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Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication: ANUVRAT: An Introduction (1) ◄Yuvacharya Mahapragya

Published: 13.09.2012
An English rendering of Yuvacharya Mahapragya's Anuvrat Ek Parichaya

India became free after centuries of slavery. The Congress and the Muslim League jointly took over the reins of Government. Riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims. Communalism made its ugly appearance resulting in the partition of India. Pakistan came into existence. Large-scale migrations of Hindus and Muslims took place. Both the countries were plagued by countless refugees. Their rehabilitation posed a complex problem.

India gave herself a new Constitution which came into force on January 26, 1950. She became a republic. All adults were granted franchise. Elections were held. The Congress formed governments at the Centre and in almost all the States. It set itself the goal of establishing a socialist pattern of society. New commercial and property taxes were levied. The princely states were merged into the union and feudal landlordism was abolished. Untouchability was made a cognizable offence. Food controls were introduced as a result of shortages. Many development plans were formed and all-out efforts were made to implement them. Such were the conditions at the beginning of independence. Everything was new - elections, the Government, the administrative experience and the social order. Mahatma Gandhi vanished from the scene. Other leaders got bogged down in their respective political parties. The unity attained during the struggle for freedom was lost. Basic problems which remained hidden under the dazzle of independence surfaced gradually Casteism, untouchability, communalism, economic disparity, dearness and beggary are India's basic problems. Then there are post-independence problems like indiscipline, love of office, over-ambition, regionalism and language controversies. These and other similar problems caused a lot of suffering to the people as well as a decline in their character.

Meanwhile, there was growth in education and general intellectual development. Old beliefs were weakening. New principles were coming into existence. Religious leaders were decrying intellectuals who in turn were trying to reinterpret the past to the former.

On the whole the situation was more destructive than constructive and generated more excitement than introspection. None was satisfied with it. Dissatisfaction prevailed in all fields - social, religious and national. People were growing impatient of loss of character and indiscipline. The Anuvrat Movement was born in these circumstances. Emphasizing old vows and values, although it had nothing new in it, it gave a correct assessment of the prevailing situation. The people felt assured because the movement was launched as both a diagnosis of and a remedy for the prevailing malady.

The Original Draft

Acharya Shree and his companions did not imagine the wide extent of the Anuvrat Movement's welcome and impact. Initially they had a modest desire to change the outlook of those in their immediate contact. These people should regard religion not merely as part of worship but as an instrument of purifying character. They should be models of good religious living. This thought troubled his mind for a year or two. Occasionally it was also talked about. It finally matured in 1949. Keeping the shravaks in view a list of vows was drawn. Acharya Shree saw it. It was felt that it should be further expanded. More and more thought was given to it. Compilation of lists of evil habits as well as of vows went on. Finally an outline emerged and Acharya Shree launched the Anuvrat Movement in Sardarshahar on March 1, 1949. Earlier, nine-point and thirteen-point programmes had been propagated in an experimental manner.

These programmes had been adopted by some twenty-five thousand people. They could be regarded as a prelude to the Anuvrat Movement. The Movement was originally called Anuvrati Sangh (Anuvrat Association). It started with Acharya Shree's long marches. In the prevailing situation movements aimed at developing character were greatly needed. Anuvrati Sangh or Anuvrat Association fulfilled a felt need and therefore it did not take long to become popular. The public welcomed it as a beacon. Hundreds of people would gather in small villages, hear the vows of the Movement and adopt them.

The First Step

It got a further fillip during the chaiurmas (the four-month stay at one place during the rainy season). The first annual session was held at Delhi. It was only there that the Movement became truly popular. Up till then Acharya Shree was regarded as a traditional religious head and as a leader of a particular community. People then could not even imagine that a movement started by him could be nonsectarian. There were a number of misgivings. For example, the Movement was negative, not constructive and it was a ruse to boost a particular sect. But the fine shape it took during the inaugural session on December 30, 1951 was beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It was this that led Acharya Shree to believe that the Movement would be able to sustain itself. The people felt its need. All that was required was a little help in fulfilling that need. When hundreds of people collectively repeated the vows on the Delhi Corporation grounds, it looked as if a new chapter was opening in human history. The space given to it in newspapers was unprecedented in the history of non-political movements.

