Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA -23

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA

 BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Jackson, MS

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
2390 Greenway Drive,
Jackson, MS 39204. USA
Tel: (1-601) 922-4343
Fax: (1-601) 923-4395
The BAPS reaches out to millions of individuals through a network of mandirs and centers. They are more than places of worship and gathering, they are permanent sources of peace and reformation for people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs. Spread across the world, the BAPS Global Network is composed of more than 800 mandirs and 3,300 centers. Though varying in size every node of this network runs in synchronization with others providing inspiration for better living. For the ease of access, Global Network of BAPS is divided into five geographical regions. Click on them to get more information.
Daily Schedule
Daily Aarti:
7:00 a.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Darshan Timings:
Monday - Friday:
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday- Sunday:
7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Weekly Schedule

Bal / Balika Sabha :
Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Kishore / Kishori Sabha :
Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Yuvak / Yuvati Sabha:
Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Satsang Sabha:
Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Bal / Balika Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

How Festivals Enrich Society :
India is a land of a thousand holy festivals and rituals. Its colorful panorama reflect the religion, culture and custom of one of the most ancient and richest of civilizations. Hinduism worships and celebrates the birth and victories of its deities and holy men through festivals and rituals.
Through colors, sounds and profound sentiments it elevates and motivates the inner core of individuals. Its festive ambience invigorates and enthuses the individual from the monotony of daily life.
This special section provides a window to the history, significance and experience of a selected number of annual festivals, rituals and customs in Indian culture. Like the golden sun, festivals refresh and recharge humanity in more than one way.
Aesthetically : Festivals are a poetry of arts and crafts, and encourage the latent talents of people.
Emotionally : Festivals lend joy and zest to the monotony of life, providing entertainment and enrichment through discourses and seminars, music and melodies, dances and rhythms of a meaningful life.
Socially : festivals bring man closer to man in peaceful understanding. Social harmony is nourished as people of different nationalities, races, religions and backgrounds come together to share their joys and delights.
Morally : Festivals promote higher and better life. Guiding masses away from drugs and addictions, hatred and violence, they nourish the values of service, sacrifice, discipline, unity and cooperation - restoring man's moral dignity.
Culturally : Festivals retrace old traditions and strengthen our cultural roots by providing deeper insights.
Spiritually : Festivals inspire and consolidate faith in God. An atmosphere of purity and prayers elevate the soul and helps generate a feeling of universal brotherhood, inter-religious harmony and personal piety.

Enlightening Essays

Mirabai A Great Krishna Bhakta
Mirabai is one of the brightest stars in the star-filled spiritual firmament of our country. We are too near history to either add to her greatness or detract from it. For, five hundred years in the history of a nation that stretches back several millennia is a short period. But her place in the religious history of our country is unique as she had danced and sang her way into the hearts of millions of her admirers.

This Rajput princess was an Empress among God’s devotees and a princess only in name. She treated royal conventions with disdain in worshipping her beloved Murlidhar (Krishna). She belonged to the Rathore clan of Medta, in Marwar, and married into the Sisodia family of Chitor, Mewar. The Sisodias were very proud of their lineage and did not tolerate any deviation from etiquette which they considered to be correct. And it was this etiquette that Mira flouted from the beginning.
Mira, like Andal of yore and the legendary gopis, considered Bhagwan Krishna to be her Lord and husband, even after her marriage to Bhojraj, son of Rana Sangramsimha (Rana Sanga) of Mewar. What is worth noting is the fact that while her menfolk clashed with Muslim invaders, and her father Ratansimha and her husband attained martyrdom, Mira kept herself busy singing bhajans in praise of Krishna or Kanha,  unmindful of the din of battle all around.

 She sums up her spiritual message in a kirtan, “Satsang no ras chãkh prãni...” – “O being! Savour the fruit of satsang, in the beginning it may be bitter. But as time goes on it will become as sweet as mango. Don’t you be proud of this body, in the end it will be reduced to ashes. You cannot take elephants, horses, other forms of wealth when you depart this world. If you resort to satsang you can have mukti; as the Vedas proclaim. Mira says take refuge at Hari’s feet.”

A brief account of the times in which Mira lived places her remarkable life in the correct perspective. It is certain she belonged to the sixteenth century as Rana Sanga was a contemporary of the Mughal invader, Babar, who fought the First Battle of Panipat in 1526.

