My Guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj


Pramukh Swami Maharaj



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.


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