For thousands of years, people have discussed the nature of God. But, to fathom God is complex. And then to apply this understanding in one’s life, is a very subtle and slippery craft.
For Pramukh Swami Maharaj, discussing the nature of God was not just an intellectual exercise, but a means to unify, dignify and pacify all minds without discrimination.
He knew that knowing about the nature of God meant living by that understanding. For him, faith in and an understanding of God was of the greatest importance.
His life aptly characterized his clarity in understanding the nature of God.
With such paramount certainty, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s mere presence had a profound impact even on the faithless and atheistic. Without much talking, and often without talking at all, his presence naturally enabled everyone to ‘feel’ God.
On 7 July 1998, at the age of 77, Pramukh Swami Maharaj underwent bypass surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, NY.
On 8 July, at 6. 10 a.m., he awoke from the anaesthetic effect. All his vital body functions were being monitored by various machines. He was entirely enmeshed and intertwined with monitoring wires, intravenous lines and other vital tubes.
He saw that he was encircled and being observed by a panel of doctors, male nurses and other attendants. Millions of his followers worldwide had stayed awake all night praying for his successful surgery. In spite of being the cynosure of all eyes and minds, and even amid such a wiry clutch, his eyes desired to have Thakorji’s darshan. A swami came with Thakorji in his hands.
Rapt devotion bloomed in his eyes in an instant. Impromptu, Swamishri tried to fold his hands to offer reverence to Thakorji, but the monitoring and intravenous coils caging him would not allow his hands to meet. Even then, with tremendous effort he raised himself for darshan. He folded his hands. They were shaking, yet he held them up. The breathing and other tubes had only recently been removed, and so he had difficulty in talking. Despite this, Swamishri repeatedly chanted, “Maharaj… Swami… Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj… Swaminarayan… Swaminarayan.” Despite his fragility, he tried to bow his head.
A swami asked, “Bapa, how are you?” Only by blinking his eyelids could he convey that he was fine. Yet, the chant continued. The swami said, “Dr Subramanian did a good surgery. You are good now.” Swamishri said, “Yes, Swaminarayan… Swaminarayan…” and in a flash everyone present witnessed a surge of devotion welling up in his eyes. He tried to turn to his right to touch the feet of Thakorji. His innate devotion came to the fore. It was coursing through his veins, beating like an immortal heart and pulsating in sublime clarity.
In September 1998, just a few weeks after his heart bypass surgery, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was in Edison, New Jersey. Ronald Patel, distinguished Sunday editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was interviewing Swamishri about his recent medical experiences.
Ron asked Swamishri, “What was the first thought that came to your conscious mind after your quintuple bypass surgery?”
Without a moment’s hesitation Swamishri replied, “God.”
Not the pain. Not the doctors. Neither cursing the situation nor overwhelmed under the obligation of people around him. His first thought was – God.
Astonished by Swamishri’s quick and confident response, Ron asked, “After regaining consciousness, didn’t you feel disappointed that you were back on earth and not in the presence of God?”
“No, God is always with us.”
In his first public discourse after the bypass surgery, Swamishri said, “The basic goal for everyone is one – to attain God. The whole world functions because of him. Without him, we can do nothing. People think that it is Dr Subramanian who has done the surgery. But it is God who has operated through him. One should not forget this. People are full of the instincts of lust, anger, greed, attachment, prejudice, envy and so on. But, God is devoid of all such traits. He is the source of eternal bliss. He is totally free of faults and prejudice. He is independent. He knows how to handle everyone and whatever he does is for the good of all. Because of our prejudices we feel he is partial. But God wants to liberate everyone and that’s why he is impartial. Such an understanding is true devotion and will bring one constant happiness.”
With Swamishri, every moment was replete with such clarity of understanding. And his spiritual eminence was a result of this. He did not have to speak. His spontaneous vibes and outpouring aura influenced divinity in one and all.
On 20 December 2000, in an interview on Zee TV international channel, Dr Subramanian was asked, “You have performed over 20,000 heart operations. During this time, have you had any extraordinary experience?”
He replied, “Once, I was operating on Pramukh Swamiji of the BAPS Sanstha. When I held his heart in my hand I had a unique experience. I felt as if some divinity had pervaded the entire operation theatre. I had never felt like that in the other 20,000 operations.”
When the missile man and former President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam met Swamishri for the first time in June 2001, he presented the plans of his vision for India 2020 to him. Pramukh Swami Maharaj guided, “Along with your five areas to transform India add a sixth one – faith in God.” At that time Dr Kalam described, “I felt I was in the Divine Presence… there was a light radiating through Pramukh Swamiji which illuminated my inner self. I felt I had acquired a sixth sense.”
He said later that this was the moment when he decided he must write a book on Pramukh Swami Maharaj. In his book, Transcendence, he reveals that in the presence of Pramukh Swamiji his spirituality truly flourishes. He describes him as “my ultimate teacher” and records, “How do I summarize Pramukh Swamiji’s effect on me? He has indeed transformed me. He is the ultimate stage of the spiritual ascent in my life, which started with my father, was sustained by Dr Brahma Prakash and Prof. Satish Dhawan; now, finally, Pramukh Swamiji has put me in a God-synchronous orbit.”
Swamishri appreciated that technology could build a nation. And, for Swamishri, his ‘technology’ was his faith in God. He would often say that the wisdom of atma and Paramatma is our technology which enhances people. He used his technology and brought about paramount peace in the hearts of millions.
For Pramukh Swami Maharaj, God himself was abundance, a matchless intelligence, superlatively resplendent in beauty, an unassailable refuge in fatigue and depression, a haven of unconditional happiness-contentment-rapture-ecstasy, an unfluctuating companion overflowing with constant forgiving and understanding – and a sublime bliss which he perpetually savoured.
For Swamishri, no-thing, no-one or no-where else sufficed as much as God himself.
In 2005, after seeing the wonderful architectural marvel Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, Dr Subramanian asked Pramukh Swami Maharaj, “What is your next project?”
Swamishri replied “We have only one project – to worship God and inspire others to worship God! Projects such as these are by-products.”
Such was Swamishri’s clarity in his understanding of the primacy of God.