Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication: Glorious Story Of A Life With A Purpose ◄Dr. Sohan Lal Gandhi

Published: 04.07.2012
Updated: 10.07.2012

‘Like some men at various other places, here is an Indian, lean, thin and short-statured but with shining eyes, who is very much worried at the present state of the world. He is Tulsi, aged 36, the preceptor of the Jain Terapanth which is a religious organization having faith in nonviolence. Acharya Tulsi founded the Anuvrati Sangh in 1949... When he has succeeded in making all Indians undertake the vows, he will try to convert the rest of the world to the life of a vrati', wrote The Time published from New York in its issue of 15 May 1950 under the caption 'Atom Bomb'. This editorial comment was prompted by an unusual happening that had taken place on the last day of April within the sprawling precincts of the Municipal Corporation in Chandni Chowk - the busiest centre of old Delhi. The occasion was the first All India Conference of the Anuvrati Sangh organized after one year of its inception. Seated on the dais was the Acharya, young and extremely handsome. His face radiated an aura of divinity. His disciples, wearing traditional dresses characteristic of their profession, had gathered to listen to his special message on this historic occasion. The young Acharya declared that he had resolved to launch a crusade against immorality in social life and dedicate his entire life to the cause of nonviolence and unity of all human beings. He threw off the yoke of sectarian dogmas and exhorted his disciples to volunteer for the disciplined life of an Anuvrati.

He said:

If an atom has in it the monstrous power to destroy the world, amply demonstrated in the unprecedented holocaust at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I want to tell the world that we have its counterpart in anuvrat - a small or atomic vow - which alone has the power to ward off and counter the threat of an atom bomb.

The appeal had a magical effect on the audience. What astounded the people was that more than six hundred of his disciples, mostly businessmen, stood up, as if they had all been propelled by the force of a divine power, and accepted anuvrats (small or atomic vows) pledging themselves never to resort to black marketing, bribery, exploitation, communalism, adulteration and violence.

It was no small event. No wonder the Acharya's voice evoked favourable comments in all leading newspapers of the world. Whenever Acharya Tulsi reminisces about that unforgettable moment in the course of his discourses, his face is lit up with unspeakable spiritual joy.

The Anuvrat Movement has since grown into a mighty banyan tree with its branches spreading in all directions. It has shown light to thousands of people all over the country. More and more people are looking upon the Acharya as a beacon to light their path to a bright tomorrow, with peace and love reigning everywhere.

Born on October 20, 1914 at Ladnun, a small town in Rajasthan, Tulsi was a precocious child and showed early promise of extraordinary qualities of leadership. His spiritual bent resulted in his religious initiation and renuncia­tion of normal worldly life at the unbelievably young age of eleven. It seems a secret force of spiritual good guided his footsteps. The members of his family were the ardent followers of Kalugani - the eighth Acharya of Terapanth. He happened to visit Ladnun in the course of his marches. The child Tulsi put searching questions to his pious mother Ladanji about Kalugani and even embarrassed her by revealing that he wished to be a small monk in his order. Acharya Tulsi writes, 'His divine face fascinated my heart and I used to gaze at him for hours...his tall figure...his shiny skin...his bright eyes.'

When clairvoyant Acharya Kalugani looked into the little Tulsi's big bright eyes, he knew that he had found his successor he had been searching for.

But it was not easy for the child Tulsi to secure his revered elder brother's permission to become a monk. He had to struggle hard for it. One day after Acharya Kalugani had addressed a huge audience, the child Tulsi stood up and astounded all by taking a vow in His Holiness's presence that he would never marry and make money. Seeing Tulsi's resolute deter­mination, his brother yielded to his wish and requested Acharya Kalugani to initiate him into the Terapanth monkhood. The audience was struck with wonder when Acharya Kalugani instantly agreed to do so. Such quick consent was most extraordinary. It had never happened before.