The century was a period of uncertainty in the history of India. The weak Lodhi dynasty was on its last leg. Rana Sanga, a brave battle-scarred Rajput warrior, made the mistake of inviting Babar to invade India. He was under the impression that the Farghana adventurer would hasten the end of the Lodhis, collect his booty and go back to his native Central Asia. But after defeating Ibrahim Lodhi at the First Battle of Panipat, Babar had other ideas. He founded the Mughal empire which turned out to be an enduring one till it was supplanted by the British in 1856. Rana Sanga had to fight Babar in the Battle of Khanua, near Agra. Ratansimha, Mira’s father, fought alongside Sanga in this battle.

Now coming to Mirabai, she became an ardent devotee of Krishna when she was three. It came about this way. Her grandfather Dudaji was a devotee of Krishna. One day a sadhu came to his palace. He had a murti of Krishna with him. Child Mira wanted the murti of Krishna;  the sadhu was reluctant to part with it. Mira began to cry for the murti and gave up eating. According to one account Krishna appeared to the sadhu in his dream and asked him to hand over the murti to Mira, which he did. The murti was to become a lifelong companion of the princess.

 As long as Mira stayed with her grandfather she had no problems. When she was seven years old, she lost her mother, Hansaba. Just before that Mira saw a marriage procession passing by from the palace window. He asked her mother, “Who’s going to be my bride-groom?” Her mother replied, “Kanha.” That took root in her mind; and Mira had to face a sea of troubles once she entered the proud Sisodia family. The royalty worshipped Durga, the goddess of the warrior class, befitting the martial traditions of the family. As part of the ritual, they used to sacrifice animals and eat meat as prasad. This Mira could not do and made no bones about it. This led to a lot of friction between Mira and the Mewar royalty. These differences were fuelled by her sister-in-law, Uda. When she stood her ground an explosive situation developed. Things became worse after the death of her husband, Bhojraj. She was asked to ascend the funeral pyre of her husband which she flatly refused as she was wedded to Giridhar and not to any mortal.

Matters took a turn for the worse with the accession of Vikramjit (her brother-in-law) to the throne of Chitor. He tried to kill her by various means, but all his efforts failed by the grace of Giridhar Gopal (Krishna).

Mira continued to offer unalloyed devotion to Krishna till she merged in his murti  in Dwarka, Saurashtra, in a state of ecstasy.

All the while she was singing and dancing before him. Her audience comprised sadhus and other devotees. With kartal in one hand and a stringed instrument in the other and ghungroo on her feet she used to sing her bhajans.

Mirabai has mentioned about her trials and tribulations in her compositions, not by way of complaint, but to illustrate the concern of her loving Dinanath, who stood by her at every crisis in her life.

She addresses Krishna by various names: Kanha, Prabhu, Murlidhar, Giridhar Nagar, Ghanshyam, Dwarikadhish, Ranchod, Dinanath, etc. in her bhajans written in Marwari Hindi and Gujarati, with a sprinkling of Punjabi words. She herself set the tunes to her compositions.

By choosing Raidas, a leather worker as her guru, Mira had committed an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the Sisodia family. In another bhajan she describes the anger of Rana for choosing Raidas as her guru, “Ignominy and shame and the scandal of the world, I cherish and welcome for the love of Paramatma, O Rana.

“I care neither for the disgrace nor the applause of the world – for my spiritual path is different from that of the world. With great difficulty I gained my guru. If the world condemns me for meeting him, my preceptor, then says Mira, on such people’s heads may hell fires fall.”

When they made it impossible for her to worship her Krishna, Mira considered it the last straw on the camel’s back and left Chitor. She set out on a tirth yatra connected with the lila of Bhagwan Krishna. In her bhajans she recounts the adventures of Bal Krishna during his Vrindavan days as a saviour – a role he played so admirably. These compositions relate to the killing of Putana, Kaliya mardan, crowned by the annihilation of his own arrogant Uncle Kansa. She touches on her own life and the trials and tribulations she had to undergo because of her intense ardour and devotion to her Ghanshyam. She did a circuit of the places connected with Krishna, as had already been mentioned. During her stay in Vrindavan a strange thing happened. Mira expressed a desire to meet the distinguished Vashnava saint and disciple of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Jiva Goswami. When she went to his hut she was told that he could not see a woman as it was against his code of conduct. Mira exclaimed, “I thought in Vrindavan the only man is Krishna and all others are gopis.” On hearing this retort the Acharya realized his mistake. He came out of the hut and conducted her inside.

