The first Theravada Bhikshu of Modern Nepal : Kesar Lal
Mahaprajna was too modest a man to want to leave an autobiography behind. It was only at the suggestion of some friends that he began to note down his experiments in dharma and write about his teachers and disciples, and about his travels in Tibet, Burma. India and those parts that are now in Bangladesh.
A dozen years but remain of the Twentieth century. The mid-century has proved a watershed in history of the world, including that of Nepal. It is as difficult to foresee how the century will end as it is to imagine how it had begun. One step forward has usually been followed by two back steps.
In Nepal, the century began with a hopeful note when a peaceful succession took place; the Maharaja and Prime Minister Bir Shumshere Jung Bahadur Rana died a natural death and his brother, Dev Shumsher, stepped into his shoe on March 5, 1901. The new shogun was an idealist, perhaps, a dreamer, far ahead of his brother, who were members of the ruling Rana family. He wished to usher Nepal into the modern age.
But it proved a false dawn. Within three months, the Maharaja and Prime Minister was ousted; the only good sign of the times was that it was the first bloodless coup in a century of successive blood-baths. Much has been written about Chandra Shumshere, who had seized power, as a wise Prime Minister but people believe him to be other-wise. A college was not established in Nepal until 1918, slavery not abolished until 1926, a university was not set up until 1958 and the first general elections for a parliament not held until 1959.
Nepal has often been described as ‘a garden of four races and thirty-six castes but in the course of the 19 th century the garden had largely been overrun with weeds and the flowers had gone to seed. A feudal system, a shogunate, supported by priestcraft and soldiery flourished. Religion had degenerated into a dogma, laced with bigotry, and religious tolerance, for which Nepal had been famous in the past, was gone. Consequently, Man had lost his freedom, his rights and his dignity.
Buddhism, history attests, had brought Nepal, India and Tibet very close. When Buddhism declined in India. Nepal had provided a home to those feeling from their viharas. Mahayana had taken root in Nepal; Vajirayana prevailing in the valley of kathmandu and Lamaism among the various peoples in the mountains. The total eclipse of Buddhism in India proved fatal for Nepal too.
Writing in 1880 A.D., H. A. Oldfield noted :
‘Buddhism in Nepal has sadly degenerated from the high standard of doctrine and of discipline which was established by the Primitive Buddhist Church in the early ages of its history. Theoretically the religion is unchanged. Yet it is slowly but steadily being supplanted by Hinduism, and before another century shall have passed away, the religion of Buddha as the creed of the Niwars will have died a natural death, from the effects of its own internal corruption and decay’.
It may be noted that it is very easy for the uninitiated to be misinformed about Najrayana, an esoteric doctrine under a priestly order, which had been much influenced by Tantrism, and which has been struggling though the centuries for its very survival. Ananda Kausalyayana write in 1952. ‘Buddhists of Nepal haven often been criticized for having gone a little astray from the teachings of the Tathagata. Little do the critics realize the unfavourable conditions and troubles which the Buddhist in Nepal had to endure. And to some extent, what is termed as ‘going astray’, is often nothing but mere adaptation of a given way of life to local conditions which is not only indispensiable but even desirable.’
From olden times, the Newars, a Mongoloid people speaking a Tibeto-Burman language and indigenous to the valley of Kathmandu, have provided, except on rare occasions, an example of ‘unity in diversity.’ Their society had a largely Buddhist base, but in the course of centuries they have been much influenced by the Hindus who came to their country from India, and thus Nepal has come to have the dubious distinction of having a caste-ridden Buddhist community. In the matter of faith, the Newars are either Baudhamargi -(those who follow the Buddha’s way) or Shivamargi_(those who follow Shiva’s way), a sect within the Hindu fold. There is however a surprising degree of tolerance between the two, and it is often cited as an example of religious tolerance in Nepal. The vajracharya and the Rajopadhyaya (Brahman) serve as priests to the Baudhamargi and the Shivamargi Newars respectively. The religious practices of the Newars have been likened to that of the Japanese faith in Shinto, Buddhism and folk religion.
By the 18 th century, however, the balance between Buddhism and Hinduism in the valley of Kathmandu had become tilted in favour of the latter with a Brahman Rajguru or Bada Guruju (chief priest), who was made the sole exponent and arbitrator on religious affairs. To quote Ananda Kausalyayana again:
‘I had been to Nepal some twenty years back. I am reminded of the conversation which I then had with the Rajguru of Nepal. He asked me not to abuse the hospitality of Nepal, by which he only meant that I should not preach Buddhism in the country. I replied that I was there simply to study Buddhism and not to preach it.’
