The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has grown on the foundations of tolerance and coexistence since Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s time. More than 200 years ago, Bhagwan Swaminarayan urged cultural tolerance and harmony within the caste system and the British colonial powers. Today, BAPS continues to flourish by respecting other faiths, embracing cultural differences, and encouraging others to do the same. These differences add to the social mosaic of any community. Sadhus and volunteers travel within communities to convince feuding neighbors to set aside mental barriers and to live in harmony. Personal consultations, house visits, exhibitions, and publications have helped us reach out to thousands of with our message of unity.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj is one of the greatest proponents of the organization’s stance on tolerance and harmony. In 2002, terrorists attacked the Swaminarayan Akshardham, Gandhinagar, killing one sadhu, dozens of innocent civilians, and several National Armed Forces. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, understanding the severity of the situation, made an appeal to the public to maintain peace and pray for those that had been lost, thus alleviating escalating ethnic tensions. His response calling for peace, harmony, and forgiveness echoed in the hearts and minds of thousands of people around the world. United States Congressman Anthony Weiner and an Anti-Terrorism Conference in Germany both cited his response as the ideal response to terrorism; they coined that peaceful response the ‘Akshardham Response.’
Pramukh Swami Maharaj has instilled similar values at a grassroots level. Odarka and Kukad are two villages in Gujarat. These two villages and their allied villages had been fighting a bloody war for the past four generations. What started as a dual between the armed men of two villagers had escalated into a dangerous situation. Dozens of individuals were killed, and the villages severed all relations. As a sign of their hatred for each other, villagers followed the Apaiya tradition in which they would not drink water from each other’s villages. Many tried to settle the bad blood between the villages, such as the British Raj, the Independent Government of the Indian Republic, and even local religious leaders, but all were unsuccessful. Pramukh Swami Maharaj invited the leaders from both of the villages to meet and discuss their differences. After a few meetings and hours of mediation, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had finally settled the feud, bringing peace to a total of 45 villages.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj and BAPS have helped communities look past the differences of caste, creed, ethnicity, and religion. Hate and discrimination have been replaced with love and tolerance.