Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA -122

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA  

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Beltsville, MD

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
4320 Ammendale Rd.,
Beltsville, MD 20705. USA
Tel: (1-301) 931 3135
Fax: (1-301) 931 3136

Belief in one Supreme, all-powerful God. He is the creator and has a divine form. He is immanent, transcendent and the giver of moksha (see below).
The manifestation of God on earth. God Himself incarnates on earth in various forms to revive dharma and grant moksha.
The law of action. The soul reaps fruits, good or bad, according to its past and present actions; these fruits are experienced either in this life or in future lives. God is the giver of the fruits of everyone's actions.
Reincarnation. The immortal soul is continuously born and reborn in any one of 8,400,000 species until it attains moksha.
Ultimate liberation. This is the goal of human life. Moksha is the liberation of the soul from the cycle of births and deaths; thereafter, it remains eternally in the service of God in His abode.
Guru-Shishya relationship:
Master-disciple relationship. The guidance and grace of a spiritually perfect master, revered as the embodiment of God, is essential for an aspirant seeking moksha.
That which sustains the universe. An all-encompassing term representing: divine law, law of being, path of righteousness, religion, duty, responsibility, virtue, justice, goodness and truth.
Ved praman:
The scriptural authority of the Vedas. All Hindu Sampradays are based on the teachings of the Vedas.
Idol worship. Consecrated images, which represent the presence of God, are worshipped. The image is a medium to help devotees offer their devotion to God.

What does BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha do to promote family values?
A. Summary
The ideal family is one that cherishes the values that strengthen family bonds and keep the family happy and united. BAPS conducts Parent Forums, Family Seminars, Child-Rearing Seminars, Marriage Counseling, Character-Building Forums, Anti-Addiction Drives, Morality Seminars, Weekly Assemblies, Summer Camps, Children and Youth Forums, Career and Vocational Seminars, Educational Seminars, Newsletters, Magazines, Books, Brochures, other publications, and a myriad of other humanitarian activities. The message of family values pervades all of these activities. All who come to or come in contact with BAPS are inspired to imbibe them.

Detailed Answer
Hinduism and Family values
One may be curious as to why a Hindu organization, which should be primarily concerned with the salvation of the soul, cares to promote family values? But the emphasis on the family has long been a core value of Hinduism. From ancient times, Hindu scriptures have outlined four objectives of a person's life: dharma, artha, kam, and moksha.
Moksha, liberation from the cycle of births and deaths, is the ultimate objective of human existence. However, for one who is not a renunciant, moksha is to be attained while abiding by social conventions of marriage and family life. Therefore, one who is to live in society must pursue a livelihood for sustenance; this being the principle of artha. To fulfill one's desires, the objective of kam, Hinduism has prescribed the framework of the family. Both the accumulation of wealth, artha, and the fulfillment of one's desires, kam, are to be done according to the injunctions of dharma, the codes of conduct sanctioned by the scriptures.
In order to sustain happiness in one's life and one's life hereafter, one must maintain a balance among each of these four objectives. Thus, according to Hinduism, a healthy, productive, and vital family life is a necessary ingredient of this balance. It is this principle that motivates BAPS to undertake a sustained and far-reaching campaign to strengthen family values in society.

Family values
The ideal family is one that cherishes the values that strengthen family bonds and keep the family happy and together. An ideal family is one in which each member understands the perspectives and hardships of the other and strives to meet each other's social, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This mutual understanding creates a much needed bridge across the gap of genders and generations. In this ideal family, the parents fulfill their role as caregivers, breadwinners, and role models while the children fulfill their various roles such as acquiring an adept education, offering assistance in the affairs of the family, as well as respecting their elders and caring for them in their old age. The ideal family understands that the bond of marriage and the gift of progeny are sacred. The ideal family realizes that the sustained cultivation of mutual understanding, acceptance, respect, and love will prevent or resolve any difficulties between partners.

