The Tirthankara, in Jainism is the embodiment of compassion. He is a great soul who has attained liberation himself and shown the path of liberation to others. He is a Jina who has conquered attachment and aversion and thereby shattered the bondage of karmas that drag the soul into the whirlpool of cyclic rebirth. He abides in a state of bliss at the apex of the universe, away from the joys and sorrows of the mundane world. This absolute dissociation from the world makes the worship of the Vitaraga to seek favours, even spiritual, somewhat ambiguous. This Stuti (panegyric) by Pt. Hargovind Das is an erudite attempt at sentimentally and logically resolving that ambiguity.
While resolving the inherent ambiguity in seeking from ‘One who is beyond giving’, the poet reveals the ultimate definition of Karuna in context of the Vitaraga. It is Karuna (compassion) that is spontaneous, unconditional and universalized. As the poet says, His Karuna is like the rain and the sunlight that fall on land and ocean, on rich man and beggar alike. It is not ‘for’ someone in particular; it is for everyone in general. It is not just for devotees; it is for all the suffering beings of the universe. And that is why he addresses the Vitaraga as the Ocean of Compassion.
Pt. Hargovind Das Sheth, the renowned author of the only available comprehensive dictionary of Prakrit language, Paia-sadda-mahannavo, was among the group of eminent scholars from the Yashovijai Jain Pathashala, Varanasi established in 1902 by Acharya Vijai Dharma Suri. Some other illustrious scholars from this school were Pt. Sukh Lal, Pt. Bechar Das and Pt. Bhagvandas.
It would not be out of place to mention here that Prakrit Bharati has recently published the abridged edition of this dictionary jointly with Parshvanath Vidyashram, Varanasi.
It is a happy coincidence that the original text of this Prarthana in Pt. Hargovind’s handwriting was with his son-like disciple late Shri Shubh Karan Singh Bothra and he inspired and guided his son Surendra Bothara to write a commentary. The outcome of his efforts was published by Prakrit Bharati in 2006 and was received well.
We are pleased to publish this English translation of the Stuti and commentary. Our thanks to Prof. L.A. Babb for immaculately editing the English edition. Prof. Babb, besides being a senior figure in the fields of social anthropology and Asian studies is also a known name in Jain studies.
We are sure our readers will like this emotional as well as intellectual Stuti. Our thanks to everyone associated with publication of this work.
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