“Non-violence, Peace and food can go together only when intellectual, economic and spiritual quotient are developed in a balanced manner.”
Acharya Mahapragya was a great Jain Acharya, the supreme head of the Jain Swetambar Terapanth community.
Acharyashri was appointed as the head of the Jain Shvetambara Terapanth Sangh by his guru, Acharya Tulsi on 18th February 1994. A giant personality in his own right, it is impossible to describe him in words.
Acharya Mahapragya ji, without any formal schooling, had mastered subjects such as History, Philosophy, Logic, Grammar, Physics, Ayurveda, Politics, Economics, and Social sciences. He was not only an author but also a poet, and that too in diverse languages such as Hindi, Prakrit and Sanskrit. Because of his extra ordinary talent he was appointed successor-designate to Acharya Tulsi on 4th February 1979 and was given the title of Yuvacharya Mahapragya. On 18th February 1994 Acharya Tulsi relinquished his post and handed all his authorities 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 was also the torch bearer of some of the most successful projects initiated by Acharya Tulsi:
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 harmonize 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.
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, practiced for years 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 recognized 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 on foot, covering 2400 villages, towns and cities and addressed many public meetings during this specific journey of 7 years.
Addressing a gathering in Gujrat once 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.
The end of one era is always the beginning of another. We welcome the appointment of Acharya Mahashraman as the 11th Acharya of the Sangh and expect no less than all that has been delivered traditionally by the past Acharyas.