Mahamuni Sadguru Shri Muktanand Swami
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Mahamuni Sadguru Shri Muktanand Swami
Muktanand Swami was born in the village of Amrapur in the Amreli district of Gujarat on Posh Sud-7th of Vikram Samvat year 1814 to father Anandram and mother Radhabai. His childhood name was Mukunddas.
Mukunddas was quite different than other kids of his age. While other kids indulged in sports, he would meditate. He was more spiritually wise and learnt Vedas, scriptures and music from two teachers. Mukunddas was intelligent and mastered music and scriptures very quickly.
At a very young age Mukunddas was austere and seeing his lifestyle his parents knew was a different kid and will not live with them in the quest of God. They got him married at a very young age in the hope that a married life will keep him in the family. But that was not to happen, Mukunddas desire to find God was emphatic and he left home in search for a true Guru.
Meeting with Guru Ramanand Swami
Mukunddas attended Ramanand Swami discourses for the first time in Sardhar. Seeing Ramanand Swami he immediately knew that Ramanand Swami was the Guru who would lead him to God. He asked Ramanand Swami to have him as his disciple. The story of how Mukunddas broke the shackles of the Sadhu who he was staying with before meeting Ramanand Swami, is very awe evoking, as it shows the hunger and eagerness that Mukunddas had. Ramanand Swami then initiated him as his disciple and named him Muktanand.
Meeting with Bhagwan Swaminarayan
Sukhanand Swami a fellow Sadhu of Muktanand Swami first saw Neelkanth Varni near a well in Loj. His aura and divine attributes impressed Sukhanand Swami who then took Neelkanth Varni to the hermitage where Ramanand Swami disciples stayed and introduced him to Muktanand Swami.
Muktanand Swami was drawn by the divine aura of Neelkanth Varni and even Neelkanth Varni felt great respect for Muktanand Swami as Muktanand Swami answered his questions on Jeev, Ishwar, Maya, Brahman and Parbrahman.
Once Muktanand Swami along with Aatmanand Swami and other saints went to Aabu as a part of satsang vicharan. During the vicharan they had to go without food for 4 straight days. On the fifth day a Brahmin met them and requested the saints to come to his house and prepare the thaal for Bhagwan and have some Prasad themselves in the form of Khichdi.
At that time Shreeji Maharaj had started a chapter (prakaran) for santos such that they should not eat Ghee. So Muktanand Swami asked the Brahmin not to put Ghee in the Khichdi. But the Brahmin had put some Ghee in the Khichdi offered to God and unknowingly mixed that Khichdi in the rest of the Khichdi.
When the santos sat for supper some santos smelt Ghee in the Khichdi and refused to eat it due to the Prakaran initiated by Maharaj.
Muktanad Swami felt for the Brahmin and for the santos too who had gone without food for 4 days. He asked the santos to eat the Khichdi and assured them that he will bear whatever punishment Maharaj gives him for all the santos.
Later when santos met Maharaj, Maharaj praised and embraced Muktanand Swami for his care of the saints and the Brahmin.
Swami devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan
Muktanand Swami was elder to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and even the Lord treated him as his Guru, but still his love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan was such that he would sing hymns before him and also dance in front of him.
Once a music ensemble from Gwalior cam to Gadhada and asked Bhagwan Swaminarayan that he hold a competition between them and his saints and that if they won they should receive a reward. Shreeji Maharaj got the courtyard clean and asked for kumkum to spread. He then asked Muktanand Swami to sing some devotional songs. Muktanand Swami tied rattles to his feet and with kartal (musical instrument) in his had started dancing as he sung hymns with great affection and devotion to the Lord. By the time he was done singing he had by his feet drawn an artistic picture of an elephant with Bhagwan Swaminarayan seated on the elephant. The ensemble was amazed and bowed to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and lost their ego.
Swami service to the Satsang
It is Muktanand Swami who performed the first ever Aarti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the village of Kalwani.
It is now performed and sung by all devotees and saints in homes and mandirs (temples) around the world.
Muktanand Swami has also composed many hymns/kirtans that help devotees express their love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan, those are compiled together in a book called Muktanand Kavya.