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Pramukh Swami Maharaj: Epitome of Compassion

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His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016) was Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s fifth spiritual successor and the President of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha for over 60 years. Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a socio-spiritual Hindu organisation with its roots in the Vedas.

This year marks Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial birth celebration; therefore, we aim to pay tribute to him through this article series. We will explore Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work that inspired millions across the world to maintain moral and spiritual lifestyles.

Compassion: a necessity in society

Without compassion, society devolves into a state of chaos and brutality, as evidenced through multiple genocides and atrocities throughout human history. Although we seem to be surrounded by people invested in their own agendas, the compassion that still exists in the souls of many, provides us hope in making the world a better place.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s compassion was not due to a life-changing or tragic incident in his life. His loving and genuinely compassionate nature was innate.

He lived for the joy of others, for the progress of others and for the good of others.

In the joy of others…

“In the joy of others, lies our own.

In the progress of others, rests our own.

In the good of others, exists our own.”

These words are not merely a tagline given by Pramukh Swami Maharaj; they were his lifestyle. This mantra also became the guiding principle for his followers. It was not enough to just tolerate and forgive, to merely wish well for others; it was imperative to contribute to their success.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj at the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit, 2000. Source: supplied

This was the message delivered by Pramukh Swami Maharaj at the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit in August 2000. His remarks were applauded by world and religious leaders alike. When asked why this was remarkable, one religious leader said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life is an extraordinary example of love and harmony. If the entire nation were to take a cue from him and live by those standards, it would solve all of our problems.” Pramukh Swami Maharaj was one of the rare individuals who actually practised this credo while encouraging others to do the same.

Compassion beyond comprehension

Perhaps the biggest test of this boundless compassion was when Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, India, fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack in 2002. In the aftermath of the incident, people throughout India were very hurt and angry, and the public’s instinct for retaliation reared its head. However, Pramukh Swami Maharaj made a heartfelt public appeal for peace and stability that echoed around the country and the world.

akshardham
Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar. Source: supplied

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s response to this terrorist attack has been studied as an exemplary case of peacekeeping and dubbed as ‘The Akshardham Response’. On his first visit to Akshardham after the attack, he went to the locations where shootings had occurred. He asked to go to where the terrorists had been shot. The volunteers were dismissive of the request. He insisted and said, “Though they attacked us and the innocent pilgrims, we must not allow their hate to overcome our love. Take me there. I want to pray for the peace and redemption of their souls as well.” The profundity of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s innate forgiving and loving nature is truly unfathomable.

Many have been inspired to imbibe these virtues in their lives. If practised sincerely, they transform lives.

Compassion that inspires others

The depth and breadth of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s selfless love and compassion span decades and vast geographic distances. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has created a community of people who strive to bring joy to others.

He is the inspiration for a young gynaecologist in Bryan, Texas, treating uninsured expecting mothers for free so that they can have access to quality healthcare. He is the inspiration for a professional musician and travel agent in Chino Hills, California, donating all of his income as a musician to humanitarian and spiritual charities through BAPS for the past 20 years. The list of those inspired by him to think and act with compassion for others is endless.

Epilogue

May all be happy. May all be free from illness. May all see what is auspicious. May no one suffer.

The above is a prayer of compassion from the Upanishads; Pramukh Swami Maharaj was truly the epitome of such compassion — he not only prayed but persevered until his last breath to bring each word of that prayer to life.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life is celebrated all over the world today and his contribution to society continues to inspire people from all walks of life all around the world. To learn more about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work, please visit www.pramukhswami.org.

READ ALSO: BAPS: ‘There is no spirituality without social service’

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