The Great Atmaramji

Posted: 01.12.2010

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The following two-part essay is a compilation of two short papers published in Jainacharya Shri Atmanand Janma Shatabdi Smarak Grantha (Jainacharya Shri Atmanand Centenary Commemoration Volume), edited by Mohanlal Dalichand Desai, Bombay 1936, pp. 1-2 and 10-11. The first section is written by Puran Chand Nahar while for the biographical essay of the second section an author is not stated.


The Great Atmaramji

A short account of the life of Shrimad Vijayanandsuri, popularly known as Shri Atmaramji

Among the heads of the various sections of the Jain Swetambar church in the nineteenth century, the name of shri Vijayanand Suri alias Atmaramji will ever be remembered with veneration in India and outside. His vast knowledge of Jainism with his simple and easy way of explaining the difficult problems of philosophy, is widely known and that is why his writings are so immensely popular amongst Jains of all sections.

His writings are great testimony of his greatness. He could explain the most knotted questions of "Syadvada" in a very simple manner. His masterly works "Jain Tatvadarsha", "Tatva-nirnaya Prasad", "Ajnantimir Bhaskar" are his living monuments in the vernacular literature on Jainism. His versatile genius was unbounded. He was an embodiment of विनय-politeness, unbiased from sectarian views. He was the pionee.r of that spirit of advancement which has attained such glorious success and resulted in the establishment of many useful institutions in his memory throughout the country. He was a great reformer of the age. In the Punjab side the excellence of Jainism was almost forgotten by its followers during the political unrest of the country for centuries. Thousands of such families were brought to their former platform by the persistent labour for years of this great man.

He attracted attention of scholars of his time especially of Sanskrit, both in India and outside and was respected by all. A perusal of his works, nay a glance at the contents of the vols, is sufficient to show his mastery of the subject, his keen insight of the Jain texts and the systematic method of his treatment of complex questions that are stumbling blocks to students of Jain culture. His sterling merits were much appreciated by the then European scholars. I take this opportunity of quoting one instance only before concluding these my humble lines. The great scholar late Dr. A. F. R. Hoernle who edited one of the Jain Agamas in "Bibliotheca Indica Series" published by the A. S. of Bengal, was so much impressed with his learning that he composed several verses in Sanskrit in praise of Atmaramji Maharaj and dedicated his work "Upasagdasao Sutra" to him. The verses depict the excellence of this great personality in a nut-shell and ran as follows:

दुराग्रहध्वान्तविभेदभानो !, हितोपदेशामृतसिन्धुचित्त !।
सन्देहसन्दोहनिरासकारिन् !, जिनोक्तधर्म्मस्य धुरंधरोऽसि॥१॥
अज्ञानतिमिरमास्करमज्ञाननिवृत्तये सहृदयानाम्।
आर्हत् तत्त्वादर्शं ग्रंथमपरमपि भवानकृत्॥२॥
आनंदविजय श्रीमन्नात्माराममहामुने !।
मदीय निखिलप्रशनव्यारव्यातः शास्त्रपारग॥३॥
कृतज्ञता चिह्नमिदं ग्रंथसंस्करणं कृतीन्।
यत्नसम्पादितं तुभ्यं श्रद्धयोत्सृज्यते मया॥४॥

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A hundred years have gone by since the birth of Shri Vijayanandasuri, the well-known Sadhu of the Jain Swetamber Sect.

He was born in the village of Lahara, District Ferozpur (Punjab) on the first of Chaitra Shukla in Vikram year 1893 (1837 CE). He was Brahma Kshattriya by caste. His father's name was Ganeshchandra and mother's, Rupdevi. He lost his father in early childhood and was brought up by his mother. He was given in charge of Seth Jodhmai of Jira (Punjab) for education in Vikram year 1903 (1846 CE).

He studied Hindi and Arithmetic. At times he used to visit Sthanakvasi Sadhus of the place and began to study about religion. In Vikrama 1910 (1853 CE) he was initiated as a Sthanakvasi Sadhu. His intellect was keen: He used to commit to memory 100 verse a day. He had learnt the Shastras from the Sthanakvasi Sadhus, but he began to entertain doubts as regards the interpretation as given by them.

Fortunately he began to study Sanskrit Grammar and other philosophical and logical works with a Pandit. He fearlessly gave up the Sthanakvasi doctrine and came to Ahmedabad in Vikram year 1932 (1875 CE). He was initiated as a Swetamber Sadhu by Buddhivijayji, a Jain Sadhu of the place. In the Vikram year 1943 (1886 CE), he went to Palitana, Kathiawar, and stayed there for four months during the rainy season. Here he was given the title of "Acharya" by the Sangha, and from that time he was called by the name of Shri Vijayanandasuri.

Then he travelled on foot from Gujarat to the Punjab. During the travel he brought to light the hidden Jain Literature. The Jain Bhandars of different places of Rajputana were examined by him. He got many old important manuscripts fairly copied out.

For many years he lived in the Punjab. His fame spread through the different parts of the country. Many people of other sects came and discussed with him on matters of religion. He answered their arguments in a mild, courteous and dispassionate manner. His tone was inspiring, and the hearers were at times astonished at his peculiar tact of answering the questions. His ideas were liberal. He was serene and calm of desposition.

Many questions of Jainism were put to him by Dr. A. F. Rudolf Hoernle through Maganlal Dalpatram in the Vikram year 1945 (1888 CE). Dr. Hoernle was greatly satisfied with the answers. He wrote to Maganlal: "Please convey to the latter (Muni Maharaj) the expression of my thanks for the great trouble he has taken to reply so promptly and so fully to my questions. His answers were satisfactory".

In the introduction of the Upasakdasanga [1], which Dr. Hoernele has edited and translated, he writes: "For some of this information I am indebted to Muni Maharaj Atmaramji, Anandvijayji, the wellknown and highly respected Sadhu of the Jain Community throughout India and author of (among others) two very useful works in Hindi." [2]

In Vikram year 1949 (1892 CE), he received an invitation from Chicago to attend the World's Parliament of Religions. On account of religious and personal restrictions he could not go, but he sent his representative, Mr. Virchand Raghavji Gandhi B. A., to Chicago to represent Jainism at the Parliament.

He was the author of a number of works in Hindi. The important works are as follows:

  • Tatwanirnaya Prasad (तत्त्वनिर्णयप्रादाद),
  • Jaina Tatwadarsha (जैनतत्त्वादर्श),
  • Agnantimir-Bhasker (अज्ञानतिमिरभास्कर),
  • Samyaktwa Shalyodhar (सम्यक्त्वशल्योद्धार) and
  • Chicago-Prashnottar (चिकागोप्रश्नोत्तर).

Many Jain temples were built in the Punjab by his teaching. About 15000 persons were converted to Jainism by his strenuous efforts. Many pathshalas and libraries were established by him in the districts of the Punjab and in different other parts of the country.

Spending his life in doing good deeds he passed away from this world in Vikram year 1953 (1896 CE), Jyesta Shukla 13, in Gujranwala (Punjab). The event of his death was mysterious. At midnight he got up from bed and sat in the posture of padmasana. He called his pupils before him and said to them: "Oh, Now I go, Arhan!"

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Foot prints on the sands of time." ( Longfellow )

Footnotes:
[1]
[2]

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