The first conquest of the air by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and the subsequent leaps in aviation technology ushered a revolution that has shrunk our earth into a global village. The rapid pace of travel and communication through the telephone, radio and television has changed the face of life. But with this shrinking and closeness, we find a shrivelling of values. Despite the boons of rapid travel and communication media we witness a decadence that ravages the human psyche. Acts of human insanity in all its gaudy and lurid colours splash our TV screens, magazines and the video world. We have indubitably become richer, more comfortable, and more intelligent and sophisticated, but we have also become poorer, corrupt and ostentatious in our morals and religiosity.
Imagine a normal growing adolescent suddenly finding his right eye developing slower than his left. This incongruity will leave him looking odd and ugly. For that matter any non-uniform growth in a young growing boy will make him either clumsy or grotesque. Such oddities are similarly manifested when a man’s spiritual and moral growth is absent in his life. The correction of these is no easy task.
No ordinary man can shape a piece of wood into something beautiful, meaningful and useful. And the task of sculpting a block of stone is a lot more difficult. With these two analogies in mind you can imagine how demanding it must be to sculpt the character of a person.
Will Durant says in the ‘Story of Civilisation’, “What we are up against is the simple fact that man is still an animal. That is the deepest thing in his nature – the survival instinct and the hunting instinct. These were necessary at one time, when self-preservation was the rule rather than the pressures of society. So morality has an uphill battle against these two inheritances. You have to realize the enormous difficulty in making an animal and hunter into a citizen, a civilized man.”
The story of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s (Swamishri) crusade in making an ‘animal’ and a ‘hunter’ into a citizen, a civilized man, reflects his patience, love, effort and zeal. His untiring spirit eclipsed all boundaries of time or personal physical exhaustion.
In December 1986, Swamishri was in Mumbai. After the evening assembly at our mandir in Dadar, a devotee brought an industrialist for Swamiji’s darshan. Swami enquired what sort of business he had. He replied, “I have a factory in Selvas, manufacturing aluminium utensils and dishes.”
“We, too, have a factory in Selvas,” Swamishri said. And before the drone of surprise and curiosity around peaked, Swamishri revealed, “One that transforms and moralises the tribal people in Selvas.”
Swamishri’s success in civilizing the tribal areas was evident through his work of redeeming 36 out of the 69 villages from the addictions of tobacco and liquor.
During the crippling drought of 1988 the BAPS Cattle Camp in Bochasan saw not only an influx of famished cattle, but also their owners, who were addicted to smoking and drinking. By the grace and effort of Swamishri and his sadhus many gave up their costly and deathly habits.
75-year-old Bhurabhai Prajapati from the village of Khambda Gir, district Amreli, was one of them. He had 442 acres (700 vighas) of land. His father died when he was only fifteen, thus making him the heir to the entire land and all his possessions. But Bhurabhai had not known then that he would lose all his land because of his addiction to opium. For sixty years Bhurabhai and his mates rubbed, tapped and consumed opium. He got the money for his addiction by selling his land piece by piece. Some time later, a point arrived where Bhurabhai had less than 10.5 acres (15 vighas) of land left, which he mortgaged and used the money he received to buy opium.
The drought brought Bhurabhai to the BAPS Cattle Camp in Bochasan. He brought with him a companion worth Rs. 200 – opium! During the next few days the sadhus found out about his chronic addiction. They exhorted him to give it up. But Bhurabhai refused. He was adamant. His affinity for opium was rock hard. But the impossible was made possible. The tables turned with the arrival of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to the camp. An assembly was held. Swamishri talked emphatically about the dangers and futility of addictions. When he finished blessing the assembly, several farmers came forward and held out their hands to take pledges of non-addiction.
Bhurabhai was one of them! Swamishri’s words had penetrated his inner core. He realized how slavish he had become to his addictions. He bowed at Swamishri’s feet and broke down in a torrent of tears. Swamishri placed his hand lovingly on his head and sympathized with him. Bhurabhai gave up his addictions and resolved never to take them again. He took the remaining opium and buried it deep in the ground.
At the age of 75, Bhurabhai was inspired to steer his boat towards a new horizon. Swamishri blessed Bhurabhai and reinforced his resolve with loving words. For the next three days, Bhurabhai went through the painful withdrawal symptoms. His entire body screamed with aches and pain. He was restless all day and night. The doctors advised him to give it up gradually. But Bhurabhai was firm. He fought it off with a soldier’s spirit. He boldly said, “I shall not defile my mouth with opium after having promised Pramukh Swami Maharaj. If I die, then Swamiji will take me to Akshardham, but I’ll never take a grain of opium!” Thereafter, on the fourth day, Bhurabhai emerged victorious. At the age of 75, Bhurabhai was redeemed from his misery through Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings.
Changing a person’s vicious nature, forging a compromise between two stubborn parties or dissolving years of hatred and bad blood between warring individuals is indeed a challenge in our times. Swamiji, through his incessant travels, ironed out many disputes and transformed many for the better. Like the fishes in a lake that keep it clean, free of contamination and well-oxygenated Swamishri purified our society from such elements. Many changed their errant ways and adopted the path of satsang.
In the village of Ghelpur lived a man who was a stigma to his family and village. His name generated fear and hate in the neighbouring villages. Many of the domineering tribal people who lived in these villages lead their cattle to graze in other peoples’ farms, and no one would dare resist them. On the other hand, they never allowed their cattle to graze in the fields belonging to the people of Ghelpur because of one man – the formidable Manudada! His name spelled fear and terror. If he roared that the road to Koshindra was closed, then no pedestrian or driver or the law would dare use that road. People were afraid of him because he never hesitated in killing or maiming anyone who resisted or defied him.
While everyone went to their farms during the day, Manudada went to his in the night. There, he hunted rabbits and birds and feasted upon them. His father Vikramsinh was a pure Hindu and whenever his son cooked meat at home he fasted. Once, Manudada cooked meat for three consecutive days and his father fasted for three days. Since then, Manudada moved and lived in another home.
In 1987, a change of breeze in his life was ushered in when he went for Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s darshan in the neighbouring village of Koshindra. He was struck by Swamishri’s lustre and purity. In his own words he says, “From then on I felt life was worth living.” Like him, his two sons agreed to be initiated into the Satsang-fold there and then. Manudada then pledged, “The day Swamishri sanctifies my house, I shall give up my addictions and hostile ways.”
The day finally arrived on 2 February 1988. Swamishri came to his village and sat on a little platform beneath the shade of a neem tree outside his home. Manudada welcomed Swamishri with a garland and a small assembly was held. Swamishri said, “Our lives are soiled by the colours of sin, but if we are coloured by God’s colour we become blessed and pure. Through satsang we eventually experience a sweet happiness in our life. I pray that peace and purity prevail in Manudada’s life and he be redeemed from all his miseries.”
Swamiji then initiated Manudada into satsang, and the latter vowed to abstain from all vices and addictions. And with this taming of the lion the entire village vowed to practise non-addiction and moral purity.