14 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Vaishakh vad 4) Friday, London, New York
At 2.30 pm (GMT) Swamishri departed from London’s Heathrow airport towards New York. At 4.10 pm (American Standard Time) Swamishri’s plane landed at JFK airport in New York. Swamishri was given a red carpet welcome at Terminal 4. For the first time ever, a welcome assembly was arranged for Swamishri in Terminal 4. Yagnavallabh Swami, Dr. K.C. Patel and Senator Balboni garlanded Swamishri. Several other dignitaries and officials also welcomed Swamishri and received his blessings. Thereafter Swamishri was given a police escort by the FBI to the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Flushing.
15 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Vaishakh vad 12) Saturday, New York
A grand welcome assembly was arranged at Hofstra University Arena in the late afternoon. Swamishri arrived at the arena at 5.55 pm. Over 150 dignitaries welcomed Swamishri in a special assembly. Thereafter several dignitaries addressed the assembly.
Thomas Souzzi, Executive, Nassau County (NY), said, “So I want His Divine Holiness to know that the people who are here before you are people who have contributed greatly to our society and continue to spread the culture that they have learned in their native country to their children, and in doing so make this country a greater country. I had a chance to read a few things about His Divine Holiness before I got here today, and one of the great lessons that I saw is because of his generosity and because of his giving and because of his humility, that he empties himself until the point where he is nothing. But it is only by recognizing that we are nothing that we can be everything and be one with each other. I hereby present this citation to His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in fitting recognition and heartfelt appreciation of his services towards harmonious relations and the advancement of international peace.”
Vijay Nambiar, Indian Ambassador to the United Nations, opined, “The ‘sarva dharma sambhav’ which we talk about in India is best represented in the Swaminarayan community itself. And it is therefore for me a great privilege to be able to be present here along with all of you to have the darshan of Pramukh Swamiji.”
New York State Senator, Michael Balboni, praised Swamishri’s precedental step of retaining peace during the terrorist attack on Akshardham. He said, “I am very involved with the issue of terrorism. That is the work that I do as chairman of Homeland Security for the state, and I’m very involved with the United States government. And it’s one thing that I’ve learned to talk about peace and acceptance. It is another to do the work of God. And when the temple was attacked, Swami took the strong position – the hard position – of bringing peace, not violence; of stopping the cycle. That is the greatest gift and the greatest lesson that anyone can give this world. And it’s truly an honor and grace to be in his presence.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks shared his feelings with the assembly, “It is indeed an honor and a privilege to be here today to truly meet a man of peace. Indeed, with the Swami we know with his message and His Holiness, in this time of trouble and turmoil, it is that message that will help us all share this great globe we’re currently on.”
Congressman Anthony D. Weiner narrated his experiences and thoughts of his visit to the under-construction Akshardham monument in New Delhi, “I am honored and I am privileged to meet you. I can feel the holiness in you, and, indeed, it is a true blessing to be with you this early evening.
“I am a member of Congress, and I represent perhaps one of the largest South Asian communities anywhere outside of India. But it wasn’t until January of this year that I had ever visited India. And while there were some extraordinary moments on the trip, when we visited Akshardham, to watch the construction going on, it was cold. I am not talking it was cold for India; it was cold for anywhere. It was freezing cold. But everywhere our delegation looked, there were people with smiles on their faces, beaming with pride.
“It is very easy in today’s world to open up a newspaper, to turn on a television or the radio and become a little bit pessimistic about our future. We seem to focus so much on the conflicts between peoples; so much on the things that make us different from one another. No one knows that more than in New York where we focus not only on what city we’re from but we even focus on what neighborhood we’re from. But the Swami’s teachings for all of us being here today, remind us of one central fact. We all basically have the same aspirations. We want to raise our children in a better world. We want to leave a city, a community, a country, a generation just a little bit better than the one that we found. Perhaps no person is more dedicated to that than the man we have honored today. I am a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, and I am here to pay tribute to one of the finest and most godly and most wholesome people I have ever had my honor to meet.”
Thomas Dinapoli, New York State Assemblyman, remarked, “I am so grateful for the beautiful blessings just bestowed upon me by this special man. We live in difficult times as we all know, and we live in times where people say there aren’t heroes for us to look up to. In Swamiji we have a hero for us all to look up to. His spirituality, his goodness, his generosity, the ways in which he uplifts in a religious and a spiritual sense is significant, but also significant are the ways in which his efforts help the medical and health needs of those who are in desperate condition.”
