|A few moments spent with His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj has left an unfading, priceless impression in the hearts of thousands. An ineffable sensation was experienced, bathing them in the waters of sheer joy and bliss. What is it in Pramukh Swami Maharaj that evokes such a blissful feeling?
Some experienced, senior and leading sadhus of the BAPS who have lived more than 25 years with Pramukh Swami Maharaj answer the above question and many others in their own words.
This special interview was conducted on the auspicious occasion of Swamishri's 70th Birthday in November 1990 at Sarangpur. The interviews, originally in Gujarati, have been translated into English.
The Whole World Knows
Pujya Sant Swami
Q. Let us suppose Shastriji Maharaj was physically present here today. Can you describe how he would express his pleasure on seeing the astounding work done by Pramukh Swami?
A. If Shastriji Maharaj and Nirgun Swami were here now they would be wholeheartedly showering their blessings on Pramukh Swami. Such is the monumental work that has been accomplished by him. Swami Shastriji Maharaj was always very pleased with Pramukh Swami. Even now it is not that Shastriji Maharaj is no longer present! By his divine powers he is seeing everything. He is watching us also. By seeing all this he is so pleased that he is probably saying, "Oh how wonderfully Pramukh Swami has glorified my mission!" And if Nirgun Swami were alive today he would be happy, probably ecstatic. Though we cannot see Shastriji Maharaj here today, he is always spiritually with us. Even Gunatitanand Swami and Shriji Maharaj are witnessing this whole Satsang. They are all very pleased. This we cannot see, because their presence is divine. Shastriji Maharaj had graced him (Pramukh Swami Maharaj) and given him the responsibility of the organization. Forty years ago when Shastriji Maharaj was giving the responsibility, offering the shawl (symbolic of the 'handing over' of the Presidentship of the organization), Maganbhai, Chaganbhai and others said, "Pramukh Swami is too young. How will he be able to bear this great responsibility? Will he be able to take care of the organization? The organization will surely deteriorate and crumble. Therefore do not give it to him." But Shastriji Maharaj replied, "I know of his capabilities and his loftiness which you are not aware of!" So saying he gave the responsibility of the organization to him.
Today, so many years have passed and by Shastriji Maharaj's grace and the presence of Shriji Maharaj in him, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has worked harmoniously with all the devotees and youths. No one feels at all hurt. Everybody is satisfied with Swami's work and everyone feels they have been taken care of. In the time of Yogiji Maharaj, Swami contributed tremendously for the progress of the organization.
Shastriji Maharaj had told Pramukh Swami to do as Yogiji Maharaj wished. And he told Yogiji Maharaj to bless Pramukh Swami with the saintly virtues he had.
At the time of the shawl-giving ceremony Shastriji Maharaj told Pramukh Swami, "Yogiji Maharaj is the spiritual leader, he will initiate new sadhus into the order. But when Yogiji Maharaj is not present (after he leaves his mortal body) you will have to take the responsibility of initiating sadhus, the work of the organisation, and the position of guru." So saying Shastriji Maharaj gave Pramukh Swami's hand to Yogiji Maharaj - thus giving him the responsibility of looking after Pramukh Swami.
It has been 20 years since Yogiji Maharaj left his physical body. The whole world knows and can see the work Pramukh Swami has done! Shastriji Maharaj used to say if such momentum is kept up for ten years after me, the growth of this Satsang will be doubled. But Pramukh Swami, instead of doubling it, has brought about ten times more progress and done ten times more work. Still Maharaj and Swami wish that the Akshar Purushottam Sanstha will become worldwide through the efforts of Pramukh Swami. In every country Akshar Purushottam mandirs will be inspired by him and inaugurated at his hands. This it seems is the wish of Swami and Maharaj. Such energy and strength Maharaj and Swami have given him and will continue to do so.
