Akshardham: Beyond Space and Time
President: “Tell me which class do you study in?”
President: “Why not 4A? You must excel. Excel in everything.”
With these inspiring words President Kalam greeted one of the traditionally costumed children who welcomed him during his second visit to Swaminarayan Akshardham.
On Monday, 11 September 2006, at 8.00 pm, The President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam arrived at Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi, with his friend Dr. Y S Rajan to visit HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who had recovered from a recent illness. It was a remarkable meeting of spiritual and scientific minds. Before the meeting the President spared some time to see Akshardham illuminated by the evening lights; he marvelled at the musical fountain, was overwhelmed and absorbed by the Giantscreen film Neelkanth Yatra and asked a revealing question while seeing the Gajendra Peeth:
President: ”How many elephants?”
President: “Oh my! How do you maintain them?”
Sadhu: “Through volunteers. 850 volunteers serve on the campus.”
President: “Volunteers! What a great thing; such voluntary spirit is necessary to maintain and elevate our society as well.”
We present some excerpts from the inspirational spiritual dialogue between Swamishri and the President.
President: I saw the movie of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. So beautiful. What a creation! What a creation! I believe Akshardham is really going to make a great influence in human life. Not only in India, but (upon) whoever sees it, and it is going to have an impact on human life. How a good human life will emanate (from Akshardham). That is my belief.
Swamishri: Bhagwan Swaminarayan came with a divine wish. He incarnated to redeem one and all. In his Shikshapatri (sacred scripture), he has written “sarvajivahitaavaha”. May all souls be blessed with goodness, may the good wishes of all be fulfilled. He came upon earth with this benevolent wish. Moreover, our Guruji, Yogiji Maharaj often prayed, “God! Do good of all.” Hence, due to the wish and will of God and the blessings and grace of our Guru, all this (Akshardham) has been possible. Therefore, just as you have said, Akshardham touches and transforms human beings and shall inspire feelings of goodness.
Sadhu: Bhagwan Swaminarayan came on this earth for the good and welfare of everyone and everything – all forms of creation.
President: For all the forms of creation! It is needed. Yogiji Maharaj’s message, and also Guruji’s message – Maha Pramukhji’s message – are really very important today. The world is highly turbulent. We need a message first for human beings. They should live at peace with themselves. Today, anything that can be done for that, we must all do it. Definitely, Akshardham can play a very important role.
When I saw that beautiful picture… It is not a picture, it is a glorious, glorious image of how the world can be, the future world, how it should be. How it should live with peace. That is what I saw in that movie. But, one thing that occurred to me is that the child Swaminarayan, he can move around India, the whole of India and change even hard-headed people, demons, animals, then why not human beings! We all can be so at peace. And Maha Pramukhji you can really play a very important role.
Swamishri: This was one of the prime principles of Bhagwan Swaminarayan: transformation of life, not conversion of religion. He believed in transforming inner instincts – the evil nature of people – and creating good human beings. In his presence animal-like, violent people became devotees. Bhagwan Swaminarayan never spoke of conversion of religion. Rather he encouraged Hindus to become good Hindus, Muslims to become good Muslims, Christians to become good Christians. He also dissolved the differences of caste and class and accepted all with equality.
President: Yes, it’s a great life!
Swamishri: In Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s time, his disciples belonged to all backgrounds and beliefs: Miyaji, Dosa Tai,... from all castes and creeds; even Parsis, Christians and Muslims came to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and unto one and all he urged them to follow their own faith and live righteously.
President: Oh! That’s a beautiful life. Beautiful. Maha Pramukhji, it is the second time I have come to this beautiful holy place. And seeing this place you get a lot of peace. And also it is about learning. Every time you see it, you are learning. So I have some ideas. Maha Pramukhji, it’s like this. You know, we both of us should set guidelines in life. We must give to our society guidelines of how to achieve peace, prosperity and happiness among the various types of people in India. They are not that happy. They are not at peace. So we have to bring that peace.
Swamishri: Your inner feelings are sublime. These are beautiful thoughts; thoughts inspired by God. Thoughts of inspiring and elevating others are thoughts which normally come to great enlightened people. You are a blessed soul, a punyatma with many spiritual virtues in this life, and a myriad merits from your past lives. We must think of ways of not only doing good of our nation but the whole world. May the whole world benefit. May all the ills and evils of the world be eradicated and people become good and cultured. Such is your inner wish, and it is very noble. God will help us fulfil it. Let us pray to Him. (Swamishri lovingly introduced the murti of Harikrishna Maharaj to the President.) This murti of God comes from the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Thereafter his spiritual successors Gunatitanand Swami, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj… he daily worshipped Hari-krishna Maharaj for 60 years. This murti is divine and miraculous. Today, we have presented our thoughts before God, so God shall surely fulfil them.
