Butterflies have a beauty that draws us to look and admire. To become a butterfly, the caterpillar must undergo internal change. A caterpillar gorges on food to facilitate this. Similarly, to facilitate our inner transformation, we require food in the form of true knowledge. We get this from a person who is perfect in mind and heart. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016), Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s fifth spiritual successor had the ability to transform people in this way. A rare soul who always lived for others and simultaneously remained totally absorbed in God. He had a unique aptitude to understand youth and liberated countless youths from the harrowing issues of life.
Mohanbhai Patel, a devotee from Bolton in England, used to smoke 80 cigarettes and drink 16 pints of beer a day. In 1994, in Ashton, England, Mohanbhai came into contact with Pramukh Swami Maharaj for the very first time when he was invited by a friend to attend the murti-pratishtha ceremony at the BAPS mandir. Pramukh Swami Maharaj learnt about Mohanbhai’s chain smoking and beer drinking habits, and encouraged him to give up these vices. He lovingly blessed, “God will give you strength to give up these addictions.” He firmly decided to give up his addictions. What for many years had seemed impossible happened by the association of a pious saint like Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Mohanbhai said that after giving up his addictions he began to experience true inner peace.
Jayesh Kedariya, a BAPS devotee in Surat, India approached his cousin brother Anand, who was addicted to alcohol. The addiction was ruining Anand’s life. After a lengthy chat to persuade him, Jayesh offered prayers for Anand to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Anand observed all this. Some months passed, but his cousin had still not given up his addiction. Several times, Jayesh wrote to Pramukh Swami Maharaj for blessings that his cousin gives up his addiction to alcohol. Each time, Swamishri replied with words of blessings and encouragement.
Eventually, after many months of persistent effort by Jayesh, Anand gave up his addiction, and this had a knock-on effect. Anand’s wife was very pleased. She and other women were inspired to make efforts to free their village of alcohol. They achieved resounding success! In turn, women from over 50 other nearby villages were inspired to free their villages of rampant alcohol addiction.
A GREAT TEACHER
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a distinguished Indian aerospace scientist who served as the President of India from 2002 to 2007. Dr. Kalam and Pramukh Swami Maharaj first met on 30 June 2001 in New Delhi, India forming a lasting friendship and spiritual rapport. Thereafter, they met in person or by phone on numerous occasions. These interactions left a deep impression on Dr. Kalam. He was touched by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s profound spirituality and divinity. Explaining the reason for writing his book, ‘Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji,’ Dr. Kalam said, “On the day I inaugurated Akshardham in Delhi, I found a teacher in Pramukh Swamiji. A great teacher. That day I decided I must write a book with my friend Arun Tiwari. It’s not a book. It’s a tribute. To a great leader.”
In 2015, when Dr. Kalam made the journey from Delhi to Sarangpur to present the book, he was 84 years old. Dr. Kalam presented the first copy of Transcendence to Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Sarangpur on 20 June 2015, their last personal meeting. While presenting the book, Dr. Kalam said, “You are a great teacher. I learnt to remove I, remove mine. That’s a great lesson I have learnt. I learnt from you.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj said, “To rise above I and mine is only possible by God’s grace. It is the best principle by which to remain happy in life.”
Transformation is achieved by seeking the refuge of a great teacher, for only then do his compassion and words affect us and help us to change. Such changes benefit not just the individual, but also their family and friends.
This year marks Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial birth celebration year; therefore, we aim to pay a tribute to his centennial birth celebration year, through this article series.
Just like Pramukh Swami Maharaj, today, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the present spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan continues that legacy. Through his association people have been transformed to experience inner peace. May we transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly so that we may fly high in the sky of spiritual joy and bring joy to others.
To learn more about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work, please visit: www.pramukhswami.org