Mahatma (/məˈhɑːtmə, -ˈhæt-/) is
Sanskrit for "Great Soul"
(महात्मा mahātmā: महा mahā (great) +
आत्मं or आत्मन ātman [soul]). It is similar in
usage to the modern English term saint. This epithet is commonly
applied to prominent people like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
(1869-1948), Munshiram (later Swami Shraddhananda, 1856–1926), Lalon
Ayyankali (1863-1941) and Jyotirao Phule
(1827–1890). It has also been historically used for a class of Jain
1 Mahatma Gandhi's title "Mahatma"
3 Divine Light Mission
4 In popular culture
5.1 Mahatma Hirananda of Mewad
Jain Mahatmas in the Dabestan-e Mazaheb
10 External links
Mahatma Gandhi's title "Mahatma"
Main article: Mahatma Gandhi
According to some authors
Rabindranath Tagore is said to have used on
March 6, 1915, this title for Gandhi. Some claim that he was called
Mahatma by the residents of Gurukul Kangadi in April 1915, and he
in turn called the founder Munshiram a Mahatma (who later became Swami
Shraddhananda). However, a document honoring him on Jan 21, 1915, at
Jetpur, Gujarat, calling him Mahatma is preserved. The use of the
term Mahatma in
Jainism to denote a class of lay priests, has been
noted since the 17th century. A Mahatma is someone who practices
The word, used in a technical sense, was popularized in theosophical
literature in the late 19th century, when Madame Helena Blavatsky, one
of the founders of the Theosophical Society, claimed that her teachers
were adepts (or Mahatmas) who reside in Asia.
According to the Theosophical teachings, the Mahatmas are not
disembodied beings, but highly evolved people involved in overseeing
the spiritual growth of individuals and the development of
civilizations. Blavatsky was the first person in modern times to claim
contact with these Adepts, especially the "Masters"
Koot Hoomi and
Alvin Boyd Kuhn
Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote about mahātmās:
The Masters whom
Theosophy presents to us are simply high-ranking
students in life's school of experience. They are members of our own
evolutionary group, not visitants from the celestial spheres. They are
supermen only in that they have attained knowledge of the laws of life
and mastery over its forces with which we are still struggling.
In September and October 1880, Blavatsky visited A. P. Sinnett at
Simla in northern India. Sinnett wrote
The Occult World
The Occult World (1881) and
Esoteric Buddhism (1883).
There has been a great deal of controversy concerning the existence of
adepts. Blavatsky's critics have doubted the existence of her Masters.
See, for example, W. E. Coleman's "exposes".
After Blavatsky's death in 1891, numerous individuals have claimed to
be in contact with her
Adept Teachers. These individuals have stated
that they are new "messengers" of the Masters and they have conveyed
various esoteric teachings. Currently, various New Age,
metaphysical, and religious organizations refer to them as Ascended
Masters, although their character and teachings are in several
respects different from those described by Theosophical writers.
Some individuals[who?] believe that Mahatma Maitreya (also called
World Teacher) will make contact with all Humanity in January 2017.
Divine Light Mission
Divine Light Mission (DLM) was a Sant Mat-based movement begun in
India in the 1930s by
Hans Ji Maharaj and formally incorporated in
1960. The DLM had as many as 2,000 Mahatmas, all from India or Tibet,
who taught the DLM's secret meditation techniques called "Knowledge".
The Mahatmas, called "realised souls", or "apostles", also served
as local leaders. After Hans Ji's death in 1966 his youngest son,
Prem Rawat (known then as Guru Maharaj Ji or Bagyogeshwar), succeeded
him. The young guru appointed some new Mahatmas, including one from
the United States. In one incident, a prominent Indian Mahatma nearly
beat a man to death in Detroit for throwing a pie at the guru. In
the early 1980s,
Prem Rawat replaced the Divine Light Mission
organization with the Elan Vital and replaced the Mahatmas with
initiators. The initiators did not have the revered status of the
Mahatmas, and they were drawn mostly from Western followers. In
the 2000s, the initiators were replaced by a video in which Rawat
teaches the techniques himself.
In popular culture
W.C. Fields used the pseudonym Mahatma Kane Jeeves when writing the
The Bank Dick
The Bank Dick (1940), in a play on both the word "Mahatma"
and a phrase an aristocrat might use when addressing a servant, before
leaving the house: "My hat, my cane, Jeeves".