Selfless Love is Not Found Easily
Pujya Balmukund Swami
Q. You have spent 35 years with Pramukh Swami. Will you narrate an incident which has most touched your heart?
A. I have had many such incidents, but there's one I remember very vividly. After Yogiji Maharaj's demise Pramukh Swami came to Gondal. A parayan (series of discourses) had been arranged. A special seat was made for Swami in the assembly hall. I was standing beside the seat. Swamishri came and stood near the seat. Then with great humility he asked me: "Shall I sit here?" It was a very small question, but the humility in his words was indeed great. I said, "Please do sit, it is for you. This seat (of guruship) is yours and we are yours too!"
Another incident comes to mind. In 1984 I became seriously ill. I was operated on in a Rajkot hospital. Thereafter it seemed as if I would not live. At the very same time Swami landed in Mumbai after his Satsang tour abroad. There, he received news about me. Immediately he called me by plane to Mumbai for special treatment. From the airport I was being transported directly to a hospital. Our Dadar mandir came on that route. There on the side walk of a main road Swamishri was sitting on a chair, waiting for me. Many devotees were with him at the time. As the ambulance arrived he instantly got up and came to the van. I tried to get up and come down for his darshan but Swamiji told me he was coming there himself.
Climbing in, Bapa applied a chandlo on my forehead. He moved his hand over my head, blessing and praying for me. He brought Thakorji, (the murti of Harikrishna Maharaj) for darshan and said, "Now that you have the darshan of Thakorji you will be alright. Maharaj will save you." I was taken to hospital and everything went well. Swamiji always kept contact with me through phone or letter when I was in hospital and also after I returned to the mandir. When he came back to Mumbai, he would come to see me and Sant Swami. He took great care of me. I was touched by his loving care. It was selfless and such selfless love one does not find easily!
Q. God is present through Pramukh Swami Maharaj. How were you convinced on this fact?
A. When I first came into this Satsang I met Shastriji Maharaj. I became attached to him. Once Shastriji Maharaj said, "Yogi and I are one. I am Yogi and Yogi is I." I personally heard these words form Shastriji Maharaj. So after Shastriji Maharaj passed away, it was not difficult for me to get attached to Yogi Bapa. And in the same way Yogi Bapa told me, "Do as Pramukh Swami tells you." So through Yogiji Maharaj I learned the glory of Pramukh Swami. And after Yogiji Maharaj passed away I've had experiences that the very same God present in Yogiji Maharaj is present today in Pramukh Swami.
Even in the time of Yogiji Maharaj, Swami (Pramukh Swami) always remained very quiet and unassuming. One would never see him in the limelight and thus nobody knew how great he was. Today as we look at Swami Bapa's every action one feels that everything he does is for the redemption of others. When he takes his regular walks; it is to redeem. He tolerated a heart attack and other small and big illnesses - even that was for the redemption of others. In one of Gunatitanand Swami's discourses it is said, "When such great persons act in an outwardly (human) manner they enhance infinite souls to the lofty spiritual heights of Shukji and Jadbharat." People think, "Look, Swami has become ill," but he has not become ill. In fact his illness is but a divine play where he makes so many 'well' - redeeming so many people. Those who even remember his illness will be redeemed. Hence one should not see him as an ordinary mortal but as someone divine.
Q. You are very eager to obey every order of Pramukh Swami and also inspire others to do the same. Can you tell us why?
A. I have experienced one thing, that when we live according to his wishes all our responsibilities become his. We become free of worry. By doing his will we are blessed by his blissful glance. The blissful glance I saw in Yogiji Maharaj is the same as in Pramukh Swami. Now I only desire to spend my entire life obeying his wishes and by following him.
Only His Face Is Different
Pujya Mahant Swami
Q. What is it in Pramukh Swami Maharaj that makes you obey his wishes enthusiastically and inspire others to do the same?
