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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dr. Dhariwal embraces Jain Diksha - Renouncing all worldly possessions and family ties

Jain Diksha: An incredible experience

- By Dr. Shanta Bantia and Dr. P. Vimalchand

We would like to share a beautiful experience that we had during the recent Jain Diksha proceedings that was held in Raipur, Chattisgarh on November 6th, 2009. One of our family members renounced all worldly possessions and family ties to pursue monkhood. He is our beloved Dr. Harakchandji Dhariwal, affectionately known as Dr. Saab. He and his wife Chandra (Vimal’s sister) established a 25-bed hospital, Sampat Nursing Home, in Mylapore, Chennai, to provide various services. In his 35 years of medical practice and in her management of hospital, often they have provided selfless service to needy.

Jain Diksha

 

1980s Family Picture: Dr. Saab, Chandralekha (wife) and Vardhaman (son)

Before we describe our experience at Diksha function let me just briefly give an introduction to Jainism and Jain diksha. Any soul which has conquered its own inner enemies of attachment, greed, anger, and ego (moh, maya, lobh, krodh and aaham) achieves the state of Supreme Being and is called Jina. Jainism lays out a path to achieve this state by prescribing adherence to five principles: nonviolence (both in words and deeds), truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possessiveness (ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha). Every soul is potentially divine and can achieve the state of Jina. A Jain is a humble follower of Jinas. When a person renounces the worldly life and all the attachments to strictly pursue the path of Jainism, he or she is initiated into monkhood (Sadhu) or nunhood (Sadhvi) - this inititation process is called Diksha. Jain sadhus or sadhvis life is arduous and physically demanding. They do not cook their food, but go to different Jain or vegetarian households and receive a little food, if available, from each house (Gochari - alm). They do not take food or water between sunset and sunrise. They always walk with bare feet (hundreds and thousands of miles) and do not stay more than a few days in any one place except during the rainy season (Vihar).

Dr. Saab’s decision to take diksha and follow the path of Jinas was highly influenced by his religious upbringing. Both his parents took diksha to follow the Jaina faith – his dad took Diksha when Dr. Saab was 15 years old. Dr. Saab spent a lot of time listening to the discourses of monks and nuns. He attended to their health and took special care of many monks and nuns in his own hospital and wherever they happened to be. When his sister passed away after a very brief illness few years back, he decided he would eventually take Diksha and pursue the path to purify his soul.

Dr. Saab in his own words:

“From a very young age I have been reading about Jainism and practicing. My beliefs in religion and in its principles were mainly because of my father’s (Sampat Muniji Marasa) influence who molded my thoughts on Jainism. He showed the path by providing detailed explanations and clarifications and the literature to pursue. He has inculcated deeply in me the spiritual value of providing noble service to less fortunate and practicing non-violence in deeds and thoughts towards all living beings. None of the family members in my house were happy initially when I shared my intention on taking diksha. Jain religion says that family members and Guruji have to give unequivocal permission without which I cannot take even the first step. I explained to them what ultimately the true meaning of life is, and what we believe as life and what is the truth behind such beliefs. At the end, my family was happy with the decision and I felt more comfortable with the arduous path that I have chosen. Vairagya is cultivating non-attachment or indifference toward objects of worldly possessions and the ego mind. My life’s journey beginning with the diksha process will lead to the highest form of vairagya. After the diksha process, the Sadhu leaves worry and joy behind, develops mindset to eat food, if available, without realizing the taste and becomes hard in his resolve to find the ultimate truth with every living moment.”

Dr. Saab lived a very simple life, practiced medicine, worked in the hospital (Sampath nursing home) tirelessly, and conducted many, many free health camps all around India. Besides treating thousands of patients in each one of these free health camps, he provided free medicine. He is benevolent and kind by nature and when his brother became sick, he donated his own kidney. His son graduated from medical school and became an orthopedic surgeon. His daughter-in-law is also a physician (Ob/Gyn). Now they both take care of the Sampath nursing home.

