I WAS NOT FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE MET PT. HARAGOVIND JI. WHEN I WAS BORN HE WAS STRUGGLING FOR HIS LIFE IN A HOSPITAL. HOWEVER, I KNEW HIM LIKE A GROWING CHILD KNOWS ABOUT HIS DYING GRANDFATHER. HE IS CONSTANTLY IN TOUCH WITH THE AILING OLD MAN BUT HIS CONSCIOUS MEMORIES ARE ONLY OF WHAT HE HAS HEARD ABOUT HIS GRANDFATHER FROM OTHERS. MY FATHER, LATE SHRI SHUBH KARAN SINGH, WAS SO CLOSE TO PUNDIT JI THAT HE USED TO TALK ABOUT HIM FREQUENTLY. BESIDES THE INCIDENTS OF HIS LIFE, I ALSO CAME TO KNOW ABOUT HIS WORKS AS I GREW UP.
When I first set my eyes to his voluminous Prakrit dictionary as a child, it was just another large book in my father’s library. My appreciation of the value of this book and Pundit Ji grew as I learned more and more about how he compiled it. I have tried to report as many details about him as I could gather in the section entitled ‘Life of Pundit Haragovind T. Seth’.
My first introduction to the stuti presented here also goes back to my childhood. My father would read it aloud and tell us that when Pundit Ji himself recited it in his deep resonating voice, it was spellbinding. Since then I have been nurturing the desire to write a commentary on it and get it published. But somehow the project never got launched. It was during my father’s last ailment that I started this work. I particularly wanted to be acquainted with the mental state of the poet at the time he wrote it. Sanskrit poetry, because of its highly decorative style and abundant use of allegories and metaphors, tends to be multi-meaningful and allusive. To know the trend of thoughts of the poet helps greatly in understanding the spirit if not the exact meaning he intended.
I had regular sessions with my father and discussed each and every verse in detail. It took about three long months of daily hour-long sessions. During these sessions I saw my father effusive with energy and sharp in intellect, in spite of his debilitating kidney failure. It was as if Pundit Ji himself was speaking through him. After my father’s death it took me almost two and a half years of slow but regular work to write this commentary. I still feel that it has scope for much more and detailed elaboration.
Pundit Haragovind Ji wrote this stuti immediately after he resigned from Calcutta University. He had already reached the peak of his academic career and scholastic pursuits. At a turning point in his life, he had commenced his transition from the intellectual to the spiritual realm. Here also he was no raw novice. He had studied in Varanasi during a period when the city was frequented not only by intellectuals of high caliber but also by spiritual and yogic masters. He had come in contact with them and was well versed in a range of spiritual disciplines. Only a transition from theory to the actual practice of meditational techniques was needed. That is the reason that this stuti hardly deals with any mundane matters. In the verses he emphasizes that a true spiritual practitioner has no desire for normal worldly accomplishments.
With this in view, I have tried to explain the stuti from the spiritual angle only. Therefore, many terms and concepts from Jain teachings have been explained slightly differently from their traditionally accepted definitions and interpretations. Here I would request the reader to ponder impartially and avoid going into hair splitting debate based on traditional interpretations. The spirit of this stuti is the quest for purity and not the restoration or rationalisation of traditional dogmas.
The term Samyaktva needs special mention in this context because traditionally it is equated with the fourth level of spiritual ascendance (Gunasthana) or when the aspirant gets formally initiated. In this commentary it has been equated with the eighth level. This is because the traditional interpretations are based on the assumption that Samyak Darshan means right faith. But this commentary is based on the assumption that Samyak Darshan means direct perception or self-realization. The realization of the self is beyond the fourth level. This is in accordance with the author’s (Pundit Ji’s) own understanding of the meaning of this word, as I was given to understand by my father.
As far as I know this is a hitherto unpublished work of Pundit Ji. I earnestly hope that it will draw the attention of scholars and that they will come out with more elaborate commentaries from various angles.
I am grateful to my friend Lawrence A. Babb, Professor of Anthropology at Amherst College, Massachusetts for his valuable help in rendering the English version and then editing it. In fact, had he not shown interest in it, the English version would have remained a task for the future.
I am also obliged to Dr. Bansidhar Bhatt, Professor at Muenster University, Germany, for the Foreword and corrections in the Sanskrit text. I greatly value his guidance and advice.
Last but not least, my sincere thanks to the late Shri Gulab Chand Ji Jhadchur for his constant prodding and encouragement to complete this work.
I hope that publication of this work of Pt. Haragovind Ji will stir the interest of scholars and the Jain community in his other forgotten works.
— Surendra Bothara
Though the English translation was done in June 1991 its final editing and composing was put on back burner due to preoccupation with other projects. As luck would have it Prof. Babb is retiring this year and the pending work on this book has also been taken up and completed now. An appendix has been added to the English edition to give some needed information for English language readers. I am sure this edition will also be received well like the Hindi edition that went into second print.
- Surendra Bothara