Shastriji Maharaj: Upholder Of Dharma
Shastriji Maharaj identified the four principles of agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh as the basis for achieving individual and collective spiritual progress. All four of these principles were exemplified in Shastriji Maharaj’s life. This article focuses on agna and how Shastriji Maharaj
strictly adhered to the commands of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan says...
“Greatness is due to one’s faith in the manifest form of God and the observance of His commands…”
- Vachanamrut Gadhada I-31
“When one ignores the injunctions of God and begins to stray away from them, one suffers. On the other hand, if one acts according to those injunctions, one will experience the true bliss of God. So, in fact, one suffers only to the extent that one transgresses the injunctions of God. Therefore, renunciants should live according to the injunctions that have been prescribed for renunciants, and householders should live according to the injunctions that have been prescribed for householders.
“Whatever happiness he does experience is a result of following the injunctions of God.”
- Vachanamrut Gadhada I-34
Shastriji Maharaj says...
“In his agnas to sadhus and householders – male and female – only if whatever niyams relating to dharma and bhakti Shriji Maharaj has said are observed will one attain strength and be able to make others act accordingly. In the Shikshapatri he has said that one should become brahmarup and offer upasana to God, observe the 11 niyams of dharma and give 5-10% in tithes; and for the sadhus: nishkam, nirlobh, nisswad, nirman, nissneh, etc. – nothing has been left out.”
“Shriji Maharaj has, primarily, kept dharma and niyams at the forefront and promoted the easy path to becoming brahmarup. Only one who strictly observes the commands of Maharaj relating to dharma and niyams is a true devotee and has true conviction. One who has total conviction in God will certainly attain the virtues of God. However, one who forsakes the dharma of the five vartmans and uses the strength of knowledge and devotion (to justify the non-observance of the five vartmans) is, in effect, insulting the guru and is transgressing his wishes. And, even a person who talks in this way is vimukh.”
“A sadhu of Maharaj should renounce wealth and women. Whether he travels in this country or abroad, only when he strictly observes these niyams, is he a true Swaminarayan sadhu…
“We belong to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. So, to maintain his reputation we should be of pure character. We should uphold the discipline, customs and dharma of Satsang and encourage others to uphold them as well. Otherwise, ‘a shameless person (one without morals) is described as having long, long ears’.”
“Everyone should have the wish to fully observe niyams and dharma. One who follows the Shikshapatri never faces misery. Manasiyo Khuman of Senjal village used to donate as stated in the Shikshapatri. One day, in the early morning, he was doing puja. At that time, his servant came and said, “Bapu, thieves had entered the house.” So the Darbar said, “Thieves may have come, but nothing has been lost. I donate as per the Shikshapatri so nothing of mine will go.” Then, on surveying, they learnt that a chest of money was left untouched nearby. In this way he followed the Shikshapatri, so Maharaj protected…”
Unmatchable Observer Of Dharma
Shastriji Maharaj’s life was so perfectly in tune with the wishes of Shriji Maharaj that everyone naturally commented, “Oh! He is the personified form of the Shikshapatri.” The commands of the Shikshapatri and Dharmamrut were under the continuous focus of Shastriji Maharaj. Nishkam, nirlobh, nisswad, nissneh and nirman – these are the five vows specified by Bhagwan Swaminarayan for all Swaminarayan sadhus and Shastriji Maharaj observed these five vows to perfection. Shastriji Maharaj was the distinguished founder of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), and the guru and life-force of many well-to-do devotees, yet he did not have even a penny in his name. This, despite his round-the-clock vicharan.
Once, Shastriji Maharaj arrived in Anand. But, many of the devotees of Anand had gone out of town to attend a marriage. So, Shastriji Maharaj decided to go to Sarangpur. He placed his potlu on his head and made his way to the railway station. However, he had no ticket and no money! He hoped to find a devotee there who would purchase the tickets. He looked around the station, but did not find anyone he knew. So, carrying his potlu, he returned to the town. Here, also, he could not find anyone. So again, he went to the station in the hope of finding someone there. In this way, Shastriji Maharaj went from the town to the station and back three times. Finally, he met Gordhanlal Keshavlal Patel who purchased train tickets to Botad for Swamishri.
Occasions like this were not uncommon. Yet, Swamishri never kept money with him and tolerated many such difficulties. He was totally detached and had completely renounced wealth and women.
The joy of living as per the wish of Shriji Maharaj continuously illumined his face. That is why, on meeting Swamishri, the renowned Gujarati poet, Nahanalal, commented, “Swamishri Shastriji Maharaj is a unique sadhu in the spiritual field. Rarely does one see the purity of character, saintliness and divinity that he has.”
