Like other Jain ascetics Acharya
Mahapragya too has been walking on foot ever since the day he became a
Jain monk at the age of ten years. ‘Then how is his present ‘yatra’
different?’ ask the people not familiar with the Jain tradition. The
answer lies in the meaningful focus of his yatra. It aims at bringing
the problems of all forms of violence into sharp focus. Acharya Tulsi,
the founder of the Anuvrat Movement also traveled extensively on foot,
covering more than sixty thousand kilometers, but then the focus was on
ridding the Indian society of the moral filth that had gripped it soon
after independence. Acharya Mahapragya also traveled with him wherever
he went, thus imbibing strength and courage.
What is an Ahimsa Yatra? It is an
endeavour to awaken a new faith in the infinite power of ahimsa
(nonviolence) in the hearts of the people. It involves a lot of people
and inspires them to think positively in unison with one another. As a
result the cosmic energy system becomes active percolating through the
minds of lakhs of people and unleashes a torrent of spiritual
vibrations washing away the negative thoughts of the masses. This
spiritual power was amply demonstrated in Gandhi’s Dandi March which
went a long way in electrifying the nation. Acharya Mahapragya says,
"Negative thoughts cause violence and positive thoughts help the
natural evolution of the process of ahimsa. The negative ones are
anger, arrogance, greed, hatred, fear, communal enmity and feelings of
caste supremacy. Tolerance, politeness, dispassionate attitude, love,
fearlessness communal harmony and human solidarity are positive
thoughts. Ahimsa Yatra aims at imparting training in the strategies to
transform the negative thoughts into positive ones."
Ahimsa is the Only Way to Survive
The advent of the new millennium brought unprecedented turmoil and unrest adding to the woes of the people who were already in miserable conditions. Worldwide terrorist attacks, communal and ethnic clashes, conflicts arising from globalization, poverty, exploitation and the increasing lust for power and wealth among people have made social life insecure and vulnerable. This pathetic situation touched Acharya Mahapragya deeply. He meditated on its causes and came to the conclusion that the problems that afflict the civil society today cannot be solved unless an intensive campaign is launched for mass psychological and attitudinal transformation. With this end in view, he has formulated a constructive programme to educate and train children and youths in nonviolence at national level. On the pattern of compulsory military training in many countries, he suggests that training in nonviolence should be made compulsory in all schools and colleges.
He embarked on Ahimsa Yatra
at Sujangarh (Rajasthan) and generated tremendous enthusiasm among
the people. Thousands joined the yatra and experienced the joy and
happiness arising out of their awakened state of higher consciousness.
When he decided to take his Ahimsa Yatra to Gujrat he was warned and
strongly advised not to go, but he declared firmly, ‘Come what may but
I will go’ and he went. As the Yatra entered the state of Gujarat which
was aflame with communal passions, the environment began to change.
Extinguishing the flames of anger and hatred the Ahimsa Yatra led by
Acharya Mahapragya generated a sense of confidence in the victims and
the perpetrators had a real change of heart. The response was
undoubtedly positive. Addressing a gathering at a village in Gujrat
Acharya Shri said, "Only that country becomes strong whose citizens
know the way to control their emotions. No country can emerge powerful
without peaceful coexistence, and it is impossible for a country to
ensure peaceful co-existence of its people without restraint and
discipline. Some people are educated into communal and caste frenzy.
The frenzied state of their minds gives rise to an anti-social
environment. The government tries to resist it through its might, but
it is the duty of the citizens to see that the hooligans do not convert
it into communal frenzy. People have to resist such tendencies
nonviolently by arousing their consciousness." The yatra was a boon to
the strife-torn people of Gujrat. Those who indulged in rioting and
bloodshed realized that violence would cause more violence taking a
heavy toll of innocent lives. The very glimpse of the Acharya disarmed
them. They eschewed violence and pledged to refrain from killing
innocent creatures. They persuaded others to join the Acharya’s mission
of regenerating human society.
Ahimsa Yatra and its Impact
Acharya Shri said at another meeting, "Ahimsa Yatra’s main objective is to create ahimsa awareness among the people. The moment an individual’s attention is riveted on ahimsa, a fountain of peace springs within which not only makes him happy but all others in the area become happy." The worst affected place in Gujrat was Ahmedabad where hundreds of innocent children, women and men were massacred only because they belonged to a different community. Condemning the riots the Acharya said, "Whatever happened in Ahmedabad and other areas of Gujrat was most shameful. It has tarnished the fair name of our country. The people of Gujrat must not forget that it is the place where Mahatma Gandhi was born. It is the place where he made his experiments with truth." What is heartening is that the people listened to him. Ahimsa Yatra has transformed Ahmedabad and there is peace all around. Acharya Mahapragya had his Chaturmas at Preksha Vishva Bharati, Koba which is now the cynosure of all eyes. Political leaders, social workers and spiritual leaders flocked to him for advice. Thousands came just for a glimpse of this new avatar of ahimsa while others came to listen to him. Prior to his coming to this place the Acharya’s Ahimsa Yatra, passed through all the places in Ahmedabad which some months ago were the ghastliest scenes of horror. Seized by bestial instincts the people who lived together as neighbours for years killed each another. Turning his wheel of dharma the Acharya showered compassion and blessings on everyone and healed their wounds. Though he left Gujarat long ago, his wheels of dharma continue turning in all parts of the country. His message of ahimsa has pervaded every nook and corner. This peace achieved by the healing touch of ahimsa is durable. It is worth-mentioning what a taxi driver said, "We see in Acharya Mahapragya the real God. Had he not come here we would have all died long ago from starvation and neglect. He is our Messiah of Peace and Happiness. He has charmed the people of Gujarat with his limitless compassion. The very glimpse of this great man fills our hearts with joy and calmness. There is no fear now. We can go wherever we like and are earning our bread."
Acharya Mahapragya’s Ahimsa Yatra will
continue till peace prevails everywhere. Maybe it crosses the frontiers
to give solace to the people of the other parts of the world who are
suffering from the scourge of fanaticism and ethnic conflicts. Let
thousand come forward to participate in his sacred project of ushering
in an era of perpetual peace. We bow in reverence before this
nonviolent crusader for peace. We salute him.