Mandirs have inspired devotion in the hearts of wealthy entrepreneurs and simple villagers. Located within deep, dense forests, the tribal villages of Selvas were rampant with drugs, alcohol, misconduct and violence. The poor communities also lacked hygiene and discipline. In 2000, Makrand Mehta, a respected historian of Gujarat, was researching the work of BAPS mandirs in improving the rural communities surrounding Selvas. So, Makrand Mehta, accompanied by two other historians, visited a randomly selected village named Sorangi.
When they arrived at Sorangi, a volunteer escorted them to the local mandir and around the village. The village devotees folded their hands and paid respects to the volunteer, and warmly welcomed Makrand Mehta and his companions. The historians spoke to many devotees. They were stunned to see the transformation that had taken place in the people of this village.
When Makrand Mehta requested the volunteer to show them some homes, the volunteer accompanied Makrand Mehta to the home of a devotee. His humble hut was tidy and spotless. A miniature mandir with the murtis of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj and the guru parampara was a prominent feature of the small main room. There were no signs of drugs nor alcohol anywhere in the house. A neat, small stack of books was resting in the corner. All the males of the residence had a tilak-chandlo on their foreheads, while the women had a chandlo. Noticing the wife of the devotee preparing flatbread made of rice flour, Makrand Mehta requested the woman if he could taste the flatbread. Politely, she responded, “Only after I have served it to God.” Makrand Mehta, an educated Brahmin, was awestruck that such devotional values were being practised by uneducated, common villagers.
While preparing to leave, Makrand Mehta wished to offer a monetary gift. However, Dilip Sate, a youth devotee living in Sorangi, said, “There is something thing better that you can give. Sir, you have been chewing tobacco ever since you arrived, and if you really wish to give something, then give up your addiction.” Makrand Mehta’s eyes filled with tears, as instead of giving a gift, he had received a gift of de-addiction from this youth devotee. Makrand Mehta witnessed firsthand the devout and addiction-free lives inspired in these villagers by mandirs.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was not merely a master builder of stone structures, but also a maker of mandirs within the hearts of people. In the lives of all who came in his association, Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired moral values, character, culture, principled and disciplined living, and heartfelt devotion. Pramukh Swami Maharaj transformed people into mandirs. His devotees became living mandirs – chaitanya mandirs. The practices and values learned at shikharbaddha and hari mandirs became important and inseparable parts of the lives of all devotees. Even in difficult situations, devotees practise these values and duties. The following examples illustrate how mandirs have ingrained spiritual values in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds and transformed individuals into chaitanya mandirs.
On a highway, Chaitanya Patel (Houston, USA) pulled over on to the shoulder lane to perform the evening arti.
Even while on active duty as soldiers amidst the horrors of war, Angie Amin and Meera Amin (Los Angeles, USA) never ate a morsel of food without first performing their daily puja.
Before his entire class in Westminster College, Vinal Patel (London, UK) explained to his fellow students the significance of the tilak-chandlo.
When his wife worked in Lumberton, son worked in Washington, and daughter studied in Raleigh, Harish Patel (Knoxville, USA) regularly set up conference calls for ghar sabha.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj has made countless such chaitanya mandirs. This was his true purpose behind building mandirs across the world: to spiritually inspire people and enable them to attain ultimate liberation. These chaitanya mandirs live such pure, virtuous and devout lives that they are a source of inspiration to all.