Acharya Kalugani undertook the education of the young monk himself. The first eleven years of Tulsi's monkhood were devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. His sharp intellect, his ability to expound the profound thought underlying the Jain scriptures and above all his incredible feat of memory distinguished him from his fellow monks. He studied Sanskrit and Prakrit intensively and soon acquired a mastery over the two ancient languages. He was also entrusted with the task of teaching other monks - a great responsibility which he ably fulfilled.

Acharya Kalugani was having chaturmas at Gangapur, a small town near Bhilwara in Rajasthan. His health declined to such an extent that he had a premonition of death. It became imperative for him to nominate his succe­ssor. As a matter of fact Acharya Kalugani had already set his heart on one but the time to announce his name formally came now. He was extremely weak but he sat up and wrote the document of succession unmindful of his panting breath, aching limbs and trembling hands. It was the auspicious day of the first Bhadrapad Sukla 3 of Samwat 1993 (sometime in 1936) when the young monk Tulsi, at a relatively young age of twenty-two, was declared successor of Acharya Kalugani. The devolution of this august responsibility on his young shoulders was so sudden and unexpected that Tulsi felt flabbergasted by the swift turn of events. There were a large number of elderly monks and nuns in the order.

When he appeared before the audience in his exalted status as Yuvacharya, he hesitated to occupy the elevated seat since the aged monk Munishree Magan Lalji was there. After much persuasion he agreed to sit there. Acharyashree is overwhelmed with emotions whenever the picture of his delivering the maiden sermons before the huge audience appears in his mind. It was an unforgettable experience.

Acharya Kalugani breathed his last just after four days of his (Tulsi's) nomination as his successor. He still treasures the memory of those four days during which he was called upon to perform the duties of an Acharya on account of Kalugani's fatal illness. The benedictions showered on him by his ailing master during this period instilled into him the seeds of indomitable will and spiritual strength that have stood him in good stead throughout the span of fifty years of his Acharyaship.

As Head of the Terapanth Jain sect he initiated a series of moves to infuse a new awakening into the monks and nuns of his order. He wanted to see them not only spiritually exalted but also equipped with profound erudition so as to enable them to have in-depth understanding of the ancient Jain scriptures vis-a-vis other religions. It was a gigantic task but, firm and resolute as he was, he embarked upon this project of immense significance amid tacit opposition from those who considered his plan a departure from the established tradition. Acharyashree was of the considered view that a religious organization must also keep pace with the changes being brought about by the advent of science. He himself undertook the responsi­bility of teaching some promising monks and nuns. The nuns were not lost sight of and were given equal opportunities to make all-round development. Besides, they were asked to devote their time to art and creativity.

The greatest joy of a member of the Terapanth order is to carry out the task assigned to him by his Guru most conscientiously and dedicatedly. In a span of less then 15 years Acharya Tulsi's Dharm Sangh was completely transformed into one of the foremost Jain orders in India. His ceaseless hard work, inspiration to his monks and nuns and perseverance made it possible for this organization to produce a large number of writers, poets, exponents of the old canonical texts, orators, painters and erudite scholars like his worthy successor Yuvacharya Mahapragya. He designed specific courses for his monks and nuns and persuaded his sadhus and sadhvis to take the written examinations conducted exclusively for their benefit. Astoni­shed at the scholastic talents of some of his monks, some professors asked them, out of curiosity, about the university they had been to. Their prompt reply was 'Acharya Tulsi University'.

The young Acharya had the twofold responsibility of delving into hundreds of books for truths and disseminating them. His ability to con­centrate on the production of creative works, some of them masterpieces, in the midst of din created by the continuous stream of disciples doing obeisance to him has no parallel. His multitudinous activities like preaching, teaching, visiting the sick and the disabled occasionally and administrating the huge organization notwithstanding, he has written more than 25 books. Above all, the entire order seems absorbed in some creative work or other, apart from their main responsibility to preach. Hundreds of poetical works, stories, epics and essays have been produced by his monks and nuns.

