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Acharya Tulsi

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Acharya Tulsi

Template:Infobox Jain ascetic

Acharya Tulsi (October 20, 1914 – June 23, 1997) was a Jain Acharya, Ninth head of the Svetambar Terapanth order. He got initiated as a monk at a tender age of 11 years and had a long period of monk­hood, 59 years of Acharyaship, unparalleled barefoot marches, wide contact with masses, heroic courage, remarkable spiritual development, prodigious creative writings and nurtured hundreds of dedicated workers.[1] Acharya Tulsi renounced his physical comforts and dedicated his life to the noble cause of the well-being of the people.[2] Acharya Tulsi gave a new interpretation of religion, tried to filled the gap between science and spirituality by putting forward constructive programm of human regeneration in the form of the Anuvrat Movement and Preksha Meditation.[3]

He was influential in the development of Acharya Mahapragya, Acharya Mahashraman, Sadhvi Kanakprabha.

Early life

The son of devout Jain traders, Tulsi was born in 1914 in Ladnu, Rajasthan, India to Jhumarmal Khatter and Vadana Ji. He first went to school at the age of eight years.[4] Acharya Kalugani, the eighth acharya of the Terapanth order and also the family guru, greatly influenced Tulsi, later recalling: "His divine face fascinated my heart and I used to gaze at him for hours." Acharya Kalugani came to Ladnun in 1925 (Vikram Samvat 1982). The child Tulsi was 11 years old. His visit to Kalugani aroused in him a strong desire to become a Jain monk. In less than a month, young Tulsi was initiated into the order by Acharya Kalugani.[5]

Though he was young in age, Acharya Kalugani visualized in him the seeds of genius, manly courage and great fortune. It was in a sudden and dramatic way that both guru and disciple were seized with a feeling of oneness. His elder brother Muni Champa Lai had become a monk only a year before. His process of education began under his super­vision with the direct patronage of the Acharya himself.[6] He achieved mastery over the Sanskrit language in just seven years. With it began the period of a thorough study of the Jain Agamas and Jain philosophy. During this period he performed an astounding feat of memory by learning about twenty thousand Sanskrit verses by heart. He also began to write poetry in the Rajasthani language, besides having acquired the knack of delivering discourses.[6]

Acharya Kalugani fell seriously ill during his Chaturmas stay at Gangapur, a town near Bhilwara, Rajasthan in 1936 and was nearing his end, he nominated young Tulsi as his successor.[7] It happened only four days before his death. Tulsi was only twenty two years old at that time. He was entrusted with the responsibility of leading a large religious order consisting of 500 monks and nuns and millions of devotees spread all over the country.[8]

Life as Acharya

After assuming the responsibility as the head of the order, Acharya Tulsi wandered from one place to another only within the erstwhile state of Bikaner for the next eleven years. During this period he concentrated on the education and training of his monks and nuns. In fact he had taken to teaching even at an early stage of his monkhood. At seventeen he was already teaching a large number of monks. Prominent among his students were Muni Nathmal (later Acharya Mahapragya), Muni Buddmal. The disciples taught by him emerged as erudite scholars in various streams of knowledge like Sanskrit, Prakrit, philosophy, comparative studies, etc.[8]

Anuvrat Movement

Tulsi realized that the independence of India would be futile unless the national character was developed. To him, real independence meant moral elevation. Anuvrat Movement is an experiment in this direction which he launched on March 2, 1949 to spearhead this idea.[9]

Anuvrat means "small vows". With Anuvrat movement, a code of conduct aimed at developing the individual character and morality was drawn up and presented to the people. The five principles (truth, nonviolence, non-possession, asteya and celibacy) are the foundation of this code of conduct.[9]

The step was welcomed all over the country. Thousands of people extended their support to it. People accepted it as a movement dedicated to the cause of moral awakening and developing national character.[10] Acharya Tulsi and Jain Terapanth monks and nuns undertook long barefoot marches from one village to another taking the message of Anuvrat.[10]

Anuvrat Movement put forward the following secrets to the people:[10]

  • Dharma (Spirituality/Religion) occupies the first place, sect comes next.
  • There may be many sects but dharma (Spirituality/Religion) belongs to all.
  • Dharma is quite distinct from politics. It must not be subjected to political interferences.
  • Dharma is not merely an instrument of ensuring happiness in the hereafter but it is also a means to bring happiness to the present life. He who fails to make his present life better is unlikely to achieve happiness in the hereafter.
  • The primary aim of dharma is to purify character. Its ritualistic practices are secondary.

