A PIONEER SHOWS THE WAY

 

In the pre-Indian independence era, knowledge and information about Indian philosophy and religions were not projected in any dynamic, vibrant or sustained manner to the world outside.  Swami Vivekananda, Vircand Gandhi and Mahatma Gandhi shine out as star performers who travelled abroad widely and spoke with eloquence, knowledge and conviction about Indian philosophy of non-violence and the Indian way of life. 

The successful non-violent struggle for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi made a deep impact on the minds and hearts of people in different continents.  In a world grown weary of wars and conflicts, use of non-violence by Mahatma Gandhi came as a beaconlight. 

That Mahatma Gandhi was since his child-hood influenced by teaching of Jain religion attracted interest in it abroad.  Large number of Jains also began to travel and settle down abroad in Africa,  U.K. and later in U.S.A. and Canada and some of them took with them their adherence to the principles and practices of Jain religion, but there was no teacher to guide with practice and inspire them to a sustained exploration of its riches. 

In the past infromation and knowledge about Jainism in foreign countries was spordic through speeches on special occasions or conferences by distingushed Jain scholars like the speech of Virchand Reghavji Gandhi at the World Religious Conference in Chicago (USA) in 1983 and subsequently in Europe. 

Dr. Hermann Jacobi had published translation in English of some Jain scriptures as early as in 1884.  Herbert Werner, Dr. Zimmerman, Saletore, Glassluapp,  Winternitz, Walther Shubring, R. Williams, Mrs N.R. Guseva, Paul Marett, Kenoldfield are prominent among those who wrote books on Jain religion in the first half of the twentieth cnetury.  Vincent smith, Fergusson, Percy Brown, Klans Fischer, Dr. C.R. Jain and James Burgess wrote books and aritcles on Jain art and architecture 

It is in this background that Gurudev Chitrabhanu undertook his pioneering mission to awaken the West to non-violence compassion and relativity of truth and to make Jainism known, appreciated, accepted and followed abroad.

Gurudev Chitrabhnu was born on July 26, 1922 in Rajasthan and received his education in  Bangalore.  He renounced the material world at the age of twenty—and matured his consciousness as a Muni (Monk) through silence, meditation, fasting and deep study of scriptures for twenty-eight years.  During this period as a monk, he inspired a large number of people with his scholarship, devotion and spirituality.  His discourses were thought provoking and brought out the relevance of Jain philosophy to the problems faced by individuals and society in the increasingly materialistic world. 

With ease and grace, Gurudev Chitrbhanu left a deep impact on the minds and hearts of many national and international personalities of outstanding stature.  The late Smt.  Indria Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India,  interacted with him periodically for over two decades through personal meetings as well as exchange of letters.  She respected him for his sublime vision and regarded his blessings as ‘always a source of strength, support and comfort.’ 

Morarji Desai, former Prime Minister of India and a person committed to non-violence and vegetarianism holds Gurudev in great regard and has exchanged views with him from time to time.  He inaugurated the Vegetarian Society (Reverence for Life) of Bombay in November 1983 and observed that ‘There is a false assumption prevailing that non-vegetarians are physically superior to those who do not eat flesh.  He cited the horse, elephant, bull, hippo and cow as examples of tremendous physical power and stamina.’

The late Jay Prakash Narayan, the great Sarvodaya Leader was deeply impressed by Gurudev  Chitrabhanu’s most persuasive eloquence in favor of non-violence in thought, action and deed

Already as a Muni, Gurudev Chitrabhanu’s popularity had soared high among his followers and the Indian public by virtue of his profound knowledge, powerful oratory and convincing appeal.  Scores of political and social leaders among them Ravi Shankar Maharaj,  Rukmini Arundale, K.M. Patil and others participated prominently in the congregation held to hear him preath.

Both as a Muni and after renunciation of monkhood as a Guru,  Chitrabhanu has continued to serve the cause of mankind and humanitarian philosophy and way of life with fervour, dedication, faith, sincerity and strong will-power.  Now his constituency of followers is world-wide and includes India-born  Jains and others from different starts of life.  He has inspired them to bring miraculous change in their lives.  Prominent religious leaders of different factions the world over recognise him as a front-ranking broad-minded and open-hearted teacher of a deeply compassionate philosophy of reverence of life in all its forms.  He carries conviction since he practices what he preachers.

Over the years Gurudev Chitrabhanu has had opportunities of meetings and discussions with world leaders and statesmen like President Moi of Kenya, Kurt Waldheim, former UN secretary General, Governor Francis W. of Massachusetts (USA) and several others.

In 1970 Chitrabhanu became the first Jain monk to change ancient rules against wearing shoes and travelling by vehicle in order to participate in the Second World Spiritual Summit Conference at Geneva.  He assumed a unique role of a Spiritual Ambassador of the East to the West.  He observed:  “As if spiritual wings are lifting

Me to participate with the world.” 

Gurudev opened the Summit Conference with the Navkara Mantra and at the concluding ceremony chanted some verses of Bhaktamar on immortal love and devotion, and offered prayers for the peace and well-being of all living being in the universe.  His message made a profound impact that, “I believe in the practice of non-violence more than in the preaching”  “and with friendliness to life, one cannot harbour hatred.  And without hatred, how can there be room for war, conflict and killing” and.  “The happiness of the individual is only part of the happiness of all.  The universe is one ecological whole.” 

The renowned Indian industrialist G.D. Birla called on Chitrabhanu in Geneva and the meeting turned out to be a beautiful illustration of passing on positive vibrations.  When Mr. Birla arrived at the place of Gurudev’s residence, Gurudev was observing his hours of silence from 12 noon to 3 p.m. Mr. Birla waited for twenty minutes for the period of silence to be over.  He experienced a great sense of refreshing realisation and awareness that while in the material world people waited for him, this was the first time he waited for a holy person.  He gained enriching insight into life.  He observed that “I may have donated immense material wealth to many, but the wealth I have secured from Guruji’s silence today is incomparable.”  He gained a glimpse into the wealth of inner peace and contentment  which Chitrabhanu was radiating. 

Thus began a pioneering mission with a newly emerging global role for Chitrabhanu for spreading the message of universal peace, fraternity, compassion, non-violence and reverence for  life in all its forms. 

In 1971 Chitrabhanu renounced the hierarcy of monastic life he had led for 28 years to be free to carry what he regarded as his new vision of a universal mission.  He travelled through Europe lecturing to European audiences in England, France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and Italy.  He had a historic meeting and dialogue with pope Paul VI at the Vatican in Rome on the fundamental purpose of life and essence of religion. 

The new phase in Chitrabhanu life began in right earnest in U.S.A. at the spiritually and intellectually invigorating atmoisphere at the Third spiritual Summit Conference at the Harvard Divinity School in 1971.

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The Wave of BlissSo Hun | Ahimsa | Looking up to the Teacher | The Practice of Religion | Through the Eyes of the Camera | A Pioneer Shows the Way

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