His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj initiated 58 BAPS youths into the monastic order in a grand initiation ceremony at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar in Ahmedabad before an audience of tens of thousands on the morning of 10 January 2023.
The 58 highly educated and devoted youths were ordained as swamis, receiving bhagwati diksha (saffron robes), and embarked on their lifelong path of worldly renunciation, self-realization and service to God and society. Together with the ordination of 46 youths as parshads four days ago, this marks a total of 104 youths from around India and the world receiving ordination from Mahant Swami Maharaj on the occasion of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebrations in Ahmedabad. The date held extra historical significance as it was exactly 83 years ago today that Pramukh Swami Maharaj himself was ordained by his guru, Shastriji Maharaj, the founder of BAPS, in Gondal.
Of the 58 youths initiated today, there were 6 postgraduates, 30 engineers, 19 graduates in other fields, two MBAs and an architect. These youths left the comforts of home and promising careers to eagerly walk on the path of renunciation. The youths have come from around India and the world, including 5 from America, 7 from Maharashtra, and 46 from Gujarat.
The ceremony began at 8 am with the preliminary initiation rituals performed by senior BAPS swamis. Following the rituals, senior BAPS swamis addressed the assembly. Then Mahant Swami Maharaj completed the initiation rituals and blessed each new initiate with a new name.
Senior BAPS swami and mahant of Akshardham Gandhinagar, Anandswarupdas Swami, said, “Akshar and Purushottam are transcendent of maya and eternally divine. When they manifest on Earth, everyone recognises they are devoid of vices and replete with divine virtues. But even beyond that, they exude a divine aura that touches everyone around them. Yesterday, the head of ISKCON Bengaluru described his divine experience during his first meeting with Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Former President Abdul Kalam described in his book Transcendence how in his first meeting with Pramukh Swami Maharaj he felt that divinity was radiating from him.
“Many youths have experienced this and been inspired to become swamis. Yagnavallabh Swami and Sarvamangal Swami had such experiences. Many experience such ineffable peace and bliss in his presence that the joys of this world pale into insignificance and devotion to God and guru become the sole purpose of their life. Dutch citizen Han Kop experienced this in 1972, and Pramukh Swami Maharaj advised him to return to stay with him once every year, which he did for over 40 years.
“Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj’s divinity, the type of youths who renounce the comforts of worldly life to become swamis is also remarkable. Of the 1159 swamis in BAPS, there are 10 doctors, 12 MBAs, over 70 with master’s degrees, over 200 engineers, and over 700 graduates. 55 are British citizens, 70 are American citizens, 125 were the only son and 35 were the only child of their parents, such is their and their family’s sacrifice. Mahant Swami Maharaj has initiated 240 individuals who have renounced the ambitions of youth and dedicated their lives to their spiritual progress and service to God and society.
Thereafter, Senior BAPS swami Swayamprakashdas Swami (Doctor Swami) said, “Bhagwan Swaminarayan has said, ‘There is no deed greater than devotion to God.’ For this, one must learn worldly sacrifice, which is not only for swamis, but for all. For instance, Shastriji Maharaj had accepted Bhagatji Maharaj as his Guru because Bhagatji Maharaj’s devotion towards God was complete with the sacrifice of worldly desires. From the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, many youths in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya have forsaken many luxuries and chosen the path of spirituality and devotion.
“Seeing the miseries of the world, even Prince Siddhartha was inspired to renounce his family and kingdom to seek the cessation of worldly misery, ultimately becoming Gautam Buddha. We all observe countless examples of the impermanence of human life. We need not fear this, but we must understand it and act accordingly. If we keep the constant thought that today is my last day on Earth, we would renounce the unimportant things in our life and focus on what will bring about the liberation of our soul.
“A kirtan says, ‘The drumbeats of Death resound upon your head’, but though everyone sings this, are we hearing it? Understanding the rarity of this human birth, each of us must think about how much time we have left in this world and resolve not to waste our life in addictions, useless media, or frivolities. Like the child-devotee Dhruv, we must cultivate an unwavering resolution to attain God and remove everything from our life that will not help us to attain that. One of the fundamental purposes of celebrating this ‘Festival of Inspirations’ is to be able to practice this knowledge in our day to day lives.”
Finally, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “All these newly ordained youths are great. It is very difficult to dissociate from the world and renounce everything. Many talk of it but cannot put it into action. However, these youths have. I express my heartfelt thanks to their parents as well because one’s child is like one’s own heart, which they have offered joyously to God.
“The newly initiated swamis have now joined the many already here. While your life will be spent in service and offering devotion, all should be extremely firm in their religious observances. Through this you will be protected. You can do this because you are brave beyond measure. Remain steadfast in all your vows and understanding.”
Several new initiates and their family members also shared some of their experiences.
Jitendriyadas Swami, originally from New York who studied construction management and architecture, said, “The other-worldly love and peace that I can experience from Mahant Swami Maharaj is priceless; it cannot be purchased by any amount of money, and so renouncing for him has not been difficult. And now that I am serving God, I have no worries about my family, as they will be well looked after by God himself.”
Keshavchintandas Swami, a graduate in business management systems from Philadelphia, said, “There are thousands of people in the world who have degrees like mine. But the opportunity to serve a guru like Mahant Swami Maharaj is indeed rare and invaluable. And to be ordained at the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj is a truly momentous and memorable occasion. Receiving diksha from such a pure guru is like receiving new life.”
Gunvaibhavdas Swami, a BE Civil Engineer from Patna, shared, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj have showered me with so much unconditional love and they have done so much for our society and our nation, I feel that we can never repay them fully. It is their selfless life that inspires me to take this path of renunciation, service and devotion.”
Shweta Patel, sister of Gurumaydas Swami from Robbinsville, New Jersey, said, “When my brother was young, he had brought home a sacred image (murti) of ‘Thakorji’. He was very devoted to Thakorji, attending to Him with deep reverence and adoration. Now, every Rakshabandhan day, I will tie a rakhi to Thakorji, knowing that my brother is in the service of God. Now that he has become a swami and joined the 1,100 other swamis of BAPS, I feel that I have not lost a brother, but gained 1,100 brothers instead.”
The newly initiated monks will continue their rigorous monastic training at the BAPS ashram in Sarangpur (Hanuman), Gujarat, where they lead a life of simplicity and austerity steeped in devotion, service and learning. The seven-year training course helps them become proficient in their personal spiritual endeavours related to worship, service, austerities and learning. The learning curriculum covers a deep study of Swaminarayan Hindu theology, history and literature as well as of the Ramayana, Mahabharat, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures. It also includes a study of languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati and English, and world religions.