4 March 2008 (V.S. 2064, Vad Baras) Mumbai
On taking Swamishri’s echocardiogram Dr Lotlikar said that after one-and-a-half months of treatment and rest Swamishri’s heart is healthy.
9 March 2008, (V.S. 2064, Sud Bij) Mumbai
In the evening Sunday satsang assembly Swamishri and senior sadhus blessed and honoured Dr Ashwinbhai Mehta, Dr Hunda, Inspector General of Police Shri Barve, Dr K.N. Patel, Dr Kiran Doshi and Yogicharan Swami. First, senior sadhus garlanded Swamishri and thereafter Kothari Swami garlanded all the doctors and presented shawls. Swamishri presented an Amrut Kalash as mementos to all the guests. In his blessings Swamishri appreciated the services of the doctors, and then elaborated upon the meaning of maya. “Whatever obstructs one from God’s bhajan is called maya. Maya means I-ness and Mine-ness. When such feelings arise for money, property and relatives – that is maya. When one sees with atmic vision there is no I-ness and Mine-ness.”
13-18 March 2008, (V.S. 2064, ) Bhavnagar
During Swamishri’s stay in Bahavnagar devotees had darshan of Swamishri’s morning puja and blessings during Sunday satsang assembly. Every evening Viveksagar Swami expounded upon the prayer ‘Maha balvant maya...’ by women devotees of North Gujarat to Shriji Maharaj during a Fuldol Festival in Sarangpur (fagva).
Life Transformation of Rishubha Wala
18 March 2008
Rishubha Vala belonged to Talaja in Bhavnagar district.
Saurashtra is the land of the brave. His transformation at the hands of Pramukh Swami Maharaj is a saga. He had the distinction of being blessed by Swamishri in the last days of his earthly existence.
He had been ailing for many days through old age. Nothing is hidden from Swamishri. He knew that Rishubha’s end was near.
On March 13, 2008 Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Bhavnagar to stay for five days. He remembered Rishubha two or three times became he had not been coming for darshan. On March 17 Swamishri called Kothari Somprakash Swami and told him, “Call Rishubha here. I would like to meet him. If he cannot come by himself, then send a car from the mandir. Send two sadhus to bring him. He can have the last darshan.”
The next day, on 18 March, Rishubha was present at Swamishri’ s morning puja. On seeing him Swamishri was pleased. He not only blessed him but also garlanded him. Swamishri inquired after his health and assured him, “Now Shriji Maharaj will make you happier. Ramsang Bapu (his friend of Odarka) is in the service of Shriji Maharaj. Similarly, Maharaj will take you to his abode and give you the benefit of his service. Now focus your thoughts on Maharaj.”
Rishubha joined his palms before Swamishri. Then he returned home. He asked his son Bhupendrasinh to bring three murtis of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He had two placed on both sides of his bed and the third put in front of him. Thereafter he began to chant the Swaminarayan mantra while all along engaging his mind on Swamishri.
Two days later, on the morning of 20 March, he told Bhupendrasinh to give him Swamishri’s murti. He took the murti in his lap, and after having momentary darshan passed away to Akshardham. On learning of his departure Swamishri told his son, “Rishubha had served diligently. He is now in Akshardham.”
Swamishri’s visit to Bhavnagar seemed to have been to give final darshan and blessings to Rishubha. In the annals of Gohilvad the name of Rishubha will forever remain etched in golden letters as a story of epic transformation.
But, who was Rishubha Vala? How had he become a recipient of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s abundant grace and love?
Stories of chivalry and bravery abound in the land of Saurashtra, Gujarat. The sagas of brave kshatriyas resonate and evoke a spirit of suspense, joy and pride whenever they are narrated at family gatherings. But among the heroic tales of Saurashtra, there are many stories of moral transformation too. Over 200 years ago Bhagwan Swaminarayan had reformed many miscreants and dacoits through his divine persona. Today, in the last three decades of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vicharan many have given up addictions and vices to lead a peaceful, charitable and righteous life.
One such monumental story is of Rishubha Vala of Talaja village in the district of Bhavnagar.
Rishubha was popularly known as Sarkar, which means government. His word was law. Even the collector was not above it. Everyone feared him. However his philanthropy was legendary. The poor, ailing and those with insoluble problems sought his refuge. But despite his selfless services he had a crippling weakness – addiction to drink! When he would drive drunk on the main street of Talaja all shutters of shops would be downed by the owners. No one would dare cross his path. People feared him when he was drunk.
Rishubha had two good friends – Nagrubha Gadhvi and a station master in Bhavnagar. Both were worried about Rishubha’s drinking bouts. One day they decided that the only way to reform him was to invite Pramukh Swami Maharaj to Talaja. They informed Rishubha of their intention, and the latter agreed to Swamishri visiting his house. Rishubha, however, felt that he had taken a vow not to drink several times before and continued drinking all the same. But his friends were resolute in bringing an end to it once and for all.
A few days later the two friends came to Rishubha and informed him that Swamishri was coming to Talaja the day after. Rishubha was surprised at the sudden arrival and asked what arrangements and rituals were to be performed by him.
“Bapu, nothing much needs to be done. Arrange a seat, arti and bring some fruits and flowers for Thakorji,” his friend explained.