A Nonsectarian Movement

The approach of the Movement was from the very beginning non-sectarian. It did not seek to initiate the people into Jainism or Terapanth. It simply aimed at character-building. In Acharya Shree's view the essence of Jainism is also character-building. The name of the Movement had its origin in the Jain tradition. Lord Buddha laid down the Middle Path for the monks. Lord Mahavir set forth a Middle Path for the ordinary householders. It is anuvrat. As a way it stands between violence and nonviolence. As far as possible, it is the path of nonviolence. A life without any restraint results in violence, whereas complete restraint leads to nonviolence. The former is harmful to man; the latter is very difficult to achieve. It was this insight that lay behind anuvrat. If one finds complete restraint impossible, let him exercise minimum restraint. Anuvrat implies nothing but such a minimum restraint. While naming it a doubt arose as to why it should be called Anuvrat Movement when it was meant for Jains and non-Jains alike. How shall people take it to be non-sectarian? Quite a few other names came up, but none were found suitable. Acharya Shree felt that the name should not sound bigger than the actual work. Anuvrat captured the above feeling. A number of small vows can cumulatively bring about impressive results. The name Anuvrati Sangh was given against the above background.

Initially there were eighty-four vows. The Movement underwent changes as it spread. Its outlines changed during the Bombay chaturmas. By that time it had crossed the five-year mark. Thousands of people had adopted it. Hundreds of thousands had extended their support to it. And its message had reached many more millions. During discussions with Acharya Shree the idea came up that it was time the name 'Anuvrati Sangh'(Anuvrat Association) was changed to 'Anuvrat Andolan' (Anuvrat Movement). The word 'Sangh' (Association) was rather restrictive. 'Andolan' (Movement) is much more inclusive. The idea appealed and the name 'Anuvrat Movement' replaced 'Anuvrati Association'.

Beyond India's Frontiers

The Movement had already crossed the boundaries of India. At the time of the inaugural session newspapers in England and America had commented on it. The well-known New York Weekly Time in its edition of May 15, 1950 wrote under the caption 'The Atomic Bomb': 'Like some people in other places a lean, short, bright-eyed Indian is extremely worried about the present world situation He is thirty-four year-old Acharya Tulsi, who is the head of the Terapanth sect of the Jains. It is a religious community which believes in nonviolence. Acharya Tulsi founded the Anuvrati Sangh in 1949. After he has won over the whole of India to his vows, he plans to do the same with the rest of the world.'

The Anuvrat attracted notice in Japan also. The reactions of the people of all these countries reached the Acharya. Briefly the feeling of those people was that the vows had been propounded keeping India in mind and that a number of them were not useful for them. Then the Acharya decided to effect changes in the outline of the vows. The changes were necessary if the Movement was to have a worldwide impact. They were motivated by the thought that since the basic nature of man is universally uniform, only vows in consonance with it may be widely propagated. Thus the number of basic vows-went up to 42. According to the original outline there were no graded steps or stages for the followers of the Movement. Those who accepted the thirteen-point plan did not consider themselves members of the Movement. Then while there were some people who did not resort to malpractices like pay-offs and income tax evasion, there were others who found themselves unable to avoid them. Under these circumstances it was felt that it would be good to lay down progressive stages for the anuvratis (followers of anuvrat). On this basis three classes of anuvratis were prescribed:

    1. New Entrant Anuvratis,
    2. Anuvratis and
    3. Advanced Anuvratis.

The vows prescribed for these classes were 11, 42 and 4, respectively.

Cooperation and Criticism

Popularizing anuvrats was a great undertaking. Its greatness lay in its aim to transform the common man into an anuvrati and to wean him away from immoderacy into continence. Acharya Shree wanted everyone to observe anuvrats. It was a different matter whether they would call themselves anuvratis or not. It would be their own choice. When Dr Rajendra Prasad (former President of India) told Acharya Shree if you want me to hold any office, I will like it to be that of an anuvrat supporter,' Acharya Shree replied, I want you to hold the office of an anuvrati.' To make anuvrat a mass movement Acharya Shree has marched thousands of miles, has met millions of people and has given several discourses in a day, each day of the year. He explained and talked about the Movement both with the lowliest and the highest, including the highly educated people. Despite stormy opposition he tried to spread enlightenment and unmoved by praise he continued to say what he felt was true. Once when he was in Lucknow he said, 'The number of supporters and admirers of anuvrat is very large. I am rather tired of hearing its praise. What I want to see is not supporters but anuvratis.' Underlying his deep concern is only one aim: good of the people, development of character and spiritual upliftment. Bearing the torch of anuvrat he visited schools, colleges, offices, business centres in different localities and acquainted the public with the Anuvrat Movement. His disciples also worked a good deal in this direction. For carrying out this sublime task Acharya Shree has got a great and dedicated band of people. It owes its greatness to Acharya Shree himself and it has significantly contributed to the fulfilment of the sublime task.

