Wednesday 27 September 2023 | Bhadarva Sud 13, Samvat 2079

Wed 27 Sep 2023

The actions and episodes of the Lord and His Satpurush are all divine. As such, the manner in which They withdraw Their human darshan is also divine. As we reflect on Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s final divine episodes, we come to realise that these were according to His own and the Lord’s will. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj showered the most divine darshan and love upon all His Sants and disciples in these final months, showing us more so than ever that He truly is forever our beacon of spirituality, our ocean of compassion, and infinitely selfless – Our beloved Bapa.

God and His Satpurush never do anything to harm disciples; They always do whatever is best for them

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj's Smruti Vachan 01 - 26 December 2019

Ordination to Withdraw His Human Darshan

While presiding at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Nairobi and showering His divine blessings upon Sants and disciples all around the world, on 26th December 2019 (Samvat 2077, Magsar Vad Amas), just one day after Nairobi Mandir’s 67th Patotsav celebrations, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj preluded to the divine leela He would shortly show us - to withdraw His human darshan. During that time, however, being mere souls enamoured by such a Satpurush’s divinity, Sants and disciples did not realize or comprehend the true meaning of His divine words. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj stated:

We are all able to observe the fervour and love through which Sants and disciples continue to perform seva and offer their services to the Lord. Day by day, we are witnessing new utsavs and celebrations, and disciples are even expressing their wishes to offer their seva for future celebrations. So long as Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa wish to keep this humble Servant [referring to Himself] in Their service with the duties They have bestowed, this Servant will continue to perform those duties. When the Sants are ready to take these responsibilities upon themselves and come to this Servant and say, ‘Now, You may take rest in Bapa’s shelter,’ then this Servant can be relieved of these duties.

It has been 40 years since Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa entrusted this Servant with these responsibilities. Sants were remembering that it’s been 21 years since this Servant’s bypass surgery; whereas, typically, life expectancy of the average patient is only 10 years after surgery. Sants, if you give me leave, then… well, let us not go there or think about that.

Within hours of imparting these divine words, which nobody could understand completely at the time, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, through His own will, began to show the initial signs of illness.

The episodes of the Lord and His Satpurpush are indeed divine and we saw this divinity in 1998 when Acharya Swamishree Maharaj showed Himself to suffer from a heart attack. Even after suffering through this heart attack, prior to any surgery which He insisted only be performed in India, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performed the ground-breaking ceremony of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Nairobi on December 20, 1998.

On that occasion, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj showered blessings upon Sants and disciples and mentioned withdrawing His human darshan for the very first time, stating,

This time, Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa witnessed your love, listened to your humble prayers, and brought this Servant [referring to Himself] back to health. However, when the time comes, and it is the Lord’s firm will, despite everyone’s prayers and humble pleas, the Lord will be resolute in His will.

Little did Sants and disciples know at the time, that 21 years later, the Lord and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj would manifest their will to show illness in Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and begin the journey to withdraw His human darshan.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj's Divine Blessings from Mumbai Hospital - Saturday 11 January 202

Initial Mandvad-Leela (Episode of Illness)

The very next day after giving His ordination to withdraw His human darshan, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj started to show signs of grave illness with rapid weight loss.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was due to return to India on 31st December 2019 to attend a major event as the principal honoured guest. Due to the rapid progression of His illness, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj along with several sants and disciples, departed for Mumbai one day early on 30th December 2019 and He was immediately placed on close monitoring at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mumbai under the care of His trusted physician, Dr. B. J. Pandey.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan - Sunday 12 January 2020 Mumbai Hospital

Several days passed, as His condition worsened with extreme and rapid weight loss, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was hospitalized at Bhatia Hospital in Mumbai. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj remained at the hospital in critical condition and twenty-four-hour monitoring for nearly three weeks until He was well enough to return to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mumbai on 21st January 2020. During that time, Sants and disciples across the world earnestly prayed from Mandirs and their homes to Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj Himself for Him to show a swift recovery. They held continuous dhoon of the Swaminarayan mahamantra, sang prarthnas, and performed dhyan. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj means the world to His Sants and disciples, dearer than life itself, and this was reflected in the outpouring of love and prayers to make Him well again.

Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, as they had when Acharya Swamishree Maharaj had taken on previous illnesses, heeded the humble loving prayers from Sants and disciples, and He started to show signs of a gradual recovery through to the end of January and into February. By the end of February, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s health had recovered to the point where He was able to travel to Maninagar to perform Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj’s 76th Patotsav at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir. Just as Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa’s final episode of dhyaan lasted sixty-one days, exactly sixty-one days had passed since Acharya Swamishree Maharaj started to show initial signs of illness to when He left Mumbai for Maninagar.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan - Posh Vad Ekadashi - Monday 20 January 2020 - Mumbai Hospital

At Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was greeted by Sants and disciples, who after continuously praying for nearly two months for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s recovery and darshan, were relieved to see their beloved Father back in Maninagar after so long. As Acharya Swamishree Maharaj bestowed His divine darshan in the sabha of Sants and disciples who had gathered for the 41st anniversary of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s Investiture as Acharya of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, and Maninagar Mandir’s annual Patotsav, all joined their hands reverently in prayer. Many had tears of relief and joy in their eyes, and the hearts of all were beating with the purest love. As Acharya Swamishree Maharaj affectionately gazed down upon the congregation of His Sants and disciples, He, too became touched by their immense love and showered them all with His blessings and gave them His sweet, assuring smile. Little did everyone know that this would be the last time Acharya Swamishree Maharaj would give His divine darshan in human form to such a congregation, but in that moment, His loving gaze quenched everyone’s spiritual thirst.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan - Posh Vad Sadguru Din - Friday 24 January 2020 - Mumbai Mandir

While Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s health was improving, His doctors, Sants, and disciples urged the need for Him to take rest, away from His normal busy routine. After performing the Patotsav ceremony in Maninagar, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj returned to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mumbai, where He would reside for most of March. While He presided in Mumbai, the entire world was being struck by an illness.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Divine Darshan - Thursday 20 February 2020 - Mumbai Mandir

Miraculous Recovery and Immense Divine Darshan and Love

While in Mumbai, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj started to show a miraculous recovery. Sants, disciples, and doctors alike were astonished by just how quickly His health was improving given how severe His illness had been. His doctors stated that no medication or treatment could return Acharya Swamishree Maharaj to such vitality so quickly; it was purely His divinity, His own will, and His love for His Sants and disciples that brought Him back to such health. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj is a truly divine and completely independent entity; the Lord and His Satpurush are all completely independent and unbound by the limitations of this material world.

Even so, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj still needed to rest; however, He longed to return to Maninagar – to His beloved Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj and His Sants. However, by this time in March, the COVID-19 pandemic had spread all over the world, and many countries were on lockdown – one of the strictest of which was in India. Travel was prohibited, gatherings were outlawed, and daily life had become extremely restricted. Therefore, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj resided in Mumbai a while longer, including through Shree Swaminarayan Jayanti celebrations on 2nd April 2020 (Samvat 2077, Chaitra Sud 9). During this time, He urged all to continue performing loving devotion unto the Lord – for Sants from the Mandirs and for disciples from their Mandirs at home. Despite the dire state of the world, He reminded us all that we can perform devotion from anywhere at any time, as the Lord is ever-present and omni-present upon this Earth.

O Mara Vhala (Mandvad Leela Darshan)

By the grace of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and three Sants received special permission from the Indian government to make a journey by road from Mumbai to Maninagar on 16th April 2020. After a non-stop journey of nearly nine hours, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj finally reached Maninagar in the early hours of 17th April 2020. As the Mandir was closed at this hour while the Lord rested, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performed darshan of the Mandir’s dhaja (flags) and shikhar (domes), and tears of love filled His eyes. Sants who witnessed Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s tears, too, had tears in their eyes. The next morning, whilst finally having the darshan of His beloved Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj and while performing Shangar Aarti, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, again, could not hold His tears back – such was the love and oneness He had with the Lord. And again, seeing this divine love between Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj, the Sants could not hold their tears back either. All were overcome with joy to have Acharya Swamishree Maharaj back in Maninagar once again.

While India and the world were on lockdown, and social-distancing measures were in place, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj showered mercy upon His Sants and disciples worldwide and showered His divine blessings every week through to Saturday 20th June 2020, which would be Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s last divine blessings, via live broadcast.

