An all-day ‘chhavani’ (spiritual camp of discourses) on the fundamental principles of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan (upasana) was held in the presence of Mahant Swami Maharaj and senior swamis at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Sunday 24 September 2017.
Mahant Swami Maharaj had expressed his wish for this special programme to be organised and personally encouraged everyone to attend. He drew upon the four-month chhavani that was organised at Vadtal, India, in the time of Gunatitanand Swami and gave his blessings for a similar day of spiritual enrichment in London.
The day began at 5.30am with Thakorji’s arti. Swamishri then joined swamis in a ceremonial procession of Swaminarayan-Siddhant-Sudha, a vaad-granth (classical dialectical treatise) authored by Mahamahopadhyaya Bhadreshdas Swami that provides a systematic exposition, justification and defence of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, drawing from Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s teachings and the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahmasutras. The scripture was sanctified by Harikrishna Maharaj in the inner sanctum of the mandir before being joyously carried by swamis amid chanting and music to the assembly hall where it was presented to Swamishri for pujan.
Swamishri signalled the commencement of learning by ringing a bell in honour of the resounding propagation of Akshar-Purushottam upasana by Shastriji Maharaj. During his puja, swamis and devotees rejoiced to kirtans sung in praise of Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj and Shastriji Maharaj.
After his puja, Swamishri addressed the morning assembly and elaborated upon the rich history and tireless work of Shastriji Maharaj to enlighten countless aspirants of this knowledge. He addressed the gathering again later in the morning and emphasised the importance of maintaining faith in the knowledge that Shastriji Maharaj had imparted.
Senior, experienced and learned swamis delivered a series of enlightening discourses throughout the day, elaborating upon the principles revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and embedded within the Vedic literature of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. Their talks also explained the hardships and challenges that Shastriji Maharaj overcame to impart this spiritual wisdom, and the endeavours of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj in furthering this work.
More than 400 children enjoyed a parallel 'Bal-Balika Chhavani' throughout the day to reinforce the same principles in English. Swamis and volunteers explained key messages through a series of presentations and talks to develop the spiritual knowledge of the young delegates. Children consolidated their learning through videos, games, interactive quizzes and group exercises before joining the main assembly for the concluding session.
Swamishri addressed all attendees again in the evening, paying tribute to Shastriji Maharaj’s tolerance and saintliness. He also acknowledged the dedication of devotees, particularly young children, for their commitment.
He then read out an uplifting pledge to bring the memorable day to a fitting conclusion.
Such was Swamishri’s enthusiasm for Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, he presided over the day’s discourses for more than seven hours in total and himself spoke four times.