સરસ્વતીનો અવતાર-૪

(શ્રીમદ્ રાજચંદ્ર વિશે આ રસપ્રદ લાંબો લેખ અલ્લાહબાદના અંગ્રેજી અખબાર ‘પાયોનિયર’માં તા. ૨૨મી મે, ૧૯૦૧ના રોજ પ્રગટ થયો હતો.)

Indians of TO-DAY

We have already quoted a short account from the Bombay papers of Shrimad Rajchandra Ravjibhai, a rising Jain reformer, who died on April 9th, 1901, in Rajkot, Kathiawar, at the premature age of 33. Shrimad had the reputation of being the only Shatavadhani poet of India, when he was only nineteen. Avadhan means attention. Shatavdhan means attention to a hundred things at a time. A poet is styled Shatavdhani, when he stores up a hundred things in his memory, be they verses in different languages whose words are recited to him at random, or some games such as chess, cards, etc., or any other things, and reproduces them in their proper order from memory. During the perfomance the strokes of a bell are counted and arithmetical problems are solved by the poet. This feat of memory power, coupled with poetic gifts,- for the Shatavadhani poet has also to compose poetry extempore, can be realised better by sight than description.

Shrimad Rajchandra was a living psychological instance of how far memory can be developed, He was considered by his admirers to be one of the greatest moral teachers of our time and country. and the enlightened portion of the Jain community regarded him as its youngest great philosopher in this Pancham Kal (the Fifth Yuga). He was born in Vavaniya, Kathiawar, in 1867, of Vanika parentage.

As a boy at school showed extraordinary powers of memory. He finished within two years the vernacular course of his studies, which generally requires six years to complete. His teachers regarded him as a prodigy of intellect and memory. At a very early age he showed a predilection for poetry. At the age of nine, he wrote small Ramayana and Mahabharata in padya ( poetry). At the age of twelve, he wrote three hundred stanzas on a cloak in three days. This shows that Shrimad was a born poet. He also began to contribute to several monthly magazines and newspapers and wrote an essay on the importance of female education.

When he was thirteen he went to Rajkot to study English. At the age of fourteen or fifteen he went to Morvi, and performed an Ashtavdhan (in which eight things are attended to at a time) feat before a circle of friends. He then increased the Avadhan from eight to twelve, and gave a public performance of the same. He gradually increased his prowess of memory to such an extent that from twelve Avdhan he began to perform sixteen and from sixteen to fifty two and lastly, one hundred, and thus at the age of nineteen he became a Shatavdhani poet. He went to Bombay and gave a public performance of his Shatavadhans, in the Framji Cowasji Institute and other places. For those wonderful feats of memory he was awarded a gold medal by the Bombay public, and we given the name of Sakshat Saraswati.

Mr. Malabari, the well known social reformer, after witnessing the performance wrote in his paper, the Indian Spectator, a very admirable article calling Shrimad, ‘a prodigy of intellect and memory.’ Shortly after this, at the instance of the late Sir Charles Sargeant, the then Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay, Dr. Peterson, Mr. Yajnik, and such other well-known citizens, a big public meeting was arranged to witness Shrimd's Shatavdhan. The public and the Press expressed their high appreciation and admiration of the young prodigy. Sir Charles advised him to visit Europe and exhibit his powers there, but he could not do so, as he thought, he could not live in Europe as a pure Jain ought to live.

After such public recognition a sudden change seemed to come over him. At the age of twenty, he completely disappeared from the public gaze. He was determined to use his powers and abilities for the instruction and enlightment of his community and people at large. From his very early age he was a voracious reader. He studied the six schools of religions (षट्‌दर्शन) and other systems of Oriental and Western philosophy. Strange though it might seem, it was a fact that a book was required to be read only once in order to be digested, and without any regular study of Sanskrit and Prakrit, he could accurately understand works in those languages and explain them to others, as only learned scholars could be expected to do. Shrimad now began to inculcate his taste for knowledge in others and soon attracted a large number of disciples, whom he guided to the proper study of the Jain philosophy. He found that the Acharyas (religious teachers) of the time held narrow and sectarian views, and did not appreciate the change of times, Again those who renounced the world were generally lacking in some of the good things of the world, and had some reason or other to be dissatisfied with their lot in the world. Such men could not impress their congregations by their example. He believed that if a man of wealth, and social position renounced the world, he could work real good by his example. Convinced of his sincerity and disinterestedness, the people would more readily follow his guidance and profit by his preaching. Holding such views, he had believed that he had not sufficiently qualified himself to appear before the public as an ascetic and a spiritual guide, and he continued steadily as a man of the world, though his inclinations were all the other way.

When he was twenty-one, he took to business and in a very short period of time gained the credit of being a capable jeweller. The success of a flourishing business however, did not keep him from his favourite study of religion and philosophy. In the midst of his busy life, he was quietly extending his studies and was always found surrounded by his books. Again for some months of the year, he would leave Bombay with instructions to the members of the firm not to correspond with him, unless he wrote to them. He used to retire into the forests of Gujarat and there passed days and weeks in meditation and yoga. He always tried to conceal his identity and whereabouts and, in spite of that, he was often found out and followed by a large number of people eager to listen to his preaching and advice.

After ten years of business life, he felt that he had accomplished the object with which he had entered business. He expressed his desire to sever his connection with it. Knowledge, possession of wealth, social position, the enjoyment of family happiness (for Shrimad had parents, one married brother, four married sisters, a wife, two sons and two daughters, all living) he was preparing to renounce the world and lead the life of an ascetic. In the meantime, in his 32nd year, his health gave way. While he was under treatment, there was a change for the better. A relapse however, followed, and after an illness of more than a year, in spite of competent medical treatment and good nursing by devoted disciples, he quietly passed away on the 9th ultimo, at Rajkot. During his long and painful illness he never uttered a sigh or a groan. He was cheerful, while all others around him were despondent.

Besides scattered poems, he has written several works. His Moksha Mala has already been published. This work, the keynote of Jainism, was written by him at the age of seventeen. Among his unpublished works there are Atma-Siddhi-Upaya and Panchastikaya, and several essays on the Atma or soul. The corner-stone of the Jain religion and philosophy is the theory of Karma, in which he strongly believed. He thought of writing a convincing treatise on this theory, and a series of works on the principles taught by the Great Mahavira, but unfortunately he was prevented from doing so, by his long illness. He had also solvel several difficult problems of religion. After careful study of the Jain and the Buddhist literature, he had come to the conclusion that both Mahavira and Buddha were different personages, their principles were quite different and the belief of European scholars that Jainisim was the offspring of Buddhism was not well founded. He said that in the Jain manuscripts of more than two thousand years old, it was clearly stated that the great Mahavira and the Great Buddha were hard religious compititors.

Shrimad had also maintainod that the two chief sects of Jainism,—the Digambara and the the Swetambara-were the outcome of irregular condition of the country.

The above short sketch of his life is sufficient to show that Shrimad Rajchandra was in every way a remarkable man. His mental powers were extraordinary. At the same time the moral elevation of his character was equally striking. His regard for truth, his adherance to the strictest moral principles in business, his determination to do what he believed to be right, in spite of all opposition, and his lofty ideal of duty, inspired and elevated those who came in contact with him. His exterior was not imposing, but he had a serenity and grace of his own. On account of his vast and accurate knowledge of religions and philosophy, his wonderful powers of exposition and his Iucid delivery, discourses were listened with the utmost attention. His self-control under irritating circumstances so complete, his persuasive powers so great, his presence so inspiring that those who came to discuss with him in a defiant and combative mood returned quite humiliated and full of admiration.

Shrimad Rajchandra deplored the present condtions of India, and was always solicitous for its amelioration. His views on the social and political questions of the day were liberal. He said that there might not to be anything like caste-distinction amongst the Jains, as those who were Jains were ordered to lead similar life. Among all the fencies for reform, he assigned the highest place to the religious reformer, working with the purest motives and without ostentation. He found fault with the religious teachers of the present day because they preached sectarianism, did not realise the change of the times, and often forgot their real mooring in their eagerness to proclaim themselves as avtars of God, and arrogated to themselves powers which they did not possess. In his later years, it is clear that he was preparing to fulfil his life's mission in that capacity. But unfortunately death intervened and tbe mission remained unfulfilled. Shrimad had however, succeeded in creating a new spirit among the Jains in the Bombay Presidency. It is generally belived that if he lived long, he would have revolutionised the whole system of the present Jain religion, and would have taught the people what the Great Mahavira had actually taught. He wanted to do away with the numerous sects of the Jain religion in order to establish one common religion, founded by Mahavira. That such an useful life should have been cut short at this premature age was a distinct loss to the country.

His admirers have already collected about Rs. 11,000 to purpetuate his memory. A move is still going on to increase the fund. It is expected that either an institution to collect old manuscripts and to publish the works of the Jain religion, which remain unpublished, in several Bhandaras, will be started, or a complete library of the Jain philosophy and literature will be established bearing his honoured name.

It is hoped that some one of his numerous disciples may give the public a comprehensive account of his life and work.

(‘ધ જંગલ બૂક’ના લેખક અને નોબેલ પ્રાઈઝ વિજેતા રૂડયાર્ડ કિપ્લિંગ મુંબઈમાં જન્મ્યા હતા અને તેમણે પોતાની કારકિર્દીની શરૂઆતમાં અલ્લાહબાદના અખબાર ‘પાયોનિયર’માં ઈ.સ.૧૮૮૭થી ૧૮૮૯ સુધી મદદનીશ તંત્રી તરીકે કામ કર્યું હતું. અલબત્ત શ્રીમદ્ વિશેનો આ લેખ કોણે લખ્યો હતો તેનો સંદર્ભ હવે મળતો નથી.)
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