Article: Aṇuvrat Movement

Contributed by Shivani Bothra

Vow 10

Tenth vow of Aṇuvrat Movement

Vow

Relation to the five 'fundamental vows'

I will lead a life free from addictions
I will not use intoxicants like alcohol, marijuana, heroin, tobacco and so on

 

Avoiding intoxication is an uncompromising principle for an Aṇuvratī.

Ācārya Tulsi believed that intoxicants cloud the mind and character. An intoxicated person is more likely to commit undesirable or punishable acts such as suicide, rape or mass killing (Tulsi and Karnawat 2010: 59). Thus he applied the concept of the vow to reduce problems of alcohol abuse and other intoxication in India.

Vow 11

The palm of the open hand bears a wheel with a mantra inside. The mantra is the word ahiṃsā – non-violence – which is a key Jain belief. The hand and mantra remind believers to pause before acting so they can avoid causing harm.

Ahiṃsā symbol
Image by Elembis © public domain

Eleventh vow of Aṇuvrat Movement

Vow

Relation to the five 'fundamental vows'

I will be alert to preventing pollution in the environment
I will not cut down trees
I will not waste water

The final vow also falls under the category of ahiṃsā but expands the concept by including nature

It seems that Ācārya Tulsi drew inspiration from Mahāvīra’s theory of interdependence, in which all living beings render service to one another. According to Mahāvīra, 'One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them' (Ācārya Mahāprajña, 2001: 50).

In light of the modern resource-intensive consumerist lifestyle, the 11th vow stresses the need to preserve natural resources.

Reinterpreting the role of religion

A man reads a prayer aloud in a temple in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Jains may perform mental worship – bhava-pūjā – which includes singing hymns, reciting mantras and meditating. All Jain prayers are praises of the Jinas and other holy figures.

Praying in the temple
Image by nusohotrightnow – Nathaniel Whittemore © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ācārya Tulsi neither explicitly associated his movement with any religion nor did he reject religion. Instead he reinterpreted religion according to contemporary needs. He sought to give a behavioural aspect to religion. According to him, people maintain a strong faith in their religion but often there is a gap between theory and practice.

Ācārya Tulsi unravelled three fundamental aspects of a religion and distinguished them from the Aṇuvrat Movement.

First, he said, religion is ritualistic and limited to a sacred space, such as a temple, church, synagogue or monastery, where people offer prayer or worship. Secondly, religion is ethical, which guides one to distinguish between right and wrong deeds. Thirdly, religion is spiritual, which leads a practitioner to raise his consciousness, so he can live a pure life.

The Aṇuvrat Movement does not interfere with any ritualistic practice. It seeks to inspire people to adopt ethical values, like not telling lies, cheating people, becoming intoxicated or violent, and to lead a spiritual life. Ācārya Mahāprajña, who succeeded Ācārya Tulsi as leader of the Terāpantha sect, explained that the vows of the Aṇuvrat Movement were meant to reflect the ethical concepts of:

  • compassion
  • equality
  • human unity
  • integrity
  • living in the present
  • moderate consumption of resources.

The following conversation is helpful in understanding Ācārya Tulsi’s perspective on the vows as well as in interpreting the ripple effect of the movement outside India.

AT: Have you seen the rules laid out in [the] Aṇuvrat Movement?
Alvira: Yes, I have seen them. Why is the construction of these so negative?
AT: To restrain something, it is important to negate it. There is no limit to ‘Do this, Do that.’
Alvira: Even in the Bible, the rules laid out have [a] punitive tone, but it also says: love your neighbor.
AT: Such an explanation is also there in the Aṇuvrat Movement, [that is, to] extend amity [friendship –] Maitri [or 'loving kindness' –] to all. However, this is a teaching[,] not a vow.
Alvira: Indians have a strong belief in nonviolence and want to integrate [it] in their lives. They are fortunate to have such a living inspiration like you. Can it be spread in[to] the Western countries?
AT: Why not, [?] who does not want to live an ethical life [?] and especially, if we have supporters like you.
Alvira: I am always there with you in this noble cause.

The Clarion Call Of Aṇuvrat
Tulsi and Karnawat, page 29

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