BAPS Centenary Celebration
Gunatitanand Swami

Early Years
Gunatitanand Swami was born in a small mud-house at Bhadra, a little village in Gujarat, on 17 October 1785 CE. Known as Mulji Sharma, right from early childhood, he had shown clear signs of extraordinary spirituality.
Once, when he was five, his mother found him rocking her youngest son, Sunderji, and whispering something into his tiny ears. When she enquired, he replied, “I will become a sadhu and I will also inspire Sunderji to walk that path.”
Once, his father had discouraged him from chanting God’s name, explaining, “Childhood is meant for playing and not for taking God’s name. So postpone it till old age.” Little Mulji’s wise reply touched his father’s heart, “Everyone shall die one day, not knowing when or how. And who knows whether one shall live up to a ripe old age. Thus the supreme good of worshipping God should never be postponed to a future time which may never arrive.”
Pristine Saintliness
In 1809, Mulji, heeding the divine call of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, left his farm, his home, his family and his village for good. He went to Bhagwan Swaminarayan who initiated him into the monastic order in 1810 and named him Gunatitanand Swami. During his initiation ceremony, Bhagwan Swaminarayan revealed, “This Mulji is my choicest devotee. He is my eternal abode. He is Aksharbrahma in person.”
Committing himself to the five cardinal vows of non-lust, non-covetousness, non-taste, non-attachment to family members and non-pride, Gunatitanand Swami moved from person to person, house to house, and field to field, spreading the liberating message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan till the last day of his life. He weaned people from addictions and superstitions raising their economic standards and making them fearless. He broadened their visions beyond material horizons to spiritual realms. And he redeemed them of their moral and spiritual poverty by nourishing their souls to perfection.
His attachment and love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan was unsurpassingly unique. Every move he made, every word he spoke, every thought he conceived was in harmony with Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s commands and wishes.
Once he went to the village of Juna Savar with a group of sadhus. There, Uga Khuman, the chieftain, was mercilessly hostile. Forsaking all rules of civility, he and his people battered the sadhus with foul language and brutally beat them with spiked sticks. The sadhus did not utter a word in retaliation. Their bodies were bruised and beaten, but their hearts remained unscathed. Thus, when they learnt that Uga was childless, Gunatitanand Swami on behalf of the other sadhus prayed to Bhagwan Swaminarayan that he be blessed with a virtuous son. All this he did because of his love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan who had commanded, “You shall not only forgive the abuses and beatings of evil people, but also wish them well.”
He remained in constant spiritual communion with Bhagwan Swaminarayan. But his devotion to Him was so intense that he longed to see Him in person, again and again. Once in Gadhada, Bhagwan Swaminarayan was to pass by a certain spot after midnight. To have his darshan, Swami stood for many hours, tolerating rain, wind and drenched clothes, before he caught a glimpse of Him passing.
Commenting on his attachment to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami had once said, “Like a fish in water, I do all activities remaining immersed in God. Were I to forget Him for even a moment, I would be like a fish out of water – I could not survive.”
Mahant of Junagadh
In 1827, Bhagwan Swaminarayan appointed him to head the Swaminarayan Mandir at Junagadh, Gujarat. On that momentous occasion He commanded all of his disciples to come to Junagadh one month every year to listen to Swami’s discourses. This would ensure their continuous spiritual progress. He also revealed at that time that Gunatitanand Swami was the means to ultimate liberation.
Transformational Discourses
Gunatitanand Swami’s discourses were simple but invariably enlightening. Doubtless he loved silence, but his greater love was to sing aloud the glories of God, for he knew that it pacified the turbulent mind and calmed the restless soul of listeners. And had the humans in front of him been immortal, he would have gone on talking till eternity, for he spoke of eternal values, of God and His Choicest Sadhu, of the immortality of the soul and vanity of the sense pleasures.
His words were so sweet and selfless, true and helpful, that thousands thronged to hear him. They were so poignant that even enterprising youngsters became sadhus and spent their lives in the service of God and society.
Even people of different faiths came to listen to him and to seek his guidance, for he not only had respect for all religions but loved everyone, equally and wholeheartedly. This was natural for him since he saw God in everyone and in everything. No wonder that the Muslim ruler of Junagadh frequently heard his solace-giving discourses. If his discourses were effective, the way he lived was even more inspiring. He ate simple food, wore simple clothing, lived in a simple shelter and his bed was no better than the bare floor.
Concern for Humanity
He was ever concerned for the welfare of others. And although he lived in the highest of spiritual realms, he never overlooked the earthly needs of people. He cared for and provided both in abundance.
