THE REWARDS OF VIRTUES
BAPS Chhatralaya, Vidyanagar
Full of youthful enthusiasm, Mit Sutariya graduated with BSc and MSc degrees while staying at the BAPS Chhatralaya in Vidyanagar.
During his stay, he daily attended the sabhas and arti, and performed puja daily. He also eagerly participated in the various activities of the chhatralaya as well as his college. He had also attained a high rank in the National Cadet Corps.
While staying in the chhatralaya, Mit developed a deep desire to serve India. On completing his studies, he got an opportunity to join the Indian Army.
After passing the initial tests, Mit was stationed in Bikaner as a lieutenant. Here, the values and skills of hard work, politeness and leadership helped him progress to the rank of captain.
Impressed by his performance in Bikaner, Mit was promoted to Acting Major and transferred to Kashmir. He had achieved in just a few years what would normally take more than ten.
Even while fulfilling his responsibilities in protecting India’s borders as a respected major, Mit performs daily puja, and only then does he take breakfast. Seeing his steadfast adherence to such values has earned him widespread respect among his colleagues.
Fulfilling his duties as a major, he has resolved many issues related to the 250 soldiers under his command. He has ensured they receive nutritious and tasty food, clean water to drink and that their living quarters are clean. Above all, his humble and polite conduct has touched everyone. His ability to unite everyone and accomplish tasks has established him as a leader with great respect. But, when even his superiors praise him, Major Mit humbly says, “I give all the credit for my work to my guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the BAPS chhatralaya.”
HELPING AN ORDINARY RURAL BOY
Shri Yogesh Vandra
BAPS Swaminarayan Chhatralaya, Vidyanagar
I was born to a poor family in the village of Khamba, Amreli district. My father was fortunate to have had Yogiji Maharaj’s spiritual association. So, satsang was an intrinsic part of our family. But, because of our poor financial status I was worried about my future. I studied till the 10th standard in Khamba. At that time I was absolutely ignorant about what to do further. During that time I met Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I asked for his blessings. Swamishri perceived my anxiety, and he asked me whether I wished to study further. I remained speechless because of my naivety. Swamishri talked to Yagnapriya Swami about admitting me to our hostel in Vidyanagar, despite getting average marks of 49 per cent in the 10th standard. I knew it was not possible to get admission in the chhatralaya, but Swamishri personally made all the arrangements.
In the years that followed I attained a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering. During my stay there Swamishri often came to our chhatralaya. His presence infused joy and celebration among the students. Most of the students presented some activity to please Swamishri. However, as I did not have any special skills or talents I felt inferior. But then, with time, due to Yagnapriya Swami’s and other sadhus’ care, my inferiority complex disappeared. They gave me different roles to play in dramas performed before Swamishri from 1991 to 1995. Swamishri would be pleased with my acting and he would bless me. He thus took care of me and never made me feel small.
Quite often we students used to make Swamishri laugh while he walked back to his residence after completing his puja at the chhatralaya grounds. Once, I was walking funnily besides him and I told Swamishri to bless me so that my height would increase. The fact was that I was physically slim, short and dark. To this, Swamishri replied, “Who says your height has not increased! Tell me where were you staying before? What type of village were you living in? Where are your parents? How did you come here? Yesterday, nearly 10,000 people saw you perform on stage. Now tell me haven’t we increased your height [popularity]?” On hearing this I was dumbfounded. What Swamishri had said was true. Through his grace I had become popular – in fact he had increased my prestige.
Till 1995, I stayed at the chhatralaya and completed my college education due to Swamishri’s generosity. Thereafter, I was puzzled about how to get a job or to what to do next. At that time I went to Mumbai to serve for Swamishri’s Amrut Mahotsav. When I entered the mandir in Dadar with my baggage Swamishri arrived for Thakorji’s darshan. There was a throng of devotees for Swamishri’s darshan. Swamishri saw me amongst the crowd and lovingly asked, “You’ve arrived!” I replied, “Yes. I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree in electronics. But now I don’t know what to do.” Swamishri replied, “I’ll take care of that.” And he told me to stay to do seva at the Dadar mandir. I stayed and did seva till the end of Amrut Mahotsav. During the Mahotsav there was a special assembly to celebrate 30 years of the Akshar-Purushottam Chhatralaya (APC) in Vidyanagar. Swamishri presided over that assembly and I also got an opportunity to meet him one-on-one. Swamishri told me to sit down before him, and he asked, “Have you got a job?” Before I could answer, Swamishri called Bhagvatcharan Swami and told him, “Make arrangements for his further studies and a job in Mumbai. Also, find a marriage partner for him and, in future, his children should stay and study at the chhatralaya in Vidyanagar.” Thus, Swamishri shouldered all my responsibilities.
