I was initiated into the order of Jain Monkhood while I was
barely eleven by my preceptor revered Kalu Gani. The first observance of
monkhood in Jainism happens to be non-violence and the fifth one,
non-acquisition. The prime lesson of my revered Master was to hearken me to
the onerous course of cleric order. He alerted me to my newly adopted role
where conscientiousness was to be the mark of behaviour and where there is no
room for lethargy or moral indolence. He exhorted me to be ever alert. Not one
step admitted of casualness and moral indifference.
"Move not a step in abandon, lest an insect be smothered by
your sole. You have to censor each word that you utter, lest it should offend
an individual. While you take meals, be cautious lest you trespass on
another's claim. Restraint will mark your life ever and anon else you will
attempt to monopolise any material object to the detriment of others. You
cannot treat things cavalierly nor exacerbate another's feelings. Nobody has a
right to command anybody nor hold him in bondage."
This was the opening lesson in non-violence and goodwill
that my preceptor revered Kalu Gani was pleased to impart me. He was able to
awaken in me an inherent love for the teaching. Not for a moment did my faith
in non-violence erode since that significant initiation.
The Symptom of a Non-violent Behaviour
During the week following my baptism in the monkhood I
began the study of Dasavaikalika Sutra. Here did I learn 'Be
conscientious while you move, while you stand, while you sit at a place, while
you sleep and while you eat or speak."
With this unexceptionable and masterly preaching of
conscientiousness in each action, I was taught never to take liberty with any
of the objects. Unless so warranted no order of things was to be disturbed nor
a grain of anything to be wasted.
A cultivator of restraint and abstinence shall not so much
as think of misusing anything on earth.
The third lesson taught to me was that each individual has
a claim to free and independent existence. Its corollary is that you have no
right to cause annoyance or discomfort to a being. If one teases, hurts,
displeases or subjugates another, it is unforgivable. Such a transgressor is
A rich heritage
I learnt not a mere dogma from my master, the great Kalu
Gani, but my constant exposure to his covert and overt conduct won for me a
deep orientation in these universal truths that stood the test of closest
scrutiny. He spared to make any oblique observation on another sect. A rich
heritage had been bequeathed to him. This tradition of stoicism and
catholicity is as hoary as Lord Mahavira himself. During his days Ardrakumar
thus spoke to Gaushalak, the sectarian head of Ajivakas, "I denounce not an
individual : I only denounce a dogma that merits denunciation."
Lord Bhikshu had embraced this principle implicitly. He
abstained from adversely commenting on any sect or individual. My venerable
master Kalu Gani strictly trode this noble path. He bade one and all never to
be crass during academic debates. To him incitement during debate is a sure
sign of defeat. An agitated and sanguine debate is synonymous with violence.
The master's composure and stoicism left a lasting impact
on my psyche. What he preached, he implicitly practised himself. A constancy
in word and deep is the positive indication of non-violence. To a practitioner
of non-violence utterance of unpleasant facts is an anathema, what to say of
deprecating another being. This lesson induced in me the practice of
equanimity and restraint.
The Genesis of Non-violence
Non-violence and truth are synonymous. The two are a
sine qua non to each other. The core of his kind lesson to me in
veracity may be worded thus - 'Never be a coward. Fear not age nor disease. Be
not afraid of grief, nor of death. Chimera scares one who is chicken-hearted a
timid person is a hostage of apprehensions. Such an unfortunate being is shorn
of austerity and asceticism.'
My preceptor's teaching led me to realise that non-violence
and truth are grounded in fearlessness. In fact, non-violence and truth are
concommitants to each other.
A man riveted to acquisition and avarice is never crowned
with fearlessness. It follows that non-violence can never exist in such a set
of circumstances. Fear is the prime mover of violence. To scare and intimidate
another is very much violence and so is fright and apprehension to your own
self. It follows that you should never be frightened nor frighten others. This
is the mutually coexisting principle of subjective and objective fearlessness.
Non- avariciousness is significant in as much as fearlessness is its
corollary. Falling for the material leads to anxiety and craving for it leads
to violence. We fear death because we fall for our physical frame. This
attachment to the gross is another name for acquisition.
Violence and acquisition are inseparably wedded together.
Conversely, non-violence and non-acquisition are wedded together. I owe these
golden truths to my preceptor, my Master Kalu Gani.
Instruction in fearlessness
Non-violence owes its origin to fearlessness and stoicism
is like a helmet to it. Revered Kalu Gani, demonstrated the twin virtues
reflected in his own conduct. His grip on both these virtues was impeccable. I
was exposed to his conduct and as if I spontaneously imbibed these into mine.
It was the era of Prince Ganga Singh, then, at Bikaner. He
was counted amongst the ablest but had strong illustrious rulers. The
venerable Kalu Gani used to spend the four months of monsoon at Sujangarh. The
prince Ganga Singh felt impelled to call on the saint there. He refrained to
enter the precincts of the building. He barely made obeisance to the monk with
folded palms from without. However, he failed to catch the eye of the Master.
The devout householders who witnessed the event were mighty scared. Such was
the terror of the ruler.
While the Prince had bowed the saint was not watchful of
the entrance. The wrath of the prince was the only logical outcome. God forbid
the temper of such an irascible ruler. How to resolve the tangle? Monk Mantri
and a few householders present there dwelt upon this disaster for long hours
of the night. Revered Master had however retired as usual for rest with no
crease of anxiety on his forehead. His simple observation happened to be "Why
he vexed? It happened only inadvertantly. I never meant to slight anybody. How
could I be indicted for something far from my thought?"
