On 12 February 2005, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was residing in Atladra (Vadodara). A group of sadhus from Sarangpur came to present to Swamishri a book containing short essays, articles, shloks and incidents on Shastriji Maharaj’s life and work. The book had been written by the sadhus in Sarangpur on the occasion of Vasant Panchami. As one of the sadhus read from the journal, Swamishri listened with rapt attention. The sadhu mentioned that Shastriji Maharaj had enshrined and spread the principle of Akshar-Purushottam upasana in three ways:
Through relentless vicharan.
Swamishri interrupted the sadhu and revealed, “Yes, it’s true that Shastriji Maharaj was able to spread our upasana through mandirs but the main element was his saintliness (sadhuta). It was because of his profound sadhuta that he was able to accomplish his goal. This is the main thing we should never forget.”
Indeed, Swamishri reminded us about the core reason why Shastriji Maharaj was able to tolerate and overcome the hostility and hardships he faced. Even amidst an avalanche of opposition, he stood firm like a solid rock and achieved his mission of propagating the true upasana. It was because of his innate sadhuta that the Satsang spread and people lovingly embraced the doctrine of Akshar-Purushottam.
On another occasion, Swamishri was seated in an assembly where Harishbhai Dave had just spoken about the progress and achievements of the Sanstha over the previous 30 years. After Harishbhai had finished his speech, Swamishri blessed the assembly and revealed the secret of the exponential growth of BAPS, “Our Sanstha has grown and progressed because of Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta.”
So, what is sadhuta?
The word sadhuta has a very broad meaning. It is a collection of many saintly virtues, but if we were to narrow it down, the focus falls upon two virtues:
Shastriji Maharaj’s firmness in adhering to the commands of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Shastriji Maharaj’s spirit of tolerance.
In order to really understand Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta, let us closely look at three incidents from his life. While we do so, let us also try to put ourselves in his shoes. What would we have done under similar circumstances?
Total Renunciation of Money
Kothari Gordhanbhai of Vartal, one of the most honoured and senior figures in Vartal, had earned more respect than any sadguru. As the administrator (kothari) he had witnessed the reign of five acharyas in the Vartal sampradaya. It was he who had boldly stated, “Amongst the 2,000 sadhus in Vartal, I have yet to see a sadhu as staunch in his vows of celibacy and non-wealth as Shastri Yagnapurushdas (Shastriji Maharaj).”
Once, Shastriji Maharaj arrived in the town of Anand. Most of the devotees had gone to attend a wedding ceremony, and hence, there was nobody available to host Shastriji Maharaj. Swami thought it pointless to stay in Anand because the devotees were away engaged in their social duties. With this in mind, Shastriji Maharaj switched his plans and decided to go to Sarangpur by train. He walked to the railway station hoping to find a devotee who would pay for the tickets, but found no one. Then, he and his companion sadhu walked back to town, but found nobody there either. So, they returned to the station. After going back and forth four times, Shastriji Maharaj eventually found a devotee by the name of Govardhanbhai Keshavlal, who paid for the tickets to Botad (the nearest station to Sarangpur). Incidents like these happened many times, but never did Shastriji Maharaj bend the rule of not keeping money with him. This was his sadhuta.
Paragon of Tolerance
On one occasion, Shastriji Maharaj visited the old Swaminarayan mandir in Vadodara. After darshan, he sat on a seat in the assembly hall. A senior sadhu from the sampradaya walked into the mandir. His eyes fell on Shastriji Maharaj. Unable to bear the rising popularity of Shastriji Maharaj the brewing envy within him turned into a rage. At first, he started abusing Shastriji Maharaj verbally. Next, he started pushing and shoving Shastriji Maharaj, who remained calm. Finally, in a fit of anger, the old sadhu hit Shastriji Maharaj with his walking stick. He hit him so hard that the stick broke into two. Shastriji Maharaj quietly picked up the two broken pieces and humbly handed them back to the old sadhu. This was Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta. He could easily have retaliated, but he was not ready to stoop low and give up his principles of tolerance and forgiveness.
Shastriji Maharaj once wrote a letter to the kothari of Bochasan mandir, “We should always think highly of others and behave in a dignified manner that is helpful to all, no matter what. One should never think of taking revenge for the hurt meted out to oneself because that is unacceptable on the path of sadhuta. Never take the stand of ‘an eye for an eye’. If someone insults us or demeans us, we should be pleased. Let that be God’s wish, because, eventually, the truth will prevail. Shriji Maharaj controls everything and rewards one and all with the fruits of their actions.” Such was the calibre of Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta.
Apostle of Truth
Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta was evident from his honest and straightforward approach. On 7 December 1938, he wrote a letter to the devotees in East Africa describing the basis of his understanding of Gunatitanand Swami as Mul Akshar or Aksharbrahman – the abode and ideal disciple of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Towards the end of his explanation he underscored, “I do not know how to arrange a false talk and explain it to others for a selfish gain. There is a lot of sin in untruth. In the Shrimad Bhagvat it has been written, ‘Nãsatyãt param pãpam’, (‘Untruth is the highest sin’). Furthermore, the Earth has said, ‘I can bear the burden of sinful people, but I cannot bear the burden of an untruth spoken by someone.’ Therefore, please understand that I do not in any way insist upon untruthful talks. So, if you trust me and believe me to be a speaker of truth, an honest person, then believe the above talks to be true, and with a pure heart develop faith that Swami is the anadi (eternal) Akshar.”
While Shastriji Maharaj possessed countless external virtues, it is his core spiritual content that intrigues so many today. His character, internal personality, self-discipline, resolute faith in God and sadhuta captivated individuals. Such was Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta that many who opposed him later repented and readily welcomed his inspiring talks. Moreover, they willingly accepted and followed the principles of Akshar-Purushottam upasana as laid down by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Vachanamrut.
Shastriji Maharaj’s sadhuta enabled him to establish and spread the doctrine of Akshar-Purushottam.