Nowadays we take plenty for granted: be it at a wedding, a birthday celebration, during shopping, enjoying entertainment, spending money or using materials. There are instances of families getting ruined because of wasteful expenditure. Wastefulness is not confined to social occasions. In the lives of Gunatit gurus this type of wastefulness does not arise. Shastriji Maharaj established the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, starting with a handful of sadhus and some devotees. What he had in abundance was not money, but unbounded faith and confidence in Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the gurus who preceded him – Gunatitanand Swami and Bhagatji Maharaj. Like all pioneers, he had to face what appeared to be insurmountable problems. He had the faith not only to get over them but inspire his successors, Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, to do the same. All three have not only run the Sanstha, but built mandirs and looked after the welfare of their sadhus, followers and the public in general. Now, BAPS has become a worldwide organization. The following incidents from their lives show how they conducted themselves in both good and difficult times – thrift being one of their guiding principles. Let us learn from these inspiring stories.
On the morning of 28 April 1947 Shastriji Maharaj visited the stone workshop at Sarangpur mandir and gave the necessary instructions. Then he began to talk about his difficult times, “Till now I have been keeping a half-ticket sadhu as a companion (jod) and carrying his potla (baggages). I have prepared food to feed him. Ask Vasudev, Aksharswarupdas, Nilkanth or Gopinath, all of them have experienced this’’ (Likhitan Shastri Yagnapurushdasji, Part 2, p. 616).
While travelling by train Shastriji Maharaj always took with him a young sadhu as his jod, thus cutting his ticket expense by half.
Shastriji Maharaj used to always travel in third class. If someone asked him to go by first class he would say, “I do not want to waste a devotee’s money. I shall spend the money on building mandirs.’’ If somebody would bring a conveyance and invite him to use it, he would decline and say, “I prefer walking.” If someone asked about sponsoring a meal, he would say, “The food eaten will be destroyed in 24 hours. So use the money for building mandirs so that lakhs of people may worship’’ (Yajnapurush Smrutigranth, p. 219).
Once, Shastriji Maharaj visited Anand. He was staying at the house of Motibhai Bhagwandas. Maganbhai inspired Ishwarbhai and Prabhudas Lalaji to have Shastriji Maharaj’s darshan. Thereafter they both hired a car for Rs. 51 to take Shastriji Maharaj to Gana. When he came to know of this, Shastriji Maharaj was very annoyed. He said, “Pay Rs. 5 to the driver and send him away.” Swami was angry because of the unnecessary expenditure. After a lot of requests he relented and said, “Take Yogiji Maharaj to Gana.” (Yogiji Maharaj, Part 1, p. 260).
Once, Yogiji Maharaj was at Gondal and while talking of Shastriji Maharaj, he said, “He would draw attention to three things. If anyone gave one rupee on a home visit Nirgun Swami would say, ‘Give five.’ But Shastriji Maharaj would say no. He would be happy with whatever was given. Second, he would take special care to prevent wastage of vegetables while chopping them for cooking. He would teach how to do this. First, he would get them cleaned. Then he would teach how to chop them. If a vegetable had to be pruned, he would make sure that too much skin was not removed. He would teach how to chop turiya (ridge gourd). Then he would teach how to season (vaghar) them in a little cooking oil. If the top portion of bhindi (ladyfinger) was cut too much in a hurry he would not allow it to be done further. He would indicate how much to cut. Each and every leaf or part of the vegetable was valuable to him, so he would not let it go. Third, whenever he engaged a horse-cart and if the driver asked for ten annas, Shastriji Maharaj would haggle to reduce it to eight annas. Once, when he got into a cart and the driver demanded ten annas, he simply got down. (Yogiji Maharaj, Part 5, p. 151)
Yogiji Maharaj used to say, “Shastriji Maharaj would always insist on cutting the top portion of bhindi in such a manner as not to waste too much of it. He would cut the veins on turiya (ridge gourd) and use them in making kadhi.” (Yogiji Maharaj Ni Divya Vani, p. 174)
