By Chaitanyamurtidas Swami
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
What can a Muslim rocket and aeronautical scientist who also became the President of India possibly learn from a simple, humble Hindu swami who only studied to the 5thgrade, knew no English, and had no political experience?
On March 11, 2014, after reaching his room at the Presidential residence, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had a vision. He heard a voice “… the world has lost its smile and locked itself in the knots of ‘I’ and ‘Mine.’ Your world has become a world of barriers and fences and the ‘I’ creates the poles and the barbs that divide them. Humanity is suffering and shredding itself. Kalam, write to break the barriers, overcome the fences, and dissolve the divisions created by the ‘I’. Write Transcendence.”
The voice instructed him to write a book entitled ‘Transcendence,’ in which he narrated, among other thoughts, the deep insights and wisdom he received from HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a Hindu swami, and Dr. Kalam was a Muslim rocket scientist. Their backgrounds were poles apart. Yet, their lives showed that deep, spiritual relationships can overcome all barriers.
The seeds of their journey were planted on June 30, 2001, in New Delhi, India. At the time, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was leading India’s largest atomic science research group. Dr. Kalam, Dr. Y.S Rajan, and 500 other scientists were planning for a program called, “Vision 2020 of ‘Developing India’.” These experts concluded on five pillars for making India a developed nation: 1) Education and Health Protection 2) Agriculture 3) Information & Communication 4) Infrastructure 5) Critical Technology. Dr. Kalam was incredibly moved by the pious and spiritual lifestyle of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. So, on this day, Dr. Kalam put that dream of a developed India before Swamishri and genuinely asked for feedback: “Swamiji, we need your honest opinion to fulfill this dream of creating a developed India.” After long consultations with 500 intellectuals, Dr. Kalam was asking Swamishri’s opinion, not on the nature of the soul or how to live a spiritual life; he was asking for feedback from a Hindu monk with very little formal education on how to develop an entire nation of over one billion people!
The size and nature of the ask would be enough to make most people uncomfortable and unconfident. But Pramukh Swami Maharaj immediately suggested adding a sixth topic to the other five: faith in God. Describing this specific incident in his book, “Transcendence,” Dr. Kalam wrote, “I was taken aback by the clarity, precision, and force of his words.” He felt, “We are merely scientists of physical means. But rishis like Swamishri connect society and humanity with God.” At the end of the meeting, sensing the purity and sincerity in Dr. Kalam, Swamishri said, “In ancient times, there used to be rishis in India. You are a modern rishi. Work to improve humanity by keeping spirituality and science together.” Dr. Kalam felt truly blessed by meeting Swamishri. That day marked the beginning of a long spiritual relationship between Dr. Kalam and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, which Dr. Kalam conveyed vividly through Transcendence. Deep, spiritual relationships truly can break all boundaries and help create a beautiful, borderless world.