The true measure of a devotee is to sustain the practice of satsang whatever the situation. Damodar Bhakta had such faith in Bhagwan Swaminarayan and respect for the sadhus and devotees that he even met insults with a smile...
The assembly was jam packed. Maharaj was sitting on a raised seat. Sadhus, Kathis and Darbars were sitting in rows on either side. They added dignity to the atmosphere. One devotee was intently focused on Maharaj. He found it difficult to take his eyes off the graceful figure of Maharaj.
Shri Hari was engrossed in the Bhagvat discourse, when suddenly he began to cough. As the phlegm came out of his mouth, a devotee stood up, took off his turban, held it out and requested, “Maharaj, please spit into this.” That was the loving service he rendered.
The name of that devotee was Damodar. He was a Patidar from Ahmedabad. Since Shri Hari began visiting Ahmedabad, he had become a satsangi. Damodar understood the true glory of Maharaj. He also realized the glory of any animate or inanimate object, animal or human that came in contact with Shri Hari. If anybody slackened in satsang Damodar would at once explain to him the glory of Maharaj and satsang, and revived his faith once again. He would also render physical service. It was second nature to him. Whenever there was a festival he would be the first to arrive and the last to leave. He never considered any work to be too small for him. He would wash utensils, and clean rice and other grains. He developed a close rapport with other devotees and talked to them about the glory of Maharaj.
Once, Sahajanand Swami was going to Vartal to celebrate the Prabhodini festival. There was a large entourage of sadhus, parshads and devotees with him. Damodar, too, was accompanying him. They made a night halt at a village named Naniboru in the Bhal region. In the morning, everyone went to the lake for bathing. Shriji Maharaj delighted the sadhus and other devotees by sprinkling water on them in benediction. At that time countless beings dressed in white clothes sprang up on the banks. The devotees thought that their belongings, which were lying scattered under the trees, would be taken away by these people. Damodar asked Maharaj, “Shall I go and guard the belongings?” Maharaj replied, “These are not human beings. They are devtas. They will not stay here. They have come for my darshan and will soon go away. So, don’t worry.”
Damodar looked at Maharaj with unblinking eyes.
Then the devtas worshipped Maharaj with flowers, prayed to him with folded hands and disappeared skywards. The devotees and sadhus who were with Shri Hari saw the spectacle. Maharaj came out of the lake, dressed and held an assembly. He explained, “There have been numerous previous avatars and you will have also had countless births. But only this time have you attained me.” Damodar asked, “The previous avatars were yours. So wasn’t it you we met in previous births?”
Maharaj replied, “It is all the same. All ishwars have gained their powers from me. I am supreme, the avatari of all avatars. I am the controller of all. No one controls me. All avatars are aspects of Chaturvyuh. There are countless in the infinite brahmands. They are all controlled by Aksharbrahman. I am above Akshar, I am Purushottam.”
Shriji Maharaj had the capacity to explain difficult scriptural talks in a manner easily understood by others. Maharaj’s discourse on his form reinforced Damodar’s faith. He taught that if after understanding these talks one does not explain them to others, then one is accountable to Maharaj. Since otherwise, Maharaj’s efforts on this earth will go to waste. With folded hands he prayed, “Prabhu, you have graced me with a true understanding of your form. Please bless me that I may explain it to others.”
For some in the group Maharaj’s talk about himself was new. Others readily accepted it, clearing other doubts. By the time the group had reached Vartal, Damodar had convinced many of Maharaj’s true form. Devotees from many regions attended the Prabhodini festival at Vartal. There was much discussion regarding Shriji Maharaj’s supreme form. Everybody discussed it as per his understanding. Some even approached Shri Hari seeking clarification of certain points. He explained in detail that he is Purna Purushottam – Supreme God.
Thus, during this festival in Vartal, Maharaj explained to his devotees that they had attained Akshardham. Damodar etched every word of Shriji Maharaj in his heart and fearlessly talked to others about Shriji Maharaj’s supreme form.
Nathu Bhatt, a devout Vaishnav of Ahmedabad, became a satsangi. He applied a prominent tilak-chandlo on his forehead even while giving discourses on the Shrimad Bhagvat. Some members of the Vaishnav community did not like this. They decided that unless he gave up his Swaminarayan faith, and stopped applying tilak-chandlo and wearing the kanthi, they would not attend his discourses. This was conveyed to Bhatt by one of the Vaishnavs. Nathu Bhatt said, “I have taken refuge in Swaminarayan for the liberation of my jiva. I deliver discourses to earn my livelihood. If you don’t like it, I shall stop my discourses from today.” Thus, he staunchly maintained his affiliation to Satsang.
