During one of Gunatitanand Swami’s first encounters with Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Bhagwan Swaminarayan introduced him as His ideal devotee, the embodiment of Aksharbrahman. Born as Mulji Sharma in Bhadra, Gunatitanand Swami met Bhagwan Swaminarayan when he was 15 years old in Piplana.
From a young age, Mulji Sharma possessed an intense connection with God that was both rare and uncharacteristic for his age group. In one incident, Mulji Sharma’s father, Bholanath, commented on his son’s behavior, stating that there would be plenty of time to worship God when he was older. When Mulji Sharma heard this, he began observing the behaviors of elderly people in his village. He noticed that instead of spending their time in devotion, many of them were gossiping or occupying their time with idle tasks. In response to his father’s comment, he noted that devotion to God cannot be a habit that is picked up late in life and should instead be nurtured and valued from childhood. Observations such as this set Mulji Sharma apart from an early age.
Ten years after meeting with Bhagwan Swaminarayan for the first time, Mulji Sharma was given sadhu diksha and renamed Gunatitanand Swami. Mulji Sharma was given diksha in the presence of a large yagna during which Bhagwan Swaminarayan spoke of his ideal and eternal status as Aksharbrahman.
During the course of His lifetime, Bhagwan Swaminarayan inaugurated six mandirs. After opening a mandir in Junagadh, He appointed Gunatitanand Swami as the mahant. Gunatitanand Swami stayed in Junagadh for the next forty years. From there, he worked towards spreading the philosophy of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and providing guidance to devotees. Bhagwan Swaminarayan continuously emphasized that senior sadhus and devotees should spend time with Gunatitanand Swami. Throughout His lifetime, Bhagwan Swaminarayan referred to Gunatitanand Swami’s greatness numerous times. It was at these times that Bhagwan Swaminarayan was establishing the importance of His legacy in the gunatit sadhu for future generations.
After Bhagwan Swaminarayan passed away, Gunatitanand Swami continued to spread His philosophy and to lead devotees to spiritually pure lifestyles. Although Gunatitanand Swami was the mahant of a large mandir, he constantly put himself at the service of others. One time, a sadhu came across the Junagadh mandir and saw Gunatitanand Swami sweeping in the yard. He asked Gunatitanand Swami where he would be able to find the mahant of the mandir. Gunatitanand Swami told him to wait inside and that the mahant would meet him there. After showering, Gunatitanand Swami met with the sadhu and introduced himself as the mahant. The sadhu expressed disbelief that the mahant of the mandir concerned himself with such menial tasks. It was at this point that the sadhu recognized that the true qualities of selfless service could be found in Gunatitanad Swami.
Gunatitanand Swami’s legacy lies in his intense devotion and unique connection to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Before passing away, the Swamini Vato was compiled. The Swamini Vato is a collection of Gunatitanand Swami’s observations and portions of the discussions he frequently held. It is considered one of the main scriptures of the Swaminarayan faith.
At the age of 82, Gunatitanand Swami passed away in Gondal. A mandir has since been built on the site where his body was cremated as a memorial to the first spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This mandir is referred to as Akshar Deri and is considered a place of pilgrimage for millions of devotees. Yogiji Maharaj had assured devotees that anyone performing a mahapuja at Akshar Deri would have their wishes granted.