Great Souls>Shrimad RajchandraJi
Short Lifespan - Great AchievementsShrimad Rajchandra (9 November 1867 – 9 April 1901) was a Jain poet, philosopher, scholar and reformer. Born near Morbi, he was a prodigy and had recollection of many of his past lives at the age of seven. He performed Avdhan, a memory retention and recollection test that gained him popularity, but he later discouraged it in favour of his spiritual pursuits. He wrote a large number of philosophical poems including Atma Siddhi. He also wrote a large number of letters and commentaries and translated some religious texts. He is best known for his teachings on Jainism and his spiritual guidance of Mahatma Gandhi.
Early lifeShrimad Rajchandra was born on 9 November 1867 (Kartik Sud Purnima, Vikram Samvat (VS) 1924), in Vavania, a port near Morbi (now in Gujarat, India). His mother, Devbai, was Svetambara Sthanakvasi Jain and his father, Ravjibhai Mehta, and paternal grand father, Panchan Mehta, were Vaishnava Hindu. So he was inroduced to Jainism and Hinduism from early life. They were from Vaniya community and from Dasa Shrimali caste. He was initiated in Vaishnavism by a Sadhu named Ramadasji.He continued to study other Indian religions and was attracted to Ahimsa (non-violence) doctrine of Jainism. Later he chose Jainism because he considered that it provides best path to salvation. His birth name was Lakshminandan Mehta. He was renamed Raichand by his parents when he was four years old. Later his name changed to its Sanskrit form, Rajchandra. Shrimad, an honorific, was added by his disciples posthumously. His disciples also refer to him as Param Krupalu Dev (Lord of the Highest Compassion).
Jāti smarana gnaanRajchandra first attained jāti smarana gnaan (knowledge of a number of previous lives) at the age of seven, in 1874. In an 1890 reply to a question from Padamshibhai, his friend in Bombay, he described the incident:
- "When I was seven years old, an elderly man named Amichand, well-built, stout and sturdy, a neighbor in my village, suddenly died of a snake bite. I did not know what death was. I asked my grandfather as to what the meaning of death was. He tried to evade the reply and advised me to finish my meals. I insisted on a reply. At last he said: 'To die means the separation of the soul from the body. A dead body has no movement, it contaminates and decays. Such a dead body will be burnt to ashes near a river-bank as it has ceased to function.' Then I went secretly to the cremation ground. I climbed up a Babul tree and I saw the whole process of cremation of the dead man's body. I felt that those who burnt him were cruel. A train of thoughts started on the nature of the death and as a result I could recollect my previous lives"
ProdigyRajchandra had an exceptional memory retentiveness and recollection. He joined the school at the age of seven and half but mastered the preliminaries in calculation in just a month. In two years, he completed the study of seven grades. At the age of eight, he started composing poems. He composed verse synopses on Ramayana and Mahabharata at the age of nine. He gained maturity in thinking and reasoning and by the age of 10 started public speaking. At the age of 11 He started writing articles in newspapers and magazines, such as in Buddhiprakash, and won several prizes in essay writing competitions. He wrote a 300-stanza poem on 'a watch' at the age of 12. In 1880, he went to Rajkot to study English, but very little is known about his education there. By 1882, he had studied and mastered several subjects. He became popular as a young poet and was referred to as Kavi due to it. He occasionally visited the residence of the ruler of Kutch as a writer where his handwriting were praised as best. He started attending his father's shop at age of 13. He composed many poems on life of Rama and Krishna while sitting in the shop.
AvadhānaAvadhāna is a difficult test of attention and recollection in which a person attends multiple objects and activities at a time. From 1884 to 1987, Rajchandra performed many Avadhānas. On 22 January 1887, Shrimadji performed śatāvadhāna (100 Avadhāna) at Sir Framji Cowasji Institute in Bombay, which gained him praise and publicity. He was awarded gold medals by institutes and public for his performances as well as title of ‘Sakshat Saraswati’ (Incarnation of Knowledge). Rajchandra believed that the publicity gained by such Avadhānas may became an obstacle in spiritual pursuits, so he gradually discouraged the performances and stopped it completely by age of 20. The performances attracted wide coverage in national newspapers. In September 1893, when in Chicago, Virchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandi) mentioned this feat at the Parliament of the World's Religions.
Last yearsIn 1887 (Maha Sud 12, VS 1944), Rajchandra married to Zabakben, daughter of Popatlal, the elder brother of Revashankar Jagjivandas Mehta, a Zaveri merchant family. He then engaged in the pearls and diamond business. He had two sons and two daughters. In 1890 (VS 1947), he experienced the self-realization for the first time at Uttarsanda where he was meditating under a mango tree near a lake. The tree no longer exists but a memorial shrine dedicated to the event is built there. He continued his householder life for six more years and was successful in his business. He is well known as a spiritual guide of Mahatma Gandhi. They were introduced in Mumbai in 1891 and had various conversations through letters while Gandhi was in South Africa. Gandhi noted his impression of Shrimad Rajchandra in his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, calling Raichandbhai his "guide and helper" and his "refuge in moments of spiritual crisis". His teaching directly influenced non-violence philosophy of Gandhi. He retired from householder life and business when he was thirty. He spent three months in Idar where he had instructed seven monks in religious discourses. A memorial temple and a prayer hall was built there later. During his final years, he suffered a chronic digestive disorder. No specific cause of death was identified except "extreme weakness". In 1900, he lost large amount of his weight. He was under medical supervision who had advised to move to coastal region of Gujarat for benefit of health. He contracted an illness during his stay in Dharampur, from which he never recovered. In 1901, he, his mother, and wife stayed at Aga Khan's bungalow in Ahmedabad before moving to Wadhwan Camp. He died on 9 April 1901 (Chaitra Vad 5, VS 1957) in Rajkot (now in Gujarat) surrounded by his family, friends, and disciples. A small photograph taken after his death is displayed in a library in Khambhat established by him. The room where he died is now a prayer hall.