The following is the purport of what Mira had to say of her life and devotion as gleaned from her bhajans:

Referring to her marriage to Bhojraj, her temporal husband, she tells Vikramjit who harassed her the most, “Ranaji I wholeheartedly love Girdhar. In my previous life I was a gopi of Vraj. I have come to this place by mistake. I was born in King Jaimal’s house and was given in marriage into your family. I shall not forsake Krishna’s name even for a minute even though you tried to poison me. Mira has married Hari.”

Talking of the purpose of human life one of her bhajans proclaims,

“O mind! You worship dear Mohan, the dear one who plays murali. You have crossed the seven seas, don’t drown on the shore. Human birth is for liberation, why bother about family. O mind always sing the praise of Giridhar’s qualities.”  She was only exhorting others what she had done all her life.

When the ruler made it extremely difficult for Mira to worship Krishna she decided to leave Chitor for Medta. Before leaving she declared, “Govind nã guna gãshu...” – “I shall continue to sing Govind’s virtues. I have vowed to take charanamrut and visit the mandir every day after getting up (in the morning).

“If Rana is angry, he will deprive me of my kingdom. But if Bhagwan is angry, I will die.

“The Rana (Vikramaditya) sent a cup of poison which turned into nectar. I will row the boat of Bhagwan’s name and cross the ocean of Maya.

“Mira has taken refuge in Giridhar and shall ever remain at his lotus feet.”

Mira’s death in Dwarka at the age of 67 in 1546 was a miraculous phenomenon.  The Chitor ruler and his subjects felt that the problems they were facing were a sign of divine displeasure at the way they had treated a great devotee of God. The Rana sought to make amends for it by sending a deputation of Brahmins with a request to Mira to return to Chitor. She was not willing to leave the peaceful Dwarka to an uncertain welcome in Mewar. She was not sure whether she would be allowed to worship her Giridhar Gopal in peace. She conveyed her message to the Brahmin deputation. The Brahmins went on a hunger strike to make her change her mind. Mira was greatly distressed at the turn of events. She entered Dwarkadhish mandir and never came out of it as she became one with her Murlidhar.

Water Is Life
Water in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, the same procedure is known as nasya, except salted water is used. Water is also used in enemas to cleanse the bowels, a procedure known as jal basti, and in swedan, which is a herbal steam bath.
Ayurveda also advocates walking on green grass with morning dew just after the sun’s rays emerge. This is believed to improve one’s health, prana and eyesight.
Drinking boiled water during illness removes toxins known as aam, cited in the previous article (Swaminarayan Bliss, June 2011, p. 23). This occurs probably because minerals and chemicals are removed, as in distilled water. This, according to hydrotherapists, makes it prone to attract toxins. In the language of Ayurveda, aam is removed from the channels and tissues by this water. This re-establishes the equilibrium of the three humours of vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm).

Water in Festivals
The grandest utsav in which water is liberally used is Dhuleti/Fuldol. Traditionally, colour from kesuda flower (tesu, flame of the forest) is extracted by boiling. This saffron coloured and fragrant water is first sprinkled on the deities with a bamboo or brass pichkari (water squirter). The sanctified water is then sprayed on devotees who feel immensely blessed. In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, this festival has been celebrated on a large scale since the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Today, Pramukh Swami Maharaj celebrates it annually in Sarangpur, Saurashtra (for details see Hindu Festivals – Origin, Sentiments and Rituals, Swaminarayan Aksharpith, 2010). Since this is the only utsav in which devotees get completely drenched by sacred water from the Guru, it attracts the greatest number of devotees from all parts of India and the world.
Another festival in which water acts as a medium is during the Jal Jhilani Ekadashi celebration on Bhadarva sud 11. During the puja ritual, the utsav vigraha deity and a clay murti of Ganapati are taken on a boat ride – nauka vihar – five times in a river, lake or a makeshift pond. Appropriate bhajans are sung during the vihar or jal yatra. At the end, Ganapati’s murti is immersed in the water. This is known as visarjan or farewell.
In some south Indian mandirs, the utsav deities are bathed in the mandir’s water tank during some festivals.

