On 25 December 1999, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami described
during his Gujarati speech at AARSH, Gandhinagar, about Yogiji Maharaj’s
unique style of discoursing to devotees and aspirants.
Yogiji Maharaj was an idol of purity, divinity and love. Wherever he went, his love and divinity permeated in abundance. Many years ago Yogiji Maharaj was in Mumbai. He was staying at the Akshar Bhuvan mandir in Dadar. Once, at the invitation from the head of Prem Kutir Ashram in Marine Lines, Yogiji Maharaj went there with sadhus and devotees. The ashram was mainly visited by Sindhi devotees for satsang. A renowned and scholarly sannyasi, Swami Kashikanandji, spoke there daily. So, Yogiji Maharaj sat in his assembly. Finally, when he was told to address the congregation the sadhus and devotees with him felt that how would the Sindhis, who do not know Gujarati, comprehend Yogiji Maharaj’s Kathiavadi dialect? In addition, there was a question as to what Yogiji Maharaj would speak on. But when he spoke, everyone was extremely pleased.
There were three things about his speech: he always narrated anecdotes or moral stories, sang kirtans with great spirit and enthusiasm and whatever he said came from his heart. Thus everyone felt as if God was speaking through him.
At that time Yogiji Maharaj sang, “Mãnas no avatãr…” and “Anubhavi ãnand mã…” and explained them with a few examples. We felt that the audience must have failed to understand what he said. But when Swami Kashikanandji gave the vote of thanks he said he had read and heard about the importance and power of shabdabrahm (divine words) in the shastras, but he had never experienced it before. However, for the first time he experienced the power of speech in Yogiji Maharaj’s words. He said that though Yogiji Maharaj spoke in Gujarati, it was heart-touching and immensely blissful. After the assembly was over the Sindhi devotees were very happy; we distinctly saw this on their faces. The reason was Yogiji Maharaj’s unique style of doing katha. He never thought beforehand about what he would speak. Whereas, when we speak, we think and prepare beforehand to impress others, display our knowledge and nourish our ego. Yogiji Maharaj remained naturally absorbed in God while he spoke.
Whenever Yogiji Maharaj came to Mumbai he used to stay at the Kapol Vadi. He spoke each day from 8.00 to 8.20 p.m. During that time, aspirants from the old mandir, neighbouring mandirs and ashrams and from the Vaishnav, Jain and Marvadi communities would hurriedly gather to listen to him. He would speak for 20 minutes and leave everyone in euphoria. The assembly would be replete with laughter and joy. Everyone would momentarily forget the world and become liberated from maya. Such were his extraordinary discourses. At that time, after work, people were always in a hurry to catch a train back home to Malad, Santa Cruz or Borivalli, but they never missed Yogiji Maharaj’s daily sessions. When we asked people about how they felt about Swami’s katha they would say they experienced a lot of joy.
Yogiji Maharaj laced his talks with incidents and tales. In fact, he had hundreds of moral and satsang stories by heart. The satsang stories he narrated included the lives of Muktanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami, Nishkulanand Swami, Parvatbhai and others. His style of speaking was simple and candid, and his language was chaste. Even a newcomer would find his talks palatable and touching. Another attribute of Yogiji Maharaj’s talks on dharma and satsang was that middle-aged listeners found them very blissful, because they had realized that their life was not far from their twilight years. They felt they had to understand such talks and imbibe them into their lives. On the other hand, youths between 16 and 24 years, who are mostly boisterous, are normally disinclined to such talks. But, they avidly came to listen to Yogiji Maharaj at 5.00 a.m. Swami never talked about esoteric aspects of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita or about hardcore jnan in the shastras. He simply narrated stories and incidents during his early morning discourses in Mumbai, Gondal, Sarangpur, Rajkot, Ahmedabad or anywhere else. Even in the biting cold of winter, children and youths would not miss the 5.00 a.m. sessions. They were all eager not to miss Yogiji Maharaj’s discourses.
During those days the facilities for audio recording were not of high standards like we find today. The children and youths invariably wrote down the talks of Yogiji Maharaj in their notebooks. The stories told by Swami were also noted for the satsang archives. He included spiritual knowledge and his own experiences while narrating stories, finally summarizing them into adages. Just like the Panchtantra stories contain practical wisdom Yogiji Maharaj’s katha included short statements or maxims that contained jnan. Thus Yogiji Maharaj preached through short, effective statements. The listeners became inclined to note them down and remember them. Such was his extraordinary style of giving discourses that thousands were attracted to him.
Whenever Yogiji Maharaj came to Mumbai, the entire Lohana community would come to hear him. Hiralal Sodha, Jamnadas Kavi and other distinguished members also came. Hiralal Sodha had a thriving Income Tax practice in Mumbai, but when he came to Yogiji Maharaj he would become absorbed in his talks. People swayed with interest and joy while listening to him. Morarka Sheth, the proprietor of Morarka Mills, also came to listen to Yogiji Maharaj and opined, “Yogiji Maharaj is a great sadhu. I’ve never seen such a sadhu before.” Thousands of people had experienced sublime feelings in his presence and during his discourses.
There are also many who are present here who have witnessed and experienced Yogiji Maharaj’s style of discoursing and narrating meaningful stories. Because he spoke while immersed in God, his talks had a tremendous impact on the youths and devotees.
Today, when we listen to his audio recordings, one can also hear him clearing his throat while discoursing. This sound of his awakens the listener and gives a different experience altogether – in fact a divine feeling. Thus, Yogiji Maharaj discoursed profusely to spread the glory of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s life and work and also that of his guru Shastriji Maharaj.
He often said that he had delivered talks on spiritual fundamentals and also those worthy of internalizing by devotees to such extents that it pained his intestines. Sometimes he softly rebuked all that despite him having talked repeatedly why was it that they were unable to understand what he said. But he did this for the uplift of youths and the devotees.
So, Yogiji Maharaj made immense efforts by discoursing. The stories he narrated have been published as ‘Yogiji Maharaj ni Bodh Kathao’ and ‘Yogiji Maharaj ni Satsang Kathao’. All devotees should read them personally and also read them aloud before their children. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has instructed all to do ghar sabha (home assembly) daily. However, many times one is perplexed about how to go about doing ghar sabha simply because one is deficient in satsang knowledge. The answer is to read our satsang books to your children. They will acquire knowledge along with fun.