In the Vachanamrit (Vadtal 18), Shreeji Maharaj explains the importance of knowing the Guru Parampara (lineage). Because, if you are asked, an answer is given immediately.
Shree Ramanand Swami was the incarnated Uddhav. He received Vaishnavi Diksha from Shree Ramanuj Acharya, personally in a dream state. So Ramanuj Acharya is Ramanand Swamis Guru. Shreeji Maharaj is this disciple and successor of Ramanand Swamis
In Vadtal, in Prabodhini Ekadashi of Vikram Samvat in 1882, after careful consideration, Shreeji Maharaj adopted his nephews Ayodhyaprasadji Pande and Raghuveerji Pande as his children. Establishing the two Gadis, namely NarNarayan Dev Gadi in Ahmedabad and Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi in Vadtal, Shreeji Maharaj asked the two brothers to draw lots to decide who would sit in that Gadi. Shreeji Maharaj then asked all the disciples present to do the poojan of their respective Acharyas. Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj was named the first Acharya of NarNarayan Dev Gadi (also known as Uttar Vibhag – North Division), while Raghuveerji Maharaj became the inaugural Acharya of LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi (also known as Dakshin Vibhag – South Division).
Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj was named the first Acharya of NarNarayan Dev Gadi (also known as Uttar Vibhag – North Division), while Raghuveerji Maharaj became the inaugural Acharya of LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi (also known as Dakshin Vibhag – South Division).
It is worth remembering the event when her sister-in-law Suvasinibhabhi bathing Ghanshyam Maharaj. She noticed several symbols on the soles of her feet. When Ghanshyam Maharaj asked what she was looking at, Suvasinibhabhi replied: Baapuji mentioned that the lines on your feet turn out to be a king of the future. Ghanshyam Maharaj answered calmly: If so, then I will give my kingdom to your son.
The Acharya of NarNarayan Dev Gadi in Ahmedabad is currently His Holiness Acharya Shri Koshlendraprasadji Maharaj.
The method by which future Acharyas will be designated is recorded in the document Desh Vibhag No Lekh. It is not just a legal document that has withstood the tests since its existence, it is an instruction primarily for the Acharyas, but also specific instructions for ordinary followers.
1) Acharya Shree Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj:
Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj was the initial Acharya of the Ahmedabad seat of the Swaminarayan sect. According to the document prepared by Shree Hari about the Divisions of the sect on the basis of regional consideration. Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj was given this responsibility by Shree Hari to place it in to act. He was born in the Chapaiya village. His father Rampratapji Pande was the elder brother of Shree Sahajanand Swami. He was very polite and humble by nature. He was never affected by any sense of pride or position. Hit long and continuous association with Shree Hari resulted in numerous qualities revealing him. His self-righteousness and sense of realisation was always at their peak.
Once Acharya Maharaj was deeply engrossed in worship of Bhagwan, in the ritual known as ‘Manasipooja’ at Avadhbhuvan. He transcended all bodily sensations and even his physical existence. Meanwhile, a scorpion crawled on his back and in spite of several bites, which left reddish scars, he continued with his worship without even a complaint. It was only after an hour or so that he felt the sensation of an insect bite. The devotees were shocked at the painful sight. But the Acharya Maharaj pacified them by saying that every creature behaves according to its nature and personality. The scorpion did the same. We as humans should behave like human beings. He was perhaps the finest example of the human qualities of flexibility, and absorption in matters related to the spirit.
Acharya Maharaj was committed to the principle of equality. He never discriminated among his devotees and followers in terms of their social or economic status. He was a highly learned personality and loved learning and learners. He was also gifted with poetic excellence. Many lyrics composed by him are heard in various temples even today. He also wrote his comment in Sanskrit on ‘Satsangijivan’ named ‘Tatvarth Deepika.’ The structure of the havali in Ahmedabad is the result of his vision. He was very involved in establishing various temples at different places like Bamroli, Idar, Siddhpur, Mandvi – Kutch, Chapaiya, etc. He started the Sanskrit teaching school in Ahmedabad in accordance with the command of Shree Hari that is stated in the holy book of ‘Shikshapatri.’
Acharya Maharaj selected his son Keshavprasaji Maharaj as his successor to the seat. He served the scat for 42 years and brought glory to the sect. His life and times are characteristics of the legendry age of the Swaminarayan sect.
2) Acharya Shree Keshavprasadji Maharaj:
Keshavprasaji Maharaj, the son of Ayodhyaprasadji, was born in Ahmedabad at his ancestral house near Rangmohal. He was blessed with all the divine qualities of the holy family. His youthful energies were directed towards worship and devotion. He followed in the footsteps of his father and continuously served the seat. After the succeeded as the Acharya of the seat, he observed every tradition of the sect very faithfully and religiously.
