Great Souls>Pujya Ben Shantaben
Parents and birthShantaben’s father Manibhai Khara lived in the district of Saurashtra in a town called Amreli. Her mother Diwaliba was from a small town called Gopalgram. Shantaben was born at 5 am on Monday 21st March 1910 (Falgun Sud 11).
Fortune TellerA fortune teller told Manibhai:-
- “This child is very blessed. She will have a propensity for religion, she will be very compassionate, will endear to everyone she meets; she will be very straightforward and will inspire to attain the truth. She will be polite and well spoken and she will have an inclination for detachment. She will be very intelligent and will complete whatever task she commences. Her piousness will increase day by day.”
- "She will be more interested in learning about religion than the normal school subjects. She will love her mother dearly and she will be respected as a leader in your family. She will make your family very well respected. Even though she has a natural gift for singing and music, she will abandon these to lead a detached life."
- "She will have the strength to face the many ups and downs that she will have to endure. She will face them without fear. She will concentrate all her effort in trying to bring the cycle of life and death to an end by sincerely practicing religion. She will achieve enlightenment and will endear to all as a result. She will carry out many religious activities.”
School & Scripture StudiesShantaben studied in Calcutta and then Amreli up until Class 6. She used to achieve top grades in class. She was clever in all the activities that she undertook. From a very young age she had a keen interest in religion. From a very young age she was detached from her surroundings and was very compassionate towards others. She wanted to become an arjika (female monk) from a young age and therefore she read many scriptures. She had memorised many verses of the scriptures by heart as not only was she very intelligent but she also had an excellent memory. She only had to read once to remember what she had read.
Widow within 1 month of marriageFrom a young age Pujya Ben Shantaben had no interest in worldly affairs. She therefore wanted to undertake renunciation since childhood. However she was not able to disobey her parents. She therefore had no choice but to marry. However she became a widow after only a month. It was therefore nature that led to a compromise for both parties-Shantaben and her parents. Both her parents were very distraught. However Pujya Ben Shantaben remained in a state of equanimity.
thoughts of Renounciation dissappear and desire for Bhed Gnaan (science of differentiation)At the tender age of 16, she became even more detached from worldly affairs and she made a decision to undertake renunciation. Upon hearing about the desire to renounce, Pujya Ben Shantaben’s father decided that they should pay a visit to Pujya Kanjiswami and take Pujya Ben Shantaben with them. In the year 1925 Kanjiswami spent the rainy season (chaturmas) in a village called Gadhada. The whole family of about 125 members went to pay their respects to Kanjiswami there. Her father told Kanjiswami “Sir, my daughter Shantaben wants to seek renunciation.” Kanjiswami replied “Sister, you do not experience your soul or achieve happiness by renunciation only. You need to understand that happiness is the nature of the soul first. The soul is completely distinct from the mind, speech and body.” GurudevShree explained the art of differentiation (bhedgnan) from many different angles and his teachings were truly transformational for Pujya Ben Shantaben. She joined both her hands and said to GurudevShree “Sir, I do not want renunciation any more. I now want to practice bhed gnaan (the art of differentiation) which you have taught me so that I achieve enlightenment as soon as possible.”
Choice of listening ONLY to selected Guru
After having met Gurudev and having listened to his teaching when she returned home she said “Mother, I no longer seek renunciation. I will not now listen to anyone else’s preachings. I will go to listen to KanjiSwami wherever he may be during the rainy season (Chaturmas).”
First meeting with Pujya Champaben and GurudevShree's advice
In the year 1930 GurudevShree chaturmas took place in Amreli. One of Gurudev’s disciples Naranbhai was also in attendance. He was GurudevShree’s friend during their previous lives. As a result of his presence many religious topics were being discussed in detail and with passion. GurudevShree travelled to Vichheeya after his visit to Amreli. Pujya Ben Shantaben went with him. Pujya Champaben was also in attendance there. Both Pujya Benshree (Champaben) and Pujya Ben Shantaben met each other in Vicheeya for the first time. Upon seeing Pujya Champaben, Pujya Ben Shantaben was immediately drawn towards her as if they were related to each other from the past.
It was in Vichheeya that GurudevShree and Pujya Benshree Champaben and Pujya Ben Shantaben were all present together for the first time. They had been together in their previous lives in Mahavideh and had all finally been reunited here. Pujya Champaben informed Pujya Ben Shantaben that she had seen her in her dream in the same form. It was their friendship from before that had now reunited them.
GurudevShree called Pujya Ben Shantaben and compassionately advised her that she should get to know Pujya Champaben better. GurudevShree advised Pujya Champaben likewise. Both Pujya Benshree (Champaben) and Pujya Ben Shantaben whole heartedly accepted this advice. Both Pujya Benshree (Champaben) and Pujya Ben Shantaben spent a great deal of time in each other’s company which they thoroughly enjoyed. Both became very good friends and confided in each other. Pujya Champaben used to say that she had a desire to visit GurudevShree wherever he stayed during Chaturmas so that she could also spend time with Pujya Ben Shantaben. In this manner Pujya Ben Shantaben was fortunate to receive Pujya Champaben’s blessings.
True nature of Crystal and Samyakdarshan
In the year 1933, the Chaturmas was held in Rajkot. An extraordinary event then took place - Pujya Champaben arrived in Rajkot after having achieved self realisation (Samyakdarshan). Pujya Ben Shantaben expressed extreme surprise that she had achieved this feat which required so much effort in such a short time after meeting GurudevShree.
Pujya Ben Shantaben used to say that when she listened to GurudevShree’s lectures she would try and put into practice whatever was being taught from within by practicing introspection. After Pujya Gurudev's discourses, both Pujya Benshree (Champaben) and Pujya Ben Shantaben would discuss the day’s lessons between themselves with renewed interest and keenness.
On one particular day on a Friday, both Pujya Benshree Champaben and Pujya Ben Shantaben were out on a walk and Pujya Champaben explained to Pujya Ben Shantaben the art of differentiation (bhed gnan) by giving the example of a crystal. This example has been given by Kundkund Acharya in Samaysar.
The true nature of the crystal is colourless but if you place a red rose next to it, the crystal takes on a red colour. Even when the crystal appears red, its true nature is still colourless. In the same manner, the nature of the soul is pure. However it appears impure as a result of the passions/desires arising within it. Even when the soul appears impure, when you discount the impureness, the true pure nature of the soul is still present. Pujya Benshree (Champaben) gave such guidance to Pujya Ben Shantaben very compassionately and instructed her to use this example in her efforts.
She spent 79 days attempting to keep her focus on her own soul. In the same year, (1934) on Friday Aso Vad 4, at about 10 pm, suddenly she diverted her attention from outer objects and focused on her own soul. She experienced her soul.
Staying in SongadhAfter Gurudev Shree KanjiSwami's conversion in 1935, GurudevShree lived in Songadh and both Pujya Benshree Champaben and Pujya Ben Shantaben also settled there. In 1938, the Swadhay Mandir was built in Songadh. At that time Gurudev was reading the Samaysar in his discourses. Both Pujya Benshree Champaben and Pujya Ben Shantaben found these lectures so extraordinary that both started to write a word to word note of them when they arrived home. Their notes were later published in the form of a book. The book is known by the name of “Lectures of Gurudev on Samaysar”.
Inner strength throughout life's ups and downs, ill healthPujya Ben Shantaben faced many ups and downs in her life and ill health. She, however, remained steadfast and focused and turned to her own soul to seek solace and peace in her times of need. Pujya Ben Shantaben’s life was riddled with hardship, especially during her later years. Even during such hardship, she had the inner strength not to be upset and she remained strong.
Shantaben's visits to Gurudev in 1980In 1980, 12 days before Pujya Gurudev's passing away, Pujya Ben Shantaben visited him in Mumbai. She used to visit him twice daily. On the 4th day before his passing away Gurudev looked at Pujya Ben and said “Ben, I want to take Sanlekhna vrat. I wish to renounce food and water.” On Friday, Kartak Vad 7, in the year 1980, Gurudev immersed himself into his own soul and left his body.
In 1988, at the Kahannagar Society at Rajkot, Pujya Ben Shantaben decided to undertake the ceremony of death (Samadhimaran) as she was now extremely weak. She was fully prepared for this. She used to say words foretelling of her impending death and she had renounced many objects in readiness.
3 days prior to her demise, she took Sanlekhna vrat under Nemichandji Patni of Agra before the Mumukshu community. She gradually renounced food and water. Prior to taking the vow of silence she only said “Do not call me from now. I have become detached from everyone. I am residing within myself.”
She became an observer of the transformations in her body. She closed her eyes, did not speak, and meditated upon her soul.
Right up until her final moments, the community at Rajkot had been waiting on her hand and foot. Pujya Lalchandbhai Modi, Dr. Chandubhai, Dr Navrangbhai, Dr Chabilbhai, Ratibhai Gheeya and many other prominent persons were with her up till the end. Pujya Ben Shantaben finally departed from her body on 24 June 1988 (Jyesth Sud 10). She was in a state of calm and peace till departure from the body.
Words of Gurudev and other eminent scholars on Pujya Ben Shantaben
Pujya Gurudev: “Ben will attain liberation in a very short period of time. She is the jewel of liberation. She has such inner strength that if you ask her to run the country, she has the strength to do so. “
Pujya Benshree Champaben: “Shantaben has an abundance of dedication and worship. When I see her, it fills me with wonder at how pious her soul is. She puts into practice, whatever she is taught, straightaway.”
Pujya Lalchandbhai Modi: “Pujya Ben Shantaben had an interest in religion from a very young age. Just as a jeweller recognises a diamond, she understood Gurudev as soon as she came in contact with him.”
Ramji Bapuji: “Ben is an iron lady. She has supported Gurudev from the time of his transformation (parivartan) right up until his passing away.”
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