A rare opportunity to peer into myself and wonder
where I was heading, was given by my stay at the campus of Ladnun.
I was not very excited
when I packed my clothes. A holiday was welcome, but I was not
looking for any spiritual succour or religious indoctrination. The
promised trip to the University of Ladnun, The university set up by
the Jains, made me feel those were the things I could access. I
wanted nature, beauty and a peaceful silence.
Anyway, plans were made
and bags packed. The drive was uneventful till we were about 50 km
from our destination. The desert area had begun. Sand dunes gallped
one behind the other. Brambles few uncomplainingly and the air
seemed reverberant with the vivacity of the Rajasthan folk. I could
not believe my eyes when I actually saw women in bright clothes, with
their upper cloth covering their head and faces, and carrying a pot
on their heads.
I used to think this was
a subject for painting and pictures from our distant past. But it
was real. The sheer bright colours the women wore and the lovely
sight they made against the desolate brown sand made my heart do a
From then on the whole
four day trip of ours began to acquire the quality of the unreal. It
is not dramatization when I say suddenly the sky darkened and clouds
rushed to cover us. Raindrops on sand dunes were beautiful. More
beautiful were the peacocks which came in from nowhere. They
leisurely spread their feathers and began a detailed promenade.
There were as many
peacocks as people in the University of Ladnun. Ladnun had a strange
sense of calm and contentment so much so that I believed there is
something called vibration: they say when sages meditate in a certain
place, the place acquires a halo and sends out peaceful vibrations.
We were led to a
comfortable air conditioned guest house. My visions of ascetic life
were further dispelled. The next day we met Acharya Shri Mahapragya.
He was the leader of this sect of Jains called the Terapanths. I
had met a revered Muni (saint) of the sect, Shri Kishan Lal in Delhi.
He had made an impression on me because of his sheer transparent
He too was here in
Ladnun. We met him before we met the Acharya. The Muni welcomed me
warmly. Was he really happy to see me, I wondered. But saints are
detached, are they not? But I was happy that he welcomed me warmly.
When I met the Acharya I
saw a tall straight man, who had clear eyes. The eyes seemed deep,
full of learning and had the quality of reading my mind. During the
days that followed I knew I was right. He was indeed so learned. I
also met Sadvi Kanakaprabha. She was the leader of the women monks.
She was equally learned. With one hundredth of that knowledge, I
would be so arrogant, I wondered, where they had lost that!
A Strange sense of
meaning came to me. Yes, life is not all an upward movement in the
social ladder. Here was an opportunity to pause and take stock. IT
was like taking a high jump and landing at a higher plane of
thinking. It made something in me quieter, calmer and observe the
minds perception rather than the eyes.
The four days proved to
be very short. I learned to meditate, I learned the art of
concentration. I learned to discover that which lay beyond the eyes.
At the same time there was no religious flavour to anything: it was
an atheistic, ascetic experience of moral and spiritual discipline,
encouraging honesty and kindliness in personal relations, as well as
non-violence. This university provides value-neutral, and self
determining courses which aim at helping one understand the self and
the society we live in better.
The campus had many
students who were puruing graduate studies in jainology and
Comparative Religion and Philosophy, Peace studies, Yoga and Preksha
meditation, Prakrit and Jain agamas (texts), social Work and Computer
Sciences. There were also short term courses and facilities fir
doctoral studies. One often dreams of studying in a university which
is well equipped and which has a beautiful campus. Ladnun university
is one such! From the moment you enter this university you forget
that it is in the desert.
The beautiful buildings
and the peaceful atmosphere enthuse you to serious and good work.
The subjects that this university offers, in addition to those
mentioned above, are English, History, Sociology, Psychology and
Maths. The other courses that you may choose to major in fall into
the broad category of the Science of Living courses.
An excellent library
housed some of the ancient Jaina treasures and literature. I met the
Vice Chancellor of the Deemend University, Prof. Lodha and he seemed
happy with the progress made by the thirty year old university.
Seated in comfort I
watched monk walking to and fro in the campus. The degree to which
the month deny themselves of any worldly conveniences seemed more
accentuated. I found myself asking some fundamental questions. What
is monkhood? What is truth? If they pursue truth, then is their
search ever a fulfilling one? Can one control the mind? Can one
increase productivity with just a few sample exercises? Though was
given many answers, the monks I met also let me discover them for
Spread over sixty acres
the University of Ladnun is 380 km west of Delhi. The nearest
airports to Ladnun are at Jaipur and Jodhpur. Thereafter one can
take a bus or taxi. It is four hour journey from there.