About the Swami Narayan Mission
Kindly supplied by the Swaminarayan Mandir whose details appear at the end of this material.
Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) also known as The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission (SHM) in the UK & Europe, is a socio-spiritual Hindu organization with its roots in the Vedas, inspired today by Lord Swaminarayan’s spiritual successor Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Founded on the pillars of practical spirituality, it reaches out far and wide to clear confusions and questions that crowd the moral, social and material world of today. Its strength lies in the purity of its nature and purpose.
BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. This is done by mass motivation and individual attention, through elevating projects for all, irrespective of class, creed, colour or country. Its universal work through a worldwide network of 8,100 centres and over one million followers, has received many national and international awards and affiliation with the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organisation in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The Founder – Lord Swaminarayan
Bhagwān Swāminārāyan was one of the principal torchbearers of Hinduism in 18th century Gujarāt. Born on April 3, 1781 in the small village of Chapaiya in northern India, He displayed divine powers during His childhood. By the age of 10, He mastered the Hindu scriptures. At the age of 11, He renounced His home to embark on a 7-year sojourn on foot across the length and breadth of India. By the age of 14, He mastered ashtāng-yoga. Eventually, settling in Gujarāt at the age of 18, He spent the remaining three decades of his life transforming the lives of countless people. He ushered in a moral and spiritual renaissance in Gujarāt through a legion of 3000 sādhus.
Bhagwān Swāminārāyan and His Sādhus campaingned against and abolished the custom of window burning, female infanticide and other vices in society. In the Shikshāpatri He prescribed a moral code of conduct for His disciples, and through the Vachanāmurt enlightened them with the essence of scriptural knowledge.
Having redeemed humanity till 1830, Bhagwān Swāminārāyan promised to remain ever-present on this earth through a succession of God-realised gurus.
Today H.D.H Pramukh Swāmi Mahārāj the fifth successor, is faithfully promoting the spiritual tradition of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan.
In His own lifetime, He was worshipped as God by some two million devotees. By the time, He passed away at the age of 49, He had earned a reputation as a great socio-religious reformer. The Bhakti Sampradaya He founded emerged as one of the most progressive and purest forms of Hinduism.
Through His spiritual presence, Lord Swaminarayan continues to provide energy and experience through a succession of God-realised spiritual masters. The first Guru in the succession was His choicest devotee, Gunatitanand Swami (1785-1867), the manifestation of Aksharbrahman, who furthered the mission by his incessant talks. He in turn was followed by Bhagatji Maharaj (1829-1897).
After him, Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951) furthered the cause by establishing the philosophy of Akshar and Purushottam. In consonance with the teachings of Lord Swaminarayan, Shastriji Maharaj propagated the worship of Lord Swaminarayan as Purushottam and Gunatitanand Swami as Aksharbrahman. He built five glorious temples and established the dual worship of God along with His choicest devotee. He founded the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) – a socio-spiritual organisation – in 1907. As the first temple was established in Bochasan, the organisation is referred to as “Bochasanwasi.”
The fourth spiritual master was Yogiji Maharaj (1892-1971), whose work carried the message of Lord Swaminarayan overseas to East Africa and England. His crystal pure innocence, towering saintliness and selfless love inspired the saintly order, established youth centres and children’s centres where weekly assemblies played the role of enlightenment and character building.
He passed away after placing the oars of the Faith in the hands of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1971. Under his guidance, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha undertakes a variety of activities. It was his inspiration that created the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden. (see page on Pramukh Swami Maharaj for further details)
Pramukh Swami Maharaj – A Profile
Birth: 7 December 1921
Birthplace: Chansad, Gujarat
Initiated: 10 January 1940
Guru: Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj
Spiritual Head of BAPS Since: 23 January 1971
Villages Visited: Over 15,500
Countries Visited: Over 50
Homes Sanctified: Over 250,000
Letters Read & Replied: Over 500,000
Personally Counselled & Comforted: Over 810,00 people
Discourses Delivered: Over 22,000
Sadhu Disciples: 680
Mandirs Built & Consecrated: Over 410 Mandirs
“One of the 20 most influential people in the world” according to the Guinness Book of World Records 2002
“His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual master of BAPS consecrated (built) a world record 386 temples in 11 countries between 17 April 1971 and May 14 2001. His Holiness is widely regarded as an influential person.”
– Guinness World Records 2002
What is left with a person who has given his all? Nothing but himself. And that himself is everything. It is an ocean of goodness, purity and humility, a summary of spirituality. And that is enough to inspire millions. In Swamiji’s presence, doubts dissolve, confusions clear, hurts heal and the mind finds peace. People find answers to life’s toughest questions.
Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj is the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the present spiritual leader of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. He leads an austere life of lifetime celibacy, without personal wealth or comfort. Representing the essence of Hinduism, his compassion for humanity, universal wisdom and striking simplicity have touched many world religious and national leaders. But most important is his quiet, undisturbed love for God which rises beyond all borders of nation, race and religion.
Even after creating an international spiritual organization of hundreds of Mandirs, thousands of centres and over a million followers, you will always find Swamiji engrossed in prayer. Sometimes at 2.30 am, for his life is the living proof that prayers work and divine love succeeds.
For total spiritual perfection, the Lord emphasised the need of the God-realised Saint. He explained that the soul (Jiva) is cloaked by ignorance (Maya). The ignorance is removed and the soul is liberated when it attaches itself to Aksharbrahman in the form of a God-realised Guru. When a seeker serves such a guru through thought, word and deed, he is graced with the truth that “I am Atman and the servant of Parmatman.” Being thus brahmanised, he humbly offers worship to God.
Just as Lord Krishna is worshipped along with Radha as Radha-Krishna, and Lord Rama with Sita as Sita-Rama, Lord Swaminarayan (Purushottam) and His ideal devotee – Gunatitanand Swami (Akshar) – are worshipped together as ‘Akshar Purushottam’.
CORE VALUES & MAIN PRACTICES
To realise God and achieve ultimate salvation, Lord Swaminarayan stressed purity of the heart. To attain such refined piety, a true Swaminarayan devotee observes a discipline of five codes:
1. Do not steal
2. Do not eat meat
3. Do not take alcohol or any intoxicants
4. Do not commit adultery
5. Do not indulge in impurity of body and mind
Through our 8,100 international centres and 45,000 volunteers, BAPS carries out over 160 humanitarian services, of which these are just a few:
Moral & Cultural Care
~ Since 1981 we have held 9 International Cultural Festivals attended by 33.5 million people.
~ 421,200 assemblies held annually in our centres. For children, teenagers, youths and the elderly.
~ 382,187 students have appeared in our international cultural exams.
~ 21 major medical activities are undertaken.
~ 10 hospitals and healthcare centres.
~ 464,125 patients treated annually.
~ 7 Mobile hospitals reach out to 638 villages treating over 200,000 people annually.
~ Regular Blood & Bone Marrow Donation Campaigns
~ BAPS runs 29 educational institutes educating over 8,000 students per year.
~ 5,040 scholarships have been awarded.
~ 800 education seminars guide 35,000 parents and coach 50,000 students annually.
~ 23 colleges and schools are provided with financial aid.
~ Swaminarayan School in Neasden, London has 450 students with a 100% GCSE pass rate.
~ English Medium Girls Residential School recently opened in Karamsad, Gujarat.
~ Over 1.2 million trees have been planted in 2,170 villages.
~ 5,475 wells recharged in 338 villages.
~ 241 check dams, farm ponds, gully pluggings and percolation tanks built.
~ 5,000 tons of paper recycled.
~ 7 million aluminium cans and 91 tons of aluminium foil collected for recycling in the UK, the highest ever by any organisation in UK & Europe.
~ 600,000 people have quit addictions through the efforts of BAPS.
~ 10,000 boys and girls contacted 882,000 people of which 312,000 gave up addictions in just 20 days.
~ 22,900 families have been inspired to conduct Family Assemblies.
~ 25 Separate Disaster Relief Operations carried out by our volunteers.
~ 1993 Earthquake in Maharashtra – entire village of Samudraal rebuilt with 600 houses and full village facilities.
~ 1999 Cyclone in Orissa – 2 villages with 140 houses fully rebuilt.
~ 2001 Earthquake in Kutch – 4,500 volunteers were in action to help the victims in 409 villages & towns. 9 villages adopted for total reconstruction totalling 1,529 homes. 321 classrooms of 43 schools fully rebuilt.
~ 209 remote villages in Dadranagar-Haveli, Silvassa and
Panchmahal have been freed from superstitions
and addictions through 30 Tribal Uplift Centres.
~ Children in 80 tribal villages benefit from free tuition classes.
~ 680 Sadhus, educated and committed – form the backbone of BAPS activities.
~ 510 Mandirs across the world
~ Over 150,000 pilgrims visit BAPS Mandirs daily.
~ 8,100 centres
Swaminarayan Aksharpith, the BAPS publishing house specialises in moral, cultural and spiritual publications:
~ Over 462 books and booklets in Gujarati, English, Hindi, Sanskrit and other languages published.
~ Over 303 audio and video titles of devotional songs, festivals and discourses released.
~ 36 Digitial CDs of devotional songs and CD-Rom on Akshardham have been produced.
For detailed information on BAPS history, philosophy, beliefs, activities and regular update on Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s travels, festivals, worldwide news and the Akshardham complex:
“Let us teach our followers that religion does not grow by quantity of numbers, but by quality of spirituality. Vertical depth is much more than horizontal spread. If the follower of every religion becomes a better and true follower then our world will be a much better world. Therefore, we should steer our followers away from fanaticism and focus on faith and pure living.