It was in these crucial, early years of the Twentieth century that Mahaprajna had come flitting like a tiny and fragile firefly in a dark world to become eventually a faint light in the sky, hardly discernible only to those who seek it. His importance lies in his assertion as well as his natural inclination towards Nepal ‘s ancient heritage left by the Buddha Shakyamuni – Man’s faith in himself. But it became a fight for religious freedom and a crusade against the gods and against men who rule us on their behalf. His experiment with dharma both in a precept, continued, like mahatma Gandhi’s, until his death in 1978.
This article does not speak loudly about his achievements, although they are by no means mean, but it does provided a picture-rate in Nepalese literature of men and ideas and conditions prevalent in the early years of the Twentieth century not only in Nepal but in the neighbouring countries as well.
His was a life of compassion a cardinal point of Buddhism towards all sentient beings, of an yearning for enlightenment and deliverance from suffering, but in the process, quite innocently, he precipitated events that, perhaps, he never imagined would or could come about, events of far-reaching consequences. His most humble efforts to become a man of religion were looked upon with suspicion and fear by the government and by the established religious leaders Buddhists and Hindus alike. It was very easy to like or dislike this simple man, unorthodox in his belief and unconventional in his attitude and appearance.
The Early Years
Born in 1901 A.D. in kathmandu in Shivamargi (Shrestha) family, Nanikaji was very much a man of the world. He was unschooled, yet he was a man of ready wit. Early in his life, he became fascinated with the performing arts but he soon became disillusioned.
A natural aptitude for music made him associate with older people who met regularly in different temples in the town to sing hymns. He became familiar with various men of religion but none took him seriously. To them, he looked too young and immature; they were irrelevant to him. the dissatisfaction deepened; the householder’s life became more and more meaningless to him.
In 1922, a friend took him to a puja being performed in Kathmandu by Kyanche Lama, a great monk from Tibet on a pilgrimage to Nepal, at whose instance about 4,000 Newar householders took vows. At first Nanikaji scoffed at the rituals but as he listened to the explanation of the Buddha’s teaching, he was returning to Tibet, he begged to be allowed to follow him, but he was told:
‘You are a Newar brought up with love and care by your parents and you cannot endure the hardship of life I am used to. For food one has to beg when one is hungry and eat whatever is given. One must lie down wherever one happens to be. There would be no bed, nor covering. Sometimes one comes to a plain, sometimes to a mountain or a glacier or a forest where wild animals live. Such a life you cannot lead. You can practice dharma also at home. Do not wish to come with me.’
Another friend gave Nanikaji a copy of Lalitavisatara (a Mahayana text on the life of the Buddha), which had just then become available in translation in Newari, which he read avidly and he composed hymns about the Buddha. His hymns were however seized by the government from a printing press where he had taken them to be printed because it so happened that another composer of hymns Jog Bir Singh-had been arrested for his own compositions in Newari.
Nanikaji was thrown into despair, fortunately, at about this time another learned monk, Kushyo Rinpoche, brother of the Dalai Lama, of Tsheoo Ling monastery of Lhasa, happened to be in Kathmandu. At the very first sight of this Lama, Nanikaji felt completely at ease with himself and he knew he had found his guru. He wanted to follow the lama but the next morning; he found him gone. After a sleepless night, Nanikaji left his wife and home for ever. He went as fast as he could across the hills, and that evening, he caught up with the Lama. Convinced that Nanikaji would not true back, the Lama let him come to Tibet.
At Kyirong, Nanikaji was initiated as a geshul (novice) by Kushyo Rinpoche at Phags-pa monastery. Soon, thereafter, at the Pangsi monastery, the Abbot gave him further instructions and his name was changed tp Palden Sherab, the Sanskrit form of which was Mahaprajna, by which he was to become known thereafter. Two other Nepalese- Harkha Dev and Kanchha Shakya-were also initiated along with him; they became Palden Khyrab and Palden Dawa. After sometime in Tibet the cold and the snow made the novices recall their warm homeland and they retraced their way back to Nepal. Palden Khyrab went to live at Arughat in Gorkha district while Sherab and Dawa returned to Kathmandu, where they found yet another distinguished and kind Lama, Tshering Norbu, living in a cave in Nagarjun hill. A Rajput from Ladakh, this Lama had spent many years at kham in Tibet, and he suggested that, if permission was given by Maharaja Prime Minister Chandra Shumshere, the paldens were welcome to stay with him.