A Pillar Of Dharma
Once, in Bharuch, Shastriji Maharaj fell ill with typhoid. Considering Swamishri’s age, weakness and serious illness, the doctors recommended total bedrest. They even advised that Swamishri’s toileting and bathing be done on his bed. But, would Swamishri accept? He held greater importance in Shriji Maharaj’s commands than the doctors’ advice. The illness caused diarrhoea. Despite much weakness, Swamishri continued to take care of his bodily needs as per his daily routine. Every time he had to pass motions, he bathed. The devotees tried to explain, but for Swamishri, who had lived his entire life preserving inner and outer purity, observing Shriji Maharaj’s commands was his only focus.
During an illness in Amdavad, when Narayanbhai from Ambli Vali Pol, requested Swamishri not to bathe, Swamishri replied, “Narayanbhai! If you have built a house and someone knocks it down, how much will you be pained? Similarly, the great Satpurushes are the pillars of dharma and lead jivas on the path of dharma and bhakti. So, when someone criticizes dharma, how much will he be pained?”
Narayanbhai listened, speechless.
The Taste Is Of Maharaj’s Murti
The ruler of Bilada in Rajasthan, Thakor Harisinhji, invited Shastriji Maharaj and hosted a parayan. Harisinhji was a devout follower of the Devi and did not bow before anyone. Yet, Swamishri’s personality made a deep impression on him. He felt that Swamishri was definitely a divine, powerful and great person. So, at the conclusion of the parayan, he personally came to serve Swamishri as he ate.
As per Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s command, Swamishri mixed all the food in his wooden bowl and ate. At the end of his meal, Swamishri poured some buttermilk in his bowl. Just then, Harisinhji urged Swamishri to eat a piece of mohanthal. Swamishri refused. But Harisinhji insisted, so Swamishri said, “Put it in the bowl.” Harisinhji was taken aback, realizing that the mohanthal would be soaked in the buttermilk. So, he offered, “Let me bring another a dish to put it in.” But Swamishri said, “We do not use dish. We eat whatever we get in this bowl and enjoy the taste of Maharaj’s murti.” Reluctantly, Harisinhji placed the mohanthal piece in Swamishri’s bowl. Swamishri then mixed it with the buttermilk and drank it.
Harisinhji bowed to Swamishri with the utmost respect.
Ocean Of Forgiveness
Swamishri was at Ambli Vali Pol in Amdavad. He was engrossed in performing his morning puja. Just then a devotee frantically entered. The devotee was extremely upset and angry. He unloaded his grievances with a shower of arrogant words. The reason? The simple reason was that at Swamishri’s request, this devotee had lent some money to another devotee. Subsequently, due to difficult financial circumstances, the other devotee had not repaid the money. Thus the lender devotee emptied his anger on the innocent Swamishri. In response to this ferocious tirade, Swamishri remained calm, chanting, “Swaminarayan… Swaminarayan… Swaminarayan…”
Swamishri continually recited the Swaminarayan mahamantra; the expression on his serene face remained unchanged.
Some time later, this raging devotee realized his mistake and felt deep remorse. He approached Swamishri during an assembly and tearfully asked for forgiveness. Swamishri smiled and said, “Do not be upset in the slightest. I only take note of your virtues and service and not your drawbacks and mistakes. I swear on this assembly that I have the same feelings towards you today that I had when you first came to me.”
Everyone realized that Swamishri had upheld Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s words in the Shikshapatri (verse 201): Gãlidãnam tãdanam cha krutam kumatibhirjanaihi; kshantavyam eva sarveshãm chintaniyam hitam cha taihi (If one is hit or sworn at by an evil-minded person, then one should forgive but not retaliate by swearing or hitting him, and wish for his benefit in one’s mind, but not wish him to suffer).
Storehouse Of Humility
Once, Shastriji Maharaj went for darshan to a mandir in Atladra. After darshan, as Swamishri sat on a bench, a senior sadhu of the mandir returned after completing some outside duties. This sadhu had a dislike for Swamishri. The reason was that one of his disciple-sadhus, Premvatidas, attracted by Swamishri’s divine personality, had left him. So, on seeing Swamishri, the other sadhu became furious. In this rage, the sadhu insulted Swamishri and hit him so hard with his wooden stick that the stick broke into two pieces. Without the slightest hesitation, Swamishri bent down, picked up the pieces and retuned them to the sadhu. The sadhu could not tolerate even this gesture of humility by Swamishri. The sadhu stormed off. Yet, Swamishri retained his respect for the sadhu.