Wednesday 30 August 2023 marked this year’s Rakshabandhan – an auspicious Hindu occasion celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters. Raksha, means to protect, Bandhan means a bond, and thus this day symbolises the bond of protection.
In modern times, this symbol of the bond of mutual protection between families, has been expanded. Gnan Mahodadhi Acharya Swamiji Maharaj teaches us that we must never take those who protect us for granted.
In line with this teaching, Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury welcomed esteemed guests from across the key services - the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service, Metropolitan Police Service, Ministry of Defence, NHS and Royal Air Force to celebrate the festival of Rakshabandhan. This unique event not only commemorated the bond between a brother and sister but expressed gratitude to the officers for the selfless and valiant job that they and their teams do in protecting us, taking care of us and maintaining peace for our communities.
Following a short video showing the Mandir’s continued support to these services, the esteemed guests took part in lighting a flame; a peace candle as a universal symbol of peace and compassion in front of our ultimate protector, Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa. As the auspicious flame was lit, a verse of peace from the Upanishads was recited, which embodied the prayers for all.
A heartfelt ceremony of Rakhi-tying followed whereby Acharya Swamiji Maharaj tied a sacred Rakhi on the wrists of the officers and other guests present, including Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North constituency. The Rakhi which symbolised the Lord’s protection for them all as they carry out their official duties to protect the community. The guests received garlands and darshan from Acharya Swamiji Maharaj.
The chief guest, Major General John Collyer, who in 2021 was appointed the British Army HQ’s Director of Information and Chief Information Officer, spoke of the British Army’s core values, values such as courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment which co-exist with the core values of the Swaminarayan faith. Brent Borough Commander for the Metropolitan Police Service, Dan Knowles also said a few words and spoke of delivering policing with selflessness, compassion and spirituality. This ethos resonates very passionately with the Mandir community as they are the three pillars which represent the teachings of Ved Ratna Acharya Swamishree Maharaj – the teachings which underpin the celebrations of the Mandir’s Dashabdi Mahotsav in 2024.
Acharya Swamiji Maharaj graced the sabha with His divine ashirwad today, explaining that today is the auspicious Rakshabandhan - and on this day, we pray that the Lord continues to protect us (raksha) in the same way that He always has. That protection is from external enemies (difficult places, times, situations, etc) and internal enemies (lust, anger, greed, etc).
The Lord explains in the Vachanamrut that by having a tendency and habit of performing devotion to God, the bliss of His Murti is experienced in this very life, while in this body. The Lord further explains the nature of His Ekantik disciples - which we must all aspire to be: Their mouth always speaks about the glory of God, their hands always perform the service of God, their ears always listen to the words of God, their eyes always look at the Lord’s Murti, their legs always walk towards Mandir. Those faculties should not be occupied with worldly matters.
Consider the soul to be like a rock that wants to sink into the Lord’s bliss that is the ocean. If the rock is tied to a bundle of wood - analogous to the five worldly senses - it will not let the rock sink into the water. The rock’s natural propensity is to sink, but being bound to the wood prevents it from sinking; a disciple’ natural propensity is to merge into the Lord’s Murti, but being bound to worldly sensations prevents this. We must be alert about this - the influence of Maya - all the time, and never let our guard down. Imagine driving for five hours; what would happen if we fell asleep for just a few seconds towards the end of that journey? In the same way, you must never lapse by trusting your own material mind for even a moment.