A Path of Thorns
Maharaj’s paramhansas led a life saturated with constant hardships and inconceivable sufferings. Once, Maharaj was seated in an assembly in Sardhar. He asked two sadhus who had just arrived from vicharan, “What troubles do our sadhus face?” Tears flowed from the sadhus’ eyes. Visions and memories of the ceaseless afflictions endured by their fellow paramhansas flashed across their minds as they described their ordeals, “Maharaj, the persecution is escalating. The bawas shatter our pattars and tumbdis. They break our kanthis and janois, cut our chotlis, steal flour and grains from our almshouses and maliciously curse us.” After a moment’s pause the disheartened sadhus finally stated, “Maharaj, there is no suffering on this entire planet which your sadhus have not suffered.” Such were the dire circumstances that the paramhansas lived through and tolerated. Adversities that cannot even be imagined today were a daily occurrence for the paramhansas. Maharaj initiated 3,000 sadhus, but hundreds of them had died from severe torment. This was the life that Brahmanand Swami had willingly accepted.
Once, in a town in Saurashtra, a bawa caught and imprisoned Brahmanand Swami and Muktanand Swami. In front of them he sharpened his blade, preparing it to mutilate them by cutting off their ears and nose. Their prayers to Maharaj saved them at the last moment.
On another occasion during an evening assembly, Brahmanand Swami exclaimed, “If anyone can see, please give me my sitar. Today, I want to please Maharaj by singing kirtans.” Confused, Maharaj questioned as to why Brahmanand Swami said this. At that time, a sadhu informed Maharaj, “Because of a lack of nutritious meals, many sadhus are suffering from night blindness.” Tears welled up in Maharaj’s eyes. The paramhansas’ sacrifice was unheard of.
Brahmanand Swami, who was conditioned to praises and being adorned with gold, was cruelly threatened with disability. The poet who used to have his hands washed with rosewater by queens and fanned by servants while eating pistachios from golden bowls was suffering from night blindness as a result of malnutrition. The Ladudanji who once travelled with an entourage of servants and bodyguards was being beaten and tortured by bawas. The vast difference in lifestyle is amazing even today. Yet, Brahmanand Swami had made a drastic transformation without an ounce of sorrow or regret. What was the motivating factor that constantly inspired Brahmanand Swami to lead such an arduous life with amazing mental ease? His nishchay. His firm conviction in Maharaj. In Vachanamrut Loya 3 Maharaj states, “What would a person who has faith in God and his Sadhu coupled with the knowledge of their greatness not do for the sake of God and his Sadhu? For them, he would renounce his family, renounce any fear of public ridicule, renounce a kingdom, renounce pleasures, renounce wealth, renounce his wife…” Brahmanand Swami’s life exactly depicts Maharaj’s words. In fact, this colossal difference in lifestyle actually became a much more rewarding experience for Brahmanand Swami.
Shriji Maharaj used to rigorously test his sadhus on a regular basis through various prakrans (chapters). One day, Maharaj proclaimed that every sadhu would be given only one metre of jute cloth to wear. One by one, each sadhu came to Maharaj and received his cloth. Brahmanand Swami also came. However, because of his considerably greater size, one metre of cloth would be too small to cover him. When he asked for a longer piece, Maharaj decisively said, “The rule shall not be changed. Reduce your body. Observe fasts.” It was impossible to reduce his physical size immediately. Pondering over his predicament, Brahmanand Swami began to look in all directions as if he was searching for something. “What are you looking for?” questioned Maharaj. Brahmanand Swami confidently replied, “Nowhere on this earth, even in a space as small as a fingernail, can I find any God other than you; so there is no other option but to stay here.” Pleased with Brahmanand Swami’s staunch faith, Maharaj gave him a longer piece of cloth.
Not only did Brahmanand Swami’s firm conviction easily allow him to surpass this one test, but he was able, without any doubt or fear, to abide by all 108 prakrans that Maharaj commanded. He not only physically renounced his materialistic luxuries, but was also able to mentally surrender his expectations and ambitions.
Despite a life of innumerable hardships, Brahmanand Swami’s inner happiness is reflected through the bhajans he composed. Even after suffering indescribable afflictions, Brahmanand Swami composed ‘Rãj mãre din din Diwali re…’, a bhajan describing the untold joy he experienced daily. What was the reason for such happiness? How was it possible for such a stark contrast between his outer arduous lifestyle and his inner bliss to exist? This contrast in lifestyle and emotion was based on his firm conviction. Hence, a person’s ultimate happiness is not dependant upon physical objects or surroundings. Rather, it is completely dependent upon one’s conviction in Maharaj and Swami – an essential and practical lesson that can be learned from Brahmanand Swami’s life.