Acharya Bhikshu - A Revolutionary Visionary ► Background To The Revolution Of Ideas

Posted: 05.06.2013

Acharya Shree has composed a song in the context of the Year of Bhikshu Awareness. I feel it essential to go into the depth of its thought. I was fascinated by one of its verses:

सत्य शोध के क्षेत्र में हो मानस आग्रह मुक्त
सत्य साधना क्षेत्र में हो मानस आग्रह युक्त

Generally, absence of insistence (आग्रह) is desirable, but on occasions insistence is preferable. This is in accordance with the doctrine of manifold aspects (अनेकांत). This verse contains the philosophy of life that Acharya Bhikshu lived. It is difficult to come across an individual who is as insistence-free as Acharya Bhikshu. There is no insistence anywhere in his life. He endeavoured to explore truth and whatever he experienced he expressed it. He wrote: "I experienced it and so I accepted it. But if a learned sage or preceptor does not find it appropriate he may amend it." What an excellent example of non-insistence!

In his life Acharya Bhikshu had to face the issue of a door (किंवाडीया) and a small door (किंवाड) of a small hollow space (ताखी) in the wall. Acharya Bhikshu said: We should not open a door. Doors usually had hinges whose insides could not be seen. Therefore there was a possibility of small organisms being killed in it. Hence the restraint: A door should not be opened. On the other hand, ताखी (a small hollow space in the wall), which is called ताखा in Marwar and टोडीआलो in the Thali region was closed with किंवाडिया (a small door without hinges). Food was kept in a ताखा. When monks went for alms, the small door was opened and the food put in the ताखा was served them. Owing to the small size of the fqiqilsni it was possible to inspect it and wipe it. And that is why the opening of a किंवाडिया was allowed. This was laid down by Acharya Bhikshu. Several doubts were raised against this ruling both from within the order and from outside. In order to allay these doubts Acharya Bhikshu wrote "किंवाडिये का चोढलिया". He firmly defended his precept and finally wrote: "I don't see any offence in opening a किंवाडिया. I have allowed it because I find it harmless. And if you experience any sinfulness in opening it, ignore my precept. If you like, you can change it."[1]

Here is a learned preceptor who allows alteration of his own rulings! Inconceivable, isn't it? Such an attitude cannot be attributed to a person who is insistent and who does not adore truth.

Acharya Bhikshu was free from insistence in the field of research of truth. At the same time, when it came to conducting oneself truthfully, he was uncompromising. To come across a man so steadfast in truth is rare. He would not worry even if he had to sacrifice his life for the sake of truth in day-to-day life. He never vacillated even in the face of adverse circumstances. Jayacharya has described his resoluteness in these words:

मरण धार सुध मग लह्यो.

One who is scared of dying cannot insist on truthful conduct. Acharya Bhikshu was intimidated: "You will not get food and water; you will not get any place to live in; you will have to face hostility in its horrible manifestations." But none of these threats succeeded in daunting his soul. And mind you, it was not just a show of intimidation; it appeared in concrete forms. But none of these deprivations - no shelter, no food and water, no clothes - could act as impediments. Abuse was showered on him without rhyme or reason, just like rain without clouds. Even living in the midst of all these, Acharya Bhikshu lived a life of joy and bliss. No insistence in the theoretical discussion of truth, while all insistence in the practice of truth - became the two governing maxims of his life.

Acharya Bhikshu regulated Terapanthi sect by prescribing norms and specifying the forms of discipline. At the same time, he allowed freedom of thought and patronised debate and discussion. He gave every one the right to accept a principle when it was intelligible to him, otherwise he had to subject it to debate and discussion. I still remember the occasion of the Sardarshahr Maryada Mahotsava. At three o'clock in the morning, in the presence of the Acharya, the community of monks would get engrossed in deep thinking and analysis. An association or organization which does not enjoy freedom of discussion and argument will not be able to live with truth.

A very dear disciple of Acharya Bhikshu, Veniramji, went to him and said: "Maharaj, our monks paint their pots with vermilion. It is not proper because it causes desire."

Acharya Bhikshu: "It is essential."

"In that case why not paint the pots in tile colour," asked Veniramji.

The Acharya said, "Your aim is to paint the pot. There is a tile which is lying close by but its colour is not pleasing. There is another tile which is lying a little away whose colour is good. Which one will you make use of?"

"Maharaj, the one whose colour is pleasing," replied Veniramji.

"If you choose the one whose colour is pleasing, what is wrong with vermilion?" remarked the Acharya.

The argument appealed to him and his problem was solved.

In this way freedom of thinking led to several solutions.

Discipline and reasoning appear contradictory but actually they are not so. Believing the eternal (नित्य) and the ephemeral (अनित्य) contradictory, Dharmkirti, Adi Shankaracharya, Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Hiriyanna among others refuted the doctrine of manifold aspects (अनेकांत) In fact, there is no inconsistency between the permanent and the ephemeral. They express the real nature of matter. Acharya Bhikshu has made use of the doctrine of manifold aspects in managing the organisation. He held in high esteem both discipline and freedom of discussion.

If one of the aspects of his life is firmness in upholding truth, the other is the attitude characteristic of a person who is firm in upholding truth. Acharya Vinoba, in his Introduction to Saman Suttam, has written the following:

"I admit that the Geeta has greatly influenced me. Apart from the Geeta, no one has exercised a greater influence on me than Mahavir. The reason is that Mahavir's instruction is fully acceptable to Baba and the instruction is: Be firm in upholding truth. Today it is such a person who has risen to greatness. Even Baba was presented by Gandhiji as an individual who always insisted on truth(सत्याग्रही) but Baba knew who he was. He knew that he was not one who insisted on truth but one who understood and practised truth. Every human being has a portion of truth, which is why human life is meaningful. Therefore the element of truth that we come across in religions, sects and all human beings should be grasped. We should understand and practise truth (सत्याग्राही). Next to the Geeta, Baba has been influenced by this lesson, the lesson given by Mahavir. I have said 'next to the Geeta.' But when I consider both of them, I do not find any difference between them."

The Year of Bhikshu Awareness should become a year of understanding the inner self of Acharya Bhikshu. Let his standpoint of accepting and insisting on the truth be imbibed. Let it be an occasion to assess and appreciate the principles propounded by him in the light of the doctrine of manifold aspects (अनेकांत). Let the doors of debate and discussion be opened. Immediately the background to the revolution of ideas will unfold itself.

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Translation: A.L. Shah, Associate Professor Department of English University of Rajasthan Jaipur

Publisher: Jai Tulsi Foundation, JVB, Ladnun, India

Edition: 1st, 1994

HN4U Editon: 2013
Hindi & Sanskrit for web composed by Sushil Bafana