India’s unique culture has been kept alive by its lineage of noble sadhus, or swamis. During the nine-day Akshardham Mahotsav celebrations, this tradition of initiating renunciates and sadhus who commit to a life of spiritual endeavors and serving society took place at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey on October 2, 2023. This day also marks the birth anniversary of the great civic leader, Mahatma Gandhiji.
This celebratory occasion began with preliminary initiation rituals performed by senior swamis and the families of the renunciants. Following the traditional rituals, the presence and discourses of senior swamis created a sweet air of brotherhood for all celebrating this occasion. Sadguru Pujya Viveksagardas Swami spoke of the vital role sadhus play in society. Just as doctors, teachers and business owners make essential contributions to the functioning of society, similarly sadhus selflessly serve the needs of society by strengthening faith and devotion, and nurturing values and character in the community.
Pujya Anandswarupdas Swami recalled his own personal experiences in explaining how the guru’s unconditional and unparalleled love is what has drawn over one thousand youth into the sadhu-fold over the decades. The pure and pious lives of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, with unparalleled saintliness, set the ideal for sadhus to follow. Their personal care and spiritual guidance continues to inspire sadhus to progress on the difficult path of renunciation.
Thereafter, the moment of pride and anticipation arrived as His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj initiated 30 highly educated and devout BAPS youths into various stages of the sadhu-fold. Mahant Swami Maharaj then personally blessed each renunciate with their new names.
The group of dedicated young men include 21 newly ordained renunciates who will now continue their rigorous training at the BAPS seminary in Sarangpur, Gujarat, where they will cultivate the virtues of service, knowledge, devotion, austerity and unity. Newly ordained as sadhus, 9 men will now embark upon their lifelong path of worldly renunciation, self-realization and service to God and society. All 30 young men selflessly served in the construction of Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey. With today’s initiation ceremony, the fellowship in the BAPS tradition now totals 1,178 educated and devoted sadhus.
Culminating a joyous morning, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj expressed deep gratitude and appreciation for the parents of these young men who have selflessly raised and educated their sons with a desire for lifelong devotion. Speaking directly to the new sadhus, Mahant Swami reiterated that “it was in your mind to serve God and society, otherwise you would not be sitting here today. There is much work to be done from here on. May you be successful on this spiritual path of attaining God through your service.”
It was an honor to have esteemed members of the U.S. House of Representatives join in the celebrations. Congressman Shri Thanedar, MI-13 expressed his immense joy in being able to partake in the inaugural celebrations at BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham. Congressman Ro Khanna, CA-17 conveyed his sentiments to the morning assembly. “It’s an honor to be here for the celebration of these young men who are committing themselves to the service of our nation, community and world. This is a landmark to the traditions and values of Indian Americans and of Hinduism. I can think of no better values for this nation than caring about the joy of others, and wanting to serve others. These are not values that are just BAPS values. These are values that will make America a kinder, more just nation” Congressman Mark Takano, CA-39 shared his experience on today’s visit. “One of the great many privileges of being a public servant is building ties to different communities, experiencing first hand their contributions to American society. This temple is a testament to the unlimited power of selfless service, sacrifice, community, and to dedicating ourselves to each other and to something bigger than ourselves.”