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The Inspirer and Present Guru of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

He has a heart wherein the whole world can live

With Blessings:

Some choose to talk to him, either in person or over the phone.
Some listen to him speak in public,
others in private.
Some merely pray from a distance.
Others just think of him, yet even in that they find a solution to their problems.
And others choose to write to him.
To have a rakhadi put on one's wrist by Swamishri on Rakshabandhan probably ranks as one of the most privileged events for a devotee in his life.
Naturally, there was something of a mad rush to reach Swamishri.
A young boy joined the confused rush to receive Swamishri's personal blessings. As he approached Swamishri, he tried to raise himself by getting on his toes but he failed to keep his balance. At the same time, people on either side of him were pushing to come forward. Three times he tried and three times he lost his balance and was swept away by the crowd.
What now?
All the boy wanted was to merely touch Swamishri. With each failure, his hopes began to wane, but then his mind jumped at another idea. He moved to the side away from the chaos and scribbled a short note for Swamishri.
When the rush lightened, he tried again. He approached Swamishri. Getting on his toes, he stretched out both hands high, holding the note above his head. Swamishri's attention was pulled to the child. He bent down a little and understanding the child's gesture, took the note from his hands and blessed him. The kid's joy knew no bounds.
The assembly over, Swamishri returned to his room. Although it was no more than a simple note written haphazardly by a young child, Swamishri had faithfully kept the scrap of paper. At the first opportunity, he read the note and placed it for safekeeping in his pagh.
Two days passed uneventfully. After finishing his evening meal on the third day, Swamishri called one of the local sadhus. He showed him the note, "Here, read this..."
Before the sadhu could start reading, Swamishri spoke, "You think that 'the higher we seat Swami on a sinhasan, the greater his prestige'. But why bother with such pomp? The least you can do is to arrange the seating in such a way that the child and I could meet each other freely. One's greatness is in no way elevated by sitting on a high sinhasan."
Swamishri was not pleased as it went against his natural desire of meeting his beloved devotees. Despite his exalted spiritual status - God realised - out of compassion, Swamishri has become like us - a human - and reaches out to us so that we can reach out to him.
Some choose to talk to him, either in person or over the phone.
Some listen to him speak in public, others in private.
Some merely pray from a distance.
Others just think of him, yet even in that they find a solution to their problems.
And others choose to write to him, anything from a short note scribbled on the back of a postcard to a fancy letter typed and sent by fax.
People of all beliefs and backgrounds write to Swamishri for almost every conceivable reason. Some write for inspiration; some write with questions, others with afflictions; some write for advice, others for blessings; some write to confess and lighten their hearts, while there are those who simply write to say hello.
Well-known tax collector and social worker, Hiralal Sodha of Bombay wrote to Swamishri:
Despite your heavy schedule, you have never lapsed in answering your letters... Truly, this is proof of your greatness. When I was in Rajkot recently, I had to say a few words about a certain sadhu belonging to a different Faith. I spoke frankly that this sadhu had lapsed in replying to his letters while Pujya Shri Pramukh Swami, despite his busy schedule, reads every letter thoroughly and gives an immediate reply to each one...
I consider it to be one of my life's great privileges that I have received a letter from you, written in your own handwriting.
Despite his busy schedule and heavy responsibilities as the spiritual Guru and administrative head of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha, Swamishri still cares enough to read and reply to the most trivial of letters. Many devotees who receive a letter from him are overjoyed beyond belief, believing that Swamishri has paid a personal visit to their home.
Swamishri's letters are written not to flatter, but out of genuine warmth from within. They are written to comfort, guide and advise - in the hope that yet another soul out there in the material world will somehow benefit.
His words may not be fancy or long, his sentences grammatically incorrect and his writing barely legible. Yet these words somehow manage to penetrate the heart. Letters of the alphabet come together to form words and words come together to make a letter. In turn, these letters come together to build bridges enabling Swamishri to embrace countless individuals.
