The blessings of God are essential in life's every stepAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has held over 10,000 assemblies and bestowed over 4,000 hours of divine blessings (Ashirwad) to thousands around the world. His sermons explained the glory and philosophy of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, the greatness of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi. Through His discourses, He imparted wisdom and teachings for a moral and fulfilling life to bring oneself closer to the Lord, held dear by multiple generations in an ever-changing world. In a world where not much remains constant, His words provided light, direction and grounding to many. A distinguished orator, He delighted audiences by singing kirtans (devotional songs) and sloks (religious verses), that galvanized, soothed, and reassured. On occasion, when overcome with so much joy, He even enthralled the assemblies by rising and dancing in celebration of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa’s glory. His Ashirwads were both a personal and collective experience, treasured by all who experienced them – they enlightened individual souls and equally created a divine atmosphere, akin to an assembly in Akshardham, for one and all to experience divine bliss.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj inspired and led over 200 spiritual, cultural, and social progression establishments around the world including the creation of over 30 new Mandirs and spiritual centres.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj established Mandirs so that they would serve as centres for the propagation of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa’s supreme philosophy and principles – a place where one can peacefully worship and offer devotion and adoration to the Lord alongside fellow brothers and sisters, on days of religious festivals and observances, as well as each and every day as a resort away from the hustles of worldly life. He encouraged disciples to listen to religious discourses in the Mandir, practice meditation (Dhyan), partake in Sanskar Deepika examinations, so that day by day, they could increase their inclination towards the Lord and experience the divine bliss within the Lord’s Murti. Mandirs provide a retreat from the stresses and anxieties of life, where calmness, peace and tranquillity can be instantly experienced when gazing at the Lord’s divine Murtis. They are truly a place for everyone, regardless of age or background.
These Mandirs and spiritual centres are at the heart of the communities they serve and are a place where people from all sectors of the community gather to worship Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and work collectively for the welfare of society. Charitable and humanitarian activities are woven into their fabric, as well as activities for the wider community to maintain physical and mental health. While certainly a place of celebration and rejoicing during happy times, the centres are equally important in finding comfort and solace during sad or difficult times.
Amongst us there are those who are compelled to dedicate their entire lives to Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa. These Sants and Sankhya-Yogis, (male and female ascetics, respectively) have renounced the material world in order to dedicate their lives to Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan. The leadership of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has fostered a brotherhood and sisterhood, where together, they relentlessly work in the service of the Lord and society at large. Nurturing their skills, in much the same manner as a parent, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj encouraged those skills in the service of the Lord. From cooking for the homeless, to organising spectacular religious festivals, to mastering all the arts; these ascetics live a simple, meaningful, and devout life for the Lord, their Guru, and His devotees; as well as society.
Just as soldiers defend our borders, Sants defend us in the fight against our inner enemiesAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
The history of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan is full of spectacular religious festivals where communities are forged and miracles are witnessed. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj continued this tradition, on a truly global scale. Celebrated with tens of thousands, festivals such as Murti Pratishthas, Patotsavs, Pragatya Jayantis, and Gurupurnima amplify the glory of the Lord. From the stunning weighing of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa’s Murtis against 780 kilograms of gold in New Jersey, USA to the five renowned Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Bands playing in unity in Nairobi, Kenya, to the iconic parades in the streets of Central London in the United Kingdom, to the gatherings of the masses of disciples from all over the world in India during the celebrations of the most grand occasions such as Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Shatabdi Mahotsav, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has ignited the spark within each of His disciples to spread the glory our Lord far and wide. Furthermore, service to society is a key feature of every religious festival, commanded by Acharya Swamishree Maharaj; prasad is distributed to the masses who attend these festivals. Hundreds of thousands have witnessed, participated in, and found joy in these grand celebrations which will sit in their hearts for years to come.
The Lord has stated in the Vachanamrut that recalling the memories of these religious celebrations during the last moments of one’s life will allow one to remember the Lord’s Murti and attain salvation, which is precisely why Acharya Swamishree Maharaj imparted bliss in this manner through these most spectacular festivals – creating indelible memories of all.
Discard the darkness of ignorance with enthusiasm and eagerness, as these ignite the flame of true progression. A religious festival aims to teach the manner to achieve this goalAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
Disciples perform pooja (worship) every morning. From an early age, every disciple is given their own set of Murtis for this special, very personal form of adoration. These unique photos of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performing pooja were taken on Sunday 28th May 2017, the auspicious day when Sants and disciples around the world celebrated exactly 75 years since His manifestation.
