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'God shows the light, but you have to find the way yourself'

'God shows the light, but you have to find the way yourself'

Roli Srivastava
The Times of India
April 11, 2000
Title: `God shows the light, but you have to find the way yourself'
Author: Roli Srivastava
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 11, 2000

MUMBAI: ``Rocks fascinate me,'' he exclaims with a glint in his eye, and quickly opens a wooden cabinet. Rummaging its contents, he retrieves a green and a brown piece of rock, and with child-like enthusiasm coaxes, ``See them closely. How uneven and unattractive they are''.

The green one has a crack and he opens it from there into two uneven halves, revealing hundreds of tiny little pink crystals embedded on the inner wall of the stone. ``That is how I describe divinity within human beings,'' he smiles. ``Whatever you are from outside --ugly or good looking, your inner self is beautiful --the `parmatma' dwells there.''

Shree Chitrabhanu, or `gurudev' as his followers call him, the founder and spiritual advisor to the Jain International Meditation Centre in New York, is based in the U.S. and spends five months in India. Speaking to this newspaper at the end of his stay in the city, the 78-year-old monk said that he did not talk about religion, rather his sessions were discussions on ahimsa, compassion and `anekantavada' (understanding others' opinion).

He holds the distinction for being the first Jain monk to have travelled by vehicle when he was invited to address the second and third spiritual summit conference at Geneva in 1970.

Referred to as Pope John of Jainism by the New York Times, he exhorts people to believe in themselves and their actions. ``I always tell people that God shows the light but you have to find your way yourself,'' he observes adding, that destiny is never a matter of chance, but choice.

Shree Chitrabhanu, who has always adopted a modern and a realistic view of Jainism notes, ``While religions separate one person from the other, their teachings always bind.'' His following comprises people from faiths like Roman Catholics, Jews and Parsis and his sessions are attended by people from diverse age groups and backgrounds. He has also founded an association-- Young Jains of America for the youth.

``Though his philosophies are based on the teachings of Lord Mahavira, he has developed his own faith --one that is comprehensible to the international community today,'' says a follower.

A visiting lecturer to institutions of learning like Princeton, Harvard and State University of New York, he lucidly explains the philosophies of life. For instance, he says, ``Like a tree is hidden in a seed so is the parmatma hidden in the soul. As a plant blossoms from a seed, so does the divinity within an individual when the soul is nourished as layers of ego, hatred, jealousy are shed.''

But hailing from a business family what prodded him into the path of spirituality? Following the death of three dear ones, questions like ``Where do people go after their death,'' and ``If death is the ultimate reality what is the purpose of life,'' always confounded him and he set out to seek answers.

In his quest for these answers he became a monk in 1942. It was then he started realising the beauty of life. ``I could then see beauty in death also.'' He notes, ``What disappears appears somewhere else and every end leads to a new beginning. Beauty lies in this change from one form to the other.''

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