“If you want to learn worldly wisdom then go to Puja Sheth (of Sundariyana). But if you want to attain both worldly wisdom and moksha, then go to Gunatitanand Swami in Junagadh.” This was the final advice given by Gopalanand Swami to Shivlal Sheth, Vaghji Amin, Manji Thakkar, Harikrishna Bhatt, Jeebhai Shelat, Jaso Gor and other leading disciples before he passed away to Akshardham.
Gunatitanand Swami was respected in this way throughout the Swaminarayan Sampradaya for his wise, inspiring and forthright talks. He was recognized by all as an excellent orator who presented his message with anecdotes and perfect clarity. His talks boldly described the glory of Bhagwan Swaminarayan as supreme God, the philosophy of Akshar and Purushottam as revealed in the Vachanamrut by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and the necessity of perfecting the virtues of dharma, jnan, vairagya and bhakti. His discourses carried all the more impact since everything he preached was exemplified in his life and so everyone appreciated the genuineness of his talks.
Such was the impact of Gunatitanand Swami’s talks that Shuk Muni declared in an assembly at Surat, “The same inspiration that used to be attained by Shriji Maharaj’s discourses can be attained today from the talks of Gunatitanand Swami.”
Thus, even scholarly and senior paramhansas, who had witnessed the development of the Sampradaya since the time of Shriji Maharaj, praised Gunatitanand Swami’s candid and enlightening discourses. Whenever Nityanand Swami visited Junagadh, he commented, “Swami’s talks are very spirited. I have heard many leading scholars but have never heard such lucid explanations of Maharaj’s true form, dharma, jnan, vairagya and bhakti. He is certainly the manifest form of Gunatit – just as Maharaj had described.”
Gunatitanand Swami’s relentless preaching was initiated after an assembly in Gadhada. Gunatitanand Swami asked Shriji Maharaj, “Which of these four endeavours is the best – to engage in continuous meditation, to behave as atmarup, to serve the ill or to deliver discourses?”
Maharaj advised, “The first three endeavours are for a person’s own liberation. However, engaging in spiritual discourses liberates both the speaker and listener.”
With this in mind, when Gunatitanand Swami was appointed mahant of Junagadh Mandir, he arranged a schedule of 24-hour non-stop discourses. Whenever he was in Junagadh, he too, despite his administrative and other duties, spent much time daily discoursing.
Junagadh was ruled by a Muslim nawab, who was overawed by Gunatitanand Swami’s saintliness. As a result, he helped Gunatitanand Swami in many ways and often listened to Swami’s discourses.
To reach out to the people, Gunatitanand Swami used Junagadh as his hub and toured hundreds of surrounding villages. In this way he engraved the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the hearts of thousands of devotees to such an extent that they were willing to sacrifice everything for him.
Gunatitanand Swami did not confine his spiritual travels and teachings to just the Sorath region, but every year he visited Vartal for the annual spiritual camps. Even on route, to and from Vartal, he spent time in the villages preaching to the devotees, individually or in small groups.
Through his discourses Gunatitanand Swami ensured that his devotees were not distracted from their spiritual goal. Whenever necessary he would draw attention to possible hindrances and alert the devotees so that they did not deviate from their focus.
Shivlal Sheth was a wealthy and respected businessman in Botad whose life was deeply spiritual. He frequently visited Junagadh to stay in the company of Gunatitanand Swami and listen to his discourses. During one such stay, after the morning discourses, Shivlal Sheth visited the market and traded some gold, earning a handsome ` 150 profit. With this he sponsored a meal at the mandir. However, when he reported this to Gunatitanand Swami, the latter questioned, “Do you ever think of trading millions of tonnes of husk.” Shivlal Sheth replied, “No, Swami.” Then Swami said, “To the holy sadhu, other than the murti of Maharaj, everything upto Prakruti Purush is dirt, there is no value in it. So by forsaking the darshan and talks of the sadhu, what have you earned?”
Once in Junagadh, Abhaysinh, the Darbar of Lodhika, was seated in meditation. Gunatitanand Swami perceived his thoughts and commented, “Bapu! You won’t be able to accomplish the work in Lodhika sitting here. Lodhika is 75 km from here and when you go there the work can be done. So while seated here what is it that distracts you from Maharaj?”
While the work for the new dharmashala in Junagadh was in progress, Jaga Bhakta and others were preparing the stones to be used in the construction. Gunatitanand Swami came to where they were working and asked Jaga Bhakta, “You are preparing stones, but do you remember the murti of God?”
“No, Swami,” he replied.
“That is not right. Worship while you work,” commented Swami.
“I am not able to do that,” admitted Jaga Bhakta.
So Swami explained, “At first you did not know how to prepare these stones. But through practice you have learnt. Similarly, if you practice remembering God while you work, you will be able to master it.”