A. Yogiji Maharaj captured us by his profuse selfless love. I did not have any spiritual understanding at that time, but I can say his association always gave us spiritual joy. My attachment with Yogiji Maharaj was out of love and not one of spiritual understanding (gnan). Pramukh Swami was present at the time of Yogiji Maharaj but the degree of attachment with him was not the same as I had with Yogiji Maharaj. And when Yogiji Maharaj passed away I felt everything was over. I was plunged in grief and confusion. I could find no tranquility in anyone else. But gradually Pramukh Swami shouldered Bapa's place and without realizing I became attached to him. After all, spiritually they are both the same, only the face is different. I found the same selfless love of Yogiji Maharaj in the life of Pramukh Swami.
Pramukh Swami is very adjustable by nature, honest and without any pretense. I have met many distinguished people but there is always some deception in their lives. There was not even an ounce of deception in Yogiji Maharaj and you won't find it in Pramukh Swami either. He is very pure and cooperative. Whatever he does, he does it in all sincerity and naturalness - no deception or display. Besides this he has many other virtues. My love for Pramukh Swami became the same as the love I have for Yogiji Maharaj.
Though Pramukh Swami, unlike Yogiji Maharaj, does not play a guru-disciple role with me yet the love he has for me is the same as Yogiji Maharaj! With Yogiji Maharaj we played, laughed and enjoyed. But today by the grace of Pramukh Swami I feel nothing else remains to be done except one thing - to do whatever Pramukh Swami wishes!
No Pride In Him.
Pujya Doctor Swami
Q. Can you describe Swamishri's personality?
A. Swamiji is the greatest disciple of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Guru Shastriji Maharaj and Guru Yogiji Maharaj. He selflessly serves all, without any distinctions of caste or status, and lives according to the injunctions of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Q. You have known Swamiji for the last 25 years. Can you share an incident that has impressed you the most.
A. During Swamiji's return from his 1977 world tour, a large assembly was held in Atladra mandir. Many dignitaries were also present. While Swamiji was talking, a ragged, poor devotee, you would probably say he was half mad, came to Swamiji and stood with folded hands. To the assembly this was a disturbance because everyone's attention was diverted to him. But Swamiji, without a flicker of irritation or boredom, talked with him calmly and lovingly. This impressed me a lot because under such circumstances any speaker would have got irritated and made him sit down. But Swamiji did nothing of the sort. In his eyes everyone is equal.
Q. How do you believe that God is present in Pramukh Swami?
A. Swamiji is a very humble sadhu. Inspite of so many people who believe in him and honor him he always remains humble. Muktanand Swami in his bhajan says: "Hu tale Hari dhukada..." i.e. One who has no pride is blessed with God's proximity. Swamiji's life and the words of Muktanand Swami convince me that God is present in Swamiji.
Q. Why do you love Swamiji?
A. Swamiji's life inspires me. His actions are selfless and he is always engaged in serving others. This is a very rare virtue found in few. The majority of people work with some selfish motive. Swamiji's life inspires me to serve selflessly and imbibe those values in my life.
This is No Work of a Man!
Pujya Kothari Swami
Q. Can you describe an outstanding aspect in Swamiji's life?
A. His uniqueness is visible in the way he works and serves. His unflagging service to all convinces us that a mere human can't do this. Only a God-communion sadhu can do it. In Satsang we have seen that disciples who were attached to Yogiji Maharaj became attached to Swamishri by virtue of his services. The way and the magnitude of his works are an outstanding aspect of his life.
Q. You have known Swamiji for many years. Can you tell us something more about him?
A. In 1974 I was with Swamishri during his tour abroad. Being with him that close, I realized how pure and divine he is. And whatever he did, I realized he was doing it for the consolidation of Satsang in our lives. I also experienced that Swamiji is antaryami - he knows everything that goes on in our mind and heart.
Q. From what incident were you convinced that God is present in Pramukh Swami Maharaj?
A. Through spiritual knowledge or understanding (gnan) I believe that God is present in Swamiji. Yogiji Maharaj declared that Pramukh Swami means everything to me and through him 700 youths will be initiated into the sadhu-fold. I have faith in Yogiji Maharaj's words and after several years of witnessing Swamiji's work I am convinced that he is not an ordinary sadhu but a God-communion sadhu - one who will redeem us from our baser instincts and from the cycle of births and deaths.