He was a bit short-tempered by nature. But that never obstructed his performance as an Acharya. He equally loved by nature. He always encouraged learning and the learned. He used to keep the company of learned sadhus and saints whenever he undertook a religious trip.
He was very instrumental in the writing of the Sanskrit comments on ‘Satsangi Bhushan.’ he always encourages literary endeavors. Many a king of the erstwhile princely states like Dhrangadhra, Morvi, Vankaner, Limbadi, Vadhvan, Malia and Bhuj-kutch were brought to the holy fold at his behest. His efforts bore fruits in the form of various temples at Karachi, Prantij, Manasa, Dabhan, Charadwa, Visnagar, and etc. the constructions like halls of assembly at the temples of Ahmedabad, Muli, Dholka, and Jetalpur are due to him.
Acharya Maharaj served the seat for nearly twenty-two years. He selected his son Purshottamprasadji as his successor to serve the seat.
3) Acharya Shree Purshottamprasadji Maharaj:
The third Acharya of the Shree Nar-Narayan Dev Gadi, Purushottamprasaddasji Maharaj, through a little hot in temperament, was very much loving and expressive by nature. It was difficult for him to tolerate an iota of dishonor towards worship and devotion. He used to move around various towns and villages with a view to propagating the ideals preached by Shree Hari. Hw encouraged literature and creativity. He also inspired different constructions and architectural works at various temples. He was very energetic in creating wealth for the temples, so that the survival and maintenance of the temples would never be advisedly effected.
Purushottamprasaddasji had no progeny of his own. Hence, he adopted Vasudevprasadji, the son of Kashiprasadji Pande and made him his successor. He served the seat for nearly twelve years, before he passed away.
4) Acharya Shree Vasudevprasadji Maharaj:
Acharya Shree Vasudevprasadji was born to Shree Kashiprasadji, the descendent of Rampratapji Pande, the elder brother Bhagwan Swaminarayan. His predecessor Purushottamprasaddasji had adopted him, as he did not have a son. Vasudevprasadji was a minor at the time of his succession. Hence the trustees looked after the administrative affairs until such time as he attained adulthood. He was well versed in Sanskrit and Prakrit literature and scriptures. He was very good at the English language also. He celebrated the centenary of the ‘Shikshapatri,’ the authentic scripture preached by Bhagwan Swaminarayan at the Ahmedabad temple. The ‘Shikshapatri’ anniversary is celebrated every year, even today.
Acharya Vasudevprasadji toured various towns and villages of the northern region along with distinguished group of learned saints, singers and other devotees. Many a villager still recollects the happy memories of those golden days. The Swaminarayan sect has paid homage to him as a legend of all times. Acharya Maharaj served the seat for 36 years. He selected his son Devendraprasadji as his successor to serve the seat.
5) Acharya Shree Devendraprasadji Maharaj:
A son of Acharya Vasudevprasadji Maharaj, Devendraprasadji was born in Ahmedabad on the auspicious day of Sharadpurnima. He was just like an incarnation of the full moon with a cool head, calm heart and many other virtues. Under his able stewardship, the devotional pursuits of the Swaminarayan sect increased by leaps and bounds. Devendraprasadji had studied Sanskrit at a very young age. He could compose verses in Sanskrit. He was equally at eases with Prakrit (Gujarati) and English, and music was a great part of him. Through he was seemingly not very strong physically, his stamina and will power were proverbial. He could undertake the most arduous tasks with ease.
He was only fourteen, when he succeeded his position. The trustees looked after, therefore attended to the administrative affairs. Yet his skills were evident. He was instrumental in building various constructions and facilities for saints and devotees. He constructed many buildings. The most important task he performed was to donate all the objects that had been used by Shree Hari and subsequently he himself was in possession of them as objects to charity. Devotees feel very inspired by the very sight of such holy and historic objects
He was also a great patron in literature. The Gujarati translation of three Holy Scriptures ‘Satsangi Jeevan’ and ‘Hari Krishna Lilamrit’ is available to us only due to his efforts and encouragement. It is believed that the bulk of the religious literature produced during the tenure of Acharya Devendraprasadji has no parallel in the history of the sect. He was keenly interested in the promotion of education, and formed the Devendraprasadji Education trust. ‘Sahajanand Arts and commerce colleges’ are its offshoots. He has three sons and two daughters. The eldest of these, Tejendraprasadji, was handed over the reins of the Swaminarayan sect.
6) Acharya Shree Tejendraprasadji Maharaj:
The Acharya of the NarNarayan Dev Gadi, Ahmedabad, HH 1008 Shree Tejendraprasadji Maharajshri was appointed by his father, the Late Acharya Maharaj 1008 Shree Devendraprasadji Maharajshri. His Holiness was enthroned as Acharya on Aaso Sud 2, Vikram Samvat 2025 (13 October 1969).
