Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in Canada -23

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in Canada

  BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto, ON, Canada

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
61 Claireville Drive, Toronto,
ON M9W 5Z7. Canada
Tel: 416 798 2277
Fax: 416 798 4498
Email: info@canada.baps.org

Visiting Hours:

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir complex encompasses: the Stone Mandir, the Wooden Haveli and the Educational Museum. Open to visitors from 9am – 6pm daily throughout the year.

Many ask, "How can you mix spirituality and social service?"

We ask, "How can you separate the two?"

Those who wish to sincerely serve society must be spiritually pure and only those who are spiritually pure can sincerely serve society!
Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a socio-spiritual Hindu organization with its roots in the Vedas. It was revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) in the late 18th century and established in 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951). Founded on the pillars of practical spirituality, the BAPS reaches out far and wide to address the spiritual, moral and social challenges and issues we face in our world. Its strength lies in the purity of its nature and purpose. BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. This is done by mass motivation and individual attention, through elevating projects for all, irrespective of class, creed, colour or country. Its universal work through a worldwide network of over 3,300 centers has received many national and international awards and affiliation with the United Nations. Today, a million or more Swaminarayan followers begin their day with puja and meditation, lead upright, honest lives and donate regular hours in serving others. No Alcohol, No Addictions, No Adultery, No Meat, No Impurity of body and mind are their five lifetime vows. Such pure morality and spirituality forms the foundation of the humanitarian services performed by BAPS.

The three most sacred scriptures are:
What do we mean by shastras or scriptures ? A book that contains preaching and commands is called a shastra. A book in accordance with which spiritual knowledge is spread, tenets are established and devotees are governed, is called scripture. The book which enshrines the do's and don'ts of moral conduct and explains the religion of humanity is a scripture. Hinduism can boast of many such scriptures. Whatever our great rishis had realized during their spiritual quest was presented before mankind according to the extent of their realization. These precepts, too, became scriptures.
Of all these scriptures, Lord Swaminarayan revered the books written by Vyas Bhagvan most. Moreover, He has observed in the Vachanamrut, Gadhada Section 11-58: "A sampradaya (sect) flourishes in this way." So saying He remarked, "God who has descended on the earth for the fulfillment of a certain mission or goal, displays Dharma, which refers to His divine glory in all His divine exploits, from His birth till He returns to His heavenly abode. All these go into the making of scriptures which help the Fellowship grow and expand."
Lord Swaminarayan promoted devotional poetry and music among His paramhansas. They were distinguished writers and music maestros. He advocated art, literature and architecture - even today they dominate the spiritual landscape of Gujarat. However, the Lord's eternal gift to humanity is the treasure of spiritual literature He wrote, spoke and inspired.

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.

Akshar Deri
The symbol of Akshar Deri on the home page of www.swaminarayan.org is the trademark of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha. The Akshar Deri is a holy shrine that commemorates the cremation spot of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami who was the choicest disciple and first successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. According to the Vedic principle of Bhakta and Bhagwan, Gunatitanand Swami is revered as the ideal Bhakta and Swaminarayan as Bhagwan. Akshar Deri is visited by hundreds of thousands of people from throughout the world. Devotees offer prayers, prostrations and perform circumambulations for spiritual elevation, fulfillment of mundane desires and relief from miseries. It is a divine and holy place of pilgrimage in the Swaminrayan Sampraday.
On 23-5-1934 Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, the 3rd successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, built a beautiful 3-shikhar mandir above the Akshar Deri and consecrated the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam. The history of how the Akshar Deri and the mandir was built and its glory and significance in as follows.


FAQs - General Questions about Mandir

Q.1 What is a mandir? 
A. Mandir is the Hindu name for a place of worship or prayer. Mandir is a Sanskrit word for where the mind becomes still and the soul floats freely to seek the source of life, peace, joy and comfort. For centuries, the mandir has remained a centre of life - a common community place where people forget their differences and voluntarily unite to serve society.

Q.2 Why mandirs are needed?
A. Every religion in its own tradition builds houses of worship. It is the mandir that fuels our faith in God, strengthen our society and teach us to trust one another and to become trustworthy. Schools will educate the mind, but who will educate the soul? Hospitals will mend a broken arm, but who will mend a broken heart? Cinemas and arcades will excite the mind but where will one go for peace of mind? Mandir is a centre for learning about man, nature and God. It is where ethics and values are reinforced. It is where people celebrate festivals and seek shelter in sad times. It is where talents in various arts - music, literature and sculpture - are offered in the service of God.

