Another case that reflected Swamiji’s spirit to do good was that of a circle inspector in the Khambhat area. His occupation was very lucrative because he had the power to sanction any planning or construction in the villages or towns under his control. Invariably, people offered him fat bribes to approve their projects. He writes: “Before I came into Satsang I used to accept a lot of bribes. To tell you the truth I had a very strong affinity for taking bribes. It was an addiction! I could not resist the opportunity no matter how firm I tried to be. There have been days when I’d get upset or didn’t enjoy lunch because I didn’t get any bribes. You probably think this a bit too silly or far-fetched, but it’s true! However, all this disappeared when I met Swamishri in 1981. He put the kanthi around my neck and told me to live a pure, moral life. That first meeting with him transformed my life. I’ve remained faithful to his word ever since. It’s been nine years and in spite of threats from people I’ve refused and remained resolute. My transformation surprises my colleagues. But personally I’m very happy and glad for the change Swamiji brought in my life.”
There’s a teacher who had a volatile nature. The slightest disturbance inflamed him. His anger was like the bursting of a hydrogen balloon. He describes what he was like before: “One afternoon I retired for a short nap. A little while later my daughter switched on the radio. I gently told her to switch it off because I couldn’t sleep. And she did. Then several minutes later, thinking that I was asleep, she switched it on again keeping the volume low. But I was still awake. And in a flash of anger I got up and smashed the radio. I didn’t realize then that I had destroyed my own radio. When I went to the repair shop I was told the radio is beyond repair. I then realized the extent of my fury.
“On another occasion my son’s exam was coming up. Instead of preparing for the exam he was riding his bicycle. I told him to get off and start studying. He took it in a light vein and kept on riding. This blew my kettle. Without uttering another word I went up to him, snatched his cycle away, turned it upside down to rest it on its seat. Then, I started battering the wheels with a club. After five minutes, I hanged the cycle on the wall and went inside, all red and fuming!
“But everything changed when I met Swamishri in Bochasan. I confessed to him about my nature and asked for his blessings. Swamishri said, ‘Chant Swaminarayan, Swaminarayan whenever you feel angry.’ It’s been four years now and by Swamiji’s grace my anger has nearly vanished. I’m grateful to Swamishri for the change he brought into my life.”
Another story that portrayed Swamishri’s mission to transform and redeem the worst of people was that of Himatsinh. He was notorious for his criminal acts. He himself said that even ten Joban Pagis could not be compared to him in violence and viciousness. Himatsinh indulged in all the worldly sins and was the bully of the town. No one dared confront him on any matter. He never hesitated in wielding a knife or a gun to settle even petty matters. All day long he smoked and drank. But for the last three years Himatsinh is a new man. In 1987, his first meeting with Swamishri changed his life. He shed his old cruel ways, accepted the kanthi and became a practising devotee. Now he is active in correcting and mending others from their sinful ways. He often says that if Swamiji had not saved him he would have been either murdered or put behind bars for life.
Years of enmity and bad blood between two people, two families or two villages are difficult and sometimes impossible to defuse. Kukud and Odarka are two villages in the Bhavnagar district. 200 years ago blood was shed because of a debatable strip of land between the outskirts of both the villages. The incident described in ‘Saurashtra ni Ras Dhaar’ describes how the feud erupted, “The people of Odarka were roused by the call that the debatable land was being tilled by the darbars [people belonging to the warrior class] of Kukud. They took whatever they found in their hands and hurriedly went to challenge them, ‘Why do you till our land, they bristled with anger?’
“In reply a darbar from Kukud squeezed the trigger of his rifle. Once, twice, thrice. Three men from Odarka fell down, dead. Another three more met the same fate. News of their death reached Odarka. A small army of darbars rushed to the scene of death, but by then the darbars of Kukud had fled to their village. In retaliation, they killed an innocent pariah of Kukud who was returning home after a day’s begging.
“Tombstones were erected in memory of the six who died and another for the pariah.
“Since that bloody day the people of Odarka stopped drinking water from the village of Kukud. All trade and friendship were severed. For 200 years, the same bitterness prevailed in the hearts of both sides. The people of Odarka have since multiplied and now live in 32 villages. The darbars of Kukud are spread in 12 villages.
“Many made efforts to forge amicable relations between the two factions, but all failed. A British officer tried to bridge the bitter gap through legislative means but the darbars did not cooperate. Then the Home Minister of State, Mr Kiritsinh Gohil, and the president of the taluka law, Mr Jorubha, also tried, but the darbars did not yield.”
A few years later, Ramsang Bapu was transformed by Swamishri and he became a devotee. He asked Swamishri to solve the 200-year-old feud. Swamishri personally took interest in this matter and appointed Ramsang Bapu’s son, Janaksinh, to convince the two sides for a peaceful solution. In spite of a few village folks who disagreed, Swamishri told Janaksinh to pursue the matter. And eventually both sides came to Swamishri, who was in Bhavnagar, and agreed to forget all bitterness between them. They invited Swamishri to come and redeem their dead ancestors and end their bitterness.
On 12 April 1990, Swamishri travelled to the outskirts of the disputed strip of land between Kukud and Odarka. Amidst Vedic chantings, Swamishri bathed the tombstones of the dead with milk, honey, curd, sugar and ghee and redeemed their souls. The darbars from both sides exchanged glasses of water, hugged each other and brought an end to their 200 years of enmity and bitterness. On that occasion, an 80-year-old Jijibha, a descendant of one of those killed in the feud 200 years ago, said, “Peace has been restored because of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. There was no way this could have been resolved. Swamishri took a lot of interest and made persistent efforts to see this happen. He has redeemed our forefathers. There had always been a breakdown in talks to resolve this issue, but this time there was none. The glory goes to Pramukh Swami.”
By the dint of Swamishri’s holiness many were inspired with faith in God. In 1985, Mr Davis, an accountant, who lived in London, came to see the Cultural Festival of India at the Alexandra Palace grounds. He found the exhibition and the mini-cultural township interesting and beautiful. After a brief conversation with one of our sadhus he was told to come and meet the inspirer of the festival. He was reluctant and said, “I’ve just come to see and I’d like to leave it to that. I don’t believe in God or spiritual matters.” In spite of his bluntness, he eventually agreed to come. He told the saint that he would not bow down to the guru he had been talking of. Both came to Swamishri. After a 10 minute conversation they came out. Mr Davis was touched by Swamishri’s purity. His atheism mellowed and in his own words avowed, “If there happens to be a God and if he wished to come on this earth, then I think he wouldn’t find a purer person than your Swamiji to manifest in!”
Stories of such transformations could run into many reams of paper. But how did Swamishri effect these drastic changes? Was it through some magic mantras or some form of hypnotism? The answer is not sophisticated. In fact, it may appear a little naive, but it is the truth. Pramukh Swami’s unbroken communion with God and his absolute divinity never failed to leave their mark on any individual who came to him. Sometimes the change was tangible and sometimes it was not. If Emerson could derive inspiration by merely sitting opposite Carlyle then the proximity of a holy saint can enrich us with a treasure of inspirations. It was Swamishri’s purity and divinity that impressed and transformed us and rid the animal and hunting instincts in us.