Happiness is the only power that matters

Just because you possess and use power – even for good causes – does not make you great. I think the greatest people are people who are truly genuine and therefore happy. It is irrelevant how many other people you make happy or affect; if you are happy, you have won. And it is the course of nature that happy people make others happy.


Leaving Vartal for the Sake of Akshar Purushottam

Image result for shastriji maharaj leaving vadtal

Imagine. It is November 13, 1905. We are gathered at Shastriji Yagnapurushdas’s asan in Vartal. The leading devotees have just come back from the Acharya’s room. “Who’d give him a letter to travel the villages?! The whole country is lying open. He can go wherever he pleases!” The Acharya’s response was far from what they had expected.

It seems the moment foretold by the events of the last few days is here at last. Only yesterday, when Krishnaji Ada finally convinced Shastri Yagnapurushdas to part from Vartal, everyone had found such relief in the possibility of this instant. Yet now, no one is saying a thing.

Shastriji Maharaj is quiet as well. But his silence is different, untainted by turmoil. He simply sits still in the middle of an emotional storm and one cannot help but try to follow his distant gaze and search for the thoughts that occupy his mind. It is then, in that moment, that I feel brushed by the wind of a little boy running down the hallway.

His name was Dungar and he had always come to spend his time at the sadhu’s residences. In this very hallway, he had met countless sadhus initiated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan himself. He would run from seat to seat bowing down to each of the great sadgurus. After meeting them all, he would go to Adbhutanand Swami. Here, he would do Swami’s seva and then sit to listen as Adbhutanand Swami spoke on vairagya and the fickleness of this world.

As Dungar fades down the hallway, Shastri Yagnapurushdas finishes speaking to Purushottamdas Swami; he is going to have to stay behind in case the Acharya changes his mind. A few of the haribhaktas separate to pass along the word that the time has come – “Shastri is leaving Vartal.” Swami stands up and in his footsteps follow Narayancharandas Swami, Niranjandas Swami and three other sadhus. They begin to pack their . As he gathers the few things that might be called his, he probably doesn’t see the boy that fills my eyes.

Dungar was at the cabinet 25 years ago. Vignanand Swami’s arrival in Vartal had ended his search for a great paramhansa of Shriji Maharaj to make his guru. It was Swami who had first asked him, “Child, do you want to become a sadhu?” Dungar’s heart had lept with joy. He followed Swami to Surat, received diksha on Swami’s recommendation, and began his studies of Sanskrit; it was Vignanand Swami that had loved him like a father, trusted him with the responsibilities of managing Surat mandir, and even supported his embrace of the Akshar Purushottam upasana and Bhagatji Maharaj.

All of that had started right around this cabinet. And now Swamishri is closing it for the last time. He steps out of the sadhu’s residences and into the grand quad of the mandir. I can only marvel at his steps – steady, purposeful, unashamed; his stride is so much like a lion’s gait, except that his strength does not come from arrogant nonchalance but from the humility of accepting a greater will. Five brave sadhus quietly follow him. 100 or so of us trail behind them. Devotees and sadhus are looking on from the balconies above us. Sadhus speaking in the sabhamandap, abruptly stop; their eyes and the eyes of their audience are fixing on Yagnapurushdas. It seems almost everyone has something to whisper to someone else and what they think are quiet pronouncements are collectively becoming a hum echoing from the compound’s structures. Some, who think themselves bold, jeer as Swami passes. Others, like Gordhandas Kothari, are brave enough to recognize Swamishri’s integrity and saintliness. Mentally or physically, they fold their hands and bow their heads. Some even let tears flow. And amongst them, amongst their humming, their jeers, and their sighs and sobs, I hear the laugh of Dungar.

