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The Inspirer and Present Guru of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

He has a heart wherein the whole world can live

It's Me, Pramukh Swami!:

On the third day he said to Ramjibhai, "You have worked for success in this world and the spiritual world. Now," pointing to Harikrishna Maharaj, "it is time to focus totally on Him."
Swamishri was feeling uneasy. It was past six in the morning and he had a jam packed programme ahead. Whilst bathing he made no mention of the tightness in his chest, nor gave any physical clue. He walked to the pandal where on stage his puja material had been prepared as usual. He sat down before Harikrishna Maharaj and after a little meditation smeared the tilak and chandlo on his forehead, chest and both upper arms.
Yogicharan Swami sat to one side. He began singing kirtans. As usual Swamishri put his hand in his L-shaped gaumukhi, found his rosary at the bottom and staring fixedly at Harikrishna Maharaj began his puja. Just a few minutes later he fell to one side paralysed with pain. The sadhus rushed to him. He was suffering a heart attack.
For several years Swamishri had travelled at a hectic pace, not caring for his health. It was the attendant's experience that Swamishri never complained. Various aches, pains and fevers he never mentioned. And when asked about difficulties he would deny them or just ignore the questioner.
Sundalpura was a small village. The best medicines the shanty kiosks sold were malarial cures and common cold relievers. Consumers were more interested in paans, rolled bidis and crushed tobacco leaves.
It was imperative that Swamishri be rushed to a modern hospital in close by Baroda. He was suffering a heart attack. There was no warning that Swamishri 's health would break down; or, if there were, no one noticed it. His car was readied. The attendant sadhus were fraught with worry. Never had they imagined such an emergency. Yogicharan Swami was in charge. Swiftly he organised Swamishri's care and journey.
Nandkishor Swami: The previous night all of us had retired late so the next morning most of us awoke a little late. Swamishri himself was up at around 6 a.m. He held mine and Dharmacharan Swami's hand as we led him to the bathroom by the compound wall. Climbing the 3-4 steps to the platform he put a lot of weight on our hands. This was unusual. His eyes and body showed he was tired. He asked whether I had bathed or not. When I replied in the negative he said, "One should wake up early every morning, even if you've had a late night you should be up by at least six, so you can join yourself in bhajan-bhakti and seva."
A little while later I was doing my puja when we heard that Swamishri had suffered a heart attack.
There were 2-3 cars, Swamishri reclined in the front seat of the Mercedes. The cars slowly moved off, as they turned onto the road the Mercedes stopped. Sadhus watching Swamishri leaving ran to him. Had something gone wrong? No. Swamishri had a message for Narendraprasad Swami. "Go to Anand in my place. I will not be able to go now, Dayabhai and the devotees will be disappointed..."
Swamishri has spent his entire adult life caring for devotees. His vision and heart encompass the world and yet he still finds time to meet the individual, catering to his spiritual and social needs.
* * *
Swamishri was being driven to Atladra, Baroda. He planned to celebrate Vasant Panchmi there. There was to be a short stop at Jitodiya. Ishwarbhai, a long standing devotee, was on his death bed. He knew he was breathing his last and had asked that Swamishri grant him darshan. He was not refused. Ishwarbhai was lying on a cot. Half a dozen family members stood up as Swamishri entered the room. A large wooden bench had been prepared for Swamishri. On it had been spread a sheet and cushions. Next to it was a chair that supported an image of Lord Akshar Purushottam Maharaj and the guru hierarchy. A divo steadily burned. Swamishri sat down. On either side sat Tyagvallabh Swami and Viveksagar Swami.
Swamishri leaned forward, stroking Ishwarbhai's chest in a circular motion, coming down to the stomach and legs. He said, "You have completed whatever had to be done. It was your wish so this Thakorji has arrived," Swamishri pointed to Harikrishna Maharaj. "This is Harikrishna Maharaj, Maharaj Himself is granting you darshan. He will grant you eternal happiness." Taking water in a spoon Swamishri carefully placed several drops between Ishwarbhai's lips.
Ten days later as Swamishri was performing pradakshina in Shastriji Maharaj's room in Atladra a boil on the fore finger finger of his right hand burst. Swamishri said, "This boil has burst and yet why is there no news of Ishwarbhai's going to Dham?" The next day Dharmavihari Swami arrived from Bochasan and told Swamishri that Ishwarbhai had passed away the previous day.
