Kanji Swami ►Biography

Posted: 11.06.2011
Updated on: 02.07.2011


The Life of Kanji Swami

One of the most successful modern Jain movements has been the Kanji Swami Panth. Gurudev Kanji Swami was born in Umrala, Gujarat in V.S. 1946 (1889 AD). He was instrumental in starting a new revolution in the percept and practice of Jainism, thereby putting thousands of souls on the true path of salvation. The philosophy and truth have always been there since time immemorable but their true exponents were not in this modern age. It was already ordained in the Agams, as propounded by the Tirthankaras, especially Mahavir Bhagwan.

However, the knowledge was clouded and in the absence of it's true interpretations, Jains were led to believe and practice certain principles, which were not in accordance with what Mahavir Bhagwan had said. It was all a case of clinging to the form rather than the substance, and mithyatva, false belief was reigning supreme.

Gurudev Kanji Swami shed a new light on what the Lord had preached and showed us the true eternal path. Gurudev gave the most correct interpretation of the Agams, and explained the various principles. Pujya Kanji Swami had self realization of the soul and he opened the correct path for mumukshus, that means those souls who want to achieve salvation (moksh). He showed, how the soul was completely detached from each worldly surroundings and the true darshan, gnan and charitrya were the basis of true religion. Nobody can understand true religion, unless he follows the three fold basis in its entirety.

Gurudev was a great believer in purusharth, i.e. personal effort for achieving salvation. Nothing else could help. He firmly believed and used to say, "For those who are engaged in personal effort to secure salvation, there are not many lives to live". The Kevali Bhagwan, in his supreme knowledge, has never seen many lives for such persons who are simply engrossed in personal endeavors. To such persons, waiting for future turns of life are never as obstruction. They continually strive for salvation. Their efforts always reign supreme.

As a Jain saint, Gurudev studied the Shwetambar shastras with exemplary devotion. However during all such studies, his sole attention was on seeking the truth which was still evasive and his enquiry into truth, was simply in exhaustible. While engrossed in such a way, it once happened that a great Jain volume, Samaysara (Essence of the Doctrine) which was written by Shrimand Bhagwat Kundkundacharya came into his hands. On studying the volume, his joy knew no bounds as he had found what he was searching for.

He now gave unprecedented new interpretations to Mahavir Bhagwan's teachings. He said "Even getting attached to tirthankar karma needs to be left out because the soul does not touch it. There is no misery to the soul at all, even when the body suffers intensely and in its various parts". The path of salvation is not achieved by merely keeping balance of mind with an understanding that one should not mourn unhappiness since this will bring new karmas. Even the five vratas penances bring punya but not the salvation.

The teachings in Samaysara paved the way for self-realisation. He was able to bring out the basic principles of life as depicted in the Agams and taught the correct method of interpretations of these texts. Soul must always be given prominence; keeping soul in central axis, one can consider its relation to karmas, body and surroundings. He laid great emphasis on independence of all dravyas or matter-substance. The inborn nature of soul is pure. He should behave in a pure form. However since time immemorable soul is misbehaving by having faulty notions. By knowing the facts about soul and other dravays he should rectify the wrong notions and then only he can proceed on the right path of salvation. This was a turning point in his life and is known as samyag darshan (self-realisation).

In each of his discourses, he was laying out a great emphasis on samyag darshan, a state of mind which is the initial stage for nirvana (salvation), when the soul gets completely detached from worldly traits. Gurudev also said, "This soul has for many lives, practised that charitrya- a mode of behaviour when it did not get angry with those who had torn skin from the body and then thrown saltish and saline things thereupon and yet, it has not achieved samyag darshan." The sins occurring through mithya darshan, i.e. false way of feeling and seeing life are innumerable times higher than those of one following killing of living beings.

Samkit or samyag darshan is not easy, it has been achieved by one in millions. Such a soul makes his own decisions and has completely eschewed all the sentiments and emotions prevailing in the entire universe. Samkit or samyag darshan is something unique and also has all the formalities of the religion while being without true samyag darshan is like a building without foundation. The value of samkit is boundless. If one achieves it, he gets immense benefit thereof. Samyag darshan is something supreme, and if one understands such value, then he will always have the urge and keenness to understand it. He used to start his discourse with a verse which meant, "Oh worldly souls you fully understand and get immersed in samyag darshan: Please understand it fully and minutely and follow it steadfastly. Without it, all other understandings are futile".

