Understanding and Advising:
As a part of his daily seva, Premprakash Swami often had to run to and from the mandir and the nearby river to fetch drinking water or tools for the other sadhus. Normally the job would have been tedious and laborious, except that he had come across a bicycle. At home, Premprakash Swami had loved to ride his bike, and when the chance to do so arose again, he couldn’t resist. With a newfound enthusiasm, he would eagerly ride his bike back and forth between the mandir and the river.
Soon, Swamishri found out about this and called him in. He lovingly explained, “We have to help, but only within our disciplines. There is nothing wrong with having a bicycle, but do you think it really suits us sadhus? Also, it is not good to get into the habit of going out alone. It can lead to problems. Always go with another sadhu. You should fast now, so that you don’t feel like making the same mistake again.”
Premprakash Swami took Swamishri’s words to heart and vowed to follow his wishes. To him the matter was closed. However, two days later, on their way to the river trench, Swamishri slowly stopped and folded both of his hands. Then putting them to his eyes, he stated, “Sorry. Please forgive me! The other day I told you off. I didn’t hurt your feelings did I? I gave you a fast. It must have been difficult.”
Premprakash Swami was stunned. However, before he could even react, Swamishri teased, “The Gadhada Kothari, and your guru Dev [Devcharan Swami], they’ll tell me off: ‘What? You’ve been harassing my disciple?’ But you know I didn’t tell you out of spite or to harass you. It’s only that I have great affection for you and I want to see you grow into a good sadhu. So please forgive me.”
Through this incident, one not only sees the understanding through which Swamishri provides guidance, but also the deep connection that allows him to utter such words.
Many times we meet contention with further resistance; Swamishri meets it with patience. He meets a forlorn soul with hope. When his devotees are lost, he brings them back home with love.
Once, a devotee by the name of Bachubhai met Swamishri in Bochasan. He shared with Swamishri his concerns, “Bapa, my son has recently become addicted to alcohol. I also used to drink heavily, but, after meeting you, I have been able to stop. As a result, both my health and business have improved. But, please have pity on my son.”
To this Swamishri requested, “Bring him to me.”
Bachubhai admitted, “I have brought him before, but he is still addicted.”
Swamishri explained, “Call him back. We will try to explain everything once again. If he comes here, he will find friendship and love in the sadhus. If we continue repeatedly explaining with love, at some point he will quit.”
In Swamishri’s words, one sees patience, understanding, and love. To Swamishri, no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard he has to work, he will strive to help his devotees spiritually progress. This is his unconditional love.
The Gift of Time:
As the head of a growing international organization, Swamishri runs on a tight and busy schedule. At any given moment, Swamishri is blessing devotees, planning events, overseeing projects, attending meetings, traveling, and the list goes on. Not a second is spent alone or for his own enjoyment. In the midst of this activity, Swamishri somehow makes time for his devotees and does all he can to be there for them when they need him. Swamishri is willing to go the extra mile if it means pleasing or being there for one of his devotees.
When Harshad Chavda, a youth who had been serving BAPS for many years, suffered a horrific car accident, Swamishri wrote him a 20 page letter, expressing his 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, thirst, or time of day. I can never serve you enough to make it up to you! The fact that I cannot serve you now is causing me immense sorrow.”
As if the twenty pages did not suffice, months later, when Harshad recovered, Swami personally fed him lunch until he could eat no more. A twenty-page letter in the aftermath of tragedy. A hand-fed meal. These are the signs of unconditional love.
In the years between 1977 and 1980, Miteshbhai Patel (later Yagnavallabh Swami) lived in America as per his family’s wish. Before leaving, however, Swamishri told him to write a letter every month, adding, “Even if you don’t write to me, I’ll definitely write to you.” Yagnavallabh Swami recalls that his letters to Swamishri hardly made any sense, but, Swami unfailingly replied to each one. This continued for four years, and the two became pen pals. Yagnavallabh Swami admits that if it were not for the constant motivation and support provided by Swamishri’s letters, he would have been vulnerable to the negative influences of society. “Without them,” he relays, “I don’t think I would have become a sadhu during the Lord Swaminarayan Bicentennial Celebrations in 1981.”
Even thousands of miles cannot keep Swamishri away from his precious devotees. Nothing can hinder his unconditional love.
Swamishri does not need books, seminars, or social media to be a good parent. In developing a personal connection with each individual, in striving to understand them, in giving them his time and attention, Swamishri has given his devotees everything with his unconditional love. It is no wonder that thousands proudly refer to him as their father-their guru. It is no wonder thousands strive to obey his every wish. All children truly want is unconditional love, and when you give them that, they will give you their all.
At times when I introspect about my love for Swamishri, I think about how peculiar it is that I have developed such a strong bond with my guru. As a teenage girl, I have established no physical acquaintance with Swamishri. I have never talked to him in person. Yet, he talks to me through the sun that shines every day, through the air I breathe, and through the smiles of strangers on a dreary day. I have never felt his touch, but he has touched my heart and I can feel the warmth it radiates. I have never met the gaze of his eyes, yet I know that he is looking out for me, protecting me. I can say without a doubt that I love my guru, and the only explanation seems to be his unconditional love. He loves me for who I am and for who he knows I can become. Swamishri’s unconditional love has a way of surpassing any obstacle, be it physical, emotional, mental, or situational. And that is why I can feel it with every breath I take, with every word I say, with every movement I make. His love is constant and unyielding. If I know anything, it is that Swamishri loves me. Unconditionally. And that is the greatest blessing in my life.