April 19, 2008
"Friends I am very happy that I am with you and in particular in the Toronto area. Canada and India are great nations with technology and advancement and we have great human beings. By integrating these great beings, we can make a great world." These were the words uttered by the pioneering rocket scientist and former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during a special welcome assembly held at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians in Toronto. Dr. Kalam visited the BAPS Swaminarayan Complex on Saturday, April 19, 2008 as a part of his first trip to Canada.
The former President was greeted upon his arrival at the steps of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir by Pujya Gnanpriya Swami, and the Directors of BAPS Canada. Pujya Gnanpriya Swami garlanded Dr. Kalam and applied a chandlo to his forehead and tied a nada-chhadhi on his right wrist as Vedic prayers were chanted. Inside the Mandir, Dr. Kalam paid respects to the sacred images by offering flowers, after which Pujya Gnanpriya Swami explained the spirit of volunteerism of the Mandir. He also discussed the significance of the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni, where Dr. Kalam joined him in offering prayers and abhishek.
Dr. Kalam was then guided through the Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians. Dr. Kalam was pleased that His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj had inspired such a beautiful and educational museum in Toronto. After viewing the beautiful wooden carvings in the Haveli, Dr. Kalam entered the main Prayer Hall and was welcomed with a standing ovation by thousands of devotees and visitors. They also greeted him by waving the Indian, Canadian and BAPS flags.
After the national anthems, Dr. Kalam was garlanded and presented with souvenirs by Pujya Gnanpriya Swami. The Attorney General of Ontario, Hon. Chris Bentley welcomed Dr. Kalam on behalf of the Premier of Ontario, Hon. Dalton McGuinty. The High Commissioner to India, Mr. R. L. Narayan in his speech mentioned that he was pleased to welcome Dr. Kalam to his first visit to Canada. He thanked BAPS for organizing this event. Other dignitaries present at this special welcome assembly included Dr. Lucky Laskhmanan, Chairman, Lasar Technologies & Vice-Chairman, Process Research ORTECH Inc. and Shri Satish Mehta, Consul General of India in Toronto.
Thereafter, BAPS children creatively extolled the achievements of Dr. Kalam and Pramukh Swami Maharaj and their common vision of preserving and promoting the rich values and heritage of India, in all parts of the world. Dr. Kalam presented a book he has written "What can I give?" to the BAPS Library and requested all the children to read it.
In his address, Dr. Kalam expressed his honor to visit this "beautiful temple" created with the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the dedication of volunteers, young and old. He spoke of the positive impact associated with BAPS and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, "whenever I have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj and visited various BAPS Swaminarayan temples around the world, I have noted the righteousness in the heart of the devotees"
Dr. Kalam continued by conveying a personal message, asking the assembly to repeat his words: "Where there is righteousness, there is beauty in character. Where there is beauty in character, there is harmony in the home. Where there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world." He concluded by expressing his faith that BAPS would spread this message of righteousness across the world.
Despite having to catch a flight out of Canada, he prolonged his stay as much as possible to answer questions of the children. Below is the summary of the answers. BAPS youths in USA participated in a similar session with Dr. Kalam when he was in New York a month ago.
Q1: Dr. Kalam, you have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj a few times, would you share your experiences and impressions with us.
Dr. Kalam: "I have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj nearly ten times. He loves human beings whether they are from India or Canada or any part of the world. I learnt from him that along with material happiness, you also need a spiritual life for becoming an integrated human being and a happy human life."
Q2: Now that Indians have migrated to all parts of the world, how can we, as Indo-Canadians be loyal to Canada and also be proud of India? How do we balance this feeling of pride for both nations?
Dr. Kalam: "It is a fantastic question. You have to give your best to Canada, you have to contribute and work for the prosperity of Canada and at the same time keep your identity as Indians. Then when you visit India, share your experiences with everyone there."
Q3: Normally a scientist talks about scientific advancement and its contribution to the society. But you as scientist emphasize often for a need of spirituality and a value-based learning system. Can you help us understand why it is important, and how you realized a need for it?
Dr. Kalam: "What does science give us? Science helps us in agricultural production, medicine etc. and to gain wealth but it is not sufficient for a good human life. Spirituality is important for peace, righteous and pure life."
Q4: Despite being a successful and influential scientist and most loved President of India, how can you be so humble?
Dr. Kalam: "I believe that it comes out of your parental induction and from your teacher. When I was a 10 year old boy, I had a great teacher. His way of life, how he led and taught me, together with my parents really influenced my life a lot."
As he departed, he personally offered his best wishes to many of those gathered in the assembly. He also conveyed his respects to His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. A month ago, Pujya Yagnavallabh Swami, Pujya Viveknidhi Swami and Girishbhai Patel also had a short meeting with Dr. Kalam in New York.