One should know the nature of his mistakes. Thereafter one must change the false notions, then only one can think and act in the proper manner. Having once achieved samyag darshan he can then proceed on the path of salvation, that is implement it in the right manner. Gurudev, being on the right path of salvation (moksha-marg), guided others on that line.


Kanji Swami studying Kundakunda's Samayasara

From a very early age, Gurudev followed a completely conscientious, deliberative, distinctive, intelligent, purposeful and a devoted life. He used to live a highly saintly life with perfect celibacy. What is the best remedy for being without future lives? Despite achieving graivayak (highest heaven), the soul has come back to this world. So what remains to be done now? Such was the subject of his deep meditation and study and he felt that the true path was something different. Formal ceremonies are not the path of salvation; the real path lies in self-experience of the soul itself and achieving samyag darshan. The real shravak (Jain householder) path is complete absorption in experiencing and enjoying realisation of the soul. This is the real muni marg, the path of a real saint. Without this, the external penances and the various forms thereof are mere manifestations of its incompleteness and immaturity. Gurudev felt that from within that the real path of salvation has gone much astray from its genuine direction.

Gurudev was very seriously thinking about vastuswabhava, the true nature of things and also the manner of getting free from karmas. He fully believed in philosophy as earmarked in Samaysara, as very genuine and true. He was experiencing distress in his mind about his own self and his own behaviour as a Sthanakwasi saint. Gurudev, after having read Samaysara, went onto read the writings of other Digambaras such as Todarmal and Shrimand Rajchandra, as a result of which he became convinced that the Digambara Jainism was the true, eternal path which was not dependent on transmission through pupillary descent and which, unlike Shwetambara Jainism, gave access to the real nature of inner being. He decided to make a big change and leave the Sthanakwasi sect. Gurudev used to say, at that time, that Jainism does not belong to any sect. It is the religion of the soul. It has no unanimity with any other sect or religion. In reality Digambara Jain religion is the true religion and no jiva or soul can achieve saintly life and ultimately salvation, without the external as well as internal traits of a Digambara Jain.

Even when he was in the Sthanakwasi sect, Gurudev believed that each particle and each living being had its own separate and independent existence. The soul is a separate entity, a separate being and no karma can influence a pure, true soul. The soul gets tarnished with karma but they cannot influence a true soul, who is merely a gnayak and who knows that it is tarnished. Gurudev's main emphasis in his preaching was on an own understanding and own knowledge. He used to emphasize frequently in his preaching, "Please understand. Everything is useless without understanding. No soul with or without knowledge, has the slightest prowess to move even a particle. In such circumstances, how can it do anything to human body or for that purpose, to any other thing?"

There is a big difference in one who knows and one who does not know - like light and darkness. The difference lies in the fact that the one who does not know - who has no gnan - becomes the doer of good and evil things and even good and evil feelings and hence good and bad karma. Whereas one who knows, and understands that he should not have punyas and pap, if he wants salvation and, therefore, does not become a doer in such cases. He wants to do shuddha (pure things). Every soul has to be absolutely active in doing away with such a sense of doing. This cannot happen without true knowledge. Hence follow the pursuit of knowledge and thereby achieve samyag darshan, i.e. proper understanding.

Gurudev used to say Bhagwan Kundakundacaryadev, had specially gone to the samosaran (Samavasarana) of Simandhar Swami Bhagwan in Mahavidehkshetra and had stayed there for one full week. Gurudev had no doubt of his stay there. To go there with a human body is simply stupendous and unprecedented. In 1937 AD at the consecration of the Digambara Svadhyaya Mandir at Songadh (Saurashtra), he announced that he had in a previous existence been living in the region of Mahavideha and had been present when Kundakundacharya had visited there to hear the fordmaker Simandhar Swami preaching.

On Chaitra Vad 8th day of V.S. 1993 (1936 AD), Bhagwatimata Bahenshree Champaben, who had already experienced oneness with her soul, attained samyag darshan and had thereafter, on a regular march of spiritual progress in the direction of deliverance from life, a realisation of her own past lives (jatismarangnan). She eventually informed Kanji Swami that she had been present with him in Mahavideha during his then birth as a prince and that they had both listened to Simandhar Swami expounding the true doctrine to Kundakundacharya during his stay of eight days, as a result of which the latter returned and composed the 'Essence of the Doctrine'. In token of the veracity of this, she gave a full account of Simandhar Swami's samosaran, an elaborate reconstruction of which based on this description can be seen at Songadh. Bahenshree Champaben made an even more startling claim, after the death of Gurudev in 1980, when she stated that he would be reborn as a fordmaker called Suryakirti in the continent of Dhatakikhanda.

