Despite encountering severe challenges Shastriji Maharaj remained resolute in enshrining the philosophy of Akshar-Purushottam in the central shrine of BAPS mandirs. He accomplished this phenomenal task by remaining wedded to agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh. His birth on Vasant Panchmi is annually celebrated to pay tribute to the four principles he had imbibed and shared with the Satsang community.
“Shastriji Maharaj has built strong foundations that will remain so forever. No one will be able to sway them. There is no force in the world strong enough to shake them. No one is capable of stirring even a single brick from the foundation, nor even flick the tiniest pebble from its shikhar.”
These were the words triumphantly expressed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj during the Bicentenary Celebrations of Gunatitanand Swami in 1985. Why was Swamishri so confident in making such a valiant claim? He was not present when the Sanstha’s first mandir was built in Bochasan. Nor was he present when the second in Sarangpur and the third in Gondal were built. Did Shastriji Maharaj build mandirs using unknown construction techniques that gave them unshakeable strength? It seems highly unlikely given the scarce resources at the time. Even still, any structure, whether it is made from stone, steel or concrete is susceptible to damage.
The answer becomes clear when we dig deeper into Swamishri’s words. The ‘foundations of this Sanstha’ he speaks of is not the physical cement poured into the ground, but something even stronger – the principles of agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh.
Shastriji Maharaj stressed these four principles time and time again.
In a letter to the East Africa satsang mandal, dated 6 July 1937, he reveals the formula sought by us all, “Master the four principles of agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh, thus making this your last birth, and you will attain Shriji Maharaj’s seva in Akshardham.”
In 1938, Shastriji Maharaj wrote a letter of blessings in the Swaminarayan Prakash: “The purpose of this monthly [magazine] is solely to spread the word of satsang, and to reinforce the fundamentals of satsang – agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh.”
The Sanstha is greater than the sum of its parts. No number of schools, hospitals, or even mandirs equate to the Sanstha. Sadhus and devotees are the driving force behind the Sanstha’s activities, yet there is something exponentially greater. As Shastriji Maharaj explains, the Sanstha is built on princi-ples not on stone. Stone can be broken, principles cannot. That is why the Sanstha is built to last.
The first BAPS mandir was established in 1907 in the rural village of Bochasan, Gujarat. But the principles on which it was based had been present long before. On 2 April 1820, Shriji Maharaj, sitting in Gadhada revealed, “A devotee of God should realize that the form of God along with his Akshardham is present on this earth.” Even though Shriji Maharaj had given the blueprint, it wasn’t until Shastriji Maharaj, the architect, marched out of the gates of Vartal that the vision took shape.
When Shastriji Maharaj left, he didn’t have much: just five sadhus and a few devotees. He had no money, no food and no place. He had none of the tools needed to build a Sanstha, but he did have with him Shriji Maharaj’s principles of agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh.
AGNA – THE BRICK
As a young sadhu in Vartal, Shastriji Maharaj delved deep into the shastras, displaying scholarliness and wisdom beyond his age. Equally, his saintliness was unmatched. Kothari Govardhanbhai proudly pointed out, “Among the two thousand sadhus of Vartal, none has renounced women and wealth as firmly as Shastri Yagnapurushdasji.”
Once, Shastriji Maharaj arrived in Anand. It was the wedding season and so many devotees were out of town. Shastriji Maharaj changed his plans and decided to visit Sarangpur instead. Lifting his potlu onto his head, he made his way to the train station, hoping to meet a devotee who would pay for his ticket. Walking up and down the platform, he found no one. With no other option, he turned back and went into town. Again, not one familiar face was in sight. Only locked doors and windows greeted him. All the while his potlu was not getting any lighter. Shastriji Maharaj trudged back and forth three to four times, until finally he met a devotee who paid for his train ticket.
This was only one such occasion among countless others. Yet, he refused to ever carry any money with him since it was against the commands of Shriji Maharaj.
At the age of 80, Shastriji Maharaj was visiting a devotee’s house in Ahmedabad. Accidentally, an infant girl touched the far end of the carpet he was sitting on. In line with the niyams given by Shriji Maharaj, he fasted and refused to eat or drink anything that day. Given his age and frail body, the devotees pleaded, but Shastriji Maharaj was resolute, “Under no circumstance will I break Maharaj’s agna.”