Shrimad RajchandraJi's Works
- Shrimad RajchandraJi wrote Stri Niti Bodhaka (The Nature of Ideal Moral Life for Women, 1884) in which he had advocated women's education as essential to national freedom. Sad-bodh-shatak (1884) is his work on ethical topics.
Shrimad Rajchandraji's Mokshamala (1887) is about self-liberation written in an easy style understandable to young people. In Mokshamala Shrimadji explains:
- The nature of true God, true preceptor and true religion. He protests against the description of Jainism as a skeptical religion. To him Jainism is the true appreciation of God, man and the world. It does not deny Godhood, it only denies God as the creator of the world.
- That the man's true greatness lies in the practice of truth-telling, universal sympathy towards all living beings, celibacy, benevolence and equanimity of mind. Vanity and self-pride block man's progress. Man can be great by removing these elements from his nature. Keeping to truth is essential to the maintenance of the world. Hence truth-telling is the first of the great religious observances.
- Company of the good and the great is the source of all happiness. It purifies man. It brings him nearer to the knowledge of the Self and the final liberation.
- Reading and reflecting on the teachings of the religious scriptures also serves the same purpose namely soul's salvation.
- Solitude does not necessarily mean keeping aloof from all company. Keeping company of persons of similar aims (liberation) and practice is also known as solitude. Company of the Saints is a powerful purifying force. As you can't swim on earth, you cannot sink in good company. Hence, it is the sure medicine for the ailing soul.
- Covetousness and greed, oppressive acquisitiveness, result in the performance of sinful deeds. The Shastras should be read, understood and practiced. Parrotlike cramming of scriptural texts leads one nowhere.
- In the lesson on Kapilmuni, Shrimadji shows the desire as the root cause of endless miseries. Desire grows on what it feeds. There is no end to the mind's desires. The world-tree grows on the seed of desire. Desire is ever young. True happiness springs from the abandonment of all desires. Real peace lies in contentment. By contentment the soul obtains equanimity, discrimination and lasting joy.
- The soul has lost much by infatuation and sloth due to ignorance of its true nature. It is advised to wake up from killing slumber and lose no time in expediting its salvation. Wisemen do not wait for future opportunities, they strive for liberation in the present by all possible religious ways and leave the future to its own future. Their sense of the value of time is admirable.
- Discrimination is the light to recognize the soul in darkness. By discrimination religion is sustained and maintained. Religion without discrimination is meaningless. To understand truth and untruth as they are, is known as discrimination.
- Non-attachment is the only guide to the soul to its lasting happiness. To aspire for lasting happiness in the pursuit of the pleasures of the world is to live in a fool's paradise.
- In the lessons on differences of opinion and beliefs of different religions of the world, Shrimadji argues that while all other religions are incomplete or imperfect paths to Self-realization, Jain religion is complete and perfect as it has elaborately described the nature of reality and the sure method of soul's salvation. The founders of Jain religion are omniscient. Their description of sympathy, celibacy, chastity, discrimination and non-attachment is unique. Besides, Jain religion contains minute descriptions of pure knowledge of the Self, its hierarchical gradations and the mutations of the soul's states in Sansara.
- In the lesson on celibacy he states nine prohibitions conductive to the observance of celibacy.
- The lessons on Jain philosophical doctrines are lucid and simple expositions useful for every student of Jain philosophy and religion.
- He has also enumerated the eighteen obstacles to the control of mental modifications which a seeker of the Self-realization should remove from his life.
- He has also described fourteen mental states which make gradual development of the highest virtues.
- Shrimad Rajchandraji also composed Bhavna Bodh for his readers, It was a small book of fifty pages in which he gave instructions to cultivate 12 sentiments to lead the life of non-attachment.
Shrimad Rajchandraji's Atma Siddhi Shastra (Gujarati: આત્મસિદ્ધિ) is a spiritual treatise in 142 verses. "Atma" means "soul" or the "self" and "siddhi" means "attainment". Hence, Atma Siddhi is translated as self attainment or self realization. It explains the fundamental philosophical truths about the soul and its liberation. It propounds six fundamental truths on soul which are also known as shat pada (six steps). The 6 steps can be described as:
- Self (soul) exists
- The soul is permanent, i.e. eternal
- The soul the doer of its own actions
- The soul is the enjoyer or the sufferer of its actions
- Liberation (salvation) exists
- There is a way to achieve liberation.
- Shrimad Rajchandraji wrote more than 900 letters which charts his spiritual journey and teachings to disciples. Shrimad Rajchandra Vachanamrut is collection of his complete works including letters and other writings.
- His composed several poems are popular including "Apoorva Avsar Evo Kyare Aavshe..", "Mool Marg Sambhlo Jinno Re..", "Bina Nayan Pavey Nahi..", "Hey Prabhu! Hey Prabhu! Shu Kahu..", "Yam Niyam Sanjam Aap Kiyo..", "Ichche Chhe Je Jogijan..". "Apoorva Avsar Evo Kyare Aavshe.." and "Hey Prabhu! Hey Prabhu! Shu Kahu..".