Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication: Foremost Amongst Effulgent Souls ◄Kedar Nath

Published: 10.07.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Kedar Nath
Modern Review, Calcutta

Some twenty years ago - to the best of my memory it was the autumn of 1941 - a friend suggested that I should spend the Puja holidays at his home in the Bikaner State. I had been in indifferent health prior to that and I was told that the bracing climate of Bikaner would tone up my consti­tution. Some eminent friends also suggested that I might be able to find out a few facts about certain aspects of the recruitment campaign for the armed forces of British India that was proceeding apace then in that part of India. But that is another story. I accepted the invitation and after a halt at Patna, during which I visited Rajgir, Nalanda and Pawapuri, I reached Bhadra in Bikaner.

The visit to Bikaner proved fruitful in more than one sense. The happiest experience was, beyond all doubt, the chance of meeting with Acharya Shri Tulsi, revered Head of the Terapanth sect of Jain religion. Some friends came to Bhadra and extended an invitation to me to witness the deeksha ceremony, which was to be held in a few days at Rajaldesar, deep in Bikaner. The ceremony was of initation into the order of the Tera­panth and the presiding personality was that of Acharyashri Tulsi.

My host advised me to accept the invitation as the occasion was rare and would give me an opportunity to observe the deeper sides of the more puritanical aspect of Jainism. It was with this prospect that I left for Rajaldesar in company with my host's nephew and another friend.

This is not a tourist's account of sightseeing, nor is it a narrative for the diversion of a lay reader and. therefore, I shall skip over all the decorative details of what I saw and heard at the deeksha ceremony and also the atten­dant details of the occasion. I did see the initiates going about in rich raiment and with joyous looks on their faces on the day prior to their taking the vows. They were mostly young and of both sexes and I was assured about the genuinely voluntary nature of their resolve to become monks and nuns of a religious order wherein self-denial and renunciation of all worldly things have to be made. I was also told that not only the resolution of a would-be novice was tested for a long time but the written consent of his or her parents or guardians was also essential. All these statements were confirmed later by independent testimony and I am convinced of their truth where the saint-order itself is concerned.

The question before me then resolved itself into one clear and outstan­ding query:  What was the force that motivated this renouncement of this world, with its myriad attractions, pleasures and desires, on the part of those who placed themselves before the benign eyes of the revered Acharya at that austere and solemn deeksha ceremony?

1 should make my own view on the world and life of man clear before I proceed with my account. My ancestral background is of learned Brahmins who went through life with wide open eyes and the cons­tant query tatkim in their minds. My immediate background was that of the Brahma Samaj, a denomination of Hinduism based on the jnan-marga, an interpretation of the Upanishads, and I was trained in London for a degree and a diploma in science and later I was trained in the profession of journalism by my revered father who was reputed in his time as being one of the greatest and noblest of all editors in India. I had travelled widely and seen life in three continents and, thanks to my father's standing in public life, had met almost all the great men of India of those days together with some eminent men abroad.

So in all humility I might claim that I had all the equipment of a trained observer who can see life from the viewpoint of a realist. I was fifty years of age at the time of my first meeting with the revered Acharyashri Tulsi and so had few illusions of life left and having seen the World War I at fairly close quarters during 1914 - 1918 I had imbibed a fair amount of cynicism regarding human nature and human failings and passions. All this I am stating to indicate that my approach to the solution of the question regarding the novitiates was not made in an atmosphere of esoteric bliss. The thing indeed was altogether different.

Now to get back to the question: What was the force that had drawn these novices to this life of extreme austerity and almost absolute renuncia­tion? I had seen quite a few of them on the previous day, gaily attired and apparently in full enjoyment of life and at the actual deeksha ceremony I was privileged to sit near enough to see the novices clearly. Two or three of the boys and one girl were at the flowering stage of their youth and it was out of the question, from what I had seen on the previous day, that sheer want had led them to this choice. The influence of religious environment could not be ruled out, of course, but would that alone comple­tely account for it, in every case? Evidently not, if one were to take into account the business morals and general way of life of some of the same faith that I knew well. I am compelled to write this with regret, but that was my reasoning on that occasion, and I am emboldened to write it because of what the revered Acharya himself told me about the followers when I met him in Calcutta during his pad-yatra of the Anuvrat Movement.