A Hindu mahatma (holy man) had come to Kathmandu from India in that year 1924 and he had become instantly famous as the Maharaja had been much impressed by him. mahaprajna ran into this mahatma amidst a large gathering of Brahmans in the house of an official whom he had gone to see for permission from the Maharaja to live in Nagarjun Hill. Seeing Mahaprajna, the holy man inquired about him and the official said simply: ‘He is also a mahatma, like you’.
At this, the people gathered there were incensed and they joined issue with the official ‘This man is no mahatma. How can he be a mahatma if he gives up his own dharma?’
To Mahaprajna, they said: why did you forsake your own dharma? You should not take to another dharma. You belong to Shavimarga.
In Mahaprajna’s words, a debate then took place, in effect, as follows:
He : I have not given up my dharma for another dharma.
They : why, haven’t you given up Shivamarga for Budhamarga?
He : There is only one dharma in the world. You are thinking of dharma in different ways. As far as I can see, there is only one dharma. If there are two kinds of dharma, then one dharma must be good and the order bad. It is but dharma to give up the bad one for the good.
They : No, Shiva is Shiva and Buddha is Buddha. The two shall never meet.
He : Sirs, you are being clever, it is dharma that purifies one. If dharma does not make one pure, then it is no dharma at all. To take to dharma is to purify oneself. Only if one is a able to become pure will one experience peace. There is but one dharma, not two, that will give one peace. It is the community that has given various names to dharma, but those who are after dharma always speak of but one dharma.
They : That can never be. Those who follow Shiva and those who follow the Buddha shall never become one. You belong to a caste of Shiva. You must not follow Buddha’s teaching. You must remain a follower of Shiva.
He : Don’t be an atheist. You cannot be a Buddhist. You have to remain a follower of Shiva.
He : They please do not argue. There is only one dharma, not two.
They : Don’t be an atheist. You cannot be a Buddhist. You have to remain a follower of Shiva.
He : Since you are determined to be biased, please prove to me the basic difference in the two dharmas. The difference in dharma must have existed since ancient times, and if it is so, there must to be a basic, elemental difference.
The Indian mahatma, who had been listening to the debate, abruptly got up and went away, which made the Brahmans speechless. After a few minutes, he returned with two men carrying flowers and red powder and confectionary. He put the red power and the flowers, as a mark of respect, on Mahaprajna’s head and he gave the confectionary to him to eat. This done, he took Mahaprajna by his hand and led him out of the assembly without a word, because he had long ago taken a vow of silence. Out on the road, he wrote on a slate he carried with him, ‘Come Hardwar. I live there’.
The First Five Monks
Mahaprajna’s example was soon followed by the friend of his, Dalchin Manandhar, and two others, bekharaj Sahakya and Gyan Shakya. They became novices at Nagarjun hill and their names were changed to Mahagyan, Mahavira and Mahakshanti respectively. The murals in temple gave them the clue to make the traditional monk’s robe for themselves. As they went about the streets of Kathmandu, people vied among themselves to give alms to them. However, quite unexpectedly, Mahaprajna was singled out by one of the leading Vajracharyas, the Buddhist priests of the Newar community, and householders were told to deny alms to him. it was maintained that while the other monks were Buddhists by birth, Mahaprajna was born in a Shivamargi family and that he must have become a monk only to find out about esoteric Vajrayana in order to reveal and destroy it.
In the debate that ensued the true meaning of Vajrayana was apparently lost. Mahaprajna defended himself in these words. ‘The fear expressed by the Vajracharyas show that there is something that is not good among them. Otherwise, what is there to be afraid of? Only those are afraid who have got something to hide.’
The Newars who follow Shivamarga were not happy either; they accused Mahaprajna of not living by his own dharma. A leading member of the community complained to the Maharaja himself, while the Brahmans and Vajracharyas went to the Bada Guruju, the religious authority of the land, who had taken it upon himself, with the blessings of the Maharaja, to see that no religion other than orthodox Hinduism prevailed in the land.
In the meanwhile a law was made to the effect that if a person belonging to Shivamarga became Baudhamargi, he should be made to give it up and imprisoned for one year while the guru who initiated him was to be sentenced to three years in prison; one who sought initiation was to be imprisoned for six months, if he was caught before actual change of faith.
Eventually, the Bada Guruju spoke to the Maharaja, in effect, as follows: yours Highness, the monk Mahaprajna is a Shretha by birth. But he has given up his dharma and has become a Buddhist and he is preaching Baudha dharma.
