Standing up for the truth amid a barrage of opposition and at the risk of one’s life requires conviction, commitment, courage and character. Shastriji Maharaj had them in abundance and that is why he remained resolute and successfully revived the philosophy of Akshar and Purushottam as revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Vachanamrut.
A thousand prostrations to Shastriji Maharaj on the occasion of his birthday celebration on Vasant Panchami,
22 January 2018, Gondal...
Shastriji Maharaj was a spiritual dynamo, constantly energizing his devotees with the qualities of optimism, enthusiasm, duty and dedication. As a leader he was incomparable. He led by example, with his dynamic, disciplined, determined, decisive, daring, dependable and diplomatic style, generating the desired dedication from his sadhus and devotees. His saintly virtues of devotion, detachment, spiritual wisdom, compassion and many other qualities charged everyone in a similar way. Shastriji Maharaj’s powerful and magnetic personality left a deep impression on everyone who came into his contact.
After learning from guru Bhagatji Maharaj the true interpretation of the Akshar-Purushottam doctrine revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Shastriji Maharaj unceasingly imparted it to others.
Shastriji Maharaj’s decision to depart from Vartal after tolerating years of hostility, saddened many satsangis. Among them was Dolatram Kripashankar Pandya, a renowned Sanskrit Scholar, Gujarati poet and a member of the Vartal Temple Committee. Having known Shastriji Maharaj for many years, he knew that Shastriji Maharaj would never do anything that was contrary to Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s true principles. So, he asked Shastriji Maharaj, “I know that you would not leave without a true reason. So please explain to me this principle.”
Accordingly, Shastriji Maharaj explained, “In the mandirs Shriji Maharaj built, he consecrated the murtis of Gopinathji, Nar-Narayan, Lakshmi-Narayan, Radha-Krishna and others. Maharaj himself was supreme God and the source of all avatars, yet to appease others, he consecrated his own murti only in Vartal. However, in Vachanamrut Gadhada II 21, Shriji Maharaj has revealed the essential principle to be understood by all spiritual aspirants to attain ultimate moksha. In it he says, ‘If a person realizes the greatness of manifest God and his holy Sadhu in exactly the same way as he realizes the greatness of past avatars of God such as Ram, Krishna, etc., as well as the greatness of past sadhus such as Narad, the Sanakadik, Shukji, Jadbharat, Hanuman, Uddhav etc. – then nothing remains to be understood on the path of liberation.’
“On the basis of this Vachanamrut, Shriji Maharaj is himself the manifest form of God and Gunatitanand Swami is the manifest form of his holy Sadhu. So, only if one understands their true glory and consecrates mandirs with their murtis in the central shrine has the fundamental principle been understood fully. Also, just as God and his ideal devotee are worshipped together, for example, Radha and Krishna, Nar and Narayan, Lakshmi and Narayan, Sita and Ram, similarly Shriji Maharaj has instructed that one should attain virtues like his ideal devotee, Aksharbrahman, and offer worship to him, Purushottam. So just as Radha with Krishna is Radha-Krishna and Lakshmi with Narayan is Lakshmi-Narayan, similarly Swami (Akshar) with Narayan (Purushottam) is Swaminarayan (Akshar-Purushottam). This is the true upasana.
“Swami is Gunatitanand Swami and Narayan is Bhagwan Swaminarayan. It is to teach this true principle that we have left Vartal.”
Thus, Shastriji Maharaj gave a detailed explanation of the true interpretation of Shriji Maharaj’s words in the Vachanamrut. At the end, Dolatram Pandya bowed to Shastriji Maharaj and remarked, “Swami, you are doing the work for which Shriji Maharaj would have had to incarnate again. Your greatness is immeasurable, since you have explained the true and pure philosophy of Akshar-Purushottam on the basis of the scriptures.”
It was Shastriji Maharaj’s unwavering faith in God which enabled him to fulfil Shriji Maharaj’s wish to enshrine the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam. It was this faith which formed the foundation of his struggle to achieve what many deemed as being impossible. In fact, Shastriji Maharaj’s life embodied the true spirit of the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan.
Even as a child, while playing, Shastriji Maharaj’s devotion and God-centric life came to the fore.
While his friends played various popular games he spent his time building mandirs. Ignoring the pleas of his friends to join them in sports, he would sit on the ground, and build a model mandir out of clay, stones, wood and other natural materials. He would then place the murti of God in it, offer food and perform arti. In this way, even in his play, he offered pure and loving devotion to Shriji Maharaj. Such inclinations from childhood were a prelude to his life-long endeavours to build mandirs enshrining the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam and explaining the doctrine of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan to all.
At the Chaitra Punam festival in Vartal, the sadhus and devotees opposed to Shastriji Maharaj had arranged a meeting to censure him for his support in building the mandir in Vadhwan and plan some mischief to harm him. However, Shastriji Maharaj prophesied, “They will quarrel among themselves and disperse. So they will not be able to do anything.”
Then, Shastriji Maharaj turned to Galbhai, smiled and asked him, “Do you have the courage to hail the victory call of Akshar-Purushottam in that assembly?” This task was like entering the lion’s den and awakening it from slumber, risking severe injury. But, Galbhai, who had developed firm faith in the Akshar-Purushottam philosophy by his association with Shastriji Maharaj, was ready to do as asked. Shastriji Maharaj was pleased by Galbhai’s readiness to carry out his wish.
So, in the Chaitra Punam assembly, as soon as the Acharya took his seat, Galbhai called out, “Sahajanand Swami Maharaj ni Jai.” Everyone joined him in this. Then, he immediately hailed, “Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj ni Jai.” Again, everyone joined him in hailing the call, before realizing what had happened. There was a moment of stunned silence before ripples of discussion erupted. This bold chant infuriated the gathered sadhus and devotees, but seeing the robust and powerful Galbhai and his associates, nobody dared to say anything. Shastriji Maharaj had inspired such courage in his devotees.
CONSTRUCTION OF BOCHASAN MANDIR
Due to the persistent opposition and harassment, Shastriji Maharaj had to leave the Vartal Sanstha in November 1905. The following year, on 30 November 1906 (Magshar sud Punam, Samvat 1963), many devotees came to Bochasan for the punam festival. In the assembly Shastriji Maharaj declared, “We now have enough land to build a mandir and the site has been cleared. So, we are now ready to dig the foundations. All of you are requested to lend your help in whatever way necessary, even by reducing your farming, so that the murti-pratishtha can be performed in six months.” Hearing Shastriji Maharaj’s request inspired everyone to commit their resources for this noble task.
Thus, devotees and sadhus, alike, put all their energies into meeting Shastriji Maharaj’s deadline. Shastriji Maharaj, too, helped in the construction work and continually discoursed to the devotees. In all his talks he spoke about the doctrine of Akshar and Purushottam as revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Vachanamrut and he emphasized that the goal of life is to become brahmarup and offer devotion to Purushottam, the supreme God. His powerful speech and effective style appealed to all, motivating them to serve in every way possible.