"This is your final warning Nityanand! Do as I say or else..." the Lord's patience had worn away.
"Maharaj, my mind tells me to believe you, but in my heart I cannot accept what you say to be true."
A few people in the audience gasped. Was this really Nityanand Swami refusing to obey his master?
"Very well then. There is only one thing left to do. I hereby excommunicate you from this Fellowship. Understand? You're on your own. I want nothing to do with you. Now be gone."
There followed a stunned silence. No one could believe their eyes and ears. They had just witnessed the Lord expel one of his most senior saints. Although Nityanand Swami was at fault, no one had thought it would go this far. All eagerly awaited Nityanand's response. Would he refuse to go? Would he try to defend himself? Or would he stand down and accept the Lord's words?
Nityanand Swami rose and folded his hands, "Maharaj," he said calmly, "When I put on these clothes, I surrendered myself totally at your feet. All these years I have lived according to your wishes. If now, you tell me to go, then I shall go peacefully with the knowledge that it is your wish for me to do so. But one thing I must say. Despite hearing you deny it, I cannot and will not consider you as anything less than the Supreme Godhead. And that conviction I will keep till the day I die."
With those last words, he bowed before Maharaj and then walked away forever. But what was the all important utterance of the Lord which Nityanand Swami could not accept?
At the time Nityanand Swami was compiling the scripture 'Satsangijivan'. In which he defined Shreeji Maharaj as the Supreme Godhead from whom all other incarnations emanated. However, the general consensus at that time was that Maharaj was in fact an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Some devotees reported this to the Lord and asked him to intervene. The question of his own supremacy was a delicate subject and so, rather than risk offending the devotees, Maharaj sided with them and censured Nityanand Swami for writing such things, ordering him to tailor the paragraph accordingly.
This left Nityanand Swami in an uncompromising situation. He knew Maharaj to be the Supreme Godhead - yet Maharaj had just publicly denied it. Could it be that he was wrong? No. In his heart he was certain. Hence, he held on to his conviction and refused to change a single word, even when facing excommunication.
As dusk fell, he came to a small lake where he settled for the night. A whirlwind of thoughts swirled through his mind. 'Where shall I go? How can I survive without my beloved? I could of course retract my words, but that would only be 'Selling out' my principles. And if I, as his sadhu do not speak of his true glory, then I am not a true disciple.'
Separation was a heavy price to pay. The heartburn did not ease. Solace was found in meditation. It was the only place he could be close to Maharaj. He became so engrossed that he forgot to take any food or water, day and night became one, the outside world was no longer there.
Meanwhile, Maharaj would inquire daily as to Nityanand's whereabouts and his condition. Though it was he who had sent him away, it was obvious that he too, was feeling the pangs of separation from one of his most beloved saints. Finally, after seven days the Lord summoned Nityanand back to Vadtal.
As news of Nityanand Swami's imminent return spread, saints and devotees gathered at the garden in Vadtal. First came Maharaj, He sat on a wooden cot, the saints began to sing kirtans. Then came Nityanand Swami. People were shocked by his appearance. In just seven days his healthy body had become a fragile frame. His eyes were red, dark rings had developed under them, tear stains were visible on his cheeks. The scars of disunion were unmistakable.
Immediately the Lord rose, embraced him and garlanded him. He then addressed the congregation, "Many times I have described to you the qualities of a true disciple. Today such a disciple stands before you. What he has written is correct, let no one doubt that. Still I decided to see if he really believed in my supremacy as he had written. He has proved that he does, for he held on to his conviction even after expulsion. There will be no amendments in what he has written."
'Faith is believing in what one cannot see. The fruits of that faith are seeing what one believed in.'
Whenever God incarnates upon this earth, he comes as a normal human being, he appears no different from the next person. At times he may display flashes of divinity, but he is more often likely to behave in a very 'human manner'.
This creates a perplexing problem for every spiritual aspirant. For a niggling doubt always remains rooted in his mind, disabling him from complete surrender. There are countless scriptures describing God and how he can be realized, however, the deception is so complete that mere logic and intelligence alone cannot unmask him. Thus it is left to the seeker to determine if he should keep faith or not.
If he can put aside all queries and believe, simply believe, then he will bridge the great divide between man and his creator. He will see God in his true form, pure and eternal. He will, as the saying goes, "...have placed one foot in heaven."
The paramhansas' faith was already apparent by their tolerating the trials, the abuse and insults. They had become accustomed to hardships, yet they never questioned their master, nor did their devotion diminish. Some may say that they had been thoroughly tested, others would say that they had proved themselves beyond doubt. Not Shreeji Maharaj. He was far from done in testing their faith. Looking at some of his methods, they were, to say the least, original.
The Lord had commanded that the saints should travel in groups and spread his message. And they were to only come to him when he summoned them. Often months would pass before they would hear from their master. This was a heart breaking time for these young men who had renounced everything so as to be closer to Maharaj, only to be sent away again.
One such group, headed by Paramchaitanyanand Swami had been travelling for over 6 months when they were finally called to Gadhada. As the saints arrived at Laxmivadi, Maharaj got up to greet them. Upon seeing their master, after many months the saints began prostrating. Maharaj went to each one and lovingly embraced them. Tears of joy flowed from their eyes, the Lord inquired about their health and their travels. Some were unable to reply, they were lost in his divine form.
Just then three saints, who had been slightly left behind, entered Laxmivadi. They too began prostrating. In their minds they knew that at any moment the Lord would pick them up and embrace them. It was a moment they rehearsed in their minds, over and over, every single day of their six month tour.
Sure enough Maharaj came to them and then he stood there, hands on hips, watching them do their prostrations. The saints were puzzled, 'Why was the Lord being indifferent. One saint stepped closer to Maharaj to bow at his feet and just then Maharaj spun around and strolled off back to his room. So the saints kept prostrating until Maharaj was out of sight.
Even after six long arduous months, the Lord did not say 'Jai Swaminarayan' to them, still none of the saints showed any sign of disappointment.
In Vach. Gad. I. No. 78 Shreeji Maharaj says, "One who has total conviction in God, will not be misled upon seeing him display human attributes such as happiness, sadness, fear, valour, etc. In fact, he will look upon these actions to be redemptive and for his benefit."
Once, Shukanand Swami stayed up all night writing letters, only to have Maharaj rip them up in the morning for no reason.
Once, he threw a string of beads at Brahmanand Swami for falling asleep during a discourse.
Even senior saints were not spared. Muktanand Swami and Atmanand Swami were told to leave the assembly because they were dozing.
None of these tests hindered the Paramhansas for they had strengthened their resolve to fly higher and higher.