Q.3 Why build majestic mandirs? Why spend so much money for mandirs?
A. When buying a house for oneself and one’s family, one only requires a one room square concrete box that has enough floor space to sleep on. Yet, in reality, we spend weeks and months searching for that perfect house that has the perfect color, perfect style, perfect landscaping and perfect interior. Often, people spend years saving up money and making plans for their dream house. For ourselves and our loved ones, no cost or effort is spared in our quest for the perfect home.

Then should it to be so surprising that those who love God would spare no effort or cost to make the perfect house for God? This has been the sentiment of Hindus since the time the ancient seers wrote the Shilpa Shastras that specified the proper methods of construction for elaborate mandirs. But the construction of the mandir itself was the effect of devotion to God. So, the elaborate features and exquisite carvings of the mandir were simply the physical embodiments of devotion of the devotees who constructed the mandir.
The government of every country spends millions of dollars on public monuments that have no function other then to be looked at and admired for their architecture. The money to construct such public monuments comes directly from the taxpayers. Yet, such massive expenditure on public monuments is accepted and appreciated by all. The reason is that simply through their architecture and symbolism, such public monuments promote pride in one’s country and its values, and thus spread a beneficial social message. In the same way that the architecture of public monuments, and for that matter, all architecture promotes a message, the architecture of a mandir also promotes a message that is spiritually and socially beneficial. The architecture of the mandir evokes feelings of purity, devotional fervor, faith, wonder at the splendor of God, and pride in one’s culture.
Moreover, the money spent on mandirs does not come from public coffers, but solely from the donations of devotees who desire to express their devotion to God through the mandir. If society admires wealthy people for the massive mansions and palaces they construct to serve their own selfish needs, should not society admire even more, those people from all backgrounds who selflessly donate to the mandir for the socially beneficial message the mandir’s architecture promotes.

Q.4 Why not school and hospitals, but mandirs?
A. Hospitals, schools, and mandirs each play their respective essential roles in maintaining society’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
A hospital is necessary to treat the ill and wounded. A school is necessary to educate the mind of the individual so that he or she may become a successful and productive member of society. However, neither the school nor the hospital can provide the social, cultural, and spiritual benefits given by a mandir.
A school can give information, but it does not teach values. Perhaps we should think about the following questions: Why is it that so many social workers are faced with an ever increasing rate of teenage pregnancies? Why do so many schools employ metal detectors as security measures? Why is it that students attending the finest universities in the world are arrested for drinking and driving? A school will educate the mind, but unfortunately, it cannot educate the soul.
A hospital can extend life but it cannot teach a person how to live life. What are the success rates of smoking cessation or alcohol abuse clinics? Patients suffer from lung cancer or liver cirrhosis but they continue to consume nicotine and tobacco or abuse alcohol. A criminal is treated for a gunshot wound. But, after recovering he or she still remains a criminal. A hospital can mend a broken arm, but unfortunately, it cannot mend a broken heart.
Similarly, a mandir on its own cannot effectively fulfill the purposes and roles attributed to either a school or a hospital. However, a mandir can fulfill the deep necessity for spirituality in today’s society.
Carl G. Jung, an eminent psychotherapist goes as far as saying, “For the past thirty years people from all over the developed world have come to me for advice. From amongst these people there has not been one patient above the age of 35 whose illness could not be cured by faith in religion. And there has not been a single patient who has disbelieved religion and been cured!”
Swami Vivekanand, has said, “The greatest source of strength for any society is its faith in God. The day it renounces such faith will be the day that society begins to die.”
A mandir cultivates and sustains such devout faith in God. In doing so, it teaches the individual to live life virtuously. It teaches the individual to distinguish right from wrong. It molds the character of the individual and teaches one to live life in such a way that one does not harm one’s own self or society.
Therefore, mandirs, hospitals, and schools all have their respective and essential roles in society. The need for mandirs is just as visible as the need for schools and hospitals in society.

