My Guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj


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Pramukh Swami Maharaj

1921-2016


 

In the winter of 1921, in the unassuming village of Chansad, Vadodara, a breath-taking story began. A story of a boy who went from playing on the banks of his village pond to building a colossal wonder on the banks of the Yamuna. The story of a young man who gave up his world on the word of his guru and later inspired thousands to do the same. A story of a boy who asked for nothing, turning into a man for whom thousands were willing to give their everything. It’s a story of sacrifice and simplicity, a story of selflessness and service, a story of one honest, humble soul winning the hearts of millions around the world.

December 7, 1921. A boy named Shantilal was born to Diwaliben and Motibhai Patel. Their home in Chansad was a simple farmer’s house. Motibhai and his friends welcomed Shantilal’s birth with great joy.

For the next 18 years, Shantilal spent his days between Padra and Chansad. He studied at the top of his class and spent his leisure time with the village boys herding cattle, swimming in the village pond or playing cricket. From every outwardly view, Shantilal was a normal boy albeit more quiet than the rest. But even as Shantilal and his friends  played around the village, Shantilal’s mind lay in the Himalayas, the mystical lands at the center of Sanatana Dharma.

And yet, if there was anything that had captured Shantilal’s mind more than the Himalayas, it was the gaze of his guru. Shastriji Maharaj’s visits to Chansad were the highlights of Shantilal’s childhood and the first interactions of a divine destiny.

That destiny became clear in 1939. While readying his friends for a cricket match, Shantilal received a letter from Shastriji Maharaj. It was a call to that divine destiny. Shantilal’s answer to that call foretold the way he would answer this call over the next 8 decades – with action.  He did not linger, he did not think, he left Chansad on the messenger’s bicycle to become a sadhu at the hands of his guru.

Thus began a new chapter not only in Shantilal’s life but in the history of this world. Shantilal Patel from Chansad became Sadhu Narayanswarupdas – a loyal disciple of Shastriji Maharaj who put nothing before his guru’s words, not even his own body.

Ten years later, in 1950, Narayanswarupdas became Pramukh Swami, the president of BAPS and at the young age of 28, he vowed to his guru, “Today, Oh Gurushri, in front of you and this gathering, I pledge that I shall sincerely uphold my duties, without caring for my body, and in every way remain loyal to the Sanstha and faithful to you until my last breath.”

As President of BAPS, he served humbly, in the shadows, making every wish of his gurus Shastriji Maharaj and later Yogiji Maharaj come to fruition. There was no task too difficult, no test too trying, for his faith in God and guru were eternally firm.

Then in 1971, Yogiji Maharaj left for Akshardham and Pramukh Swami became the guru of BAPS, its spiritual head and President. Yet, in his own mind, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was still the name of a servant. He was still the shishya who had promised his guru to work till his last breath without ever considering his body.

For the next 40 years, he travelled in the service of his guru’s devotees. Except for severe illnesses, there was never a day’s respite. There was no hut too small, no child too young, no man too poor to demand Swamishri’s attention. It was never too early to meet him and surely never too late. He answered people’s problems at roadsides and in farms. And when he couldn’t make it in person, he was always there by pen or phone. No one who ever met him felt he was anyone else’s. Yet, Pramukh Swami was always everyone’s.

Heart attacks, eye operations, surgeries and illnesses, all came and went. His travels never ceased. While everyone saw him as their guru; he always remained their servant.

People say he has made more than 1000 sadhus. But in truth, he never had to ask. His life and his love were such that men from the villages of India to metropolises around the world came to him to renounce selfishness and embrace selfless service. They dedicated their lives to his cause, because he had already dedicated his life to them.

Swamiji was not a person who formed poetic life mantras. Yet, anyone who saw him knew “In the joy of others lies our own” were not just words; for Pramukh Swami Maharaj it was the essence of his life. When disaster struck, Swamishri’s heart reached out to the victims. They were never statistics for him. They were lives and livelihoods. He worried about their homes, their future careers, their rituals and traditions. Providing food was not a donation; it was serving the warmth of a home with a hot meal.

Over the years, Pramukh Swami Maharaj began to become a household name. For so many he was a beacon of hope and peace in a splintering world. For others he was an ambassador of Indian culture. Some saw in him an eternally devout servant of God humanity. And in recent years, he was the silent but transformational inspiration behind 1200 mandirs and the three Akshardhams.

He was so much to so many people.

But most of all, he was Bapa – the man who was at once our father, our friend, our guide and our guru. The being through whom, we mere mortals spoke to, laughed with and embraced God.

Hold Me Steady, Steady With Your Gaze


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Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.

 

This morning again, I woke to a slumber

A world of motion and momentum,

But not a sense of direction.