The BAPS Care website, which highlights the Sanstha’s social activities, was inaugurated by Swamishri. Then a traditional welcome dance was performed by youths of the Boston center in honor of Swamishri.
Finally, Swamishri blessed the assembly by elaborating upon the concept of destruction and true progress in our world due to materialism and spirituality respectively.
16 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Vaishakh vad 13) Sunday, New York
o Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha rituals of new murtis of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, Radha Krishna Dev, Sita-Ram, Shankar-Parvati, Hanumanji, Ganapati and Guru Parampara at the BAPS Swaminarayan hari mandir in New York. Swamishri blessed 3000 devotees in the assembly.
o The evening assembly was held at the Hofstra University Arena. During the assembly Thomas Gullata addressed the assembly, “Jai Swaminarayan, it is an honor for me to be able to be here in the presence of Swamiji and in the presence of all of you. Just being in this room in your presence and in the presence of a spiritual leader is an uplifting spiritual feeling. It’s impossible for anyone to be here without feeling the strength of spiritualism within.
“But you know and I know it’s not the money that is important. It’s the spiritual values and spiritual strength and the family values that are important. I ask you to see the media reports, the television news and whenever there is a crime report you don’t see a young woman or a man of Indian descent that has violated the law, because of the understanding of spiritual values and family values and passing that along to the next generation. That is what will make the society grow and be what we hope in the future. Look around and understand that we live in the world of modern technology and modern medicine that cure the illness. But understanding in modern technology and medicine is the importance of spiritual values. Because when you grow older then you realise that human compassion, love and spiritual strength can create miracles that modern technology and modern medicines cannot. You all here are miracle workers. If you can reach out to others and neighbours and give them the compassion, love and spiritual wisdom you have, you too can create miracles in the lives of others.”
In his blessings Swamishri explained about the pricelessness of the human birth and its ultimate objective of attaining moksha.
21 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth sud 2) Friday, New York
At 4.30 pm the Guru Bhakti Din celebration commenced at the Queens College Hall. Queens County Councilman John Liv, State Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik welcomed Swamishri.
Thereafter youths narrated incidents about how Swamishri has touched them in their lives. A traditional dance was performed by youths. After the garlanding ceremony Swamishri explained in his blessings about how worldly life binds, and to free oneself from bondage one must take the refuge of a God-realised Sadhu.
22 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth sud 3) Saturday, New York, Edison
The evening welcome assembly was held at the Raritan Expo Center in Edison. Ten thousand devotees had assembled for the grand assembly. A colorful welcome dance was performed by youths. After the garlanding ceremony the Mayor of Edison, George Spodaro, delivered his welcome speech. Finally Swamishri blessed the assembly.
23 May 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth sud 4) Sunday, Edison Medico–Spiritual Conference
o Swamishri blessed 750 doctors during a Medico-Spiritual Conference at the mandir hall.
o The evening assembly was celebrated as Pramukh Vani Din at the Raritan Expo Center.
o At 11.50 am Swamishri visited the BAPS hari mandir in Cherry Hill, N.J. After performing pujan and arti of the murtis Swamishri blessed the assembly of devotees.
26 May 2004 (VS. 2060, Jeth sud 7) Wednesday, Edison
The Kishore-Kishori Day program themed on ‘What Cannot Be Done’ was performed with a traditional dance, dramas and a laser show.
Finally Swamishri blessed the assembly explaining the need for effort and faith in God.
28 May 2004 (VS. 2060, Jeth sud 7) Friday, Edison
o Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha rituals of murtis for a BAPS hari mandir in Bedford, Pennsylvania at the Edison Mandir.
o The evening assembly was dedicated as Children’s Day program which included traditional dances based on the theme, “Swami Bapa, We Love You Forever.”
Swamishri underscored the importance of instilling values and faith in children in his blessings.
Then Congressman Frank Pallone addressed the assembly, “It reminds me how important education is and how important it is to serve as an example for your children. Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures are so important that we should all live by…”
30 May 2004 (VS. 2060, Jeth sud 11) Sunday, Edison
In the evening assembly at the Raritan Expo Hall Swamishri was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by Dr Shambhu Banik on behalf of President Bush.
