A PIONEER SHOWS THE WAY

The Conference was sponsored by the Temple of Understanding and the Princeton Theological Seminary. 

In Ellizabeth Cattell’s words, “from Chitrabhanu’s gracious personality emanated such a serenity and joy in living that many individuals including herself were drawn to sojorn the infinite with him.  He radiated a dimension of life full of inner divinity and soul prosperity.” 

At the Summit Conference, Chitrabhanu boldly held forth his views against dogmatic action for promotion world-wide harmony, friendship and service above self.  He said,  “When we act out of love and goodness, we project positive vibrations.  That creates a sphere of love and compassion around  us which affects the human and the natural environment.  A lot of vibrant energy is trnsmitted which uplifts the  soul and helpos the quest for higher level of consciousness. 

Chitrabhanu married Pramoda Bhen and became father of two children.  But the monk inside him lives, the candle of religious faith burns, brightly, and his wife has emerged as a spiritual companion as well – the life mission of both – jointly and individually has become the propagation of the idea of ‘Live and help let live.’  It has been a miraculous transformation for both. 

Chitrabhanu continues his mission of his life with zeal and devotion.  His friends and admirers call him lovingly Gurudev.  His wife Pramoda Bhen has been deeply religious and spiritually awake and shares whole-heartedluy with him the mission to propagate world –wide the humanitarian principles of Jainism.  She has been an active crusader for promoting vegetarianism and has  written books which have helped people in USA and Europe to take the vegetraianis, with ease, conviction and delight. 

Chitrabhanu decided to cross the ocean in order to experience the vastness of humanity and universal fraternity and share the insight of non-violence, reverence for life and relativity of thinking.  These are the three things th at inspired him since these along give life its true depth, direction, strength  and purpose.  New York Times in its despatch on December 13, 1973 described him as Pope John of Janisim because like the late John XXII,  Chitrabhanu had opened the windows of his faith ‘to let the fresh air in’.  While preaching or practising Jainism, he has never been dogmatic or sectarian.  He has concentracted on the need to unfold and arouse spiritual consciousness which is the birth right of every soul, and  the key to the understanding of the purpose of our life in this universe. 

His books, discourses, tapes of discourses and running of Jain Meditation Internation Centres in USA and Canada over a period of two decades have made a deep impact on the numerous American men and women from different walks of life who come n contact with him.  He has students in East and West Europe including in particular United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, as well as in Africa in Particular in Kenya. 

He did not simple lecture to them on one time basis or in an adhoc manner.  He effectively communicated to their minds as well as hearts the essence of Jain religion, its relevance in present day age, even in a totally different socio-cultural setting of western civilisation.  More than that he taught them how to practice the religion in order to draw visible benefit from it for solution of their personal problems or problems in relation to others in the family or society.  In a significant manner he became their friend, a real Guru whom they could look up to, confide their deficiencies, failings, problems, difference and gain new social energy and spirit of self-confidence, ability, courage and determination. 

There has been a remarkably reciprocal continuity of contacts and interactions and ever strengthening feeling of mutual confidence and faith.  The students are from different walks of life—businessmen, industrialists, professors, psychologists, yoga experts, philosophers, scholars, artists, media persons, social workers, doctors, writers and poets. 

The contact and interaction with foreigners is not in any isolated manners.  It has coincided with the work among Jain community of Indian origin—be it in Nairobi., London, New York, Japan, Geneva, Germany, Singapore, Hongkong, Los Angeles or anywhere.  A significant local and continuing contact has thus developed between Jains of Indian origin settled abroad and the foreigners now introduced to Jain Philosophy.  Contacts have taken shape not confined to the level of individuals only or groups of individuals in different places, but also at institutional levels with well established centre of philosophy, major Universities, Yoga and Meditation Institutions and Church Leaders. 

With his annual visits to Europe and Africa, Gurudev Chitrabhanu has renewed the message of Jain philosophy and religion to an increasing number of people.  He has infused his teaching with his experience of almost 28 years as a Jain Monk and since late sixties and early seventees for two decades as an itinerant traveller, world citizen and a Jain Master.  His discourses focus on the core of contemporary challenges and frustrations in order to help the people to discover and develop their own inner self and increase their soul power and energy for their own moral and spiritual rejuvination.  He expressed his objective very aptly:  “I do not want to teach people their duties or any doctrines of religion,  I  want to arouse them from their complacencies, to stir their hearts, to vivify their imagination, to bring them from their little selves to the higher of which they are capable”.  His audiences abroad have felt inspired by his message to cleanse their hearts with the flow of amity, appreciation, compassion and equanimity and to radiate these qualities into every aspect of life.

 What is noteworthy is the free and frank communication between him and his disciples.  What is admirable is the respect, love and the admiration he commands from them.  What is inspiring is how much interest and involvement he has developed in the hearts and minds of American and European Jains towards religion not for its sake,  but as a way of life, as an answer to crisis and difficulties that one comes face to face in life.

 I have known Gurudev from early 70s when we first met in New York at the UN Chapel (The Temple of Understanding) where both of us were scheduled to speak on Non-violence and message of Jainism on the occasion of Lord Mahavira’s birthday.  I took an instant liking to him.  He was at once so simple and accessible, profound and deeply philosophical, religious and scholarly.  He was a happy combination of being detached and at the same time attached.  But he came out to my mind in the first place as an utterly honest person, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

 Writes Mamata Yagalla, an English teacher:  “His open book for all to see. He has shown the capacity to sacrifice: he has shown the patience to withstand, uninformed and biased criticism; he has shown the willingness and open heartedness to the tolerant and loving to all including his critics.  His charisma is not born of glamour, but of the power of pure love and insight into the human heart.  He has come on the world stage as a selfless world server inspiring others to live better and more fulfilling lives.”

The ‘divine experience’ is not merely a product of acquired knowledge (gyan), but also practising any of these with deep convictions of religion through meditation, yoga, vegetarianism, actively working for prevention of cruelty to animals and other living beings, observing fasts particularly during Paryushan Parva, praftising abstinence from drinking or smoking, and restraint in the matter of eating, chanting Namokar Mantra with a soul-stirring orientation, visiting Jain Pilgrimage centres and ancient temples of Jain worship in India and so on.

Gurudev does it with seemingly utter simplicity and ease – and yet the message ‘TO STAY AWAKE’ penetrates deeper into the psyche of the recipient.  It makes one both radiant and confident as if one has found a golden key to the Gates of Heaven.  Such is the extent of the ‘wave of bliss’ experienced by individuals who were until then lacking in direction or inspiration, nervous about past, present and future and perplexed about the very purpose of existence.  They have gained a new dimension of thinking and a new directive for living following the foot-steps of their inspirer—Gurudev Chitrabhanu.

The essence of Gurudev’s teaching has been that our conduct in life should be gained by four principles—

1.      Maitri (amity)

2.      Pramod (appreciation)

3.      Karunya (compassion) and

4.      Madhyastha (equanimity)

Back

 

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

www.jainworld.com