Above all, during this time, He showered the most immense love upon all His Sants. For over forty-one years, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj travelled the world fulfilling the desires of all His gruhasth disciples, but in the last three months of His human presence, He resided in Maninagar and fulfilled the deepest spiritual wishes of all His Sants and showered them with the most divine love and darshan. He showed them His divinity whilst performing daily activities and niyams. He laughed and joked with them. On a few occasions, He delighted and surprised them with spontaneous raas in Brahm-mahol. Many Sants now recall several occasions during which Acharya Swamishree Maharaj hinted that He would soon be withdrawing His human darshan, but being immersed in His sublime love in those moments, they did not realize this at the time.

Perhaps most memorable of all, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj gave Sants the opportunity to celebrate His 78th manifestation anniversary (Premanjali Parva) in May 2020; disciples all around the world were able to witness this divine darshan via a live broadcast. While Sants celebrated this most auspicious occasion in Maninagar-dham, each and every disciple, young and old, all over the world, celebrated this occasion in their homes. Whilst the world was on lockdown, everyone’s devotion unto the Lord and love for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was in full blossom. Sants and disciples were immersed in the deepest ocean of spiritual love and bliss. One felt that he or she could enjoy this bliss forever; however, all this was Acharya Swamishree Maharaj giving His Sants and disciples final memories that they would be able to cherish forever.

Prarthna, Commemoration, Remembrance Arrangements for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj
Prarthna, Commemoration, Remembrance Arrangements for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj

Final Mandvad-Leela (Episode of Illness)

In the last weeks of June 2020, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj once again began to show signs of illness.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s condition began to worsen day by day. In the early hours of Friday 26th June 2020, He was admitted to CIMS hospital in Ahmedabad. As He was escorted from His living quarters through Brahm-mahol, He folded His hands in prayer towards the divine Murtis of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and our Guruparampara in Brahm-mahol and Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar and bowed so reverentially as if saying “Jay Shree Swaminarayan” to them for the final time.

While Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was leaving Mandir, Sants continuously prayed, “Oh, Bapa! Please quickly recover and come back to us!” As His Sants pleaded, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj looked at them all at once with tears in His eyes. Seeing these tears, His Sants could not stop their own from flowing.

Upon hearing this news, Sants and disciples all over the world began to ardently pray to Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj for His illness to subside.

On 7th July 2020, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was placed in intensive care and not even the Sants in His personal service were able to have His darshan. Surely, had Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s eyes and any loving Sant’s or disciple’s eyes met just one more time, drawn by their love and driven by His absolute love, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj would have returned to good health yet again, as He had each and every time He had taken on illness in the past. This time, however, the Lord exerted His will in the form of an illness that would not allow anyone to visit Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. Ever-merciful, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj would not be able to bare seeing His Sants and disciples in distress at seeing His condition, and so He protected them from that pain.

As several more days passed, and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s vital functions started to wane with each passing day, it became apparent, to the deep sadness of all His Sants and disciples worldwide, that Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was very soon going to withdraw His human darshan after gracing the world with His human presence for over seventy-eight years.

Appointment of the Acharya of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj’s Spiritual Successor
Appointment of the Acharya of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj’s Spiritual Successor

Subsequent Heir

The appointment of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s subsequent heir happened exactly per the Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa’s and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s will. Over the years to come, the divinity of these episodes will be further and deeper understood, as is the case with so many of the Lord’s divine episodes that often cannot be fully understood and appreciated at the time. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj had stated a few times to the Sant Mandal during their meetings, “Decide amongst yourselves who will step up and take the helm and responsibilities from me; I will support whichever decision you all make. I am ready to hand over my responsibilities.” On those occasions, the Sant Mandal did not understand that was truly His divine will, and yet Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performed this leela in such a way that the Sants would have to appoint an heir precisely in accordance to Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s will.

The process of choosing a spiritual successor is stated in the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Sant-Parshad Mandal Bandharan (Constitution) if the situation arises where an heir has not been appointed. A special meeting of Gurudev Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa’s Sadguru and senior Sants was held on Thursday 9th July 2020 (Samvat 2077, Ashadh Sud 4) in the Brahm-mahol of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar.

