Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA -202

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA  

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chino Hills, CA

Los Angeles
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
15100 Fairfield Ranch Rd.
Chino Hills, CA 91709-8856
Tel: (1-909) 614 5000
Fax: (1-909) 614 5050

Daily Schedule  

Daily Aarti:
7:00 a.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Darshan Timings:
Monday - Friday:
8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
4:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Nilkanth Varni Abhishek 
Morning: 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Evening: 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Weekly Schedule
Bal / Balika Sabha :
Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Kishore Sabha :
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Kishori Sabha :
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Yuvak Sabha:
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Yuvati Sabha:
Sunday 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Satsang Sabha:
A-Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
B-Sunday 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Bal Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Balika Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 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.

The Guru Tradition In Hinduism (Part 1)
The following is an excerpt from the
PhD thesis accomplished by Dr Brian Hutchinson in 1988, titled ‘The Guru-Devotee Relationship in the Experience of Members of the Akshar-Purushottam
Swaminarayan Sampradaya’.
In its general sense the term guru has been applied to any person, even one’s father, who is in a position to provide some aspect of the education of the individual in Hindu society (McMullen, 1976:13). A more specific meaning applies in the case of the traditional family guru to whom a boy would be given for training in the Vedic lore once he had reached the age of twelve.
According to Ramesh Dave, a prominent householder scholar of the movement, in conversation with the writer, the family guru who acts more in terms of the priest is fast disappearing, whereas the guru-sampradaya tradition is continuing at greater intensity.
The guru, independent of the subject matter being communicated, is seemingly always ‘more’ than the message which he communicates. In other words, he enters into the process to such a degree that he himself becomes part of the message. Cenkner (1983:184) uses the image of the ‘catalyst’ [aiding change in other bodies without undergoing change in itself] for the guru. He says, “He is not only the teacher of doctrine but also the sacred center of a socio-religious institution, around which people gather to worship the gods and pursue liberation paths. Faith experience is engendered within the context of the sampradaya; this always occurs, however, in direct relationship to the living guru [that is, the individual relates not so much to the group as to the guru himself].”

According to Padhye (1946:102), evidence from the Mohenjo-Daro excavations suggests that the institution of the guru is as old, or perhaps older than the Vedas. Mlecko (1982:21) says that the guru-shishya relationship was first recorded in the Vedas, “Here the guru was usually a Brahman, a priest-teacher of the Vedas. At the very least, he was god-like. He embodied the Vedas and was given the same respect as the Vedas perhaps, thereby, laying the foundation for the later, intense devotion directed towards the guru.”
Respondents interviewed occasionally quoted the Vedas and other scriptures in their discussion of the guru-devotee relationship. They do not regard the relationship they experience with their guru as an innovation of the movement – though their guru is considered to be superior to those of other movements – but they understand the relationship to be that which is supported by scripture and tradition, and which is here being experienced in its most pure and true form.
Dasgupta (1927:16), reinforces the importance of this understanding with his comment that, “No change, no new idea could be considered right or could be believed by the people, unless it could also be shown that it had the sanction of the Vedas.”
Here Dasgupta follows the convention of including the Upanishads in the Vedas.

