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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.