His Holiness took up the responsibilities of the Sampraday on the orders of Acharya Shree Devendraprasadji Maharaj from the tender age of 14 years. Accompanied by learned saints, His Holiness travelled to East Africa to nurture the Satsang there.
Following steadfastly in the steps of his Great Grand Father, His Holiness gave up his further studies to care for Acharya Maharajshri Devendraprasadji Maharaj in his days of ill-health – just as Ghanshyam Maharaj had cared for His parents in their times of ill-health.
His Holiness is always kind, peaceful, just and loving towards all. Despite all the pressures of the ever-expanding Sampraday, one never witnesses a sign of fatigue on his body. Neither does His Holiness turn down requests from followers to attend festivals, padhramnis, etc. Ably supported by HH Lalji Maharajshri (Acharya-Designate) Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj, who has incidentally taken up much of the Satsang propagation duties, Acharya Maharajshri now instils the same ideals of Satsang seva in his grandson, Bal Lalji Maharajshri Vrajendraprasadji Maharaj.
In over 30 years of tireless service to the Sampraday, His Holiness’ accomplishments are too numerous to list here. The following is but a summary of the facts detailed in ‘Dharma Setu’, His Holiness’ biography produced in 1994 during the Silver Jubilee & Golden Jubilee Festival:
Accommodating over 8,000 male & female students
* Shree Sahajanand Arts & Commerce College
* Shree Swaminarayan Vidyaalay (Boarding), Bhuj
* Shree Sahajanand Elementary School
* Shree Sahajanand Primary School
* Shree Sahajanand High School
* Shree Sahajanand Multi-Course Academy
* Shree Sahajanand Vaanijay Mahavidyaalay (Commerce College)
Gurukuls/Sanskar Dhams : located at Asaarva, Abu, Jhilvana, Gandhidham, Kalol, Jetalpur, Koteshwar, Mandvi, Chiloda, Idar, Rampur, Saayla, Siddhpur, etc.
NarNarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal (NNDYM) : His Holiness established branches of the NNDYM all over the Northern Zone, under the careful and calculated guidance of HH Lalji Maharajshri (Acharya-Designate) Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj. The organisation’s membership exceeds tens of thousands of youth from all backgrounds – students, professionals, businesspersons, etc. tree planting, blood donation camps, religious camps, conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. and processions are but a few of the activities undertaken so far.
International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation (ISSO) : His Holiness established the ISSO on Vijya Dashmi in 1978 in USA. Today, the organisation spans the world with active groups in all the continents. It is particularly active in USA & UK, where regular camps and conferences nurture the young and mould them into worthy satsangis of the future.
Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan’s 200th Birthday Celebrations : 1981 saw numerous celebrations to commemorate The Almighty’s Bi-Centennial birthday. The largest of these were at Ahmedabad, Bhuj & Muli. The renowned Pundit Late Dongreji Maharaj recited the Shreemad Bhagwat Katha at the Ahmedabad festival where hundreds of thousands of devotees gathered. A few days later, His Holiness travelled to Kutch and presided over the festival in Bhuj, under the able stewardship of the resident saints. This was soon followed by the event at Muli, which was celebrated with grand pomp.
His Holiness Acharya Maharajshri’s Silver & Golden Jubilee Festival : In 1994, His Holiness completed 25 years as Acharya of the Northern Zone & reached his 50th birthday. The Sampraday came together to celebrate this momentous occasion with His Holiness. Never one to think of himself first, His Holiness ordered that any funds raised from the event should be used to re-construct the dilapidated temple at the birthplace of Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan, in Chhapaiya. The followers, always eager to fulfil all His Holiness’ wishes, did just that. Today, the temple re-construction is complete. The new temple now stands proudly as a testament to Shreeji Maharaj’s glory.
HH Lalji Maharajshri correctly taught us during the Silver & Golden Jubilee Festival, to pray to Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan that we should never ever be without indebtedness to His Holiness Acharya Maharajshri. His Holiness’ sacrifices for this Sampraday and us satsangis are beyond contemplation. Long may you (HH Acharya Maharajshri) lead us out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance and away from the temptations of this material world.
7) Acharya Shree Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj (Current Acharya):
Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya Glanir Bhavati Bharat
Abhusthanamdharmasya Tadatmanam Srujamyaham
Paritranayam Sadhunaam Vinashaiya Cha Dushkrutaam
Dharma Sanstharpanarthaiya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in dharma and wicked actions dominate, I descend Myself and assume a form; in order to protect the good and to destroy the evil, I come into concrete existence from time to time.” (Srimad Bhagwad Gita)
In Purushottamprakash, Sadguru Nishkuland Swami enlightens us with the true meaning of this verse:
Maate sahu dharmakul maanjo, sahu karjo eni sev
Anya jan jeva eh nahi, e chhe jaanjo mota dev
“Hence all shall believe in the Dharmakul, all shall serve it;
They are not like ordinary beings, think of them as a great Dev.” (Doha verse 40, Purushottamprakash)
It is a widely accepted fact that the Swaminarayan sampraday has a unique heritage of leadership that stretches back to the Lord Almighty Purushottam Narayan Himself – Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan. The lineage of Dharmakul has been filled with incarnations from the outset, with the first Acharya of Ahmedabad Gadi, Shree Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj being an incarnation of SheshNarayan.
