Article: Rājacandra

Contributed by Jérôme Petit

Childhood

This painting from an Ādityavāra-kathā manuscript depicts monks preaching to lay men. The mendicants are Digambara even though their white robes resemble those of Śvetāmbara monks. Raising scriptures high, the monks sit on low platforms

Lay men listen to monks
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

From an early age Rājacandra was attracted to spiritual considerations, especially to the notion of seeking the selfātman – and living a life of renunciation – vairāgya.

Rājacandra spent a large part of his childhood talking with monks and lay men about the religious aspects of life. Most residents in Vavania were merchants – vaṇik – among whom were some Jains. Rājacandra often visited both the local vaiṣṇavaashram and the Jain upāśraya, making little distinction between them at the beginning. Then his contacts with the Jain world became more frequent. Monks advised him to read important texts such as the Pratikramaṇa-sūtra. In particular, the scriptures’ emphasis on humility and respect for all living beings touched the heart of the thoughtful young man.

The child Rājacandra demonstrated rare intelligence and unusual powers of concentration. His memory was phenomenal – a lesson read was a lesson learned by heart. He learned mathematics very easily and started writing poems at an early age. He could do many things at the same time, such as discussing various subjects, playing different games, reciting many texts. The boy could not only do eight things at once – aṣṭāvadhānī – which is a pandit quality, but it is said that he could do a hundred things at once – śatāvadhānī. Articles report how he displayed his powers of memorisation and concentration to an audience in Mumbai. However, Rājacandra stopped these public performances, which did not suit his spiritual leanings.

Like the son of any merchant at that time, an important part of Rājacandra’s childhood was dedicated to learning about his father’s business.

Householder life

When his apprenticeship as a merchant was finished, Rājacandra became a jeweller. Evidence shows he was an excellent and conscientious professional, who showed integrity. He always observed the vows of Jain lay men, such as not lying about his goods and not stealing customers.

At the age of 21, Rājacandra married Zabakbai, the daughter of a jeweller. They had four children together. Rājacandra talked of a middle position regarding his marriage, in which to be married brings neither joy nor sorrow. This would be the ideal of detachment.

Rājacandra remained fixed on self-realisation even though he had the responsibilities of a job and family.

Zabakbai belonged to a Zaveri merchant family, who saw in Rājacandra a very special intelligence. They wanted him to build up the business so he went to Mumbai to start his business career.

Friendship with Gandhi

One of the leaders of the movement for Indian independence, Mohandas Gandhi is renowned for his greatly influential non-violent political activism. Pictured in 1944, Gandhi is often known as Māhatama – 'Great Soul' – and still inspires great respect

Mohandas Gandhi
Image by unknown © public domain

The young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi had just come back to India from London and was on his way to South Africa. Although both Rājacandra and Gandhi had been born in Gujarat, they met in Mumbai, in Maharashtra.

Rājacandra greatly influenced Gandhi throughout his life. His teachings directly inspired the concept of non-violenceahiṃsā – which Gandhi used so effectively during the fight for Indian independence. 'In my moments of spiritual crisis, he was my refuge' wrote Gandhi about his friend.

Gandhi called an entire chapter of his autobiography ‘Raichand-bhai’ – meaning ‘Raichand Brother’ – and devoted it to describing his first meeting with Rājacandra:

The thing that did cast its spell over me I came to know afterwards. This was his wide knowledge of the scriptures, his spotless character, and his burning passion for self-realisation. I saw later that this last was the only thing for which he lived

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