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The Inspirer and Present Guru of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

He has a heart wherein the whole world can live


These were difficult days for Shantilal. It was as if he were under examination. How determined was he to become a sadhu? Did he feel sorry for himself or homesick? Was he hurt that nobody cared for him in Nadiad?
With Ravji peddling and Shantilal riding, the two soon reached Bhaili. They met Ghanshyam Swami who was sitting in the temple. He was pleased to see Shantilal.
Ghanshyam Swami decided to send him to Bochasan with Shankar Bhagat, a local devotee.
Once in Bochasan, Shankar Bhagat introduced Shantilal to Nirgun Swami who took him under his care. Annakut was celebrated.
Two or three days later Nirgun Swami decided to go to Amdavad. He also decided to take Shantilal with him as Shastriji Maharaj would be coming there.
They stopped In Nadiad where he developed a fever. Nirgun Swami and Harivallabh Swami would leave each morning and return late evening, There was no one to care for Shantilal. He would lie on a makeshift bed all day struck weak by the illness. He could not eat anything. So in the evening Harivallabh Swami would warm some milk for him.
On the tenth they finally arrived in Amdavad. Shantilal was still feverish. Nirgun Swami took the group to Ambali Pol in the inner walled city. Shastriji Maharaj, as usual, this year had celebrated Annakut in Sarangpur and had quickly travelled through several towns and villages distributing Annakut prasad. In Amdavad, as always, he put up in an upper room at Babubhai Kothari's house in, Ambali Pol. The corrugated metal roofed room was cramped, housing a solitary cot for Shastriji Maharaj. The 15 to 20 devotees would sit downstairs.
Shantilal was put to bed in a corner. Shastriji Maharaj went to him and affectionately said, "You're here at last? That's good." Shantilal was overjoyed. He however could not find the words to express himself. He merely said, "I've been running a fever for three to four days."
Shastriji Maharaj, his mother guardian consoled, " The fever will go." He caressed his head and said he should rest.
That night before retiring to bed Shastriji Maharaj again blessed him, "Your fever will now subside." He stroked Shantilal's entire body whilst chanting 'Swaminarayan Swaminarayan'. You'll be OK. There'll be no problems.'' He stood to leave, and turned, pausing to say, "In the morning we want to initiate you as a parshad."
Wednesday, 22 November 1939
The fever subsided that night. The next morning he was given a hot water bath. Shastriji Maharaj again spoke of initiation as a parshad, "Today is ekadashi. We'll initiate you as a parshad."
Shantilal was wholly prepared. It was for this that he had left home and family, friends and schooling. He however remembered that earlier on Shastriji Maharaj had said he could study English from Khengarjibhai. He spoke of this to Shastriji Maharaj who replied, "Take the initiation for now. We will talk to Khengarjibhai later."
Shanti Bhagat was now required to wear white and eat from a pattar. He also had to observe the vows of poverty and celibacy.
Two days later Shastriji Maharaj took him to Bochasan. Once when talking of a sadhu's life Shastriji Maharaj said to him, "Sanskrit is better than English. You are now a sadhu, of what use is English now. Are you going to find a job or start a business? If you study Sanskrit you'll be able to read our scriptures. As sadhus we have read from the Satsangijivan and other scriptures."
Although Shastriji Maharaj had promised him that he could study English he now thought it better that Shanti Bhagat concentrate on Sanskrit. The benefits of Sanskrit were greater than those of English.
Shanti Bhagat had himself decided from the very beginning that he was going to live in total consonance with his spiritual master's wishes. There was of course nothing wrong with letting Shastriji Maharaj know of what was going on in his own mind. It was a confession of sorts, and one that Shastriji Maharaj encouraged. After this conversation he decided to study Sanskrit as best as he could.
* * *
Although the images had been consecrated, the Bochasan temple had not been completed in entirety. Work still remained to be done. The brick oven that prepared the lime for building use had once to be emptied. Shastriji Maharaj told a large group of sadhus and devotees to do the task. The lime was hot and working with it was difficult and painful. After a while, one after another, everyone left. Shanti Bhagat remained, toiling until the service had been completed to Shastriji Maharaj's liking.
Several weeks later Shastriji Maharaj took him to Akshar Mandir Gondal. He wanted to initiate Shanti Bhagat as a full sadhu with saffron, but this he was delaying until he was convinced that Shanti Bhagat had swept all thoughts of English from his mind and would study Sanskrit enthusiastically. After taking the saffron there was absolutely no chance of studying English. Both Shastriji Maharaj and Shanti Bhagat knew this.
As a spiritual master Shastriji Maharaj was unique. He was prudent and considerate. Convinced as he was of Shanti Bhagat's sincerity and devotion, he wanted to avoid directly commanding Shanti Bhagat to accept full initiation. So he himself decided not to touch the subject. Instead, he told Harijivan Swami to talk to him. He knew that both were close. Harijivan Swami had come to know Shanti Bhagat when he had spent six months in Bochasan serving the temple during school holidays.
Behind the store room in Gondal is a courtyard with a neem tree in its middle. Small rooms with clay tiled roofs had once stood there. Harijivandas Swami and Shanti Bhagat sat close to them talking one night. After a while the topic of English and initiation came up. Harijivan Swami said that Shastriji Maharaj wanted Shanti Bhagat to study Sanskrit, and so that is what he should do. There was no point in wanting to study English... It was best to study whatever Swami said. What else was there to study? Sanskrit would come in good use. Of what use was English? The discussion continued till after 1:30 in the morning. At that time Shanti Bhagat said, "OK then, I'll study as Swami says. I'll take initiation, there's no problem." With these words he let fall the last fine strands of desire to study English that had maybe lingered since Bochasan.
