Kanji Swami

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Kanji Swami
Digambara Acharya
Name (official) Kanji Swami
Personal Information
Born 21 April 1890
Umrala, Bhavnagar State, British India
Died 28 November 1980(1980-11-28)
Mumbai, India
Parents Ujamba & Motichand Bhai
After Initiation
Works Jain scholar, philosopher and spiritual leader

Kanji Swami (Gujarati:કાનજીસ્વામી) (1890–1980) was a mystical teacher of Jainism.[1][2] He influenced the practice of svādhyāya among the Jain laity.

He was born into the Sthānakavāsī sect and was initiated as a Sthānakavāsī monastic. He was deeply influenced by the works of Pandit Todarmal and by the Samayasāra of Kundakunda in 1932. He later used these teachings to formulate his philosophy. [3] He was given the title of 'Kohinoor of Kathiwad' by people who were mesmerised by his religious preachings and philosophy.[4]

Early years[edit]

Kanji Swami was born in Umrala, a small village in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat, in 1890 AD to a Sthānakavāsī family.[5] Although an able pupil in school, he always had an intuition that the wordly teachings was not something that he was looking out for. His mother died when he was thirteen and he lost his father at the age of seventeen. After this, he started looking after his father's shop. He used the frequent periods of lull in the shop in reading various books on religion and spirituality. Turning down the proposals of marriage, he confided in his brother that he wanted to remain celibate and take renunciation.[1][3]

Renunciation and later life[edit]

Kanji Swami became a Sthānakavāsī monastic in 1913 under Hirachanda.[5] During the ceremony, while riding on an elephant, he inauspiciously tore his robe, which was later believed to be an ill omen for his monastic career.[6] He embarked upon a rigorous study of the Śvētāmbara scriptures and finished a detailed study of the forty-five Jain Agamas[citation needed] Being a believer in self effort for achieving emancipation, he quickly became a learned and famous monk and, backed by his seventeen renditions of the Bhagavati Sutra. He was known as "Koh-i-Noor of Kathiawar".[6]

During 1921, he read Samayasāra, which influenced him greatly. He also studied writings of Pandit Todarmal and Shrimad Rajchandra. During his discourses he began to incorporate the ideas picked from these studies and began to lead a kind of double life, nominally a Sthānakavāsī monastic but referring to Digambara texts.[1][3][6]

His assertions that "vows, giving and fasting were ultimately worthless if performed without any understanding of the soul" did not endear him to the Sthānakavāsī community. He left Sthānakavāsī monastic life and proclaimed himself a celibate Digambara lay scholar at Songadh in Gujarat in 1934.[6] His lectures were recorded on tapes and have been published. His emphasis was on nishcaya naya, the higher level of truth, over vyavahara naya, ordinary life.[1][3] Kanji Swami died on 28 November 1980 at Mumbai.[1]


He directed his teachings to the subject of the soul and to Kundakunda's representation of it as the one eternal and unconditional entity. Kanji Swami's insistence on the primacy of the absolute level of truth over the relative one of ordinary life is obvious from his frequent comment: "Please try to understand. No soul, with or without knowledge, has the slightest ability to move even a particle. In such circumstances, how can it do anything to the human body, or to any other thing for that matter?"

For Kanji, Samyak darshana "right faith" was a prerequisite to any meaningful progress upon the spiritual path. He was convinced that the Ratnatraya – right vision or view (Samyak Darshana), right knowledge (Samyak Gyana) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra) – constitutes the path to liberation. It could only function effectively on the basis of a prior experience of the soul, and considered the various rituals and merit-making practices as subordinate. In an interview in 1977 he denied being hostile to the traditional Jain monasticism and regarded monastics as personifying the fundamental principles of Jainism. However, he also pointed out that taking up formal initiation and behavioural practices, like the abandonment of clothes of Digambara monks, and of other possessions, could not make an individual a true monastic unless he had abandoned internal possessions as well.[7]

Religious establishment[edit]

The Digambara Jaina Svādhyāya Mandira was built in 1937. It houses Samayasāra in the main temple and the words of Kundakunda's five main treatises have been engraved on its walls. A temple dedicated to Shrimandhara Swami was consecrated in 1941. Kanji Swami travelled throughout India where he gave discourses and consecrated many temples. Songadh is major centre.[3]

Kanji Swami has many followers in the Jain diaspora.[1] They generally regard themselves simply as Digambara Jains following the tradition of Kundakunda and Pandit Todarmal.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jestice, Phyllis G. (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 464. ISBN 9781576073551. 
  2. ^ Jain, Ravindra K. (1999). The Kanji Swami Panth, The universe as audience: metaphor and community among the Jains of North India. Indian Institute of Advanced Study. ISBN 8185952647. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dundas. "Kanji swami Panth". University of Cumbria. Division of Religion and philosophy. pp. 231–2. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  4. ^ http://www.mangalayatan.com/gurudevshri.html
  5. ^ a b Dundas 2002, p. 255.
  6. ^ a b c d Dundas 2002, p. 256.
  7. ^ Dundas, Paul (1992). The Jains. London: Routledge. p. 228-29. ISBN 0415051835. 


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