Sixty-Eight Places of Pilgrimage at Thy Feet
To please Swami, Pragji Bhakta served as barber, tailor, stone-mason, carpenter, blacksmith and a wood-cutter. There used to be continuous reading of the scriptures in the presence of Swami. Pragji Bhakta was responsible for reading the last recitation at night. He served Swami till late in the night. He helped him to sleep by massaging his legs. Even in the middle of the night if Swami got up to answer a call of nature, Pragji would hold the lamp to help Swami wash his hands and escort him back to his bed. Although he remembered his guru in his heart incessantly, he always longed to serve him in person.
Though he was a mahant of the mandir, Gunatitanand Swami did not spare himself from certain manual work in the mandir. This did not allow him to devote much time to delivering discourses. He felt sorry that he could not concentrate much on preaching. Pragji Bhakta realised Swami’s difficulty and said humbly, “I will do your manual work in the mandir. You sit in the assembly and deliver spiritual discourses.”
When Gunatitanand Swami heard this, he was pleased and told him, “You are already busy and engaged for twenty-three hours. How will you be able to find time to do my work?” However, Pragji Bhakta did not bother about himself because of his love and devotion towards Swami.
During this period the construction work of the haveli was in progress. Some slabs of stone were lying outside the mandir. And a dead dog lay on top of the slabs. Everybody thought that a scavenger would come and remove the dead dog. Meanwhile, Swami asked Pragji, “Why has the supply of stones from outside stopped?” He went and saw the dead dog lying on the stones. He thought that he should remove the dead dog because Swami had asked him, only then would the work continue. He changed his clothes and removed the dead dog. Then he took a bath and returned to the mandir.
The work began. Gunatitanand Swami was greatly pleased. Some people made faces, while others criticised Pragji for acting as a scavenger. On hearing this, Swami observed, “Every living being is, in a sense, a scavenger. What wrong has been committed by Pragji in helping the work restart by removing the dog? After all, he has acted according to my wishes.”
Once, after the annakut festival, Pragji was washing the vessels. There was a pit in which dirty water was collected. Swami came there and put his foot on the edge of the pit. The dirty water touched his toes. Instantly Swami asked, “Pragji, where can one find all the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage?”
Pragji Bhakta understood the deeper meaning of the Swami’s words and immediately jumped into the pit of dirty water. It was a spiritual bath for him. He knew that the dirty water in which Swami had dipped his toes contained all the sixty-eight holy places. For a while Swami just kept watching. Then he said, “Pragji, come out and wash yourself with clean water.” Such was the intense devotion of Pragji Bhakta!
Once Mana Bhagat said to Swami, “This poor Pragji has left everything to learn meditation from you. But instead, you make him lift big stones. You are extracting work beyond his capacity.” Mana Bhagat failed to see the divine flame that burnt in Pragji Bhakta’s heart. Swami replied, “I will make him lift stones and realise God.” Mana Bhagat became silent after hearing Swami.