Similarly Lord Shri Hari has been sending muktas (released souls) to sit on His Throne (Gadi) from Akshardham as per the needs of the time. Currently we have such an Acharya leading us on the path of spiritual enlightenment, Shree Tejendraprasadji Maharaj, who has been praised countless times for His dedication and foresight in the development of satsang in the dark times of kaliyug.
However, we must now also look to the next great leader that Bhagwan has sent to lead us. His Holiness Bhavi Acharya 108 Shri Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj is that leader. Throughout His life Lalji Maharajshri has dedicated each living moment to this holy satsang .
His achievements as Bhavi Acharya set a new precedence for the future of Shri NarNarayan Dev Desh and the sampraday as a whole. In addition to regular satsang activities and annual festivals in temples of Shri NarNarayan Dev, Lalji Maharajshri has been working tirelessly with the blessings of His Father Acharya Maharaj 1008 Shri Tejendraprasadji Maharaj to ensure that the future needs of this holy satsang are catered for.
The establishment of Shri NarNarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal (NNDYM) has been a major achievement of Lalji Maharajshri. An army of young devotees has been created to safeguard our religion, our culture and rich heritage handed down to us from generation to generation. These devotees have been attending regular satsang shibirs in India , UK , USA and Africa – all of which have been personally supervised by Lalji Maharajshri.
Grand festivals and celebrations on a scale never before seen in the sampraday have been organised by His Holiness Lalji Maharajshri, including the Shardha Satabdi Mahotav, Shashti Purti Mahotsav and the Chhapaiya Nij Mandir Pran Pratishta Mahotsav to name a few. The success of these festivals has revolved around the meticulous planning and inspirational leadership of Lalji Maharajshri coupled with the blessings of His Holiness Acharya Maharajshri.
The most ambitious initiative taken by Our Lalji Maharajshri has been the Jay Shree Swaminarayan television serial that is currently being broadcast all over the world. This project encapsulates the dedication, inspiration and foresight that Lalji Maharajshri brings to our sampraday. He has seen the need for these initiatives and taken it upon himself to fulfil those needs.
Despite all these achievements, Lalji Maharajshri remains very humble. His philosophy of working centres on the principle that everything can be achieved if we surrender ourselves to the lotus feet of Lord Shri Hari. All tasks, no matter how daunting they may seem at first, can be fruitful and filled with utmost success if performed with Bhagwan in mind.
These feats help us to understand and try to define Lalji Maharaj’s greatness, although this can never be fully defined. The achievements narrated in this article are merely an overview of what Lalji Maharaj has done for our satsang through no obligation. To this date, no Bhavi Acharya in our sampraday has accomplished as many achievements as our current Lalji Maharaj.
It is clear from this that Bhagwan himself has descended to lead us into the next era of satsang in the form of a new Acharya for Shri NarNarayan Dev Gadi. There is no one better for looking after the interests of Shri NarNarayan Dev than our present Bhavi Acharya Shri Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj Pande.
Let us all hail to the new Acharya of Shri NarNarayan Dev Gadi, a majestic and supreme form of Almighty Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan, and follow the path of righteousness and His instructions to better this world in offering our humble services to mankind and to carry on the message of “sarva jiva hitava” to release ourselves from endless cycles of life and death and to achieve the ultimate salvation.
As a final note the passage below encapsulates our duty from this day forward:
“You two, who hold the Gadees, have been appointed spiritual preceptors; hence all Sadhus, Brahmacharis and Palas and all our followers shall always remain obedient to your commands, and shall serve you.
Should any person of a sect (belief) other than that of the two ruling spiritual preceptors of the line of Dharmadev be pre-eminent for his knowledge of the Shashtras or for his practice of Yoga or asceticism or for self renunciation, or for any other virtue, and if thereby the two ruling preceptors of the line of Dharmadev be lowered in estimation, nevertheless we command all Sadhus and Brahmacharis and Palas and all our followers, that in order to the salvation of their souls, they always and for ever honour the two ruling spiritual preceptors of the line of Dharmadev, and obey them in thought, word and deed.
Should one, failing this, seek refuge in another and honour him, his soul shall never have happiness in this world or in the world to come but shall suffer extreme pains.”
(Desh Vibhaag Lekh, paragraph 10)