"I renounced the world at the age of 36. Since then I have been living in the Himalayas. I spent many years in Swargashram, Gangotri, Gaumukh and even on the summit of mountains during the winter. I have studied many scriptures including Vichaarmala, Vairagya Shatak, Vichaar Sagar and the Gita and Ramayan, of course. I have recited Dongre Maharaj's commentary on the Bhagwat some 70-80 times, and Akhandanandji's 'Bhagwat' commentary 4-5 times. I worship Lord Krishna. I have chanted his mantra, 'Ohm Krishnaya Namaha', 100,000 times a day. I have also chanted the Vishnu Sahasra (108 names of Lord Vishnu) 108 times a day for many months.
"Since the last 10-11 years I have been bathing in the freezing waters of the Ganga at Gangotri. However, I am 56 years old and now my body is failing, I am haunted by the thought that my life may end before I meet my Lord. Please guide me in my effort so that I may attain him."
This is a letter written by a Sanyasin from the Himalayas, Satyanandji, to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He explains how he has strived so hard to attain God, yet so far failed to do so. The letter was written in 1988.
The scriptures also tell of such Sanyasins who thousands of years ago also performed such endeavours as fasting for many months without food or water, meditating on snow-covered peaks with barely any clothing for warmth, etc. They too did not attain God.
There is the story of Satyakam Jabali. A young boy, who, upon his Guru's command took 400 cows to graze in the mountains. He was only to return when they numbered 1000! When he came back, his task completed, by the sheer grace of his Guru he possessed the knowledge of God.
How is it that a young boy who, with no knowledge of the scriptures, was able to attain God and spiritual greatness, while great sages, even after thousands of years of penance were still groping around in the dark.
In Jamnagar, some scholars asked Atmanand Swami what was the philosophy of the Swaminarayan Sampraday. He replied, 'Guru ka vachan' - 'complete observance of the command of one's Guru.' At the time they ridiculed him though little did they know that he had just revealed before them the one most important key in the search for spiritual excellence.
It was by following his Guru's command that Satyakaam was enlightened. The Paramhansas implicitly followed their master's commands, even in the face of hatred and abuse, hunger and humiliation. So how could they not ascend over the spiritual peaks?
After Lord Krishna, there have been only three other men who have mastered Ashtang Yoga. Gopal Yogi, revered sage, Lord Swaminarayan who was tutored by Gopal Yogi and Gopalanand Swami.
Once a devotee in Baroda claimed that an eclipse would occur the next day. This outraged all the other astrologers who had predicted that it would take place after two days. They confronted him and pointed out his mistake. However, out of pride he refused to back down even though he realised he had made a blunder. It became a matter of reputation. They went to the king who declared that should the eclipse not take place the following day, then the devotee would lose his head!
Frightened for his life, the devotee hurried to the temple and related the incident to Gopalanand Swami. He pleaded with the Swami to help him by using his yogic powers. Gopalanand Swami scolded him for is foolishness, but, as he was a devotee he agreed to help. The next day at noon all looked up to the sky. The king had just returned from a trip, and as he was getting out of his carriage he noticed a shadow creeping across the courtyard, he looked up - it was an eclipse!
Everyone stared in disbelief. This one man had proved them all wrong. Meanwhile, Gopalanand Swami sat in the temple, he looked up at the eclipse and smiled to himself.
In Vachnamritam Gad. I/1 Shreeji Maharaj tells us that the most difficult endeavour is to remain in constant and total communion with God. Kripanand Swami and Swaroopanand Swami were both able to do this. Once, Swaroopanand Swami returned from a 6 month tour, Shreeji Maharaj asked him, "Tell us, what did you see during your travels?"
He replied, "Lord, I only saw this man sitting under this tree." (Referring to Maharaj).
Gunatitanand Swami once said, "Kripanand Swami's focus of attention was like the flow of the Ganga. No matter what came in its way it would push it aside and flow right past. Similarly no matter if he had 100 other activities to perform, his focus would remain fixed on Maharaj's image."
Such spiritual attainments, one would think, comes only after one has gained control of his senses and of course, totally detached himself from his body and it's relations. For this, seclusion and a stable environment are essential. Only then can one develop such intense concentration of one's mind through constant meditation.
The Paramhansas' life was very much the opposite to His. It was far from being secluded and stable. In fact, they barely had time to sit down in one place and meditate. They were very busy in their activities to uplift society, preaching, singing, writing, etc. It is not possible for a man to walk the spiritual path and the worldly path at the same time. For both run in opposite direction.
To walk on one path, he must let go of the other. However, the Paramhansas did not walk on either path. Instead they forged a new way to heaven, wherein even though they were engaged in worldly activities they also progressed spiritually.
Shreeji Maharaj explains in Vachanamritam Vadtal No. 19 that, 'It is far greater that a saint spend his time in serving devotees, etc, rather than sit in seclusion and meditate all day. For serving devotees and other such activities are true devotion towards God. And only he earns the grace of God!'
By following Maharaj's commands the Paramhansas reached higher peaks. Satchidanand Swami once went upto heaven and ordered Indra to make it rain. Vyapkanand Swami revived a dead horse.
Brahmanand Swami was a 'Yati' - the highest order of a celibate - only Laxman and Hanuman had attained this state before him. However, we often hear of the abilities of the senior saints. But there were others... Once some devotees came to see the Lord. He asked them, "What do you think of Muktanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami, etc?"
"Oh Lord!" They replied, "They are indeed true sadhus. They are equivalent to the demi-gods!" "And what about those other sadhus sitting by that well?"
"What them? Well, pardon us for saying, but they probably didn't get enough to eat at home - maybe they couldn't find a wife, or something like that, and so they became sadhus. They can never be compared with Muktanand Swami!"
Maharaj smiled. He called one of those saints over, let them speak to the devotees." Do you see his lips softly fluttering. Well, although you don't realise it, this constantly chants the name of God, in all three states! No matter what other activity he is engaged in, he never stops.
"Realise that great sages have not been able to achieve this, and yet this sadhu, who never got any food at home (sarcastically), does it so effortlessly. You should know his greatness and of those like him."
Each and everyone was special. They had flown over the peaks of worldly and spiritual excellence. All that remained before them was their divine destination - Akshardham.