Daya is compassion. Compassion is listed as one of the foremost qualities of a true sadhu in the 11th chapter of the Shrimad Bhagvat. Sant Tulsidasji says in the Ramacharitamanas that a true sadhu has a tender heart that melts on hearing the sorrows and difficulties of those around him. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has an amazing level of personal resilience, but his heart melts with compassion on seeing the sufferings of others.
Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami says, “God is the root of compassion. It is from him that all compassion is born.”
A closer look at Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s life reveals just how true this observation is. The day he was appointed as the spiritual heir by Ramanand Swami, the 21-year-old Sahajanand Swami asked for two boons from him for the welfare of his disciples: “If your satsangi is destined to suffer the distress inflicted by the sting of one scorpion, may the distress of the stings of millions and millions of scorpions befall each and every pore of my body, but no pain should afflict your satsangi. Moreover, if the begging bowl is written in the destiny of your satsangi, may that begging bowl come to me, but on no account should your satsangi suffer from the lack of food or clothing. Please grant me these two boons.”
The paramhansas who compiled the Vachanamrut describe Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s compassionate ways: “Upon hearing about a devotee in despair or difficulty, he would utter ‘Rama, Rama, Rama’. At other times he would give food, clothing and shelter to those in need. He could never tolerate another person being beaten or offended and would call out to intervene.”
Such compassion is also clearly visible in Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His love for all living beings is the basis of his empathy for all. For him, to feel the pain and suffering of others is as natural as breathing.
Swamishri’s care and concern for all living beings are evident from his active support for the victims of natural calamities, his involvement in anti-addiction drives and campaigns to promote
vegetarianism, his mediation in resolving domestic quarrels and even social unrest. He has inspired tens of thousands of volunteers to help lessen the troubles of those around them.
In 1990 the monsoon had nearly passed in Gujarat, and not a single drop of rain had blessed the dry earth. Swamishri was in London at the time and was alerted on the grave drought situation. Swamishri’s response was sleeping less at night. He would wake up in the middle of the night, sit up in his bed and pray to Bhagwan Swaminarayan for the much-needed rain. One night, at about 2.00 a.m., his attendant sadhu realized that Swamishri was awake. He observed Swamishri for a while and then asked him why he was awake. Swamishri told him about his nightly prayer sessions. From then onwards, the attendant sadhu too joined in the prayers every night.
Not one to normally highlight such things, Swamishri wrote in a letter from London, “The monsoon has almost gone. It is natural that you are worried, but have faith in God. I am praying daily in the Akshar Deri. Shriji Maharaj, Gunatitanand Swami, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogi Bapa will all shower their compassion. There is still time.”
Swamishri has always shown his love and kindness whenever he found or heard people suffering.
In 1979, due to severe rains the Machhu Dam in Morbi gave way. There was widespread destruction. Swamishri mobilized over 1,500 sadhus and volunteers to rush there and help. A volunteer still recalls the sorrow visible on Swamishri’s face as he surveyed the muddy streets of Morbi strewn with bodies.
During the severe famine in Gujarat in 1987, Swamishri was visiting Ratanpura, a small town near Rajkot. The town had a government-operated cattle camp. The camp had about 5,000 famished calves. As Swamishri approached the camp, a group of calves gathered around him and followed him. The volunteer explained that the calves hadn’t eaten for three days. Swamishri’s eyes welled up with tears as he heard this. He remained silent. When he reached Gondal, he immediately summoned Jnanprasad Swami and said, “The way those calves in Ratanpura were running after us was unbearable for me. So, arrange to send some trucks full of fodder for them immediately.”
In the days to follow Swamishri was not himself. He would stop his routine activity and would become lost in deep thought. He would say, “I can’t think of anything else right now. I really feel for the people and livestock that are suffering because of the drought. In everything that I do, I think of the rain.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s concern gave birth to a project that was to change the lives of hundreds of farmers and thousands of cattle in Gujarat.
Watching helplessly as their livestock was perishing, the farmers decided to sell their cattle. Swamishri stopped the farmers from doing so. He organized cattle camps to take care of the animals until their owners could provide for them. Swamishri realized that these animals were the source of livelihood for their owners. The animals were nourished and looked after for a year till their owners were able to take care of them.
Pravinsinh of Vadheda couldn’t help but cry after seeing his cattle being cared for so well.
Kasambhai, a Muslim resident of Madhupur Gir, was touched by Swamishri’s kindness, “I feel that Pramukh Swami Maharaj is my Khuda.”
At 8.46 a.m. on 26 January 2001 a devastating earthquake rattled Gujarat. It measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, demolishing buildings, infrastructure and killing thousands. While most people were still recovering from the initial shock of the earthquake with its epicentre in Kutch, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had arranged warm meals for survivors in Bhuj by lunchtime. Swamishri mobilized the BAPS Sanstha’s sadhus and volunteers to begin emergency relief work. For the whole year, Swamishri coordinated the Sanstha’s earthquake relief work, often staying up till well past midnight to contact people in India and abroad to make the necessary arrangements.
At the BAPS relief camps in and around Bhuj, more than 40,000 people were fed warm and nutritious meals daily. Attending to the smallest of details, Swamishri called Vedagna Swami, the Kothari in Bochasan, regarding the grains being sent to Bhuj, “The grains that are being grinded for the relief kitchens have to be of the best quality. Make sure they are cleaned and sifted for small stones.”
Swamishri visited the kitchen in Atladra where food packets for distribution were being prepared. After inspection he suggested that two green pickled chillies be included in each packet, explaining, “People from the Kutch region enjoy spicy food. Also, they will taste good with the sweets.”
The survivors of the earthquake will probably never know the care Swamishri took in organizing the relief work.
Swamishri personally walked through the rubble-strewn streets of earthquake-devastated villages in Kutch, showering his grace and compassion on the survivors. He blessed the injured and traumatized victims to lessen their pain and sorrow.
More than 500 villages were provided with aid and 15 villages and colonies were reconstructed. Today, these villages are considered among the finest in Gujarat, made possible by Swamishri’s meticulous care.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s compassion is selfless. There are no expectations, except one – to please God.