Once, Shastriji Maharaj visited the village of Thikaria. During a large assembly the devotees presented the sadhus with dhotis to honour them. Shastriji Maharaj participated in the proceedings with a watchful eye. After having his meal, he inquired, “How many dhotis were presented?” The devotee who had counted the dhotis while they were being draped replied, “Forty-seven.” Swami said, “You seem to be mistaken. When I counted there were forty-eight dhotis.” Manibhai heard this and he tried to put an end to the discussion by saying, “If there is a shortage I shall make good. You don’t worry about the count.” But Swami was not one to allow the lapse. Even though there was no question for Swami in receiving one less dhoti, he felt misplacing even one would amount to being unappreciative of the donor. We should look at the sentiments of the donor and take care while receiving the donations.” On inquiry it was found that one dhoti had been donated twice by two devotees. Swamishri said, “We have found the answer. We should not be negligent after receiving something. We should believe it to be Bhagwan’s wealth and should be precise in such matters” (Swaminarayan Prakash, January 1977, p. 20)
Once, Shastriji Maharaj was in Atladra for the annakut festival. As was the practice every New Year, he left for a padharamani to Mathurbhai Makandas’s house. After the visit he said, “Today is the New Year, let us do the pradakshina of Thakorji.” He came to Chorvale Darwaja along with some devotees. The houses there had been renovated and so some broken tiles were lying around. Swamishri sat down and started collecting the pieces of tiles. The devotees tried to stop him, “Swami they will be of no use to us anymore.” Swamishri said, “Yes, I know.” But he still went on picking the pieces. So, others followed suit. He filled two cartloads of broken tiles and had them deposited at one corner of the Atladra mandir. Then he clarified, “We have as yet to build the sadhus’ dharmashala. At that time I shall use these tiles as foundation material. Even big avatars did not get such seva which we have received on New Year’s Day by the grace of Maharaj and Swami” (Swaminarayan Prakash, January 1977, p. 20)
Once, Shastriji Maharaj was in Atladra. He noticed that a bhagat, who was chopping spinach, was about to consign the stems to the dust heap. He told him, “Bhagat, keep the stems in the balcony of the sabha mandap. I shall deal with them later.” Then, Swami came and began to cut the tender portions of what was going to be discarded and put them with the chopped spinach. In the afternoon, after taking his meal, he joked that the pieces of stems had not got stuck between his teeth and if they had in anyone’s case he should say so. Then he added that if they misused any small or great thing, it would be a disservice to God. Thus, one should not waste anything. (Swaminarayan Prakash, January 1977, p. 20)
Once, Shastriji Maharaj was under medication at the Atladra mandir. The vaidya had prescribed a medicine which had to be taken with ghee equivalent to the weight of half-a-rupee. He sent Aksharpriya Swami to the kothari for it. But the latter gave him ghee equal to the weight of two rupees. Swami said, “The vaidya has prescribed ghee equal to the weight of half-a-rupee, thus I cannot take more.” Then a devotee sitting near Swami said, “Swami, take it. [The extra] ghee will not harm you.” Swami said, “I cannot take more. It is not proper to spoil what belongs to God.” Even then the devotee insisted, “Swami, during festivals much ghee is lost when it gets stuck to the leaf-plates and the cooking vessels. And much more is wasted by the people. So if you eat a little more where is the question of wasting it?” Shastriji Maharaj lightly struck both his hands on his head and said, “I do not wish to take this blame on my head. I do not want to know about others. I have to bother about things that should not be spoiled by me” (Swaminarayan Prakash, January 1977, p. 20)
Once, Shastriji Maharaj had to go from Vadodara station to Sayajipura. Nirgundas Swami was with him. A buggy-driver came up to him and pleaded, “It’s far, so sit in my buggy. You can give whatever fare you wish.” But Shastriji Maharaj replied, “It is better if we decide the fare beforehand. What do you expect?” “Rupees one and twenty-five paise.” Swami did not agree. So, in order to confirm the trip, the driver reduced it by two annas. But he did not know that Swami was aware of the fare. Swami offered twelve annas, but the driver refused. Shastriji Maharaj thus picked up his potla and began to walk away. Then Swami said, “We are not in such a tearing hurry. We shall walk on the footpath all the way.”
Swami thus walked the distance of 25.6 km. He believed that one can spend money but not waste it. While walking Swami said, “Let the buggy-driver do what he can afford, but we should not be taken in by his words” (Swaminarayan Prakash, January 1977, p. 21)