Swamishri reads or writes about 50 letters daily, devoting an average of two hours a day to counsel and comfort through his pen. And this is in the midst of all his other activities; constant travelling, attending assemblies, meeting devotees and attending administrative meetings.
* * *
They seemed to have everything that one could possibly hope for...happy in the eyes of others, luxurious home, foreign car, their own retinue of servants. Yet something was missing. Discontentment reigned and a feeling of emptiness pervaded their lives. The pressures of modern living had begun to take their toll within the family. Discord was rife and relations between husband and wife, parents and children were strained to say the least. Higher education, money and authority had led to inflated, obstinate egos. None were willing to bend before the other.
Swamishri's words of wisdom, written on paper, reached that home:
Everyone has a different nature, but we should learn to live with each other...that is important. The business is there...but take a little time out to care for the family help each other out.
In the home, all belong to one family. Don't believe that each member is separate from the others. Speak and behave in such a manner that mutual love and friendship develop. The children are grown up. Give them your love in the best way possible... Conversely, behave so that they also develop love for you...
As you have affection for your own daughter, develop the same for your son and his wife...then all will stay calm.
The atmosphere in the home changed to one of quiet and co-operation. Even today the letter remains framed, hanging high on a wall, for all to receive inspiration from.
A devotee from Mahanagar faced a major crisis at home. Totally lost as to what step to take next, he and his family had hardly cared to eat for two days. Their son had run away from home and the family had no idea where he had gone.
The root of the problem? The father wanted his son to marry, and to that end he had already found him a potential partner. On the other hand, the son preferred to wait until his business was stable; therefore he rejected any idea of marriage at the present time. The father, however, failed to understand his son. Consequently, he started firing false accusations at the boy, that he had already found someone on his own accord. As a result, the son chose to escape the situation and left home. Low and disheartened, he felt the easiest way out would be to take his own life.
At this crucial hour, what he had picked up from Satsang came into use. He came to Swamishri who was in Nadiad at the time, and fully explained his side of the story. Swamishri offered a sympathetic ear. He advised the boy to return home and wrote to his father:
Regarding your son...presently he does not wish to get married. If he is unduly pressured, then there will be a problem in the future. Therefore don't insist, even a little, in this respect. Don't jump to any false conclusions that he has a relationship with another girl or that he wants to marry elsewhere. When the time comes, he will marry according to his choice - but only with your agreement. Therefore don't rush or put your foot down at the present time. Keep calm... You are an active member of the Satsang. You listen to and give discourses day in and day out. The fruit of these talks is for you to stay calm and not become angry. Please accept this advice willingly. With blessings...
The letter worked wonders in bridging the gap and misunderstanding between the two individuals in question.
Swamishri's letters encompass a whole range of topics but place special emphasis on spiritual upliftment. He has given his all for this activity, without undue care for self convenience or regard for suitable circumstances.
In Bombay, Swamishri was having difficulties with his dentures due to a gum problem. To have this sorted out, he went from the temple in Dadar to a dentist in Kolaba almost daily. On one occasion, as Swamishri was getting into his car, a devotee handed him a letter. Swamishri read the note while travelling. He wished to write an immediate answer, but his letter pad was not at hand. Swamishri asked a sadhu to tear a page out of his dairy. On that sheet, Swamishri penned a reply while the car was making its way through the jam-packed Bombay traffic. As soon as Swamishri arrived at the temple, he arranged for the note to reach the devotee for whom it was intended.
During a festival in Surat, the youths could not hold back their enthusiasm when a devotional song was being sung. They got up to dance a traditional step on stage, little realising that the stage was nothing more than a few wooden planks put together. Movements on the stage shook Swamishri's seat, but even in this situation Swamishri remained totally calm and continued his letter writing.
