Acharya Mahapragya Erudite Spiritualist with Scientific Approach
Acharya Mahapragya, the supreme head of the Shwetambar Jain Terapanth group was the tenth Acharya who devoted his entire life after adopting childhood at an early age for promoting nonviolence movement. The godly teacher as he was called by his vast followers traversed more than a lakh kilometre on foot reaching out to more than 10,000 villages towns and cities to propogate the Ahimsa and Anuvrat movement, harmony and peace.
The Jain monks do not adopt the modern transport system for travel and they traverse on foot and Acharya walked across the length and breadth of the country first under the leadership of his guru Acharya Tulsi and later himself and addressed thousands of public meetings.
Acharya Mahapragya formulated Preksha meditation system in 1970 and played the key role in setting up the Jain Vishwa Bharati University at Ladnun in Nagaur district. The University draws its spiritual strength and direction from Acharya Mahapragya, who was above any sectarian bias. Anuvrat movement also functioned under his leadership.
Mahapragya was born on June 14, 1920, at village Tamkor in Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan. His father Tola Ram Choraria was a small trader and was a firm believer in Terapanth. Nathmal, his original name, lost his father when he was barely two years old. He had no formal schooling as there was no school in his village. However child Nathmal was taught by a private teacher. Mahapragya’s mother was a religious lady and it was she who influenced the young child towards spirituality.
He got lessons on Jain philosophy from monks who visited the village. Regular contact with monks nourished the spiritual seed in the child. Nathmal then conveyed his wishes of getting initiated into monkhood to his mother and in the year 1931, he became a monk at the age of ten. Acharya Kalugani, eighth Acharya of Jain Swetambar Terapanth, initiated Nathmal to monkhood in the town of Sardarsahar. Incidentally Acharya Mahapragya died at the same place where he was initiated into monkhood and became Muni Nathmal.
Under Muni Tulsi Nathmal his intellectual development got accelerated and he memorised thousands of sermons and verses in Hindi, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Rajasthani. His education at the monastery included history, philosophy, logic, grammar. He made an in-depth study of Jain scriptures became a scholar of Jain Agamas and a critic of western philosophy.
Mahapragya played an instrumental role in the Anuvrat movement by his guru. The ultimate aim of the movement was and remains to create a nonviolent socio-political world order with the help of a worldwide network of self-transformed people. Since its inception it has inspired millions of people to practice purity and self-discipline in personal life.
While in his late twenties, Mahapragya started to realise the wonders of meditation. He was open
to experiment with spiritual techniques. He exercised deep practice of meditation, experimented with various techniques. He made a deep research of Jain Agam, ancient scriptures and conducted hundreds of camps all over the country.
In 1978 his appellation ‘Mahapragya’ was converted into his new name by Acharya Tulsi and he was also made ‘Yuvacharya’, , the second highest position after the Acharya himself.
In a mammoth public meeting in 1994, Acharya Tulsi declared that Mahapragya would now have the title of ‘Acharya’ also and that the former was renouncing this position forthwith. Subsequently, on 5th February 1995, Mahapragya was formally consecrated as the 10th Acharya the supreme head of Terapanth religious order in a big public meeting in Delhi.
Acharyaji created awareness on the broad perspective of nonviolence, unemployment eradication, leading a life free from drug addiction, communal harmony, living healthy and harmonious social and personal life.
Mahapragya was himself a great practitioner of meditation, spirituality, Mantras, Anekaant, and nonviolence. He has written extensively on these topics.
Mahapragya used to say: “The religion which does not bring about a change in a man’s life, which does not impart peace to him, deserves to be thrown into the river Ganges rather than carried on as burden on one’s shoulders. Rituals or idol worship alone are not enough unless one’s conduct also gets transformed. Religion is not confined only to temples, mosques or churches, but extends to the man’s day-to-day living as well.”
Mahapragya played an instrumental role in the Anuvrat movement launched in 1949 by his guru and the then head of Jain Shwetambra Terapanth, Acharya Tulsi. The ultimate aim of the movement was and remains to create a nonviolent socio-political world order with the help of a worldwide network of self-transformed people. Since its inception it has inspired millions of people to practice purity and self-discipline in personal life . Mahapragya helped Acharya Tulsi in the preparation of the contents of Anuvrat and worked as a core member in the movement, many times playing the role of Acharya Tulsi’s representative in explaining the principles of Anuvrat to society. Acharya Mahapragya formulated Preksha meditation system in 1970s.
He was the supreme head of Jain Vishva Bharati University and also played a key role in its establishment. The University drew its spiritual strength and direction from Acharya Mahapragya, who is above any sectarian bias. Anuvrat movement also functioned under his leadership.
Nathmal had a great learning capacity and a good memory. With Muni Tulsi, the child’s intellectual development got accelerated and he memorised thousands of sermons and verses in Hindi, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Rajasthani. His education at the monastery included history, philosophy, logic, grammar. He made an in-depth study of Jain scriptures became a scholar of Jain Agamas and a critic of Indian and western philosophy. By age 22, he was competent in Hindi, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Rajasthani languages and literature. In Sanskrit, he is also an expert impromptu or extempore poet and has demonstrated this skill in many gatherings of intellectuals. Thrust for knowledge made him also study physics, biology, ayurved, politics, economics, and sociology.
Acharya Tulsi after consulting Mahapragya decided to start research, translation and annotation of the Jain Agamas . The work started in 1955 in Ujjain under the leadership of Acharya Tulsi with Mahapragya being the editorial director. Joint activity of Acharya Tulsi, Mahapragya and other intellectual monk and nuns began to facilitate the permanent preservation of many thousand years old canonical scriptures and embellished them with a scientific outlook acceptable to the people. Mahapragya edited and critically annotated the agamas. This old literature is in Prakrit language and its commentaries are either available in Prakrit or Prakrit mixed with Sanskrit. Mahapragya first undertook their deep, sustained study and started editing them and provided their new meanings and interpretations. Through strenuous work day and night for many years continuously, the original text of the thirty-two Agam scriptures was determined and their Hindi translation also completed. Detailed commentaries thereon made them more interesting and comprehensible. This task carried out in accordance with the verbal renderings by Acharya Tulsi was guided by an entirely non-sectarian and open mind and is therefore viewed with respect by the heads of other sects as well as intellectual and oriental scholars of the East and the West. Acharang Bhasyam is Mahapragya’s commentary for Acharang in Sanskrit. He uncovered many Agam mysteries, presented root philosophies and Mahavir’s.
He made a deep research of Jain Agam, ancient scriptures, Yoga science, biology, modern physics, naturopathy, ayurveda, etc. After a deep practice for over 20 years, he formulated Preksha Meditation system in 1970 . He formulated the meditation system in a very well organised, scientific way. The basic four wings of the meditation system can be summarised as: Meditation, yogasana and pranaayam, mantra and therapy.