Article: Aṇuvrat Movement

Contributed by Shivani Bothra

Expansion of the Aṇuvrat Movement

The ninth leader of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect was one of the most significant Jain figures of the 20th century. Ācārya Tulsi's 1949 foundation of the non-sectarian Aṇuvrat Movement reworked Jain vows into the context of independence and diaspora

Ācārya Tulsi (1914–1997)
Image by Sampat Gandhi © Sampat Gandhi

Under Ācārya Tulsi’s leadership, the Aṇuvrat Movement grew fast and spread across the Indian subcontinent. Besides its nationwide popularity, the movement is also well known among the Jain diaspora due to the periodic visits of samaṇis from India. It is also known as the Tulsian movement because of the charisma and popularity of the founder, Ācārya Tulsi.

However, outside India the practice of the Tulsian Aṇuvrat vow is not as popular as the movement. One reason for the poor response in the West has been attributed to the fact that diaspora Jains incorporate more modern ideas in their practices than do Jains in India. Thus some of these vows are not suited to the Western context. For example, one respondent said: “Dowry is not a social evil in a Western country.”

In due course, Ācārya Tulsi realised that even within India lay people require strong willpower to maintain the aṇuvrat vows. To help them keep their vows he and his successor incorporated spirituality in the movement by introducing Science of Living for children and Preksha Meditation for adults.

Preksha Meditation

Tenth head of the Śvetāmbara sect of Terāpantha, Ācārya Mahāprajña meditates. In 1975 Ācārya Mahāprajña introduced 'insight meditation' – prekṣā dhyāna – which is now one of the principal Terāpanthin ways of worship

Ācārya Mahāprajña meditating
Image by Amitjain80 © CC BY-SA 3.0

The English term 'Preksha Meditation' comes from the Sanskrit phrase prekṣā dhyāna. The Sanskrit word prekṣā means ‘to see carefully and deeply’. In this case, 'seeing' does not imply external vision, but concentrating on subtle consciousness through the mind's eye. Dhyāna is usually translated as 'meditation' so prekṣa dhyāna means 'careful, deep meditation, focusing on inner consciousness'.

Ācārya Mahāprajña, tenth ācārya of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanth sect, founded Preksha Meditation in 1975. Although it has no religious basis and can be practised by Jains and non-Jains, in the present time this technique is popularly recognised internationally as a Jain form of meditation.

Preksha Meditation was developed to provide a holistic aspect to the growing Aṇuvrat Movement. According to the founder, 'mental tension has emerged as a dreadful disease of the age of industrial progress. To remedy it, the Aṇuvrat Movement has added a new chapter to itself in the form of Preksha Meditation' (Yuvācārya Mahāprajña 1992: 27).

Moreover, “meditation affects the secretion of the endocrine glands and this in turn brings about an inner transformation of the individual” (Gandhi: 8). Practising Preksha Meditation helps in the purification of emotions and a transformation from negative thinking to positive thinking. It helps improve self-control, detachment and calmness, which are needed for spiritual progress in Jainism. Unless their emotions are purified, people are not able to keep their vows.

The Preksha Meditation technique is comprised of the principles of:

  1. deep meditative relaxation – kāyotsarga
  2. inner journey – antaryātrā
  3. perception of breath – śvāsa prekṣā
  4. perception of body – sarīra prekṣā
  5. perception of psychic centres – caitanya kendra prekṣā
  6. perception of soul colourleśyā dhyāna
  7. auto-suggestion – bhāvanā – and contemplation – anuprekṣā.

Science of Living

According to the founders of the Aṇuvrat Movement, the present-day education system is incomplete as it emphasises intellectual training and ignores the emotional development of a child. The Aṇuvrat Movement introduced a curriculum for children called the Science of Living, to complement the standard education system and foster the development of an integrated personality.

The Science of Living is a system of holistic education started by Ācārya Mahāprajña in 1978. It comprises various branches of learning drawn from modern science as well as the ancient wisdom of Jainism. It visualises a balanced system of education and practice. This means equal importance is given to bodily and intellectual development on the one hand and mental and emotional development on the other.

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