On the morning of 2 September 1980, the auspicious day of Janmashtami, Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived in Boston by road from New York. After a medical examination for his ripe cataracts, Swamishri departed to return to New York. To ease the fatigue from the 8-hour two-way commute, Swamishri accepted the sadhus’ request to sleep on the rear seat of the van. Thakorji (the murti of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj) was also placed to rest on the upper berth of the van. The sun had set. Then, while the van was travelling smoothly on the broad highway, a sudden loud thud of something falling down was heard amid the darkness. Along with the others, Swamishri suddenly sat up, asking, “What happened? What fell down?” One saint replied, “Thakorji fell down from above.” The statement was like a jolt to Swamishri. Concerned and shaken, Swamishri said, “Quickly, check whether Thakorji has fallen out.” The interior light was switched on. On inspection, the sadhus noticed that the murti of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj had turned on to the side. Seeing this, Swamishri became quite perturbed. Tearfully, he continually stroked his hand all over the body of Maharaj while repeatedly saying, “Maharaj, please forgive. Maharaj, please forgive.” It was as if Swamishri felt responsible for the fall and that Thakorji had been injured. Remorsefully, Swamishri started prostrating in the van… one…two…three…five…ten…twenty…twenty-five… Despite his own ill health and exhaustion, he continued prostrating. Yet, in his mind he was still not satisfied. To please Thakorji, he lovingly offered thal, and afterwards sat silently throughout the remainder of the journey, devoutly turning his rosary. Even on reaching New York, Swamishri’s heart remained unalleviated.
That Thakorji had fallen was not his fault. But their bond was different.
Swamishri offered devotion and service to Thakorji with the firm conviction that he was manifest in the murti. Such was his exemplary devotion towards Thakorji (parabhakti).
Such parabhakti is described in the scriptures, but Swamishri’s life was a living form of parabhakti.
Not a Symbol, But God Himself
During a TV interview in Lusaka, Mr Momiz Fishi asked, “What does this small murti symbolize?
Swamishri replied, “This is not a symbol, but is manifest Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This was his childhood form when he manifested on earth. He is Harikrishna Maharaj himself.”
In the village of Ambardi, the murti of Thakorji was left by mistake at a devotee’s house. Swamishri was told about it when he came to his room after an assembly in Amreli. The attendant sadhus had already sent another car to Ambardi to bring Thakorji. On learning about this, Swamishri became more annoyed and said, “For whom is this Mercedes car? It is for Thakorji; not for me! Use the Mercedes for him.”
Swamishri did not Stand Up
On 13 June 1988, during a session of the Canadian Parliament, Hon. John Fraser, the Speaker, stood up to felicitate Swamishri, declaring, “I wish to draw the attention of members to the presence in the gallery of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Head of the Swaminarayan Mission.”
And with thundering applause, the members of parliament looked up towards the VIP gallery to have darshan of Swamishri. But Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not stand up to receive the felicitation. Instead, he first made the sadhu who was holding Harikrishna Maharaj stand up.
Whatever the occasion, big or small – an honour in the Canadian Parliament or a Nairobi City Crest presentation, a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City or a meeting with The Dalai Lama, a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi at the invitation of President of India Zail Singh or a suvarna tula honour by devotees – Swamishri always kept Harikrishna Maharaj at the forefront, because he firmly believed that the honours were first to be offered to Thakorji, whereas he was merely a medium. He often said that whatever greatness there is, is due solely to Thakorji.
In public or private, even in the smallest acts, Swamishri did not forget Thakorji.
In Gondal, a new room had been prepared for him. When the saints affectionately requested him to rest in that room, Swamishri ensured that Thakorji slept in that room on the first night and only thereafter did he use the sanctified room.
Swamishri always insisted that the food prepared for him should first be offered to Thakorji. He even showed the medicines to Thakorji before taking them.
In Kisumu, Swamishri was to take a cholera vaccine at Dr Ghanshyambhai Patel’s clinic. While taking the injection, Swamishri looked unblinkingly at Thakorji. When the doctor gave him a tablet of Novalgin to neutralize the side effects of the vaccine, Swamishri immediately said, “Sanctify it by showing it to Thakorji.” Only then did Swamishri take the tablet.
After Swamishri’s cataract operations, Pravinbhai Patel from Staten Island brought new spectacles for him. Swamishri told an attendant saint, “Sanctify them by offering them first to Thakorji, and then bring them to me.” Then, when the attendant gave the spectacles to him, Swamishri said, “Bring Thakorji.” After Thakorji was brought, Swamishri put on the eyeglasses and first had darshan of Harikrishna Maharaj, thus sanctifying both his spectacles and eyesight.
At Khambhala Hill Hospital in Mumbai, Swamishri had an operation to remove a lump from his thigh. When Swamishri regained consciousness, everyone thought of showing Swamishri the orange-sized tumour that had been removed. So they placed a pair of spectacles on Swamishri and said, “See, this is the lump!” Swamishri did not give any response, but asked instead, “Where is Maharaj?” He put on the spectacles and first had the darshan of Harikrishna Maharaj.
After the surgery, everybody insisted to Swamishri that he should sleep. Swamishri did not wish to sleep. Still, he closed his eyes after everyone left the room. But, he couldn’t sleep. Standing at a distance, the saints had a special darshan – as if Maharaj had come in person for Swamishri! Humbly, with folded hands, Swamishri was making gestures as if he was saying something. Briefly, he would fold his hands, then he would say something. Then, he would relax his hands, and concentrate as if listening to something. This continued for about twenty minutes. After a few days, the secret of this silent conversation was revealed. When an attendant saint asked Swamishri, he said, “At that time, I was having the darshan of Thakorji in all the mandirs.”
Everyone realized that Swamishri remained constantly engrossed in Thakorji even when alone and under the effect of medications.
In Ahmedabad, Swamishri arrived in an evening assembly. He saw that the seat for Thakorji was behind his own seat. So, he immediately called one of the organizing sadhus and said, “My seat should never be ahead of Thakorji’s seat. Bear this in mind always. Fix it in your mind. Remember this. Not just for today or for this place only, but remember this norm forever.”