The Maharaja Let him. What harm is there for us? The Bada Guruju: There is a great danger, Your Highness. It will be very bad for the state.
M: How?: In what way will it harm the state? BG: Your Highness has imposed prohibition on drinks for the good of the people themselves but it did not stop them from making and drinking wine. They insist they need the wine for their religious rituals. They are ready to pay fine and suffer imprisonment. The law is just not obeyed. However, at the instance of the monks, people gave up wine. The people are prepared to listen to a monk, not to the government. Four thousand people have given up drinks voluntarily. This is a serious matter.
M: That’s good. It is a reformation, whosoever may bring it about. Isn’t it so?
BG: Your Highness, the reformation is good, but if the people do not obey the government as readily as they do a monk, will it not harm the state?
The Maharaja summoned the monks before him. after a summary one-sided session, at which the Bada Guruju and the high Shrestha official who had also earlier spoken against Maharaja were present, but without hearing the monks themselves the Maharaja gave the verdict-expulsion from Nepal.
For Mahaprajna and the four other monks, who had never set their feet beyond the valley of Kathmandu, it was a life of great uncertainty that awaited them in India. A life of drift. As Kyanche Lama had put it, a very hard life, never knowing what to eat and where to live.
Mahaprajna first made a pilgrimage to Buddhagaya and to Kusinagara. He went of Varanasi and to Calcutta. Finally he arrived at Kalimpong, from where he went to Tibet with the Lama Tshering Norbu.
From the snowy wastes of Tibet, Mahaprajna traveled to Burma, and to the Arakans and the hill district of Chittagong (now in Bangladesh ).
In reply to an inquiry made by some Buddhists of Calcutta in 1922, it was officially stated that the five monks were expelled because ‘their faith is new and dissimilar to that prevalent among the Buddhists of Nepal.’
Asked by a monk at Chittagong where he was from, Mahaprajna said: ‘from Nepal, Sir. Nepal has Buddhism too but it is of a different sort. Not quite satisfied with that form of Buddhism, I have come here.’
The monk laughed and said: ‘What a fool! One born in the land of the Buddha’s birth, one who learns what is right and what is wrong in his mother’s lap, and a monk at that, to come to such a place of sin to seek wisdom! The Bodhisatwa who became the Buddha would not have been born at all if the people of the land had not been righteous, wise and pious. One who comes from land, where, if a child was to pick up an insect was told by his parents, ‘Oh, no, don’t. it’s a sin, to come here, where, in spite of a constant teaching to the contrary, people would still catch and kill thousands of fish every day. To come to such a land of sin to seek wisdom, what a contrary thing to do!’
Once during my stay in Burma, Mahaprajna wrote, ‘I came to the seashore where it was very quite and pleasant. I noticed many sea creatures with colourful shells of different patterns. They were very pretty and it was a pleasure to watch them move about. However, I observed that these beautiful creatures also had enemies-sea crabs that rose form the depths and caught and killed and ate the creature within the shell.
The shell with a live creature within it moved very slowly, like a snail, but the shell from which the animal has been devoured moved aimlessly, the shell remained but being empty, the movement was quite different.
Seeing this, I became very sad, because it reminded me that in Nepal, almost everyone who followed Buddhism, do so only in name by virtue of the their birth into a Buddhist community for another dharma has got inside them and their behaviour has become altogether different. Compassion, the principle underlying Buddhism, is lost. Those who call themselves Buddhist are engaged in killing. This reversal of truth made me feel very sad it brought tears to my eyes.
Then, it occurred to me that it was useless for me to shed tears far away from home. If I do care so much for my motherland I must make up my mind to return home and do something. And so I resolved.
Once four Vajracharyas came from Kathmandu to Bhojpur and said to the householders there: ‘Is it true that you have listened to the (Theravada) bhikkhu and given up your own Mahayana tradition? You do not know what Mahayana is. In Mahayana you do not have to observe difficult precepts; short mantra is enough to free you from all the sorrows of the world and to take you to Sukhavati Bhuvan. You are giving up the great wisdom of Pragyaparamita for mere pancha sheel (five precepts), which will not free you from the Wheel of Existence but keep you chained to your sorrows. What great fools you are How unfortunate you are! Give up Hinayana. (Also called Theravada) is your own dharma inadequate? Return to it’.