Let us guide ourselves and our followers not just to tolerate but to respect other religions, not just to exist but to co-exist. We may not progress at the cost of others, but sacrifice part of ourselves for the good of others. Because in the good of others lies our own, in the progress of others lies our own and in the joy of others abides our own.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj
‘Millennium World Peace Summit of Spiritual Leaders’
United Nations, New York
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London
BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir is the first traditional Mandir in Europe. 2,820 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian Carrara marble were shipped to India, carved by over 1,500 craftsmen and reshipped to London. In all 26,300 carved pieces were assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle in 3 years. It is a miracle of modern times worked by over a thousand volunteers.
It is a masterpiece of exotic design and workmanship that rises above London’s skyline. Replete with luminescent white pinnacles and glittering marble pillars, it stands as a beacon for Hindus, both young and old throughout the world.
Since its opening in 1995, the Mandir has attracted over 3 million visitors, including 3,000 school visits. They all come to experience living Hinduism and the sense of peace and tranquility that the sacred Mandir and images provide. Together with the Mandir, the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition – a concise, yet comprehensive study of the Hindu religion – it is an ideal place to learn about the glorious culture of India and the values of Hindu Dharma.
The Mandir also has a number of activities for those both young and old. The Sports Hall is a major focus for the youngsters. With a badminton club, keep fit classes, self-defence, yoga, football, table tennis and cricket are some of the sports played. Together with the physical activities there is the spiritual side as well. Weekends see the Mandir buzzing with activities. The Haveli prayer hall is totally pillarless spanning 50 metres wide we are able to hold Satsang (Spiritual Discourses) for various age ranges. 3-9, 10-14, 15-23, 23-32, 32-45, 45 and above are all catered for. They each have their own specific needs and topics are chosen in this way. The various age groups prepare their programmes with the guidance of the 14 Sadhus who are placed here. They also produce their own Newsletters…
Festivals are celebrated on a very grand scale at the Mandir. Shivratri, Ramnavmi, Janmashtmi, Shri Hari Jayanti, Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Hanuman Jayanti, Rath Yatra, Raksha Bandhan are all celebrated in a traditional manner. Diwali and Annakut are the grandest of all with some 50,000 people coming for darshan.
The Mandir has also achieved international recognition with two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. The first entry for the largest Hindu stone Mandir in the Western Hemisphere together with Pramukh Swami Maharaj as the masterbuilder for the Mandir, and the second for the largest Annakut Display with 1,247 vegetarian items placed in front of the Lord, it is shown across the globe by 630 TV channels in 90 countries.
The Mandir has been described as the 8th Wonder of the World by Reader’s Digest Magazine and has earned it a place in their book, ‘The 70 Wonders of the 20th Century’. The Mandir has been seen all around the world through more than 68 newspapers and magazines and 30 television and radio stations. Including a feature in the National Geographic magazine and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Annual Report 1998. Received Britain’s Most Enterprising Building Award from the Royal Fine Art Commission.
The Mandir has also attracted various international leaders including; HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Prince of Wales, Diana Princess of Wales, The Late King Birendra of Nepal, The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, Tony Blair, John Major and many more.
The Mandir recently played a major role in the appeal to all to raise funds for the India Earthquake Appeal. It is only one of the many social and humanitarian tasks undertaken by the Mandir.
Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gujarat is a 23 acre cultural complex that stirs your soul with sights, sounds and silence. Since its inauguration in 1992 it has attracted 22 million visitors from over 74 countries. Akshardham is an intricately carved 6,000 ton pink stone monument dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan together with exhibition halls, a 15 acre beautiful garden and a research centre. Created by volunteers, Akshardham is the most powerful experience of Indian culture generated through the best of modern technology and traditional values.
The interactive exhibitions with lifelike dioaramas, surround settings, paintings and hundreds of figures provide an unforgettable experience of the Vedas, Ramayan and Mahabharat. A 14 Screen Multimedia Show using integrovision is the world’s first spiritual multimedia show, revealing the Vedic Truths of man’s search for joy – Sat-Chit-Anand. The show won the Bronze Award at the International Audio-Visual and Multimedia Festival in 1993 at Munich, Germany.
For further information visit www.askhardham.com
– 2,710 Youth
– 4,070 Children
– 1,320 Women
– 460 in India
– 50 in Europe, North America, Africa & the Far East.
1 Million Followers
– 45,000 Youth Volunteers
– 10,000 Women Volunteers
– 12 Million Annual Volunteer Hours in Service
UK & Europe:
– 8 Mandirs and 44 Centres
– The world famous Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London, visited by over 3 million since 1995
– 5,000 families
– 156 weekly assemblies
– 29 Mandirs and 112 Centres
– 390 weekly assemblies
– 2 non-profit medical clinics
Enquiries for Teachers and Students should be addressed to:
The Booking Department
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
105 – 119 Brentfield Road
Neasden, London NW10 8JP
Tel: 020 8965 2651
Fax: 020 8965 6313
For up to date information of BAPS activities across the globe please visit: