Cleaning the Restrooms
Once, in the 1960s, thousands of devotees gathered in Sarangpur to celebrate the Jal Jhilani festival. After the celebration, the devotees left to return home and the volunteers were taking rest in the afternoon.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, too, decided to rest. After a while, Dharmajivan Swami, who was sleeping near Pramukh Swami Maharaj in the assembly hall, noticed that he was not sleeping there any longer. So, he got up and started looking for him. His search led him to the common toilets at the rear of the mandir campus.
To his surprise, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was cleaning the overflowing toilets. He was carrying a bucket full of excreta and taking it to the dump site, pausing momentarily between rounds to sweep the toilets.
Dharmajivan Swami quickly ran to Pramukh Swami Maharaj and tried to forcibly take the bucket and broom from him. Pramukh Swami Maharaj simply remarked, “Don’t make a noise. You will wake up the other sadhus who are resting. Now, two is better than one. If you want me to finish this sooner, you fetch me the water and I will clean the toilets.”
The president of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha happily performed the most menial of services, as a servant of servants.
Helping with the Litter
In 1962, the grand inauguration of Ahmedabad Mandir had been celebrated. That night, after 10 p.m., amid the darkness a youth was collecting the litter on the grounds into a cart. Alone, he was struggling to push the loaded cart up a steep slope to empty it into a much bigger container. From a distance, Pramukh Swami Maharaj saw the youth and his difficulty, so he rushed over immediately to help him.
Together, the two of them pushed the cart up the slope and emptied the rubbish The youth was humbled and touched by Swamishri’s timely support. So much so that it inspired him to later become a sadhu himself.
In 1981, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was in Mt. Abu, India. It was Pramukh Varni Din, the 31st anniversary of the day he had been appointed as the president of BAPS.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj had just finished a meeting, and was moving between rooms when he noticed that a group of sadhus were sitting and peeling vegetables.
Immediately, Swamishri sat down and joined them in peeling and preparing the vegetables.
No seva was ever too small for Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His position or status never held him back from engaging in even the most menial of tasks. He was always willing to lend a helping hand – the hallmark of an exemplary servant leader.
Through Simple Living
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s simple life and softly spoken words touched the lives of many.
Despite being the BAPS president and having a hectic and challenging schedule, Swamishri never demanded any special arrangements for himself. For example, in Bochasan, he would put two wooden benches together to prepare a makeshift cot to sleep. In Atladara, he often slept on a pile of sand under a neem tree. In Gadhada, he slept on the office ledge or on the sandy floor.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj would use the same general restrooms and bathe in the same common areas as others, often with cold water. Never did he ask for hot water or a decent restroom or showers. He lived with the rest.
He would not allow anyone to make special food for him and would eat whatever had been prepared with the other sadhus in whichever mandir he was at. He firmly instructed his attendants, “You must never do anything special for me, anywhere or anytime. I am like the rest and want to mingle with them.”
He led by example and taught us that no matter who we are or what our status may be, we should remain simple and humble.
Not Disturbing Others
One night, at around 1.30 a.m., during the preparations for Shastriji Maharaj’s centenary celebrations in Atladara in 1965, a truck stacked high with mattresses arrived for use by those attending the celebrations. The truck driver wanted to leave straight away, so the mattresses had to be unloaded. Apart from Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Satyapriya Swami, everyone else was fast asleep.
Satyapriya Swami asked if he should wake up some youths to help. Swamishri said, “No, they’ve worked all day and must be tired. I will stand here, you get onto the truck and pass me the mattresses. I will stack them in the corner.”
Together they completed this long, repetitive and strenuous task at about 3.00 a.m. It would have been done much quicker with the help of the youths. However, Swamishri cared more about them being fully rested than for his own body and fatigue.
He was a leader, but was also a servant. He led and served from the front.
Let us Follow
The footprints of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s leadership are forever embedded in the sands of time. He showed us that great leadership is based on goodness. Helping others to grow, and generating joy for others was his credo.
We often have to do the same things every day, but if, like Pramukh Swami Maharaj, we do them with love and compassion it will transform us as leaders, and ultimately bring joy to all others around us.
Real leaders become bigger than themselves, and their legacy lives on beyond them. Pramukh Swami Maharaj gave people direction that made a difference in their lives, and he did it by leading with love and selfless service.
Let us strive to follow in his footsteps.