This Aarti was done by Muktanand Swami in 1804 AD (VS 1860). Ramanand Swami had a monastery in Loj in Gujarat and was regarded as an incarnation of Lord Krishna by his followers. Though he knew he was not so, he still acted this way so as to instill and maintain faith in people about the existence of a supreme Bhagwan, since the main reason for his coming to earth was to prepare the way for the advent of the Lord by creating a religious atmosphere.
When Nilkanth Varni arrived in Loj, He sent a letter from Loj to Ramanand Swami, who was then residing in Bhuj, requesting to have his darshan. As Ramanand Swami opened the letter a bright flash of light emanated from it and illuminated the whole courtyard of
Sundarji Suthar. Ramanand Swami instantly realised the significance of this miracle and told all present that he was only a drum beating messenger (a dug-dugi no vagadnar) and the actual Supreme Lord had now come to the earth. They should not consider him as the Lord anymore. He sent out letters to all satsangis to make preparations to
meet the true Lord.
Later Ramanand Swami met Nilkanth Varni in Piplana and on Prabodhini Ekadashi, initiated Him and gave Him two new names: Narayan Muni and Sahajanand Swami. They stayed together for exactly one year during which Sahajanand Swami did seva of
Ramanand Swami as a disciple. In Jetpur, Ramanand Swami crowned Sahajanand Swami as his heir, giving control of the Gaadi (diocese) to Sahajanand Swami and all the disciples accepted the new leader. Eventually, Ramanand Swami went to Akshardham, and Sahajanand Swami made due changes to the system in place.
Muktanand Swami, a senior to Sahajanand Swami by age and merit, accepted all these beneficial changes. Maharaj later started the concept of Samadhi (trance), allowing
everyone to go into Samadhi to have a vision of the whole cosmos, the heavenly abodes of avtars, and even His own Akshardham. This samadhi state was only possible for elite Yogis who had to go through a long period of severe austerity to achieve this. Muktanand
Swami, at that time in Bhuj, was against this Samadhi-for-all and met up with Maharaj in Meghpur near Piplana and strongly expressed his dissatisfaction. Maharaj explained saying He was rightfully doing it so all devotees could get to know His true status.
Maharaj eventually went onwards to Kalwani.
Muktanand Swami was now very confused as he had deep respect for Maharaj but could not go against His wishes as he had to honour the leadership. During the day he went to answer a call of nature in a nearby khakhra nu van (woods). He truly missed Ramanand Swami and his guidance and openly lamented his dilemma. Immediately, he had a vision and Ramanand Swami appeared to him, and reminded him of the blinding light flash incident in Bhuj where he had said he was only a messenger. He told Muktanand Swami that Sahajanand Swami was the supreme Lord Almighty Himself, no other avtaar had
appeared like Him before and will never appear again. Sahajanand Swami was the Lord of all avtars and was capably doing the Samadhi prakran. Now Muktanand Swami had no more doubts as his Guru had said the final words.
Muktanand Swami immediately left for Kalwani to meet Maharaj, and fell to His feet and asked for forgiveness for his earlier doubts and harsh words. He immediately performed an arti with the words that expressed his acceptance of submission to Maharaj as the
almighty. This arti, thus became the standard arti sung in all Swaminarayan mandirs.
O Lord, I salute you as you are the Lord, the master of all and the one with the most pure knowledge. You are the kindest, giving all souls the ultimate joy in an instant. You are the strongest and have been referred to by various innumerable names in an attempt to
express your powers (1).
With folded hands, I bow down to Your lotus feet. By surrendering myself to You and bowing to Your feet You have cut down all my misery and liberated me from all my sins of this world (2).
O Lord, You have taken a twin form of Nar and Narayan, being born of Dharma and Murti in a Brahmin family. Many confuse You to be two separate entities, yet You are just one. Through this form You have liberated the souls of an infinite number of poor, down-trodden, wretched and even low castes, both male and female, among the human beings (3).
You have always been performing new divine activities for the benefit and remembrance of your followers. You are the indestructible one. All the highly revered 68 holy pilgrimage places and countless others like Gaya and Kashi reside in your lotus feet.
Those who do not understand this go to do pilgrimage at these places yet they are all found in your feet and the pilgrimage of all can be done together when one does your darshan (4).
You are the greatest of all the Avtaars ever before You are ever present. Anyone who comes to have a holy vision of You will have their 71 generations liberated from the clutches of Your destructible maya (illusion), kaal (time), death and from karma (5).
આ અવસર કરુણાનિધિ, કરુણા બહુ કીધી (૨)મુક્તાનંદ કહે મુક્તિ (૨) સુગમ કરી સીધી..
Several Avtaars have come earlier and given joy to the followers then, but this time round You, the most merciful, have shown utmost mercy. Muktanand Swami says that You have made salvation to be achievable very easily and by Your teachings have shown how to achieve it (6)
A Few personal insights…
I like this particular leela of Shriji Maharaj (Lord Swaminarayan) personally for several reasons.
- God takes personal care of His devotees…
One of them being the insights given by my guru on this leela. He said, that we often say that Ramanand Swami appeared before Muktanand Swami and he explained him the greatness of God and restored faith in Lord Swaminarayan again. But in reality. Ramanand Swami did not come back, it was Shirji Maharaj Himself who personally took care that Muktanand Swami should not be lost on the path of liberation.
This gave me immense relief and made me calm, that Lord is personally taking care of me, and countless other devotees. It made me carefree about people that I was worried about, it made me feel faithful, that yes God will take personal care and is taking care of everyone who I left trusting them in His care.
- The need of a Guru…
Second insight was, that even when a great spiritual aspirant like Muktanand Swami can develop doubt in conviction of God, what can be said of us. Only a true Guru can put us back on track when we go astray and doubt God. Here it was God Himself who the form of Ramanand Swami who came and brought Muktanand Swami back in Satsang and made his conviction steadfast.
When facing various adverse situations, and things not going our way, we might develop doubt in our conviction for God, at that critical time, only a Guru that we trust in, will come and save us. We should have at least one saint or godly person in our that we trust in so much, that their word is final for us. It should be a place where our ego melts and our heart finds solace. And the best person to give us that solace is our Guru.
Here Muktanand Swami had met God, lived with Him for a quite long time, but when His guru Ramamand Swami explained and restored his faith in God, only then he was able to realize Lord Swaminarayan as God. If a scholar and spiritual aspirant like Muktanand Swami requires a Guru, who are we to establish a direct contact to God, who are we to recognize God even if He is right in front of us?
- Developing Singular Faith…
Thirdly, Lord comes to us various forms because we trust others more than God. So he takes up those other forms so that he can guide us to His original form. Hence, he will show his original form to us only when we will have the utmost singular faith in Him more than anyone and anything else.
Even we are guided by God in various forms, we just fail to recognize it, we think it was so and so person who helped me, but we fail to see God’s mercy and grace in it. Even I was guided by many special people in my life, all of them I think were “sent by God or God resided in them and guided me ultimately to Him.”
Note: There is something that I think people need to change about their approach towards spirituality. When it comes to Hindus, they are very eager to attend the arti of God, but not so much when it comes to spiritual lectures. It is important to attend artis of God, but it is more important to attend spiritual lectures too. That will give us knowledge, but I don’t think any amount of attending artis will give us that knowledge which we will get from attending one lecture religiously.
NOTE: The BAPS has changed this arti, and made a new one. Having no concern whatsoever to the sentiments of Muktanand Swami!