While walking from the main temple compound to the Yogi Smruti Mandir in Gondal, a devotee handed Swamishri a note. Swamishri opened up the folded piece of paper and started to read it while walking. Not caring to look at the ground, Swamishri stumbled on the way and had to stop. There and then, Swamishri gave a verbal reply to the devotee and proceeded on his way to have the darshan at the Smruti Mandir.
12 June, 1990
Swamishri had to go for an X-ray at Dr. Dixit's laboratory in Bombay, again concerning ill fitting dentures. During the journey he began reading letters in the car. Arriving at his destination, Swamishri learnt that the doctor was held up in making preparations for the X-ray. He immediately asked for his letters. When the call came, Swamishri stood up without even taking his eyes off the letter in his hand. He continued reading while being helped into the X-ray room and paused only for the X-rays of his mouth to be taken. He had to lift his face up slightly for the X-rays and a total of five pictures were taken. Throughout the whole procedure, his hands held the letters, which he still continued to read in the odd moments between the X-ray shots.
In 1977, Swamishri wrote a letter from abroad during his hectic foreign tour, which summed up his situation:
There is no end to travelling and no end to the mail... I have to deal with the letters at all the car...when sitting...even when in bed... Only then are we able to manage. But with Bapa's strength, we are able to cope.
In the same year, a spiritual convention for all the sadhus of the Sanstha was organised in Sarangpur. Swamishri sent his blessings and guidelines via a letter from America. At the end of the letter, he added:
10 October, 1977
Please forgive me... this letter has been written much too long. Blessings should be in short but what can we do? Presently we are travelling from Chicago to Mississippi. We have 800 miles to cover...long journey, long talks, long writing... All night will pass in travelling.We'll reach our destination early tomorrow morning.
During an outdoor assembly in Sarangpur, Swamishri was seated cross-legged on his seat. With the letter pad supported on his left knee, Swamishri was writing letters one by one. A grasshopper landed on his right knee. Swamishri continued as if totally unaware of this. A young sadhu came forward and frightened the insect away. Still Swamishri continued to write without looking up, probably not even realising that someone had just come right up to him.
In Atladra, when Swamishri was writing letters, a mouse somehow found its way into his room. The sadhus discreetly made attempts to catch it but the mouse's quick responses saved it from being caught. During the commotion, the rodent managed to hide somewhere. The sadhus were still after the mouse when Swamishri finished his work.
By the expression on their faces, Swamishri realised that something was up. He casually asked, "What are you looking for?"
"A mouse."
"Here it is!" So saying, Swamishri lifted his hand to expose the mouse, which had been playing under his shoulder cloth!
Following his evening meal in Bhavnagar, Swamishri was seated next to his bed reading letters. Directly above his head was a light bulb. For some reason, the bulb happened to fall from its holder, brushing Swamishri's shoulder before rolling on to the floor. Not even the slightest stir was observed on Swamishri. After Swamishri had finished the letters, Bhadresh Swami informed him about the bulb.
Surprised, Swamishri asked, "When did it fall?"
"When you were busy reading!"
Narayancharan Swami commented, "We have to praise your balance of mind..."
Swamishri laughingly said, "If one's mind is constantly on God, then how can one realise?"
* * *
Rushdi, a Muslim living in Beijing, China, asked for Swamishri's advice:
...I want your advice to my problems. Dear Maharaj! My problem is that, since I started school in the year 1964, I have never made any progress in education, not because I am not working hard. I have tried my best as a human being success. I have suffered a long time now...
Swamishri replied:
Whichever God you may believe in, remember Him daily and continue your efforts... You will surely attain success... If one is pure hearted, all will turn out for the best.
To us some questions may seem trivial, but in the eyes of the asker, they may be of paramount importance. Swamishri fully realises this and is therefore able to patiently understand.
A devotee from Bhavnagar asked:
...My baby daughter is unable to eat any white food... Please give blessings...
An ordinary farmer from Bhaarparaa wrote:
...I have started digging a well. Bless us that we receive plenty of water...
A youth from Sarsavani asked:
...I wish to purchase a Bajaj scooter... Could you offer suitable guidance?
