Article: Rājacandra

Contributed by Jérôme Petit

The 'Ātma-siddhi'

19th-century poet and reformer Śrīmad Rājacandra is pictured writing his principal work, the Ātmasiddhi - 'Realisation of the Self'. Written in simple Gujarati, the original text and later musical versions are both immensely popular

Rājacandra writes the Ātmasiddhi
Image by Shrimad Rajchandra Mission © Shrimad Rajchandra Mission

The main treatise Rājacandra composed at the end of his life is the Ātma-siddhiRealisation of the Self. Again, the language used is simple Gujarati that Hindi-speakers can read easily. The text invites the voluntary seeker of self-realisation to know the true nature – svarūpa – of the Self, with the help of a true master – sad-guru.

Rājacandra describes the devout person attached to his ritual practices in an empty display of ceremony, in opposition to the true seeker of the Self. Then there are six discourses, following the traditional Indian literary model where a master refutes a disciple’s objections:

  1. the Self does exist
  2. the Self is eternal
  3. the Self is the agent of its own karmic production
  4. the Self is the enjoyer of that production
  5. Liberationliberation does exist
  6. true religion is the instrument of liberation.

At the end of the arguments, the disciple thanks the master for having achieved this state of awakened spirituality and sings his enthusiasm for having reached this state himself.

The Ātma-siddhi is a very popular text and has inspired singers such as Shefaliben Shah, who has composed a musical version of the text like an Indian devotional song. The first English translation of many was by J. L. Jaini in 1923. Another famous translation was published by Brahmacārī Govardhandās in 1957.

Legacy

Rājacandra was inspired by previous authors such as Kundakunda and by the Digambara mystical tradition and he himself inspired numerous followers of all Jain sects. Many places dedicated to Rājacandra, such as temples with pictures and offerings, can be found in India, mostly in Gujarat and Mumbai.

The disciples of Rājacandra are associated with the Rāj Bhakta Mārg, which means ‘Path followed by the devotee of Rājacandra’. Followers are mostly lay men, as was Rājacandra himself. They base their faith on images of Rājacandra and writings mostly gathered after his death. The images are based on photographs taken in a studio that represent him in a posture of meditation.

Shrimad Rajchandra Ashram

In 1920 Rājacandra’s closest disciple Laghurāja set up an ashram in Agās, near Anand. A few kilometres south of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the ashram is a very peaceful place surrounded by beautiful trees. A statement on the main gate tells guests: kṣamā eja mokṣaṇo bhavya-darvāze che – ‘Forgiveness is the grand gateway to Liberation’.

Behind this gate sits a large lecture hall along with two small temples, a Śvetāmbara one and one for the Digambaras. At a distance from these buildings is the Rāj-mandir, a huge hall with impressive portraits of Rājacandra and Laghurāja. Inscriptions on the walls declare Rājacandra’s spiritual statements and invite his followers to observe properly the vows of Jain laity.

Laghurāja stayed at the ashram from 1920 to 1936 and instituted a daily routine that today’s followers continue to respect.

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