Acharyas Tulsi & Mahaprajna

Comment on News in Feb. 1995.

Perhaps the best known of all contemporary Jain monks, has yielded the "shasan" of the Swetambara Terapanth (not to be confused with Digambara Terapanth) to his long time "yuvacharya" (heir-apparent) Mahaprajna.

Terapanth was founded in Sam. 1817 (1760 AD) by Sthanakavasi monk, Bhikanji, the first Acharya of the Terapanth sect. Tulsi was the 9th Acharya of the sect.

Acharya Tulsi was born in Sam. 1971 in Ladnun (Raj.), became a monk in Sam.1982 and an Acharya in Sam. 1993. He initiated more than 776 monks/nuns. He has been an accomplished poet, author 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.

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.

During his long career, he has faced a number of challenges. Dr. Radhakrishnan in his "Living with Purpose" included him in the world's 15 great persons.

Continuing the tradition of Terapanthi Acharyas, Mahaprajna becomes the 10th Acharya.

There are many Jain monks well known for their scholarship, but a few are distinguished even among them. Mahaprajna is one of them.

He wrote many books and numerous articles under both his names "Nathmal" and "Mahaprajna". Unlike other Jain sects, monks of the Terapanth sect do not change their names. However an exception was made for Nathmal when he was given "Mahaprajna" as a title as well as a name. By making Mahaprajna the next Acharaya while he is still alive, Tulsi made another exception.

Another interesting fact is that he was a "Yuvacharya" (i.e. a junior Acharya) for 17 years, as opposed to Acharya Tulsi who was a "Yuvacharya" for only 4 days. Tulsi became an Acharya at an exceptioanally early age 22 years, Mahaprajna at 75.

Nathmal was born in Vikrama Sam. 1977, became a monk in Sam. 1987 and the Yuvacharya in Sam. 2035. He has written more than 20 philosophical books. Well versed in ancient scriptures, he is also familiar with advancements in science.

He is the originator of "Preksha-Dhyana" an new approach for meditation that you may have heard about.

Yashwant Kumar Malaiya

Note 1: usually Vikram Samvat = AD + 57

Note 2: Digambara Terapantha was a reform movement started by some householders including Pandit Banarsidas (1686-1643 AD) of Agra. They were opposed to the "Bhattarakas". Because of the influence of this movement, the Bhattarakas have become extinct in most places in North India.

The two Terapanths ("way associated with 13") in Digambaras/Swetambaras are unrelated. The significance of "13" is not clearly known in both cases.

Note 3: Among Sthanakvasis and Sw. Terapanthis, there can be only one Acharya leading the whole sect. In Sw. Murtipujakas and Digambaras, an Acharya commands only his groups of monks/nuns, there there are many Acharyas. Taranpanthis, (a non-idol-worshipping Digambara sect founded in 15th cent), do not have any monks.