A Luxurious Life
Brahmanand Swami’s life epitomizes the pinnacle of renunciation – a fact that remains difficult to fathom even today. Because of his sharp intellect and mesmerizing ability to captivate audiences, Ladudanji’s name, even before he had completed his studies, spread rapidly like wild fire. His qualities were praised throughout the land. Riches shadowed him wherever he went, as kings and ministers fell at his feet with melted hearts enchanted by the words that effortlessly flowed from his mouth.
When Ladudanji first performed in the court assembly in Kutch, the audience listened with pin-drop silence. Time itself had stopped. It was four o’clock in the morning and not a soul fluttered. The next day when Ladudanji was leaving, he was showered with gifts: 151 gold coins, embroidered garments, gold rings, an expensive warm Kashmiri shawl...along with an insistent invitation to return soon. This type of welcome and farewell became a convention for Ladudanji.
When he arrived at the palace in Bhuj, Ladudanji was welcomed with a grandeur suitable for kings. The palace queens sat him on a seat plated with gold and silver and washed his hands with rosewater. Within moments, small bowls filled to the brim with expensive almonds, pistachios, cashews and other delicacies were offered in a gold plate as appetizers. Servants stood on either side steadily fanning him.
In Dhrangadhra, Ladudanji left the assembly awestruck when he unhesitatingly solved questions and riddles from a variety of academic fields (mathematics, astronomy, astrology, poetry, translations in seven different languages, etc.). One hundred different professionals had come to ask these questions. Ladudanji accomplished this impossible feat with surprising ease within only an hour and without a mistake. Astounded by his talent and intelligence, the king awarded Ladudanji 25,000 rupees. His performance in Dhrangadhra earned him the title ‘Shatavdhani’. His prominence uncontrollably spread in all directions. Countless kings begged him to grace their palaces and assemblies. After personally witnessing his unparalleled skill, the courtiers in Jamnagar viewed Ladudanji as a divine incarnation from the heavens. Hence, Ladudanji’s reputation became godly. He was worshipped wherever he went and his lifestyle rivalled even that of kings. He possessed countless priceless jewels and gems, exquisite jewellery, expensive garments and elegant shawls. In addition he had 16 horses, 7 camels, and 4 bulls. He was accompanied day and night by 50 servants, 25 guards and 25 riders. Ladudanji was drowned amid these unimaginable wealth and comforts.
However, it all faded away in a flash. Not only did they physically vanish, but all the luxurious comforts which Ladudanji had effortlessly obtained were erased from his mind and heart. This drastic transformation was the reason Ladudanji was able to become a priceless gem in Shriji Maharaj’s eyes.
When Ladudanji portrayed his skill in the court of King Vajesinha of Bhavnagar, the king summoned the state’s goldsmith to measure the poet and then generously adorn him with gold. Seeing the tilak-chandlo on the goldsmith’s forehead, Ladudanji was overwhelmed with curiosity. The king clarified, “In the village of Gadhada in my state, one by the name of Swaminarayan has come, whom the Kathis believe to be God incarnate. Please go there yourself and find out the truth.” Eager to test Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Ladudanji set off for Gadhada making four wishes: to be called by his name, to be garlanded with roses worn by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, to see the Bhagvat wrapped in a black cloth and to see the sixteen divine signs of God on Maharaj’s feet. The moment the poet stepped in the small village, he was submerged in a divine and peaceful experience. One by one, Ladudanji’s wishes came to life right before his eyes. For the first time, the person who would naturally leave everyone else awestruck felt speechless. Ladudanji’s heart stopped as he became hypnotized by Maharaj’s divine attraction. He drowned himself in Maharaj’s form, experiencing bliss that was beyond the materialistic comforts he was accustomed to. This experience, as well as the inspiration he received from other devotees, Ladudanji unhesitatingly and permanently renounced his luxuries and requested Maharaj to initiate him as a sadhu. Pleased by his spiritual eagerness, Maharaj initiated Ladudanji and initially named him Shrirangdas. He later became known as Brahmanand Swami. Ladudanji took his first step towards relinquishing a lush bed of roses to walk on a path of painful thorns.