The very term ‘Upanishad’ implies the centrality and existence of the guru in its meaning of ‘sitting down near’. In other words, the term may specifically refer to the method by which spiritual truths were communicated, that is, by a teacher or guru whose pupils gathered around him to receive instruction.
The Upanishads present the guru as essential to the attainment of the higher wisdom, knowledge of the Self, which is the primary goal of the Upanishads, cannot be attained without the guru.
“Only by knowledge received direct from the guru does one attain to the most beneficent. It is only he, in whom that knowledge is alive, that can communicate to the seeker” (Pandit, 1963:388).
The Katha Upanishad 2, (quoted by Pandit, 1963:388), has, “Unless told of Him by another, thou canst not find thy way to Him; for He is subtler than subtlety and that which logic cannot reach. This wisdom is not to be had by reasoning; only when told thee by another, it brings real knowledge.”
Sacrifice is insufficient to attain it, “The highest wisdom, which is the supreme stage, cannot be reached by sacrifice. One must go in a proper manner to a guru and discover from him the imperishable Man, the supreme reality” (Gonda 1965:409).
This belief in the importance of the guru is held so strongly that even the avatars, Bhagwan Swaminarayan included, have conformed to this pattern and have themselves had their own gurus.
The relationship between the devotee and the guru begins in the profound respect felt towards the teacher. Not only on the basis of the knowledge which he is understood to have, but for what he is in himself.
“The esteem given to the guru in the Indian tradition grows out of this initial conception of the teacher as both a knower of Brahman and a dweller in Brahman” (Cenkner, 1983:9).
It seems that such profound respect can easily merge into that of the love that is characteristically felt for the guru, not only in the bhakti movements, but in all guru-devotee situations, even where the teaching matter stresses mainly intellectual attributes.
The grace of the guru receives more emphasis in the later Upanishads, there, according to Cenkner, “liberation is virtually impossible without the knowledge and grace of the guru” (1983:10).
In these Upanishads there is a theistic emphasis, and ultimate reality is seen to consist in personal terms. The idea of impersonal Brahman is superceded. The most prominent of these is the theistic Svetasvatara Upanishad, which served as one of the main sources of the later doctrine of bhakti and to which tradition the movement belongs (Griffiths 1982:79). In the Svetasvatara (VI.23), (Tyagisananda 1964:136) devotion to the guru and to God are placed on an equal level, “These truths, when taught, shine forth only in that high-souled one who has supreme devotion to God, and an equal degree of devotion to the spiritual teacher. They shine forth in that high-souled one only.”