BAPS and family values
BAPS promotes all of the aforementioned values which shape the ideal family.
At home, followers are encouraged to perform ghar sabha daily. Ghar sabha is a family assembly, inspired by Pramukh swami Maharaj, wherein all of the family members daily sit together for approximately half an hour to pray to God, engage in scriptural reading, discuss their day and understand each other. Through this daily ritual they develop a better understanding of each other's social, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Just as BAPS promotes these values in the home, it also promotes these values through its various activities.
Through Parent Forums, Family Seminars and Child-Rearing Seminars followers gain a clearer idea of how to successfully fulfill their roles as parents. Through these events, they gain valuable insight and inspiration from other families. They share experiences and exchange insight regarding the challenges of balancing their career lives with their family lives, as well as other parental issues. As parents, they discuss how to overcome pitfalls on the path to becoming successful caregivers, breadwinners, and role models.
Through Marriage Counseling, Character-Building Forums, Anti-Addiction Drives and Morality Seminars, parents also learn the value of the bond of marriage and the gift of progeny. They are inspired to cultivate mutual understanding, acceptance, respect and love for each other and develop a stable relationship as parental partners.
Likewise, through various activities, the youth followers also gain valuable insight on how to fulfill their roles in the family unit. The youth following is divided into three main age groups: children, teenagers, and young adults.

For Children
Through Weekly Assemblies, Summer Camps, and Children's Forums, the children learn the importance of education, respecting their elders, and assisting in domestic chores from a very young age. As these values are deeply rooted from a young age, they help children in helping their families become stronger.

For Teenagers
Through Weekly Assemblies, Summer Camps, Teenage Forums, Career and Vocational Seminars and Educational Seminars, teenagers are inspired and guided towards academic excellence. Through sharing experiences and exchanging insight with their own age group, they are able to cope with family tension and peer pressure. Through Anti-Addiction Campaigns, Morality Forums and Discourses they receive guidance that helps them live a purer life, thus, preventing or easing tensions within their respective families. As a result they are better able to fulfill their roles in the family unit.

For Young Adults
Through Weekly Assemblies, Vocational & Career seminars and Anti-Addiction Drives, young adults learn to successfully fulfill their roles in their respective families. While allowing them to share experiences and learn from their own age group, these activities provide guidance on effectively integrating new spouses into the family and on learning to become future parents while also inspiring them to care for their parents in their old age.
Through the medium of international festivals and celebrations, BAPS extends the message of family values and ideals to its followers as well as to mass audiences in the form of Discourses, Exhibitions and Cultural Programs.
Through Newsletters, Magazines, Books, Brochures and its Website, BAPS promotes family values.
The message of family values pervades all of these activities. All who come to or come in contact with BAPS are inspired to imbibe them.

How is God pragat (ever-present) in the Satpurush? If God is present everywhere, how can we limit Him to just being present in the Satpurush?
A. God: Physically Present on Earth

It is a fundamental belief of Hinduism that God is ever-present in everyone, everything, and everywhere. Yet, God cannot be physically seen in things like a tree, a chair, or even one’s brother for that matter. This is because God’s omnipresence is beyond the physical perception of the mind and senses. The Hindu scriptures provide a clear explanation on this matter. They guide the aspirant to the physical forms of God on Earth. The scriptures direct the aspirant to offer his devotion to these physical forms of God.
According to the Hindu scriptures, the presence of God is felt more or less according to the purity of the entity. For example, more light shines through a clear-glass light bulb than an opaque light bulb. Similarly, the Hindu scriptures state that due to their purity, God’s presence can be felt most completely in the God-realised Satpurush and in the murtis of God that he has installed in the mandirs.

