Book Review: R.K.SINGH
Acharya Mahaprajna: THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN. Translated by Sudhamahi Regunathan. New Delhi: Penguin/Viking, 2008, pages xiii+97. Price Rs. 250/-. ISBN 978 0 670 08251 3
Poet-philosopher monk Acharya Mahaprajna is the tenth spiritual head of the Swetambar Terapanth Jain community. He has been an eminent promoter of peace and non-violence, leading Ahimsa Yatra (2001-2009) through the length and breadth of India. Long associated with Acharya Tulsi’s Anuvrat Movement, he is also a true scholar of Jain Agamas, discoverer of Preksha Meditation, and well-versed in modern Physics, biosciences, ayurveda, western philosophy, politics, and economics. He has written more than 200 books in Hindi, Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Rajasthani languages.
Acharya Mahaprajna’s meditative verses, brief and intense, bear the stamp of his faith and consciousness. As he declares elsewhere:
“Soul is my God.
Renunciation is my prayer.
Amity is my devotion.
Self-restraint is my strength.
Non-violence is my religion.”
In keeping with the virtues of Jain monks, Acharya Mahaprajna’s short, lyrical, and at times epigrammatic and anecdotal poems in The Sun will Rise Again reflect his experiences and insight, with deeper understanding of human nature and his own characteristic straightforwardness, modesty, self-restraint, and concentrated wisdom. The poems also reinforce his religion of tolerance, righteousness and non-violence, peaceful coexistence, equanimity, and positive outlook.
Drawing on his samyak vision, the monk-poet beautifully articulates his world-view thus:
“’Someone bear the burden
Of bringing infinity to light,’
Said the lamp,
‘The burden I can take
Is to bring light to this hut.’”
In other poems, he encourages spiritual development through the pursuit of a rational view of life and living: “Those who live/a life of comfort,/Forgetting the present/Drift into the delusion of the past”, and “The one who lives in the present,/the future belongs to him.” He insists on pursuing higher goals, dreaming big, striving hard to excel the already achieved: “The world belongs to him/who has a dream in his heart”, and “The one who searches, finds his quest./His feet stumble whose goal is small” , and “Fire is that which burns./Man is he who moves.”
Acharya Mahaprajna’s poems manifest how he perceives self through the self and how he seeks to wipe away darkness, -- “Eyes closed/A lamp in my hands,/I roam” --, instead of philosophizing about truth or reality. Aware of the deep-rooted negativities (which, interestingly, his Preksha dhyan seeks to root out by harnessing body, mind and spirit), he reminds his audience to pursue dharma, the right conduct, and self-control:
“Water desires that no one restrain it
The grain desires that no one grind it
The wind desires that no one stop it
The mind desires that no one correct it,
But water gives light when restrained
The grain gives taste when ground
The wind turns electric when stopped
The mind becomes edified by bowing.”
The sage-poet understands the essential nature of mind and distils poetry from very minute observations of quotidian life and events that reveal human behavior and attitude. He partakes of deeper knowledge, perception and bliss, blending delight and wisdom, with subtle allusions from ancient Hindu scriptures, philosophies, and Jainism. In simple, everyday language, he explores and enlightens the inner self, even as he seeks peace and harmony in all, with awareness of the inner enemies that obstruct one’s spiritual progress. He makes us see that “truth is not in the dark/But hidden in the brilliance of the sun.”
Originally composed in Hindi, the Acharya’s visionary poems have been superbly translated by Sudhamahi Regunathan, who is herself well-versed in Jainism with immense experience in translation. She effectively proves that the poet’s poems have a “natural flow”. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam’s ‘Foreword’ adds to the “contributing spirit” that the world very much needs now.
--Dr. R.K. SINGH, Professor & Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines University, DHANBAD 826004.