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He is believed by his followers to be in constant communion with Swaminarayan, and ontologically, the manifestation of Akshar, the eternal abode of Swaminarayan.
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As president of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had overseen the growth of BAPS from an organization centered in Gujarat, India, to one spread around the world, maintaining many Hindu Mandirs and centers outside of India. He built more than 1,100 Hindu temples, including the Swaminarayan Akshardham temples in New Delhi and Gandhinagar, Gujarat. He had also spearheaded the efforts of BAPS Charities, which is the charitable service organization affiliated with BAPS. Pramukh Swami Maharaj is succeeded as the guru and President of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha by Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Shantilal’s mother described him as a calm and soft-spoken, yet energetic and active child. His childhood friends recall that Shantilal developed a reputation in the town and in school as an honest, reliable, mature, and kindhearted boy. Even as a child, he possessed an uncommon empathy that led others to seek out and trust his opinions and judgments in matters large and small. Shantilal was raised in a simple home environment, as his family was of modest means. Although he excelled in his studies, in the seventeen years he spent at home before becoming a sadhu, Shantilal only had the opportunity to attend school for six years. As he grew older, Shantilal helped his household by doing chores on the family farm.
Early spiritual inclination
Shantilal was strongly inclined towards spirituality from a young age. Upon completing his schoolwork, he would often rush off to the village’s Hanuman temple, where he and a childhood friend would listen to the discourses of a Hindu "holy man" named Haridas.
Shantilal’s daily “darshan”, or worship, at the Swaminarayan temple in Chansad, and his association with Shastriji Maharaj and his disciple sadhus whenever they came to the village, further reflected Shantilal’s affinity for spirituality. Shantilal took his meals only after having darshan at the Swaminarayan temple. He used to meet other sadhus who passed through the village from the holy places of pilgrimage in North India. Swaminarayan sadhus, such as Ghanshyam Swami and Balmukund Swami, frequently visited Chansad and other nearby villages; Shantilal regularly engaged in serving them during those visits.
As a teenager, Shantilal’s bond with Shastriji Maharaj deepened, and his devoutness and intellect impressed many in the fellowship. Many[who?] felt it was only a matter of time until Shantilal would embark upon a monastic life by joining the order of Swaminarayan sadhus under Shastriji Maharaj.