All this happened in Samvat 1992 (1935-6 CE). Then in Aso, Samvat 1995 (September-October 1938), Shastriji Maharaj came there [to Chansad]. When Ghanshyam Swami’s mandal came there I was studying in English year two. Swami said (to father), “Give your son to us.” He said, “Fine. Ok.”
I told Swami that I wished to study English and had taken admission in English.
At that time Aksharjivan Swami (of Pij) was with Shastriji Maharaj. Swamishri said, “You want to study English, don’t you? Well, Aksharjivandas also wants to study. In Ahmedabad there is Vinayak Rao Saheb’s school and Khengarji is a teacher (there). We will get him to teach you.”
I said, “Good.” Then he asked the family and they all said yes. They said to me, “Do whatever pleases Swami.”
I said, “I will go with Swami after the exams.” Then, Swami said, “I am staying here. Your exams will finish in a few days. So, we will go together.” Then he placed his hands on my head, stroked his hands on my cheeks, blessed me and said, “You will study well and become a good scholar.”
That day I had my second exam paper. Raojibhai of Gana had suddenly became unconscious. His father, Naranbhai, sent an urgent letter via a courier to Shastriji Maharaj. He had written that Raojibhai had become unconscious and urged him to come there on receiving the letter. On reading the letter, Swamishri immediately left for Gana. When I returned home after the exam I learnt that Swami had gone. But I met Ghanshyam Swami, and he said, “Shastriji Maharaj has left, but has instructed for you to go to Bochasan after your exams finish.”
Nilkanth Swami was with Ghanshyam Swami at the time. He had to go to Bhaili, so they went there. Meanwhile, Shastriji Maharaj wrote a letter to Ghanshyam Swami saying, “I have discussed everything and you bring him with you to Bochasan. When you receive this letter, go there [to Chansad] to collect him.”
Ghanshyam Swami sent this letter from Bhaili and said that Swami had said for me to be sent to Bhaili. So, the arrangements were made. Chhotabhai’s nephew, Ravji, came on a bicycle with this letter.
At that time, we friends were playing cricket [in Chansad]. A man named Kalal had come to live in the village and he was a cricket enthusiast. He got a group of five-seven kids daily and taught us to play cricket. We played in the open ground. All the boys became very interested in cricket. They said that all this (equipment) is Kalal’s. So, it is better that we get our own. We should get stumps and everything else for ourselves. But where will we get the money for it. Everyone got together and decided to collect a fund by asking the main villagers to contribute. Shankarlal and I asked a few people and got some funds, about 400 to 500 rupees. In the morning we were sitting on the outskirts near the school. It was Aso vad ekadashi. Everyone was thinking about who should go to Vadodara to buy the cricket equipment. I was selected, but I didn’t know much, so I told Shankarlal that we both go to get it. This discussion was taking place and a message came from home that a letter from Shastriji Maharaj has come and that Ravjibhai has come to take you. So, our discussion stopped and I went home. That day was Aso vad ekadashi, and whether a major or minor one, we always observed a fast on ekadashi. I was served some ukalo and told, “Go, Swami will be pleased. You have our blessings.” Because it was ekadashi, some snacks were packed, because we were going by bicycle and just in case we were delayed. Some chana-mamra were packed if needed in the following days. We took the snacks and left for Bhaili.
Let me tell you something else first.
In the village [Chansad] I had a friend named Shantilal. We had the same name. We were very close friends, and had similar likings. I would go to his house to eat and he would come to ours. We ate together, played together and studied together. After school we would do our homework and go to sleep, but on Sundays we played. We played on the outskirts and would swim in the lake. After a few years, he moved to Vadodara for studies since his father lived there, and I stayed there [in Chansad]. But, he (Shanti) came there [to Chansad] during every vacation. Every month also, he would come several times to meet me. We both had planned that after finishing studies we would go to Haridwar and Rishikesh to worship God. The reason for this? Well, there [in Chansad] we went to the Hanuman Mandir, where the priest, Haridasji, would tell us stories from the Ramayan. We went every 2-3 days to the Hanuman Mandir. Also, the pujari in the Swaminarayan Mandir was a bawa named Sitaram. We went there in the mornings or evenings to sit. The bawaji talked a lot about the Ramayan as well as about the glory of Haridwar, Rishikesh and Ayodhya. He told us that there were many rishis and mahatmas there, many nice ashrams and that the river Ganga flowed and many other things. After listening to all this, we thought that after finishing studies we would go there and stay with the mahatmas. But, in between, Shastriji Maharaj came and I came here. In my mind, from the beginning, I had decided to become a sadhu, and due to Shastriji Maharaj’s wish everyone in the family had also decided. So, they agreed that I become a sadhu.