* 1 June Yuva Din assembly
* 2 June Satsang assembly
* 3 June Satsang assembly
* 4 June 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth vad 1) Friday, Edison (NJ)
o Senator of Cherry Hill, Jhon Adler, received Swamishri’s blessings.
o The Mayor of Woodbridge, Frank Pelzman, received Swamishri’s blessings. During his address on the previous day he said, “I am so moved by the sincerity, devotion and the love that is in this room. I only hope that the job that I do as Mayor has his (Swamishri’s) blessings and has your (audiences’) prayers to help and guide me over the next 5 years of my term. So, I ask you, please remember me in your prayers that I do what is right for most of the people in our town.”
5 June 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth vad 3) Saturday, Edison (NJ)
Sanskruti - cultural program
A grand cultural program on India’s glorious heritage ‘Sanskruti’ was performed by 250 BAPS children and youths at the Continental Airlines Arena. A supporting staff of 750 youths managed the coordination and stage arrangements. The audience of 20,000 people savored the spectacular cultural presentation of drama, dance, laser and fireworks.
The 3-hour program was also punctuated with speeches by Viveksagar Swami, Dr Swami and several dignitaries.
Governor of New Jersey, James McGrevy, said, “Namaste. Jai Swaminarayan. Today it is a great honor Swamiji, to be here with you and the Congressmen. It is a great honor to be here in presence of a living spiritual master. To understand the strength of BAPS and to be the beneficiary of his blessings, I first had audience with Swamiji during my trip of Gujarat before becoming the Governor. And as Governor I’m honored at the strength of the Swaminarayan faith here in the State of New Jersey and our region. Swamiji, in New Jersey we have grown to over 5000 families ignited by devotion, by bhakti, by dharma and also detachment. These are the strengths of the Swaminarayan faith of practical spiritualism, eternal purity and adherence to universal truths. And we also understand the importance of seva, performing service for fellow human beings. I as Governor am greatly honored by the contribution that the Indo-American is making to the society. They contribute to science, technology, medicine and also to the great Swaminarayan faith here in USA.”
Congressman Stanley Wayer of Washington DC opined, “We have gathered here at a time when many people teach to hate each other, to teach violence, to teach divisions. And as a result of those teachings our world is more divided and violence and terror is visited in India, in United States, in Iraq and in other places in the world. As Governor McGrevy said, it is an honor, privilege and experience to be remembered all through out my life, to be here in the presence of His Divine Holiness. This holy man teaches love and character. He teaches and uplifts, as all of us must do by whatever faith we call. I’m honored to be here with other Congressman. I am honored to see the Akshardham in Delhi that is being built. It will uplift everybody. God blesses America through the visitation of holy men like Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
Co-founder of India Caucus Frank Pallone said, “It is indeed an honor to be here this evening. I was proud to visit the Akshardham in Gandhinagar. Remembered the terrorist attack and remember Swamiji’s appeal of non-violence then. That is one of the most important messages of Swamiji and BAPS that they preach non-violence which is so crucial to today’s society. I also want to pay tribute to many social activities of Swamiji and BAPS. We still remember the work of BAPS when there was earthquake in Gujarat. Also I want to commend the educational commitment of BAPS. I was there last week when they had the youth day and they educate youths with Sanskrit and moral values. This is one of the most important contribution to society - to instill these values in the young generation.”
In conclusion, Swamishri blessed the assembly, “You have come here with the culture and values of our country. You may earn and acquire things you require, but, you should also remain resolute in our culture and religion. Old is gold and our Sanatan Dharma has been given to us by God. And God comes again and again to reestablish dharma on earth, God protects our culture and values… Today, because of materialism our faith in God has declined and that is why we are unhappy and without peace…”
6 June 2004 (V.S. 2060, Jeth vad 4) Sunday, Edison (NJ); Akshardham Bhumi-Pujan
At 6.30 am the Expo Hall was packed with devotees for the bhumi-pujan rituals of Akshardham. At 10.40 am the rituals concluded in the presence of Swamishri. Thereafter the bhumi-pujan assembly commenced with a traditional dance by youths. This was followed by speeches from Viveksagar Swami, Dr. K.C. Patel and Dr Swami. The vote of thanks was given by Yagnavallabh Swami. Then the message of the Mayor of Washington DC was read and a plaque of honor was presented to Swamishri. Finally Swamishri blessed the assembly.