President: (With faith and joy the President folded his hands in prayer.) These thoughts should become our thoughts. Maharaj… our joint prayer.
Swamishri: It is because God is the inspirer in both you and me. (Once again Swamishri pointed to Harikrishna Maharaj.)
President: Maha Pramukhji, another point that I would like to bring to your attention. You know, may be thousands come here daily. In this Akshardham 4.2 million people have visited so far. I personally believe that at least a thousand lives have been touched by this place. Akshardham will have touched a thousand lives. Somebody would have left their drinking. Somebody would have left their gambling. Somebody’s divided family would have got united. Some people would have changed their ways to live a good life. What you should do is that you must interact with them... (Select) about a hundred experiences and bring out a book. That book will really change thousands and thousands of other lives. You know what I mean? Thousands and thousands of lives will be changed. Just like you told me (referring to the sadhu), how people after seeing Akshardham, left their drinking or their gambling, or families united, or religions united… such extreme cases. In 4 million people, at least a thousand good cases you must have. That research you must do.
Swamishri: It is a good thought. After visiting Akshardham, the lives of people are transformed. They improve themselves, give up addictions – a collection of such thoughts will greatly inspire others. We shall sincerely implement your idea.
President: Yes, very good... Now ask me some questions. Any question you want to ask.
Sadhu: Everyone tells us, even the people who work with you, that you are one of the humblest of persons. How do you maintain this humility?
President: God’s grace. (Humbly laughs) God’s grace. That is the only thing, is it not?
Swamishri: You are very humble, natural and simple, and also possess many virtues and culture. Moreover, humility is a divine virtue which is readily seen in you.
President: Let me tell you a story. There is a book written by Imam Ghazali a thousand years ago. He was a saint, Imam Ghazali. One day, Imam Ghazali was going for namaz. It was evening time, so he was going for namaz. Then Iblis saw the pir. You know Iblis? Satan. He is also a great learned man, because God created him also. So, Satan sahib came to him, to Imam sahib. Satan told him that he was coming from heaven. “It has been decided… God feels that you are already in heaven. Your work is so good that God has already decided to take you to heaven. So you don’t need to do your prayers. You stop your prayers.” This is Iblis, you know, he was Satan. So he wanted to change him. How Imam will change? Imam said, “I believe I am a devotee of God. My mission is to pray to him. To give all my love to him, and it is his wish that I must pray. God’s wish that I must pray.” He went on praying. So, Satan was defeated.
Swamishri: It is also our principle, to pray to God only and live for the sake of God only. Whatever we do is an offering to God. We are not doing anything for ourselves, or for anyone else. Always adhere to this truth.
President: Anyway Swamiji, for me it was a beautiful and a very peaceful visit. Thank you for giving me the…
(With an unbroken flow Swamishri continued with his deeper revelations and the President listened with absorbed attention, unaware of anyone around him. Just the two of them. The atmosphere was ethereal, everyone was transported into a higher realm.)
Swamishri: The eternal spiritual truth is to overcome differences, to transcend our body! Till we believe ourselves to be the material body, we will feel that we are doing everything. This belief is false, untruth. We believe our wealth and possessions to be ours, but that too is perishable. The ultimate principle is to eradicate I, mine and my achievements. To eradicate this one has to become one with Aksharbrahma and offer devotion to God. To become aksharrup is also known as brahmarup. He who has resolutely realized himself as brahmarup, that he is brahma, he transcends everything, becomes enlightened. Whether someone abuses him, insults him, and hates him, he rises beyond everything; beyond caste or class. He has no feelings of position or power; only one feeling of being a devotee of God, his servant! By realizing oneself as being brahma, one remains untouched by any suffering and there will be peace, only peace. When we realize this, God’s divine grace and blessings fill us, and we are liberated of all ills and faults. All differences cease to exist! You are a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Sadhu, you are the President – these differences dissolve away. He who is spiritually enlightened has no ego of power or position.
(Feeling fulfilled and satisfied, the President slowly picked out a handwritten note from his pocket. With profound feelings, he read out two Sanskrit sentences from the Vedas in form of a prayer.)
President: These last two sentences, Maha Pramukhji, I want to say. Pashyema Sharad Shatam, Jevema Sharad Shatam. (May you see a hundred years, may you live a hundred years.)
Swamishri: (As everyone present welcomed the President’s sentiments of love, Swamishri said with a gentle, humble laugh.) With me, Rashtrapatiji, even you too will have to live. And also Rajan.
President: (Joy and laughter filled the room.) Yes, all of us hundred. A hundred plus!
Swamishri: This is also the spiritual truth of the Gita: “The soul is eternal; it never dies.”
These final spontaneous words of Swamishri lit up the room, the inner space and souls of everyone with spiritual inspiration. If preserved, it would never see darkness again; an experience beyond space and time.