Q.5 Why so many mandirs?
A.  Suppose that one were away from home and visiting a foreign country. Suppose that at this time one were to fall ill. One’s initial response would be to find a hospital and seek medical treatment. However, suppose that one were to discover that there is only one hospital in the city. Not only one hospital in the city, but just one hospital in the state. Not only just one hospital in the state, but just one hospital in the entire country. How helpful would it be to go to that hospital and stand in a line of hundreds if not thousands of people? And, how helpful would it be to have to drive over 2-3 hours to reach that hospital?
Similarly, mandirs serve the purpose of a spiritual hospital. They heal the diseases of the soul and nurture the soul on the spiritual path. Therefore, many mandirs are built to ensure easier accessibility to the individual. The easier the access that the individual has to a mandir, the more inclined that individual will be to go to a mandir and reap its social, cultural, and spiritual benefits.

Q.6 Why build mandirs outside India?
A. For countless generations Hindu values, customs and traditions have provided man happiness and stability in his social, personal and spiritual life. As Hindus migrate throughout the world in search of greater economic opportunity, it is important that they do not lose this source of stability and peace due to lack of contact with their cultural heritage. Throughout the world, emigrants and, more significantly, their future generations have been able to maintain contact with their priceless cultural heritage through mandirs. Mandirs outside of India have provided emigrants an essential place to keep in touch with Hindu customs and traditions.
For second generation Hindus, the mandir has often been the place where they have been introduced to such Hindu customs as the Hindu diet, Hindu rites and rituals, Hindu dress, Hindu cultural ceremonies and Hindu spirituality. Regular exposure to these customs and traditions in the mandir has helped second generation Hindus understand and appreciate their cultural heritage. This has helped them develop pride in themselves and their cultural heritage and avoid the psychologically destructive feelings of inferiority and isolation that often come from being a part of a very small, misunderstood minority. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has often said that "wherever one goes, one should keep four aspects of our culture firmly rooted in our life: our diet, our language, our dress, and our devotion."

Q.7 How do mandirs help society?
A. Just as a mandir plays a vital role in uplifting society spiritually and culturally, it also offers various social benefits. The mandir has both a direct and indirect influence on society.

Direct Influence:
The social influence of the mandir can be seen directly through its role as a host for a variety of humanitarian activities.
The mandir is intertwined in each and every step of these activities. It is the mandir campus which serves as the site for the activities to be organized, launched and managed. It is the follower who comes to the mandir that lends a helping hand in each and every project. It is the resources of the mandir, its followers and its well-wishers that are used to see each project through.
Historically, mandirs have not just remained centers of worship, but rather, have evolved into vast, extensive complexes encompassing many roles to serve the special needs of society. In addition to their pivotal function in religious worship, mandirs have been a place where pilgrims and the poor have turned to for food in times of need or during natural disaster.

Today, BAPS has over 500 mandirs worldwide which play the role of regional centers for humanitarian activities in the form of anti-addiction, anti-dowry, family bonding, and literacy campaigns. They also serve as regional centers of food and clothing distribution, and supplies distribution during famines, floods, earthquakes, cyclones, plague outbreaks, terrorist attacks, or other times of disaster. BAPS is well known for its relief work throughout the world. In natural calamities, BAPS volunteers are among the first to arrive and the last to leave. In addition, 23 BAPS educational institutes educate over 6,000 students annually. 170,000 patients are treated at BAPS medical institutions. 209 tribal villages have been freed from addictions, superstition, and poverty. However, all of these and many more such social activities, have their direct roots at a mandir.
Indirect Influence:
Some social roles played by the mandir are not as noticeable as described thus far. These roles become more apparent if we examine the fundamental element of social uplift.

Q.8 What cultural importance does the mandir have?
A. Historically, the mandir was a center for intellectual and artistic life. For example, throughout the history of Hindu civilization, mandirs have been the most significant patrons of architecture, sculpture and painting. The greatest architectural projects, the greatest sculptures and paintings of every age have been associated with the construction of mandirs.
Moreover, mandirs were also great patrons of the performing arts. Mandirs supported the performance and teaching of devotional vocal and instrumental music. Mandirs also promoted a tradition of devotional dance. These traditions of music and dance were developed in the mandir and spread out into the wider culture.
In addition to being a patron of the arts, the mandir was the place where the public was routinely exposed to the arts. The mandir was universally accessible. People from all backgrounds and all places came to the mandir. There they experienced its architecture, sculpture, painting, music and dance. It is through this exposure to the arts at the mandir, that the artistic culture of India became strongly rooted in the public’s mind. The permanence of the mandir ensured that this artistic culture was sustained in the public’s mind through generations.
In this way, through the ages, mandirs kept alive the highly-skilled artistic traditions of India. Without the mandir’s patronage, these priceless artistic traditions such as traditional stone-carving, traditional architecture and Hindu classical music would not be available for the world to appreciate today.
Mandir: Preserver of Scriptural Traditions
Hinduism has a vast ocean of scriptures that illuminate every facet of human endeavor imaginable. But, most of these scriptures were accessible only to the learned few due to language and availability issues. However, it was through the mandirs, where the scriptures were regularly read and discoursed upon, that the mass population was given free and regular access to the stories, the epics, and the scriptural tradition that was the foundation of their culture. Thus, historically the mandir universalized the knowledge of the scriptures by making that knowledge accessible to everyone.

