|The Jain path
JUST as a mighty mango tree is hidden within the stone
of the mango, even so, O man, divinity itself is hidden within you. Rest
not until you uncover it."
These words, spoken more than twenty-five hundred years
ago by the twenty-fourth Prophet of Jainism, Bhagwan Mahavir, resounded in
the heart of Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanu when he first heard them as a young
adult. This seed-thought continued to grow, blossom, and bear fruit
throughout his life's experiences. Before he became a monk at the age of
twenty he was inspired by two shining examples of the divine in man: his
loving and highly principled father, and Mahatma Gandhi, with whom he
worked for the freedom of India.
Events in his life accelerated the process of his inner
ripening. At four years of age, he lost his mother, and at eleven his
younger sister. As a college student, he won a severe bout with rheumatic
fever, during which time he glimpsed his soul's longing to live in light
and service to all. In his second year of working in Gandhiji's non-
cooperation movement, he lost his closest and dearest friend. Then he lost
his peace. He confronted and unmasked questions which lay smoldering in
his consciousness "Is there some meaning to life? Do we have some mission,
or are we to pass the years only in filling and emptying the body, in
collecting and rearranging things? Where did my loved ones go? What is the
point of living if those dearest to us depart from us sooner or later?"
Rather than give in to the pain, depression, and
confusion of those moments, he took a positive step. In search of
permanent understanding, he discovered a genuine master who initiated him
into the Jain monkhood and advised him "Books and other people's answers
alone cannot illumine you. You have to dive into yourself. Why do you not
have the experience of your own life"
Through patience, introspection, and the practice of
silence for the greater part of five years, he began to remove the clouds
of his unawareness. Living the itinerant life of a monk in the inspiring
company of his master as well as his revered father, who became a monk
along with him, he came closer and closer to his own reality. One night he
unlocked the door which had sealed him from the knowledge of Self. He
experienced fully the radiant sunlight of his being.
From that moment, his life became an actualization of
his inner reality. It was his inborn gift to be able to melt the hearts of
listeners and readers by his vibrant, poignant, and direct words arising
from his own experience. In twenty-nine years as a monk, he walked
barefoot over thirty thousand miles bringing people out from their
pettiness, sectarianism, and closed-mindedness into the realm of the
highest and noblest in them. As people's hearts were touched, they began
to transform their lives. They attuned themselves to Mahavir's universal
message and took the ideal of reverence for all life into the practical
details of their day-to-day living.
In Bombay, Gurudev turned his energies to the stream of
social action. He founded the Divine Knowledge Society, to which his
students offered complete dedication. When a natural disaster, famine, or
flood struck, teams of volunteers would go to those areas and distribute
food, clothing, blankets, and medicines. The words of Mahavir came to life
in the numerous instances of their giving of themselves: "Since you
receive more than any other form of life, it is natural that you will want
to give more."
Gurudev soon became one of the well-known spiritual
leaders of the Jains in India. Founders of the Temple of Understanding
invited him to address their First, Second, and Third Spiritual Summit
Conferences in Calcutta and Geneva and at the Harvard Divinity School in
1968, 1970, and 1971, respectively. Gurudev's decision to attend in person
the last two conferences represented a daring step. It was the first time
in five thousand years of known Jain history that a Jain monk had traveled
out-side of India. The winds of change were stirring within him. He
rejected precedent, tradition, and public opinion, and risked his position
of great authority and respect in order to bring the universal teaching of
reverence for life to the larger human family.
Inspired by the genuineness of his message, Gurudev's
audiences in Europe, Africa, and America urged him to stay and teach them.
Moved by their sincerity and eagerness to learn, Gurudev gave up the
orthodox life of a monk, his title and post, and accepted the many
invitations to teach in America. Among the institutions of human
development sponsoring his talks were the United Nations, Koinonia
Foundation, Pendle Hill, Wainwright House, Princeton, Sarah Lawrence,
Cornell, the State University of New York at Purchase, and many others. He
became for a time president of the World Fellowship of Religions, and
worked closely with individuals involved in the Temple of Understanding
and in the fields of yoga, psychiatry, philosophy, and government.
Founder of the Jain Meditation International Center in
New York City, of which Gurudev is the spiritual leader he has inspired
his students in Brazil, India, Canada Kenya, England, and diverse parts of
America to open centers where the philosophy of reverence for life can be
taught and practiced. Throughout the many changing phases of his life, as
a monk or a family member , as a teacher or a student he has been
communicating from his heart the underlying oneness he feels with all
forms of life inviting mankind to see, experience, and rejoice.