Acharya Tulsi's most radical step was the launching of the Anuvrat Movement in 1949. He saw the predominance of violent forces all around. Apart from the individual moral lapses that vitiated the atmosphere in the country, what worried the Acharya most was the mad race for manufacturing arms going on unabated among the super powers. He foresaw a bleak future for humanity. His conviction is that small beginnings can make a tremendous difference. The people found something novel in his technique to call upon the people to submit to the discipline of anuvrats - small vows. The people were aware of the movements launched by some people to get their demands accepted but the Anuvrat Movement sounded strange to them, for it only exhorted them to gift away their evil habits. Almost all sections of society welcomed it and its voice reached both huts and palaces. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a celebrated philosopher and former President of India, was so impressed by Acharya Tulsi's work that he considered him one of the greatest men of India living with a purpose. Acharya Tulsi figures as an important personality in his book entitled Living with a Purpose.

Ever since the launching of the Movement, Acharya Tulsi has been travelling on foot from one part of the country to another. His single-minded devotion to the cause of the inculcation of moral and spiritual values in the people has raised him to the status of a great national saint in India.

Despite his dedication to the noble cause of uplifting the moral standards Acharya Tulsi has had to face hostile opposition from some sections of misgui­ded people. All through these violent campaigns launched against him on imaginary grounds, the Acharya has shown remarkable calm and an inexha­ustible fund of patience He coined a new slogan, 'Our opposition by others is our amusement'.

As an iconoclast he didn't hesitate to do away with some of the practices in his order which he considered a drag on progress. He introduced a series of reforms like the use of a mike and relaxation in some rules relating to the taking down by householders the contents of the manuscripts written by monks and nuns. Some of the orthodox monks opposed his move tooth and nail. The Acharya invited them for a frank discussion and gave them full opportunities to express their views. Some of them, however, agreed to disagree with him.

Acharyashree Tulsi has set a glorious example for other religious leaders of the world. We hear of the most unfortunate and catastrophic events that have taken a heavy toll of human lives in the name of religion recently.

Acharyashree's path is pathless, shorn of narrow sectarian considera­tions and based purely on firm commitment and adherence to the principles of love, universal brotherhood, peace and nonviolence.

He is already above seventy but he is energetic, enthusiastic and optimi­stic. There is a reminiscence of Lord Buddha in the way he showers his blessings on the people.

What astonishes everyone is his incredible power of memory and indefa­tigable patience. He remembers the names of thousands of his disciples and workers and keeps himself informed of the minutest details. Anuvrat, Preksha Meditation, Jeevan Vigyan, the introduction of a new category of samanis in his order, the editing of a large number of old Jain canonical texts, the embracing of Harijans (the untouchables) and the establishment of a large number of constructive organizations under his spiritual patronage, which get a mention elsewhere in this book, are some of his rare achievements which have placed him in the foremost rank of great souls.

He has completed fifty years of his Acharyaship. This again is a land­mark in the history of Jainism. We hope and pray that he has a long life and that his Anuvrat Movement spreads rapidly to the West.

Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication
Jain Vishva Bharati Ladnun
Shrichand Bengani


R.P. Bhatnagar


● S.L. Gandhi
● Rajul Bhargava, Department of English, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
● Ashok K. Jha, Department of English, LBS College, Jaipur

First Edition, 1985-2000

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Kalugani
  3. Acharya Tulsi
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Anuvrat Movement
  6. Anuvrati
  7. Anuvrats
  8. Aura
  9. Bhilwara
  10. Buddha
  11. Chaturmas
  12. Delhi
  13. Dharm
  14. Discipline
  15. Gangapur
  16. Guru
  17. Jainism
  18. Jeevan Vigyan
  19. Kalugani
  20. Ladnun
  21. Mahapragya
  22. Meditation
  23. Nonviolence
  24. Prakrit
  25. Preksha
  26. Preksha Meditation
  27. Rajasthan
  28. Sadhus
  29. Sadhvis
  30. Samanis
  31. Sangh
  32. Sanskrit
  33. Science
  34. Terapanth
  35. Tulsi
  36. Violence
  37. Yuvacharya
  38. Yuvacharya Mahapragya
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