(14TH JUNE 1920 – 9TH MAY 2010)
HEAD OF THE JAIN SHVETAMBARA TERAPANTH SANGH
Acharya Mahapragya, the 10th Acharya (sage) and supreme head of the Jain Swetambar Terapanth community, died following a cardiac arrest at Sardarshahar in Churu district of Rajasthan on Sunday 9, May, 2010. He was 90.
Acharyashri was appointed as the head of the Jain Shvetambara Terapanth Sangh by his guru, Acharya Tulsi on 18th February, 1994 and in a formal ceremony in Delhi on 5th February, 1995 he was pronounced as the tenth Acharya of the Sangh.
A giant personality in his own right, it is impossible to describe him in words.
Acharya Mahapragya was born as son Nath Mal to father Tola Ram Choradia and mother Balu ji in Tamkor, a village in Rajasthan, India, on 14th June, 1920. Within weeks of his birth, he lost his father and was raised by his mother. There was no school in the village and Nath Mal did not receive any formal education.
Even at a very young age, Nath Mal was deeply impressed by the personality of Acharya Shri Kalu Ram and on 29th January, 1931 Acharya Shrimad Kalu Ram initiated him as a disciple of Acharya Tulsi at the tender age of ten. The effectiveness of Guru Shishya parampara in Indian tradition is reflected by the wisdom of Acharya Mahapragya ji in that without any formal schooling he has mastered subjects such as History, Philosophy, Logic, Grammar, Physics, Ayurveda, Politics, Economics, and Social sciences. He is not only an author but also a poet, and that too in diverse languages such as Hindi, Prakrit and Sanskrit.
Muni Nath Mal, by his devotion established an incomparable rapport with his Guru, Acharyashri Tulsi and in return was recognised as extraordinary. Their relationship can be gauged from the following events:
· In 1955 Acharyashri Tulsi nominated Muni Nath Mal as the Chief Secretary of the Terapanth organisation.
· On 4th February, 1979 he was appointed successor-designate to Acharya Tulsi and was given the title of Yuvacharya Mahapragya.
· On 18th February 1994 Achary Tulsi relinquished his post and Yuvacharya Mahapragya became Acharya Mahapragya. With a holy ceremony in Delhi on 5th February, 1995 he was formally pronounced as the tenth Acharya of the Terapanth Sangh.
Acharya Mahapragya is also the torch bearer of some of the most successful projects initiated by Acharya Tulsi:
· Anuvrat Movement
Acharya Tulsi launched the Anuvrat Movement in Sardarshahar on March 1, 1949. In April 1950, it exceeded all expectations when thousands of people of different religious following recited the lesser vows to live a mindful and aware daily life. The movement is universal and has no relation to any particular sect or religion. It is a way of life to improve one’s own quality of life as well as to harmonise living with all living beings. Its relevance to contemporary times can be understood from the small vows to protect the environment and to avoid waste, misuse and pollution of nature.
Since its inception, Acharya Mahapragya ji has made it popular not only in India, but world-wide. An example is the Golden Jubilee of the movement celebrated in Nepal. Anuvrat Global Movement [ANUVIBHA] is now a dedicated organisation under the patronage of Acharya Shri Mahapragya and the first vow it administers is AHIMSA.
Acharya Tulsi initiated the question on the disappearance of meditation in Jainism after the time of Bhagavan Mahavira and assigned the task to investigate this phenomenon to Acharya Shri Mahapragya ji.
Acharya Mahapragya ji spent over 20 years studying the Jain Agams/Scriptures and concluded a system of Meditation which is now popularly known as Preksha Dhyana.
Preksha Dhyan is a non-sectarian system of meditation which has spiritual as well as physical well being as its benefit. It is complimentary to the Anuvrat movement in that its practice makes the observation of the vows a matter of routine without any special efforts.
For his efforts in this task, Acharya Tulsi gave him the epithet of Jain-Yoga-Punruddharak (Resurrector of Jain Yoga).
Acharya Mahapragya ji’s most recognised contribution to AHIMSA is in the seven year journey he undertook to quell the communal violence which erupted in India between Hindus and Muslims. Ahimsa Yatra, as it was named, was launched on 5th December, 2001 at Sujangarh in Rajasthan. with the objective to highlight the spiritual aspect of non-violence and spread the message of peace and harmony across the country.
He traversed over 10,000 km on foot, covering 2400 villages, towns and cities and addressed many public meetings during the yatra.
In February, 2002, as if Ahimsa Yatra was destined to be the forerunner of its own mission, communal violence broke out in Gujarat and its ugly aftermath influenced most states of India.
Addressing a gathering at a village in Gujrat Acharya Shri said, “Only that country becomes strong whose citizens know the way to control their emotions. No country can emerge powerful without peaceful coexistence, and it is impossible for a country to ensure peaceful co-existence of its people without restraint and discipline. Some people are educated into communal and caste frenzy. The frenzied state of their minds gives rise to an anti-social environment. The government tries to resist it through its might, but it is the duty of the citizens to see that the hooligans do not convert it into communal frenzy. ………”
Touched and inspired by these efforts of Acharyashri, the President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam met him ignoring all protocol. Similarly, the deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, Congress President and Leader, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the supreme of RSS, Sh. K.C. Sudarshan travelled to Gujarat and met Acharyashree to discuss the adoption of Ahimsa as a national policy. The famous Surat Spiritual Declaration of Unity of Minds was signed by 20 leaders from all different faiths of India and presented to Dr Kalam on 15th October, 2003.
Acharyashri moved from state to state, convinced multi-faith congregations to accept four principles in their lives:
1. I will believe in human unity.
2. I will not resort to quarrels and conflicts on the basis of caste and sectarian issues.
3. I will try to follow integrity in my personal life as far as I can.
4. I will try to remain free from drug addiction.
Having contributed in abundance to the elevation of universal Jain principles through his speeches, writings and founding inspirational organisations to teach and spread the word of Lord Mahavir, Acharyashri breathed his last on Sunday, 9th May, 2010 at Sardarshahar, Churu District, Rajasthan, India at 2:50 pm.
Prominent among the awards given to him during his lifetime were the Mother Teresa national award of peace (2005), Union Government’s communal harmony award (2004), Ambassador of Peace Award in London (2003), Lokmaharishi by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (2003) Indira Gandhi National Integration Award (2002) and the Ahimsa Award (2008) by the Institute of Jainology.
Institute of Jainology with all its Directors, Patrons, and well-wishers presents their respects to the great soul with sadhuvada and anumodanas.
The end of one era is always the beginning of another. We welcome the appointment of Yuvacharya Mahashraman as the 11th Acharya of the Sangh and expect no less than all that has been delivered traditionally by the past Acharya