The Movement inspired followers to practice purity and self-discipline in their personal lives. By experiencing self-transformation, citizens could move toward a nonviolent socio-political world order.

A series of campaigns launched from time to time under its aegis against the evils of adulteration, corruption, untouchability, dowry, etc. generated a new wave of consciousness in the Indian masses.[10] Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, made great contribution to the noble cause of the Movement. Many prominent leaders like Morarji Desai, Anantsayanam Ayangar, Rajarshi Puru-shottamdas Tandon, Gulzarilal Nanda, U.N. Dhebar, A.K. Gopalan supported this movement.[11]

The movement continued under the leadership of Acharya Mahapragya and now under Acharya Mahashraman.

The Jain agamas, editing and organized publication

In 1950 Acharya Tulsi got the desire to undertake the task of editing the Jain agamas, while on visit to Maharashtra, staying in a village Manchar. He consulted his disciple Muni Nathmal and decided to proceed with this massive task of research, translation and annotation of the Jain Agamas.[12] The work began at Ujjain during his chaturmas (four months' stay during the rainy season) under his leadership with Mahapragya being the editorial director.[13] Joint activity of Acharya Tulsi, Mahapragya and other intellectual monks and nuns began to facilitate the permanent preservation of many thousands of years old canonical scriptures and embellished them with a scientific outlook acceptable to the people.[12] 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.[12] 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.A large number of important Agamas have already been edited and published.[12]

Challenging Social Evils

In 1960 Acharya Tulsi during his rainy days stay at Rajsamand, Rajasthan launched the campaign Naya Mod (New direction) to rid the society from evil practices like purdah system (women covering faces), mrityu bhoj (feast held on the occasion of someone's death), weeping aloud in the event of someone's death as an obligatory social custom, compelling widows to wear black clothes and subjecting them to insults, exhibitionism, dowry and certain harmful social functions held at the end of long fasts.[14]

Preksha Meditation

Acharya Tulsi's chief disciple Acharya Mahapragya founded the system of Preksha Meditation and re-organized the Jain system of meditation in 1975. Acharya Tulsi inspired and supported Mahapragya in the long and tedious journey of formulation of this meditation system.[15]

Nomination of Head Nun

Acharya Tulsi appointed three nuns as Sadhvi Pramukha "head of nuns" during his lifetime. 1. Sadhvi Pramukha Jhamku ji in 1936 at Gangapur 2. Sadhvi Pramuka Ladan ji in 1946 at Rajgrih 3. Sadhvi Pramukha Kanakprabha ji in 1978 at Gangashahar (Bikaner).

Tulsi involved the sadhvi pramukha in the day-to-day administrative affairs concerning nuns.[16]

Nomination of Successor

On 4 February 1979, Acharya Tulsi nominated Mahapragya (earlier name Muni Nathmal) as 'Yuvacharya', successor designate to the present Acharya,[17] the second highest position after the Acharya himself. Now referred as Yuvacharya Mahapragya, he formally became a close associate of Acharya Tulsi in major decisions and activities related to the sect. In Terapanth order, the Acharya enjoys an exclusive right to nominate his succes­sor. He is not bound to consult anyone. It is solely based on his personal views and impressions.[18]

Shraman Order

Tulsi developed the Shraman Order around 1980 in an effort to spread the preachings of Jainism worldwide.[19] This order follows the lifestyle of Jain monks and nuns with the exceptions to use means of transportation. It was also felt that it would open up new avenues of work since the samans and samanis would not have to observe the vow of traveling on foot. Their mobility would result in the rapid expansion of constructive projects.[19]

This order can be termed as the link between the normal households and the Jain monks and nun.

Major Institutions Founded

Jain Vishva Bharati University

Jain Vishva Bharati as an organization was established under the guidance of Acharya Tulsi at Ladnun, Rajasthan in 1971 with an objective is to revive truths and values hidden in the Jain tradition and in the ancient Indian traditions in general.[20] The organization later got developed as a university in 1991.[21] One of the prime objectives of this University is to spread literacy in subjects like nonviolence and peace, Jainology, Sanskrit, Prakrit, yoga, meditation and literature. It also houses the departments of education, sādhanā, research, service and culture. It has already emerged as a pioneering centre of work on Jain encyclopaedias, lexicons, editing, preksha meditation and Jeevan Vigyan "Science of Living".[20] It provides platforms and infrastructures for doing research in various subjects and for the pursuance of doctorate degrees. Regular degree courses leading to bachelors and masters degrees are presently being conducted.[22] The university derives guidance from Acharya of the Jain Terapanth order.[23]

