During his initial spiritual journey Shrimad immersed himself in deep studies and introspection but was missing something vital which was preventing his progress. Then one day in 1890, 67 year old Saubhagbhai approached him and imparted sacred wisdom (Beej Gnaan) to him.
It was through Pujya Saubhagbhai’s benefaction that he found the ‘elusive key’, which became the cause for his attaining Samyag Darshan, direct experience of the soul. Yet very little is known about Saubhagbhai in the public arena.
Who was Saubhagbhai from Sayla, renowned as the ‘ Village of Saints’, who had conferred such an invaluable gift upon Shrimad and effectively the rest of us?
Little is known about Saubhagbhai’s actual birth place and date except that he was born into the respected Sheth family. Saubhagbhai spent his childhood with his father Lallubhai, mother Laalmaa and sister Ujjamba who later, on becoming a widow, came back and stayed with them. His mother Laalmaa was very compassionate, honest and straightforward. Lallubhai Amarshibhai Sheth was from an acknowledged and highly respected lineage from the familial town of Limbdi. Even today the Upashray in Limbdi bears a plaque with the name of Amarshi Anandji Nanji Dungershi, indicating a wealthy background, spiritual affinity and benevolent history. Lallubhai was fairly prosperous, being a manager in the local government of Limbdi but, becoming a victim of the local politics, he had to leave Limbdi to come and settle in Sayla, renowned as the ‘town of saints’.
The Beginning of the Guru-Disciple Tradition
Even though his financial situation was poor, Lallubhai continued to serve both local and visiting saints with great love. This devotion for spirituality was thus being implanted into Saubhagbhai from childhood. However, Lallubhai’s financial situation continued to deteriorate so he decided to visit one of the Marwali monks, who were renowned for possessing extra-ordinary powers, to ask for some benediction. He came to Ratlam and finding one such monk, began serving and taking care of him. The monk, being pleased with his devotion and service, granted him a boon and immediately Lallubhai referred to his financial difficulties. Compassionately the monk advised him that, ‘having such spiritual prowess, it does not befit you to ask for material gain in preference to spiritual gain’. Being perceptive, Lallubhai understood and diverted his request for spiritual progress whereby the monk bestowed upon him the sacred Yogic process of ‘Beej Gnaan’ for attaining self-realisation, advising him to pass it on to other befitting seekers. Lallubhai came back with a far more precious gem than the ‘wealth and gold’ he had gone for. By means of this sacred esoteric process, on returning to Sayla, Lallubhai immersed himself in the cultivation of the spiritual path.
Time to Pass on the Knowledge
Saubhagbhai had already acquired virtuous qualities from his parents and his spiritual learning was increasing. Following the monk’s request Lallubhai passed this knowledge to Saubhagbhai because he had a simple and honest character with a penchant for spiritualism. Saubhagbhai, now married to Ratanba and father of two sons, Manilal and Trambak, and six daughters, Diwaliba, Zaverba, Pashiba, Chhabalba, Chanchalba and Paarvatiba, continued with his father’s business but their financial situation had not improved.
At the time Shrimad was becoming well-known in the area due to wide newspaper coverage of his demonstration of ‘Avdhan’, attending to multiple activities simultaneously. He heard about Shrimad’s other achievements as a writer and a poet and was also aware of Shrimad’s spiritual nature. Saubhagbhai, foreseeing that Shrimad would become the source of salvation for numerous seekers, considered him to be a worthy candidate for ‘Beej Gnaan’ technique. Confirming this with his father, Saubhagbhai made preparations to visit him.
Shrimad finds the ‘Elusive Key’
Upon learning that Shrimad was attending his brother-in-law’s shop in Jetpur, Saubhagbhai went there. In the meantime Shrimad had gleaned from his purified and heightened perception that a 67 year old man, whom he had never met before, was coming to confer the knowledge of ‘Beej Gnaan’ upon him. He noted this on a piece of paper and placed it in a drawer of his desk. As soon as Saubhagbhai approached, he welcomed him by name, much to Saubhagbhai’s bewilderment.
