The oceans are truly an utter mystery. We have mapped the surface of the moon and Mars, but only explored five percent of the ocean floor. Over five hundred humans have ascended to space, but only three have descended into the Mariana Trench, the deepest natural point in the world. Scientists have identified about 230,000 oceanic species, from the elusive giant squid to the terrifying goblin shark, but estimate that there are upwards of two million undiscovered others. The oceans are familiar to us since we visit them and see them regularly, but beneath the surface there is an immense depth that we cannot even begin to fathom. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s jnan possessed a similar unintelligible depth shrouded in familiarity. In particular, his atmagnan (knowledge of the self as the atma) was unparalleled and cannot be fully described with words, even though many had witnessed it for many years.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s intense, constant vicharan (travels) were a testament to his deep-rooted atmagnan. On 28 September 1978, after travelling for days through several villages and visiting several hundred homes, Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived in Kapura, a village in southern Gujarat. Sumanbhai Bhakta, a longtime devotee, was overjoyed at his arrival. Viveksagar Swami was delivering discourses, as Pramukh Swami Maharaj was turning his mala. Viveksagar Swami noticed Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s face changing colour. He reached over and grabbed Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s wrist, to find that it was boiling hot. He immediately ended the assembly and helped take Pramukh Swami Maharaj to Jitubhai Shah’s home.
Upon arrival, Pramukh Swami Maharaj collapsed onto the bed. While a doctor administered some medicine, Pramukh Swami Maharaj used his few remaining ounces of strength to whisper to the sadhus, “I hope Sumanbhai’s father is not offended. I wanted to stay for the whole assembly. I didn’t want to finish it early. We didn’t get to go to Mahendrabhai’s house. He has come all the way from Madhi.” Pramukh Swami Maharaj was totally spent, unable to even turn in bed. Despite this, at around 11:30 a.m., Pramukh Swami Maharaj made sure to ask about Thakorji’s thal. Further examination of Pramukh Swami Maharaj revealed that he had developed jaundice and a gum abscess. Labhshankarbhai, a dentist from Rajkot who had come for Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s darshan, examined Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s condition and exclaimed, “Only Pramukh Swami Maharaj can tolerate so much pain.” After days of travelling from village to village and home to home, Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not express even a slight desire for rest. Only after his body completely gave out did Pramukh Swami Maharaj agree to rest. His resilience was unmatched: after physically taxing travels, Pramukh Swami Maharaj decided to endure an illness that eventually made him take mandatory bed rest. Had he expressed even the slightest discomfort before, the sadhus and devotees would have altered his schedule. But who could stop Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the guru who looked after others, from neglecting his own health for the sake of others?
Once, in 1984, when Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived in Yogi Nagar, Nadiad, to perform the groundbreaking ceremony of a plot of land on which a mandir would be constructed, a large thorn pierced the sole of his foot. Janmangal Swami wiped the blood and wrapped Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s foot, so that Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s attendant sadhus and other devotees would not notice. However he could not help but express his ire at the organizers of the event, deeming them irresponsible for not properly cleaning the grounds. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, noticing Janmangal Swami’s frustration, called him close before his afternoon nap, and said, “Don’t get angry at anyone for what happened this morning. If one is destined to get hurt, then it doesn’t make a difference if he’s in a field or a room in a house; he’ll still get hurt.” Despite the physical pain he had experienced, Pramukh Swami Maharaj not only opted to remain silent, but also refused to rebuke the organizers responsible for not cleaning the grounds. To put aside one’s concern for one’s bodily well-being is one thing, but to, then, attribute no blame to those responsible for one’s suffering was the unique trait that Pramukh Swami Maharaj possessed. His unperturbed response to physical pain was a natural, effortless expression of his atmagnan.
Not once, even casually, had Pramukh Swami Maharaj mentioned his physical discomforts. While those with a superficial understanding of oneself as the atma may at least react in some way to such discomforts, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s demeanour in such situations made it appear as if nothing has occurred. In all situations, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had naturally and effortlessly exhibited his atmagnan, the state in which one behaves as the atma, experiencing the bliss of God, remaining unaffected by the ups and downs of the world. Identification with the body, which is a superficial understanding of one’s self, is the cause for the fluctuating emotions in response to the challenges one faces. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was himself Aksharbrahman. His realized state, atmagnan, was intrinsic. In his entire life, regardless of the obstacle, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had never become dejected. Moreover, in positive events, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had never over-rejoiced. He had always remained equipoised. The line, “Samudra sarkhã gambhir gnãne ja chho…” compares Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s deep and timeless atmagnan to the profundity and steadiness of an ocean. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s understanding that the happenings of this world and body are temporary, and that the atma is eternal and blissful, undergirded his constant equanimity in all situations.