I can see so much, yet see nothing at all,

Call it confusion, delusion,

Or is this true perception?

Is my knowledge truth or just memorisation?

We call it education,

Should it be called a condition?

 

Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.

 

The world is spinning on and on,

Racing, chasing, running on.

A tornado’s tearing up my head,

I can’t stand up, can’t go to bed.

If I can’t hold you, how will I hold on?

If I can’t love you, how will I move on?

Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.

Don’t let me fall, as I trip through these dreams,

Cuz its only you who can be my beam –

Light from the darkness. Dawn from the dusk.

Let me rise again, like a phoenix from the dust.

 

Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.


 

A question or two for the world


Is loyalty greater than honesty?
Is sacrifice for others greater than being content with one’s life?

May wisdom come to me from all sides…

The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake


Came across an interesting video today I hope everyone will take the time out to see. It is a TEDx lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake on what he calls ‘The Science Delusion’. He essentially takes some of the underlying assumptions of today’s scientific pursuits and turns them into questions. In essence, he reminds us that science’s assumptions and worldview should not be exempt from scientific inquiry. He discusses 10 underlying notions of science that need to be questioned and then goes into detail about two: 1. that there are natural laws or constants and 2. that our memories and experiences are not just inside our heads but that we actually perceive external objects – basically he’s a pure epistemological realist and not an indirect realist like Locke and most who have followed. For details on his ideas, this video is a great intro and then of course we could pick up his book.

Here, however, I want to mention something that struck me as he spoke. His insights are either heavily influenced by Indian philosophy or at the least are very synchronous with Indian philosophy.

He questions weather the universe may itself have a consciousness. He says that he believes perception includes a force that reaches out to interact with the object we perceive – not just that we perceive it in our head from the bio-chemical-electrical messages of our senses.

Interestingly, Indian philosophers have said these same things for millenia. They say that there is a chidakash which the conscious space which holds the space of the universe. Basically, if this universe was born from the big bang, in what space did the big bang occur? The Indian philosopher’s answer to this for centuries has been chidakash which, again, literally means conscious space.

On the point of perception, Indian epistemologists in most Vedant traditions believe that knowledge has three forms – one is like a substance or form (gnanswarup). the second is a quality (gnanguna) and the third is a power or ability (gnanshakti). The soul is made up of a substance which is knowledge. It has the quality of knowing and it has an ability or power to know. in perception, the soul’s knowledge power reaches out and comes in contact with objects through the sense and on contact with the object, the eternal, experienced and knowledgable soul perceives the object and recognises it. That is sounds almost verbatim of what Dr. Sheldrake describes.

It is interesting that a modern and well-established academic has through research and the use of model tools come to believe the same things which ancient rishi-scientists perceived through calculation, contemplation or visions gifted by God’s grace. It is also sad that the current scientific establishment can’t even stand to let such ideas be discussed – even if it’s just an 18 minute speech on the internet. That’s right, TED actually banned Sheldrake’s speech and took it off their sight. So much for open minds, free speech and ruthless enquiry.

I wait…


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I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your smile,

its warmth, its radiance,

its embrace.

But I know it may never happen.

I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your glance,

its sparkle, its power,

its ever-flowing love

But I know it may never happen.

I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your giving hand of grace

on my head, my shoulder,

my cheek.

But I know it may never happen.

I wait and I wait; I wait

to feel worth of you.

But I know it may never happen,

Because all I do is wait.

A Fragile Faith


A faith so weak it’s kept behind keys,

A faith so weak it can’t face these,

These words of logic and questions from reason,

Even curiosity against it is called high treason,

A faith so fragile, so frail, so weak,

Can it truly be the truth we seek?

But say I, see the egg in its nest,

See it shielded there from predator and pest,

How fragile, how frail, how terribly weak.

How could it hold more than a beak so meek?

But unknown to us all, growing in its depths,

A phoenix stirs, the king of its sept.

So feeble an egg, brings forth such wings,

So can a feeble faith, bring forth great things.

લટકે લગાડી લગની


A mesmerizing gesture from Pramukh Swami Maharaj

A mesmerizing gesture from Pramukh Swami Maharaj on 23rd August, 2014. (C) BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. http://www.baps.org

લટકે લગાડી લગની…લાલ રે

પલમાં પમાડી પ્રીતડી…પ્યાર રે

અંતર્યામીને અંતર લેતા, વાર કહો કેટલી…૧

નજર મારી રહેતી ભટકતી, નેણે તારે પકડી…૨

દિલમે અંધારા જ્યાં હમેશ રહેતા, ત્યાં આજ તારી ચાંદની…૩

સાંભળી વાતો મેં ઘણી વરસતી, (એક) વેણે તારે પલળી…૪

પ્રેમ છે મારો ઘણો ભૂલ ભરીયો, ભાવ જોજે હે હરિ…૫

ચખાડી સાચો આ પ્રેમ શું તારો, જજે ક્યારેય ન છોડી…૬

 

A Gujarati poem inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. At 93 years he still has the power to make millions fall in love with just one hand gesture, one glance. He sparks a new light in dark corners of people’s hearts. His pure life and divinity make his words the aural form of Truth. Having tasted his true love, we pray that he forgive our flawed love and always stay with us.

