The Akhil Bhartiya Darshan Parishad in India is a national forum of 800 scholars of philosophy. In 1980, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Amdavad hosted the silver jubilee of the Akhil Bharatiya Darshan Parishad. Fittingly, the golden jubilee was also held at the same venue. The five-day conference, from 24 to 28 November 2004 was inaugurated by lighting a traditional lamp.
In his inaugural speech, Sadhu Viveksagardas of the BAPS quoted Arnold Toynbee who said that ‘The only way out of the human predicament is the Indian way.’ He emphasised that the essence of all philosophy is the one which aims at realising that the soul is different from the body.
Dr. Ramjisinh, former president of the Parishad and apostle of Gandhian philosophy, from Bhagalpur, said, “The Parishad is not merely an institution. Rather it is an expression of Indian glory.” He deplored the Indian obsession with the English language and lack of respect for Hindi and the mother tongue. Remembering Mahatma Gandhi, he said, “It was a Gujarati who gave us the national language that is Hindi.”
Thereafter six scholarly Hindi publications authored by scholars participating in the Akhil Bharatiya Darshan Parishad were inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj .
Dr. Siddheshwar Bhat, of the Delhi Vishwavidyalaya, focused on the meaning of darshan or philosophy in his address, “Philosophy is not merely an intellectual exercise. It is thinking which inspires one to better one’s living and achieve the ultimate bliss of God,” he said. Dr. Bhat emphasised the need for applying the philosophy to modern life in both personal and social context. He said that there cannot be contemporary relevance of philosophy since the Indian philosophy has an eternal relevance. Mapping out the role of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, he said that it should make philosophy relevant to life by identifying individual and social predicaments and probe the reasons for such disharmony.
Crowning the inaugural session of the conference, Shri Pramukh Swami Maharaj said that God incarnates whenever good is eclipsed by evil. He emphasised the need for purity of thoughts and actions to make the world a peaceful place to live in. Paying obeisance to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, he said that Bhagwan Swaminarayan mastered the Hindu scriptures and philosophy at a young age, who left home at the age of 11 visiting various religious places throughout India and finally settled in Gujarat. Bhagwan Swaminarayan defined dharma in the context of morality. He penned the Shikshapatri which is a compendium of a code of conduct for his devotees.
The conference featured paper presentations by leading scholars and group discussions on various philosophical subjects. Some of the renowned scholars who spoke included Prof. S.P. Dubey (Jabalpur), President of the Akhil Bharatiya Darshan Parishad, Dr. Devkinandan Dwivedi, Dr. Negic (Sagar), Dr. (Mrs.) R.K. Sinha (Ranchi), Prof. S.K. Seth (Allahbad), Dr. Ramjisinh (Bhagalpur) and others.
The special highlight of the 50th anniversary conference was the day-long series of presentations by the learned sadhus of BAPS on Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s unique philosophy of Swaminarayan Vedant. These lectures represented the silver jubilee of the Swaminarayan Sheshwar Vedant lecture series. The sadhus explained that Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s philosophy is based on the existence of five eternal realities – jiva, ishwar, maya, Brahma and Parabrahma – and hence was markedly different from Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvait, which accepts only three realities. The scholarly papers presented by the sadhus justified Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s philosophy on the basis of the Hindu scriptures. Papers describing the uniqueness and perennial relevance of the Vachanamrut, the main scripture of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, were also presented. Finally, the sadhus talked about the Satpurush as the manifest human representative of God.
The scholars of the Parishad were impressed by the high academic quality of the papers presented by the sadhus and acknowledged Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s unique contribution to Indian philosophy.
In the evenings, various cultural events were organised to entertain and enlighten the scholars. These included a presentation of devotional songs by the sadhus, a visit to Akshardham in Gandhinagar and a cultural programme by BAPS children and youths. The more than 200 philosophers, who were staying at the Swaminarayan Mandir, were all praises for the lodging and boarding.
The conference was a huge success and its smooth administration was made possible by the dedicated service of over 100 BAPS volunteers in every aspect of the conference management, including the accommodation, transport and catering departments.