Mandirs: Preserver of Language
Language is the key to culture. It is the key to unlocking the history and teachings that have been preserved in the scriptures. The death of a language such as Sanskrit, is equivalent to the loss of thousands of years of human experience that has been recorded in scriptures and books written in Sanskrit. Mandirs have preserved the knowledge of Sanskrit throughout history through the establishment of pathshalas (teaching centers) where the pupils learn Sanskrit and the scriptures. From here they go on to teach it to others. The fact that Bhagwan Swaminarayan has given this commandment in His Shikshapatri illustrates how even the scriptures have indicated the propagation of languages and learning as an important role for mandirs. The mandir’s role in the teaching of languages such as Sanskrit and, in mandirs outside of India, Gujarati and Hindi, continues today.

Mandirs: Role in cultural life today
The cultural roles that mandirs have played throughout history are being continued in today’s mandirs. In addition, today’s mandirs have also risen to the challenge of promoting and protecting the culture of today’s Hindus, both in India and throughout the rest of the world.

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 rea
Q.2 Who is a Hindu?
A. Summary Answer:
A Hindu is a follower of Hinduism, the native religion of the people of India.
A Hindu accepts the authority of Vedic scriptures and follows the common practices of Hinduism. A Hindu is inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation and is tolerant of the peaceful practices of other faiths.
The word “Hindu” was originally coined by the ancient Persians to describe the people living east of the “Sindhu”, or Indus River. The term spread westward, and eventually it became popularized throughout the world. It was only with the invasion of India, first by the Muslims and then by the British that the term “Hindu” came into use in India. Prior to that, the practitioners of the native religion of India called their religion, ‘Sanãtan Dharma’ – the Eternal Religion. It was known as eternal, because the Truths revealed by it are true today, were true before this universe existed, and will be true even after the destruction of the universe.
Q.3 What is unique about the Indian Calendar?
A. The modern western calendar that we are accustomed to is based on the sun in which a year (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds) is the time required for the earth to complete one orbit around the sun. This solar year is composed of 12 arbitrarily assigned months which have either 30 or 31 days, with the exception of February.
The Indian calendar is based on both the sun and the moon. The Indian calendar uses the solar year but divides it into 12 lunar months. They are listed in order from beginning to end: Kãrtik, Mãghshar, Posh, Mãgh (Mahã), Fãlgun, Chaitra, Vaishãk, Jeth, Ashãdh, Shrãvan, Bhãdarvo, and Ãso. A lunar month is the time required for the moon to orbit once around the earth and pass through its complete cycle of phases. These months are formulated not arbitrarily, but in accordance with the successive entrances of the sun into the 12 rãshis, the 12 constellations of the zodiac marking the path of the sun.
A lunar month is precisely 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds long. Twelve such months make up a lunar year of 354 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes, and 36 seconds. To ensure that the corresponding seasons according to the lunar months coincide with those of the solar year, an extra month is inserted every 30 months (approximately every 2½ years) because 62 lunar months are equal to 60 solar months. As a result of the adjustment, the seasons and festivals retain their general position relative to the solar year.
Each lunar month is divided into two pakshas (two parts) – the sud or shukla paksh (the bright half of the month when the moon waxes from a new moon to a full moon) and the vad or krishna paksh (the dark half of the month when the moon wanes from a full moon to a new moon). Each paksha is divided into 15 tithis (lunar days) which follow the names of Sanskrit numerical system.
The era that is currently used in the Indian calendar is the Vikram Samvat Era, which began in 57 BCE when King Vikram drove off a Greek invasion of the Malwa region and came to the throne. Thus, we have the following conversion to the Indian year. If the western calendar date falls between Kartik sud 1 (the beginning of the Indian Year) and December 31st (the end of the western calendar year), then 57 years should be subtracted from the Indian year to make the conversion. If the western calendar date falls between January 1st (the beginning of the western year) and Aso vad 30 (the end of the Indian year), then only 56 years should be subtracted to make the conversion.
Q.5 What is Ahinsã?
A.  Summary Answer:
Ahinsã is not just non-violence. It also encompasses respect and consideration for life and peaceful, harmonious living.
The Concept of Ahinsã
Ahinsã is the feeling that attempts to reduce harm to all living creatures. The concept of Ahinsã is meant to be practiced by:

