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The Inspirer and Present Guru of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

He has a heart wherein the whole world can live

Spiritual Teachings Made Simple:

"That's a trick mirror, so you see teeth. If you really have teeth you should be able to see them as plainly as you can see the palm of your hand without the mirror!"
After his afternoon siesta Swamishri was seated in his room surrounded by a group of sadhus in Gondal. It was after four, and an attendant had placed before him a tray of dry fruits and fresh fruits. The thal had been offered to Harikrishna Maharaj and now Swamishri was being asked to accept a little.
This was a daily routine that the sadhus looked forward to everywhere. It was a time when they could closet Swamishri to themselves. Everything would be informal. There would be mild chit chat, somebody would crack a joke and everybody, including Swamishri, would laugh loudly. It was a time where Swamishri could add his personal touch, he would sit with the sadhus around him and warmly reciprocate - nothing could equal these almost intimate meetings. Prasad would be distributed to all present. Swamishri would serve heaped handfuls, sometimes selecting a particular fruit for a particular sadhu.
The ten minutes so spent have over the years become precious moments of closeness. At times Swamishri takes the opportunity to teach a simple lesson, adopting the method according to the sadhus present.
Amongst the sadhus before him in Gondal was little Ramji Bhagat sitting in a corner. Swamishri called him closer and gave him some prasad. He himself had only taken a piece of apple.
"Swami," said Devcharan Swami, "please take something yourself." Swamishri picked up a slice of orange and broke it into two. One piece he popped into his mouth, the other he gave to Ramji Bhagat. Again Devcharan Swami said, "Bapa, You eat the orange. Ramji has teeth and so he can eat fruits such as jamfal." Devcharan Swami was refering to a hard seeded fruit, similar in shape and size to an apple. There was a giggle around the room. Ramji Bhagat was often a target of playful teasing. He always rose to the occasion.
"Ramji, do you have teeth? asked Swamishri seriously.
"Yes, Shaami." Ramji Bhagat had difficulty pronouncing 'Swami'.
"Can you see your teeth?"
"No, Shaami."
"Then why do you say that you have teeth?" The sadhus were looking from one face to the other.
"But Shaami, when I look in the mirror I see teeth. Yes, I do have teeth." Ramji Bhagat was convinced of the fact.
"That's a trick mirror, so you see teeth. If you really have teeth you should be able to see them as plainly as you can see the palm of your hand without the mirror!"
Everyone burst out laughing, Swamishri and Ramji Bhagat the most.
"Shaami, teeth cannot be seen, but I do have them!"
A broad smile filled Swamishri face. He taught, "See how convinced he is that he has a full set of teeth! We should have a likewise conviction of having attained the association of God."
* * *
Expounding on the difficult philosophical subject of maya, Swamishri brought the subject down to earth. He separated the philosophy from the practical and in his usual simple language made available to the unlearned devotees before him spiritual knowledge of the utmost importance. He said, "What is maya's webbing like? Even the most powerful become entangled. Think of it as a group of gamblers. They see you approaching from a distance and so begin a game. One of them stakes a rupee, it's all pretence and he wins ten. You stand for a moment to watch and the thought comes: 'Looks like it's worth playing. Everyone's winning, so why won't I.' You stake all of your money, and lose it. That's how we get stuck in the webbing. There are many such enticing traps in the world. The outside appearance is good, showcase goods are always different, just by seeing them we give an order. But the goods sent home to us are rubbish, not of the same quality. Timber merchants hide cracks in wood by careful filling with paste. The wood looks OK and so a customer buys, but at the first stroke of the plain the crack is seen. Maya's webbing is like that, tempting and baiting, decoying. On the surface there is brilliance and inside, darkness. A person who has knowledge of atma and Paramatma is never trapped by maya."
He illustrates the deceitful ways of the world and its ultimate nature of worthlessness with clear similes drawn from daily life. "In the olden days if we were ploughing land in a village owned by a darbar ruler, and had built good homes on the land, even then nothing would really be ours. The darbar may have a dream in the middle of the night and give orders for us to clear out by morning! We would have to leave. Our circumstances in this world are the same. Without warning we'll have to depart at any time. It's all right if you involve yourself in the dealings of day to day life, but at the same time always bear in mind where the atma is really to go and sit."