This imperturbability was his characteristic at every
Triumph of Stoicism
Once he stayed at Bikaner for the monsoon camp. A sect of
Jains chose to oppose the move with all vigour and belligerency at their
command, short of assault and battery. Verbal invective knew no bounds. Fracas
led the saint to summon all the monks and nuns. He exhorted them to, retain
staunch composure and equipoise. Not the slightest reaction to provocation was
to be betrayed. Each one was to precisely stick to his or her wonted conduct
and movement. All offensives were to be braved ascetically. No temper was to
be displayed in whatsoever measure.
One of the monks could not contain himself and
remonstrated. On learning of it an austere penitence followed which was an
inspiration to other monks to be ever composed. Aggression fell felt before
the triumphant stoicism.
Provocation was prostrated and stoicism and peace came out
with flying colours. This lesson in tolerance struck a deep note in my person
and left me strength when a similar occurrence threatened us at Bikaner at a
Averting a catastrophe
A year or so after my installation as Acharya, concluding
our monsoon stay at Bikaner the moment of exodus arrived. We were a throng of
a few thousand as we emerged on the main road we were confronted with a
similar mammoth crowd of a rival sect led by its Acharya. Rangda Chowk was the
bottle-neck where the facing crowds congested for the likely show down. The
crowds were a murmur as to who should eat an humble pie and give way to the
other group. The other crowd was brimming with excitement. That they would
give way was unthinkable.
Our group was no less explosive. I heard them blurting,
"Why should we budge for them? Do they take us to be cowards?" Ishwarchand
Chopra, a prominent citizen remonstrated at the idea of conceding to the
opponent. I collected my wits and chose to turn towards Rangda Chowk rather
than inflame the situation. Each one followed me and a likely catalysm was
Prince Ganga singh was informed of it. His observation was,
'Acharya Tulsi is short of years but his actions are pregnant with wisdom. He
has added to the glory of Bikaner. Had he so much as demurred, the catastrophe
was certain with stampede and casualities."
It was Acharya Kalu Gani's illustrious example that
ingrained in me the invincibility of stoicism. There, was many an occasion in
my career where I drew from the teaching of my Master.
The Stoic smiles in the face of fire and brimstone
Once I wrote, "They oppose and we are titillated. They
recalcitrate and we are amused." To treat aggressive and defiant with
nonchalance is the mark of equanimity. It is the non-violent conduct of the
highest order. I came across to an event of this kind while we were in Malva
(part of present M.P). Revered Kalu Gani was traversing Jawara and Ratlam.
There a rival Jain sect was emboldened to paste each wall with virulently
slanderous pamphlets against the non-violent principles enunciated by
Terapanth sect. The entire town was afire with sectarian fulminations.
Acharya Kalu Gani endeavoured to assuage the mass feelings
and justify the dicta. However, he scrupulously abstained from a
counter-offensive. He demonstrated stoicism par excellence. A pandit from
Ratlam spoke to him how he had been impassively observing the events and how
tactfully the Acharya had handled a potentially explosive situation by
speaking of a profound discerning wisdom that shuns all recourse to
confrontation. The entire incitement was dealt with nonchallantly. Such wisdom
dawns upon a soul who has cultivated a non-violent mode of thought and
I treat this as a reward of my prolonged and serious
Acharya Kalu Gani thus retorted to the pandit, "Esteemed
gentleman, a stoic alone can withstand provocations as against another with a
weak moral fibre who is prone to react instantaneously with a similar squib."
These rare instances from the noble conduct of a great soul
brought home to me the need for composure and stoicism in the face of
The helmet of Non-violence
Stoicism is the helmet of non-violence. Non-violence or
universal goodwill cannot fructify in its absence. Revered Kalu Gani was a
personification of non-violence and stoicism. During the dusk of this great
career he suffered a carbuncle in his left index finger. The pain was
excruciating but his prescribed travelling was incessant. He chose to abstain
from surgical measures with the instruments at hand brought by the surgeon. He
brought himself to discern the grain from the chaff, the subtle from the
gross. It was an agony that lasted over two months. To watch his stoicism then
was a unique training in toughening of character.
A non-violent soul has to guard against the temptation of
material glossing over, vigilance and non-attachment alone will yield stoicism
and equanimity. Consciously or unconsciously I imbibed the guiding principles
that infused the life and conduct of my great Master. These seeds of goodwill
for all and sundry enlivened as saplings the terrain of my life. These lessons
in enlightenment granted contours to my conduct, time and again, as and when
the need arose. I may cite one instance of such an occasion of trepidation.
I had authored a book named "Agnipariksha" (literally the
fire test). It narrates how chaste Sita was put to the test of flames to prove
her chastity. Narrow minded bigots fired with communal strains chose to
disseminate their polluted mentality. They sought to prejudice and incite
mob-psychology The book flared a wide controversy affecting thousands of
innocent minds. All attempts were made to pacify their misgivings.
Notwithstanding M.P. High Court's pronouncement that the work was innocuous,
we chose to withdraw the book from circulation. The famous Sarvodaya leader
Jayaprakash Narayan declared it as a great experiment in non-violence. The
decision was widely lauded but a prominent author adversely commented and
accused me of being unfair to the world of letters. I attempted to alleviate
his bruised feelings "I am a practitioner monk of non-violence. My claim to
authorship comes later. To acquit non-violence honourably our conduct ought to
be above board and exemplary. This is the motto of my life. My faith in it is
unshakable and unexceptionable and I look forward to the entire humanity
embracing this code implicitly."