Sri Samrat Singh, son of Sri Svarup Singh of Bola Guda in the Pali district of Rajasthan, was a powerful and feared member of the Indian aristocracy. He was egotistical and proud of his friendship with the Maharaja of Jodhpur. He had a bad temper and was cruel, frequently ordering people to be beaten without trial. Scornful of everything related to religion, he couldn't bear the company of sadhus, priests or swamis and maintained that their only aim was to deceive and rob the people.
Once the youngest brother of Mahaprabhuji, Swami Hari Ram Puri came to preach at Bola Guda because he heard that the Maharaja there, Sri Ram Singh, was a pious man. Ram Singhji warmly welcomed the swami and invited him to stay in the village to hold satsang.
"I will be happy to stay here," agreed Swami Hari Ram Puri, "but I will not sleep in the village itself."
So they built him a thatched straw hut near the village wall, such as the farmers live in, under a large and shady tree.
Swami Hari Ram Puri frequently came to the village to visit the Maharaja and one day was holding satsang at the palace when Sri Samrat happened to arrive there. Angrily he interrupted the satsang.
"What kind of spectacle are you staging here?" he shouted at the swami. "You don't belong in this place. If you want to pray to God then do it in the jungle where you belong with all the other sadhus and stop cheating these simple village folk!"
Threateningly he advanced towards Swami Hari Ram Puri. All those present became frightened and made a hasty escape. Thakur Ram Singhji knew that Samrat Singh was not amenable to any argument while in such a mood and so he remained quiet. Therefore the swami had no other choice but to leave and return to his hut.
Shortly thereafter the swami left Bola Guda and went to Khatu, where he complained bitterly to Mahaprabhuji about the treatment he had received.
"If we must tolerate insults and abuse even though we have a Divine protector like you among us, then how will the sanctity and dignity of the holy, orange robe be preserved?"
"Swamis and yogis must remain unmoved by insults and praise alike," Mahaprabhuji answered.
He went on to quote the words of Lord Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita (Ch. 12, V. 18-19):
"Equally he loves friend and enemy. He remains calm in honour or humiliation, in heat or cold, pleasure or pain. He is free from the fetters of attachment. For him rebuke and praise are equal. He can control his words, he is content with everything that he receives. He is at home everywhere and nowhere. His thoughts are only directed to Me and his heart is ever faithfully devoted. That one who so lovingly worships Me, is dear to Me!"
"What you have suffered was nothing," Mahaprabhuji continued. "Think of what Christ had to bear. Even on the cross He prayed to God for the forgiveness of his tormentors. You should not care for the fruits of your work nor for the response of people, no matter if pleasant or unpleasant. Remain perfectly dedicated to your belief and to your duty, for it is also written in the Gita:
"'It is better to fulfil one's own dharma imperfectly than to fulfil the dharma of another so perfectly. It is better to die in fulfilling one's own dharma but it is dangerous to follow the dharma of another'." (The Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 3, V. 35)
Smiling at Swami Hari Ram Puri, he added, "But if you want, I can easily make that disrespectful man your disciple."
"Oh no!" Swami Hari Ram Puri quickly replied. "Not that devilish one! I have no desire for such disciples! But I would be very pleased if he would become a follower of yours."
That year Mahaprabhuji spent the months of the monsoon in Jodhpur. He held large satsangs there. Soon the whole city came to know of his presence, including Sri Samrat Singh, who decided to go and see what new fraud this famous yogi was perpetrating.
In this frame of mind he arrived at one of Mahaprabhuji's satsangs and saw hundreds of people sitting there.
"First I shall sit with the others and hear what this alleged mahatma has to say," he thought, "and then I will chase him away once and for all!"
For his part, Mahaprabhuji had immediately noticed this particular addition to his audience and had no difficulty in perceiving the thoughts and feelings of his arrogant guest. He sent Sri Samrat Singh a look of infinite kindness. The heart of the angry fighter immediately began to melt like snow under the blazing sun. Divine Light filled his soul and in one moment he was completely changed. His thoughts stood still for a few endless seconds and his soul dived deep into the bliss of divine peace.
"My God, I have wasted my entire life gathering a bundle of sins," he thought with black despair when his thoughts returned with a rush.
At that moment he vowed to take shelter in the protection of Mahaprabhuji, so as to give his life new meaning.
After satsang ended and people began to leave, Mahaprabhuji approached Sri Samrat Singh.
"Hadn't you better quickly leave here? Are you not afraid that you will be led astray like all the others?" he innocently teased.