  • thought - not having thoughts of ill-will towards others
  • word - not using speech to slander or malign others
  • deed - not performing violent physical actions
In renowned Hindu scriptures such as the Mahãbhãrat (3-207-7), the Vãsudev Mãhãtmya (20/21), and the Padma Purãn (1.31.27), Ahinsã is referred to as the highest virtue of life: Ahinsã paramo dharma. Bhagwãn Swãminãrayan has referred to the practice of Ahinsã throughout His Shikshãpatri - the code of conduct for devotees:
  • “All scriptures advocate Ahinsã as the highest dharma.”(Verse 12)
  • “My devotees should not harm any living being. They should not intentionally harm even small insects.” (Verse 11)
  • “Even for performing yagnas (ceremonial and divine sacrifices) to please deities or ancestors, no harm should be inflicted on any living being.” (Verse 12)
  • “Even for acquiring women, wealth or a kingdom, one should never, in any way, harm or kill any person.” (Verse 155)
Vegetarianism: An Application of Ahinsã
A practical application of Ahinsã seen in Hinduism is vegetarianism - as it fosters the sentiment of respect for other living creatures. The most ancient Hindu scriptures curbed the practice of killing animals by imposing strict ritualistic regulations which are very difficult to ordinarily meet. Those who were following the spiritual path and wanted to attain God were prohibited altogether from killing animals and consuming animal flesh because such consumption hinders spiritual progress. Hindu scriptures say that killing animals and consuming their flesh leads to violence in our thoughts and behavior. It spoils one’s character and obstructs one’s acquisition of noble virtues.
Today, some people feel that because they are not actually killing the animal themselves, eating the flesh and other body parts of a dead animal does not violate the code of Ahinsã. However, Hindus consider the consumption of dead animal flesh to be a barbaric practice. The Vãsudev Mãhãtmya and other Hindu scriptures state that one who consumes animal flesh, who sells animal flesh, or who prepares animal flesh – all of these people accrue the same sin as the person who slaughters the animal. This is similar to the Western idea that the murderer and the accessory to the murder are both guilty of the killing.
Some people argue that God has given us the ability to kill animals and digest animal flesh; therefore God must have wanted us to eat animals. One could easily respond that God has given us the intelligence and ability to kill humans and digest human flesh, so in that belief system, did God give us this ability because he wanted us to eat human flesh? The flaw in this argument becomes clear here. These people have made the grave error of confusing ability and civility, or ethics. Men may have the ability to kill animals and eat animal flesh, but that does not make it right. Humans have the ability to do some very bad things. But civilization, ethics, morality, and dharma are all meant to restrain man from exercising his full barbaric, animalistic capability and instead, to elevate him from this animalistic condition to the plane of humanity and even higher to the plane of spirituality. It is with this intent of elevating mankind from just a human being to a spiritual being that Hinduism has propagated the value of Ahinsã and its corollary vegetarianism. 

Q.6 How does the practice of self-defense fit into the concept of Ahinsã?
A. Ahinsã is not just non-violence or not resorting to arms, but it is also the feeling that tries to reduce harm to all living creatures. Sometimes, force or violence may in fact be necessary to prevent harm. Suppose a train is heading towards a child who is standing in the middle of railroad tracks. We would be inclined to push the child out of the way to save his or her life. Suppose that a wild animal is running ferociously to attack a group of tourists. The animal may need to be wounded to prevent harm to numerous people. Ahinsã recognizes the right to defend one’s self, family, community, and country through the most feasible and appropriate, yet least violent, means necessary. However, defending oneself should never be used to justify violence that is not provoked or warranted. One should be careful that defending one’s self does not become a hidden form of aggression.

