Mansukhbhai Vaidya treated Bhagatji Maharaj with a sugarcane and milk regimen. Next to the bungalow (which no longer stands today), there was a small mandir where Bhagatji came and discoursed. From the time of Bhagatji Maharaj we had firm faith in Akshar-Purushottam. Shastriji Maharaj had also come many times to the village. Yogiji Maharaj used to stay for a month at a time and discourse. This was all before my birth. I had heard about all these things.
When sadhus came from Bochasan we all went for darshan. We even went to Bochasan at times. In this way, due to the values of Satsang, I used to go to the mandir, perform puja, offer dandvats and serve the sadhus when they came.
At that time, I was also studying. Up to Standard 5 I studied there [in Chansad]. But, because there were not enough students, the government did not arrange for Standard 6 there.
So, there was a question of where I should study in Standard 6. Thus, I went to Dharapara. The teacher there said, “If you get ten children together then I will teach.” We set to get ten children together. Two from Dharapara, two from Chansad and some from other nearby place. We got 10-12 together. Then the teacher said, “If we put in the effort to start a class here and there are only a few from my village it is not proper. There should be more from my village.” But there were no more children from the village and so the class was cancelled, and my whole year was wasted.
Then everyone said, “Send him to Bochasan to study.”
At that time, Mota Akshar Swami had come there [Chansad] from Bochasan and the topic was discussed with him. He said, “He will get a good education in Bochasan.” In Bochasan, the British government education system was being used, while we had studied under the Gaekwad system. If someone from the Gaekwad system wanted to study in the British system, they had to drop down one standard.
When we went there, they said, “Place him in the fourth. We cannot take him in the sixth.” So, having completed the fifth, I was to do the fourth. So, again, everything fell through.
In this way, two years were wasted. I returned to the village. In the village was a boy called Shankarlal and one other. They studied at the school in Padra. I asked them, “If I want to come there what can be done?” They said, “We will get you in. For those who have completed Standard 4, they allow entry into English.” So, I thought let me go there. Then I talked to everyone and they said, “Good.”
Now, what about geting to and from Padra? I did not have a bicycle, so I would have to walk. However, Shankarlal said, “I will give you a ride.” Muljibhai added, “I will also give you a ride.” In this way, I went there to study. (Daily went to and from Padra by bicycle.)
There, I gave the English 1 exam. I was studying for the second when Shastriji Maharaj came to our village for some work. He called me and said, “Come on, you have to come to become a sadhu. I want to make you a sadhu.”
Actually, I had previously visited Bochasan, so I knew Shastriji Maharaj. During the fifth standard vacation, I had gone with Akshar Swami. At the time, the mandals of Mota Akshar Swami, Ghanshyam Swami and Balmukund Swami, all three, travelled together from Sejakuva, Sarsavni and other villages. Mota Akshar Swami took me to Bochasan, Sarsa and Anand.
[In Anand,] we stayed at the home of Motibhai Bhagwandas and bathed in the well opposite. In the afternoon, the mandir precincts were cool, so Akshar Swami told me, “You sleep there.” So, in the afternoons, I slept there. In the evening we would bathe, drawing water from the well with a canvas bucket. I had difficulty in pulling the bucket, so Ghanshyam Swami said, “This boy does not even know how to pull the bucket, so what will he do?” Ghanshyam Swami would become upset. Balmukund Swami would slowly draw the water and patiently teach me everything. He taught me to wash the utensils, clean up, sing bhajans and cook.
Once, Ghanshyam Swami fell ill and came to our village [Chansad]. He was taking black raisins, which he told me to bring. I was not very competent in these things since I had not often gone to the bazaar. I had never even gone to buy anything. Since I was going to Vadodara, he told me to bring the raisins. So, I brought back fresh grapes. Ghanshyam Swami became upset and said, “What did I ask for and what have you brought?” I replied, “I don’t know.” In later years, Ghanshyam Swami often remembered this incident and said, “He did not know much about the worldly ways. When he spoke, he would say “Ou…ou…ou…”. From the beginning I spoke little. When called two-three times, I would reply “Ha… Ha…”. Ghanshyam Swami knew this and would say so. But, with Swami’s grace, everything worked out.
When I was travelling with Akshar Swami, he told me, “You stay here. We will make you a white-robed sadhu [parshad].” Then, when Shastriji Maharaj came for the Guru Purnima festival in Bochasan, he took me to him and said, “He is a very good boy and worthy of becoming a sadhu.” And then he gave my name, village and other details. Shastriji Maharaj said, “Let us teach him.” With this, he gave me a Sanskrit lesson to memorize:
“Rãmaha, Rãmau, Ramãhã…” He said, “Memorize the word forms before eating.”
At that time, the Mahant of Dholka, Hariswarupdas, had also come. Everyone said, “He is a senior mahant from an important place.” Swami said, “Let us teach both of them Sanskrit.” So, even he was given the lesson to memorize.
I sat in the dharmashala there to memorize. I memorized the lesson in 1½ hours. Then, Swami said, “Speak,” and I recited the lesson. Swamishri was very pleased and said, “You are capable of becoming a scholar, a shastri. You are truly clever.” That day, Swami cast his pleasure, gaze and blessings on me.
Then he told Hariswarupdas to recite the lesson. He found it difficult, so Swamishri said, “Memorize it again.”
Harivallabh Swami or some other sadhu were due to go to Petlad to study under a shastri. Someone was to be assigned to go with him. It was decided for me to go there to study. So, my standard 6 studies were disrupted.
But, in Petlad there was no shastri to teach us. We were told he had gone out and there was no certainty of when he would return. Also, we would have to stay in the pathshala to study, but Swami said, “It is not possible to stay in the pathshala. We will send you for studies when we make arrangements to stay at Purushottamdas’s place.” With this, Swami took me to Sunav.
Dadabhai of Bhadran, vevai of Ishwarbhai Daji, lived in Bangalore, and was with us. Swami said to him, “You go and take him with the sadhus. Take them to Vartal for darshan. Adeshwarprasad (grandson of former Vartal acharya Lakshmiprasadji Maharaj) has come there. Bring him here; we want to take him to Bochasan and educate and train him.”
After this conversation, Dadabhai and I left by bullock-cart. It was the rainy season. We reached Vartal; it was my first visit. Dadabhai took me for darshan and we met Adeshwarprasad. We told him what Shastriji Maharaj had said. Then we sat in the bullock-cart and returned to Sunav. After spending the night there, we went to Bochasan. It was the month of Shravan, so we stayed some time for the samaiyo. There, they [the family] came and said that arrangements had been made for me to study in the school there. They spoke about it all to Swami as well. They said to Swami, “Let us take him for now. We will educate him and send him.” Swami said, “Good. No problem.”
'Guru Smruti' is a translation of Pragat Brahmaswarup Pramukh Swami Maharaj's recollection of inspiring incidents with Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and sadhus from his childhood, in his own words.