I was an ordinary youth, but Swamishri supported me immensely. I am not a stray case, but he has blessed innumerable youths with his selfless generosity and love.
SELFLESS AND ABUNDANT LOVE
On the morning of 7 December 1993, Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha rituals at the new assembly hall of APC, Vidyanagar. That evening a special assembly was held. The programme included a presentation by two groups of students before Swamishri. Each team had to make stage presentations to prove that Swamishri belonged to them. A sadhu told me that since I was a Punjabi, I should don a Punjabi dress and participate in the programme. Swamishri was scheduled to arrive on the stage at 5.00 p.m. So, five minutes before his arrival, I came and stood by the entrance to the stage dressed in a traditional Punjabi attire. At that time Yagnapriya Swami was also standing there. He asked me why I had come there. I told him I was going to perform before Swamishri and say that he was mine. Then he asked me, “Have you practised for it?” I said no. So, he stopped me and explained, “All the youths who are going to perform on stage have practised. You cannot perform without practising.” I realized later that he was right, but at that time I became depressed. I left without saying a word, crestfallen, towards an empty room in the old block and cried profusely. A few minutes later, I heard that Swamishri had arrived on stage. So, I hurriedly changed my clothes and sat in the last line of the assembly. My fellow students performed commendably. Swamishri then addressed the assembly, and thereafter everyone came to him one by one to touch his feet. I was last, and as I advanced after touching his feet, Swamishri pulled my T-shirt to my surprise. He lovingly said, “Dheer, today everyone said that Swami is mine but why didn’t you say anything?” Then Swamishri put his finger on my chest and said in Hindi, “Let others say so, but I am yours.” Then he said, “I want to keep you in my heart.” On hearing this, I was simply stupefied.
My years at the chhatralaya in Vidyanagar are replete with wonderful memories of Swamishri’s selfless and abundant love. Whenever I remember them in difficult and testing times I find myself rejuvenated and happy. I am forever indebted to Swamishri and the chhatralaya.
SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
Hundreds of students who had lived at the BAPS Chhatralayas have settled abroad after their graduation. They have lucrative jobs, yet they live frugally, abide by satsang niyams and spend their free time in doing seva at the local mandir. I would like to share a couple of incidents of their selfless services and sacrifice.
Dinesh, a satsangi youth, had recently arrived from India. On ekadashi he observed a waterless fast. Since he was new in America he did not know how to prepare khichdi for parna. He was bewildered about what to have for parna. Then he remembered a chhatralaya student named Rathin Raval. Dinesh rang him up and said, “I have observed a waterless fast on ekadashi today. If it is convenient for you I’d like you to help me for my parna.” Now the rider to Dinesh’s request was that he wanted to do parna after midnight. So, Rathin jotted down Dinesh’s address and told him that he would make the arrangements. Rathin lived a one-and-a-half hour’s drive from Dinesh. At 1.30 a.m., Dinesh’s doorbell chimed. On opening the door, Dinesh saw Rathin with a pressure cooker in his hands. Dinesh was surprised. Then Rathin served hot khichdi and drove back home soon after. Dinesh appreciated Rathin’s spirit of seva – an outcome of the values he had learnt in the chhatralaya.
Another chhatralaya student, Manish, had migrated to USA. Initially, he found it difficult to get used to the new environment and culture. Soon, he came to know of another chhatralaya student named Diptesh. The latter reassured Manish, “Don’t worry. Come and stay at my home. Things will work out well.” Diptesh hosted Manish at his house in New Jersey for nearly one year. Such hospitality is quite rare to find in our hectic and personalized era. Thereafter, Manish got a good job and he is now well settled.
There are countless such chhatralaya youths in North America and other parts of the world who perform selfless seva with a spirit of harmony, brotherhood and unity. One feels humbled and awed on seeing their dedicated voluntary services and sacrifices at the various BAPS mandirs. One then realizes the fruits of having stayed at the chhatralayas and received Swamishri’s abundant care and grace.