Swamishri’s tolerance is immeasurable, but he does not tolerate any cruelty to animals.
He has been a strong advocate of vegetarianism around the world. He often says, “Every being has the right to live. Killing to survive is just not humane.”
With this understanding, Swamishri has successfully convinced hundreds of thousands of people to adopt a vegetarian diet. Speaking to a youth who enjoyed hunting as a pastime, Swamishri expressed his value for life, “Just as we have the right to live, don’t they? Do not commit such a grave sin. These poor animals live on grass. Do they harm anyone? If somebody hits us do we not feel pain? They also have feelings. Promise that you will never kill again. You will find the strength to abstain. You will experience peace and happiness.”
The youth agreed, but while taking the pledge he murmured, “I will not be able to stay without hunting.” Swamishri heard this and then, looking directly into the youth’s eyes, patiently explained, “What do you mean? There’s nothing you can’t live without. Give up that thought. You will get strength from satsang. Hunting does not benefit you or the animals. The poor animals suffer and die. They also have a soul. God has given them an animal body and us a human body. You are a Kshatriya and so your duty is to protect. Killing is demonic, and the more you do it the more miserable you will become.”
Out of his compassion towards those that have addictions, Swamishri has personally counselled and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to give up such harmful habits. No matter how busy he may be, but whenever Swamishri meets someone entangled in addictions, he always finds time to speak to him and convince him to give up bad habits. He repeatedly reminds people of their vows to eschew their vices and constantly follows up with them for years.
Swamishri was meeting devotees as he walked towards the assembly hall in Ahmedabad, when suddenly a youth bowed at Swamishri’s feet. A sadhu started to introduce him, but Swamishri interrupted, “I know him. How are you Atul? Are you still on it?”
“Brown sugar, Atul. I haven’t forgotten.”
Atul couldn’t look into Swamishri’s eyes. Swamishri noticed his body language and said, “You are still addicted? I have told you so many times. How have you benefited from it? Everyone is telling you to give it up. Is it because they want to harm you? You have to decide. How much do you take?”
“Around two hundred rupees worth daily.”
“Where do you get the money from?”
“I have a job in the government where I can coax extra money from people.”
Swamishri picked up on this point, “So you steal money. Your drug habit is one type of sin. Then you steal again from people to support your addictive habits; that’s another sin.”
After eight years of persistent effort, Swamishri was able to save Atul, the only son of a widowed mother, from the fatal grip of a silent killer.
Through personal meetings, letters and home visits, Swamishri’s compassion has saved and pacified countless people. Whenever someone is in a difficult situation or condition, Swamishri is overcome with a feeling of pity: “How may I help?”
When Harshad Chavda, a youth who had been serving in the BAPS for many years, met with a car accident, Swamishri wrote him a 20-page letter to express his serious regret for not being able to serve him personally:
“The news (of your accident) brings me much pain. I am praying to Maharaj and Swami for your speedy recovery. I am praying for you in my morning puja as well. I also feel the pain you are suffering. I should be serving you in your time of need, because you have always selflessly served with great understanding and enthusiasm, and without concern for your health, hunger or thirst, or time of day. I can never serve you enough to make it up! The fact that I cannot serve you now is causing me immense sorrow.”
Prabhashankarbhai Pandya of Ahmedabad, an elderly devotee from Shastriji Maharaj’s time, recalls a moving incident to illustrate Swamishri’s compassion:
“Once, I arrived in Atladra for the Vasant Panchmi celebrations at around 2.00 a.m. Everyone was asleep and there was no place for me to sleep. I decided to rest in front of the steps leading up to the assembly hall, using my bag as a makeshift pillow. At around 5.30 a.m. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Pragat Bhagat – Swamishri’s attendant. I saw a blanket wrapped around my body. ‘Who covered me with this blanket?’ I asked him. Pragat Bhagat replied, ‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj had come in the middle of the night and covered you with his blanket.’ ”
In 2000, a young boy named Prashant, from the small village of Sagarkhedu Kharva, was seriously injured in an accident during the preparations for a festival in Surat. He was admitted to the ICU of Mahavir General Hospital for treatment. Swamishri heard of the incident and was deeply saddened on hearing of the child’s plight.
Coincidentally, Swamishri arrived in Surat that day. The next morning, he decided to visit Prashant in hospital and left by car. As they neared the hospital, they realized that the road leading to the hospital had been temporarily closed for repairs. Swamishri opened the car door, stepped out and expressed his wish to walk the remaining quarter of a kilometre. Supported by his attendant sadhus, he began to negotiate over pipes and ditches as he made his way to the hospital. Swamishri was 80 years old, yet he was not deterred by the physical obstacles. When he reached the hospital and entered the ICU, he placed his hands on the boy’s head and whispered, “Prashant, Prashant…Jai Swaminarayan…”
Prashant was unconscious, but Swamishri spoke to the boy as if he was listening to every word. He then placed Harikrishna Maharaj’s garland around Prashant’s neck and prayed for his wellbeing. Then, Swamishri comforted the boy’s father. His compassion touched Prashant’s family beyond imagination.
Swamishri left the hospital and returned to his car, walking over the uneven ground, and leaping over ditches and manholes. He was satisfied, since he had been able to soothe and care for an innocent young child and his family in their time of need.
Only a Satpurush who is beyond the attachments and needs of the body can truly and selflessly shower compassion on others. Only he can speak and live by the words.
“In the joy of others lies our own;
In the progress of others rests our own;
In the good of others abides our own.”
That such a Brahmaswarup Sadhu engages in countless activities for the benefit of others is the result of his compassion, as described by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Vachanamrut: “For a devotee of God, even though mayik influences are overcome, intense compassion and affection for God and his devotees increases. But in no way are compassion and affection ever lost; they always remain” (Vachanmarut, Gadhada III 3).
The compassion of such a Sadhu is not shown only when he sees someone suffering. It is more than that. The ancient sages call it akaran daya – ‘Compassion with no particular cause’.
Yogiji Maharaj called it atyantik daya or ‘the compassion to free souls from the never-ending cycle of life and death’.
We are indeed fortunate to have such a sadhu in our midst.