His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and dignitaries paid homage to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s visionary leadership and tireless efforts in establishing educational institutions and student hostels to foster value-based education before the tens of thousands who had gathered to commemorate ‘Education Day: Celebrating Value-based Education’ at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar on 30 December 2022.
Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, close to forty educational institutions and student hostels nurture the educational and character development of over 22,500 students annually. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s unparalleled educational services include reconstructing 55 schools in disaster-affected areas, providing financial assistance to 23 other educational complexes, and annually supporting over 5,000 needy students with scholarships.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj worked his entire life to foster humanity and spirituality in every individual. Aware of the importance of education for the individual and the nation and inspired by Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s instruction to foster the propagation of knowledge, Pramukh Swami Maharaj set up a wide range of educational institutions that have nourished the character and academic potential of hundreds of thousands. Beginning as a small seed with BAPS’s first student hostel at Vidyanagar in 1965, under the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and currently Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS’s educational activities have flourished into a great tree with branches in many centres.
The special evening assembly titled ‘Education Day: Celebrating Value-Based Education’ at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar began at 4.45pm
BAPS scholar Adarshjivandas Swami, describing the unprecedented life and work of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in his series ‘Pramukh Charitam’, said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj accepted people of all faiths, cultures and nationalities as his own. Similarly, people of all backgrounds also regarded him as their own, felt peace hearing his talks, and strove to imbibe his teachings in their lives. He was widely revered as a universal saint, transcending distinctions and belonging to all of humanity.”
Thereafter, Gnanvatsaldas Swami described the educational services inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, particularly focusing on how value-based education is fostered through BAPS educational activities. He said, “Education alone cannot create a peaceful and progressive society. Pramukh Swami Maharaj taught, ‘Education coupled with values will safeguard society.’ He not only taught this principle but put it into practice through the creation of forty educational institutions and student hostels that provided value-based education to hundreds of thousands of students. He also encouraged the fostering of such values in children through the family home assembly (ghar sabha).
Gnanvatsaldas Swami further added, “When only our hands work, it is called labour. When our head – intelligence – is added to our hands, that labour becomes skill. And when our heart – set of values – is integrated with our head and hands, that same skill becomes art. That is why Pramukh Swami Maharaj used to explain, ‘The heart of education is the education of the heart.’ This is essential, because we do not just need engineers, doctors, architects, scientists, etc.; we need good engineers, doctors, architects, and scientists – those who are not just experts in their respective fields, but who are guided by and grounded in universal values such as integrity, compassion, inclusivity, and selfless service. Pramukh Swami Maharaj worked towards mainstreaming the education of these universal values to uplift our nation and our world.”
Many dignitaries also joined His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj to pay tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s inspiring life and work.
Naresh Patel, Chairman of Shree Khodaldham Trust, shared, “I am lost for words on where to begin! This festival is impressive not just because of its scale, but because of the minute attention to detail. I bow to all the swamis who have conceptualised it and congratulate the thousands of volunteers who are serving for Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work was extraordinary not only here in India but across the world. The fruits of his work are evident for all to see today.”
Dr. Rajesh Khajuria, Commissioner of the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP), USA, said, “It is only through the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj that I feel protected and have been able to progress.
“Gautam Buddha used to say, ‘Religions are the signposts of gods,’ but seeing the saintliness of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I can say that Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the only signpost of God. By creating 1,200 magnanimous temples around the world, including over 100 in North America and cultural complexes like Akshardham in Gandhinagar and New Delhi, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has achieved what no emperor or a king has been able to do in the last five centuries. Upon visiting BAPS temples in India and the USA and interacting with the devotees, I feel that the common thread among all of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work is faith. Through his temples, swamis, and thousands of volunteers who work selflessly for the betterment of the world, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has shown our world the power of such faith.”
Padma Shri T.V. Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education (Manipal University), shared, “250 years ago, India was the richest country since civilization began. But due to our colonization and the Industrial Revolution, Europe became the dominant power. Today, humanity is seeing unprecedented challenges amid a digital revolution. These challenges include an aging population, destructive climate change due to rapacious consumption, and unbridled technological advances with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics replacing human beings. We are also seeing societal destabilization due to increasing religious conflict and a widening gap between rich and poor in many countries. Amid these challenges, India is rising up to be a great power once again because of the energy of our people and the wisdom of our holy saints and ancient civilization. To resolve the challenges of humanity, we must learn from Pramukh Swami Maharaj who taught us to live together as human beings, to be compassionate, to care for our children, and to care for nature. He established temples worldwide to inspire countless people to live in peace, to care for everyone, and harm no one in society. I am confident that, inspired by the teachings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS will carry on its extraordinary work of educating humanity on how to live in this new world, find peace within, have compassion for others, take care of our planet, and make sure that all of us leave a better world for our children.”
Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb Ji, King of Puri and Chairman of Shri Jagannatha Temple Managing Committee, shared, “Hindu scriptures explain, ‘True education is that which liberates.’ This is one of India’s great contributions to the world, to teach us that alongside our outer, physical advancements in society, we must also elevate ourselves spiritually within. A country ultimately comprises of people, not just buildings or roads. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vision and work for improving the inner character of people was his great contribution to the world. He educated people to make them ideal human beings. His example needs to be emulated around the world. With the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, there are now 1,200 temples worldwide, including, remarkably, in Abu Dhabi, the first traditional stone Hindu temple in the Arab world.”
The Maharaja of Jagannath Puri also recalled Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s travels as a child-yogi to the Jagannathji temple and paid tribute to BAPS’s relief work in Odisha during the devasting super cyclone of 1999. “Pramukh Swami Maharaj and I surveyed the damage together. I was deeply touched by his compassion and eagerness to alleviate the suffering of all those affected. His inner divinity manifested in every project that he undertook, including the rehabilitation work in Odisha.”
Doctor Swami shared, “It is said that ‘Character is the highest wisdom.’ Although no degrees are conferred for character, throughout history, people with no educational qualifications have attained exceptional achievements. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s formal education was only to sixth grade in Gujarati medium. His Hindi was rudimentary, he knew no English, he had written no poetry or books. Yet, his spiritually elevated life uplifted all. Thus, we see that character is the highest wisdom.
“Psychologists assert that the foundation of a child’s development occurs in its first two and half years. Where the parents are vigilant, they can lay a solid foundation for their children.
“Even the highly educated have been forgotten. But those who had attained the heights of spirituality have been cherished throughout history. More important than schools or colleges are character and faith in God. What you see at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is not the result of educational qualifications, but the result of spirituality and faith in God.”
Jagadguru Sri Sri Sri Dr. Nirmalanandanatha Mahaswamiji, Pontiff of Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana Math, added, “Humans absorbed solely in sleeping, eating, and procreating are no different from animals. The main purpose of human life is to attain liberation. While our scriptures teach that knowledge is needed for every being, education that binds us to this world is not knowledge; knowledge is that which liberates us from the bondage of this world. Only value-based education fosters our liberation.
“Einstein said that science can denature plutonium, but it cannot change the wickedness of the human heart. If modern knowledge cannot change the evil qualities of human beings and bestow us with values, what is the solution? We must adopt an education that helps us realise the Divinity within. Only a person with such realisation can understand and serve society. With this vision, Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired 1,100 swamis, 1,200 temples, and more than 5,000 satsang centres to propagate spiritual education and true knowledge. I have visited BAPS temples in America and seen the morality and values they have fostered in children and youth. I am very grateful that BAPS has been providing value-based education, imparting morals and spirituality to countless people.
“Every time I visited Sarangpur and sought the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a sweet memory and a great pilgrimage for me. I still cherish the mala he gave me a decade ago. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a great, inspiring personality and an embodiment of love and divinity to whose divine soul I have been prostrating with ecstasy. His successor Mahant Swami Maharaj is well-versed with modern science and the metaphysical world, making his teaching easily acceptable to all facets of society.”
In his blessings to the assembly, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj used to say, ‘Education without values destroys, while education with values protects us.’ Scholars may have immense knowledge, but the inability to apply that knowledge in their lives makes such knowledge futile. Education is needed for national progress, but without spiritual knowledge, education is incomplete. Education coupled with values benefits all.
“Yogiji Maharaj used to say that students should study eight hours a day but nurture their moral and spiritual character 24 hours a day. An ounce of practice is worth more than tonnes of theory. Character deficiencies cause tremendous problems, so only value-based education that fosters character will ultimately bring success and happiness to a person’s life. Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj established student hostels and educational institutes to provide society with such value-based education.”