By Jnanpurushdas Swami
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
One of Voltaire’s contemporaries wrote a wonderful catechism (question-answer) on the topic of love.
He began with the question:
Q. What is a human being?
A. Someone who can think and understand.
Q. What should he or she do in life?
A. Pursue happiness at whatever cost.
Q. Isn’t that self-love?
Q. Isn’t that bad?
A. Not if one loves oneself rightly.
Q. Who are those who love themselves rightly?
A. Those who do not separate their own happiness from the happiness of others.
Sometimes, an individual stuns the whole of humanity with nobility and selflessness of self-sacrifice that he or she makes. In 1980, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was on a spiritual tour of BAPS centers worldwide. In Baltimore, United States, he was finding difficulty putting on his slippers. One of the accompanying swamis noticed something was wrong, so he asked, “What’s the problem?” Pramukh Swami Maharaj replied softly, “I just can’t see them.” On examination, it was found that he had cataracts in both eyes. As a result, he could not see even two feet ahead. The eye specialist noted, “His Holiness must be in excruciating pain, but he doesn’t complain. That condition must have taken many months to build up. If you had come to me just a few days later, he might have lost his sight forever.” It became evident that Pramukh Swami Maharaj had been in constant pain and partial blindness for months. But he had kept silent throughout that difficult period and continued with his duties to serve others. Eventually, Pramukh Swami Maharaj underwent cataract surgery at Boston Eye Hospital, and when he was well on the road to recovery, one of the swamis asked him why he never informed them earlier about his condition. Pramukh Swami Maharaj replied, “If I had told you before, you would have canceled the whole tour, and that would have disappointed the devotees.” For the sake of pleasing the devotees, he was willing to sacrifice his own eyes. Pramukh Swami Maharaj worked for the betterment of others, even at the expense of his own happiness, comfort, health, and well-being.
On February 5, 1987, a disciple asked Pramukh Swami Maharaj, “What do you pray for everyday?”
“I pray that everyone be blessed with peace and happiness.”
“Do you ever pray for yourself?” came the next question. “No, never. One should pray for others. We should accept whatever God has given us and be happy.”
Sometimes, he woke up in the middle of the night to pray for others, but never for himself. That was the way Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived.