Witnessing a donation drive for underprivileged children on my way to dropping off my 2.5-year-old son at school, I explained the joy of giving to others who may have less than us. My understanding of this concept of selfless service was deeply ingrained in me through my experiences at a mandir.
A mandir, or Hindu place of worship, plays a significant role in the lives of Hindus, bringing communities together, providing spiritual guidance, preserving culture, and fostering social connections.
Growing up in the 1980s, my parents took me to the BAPS Mandir in Flushing, NY, the first mandir of its organization in the United States. Today, not only the Flushing mandir but also the 100+ BAPS Shri Swaminarayan mandirs and numerous others across the USA serve as centers for cultural, social, and educational activities.
I credit my ability to communicate effectively, lead teams, perform Indian music, and speak my native language to the opportunities and skills I acquired at the mandir. Beyond individual development, mandirs play a vital role in uniting communities and fostering a spirit of selfless service, known as seva, within Hindus.
Mandirs provide a space for regular seva, allowing people to directly help others through tasks like cleaning restrooms, leading children’s activities, and preparing food for congregants. They also organize events such as blood donation drives, health fairs, food drives, and walkathons to support the broader community.
Despite questions from others about my regular attendance, I firmly believe that mandirs offer a continuous source of inspiration to do good, instilling positive thoughts and actions into the lives of those who attend regularly.
During a trip to rural Gujarat, India, in 2003, I experienced the transformative power of mandirs in uplifting communities. There, we encountered a family whose life changed significantly after the head of the household started attending the nearby mandir regularly. Overcoming his addictions and incorporating spirituality into his daily life, he was able to provide a better life for his family, inspiring others in the village to do the same.
In a world often dominated by negative instincts, such as ego and greed, the message of peace and harmony becomes more critical than ever. By working on our inner selves and embracing the spirit of seva, we can collectively create a better world.
In conclusion, mandirs go beyond being places of worship; they serve as centers for personal growth, community development, and fostering a spirit of selfless service. Through the lessons and opportunities they provide, they inspire countless individuals to become better versions of themselves and work towards creating a more harmonious society.
– Yogesh Patel, New Brunswick, NJ, Treasury/Finance Officer, Volunteer at BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha