An extract from the divine scripture, Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, Chapter 7 - Forest Expedition.
In the course of His forest expedition (van-vicharan) Shree Nilkanth Varni arrived at the city of Sirpur where its ruler, King Siddhvallabh, honoured and welcomed Him to the city. On the outskirts of the city, there lived thousands of deceitful ascetics who revered the occult deities and practised black magic. Due to the immense generosity of King Siddhvallabh, they enjoyed a very comfortable life. Shree Nilkanth Varni went to live amongst them. Shree Nilkanth Varni, by His will, created a storm of ferocious winds and lashing rain. Unable to withstand the elements, one by one, the hypocritical, arrogant and deceitful ascetics all retreated into the city to take refuge. Only Shree Nilkanth Varni remained sitting, unperturbed by the harsh conditions. When the storm receded, the King and the city people went to investigate. Everyone proclaimed Shree Nilkanth Varni to be the true ascetic and all the others to be hypocrites. The King surrendered himself to Shree Nilkanth Varni.
Removing the arrogance of these so-called ascetics, Shree Nilkanth Varni moved onwards. Passing through Balvakund and Kapilashram, He arrived at Jagannathpuri, where there lived a large community of demons, disguised as sages. One day, one of the sages ordered Shree Nilkanth Varni to pluck a plant from the ground. Shree Nilkanth Varni refused and said, “The plant is a living entity. If I pluck it, the plant will experience pain. Therefore, I cannot pluck it.”
The sage became angry by this response and drew out his sword. He threatened Shree Nilkanth Varni, “If You disobey my order, I will kill You.” Several other sages heard the dispute. Those who agreed with Shree Nilkanth Varni started to oppose the sage. Differing points of view became apparent amongst the sage community and resulted in a fierce quarrel. First there was just verbal abuse, but soon it escalated into a battle with sticks and weapons, during which ten thousand demons were slain. The unperturbed Shree Nilkanth Varni left the city and went to Manaspur. Here, the King Satradharma honourably welcomed Him to his kingdom.
Some of the surviving demons came from Jagannathpuri and reached Manaspur where they saw Shree Nilkanth Varni. As they considered Shree Nilkanth Varni to be the root cause of the destruction of their community, they plotted to kill Him. During the day, they collected a large amount of stones. At night, they positioned themselves around Shree Nilkanth Varni while He slept alone on a platform. They pelted Him with the stones. However, not a single stone hit Shree Nilkanth Varni. Instead, they formed a fortress-like wall around Him. Seeing this, the demons prepared their weapons to kill Him the next morning. When the King came to know about this, he, along with the villagers, went to investigate at the place where Shree Nilkanth Varni was sleeping. They saw that the stones had piled up on top of each other and formed a wall that was a metre higher than the platform on which Shree Nilkanth Varni slept. The surprised King bowed down to Shree Nilkanth Varni. He became convinced that Shree Nilkanth Varni was the supreme Lord and became His devotee. The King then used the might of his fierce army to destroy the demons. Shree Nilkanth Varni promised salvation to King Satradharma before continuing His expedition. He travelled to Kanyakumari Rameshwaram and from there He crossed the Konkan range of mountains and the Western regions of India. Eventually, Shree Nilkanth Varni arrived to grace the soil of Gujarat. He sat at the edge of a well in a village called Loj in Saurashtra.
Lord Swaminarayan has demonstrated His immense compassion for all life. One of His most essential teachings was the ideology of non-violence (ahimsa), not killing any animals, even for the performance of rituals or sacrifices. By not even killing a plant unnecessarily, Lord Swaminarayan has shown His absolute adherence to this philosophy of ultimate compassion, as stated in the Shikshapatri Slok 11 and 12.
Extracted from the scripture, Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, by Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj. Chapter 7 – Forest Expedition