Before I left they [mother and father] blessed me and said, “Become a good sadhu. Do as Swami says. Please Swami. Do not think of coming back home. Do not leave Shastriji Maharaj and please only Shastriji Maharaj. If there are difficulties, tolerate them, but do not return.”
Then, I sat on Ravjibhai’s bicycle and left for Bhaili (Aso vad 11, Samvat 1995; 7 November 1939, Tuesday)
When I reached Bhaili, Ghanshyam Swami was sitting in the mandir. He was delighted to see me. We were to leave from there on the next day. We went to Sankarda, where we stayed for a few days in the mandir. Diwali was approaching, and Ghanshyam Swami and Nilkanth Swami were going to Bochasan for the Annakut celebration. But the villagers strongly insisted that they celebrate Annakut in their village this time. So they stayed. They thought that while there they could also collect the dharmado (tithes), and that they could send someone to bring the Annakut prasad from Bochasan. At that time, a staunch devotee of the village, Shankar Bhagat, was there. They sent him to Bochsan to bring the Annakut prasad (for distribution to the devotees) and at the same time take me to Bochasan.
Ghanshyam Swami told me to go with Shankar Bhagat and said, “Shastriji Maharaj will come there for Punam and you will get darshan. Do as Swami says.”
I thought that I would get darshan of Bochasan mandir and Swami.
When we got there, we met Nirgundas Swami. Shankar Bhagat told him about me, and Nirgundas Swami said, “Let him stay with me.” Nirgundas Swami was going to Ahmedabad and would meet Shastriji Maharaj there.
The day after the Annakut festival, Shankar Bhagat left. He asked me, “What is your wish?” I said, “I will stay here.”
Nirgundas Swami left for Ahmedabad after a few days. Harivallabh Swami was with him. The Isnav Mandir Court case was in progress at the time. Nirgundas Swami was to meet Jashbhai Makandas (main administrator of the Vartal Sanstha and father of former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Babubhai J. Patel) in Bhadran for some discussion regarding the case. He lived in Nadiad, but was coming to Bhadran that day to a relative’s house. Nirgundas Swami called a bullock-cart early and took Girdharbhai Mathurdas with him. Harivallabh Swami and I were also with him. We also took a container of prasad.
When we reached the outskirts of Bhadran, Nirgundas Swami said to Girdharbhai, “You stay here, since there are two roads which lead to the village. We are taking this road. If he exits by the other road we will miss him. So you look out for him.”
We left the bullock-cart there, and with Nirgundas Swami we walked to the village. Meanwhile, Jashbhai left the village by car using the other road. When we reached the village, Nirgun Swami enquired. Everyone said that he had just left. When we returned to the outskirts, his car had gone. Girdharbhai hadn’t even realized. So, Nirgundas Swami was a little annoyed. We returned to Bochasan. Again he called a bullock-cart and we went to Kavitha, and then Borsad for some work. From there, we went by train to Nadiad.
In Nadiad, we stayed at Ramchandrakaka’s home. There, I fell ill with a fever. In Nadiad, Nirgundas Swami had some work with Jashbhai. Due to the fever I could not go anywhere, so Nirgundas Swami and Harivallabh Swami went. On enquiring, people said that Jashbhai had gone to Vartal and would return in the evening. So, Nirgun Swami went around Nadiad all day doing his work. Back at our lodgings, nobody asked me if I was ill or well. I had a high fever for 2-3 days and had not eaten or drank anything. At night, Harivallabh Swami would return and make some ukalo for me.