Once, the devotees of Khandesh desired for Shastriji Maharaj to come and celebrate the festival of Vasant Panchami with them. So, they urged Purshottamdas Swami to write a letter on their behalf to Shastriji Maharaj. Shastriji Maharaj, however was unable to grace the town during that specific time. Disheartened, the devotees urged Purshottamdas Swami to write yet another letter, but he denied their request, saying, “We should not keep that kind of stubborn desire. We should act per his wish. Nevertheless, if you have true love for Swami, he’ll give darshan to you tomorrow. All of you should do prarthana.” The next morning, sadhus and devotees of Khandesh were sitting in the mandir doing katha, when they saw a cart coming towards them in the distance. With a walking stick in one hand and Ishwarbhai’s hand in the other, Shastriji Maharaj stepped out of the cart and announced, “You all have such love and it was Purshottam’s wish, so I couldn’t help myself from coming,” Everyone’s hearts swelled with joy. Shastriji Maharaj had come to fulfill their wishes.
In today’s digital age, we can follow anyone on Twitter at whim with just the click of a button or join a conversation with the use of a hashtag (#). But the connection that Shastriji Maharaj made to the thousands craving knowledge of true upasana was on a much deeper, spiritual level. Through his selflessness, Shastriji Maharaj won over their hearts with the joy of Ekantik. In turn, those who followed him did so with singular faith; faith that propelled haribhatktas to surrender to Shastriji Maharaj in thought, speech and action knowing that he, alone, was the gateway to moksha.
Through his zeal for katha and nonstop vicharan, Shastriji Maharaj empowered devotees to become ambassadors of Akshar-Purshottam upasana. Their selfless efforts played a crucial role in furthering Shastriji Maharaj’s vision and work. One such devotee was Dajibhai of Nar. If someone was willing to offer even just one rupee to Shastriji Maharaj, he would walk up to twenty-five miles to collect that money for Swami. Furthermore, if he found out that a another devotee was sick, he would personally go to serve him, and then when they had recovered, inspire them to join in the seva of the mandir.
The likes of Dajibhai were not uncommon. Many would give Shastriji Maharaj their entire salary or savings in service of building mandirs without a moment’s hesitation. Others, like Maganbhai of Africa, gave every free moment they had to further Shastriji Maharaj’s vision. Regarded as the heart of the Africa satsang mandal, Maganbhai channeled his mahima of Shastriji Maharaj into spreading satsang and the knowledge of Akshar-Purshottam upasana on the African continent. His personable nature drew aspirants to the festivals he would organize, and his katha would imbue them with faith in Shastriji Maharaj. Like his guru, Maganbhai had intense dedication when it came to doing katha. Once at a samaiyo he organized in Jinja, Maganbhai talked till 4:30 in the morning, without regard for sleep or food.
Along with the five extraordinary mandirs he built, Shastriji Maharaj’s devotees stood as gems of his creation. These devotees ‘friended’ the sanstha on the deepest of levels and Shastriji Mahraj imparted to them his own qualities, thereby transforming them into envoys for Akshar Purushottam upasana.
“Technological innovation has increased, but shraddha is lacking.” In saying this, Shastriji Maharaj explained to us that faith was the primary vehicle for spreading upasana. He did katha, vicharan and inspired devotees to carry forward his message, but behind all of that was his unflinching faith in Maharaj and Swami. He met every obstacle with faith, every doubt with faith, every derogatory word with faith. And with this singular trait, he overcame any obstacle that came in his path. This is how Shastriji Maharaj spread upasana in the pre-digital age.
Shastriji Maharaj’s 85th birthday celebrations were held in Atladra. At precisely five o’clock that evening, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, and Nirgundas Swami were adamantly requested by the devotees to take part in a procession in which arrangements had been made for them to take a seat atop an elephant. Hundreds of devotees had rescheduled family events, closed their businesses for the day, and left their fields to join in the fanfare. Playing instruments, singing kirtans, and dancing, they celebrated their beloved guru. Their hearts teeming with pride and joy, they began crying, “Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay! Shastriji Maharaj ni jay! Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay! Shastriji Maharaj ni jay! Over and over again they yelled it, fearlessly. “Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay! Shastriji Maharaj ni jay! Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay! Shastriji Maharaj ni jay!
As we reflect on this prasang, let’s ask ourselves: How many times have we said “Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay” in our lives? In fact, how many times have we said it in passing, absent-mindedly? Six decades removed, it can be easy to forget the significance that these five words capture. We didn’t have to fight for the opportunity to say these words. It was given to us for nothing in return. And yet, it is hard to deny the impact of the Akshar Purshottam upasana in our daily lives.
So, the next time we say the jaynaad, let’s stop and take a second to think of Atladra in 1950. Let’s reflect on the excited cheers of those devotees. Let us be filled with humility for the hardships endured. Let us remember the conviction of Shastriji Maharaj in spreading the truth, of his drive and sacrifice. And then, let us say the words from a place of understanding.
Akshar Purshottam Maharaj ni jay!