Harijivan Swami was glad to hear these words and so took him to Shastriji Maharaj, whom he awoke, and gave the good news to. Shastriji Maharaj was delighted and at once hugged Shanti Bhagat. He then said to Harijivandas Swami, "Tell Jogi Bapa not to do the mahapuja early. It's Wednesday tomorrow and so the first two choghadiyas are auspicious. In the second choghadiyu we'll perform the ceremony. At that time I'll initiate him, so ensure that the mahapuja is not performed early."
A few hours later at about eight o'clock Yogiji Maharaj entered the Akshar Deri to perform the mahapuja. Normally he would start the mahapuja at four but Shastriji Maharaj had instructed otherwise for today. Shastriji Maharaj himself sat between the two pillars opposite the entrance leading from the sabha mandap. Shanti Bhagat's head was freshly shaven. Towards the end of the ceremony Shastriji Maharaj offered him the sacred thread and a new kanthi. He placed a saffron shoulder cloth around Shanti Bhagat's shoulders. Harijivan Swami opined that he should be renamed 'Narandas', after the great sadhu disciple of Gunatitanand Swami in Junagadh. When Yogiji Maharaj was asked he answered, "Whatever Shastriji Maharaj says is best."
Shastriji Maharaj himself decided, "Let us name him Narayanswarup. That is a good name. I also want him to study, and make him a scholar. I want to make him great and powerful." He asked Yogiji Maharaj, "Bless him and pat his back so that he becomes a truly great scholar and studies, and does great service in Satsang."
Yogiji Maharaj did so and said, "He will become great. He has your blessings and so it will surely happen." It was Posh Sud 1 VS 1996 (Wednesday, 10 January, 1940).
Shastriji Maharaj told Yogiji Maharaj and Harijivandas to find a good shastri to teach Narayanswarupdas with whom Aksharjivandas had also been commanded to study Sanskrit.
Along with the studies it was also important that the virtues of a sadhu be cultivated. To ensure this Yogiji Maharaj would send Narayanswarupdas to do all types of service; sweeping the temple compound, learning to help and cook in the kitchens, serving Ghanshyam Maharaj in the sanctum, joining the construction teams, in the store room. Yogiji Maharaj would join him and guide him.
Several months later Shastriji Maharaj commanded that Narayanswarupdas and Aksharjivandas go to Bhadaran to study. A shastri was acquired but they had to beg in the village for grains and then cook their own food. It was a similar routine in Khambhat. For a while they even stayed in Amdavad.
* * *
Atladra temple had become a beehive of activity. Temple construction was rapid. Shastriji Maharaj told young Narayanswarup Swami to join in the service, working with the lime. The summer heat made this particular service even more unbearable. Narayanswarup Swami doggedly stuck to his responsibility. Soon, burning red blisters sprang out all over his body. But this did not deter him. That night he was in agony, Shastriji Maharaj asked that he be brought to him. The young sadhu's body was fiery with pain. Shastriji Maharaj gently stroked his entire body, soothing away the pain with his fond caress.
"You'll be well soon," he promised. Several days later Narayanswarup Swami rejoined the construction work, the blisters had completely disappeared save for a red stain on the tip of his nose.
* * *
Pramukh Swami Maharaj: I once had to stay in Gondal for a month, I would think constantly of Shastriji Maharaj. He would write to me every two or three days and I would also write. I wanted to tour with him, I'd be delighted to hear from him.
Those days I was serving the images in the temple with Aksharswarup Swami.
One day someone told me that Shastriji Maharaj had arrived. At that time the train used to come early in the morning. The news sent me running. Somebody told me he had gone up to the temple for darshan. I ran up there. When I looked into the sanctum Ghanshyam Maharaj (the marble image of Lord Swaminarayan) was sleeping on the Sukhshaiya bed. He sat up with His feet dangling. I touched His feet and asked, "Shastriji Maharaj is here, please show me where he is." Ghanshyam Maharaj answered that he had gone downstairs. So I ran down, and then went into the Akshar Deri and looked there, but Swami wasn't there either. So I climbed back up. There I had darshan of Shastriji Maharaj and Ghanshyam Maharaj. Ghanshyam Maharaj was still seated and Shastriji Maharaj was standing before him. I had his darshan. He put his hand on my head. Then Shastriji Maharaj's and Ghanshyam Maharaj's image became one! I couldn't see Shastriji Maharaj anywhere. There was bright light. For five or ten minutes I didn't know what had happened. I could see light within Ghanshyam Maharaj. Where is Shastriji Maharaj I thought. After a while the light disappeared so I went downstairs thinking that he had gone down. Downstairs a sadhu told me that Shastriji Maharaj hadn't come at all and that I had been mistaken...
Narayanswarupdas Swami underwent Sanskrit studies, serving fully wherever he stayed and periodically being called to serve Shastriji Maharaj personally. After six years, in 1946 Shastriji Maharaj appointed him the Kothari of Sarangpur temple, thus studies effectively came to an end and at the age of 25 he first began to shoulder administrative responsibilities. As in studies, in administration he also excelled. As a newly initiated sadhu Shantilal showed an extra ordinary flair for management and practical matters. He developed a keen insight. An amiable character enabled him to work comfortably with many a difficult person.
He was a quick learner, ready to consult elders whenever the need arose. The villagers in Sarangpur said, " If Narayan Swami shoulders the administration of our village there would be no need for elections!"


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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