|Lakshmichand Sheth’s life of faith and adherence
to the moral code of conduct serves
to inspire all who face difficulties in life.
A group of paramhansas led by Vrajanand Swami arrived on the outskirts of the village Ghogala near the port of Div. They had put up under the shade of a small orchard of trees. Having bathed in the nearby stream, they sat engrossed in meditation. Their peaceful nature and devotion made a good impression on the local villagers. They were pleased to have such humble sadhus in their village – for it made a pleasant change from the regular visit of abusive, demanding, intoxicated and often violent bawas they had to cope with.
News of the sadhus arrival, spread throughout the village. Soon, a sizeable number of villagers had gathered around the paramhansas, eager to listen to their discourses. The sadhus talked about devotion to God and freedom from addictions. Many of the villagers pledged to practice these messages in their daily lives.
Once, at about 5.00 p.m. the paramhansas sat down to meditate. At this time, a youth named Lakshmichand saw this tranquil scene. He was drawn closer by the fragrance of the surroundings. As he got closer, the aroma became stronger, yet he saw no evidence of the source of such a pleasant and powerful fragrance. He was puzzled. The sadhus were all engrossed in meditation, yet there was an intensely captivating and heart-soothing scent. Lakshmichand sat before the sadhus and waited. He wished to ask them about the source of this divine aroma. When Vrajanand Swami opened his eyes from his meditation he saw the youthful Lakshmichand and greeted him, “Jai Swaminarayan.”
“Pranam, Maharaj,” replied Lakshmichand. And unable to hold his curiosity any further, he asked, “Where is this wonderful fragrance, which is all around you, coming from?”
Smiling, Vrajanand Swami answered, “Sir, whatever a dedicated devotee, lost in the murti of God during meditation, offers to God is accepted by Him as if it were physically present. By the grace of God, aspirants like yourself often experience this interaction.”
This was all new to Lakshmichand, and he desired to know more. He further asked, “Who is this God?”
“His name is Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He is our God. For the ultimate salvation of innumerable souls He has gracefully incarnated on earth.” Vrajanand Swami then spoke at length about the glory of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the messages that He taught. He talked about the grand festivals and the moral rules of Satsang. This impressed Lakshmichand and he became spiritually awakened. He felt an urge to experience the divinity of the manifest form of the Supreme God.
“Please accept me as a follower,” Lakshmichand requested. Vrajanand Swami initiated him into Satsang.
A short while later, Lakshmichand got an opportunity to go to Africa to earn a living. He approached the sadhus and sought their blessings. They blessed him and advised, “Here, take this rosary and remember God in all that you do. Pray to Him daily. In times of difficulty, only God will help. By keeping God with you at all times you will attain success and wealth. But the only real and lasting wealth is to gain the blessings of God. Remember to do your best, honestly. Never be tempted to make ill-gotten riches. They will ultimately spell ruin. Stay away from addictive habits and bad company. Live a simple, humble and devoted life. Once you have earned enough then return back and come to meet Shriji Maharaj. We pray that God protects you and blesses you with good fortune, riches and peace.”
Lakshmichand was deeply touched by the guidance and prayers of the sadhus.
A few days later, Lakshmichand boarded the ship bound for Africa. Everything went smoothly, until in mid-ocean, they got caught in a violent storm. Relentless and heavy rains, together with chilly winds and giant waves threatened to sink the ship. Even the captain became despondent. The passengers panicked and lost hope of survival. The captain pleaded to everyone to pray. Lakshmichand chanted the name of “Swaminarayan, Swaminarayan...” and prayed for the safe passage of the ship and its passengers. Soon, the rains stopped and the winds calmed down. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The captain navigated the ship back on course and soon they arrived safely to Africa.
Lakshmichand secured a job as a manager in a large firm. His diligence and honesty impressed his boss. The care and enthusiasm with which Lakshmichand worked promoted unity throughout the whole company. Whatever task he was assigned was executed with absolute thoroughness and efficiency. Lakshmichand’s reputation grew.
Amid all this he never forgot the words of advice given by the sadhus. Lakshmichand’s daily prayers had supported him all the way.
In this way five years passed. Lakshmichand had saved and amassed a fortune. He forgot about his resolve of returning back to India.
Once, the strain and schedule of his work made Lakshmichand ill. At first he tried to hide his illness and continue as normal. But soon, he became so weak that one day he had to stay away from the office. Lakshmichand’s boss became worried at his plight. He went to meet Lakshmichand and offered some medication that contained alcohol. “It will make you stronger,” the boss insisted. Lakshmichand replied with conviction, “Boss, I will not drink this medicine because I am a Swaminarayan devotee.”
“Listen Lakshmichand, when you get well you’ll be able to observe dharma. Therefore take it, you will get strength and a proper appetite.”
“Boss,” Lakshmichand began weakly, “It is night time. It is not proper to take the medicine this late. I will think about it and leave it for tomorrow morning.”
The boss submitted and left without pursuing the matter further.
As the night wore on Lakshmichand became engrossed in an unending cycle of thoughts. “Oh! Look at what you are now. The sadhus had told you to earn enough and yet why are you still here? If you die then the money earned will remain behind. Why haven’t you sent any money home? O Maharaj!” And Lakshmichand prayed profoundly.
Then in the middle of the night he heard a knock on his room door. He was too weak to open the door and enquired in a weak tone, “Who is it?” Then to his surprise a divine, soothing light pervaded the entire room, and at the centre of this light stood Shriji Maharaj Himself.
“Who are you?” enquired Lakshmichand. He was unaware of the fact that it was Shriji Maharaj Himself.
“I am Swaminarayan; the one to whom you have been praying to for all these years. I have come because I am pleased with your pure devotion and prayers. This illness is causing you a lot of trouble, isn’t it? Here, take this. It will make you well.”
Without questioning, Lakshmichand obediently ate the salt and tulsi leaves.
“Now, when your health has recovered, return to India and come to meet me at Gadhada.” With this, Maharaj disappeared.
By the grace of Maharaj, Lakshmichand recovered quickly. He served a notice to his boss of his intention to return to India. His boss tried to persuade him to stay. He offered him a share of the business, an increased salary, a house and other things. But Lakshmichand was not tempted. The words of Shriji Maharaj were foremost on his mind. He had no desire for more money.
Thus, Lakshmichand returned to India. Impatient with an intense desire to meet Maharaj, Lakshmichand resolved that he would not eat or drink anything until he had His darshan. Lakshmichand went directly to Ghogala and then set off by foot with his wife to go to Gadhada. During the 300 km journey he explained to her the glory of Maharaj and Satsang and she became a satsangi.
When they arrived in Gadhada, they went directly to Maharaj. Lakshmichand prostrated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and offered a sizeable donation at His holy feet. Tears of joy and fulfillment overflowed from Lakshmichand’s eyes at this first darshan of Maharaj in person. Shriji Maharaj was pleased and blessed him profusely. His resolve for Satsang and belief in the glory of Maharaj was strengthened all the more.
After a few days in the divine company of Shriji Maharaj, he returned home. He truly pleased Maharaj by his sincere, pure devotion and steadfastness in the observance of moral rules – even when faced with the prospect of death. Lakshmichand became an immortal star in the firmament of Shriji Maharaj’s illustrious devotees through his genuine devotion for and refuge in Shriji Maharaj.
Translated by Sadhu Amrutvijaydas