The Guru Tradition In Hinduism (Part 2)
The relationship between teacher and pupil is partly determined by the type of knowledge sought. The law books reflect a basic parental relationship between teacher and student because obedience to the laws is the basic orientation. In the earlier Upanishads, where knowledge of Brahman or knowledge of the Self is the aim, then a more intimate personal association between the guru and devotee comes about. It is the epics, Puranas and the early bhakti literature which establish the basis for the refined love relationship between guru and shisya (Cenkner, 1983:27), and which belongs to the understanding of the guru-devotee relationship in the movement.
According to Mlecko (1982:40), the epics highlight “another response to the guru besides propriety and obedience; namely, devotion, the paramount dimension of bhakti. The Epics record the attempt to move away from the Brahmanic tradition in two areas: away from ritualistic (Vedic) and philosophical (Upanishadic) forms of worship to divine-human gods, the avataras, with emphasis on their human dimension.”
Spiritual progress in the devotee is seen in all instances of the relationship to be dependent upon assistance from the guru. Even the gods in human form, the avatars, conform to the system, and they themselves become devotees of a guru. In so doing, in addition to effecting their spiritual development within the human order, (again, their need for a guru for this purpose is a matter upon which persons hold differing views), they legitimise the guru-devotee relationship and reveal it as belonging not only to the human but to the divine order. A sadhu explained to the writer, “This is the traditional way that he [Swaminarayan] has accepted…. This is Hindu tradition; the belief that everyone must have a guru. Rama had a guru. The Lord having a guru helps to stress the desirable state of affairs. If the Lord himself had a guru then I too must have a guru.”
The classical model for the guru-devotee relationship occurs in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna appears to Arjuna in the guise of a charioteer. In guiding and advising him on the right way to think and act, he functions in the role of guru for Arjuna. Krishna is addressed as father, Lord and most venerable guru. Here devotion to the guru becomes indistinguishable from devotion to the Lord (Mlecko, 1982:21).
The Gita’s model, though representing the avatar-human encounter, is also accepted as the divinely ordained model for the guru-devotee relationship.
A leaf, a flower, a fruit or water,
Who presents to Me with devotion
That offering of devotion I
Accept from the devout-souled.
Be Me-minded, devoted to Me,
Worshipping Me, pay homage to Me.
Just to Me shalt thou go, having thus disciplined
Thyself fully, intent on Me.
- Gita IX: 26 & 34, Edgerton 1964:48
In the Gita, Krishna, as avatar-guru, commends this relationship of obedience and devotion not only to himself but also to the human guru (Gita IV.34. Edgerton, 1964:26), “Learn to know this by obeisance (to those who can teach it), By questioning (them) by serving (them).”
That is, the attitude of loving devotion (bhakti), here being encouraged from Arjuna towards Krishna as God-incarnate, is understood to be the attitude which a devotee should show to his guru as the personal and immediate manifestation of the deity.
This humanizing of the concept of God which is strongly evident in the epics (Mlecko 1982:44) was continued in the Puranas and strongly influenced the understanding of the guru. Increasingly, devotion to the guru and devotion to God become indistinguishable. This identification of guru and God at least in the experiential area can also be seen in the Puranas, according to Mlecko (1982:44), “In the comparatively late portions of the Puranas, the devotional attitude towards the deity is shared by the guru. Even more, the guru is often identified with the highest deity of the sect.”
This attitude towards the guru has been a characteristic of bhakti movements in general.
The Swaminarayan sect, the ‘old’ and the Akshar-Purushottam branch, provide evidence to support this statement. Swaminarayan, during his ‘earthly’ lifetime, (1781-1830 A.D.), was apparently regarded as a sadguru. He evidently evoked an adulation and devotion in his devotees which elevated him in their understanding to the level of God himself. After his death, this conviction remained as the central moving force in the ‘old’ movement, focused on the murti of Swaminarayan and on his teaching. In the Akshar-Purushottam branch this continuing presence of Swaminarayan is also experienced as residing in his murti, and in his teaching, but in particular his presence is considered to reside in the guru. Thus for members of the movement the guru provides the most dynamic evidence of the presence of Swaminarayan.
The name ‘Swaminarayan’ itself carries the conviction of the whole sect that their founder was the holy man, the ‘Swami’, in whom the ultimate divinity, Narayan, was manifested. Members chant the name as a mantra in public and private worship, and at other times in the life of the temple, notably at meal times before commencing to eat. The chanting affirms the belief that their founder was the human manifestation of the divine, and, as is the purpose of mantras, is believed to induce consciousness of God.
In the Akshar-Purushottam group the name has an additional meaning. It indicates that their guru is the ‘abode’ of God. Swami indicates the guru and Narayan the Lord. The guru is Akshar in whom Purushottam manifests, the Swami in whom Narayan is encountered.
A further similarity of the guru of the movement to the guru of the Puranas, is that the guru is not required to belong to any particular caste. The emphasis is upon the spiritual level of the individual rather than a traditional caste role. According to Mlecko (1982:44), in the period of the Puranas, “Religious authority was significantly shifting from orthodox Brahmans who knew the Vedas to the guru whose devotion and knowledge of Tantra led him to liberation.”
Pandit (1963:388) emphasizes the influence of the Tantra in the guru tradition. He says, “It is the Tantra that has given firm shape to the tradition and worked out in minute detail the dynamics of the guru-sishya operation… In the tradition of the Tantra, the guru is the central pivot on which every movement in spiritual life turns. He is not just a learned man who can teach. It is profane to look upon him as human. He is much more; in fact, he is looked upon as the Divine, even the very Divine Himself.”
Mlecko (1982:57) makes the observation that in the Tantra the personalization of the deity moves to another level. He points out that there is a change in emphasis from the avatara, ‘god descending’, to the guru as ‘man ascending’ into divinity. Here, the guru, as jivanmukta, has attained freedom from karma and its limitations whilst still living physically. However, the belief in the movement is that the guru, as Akshar, has not needed to ‘attain’ the state of jivanmukta in order to grant release. With him, as one sadhu explained, “There is no question of development.” The belief is that he is, by his very nature, ‘eternally beyond maya’.
The association of guru and deity appears to reach its height in the Tantras. McMullen (1976:22), extracts the following statements showing the understanding of the guru from a number of Tantric sources, “There is no god higher than the Guru…. He walks on the earth, concealed for bestowing grace on the good disciples…. The worship of the Guru yields infinitely more merit than any number of observances, gifts, rituals, sacrifices, pilgrimages, mantra, japa, etc…. In this world all holy actions are rooted in the Guru…. Even when god Shiva is angry, the Guru is the saviour, but when the Guru himself is angered there is none to save. Ruin follows from the anger of the Guru, bad death from the criticism of the Guru, catastrophes from the displeasure of the Guru.”
The guru has here become the dominating influence in spiritual life. All activity, book learning, ritual, must be “energized by the personality of the guru. It is only those acts that are inspired by the guru that yield bhakti and mukti” (Pandit 1963:388).
In the movement it is only obedience to the ‘agna’, the command and will of the guru that constitutes liberating action. Things which seem good in themselves are necessarily beneficial for the devotee; they need to receive the sanction of the guru’s command.