Water as Harmonizer
When a guest arrives in a Hindu home, he is first welcomed by offering water. If water is not offered by the family or accepted by the guest, this is considered disrespectful.
For over two hundred years, two groups of Rajputs of Odarka and Kukkad, in a total of 45 villages in the Bhavnagar district, had avoided drinking water from each other’s group of villages. In short, they had feuded over a disputed piece of land for which many of their ancestors had fought and died. This avoidance of drinking water is known as appaiya in Saurashtra. During the Raj, a British official had also tried for a truce but failed. After independence, repeated efforts by government officials also failed.
Finally, through Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s efforts, the two groups agreed for a permanent truce. On 12 April 1990, Pramukh Swami Maharaj held a peace yagna on the disputed land for the sadgati – spiritual uplift – of the people who had died. Then both groups drank water from each other’s wells, given by Swamishri himself. They then happily embraced each other. Sacred water from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s hands established permanent peace and harmony.

Sacred Water Initiation
Water is used to initiate a newborn or a new follower into the Swaminarayan Sampradaya in a rite known as vartaman. The guru, sadhus or appointed devotees place a few drops of sacred water in the right palm of the person. The mantra “Kāl, māyā, pāp, karma...” is recited. Then the water is dropped on the ground. The person is then given a kanthi – a two-stringed neck chain of tulsi or sandalwood beads.

At Death
During the final moments of a person’s life, Ganga water is given to drink. If the person has already expired, a few drops of Ganga water and a tulsi leaf are placed on the lips. This ensures that the person’s jiva attains a sacred abode such as Swarg and not an infernal region such as Narak.
After death, the body is bathed with water and adorned with new clothes and draped with a white, unstitched cloth known as kafan.
After cremation, the ashes and bone pieces, also known as ful (flowers) or asthi, are washed with milk and water from the nearest sacred river.
The asthi then immersed in a holy river such as the Narmada at Chanod in Gujarat, in Ganga in northern India or at Triveni Sangam at Srirangpatnam, Karnataka, in south India. This is the confluence of the rivers Kaveri, Hemavati and Lokpavani. This rite is known as asthi visarjan
In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya devotees also perform this ritual in the river Ghela in Gadhada and in river Gondali in Gondal, since Bhagwan Swaminarayan and his paramhansas had bathed in them, thus sanctifying them.
In England, Gateshead Council has designated a part of River Derwent for British Hindus and Sikhs to disperse ashes.

Healing Waters
In the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampradaya, there is a tradition in which sacred water is given to devotees in a bottle to alleviate adhi (mental stressors), vyadhi (physical problems) and upadhi (external stressors). This water can be from Akshar Deri, the sacred shrine in the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Gondal, the abhishek water from Nilkanth Varni or the water sanctified by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in his morning puja in which he dips a bead and a piece of cloth, both used by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, in a jug of water, while he chants the Swaminarayan mantra and offers prayers. He also adds a few rose flowers offered in the puja. Thus this water becomes greatly sanctified.
Experts who use water in healing believe that water has the ability to retain memory. When a healer holds a glass of plain water and directs loving and healing thoughts at the water, that water attains healing qualities. If such a simple method can confer healing properties in water, then surely water sanctified during abhishek on Nilkanth Varni while the pujari chants Vedic mantras, and that sanctified by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in his puja, certainly attains immense divinity. This divine water induces amazing healings in devotees. For some, the illness may not be cured, yet the devotees feel solace at the atmic level. That is in itself is also healing.
In Gujarat especially, a tradition prevailed for philanthropists to construct beautiful step-wells, known as vavs, to accrue punya. Besides providing water, they served as shelters for wayfarers who could rest there temporarily. The Ranki Vav in Patan and Adalaj Vav near Gandhinagar, are two such ornate vavs. Bhagwan Swaminarayan and his paramhansas bathed in the latter, to fulfill the wish of its builder, Ruda Rani, who wished to attain moksha. In her next birth, she was Queenmother Kushalkunvarba of Dharampur, who met and was liberated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
When a Satpurush, such as Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who is a jangam (mobile) tirth bathes in a sacred river, lake or ocean, he purifies the infinite pap karmas that it has accumulated from the people who have bathed in it. For even holy water bodies need to be cleansed and re-charged spiritually by Paramatma and his realized sadhu.
Thus sacred water in Sanatan Dharma is of immense importance in a variety of ways in the daily lives of Hindus and is rightfully jivanam jivinaam jivaha – life for all.         u

The Times, London, 13-2-2009
Hindu Rites & Rituals, Swaminarayan Aksharpith
Hindu Festivals, Swaminarayan Aksharpith
Brahmopanishad, Swaminarayan Aksharpith
Nityakarma Pujaprakash
Healing Energies of Water by Charlie Ryrie

Brãhmi Sthiti Yoga
Krishna tells Arjun, ‘
अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत। अव्यक्तनिघनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना॥’ – ‘Avyaktãdeeni bhootãni vyaktamadhyãni bhãrata, avyaktanidhanãnyeva tatra kã paridevanã’ – ‘O Arjun! All beings were unmanifest before they were born. They are manifest only in the middle, or so long as they live. When they die, they become unmanifest once again. What is the cause then for grief?’ (Gita 2.28).
Consider a mound of clay. It is not too difficult to imagine that clay being made into a pot. The same goes for a block of wood being carved into a masterful work of art, or a flower bud blossoming into a fragrant flower. But what about imagining transformation in the opposite direction? What about seeing a pot as mere clay, a carved masterpiece as an ordinary block of wood, or a blossomed flower as a beautiful façade behind which death incessantly rears its ugly head.
Every object in the world goes through three stages – beginning, middle and end. The middle stage is when the object is vyakta, or manifest. The beginning and end stages are when the object is avyakta, or unmanifest. Here, Shri Krishna Bhagwan explains to Arjun that he should see that which is vyakta as avyakta, or that which is manifest as being unmanifest. In other words, he tells Arjun that he should not see things as they are in the middle, but that he should see them as they are in the beginning or end, either before creation or after destruction. Seeing life in this way almost works like magic. Indeed, it opens a person up to an entirely new world of experience and eliminates grief once and for all.
Bhagwan Krishna thus teaches Arjun to look beyond the perishable body and towards the immortal soul. In this way, he teaches him yet another facet of sankhya jnan.
Parabrahman Purushottam Bhagwan Swaminarayan repeatedly stresses this point in his discourses. Once, Muktanand Swami asked Bhagwan Swaminarayan, “Maharaj, life is full of difficultues. Amidst all these difficulties, what understanding should a devotee of God cultivate in order to remain happy at heart?”
Bhagwan Swaminarayan answered, “Constant awareness of the atma, which is distinct from the body; the awareness of the perishable nature of all wordly objects; and the awareness of God’s greatness. By keeping these three forms of awareness, no difficulties hinder… in any way” (Vachanamrut, Gadhada II 60).
Mul Aksharmurti Gunatitanand Swami Maharaj has also expressed similar thoughts in his spiritual talks: “Grief will never occur if, amidst all activities, one keeps the understanding of the world’s perishability” (Swamini Vato 2.24). Also, “How can sankhya be strengthened? The answer, ‘Observe that man dies and the body becomes old. Think of the nitya pralay, nimitta pralay and prakrut pralay ’” (Swamini Vato 1.97).
Here, it is worth mentioning that the changing nature of the world is a concept which many people have explored in modern times. Even scientists like Albert Einstein have accepted that matter is constantly undergoing change. Such intellectuals have thus taken a step towards understanding the world’s nashvantpanu. However, they have not been able to go as far as to say that understanding this reality can free us from grief and help us be happy in life. It’s almost as if such a thought just never occurred to them.
India’s philosophers, on the other hand, have not missed out on this find. For, the science of change in the Gita begins with ‘jatasya hi dhruvo mrutyuhu’ – the ever-changing nature of the world and the stark reality of death – and ends with ‘na tvam shochitum arhasi’, a call to stay composed. Similarly, the Gita does not stop at ‘avyaktãdeeni bhootãni’, a call to see the world in its unmanifest state, but it goes further to say ‘tatra kã paridevanã’, that loss should never be a reason for pain.
This in itself is true science. It is a shining example of the scientific truths in the Hindu shastras. And it is so solid that it might as well be written in stone, for nobody has been able to challenge it to this day.

Bhagwan Krishna thus takes his explanation of sankhya jnan forward by further elaborating upon the body’s perishability and the soul’s immortality. And while doing so, he encourages Arjun to use sankhya jnan to keep himself undisturbed and focused amidst the battlefield.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble  salutations to the great devotees ,  wikisources  and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )


Post a Comment