Unable to refute the priests, the householders of Bhojpur wrote to Mahaprajna at Kalimpong in India and he sent a reply, as follows:
‘If Mahayana is great, it must not be given up. But there must be some sign of its greatness. The observation of dharma should bring peace to one’s mind. It should free one of klesa (impurities) which keep one chained to the pit of sorrow day and night. If Mahayana can get rid of klesa, then Mahayana is great indeed, but, if, on the other hand, instead of getting rid of it, one has to become impure oneself by taking wine, meat, fish, etc., how can Mahayana be called really great?’
From Darkness to Light
An enlightened man is often likened to a light, which lights other lights. Half a dozen Lamas and Bhikkhus helped Mahaprajna to become his own lamp. Kyanche Lama gave him his first glimpse of the light at the end of a long tunnel, where he had found himself in his early years. From Kuseo Rinpoche, he got the ordination, and yet another Lama, Sherab Dhargye, Abbot of Pangsi gompa made him a geshul (sramanera) and gave the name Palden Sherab (Mahaprajna). The Abbot of Kechan Shyar near Lhasa gave him the authority to ordain laymen.
Among the bhikkhus who help him was an unnamed one from Burma who made him a sramanera according to Theravada tradition at Buddhagaya while Chandramani Mahasthavir, who subsequently became the guru of many other Nepalese monks, sent him to Burma where he was given the upasampada by U. Keshara. But it was Tshering Norbu who did the most for him.
As a guru or a friend in the dharma, Mahaprajna too played a role in the life of a number of monks and householders. Among these may be mentioned Dalchini Manandhar, who gave Mahaprajna a copy of Nistananda’s Lalitavistara and asked to compose some hymns about the Buddha, and who later became a monk himself and followed him into exile alone with Mahachandra, Mahavirya and Mahakshanti.
Kulman Singh was a physician who treated Mahaprajna when he fell ill in Lhasa, and who later followed in his footsteps under the name of Prajnananda. Shashana Jyoti accompanied Mahaprajna to Burma, and Amritananda went to Bhojpur and kept him company voluntarily in the jails at Bhojpur and Dhankuta.
Among the householders who helped Maharpajna, mention may be made of Dhaman Sahu, who set him off on his way to Kyirong in 1924, Subba Bihari Lal shrestha and his brother Ishwari Lal shrestha. The brothers helped Mahaprajna to go to Tibet while Bhajurtna helped him in many ways during his long stay at Kalimpong. At Chittagong, he was helped by Yogendra Lal Barua. Mention may also be made of a number of the other people in Kathmandu, Chittagong and Darjeeling who helped him and who in turn were helped by him towards enlightenment. Maitteya of Sri Lanka and Baudha Singh Lama of Kalimpong will also be remembered among them.
H.G. wells thought that less than half a dozen persons at the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni really comprehended what he had taught.
A famous legend has it that because few human beings had understood certain discourses given by the Buddha some supernatural nagas had written them down to save them for the time when a human being would be born who could understand them. An Abbot of Nalanda University learnt of this and he brought the sutra back with him from the naga land. Because of his association with the nagas, the Abbot came to be called Nagarjun, a great name in Mahayana, and book safeguarded by the nagas was prajnaparamita (The Perfection of Wisdom).
In the 6 th century A.D. one of the kings of Korea wrote to the emperor of Japan that Buddhism ‘is amongst all doctrines the most excellent, but it is hard to explain and hard to comprehend’.
T. Stcherbatsky, in more recent times, tried to explain the doctrine, as follows: ‘Reality according to Buddhists is kinetic, not static, but logic, on the other hand, imagines a reality stabilized in concepts and names. The ultimate aim of Buddhist logic is to explain the relation between a moving reality and the static construction of thought’.
Yet another explanation by two modern authors is as follows: According to its fundamental doctrine, all living being are doomed to successive lives in an endless and hateful cycle of existence. The state in which any being is reborn on a particular occasion depends on past deeds and the intention behind them (Karma). However, this is really a secondary consideration because, to live is to suffer. Therefore, the aim is to break the cycle to rebirth and so to be free from suffering forever. Suffering has its cause in a craving for existence and pleasure which can be suppressed by moral conduct, mental discipline and wisdom. It is possible then for a person to break the cycle of existence and cases to be reborn by eliminating selfish desires.
Such then is the doctrine that Mahaprajna had tried to comprehend, and, on occasions, to explain. However hard it was to comprehend the doctrine, countless men have been moved by the ideas of compassion and service to others rather than for self, or rather selfish perfection, and by the belief in Buddha nature in everybody which meant that none are beyond redemption. But in those days, the task he had set upon himself was like that of a man setting out to climb Mt. Everest all alone by himself.
