Spiritual Awareness

Bhagwan Swaminarayan: Inspiring millions of ‘real world’ followers

Wednesday, 05 Jun, 2024
Bhagwan Swaminarayan (Photo provided by BAPS Sanstha)

Even in this effortless age of clicks and ‘follows,’ how many people follow you on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? 

You will then appreciate how difficult it must be to have two million people follow you 200 years ago. Bhagwan Swaminarayan had that many followers. 

Indeed, two million adults, youths, and children not only followed him but also loved him, practiced his message, and, quite extraordinarily, believed he was God. 

The divinity emanating from Bhagwan Swaminarayan was palpable to all. There was no doubt. The spiritual visions (samadhi) people experienced were real. The tranquility they enjoyed was profound. So many people experienced it they could not help but follow. 

Reginald Heber, the then Bishop of Calcutta, met Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Nadiad, Gujarat, in March 1825. Heber notes the conversation in his diary - "Bhagwan Swaminarayan shone like the sun on all, whatever their faith."  

On the most historic day of this universe, April 3, 1781, Bhagwan Swaminarayan appeared as a child born to Dharmadev and Bhaktimata. He was born in Chhapaiya, an idyllic village in north India. It is just 350 miles from Vrindavan, where Bhagwan Krishna was born, and only 20 miles from Ayodhya, where Bhagwan Ram was born.  

After leaving his home at the age of 11, he went to the Himalayas, performed austerities, and, after 7 years and an 8,000-mile journey across India, at the age of 18, became a disciple of Ramanand Swami. Soon, Ramanand Swami, understanding him to be God incarnate, made him the spiritual head, marking a significant transformation in the spiritual landscape and giving rise to the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. 

Bhagwan Swaminarayan's impact reached far beyond mere spiritual teachings; he was deeply involved in improving community welfare. He took active steps to enhance village infrastructure by renovating villages, dredging lakes, and digging wells. His commitment to social reform was evident in his efforts to educate women, halt the immolation of widows, and prevent the drowning of female newborns. Moreover, he was not confined to a single place; Bhagwan Swaminarayan traveled extensively, from one village to another and from towns to cities, personally engaging with people and inspiring them to pursue a path of enlightenment. His choice to live humbly in a mud hut rather than opulent abodes reflected his teachings about the virtues of simplicity and enlightenment over material pleasures. 

Today, the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan continue to resonate worldwide, with millions embracing his message of compassion, humility, and devotion. Followers are inspired to choose enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment guided by leaders like Mahant Swami Maharaj, who embody Bhagwan Swaminarayan's legacy and divine presence. The newly dedicated BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, NJ, is dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. 

Sanjay C. Patel
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha 

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