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Acharya Tulsi - A Peacemaker Par Excellence: Sponsor of Anuvrat Movement

Published: 13.04.2013
Updated: 02.07.2015

The beginning of the second decade of his Acharyaship was marked by his vision of ushering in a new awakening in the life of an individual. The seeds of thinking began to sprout now. It was the time when India had just won her freedom. The whole country felt elated. Acharya Tulsi realized that the independence of our country would be futile unless the national character was developed. He composed a soul-stirring poem on the eve of the first Independence Day entitled 'Let us have real independence.' Real independence means moral elevation. Anuvrat Movement is an experiment in this direction. Acharyashree launched the Movement in 1949. The free¬dom movement had already made the Indian masses aware of the immense power of Ahimsa. It had also enabled innumerable people to know of Gandhiji's eleven vows (vrats). Though vrat and morality had not been new to the people of India, they could be considered important from the view-point that religion and morality were two separate things. In India the development of morality had been at a snail's pace during these centuries. It was expected to be still lower in independent India. Keeping this possibility in view, a code of conduct aimed at developing the character of an individual was drawn up and placed before the people. The code of vrats (vows) meant for shravaks formed its basis. It was modified keeping in view the problems of the age. The step was welcomed all over the coun¬try. Thousands of people extended their support to it. It became instrumental in carrying the voice of moral awakening to distant parts of the country. Everyone accepted it as a movement dedicated to the cause of developing national character.

Our monks and nuns undertook long barefoot marches and took the message of Anuvrat from one village to another. In a few years the whole country was virtually swept away by the wave of Anuvrat. Acharyashree's marches throughout the country lent further strength to it.

Anuvrat Movement passed through many stages of its pro¬gress. It underwent changes in the context of social problems. Sectarian narrowness lay at the root of India's partition. Everyone suffered due to religious fanaticism. Political wranglers were fanning communalism for their own narrow selfish ends. In such circum¬stances Anuvrat Movement put forward the following secret before the people:

  • Dharma occupies the first place, sect comes next.
  • There may be many sects but dharma belongs to all.
  • Dharma is quite distinct from politics. It must not be subjected to political interferences.

The message had a great impact on the outlook of the people. It. encouraged them to know the truth about religion and sectarianism.

A devotee of dharma is unlikely to be morally debased. But the conviction about religion was bound up with the hereafter. Hence religion was being used as an instrument of achieving happiness in the other world and fulfilling selfish ends in the present life. The religious leaders were wallowing in the mud and labouring under the misconception that they would be rid of sin by means of some ritualistic practices. Against the backdrop of this social and religious environment, Anuvrat Movement raised its voice in the following words:

  • Dharma is not merely an instrument of ensuring happiness in the hereafter but it is also a means to bring happiness to the present life.
  • He who fails to make his present life better is unlikely to achieve happiness in the hereafter.
  • The primary aim of dharma is to purify character. Its ritualis¬tic practices are secondary.

This ideology aroused a new sense of awareness in the people. It dawned on the atheists that theism was not necessarily what they had taken it to be. The theists felt something atheistic in their way of living. Speaking at a seminar the eminent journalist Akshaya Kumar Jain said, "Acharyashree! the way you have defined religion has emboldened me to tell my friends that I am religious." The religion based on ritualistic practices has a fascination for all. Anuvrat Movement does not attach any importance to rituals. It only calls upon people to lead a moral life. It, therefore, does not have much fascination. Despite this, the movement has attracted quite a sizable number of intellectuals. The people who looked on religion with apprehension found an emotional affinity in this new religion devoid of epithets. It spontaneously emerged as a forum for human religion.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India, said, "Acharyashree, Anuvrat Movement is very useful for our country. You must speak to our Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, about it. He will not only appreciate it but will also be helpful in its progress."

Acharyashree: What you say is right but we are not acquainted with him.

President: I shall let him know about you by writing a letter. This will facilitate your meeting with him.

The president wrote to the Prime Minister:

Dear Prime Minister,
I feel that your meeting Acharya Tulsi will be in the interest of our country. He is in Delhi now. Please give thought to it if possible.

The Prime Minister sent the following reply:

Dear President,
I shall be glad to meet Acharya Tulsi. I am very busy these days. It would be very kind of him if he could undertake the trouble of coming to my residence.

