Who is a Jain Shravak: 33.2 Meaning of Being a Terapanthi

Published: 29.03.2020

Impoliteness Creates and Aggravates Problems

Politeness is a primary characteristic of one who is a disciple of AcharyaBhikshu and has faith in Terapanth whether he/she is a monk, nun, shravak or shravika.

All Acharyas of Terapanth have laid great emphasis on the virtue of politeness. Humility is the most demanding virtue needed for peace in social life. It removes thousands of hurdles, whereas impoliteness may cause myriads of problems. In Terapanth there has been a healthy tradition of politeness. Even when rebuked by the Acharya, the disciples reply with purity in humility, saying, 'Tahat Gurudev (i.e. you are right Gurudev).' This behaviour never complicates the situation. On the contrary, if one protests and interrogates the reason for the reprimand, the circumstances may become more critical.

Polite behaviour begets the same in return and does not give an opportunity for problems to arise.

In 1931 (the first year of my monkhood), Acharya Kalugani's chaaturmaas was in Bidasar. One fine day, when I was sitting and learning from him, one of the monk was called in. Acharya Shree gave the monk five parishthaapan (an atonement to compensate for any mistake made by a monk), as the monk had erred on some count. The monk retaliated immediately, saying, 'I haven't done anything wrong.' Seeing this impolite behaviour, AcharyaKalugani increased the penalty from five to ten. The monk continued to retaliate, and Acharya Shree continued to increase the penalty. Ultimately, AcharyaKalugani had to warn the monk about his behaviour and advise him that if he continued with such an attitude then he would not be able to live within the order. On hearing this, taking him to a different room, another monk made him understand his mistake. Ultimately, he apologized to AcharyaKalugani in all modesty and politeness.

Hence, it is evident that in the absence of politeness, problems keep on escalating. Politeness is the key to solving all problems.

Each member of Terapanth should think - I am Terapanthi and along with it I have received the boon of politeness. The most powerful characteristic of all etiquettes is humility. The greater the status, the greater should be one's politeness. Some of the greatest politicians have set examples for us emulate on how to be polite, irrespective of the status they held.

On the invitation of the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, AcharyaTulsi visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The president requested AcharyaTulsi, to sit on the higher seat and he sat down on the floor like an ordinary man. Similarly, the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru presented an example of impeccable politeness. In Trimurti Bhavan, in the presence of AcharyaTulsi, he sat on the floor and made AcharyaTulsi seat on a higher level.

A pompous person can never become great and a great person should not be pompous. No one wants to stay with a disorderly person. It's a fact that politeness attracts everyone in every phase of life.

Faith in Discipline

Being disciplined is one of the characteristics of being a Terapanthi. I am Terapanthi - it means I am disciplined. AcharyaBhikshu had strongly emphasized on discipline. Discipline is a dominant force and is integral in developing a strong foundation of Terapanth. It was difficult and not an easy task to establish discipline amongst his disciples. However, AcharyaBhikshu accomplished it. To awaken the disciplined consciousness in the mind of someone is not an easy job and if you succeed then, it's a great achievement. However, once achieved, the door of progress is wide open. In the absence of discipline all the opportunities for development are curtailed. This is the burning problem of the society and the nation today. Everywhere, the application of discipline is a dire necessity. People do endevour, but it is arduous to achieve.

It was indeed a miracle for Acharya Bhikshu to awaken the consciousness of discipline in the Terapanth order.

AcharyaKalugani and AcharyaTulsi used to say frequently that it is very difficult to discipline these monks. To the monks, who have left their home, and have no worldly affairs, to discipline them is as difficult as controlling the watermelons as illustrated in the story below!

Once, a thief stole some watermelons from a farm. He was carrying them and suddenly found the owner ahead. He ran away and to hide them and placed them into a pond on his way. He pushed them down in the water. Obviously, as soon as he pushed one down another sprang up. It was difficult for him to hide them all at once.

Similarly, in the absence of the will to be disciplined, it is hard to regulate someone. Fortunately, in Terapanth, the will is strong and every member accepts the instructions of the Guru with gratitude. Therefore, Terapanth holds singular place in the world for its discipline.

Once, when Acharya Tulsi's chaaturmaas was in Kanpur, Jainendra Kumarji visited him. During his conversation he said, 'Acharyaji! I have travelled around the world, visited countries such as USA, Russia, and Europe etc. but have never come across any religious sect as disciplined as Terapanth.'

