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APJ Abdul Kalam’s last book is launched at BAPS’ Independence Day function
It turned out to be a perfect Independence Day function.
BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir’s August event, with its very essence, took us back to our roots like no other community function has, this past month.
Entitled Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, the carefully designed and impeccably executed program at the Temple premises in Rosehill, was quintessentially Indian – from the over-arching message of oneness that was sent out to the community, to the finer details, such as in the spirit of Atithi devo bhava, in the home-style food served in traditional thalis with endearing humility, and in the gentle hint of spirituality that pervaded through the evening.
And there was nary a hint of Bollywood: other community organisations reading this, kindly take note.
Indeed, the special segment of the launch of the book Transcendence: My spiritual experiences with Pramukh Swamiji written by the late APJ Abdul Kalam, was based on the core Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
The special attendees at the event were representatives of some 52 Indian associations in Sydney, who were acquainted not only with the Swaminarayan brand of spiritualism, but also with the philosophical principles on which the movement is built, particularly its social, community and volunteering aims that have seen it become a growing international movement.
The message went out on the occasion about the Mandir’s aims in the fields of healthcare, education and environmental protection. The intent is to become a valued community partner, reducing the burden on mainstream services. This was clear from the announced community health expo coming up this month, with special awareness programs on cancer, including mammogram screenings on site.
As it sets out on the path to achieve these aims, BAPS sent out a call seeking the association of all community organisations in reaching as many people as possible: working together makes it easier to attain goals. This idea was reflected clearly in terms of the cultural presentation of the night, Mile sur mera tumhara, India’s multilingual anthem of integration. (A modern interpretation of the 1500-year-old classical raga Bhairavi, it perfectly suited the Swaminarayan attitude yet again of taking what is ancient and applying it to the contemporary).
The book Transcendence, written with Arun Tiwari, comes out of the much-loved former president’s 14-year association with the spiritual head of the Swaminarayan movement Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Dr Kalam presented the book to Pramukh Swamiji only weeks before his death on 27 July this year.
Dr Kalam reveals in the book, that it was Swamiji himself who sowed the seeds of the book in his mind. In one of their meetings, Dr Kalam told Swamiji of his dream for India, now famously known as his ‘Vision 2020’, which seeks change in the five fields of education and healthcare, agriculture, information and communication, infrastructure and critical technology. Swamiji replied after a moment’s thought, “Add a sixth one: spirituality.”
The deep and abiding friendship between the two, one a scientist and the other a spiritual leader, is one of wonder. Dr GK Hari Harinath, Chair of Multicultural NSW, pointed out as he launched the book, “The two men shared a unique bond. One spoke no Gujarati, the other, no English. Yet they transcended the barriers not only of language, but also culture, education, community, even religion.”
The contrast is immense, but both went on to win the hearts of millions with their particular passion for humanitarianism.
Kalam describes one of their meetings in the book. “We met in a garden inhabited by peacocks, surrounded by flowers. In an emotionally and spiritually charged atmosphere, Swamiji held my hand for ten minutes. It was a profound communication of consciousness, a great spiritual experience. I felt that his was the hand of transformation that could bring the change the world needs today.”
Over and above such personal and transcendent experiences, the book also delves into the dialogue between science and spirituality, spirituality in action, the need for creative leadership and the Swaminarayan traditions that are guides in successful living such as ghar sabha (the benefits of family members gathering together on a regular basis for meals and/or prayers), and the values of forgiveness (“When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you surely change the future”).
The event turned out to be inspiring on many levels.
Yogi Savania, spokesperson for the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, said later, “The Mile Sur Mera Tumhara event was a wonderful experience for our Mandir and it was an honour to launch such an amazing and truly spiritual publication in the presence of distinguished members of our community.”
The book Transcendence will soon be available at the Mandir’s bookstall open on Sundays. Details 02 9760 2277.