Tanaki upãdhi taje so hi sãdhu…
One who forsakes caring for his body is a true sadhu.
Swamishri has also never cared for comforts. More so, amid incessant fasts and unimaginable physical adversities, Swamishri has done incomparable physical seva.
As a youth in Gondal, he once helped clean a garbage disposal area for two hours despite having a 103°F fever. As a young sadhu in Mumbai, he regularly washed dishes. It was the convention at the time to clean the utensils with ash. However, rubbing ash would become painful after a while. This never stopped Swamishri, though. Sometimes, he would clean dishes for so long that his hands would become rough and often bleed. At other times, Swamishri would work tirelessly for nights for festival preparations or travel exhaustively for projects like Akshardham in Gandhinagar.
One such incident exemplifies particularly well the extent to which Swamishri is above comforts. Mahant Swami was going to Bansipahadpur, Rajasthan in 1983, where murtis for the upcoming mandir in Mumbai were being made. The devotees of Jaipur had rented a jeep to take Swamishri and other sadhus. However, the road was dangerous, as travellers were often waylaid by bandits. Ten kilometres from the town of Bharatpur and well into the night, the jeep suddenly broke down. For twenty minutes, Swamishri and the other sadhus waited to see if they could flag anyone down. However, the road was deserted.
Hence, they decided to push the jeep to the nearest village. After pushing for about five kilometres, they came across someone driving a tractor who assisted them by towing the jeep to a petrol station on the outskirts of Bharatpur.
By now, it was midnight. They parked at the petrol station and Swamishri and Ishwarcharan Swami slept inside the jeep, while the other two sadhus slept on the ledge of a nearby fuelling pump. Ravaging mosquitos made the situation all the more unbearable.
The next morning, they bathed at a water pump outside the petrol station’s garage. Thereafter, they did their pujas on the garage’s terrace. It took about three hours to repair the jeep, after which they travelled to Bansipahadpur. Despite these difficulties, Mahant Swami carried no expression of frustration or exasperation. On the contrary, he remained remarkably cheerful. Only one who is detached from physical comforts could behave in such a way.
Mãn apmãnme ektã, sukh-dukh me sambhãv; ahi ke sukh alpa hai, nahi swarg luchãv.
He possesses equanimity in honour and insult, and in joy and misery; he understands that the pleasures of this world are insignificant, and even those of paradise cannot entice him.
Swamishri has always remained equipoised amidst both insults and honours. During his travels in the early years, telephones were often unavailable, and so organizers from Mumbai would post Swamishri’s itinerary to the towns and villages he was going to visit. Once, Swamishri arrived at the Patna train station late at night. A local devotee had received notice of Swamishri’s visit, but he was angry due to a misunderstanding and thus chose not to pick him up.
With nowhere else to go, Swamishri slept on a bench at the railway platform; the two sadhus who were with him slept on the ground. The station, however, was infested with rats and one rat even bit Swamishri during the night. Nevertheless, Swamishri remained unfazed.
In the morning, Mahant Swami and the other sadhus went to the devotee’s home and stayed with him for two days. Despite having been insulted in such a way, Swamishri held no ill feelings towards the devotee; rather, he interacted with him freely. Upon witnessing Mahant Swami’s saintliness and unassuming nature, the devotee’s misunderstanding was resolved and he gained a deep respect for Swamishri.
Even more difficult than staying calm amidst insult is doing the same amidst honour. However, Swamishri has been unaffected by the many tributes that have come his way. In this way, he exemplifies the quality of equanimity that Muktanand Swami describes in this kirtan.
Lãlach lobh harãm hai, grahe na gãnthe dãm...
He has shunned greed and enticements. He does not harbour wealth. And he practises absolute celibacy. Moreover, he continuously chants God’s name.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a world-wide organization with around 4,200 satsang centres, over 1,000 sadhus, and a volunteer force of 55,000. Moreover, it has world-renowned cultural and spiritual complexes like Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi and Gandhinagar, and exquisite stone mandirs in London, Nairobi, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Robbinsville, amongst other locations. Yet, the organization’s president, Mahant Swami Maharaj, does not have a penny to his name, nor does he have any rights to the Sanstha’s property. All he has in his possessions are his two sets of clothes, puja and a wooden bowl for eating meals. Indeed, Mahant Swami Maharaj personifies simplicity.
Before becoming a sadhu, Swamishri studied physics at the V.P. Science College in Vidyanagar. After spending a year there, he had various options for further studies. As an intelligent student, he could have moved on to some of the best academic programmes. However, he chose to pursue agricultural science. The main reason for this was that the agricultural college in Anand was not a co-educational facility. Other promising options, including the course in which he was presently enrolled, required students to partner up, sometimes with members of the opposite gender. Having decided to walk on the path of brahmacharya, Vinubhai chose to forgo the opportunity to facilitate his niyams.
Swamishri thus exemplifies the two values presented in this verse – the renunciation of wealth and the practice of celibacy – which represent two crucial qualities that characterize a Swaminarayan sadhu.