Gurudev, never had an intrinsic interest in outside activities. His life was prone only to his own soul. His daily routine of life, basically, was in his own studies, his own knowledge, meditation, and the deep introspection of the scriptures. He always desisted from things other than salutations to the Lord, giving sermons on scriptures, devotion to Jinendra and discussion on the philosophy of Jain darshan. His entire way of living was dedicated to his own soul and freedom from worldly affairs. His entire life was soul orientated. He was absolutely indifferent to the whole world and its affairs. Truly, Gurudev was not the doer of all such activities. He was only the knower from within. His life and vision were only towards his soul.

Gurudev's main obligation to us, and for which we shall remain ever grateful to him, was his self-experienced knowledge of the soul, being absolutely distinct from worldly affairs and his direction, through his preaching to see the great path of souls' upliftment. He often said, "In this life, our main mission and activity can only be to accomplish one's own soul, to know it thoroughly and thereby achieve samyag darshan. The greatness of samyag darshan is really infinite." Indeed, all efforts towards religious understandings or any action in that direction are useless unless there is samyag darshan.

Gurudev echoed Bhagwan Atma all through his saintly life. "I am only the knower - the soul. This supreme body actually knows and sees everything. This is the real object, call it by the name of prowess, energy, knower, and a steadfast object or even a most ecstasical feeling - these are all one and the same thing". Gurudev used to explain, "Oh! Living beings, shubh (good) and ashubh (bad) feelings or doings are all the roots of bondage, not of salvation. Then, how can we secure salvation? Pure feelings, unattached feelings, feelings without good or bad motives - the shuddha - pure feelings this is the basis of salvation." But if we lessen the kashay, the worldly traits of karma, krodh- moha and maya- mithyatva does it not mean good feelings? Gurudev used to reply, "These are apparent good feelings, not unattached pure feelings. To know one's own soul, unaffected absolutely by any other thing, is the real shuddhabhava".

"When one experiences the soul, one feels the experience of paramatma, the supreme being as if swimming over the whole universe as a lofty pleasant object. Without this experience, the soul cannot be seen in samyak condition and that is why, no religion can be rightly started without the experience of samyag darshan". The question then arises, "What should a being or a jiva do in order to secure such self-experience?" Gurudev emphasized the need of determination of the true knowledge orientated soul with itself-experience.

Gurudev by his preaching and sermons and with view to determine the soul with pure knowledge, always propagated the realization of helpful elements such as the independent 'sat' effect of dravyas. The dravyas, its merits and its actual position, nine elements and their true form, absolute difference in the various acts of the body and the soul, the distinguishing traits of punya and true religion. And the two faces of many objects such as the absolute (nischaya) and the temporary-relative (vyavhar). Many such traits as said by the Tirthankaras were brought to light by Gurudev. But the greatness of Gurudev lies in laying bare the topmost philosophy of param parinamic bhav which conveys that the dravya of the pure soul which has the phenomenon characteristic of knowing everything, is the foundation of one's own experience, is the shelter of samyag darshan is the support of the path of salvation, and is the Lord of suddha bhava.

As Gurudev Param Pujya Kanji Swami preached the path of salvation, his life inspires us also for the same purpose. His life prompts us to always be active in this direction. Gurudev's sole purpose in life was to find remedy for the end of all future lives, in this life only. Gurudev remained completely engrossed in his endeavors of not having any more rebirth for himself. This was the path and the objective, he set for his followers. If Gurudev had not explained to us the true principles, we could have, possibly, never understood the dhruva tatva (the steadfast soul). He was like a light, to save us from a false path and in this way, we are under a deep debt of gratitude to our reveared Gurudev for leading us, by practice and percept and by his holy life, to the path of salvation.

On V.S. 2037 Kartak Vad 7 (28.11.1980 AD), Gurudev made a great departure to the heaven, in a state of samadhi, as would accrue to a knower of the self, leaving his devotees and creating a void which will never be filled for a long time.




Compiled by PK

Photos: atmadharma.com

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