Q.8 What is Karma?
A. Summary Answer:
Karma is the law of action and reaction (cause and effect) applied to life. The ãtmã 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 all living beings’ actions.
There are three types of karmas – sanchit, prãrabdha, and kriyamãn.

  • Sanchit karmas – the stock of karmas, or accumulation of past good and bad actions.
  • Prãrabdha karmas – are the portion of sanchit karmas used up to create the present physical body and the experiences we are to encounter in this life.
  • Kriyamãn karmas – the new actions we perform each day which shape our future experiences of pain and joy.
Karma helps explain the disparities that occur in the human population such as: prosperity or poverty, happiness or misery, good health, illness, or disability. Behind every individual’s existence there partly lies his own past deeds, which are directly responsible for many of the events during his lifespan, be it painful or pleasant. We are what we are because of our deeds and actions.
One may ask: Why do some sinful people seem happy and why do some righteous people experience misery? To understand this, consider the analogy of a large storage vessel for grains. As long as the sacks of good grains are emptied in the vessel, there will be no problems. One will get good grains as one removes them from an outlet at the bottom of the vessel each day. But, when a sack of bad grains is emptied into the container, one eventually comes across it after the layers of good grains have been exhausted. One reaps the benefits of the layers of past good actions until the bad layers arrive. So, until then, the person may seem to live in comfort and happiness, but he has to eventually bear the consequences of his bad actions. There is no correlation, however, between the order that the karmas were performed and the order in which one receives the fruits of those karmas. Thus, although it is possible for one to receive the fruits of one’s karmas in the order in which those karmas were performed, as implied in the aforementioned analogy, this is not always the case. One may receive the fruits of karmas independent of the order in which the karmas were performed.
Karma is not to be confused as the giver of the fruits of our actions. In His Vachanãmrut, Bhagwãn Swãminãrayan says,
“Just as when seeds which are planted in the earth sprout upwards after coming into contact with rainwater, similarly, during the period of creation, the jivas which had resided within mãyã together with their kãran sharir (causal body), attain various types of bodies according to their individual karmas by the will of God, the giver of the fruits of karmas.” (Vartãl 6)
So, in fact, God is the giver of the fruits of our actions. One might think that God is cruel when He dispenses the fruits of bad actions. But, God is impartial towards all. The Brahma Sutras by Ved Vyãs say, “God is not biased in giving happiness and misery to anyone but gives the fruits of one’s karmas.” (2-1-34)
Not only does God give the fruits of one’s karmas, but earning the grace of God or His realized sãdhu can destroy the harmful karmas of one’s past. Many stories from our scriptures show this to be true. Bhagwãn Swãminãrayan also says in the Vachanãmrut Gadhadã I-58 that if a God-realized Sãdhu becomes pleased upon a person, then regardless of how malicious his karmas may be, they are all destroyed. The blessings of that great sãdhu could make a beggar into a king, could transform a bad fate into a favorable destiny, and could dissolve even the most disastrous misfortune.
Accepting and understanding that our actions have causes and effects stops us from performing unrighteous actions for which we would have to suffer from the further accumulation and consequences of harmful karmas.

Q.   Why are there so many Gods in Hinduism?
A. Summary Answer:
Hinduism is not a polytheistic religion. For all Hindus, there is only one Supreme God.

The ancient seers of India recognized that all of God’s creation does not just center around man, but that man shares the universe with numerous life forms. Some life forms have less powers and abilities than humans while others have more. God grants some of these various higher beings cosmic powers and assigns them the responsibilities of running the “machinery of the universe.” These higher beings are also known as devtãs, devãs or gods. While Hindus respect these gods to be higher than humans, and even propitiate them in times of need, Hindus also readily acknowledge that these gods are clearly subservient to and have their origin and sustenance in one Supreme God. Hindus are thus monotheists, worshippers of one Supreme God, in every sense of the word.

Historically, many groups have been unwilling or unable to understand the true position and function of the various gods within Hinduism. Consequently, out of misunderstanding or prejudice, they have incorrectly labeled Hinduism as polytheistic in the sense of the ancient Roman or Greek pantheon. However, this is incorrect. Just as other religions consider themselves monotheistic while still accepting the existence of “angels” and other superhuman divinities, Hinduism should be considered monotheistic in the same sense.


Om Tat Sat

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


Post a Comment