A run-of-the-mill devotee from Jamnagar asked for advice on what to do with his three-wheeled rickshaw that kept breaking down frequently.
Once Swamishri received five postcards from a person who chose to remain anonymous. The postcards were all written on the same date from the same place:
...I am turning bald... Please give blessings for my hair to regrow...
A temple president writes regarding purchase of land for a potential temple... A youth from the UK asks about maintaining a vegetarian diet when studying away from home... A devotee wants tips on how to stop noticing the drawbacks of others... A teenager from America asks for advice on how to maintain Satsang in the relatively hostile atmosphere of high school... A child seeks guidance on how to stop his dad from drinking heavily... A youth wants to know what to do if his pride swells up when singing on stage.
* * *
During a journey from Bombay to Amalsad, Swamishri started to read a 72 page letter! Amalsad arrived but the end of the letter was still many pages away. In the assembly that followed in Amalsad, Swamishri finished reading the letter and wrote an immediate reply.
Swamishri was travelling by air from Bombay to London on the first leg of his 1994 foreign tour. He got up to pass water, but as the lavatory was occupied, he had to wait outside. In the couple of minutes that elapsed while he was standing, Swamishri managed to leaf through three letters.
* * *
During the early 1980's, Swamishri's hectic touring was at its climax, often covering up to ten villages a day. Despite such a heavy schedule, whenever Swamishri ordered kanthis from Amdavad, he wrote the request himself caring to include even apparently minor details. In a letter to Satyapriya Swami, who was handling that particular department at the time, Swamishri wrote:
...Send kanthis which have been strung together with nylon threads... Send beads which are not too thick nor too thin...
* * *
Mr. Rama of South Africa sent a letter in English. Seeing the letter, Swamishri remarked, "His previous letter had been written in Gujarati... Why in English this time?"
* * *
For the last five years or so, Swamishri has been writing replies on specially prepared letterheads. On the left hand side of this paper is a margin. Swamishri has a habit of crossing this margin when writing. His writing also tends to slope upwards. Due to a heavier mail load and a busier schedule, Swamishri's writing has become a little larger in size with time. If only a few details are left to be written on a letter, he often turns the paper around 90 degrees and writes horizontally in the margin. In some cases, if the margin is already full and he still wishes to write a few words, he adds them in between two lines that he has already written.
Swamishri makes a point of sanctifying any important letter or legal document before the Lord's images prior to posting. He insists on keeping all letters that he receives, for at least 15 days - in case they need to be referred to or in case of a mishap where the reply may be misplaced or lose its way in the post. Very important letters Swamishri prefers to keep and personally look after. He tears up any personal or confidential letter immediately after reading it or if the writer of the letter is present, he returns it to him personally.
He prefers letters that are written to the point without any unnecessary details. If letters giving reports of sadhus' travels or devotees' activities are received, he listens to them while taking his meals. When an inspiring letter, which may be of use to others is received, he often reads it out to those present.
When given a stack of letters to read while travelling by car or while sitting in an assembly, he has a tendency to put the elastic band (used to keep the letters together) around the big toe of his right foot. He later reuses the band to keep the letters together. If his letter writing is interrupted by a phone call or someone wanting to meet him, he holds on to his pen - keeping it between the big toe and second toe of his right foot. On some occasions, he has been known to inadvertently leave aside his pen without recapping it, only to realise later that it has stained his clothes.
Sometimes the sadhu handling the correspondence asks Swamishri about each letter, after which Swamishri gives a reply to each one in turn. At other times, Swamishri reads a whole stack of letters and later gives the answers at a convenient time. The secretary notes the details as suggested by Swamishri and pens a reply. These letters are then given to Swamishri, who adds to them as he feels necessary - this may be anything from one line to a few pages. At the end of the letter, Swamishri gives his blessings and signs the letter:
Jai Swaminarayan, With blessings...Shastri Narayanswarupdas.

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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