The President conveyed the Prime Minister's message to Acha-ryashree. He went to the Prime Minister’s residence. A small plank had already been laid in the corridor. Acharyashree seated himself on it while Pandit Nehru sat on a square piece of mat placed just in front of him. It was the first ever meeting between the two.

Pandit ji said, "Acharya ji, now let me know what you want me to do for you." Acharyashree replied, "I do not want you to do anything for me." The talk between the two came to an abrupt end even before it got off. For a moment or two there was complete silence. Pandit ji continued to look at Acharyashree. How could the talks proceed when there was not any demand? Breaking the silence Acharyash¬ree said, "We haven't come here with a particular demand. Instead we have come to offer you something. Today the country is passing through an unprecedented moral crisis. It needs a constructive programme for moral development. We have started some work in this direction. We want you to observe it, evaluate it and make use of it." The Prime Minister gave him a patient hearing. He promised to help him in that work. This is how the first meeting between Acharya Tulsi and Pandit Nehru came to an end.

Gradually Pt. Nehru's relationship with the Movement grew intimate. He evaluated it in the following words:

If we wish to build the edifice of our nation, its foundation must be laid deep. If we lay the foundation on sand the whole structure will collapse the moment it comes into contact with water. The edifice erected on the foundation of character is always strong. We have to undertake many important projects in this country. For carrying out this great responsibility we must have a strong heart, a good brain, and a great deal of power to control ourselves. We have to learn these things. They are all embedded in character. What a good piece of work is being done within the Anuvrat Movement! I think the more this work progresses, the better it is. I wish it all success.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad made great a contribution to the noble cause of the Movement. It was identical with his temperament and ideas. Speaking on the occasion of the friendship day he remarked, "I have supported the Movement since its inception. If you want me to hold any office in its organizational set-up, I would like it to be that of an Anuvrat supporter." Commenting on the President's offer Acharyashree said, "We would like you to hold the office of an Anuvrati. We wish that the President of this great country should be an Anuvrati. He should be a symbol of moral uplift." When some members of the opposition parties noted that the Congress stal¬warts like Morarji Desai, Anantsayanam Ayangar, Rajarshi Puru-shottamdas Tandon, Gulzarilal Nanda were in intimate contact with the Movement, they felt that Acharyashree was extending his indi-rect support to the Congress. Prominent political leaders like Dr. Rammanohar Lohia resented the possibility of the Congress regime being strengthened by Acharyashree. N.C. Chatterjee also raised the same objection and said to Acharyashree, "You are rendering support to a weak Congress." Acharyashree replied, "I am not associated with any political party hence I do not think I am being instrumental in lending support to anyone's weakness. In fact, I do not want the Anuvrat Movement to belong to one political party. That's why all the members of the other political parties are taking interest in it."

At the time of the second general election a seminar was organ¬ized under the auspices of Acharya Tulsi for ensuring clean elec¬tions. It was attended by a large number of representatives of many political parties. Prominent among them were U.N. Dhebar, the then leader of the Praja Socialist Party, A.K. Gopalan, the Commu¬nist leader, and many others. Everyone gave Acharyashree an assu¬rance to observe the vows of the Movement.Shri Gopalan's assu¬rance was so firm that everyone was taken aback.

In order to plan and organize multifarious Anuvrat activities, an all-India organization named Akhil Bhartiya Anuvrat Samiti was constituted. It was the culmination of the dedicated work carried out by Jaychandlalji Daftari, Hannatmalji Surana, Sugan Chandji Ancha-liya and Devendra Kumar Karnawat. Eminent personalities like Gopinath Aman, Jainendra Kumar, Yashpal Jain, Shrimannarayan and Madalsa Bahin (sister) contributed significantly to its progress. Provincial and local committees were also formed in various provin¬ces and towns. A series of campaigns launched from time to time under its aegis against the evils of adulteration, corruption, untouchability, dowry, etc. generated a new wave of consciousness in the Indian masses. In the field of education, Anuvrat Students' Council was set up. Many experimental projects aimed at cleansing educational institutions of their ills were undertaken. The various commercial transactions entered into by Anuvrat Vyapar Mandal proved it beyond doubt that business could be run efficiently without sacrificing honesty. A resolution on the Anuvrat Movement was moved in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. It evoked a good deal of discussion among its members. The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly went a step further and passed a resolution lauding the work done by the Anuvrat Movement and extending its support to its activities. A little later a parliamentary Anuvrat Forum was also launched. Radio, television and newspapers played no mean role in popularizing the Movement.

