The path to success is not a straight line, there are no fairy tale stories of success. Pain, strug-gle, insults, failure are all part of life and cannot be escaped, but they can result in wisdom, strength, courage, and success with the virtues of tolerance and compassion. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s tolerance and compassion were such that he was never provoked by petty grievances, never fretted over perceived slights and never succumbed to jealousy. In September 2002, Swa-minarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, India, was attacked by terrorists. Over 30 innocent lives were lost, including a BAPS swami and young children. Recent communal tensions in Gujarat had just about subsided, and a small spark was all that was needed to re-ignite the fuse that could turn Gujarat into a burning inferno. In fact, widespread riots as an instinctive reaction to such a tragic attack was the expectation, and Pramukh Swami Maharaj was incited by some to voice strong protest and harsh anger. However, Swamishri’s heart remained merciful, and he responded with a prayer of tolerance and peace which prevented a country-wide human tragedy. This magnanimous and exemplary act of restraint was praised across the world by politicians, community leaders and scholars as a timeless precedent worthy of emulation.
Swamishri’s tolerance was of another calibre as it was fuelled by compassion. A few days after the attack, Swamishri visited Swaminarayan Akshardham and blessed all the places of death and destruction with sanctified flowers and prayers. He came upon the spot where the terrorists had met their demise, and to everyone’s surprise Swamishri sprinkled flowers there as well and prayed for their souls’ peace and that “May no one even think of attacking anyone, any place or any religion. May the world be freed from terror.”
His touch never pained anyone but was as soft as the flower petals he sprinkled, giving compassion and comfort to the souls he touched. His tolerance was unparalleled, but it was his compassion that surpassed expectations and took your breath away. He did not just acknowledge people’s anger, hatred or ignorance with silent tolerance, but he also graciously prayed for their well-being and invariably responded with a kindhearted gesture. If he was like this with ill-mannered people, then it is not surprising that he was so popular and admired amongst others.
Swamishri’s innate humility, tolerance and compassion were all deeply rooted in his profound spirituality, the fundamental reason for his glory and admiration. Success and popularity based on measures of material achievements and metrics leave a person exhausted, stressed and unfulfilled. True success, on the other hand, leaves a person feeling fulfilled and genuinely happy. True success is achieved with spirituality. And Swamishri’s spiritually inspired success was such that not only did he live a life of eternal inner peace himself, but he also gave that gift to all who came in his contact. His pure, righteous and saintly demeanour inspired millions to forego troublesome addictions, vices, negative temperaments and live a serene and fulfilling life. Further, these effects were not momentary feelings that withered away over time, but Swamishri’s sanctity left an everlasting impression in people’s hearts that created a bond that never degraded nor disintegrated. When Brigadier Raj Seetapathy, the National Security Guard commando in charge of the rescue mission during the Akshardham attack, heard about Swamishri’s peace-inspiring reply to the attack he was so impressed by it that he became a proponent of the Akshardham Response and presented it in police academies, army training programmes, and other centres. He said, “What Pramukh Swami Maharaj did was unbelievable. He pieced society back together. What I observed after the operation was the calm and serenity that was quickly restored. I have faced many violent encounters in my professional life, but the Akshardham Response was a great learning, both from an operational and philosophical point of view.” Brigadier Raj Seetapathy was so mesmerized by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s spirituality that after retiring from the NSG, he served for many years at Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi. Swamishri’s piety was such that even a brief interaction with him led to a never-ending relationship. This was the underlying reality of his success and popularity.
Of those who poured into Sarangpur on 13 August 2016, some were in regular contact with Swamishri, some had not interacted with him in years, some had briefly met him only once, and some had never even met him face to face. And, of course, there were those who could not be physically present in Sarangpur. But they were all drawn mentally and emotionally to this one location because they all had some sort of personal relationship with Pramukh Swami Maharaj, for he had a mind which never minded, a heart which never hurt, a touch which never pained, and therefore, relations which never ended.