The Vishnusahasranam shastra describes Shrihari as ‘Mãnadaha’ – one who bestows praise onto others.
Swamishri’s humility was of tremendous depth, because not only did he never desire the accolades and was not affected by them, but he was able to effortlessly congratulate those around him. Just as the roots of a tree send water and nutrients to each leaf through the trunk, branches, twigs and leaves, while themselves tolerating the dark underground, Swamishri tolerated untold hardships, while praising and nurturing those around him.
After his quintuple bypass operation on 7 July 1998, Swamishri recuperated in Westchester, New York. Every day, Swamishri would visit the nearby Pepsico Park, where he could walk in the fresh air and late evening sun. On the evening of 30 August, a small group of sadhus was seated with Swamishri. Discussing Yogiji Maharaj’s many virtues prompted Swamishri to praise Ishwarcharan Swami for authoring Yogiji Maharaj’s six-part jivan charitra. He then commended all the sadguru sadhus by commenting, “All the sadgurus are experts in their fields.” One by one, Swamishri extolled the qualities of each:
“Look at Mahant Swami. He is quiet. His saintliness. Constantly engaging in spiritual talks. His ability to tolerate hardships. Doctor Swami never tires of spiritual talks. Viveksagar Swami is an all-rounder! He is talented at everything. Spiritual talks, kirtan, padhramani, sampradayik knowledge. Tyagvallabh Swami is the image of renunciation. Kothari Bapa is ideal saintliness.”
Swamishri then remembered sadhus from each mandir: Mumbai, Selvas, Sankari, Surat… and began recalling their virtues. His mind travelled thousands of miles to India and remembered each sadhu and his virtues. He praised Yogicharan Swami’s diverse talents; he admired Yagneshwar Swami’s considerable efforts in spreading satsang in South India; he exalted Jnaneshwar Swami, Narayanmuni Swami and Aksharcharan Swami for the attention they give to training young sadhus in Sarangpur, and acclaimed Atmaswarup Swami and all the sadhus in London, UK.
Swamishri continued unabated for a staggering 70 minutes! It was only when the sun set that the sadhus realized it was time to go, but still there was no dampening Swamishri’s unrelenting enthusiasm. The conversation continued as they drove back to his residence.
Swamishri remembered so many sadhus and recalled all their virtues in such detail. Even the sadhus he remembered may not have been aware of how high a regard Swamishri had for them. After all of this, Swamishri still felt he had not said enough.
Not only sadhus, but Pramukh Swami Maharaj was able to praise his devotees. In 1985, at the conclusion of the grand 59-day bicentenary celebrations of Gunatitanand Swami, all praised Swamishri’s ability to execute such a remarkable festival.
On the final day, during the concluding volunteers assembly, Swamishri said to the 15,000 volunteers, “Nothing is achieved by one person. This festival was a success because of all of you. Everyone contributed in their own way. We are truly blessed by God and guru. Your efforts have made this all possible. All I did was just sit on this chair…”
Swamishri praised the devotees for their selfless service and sacrifice, and claimed to have done nothing himself. However, the previous two years leading to the bicentenary celebrations highlights the depth of Swamishri’s humility.
On 5 February 1983, in Sundalpura, near Vadodara, Swamishri suffered a serious heart attack. All vicharan was immediately cancelled, and Swamishri rested in Vadodara until 15 May. Doctors advised Swamishri to avoid any form of exertion, speak only for short periods and eat at regular times. However, Swamishri’s journey for the next two-and-a-half years show that with nothing less than derision for his own fragile health, he broke every one of the regulations on a daily basis to prepare for and promote the bicentenary celebrations of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami.
On 15 May 1983, Swamishri travelled to Mumbai. Soon after, his vicharan continued throughout Gujarat for the remainder of the year. In 1984, Swamishri travelled to Africa, then to UK and Europe. He then crossed the Atlantic and touched down in New York. For the next 125 days, Swamishri’s relentless vicharan took him across the USA and Canada. He then crossed the Pacific and visited devotees in Fiji, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore.
After returning to India, Swamishri continued his hectic schedule. In March 1985, Swamishri visited the Middle East for 25 days and then returned to India. Then, in June, he left for a 44-day stay in London. Thereafter, Swamishri returned to India for the 59-day bicentenary celebrations of Gunatitanand Swami from 19 October 1985 in Ahmedabad.
In this period of 888 days (from 15 May 1983 to 19 October 1985), Swamishri visited a dizzying 737 villages, towns and cities worldwide. This ranged from cosmopolitan cities such as London and New York, to villages in Gujarat, such as Dangra and Bhilpura. He travelled in everything from a bullock cart to international flights. The physical difficulties Swamishri endured defy belief. During his vicharan, there was only one certainty – that nothing was certain. His rest and meal times were erratic. The 20 padhramanis scheduled in the morning would become a 100 in the blink of an eye. Just as a flag flies in the direction of the wind, Swamishri’s vicharan was determined purely by the wishes of his devotees.
During this time, Swamishri travelled a staggering 133,404 km. To put this into context, in 888 days, Swamishri, circled the globe more than three times!
Such was Swamishri’s humility that despite his immeasurable efforts, he could openly praise his devotees for the outstanding success of the festival.
All the Praise is not Enough…
There was not an aspect of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life that did not touch someone. Some were impressed by his humanitarian work, while others were moved by his spotless character. His mandir-building or how he inspired youths to renounce worldly ambitions astounded many. Others were left speechless when they witnessed his devotion to God and his gurus. The mountains of praise Swamishri received bears testament to this. Amidst this, he remained untouched by ego, in fact he shunned the tributes, and was even able to shower praise on everyone else. His life was a pinnacle of humility.