A Conversation with A Kirtan



I imagined a struggling modern-day aspirant conversing with Brahmanand Swami through verse. Here’s how it turned out:

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You’ve tied the rope to God’s high keep,

I’ve tied it too, to my shaking feet.

You’ve marked the path with bright red flags,

I’ve started to climb these uphill paths.

With every inch, I pain and strain,

But you’re always there promising me gain.

You cheer and cheer for miles and miles more,

But I’ve moved inches; I’m already sore.

You urge to climb, to climb is all,

Swami, I say, it’s easier to fall.

No matter the promise, no matter the call,

Swami, I say, it’s easier to fall.

The time is now, I’ve made my choice.

I choose to fall, to fall is my choice.

Jo Hoi Himat Re Narne Urmahi Bhari,

Dradta joine re, teni madad kare morari…

Bik tajine re, nit himat soto bole,

Mastak maya re sarve trun jevu tole…

And there’s the rope, to pull me back.

Here I hang, like a lifeless sack.

Your voice in my head calling me to climb,

Reminding me how you churned lime.

I place my feet, l set my path,

I rid my fear, and I walk with wrath.

What’s this mountain, Maya her name.

A blade of grass, I’ll put it to shame.

A few more steps, a few more steps,

A few more steps, and things do fade.

It’s the heat this time, I prefer the shade.

The peak is far, the path is hot.

It burns me now, with every ‘not’.

No pleasure, no fame,

No comfort nor dame.

Valley or peak, it’s all the same.

Why should I live so lame.

You still urge “to climb is all”,

Swami, I say, it’s easier to fall.

No matter the promise, no matter the call,

Swami, I say, it’s easier to fall.

The time is now, I’ve made my choice.

I choose to fall, to fall is my choice.

Kesarisinh ne re jem shanka male nahi manma, What?

Kesarisinh ne re jem shanka male nahi manma,

Eka eki re, nirbhe they vichare vanama…

Pande choto re, mota mengalne mare,

Himat vinano re, hathi te joi ne hare…

That’s the roar to give me might.

A breath of life for one more fight.

I’m a lion, with a lion inside.

It’s time for all those lies to hide.

No purs, no whimpers, no crying this time,

Just the roar of a lion, and the lion inside.

Boulders fall, mountains lose face.

Of fear in me, there is no trace.

Bring the heat, bring the cold,

I’ll die on this path, young or old.

Brahmanand kahe re em samje te jan shura,

Tan kari nakhe, guru vachane chure chura

You’ve tied the rope to God’s high keep,

I’ve tied it too, to my firm feet.

This time I’m going to reach the peak,

Not cuz I can, but cuz you speak.

Your thought is my word,

Your word is my life.

This rope that connects us,

Is tied for life.

6 studies on how money affects the mind


More reason to be nirlobhi – it let’s you connect better to other humans. That’s what I get from this TED talk.

TED Blog

How does being rich affect the way we behave? In today’s talk, social psychologist Paul Piff provides a convincing case for the answer: not well.

[ted_talkteaser id=1897]“As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases,” he says in his talk from TEDxMarin. Through surveys and studies, Piff and his colleagues have found that wealthier individuals are more likely to moralize greed and self-interest as favorable, less likely to be prosocial, and more likely to cheat and break laws if it behooves them.

The swath of evidence Piff has accumulated isn’t meant to incriminate wealthy people. “We all, in our day-to-day, minute-by-minute lives, struggle with these competing motivations of when or if to put our own interests above the interests of other people,” he says. That’s understandable—in fact, it’s a logical…

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Hinduism: Alive and Well


People often like to talk about religion dying away or thriving and alive. But if you have heard about the BAPS Conventions that happened last week, you would never question whether Hinduism is dying or thriving.

For any religion to stay alive it has to maintain its principles while adapting to accept the media that will allow those principles to be best communicated to and absorbed by its practitioners. BAPS’s recent youth conventions gave us great insight into what that really means and they showed us what modern, vibrant Hinduism and Swaminarayanism looks like today. Their conventions also gave us a glimpse into the future of what Hindu practice will look like. But enough from me, just check out these documentary videos and see how BAPS has out done itself again in being at the forefront of Hindu spiritual evolution.