“I was around eighteen then. Since I was studying English I used to stay in Vadodara. This meant I was mostly away from my home in Dabhoi. I consequently wasn’t associated much with Satsang and understood very little about its values. I even took my daily meals in a hotel! Since the place where I was living in Vadodara city was a long way from the mandir, sitting with sadhus for understanding Satsang values rarely happened. Moreover, because I was a Brahmin, I was rather more in touch with the brahmacharis, who sometimes invited me to the mandir for meals. And when I returned, they offered me some buttermilk and pickles. However, they being pujaris were busily engaged in the seva of the murtis in the mandir. And therefore, they couldn’t spare time to help me understand the Vachanamrut or the other scriptures.
“But thanks to the merits of my past births, I was born in a virtuous, satsangi family. Spiritual eagerness was innate in me – I was always curious about the discourses in the Vachanamrut. Thus during Shastriji Maharaj’s stay in Dabhoi, I used to ask him about certain Vachanamruts, which he had happily explained to me in great detail. And this had forged a strong spiritual bonding between us. Swamiji too, as if brooding a faraway egg through his will, was completely pleased and bestowed his divine blessings upon me. In Vadodara now, every day after the evening arti, I was blessed with his darshan and discourse. And he narrated before me the entire life story of Bhagatji Maharaj.
“A friend of mine named Manishankar Pathak of Karvan village would also come along with me daily for darshan. Swamiji blessed him out of compassion for him and narrated before him Bhagatji’s life story up to Bhagatji’s spiritual enlightenment in 1864 (Samvat 1920). Not only that, Swamiji himself wrote Bhagatji’s potted biography in very small handwriting on both sides of some thin paper for Manishankar to read daily. Manishankar gave it to me and I was extremely delighted upon reading it. I then secretly copied it. Later, I went to Thasra for some work. Here I met some of my satsangi friends who were studying with me in Vadodara. I gave my copy to them to read and they too, before returning it to me, secretly copied it at night – only later did I come to know about this. Swamiji had categorically asked Manishankar not to give the biography to anyone, but out of a spirit of brotherhood he gave it to me, and I to my friends in Thasra.
“In 1893 (Samvat 1949), Acharya Viharilalji Maharaj installed the murtis in the mandir at Lakshmi Vadi, Gadhada, and organized a grand festival there. Shastriji Maharaj informed us that Bhagatji Maharaj would be arriving on this occasion, so we all went to Gadhada.
“On the day of Holi in the month of Fagun in 1893 CE, Acharya Viharilalji Maharaj was to install murtis in a small mandir erected on the site where Bhagwan Swaminarayan was cremated. Open invitations were sent out in all directions, and so thousands of devotees gathered. Bhagatji had also come on this occasion. A grand assembly was in progress beneath a huge canopy at Lakshmi Vadi. Acharya Maharaj was seated on a decorated cot and Bhagatji was sitting beside him on the floor. Acharya Maharaj was very well aware of Bhagatji’s greatness. He knew Bhagatji had attained spiritual enlightenment by Gunatitanand Swami’s grace. He therefore asked Bhagatji, ‘What does Bhagwan Swaminarayan reckon on this occasion?’ Bhagatji replied, ‘The distance between Shriji Maharaj and me in Akshardham is the same as that between you and me here! Shriji Maharaj is very much pleased with you! Joyously perform the installation ritual; there won’t be any problem.” And thereafter, everything happened as Bhagatji had foretold – despite the gathering of thousands, nothing untoward occurred.