His blessings had made the blind see, the diseased healthy, and the poor rich. In fact, through his blessings a poor Muslim woodcutter, Bauddin, became a minister in the court of the ruling nawab. Even today the Bauddin College in Junagadh is a proof of this event. More than this, his touch even revived the dead. He had, thus, performed many miracles, but only when necessary, and that, too, to help people towards a more righteous and devotional life.
For him real miracles constituted in sublimating the primitive nature of human beings, which was vitally necessary to bring about peace both within and without. He accomplished this without any aid from ‘white-papers’ or conferences or declarations or proclamations concerning peace. Gunatitanand Swami succeeded in bringing about such transformations en masse. He turned hardened sinners into humble devotees of God. They abstained from intoxicants, adultery, gambling, stealing and violence.
Through his gracious efforts, thousands realised the greatness of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This was his greatest work -- the culmination of all his endeavours. He had trained more than 300 sadhus and raised many of them to the most exalted spiritual state of an eternal loving communion with God. He accomplished this in a very special way. He moved among them but did not interrupt. He supervised, guided, nudged, pointed, directed, but only when required. And even this, he did effortlessly.
Selfless Service
This was so because his life spoke louder than his loudest words. What he said was just the surface of what he practised. Once the leader of a renowned temple came to meet him. Gunatitanand Swami at that time was sweeping the mandir forecourt. He met Swami and asked who the leader of the mandir was. Swami told him that the head of the mandir would meet him in the assembly hall. When he had gone, Swami finished sweeping, washed his hands, entered the hall and took his seat. The other leader was astounded. Slowly he uttered, “But just now you were sweeping...” Swami replied, “Here, one who serves is the real leader.”
This incident occurred when he was 76-years-old, after he had already served as the head of the Mandir for 36 years. Even the smallest service he did was to please God. He held it in the highest esteem and did it with utter humility. He never considered it below his dignity to perform any menial task.
Gunatitanand Swami shouldered many administrative responsibilities but that did not come in the way of his extensive preaching tours of the villages. His last tour was undertaken when he was 82-years-old. Many had gathered to bid him farewell. They had a premonition that Swami would not return and they became very sad. Gunatitanand Swami consoled them and gave what turned out to be parting, but vital advice. He cast a last glance at the magnificent mandir and said, “Shriji Maharaj had appointed me as the mahant of this mandir. Since then I have lived here and looked after it for 40 years, 4 months and 4 days. Now I’ll move in the Satsang and will stay at Mahuva (indicating the he would remain present through his successor, Bhagatji Maharaj of Mahuva).”
Final Moments
Through the villages he passed, he provided solace to the distressed and uplifted the fallen. Soon, he reached Gondal. There he met Abhesinh, his staunch devotee, who told him that he wished to donate land to the Swaminarayan Mandir at Junagadh and that he would give it in writing the next day. Gunatitanand Swami cautioned him, “Please get it now. Tomorrow may never arrive.”
That very night Bhagwan Swaminarayan appeared before Swami. Quickly he got up, sat in the lotus posture and contemplated on Him. Within minutes his soul departed. At that moment, one sadhu, Ramcharandas, was suddenly awakened by the dazzling brilliance that filled the mandir. He shook the others out of their sleep. At once they all saw what he had seen: Gunatitanand Swami had passed away.
Soon devotees and prominent citizens flocked to the mandir. With intense sorrow, they performed his final rites on the banks of river Gondali where he was cremated. The mortal remains that had defied the flames were washed in holy waters, deposited in a copper urn and buried nearby. At that spot a beautiful shrine called Akshar Deri was constructed by the the ruler of Gondal, King Sangramsinghji. Today a majestic three-pinnacled mandir built by Shastriji Maharaj in 1934, stands over it.
In 1867, on the day Gunatitanand Swami passed away, he was what he had always been: a humble sadhu and an ideal devotee of God. Even though he was without wealth, property or academic distinction, people from all walks of life paid homage to his shrine, because he had gifted to them the eternal knowledge of the soul and God. Today, hundreds of thousands pay homage to his shrine annually.
Akshar Purushottam Philosophy
Gunatitanand Swami was the embodiment of Aksharbrahma. In consonance with the Bhakta-Bhagwan philosophy propagated in Hinduism, Gunatitanand Swami is revered as the Bhakta, Aksharbrahma, and Swaminarayan as Bhagwan, Purushottam. The Akshar Purushottam philosophy was given a tangible form through the efforts of Shastriji Maharaj. The murtis of Gunatitanand Swami as Akshar and Sahajanand Swami as Purushottam were first established in the central shrine of mandirs built by Shastriji Maharaj.
Today, Gunatitanand Swami’s spirit of work and devotion is perceived in His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj who has carried his message to distant lands covering the five continents of the world. Wherever he moves, people revere him as someone very special, the devout followers hold him as the very form of Gunatitanand Swami and for Bhagwan Swaminarayan he is His choicest devotee.