Rambhai of Mojidad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Swamishri was informed that Rambhai wished for darshan Swamishri decided to stay three days in Mojidad, in Rambhai's house. Once there, he daily spoke with Rambhai. Imparting spiritual instruction was Swamishri's service to Maharaj and Rambhai. He wanted to ensure that Rambhai harboured no lingering attachment to the world and material family.
Rajendra Ajmera was in the prime of youth. Happily married for two years he was suddenly struck down by disease. From Calcutta he was taken to Bombay. Doctors advised he be treated in the US. This however brought no result. Sapped of strength his condition deteriorated until finally he was brought back to Calcutta, via Frankfurt, where the strain of the journey almost took its toll. Aku, as his family called him, had only one wish. He confided to his family that he wanted to at leisure spend an hour with Swamishri, just talking. Relatives were confused. How could they mention it to Swamishri. He was 500 kilometres away in Gujarat.
They were unaware that even before Aku had arrived back in Calcutta Swamishri had planned a long pilgrimage to Uttarakhand with a 450 strong sangh. Calcutta was on the route.
Swamishri landed in Calcutta on September 16, 1987, from New Delhi. It was night. After the customary welcome he immediately said, "Aku is ill. Let us go to his house." All the way from Delhi to Calcutta Swamishri had been thinking of Aku.
Aku's uncle, Kishorbhai, though concerned about his nephew, saw that Swamishri was exhausted. So he suggested, "He is asleep right now and he also wants to speak with you at leisure. Let's meet him tomorrow morning." It was past eleven, and the other devotees also supported Kishorebhai. Swamishri reluctantly agreed.
That night Aku's wife told him of Swamishri's arrival. The news brought light to his face. She saw his lips silently moving in conversation. Ripples of joy and contentment passed over his pale face. At ten minutes past two in the morning Aku said, "I'm going to Akshardham."
Swamishri was informed of Aku's passing immediately on waking. Tears welled up. He was upset because he did not have the chance of a last meeting.
Aku was laid out on the floor in his house. Swamishri himself performed the final rites, smearing a chandan chandlo on Aku's forehead and performing arti. Swamishri said, "He was very lucky. He passed away whilst engrossed in bhajan. I really did want to meet him, but it was not possible. It does not matter, physically we did not meet, but our souls did. His soul and mine have become one."
It was obvious to all present that Swamishri had in a spiritual sense spent a leisurely hour with Aku, just talking.
* * *
Dr. Yogin Dave had travelled from Bombay to Baroda on hearing that Swamishri was feeling unwell. His stay was to be short. He had to be back in Bombay. Swamishri asked him, "Is your return ticket reserved.
"No, Swami, I'll manage to get a ticket from the station. It's no big inconvenience."
Swamishri told an attendant, "Doctor is leaving this evening. Make sure he has a reservation and ticket."
That evening when Yogin asked leave, Swamishri happily told him his reservation ticket had arrived. His concern was a natural act of parental love.
* * *
The last nine days had been a blizzard of activity for Swamishri. It was Maharaj's mercy that his 68 year old body ravaged by a steady procession of illnesses could withstand the tremendous demands he was making of it. Apart from the daily kathas and granting audience to a multitude of devotees he was busy with last minute meetings dealing with various Sanstha activities. Early morning on the 7 April, 1988 he would be beginning his 12th Satsang world tour. He would not be back for more than nine months, visiting Europe, North America, The Indies, East Africa, South Africa and then back home. It was imperative he be able to provide final guidelines and decisions.
A drought was sweeping through the country. Hundreds of thousands of livestock were in danger. Entire areas had been evacuated. The monsoons had failed successively for three years. Swamishri had decided to expand the social wing of the Sanstha to set up special cattle camps and begin other necessary relief work. He had called leading sadhus to Bombay, and was wholly involved giving precise instructions.
The clock declared it to be 11 p.m., and then 11:30 p.m. Swamishri would be rising at 3 a.m. Attendants had been hovering around him for some time, hoping he would notice and call it a day. Finally he did stand up, but on catching a thought asked for a letter pad. He wanted to write to Trigunbhai Bhatt, a lower middle class devotee. He was in critical condition because of total renal failure. Swamishri had often thought of visiting him but his schedule had not allowed it. Tomorrow he would be flying. He wrote:
Param Bhakta, Trigunbhai. "It was our wish to come and meet you but circumstances prevented us from doing so... So please forgive us... Remember Maharaj and engage in devotion... All will turn out for the best.
In Vidyanagar, Swamishri was taking rest, as he had been feverish for three days or so. He also felt very weak, as in addition to the fever, he also had diarrhoea. A sadhu brought Swamishri's meal to the room, but Swamishri just stared at it. The sadhu requested, "Bapa! Please accept a little food."
