When Hindu society was dominated by the upper strata of society-the rich, the royal class and the priests, Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan spread the true catholic spirit of Hinduism among the have-nots, the exploited and the fallen. He taught the dignity of labour to the upper classes, not by precepts alone but by example as well. Hinduism had declined because the followers had cultivated dislike for manual labour and condemned and degraded those who worked physically, to meet the most important needs of society.
The scavengers were considered dirty and the labourers were looked upon as inferior. When Hinduism was on the verge of collapse, Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan saved it as he worked with the workers, volunteers and labourers.
During His Vana-Vicharan, He served a saint who was on death-bed and saved his life. As a spiritual apprentice at Loj, He used to make dung-cakes for fuel. He begged for the saints, fetched water, cooked food and even carried heavy loads on the head over a great distance. He distributed foodgrains to needy at Anna-Kshetras.
He carried bricks on His head for the construction of the temple at Vadtal. Such 32 bricks in the temple of Shree Lakshminarayan Dev are still a source of inspiration to all.
On the outskirt of Vadtal there was a small lake called Dharu Talavdi. It was too small to meet the growing needs of the ever-increasing number of pilgrims as well as the local population. Shri Hari Himself carried mud on His head in order to deepen and widen the lake to the surprise of Narubha Pant, the Chief Minister of the then Baroda state.
So great was the enthusiasm of Shree Hari that He even embraced workers whose clothes were already splashed with mud! This soiled His valuable dress, with variegated muddy designs. At times Shree Hari used to stand on a large brick and survey the work of excavation.
As the work of excavation by Harijans (untouchables) of Chhani (near Baroda), was most outstanding, Shree Hari presented the same brick to Teja Bhagat, the prominent devotee among them. The brick is still preserved for Darshan at the Swaminarayan Temple at Chhani. When the Gadhada temple was being built, Shree Hari carried even stones on His head.
As a result of constant heavy rain in the village Sarangpur, the central supporting beam of a barn had come down from one side, almost pressing to death a herd of cattle. Shree Hari rushed there and held the beam on His shoulder till the rescue-party came there and saved the trapped cattle!
At times He would cook vegetables like brinjals for a vast multitude of devotees and saints, allowing His valuable dress to be soiled by the soot of kitchen and powder of spices.
He ran to the threshing fields of Dada Khachar to save the food grains collected there before it rained heavily. He used to nurse sick saints personally and wounded assistants (Parshads) with devotion.
And all this He did, though hundreds of saints and thousands of devotees were at His beck and call round the clock to serve Him. He mixed freely with the devotees of all classes, catching them by the hand, touching their shoulders and heads and even embracing them!