The hand-drawn Murtis were originally part of Jeevanpran Swamibapa's own Pooja, as was the small Murti of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, which has been mounted on six pages of the Shikshapatri. The very little book on the bottom right is a copy of the Shikshapatri from the time of Lord Shree Swaminarayan. Nestled between its pages is a black urn containing the nail clippings of the Lord. These sacred items have been passed on through our Guru Parampara. Sadguru Shree Ishwarcharandasji Swamibapa gave them to Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa, who in turn gifted them to Acharya Swamishree Maharaj.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s dedication to His daily pooja, served as inspiration to all His disciples, especially the youngest, many as young as 5 years of age when they too begin their own daily pooja. Regular pooja workshops were held so these young disciples could start their spiritual journeys understanding the importance of beginning the day with God’s worship, before they commence their worldly activities.
The scriptures have stated that one of the reasons Lord Shree Swaminarayan manifested upon this Earth was to establish loving devotion (prem-lakshana-bhakti) unto the Lord. In the very same manner as Lord Shree Swaminarayan Himself, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has inspired countless souls to perform loving devotion unto the Lord while, in parallel, building valuable skills that will serve them well in life. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s genuine interest in encouraging His disciples to progress both in worldly life and on their spiritual journeys by performing devotion is yet another facet of His most infinite compassion.
Devotion (Bhakti) is defined as an immense love for the Lord that is combined with a genuine understanding and knowledge of His greatness. When a disciple sings a devotional song with true devotion, the Lord joins in to give encouragement to him and strengthen his dedication. Profound bliss is experienced by those who perform such devotional deeds, be that through singing, dancing, reading scriptures, performing meditation, offering services to the Mandir, or any other means.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj Himself was proficient in both classical dance and music. In the late 1960s, He learnt to play the dilruba, which is a stringed instrument that translates to ‘stealer of hearts’. Performing devotional songs, He stole the hearts of Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa, Sants and disciples. He also performed devotional dances as a Sant for His beloved Jeevanpran Swamibapa, where everyone could see His deep loving devotion. Even during the most recent festivals and celebrations of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, overcome with such joy and devotion, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj often danced to the delight of everyone who had that darshan – creating indelible memories for all; memories that themselves are a means of salvation for anyone who recalls them.
Devotion must not to be performed to merely show others. When performing devotion, a true disciple will not be concerned about what others say about him; he will continue his worship undisturbed by their commentsAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
Leading by example, He inspired His sants and disciples to learn these music and dance skills, explaining that they teach commitment, discipline and dedication - vital skills to develop for the progression of all aspects of one's life, including one’s devotion. Shree Swaminarayan Mandirs around the world all hold music and dance classes - just one of many legacies that Acharya Swamishree Maharaj established for the development of generations to come.
One of the most unique legacies left by both Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj is Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan's Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band, a traditional Scottish pipe band with branches in the UK (London and Bolton), the United States (New Jersey), Africa (Nairobi), and India (Maninagar, Ahmedabad). While Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa inspired the first chapters in London and Nairobi, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj inspired the formation of chapters in Bolton, USA, and India in honour of His beloved Gurudev. The discipline, unity and dedication practiced by the members of the pipe band teach our youth invaluable lessons and skills, engaging them to be useful members of society.
Along with this type of musical devotion, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj also encouraged disciples to take care of their physical bodies, because devotion to God can only be performed well if one's physical body is healthy and fit. He encouraged disciples to further themselves and progress in all areas, remain physically active and alert, and make it a part of their daily rituals to perform meditation, play sports, exercise, and practice yoga. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s aim was to teach good conduct through recreation and play.
At Shree Swaminarayan Mandirs around the world, Acharya Swamishree inspired the establishment of sports clubs for cricket, football, volleyball, netball, baseball, badminton and more, with qualified coaches and teams playing in local leagues and tournaments. Each of these teams carries the name of our beloved Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa, and thus His name and values are spread far and wide into communities. Furthermore, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has ensured that whenever the game of cricket is played from anywhere in the world, the Motherland, India is always remembered by disciples. On many occasions, world renowned sports personalities have come to have the blessings of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj.
Today, we are all able to not just lovingly perform devotion unto the Lord, but also progress in all areas of our lives with the skills we have attained through honing those various forms of devotion, and this is all due to the example set by, and the loving encouragement, inspiration and facilities received from, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj.