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Acharya Tulsi's passage of 84 years and 62,000 miles on foot, came to an end on June 23, 1997. Acharya Tulsi was born in Sam. 1971 in Ladnun (Raj.), became a monk in Sam.1982 and an Acharya of the Terapanth sect in Sam. 1993. He initiated more than 776 monks/nuns. He has been an accomplished poet, author of over a 100 books, as well as a distinguished religious leader.

He started his Anuvrata movement in Sam. 2005. He has been a proponent of Jain unity regardless of the sectarian differences. His message was not just for the jains but for the entire humanity.

In Sam. 2037 he created a new rank of apprentice monks "samanas/samanis" who are allowed to travel overseas. He crearted a "Jain Vishva Bharati" institute in Ladnun.

Dr. Radhakrishnan in his "Living with Purpose" included him in the world's 15 great persons. He was given the title "Yuga-Pradhan" in a function officiated by President V.V. Giri in 1971.

During his tenure he was greatly aided by Muni Nathmal, later called "Yuvacharya Mahaprajna". Tulsi relinquished the leadership to Mahaprajna in 1995. Mahaprajna is the originator of "Preksha-Dhyana".

His tenure was not without adversities. He had written a book called "Agni-pariksha". Those familiar with Ramayana will recall that after Lord Ram came home from Lanka with Sita, some local people started whispering about restoring Sita as the queen after having been in captivity. That led to the famous episode of "Agni-pariksha" of Sita. In 1970, while Acharya Tulsi was in Raipur, some quotes from the book (out of print at that time) were presented by a mischievous religious leader claiming that the Acharya had insulted Sita. The accusation was obviously false (Atal Bihari Bajpai, then of Jan Sangh political party, had seen the book, and called it an important literary achievement), but it led to some rioting in Raipur and later at Churu. The Acharya bore the hardships with equanimity.

Mahavira was born on the thirteenth day under the rising moon of Chaitra, in the ancient republic of Vaishali, now a district of Bihar state, India. According to the Gregorian calendar, Mahavira was born in April. His birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti. He died at Pawapuri. He was known as "Vardhamana" (increasing) because it is said that his family's wealth grew after his conception.

Being the son of King Siddartha and Queen Trisala, he lived the life of a prince; but at the age of thirty, he left his family, gave up his worldly possessions (over the course of a year), and spent twelve years as an ascetic. At one point, it is said that Mahavira had more than 400,000 followers. He died in 527 B.C. at the age of 72. Jains signify Dipavali, the last day of the Hindu and Jain calendars, as the anniversery of his death and, accordingly, the day he attained Moksha.

After he renounced his princehood, he spent the next twelve and half years in deep silence and meditation and took on the discipline of conquering his desires, feelings, and attachments. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings including animals, birds, and plants. He also went without food for long periods. His enduring calm and peaceful character against all unbearable hardships presence the influence of his title, Mahavir (a Sanskrit word, meaning very brave and courageous), given to him by his peers. During this period, Jains believe his that he attained keval-jnana, or perfect enlightenment, in which spiritual powers fully become developed and perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss are realized.

Mahavira spent the next thirty years travelling around India preaching to the people the eternal truth he realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one's self, or Moksha, Sanskrit for "liberation".

Lord Mahavira's sermons were orally compiled by his immediate disciples in the Agam Sutras. These Agam Sutras were orally passed on to future generations. Swetambar Jains have accepted these sutras as authentic version of his teachings.

Acharya Mahapragya is not merely a Person but also a Purpose, not just a Being but also a Belief. He is that perception which cant be bound by Time or Territory. Thoughts churned out from the depths of one's meditation are lasting and effective.

He is not a reservoir of wisdom but its very fountain-source. The former may not always have fresh and clean water, which the later i.e. the source would always possess. Such a source alone has the capacity to quench the thirst of innumerable persons. Paradoxically, Acharya Mahapragya has acquired the power of not only quenching but also creating such thirst in the people.

This rare confluence of Power, Peace and Dedication, has, after diving deep into the depths of spiritualism, supplied us with many an invaluable jewel. While adding lustre, prestige and glow to the 'terapanth' sect, through his sustained efforts, he has also served as a beacon to the human mind engulfed in countless problems. His experiments of 'Prekshadhyan" (Perception meditation) and 'Jeevan-Vigyan" (Science of Living) has succeeded in bringing people of different religions, sects or casts on one platform and to integrate the West with the East.

His epic 'Sambodhi' represents the soaring heights of his poetic capacities. Thy rhythmic conversation between Lord Mahavir and the Prince-Monk Megha Kumar, in fact, unties many a knot of life and philosophy. Another book, 'Rishabhayan' (now being completed) also gives a glimpse of his maturity as a poet. His poetry is illuminated by the divine light of life's philosophy. He is a blossomed rose of inner refinement whose fragrance pervades not only through his verses but also the spoken word. The crowds, which regularly throng around him, are enthralled and get peace in his presence as he is also in peace with himself.

