In 2009, Mahant Swami Maharaj was in Nairobi, Kenya. He began his lecture series on the Yogi Gita there by quoting the Bible, saying, “Know thyself.” He then asked the audience, “How would you introduce yourself?” The typical answer to Swami’s question would be for a person to state his or her name, place of birth, profession and so forth. But Mahant Swami Maharaj offered an intriguing answer. He said that our true identity is that we are those who have attained God on earth.
Indeed, our guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj, is the Aksharbrahman Satpurush – the manifest form in whom Bhagwan Swaminarayan resides. Maharaj explains in Vachanamrut Loya 6 that thoughts regarding nishchay, or conviction, should be repeatedly reinforced.
This article is an attempt to do precisely this. Muktanand Swami has described the Satpurush’s qualities in many of his kirtans. Yogiji Maharaj was particularly fond of one such kirtan, “Hãji Bhalã Sãdhu…”. Gently swaying as he sung the kirtan in his melodious voice, Yogiji Maharaj often claimed ownership over it, meaning that he exemplified the qualities it describes. Here, we will consider Yogiji Maharaj’s beloved kirtan and examine how it applies to the life of Yogiji Maharaj’s beloved disciple and our dear guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Hãji bhalã sãdhu, hariki sãdh…
A true sadhu is always engrossed in God’s devotion…
From the time of his youth, Mahant Swami Maharaj’s bhakti was unique. As a young sadhu in Mumbai, he often prepared decorative garlands and ornate hindola for Thakorji. He also meticulously arranged annakut before Thakorji every year. He always remained engrossed in different kinds of seva and also involved others.
To commemorate Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s birth celebration in 1969, Swamishri stayed up late into the night to prepare a plush, six-foot-long garland to be sent to Yogiji Maharaj in Gondal. Once the garland reached Gondal, Yogiji Maharaj offered it to Ghanshyam Maharaj and remarked, “Mahant Swami’s bhakti is remarkable! Justice would not be done to his devotion even if I were to offer five dandvats to each flower of this garland!”
Swamishri’s steadfast bhakti is also reflected in his enthusiasm for Thakorji’s arti and darshan. Swamishri had come to Selvas in 2013. Local organizers had forgotten to inform him that the mangala arti in Selvas occurred every day at 5.45 a.m., as opposed to 6.00 a.m. So, on his first day there, Swamishri thus made his way to the mandir at 5.57 a.m., thinking that he would be just in time for the arti. However, as he climbed the steps, he saw people descending the mandir.
“Is the mangala [arti] over?” he asked.
“Yes,” someone replied.
Disheartened, Swamishri decided to atone for missing the arti by fasting for the day. Breakfast had been served to him, but he refused to eat. Local organizers apologized for not communicating the time to him and their eyes welled up with tears as they requested him not to fast. To please them, he took a morsel of food in his hand; just then, however, a devotee arrived. As everyone’s attention turned to the devotee, Swamishri nonchalantly put the morsel down. In this way, he resolutely refused to eat breakfast. Yet, as the organizers lovingly pressed for him to eat, Swamishri said, “I wanted to fast all day but because all of you are insisting, I will eat in the afternoon. However, I do not wish to eat right now.” This incident illustrates the profundity of Mahant Swami Maharaj’s devotion. No mangala, no food. This, too, at the age of 80!
A similar instance of Swamishri’s resolute devotion occurred on 25 August 2016, the day of Janmashtami. Swamishri had observed a waterless fast and had a day full of travelling ahead of him. Yet, Swamishri did not falter in his bhakti. Starting his day off in Bochasan, he offered fifteen dandvats during mangala arti, five thereafter in the abhishek mandap, five during shangar arti, five at Purushottam Swami’s memorial shrine and six during puja. He then travelled to Chansad, where he offered ten dandvats at Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s birthplace and five more at the village mandir. He then came to Atladara, where he offered five dandvats at the mandir, five in the abhishek mandap, five in Shastriji Maharaj’s room and five in Yogiji Maharaj’s room. In this way, at the age of 83, he performed 71 dandvats on the day of a waterless fast! As if this were not enough, after the Janmashtami celebration assembly, he turned towards the mandir for darshan. Due to rains, puddles of water covered the dark pathway. Yet still, with the aid of his attendant, Swamishri made his way to the mandir.
Swamishri’s devotion to Thakorji can clearly be seen through such incidents.