Introduction of Param Pujya Muniraj Hitruchivijayji Maharaj Saheb, a Jain Monk
Shri Claude Alvares, Chairperson of the Goa Foundation (an NGO, in Goa, India working on the issues of alternate development), Chairperson of Multiversity (an organization working for restoration of alternate system of education) and also Chairperson of Other India Book Store (a publishing house engaged In
publication of books on alternate development and allied subjects)
Hitruchivijayji Maharaj Saheb
In a world characterised by obscene levels of poverty and deprivation, intense and widespread environmental devastation, torture of millions of innocent animals in the name of food industry and science, and brutal uncivilised wars, most people ordinary people try to count the blessings that remain. There are so few left in any case.
But while many still look anxiously for some light at the end of the long tunnel of violence and despair, some have found serenity and direction in the person of a young man who almost a decade ago cast aside his family endowment of diamonds and riches in order to don the simple robes of a monk in the ascetic tradition of the Jains.
Hitruchivijayji Maharaj, as he is now known, took this momentous and irrevocable step in order to bring compassion to a planet filled with tears and sorely affected by ecological distress. But he discovered that his primary task was to bring the enlightenment of his own religious traditions to his own community of Jains.
Jainism is not only one of the most ancient of cosmological doctrines, it is also at the same time one of the most modern. Its concern for ecology has remained undiminished across several millennia. One of its strictest precepts and one that clearly sets it apart from other religious doctrines prohibits the harming of any living beings during the daily conduct of one’s activities.
Today the earth itself is being seen by enlightened people as a living organism. Pollution by careless human beings through modern science, technology and industrial economy has caused her (and millions of her creatures) enormous pain and suffering. While most other religious, political and science-based belief systems are floundering for some way out of the mess of ecology and violence, Jainism is confident that its preaching can provide adequate relief for humankind and for the other creatures of the world.
Hitruchivijayji Maharaj realised early that the Jain community had not remained immune from the temptation to embrace modern civilisation and its promise of unlimited material pleasures on earth. He saw Jains engaged in activities that brought them enormous wealth but that at the same time grossly disoriented their spiritual compass.
So this modern monk, steeped in the ancient wisdom of his tradition, decided he would become the agent for the regeneration of the community from within. As that tradition’s principal basis is ecology, the regeneration of the Jain philosophy led by Hitruchivijayji Maharaj has become one of the most dramatic and unusual manifestations of ecological renewal on the planet.
The most important defining characteristic of Hitruchivijayji Maharaj has been his refusal to locate any of his convictions within the intellectual or spiritual framework offered by Western thinkers and philosophers. According to him, the Jain philosophy and world-view are adequate in themselves to provide answers to all questions that may arise in the sphere of human living. Recourse to Western thought is incapable of providing direction; on the contrary, it is actively leading us further astray.
Hitruchivijayji Maharaj’s insistence on the completeness of Indian tradition has had some large scale practical consequences.
Uncompromisingly dedicated to locality, he has taken great pains to ensure that all the material needs of his community are based on the use of neighbourhood resources. In his public functions, no use is permitted of materials that have emerged from the industrial economy. All food consumed and served within the community must be grown by organic means alone: pesticides do too much violence to living creatures from the microbes in the soil to the birds and the bees, in addition to harming the health of human beings. His insistence on local industry has spawned and also led to the revival of several indigenous industries, from metal-working to calligraphy.
The preachings of Hitruchivijayji have galvanised the Jain community and forced it to re-examine its commitment to its own dharma and traditions.
As a non-Jain, I can only plead that Hitruchivijayji is not the monopoly of the Jain community alone. As one of the world’s strictest ecologists, he has become a role model for non-Jain ecologists and environmentalists everywhere. He is the ideal against which their actions in defence of the environment are being measured. Already his rigorous life-style which refuses to exploit any of the energy-intensive means afforded by mechanized society sets him clearly apart and ahead.
Hitruchivijayji Maharaj has been reborn as a monk to restore the teaching that only compassion can heal the earth and its creatures and bring durable peace. And compassion can only be expressed in the form of actions devoid of himsa.
That we have him in our midst relentlessly goading us with this profound teaching is perhaps the-greatest blessing of our time.