Whatever Swamiji instructs us to do is for our redemption, to make us brahmarup. Bhagwan Swaminarayan says in his Vachanamrut that atmabuddhi (deep spiritual attachment) with a God-communion sadhu is the means to see God. By obeying his commands one becomes atmarup. The more we live according to Swami's wishes the more we will be blessed by him.
My Ideal for Service (Seva)
Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami
Q. You've been in contact with Pramukh Swami Maharaj for the last 25 years. Can you share an incident from his life which has touched you very much?
A. Several years back I was appointed at Atladra mandir. Swamishri was to come there one evening. Before coming to the mandir he was first to dine at a devotee's house in Vadodara.
As you know, Vadodara is a big city. Many devotees and well-wishers of Swamishri reside there. And when Swamishri comes to Vadodara, naturally, everybody wishes that he sanctifies their homes (padhramani) or inaugurates their new shops or even performs the foundation laying ceremony of their new house or building. Such was the situation at that time. A few padhramanis had been arranged for Swamishri after he finished his evening meal. And then he would come to Atladra mandir.
Swamishri arrived at the devotee's house at around 8.30 p.m. He had toured many villages that day and looked extremely exhausted. Seeing Swamishri in that condition I felt it would be wrong to burden him with the strain of doing the extra padhramanis. I became puzzled because I had already committed and given my word to the devotees that Swamiji would visit their home. Though the devotees had made all the preparations for Swamishri's welcome, I didn't have the courage to inform Swamiji about the padhramanis.
All of a sudden, after having dinner and whilst leaving the house, Swamishri turned back to me and lovingly asked: "Are there any padhramanis or are we supposed to go directly to Atladra?"
The loving manner in which he asked aroused enough strength in me to reply. I said: "Swamibapa, there are a few padhramanis on the way..."
I was touched by Swamiji's immediate readiness and ease. He casually replied, "Fine. Then let's go..." Though Swamishri had been through a hectic and tiring day and his years were showing on him, his enthusiasm was ever alive and fresh like a youth.
I knew it was unjust to take Swamishri for the padhramanis. It hurt me very much, but that stinging pain and frustration vanished with the mere asking by Swamishri.
Truly, the loving facial expressions and gestures and the readiness Swamishri showed at that moment have all been deeply etched in my heart. An incident I'll never be able to forget!
Q. What contribution has Swamishri made in molding your life?
A. Whatever I am is entirely his contribution. An incident I particularly remember was when I was with Yogiji Maharaj in London in 1970. Yogi Bapa was staying at Arvindbhai's house in Dollis Hill. We had a small following then, so whenever Yogiji Maharaj would sit to dine he invariably insisted that a few devotees and guests sit with him.
Once, dinner was arranged at another devotee's house. During the tour, I was given the responsibility of cooking Bapa's food and serving the devotees and guests. In order to get ample cooking time I reached the house early that morning. But it so happened that Yogiji Maharaj, after completing a few padhramanis arrived at the place earlier than expected. Pramukh Swami was also with him at the time. I was busy in the kitchen. There were still a few things to be prepared and the sitting arrangements, the plates, bowls, spoons, etc. were yet to be cleaned and laid out. I was a little worried.
Pramukh Swami came into the kitchen. He immediately saw the plight I was in. Without any hesitation or delay, he immediately made the sitting arrangements and then started to clean the dishes and bowls himself. I tried to stop him but he continued washing and said with a happy smile: "Don't worry. You finish the cooking, I'll place the dishes in no time!" Swami did the service with joy and humility as if he were an ordinary servant!
The incident inspired me immensely. I felt that service should be done the way he does it - without any ego! Even if it be the smallest of all services (seva) that incident taught me to do it - in all humbleness, readiness, joy and enthusiasm.
I always hold Pramukh Swami as my ideal for service (seva).