* * *
He graphically shows how we change our behaviour once we have understood the greatness of a truth. "If the Prime Minister were to wear simple clothes and come to this sabha without all the entourage, becoming quite ordinary, and he sits right next to you squeezing in, then you at once tick him off. 'Hey you! Get up, pushing in right in the middle!' But then someone identifies him to us as the Prime Minister. Then? We'd stand up immediately, 'Welcome! Welcome! I'm very lucky to have met you!' We'd take him home, offer him tea and snacks."
Swamishri goes on to say that we should similarly understand the greatness of God and the Satpurush who appear as humans, normal, just like us. But They are different. Once we perceive Their true virtue and stature our love for Them changes, our behaviour improves.
* * *
Entering Satsang can be difficult for some. An almost complete change of life is required. Bad habits have to be replaced with good ones, self discipline and control have to be learnt, sometimes painfully. Swamishri presses home the need for patience. He explains, "Once an ox is old enough he has to be broken. This is done by inserting a thick string through its nose. At first the ox pulls the strings out. And if he does allow it to remain he only walks a few paces and then refuses to walk on. But the farmer then carefully trains it and soon the ox co-operates. And then whenever you join it to a plough, water wheel or a cart, it quietly goes everywhere. When the neck becomes strong and callous the yoke does not hurt. Similarly, when one is new to Satsang it is difficult to do daily puja, reading, ekadashi, come to the temple, but after a while we become strong and it all becomes natural, the mind becomes stable."
Satsang, Swamishri says, should be considered 'home'. If this is done then spiritual life becomes easier. The chances of falling from Satsang are reduced. "Satsang should be done for the salvation of the soul. When we go to the temple we may be treated sociably or just ignored. Not everyone in the temple is the same. However, if we believe Satsang to be our home then no problem is there. Don't we slave away for our wives and children day and night? And even then when we return home in the evening is anyone waiting at the door with a garland, 'Come, come! You really are working so hard!' Do they say 'Thank you'. Even a glass of water we have to fetch ourselves. But home is home, so we never feel hurt. In the same way if we believe Satsang to be home and if Satsang has touched our souls, then there will be no obstacles that can hinder us."
* * *
Swamishri is very clear about achar-vichar, religious thought and conduct for aspirants. He stresses the need for pure behaviour, "It is only when first dharma is firmly entrenched in one's life that later God's darshan can be had. If we possess land that is fertile and covered with wild growing bushes and trees, and on that land we throw the finest of seeds, would crops grows? No! First the land has to be cleared of all trees. Similarly, as long as our minds remain dirty, impure, we will not be able to serve the Lord. This is why we have been commanded to have pure achar-vichar."
* * *
How does the Satpurush help an aspirant to God consciousness? Swamishri clarifies using an everyday law of nature. "As long as there is the pull of gravity whatever we throw up is always going to come down. But once it is out of gravity's attraction it will not fall back. Likewise, as long as we believe ourselves to be in truth this body, and have overwhelming fondness of money and family, and are attracted to the material world we are consigned to the cycle of birth and death. The Satpurush removes our worldly likings and ignorance, he liberates us from the pull of the world and delivers us in the service of the Lord."
* * *
Although the scriptures go to great lengths singing the glories of the Satpurush and his relationship with God, when such a Satpurush talks of Their special bond it becomes a very delicate matter. Misunderstandings are easily born. The truth, however cannot be hidden or brushed aside. To do so would be to damage the sincere aspirant's spiritual progress. Swamishri is often asked questions relating to his own spiritual realisations, and in particular, to his role as the Satpurush and his relationship with God. His words are better heard then read, for his voice conveys a rare egolessness.
Dr. Sudhirbhai of Brian, Texas, wanting to clear up a problem he was experiencing in his duly puja asked, "I have never seen Shriji Maharaj and so it is impossible for me to imagine Him, or see Him in my morning meditation and maansi worship during puja. I have, however, seen you. Is it all right for me to imagine you in my maansi worship?"