Gunatitanand Swami often said that his talks were like powerful arrows and therefore they were capable of penetrating into the hearts of even the most wicked of people.
Notorious bandits, Munja Suru of Lilakha and Valera Varu of Babariyawad, were transformed by their association with Gunatitanand Swami and they ceased to be a menace to society.
Many devotees, through Swami’s guidance, attained great spiritual heights and conquered troublesome base natures, such as, ego, anger, jealousy, lust, etc.
Even Acharya Raghuvirji Maharaj realized the true greatness of Gunatitanand Swami. Shedding the ego of his status, the acharya stayed with Gunatitanand Swami at Junagadh and by listening to his discourses attained the state of brahmarup.
Gunatitanand Swami was extremely particular in ensuring that all who came to Junagadh left with greater spiritual awareness.
Once Kashidas had gone to Junagadh. He had originally intended to stay one month, but stayed for two. Before he left, Gunatitanand Swami gave him the essence of the understanding he should take with him. Swami said, “There are four talks which are a lifeline for the jiva. First, the supreme upasana of Shriji Maharaj; second, agna; third, to attach one’s jiva with the ekantik Sadhu; and fourth, to maintain friendship with the devoted.”
Such clear-cut guidance was a hallmark of Gunatitanand Swami’s way of inspiring and enlightening his devotees.
Through his discourses, Gunatitanand Swami brought peace to many in stressful situations.
Gunatitanand Swami was staying in Gondal mandir. The Darbar of Gondal was in a state of deep depression and grief due to the passing away of his young baby son. Gunatitanand Swami was invited to the palace. There, Swami spoke to the Darbar in such a clear and caring manner that the Darbar felt real peace and all his grief dissolved.
Even to the experienced and senior paramhansas, Gunatitanand Swami’s talks often shed light on matters which they had not fully understood.
Once, in Vartal, Gunatitanand Swami discoursed on Vachanamrut Gadhada II 9 and explained the glory of Shriji Maharaj as supreme God. Hearing this explanation, Shuk Muni revealed, “Swami! Maharaj addressed this Vachanamrut to me and so I am the one who wrote it. But only today have I understood its true meaning.”
Gunatitanand Swami arrived in Aniyali where Bhai Atmanand Swami was residing. He was 116 years old and wondered why Maharaj had not yet taken him to Akshardham. Since, ill health prevented him from travelling to Junagadh, Atmanand Swami requested Gunatitanand Swami to talk. Gunatitanand Swami explained the true form and supreme glory of Shriji Maharaj and with this removed the misconceptions Atmanand Swami had in his mind. He now realized that Shriji Maharaj was supreme God. A short while later, Atmanand Swami passed away to Akshardham.
Gunatitanand Swami not only engaged relentlessly in talks, but he also inspired the writing of scriptures which described Shriji Maharaj’s supreme form.
Once, in the presence of Acharya Raghuvirji Maharaj, Gunatitanand Swami said that a scripture describing the divine life and glory of Shriji Maharaj should be written. Achintyanand Brahmachari was selected for the task. Achintyanand Brahmachari confessed that the task was beyond his capacity, but Gunatitanand Swami blessed him and arranged for all the necessary information to write the Hari-lila-kalpataru scripture.
Gunatitanand Swami never missed an opportunity to deliver the spiritual message for which he had taken birth. Tirelessly, he would talk to anyone and everyone. Some questioned this approach, suggesting that he should be selective and only preach to those who are suitable. To this Swami replied, “Those who listen and benefit are suitable and those who do not are unsuitable.”
Gunatitanand Swami’s fluent and insightful discourses appealed to all – rich or poor, young or old, sadhu or householder. There was always something of interest and value to listeners at all stages of spiritual development.
Gunatitanand Swami’s talks were very direct. He elaborated upon many of his principles by the use of appropriate anecdotes and examples based on his experiences and observation of the human psyche. Thus, he was able to convey even the most complicated doctrines to even simple-minded, illiterate villagers.
The knowledge they gained did not just remain as theoretical concepts, but they applied the principles in their daily lives and experienced the true bliss of God.
Gunatitanand Swami left a legacy that has been preserved up to this day. Some of his talks were compiled by his sadhus and devotees into the Swamini Vato scripture. His talks are so universal that even today, whichever country one lives in or whatever one’s background and circumstances, they serve as a guiding light to all genuine spiritual seekers. Many have experienced that by reading even a page of the Swamini Vato, there is always some guidance that provides relief and mental calmness from the problems and frustrations of daily life.
The reason they have such a powerful effect is because Gunatitanand Swami spoke with a genuine desire to uplift everyone spiritually. So, by using his teachings with a pure heart one can attain God and experience true, divine bliss.