“During that festival in Gadhada, Shastriji Maharaj took me to senior sadhas like Yogeshwardas, Balmukunddas, Mahapurushdas, Atmanand Brahmachari, Jaga Bhagat and others, who narrated to me some extraordinary episodes revealing how Bhagatji had served Gunatitanand Swami through his mind, deeds, words; complied to Swami’s every stated or non-stated intention and immensely pleased Gunatitanand Swami. I was delighted upon listening to them and developed absolute faith and affection towards Bhagatji. Likewise, Manishankar too developed affection towards Bhagatji. But the sadhus of Vadodara and Vartal became jealous; subsequently, a sadhu named Nirannmukta manhandled Manishankar, made abusive comments and insulted him. Manishankar told me everything about how he was mistreated when I returned to Vadodara to resume my studies after the holidays. Consequently, I wrote a letter complaining to Kothari Gordhanbhai that the behaviour of such a sadhu can dislodge a newcomer from Satsang. Upon reading it, Acharya Viharilalji Maharaj – showing his allegiance towards Bhagatji – scolded that sadhu and removed him from service.
“When the aforesaid festival in Gadhada concluded after eight days, we all returned home. Two months later, in the month of Vaishakh (in April), during the summer vacation, Govindbhai Master and others went to Mahuva. During his conversation with Bhagatji, Govindbhai read Bhagatji’s brief biography written by Shastriji Maharaj. Bhagatji was pleased and praised Swamiji’s sharp memory. He said, ‘Whosoever reads or listens to my life story, half of his lust will be destroyed.’”
The profound impression Shastriji Maharaj had made on Ullasram during his student life remained etched in his mind all his life. Though he belonged to a prominent family that was dedicated to the Vartal diocese, when Shastriji Maharaj was forced to leave Vartal, Ullasram too decided to leave. He put his head on the block for the cause of the Akshar-Purshottam doctrine and joined Shastriji Maharaj. Despite his small income from his job as a teacher, he remained undeterred from the pressures of others and sang the glory of Akshar-Purshottam wherever he was transferred.
With the launch of Swaminarayan Prakash, the BAPS’s monthly Satsang magazine in Gujarati, Ullasrambhai’s aforesaid trait blossomed out even further. In 1938 CE, when the publication of Swaminarayan Prakash first began from Ahmedabad, Ullasrambhai was among the regular core writers. Deriving inspiration from Bhagatji Maharaj’s brief biography written by Shastriji Maharaj on a few ordinary thin papers, Ullasrambhai authored a series of articles about Bhagatji Maharaj’s life story. Therein he presented his personally witnessed instances of Bhagatji Maharaj’s greatness as well as Shastriji Maharaj’s personal experiences with Bhagatji Maharaj, which he himself had heard several times from Shastriji Maharaj. Later, Harshadbhai Dave incorporated those articles seamlessly into Bhagatji Maharaj’s unabridged biography.
Ullasrambhai’s monthly column titled ‘Pure Upasana’ was published continuously in Swaminarayan Prakash for almost a decade. The articles written by him are like priceless stone inscriptions in the BAPS. His thoroughly researched articles are a vast treasure trove of innumerable historical facts. For instance, how did the publication activity first begin in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya? Ullasrambhai mentions that Gunatitanand Swami was the root cause. By Gunatitanand Swami’s inspiration, the Vachanamrut, a book containing the spiritual discourses by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, was the first book published in the sampradaya’s history. Ullasrambhai writes: “Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami presided as the mahant of Junagadh mandir for 40 long years. Once, he woke up at midnight, came out and stood in the mandir courtyard. In a place opposite him, Jaga Bhagat was sitting and doing mala. On seeing Gunatitanand Swami, he too came out into the courtyard. Swami was staring at the sky. Suddenly, infinite shooting stars cut across the night sky! Jaga Bhagat, on seeing this surreal scene, curiously asked Gunatitanand Swami, ‘Swami, what was that?’ Swami replied, ‘They’re all spiritual aspirants; they’ll now be born in Gujarat.’
“On the next day, Swami asked a merchant named Vallabhji Kuberdas from Ahmedabad, who had been coming for Swami’s satsang to Junagadh for the last four to five years and who printed and sold books for his livelihood, to get the Vachanamrut printed so that an understanding of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s true form and knowledge may flourish in Gujarat. Then, according to Swami’s wish, he along with Mansukhram Mulji, Hargovind Umedrav and other devotees from Ahmedabad undertook the task of printing the Vachanamrut and other satsang literature” (Swaminarayan Prakash, Oct. 1946, page 147).