With great humility, Samrat Singh replied, "The moment I saw you the devil of arrogance left me and it is gone forever. For the first time in my life I feel at peace with myself. I need your help and protection! As your humble devotee, I beg you to grant me atma-gyana, knowledge of the Divine Self. A strong longing to renounce the world has awakened in my heart. Please be so merciful and make me a swami!"
Mahaprabhuji pretended to be surprised.
"My dear friend, what has happened to you? I thought you believed all swami’s to be swindlers."
"Gurudeva!" Samrat Singh beseeched, "Only you know what has happened to me! Nothing of it can be described in words."
"Well, it will be as you wish," Mahaprabhuji responded, "but first you must return home and explain to your wife what you wish to do. If she agrees and comes here to give me her consent, I will then guide you in the renunciation of this world and initiate you as swami. Husband and wife are two halves of one whole, therefore they should always act in harmony and mutual understanding. Nothing belongs to you. Hold onto Truth and direct your thoughts to God."
Sri Samrat Singh hurried home and demanded his wife to come and tell Mahaprabhuji she had no objection in his becoming a swami. The patient and dutiful Srimati Suraj Kunwar looked at her husband in bewildered silence, as she doubted she had heard him correctly.
Once again anger flashed in Samrat Singh.
"Come on! Hurry up, otherwise . . ." (which goes to show how old habits die hard).
Meanwhile, Srimati Suraj Kunwar had recovered herself.
"Are you making some joke or are you telling the truth? You must explain why you, having always treated representatives of religion with such indescribable contempt, now wish to become a swami himself. I’m totally confused and cannot understand your sudden change of mind."
With a patience that he had never before exhibited, Samrat Singh answered her.
"It is true and not at all a joke, my dear wife. It is the Divine work of Gurudeva, for with one single look he can change any person. I have met a truly Divine Master. He has filled my inner void with Light and liberated me from the darkness of sin."
Of course he could not refrain from impatiently adding, "So now hurry up and come give your consent."
Srimati Suraj Kunwar accompanied her husband to Mahaprabhuji. Being a deeply religious woman, she prostrated herself with complete devotion before him and asked what he wished her to do.
"My sister if you want, leave Samrat Singh with me and from this day forward he will become an immortal son of the heavenly father," Mahaprabhuji said.
Humbly she agreed and requested that Mahaprabhuji initiate her husband as a swami.
You may think that Srimati Suraj Kunwar was relieved to be rid of such a husband, but despite his harsh nature she had loved him and it was only her greater love of God that enabled her to release him. She did make one request to Mahaprabhuji for herself: that she should be able to see her husband from time to time after he had become a swami.
"After his initiation, he will return to Bola Guda and you will be able to see him at every satsang," Mahaprabhuji promised her. "He will live in the thatched hut outside the village which was built for Swami Hari Ram Puri."
Mahaprabhuji blessed them both and instructed Sri Samrat Singh to put his affairs in order and make arrangements for his wife to be properly provided for without him. Furthermore, he announced that Samrat Singh's initiation ceremony would be held some weeks later in Pushkar, a famous place of pilgrimage near Ajmer.
Mahaprabhuji Receives the Title of Paramhansa
Soon after these events, Mahaprabhuji left Jodhpur and returned to Sri Deva Dungary Sannyas Ashram. He had not been there for many days when his Guru, Paramyogeshwar Sri Devpuriji appeared in the ashram.
"You must go and be initiated as paramhansa by Bhagwan Sri Shankaracharya, head of the Shringery Matha order," he said. "He is staying at Pushkar and this is the time to do it."
"Paramhansa" is the highest spiritual title that can be bestowed on a disciple by the Guru or leader of his order. The literal meaning of paramhansa is "Supreme Swan." The swan is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and carrying this title indicates that the bearer has Realized the Highest Self within. The swan is symbolic of the soul which, when completely detached and free from the bonds of worldly life, rises to God to unite with Him.
Shankaracharyas are the heads of the swami order in India. There are four such orders, one in each quarter of India. These four divisions are called mathas or ashrams and every swami belongs to one of them. The four Mathas are Shringery, Gowardhan, Jyotir and Sarda.
Mahaprabhuji, whose renown by this time had spread throughout India, did as Sri Devpuriji commanded and made all preparations for the ceremony. Some of the greatest spiritual leaders were invited, including the Shankaracharya of Puri and his Holiness, Mahamandaleshwar Acharya Sri Krishnanandji.
When the time came, Bhagwan Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji travelled with Samrat Singh and other devotees to Pushkar, where they stayed in the Temple of Brahma. The sacrificial fire ceremony was performed by his Holiness Shankaracharya and the title of Paramhansa was bestowed on Mahaprabhuji. On the same occasion, Sri Samrat Singh was initiated as sannyasi by Mahaprabhuji and given the name Sri Swami Shankar Puriji.
