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
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
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
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
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.