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Family picture – Uncle, Vardhaman (son), Dr. Saab, Lakshya (grandson), Chandraleka (wife) and Shweta (daughter-in-law) Father (in the middle), Son and Daughter-in-law at work

Dr. Saab was diligent in his religious activities and was an inspiration to others. He encouraged adults and youngsters to inculcate religious values in their life and began prayer meetings on Sundays at the Mylapore (Chennai) Sthanak (prayer hall) – an activity he singlehandedly conducted week after week for over 30 years. He was well versed and an excellent and powerful speaker. Dr. Saab is such an embodiment of spiritual energy that many have been inspired and empowered by him. One of our relations who wrote a stunning, poetic tribute to the grand gesture of Dr. Saab’s renunciation humbly said that the poem of hers is the outcome of his awesome energy. He was devout religious, and at the same time, he was highly social and jovial. With his personality, command of language, knowledge and respect, he was easily the center of attraction at a gathering. He performed excellent renditions of old Mukesh and Mohammed Rafi songs.

Dr. Saab lived in Chennai for the last 35 years. His friendship, generosity and kindness touched many lives. There were many people who wanted to travel to Raipur (1,361 kms from Chennai) to be part of his Diksha Mahotsav. For this to happen, a committee (Sangh) was setup and headed by a few key people including Shanthi Chordia (Dr. Saab’s Brother-in-law) and Chandralekha (Dr. Saab’s wife). Planning began five months in advance. Preparations for the Diksha Mahostav included purchasing tickets for over 750 people in train to travel from Chennai to Raipur and return. We along with 750 people spent seven days together in the train journey back and forth (nearly 24 hours each way) and participating in few days of functions in Raipur. The Sangh organized travel, complete with hot meals and munchies and games and bhajans en route. As over 100 senior citizens were travelling, a number of medical kits were on-hand to deal with any emergency. Lodging, meals, city travel and many other arrangements were carried out by Jain Sangh in Raipur. Besides our group from Chennai, hundreds of others travelled from other parts of India to Raipur.

The enthusiasm, willingness, excitement and the feeling of being part of such a beautiful and somewhat unique event motivated and inspired people. It wasn’t a family affair – it was a Jain community affair. There were more than 100 volunteers in Chennai and Raipur working every day for five months to make all the necessary preparations for this incredible religious experience. In fact, people volunteered from all around the world through internet media. The organizers, especially Shanti, took full advantage of the internet for data entry, cross checks and other inputs. Following example best illustrates the organizational effort. Due to quirky nature of rules and regulations of Indian Railways, ticketing for such a large group could only be handled by individuals making reservations – each individual could make reservations for only 6 people. The committee had over 100 volunteers around the world setup account with Indian Railways and provided to each volunteer details of 6 people to make reservations for and temporary credit card number to charge the reservations to. All the volunteers logged on to the Indian Railways site as soon as reservation window opened and within ten minutes all the reservations were completed. This preempted anybody else trying to make reservation. This action was repeated a few days later when the reservation window for return journey opened. This way the Sangh ensured reservations for all who wished to travel and nearly the entire train was occupied by our group. Later, the railway authorities realizing that there were more people wanted to travel and understanding the importance of the journey, additional bogies were added to accommodate everybody. We were apprehensive about this whole reservation process, but it all worked out quite well – when people join hands for a good cause, mountains can be moved. Reservation planning took two months, but the entire process was executed in less than 10 minutes once the reservation window opened. By distributing this reservation process and many other tasks, the Sangh created a feeling of community involvement and the volunteers felt privileged to be part of such an effort.

During our train journey from Chennai, at all major train stations, we had hundreds of people from that town come to greet Dr. Saab and to take care of the food/water/tea/coffee supply. Amazing coordination in loading food, water and other supplies and unloading all the empty boxes, vessels and trash at various stations from different compartments. The train reached Raipur on-time and there were no major hiccups.

Diksharthis – Dr. Harakchandji Dhariwal and Himaniji Chopra
Diksharthis – Dr. Harakchandji Dhariwal and Himaniji Chopra
For us to be part of this journey cannot be described in words – it was an enthralling experience where each person had that special feeling of identifying themselves at least for a very short period of time in their life, a feeling of uplifted soul – pure and full of spiritual energy - feeling of the vibration and transmission of energy, and be more appreciative of everything around. Twenty-four hours in train journey with the Diksharthi Dr. Saab (even though we hardly spent few minutes with him in the train due to such a large group) revived in us and others, the spirit of kindness, love and brotherhood and spiritual fulfillment - just pure joy – it is the kind of feeling that is hard to capture in words. The train journey and stay in Raipur gave us a chance to talk to hundreds of our relatives leisurely.

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