A deep understanding of Acharya Mahapragya enables him to look beyond Time. He can anticipate the needs and expectations of the coming era. Instead of getting entangled with problems, he looks for their solution. Those who know him intimately are aware that he is the creator of new perceptions. He is the blending artist of heart and wisdom on one hand and thought and action, on the other.

The Jain religion is one of the oldest religions in the world. The Jain religion was also known as Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma, etc. It is not an offshoot of any other religion but is an independent religion recognized by these various names during different time periods. It was has been taught by Tirthankaras also called Jina. A follower of a Jina is called a Jain and the religion followed by Jains is called Jainism. Each Tirthankara revitalizes the Jain order. The Jain Order is known as the Jain Sangh. The current Jain Sangh was reestablished by Lord Mahävira, who was the 24th and last Tirthankar of the current time period. The Jain Sangh is composed of the following four groups.

1) Sädhus (Monks)

2) Sädhvis (Nuns)

3) Shrävaks (Male Householders)

4) Shrävikäs (Female Householders)

Lord Mahavira's teachings were carried on by his ganadharas to us in the form of scriptures (Agams). They were compiled into twelve separate parts, known as the dwadashangi (twelve parts). These twelve compositions were acceptable to all followers. However, the dwadashangi were not put in writing for a long time. The Jain pupils learned them by memorizing them. About 150 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavira, there was a drought for 12 years. During this time, some monks along with Bhadrabahuswami migrated to South. After the drought was over, some monks came back to North. They observed that there was some inconsistency in oral recollection of the Jain scriptures by different monks. That made them to compile scriptures. To accomplish that, the first council (conference) of monks was held in Patliputra about 160 years after Lord Mahavira’s nirvana. Monk Bhadrabahu, who had the knowledge of all 12 Angas, could not be present at that meeting. The rest of the monks could compile only the first eleven Angas by recollection and thus, the twelfth Anga was lost. The monks from the South did not agree with this compilation, and the first split in Jainism started. Jains divided into two main groups, Svetämbaras and Digambaras. Svetämbara monks wore white clothes. Digambara monks did not wore any clothes at all.

The Svetambara sect has also been split into three main sub-sects:

1) Murtipujaka

2) Sthanakvasi

3) Terapanthi

Murtipujaka

The original stock of the Svetambaras is known as Murtipujaka Svetambaras since they are the thorough worshippers of idols. They offer flowers, fruits, saffron, etc. to their idols and invariably adorn them with rich clothes and jeweled ornaments.

Their ascetics cover their mouth with strips of cloth while speaking, otherwise they keep them in their hands. They stay in temples or in the specially reserved buildings known as upasrayas. They collect food in their bowls from the sravakas or householders' houses and eat at their place of stay.

The Murtipujaka sub-sect is also known by terms like (i) Pujera (worshippers), (ii) Deravasi (temple residents). (iii) Chaityavasi (temple residents) and (iv) Mandira-margi (temple goers).

The Murtipujaka Svetambaras are found scattered all over India for business purposes in large urban centers, still they are concentrated mostly in Gujarat.

Sthanakvasi

The Sthanakvasi arose not directly from the Svetambaras but as reformers of an older reforming sect, viz., the Lonka sect of Jainism. This Lonka sect was founded in about 1474 A.D. by Lonkashaha, a rich and well-read merchant of Ahmedabad. The main principle of this sect was not to practice idol-worship. Later on, some of the members of the Lonka sect disapproved of the ways of life of their ascetics, declaring that they lived less strictly than Mahavira would have wished. A Lonka sect layman, Viraji of Surat, received initiation as a Yati, i.e., an ascetic, and won great admiration on account of the strictness of his life. Many people of the Lonka sect joined this reformer and they took the name of Sthanakvasi, meaning those who do not have their religious activities in temples but carry on their religious duties in places known as Sthanakas which are like prayer-halls.

The Sthanakvasi are also called by terms as (a) Dhundhiya (searchers) and (b)Sadhumargi (followers of Sadhus, i.e., ascetics). Except on the crucial point of idol-worship, Sthanakvasi do not differ much from other Svetambara Jainas and hence now-a-days they invariably call themselves as Svetambara Sthanakvasi. However, there are some differences between the Sthanakvasi; and the Murtipujaka Svetambaras in the observance of some religious practices. The Sthanakvasi do not believe in idol-worship at all. As such they do not have temples but only sthanakas, that is, prayer halls, where they carry on their religious fasts, festivals, practices, prayers, discourses, etc. Further, the ascetics of Sthanakvasi cover their mouths with strips of cloth for all the time and they do not use the cloth of yellow or any other color (of course, except white). Moreover, the Sthanakvasi admit the authenticity of only 31 of the scriptures of Svetambaras. Furthermore, the Sthanakvasi do not have faith in the places of pilgrimage and do not participate in the religious festivals of Murtipujaka Svetambaras.

The Svetambara Sthanakvasi are also spread in different business centers in India but they are found mainly in Gujarat, Punjab, Harayana and Rajasthan.