Let me state outright, here and now, the complete answer to that query I was able to obtain. For in this mundane world, apparently, the explanations regarding the working of Divine Grace on human souls are not vouchsafed to ordinary mortals. Where the common man is concerned, the intensity and the spread of the Light are dependent on the inner stature of the noble soul that acts as the torch-bearer. The flame waxes or wanes according to the quantum of essence of the person who tends and bears it aloft.

It took a dedicated soul like that of Francis of Assisi to build and spread the Gospel of Sri Ram Krishna amongst the needy and the afflicted - and it came about that Acharyashri Bhikshu founded the Terapanth in the same way. So I looked for the explanation in the personality of the head of the order, Acharyashri Tulsi.

I had already had an interview with him before the deeksha ceremony. He had heard that a journalist from Bengal had come to Bikaner and had expressed a desire to see him in order to know the actual process of selec­tion of the novices and the final stages prior to the initiation. This was because some calumny had been uttered about the objectives and activi­ties of his order. He was very pleased to find that I could understand and speak Hindi fairly well, and explained at length the whole process. We were constantly being disturbed by the importunities of the devotees to obtain darshan and the blessing of the holy man. Through all of it he went on calmly explaining at length the various steps, while blessing every supplicant that came within his view.

His answer depicted that himsa and pride of possession were the two cardinal evils that afflicted mankind and that war was the most violent and widespread manifestation of both. The only way to overcome those two unmitigated evils was ahimsa, as the world is sure to realize some day. And how could man attain greater merit without overcoming the greatest evils? He gave me a beatific smile at the end and asked me if I was satisfied. I replied that the answers were extremely helpful and took leave of him after a deep obeisance.

Many years after that meeting I heard him delivering his discourses on the Anuvrat Movement in a large densely crowded pandal at Calcutta. Later I was favoured with a short interview when he delineated his concern about the rapid degeneration of moral values in the land. He said that he felt deep within himself the urge to campaign against the forces of corruption and degeneration, particularly as even the followers of his own sect were rapidly going along the downward path.

1 asked him what he thought the chances of his success were. The same smile came to his face, though his eyes were tinged with a shade of sadness. He said that he had asked Pandit Jawharlal Nehru, when he met him at New Delhi as to what chances of success he (Panditji) thought he had in his Anuvrat Movement. Panditji said that he himself was preaching ahimsa to the whole world year in, year out but who listened to him? All the same the cause must be upheld and propagated. And the Acharya said that he had the same conviction and faith in the cause of peace and purity.

I have had the fortune - for good or for evil - to meet a very large number of those who were reputed to be eminent and great. And only in a very few of them, alas, did I see that radiant glory of Truth and Purity shine forth in all its brilliance, as in a diamond of the first water

And amongst those shining, crystal clear and effulgent souls, I would place Acharyashri Tulsi in the foremost rank.

Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication
Jain Vishva Bharati Ladnun
Shrichand Bengani


R.P. Bhatnagar


● S.L. Gandhi
● Rajul Bhargava, Department of English, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
● Ashok K. Jha, Department of English, LBS College, Jaipur

First Edition, 1985-2000

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Shri Tulsi
  3. Ahimsa
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Anuvrat Movement
  6. Bhadra
  7. Bhikshu
  8. Bikaner
  9. Brahma
  10. Brahmins
  11. Calcutta
  12. Darshan
  13. Deeksha
  14. Delhi
  15. Environment
  16. Himsa
  17. Hinduism
  18. Jainism
  19. Krishna
  20. London
  21. Nalanda
  22. Nath
  23. New Delhi
  24. Pandit
  25. Patna
  26. Pawapuri
  27. Pride
  28. Puja
  29. Rajaldesar
  30. Rajgir
  31. Ram
  32. Science
  33. Soul
  34. Terapanth
  35. Tulsi
  36. Upanishads
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