Although katha and satsang sabha are of paramount importance for our spiritual development, it is often difficult to make the time for either. However, there are those inspirational devotees who juggle the same professional and personal obligations that we all do, yet make the time in amazing ways. We wish to share their experiences.
Interview with Dineshbhai Shah from Clifton, New Jersey
Q. We have heard that you have read many of the Sanstha’s books and scriptures. Can you tell us which ones you have read?
A. I have read the entire life biography of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (five volumes), along with the biographies of the guru parampara. I have also read nearly every book that Swaminarayan Aksharpith has published. Additionally, I have read Gunatitanand Swami’s Swamini Vato 78 times and the Vachanamrut 98 times.
Q. We have heard that you have also developed a habit of constantly listening to katha. Up until now, how much katha have you listened to?
A. As of right now, I have listened to a lot of katha, the majority of which was the katha of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, sadguru sadhus and learned sadhus. In particular, I have listened to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Ashirvad Samput from Part 1 onwards. Of all of them, I have enjoyed Swamishri’s ashirvad and katha on the Bhaktachintamani the most.
Q. Beyond listening to katha, have you developed a habit of writing anything down?
A. Yes, I regularly take notes on the katha I listen to. From the katha, I jot down the main points and essential prasangs. I then organize those notes by subject.
Q. How many notes do you think you have taken so far?
A. I have probably taken 10,000 pages worth of notes so far.
Q. How do you manage to find the time to do all of this?
A. My commute home takes approximately 1½ hours, so during that time I have at least 1 hour to listen to katha. At work, my lunch break is one hour long, so I have a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes to spare during that time. Even during work, I have often been able to find free time, which I use to listen and think about katha. Finally, at night, I usually have about twenty to thirty minutes to listen to katha.
Q. How have you been able to benefit by listening to katha and reading satsang books?
A. There are many benefits. One of the main benefits was that when I first entered Satsang, listening to katha and reading satsang books slowly helped me to develop the conviction that Bhagwan Swaminarayan is the supreme God. Additionally, through listening to katha, I also have a greater appreciation for the amount of satsang knowledge and spiritual experience underlying our sadguru sadhus and learned sadhu’s katha. I also now have an increased feeling of joy when sadhus or devotees reference Vachanamruts, Swamini Vatos or quote kirtans during their kathas, because of my familiarity with these references. Another benefit is that, if need be, I can more easily do katha at a moment’s notice. Finally, the most important benefit in terms of my life is that when I first entered Satsang, I had many strong swabhavs, which I know have decreased as a result of the katha and satsang reading that I do.
Interview with Tarunbhai Patel from Los Angeles, California
Q. We understand you recently suffered a serious injury. How did this happen?
A. One morning around 5.15 a.m., I was going to work. I was taking Highway 5, and as I was going to merge onto Highway 55, I saw a man standing at the junction between the freeways, with a gun in his hands. As it was a junction, I was forced to slow down. As my car approached the man, he twice yelled, “Get out of the car!” As I was thinking about whether or not to get out of the car, he fired the gun in my direction. I ducked, and said “Maharaj, Swami!” Luckily, the shot missed. At that moment, I got inspiration from Swami Bapa to speed up quickly. As I drove by the man, he fired from his gun again. I turned to the side, and the bullet grazed my lips and went through my cheek. I went straight home, because if I had stopped someone might have gotten scared and not been able to call 911 immediately. When I went home, I spoke with my wife, and my daughter called 911.
Q. Although this incident occurred on a Tuesday, you were present in the sabha the following Sunday. Didn’t you consider missing sabha to recuperate?
A. After the incident, I stayed in the hospital for four days. I came home on Friday night, rested on Saturday, but I came to sabha on Sunday because it’s Swamishri’s agna. I have been following this agna for many years, and I feel that it’s important that for the agnas I follow, I should follow them as best I can. I come to sabha on time, and I record each sabha so that I can listen to it throughout the week. From the continuous katha throughout the week, I get inspiration about how to live my life, what to do and what not do.
Even after I was shot, I believe I was able to drive home for two miles because of the strength I had gained from listening to katha. I reflected on Shriji Maharaj’s discourse about a thorn pricking a person’s foot. Meaning, a much worse calamity was meant to befall me, but God protected me and reduced the suffering a hundred-fold, so that it was just a minor pain, like a thorn pricking a person’s foot. This gave me inspiration to continue forward and to make it home.
Q. For how long have you been regularly attending the Sunday sabha?
A. I have been regularly attending the Sunday sabha since 1988. To this day, because of Swami’s grace, I haven’t missed a single sabha. Although everyone is always busy nowadays, because of Swamishri’s grace I have always been able to attend sabha. I come to sabha five minutes early, and sit in the front row as per Doctor Swami’s agna.