God: Guides through the Satpurush
Because they are made out of stone or metal, the ceremoniously installed murtis of God appear to the non-believer to be just inanimate statues. However, God resides completely in these murtis. By offering prayers and devotion to the murtis of God, one does attain peace of mind and experience the bliss of God. However, the murtis do not give direct spiritual guidance to keep the aspirant on the path to God. This task of direct spiritual guidance is fulfilled by the God-realised Satpurush in whom God resides. The Shrimad Bhagwat states that, “One can offer one’s devotion to God through the Satpurush, as well as receive spiritual guidance and also be freed from one’s sins. (9:9:6)”
Identifying the Satpurush
It must also be clarified that this ‘God-realised Satpurush’ is not any ordinary person. The 11th canto of the Shrimad Bhagwat clearly states the virtues and spiritual state that such a God-realised Satpurush possesses. There are many people who falsely claim to be the Satpurush for selfish and deceitful reasons. Keeping these criteria in mind, one has to examine a person very carefully over a period of time before accepting him as the true God-realised Satpurush in whom God resides.
Sometimes in extolling the guru doesn’t it seem that God is being belittled?
A. The guru plays an essential role in Hinduism. The guru is ultimately the one who leads the aspirant to God. In the Shrimad Bhagwat, Kapildev Bhagwan has said to his mother Devhuti:
Prasangam-ajaram pasham-atmanaha kavayo vidhuhu |
Sa eva sadhushu kruto moksha-dvaram-apavrutam ||
Shrimad Bhagwat (3:25:20)
Meaning, if a person maintains profound love towards the Ekantik Sadhu of God (the Guru) just as resolutely as he maintains profound love towards his own relatives, then the gateway to liberation is open for him.
Accordingly, the guru is the key to liberation for the aspirant if the aspirant develops profound love for the guru. But how can one develop profound love for the guru? Devotionally honoring the guru and singing his praises are ways that the devotee can develop more profound love for the guru. However, Shriji Maharaj has stated in the Vachanamrut, that an aspirant wishing to develop profound love with the Satpurush always obeys his each and every command. Only when the devotee is attached to the guru will he be able to detach himself from the world and attach himself to God. For this reason, all over India on Guru Purnima, Ashad sud 15, aspirants perform the pujan of the guru by rituals honoring the guru as well as singing shlokas from the Guru Gita praising the guru. One such prominent shloka is listed below:
Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshvara
Gurur shakshat Parabramha tasmai shriguruvenamaha
The Guru is Brahma. The Guru is Vishnu. The Guru is Shiv. The Guru is God (Parabrahma). We bow to such a Guru.
Since God resides in the Satpurush (the guru) completely, it is not wrong for the devotee to praise the guru. For example, by praising the queen one does not belittle the king in anyway. Why? One praises the queen because of her relationship with the king. Similarly, by extolling the guru because of his relationship with God, one is not belittling God, because by praising the guru one is in fact praising God.

What is Charan Sparsh?
A. Charan Sparsh is a commonly practiced Hindu ritual of bowing down to someone else and touching their feet in reverence. The literal translation of Charan Sparsh is ‘feet touching’. Charan means ‘feet’ and sparsh means ‘touch.’

Charan Sparsh is generally performed by touching the feet of one’s parents, elders, teachers, noble people and sadhus with both hands. The elder in turn blesses one by placing his or her hand on or over one’s head. It is a ritual that is performed daily when we meet elders, particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals, New Year’s day, etc. In certain traditional circles, charan sparsh is accompanied by abhivãdana - introducing oneself or announcing one’s family and social stature.
What is the sentiment behind charan sparsh and why do we do it?
A. Performing charan sparsh of another person is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and/or divinity of that person. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices that they have made for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties which have been one of India’s enduring strengths.
The sankalp (good wishes) and ashirwad (blessings) of elders are highly valued in India. We do charan sparsh to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart of love, divinity and nobility have tremendous strength. When we do charan sparsh with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed, whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy.
In India there are five different ways of showing respect. They are as follows:
1.   Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person
2.   Namaskara - paying homage in the form of namaste (folding hands)
3.   Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers
4.   Sashtanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms
5.   Pratyabhivadana - returning a greeting
Rules are prescribed in our scriptures regarding who should do charan sparsh to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualify one to receive respect. This is why a king, though the ruler of the land, would bow down before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayan and Mahabharat have many stories highlighting this aspect.
This tradition reduces personal arrogance and creates an environment of mutual love and respect among people ensuring harmony in the family and society.

Daily Schedule
Daily Aarti:
7:00 a.m. & 6:30 p.m.
Darshan Timings:
Monday - Friday:
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday- Sunday:
7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Weekly Schedule

Bal / Balika Sabha :
Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Kishore Sabha :
Sunday 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Kishori Sabha :
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Yuvak Sabha:
Sunday 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Yuvati Sabha:
Sunday 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Mahila Sabha:
Sunday 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Satsang Sabha:
Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Bal Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Balika Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Events - 2012
Sunday, Jan 15
Makar Sankranti / Jholi
Sunday, Jan 29
Vasant Panchami
Sunday, Mar 11
Holi / Fuldol
Sunday, Apr 01
Swaminarayan Jayanti / Ram Navmi
Sunday, May 20
Yogi Jayanti
Sunday, Jul 08
Guru Purnima
Sunday, Aug 12
Sunday, Sep 30
Jal Jhilani
Sunday, Oct 28
Sharad Purnima
Saturday, Nov 17
Diwali / Annakut
Sunday, Dec 16
Pramukh Swami Janma Jayanti
Sunday, Aug 12

Childhood and Youth
Born on May 8, 1916 in Kerala, India, Balakrishnan Menon acquired degrees in Law and English Literature before plunging into the Freedom Movement of India against the British rule. Balakrishnan's nationalist activities led to his imprisonment, and after he was released, he worked for a newspaper called The National Herald.

Renunciation and Spiritual Quest
While working for The National Herald, Balakrishanan decided to write an exposé on what he believed to be the bluff of the swamis in the Himalayan regions. To investigate and uncover such veils of alleged sanctity, he travelled to Ananda Kutir, Swami Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh.
However, this was not to be so, as Balakrishnan's journey to expose others ended up in exposing himself to his own spiritual revolution and evolution. Swami Sivananda's divinity, love, and Vedanta teachings overwhelmed the young skeptic. A striking inner transformation unfolded within Balakrishnan, and he began questioning and reflecting upon the purpose of life and the secret of permanent happiness. In the company of saints, and through the clarity of their teachings, the highly intellectual seeker soon chose to become a renunciate himself.
On the holy day of Mahashivaratri, February 25, 1949, Balakrishnan was initiated into sannyasa by Swami Sivananda, who blessed him with the name 'Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati'. Chinmayananda means 'filled with the bliss of pure Consciousness'.
Swami Sivananda then guided the new ascetic to the most renowned Vedanta master of the time, Swami Tapovanam, who lived in Uttarkashi, in the Himalayas. Swami Tapovanam who rarely took on disciples, put forth strict conditions to his new suppliant, and all of the Self-realized Guru's terms were readily accepted. As Swami Tapovanam's disciple, Swami Chinmayananda led an austere life and underwent an intense study of Vedantic texts.

A Visionary and Missionary
Spiritually awakened through Swami Tapovanam's tutelage and grace, and inspired by Mother Ganga's continuous flow of purity and service to mankind, Swami Chinmayananda sought and received his guru's blessings to spread Vedantic knowledge to the masses. Having seen widespread spiritual and social degradation in India, he felt the urge to share with others the knowledge that had brought fulfilment in his own life.
Swami Chinmayananda conducted his first jnana yajna (a series of spiritual discourses) in December 1951, at a small temple in Pune, Maharashtra. Jnana yajna, a term he coined from Lord Krishna's teachings in the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, refers to the student who through scriptural studies performs the ritual of worship (yajna) at the altar of wisdom (jnana).
His teachings were based on the authority of the Vedas and his direct experience. They were highly appreciated, and the number of devotees eager to learn from Swami Chinmayananda's highly dynamic, logical, and witty discourses increased rapidly. An inspired band of devotees thus formed 'Chinmaya Mission' in 1953.
From pulpits and platforms throughout India and around the world, Swami Chinmayananda taught the tens of thousands who came to listen and learn. By the time he left his physical form and attained mahasamadhi on August 3, 1993, Gurudev, as Swami Chinmayananda came to be known among his followers, had conducted 576 jnana yajnas as well as countless family spiritual camps, traversing hundreds of thousands of miles, crisscrossing the globe, and transforming millions of lives directly and indirectly.
Published Works
As dynamic, creative, serene and profound that he was, despite serious medical conditions and incessant world travel, Swami Chinmayananda authored over 35 books, including commentaries on the major Upanishads and Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. The latter work has been acclaimed as one of the most refined, insightful, and practical commentaries ever written on the Gita. The collection of his video talks on the Gita is heralded today as one of Chinmaya Mission's most illustrious publications.
Swami Chinmayananda is credited with bringing about a worldwide Vedantic renaissance in the late 20th century through his introduction of Adi Sankara's works and teachings to the masses. Whether in his writings or his orations, Swami Chinmayananda was famed for his depth, clarity, eloquence, wit, and humour. Serving humanity endlessly and tirelessly until his last day, he daily expounded in colloquial terms the philosophical truths from Advaita Vedanta in every nook and corner he reached.

The Legacy
In his 42 years of relentless service, Swami Chinmayananda left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people, and his footprints in the multifarious service projects he inspired in the Mission. He created a vast legacy - a global organization committed to Vedanta and also started numerous educational institutions and social service projects. He lives on in the priceless publications of Chinmaya Mission and in the hearts of millions as a saint and teacher extraordinaire.
Swami Chinmayananda's life was indeed a saga of immeasurable strength, boundless love, tireless service, and metaphysical reach.

Om Tat Sat

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


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