Jains all over the world are celebrating Paryushana during this week (19 Aug to 26 Aug). This is the king of all festivals for Jains. Paryushana means “abiding and coming together”. It is a time when the Jains take on vows of study and do penance to extinguish Karmas. Paryushana concludes with seeking forgiveness for the transgressions of the previous year. The last day of the Paryushana is known as Savatsari.
Today I am writing about one of the enlightened souls of 19th-century Shrimad Rajchandra. (Raichandbhai Mehta or referred as Kavi (Poet) and Shrimadji) He was a Jain poet, philosopher, scholar and reformer. Born near Morbi in 1867, he was a prodigy and claimed to have a recollection of his past lives at the age of seven. He wrote a large number of philosophical letters and poetry, including the famous Atma Siddhi.
He is best known for his teachings on Jainism and as a spiritual guide of Mahatma Gandhi.
Recently Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi while celebrating the 150 birth anniversary of Shrimad Rajchandra launched stamp and commemorative coins in Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram on 29th June 2017.
It is remarkable that Mahatma Gandhi had grown a close intimacy with Kavi (Poet) Rajchandraji. Gandhiji had expressed this experience of his life in a very impressive language. He writes,
“I have said elsewhere that besides Kavi (Shrimadji), Ruskin and Tolstoy have contributed in forming my intrinsic character; but Kavi has had a more profound effect because I had come in personal and intimate contact with Him.”
Mahatma Gandhi, later on, had written,” We are all worldly people, whereas Shrimad was not of this world. We will have to take many births, whereas for Shrimad perhaps one birth is sufficient. We will perhaps be running away from liberation whereas Shrimad was advancing towards liberation at a very fast pace.”
In South Africa, Gandhiji was faced with constant pressure from his friends from other religions to adopt their faith. In this moment of spiritual crisis, he resorted to Shrimadji for help, conveying his doubts through 27 questions by post. Shrimadji’s judicious, direct, and pertinent answers resolved his doubts and restored his faith in Hinduism. There remained no question of converting to another faith. Some of the questions are given below:
The extracts from three of them are reproduced below:
- SOUL AND ITS FUNCTION
Q: What is a soul and what are its functions? Do the Karmas bound it?
A: The soul in its pure conscious state, i. e. in the state of its self-realization, is the creator of its own inherent characteristics of knowledge, perception and samadhi. i.e. spiritual equanimity. But in the state of its ignorance, the soul becomes a creator of emotions like anger, conceit, deceit, greed etc. which are all foreign to it. Not only this much, under the influence of these emotions, soul through its instrumentality also becomes a creator of things like pot, table, etc.
The Karmas (actions) which are done in ignorance of one’s own self, though in the beginning are merely seeds, yet at the time of maturity, they turn into trees laden with heavy fruits. It is thus self-evident that, the soul itself has to bear the fruits of its actions just as by giving a touch to fire you first feel its heat and then pain follows, similar is the state of the mundane soul.
It also, by coming in contact with earthly objects by its sensuous organs, first gives rise to emotions of greed, anger and deceit etc. and then as its fruits have to suffer the pangs of birth, death and old age. Please ponder well over these problems with a detached mind and if you have any doubts please rewrite to me. It is the detached mind, which gives strength for abstinence and control and ultimately leads the soul to Nirvana.
- THE NATURE OF GOD & CREATION OF UNIVERSE.
Q: What is God? Is He the creator of the universe?
A: Just see you and we, are all mundane beings bound with Karmas, i.e. our souls are in bondage of foreign matter and foreign impulses. The natural state of self with its intrinsic glory free from all karmas, aloof from all impurities and bondages is godhood. God is endowed with the fullness of peace, bliss and knowledge. This godhood is the inherent nature of self, but due to ignorance born of the bondage of karmas, one is unable to have a vision thereof.
God is not the creator of the universe. All the elements of nature, such as atom, space etc. are eternal and uncreated. They have got their own substratum. They cannot be created from substances other than themselves. Perchance if one says that God has created them, this also does not look sound, because if God is a conscious being or consciousness is taken to be His characteristic, then how can atoms, and space etc. be conceived to have been born from Him?
- NATURE OF MOKSA.
Q: What is Moksa (salvation))?
A: Moksa or salivation is the absolute liberation of self from anger, conceit, greed and other nescient propensities, which bind the soul with earthly coils and other limitations. There is a natural urge in life to be free from all bandages and limitations. A close consideration of this urge makes the truth of the above saying of the wise men to be self-evident.
Read all 27 questions and answers. I would end with two more quotes from Mahatma Gandhi.
I would end with two more quotes from Mahatma Gandhi.
“The more I consider His life and His writings, the more I consider Him to have been the best Indian of His times.”- Letter to HSL Polak, April 26, 1909
“I have often declared that I have learnt, and learnt much, from the lives of many persons. But it is from the Kavishri’s (Shrimadji’s) life that I have learnt the most. It was from His life that I understood the way of compassion.”- Speech at Ahmedabad, November 1921.
In the next post, we will have a Pictorial tour of the first Shrimad Rajchandra Ashram.