When the sad news of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s passing spread throughout the world on 13 August 2016, thousands swarmed to Sarangpur to catch a last glimpse of Swamishri, whom they believed as their father, mother, friend, mentor and guru. People scurried to book flight and train tickets by putting everything else aside. Overseas embassies opened their offices to facilitate travellers to India. On reaching Sarangpur, many spent nights on the bare grounds of a crowded campus, unmindful of their own discomforts. Young and old, men and women, openly shed tears and expressed their grief. Such uninhibited displays of emotion reflected the magnitude of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s appeal to all. His universal success and popularity were not the result of power, education, wealth or arrogance; but because he had touched people’s souls and made an impression on their hearts. His success and popularity were beyond society’s conventional and superficial quantifiable measures – even though his list of noteworthy accomplishments is extensive. His humility, service, tolerance, compassion and spirituality were the key reasons people admired and revered him. Pramukh Swami Maharaj had a mind which never minded, a heart which never hurt, a touch which never pained and relations which never ended. These were the secrets of his success and popularity.
Success begins in the mind. It is our most powerful tool and can help us attain success or take us to the depths of failure. When the mind is burdened or clouded by negative thoughts, doubts, pain, faults, anger or wasteful anxiety it loses judgement, control and objectivity and so everything becomes distorted. Therefore, it is essential for the mind to be unburdened and unbothered, and for that the mind must be humble and resilient like a blade of grass. A heavy storm will take down rigid trees, but the grass will bend with the storm’s winds and come back up again once the storm passes. If the mind is conditioned to bend like the blade of grass, then it will remain unaffected by the nuances of the world.
One evening in June 2004, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was being escorted by the local police to the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Edison, New Jersey. With their sirens and lights, the escort cars were racing through the streets of Edison as every car on the streets pulled over to give way. However, one truck driver who would not give way, and so the police cars rang their sirens louder, flashed their lights brighter, and ordered him over the loudspeaker to move aside, but to no avail. Amid all the raucous sounds, as the police became more and more agitated, Swamishri with a calm mind remarked, “Why can we not just go around the truck?” A small yet quintessential example of the effectiveness of a humble-cum-unclouded response of bowing in contrast to an ineffective rigid-cum-clouded response of commanding.
In a competitive, cutthroat and cast-iron world where humility is considered a weakness by some, it was, in fact, one of the hallmarks of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s character. He was a spiritual leader of millions and the president of a reputable global organization. Yet, he remained humble, empathetic, accommodating and composed. To inspire people to live a more mindful, balanced and harmonious spiritual life, he made over 17,000 village, town and city visits; personally counselled over 800,000 people; read and replied to over 700,000 letters; and adjusted his exhausting schedule countless times to meet the convenience of others. In 1973, Swamishri was in Mumbai when a devotee approached him and demanded, “You have to come to Vadodara to bless my nephew’s wedding.” When Swamishri realized that the date of the wedding conflicted with his already scheduled visit to Thana, which had previously been cancelled twice, he respectfully requested the devotee to reconsider his request to another date.
However, the devotee was adamant, “You have to come no matter what. What about my word I have given to the other members of my family? It will reflect poorly upon me!” Rather than clouding his mind with negative thoughts of the absurdity of the request, Swamishri instantly cancelled his plans for that day and told the devotee that he would come to Vadodara on the day he requested. Pramukh Swami Maharaj possessed a special ability to empathize with and think from others’ points of views. He humbly bowed to others to fix broken feelings that might have worsened to everlasting resentment, and he even easily gave credit for the hard work that he had done to those who were undeserving. Such was Swamishri’s humility that his mind was never burdened with unnecessary thoughts, and due to that there was no limit to his success and popularity.