Swamishri replied, "Only if you perform something short of a miracle will I be able to eat... I don't feel like eating anything... My mouth says no." With these words Swamishri gently pushed the food aside. He picked up the letter pad that was on one side and started writing replies to the letters in it. His illness had stopped him from eating, but could not stop him from writing letters to his devotees.
During the early years of Swamishri's touring, after the passing of Yogiji Maharaj, he was greeted in almost every town and village with honour. He would be received on the outskirts of the village and then in a sometimes grand, and sometimes bare, depending on the means of the devotees, a procession would be taken out through the village. Swamishri would be asked to grace a bullock cart or horse pulled buggy, an open jeep or a tractor trolley.
Devotees would lead, others would follow. Dancing and singing, chanting and throwing handfuls of coloured powder into the air the procession would last anything from an hour upwards, at all times of the day. The devotees wanted Swamishri to sanctify the entire village. Every gully and side street. The important element was Swamishri. He was guru and was to be welcomed with all the éclat they could muster. It was also a statement to the rest of the villagers. "Here is our guru. He is unmatched in spirituality. His darshan is moksha granting." People would line the streets and smile or just look inquisitively on. Most would join their hands in respect.
Such a reception awaited Swamishri in a village of the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. The Indian summer heat was penetrating. It was mid afternoon and the crowd of devotees waited in the open, their white dhotis, loose cotton pyjamas and slip on shirts glaring brilliant in the light. Everything was ready. Only Swamishri remained to arrive. When he did there was feverish activity, a lot of 'Jais' and a lot of chaos. Swamishri stepped out of the white ambassador car to be swamped by devotees eager to touch his feet and receive a pat of blessing.
They invited him to grace the procession. Dr. Swami stepped forward and began to ask the devotees to postpone it till a cooler time. He was worried about Swamishri's health. Swamishri overheard him and grabbing his hand put it on the head of the chief organiser. Dr. Swami pulled his hand away. "See," Swamishri said, "how hot his head has become in the sun. If these people have tolerated this much heat we should also bear a little."
The procession began, with Swamishri gladly joining.
* * *
In Sarangpur once the mosquito problem had escalated. A sadhu exclaimed, "There are swarm upon swarms of mosquitoes coming here!"
Swamishri at once shot back, "What is happening to the devotees?" He commanded that mosquito nets be provided for them.
Another time Swamishri was sitting opposite Naranbhai who was sipping tea. Somebody had forgotten to add sugar. Swamishri himself added the sugar to Naranbhai's cup and not seeing a spoon stirred the hot tea with his finger.
When on the phone to Amdavad from the US he once talked to the several sadhus residing there individually and then began inquiring about the temple staff. One by one he recalled their names and had them called to the phone, not forgetting the unkempt Raichand Bharvad who looked after the temple cow shed.
Whenever devotees are involved Swamishri is quick to ask,
"Have they been given accommodation?"
"Do they have adequate bedding?"
"Did they get hot water this morning?"
"Is there anyone left for lunch?"
Only when answers are in the affirmative does his heart rest.
When Swamishri found out that Ashokbhai of Baroda disliked tomatoes mixed in his dal, he had separate dal made for him. He has had special rotlis made for Natubhai of Nairobi and had a dish full of bhajiya from Harikrishna Maharaj's thal sent for Bhaikaka, who was partial to them. On long journeys when he is offered a snack Swamishri is unable to eat by himself. He himself distributes handfuls of prasad to those in the car. But what of the driver? Going from one town to another, Swamishri once sat in the front seat with two little lunch bins in his lap. One full with mendu vada, a savory deep fried doughnut, the other containing chutney.
Swamishri would break a mendu vada in half, dunk it in the chutney and put it in the driver, Indravadan's, mouth, carefull not to soil his jeans and T-shirt.
* * *
Swamishri's 72nd birthday was celebrated on 2nd December, 1992, the concluding day of the Yogiji Maharaj Centennial Celebrations. Dasharathbhai had come to the festival in Gandhinagar. Without anyone knowing, he took a seat far off in the massive assembly arena. But he could not escape Swamishri's eyes. As Swamishri was ceremoniously being taken around the arena in an open jeep, he stopped the jeep and called Dasharathbhai near. Dasharathbhai was unbelieving. Swamishri had picked him out from a crowd of over 50,000! Swamishri garlanded him and talked for a minute or two. Dasharathbhai went back to his seat paralysed with emotion. He could not help himself as a flood of tears flowed down his cheeks.

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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