Damodar was a close friend of Nathu Bhatt. They spent much time together and had many discussions. As a result, Damodar realized that there were some gaps in Nathu Bhatt’s understanding of Maharaj’s true form. Bhatt thought that Shriji Maharaj was like an actor who plays different roles at different times. That is, this Shriji Maharaj incarnates at different times in different forms, e.g. as Ram, Krishna, etc.
In fact Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami had explained the true form of Maharaj, describing it as like the relationship between an arrow and the one who shoots it. Only, when the archer releases the arrow from the bow, is the arrow able to move. It is unable to move on its own. In the same way, only when the avatari (supreme God), Shriji Maharaj, sends the avatars into the universes are they able to do their work. It is his power which enables them to do so. Because of his past merits, Damodar was able to grasp these principles. Damodar thought, “Since Bhattji has come into my contact, it is my duty to explain to him Maharaj’s true form.” Thus, he said to Bhattji, “If you do not have absolute conviction in Maharaj’s true form, you will not be able to go to Akshardham.” Hearing this Bhattji was angered, and said, “O Kanbi! What do you know about the shastras?” With this he slapped Damodar and said, “Let us go to Maharaj and have the matter clarified.”
Both of them set out on a bullock cart for Vartal. There, they had Maharaj’s darshan and Nathu Bhatt said, “Maharaj, this Damodar is talking about things which are not in the shastras. He says you are supreme and above all avatars. So now, you explain things to him.”
Shri Hari smiled and said, “Nathu Bhatt, what does Damodar know about shastras. You are a learned man.”
Nathu Bhatt thought, “I don’t understand what Maharaj is saying.”
Then Maharaj said, “How can I figure in the shastras? I have come into this world for the first time. Have you heard of anyone being married before birth?”
Maharaj’s words made Nathu Bhatt think about these matters. Shri Hari put Bhattji in samadhi. He saw the splendour of different dhams (divine abodes) and their role in the scheme of creation. They were all bound by maya. Everything up to Prakruti-Purush was trapped by maya. Only Akshardham was above maya. He had darshan of the resplendent Akshardham. He saw countless liberated souls. He saw Maharaj sitting on the highest seat above them all. He also saw Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami in attendance to him. He found that all avatars were singing the praises of Purna Purushottam.
When he emerged from samadhi, Nathu Bhatt realized his mistake. He prostrated before Damodar, embraced him and sought his forgiveness. Bhattji was thereafter blessed with a special vision to look at Maharaj. Without Damodar this change would not have come about.
While talking about ultimate liberation in Vachanamrut Gadhada II 59, Bhagwan Swaminaryan highlights the staunch faith of Damodar in his divine form, “In the four Vedas, the Purans and the Itihas shastras, there is but one central principle, and that is that only God and his Sadhu can grant liberation. One who has worshipped and served Bhagwan or his holy Sadhu in previous lives will never lose affection for Bhagwan and his Bhakta. His faith will never waver, even if others try to influence him. For him, even if his own mind tries to deflect him, he remains steadfast. His faith remains firm like Bhalchandra Sheth’s was, or Damodar’s is.... When such faith is present know that person to be a devotee of God from previous births.”
In the Vachanamrut, Shriji Maharaj has named only a few devotees. Of them, he highlighted Damodar’s staunch faith.
Damodar understood the glory of Maharaj as well as other devotees.
Once, for some reason, a sadhu hit Damodar, but Damodar did not become upset or complain. However, when Shri Hari came to know of it, he sent for the sadhu and reprimanded him. At that time Damodar said, “Maharaj, a sadhu is like my father. A father has a right to beat his son. That is his privilege. Only if someone scolds or beats the jiva is it likely to remain well-behaved. Who will purify us except the sadhus? They are our true well-wishers. If you rebuke them, who will remove our faults?” Maharaj was pleased by the deep understanding of Damodar. As he had great regard for Shri Hari he would neglect his business and often accompany him on his vicharan and serve him diligently.
Once, Maharaj was travelling in the Gujarat region. Maharaj wanted to pass water, so he got down from Manki and went to an isolated area. He tried to loosen the cord of his surval, but it had become entangled. Several people tried to loosen it, but without success. Maharaj was beginning to feel uneasy. Then Damodar came up and deftly loosened the cord with his teeth. Shri Hari was very pleased with his prompt service.
On another occasion some particle got lodged in Maharaj’s eye and was causing a lot of discomfort. However much he tried, he could not get it out. So, Damodar offered, “Maharaj! If you permit I will remove it instantly.”
Maharaj said, “OK. Take it out.”
He tenderly held open Shri Hari’s eyelid and swiftly removed the particle with his tongue.
Maharaj exclaimed, “You are an expert in removing particles from the eyes.”
Damodar replied, “And you are the expert in removing the particles of worldly desires that are lodged in the jiva. People who can remove particles that lodge in the eyes can be found in every village. Only you can remove particles that cause attachment to the world.” Maharaj was pleased with his understanding and blessed him.