Swamishri replied, "Our Lord is Shriji Maharaj. We have faith in Him. Maansi puja is to be performed with His image in our minds and hearts. If we have, however, met a guru who is God realised, then because of association with such a guru we can also reach God. Such a Satpurush has a unique relationship with God. Because he has seen God such a Satpurush can be remembered during puja. If we want to worship sacred water from the Ganges than we worship the jar containing the sacred water. This is because the jar contains the Gangajal. Likewise, God is totally present in a true Satpurush, so by worshipping him, God is in true fact being worshipped.
* * *
To enjoy something as beneficial and beautiful as Satsang by oneself is to be selfish. Swamishri says that it is through God's grace that people are granted Satsang, and to let others know of Satsang and its greatness is a service not just to God but to society. He often urges devotees to preach. He uses lucid examples. "In one day more than a hundred customers visit a cloth merchant's shop. He treats all of them politely and patiently, opening out the large rolls of cloth for them to examine and consider, explaining the merits of the piece.
"'This piece is of very good quality. It is worth taking home. And as you're a regular customer I'll give it to you at a discount.' Even if the man doesn't buy anything the merchant is not frustrated! The goods (Satsang) that we have are of the finest quality. Why should we be frustrated in speaking of Satsang. Some people may appreciate our message, others may not, but at least we have served, and our own faith is strengthened."
* * *
Once he was walking back to his room after the evening sabha in Atladra when a man fell at his feet in a bundle and began sobbing. Swamishri gently lifted him up. The man said, "If you had not talked in the sabha today (of my drawbacks) I would have permanently fallen from Satsang. Because of a volunteer I had become spiteful of Satsang. You talked of things that were buried in my heart. Today you have cut to shreds all my doubts."
Swamishri had not directly addressed the satsangi, indeed, he seldom does to anyone. His message is universal, but there is always someone unknown in the crowd who is a particular target. The crowds drive home, a soul is elevated.
His sentences are bare and simple, devoid of dressing. His style of speaking is forthright, with none of the mechanical manipulation of a professional speaker. Yet his words possess a cutting edge that finds the target and penetrates to the heart.
Bhailalbhai of Javaraj, had his doubts about the Akshar Pusushottam upasana preached by Shastriji Maharaj. He sent a letter to Swamishri expressing his scepticism. To clear his misunderstanding, Swamishri penned a five page letter:
The upasana preached by Shastriji Maharaj is not at all contradictory to the principles laid down by Maharaj.
Explaining the relationship between Akshar and Purushottam, Swamishri continued:
Without Akshar, Purushottam cannot exist - that is not correct. Akshar is the abode of Maharaj (Purushottam), His devotee and His servant. The supporter of Akshar is Maharaj. However, Maharaj's abode is Akshar and it is essential to attain oneness with Akshar (become Aksharrup) to offer worship to Maharaj...not worship Akshar as such but worship Maharaj. Vachanamritam Loya 12 mentions Uttam Nirvikalp Nischay (the highest category of the knowledge of the Lord)... We pray for this knowledge daily after the evening arti...'Nirvakalp Uttam Ati Nischay Tav Ghanshyam...'
In Vachanamritam Loya 12, Maharaj talks of this knowledge... A devotee possessing the highest category of Nirvikalp Nischay has realised that millions of macrocosms, each encircled by eight spheres, appear like atoms before the infinite greatness of Akshar. This Akshar is the divine abode of Purushottam Narayan. One has to attain oneness with Akshar to offer worship to Lord Purushottam.
In Vachanamritam Gadhada I/21, Maharaj talks about the two forms of Akshar. One is the abode and the other remains in the service of the Lord. The abode form of Akshar is Akshardham, where Maharaj resides. It seems that this abode is acting as a support to Maharaj and therefore Maharaj's greatness may seem somewhat diminished, but this is not the case. If God is seated on a horse, it seems as if the horse is supporting Him, but actually God's importance has not lessened; in reality, He is the support of the horse... In this way, Maharaj is the ultimate support of Akshar. Maharaj is independent and if He wishes, He can also exercise His powers to merge Akshar in Himself and support the Muktas independently. Therefore a Swami-Sevak, master-servant, relationship exists between Maharaj and Swami. Maharaj is the master, the controller. Akshar is His servant. This is our upasana.
In this way, Swamishri clarified the relationship between Akshar and Purushottam, clearing any misunderstanding that Akshar is higher than or on par with Purushottam.

Gunatitanand Swami Bhagatji Maharaj Yogiji Maharaj Shastriji Maharaj Pramukh Swami Maharaj Bhagwan Swaminarayan Gunatitanand Swami Bhagatji Maharaj Yogiji Maharaj Shastriji Maharaj Pramukh Swami Maharaj Bhagwan Swaminarayan

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