Anuvrat Vishva Bharati

Seeing the incidents of violent clashes among the various groups of multicultural societies in many parts of the world, it was felt the Anuvrat Movement to be carried overseas. In order to spread the Anuvrat Movement globally, Anuvrat Vishva Bharati was established in 1983, with its first unit located at Rajsamand near Udaipur, Rajasthan. It is being developed as a global institute for the study and promotion of nonviolence. It has already established fraternal ties with more than 60 international peace organizations and is a member of the International Peace Bureau, Geneva.[24]

Other Institutions

Adarsh Sahitya Sangh It was founded in 1948 under the guidance of Tulsi to undertake the task of publishing creative literature.[25] Publication of literature authored mostly by Jain monks got significantly organized with establishment of this organization.

Parmarthik Shikshan Sanstha In 1948 Tulsi established the Parmarthik Shikshan Sanstha, a spiritual training centre for aspirants who want to lead the Jain monastic lifestyle. People interested in getting initiated into Terapanth order have to undergo a specific training aimed at making their full-fledged ascetic life more meaningful before they were initiated into it. They are prepared for the courses equivalent to those meant for graduates and undergraduates. Besides, they are also provided with opportunities for research and sadhana.[25]

Akhil Bhartiya Terapanth Mahila Mandal Terapanth's women's organisation of about 37,000 members, founded in 1966, by Acharya Tulsi with the vision to involve the female lay followers into spiritually motivated social action, to play an active role by helping others to solve their problems.[26] Actually there are 74 centers with 334 branches all over India and abroad.[27]

Akhil Bhartiya Terapanth Yuvak Parishad This organization consisting of the young people of the community was set up to mobilize the youth power so that the youth of the community could be involved in some religious and moral activities.[28]


Acharya Tulsi himself was a prodigious litterateur and has created a large number of literary talents. He took to writing even when he was still a young monk.[29] He has written in Sanskrit, Hindi and Rajasthani. Some of his famous works:

Sanskrit: Jain Sidhant Dipika, Shri Bhikhshu Nyaya, Karnika, Manonushasanam, Panchsutram, etc.

Hindi: Bhagavan Mahavir, Preksha Anuprekha, Kya Dharma Buddhi Gamya Hai ? Dharm Ek Kasauti; Ek Rekha, Mera Dharm, Kendra Aur Paridhi, Anuvrat Sahitya, Pragya Purush Jayacharya, Mahamanashvi Acharya Kalugani, etc.

Rajasthani: Kaluyashovilas, Dalim Charitra, Manak Mahima, Magan Charitra, Nandan Nikunj, Chandan Ki Chutaki Bhali, Somras, etc.


Stand on Religion

Intellectuality: Religion is not mere superstition and bigotry. It should be made congruent with intellectual and rational understanding.

Experimental Verifiability: The elements of religion must be subjected to experiments in the laboratory of life. Religion is not meant for being preached only.

Reconcilableness: Religion should be capable of sys­tematizing and reconciling the problems of individuals as well those of society.

Contemporariness: Religion must be relevant to the present. It must not be tied down to the hereafter.

Religious Harmony: Efforts should be made to create goodwill between different religious communities.[30]

A Great Wandering Ascetic

Jain Monks and nuns remain under a vow of moving on foot all their life. In Tulsi's lifetime he covered more than 70,000 km.

His major marches included:

In the course of these marches, Tulsi had widespread contact with people and preached to Anuvrat-oriented life and abstinence from alcohol.


  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, 2nd President of India, in his book "Living with Purpose" included him in the world's 15 great persons.

Awards and honours

Postage Stamp

On 20 October 1998, the vice-president, Krishna Kant, released an Indian commemorative three-rupee postage stamp of Tulsi. Kant said that the Tulsi gave a new and contemporary direction to the high ideals of Jainism.


To keep Tulsi's teachings immortal, followers built a memorial in the village of Todgarh named Mahashila Abhilekh.

See also


  • Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-Violence By Kurt Titze, Klaus Bruhn

Internal Link

External links

  • Acharya Mahapragya's view On Tulsiji
  • Acharya Tulsi, the man, his mission and his motives

Template:Jainism Topics

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