Every ekadashi and punam, since the age of 7, Dungar had come running into this compound, sometimes led by his brothers and father, most times leading. How many times had he walked around the square searching for the discarded pages of the temple scribes? Dungar could hardly keep count. But every time he found some pages, he would take them and sit on the steps of the mandir, reading them in the style of a pundit. This was also the square that used to echo with his laughter as he ran away from his family to meet the sadhus in their residences. It was amongst these very walls, that he had discovered the relics of Shriji Maharaj and had their darshan. It was here, in front of the sabhamandap, that he had boldly told Bechar Bhagat to become a sadhu from within. He had climbed the stairs of the Acharya’s haveli so many times that the parshads and even the current Acharya’s father called him by name.

Image result for shastriji maharaj leaving vadtal

But today is a different story. Swami does not climb the stairs to the haveli; he climbs the stairs across from them, to the mandir. He does darshan of all the murtis with love. But in front of Harikrishna Maharaj he pauses more than anywhere else. This is the murti Maharaj has installed himself. It is possibly the most sacred murti of the Swaminarayan faith. Swami folds his hands, “Maharaj! We don’t even remotely wish to separate, but if this is your wish then please always stay in our assistance; stay with us eternally.” It was his last prayer to this murti – a murti he had spoken to since he was a boy.

What Dungar prayed for no one could tell. Fear was not a feeling he had known. Worldly things did not entice him. But, nonetheless, Dungar had stood in front of this same murti countless times as a child. Dungar’s puja, his meditation, even his mind’s free moments all focused on this form.

Shastriji Maharaj turns away. He climbs down the same stairs. His puja, his clothes, one or two books – those few things one might call his – hang over his right shoulder in his potlu. A pagh covers his head. His face is calm. He neither frowns with grief nor smiles with any pretense. Before anyone truly realizes what has happened, 41 year-old Swamishri, five sadhus, and about 150 devotees walk out the main gate of Vartal mandir for the sake of Akshar and Purushottam.


To truly transport one’s self to that time is currently impossible. However, one thing seems certain. It is impossible to imagine that fateful day in 1905 without marveling at the depth of Shastriji Maharaj’s faith in Akshar and Purushottam, the strength of his conviction to live for his faith. One is left in awe at the mettle of his detachment from all things other than Maharaj and Swami because the Vartal he was leaving was not just the throbbing heart of the Swaminarayan Sampraday; it was not just a seat of power and authority; it was not just a place of comfort and honor; it was also the Vartal that had filled his childhood, the place he had spent his happiest childhood moments in devotion. Today, among all those other Vartals, he was leaving the Vartal of his childhood.

[Originally printed in the Swaminarayan Bliss | Reposted here to celebrate Shastrijij Maharaj on Vasant Panchami. Image Credit: https://www.swaminarayan.org/shastrijimaharaj/life/30.htm]

Science + Religion – Set 1

It’s not vs. It’s +

Image result for science vs. religion

Too often people present science and religion as mutually exclusive choices. And in fact, for people who present themselves on either side of that choice, too often, this framing is just a way to pique interest and gain an audience. In fact, as both are streams of knowledge and pursuits of truth they must be complementary and not adversarial. Indeed, the closer one’s religion is to the Truth, the less there is a fight with science. And, the more honest the science (specifically in regards to the questions unanswered) the less the fight with religion.

“If we keep a bit of humility and accept mankind has not yet mastered the Truth through science or as presented by religion, we may actually be able to use both disciplines to move closer to the Truth at a greater pace.”

I am neither a scientist nor a theological or philosophical expert. I am a Swaminarayan Hindu and in my amateur readings of scripture and amateur interest in science, I have come across things that make me think that Hindu views of cosmology, written at a time without all the modern instruments of experimentation and observation, show that the rishi-scientists and mystics of ancient India were using spirituality to describe reality and discover the Truth in a way that is coherent with, if not instructive to modern science. I think they increase my faith in the mystics and scriptures as I believe it is truly a product of great intellect to describe things so accurately without having modern tools and science to support them. They also increase my faith in the idea that to attain the Truth we can use Science + Religion as opposed to framing the two as adversaries by putting Science vs. Religion.

Earlier, I admitted being an amateur and not an expert. This is because I know ‘half knowledge is dangerous’ and I hope that if I am presenting examples that I have misunderstood, someone will come along to put me in my place. Like anyone who writes blogs, at least part of the point is to start a conversation.

With that preamble here are points for us to think about:

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source: http://suscon.bec.org.hk/tc/page.php?id=6&sub_id=18

1. The number of species on this planet.

In the Puranas, our rishis shared a system to classify all life. Just as we use six kingdoms today, the ancient rishis divided life into four kingdoms: swedaja (born from impure water – microscopic life and insects), udbhija (born of seeds – plants), andaja (born from eggs – reptiles and birds), and jarayuja (born from wombs – mammals). Thousands of years ago, a time without microscopes to see small life forms or satellites to track large ones, the rishis of Sanatan Dharma counted 8.4 million different types of life forms. Their accuracy is amazing! Especially when you consider the fact that after thousands of years of scientific research and species differentiation and extinction, in 2011, a group of scientists published a paper in the journal PLOS Biography that there were 8.7 million life forms on planet Earth.

My thoughts on String Theory by GoateeGuy
source: https://www.deviantart.com/goateeguy/art/My-thoughts-on-String-Theory-178427359

2. String Theory and The Three Gunas of Maya

So I said in the beginning that I’m no expert so, let’s first understand some science from an expert.


In this video, Physicist Brian Greene explains superstring theory in a TED Talk in 2005. The whole talk is interesting but for our purposes pay attention to 9:35 – 11:33.

I know there is a lot of depth to this theory and in fact, there are string theories and not just a single string theory. But for now, what I am taking away is this idea from Dr. Greene, that the fundamental, formative matter of the universe is a string whose permutations are perceived as particles who come together to form greater, more complex things. These strings live in a multi-dimensional space but share a single time dimension.

Now let’s consider the events of creation as told by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Gadhada Section I – 12 and other Vachanamruts: Maya is the substance of creation and it is jad – meaning lifeless, without a consciousness. In Ultimate Dissolution (pralay) Maya becomes dense and small like an atom or a subatomic particle and stays within Metaspace (chidakash – which is the greater space than the normal space we talk about since that space is created later in ‘Creation’). Maya’s three Gunas (don’t how to translate this to English; the only known translation ‘Qualities’ doesn’t seem to make sense here) are in equilibrium here.

In creation, God (the greatest living, conscious thing – dare I say the greatest Energy) works through Aksharbrahman and the Aksharpurush (one of the liberated souls living with God in this Metaspace in a place called Akshardham – the eternal abode) and disturbs the equilibrium of Maya and creates the differing permutations of its three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas. Everything after this point, elements like the mahattattvas, etc. are all made from the kshobha (agitation – or shall we say vibration) of Maya and the permutations of its gunas.

To me, this sounds an awful lot like the idea of saying that in the Big Bang, a densely packed thing is disturbed with energy leading to vibration of strings whose permutations are the particles we perceive that come together to form greater forms of matter and all the forces and constants needed to explain the existing multiverses.

Interestingly, in this video, Dr. Greene talks about the fact that the equations of string theory require 10 dimensions of space but only one dimension of time. In Hindu cosmology, there is akash (space) and chidakash (a sentient, energy space or metaspace) – meaning that there are many spaces, but there is only one kal (or time). And, that time allows for (is one of the indirect causes of) the kshobha of Maya (almost word for word from the above-stated Vachanamrut Gadh I – 12).

So, the Big Bang, String Theory and a lot of theoretical physics do explain Creation quite well. However, that doesn’t mean that spirituality and religion have no place in the conversation. In fact, for Hindus, science may just be proving what our scriptures have said for quite some time. If we can accept that, understanding the science may help us understand the scriptures, and understanding the scriptures may also demystify some of the science behind these propositions of theoretical physics.

(As an aside, I think Germans kill at theoretical physics in history because Germany is a hub for studying Sanskrit. You look at the works of Kant and can’t help but see a German version of the workings of Shankaracharya and you look at String Theory and can’t help remember the physicist rishis of ancient India.)

Anyway, that’s a lot for one day and one read. There’s a bit more to come – including the duality of light – in the next set of examples to show it should be Science + Religion and not Science vs.  Religion – at least for Hindus.

No Love Without Freedom

“No love without freedom, No freedom without love” – Dido

The English singer/songwriter Dido uses this as a refrain in her song of the same title. Her conversation is most likely with a lover. However, as a statement it’s universal.

The other day someone asked me how God could allow people the freedom to do horrible things if he is benevolent and powerful.

There are of course some metaphysical and ethical considerations. If people were without free will and the power to make that will come true, we would no longer be autonomous or independent. We would be automated – acting always without choice. Indeed, there is a question of whether cognition would exist if there is no choice. And if there were no cognition, would there be existence? The cogito – ‘I think therefore I am’ – would no longer exist and so how would we know we do?

But those questions aside, there is a philosophical but also emotional answer that is framed well by Dido in her song: There is ‘no love without freedom’. Virtues like love (in other words bhakti) cannot exist without choice. Love is not just a chemically-induced experience. It is something that takes free choice to both initiate and sustain. Love cannot be coerced; it has to be chosen. So there is no love without freedom.

Equally important is the second part, ‘no freedom without love’. Only those who truly love us, trust us and wish us to be happy can truly give us freedom. God’s choice to give mankind freedom arises from his love. He wants us to find our happiness and trusts that eventually (here, Hinduism’s understanding of eternity and rebirth is helpful) we will all find the truth.

And so, the question of evil in the world is answered by the existence of free will. And, the existence of free will is answered simply by the statement, “No love without freedom; no freedom without love.”

Hi, I’m Atma

Hi I’m Atma. How do you do?

You do see me? Or do you?

Look inside, this body’s heart,

I’ve been right there right from the start.


I’m smaller than an atom

And brighter than the sun.

My light is bright but it doesn’t burn…

Because, I’m Atma and forever fun.


I’m made of happiness and jolliful joy.

Smiles and giggles and laughter, oh boy!

No bully or joke, no words or deeds,

Can possibly change old merriful me!


Yes, I’m Atma and I’m powerfully strong!

I’ve been elephants and lions, devas and kings!

If I wish and work hard, I can do anything!

Nobody or buddy, can ever rule me,

My mind, my heart, all listen to me!


Oh I’m Atma and incredibly intelligent!

Brilliantly brilliant and smartly smart,

The knowledge of worlds, lies right in my heart.

Given time to study and churn,

There’s nothing that I cannot learn.


You see I’m the Atma, and I am eternal!

I will not die and was never born.

I change through lives like clothes out worn.

And while death is not something that I ever fear,

I’m careful of all that I do, think or hear.

Nice things bring nice, bad things bring bad,

And things done for God, make Him very glad.


I am the Atma, oh, yes I am.

And I am pure, like a pearl in a clam.

No wants or demands, no worries, no fears,

No fights, no screams, and not even tears!

Evil and sadness are never inside,

Because inside, does God reside.


So I am Atma and you know me well.

Now join me for a powerful spell.

Place a finger on your heart.

And with pride, let’s start:


I am Atma, and I am happy and smart,

I am not this body, but live in its heart.

I am eternal, powerful and incredibly strong,

I am pure and I will never do wrong.

I am all of this and so much more,

For God resides inside my core.


Now all of this may seem hard to master,

So here’s something that’s easy and faster.

Just tell yourself every day,

“My guru is my atma in every way.

All I want to be is him.

All I want to see is him.”

If that much you can remember,

There is nothing more for you to master.


I am Atma and so are you.

Now gone on and be the best you.

My Guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj


Pramukh Swami Maharaj



In the winter of 1921, in the unassuming village of Chansad, Vadodara, a breath-taking story began. A story of a boy who went from playing on the banks of his village pond to building a colossal wonder on the banks of the Yamuna. The story of a young man who gave up his world on the word of his guru and later inspired thousands to do the same. A story of a boy who asked for nothing, turning into a man for whom thousands were willing to give their everything. It’s a story of sacrifice and simplicity, a story of selflessness and service, a story of one honest, humble soul winning the hearts of millions around the world.

December 7, 1921. A boy named Shantilal was born to Diwaliben and Motibhai Patel. Their home in Chansad was a simple farmer’s house. Motibhai and his friends welcomed Shantilal’s birth with great joy.

For the next 18 years, Shantilal spent his days between Padra and Chansad. He studied at the top of his class and spent his leisure time with the village boys herding cattle, swimming in the village pond or playing cricket. From every outwardly view, Shantilal was a normal boy albeit more quiet than the rest. But even as Shantilal and his friends  played around the village, Shantilal’s mind lay in the Himalayas, the mystical lands at the center of Sanatana Dharma.

And yet, if there was anything that had captured Shantilal’s mind more than the Himalayas, it was the gaze of his guru. Shastriji Maharaj’s visits to Chansad were the highlights of Shantilal’s childhood and the first interactions of a divine destiny.

That destiny became clear in 1939. While readying his friends for a cricket match, Shantilal received a letter from Shastriji Maharaj. It was a call to that divine destiny. Shantilal’s answer to that call foretold the way he would answer this call over the next 8 decades – with action.  He did not linger, he did not think, he left Chansad on the messenger’s bicycle to become a sadhu at the hands of his guru.

Thus began a new chapter not only in Shantilal’s life but in the history of this world. Shantilal Patel from Chansad became Sadhu Narayanswarupdas – a loyal disciple of Shastriji Maharaj who put nothing before his guru’s words, not even his own body.

Ten years later, in 1950, Narayanswarupdas became Pramukh Swami, the president of BAPS and at the young age of 28, he vowed to his guru, “Today, Oh Gurushri, in front of you and this gathering, I pledge that I shall sincerely uphold my duties, without caring for my body, and in every way remain loyal to the Sanstha and faithful to you until my last breath.”

As President of BAPS, he served humbly, in the shadows, making every wish of his gurus Shastriji Maharaj and later Yogiji Maharaj come to fruition. There was no task too difficult, no test too trying, for his faith in God and guru were eternally firm.

Then in 1971, Yogiji Maharaj left for Akshardham and Pramukh Swami became the guru of BAPS, its spiritual head and President. Yet, in his own mind, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was still the name of a servant. He was still the shishya who had promised his guru to work till his last breath without ever considering his body.

For the next 40 years, he travelled in the service of his guru’s devotees. Except for severe illnesses, there was never a day’s respite. There was no hut too small, no child too young, no man too poor to demand Swamishri’s attention. It was never too early to meet him and surely never too late. He answered people’s problems at roadsides and in farms. And when he couldn’t make it in person, he was always there by pen or phone. No one who ever met him felt he was anyone else’s. Yet, Pramukh Swami was always everyone’s.

Heart attacks, eye operations, surgeries and illnesses, all came and went. His travels never ceased. While everyone saw him as their guru; he always remained their servant.

People say he has made more than 1000 sadhus. But in truth, he never had to ask. His life and his love were such that men from the villages of India to metropolises around the world came to him to renounce selfishness and embrace selfless service. They dedicated their lives to his cause, because he had already dedicated his life to them.

Swamiji was not a person who formed poetic life mantras. Yet, anyone who saw him knew “In the joy of others lies our own” were not just words; for Pramukh Swami Maharaj it was the essence of his life. When disaster struck, Swamishri’s heart reached out to the victims. They were never statistics for him. They were lives and livelihoods. He worried about their homes, their future careers, their rituals and traditions. Providing food was not a donation; it was serving the warmth of a home with a hot meal.