Further information: Yati
Mewad Ramayana manuscript: The colophon in red: states text was
written by the Mahatma Hirananda, was commissioned by Acarya Jasvant
for the library of Maharana Jagat Singh I of Mewar. Finished on Friday
25 November 1650
Among the Jains the term Mahatma is used for class for scholars who
Mahatma Hirananda of Mewad
The Mewad Ramayana described as "one of the most beautiful
manuscripts in the world" has been digitally reunited after being
split between organisations in the UK and India for over 150 years, by
the British Library and CSMVS Museum in Mumbai. The colophon states
that the text, commissioned by Acarya Jasvant for the library of
Maharana Jagat Singh I of Mewar, was written by the Mahatma Hirananda,
was finished on Friday 25 November 1650. Mahatma Hirananda being a
Jain scribe, incorporated traditional
Jain scribal elements into the
Jain Mahatmas in the Dabestan-e Mazaheb
Dabestan-e Mazaheb often attributed to one Mohsin Fani,
written around 1655 CE. is a text written in the Mughal period that
describes various religions and philosophies the author
encountered. Its Section 11 is dedicated to Jainism. It states:
"Similar to the durvishes of both classes (Srivaras and Jatis) is a
third sect, called Mahá-átma; they have the dress and appearance of
Jatis; only they do not pluck their hair with tweezers, but cut it.
They accumulate money, cook their meal in their houses, drink cold
water, and take to them a wife." The term Mahatma was thus used for
priest/scholars who were not celibate. The present Persian edition of
the text by Rezazadeh Malik attributes it to the son and successor of
Azar Kayvan, 'Kay Khosrow Esfandiyar'.
K. Paul Johnson in his books speculates that the "Masters" that
Blavatsky wrote about and produced letters from were actually
idealizations of people who were her mentors. Aryel Sanat, author
of The inner life of Krishnamurti: private passion and perennial
wisdom, wrote that Johnson "claims in all of his books that there were
no Masters at all in early [Theosophical Society] history, & that
[Helena Blavatsky] invented them (as others had claimed she had
invented her travels)." Sanat wrote that Johnson "deliberately ignores
the main sources of evidence for their real physical existence."
What Sanat thought these were is not made quite clear.
French, Brendan James (2000) The theosophical masters: an
investigation into the conceptual domains of H.P. Blavatsky and C.W.
Leadbeater. PhD thesis, University of Sydney, Department of Religious
Johnson, K. Paul (1994) The Masters Revealed: Madam Blavatsky and Myth
of the Great White Brotherhood. Albany, New York: State University of
New York Press.
Johnson, K. Paul (1995) Initiates of Theosophical Masters. Albany, New
York: State University of New York Press.
Kalnitsky, Arnold (2003) The Theosophical Movement of the Nineteenth
Century: The Legitimation of the Disputable and the Entrenchment of
the Disreputable. University of South Africa. Dissertation: 443 pp.
Kuhn, Alvin Boyd (1930) Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom.
PhD Thesis. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing.
^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905).
New International Encyclopedia
New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd,
^ Dutta, Krishna and Andrew Robinson, Rabindranath Tagore: An
Anthology, p. 2
^ और इस तरह गांधी महात्मा बन
^ jaitpur men hue Gandhiji Mahatma, Jansatta, Nov. 22, 2006
^ Sankar R N, Ajith (Jul–Dec 2012). "Ascertaining Linkages between
Trikaranasuddhi and 'Tapping Spirituality as the Context of
Leadership'". IPE Journal of Management. 1 (2): 81–105.
SSRN 2212138 .
^ Kuhn (1930), – p. 147.
^ Madame Blavatsky & the Latter-Day Messengers of the Masters.
^ Leadbeater, C. W. The Masters and the Path. Adyar, India:
Theosophical Publishing House, 1929 (Reprint: Kessinger Publishing,
^ Partridge, Christopher ed. New Religions: A Guide: New Religious
Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities Oxford University
Press, USA 2004.
^ a b Price, Maeve (1979): The
Divine Light Mission as a social
organization. (1) Sociological Review, 27, Page 279-296
^ Levine, Saul V. in Galanter, Marc (1989). Cults and New Religious
Movements: A Report of the American Psychiatric Association. American
Psychiatric Pub., Inc. ISBN 0-89042-212-5.
^ Bartel, Dennis (November 1983). "Who's Who in Gurus". Harper's.
^ In pictures: Stunning Ramayana manuscript goes digital, BBC, 21
^ The Mewar Ramayana at the British Library: How the complete digital
version came to be
^ Ramayana - Pages 21 and 22 (British Library Add. MSS 15296-15297 and
IO San 3621)
^ Ramayana - Pages 3 and 4
^ The Dabistán: Or, School of Manners: The Religious Beliefs,
Observances, Philosophic Opinions and Social Customs of the Nations of
the East, Fani Muhsin, Translated by David Shea, Anthony Troyer,
Publisher, M. Walter Dunne, 1901 p. 275-276
^ Johnson (1994), Johnson (1995) – p. 49.
^ "Aryel Sanat (Miguel Angel Sanabria) is currently Adjunct Professor
in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the American
University in Washington, D.C." // About author of The inner life of
Krishnamurti in 1999.
Dutta, Krishna and Andrew Robinson. Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology.
Picador/Macmillan: London, 1997.
Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
The theosophical Mahatmas