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Introduction One of the most prominent religious figures of India during the nineteenth century, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was a mystic and a yogi who translated…
Mahant Swami Maharaj (born Vinu Patel, 13 September 1933; ordained Sadhu Keshavjivandas) is the present guru and president of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, an international Hindu socio-spiritual organization. BAPS regards him as the sixth spiritual successor of Swaminarayan, following Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He is believed by his followers to be in constant communion with Swaminarayan, and ontologically, the manifestation of Akshar, the eternal abode of Swaminarayan.
Mahant Swami Maharaj received initiation as a Hindu swami from Yogiji Maharaj in 1961. Mahant Swami Maharaj was revealed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj as his future spiritual and administrative successor in 2012, roles he commenced upon Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s death in 2016.
VinuBhai was born in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India on 13 September 1933. His parents, Manibhai Naranbhai Patel and Dahiben Patel were both followers of Shastriji Maharaj and the Akshar Purushottam Upasana. Shastriji Maharaj visited the newborn a few days post-birth and named the child Keshav, although his family referred to him by his nickname, Vinu.
VinuBhai completed his primary and secondary education at an English-medium school in the local township, and then completed his 12th grade at the Christian College of Jabalpur. He then attended the College of Agriculture in his father’s native town of Anand, Gujarat, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture.
During his college years (1951-1952), VinuBhai first met Yogiji Maharaj, the spiritual successor of Shastriji Maharaj. Impressed by Yogiji Maharaj’s life and teachings, VinuBhai traveled with Yogiji Maharaj during his summer vacations and was inspired to enter the monastic life.
At age 24, in 1957, he received novitiate initiation, parshad diksha, and was renamed, Vinu Bhagat. During this initial training phase, he accompanied Yogiji Maharaj on his travels, looking after Yogiji Maharaj’s daily correspondence with devotees. At age 28, in 1961, Vinu Bhagat was given Bhagwati Diksha, initiated as a swami, in Gadhada and named Sadhu Keshavjivandas. He was one of 51 youths receiving initiation into the monastic order that day. This group of 51 was initially placed in Mumbai to study Sanskrit, with Swami Keshavjivandas appointed as their group head or Mahant at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Dadar, Mumbai. Thus, he became known throughout BAPS as Mahant Swami.
Mahant Swami Maharaj initially met Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1951 and traveled extensively with him. After Yogiji Maharaj’s went to Akshardham in 1971, Mahant Swami Maharaj served under Pramukh Swami Maharaj in many of the sanstha’s festivals, youth activities, and ongoing temple and Akshardham projects worldwide.
On 20 July 2012, in the presence of senior sadhus in Ahmedabad, Pramukh Swami Maharaj revealed that Mahant Swami Maharaj would be his spiritual successor upon his own passing and wrote a letter in his own handwriting to this effect. Therefore, on 13 August 2016, Mahant Swami Maharaj became the sixth spiritual successor in Swaminarayan’s lineage of Gunatit gurus.