With a view to giving an impetus to Anuvrat's constructive activities, Anuvrat Nyas and Anuvrat Vihar were established. The main force behind these twin organizations was Samaj Bhushan Prabhudayal Dabariwala. Besides a large number of our shravaks, Shahu Shantiprasad also worked fervently for the fulfilment of this task. One important project undertaken by the Nyas was the estab-lishment of Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra at Maharauli. As chairmen of All India Anuvrat Samiti and as eminent Anuvrat workers Ravishankar Maharaj. Shri Jaisukhlal Hathi, Dr. Atmaram, Shri Jainendra Kumar, Shri Devilal Samar and Shri L.O. Joshi rendered yeo¬man services to the Movement.

On the occasion of the celebration marking Jayacharya's nirvan, Jai Tulsi Foundation took an important decision of instituting a yearly Anuvrat Award carrying one lakh rupees. At Gandhi ji's Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, a new Anuvrat activity 'Ahimsa Sarvbhom' was inaugurated. In this way we find that Anuvrat has made rapid progress.

Acharyashree and his companions did not imagine the wide extent of the Anuvrat's welcome and impact. Initially they had a modest desire to change the outlook of those in their immediate contact and inspire them to regard religion not only as a part of worship but also as an instrument of purifying character so that they could be models of good religious living. This thought troubled Tutsi's mind for a year or two. Occasionally it was also talked about. It finally matured in 1949. Keeping the shravaks in view, a list of vows was drawn. Acharyashree saw it. It was felt that it should be further expanded. More and more thought was given to it. Compilation of lists of evil habits as well as of vows went on. Finally an outline emerged and Acharyashree launched the Anuvrat Movement in Sardarshahar on March 1, 1949. Earlier nine-point and thirteen-point programmes had been propagated in an experimental manner. Those programmes had been adopted by some twenty five thou¬sand people. They could be regarded as a prelude to Anuvrat Movement.

With the passage of time many organizations with their roots in the Anuvrat Movement came into existence. When Acharyashree was staying in Delhi, a special seminar on 'The Role of MPs in the Building of National Character' was convened in the Parliament House. Many MPs and ministers attended it.

The people who spoke on the occasion were Atal Bihar Vajpai, External Affairs Minister, Dr. Karan Singh, a former minister, Sikandar Bakht, Housing Works Minister, Dhanikalal Mandal, Min¬ister of State for Home, Kedar Nath Sahni, Chief Executive Council¬lor, C. Subramanyam, a former minister and K.S. Hegde, Speaker of Lok Sabha. Addressing the members of Parliament Acharyashree came forward with a new constructive suggestion. He said:

We have fixed certain criteria of eligibility for the people desir¬ing to be considered for various offices like those of principals, Collectors, Accountant Generals, Inspector Generals of Police, etc. Before their selection for these posts they are required to pass competitive examinations. Do you not think that a similar criterion of eligibility consisting of minimum qualifications is essential even for MPs and ministers? It is not proper to consider the number of votes cast in a person's favour as the sole basis of his eligibility for the membership of this august body. It is imperative that those who hold the reins of the country in their hands should possess specific qualities of head and heart exhibiting high standards of character.

This suggestion attracted many members but we have yet to hear of its being put into practice.

Editor, Translator, Publisher: S.L.Gandhi Courtesy: Dr. Prem Nath Jain, B Jain Publishers Ltd. 1. Edition: 1987
3. Edition:
2000 HN4U Online Edition: 2013

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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 Tulsi
  3. Adhyatma
  4. Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra
  5. Ahimsa
  6. Ahmedabad
  7. Anuvrat
  8. Anuvrat Award
  9. Anuvrat Movement
  10. Anuvrati
  11. Bihar
  12. Body
  13. Brain
  14. Consciousness
  15. Delhi
  16. Devendra
  17. Dharma
  18. Environment
  19. Gandhi
  20. Kendra
  21. Lakh
  22. Mandal
  23. Nath
  24. Pandit
  25. Pradesh
  26. Prasad
  27. Rajasthan
  28. Rajendra Prasad
  29. Sabha
  30. Sadhana
  31. Sadhana Kendra
  32. Samiti
  33. Sardarshahar
  34. Shravaks
  35. Tulsi
  36. Uttar Pradesh
  37. Vihar
  38. vrat
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