Dear readers, as I write this it occurred to me that a question might arise why it is necessary for a Divine incarnation like Mahaprabhuji to receive the title of Paramhansa. You may recall the first meeting between Sri Devpuriji and Mahaprabhuji, where Sri Devpuriji explained that while he and Mahaprabhuji were in reality one and the same, they had to enter the relationship of Master and disciple according to the laws as set by God. Take the example of those before them, as Lord Rama with Guru Vashista and Sri Devpuriji himself with his Guru Sri Alakh Puriji. Great Saints establish and maintain these ceremonies and relationships, not because they themselves need them, but because they are useful examples for ordinary men. They provide an example for the rest of us to follow.
Another reason is that one never extols one’s own achievements. If you wish to be accepted in the academic world you cannot merely declare yourself a doctor. Rather, you must successfully pass examinations and allow the university faculty to award you the appropriate degree. It was the same with Mahaprabhuji’s spiritual title. With true humility, he allowed the world to show its respect by bestowing the title of paramhansa. At the same time this was an official proclamation to announce his God Realization, so that all spiritual seekers may know of his Oneness with God.
After they had been together for some time, Mahaprabhuji sent Swami Shankar Puriji to Bola Guda.
"Make yourself at home in the hut of Swami Hari Ram Puri and then build an ashram there. Do not go anywhere else - continue your meditation and spiritual development. In that place you will attain perfection and Realize your Self."
The ashram that Swami Shankar Puriji built is called Shivbagh and Mahaprabhuji often stayed there.
His arrival back in Bola Guda caused a sensation in the whole area due to his sudden transformation from a despised and tyrannical overlord, into a humble and holy swami. Many came to visit the new swami and all were impressed by his comprehensive knowledge and wisdom. Soon satsang was held in the ashram of Bola Guda each day.
The Bird Hunt that Never Was
Near Bola Guda Ashram was a pond called Shyam Talab, on whose banks dwelt many beautiful song birds and water birds. One day Swami Shankar Puriji's nephew, Thakur Jorawar Singh from Khivanda, came to visit with a hunting party.
First he went to pay his respects to his uncle.
Swami Shankar Puriji blessed him and asked, "What brings you here?"
"I have come with some friends for a bird hunt," Jorawar Singh answered.
Immediately Swami Shankar Puri called his nephew's attention to the principle of ahimsa and gave a stern warning that could not be misinterpreted.
"For as long as I live here, there will be no hunting at this lake!"
But Jorawar Singh was not to be dissuaded so easily.
"No-one can stop me from going on this hunt, not even you, my uncle! Whoever tries to stand in my way will come to know of my power. Don't forget that in former times you also hunted and killed many animals!"
"At that time I was blinded by ignorance," Swami Shankar Puri answered, "but Gurudeva has illumined my heart and removed the veil of ignorance. I now neither hunt nor permit others to do so."
He used every possible means to sway his nephew's resolve but Jorawar Singh did not relent. For three days they quarrelled and reasoned without result. Finally Swami Shankar Puri showed his old furious nature.
Jorawar Singh became frightened.
"I believed that as a swami my uncle had forsaken his fits of rage, but it seems he has remained as before," he thought to himself. "What shall I do now?"
At this time Mahaprabhuji was staying in the nearby village of Mehraji-ka-Guda and Jorawar Singh paid a visit to him there.
"Your disciple Sri Shankar Puriji forbids me to hunt birds at the lake," he complained. "Please tell him he shouldn't interfere in my affairs."
Mahaprabhuji called Swami Shankar Puri to him and said, "Shankar, don't try to stop Thakur Jorawar Singh from bird hunting!"
"Gurudeva! I will follow your instructions," Swami Shankar Puriji replied. "Yet please tell me how I can permit him to hunt innocent living beings. I beg you to explain this to me!"
On hearing this exchange of conversation, Jorawar Singh called out, "Mahaprabhuji! I acknowledge your greatness and that of your disciple Shankar Puriji. I will not hunt. I only wanted to test my uncle’s resolve."
His uncle rebuked him, saying, "Whoever has attained the Guru’s grace, shall pass all tests."
Mahaprabhuji pacified them.
"Both of you are really true warriors."
Thus peace was made between them and Swami Shankar Puriji found an upright disciple in his nephew.
Swami Shankar Puriji Maharaj became a great siddha yogi and at the end of his earthly life, passed into eternal samadhi in full consciousness.
Shivbagh = garden of Lord Shiva
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