Over the years, Pramukh Swami Maharaj began to become a household name. For so many he was a beacon of hope and peace in a splintering world. For others he was an ambassador of Indian culture. Some saw in him an eternally devout servant of God humanity. And in recent years, he was the silent but transformational inspiration behind 1200 mandirs and the three Akshardhams.

He was so much to so many people.

But most of all, he was Bapa – the man who was at once our father, our friend, our guide and our guru. The being through whom, we mere mortals spoke to, laughed with and embraced God.

Hold Me Steady, Steady With Your Gaze


Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.


This morning again, I woke to a slumber

A world of motion and momentum,

But not a sense of direction.

I can see so much, yet see nothing at all,

Call it confusion, delusion,

Or is this true perception?

Is my knowledge truth or just memorisation?

We call it education,

Should it be called a condition?


Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.


The world is spinning on and on,

Racing, chasing, running on.

A tornado’s tearing up my head,

I can’t stand up, can’t go to bed.

If I can’t hold you, how will I hold on?

If I can’t love you, how will I move on?

Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.

Don’t let me fall, as I trip through these dreams,

Cuz its only you who can be my beam –

Light from the darkness. Dawn from the dusk.

Let me rise again, like a phoenix from the dust.


Swami hold me steady, steady with your gaze.

Only you can lead me away from the haze.


The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake

Came across an interesting video today I hope everyone will take the time out to see. It is a TEDx lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake on what he calls ‘The Science Delusion’. He essentially takes some of the underlying assumptions of today’s scientific pursuits and turns them into questions. In essence, he reminds us that science’s assumptions and worldview should not be exempt from scientific inquiry. He discusses 10 underlying notions of science that need to be questioned and then goes into detail about two: 1. that there are natural laws or constants and 2. that our memories and experiences are not just inside our heads but that we actually perceive external objects – basically he’s a pure epistemological realist and not an indirect realist like Locke and most who have followed. For details on his ideas, this video is a great intro and then of course we could pick up his book.

Here, however, I want to mention something that struck me as he spoke. His insights are either heavily influenced by Indian philosophy or at the least are very synchronous with Indian philosophy.

He questions weather the universe may itself have a consciousness. He says that he believes perception includes a force that reaches out to interact with the object we perceive – not just that we perceive it in our head from the bio-chemical-electrical messages of our senses.

Interestingly, Indian philosophers have said these same things for millenia. They say that there is a chidakash which the conscious space which holds the space of the universe. Basically, if this universe was born from the big bang, in what space did the big bang occur? The Indian philosopher’s answer to this for centuries has been chidakash which, again, literally means conscious space.

On the point of perception, Indian epistemologists in most Vedant traditions believe that knowledge has three forms – one is like a substance or form (gnanswarup). the second is a quality (gnanguna) and the third is a power or ability (gnanshakti). The soul is made up of a substance which is knowledge. It has the quality of knowing and it has an ability or power to know. in perception, the soul’s knowledge power reaches out and comes in contact with objects through the sense and on contact with the object, the eternal, experienced and knowledgable soul perceives the object and recognises it. That is sounds almost verbatim of what Dr. Sheldrake describes.

It is interesting that a modern and well-established academic has through research and the use of model tools come to believe the same things which ancient rishi-scientists perceived through calculation, contemplation or visions gifted by God’s grace. It is also sad that the current scientific establishment can’t even stand to let such ideas be discussed – even if it’s just an 18 minute speech on the internet. That’s right, TED actually banned Sheldrake’s speech and took it off their sight. So much for open minds, free speech and ruthless enquiry.

I wait…


I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your smile,

its warmth, its radiance,

its embrace.

But I know it may never happen.

I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your glance,

its sparkle, its power,

its ever-flowing love

But I know it may never happen.

I wait for the day I feel worthy,

worthy of your giving hand of grace

on my head, my shoulder,

my cheek.

But I know it may never happen.

I wait and I wait; I wait

to feel worth of you.

But I know it may never happen,

Because all I do is wait.