. and helps to lead him to the path of self-realization. He seems to be right in saying that only an experienced person can be forceful in giving explanation to us, which are right. Here he was really right in asking people to follow right teacher. Then only his discourse affects the person and makes him stable in his thoughts. He also stresses on meditation. He himself would go away in secluded place and meditate.

According to him meditation is the best means for spiritual progress and realization. The aim and object of realization is to know our self. He says that an aspirant should have a dialogue with the sadguru. Then after having got the doubts cleared he should go to a place where there is no disturbance, contemplate on the real nature of the self and thus know the true spirit in one’s own self. When one’s knowledge is purified it is nothing but Kevala jňāna. This knowledge according to him is not the knowledge of the substances but the purified knowledge of the self.

Śrīmad’s teachings were full of devotion. It means that a person true to his teacher is fully devotional to him and devotion to teacher is devotion to God because only a pious teacher can impart the true teaching of tīrthańkaras and the Scriptures. This devotion, which his teachings express, is the devotion to a living person.

Really speaking the period from the 9th century to the 12th century was very important from the point of view of various changes that were taking place in the course of conduct of a layman. It was a time when rituals were getting into prominence in place of the basic principles of religion. People were looking for various forms and manners of performing divine services, as a result the code of ceremony and performances of rites were gaining popularity. As the quotation describes the bhakti in traditional Jainism means divine service (mainly in the form of rituals) which is totally different from what he meant by surrender.
 The present times are very hard and very unfavorable for the practice of spirituality and sadguru or satpuruşa are very rare to be found. Śrīmad therefore said at many places in his writings that if no such sadguru is available, one should worship such things and place and study such scriptures as would increase the sentiments (bhāva) of passionlessness (vairāgya), and subsidence of Kaşāyas (attachment, aversion etc)

The association of such sadguru must result in changing one’s life in due course. This changing of life suggests the attaining of samyaktva. He says, “An aspirant must find out a satpurusa at any cost and totally surrender to him and devote himself with all his might. This will destroy all his passions and desires because such a person, who has realized his soul, can only help him achieve self-realization. He further says that to accomplish sat (truth), one has to come in touch with the embodiment of sat, and that is the satpuruşa.”

“He unconditionally declares that it is not essential to belong to any faith or system or religion because anything, which helps us know our self and remain with and realize the self is the best of religions for us and whatever distracts us away from our self, is nonreligion for us. The moment we forget our self, we go under the control of our mind, desires and passions, which are the sources of misery and unhappiness”.6 By emphatically emphasizing only on the immutable ātma dharma Śrīmad hits hard at those religious doctrines, which preach that only their way is the right path. This deconditioning liberalizes the approach of religion because then religion will overcome religious differences and set beliefs.

Śrīmad has preached his philosophy of self - realization in his poem, called Ātma Siddhi. Here he has formulated the six tenets. Firm belief in these six tents leads an aspirant to achieve samyag - darśana which means one becomes introvert. He comes to acquire general knowledge of soul and non soul (soul as different from body). He has firm faith in those things and also develops great sensitivity and discriminatory knowledge to decide what is good for his soul or for self - realization and what is not. The text is in a form of a dialogue between an aspirant and a guru. The aspirant who is in search of the transcendental reality has certain doubts. This shows that the six propositions regarding the self; earlier given by Siddhasena more recently by Śrīmad can be said to have their genesis in the Ācārāńga.

He has expressed spirituality in his Ātmasiddhi without involving in any rituals. It is purely spiritual poem Śrīmad’s Ātma-Siddhi consists main of six tenets which are sure to help him achieve his goal and bless. It unfolds mystery about soul. These six propositions can be said the metaphysical basis of Śrīmad.

The six tenets on which the whole edifice of his philosophy of Ātmadharma is built are about of right faith, which is the foundation of all spiritual progress.

  1. The soul exists: - Soul is a substance. Its existence can be proved because of certain qualities like its realization and knowledge which make its existence felt and thus it knows itself and also others. He thus avoids skepticism and affairs that the existence of soul can be proved.
  2. Soul is eternal: - Soul is indestructible and permanent. It is an independent substance, cannot be produced and therefore cannot be destroyed at any time.
  3. Soul is the author of its own acts: - When it acts spiritually, it can realize its nature and hence it is doer of its own nature. From practical point of view also it is the doer of things.
  4. Soul is the enjoyer of its own actions: - Every action has a reaction or effect. Cause effect - relation is a common experience. Eating poison has it effect and eating sugar has its own effect. If soul acts under passions it attracts inauspicious karmas and if it is the doer of good and auspicious thoughts and acts, it attracts auspicious karmas and enjoys their pleasant fruits.
  5. The soul can be liberated:- If there is a cause, the effect is bound to follow. The soul can attain Liberation if the cause of bondage is removed by e stoppage of influx of karmas and by efforts like austerities, non-attachment, and meditation. Liberation is a natural state of Soul-pure consciousness.
  6. There is path to ‘liberation’:- Soul can be freed by realization of soul and by practicing religion.

Through such a composition it follows that one cannot merely have blind faith in spiritual matters. It becomes more essential to become doubtless by raising doubt. It becomes all the more necessary in spiritual matters to purify the intelligence through proper guidance. Therefore one cannot deny the importance of knowledge as a precondition for right faith. According to him intellectual knowledge can be purified by submission to a Sadguru.

His main emphasis on sadguru, bhakti, satsanga, and swādhyāya suggest that with such an approach he evoked the inner feelings of the aspirants. Such an emotional growth would on the contrary lead a person to overcome a feeling of apathy to its opponents and that is what he has suggested bringing about a reconciliatory approach between incompatible views.

2.3 Legacy

He had a lot of correspondence with various individuals. One of the important person was muni Laghurāja Swāmi; a Jaina monk and an ardent devotee of Śrīmad. They had a lot of correspondence with each other. After his demise muni Lahgurāja established Śrīmad’s āśrama at Agas.

Today we find lot of āśramas in the name of Śrīmad. The new age spiritual gurus have established these āśrama. Some of these āśramas are established at Kobā(near Ahmedabad), Deolāli(near Nasik), Dharampur(Valsad). These complexes consist temples. The images serve the purpose of having an external instrument for worship and not of image worship. These complexes also contain meditation halls, libraries, guesthouses, even residences, hospitals etc. In paryusana and other holy days there are sessions for satsanga and swādhyaya. These gurus who have mastered the words of the scriptures impart so to the followers.


References:

 

1. Digish Mehta, Srimad Rajacandra A Life, p. 15.
2. U.K. Pungaliya, Philosophy and Spirituality Of Rajacandra, p.27
3. ibid
4. ibid, p. 68
5. ibid
6. ibid
7. A.Cakravarti, Commentary on Samayasara of Kundakunda, p 232-233

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