Following the process stated in this Sant-Parshad Mandal Bandharan, the Senior Sants with the unanimous support of all the other Sants, appointed Sadguru Shastri Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swamiji to be the spiritual heir to Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, and successor to Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj.

Acharya Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swamiji Maharaj is a highly proficient scholar, narrator, and orator yet He depicts humility, simplicity and the utmost service to God. He has a deep interest in promoting education and learning, and developing students to be devout, disciplined, moral and loyal subjects of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi. Through the direction of Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj, He travelled extensively across the world to preach the values of the Faith and bring people closer to God. Today, Acharya Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swamiji Maharaj continues the remarkable work of His Guru Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa and Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj to further spread the tenets of the Lord around the world. In the same way that Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa worked through Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, from hereon, They will do so through Acharya Swamiji Maharaj.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Our Bapa
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Our Bapa

Withdrawing His Human Darshan and Antim-Vidhi

It came with great sadness to His beloved Sants and disciples around the world that Acharya Swamishree Maharaj willed to withdraw His human darshan in the very early minutes of 16th July 2020 (Samvat 2076, Ashadh Vad 11) – Kameeka Ekadashi, an auspicious and divine day.

For forty-one years Acharya Swamishree Maharaj had immersed all his Sants and disciples in His divine love, accustomed them to having His darshan and fulfilled all their wishes, listened to their prayers, and guided them all through each aspect of their lives. And therefore unsurprisingly when the time came for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj to withdraw his human darshan, it came with much shock and grief.

Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamiji Maharaj’s Cremation Ceremony

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s Murti was first brought to the grounds of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar, where Sants and Sankhya-yogis performed aarti, before being taken to Ghodasar. Sadguru Sants reverently and tenderly performed Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s Antim-Vidhi on the grounds of Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir.

Sants residing in Maninagar had Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s antim-vidhi darshan in person, while thousands of disciples across the world watched the ceremony online. Under ordinary circumstances, thousands of disciples would have flocked to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar and Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir at this time; however, He had won the hearts and guided the lives of so many that all of them could not possibly be accommodated on the grounds of either Mandir. It was the Lord’s divine grace that all those whose hearts were touched by Acharya Swamishree Maharaj were able to witness up-close the most divine, radiant darshan of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj during His antim-vidhi from their homes from across the world. While Sants and disciples all had to let go of having Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s human darshan with aching hearts, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, being the ocean of compassion that He is, assured that no loving soul was left deprived of His divine final darshan. And so beautiful was His divine Murti that the vision of His divine lotus feet, His lustrous face, and His gentle smile during those moments will be immortalized in the memories of all those who witnessed Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s antim-darshan.

Acharya Swamishree exemplified His absolute devotion to Jeevanpran Swamibapa by creating the world-renowned Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir (Memorial Temple) & World Peace Centre in Ghodasar, Ahmedabad, India – at the exact site of Jeevanpran Swamibapa’s cremation ceremony. It is perfectly befitting and apt that Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s cremation ceremony, over forty-one years later, would take place directly across from the site of His beloved Gurudev’s cremation ceremony, on the grounds of Smruti Mandir, the most potent personification of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s unparalleled and exemplary Guru-Bhakti and love towards Jeevanpran Swamibapa. From His manifestation in 1942 to His cremation ceremony in 2020, each and every divine act of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s was humbly dedicated to His beloved Gurudev and served to spread His Gurudev’s glory all throughout the world.

While His human presence will be sorely missed by all, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj leaves us all with a truly profound legacy – a treasure trove of blissful teachings, episodes, memories, and miracles. He will always and forever be our beacon of spirituality, our ocean of compassion, and infinitely selfless – Our beloved Bapa.

The Lord and His Satpurush do not come and go – they are ever-present and omni-present through the Acharyas of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi. In this manner, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, too, will remain on this Earth through that divine lineage that stems from the supreme Lord Shree Swaminarayan. Currently, we are all able to have the divine darshan of the Lord and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj through the current Acharya of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, His Holiness Acharya Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swamiji Maharaj. As long as we all keep the eternal memories of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj alive in our hearts, and we fervently remain under the supreme divine shelter of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj will always be with us all.

God Himself remains forever within His idol forms and Sants

Vachanamrut Gadhada First Section Chapter 68