The Anuvrat Movement and its Impact on Individual Lifestyle

While it is the duty of medicos to analyze and examine the devastatingly debilitating effects of luxurious and sedentary lifestyle on the health of an individual from the medical point of view, my aim here is to acquaint the medicos with the most encouraging results and unprecedented success ANUVRAT MOVEMENT has had in changing the lifestyle of thousands of people in India and abroad. This has been accomplished by inspiration and persuasion, but also by seeking individual commitments to basic values. It has saved them not only from many deadly diseases but has also made their lives joyful and harmonious. ANUVRATS (‘small vows’) have helped them to get rid of hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, peptic ulcer and bronchial asthma — all by-products of the modern lifestyle rooted in luxury, exhibitionism, fashion, fads and our taste for excessively rich diets. You are all familiar with the maxim ‘prevention is better than cure.’ Anuvrat Movement inspires people to adopt a simple lifestyle in tune with nature and ecology and thus prevents the growth and spread of many dreaded diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

Postal stamp commemorating the life of Acharya Tulsi Ji who pioneered the Anuvrat Movement

But first, let me explain what Anuvrat Movement is and how effective it became and remains a mass movement.

By ‘Anuvrat’ we mean ‘small vows,’ or an individual’s commitment to adhere to basic values on a voluntary basis. A vow plays an important role in a person’s life irrespective of his profession, caste, or nationality. Almost all faiths have traditions of vows. We accept vows, promises or commitments out of our convictions and beliefs.

The Anuvrat Movement is basically a mass movement to propagate a simple lifestyle based on self-restraint. It is helping medicos by creating awareness among people that warns against the consequences of leading an unrestrained life. It is a moral code of conduct enjoining self-restraint in every aspect of life upon individuals. In essence, it points out that our unrestrained behavior is the main cause of our suffering.

Years ago, Jain leader Acharya Tulsi (1914-97) realized that a human being’s general tendency is that he or she keeps a vow he has taken despite adverse circumstance, whether he is a Jain, Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Even doctors in their personal lives observe vows for their own purposes of well-being and self-growth. Distressed at the ever-growing tendency of individuals to take to a pompous and gaudy lifestyle, Acharya ji decided to address the matter head on by seeking to rid society of unethical attitudes that give rise to an unhealthy society. Accordingly, he launched the Anuvrat Movement in 1949. It received spontaneous support from an all-encompassing cast of dignified national leaders, including Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Anuvrats are meant for all categories of people. The movement is non-sectarian and dedicated to the rejuvenation of the effete moral and spiritual values. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (who happened to laud the movement highly) once wrote:

“There is a general feeling in the country that while we are attending to material progress and doing substantial work in that direction, we are neglecting the human side of true progress. A civilized human being must be free from greed, vanity, passion and anger. Civilizations decline if there is a coarsening of moral fiber if there is callousness of heart. This is unfortunate and to remedy this growing indiscipline, lack of rectitude, egotism, the ANUVRAT MOVEMENT was started by Acharya Tulsi on March 1, 1949. It requires strict adherence to the principles of good life. It is intended to impart education in moral and spiritual values.”

The Aims of the Movement are:

* to inspire people to observe self-restraint irrespective of their caste, color, creed, country, or language

* to establish the values of friendship, unity, peace, and morality, and

* to create a healthy society free from all kinds of exploitation.

The Anuvrats prescribed for all

1.  I will not kill any innocent creature: I will not commit suicide; I will not commit feticide.

2.  I will not attack anybody

·        I will not support aggression

·        I will endeavor to bring about world peace and disarmament.

3.  I will not take part in violent agitation or in any destructive activities.

4.  I will believe in human unity

·        I will not discriminate based on caste, color, etc. nor will I treat anyone as an untouchable

5.  I will practice religious tolerance

·        I will not rouse sectarian frenzy

6.  I will observe rectitude in my dealings with other people

·        I will not harm others to serve any ends

·        I will not practice deceit

7.  I will set limits to the practice of continence & acquisition.

8.  I will not resort to unethical practices in elections

9.  I will not encourage socially evil customs

10. I will lead a life free from addictions

·        I will not use intoxicants like alcohol, hemp, heroin, tobacco, etc.

11. I will do my best to refrain from such acts as are likely to cause pollution and harm the environment

·        I will not cut down trees

·        I will not waste/pollute water

The Movement embodied a vision of a harmonious society free from exploitation and conflict. There is a striking similarity between this vision and Tagore’s heaven of freedom as portrayed by him in Gitanjali.

The most important thing about this Movement is that it tries to walk the middle path, steering clear of the two extremes of absolute asceticism (Mahavrata) and unbridled materialism resulting in moral torpor and sloth.

A look at the vows will reveal that a person who accepts Anuvrats is bound to practice self-restraint in dietary habits. He or she shuns meat eating and takes to vegetarianism. He gives up intoxicants and controls his temptation to resort to unethical practices to acquire wealth. His vow to eat vegetarian diet saves him from many problems. The cattle culture in the west of course has a dreadful effect on global ecology. According to a study by Jeremy Rifkin in his book Beyond Beef, there are currently 1.28 billion cattle populating the earth and they consume enough grain to feed hundreds of millions of people. The cattle culture is not only at the root of poverty and starvation in the world, it is also responsible for making humanity diseased and mentally crippled.

The Anuvrat Movement is an answer to the problem of cattle culture and has in it a potential to save humanity from extinction. A vow strengthens a person’s will. By having vows in mind and sticking to them an individual is far more apt to achieve their goals, grow spiritually, and experience a positive sense of self-esteem as well. Acharya Tulsi went beyond Anuvrats and asked his successor Acharya Mahapragya to evolve a scientific system of meditation. Thus, Preksha Dhyan was developed, which is an excellent way to help an individual to control his senses and emotions. Preksha has now become an integral part of Anuvrat Movement. Acharya Tulsi also focused attention on the future citizens of the world, i.e., students. To this end, a complete course was designed to enable students to become physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. This is known as Jivan Vigyan, or “Science of Living.” Thousands of students and teachers have joined the movement and for the first-time serious efforts are being made to give birth to a healthy society.

Dr. S.L. Gandhi is an internationally acclaimed pacifist who has been in the forefront of global campaigns for nuclear disarmament, peace, reconciliation, interfaith goodwill and moral rearmament. He has travelled extensively covering all continents to popularize Anuvrat Movement as a powerful means for self-transformation and nonviolent lifestyle. He has participated in and read papers on global issues from an Anuvrat perspective at more than 50 international conferences. He is the former international President of Anuvrat Global Organization (ANUVIBHA).

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