Gunatitanand Swami inspired transformation in the lives of countless people of varying backgrounds. His life and teachings were such that the illiterate, the wayward and the devout advanced in their spiritual quest, no matter what their starting point. The following accounts of Valeru Varu, Acharya Raghuvirji Maharaj, the Nagar devotee of Junagadh and Dajibhai Darbar of Kamrod demonstrate the tremendous impact Gunatitanand Swami had in their lives and how he customized his efforts to advance each of them spiritually.
FROM A DACOIT TO A DEVOTEE
In the village of Mansa in the region of Babariyavad, there lived a Kathi Darbar named Mamaiya Varu. He had two sons, Sidi Varu and Valera Varu. Valera’s half-brother Sidi had usurped Valera’s share of their ancestral land, leaving Valera landless and devoid of a livelihood. Out of frustration, Valera took to a life of banditry.
He began raiding surrounding villages, stealing livestock and exacting savage retribution upon anyone who dared to cross him. He would attack random farmers plowing their fields and kill them in cold blood. Terrified by his senseless violence, people began to abandon these villages for safer havens. Valera perpetrated this violence to intimidate his half-brother into returning his rightful share of their father’s property. But Sidi Varu was also ruthless and not one to be easily intimidated.
One day, Swamishri was traveling in the Nagher region when his party got lost. They were making their way through the wilderness when eight armed bandits blocked their path. Many in Swamishri’s retinue began to tremble at the sight of these cold-blooded killers. Swamishri reassured them, “What are you afraid of? What do we have that they can possibly steal?”
But Swamishri’s group was not afraid of theft, but rather death, which seemed to be staring them in the face.
One of the bandits pointed his rifle at the group and barked, “Hey you! Maharajs! Let’s go! This way. Valera Varu is waiting for you.”
At the mention of Valera’s name, everyone except for Swamishri felt their legs go weak. Valera Varu was infamous throughout Babariyavad for his senseless violence. The bullets of his gun had pierced the hearts of countless innocent souls and the stroke of his sword had severed countless heads from their bodies. The group could almost feel their life force draining away. How could they possibly escape from this fiend?
Swamishri told everyone, “Don’t worry, let’s go with them. Maharaj is with us, so what is there to fear?”
The party moved forward with the armed bandits in front and Swamishri calmly following them, a mala in his hand and the Swaminarayan mantra on his lips. Behind Swamishri walked all of the sadhus and devotees.
From his jungle hideout, Valera Varu saw the small party being brought in from afar. He raised the barrel of his rifle and looked down the sights to take aim. As the group moved closer, he was able to make out the figure of the saffron-robed Swamishri approaching. Stricken by a feeling he couldn’t understand, he slowly lowered his gun and watched, transfixed, as Swamishri walked straight towards him, gently put his hand on his shoulder and said, “You seem to be Valera Varu.”
As if Swamishri’s presence had cast a spell on him, Valera folded his hands and humbly asked, “Maharaj, which band of wandering sadhus are you a part of?”
Swamishri replied, “We are not a band of wandering sadhus, but rather followers of Swaminarayan Bhagwan. We worship God and inspire others to do the same. We have a mandir in Junagadh and we were on our way to Una when we got lost and your men brought us here.”
The genuine care in Swamishri’s face, the love evident in his words and the compassion in his gaze all combined to bring a transformative effect on Valera’s heart. The cruel thoughts of slaughtering these sadhus that he had been harboring just moments before suddenly vanished and were replaced with feelings of reverence and gratitude. He told Swamishri, “Maharaj, we are privileged by your holy presence. Today, I think my destiny has taken a turn for the better.”
Valera turned to his men and barked, “What are you doing just standing there? Give these sadhus some rice, sugar and pots of milk so they can prepare a meal.”
Then, he told Swamishri, “Maharaj, please prepare some dudhpak. We have no shortage of provisions. If you all bless us by eating our food, I feel that fortune will surely smile upon us.”
Detecting a dormant kindness in his heart that belied his cruel occupation, Swamishri gently asked, “Darbar, why have you taken to a life of banditry?”
Valera explained, “Maharaj, my half-brother usurped my share of the family property, and he won’t return it despite all my efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Finally, being left with no alternative, I have taken up this way of life.”
Swamishri countered, “Because you have a disagreement with your brother, you are harassing innocent civilians? What kind of justice is this? Will slaughtering these innocent animals and people bring your property back?”
Valera’s evil deeds flashed before his eyes. He recalled the scene of an innocent youth, fresh from his marriage ceremony, who he had shot dead despite the anguished, tearful pleading of his newly married bride. Countless such horrific deeds had failed to stir any feeling in his stony heart, while today, Swamishri’s every word struck him with the force of a body blow. Tears of repentance began to flow down his cheeks. He folded his hands and said, “Mother, Father! I don’t deny that I’ve committed countless terrible sins. But at the same time, I don’t think I can give up this way of life unless my rightful property is returned to me.”
Swamishri blessed him, “Darbar, your property will be returned to you in seven days. Your brother will send you a peace settlement and everything will turn out alright.”
With Swamishri’s blessing, Valera felt a wellspring of joy burst forth from his heart. After a few moments of silence, he asked, “Maharaj, how will I know that seven days have passed?”
Today, Swamishri had decided to shower his grace on this illiterate Darbar who had never learned to count, so he replied, “Bring me a rope.”
Swamishri was immediately presented with a small piece of rope. Swamishri tied seven knots in the rope and told the Darbar, “Every morning, when the sun rises, untie one knot in this rope. Once all of these knots are untied, you will get your land back.”
Valera was overjoyed. Today, he had the double blessing of being liberated from the sins of his violence and attaining Swamishri’s grace.
With the trust of an innocent child, he asked Swamishri, “Should I start untying the knots from today or tomorrow?”
Swamishri laughed, took the rope from his hand, and untied one knot. Then he said, “Now, untie the next knot tomorrow morning.”