UPASANA – THE STONE
Shastriji Maharaj was only a year old when Gunatitanand Swami graced Mahelav and blessed him. While placing his hand on Dungar Bhakta’s head, Gunatitanand Swami revealed to his elder brother, “Your brother will become a sadhu and will spread Shriji Maharaj’s supreme glory. Through his discourses [on upasana] he will elevate and strengthen the Sampradaya.”
From childhood, it was evident that Dungar Bhakta was special. His hunger for spiritual discourses was impossible to satiate. At school, he built mandirs in the sand and performed arti and thal.
In his later years he stated, “The sole purpose of my life is to build mandirs.” Indeed, that was exactly what he did.
Shastriji Maharaj’s work ethic was different from that of most leaders. He wasn’t one to sit in an ivory tower and bark orders. He would be on the ground, amid the whirlwind of action.
When the foundations for the Sarangpur mandir were being dug, devotees from Una, near Junagadh, came to meet Shastriji Maharaj. They remembered him from some thirty years previously when he had discoursed in their town. Since so many years had passed, they were not sure if they would recognize him. On meeting Yogiji Maharaj, they asked where they might find him. A faint smile spread across Yogiji Maharaj’s face, “The sadhu who just walked by was Shastriji Maharaj.”
The devotees stood confused. Their forehead creased as they exclaimed, “But that sadhu had a spade in his hand!”
“Yes, that was Shastriji Maharaj,” confirmed Yogiji Maharaj.
When they saw Shastriji Maharaj’s ragged appearance, they were thrown off. Tied around his head was a tattered piece of cloth. His dhoti, brown with mud, was pulled up to his even muddier knees. Was this really the same Shastriji Maharaj from years ago? Then, a dashing young scholar, today, he resembled an ordinary labourer.
This is what set Shastriji Maharaj apart. No task was too shallow for him. Indeed, as he himself had said, “We are the oxen of Akshar-Purushottam.” That is, in spreading upasana, he was willing to per-form any seva, anytime, anywhere.
Travelling from village to village, his sole mission was to see people become eternally happy through the message of Akshar-Purushottam.
Getting off the train at Botad or Jadila station, he faced a 15 km walk to Sarangpur. With a potlu on his head, sometimes weighing 20-40 kg, he would trudge through marshy farmland, winding dirt tracks and uneven terrain; and during the monsoon months he would have to cross flooded rivers.
He suffered from arthritis, which caused his feet to swell and pain from the incessant vicharan. At night, devotees would apply balm to ease the pain, but instead of resting he would grab the opportunity to sing the glory of Akshar-Purushottam. Sometimes the oil in the lantern ran dry; sometimes it was turned off – because it was dawn.
Although physically he tolerated a great deal, mentally, the trials were no lighter.
Shastriji Maharaj’s antagonists were looking for any opportunity to bring him down. They tried to plant the idea into people’s minds that Shastriji Maharaj had left Vartal to seek fame and glory. They were far from the truth. In Vartal, Shastriji Maharaj was admired by all. The kothari, senior and junior sadhus, and devotees all respected Shastriji Maharaj as they would a sadguru. He had everything. By leaving, he was giving it all up.
If he did in fact leave to be worshipped by others, then the devotees would have seen through the facade and left. Nevertheless, this was not the case. His only wish was to reveal the glory of Akshar and Purushottam as taught by Shriji Maharaj. One moving incident unfolds this truth.
Shastriji Maharaj was resting in the assembly hall in Sarangpur. Devotees from Africa approached him and asked for prasadi .
“What prasadi?” Shastriji Maharaj replied.
“The kumkum imprint of your charanarvind .”
Shastriji Maharaj suddenly sat upright. “Mine?!”
Shastriji Maharaj’s reply didn’t have the slightest air of any desire for honour, “If you want my charanarvind then cut off my feet! Apart from Shriji Maharaj’s charanarvind, nobody else’s can be worshipped.”
The devotees were crestfallen. They didn’t expect such a firm stance from Shastrij Maharaj.
SADBHAV – THE CEMENT
Shastriji Maharaj defined sadbhav as developing intense attachment towards Shriji Maharaj, his Param Ekantik Sadhu and his devotees.
Devotees from as far as Africa would flock for Shastriji Maharaj’s darshan. He won their hearts not through a display of intelligence or showmanship, but by sacrificing himself for them.
It was one particular devotee’s inner wish that Shastriji Maharaj have lunch at his house. Shastriji Maharaj agreed, and told him to go ahead and make all the arrangements. Overjoyed, the devotee invited almost everyone he knew. When Shastriji Maharaj arrived with Nirgundas Swami, they walked into the kitchen to cook the meal and were stunned by the sight before them – food provisions enough to feed one hundred people!
There was little time to waste. Shastriji Maharaj and Nirgundas Swami tied their upper garments into a knot and lit the stove. The kitchen was small. The fumes from the burning wood began to irritate Nirgundas Swami’s eyes. His eyes turned red as tears trickled down his cheeks. Shastriji Maharaj couldn’t bear seeing his discomfort and so he requested him to leave. The growing smoke made it difficult to breathe. Undeterred, Shastriji Maharaj single-handedly cooked lunch to feed one hundred people.
Such was his love for the devotees that he did all this without uttering a single word of complaint. Just as an incense stick burns to ash so we can enjoy its fragrance, Shastriji Maharaj toiled and withered to leave us the fragrance of sadbhav.