Every year, the Guru Punam festival is joyously celebrated in Bochasan.

Swamishri's morning puja was held on the grounds of the Akshar Purushottam Vidyalay in Bochasan. Youths and sadhus sang bhajans in Swamishri's puja, lauding the glory and greatness of the guru. The kishores of Anand also performed a beautiful dance.

The Guru Punam assembly commenced immediately after Swamishri's puja. Speeches by Sarvamangal Swami, Pujya Kothari Swami (Mumbai), Pujya Viveksagar Swami and guests explained the significance of the guru on the spiritual path and Swamishri's virtues. A folk-dance by the kishores of Gana and Adas gave a festive flair to the occasion.

At 10.30 a.m., Swamishri and guests Shri Dipakbhai Sathi (Anand), Shri Vidyarthi (Collector of Anand), etc., planted saplings amidst Vedic chantings in the school ground to kick-off the 52nd `Tree Planting Festival' and `Narmada Tree Festival 2001.' Swamishri and guests were then warmly welcomed to the assembly-marquee by the BAPS band from Nadiad. The stage backdrop was colorfully decorated with styrofoam and cloth. Swamishri then gave lighted candles to the guests who then kindled lamps to inaugurate the 52nd `Tree Planting Festival' (organised by the Forestation Department of Nadiad). Swamishri then presented a sapling to Shri Dipakbhai Sathi and Pujya Mahant Swami gave saplings to plant to BAPS volunteers. Arrangement had also been made for the distribution of saplings to all the devotees.

Pujya Mahant Swami spoke glowingly of Swamishri's saintliness and greatness. Thereafter, Swamishri ceremoniously declared a new product of `Amrut Herbal Care' - a herbal soap called `Gotunee.'

Swamishri was then garlanded on behalf of Satsang by Pujya Mahant Swami and Pujya Tyagavallabh Swami. Finally, Swamishri blessed the assembly: "The need and importance of a guru touches all aspects of life. Whether it is familial work, social or religious; one needs a guide. One's parents are one's first guru. That is why our Vedas have instructed "Matru Devo Bhava..." For academic study one needs a teacher. Similarly, a guru is necessary on the spiritual path. Through the guru one is blessed with knowledge.

"...The human body is an instrument to attain the joys of this world and the joys of God's abode. Through effort one attains mundane requirements in life. But they are not everlasting. When spiritual knowledge is integrated in life, one experiences supreme peace. True knowledge is attained through the guru.

"Bhagatji Maharaj often said that 'Gunatitanand Swami has blessed me with such a knowledge that I have become invincible (to all dualities).' It is like having a raincoat on during a heavy shower and like anaesthesia dispensed by a doctor, making one unconscious of the operation. So too the guru dispenses the anaesthesia of atma and Paramatma's knowledge. This makes one insensitive to the duals of praise and insult, happiness and misery.."

In the latter part of the blessings, Swamishri stressed the need to grow trees for greening our environment. Swamishri said, "Treat a tree like one's own child. Strive to rear it with the same effort... The more we care for nature, the more it will take care of us. It we care for animals then they will look after our needs. A cow gives milk and an ox ploughs the land. And when the ox grows old, we send it to the slaughterhouse. But how can you send it to the slaughterhouse! Till now it had nourished you and the cow gave you milk. Man has a relationship with nature's animals, trees and mountains. They all look after man but the discrepancy in man is that he does not care and look after them. Man destroys trees and animals. And with an escalation in materialism we have forgotten God, dharma and the necessity of natural things. The more we care for them, in the same magnitude will we be taken care of and attain happiness.

The celebration was attended by 40,000 devotees. The celebration concluded with maha-prasad for all the devotees.


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