An inspirational program held in Robbinsville, New Jersey, on September 16, 2023, centered around the theme Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: The World Is One Family, encouraged the audience to look beyond surface-level differences and understand what unites humanity. This message, which has been echoed through the ancient scriptures of Sanatan Dharma, urges us to seek out the divinity in others to create a world of harmony and compassion. Overcoming differences in background, culture, and beliefs - this sentiment of spiritual oneness links humans around the globe. Imbibing spiritual virtues such as this into one’s life is the embodiment of the sacred Sanatan Dharma, virtues that will be inspired by Akshardham for generations to come.
The program was held as part of the Festival of Inspirations, a three-month-long festival celebrating the inauguration of BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Akshardham is a sacred sanctuary that promotes spirituality, uniting people of diverse backgrounds under ancient Hindu values such as respect, compassion, and selfless service.
Pujya Aksharvatsaldas Swami emphasized the challenge of seeing beyond others' flaws to recognize their divine qualities in today's world. Differences, driven by ego, hinder the development of unconditional love or sama drashti. Recognizing the soul beyond the body can break these barriers. Bhagwan Swaminarayan embodied this by loving all devotees equally, reflecting the divinity in everyone. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, during his travels, showcased this love universally, promoting true equality.
The stage performances exemplified the same messages of treating the world as one’s family lived by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj. One incident in August 2019, told the story of a young man named Steven, who ran a coconut stand in Africa. Daily, he would bring coconuts to Mahant Swami Maharaj, who would happily drink the fresh coconut water which in actuality does not suit Mahant Swami Maharaj’s health. He accepted the water because he saw the love in Steven’s heart and even arranged for a new bicycle to be gifted to Steven so he can continue his business. To find ways in which to connect selflessly with those of different cultures and backgrounds takes true divinity.
The program honored esteemed guests for their contributions to the community. City of Edison Mayor Sam Joshi became the first South Asian individual elected to the position in Edison. In his address, he said, “They say vision is something that can be seen by an individual when someone else cannot see it. That’s what Pramukh Swami Maharaj did.” He went on to share how Akshardham will motivate families and upcoming generations to uphold and cherish timeless universal values. In his address to the assembly, Rick Bare, CEO and President of AFS, said, “I am humbled by the enormity and the scale of this project, what’s been accomplished here. And to see the unity in everyone, with family and God, it’s an amazing spectacle, overwhelming, and something I will never forget.” Bawa Jain, Secretary-General for the World Council of Religious Leaders, remarked, “The essence of Hindu philosophy is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Pramukh Swami Maharaj established that foundation twenty-three years ago at the United Nations. He also declared to everyone that in your happiness lies my happiness; this is the essence of unity, bringing people and families together.”
The program highlighted personal stories showcasing acceptance and love among diverse individuals. Wilson, a Korean contractor, spoke of his bond with Pramukh Swami Maharaj since 2004 and the genuine love in their service acts. Meanwhile, Nick Valero, a devotee of Italian and Spanish heritage, shared how he was warmly embraced by every swami and devotee, feeling treated like family despite cultural differences. These touching personal narratives highlight the ways in which we can put the idea of “The World is One Family” into action, recognizing divinity within all and treating each other with equality.
In his address, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj conveyed profound insights. He stated, “Our scriptures profess 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - the world is one family. We're all God's children.' This is an unalterable truth. God and the spiritual guru make no distinctions among people; such perceptions are our own creations. The spiritual guru perceives the divine in everyone, devoid of any hierarchy. As long as our actions reflect morality and our character remains pure, irrespective of our worldly status, we are esteemed in the eyes of God." Through this, he illuminated the essence of recognizing virtues in others and emphasized universal equality.
The program acknowledged a number of distinguished guests who visited the Akshardham campus. Among them were Mr. Sam Joshi, the Mayor of Edison Township; Mr. Rick Bare, the CEO & President of Automated Financial Systems, Inc.; Mr. Bawa Jain, the Secretary General of The World Council of Religious Leaders; Dr. Anoop Prasad, the Managing Director at D.E. Shaw Group; Ms. Sumitra Karthikeyan, the Global Head of CIB Strategy at JP Morgan Chase; Ms. Selma Kivran, the President of Covanta Midwest Region; Mr. Navneet Chugh, the CEO of Chug law firm; Mr. Fawad Maqbool, the President and CEO/CTO of Amplitech; Mr. Lalit K. Jha, the Chief U.S. Correspondent for the Press Trust of India; Dr. Ashish Kumar Bhutani, the CEO of PMFBY and Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmer's Welfare, Government of India; Mr. Maneesh Bajaj, Partner & Portfolio Manager at Brown Advisory; Mr. Krishna Bansal, the Chief Executive and Chief Architect of Q1 Technologies, Inc.; Mr. Harish Kolasani, the President of the National Council Of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA); Dr. Dharmendra Patel, an Ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic; and Mr. Venk Gorty, the Founder of MelpApp.