Imagine if we are asked to take a niyam such as doing a nirjala fast on every ekadashi! If you have never done this kind of fast before, it can be very difficult! At first we would struggle not to drink water for even half a day, but as time passes, keeping the niyam becomes easier and we might continue the niyam for six months, a year, or forever. If we can keep one niyam forever, then Maharaj and Swami would be extremely pleased. But if we could keep dozens of hard niyams like no eating chocolate, no watching movies/TV, no eating out, etc. forever, just imagine how pleased Maharaj would be then! Atmanand Swami was a devoted paramhansa who observed every niyam Maharaj prescribed, without any hesitation or complaint. If Atmanand Swami were to be described in one way, it would be his unshakeable belief of being atma.
Atmanand Swami was a senior sadhu and was older than Maharaj. As such, Maharaj respectfully called him Bhai Atmanand Swami. He followed all of Maharaj’s niyams no matter how difficult they were. Once, Atmanand Swami was touring Marwad (a region in Rajasthan) with Muktanand Swami and other sadhus. Shriji Maharaj had given them a niyam not to eat any ghee, in any form. They were unable to find food for three days straight and finally, on the fourth day, a kind Brahmin offered them food. Although they had not eaten anything for three days, Atmanand Swami made it very clear to the Brahmin that he was not to put any ghee in the khichdi. As the Brahmin served the khichdi, Atmanand Swami saw that there was ghee in the khichdi, and yelled out, “There is ghee in this khichdi!” The Brahmin quickly remembered that he had put ghee in the khichdi offered in thal and then mixed it with the khichdi without ghee. Muktanand Swami could not bear to take the food away from the sadhus. Instead, he allowed all the sadhus to eat the khichdi saying that he would take the blame for breaking the niyam. However, Atmanand Swami remained firm and did not eat the khichdi. Such was his dedication to Maharaj’s agna.
Atmanand Swami never asked for anything for himself. He passed away at the age of 117, and until the very end he obeyed every one of Maharaj’s agnas with faith and deep devotion. He is still considered an ideal inspiration for obsering niyams and we should remember his determination when we are faced with a difficult niyam to follow. This will give us the strength to continue to take on more challenging niyams in the future.