It is interesting to note that the two non-idolatrous sub-sects, viz., Taranapanthis among the Digambaras and Sthanakvasi among the Svetambaras, came very late in the history of the Jaina Church and to some extent it can safely be said that the Mohammedan influence on the religious mind of India was greatly responsible for their rise. In this connection Mrs. S. Stevenson observes: "If one effect of the Mohammedan conquest, however, was to drive many of the Jainas into closer union with their fellow idol-worshippers in the face of iconoclasts. Another effect was to drive others away from idolatry altogether. No oriental could hear a fellow Oriental’s passionate outcry against idolatry without doubts as to the righteousness of the practice entering his mind, Naturally enough it is in Ahmedabad, the city of Gujarat, that was most under Mohammedan influence, that we can first trace the stirring of these doubts. About 1474 A.D. the Lonka sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sects, arose and was followed by the Dhundhiya or Sthanakvasi sect about 1653 A.D. dates which coincide strikingly with the Lutheran and Puritan movements in Europe." (vide Heart of Jainism, p. 19).

Terapanthi

The terapanthi sub-sect is derived from the Sthanakvasi; section. The Terapanthi sub-sect was founded by Swami Bhikkanaji Maharaj. Swami Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthanakvasi saint and had initiation from his Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Swami Bhikkanaji had differences with his Guru on several aspects of religious practices of Sthanakvasi ascetics and when these took a serious turn, he founded Terapantha on the full-moon day in the month of Asadha in the year V.S. 1817, i.e., 1760 A.D.

As Acharya Bhikkanaji laid stress on the 13 religious principles, namely, (i) five Mahavratas (great vows), (ii) five samitis (regulations) and (iii) three Guptis (controls or restraints), his sub-sect was known as the Tera (meaning thirteen)-pantha sub-sect. In this connection it is interesting to note that two other interpretations have been given for the use of the term Terapantha for the sub-sect. According to one account, it is mentioned that as there were only 13 monks and 13 laymen in the pantha when it was founded, it was called as Tera (meaning thirteen) -pantha. Sometimes another interpretation of the term Terapantha is given by its followers. Tera means yours and pantha means path; in other words, it means, "Oh! Lord Mahavira! it is Thy path".

The Terapanthis are non-idolatrous and are very finely organized under the complete direction of one Acharya, that is, religious head. In its history of little more than 200 years, the Terapantha had a succession of only 9 Acharyas from the founder Acharya Bhikkanaji as the First Acharya to the present Acharya Tulasi as the 9th Acharya.

This practice of regulating the entire Pantha by one Acharya only has become a characteristic feature of the Terapantha and an example for emulation by other Panthas. It is noteworthy that all monks and nuns of the Terapantha scrupulously follow the orders of their Acharya, preach under his guidance and carry out all religious activities in accordance with his instructions. Further, the Terapantha regularly observes a remarkable festival known as Maryada Mahotasava. This distinctive festival is celebrated every year on the 7th day of the bright half of the month of Magha when all ascetics and lay disciples, male and female, meet together at one predetermined place and discuss the various problems of Terapanthis.

The penance of Terapanthis is considered to be very severe. The dress of Terapanthi monks and nuns is akin to that of Sthanakvasi monks and nuns. But there is a difference in the length of muhapatti, i.e., a piece of white cloth kept always on the mouth. The Terapanthis believe that idolatry does not provide deliverance and attach importance to the practice of meditation.

Further, it may be stressed that the Terapantha is known for its disciplined organization characterized by one Acharya (i.e., religious head), one code of conduct and one line of thought. The Terapanthis are considered reformists as they emphasize simplicity in religion. For example, the Terapanthis do not even construct monasteries for their monks, who inhabit a part of the house which the householders build for themselves. Recently their religious head, Acharya Tulasi, had started the Anuvrata Andolana, that is, the small vow movement. which attempts to utilize the spiritual doctrines of the Jainas for moral uplift of the masses in India.

The rise of Terapantha is the last big schism in the Svetambara sect and this Pantha is becoming popular. The Terapanthis are still limited in number and even though they are noticed in different cities in India, they are concentrated mainly in Bikaner, Jodhpur and Mewar areas of Rajasthan.

Sädhus (monks) and Sädhvis (nuns) are people who have voluntarily given up their household lives and worldly affairs and have accepted the five major vows to uplift their souls on the spiritual path. They strictly follow the rules laid down for them. Shrävaks and shrävikas, on the other hand, continue to lead worldly lives. They may observe in full or to a limited extent, twelve minor vows laid down for them.

Swetambar Jain Websites

http://www.terapanth.com

http://www.jaindharmonline.com

http://www.jainteerth.com

http://www.terapanthsamaj.com

http://www.jainworld.com

http://www.jainjagat.com

http://www.terapanthonline.com

http://www.terapanth.org

http://www.terapanthworld.com

http://www.jaina.org

http://www.jainology.org

http://www.jainnet.com

http://www.jsou.org

http://www.jain4jain.com

http://www.mahavirfoundation.org

http://www.tirthankar.com

http://www.jainsocietydc.org

http://www.jainstudies.org

http://www.jainjob.com

http://www.jain-temple.org

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