100th Birthday Of BAPS spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj celebrated at UN

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Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centennial Celebrated at the United Nations, New York, NYC, December 7, 2022. The theme of the program, The World is One Family, Photo: courtesy BAPS

On December 7, 2022, the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations and the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha came together to host centennial celebrations honoring the life and message of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of BAPS for more than 50 years. The event was held at the UN headquarters in New York City.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016) was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and embodied values of faith in God and service to humanity, a press release from BAPS said.

The event was themed, The World is One Family, the event at the United Nations aimed to honor his legacy. Those present included India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj, members of the Permanent Mission of India, ambassadors and representatives of many countries, and BAPS volunteers.

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Dr. Kashyap Patel, a BAPS volunteer and cardiologist at the Northside Hospital Cardiovascular Institute in Atlanta, gave a welcome address, introducing Pramukh Swami Maharaj, his humanitarian efforts for social and spiritual upliftment, and his foundational belief that the world is one family.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s address at the United Nations Peace Millennium Summit on August 29, 2000, was brought to life through a video presentation. In this address, he appealed to spiritual leaders worldwide to have meaningful dialogues with each other to preserve the rich diversity, to not just tolerate but to respect all religions.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General Miguel Angel Moratinos, who holds the post of High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, echoed Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s message, saying, “The time to come together as one is now.”

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj, addressing the Dec. 7, 2022, centennial celebrations for Pramukh Swami Maharaj at the UN. Photo: courtesy BAPS

Kamboj delivered the keynote address. “In the truest sense, Swamiji’s life is a message to all humanity, it is a message of oneness, a message of goodness, a message of celebrating peace, harmony, and brotherhood,” she said.

During his lifetime, Pramukh Swami Maharaj responded to more than 20 natural disasters in India and abroad, inspiring volunteers to contribute their time and money to deliver relief to more than 6 million people worldwide.

Sejal Patel, a BAPS volunteer and associate director of professional development with McKinsey, shared a first-hand account of one such instance from the 2017 Hurricane Harvey disaster that struck Texas. “The signature mark of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s relief efforts was this… his ability to share in the suffering and to channel that empathy into a sense of urgency to provide the swift action needed to save lives and then rebuild them over time…” Patel said.

Professor Sejal Saglani, a BAPS volunteer from U.K., who is Professor of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine at the Imperial College in London, spoke about efforts made during the Covid pandemic.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj taught me in all aspects of my life that real success comes from serving and uplifting others,” said  Ria Soni, a BAPS volunteer, first-year medical student at NYU, and co-founder of Project Stree, a menstrual education organization.

Bawa Jain, Secretary-General for the World Council of Religious Leaders and Founder and President of The Centre for Responsible Leadership shares stories about Pramukh Swami Maharaj Dec. 7, 2022, at the UN. Photo: courtesy BAPS

Other speakers who dwelt on lessons learned from the spiritual leader included Aarti Patel, a BAPS volunteer and principal of John D Parker Junior School in Toronto; Bawa Jain, secretary-general for the World Council of Religious Leaders and Founder and President of The Centre for Responsible Leadership; leaders of BAPS like Anandswarup Swami who spoke virtually to the gathering, and in conclusion, offered his prayers for world harmony in honor of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Recital of the Shanti Paath, a Hindu prayer for universal peace and a vote of thanks by Counsellor Ashish Sharma from the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, ended the event.   

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