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TRANSFORMING LIVES

Gunatitanand Swami’s entire life was centered on reforming the lives of people he met and moved with. He clothed them with the fabric of moral and human values, thus transforming them into respectable citizens of society.
Munja Suru of Lilakha village near Gondal, was notorious for his drunkenness and criminal habit of looting in broad daylight. The citizens of Lilakha village abhorred Munja Suru. But no one had the courage to stand up to him and throw him out. This intense repulsion for him prevailed until the day Gunatitanand Swami arrived.
Munja, on hearing of Swami’s arrival, immediately went to him. This was rather surprising! What were his intentions in going? Did he want to drive away Gunatitanand Swami and retain the cloud of fear and notoriety hanging over the village? Or did he go in earnest?
When Munja Suru saw Gunatitanand Swami, he felt a wave of guilt overwhelm his conscience. He looked down in shame and regret.
“Munja,” Swami spoke with love, “why do you ruin yourself ? The more you pursue your evil ways, the more sin and suffering you will incur upon your body and spirit.”
In spite of Swami’s gentle words Munja felt a sharp pang. His uneasiness turned into a frown. He did not like anyone crossing his path. His blood boiled, and then, he felt another sharp blow.
“You have lost the respect of your family, your friends and of the whole village. Now stop and mend your ways.”
He felt he would erupt like a volcano, but all that steam and fury evaporated into a clumsy laughter.
“I am happy,” he said, “and not miserable at all. I believe your sermons will be better received by the villagers. Such talks are for those who are meek and gullible!”
He felt some satisfaction after saying something. But it was a poor attempt at brushing off Swami’s rebuke from his conscience.
Swami tried again. But it was of no use. It was like talking to a thick wall. So without further thought Swami shot a glance at him. Munja instantaneously fell into a samadhi and experienced the tortures of hell.
Many miracles have been catalogued in Gunatitanand Swami’s biography. His touch had revived a dead man, his blessings had saved many from fatal diseases and paupers were blessed with wealth. But he performed a miracle only when the need arose and that, too, to reconcile people towards righteous and godly living.
A few minutes elapsed before Munja regained consciousness, and like a frightened child that clings to its mother, Munja clasped Swami’s feet and pleaded for help. Gunatitanand Swami placed his hands on Munja’s back as a gesture of blessings for a nobler and happier life. From that day onwards Munja became a changed person and the village enjoyed peace that had eluded it for many years.
Many more were transformed by this perennial stream, cleansing their hearts and nourishing them with the waters of holy living. Swami’s immense sacrifice sprang from his love and spirit to do good.
In spite of physical hardship, he never disappointed the devotees by refusing their invitations to visit their homes. On the very night he passed away, at the age of eighty-two, he honoured the request of a devotee and sanctified his home.
On several occasions he was called to mediate between quarrelling parties and re-establish peace and friendship. He promoted respect for all gods, thus resolving quarrels and enmity that were frequent during his times.

HIS DISCIPLES

When his sadhu-disciples returned from their preaching tours, he would hurriedly step down from his seat, prostrate before them and embrace them with love. And then he would enquire about the places they had been to and the wellbeing of the devotees. If there were news of someone in need of food and help he would make immediate arrangements. “The devotees are a part of our family,” he often said to the sadhus. “Their woes and afflictions are ours too. We should offer a helping hand and guide them as much as possible.”
In return for Gunatitanand Swami’s care and sympathy the devotees became attached to him. They rushed to him whenever he needed them, offering everything, and even themselves, if Swami so wished. Karsan Bambhaniya was one such disciple. Once, he came to the mandir and offered a box of jewellery to Gunatitanand Swami. Knowing what was in it Swami said he had no need of it. “But, please Swami, it’s not much,” entreated Karsan.
That year the monsoons had failed and so the harvest was very poor. Food had become scarce and thousands were affected by severe famine. Karsan Bambhaniya was worried about Gunatitanand Swami and his sadhus. He had come to offer whatever riches he possessed to Swami. To him Swami and his sadhus were more precious than his ownself.
“We have no problems. Our granaries are well stocked. Please take back your box and look after your family,” Swami refused him a second time. A tear coursed down the weather-beaten cheek of Karsan, only to be followed by another and another.
“Won’t you accept a gift from me?” choked Karsan. “The sadhus will go hungry and starve.” And so saying he broke down. To pacify him Swami accepted the box from his hands. Lovingly wiping the tears off Karsan’s cheeks Gunatitanand Swami told him to go back home and take care of his family.
Karsan had given the precious heirlooms of the Bambhaniya family. Swami kept the box and returned it, unused, to Karsan the following year.
With 300 sadhus under his care Gunatitanand Swami shaped their lives into models of selflessness and a deep sense of sacrifice for God and his people. Through his personal attention and encouragement he produced astute scholars out of them. And above all he raised them to the level of God-consciousness and realization.
Gunatitanand Swami’s life was also an eloquent symbol of service. Like the mighty banyan trees that stand unaffected, braving the scorching summers and providing their comforting shade to weary travellers, Swami provided refuge to wearied souls.
Deha Charan was overcome with a void in life. An urge to seek something substantial and permanent sprang from his gloom. He no longer wished to cling to worldly living and so he left his home in Rajasthan to search for a true guru. His sojourn eventually brought him to Mt. Girnar, but even there his search brought him no peace. When he climbed down and reached the foot of the mountain, he saw a man steadfast in meditation. A ray of hope gleamed for him. He went upto the young man and enquired about his guru. The young man talked about the glory and greatness of Gunatitanand Swami. Deha Charan felt at ease. He instinctively felt his pilgrimage would shortly come to a fruitful end. He rushed to the Junagadh Swaminarayan Mandir and his first feeling on seeing Gunatitanand Swami was of immense inner peace. The impact was so penetrating that Deha Charan renounced the mundane life and accepted initiation into the sadhu-fold.
Even the Nawab of Junagadh, a Muslim, experienced a deep solace in the presence of Gunatitanand Swami. Whenever he found time, he unfailingly sought Swami’s company. Besides, people of different faiths came to listen to Swami’s discourses and seek counsel because he loved everyone and respected all religions. People flocked to him because they were impressed by his humility and asceticism.
Till the age of 82, Gunatitanand Swami served and inspired countless people, liberating them of their base nature. He immortalized them with the nectar of peace, fraternity, morality and exuberant love for God. On several occasions, before he passed away, he had pointed to Bhagatji Maharaj as his spiritual successor. Bhagatji was the greatest gift that Gunatitanand Swami bestowed to the Satsang Fellowship. In the years that followed the devotees felt that the spirit of Gunatitanand Swami was alive in the form of Bhagatji Maharaj.

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