Sukhlal Sanghvi

8 Dec 1880
13 Dec 2018
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Sukhlal Sanghvi (1880 – 1978) also known as Pandit Sukhlalji was a Jain Scholar and Philosopher. He belonged to the Sthanakvasi sect of Jainism. Pandit Sukhlal lost his eyesight at the age of sixteen on account of small-pox. However, he overcame this handicap and became profoundly versed in Jain logic and rose to become a professor at Banaras Hindu University. Paul Dundas calls him one of the most incisive modern interpreters of Jain philosophy. Dundas notes that Sanghavi represents what now seems to be a virtually lost scholarly and intellectual world. He was a mentor for famous Jain scholar Padmanabh Jaini. During his lifetime he won such awards as the Sahitya Akademi Award and won recognition from the Government of India by getting Padma Bhushan award. Sukhlalji was also known as Pragnachaksu because he was so vastly learned despite being visually challenged.

Sukhlal was born in the village of Limbdi, Saurashtra, Gujarat on 8 December 1880 (fifth day of the bright day of the month of Margshersh in Vikram Samvat 1937).He belonged to Visa Shrimali Vanik community (merchant community) of Gujarat. Talshi Sanghvi and his first wife Maniben were his parents. His mother died when he was four years old. He was raised in Limbdi by his distant relative, Muljibhai from Sayla. He lost his eyesight following small pox infection when he was sixteen. This made him more introspective and he devoted his life to learning.

He attended discourses of Jain monks, and studied scriptures with the help of a reader. In 1904, he joined Shri Yashovijaya Jain Sanskrit Pathshala at Benaras. Within three years he committed to memory the whole of Siddha-Hema-vyakarana. Besides grammar, he studied Tarkasamraha, Muktavali, and Vyaptichakra with various commentaries. He also became well-conversant with epics like Raghuvamsha, Maghakavya, and Naishadhacharitam, besides Alamkarashastra and Kosha. For further studies he went to Mithila in 1911, and then to Kashi where he devoted himself to a study of philosophy and literature. Later, he went to Agra where he edited important Jain works like Panchapratikramana, the first four Karma granthas of Devendrasuri. and Yogadarsana and Yogavimshika of Haribhadra Suri.After passing Nyayacarya examination he continued to teach at Jain pathshalas where his students included furure scholar-monks like Muni Jinvijay, Muni Lalitvijay and Muni Punyavijay

In 1922 he joined Puratattva Mandir of Gujarat Vidyapith as professor of Indian philosophy. Here he edited Sanamatitarka of Siddhasena Divakara in five volumes containing valuable indices and appendices. He was assisted by Pandit Bechardasji in this task. From 1933 to 1944 he was a professor of Jain Philosophy at Benaras Hindu University. He devoted most of his time to writing and editing a number of valuable works in Sanskrit, Hindi, and Gujarati. He edited Tattvarthasutra and Nyayavatara in Gujarati with texts and translations. He edited Pramana-mimamsa by Hemacandra, with detailed introduction and notes. He not only corrected the original readings with the help of the photocopies of the original manuscripts but also gave other comparative readings. He critically edited Jayarashi’s Tatavapaplava – a systematic work of Charvakas which brought him wide recognition. He threw new light on the history of Buddhist philosophy by editing Archata’s commentary on Dharmakirti’s Hetubindu. After retirement from Bananas Hindu University in 1944, he came back to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan where he worked with Jain monk Acarya Jinavijayaji. In 1957, Sukhlalji was invited by the M.S. University of Baroda to deliver five lectures on Indian philosophy, which were published in Gujarati (1951), Hindi (1971) and English (1977). His scholarly lectures or Atma-Paramatma and Sadhana delivered at Gujarat Vidyasabha were also published in Hindi and Gujarati under the title of Adhyatma vicharana The University of Bombay also invited him for lectures on Acharya Haribhadra, which were published both in Gujarati (1961) and in Hindi (1966).

Young Sukhlalji was inspired by the writings of Pandit Nathuram Premi, who was to become a close family friend. Sukhlalji was non-sectarian in his attitude and shared a good rapport with many Digambara scholars like Premiji and observed their mutual respect:

“He (Premiji) was considered to be a Pandit – a scholar of Jain tradition. To me it was a surprise! How could his writings be so impartial and audacious? I had come in contact with many Jain friends and scholars, but until then, excepting a few, I had not come across any scholar who was as non-sectarian or fearless as Premiji. So I had developed the perception that it was impossible to find a Jain scholar who was non-sectarian as well as fearless. Premiji’s writings gradually made me realize that I had the wrong notion. This was the foremost reason for me to be attracted towards him.

We had an excellent understanding of traditions of one another but we had no sectarian complicities.”
Sukhlalji also mentored three scholars of Jainism – Dr Mahendrakumar Nyayacarya, Prof Dr Padmanabh Jaini and Dr Dalsukh Malvania. Out of these, the second and third were his direct students. Sukhlalji always insisted on learning of Pali Canon for understanding Jainism and encouraged young Padmanabh Jaini to visit Sri Lanka to study Buddhism.Author B. K. Matilal notes that Sukhlalji advocated “a non-partisan historical comparative study of any Sanskrit philosophical text” and noted in his preface to Advanced Studies in Indian Logic and Metaphysics (1961):”I became firmly convinced that the study of any philosophical system inevitabely demands certain prerequisites and these prerequisites include a fairly accurate understanding of the historical inter-relationships between the various philosophical systems of India.”

He was known for his vast learning, sound scholarship, remarkable memory and for being a very ethical and conscientious person. Pandit Sukhlalji worked with a vast array of scholars and was good friends with all of them, despite not always agreeing with them. Some of the luminaries he worked with include: Muni Jinavijaya, Muni Punyavijaya, Acarya Premi Suri, Pandit Nathuram Premi, Pandit Jugalkishore Mukhtar, Dr Hiralal Jain, Dr A N Upadhye, Dr. Mahendrakumar Nyayacarya, Prof. Dr. Padmanabh Jaini, Dr. Dalsukh Malvania and Dr. Nagin J. Shah.

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