You can feel it. The lazy breeze as it caresses your face.
You can smell it. The saline water as it plays with your toes.
You can hear it. The rustle of the palm trees that sway gently in the distance.
You can see it. The splendor of life in that one stretch of nature surrounds you. And finally, you feel as if you can breathe.
Our daily lives are often laden with the suffocating burden of responsibilities and pressures of deadlines and expectations. Oftentimes, we long to transcend these daily burdens and escape to a place where we can finally breathe easy.
So what do we do?
Some people plan luxury cruises and escapades to exotic islands. Others travel the world and seek adventure. Some even resort to drugs and alcohol. But do these efforts lead one to experience peace? It may seem like that for a short time. But after we return from our vacations or crash from the high of substance abuse, we are left with what we had before: stress, misery and discontent.
So then, where can we find true respite– a place where we can experience lasting peace and happiness?
Shriji Maharaj describes such a haven in Vachanamrut Gadhada I-12, stating, “The abode of God is without a beginning and without an end; it is divine, infinite and indivisible; and it is characterised by eternal existence, consciousness and bliss. I shall describe it using an analogy. Imagine that this whole world, with all of its mountains, trees, humans, animals and all other forms, is made of glass. Also imagine that all of the stars in the sky are as bright as the sun. Then, just as this glass world would glow with extreme beauty amidst this radiance, the abode of God is similarly beautiful. Devotees of God see this in samadhi and attain that luminous abode after death.”
This abode, or spiritual haven, is Akshardham. While vacation spots provide a temporary escape from worldly stresses, Akshardham relieves us from the miseries of the endless cycle of birth and death. Here, we are permanently freed from our worldly attachments and affairs. It is a place of eternal, everlasting and ultimate liberation.
Yet as long as we remain enamored by the earthly pleasures and attachments of our current existence, we cannot comprehend the significance of Akshardham. For us, Akshardham seems abstract and out of reach.
However, in Vachanamrut Gadhada II-59, Shriji Maharaj shows us that Akshardham is not out of reach. He states, “…only God and His Sant can grant liberation…So, when one attains God or His Sant, then, apart from this, there is no other liberation for the jiva; this itself is ultimate liberation”.
We have attained God and his Sant through our guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj. And through him, we have found the ultimate abode, a place of everlasting peace and happiness.
Akshardham Here and Now:
In Balika Mandal, we have all learned the Swamini Vaat, “Aapne to Akshardham ma javu chhe, evo ek sankalp rakhvo.” (Maintain the singular resolution that we want to go to Akshardham)
In truth, our association with our guru is our ticket to Akshardham. As Gunatitanand Swami says in his Swamini Vato, “Jena guru Akshar hoy te Akshardhamma laijay ne Purshottam ne melve.” (Whosoever’s guru is Akshar, will take them to Akshardham and help them attain Purushottam)
Swamishri has also revealed the importance of a God-realized sant for attaining God’s abode. He has said, “Remain strong with the knowledge of our unique attainment. We have attained a true Sadhu who will carry us straight to Akshardham….The bliss of Akshardham is not attained even by waiting for one kalp (4,320,000,000 years), let alone one hour! We have attained the manifest form of Akshardham here.” (Nectar of Experience, 98).
Today, Swamishri continues to fulfill this promise of ultimate liberation. I’m first reminded of Perry, Georgia in the year 2000. Swamishri was seated on stage, smiling and radiating divinity as he enthusiastically addressed the youth assembled before him. Pointing to the ceiling with his right finger he promised us: “We are going to take you all the way to Akshardham.” Seven years later, Swamishri was in Georgia, once again – this time for the inauguration of the Atlanta shikharbadh mandir. On the night of the inauguration, the assembly hall was filled with volunteers and devotees alike. Mirroring our joy and enthusiasm, Swamishri said with heartfelt emotion, “We will take you to Akshardham after giving you the darshan of this Mandir”.
When we lose sight of these words, or lack the necessary strength of conviction in our guru, Akshardham seems so far away, despite the fact that we have already attained it. As devotees, we often place Akshardham as a goal after our death, but we forget that this it is also an investment for our current lives. Akshardham is here on earth in the form of our guru.
As Shriji Maharaj states in Vachanamrut Gadhada III-2, “In fact, when he attains the company of such a Sadhu, he has, while still alive, attained he who was to be attained after death. That is to say, he has attained that which is called the highest state of enlightenment, or liberation, while still being alive.”
We’ve Got It:
We have attained Akshardham.
I often feel awe and disbelief when I think about how I, the most average of human beings, have attained Akshardham. But, we can’t remain in in a state of shocked disbelief regarding our attainment. We must accept it, appreciate it, and never let it go. As Gunatitanand Swami says in the Swamini Vato, “Koti tap karine, koti jap karine, koti vrat karine, koti daan karine, koti yagna karine, pan je Bhagwaan ne sadhune pamvaa hata te aaj aapne malya chhe.” (Countless austerities, chanting, fasts, charity, and sacrifices, have been performed for the purpose of attaining God and his Sadhu – that God and his Sadhu have today been attained by us.)
The happiness and everlasting peace we have been chasing for infinite lifetimes has finally been attained, and we must take special care to follow Swami’s commands, and make sure that it does not slip from our grasp.