Among diverse groups of people there are bound to be differences in thinking and the latter cannot but give rise to criticism. In public life there is hardly anybody who may be beyond criticism or who may deserve nothing but criticism. The Anuvrat Movement has passed through many stages of criticism. Acharya Shree himself wanted to know the public reaction to the Movement and for this reason a number of thinkers were invited to comment on it critically. Destructive criticism being merely an outburst of passion did no good to the Movement. Factual criticism, however, has from time to time given positive directions to it.

Such a criticism by Shri Kishore Lai Mashruwala provided an occasion for rethinking. He wrote in the Harijan, 'This movement welcomes everyone irrespective of caste, colour, religion or sex. For its members it has created many categories under different labels like Truth, Nonviolence, Non-stealing, Celibacy and Non-possession with each of which are attached its respective atomic vows. Although the Movement is open to the believers of all religions and though the rules and sub-rules of all its vows except that of Nonviolence have been framed on a non-sectarian basis keeping social obligations in view, the rules relating to Nonviolence bear a clear imprint of the Panth (Terapanth). For example, howsoever desirable pure vegetarianism may be, the fact cannot be denied that considering the present state of social organizations all over the world including India, the vow of complete avoidance of meat, fish eggs, etc. and even of industries associated with them can be taken only by a small section of Jains and Vaishnavas... But these minor shortcomings notwithstanding, it is undeniably true that this effort at rousing the people's conscience against the current attitude of disrespect towards principles is laudable'.

Acharya Shree thought that an anuvrati must be a vegetarian. The question can be asked: Why can't non-vegetarians be ever regarded as anuvratis? There must be some place for a man who is desirous of observing moral vows. It is certainly true that there must be a vow prohibiting non-vegetarianism. But it is equally true that one cannot avoid feeling concerned about keeping the non-vegetarians outside the pale of anuvrat. Acharya Shree reconciled these opposing views. He neither withdrew the vow prohibiting non-vegetarianism nor deprived the non-vegetarians of observing vows.

Many thinkers criticized the negative aspect of the Movement. They thought all don'ts and no do's merely discourage people. The Movement should be constructive. Acharya Shree met the criticism by saying that the Movement was constructive in so far as it had a positive goal.

Acharya Vinoba Bhave criticised the atomic vow concerning truth. He felt that there can be an atomic vow of nonviolence, but truth is indivisible and it therefore admits of only totality in the form of mahavrat (total allegiance to truth). Acharya Shree gave it a serious consideration but Vinoba's argument did not carry conviction with him. Truth is no different from nonviolence. There can be no truth where there is violence. Both nonviolence and truth are intrinsically indivisible. Height cannot be divided but it takes several steps to reach it and each step is different from the other. The anuvrats or atomic vows are graded steps to reach spiritual heights.

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 Tulsi
  3. Anuvrat
  4. Anuvrat Movement
  5. Anuvrati
  6. Anuvrats
  7. Bombay
  8. Buddha
  9. Casteism
  10. Celibacy
  11. Chaturmas
  12. Cooperation
  13. Delhi
  14. Essence of Jainism
  15. Gandhi
  16. Jainism
  17. Kishore
  18. Lucknow
  19. Mahatma
  20. Mahatma Gandhi
  21. Mahavir
  22. Nonviolence
  23. Prasad
  24. Rajendra Prasad
  25. Sangh
  26. Sardarshahar
  27. Shravaks
  28. Space
  29. Terapanth
  30. Tulsi
  31. Vegetarianism
  32. Vinoba Bhave
  33. Violence
  34. Yuvacharya
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