Bhagwan Swaminarayan reformed countless from their wayward and sinful ways Bhagwan Swaminarayan believed that if the fabric that held society together was to be strengthened, first, each individual thread must be reinforced. Every citizen must lead a pure life; they must rid themselves of all inner flaws. This article examines Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s historic work in freeing his disciples of their physical, mental and spiritual flaws – the work for which he has been bestowed the title of ‘Bhakta Dosh Nivarak’ in the Sahajanand Namavali. His methods were unprecedented and revolutionary.
After seeing Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s profound impact on the simplest folk of Gujarat, renowned writer, Yashwant Shukla, notes, “When Kathis, Kshatriyas and bandits all took the refuge of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, their lives were transformed. Transformation at such a level that society was not forced to lower its social and moral standards, but instead the lowest members of society were uplifted and society’s standards, as a whole, were raised.”
Sagram Bhakta’s life reveals the radical transformation that Bhagwan Swaminarayan inspired in his disciples. When the King of Bhavnagar, Thakur Vajesinh, invited Sagram to his palace, he asked him, “Is it true that Swaminarayan transforms donkeys [the downtrodden] into cows [pious people]?” Sagram explained, “I used to commit theft and adultery as well as consume meat and alcohol. I did not understand anything about dharma. I was just like a donkey; however, Swaminarayan gave us codes of conduct. Therefore, I do not commit theft, adultery, or consume meat or alcohol. I don’t even hurt small insects. I follow strict celibacy, and besides my wife, I don’t even come into contact with any other women. After waking up in the morning, I now regularly bathe. In this way, I follow dharma like a Brahmin. Truly, Swaminarayan has turned a donkey into a cow.”
Bhagwan Swaminarayan not only inspired purity of action, but infused purity of thought in his disciples. Due to an ongoing famine in Saurashtra, Sagram was forced to move to Surat so that he could earn for his survival. On his journey, he spotted a silver anklet lying on the road. He quickly threw dirt on top of it to hide his finding, but his actions were spotted by his wife, straggling behind him. When she questioned what he had done, he explained that during these tough times he was afraid that her mind would be tempted to take the anklet. His wife explained, “You have only thrown dirt on top of dirt; another person’s possessions are as good as dirt to me.”
Considering the time period and Sagram’s background, it is inconceivable to fathom such a reaction from Sagram’s wife. In the first quarter of the 19th century, Gujarat experienced three famines, a major epidemic and an earthquake. Given the consecutive disasters, no one’s standard of living and state of mind remained stable. The lowest members of society struggled to put food on the table. With such a find, Sagram could have provided for his family for the tough months ahead. However, after coming into Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s association, not even a thought, let alone any action, arising from greed crossed Sagram’s or his wife’s mind.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan also eliminated damaging natures, such as ego and anger, from his disciples.
Hothiyo Patgar of Kundal was a hot-tempered, yet sincere aspirant. One late night, Hothiyo felt the sudden need to answer nature’s call. As he exited his house, half asleep, he stumbled into a bullock cart. Knocking himself out of sleep and pushing himself into a state of rage, he furiously bit the wooden cart. His rage-driven actions lead him to losing his two front teeth. A few years later, Hothiyo was ordained as Nirmananand Swami. Whenever Nirmananand Swami would go begging for alms, the villagers tried to stoke his temper by mocking him, “Swamiji, Swamiji… How did you lose your two front teeth?” However, Nirmananand Swami would react beyond everyone’s expectations. He would explain calmly, “Hothiyo Patgar is long dead; I am now Nirmananand. I do not become angry.”
Once, a sadhu claimed out of spite that Nirmananand Swami was not abiding by the moral code of conduct for sadhus. In a public assembly, Bhagwan Swaminarayan asked him to reveal his belongings to the audience. He innocently laid out his few possessions and proved that he did not have anything prohibited. Throughout the entire ordeal, not once did Nirmananand Swami get angry at the other sadhu for lying, nor did he retort at Bhagwan Swaminarayan for publicly shaming him. Bhagwan Swaminarayan refers to this level of purity of the mind in Vachanamrut Jetalpur 2, saying, “One whose antahkaran remains pure despite being faced by vicious influences is called a ‘yati’.”
Another such yati was Sura Khachar, the village chief of Loya. When spending a night in Jasdan, a prostitute came to his lodgings trying to seduce her way into his room. Sura Khachar immediately whisked out his sword and forced her to leave. Sura Khachar was in a private setting; anything that happened, would likely never have been known. However, such a thought did not even cross Sura Khachar’s mind.