“It is my good fortune that such a great sadhu will be coming to my house tomorrow,” Rishubha spoke with joy.
On 14 March 1979 (VS 2036, Fagan vad 1), Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived in Talaja at 4.30 pm. When Swamishri went to Rishubha’s house, the latter was absent. When someone went to call him at his office, he was punch drunk and in deep slumber.
“Awaken Rishubha Bapu. Come, get up. Swamishri is waiting for you at your house. He has asked for you.”
Rishubha woke up startled, hurriedly washed his face and headed home. He stood on the threshold of his house. Swamishri was sitting inside. On seeing Rishubha Swamishri called him affectionately, “Darbar, I have come to your house and why are you standing outside? Come inside.”
Rishubha replied, “Swami, I believe that when one is drunk one should not approach a sadhu because of its odour.”
Swami smiled and replied, “Darbar, do not think so. Come near and sit down. I have come specially to resolve your problem.”
Rishubha could not disregard Swamishri’s soft, caring words, he came near. Swamishri continued, “The village folks speak highly of you and respect you for your charity and assistance. But when you get drunk all the homes and shops in the village close down. How grim it is! So, on my word give it up. Wear this kanthi and give up alcohol. Formerly darbars used to give up their lives to uphold their pledges. Today, I want you to give me your word.”
Rishubha felt an inner churning and was touched by Swamishri’s overwhelming divinity. At first he could not think of anything to say, but simply folded his palms. Then he said, “Swami, bless me! I will do as you say.”
The villagers looked on the occasion with disbelief and joy.
Rishubha held out his right palm to take the pledge. Swamishri poured a little water, made him take the pledge and placed a kanthi around his neck. Then Swamishri explained, “Darbar, today you have taken the refuge of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. All your sins have been destroyed. From henceforth do not take to any form of addiction and commit new sins.”
“Bapa, I give you my word. I shall not drink or smoke again. But, Bapa, today you will have take dinner at my house. I will not allow you to go hungry.”
“But Darbar, today there is an eclipse. We have refrained from eating since several hours. We will definitely have lunch the next time we come here. I will fulfil your wish.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the sadhus accompanying him got up to leave. Rishubha walked with Swamishri to his car and bowed to him. When Swamishri’s car left Rishubha felt, “When such a world-renowned and great sadhu has come to my house and if I do not obey his words, then there cannot be a greater fool than myself.”
Rishubha then went upstairs to the first floor of his house, and started smashing the stock of liquor bottles and glasses on the floor. When his wife rushed upstairs to see what was happening, Rishubha yelled at her, “This is no place for a woman. Go down immediately. I have pledged not to drink from today. When such a great sadhu sanctified our house today, I don’t want to ever drink again.”
“But who will believe you. It is difficult for me to accept that you’ve given up drinking,” said his wife.
“I leave it to you whether you want to believe it or not!”
Rishubha smashed all the liquor bottles. Then he went to his office. That day it was Holi. A festival that he usually celebrated by drinking with friends. Soon his friends arrived. They offered drinks to Rishubha, “Bapu, we have brought special liquor for today’s party.”
“You’d better go away. When I tell you once, you must obey,” Rishubha replied sternly.
“Sarkar, it seems you have drunk a lot more today then usual, because you do not know what you are saying.”
“Because, you’ve never refused till now!”
“Today, a sadhu came to my house. That is why I have said no. Go and first smash the bottles outside, then you can come and I will tell you what happened.”
His friends couldn’t understand what had happened. They insisted that he join them. Finally Rishubha roared at them and they all left in seconds. They all left believing that because Sarkar had drunk a little more that day that was why he refused to join them and chucked them out.
Surprisingly for the next two years scarcely could relatives and friends believe that Rishubha had changed. People were skeptical about how a person like Sarkar could have given up alcohol and meat at Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s word. Furthermore, not only did Rishubha remain firm in his pledge but he inspired others to give up their addictions. And so thereafter he became a recipient of Swamishri’s abundant grace. Whenever Swamishri came to Bhavnagar he inevitably visited Talaja. In all, Swamishri had made eight visits to Talaja. Rishubha often voiced how generously he had been graced by Swamishri, “Swamishri has a lot of love for me. Whenever I meet him he makes me sit before him and talks to me kindly. I feel very happy thereafter.”
After becoming a satsangi Rishubha performed puja and arti daily. He would go for darshan to the mandir daily and attend the Sunday satsang assembly. He would arrive at 4.00 pm on Sundays and silently perform mala for one hour till the assembly commenced. In his later years, despite ailing health, he would climb the mandir steps for darshan and pay his respects to sadhus. He never spoke aloud, addressed everyone with respect and never spoke about the faults of others. For many years he managed the mandir affairs of Talaja. Till the age of 75 years he used go and ask for jholi on Uttarayan. He visited the neighbouring villages to spread Satsang. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was pleased upon his devotion and zeal to uphold satsang in his life and inspire it in others.
Rishubha Vala’s errant life was radically transformed through the satsang of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He became an ideal devotee. All through his life he upheld his pledge and faith and earned the immortalizing grace of Swamishri. Even today the land of Saurashtra has several such illustrious stories of transformation and inspiration.