Discipline is the hallmark of Terapanth. 'I am Terapanthi' means, 'I believe in discipline, I value discipline and accept it as the key to success and progress.'


A Leaf Cannot Move Without Permission of Acharya

There is a well-known incident from Acharya Bharamalji's era:

Muni Maujiramji stayed in a village called Lavasardargadh without Acharya's permission. After completing his stay, the monk was going for Guru-Darshan to the place where Acharya Bharmalji was staying. Acharya Shree forbade the monks to receive, take his luggage and to greet him. It was like a curfew. Muni Maujiramji was shocked to find that no one was there to receive him, to take his luggage and greet him. He was trying to think of the reason behind such behaviour. Even Acharya Shree did not give him his blessing (by putting his hand on the muni's head), when the muni touched his feet. It is a tradition in Terapanth, that when a monk comes from afar into the presence of the Acharya, he is greeted by fellow monks (who offer their respects or vandana) and help him with his luggage. The Acharya blesses the monk by placing his hand on the monk's head when he touches his feet. Seeing this unusual behaviour, Muni Maujiramji realized that something had gone wrong. He asked Acharya Shree politely if he had done anything wrong. Acharya Bharamalji said to him, 'I prohibited you to stay at Lavasardargadh. There was no need to stay there. Why did you stay there without my permission'?

Muni Maujiramji replied politely, 'Acharya Shree, I was not aware of this order. Had I known your directive, I would have never gone there. I am sorry for my mistake.' He continually requested Acharya Shree to forgive him. Considering the muni's politeness and discipline, Acharya Shree forgave him and asked the monks to follow the custom of welcome.

Discipline is highly emphasized here. It is said that without the permission of Acharya even a leaf cannot move.

Once, when a monk took excess of water, more than what was actually distributed (a potful), he was expelled from the sangh(order).

Along with discipline, constitution and management also played an important role in Terapanth. These are the secrets of its longevity and progress.

Development of Mutual Harmony

Another pillar of progress in Terapanth is the development of a harmonious attitude. Inspiring words from AcharyaBhikshu's last sermon:

sagala re sagala saadh nai sadhvi raakhjyo het vishekh

This means that sadhu-sadhvis should always maintain a harmonious attitude. An institution, where the members do not maintain harmony, criticize each other, try to bring each other down, ultimately loses its unity, and becomes weak and ultimately gets ruined. On the other hand, where members have mutual harmony, appreciate each other then such an organisation flourishes.

Mutual criticism or complain among the members of the organization is not desirable. If members of the various units of Terapanth do not maintain harmonious relations and try to belittle others, then it implies that they have not understood the true meaning of being a Terapanthi. Therefore, to maintain the esteem of Terapanth each member of the community should maintain brotherhood and harmony. This will raise Terapanth to new heights.

Identity of Terapanth: A Bird's-eye View

In this chapter, the major aspects of Terapanth have been discussed. They include:

  • The elimination of ahankaar and mamakaar
  • The scrutinizing of religion and non-religion
  • The importance of politeness
  • The advantages of a discipline, constitution and management
  • The importance of mutual harmony.

These are the five yardsticks of Terapanth. Those who have imbibed all these qualities can proudly call themselves true Terapanthis. People who look upon these qualities lead a good life and are assets to the community. Where one feels blessed to be a Jain, he should also feel the same on being a Terapanthi. It is a matter of pride that whatever has been inherited right from the era of Acharya Bhikshu to the present era has been a contribution of the lineage of Acharyas, the sadhu-sadhvis, and the shravak-shravikas. Everyone has worked very hard and is dedicated to further strengthen further the strong foundations of Terapanth.

It is never a one-man show. All of us together with the entire organization have contributed for its development. Arguably, one can say that he is a Terapanthi as Terapanth has given him ample and most importantly Terapanth has given him a unique identity.


Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Bhikshu
  3. Acharyas
  4. Acharyas of Terapanth
  5. Bharmalji
  6. Bhikshu
  7. Bidasar
  8. Consciousness
  9. Discipline
  10. Guru
  11. Gurudev
  12. Kanpur
  13. Muni
  14. Prasad
  15. Pride
  16. Rajendra Prasad
  17. Rashtrapati Bhavan
  18. Sadhvi
  19. Sangh
  20. Shravak
  21. Shravika
  22. Terapanth
  23. Terapanthi
  24. Terapanthis
  25. Vandana
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