Compassion, love for all, and universal understanding are the essentials of humanity; these are the virtues that please the Lord; these are the values that need to be instilled throughout societyAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
Historically, in Hinduism, blood and organ donation were largely perceived as forbidden. In 1989, while in Mumbai, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj categorically dispelled this myth. He became the first ever Indian spiritual leader to donate blood and gave a most impassioned sermon for everyone to follow His example. He taught us that beneath the colour of our skin, the same red blood runs through all of us. Our blood unites us, regardless of differences in creed or faith. His message spread throughout the globe amongst the disciples of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, who over the last three decades have collectively donated over 10,000 units of blood. Similarly, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, in 2000, as part of the Murti Pratishtha celebrations in London, encouraged us all to enrol as organ donors. Thousands of lives have been saved as a result of His encouraging Sants, disciples, and communities to give the precious gift of life.
After a devastating earthquake hit Kutch-Gujarat in 2001, thousands across the region were displaced, distressed, and vulnerable. Despite it being classified a danger zone, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, rushing to the need of those afflicted, entered the region. Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan was the first non-governmental organisation to commence emergency relief work. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, with His Sants, personally coordinated relief efforts and distributed food and clothing.
Funds were raised at Shree Swaminarayan Mandirs around the worlds, and funnelled back to these efforts, reaching those in most acute need. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj had an incredible power to mobilise this global community around good causes in this way.
But the work did not stop there – Acharya Swamishree Maharaj worked to establish hospitals, hostels, clinics, schools, and colleges to provide lasting benefits to the region. The Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Rescue and Disaster Management Academy was also established – the first of its kind in India, training young boys and girls in all aspects of aid, to be deployed during times of disaster. The Academy has more recently supported rescue missions in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015 and after the 2018 floods in India.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj instigated numerous events and campaigns to raise funds for various charities across the globe and to support vital causes. The Mandirs and spiritual centres in India and globally each year hold countless charitable activities. Disciples and community members, both young and old, participate in food drives, medical camps and medical supply drives, charitable walks, runs and swims, to raise funds and awareness for various causes, and much more
Achaya Swamishree Maharaj teaches us, “Dedicating one's life to the service of others is the truest celebration of a festival.” During the worldwide celebrations for Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s Sadbhav Amrut Parva (75th manifestation anniversary), disciples around the world raised substantial funds for charities and volunteered time towards worthy causes. This is common for the major festivals of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan. Whether raising funds for global charities, such as Save the Children, or volunteering at local food banks, the act of giving is universal, and fundamental to any festival.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj teaches us that all souls are equal children of the Lord, and therefore worked to ensure everyone has access to life opportunities. Good education, which is often only available to the fortunate or affluent, was one such opportunity Acharya Swamishree Maharaj sought to make accessible to all. He established schools and educational centres throughout the world so that individuals in those communities could affordably receive high-quality education and tuition. Additionally, He awarded scholarships to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to progress their education, so that they could attend one of the many recognized educational institutions of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan without having to worry about fees or learning materials.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj recognised the need to educate girls and women in our communities so that they too could progress in society, be given equal opportunities and for the onward progressive thinking and knowledge they could instil in their children and families. To that end, He established several schools and colleges, specifically dedicated to the education of women. One such example is Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Mahila Arts and Commerce College in Bhuj, Kutch, India. Many young women within the Kutch region were not able to progress beyond high school; often their education was not deemed a priority; often their parents were concerned about them having to move away from home to continue their studies. Recognising the need to provide for these highly talented women, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj established the College right in the heart of Kutch, making higher education accessible closer to home. He dedicated the college to His Gurudev, Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, who too was a pioneer in supporting education to various strata of society. The College has since thrived to become one of the most highly regarded educational establishments in Western India.
In the same manner, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj has encouraged female disciples residing across the world to pursue higher education and rewarding careers. It is due to Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s teachings, blessings, and encouragement that daughters of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan have become accomplished businesswomen, accountants, engineers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, PhDs, teachers, designers, artists, and more.
He also reminded us of the important role women play in society, as mothers, and, consequently, the important role they play in ensuring that the teachings and principles of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa are instilled into their children and are thus carried forward through the next generation. It is often stated that one mother is equal to one hundred teachers. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj would frequently commend women of the Sansthan for guiding their children towards the Lord and for their innumerable contributions and services to Mandirs and the Sansthan at large, exemplifying giving women the dignity and recognition they rightly deserve.
One of Lord Shree Swaminarayan’s five sacred vows (vartman) for all disciples is that we must not consume meat or commit any act of violence towards other living beings. Creatures of this Earth, all created by the Lord, have as much right to live as humans. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj embodied His teachings in the preservation of the environment and the welfare of animals. For example, He funded numerous tree planting projects to encourage eco-diversity and decarbonisation: "Keep our planet Earth green. Plant trees. Do not destroy them." He also spent time visiting animal welfare projects in all corners of the world, from elephant sanctuaries in Africa to koala sanctuaries in Australia: “Animals are also God’s creatures. How can we neglect them?” His disciples volunteer their time to clean canals, provide access to clean water, and participate in anti-poaching rallies to name a few examples. The pinnacle of His eco-values was the establishment of the world’s first eco-mandir, Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury, in London, UK. The Mandir’s sustainable design and green technologies inspire everyone to live sustainably.
If there is harmony and unity amongst them, people can be helpful to one another when faced with the struggles of lifeAcharya Swamishree Maharaj
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj is a renowned social reformer and pacifist. He has visited numerous places of faith from the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 2001 to the Jamad Masjid in 2011. He also performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Muslim Community Hall in Kera, Kutch, Gujarat in 2012. All of this was to promote peace and unity amongst people of different faiths and backgrounds. To this end, He frequently held and attended interfaith meetings and conventions, such as the 2016 World Culture Festival in New Delhi, where He met faith leaders from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism, and more. Following the London Riots in 2011, He personally insisted on hosting faith leaders from across London – to promote the message of peace, tolerance and unity.
Acharya Swamishree hosted the IPRA International Peace Congress in 2018 at Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir & World Peace Centre. The very first of its scale in India, it paved the way to build ties and understanding at a global level. It was the culmination of a lifetime’s work in promoting peace and unity and in recognition, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was awarded the title, World Peace Ambassador by this august body of peace researchers from around the world.
Recognising Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s superlative qualities, renowned scholars and august institutions have bestowed numerous honorary titles and accolades to Him, including: