Muktanand's jivan charitra is a prime example of how to do bhakti of Lord Shree Swaminarayan. His contributions to the Swaminarayan Sampradaya are too many to describe. He was one of the five Sadgurus who compiled the memorable words of Shree Hari in Vachnamrut.
He was born in v s 1814, in Amrelli, a city on the slopes of Mount Girnar. (Historical name for Amrelli was Amravalli). Mother was Radha and father was Anandram. He was named Mukunddas. (in Sanskrit Mukund means giver of Moksha)
He was very bright for his age and his parents loved him a lot. At early age he began to learn Holy Scriptures. Had a good singing voice and was keen to learn musical instruments and Bhajan/Kirtans. Also learnt Aryuvedic treatment of illnesses and became an expert in identifying type of illness by examining one's pulse. Also did Ramayan Katha with music.
He was totally engrossed in Bhakti and his parents were concerned that he would become a Sadhu, so arranged his marriage against his will. He accepted this for the time being and went to earn his living in Amrapar, a town near by. But Bhakti and devotion was strong in his heart and he wanted to renounce this Sansar but felt that his parents would not let him do that. He decided that he would act as if he had become insane. Parents thought that some kind of spirits had affected him. They did everything to remove these spirits but there was no change in Mukunddas.
A close friend of Mukunddas eventually realised that Mukunddas was not insane but was deliberately acting in such a manner. He asked for reasons. Mukunddas asked his friend to speak to his parents and let him go to a Yatra and he would be fine.
He was allowed to go and when he returned his parents were happy to see him but his Bhakti and Vairagya had become much stronger.
Eventually he left home in search of a real Sadguru who will show him a true path. He searched from place to place until he came to meet Dwarkadas od Dhrangadhra. He was not happy there so he went to Kalyandas of Vankaner. Kalyandas could not teach him what he wanted so he went to Tulsidas of Sardhar. Tulsidas made him a Mahant of his Ashram.
At this time Ramanand Swami came to Sardhar. Mukunddas met him and liked his preachings. He wanted to become his Shishya but Ramanand Swami asked him to get permission from Tulsidas. Tulsidas would not let him go easily as he was very important to him so Mukundas decided on a plan that will ensure that he was allowed to leave. He decided to give away everything that was in the Ashram. Ashram stores began to empty and other sadhus told Tulsidas what was happening. Tulsidas told Mukunddas that he should leave. Mukunddas said that he would leave but asked him to give it to him in writing stating that he had permission to leave.
Mukunddas took this letter to Ramanand Swami and became his disciple. At first Ramanand wanted to test Mukunddas so he was sent as a farm labourer to the farm of Mudubhai. After sometime he was given diksha at Bandhiya and was named Muktanand.
Soon he became a very well respected sadhu and was sent to Bhuj to learn Sanskrit. He had a small room and in the courtyard there was a Pipal tree in which lot of Bhoots lived. Muktanand Swami sent them to Badrikashram. He pearched satsang to many in Bhuj made lot of Satsangis.
He came to Loj and was the leader all sadhus who lived there. When Sukhananda brought Nilkanthvarni to the Ashram, he welcomed him and persuaded to stay there. Nilkanthvarni was made a sadhu and was named Sarjudas.
Muktanand Swami was doing Ramayan Katha at the home of Jivraj Seth. Sarjudas was invited to go but when he went there he saw sadhus men and women sitting together. He did not enter the sabha. Later on he told Muktanand Swami that this practice of men and women sitting together must stop. Men will have to sit in the front and women behind so the sadhus do not see the faces of women. Sankhyayogis like Harbai and Valbai did not like this as they used to sit in the front they left the Satsang altogether.
'Gokhalo' (a small hole in the wall) from which sadhus used to take fire was also closed. A footpath commonly used by men and women to go into the Mandir was also closed. Two separate paths were made. Muktanand Swami was a good listener and did listen to suggestions made by Sarjudas.
Once Muktanda Swami painted his 'Tumbadi' (a water container) and left it to dry in the courtyard. He then began to meditate but the thought that some animal may damage it was bothering him. Sarjudas went past there and read Muktanads' thoughts. He told Muktanand that in comparision to God his Tumbadi was worthless. Muktanand Swami got the message and realised that Sarjudas was an exceptional person and he must not be allowed to leave.
Muktanand Swami wrote a letter to Ramanand Swami and made Sarjudas to write one as well.
When Ramanand Swami eventually gave 'gadi' to Nilkanthvarni, Muktanand Swami accepted the decision graciously and served Lord Swaminarayan throughout his life.
Muktanand Swami had learned from Yoga Shastras and knew that achieving a state of Samadhi was very difficult but when Swaminarayan sent each and sundry to Samadhi he found it very difficult to accept. He thought that this activity of Swaminarayan Bhagavan was a charade. Muktanand once examined Santadas who had gone into Samadhi. He checked his pulse and with the knowledge he had he finally accepted that it was true.
Once he went to the jungle to do 'Sauchvidhi' and Ramanand Swami gave him darshan and reminded him of the statement he had made earlier that he was just a 'Dugdugi vagadnar' and that the main perfomer is yet to come. Ramanda told Muktanand that this Narayan muni was the Purushotam Narayan and that he should serve him without any doubt.
All doubts Muktanand Swami had had now disappeared and he then wrote the Aarti 'jai sadguru swami' and did the pooja of Swaminarayan Bhagwan. This Aarti is being sung today in each and every Mandir.
There are many stories of Muktanand portraying his qualities and the care he took of all the sadhus and satsangis.
Muktanand Swami had a sister called Dhanbai. Early on she had tried to convince Mukundas to return home but eventually she also accepted the path of Bhakti. Once she came to Gadhapur and was preaching Ramayan to other women. Muktanand remembered this voice and was troubled by the early memories. When he found out that it was her sister he ordered that she be asked to leave. Dhanbai in turn did not want to leave but wanted preaching from Muktanand. He did agree but said that he would not do it face to face but wrote a four verse song 'Mohan ne gamavane eechho manni, tyago serve juthi manani tek jo'
In old age Muktanand Swami suffered from TB and could not eat any thing that was sweet, sour or oily. He wrote many many songs describing 'charitras of Lord Swaminarayan.
Till the end of his life he wrote Shastras such as Panchratna, Vivekchintamani, Uddhav Geeta, Satsangshiromani, Satigeeta, Kapilgeeta, Narayangeeta etc.
Swaminarayan Bhagwan had told Muktanand Swami that in his lifetime he should write all the charitras that he had done in all the places. He continued to do this all his life. Eventually he became so ill that he could not write and Gopalanand Swami gave him permission to stop writing.
Next day on Ashadh Vad Ekadashi in v s 1886 Lord Swaminarayan came to take him to Akshardham.
As he left this world in Gadhapur, his Samadhi is in Gadhapur.