The sad demise of Acharya Shri Mahapragya at Sardarshaher in Rajasthan on 9 May, 2010

Author:  Image of Manish ModiManish Modi
Published: 10.05.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

नमो वीतरागाय


Jay Jinendra

Acharya Mahapragya

(14 June, 1920 to 9 May, 2010)

Acharya Shri Mahapragya (14 June 1920 - 9 May 2010) was the tenth Acharya, supreme head of Jain Swetembar Terapanth group.[1] He promoted nonviolence and lead the Ahimsa Yatra movement. He also formulated the Preksha Dhyana movement in the 1970's. Along with his concept of sending learned Samanas and Samanis, (laypersons with advanced vows) abroad to promote the ideals of Jainism, Preksha Dhyana brought a large number of people close to Jainism.

One is deeply sorry to hear of the same demise of Acarya Mahaprajnaji, at Sardarshaher. He was truly ecumenical in his approach and one of the most learned Jain seers in the world. I was immensely fortunate to have learnt Jain nyaya {formal logic} in his guidance, under Sadhvi Shrutayasha. So they are both my gurus.

I met for the second time in 2004 - 5 when he spent his caturmasa in Mumbai, at the Acarya Mahaprajna School, located at Bhuleshvar.

Here is my recollection of him, written on 3 Feb, 2010.

"He is in his 80s, a good friend of Acarya Vidyananda and a vastly  learned scholar. When he was in Mumbai for a Caturmasa, about 4 or 5 years ago, I had gone to him, introduced myself as Premiji's great-grandson and asked him to teach me Jain Nyaya. He consented smilingly and asked me which textbook I
would like to use. I asked him to use the textbook of his choice. (There are several texts on Jain nyaya and he was being polite and kind by asking me to choose for myself which text I would have liked to learn from. He could easily have insisted on teaching me from the textbook of his choice.) He suggested 'Bhiksunyayakarnika', an excellent compact work on Jain nyaya composed in Sanskrit by Acarya Tulasi. I agreed immediately. I was delighted to have this opportunity to learn under him.

He then asked Sadhvi Shrutayasha, a deeply learned Jain nun who has done excellent work on the 'Nandi Sutra' and the 'Anuyogadvara Sutra', to teach me the text 'Bhiksunyayakarnika' on a daily basis at a mutually suitable time. After the class, he would take daily reports from me on what I had learnt. Presumably, he also checked with Sadhvi Shrutayasha on how I was faring.:)

I feel lucky to have a great and selfless teacher like Sadhviji and a headmaster like Acarya Mahaprajna. Without their teaching, I would not have learnt Jain nyaya."

I first met Acarya Shri in the Winter of 2003, when he was in Ahmedabad. Lalitbhai Shah was kind enough to take me there to meet him. After he had introduced me, I told him that I was Premiji's great-grandson. He was immensely delighted to hear that and spoke very appreciatively of Premiji's contribution to Jain studies. He then told us that in Acarya Tulasi's Caturmasa of 1958, which was held at C.P. Tank, Acarya Tulasi used to come over to Hindi Granth Karyalay to meet Premiji. And the young Acarya Mahaprajna, then Muni Nathmal, would  accompany him on those visits.

Acarya Shri was, along with the late Muni Jambuvijaya and Acarya Vidyananda (who is in his tenth year of the 12 year vow of Niyama Sallekhana) one of the greatest living scholars of Jainism. His going away has left a mighty hole and one hopes that other acaryas will be able to sufficiently replace his immense wisdom, kindness and truthfulness. 

Had it not been for the impartial and non-sectarian nature of Acarya Mahaprajna, Acarya Janakavijaya, Acarya Vidyanana and Acarya Sushilkumar, the SAMANASUTTAM would not have come about. When I had spoken to Acarya Mahaprajna about producing more work on the same lines as the SAMANASUTTAM, he had smiled and said, "I am ready to contribute. But can you get the Acaryas of the other three Jain traditions - Digambara, Shvetambara Murtipujaka and Shvetambara Sthanakavasi to work together?" Since I could not, the subject was dropped. Acarya Mahaprajna also revealed to us that at one point in time, Acarya Tulasi had considered adjusting the Paryushana dates, so that at least the entire Shvetambara Jain community could have their Samvatsari together. But unfortunately, this could not take place.

Acarya Tulasi and Acarya Mahaprajna even more so, believed in Jain unity and openly and clearly declared this on public forums. They were always open to inter-tradition dialogue. Acarya Mahaprajna was the intellectual face of Jainism. As long as he lived, he spread the teachings of Jainism. He wrote several books and held several vacanas of Jain scriptures. It would be difficult to give the gist of his teachings in a few words. However, using sthalipulakanyaya, this brief article by him is sufficient to illustrate the depth of his learning and wisdom:

The Pursuit Of Pleasure

Acarya Mahaprajna 

I bow in obeisance to his memory. I am deeply saddened by his departure. Even though Acarya Shri's work will remain with us, the perfume of his presence has gone.

Manish Modi

To read obituaries on Acaryashri, please go to:

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