When three men of Kalimpong failed to become upasaka (Buddhist householders) because they didn’t want to hurt their mother’s feeling as she thought that it would embarrass her before the Brahman whom they had employed as a priest and that he might refuse to take care of life-cycle rituals for the family, Mahaprajna told the brothers.
Dharma has to be absolutely free; it cannot be imposed.
There is no need to hurt your mother’s feeling. Please don’t do it. But be firm in your belief in the law of karma, which means that you would have to give up whatever brings sorrow. You should succeed in freeing yourself from sorrow.
If you wish to have peace of mind, be friendly towards all sentient beings, and if you wish your karma to be correct be compassionate towards all. If you wish to be happy, give up had habits and cultivate good ones. If you wish to be called a gentleman, be honest. Deceive none; be truthful.
Do not be led away be hearsay. Arrive at a definite conclusion before committing yourself, because, only if you are firm in your belirf, your path will be straight.’
Mahaprajna was more than a monk. He was also a poet, writer and artist. He made a number of Buddha images and he even managed to make a printing press. He spent much time in making. His own translation of Lalitavistara and printed it himself.
The Call of the Country
Life in exile, even for a monk, is not easy. Sympathy and kindness of people may be helpful to some extent but an irresistible urge to return home is always at the back of the mind.
In 1929, Mahaprajna came to Kathmandu, disguised as a Hindu mendicant along with several thousand pilgrims, during the festival of Shivaratri. Within a week, he had to be back in India.
Once he confessed to some people in Chittagong: ‘Born in the foothills of the Himalayas, it is difficult to stay long in a hot place.’ So, the next best place for him was the Darjeeling district of Bengal in India where he came to live in 1934 and found himself at home among the many people of Nepalese origin who lived there. But when a Newar trader from eastern Nepal suggested that he come to live in his town. Mahaprajna arrived at Bhojpur without thinking of the consequence. He was welcomed by the Shakya community of Khikacacha Taksar and with their help, heestablished, in 1936, a small vihara called Srishakyamuni Vihara, after the image of the Buddha Shakyamuni, which he had made for himself. It was the first Theravada vihara in Nepal in recent history.
The religious activity of the townsmen was however bound to attract the attention of the authorities and before long the Bada Hakim (governor) arrived at the vihara to investigate. He admired the image of the Buddha but he was also alarmed to learn that mahaprajna was none other than one of the five monks expelled from Nepal in 1924. the Bada Hakim feared that Mahaprajna had already a strong support from the local population and the following charges were made against him.
- Returning to Nepal after having been expelled.
- Giving lectures about Buddhism, which is prohibited.
- Giving initiation in Buddhism, which is prohibited.
- Taking out, without permission, a procession with the Buddha image.
He was arrested along with nine local laymen. Amritananda a sramanera (novice) then, was also there but when he found himself ignored, he asked to go along with his guru, Mahaprajna and he too was taken and confined in the local revenue office.
After a week’s internment, the laymen were released on parole and it was suggested to them that the payment of a few thousand rupees should help release Mahaprajna too. Mahaprajna forbade payment but he advised a prominent townsman, Dev Bahadur, to go to Kathmandu and submit a petition to the Maharaja himself.
In the meanwhile, the Bada Hakim was further alarmed when the found that Mahaprajna had begun to have some influence among the militiamen who were guarding him. So, he sent him and Amritananda to the local jail, where he found not only criminals but also innocent men suffering on trumphed up charges. The jailor of Bhojpur happened to be a Tamang, a Buddhist tribe, and as he came to know Mahaprajna better, he was much impressed and he honoured him a his own guru. Before long there was a change in the jailor’s behaviour and the inmates of the jail began to respect Mahaprajna too. A change in the atmosphere was not long in coming and the Bada Hakim was further alarmed. As soon as the Bada Hakim received an instruction from Kathmandu to send the monks back to where they had come from, he arranged for their transfer to the next district. The Inmates of the jail gave a tearful farewell while the jailor made a present to Mahaprajna and asked to be remembered. The Bada Hakim himself came and said: ‘Bhikkhuji, you are a mahatma (holy man) ans I don’t have to say to you but you know I have nothing against you personally. As a government official, I have to act according to law. Please excuse me’.
Mahaprajna replied: ‘Hakim sahib, it is not in our dharma to blame anyone. Everything depends on one’s own karma. Perhaps, I was a Bada Hakim myself in a former life and I might have caused troubles to holy men and as a consequence, I must have undergone imprisonment. You are not to be blamed.’