A prayer is our communication with God. We pray to him for many things – for peace,
for happiness, for health …
We pray to him for ourselves, for our family and friends, for others, for our Guru …
We pray to him during our daily puja, in arti, or in our daily routine …
Here is a chance to offer prayers to the holy place of Akshar Deri in Gondal.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.1 What is Hinduism?
A. Summary Answer:
Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma is the world’s oldest religion. It is the native religion of India. It predates recorded history and has no human founder. Vedic records dating back 6,000 to 10,000 years show that even in that time period, Hinduism was considered an ancient religion. Today, there are almost 1 billion Hindus spread around the world. That makes one out of every sixth person in the world a Hindu. Its modes of worship are complex and range from grand festivals such as the Kumbhmelã (a religious gathering of over 45 million people) to the simple darshan (devotional seeing) of home shrines. Its places of worship include millions of ancient and contemporary shrines and mandirs. Hinduism recognizes the Vedas as the most ancient and authoritative body of religious literature. They are the foundational scriptures common to all branches of Hinduism.

Hinduism: Unity in Diversity
There are two aspects of Hinduism. One is easily seen in the outward expression of the faith – the ritual worship, customs and traditions and codes of social conduct – the practices of Hinduism. The other aspect of Hinduism is inward – faith itself – the inner world of belief. To an observer it would appear that there is a bewildering array of often contradictory beliefs embraced by the various branches of Hinduism. It is because Hinduism encompasses such a wide range of beliefs and practices that people find it difficult to cast it into a single mold. Yet, within this amazing diversity of thought and behavior, there are common threads that unify the faithful underneath the umbrella of Hinduism.

Common Beliefs of Hinduism
Regarding God
Hinduism acknowledges the existence of many deities but believes in only one Supreme God who is all-pervasive and transcendent. Hinduism states that God manifests (avatãr) on earth for the salvation of infinite souls and is always present through the murtis, consecrated images of God. Hinduism teaches that this universe along with infinite other universes undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation, and dissolution by this Supreme God.

Regarding the Ãtma (soul)
Hindus believe that all living entities have a soul, or ãtma. Each is eternal – it was never created and will never perish. The ãtmã is characterized as unchanging truth, consciousness and bliss (Satchitanand). Moreover, each has the potential to attain God.
Hinduism propounds the law of karma, cause and effect, wherein the fruits on an individual’s thoughts, words, and deeds are given by God. Hinduism teaches that the ãtmã casts off old bodies and is given new ones based on it karmas. In this way the ãtmã passes through infinite cycles of birth and death (reincarnation) until it realizes God and attains moksha. Hindus believe that one requires a spiritually enlightened and God-realized guru to attain God.

Common Practices in Hinduism
These common beliefs of Hinduism manifest in several common practices. All branches of Hinduism emphasize the need for a moral and ethical life. Hinduism upholds the eternal values and ideals of Satya (Truth), Dayã (Compassion), Ahinsã (Non-violence), and Brahmachãrya (Celibacy). Remaining faithful to these values and other scriptural injunctions, the Hindu always tries to maintain a balance in life among the four endeavors of Dharma, Artha, Kãm, and Moksha.

  • Dharma – to live righteously, in accordance with scriptural commands - purity of diet, thought, and social interactions.
  • Artha – to accumulate earnings for one’s subsistence.
  • Kãm– (1) to use one’s honest earnings for the fulfillment of one’s wishes
    (2) and for a man to only keep one wife and regard other women as a mother, sister, or a daughter; and for a woman to only keep one husband and regard other men as a father, brother, or son.
  • Moksha – to use the previous three endeavors to attain salvation.
Thus, the Hindu system of beliefs provides guidance for both the spiritual and material realm.


 Annually over 483,600 patients are treated at BAPS medical institutions.
For information about Medical activities in North America, please visit www.bapscharities.org

      29 BAPS educational institutes annually educate over 6,000 students.

      From water management to waste recycling, BAPS has succeeded in many projects.

      Over 10,000 women volunteers manage parallel social & spiritual activities.

      Special social campaigns have resulted in mass transformation of society.
For information about Walkathons in North America, please visit www.bapscharities.org

      In natural calamities BAPS volunteers offer selfless services.
For information about Relief activities in North America, please visit www.bapscharities.org

    Hundreds of tribal villages have been freed fromaddictions, superstitions and poverty.

Om Tat Sat

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



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