His Divine Holiness Sadguru Shastri Shri Ghanshyamprakashdasji Swami
The Guru (spiritual master), in the Hindu tradition, is revered as the gateway to Moksh (liberation). A Guru plays a role as the guiding light in the lives of those who seek his discipleship. Furthermore, without expectations from anyone, a Sadguru is one who works tirelessly, day and night, for the upliftment of all human-kind.
HDH Sadguru Shastri Shri Ghanshyamprakashdasji Swami (Pujya Guruji), the founder of Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Kandari, was born on July 26th, 1958 on the auspicious day of Shravan Sud Ekadashi in the remote village of Vedavadar, Gujarat – India, and was named Vinu Bhagat.
From a very young age, Vinod was quite brilliant and studious. He had a natural inclination for spiritual learning and for reading religious scriptures. Even in primary school, he consistently projected his conviction that Lord Swaminarayan is the one and only Supreme Lord. In addition, he possessed an understanding that the pure life of Lord Swaminarayan and His saints is the optimal method for supreme spiritual realization and salvation. “One who is virtuous can be known from childhood.” These words of Lord Swaminarayan in Kariyani 3rd Vachanamrut reflect many observances in the life of young Vinod. Several have witnessed that in his young years, while other children would joyfully play away, Vinod would construct temples out of pebbles and sand and would host Harijayanti & Ekadashi festivals there. Ultimately, Vinod yearned to become a saint and by the age of 18, he became Sadhu (Swami) Ghanshyamprakashdasji under the refuge of our Dadaguruji, Sadguru Kothari Shri Nandkishordasji Swami.
Ghanshyamprakashdasji Swami expressed the divine qualities of a true disciple throughout his time living with Pujya Dadaguruji. He undertook intense studying in Kashi per the command of his Guru, and thereafter when he returned to Vadtal everyone recognized him as “Shastri”. Dadaguruji passed away at the age of 57, leaving his blessings with a still young Ghanshyamprakadashdasji Swami, in order to further edify the Muktanand Swami Parampara.
Thereon, Pujya Guruji became the sixth successor in the illustrious spiritual tradition of Sadguru Shri Muktanand Swami. Despite ever-growing responsibilities, along with frequent vicharan (religious tours), Pujya Guruji consistently continues to reach to thousands of individuals and shares doctrines regarding Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Markedly, he has taken an active role today to revolutionize the Swaminarayan sect.
On May 19th, 1994, Pujya Guruji started ‘Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Kandari’ in Kandari, Vadodara – India. Presently, this divine locality is a school that serves not only academic matters but also spiritual wisdom to mold the best possible devotees/citizens for society. Presently, over 400 students study there and by the grace and generous support of Pujya Guruji, over 100 students who are financially unstable study free of charge.
Pujya Guruji has numerous institutions in not only India but also throughout the world. Namely, these include Vadodara Gurukul, Navli Gurukul, Kashi Gurukul, and in America – Loyadham Mandir – New Jersey (USA) along with Loyadham Mandir – Macon (USA). Other chapters are located in various cities of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Mirroring his childhood actions to serve God, Pujya Guruji today resides in the pious village of Loya. There he oversees and inspires construction efforts for the biggest temple ever established, even to the Vartal and Amdavad dioceses of the Swaminarayan Sampraday as established by Lord Swaminarayan.
As a result of his selfless, motherly-like love, for devotees young or old; countless devotees have dedicated themselves completely to him and are firm in observing his wishes. As a result of Pujya Guruji’s discourses, thousands have renounced impious vices and are today walking on the path of God. In addition, many youths have been inspired to renounce this world. Today, there are over 60 sadhus (saints) who have dedicated their lives to the service of God, Pujya Guruji, and society.
Moreover, individuals who have never been unveiled to this Sampraday of Lord Swaminarayan also melt in the divine presence of Pujya Guruji. An event exemplifying such took place on July 30th, 2016 when New Jersey’s Raritan-borough Mayor Mr. Charles McMullin, humbly presented a rare gift to Pujya Guruji. Swayed by Pujya Guruji’s true saintliness and with great joy, Mayor McMullin honored Pujya Guruji with the Key to the Town of Raritan. “To give others the very Supreme Lord I have received is my only mission.” This generous adage of Pujya Guruji’s was experienced by all, when in return for the key to the town, he prayed to God to provide Mayor McMullin with the entrance to his divine abode.
Pujya Guruji’s life, filled with selfless love, is the epitome of how an ideal saint of Bhagwan Swaminarayan should live. His life itself is a message via which Pujya Guruji has devoted to molding each and every of the saints in the best way possible. In this way, they too impart spiritual knowledge to the steadfast devotees of the 21st century. Due to this, numerous mumukshus accepted the refuge of Pujya Guruji and became saints. Today, they are emboldened with the prowess of their various recognitions such as ‘Shastri’, ‘Acharya’, ‘Ph. D’, and even ‘Gold Medalists” and they continue to perform commendable services for the Swaminarayan sampraday as well as for society as a whole.
Since July 2010, Pujya Guruji has been in the service of Harikrishna Maharaj (Vadtal) serving as a Chairman of the Vadtal Temple Board. Presently, he serves as the Mukhya Kothari (Mahant) of Vadtal; and he has positively changed the face/image of the temple. New renovations, along with new construction efforts, have provided a heightened perspective for devotees to completely experience the Vadtal temple and its historic surroundings in a way never accomplished before. This carries through with many additional feats accomplished through his hands within the last 5 years. Through inspiration of Pujya Guruji’s self-sacrificing services and his charisma, many senior saints of the Swaminarayan sect have stated, “Our eyes have never witnessed such a noble saint performing these kinds of altruistic deeds for the sake of mankind in the past 50 years. Currently, he is also providing his service in the village of Loya, where Shriji Maharaj himself spoke 18 Vachanamruts. At the moment, a big shikarbaddh mandir is being built there under the supervision of Pujya Guruji.
Irrespective of constant engagement in service, for more than two years, Pujya Guruji undertook a vrat (pious observance) namely Dharna-Parna in which he fasts solely on water for one day and eats food only on the other. Regardless of such intense penance at the age of 58, and even after having established international spiritual organizations with many living under his commands, one will always find Pujya Guruji’s character to be ever-honorable, humble, forever engrossed in prayer of God, and in service to human-kind.
According to Vachanamrut G.P.27, it can be said that without a doubt, Lord Swaminarayan resides in his Ekantik Sadhu and does unimaginable work. Pujya Guruji’s authentic appeal, with the presence of God within him, is the very reason that his life is such an inspiration to saints and devotees in the Swaminarayan Sect. Today, his image as an ideal Satpurush and as an Ekantik Sadhu continues to inspire, positively change, and rejuvenate the lives of thousands of individuals across the world.