Then he asked Saubhagbhai to take the note from the drawer and read it. Saubhagbhai’s astonishment increased and realising Shrimad’s exalted spiritual state, at once fell to his feet and, performing three prostrations, accepted him as a Guru. What a turn of events! Saubhagbhai had come to bestow a valuable gift to Shrimad, just as a Guru would to a Disciple, but instead himself became Shrimad’s disciple. As for Shrimad, he had found the elusive key for his spiritual growth!
Since this first meeting, their relationship flourished on a spiritual basis to the extent that they were known as soul-mates. Shortly after this meeting, as if a secret door had opened, Shrimad attained Samyag Darshan on KartikSud 14 Vikram Samvat 1947, which is 1891 CE. This state of Samyag Dashan is known as Self-Realisation, True Perception, First Awakening, Experience of the Soul.
After Saubhagbhai’s return to Sayla the two continued to correspond via letters. Shrimad repeatedly writes of his longing to meet Saubhagbhai and his letters always portray his high respect for him.
Shrimad had decided to help cultivate Saubhagbhai’s spiritual growth and lift him to the spiritual pinnacle of self-realisation!
The invaluable gift is reciprocated
Shrimad’s appreciation, for the invaluable gift that Saubhagbhai had bestowed upon him, permeated all his correspondence. Saubhagbhai found the prose format of the ‘letter of six fundamentals’ difficult to remember and asked for a verse format so Shrimad composed the famous and timeless ‘Atma Siddhi Shastra’ within 90 minutes in the town of Nadiad.
This composition of 142 stanzas explains the Jain path to Moksha and besides being highly spiritual and philosophical it is also a Classic of Gujarati Literature.
Shrimad poured out his wisdom before Saubhagbhai both in correspondence and in person. The deterioration of Saubhagbhai’s financial state was acute, but Shrimad continually bolstered his morale and kept him focused on spiritual values. Saubhagbhai is the beneficiary of the largest proportion of Shrimad’s letters, compiled in the ‘Vachnamrut’, and in the seven years of their association they spent 560 days together. Our gratitude goes to Saubhagbhai because in these intimate letters we can see a great deal of the path to enlightenment and its practical aspects. It also gives us a glimpse into Shrimad’s spiritual disposition and elucidates the process of Saubhagbhai’s spiritual upliftment, a process we can apply for our own growth.
Attaining the Peak
The effect of Shrimad’s wisdom was gradually lifting Saubhagbhai up the spiritual path. By now Saubhagbhai’s financial deterioration had reached a stage where sometimes he even had to sell household chattels to obtain money. Despite his wretched financial condition, Saubhagbhai never wavered in his devotion to Shrimad and continued to implement his spiritual guidance. Towards the end, his spiritual state had been so elevated that a mutual colleague, Ambalalbhai, wrote after visiting Saubhagbhai: ‘I am amazed and unable to express the height of Saubhagbhai’s Purity, Compassion, Forgiveness, Peacefulness, Tolerance, Determination, Single-mindedness and the Awakened State’. On Sunday Jeth Sud 14th VS 1953 (1897 CE) Saubhagbhai wrote in a letter to Shrimad “… I have detached myself from this body completely and since eight days I have direct experience that I am the soul, totally separate from the body… and … I believe I will leave this body around Jeth Vad 9th …”
On Thursday, Jeth Vad 10th VS 1953 (1897 CE) when Manilal reminded him at his deathbed to maintain a spiritual state and recited the rosary of ‘SahajAtmaSwarup’, Saubhagbhai replied faintly “… I am totally immersed within. I am in complete equanimity and advise you also to cultivate this equanimity. Please do not distract me henceforth because every second I divert my attention to you, I have to withdraw from my self …”. With these auspicious last words, he turned on his left side and at 10:50 AM, Saubhagbhai, Shrimad's soul mate, passed away in complete equanimity, a noble elevated death known as Samadhi Maran.