When we think of a guru we sometimes think of a priest in a mandir or an enlightened person sitting under the tree teaching their disciples. Yogiji Maharaj was far from an ordinary guru: he was a guru who didn’t even want to be called a guru. In the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (more commonly known as BAPS), there is a special lineage. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is held by a gunatit guru who is defined by their merits. Bhagwan Swaminarayan explained that after he left the earth, he would always remain on earth through a gunatit guru.
Yogi Bapa was the fourth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and taught the message of serving throughout his life. Yogiji Maharaj was born as Jinabhai in Dhari, India in 1892. In 1911, he was given sadhu diksha and named Sadhu Gnanjivandas but as he grew and served in Satsang, he began to be called Yogiji Maharaj. Bapa gained the name Yogi as he achieved communication with Bhagwan and was able to serve him with all his heart. He was seen by thousands as a guru and enlightened all through his talks and service.. Throughout his life, he spread Satsang in India, Africa and England.
Although Yogiji Maharaj was seen as a guru by many across the world, he never saw himself as one. He would often say ‘das na das’, meaning ‘servant of a servant. He would tell devotees who would listen to his talks and do his darshan to become ‘das na das’ as serving Bhagwan not only made him but Bhagwan happy. Even he believed we should be able to serve a servant with love in our hearts, and never look down on others but be humble in doing sewa. Bapa had so much love that he would often do the most menial sewa himself, such as washing clothes for the youth. Increasing age could not stop him, as he woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning and made over 300 rotis to serve the other sadhus and devotees. He would then spend the remainder of the day building mandirs, delivering lectures, or serving in other ways. In his old age, Yogiji Maharaj would say, “I intensely desire to do sewa.” Bapa’s thoughts would never be about himself but always about others and how he could serve them.
In society, we often feel like we are rushed off our feet: we are constantly studying, working, socialising and don’t always have time to think of others. We think so much of ourselves and what we have to do next. Do we even if we take a minute to think of those around us? Do we serve others in our everyday life? Yogi Bapa would teach devotees that having an ‘I’ mentality will not help us become stronger Hindus. I, unfortunately, am guilty of this: I often say that I want to do this or that, but don’t think about spending time caring for others. My time instead is spent thinking about watching the next new movie, or seeing what’s on TV tonight.
Much reflection has inspired me to aim to focus more on others and do sewa with Yogi Bapa in mind. Let us remember ‘das na das’ and focus on becoming a ‘servant of a servant’, humbly serving a divine goal.
— Jaimal Patel , NHSF (UK) Events Team Coordinator