His Divine Holiness Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa was the first sant from the Swaminarayan Sampraday to introduce the Swaminarayan religion to the United States of America. Gurudev Acharya Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on October 20th, 1970.
A favored philosophy of Lord Swaminarayan was of tyaag (to abstain from worldly associations). When only eleven years of age, Nilkanthvarni (Lord Swaminarayan’s teenage name) renounced the material world, His family relations and home and embarked on a forest expedition to show the importance of tyaag. Despite His love of a life of tyaag, Lord Swaminarayan relinquished this for the benefit of His disciples.
Lord Swaminarayan explained to the needy mortals that for any worthwhile deed to succeed, whether it be worldly or spiritual, bhakti (devotion) is essential. He also dispelled numerous false beliefs and superstitions (e.g. the killing of newborn female babies by drowning in milk, the burning of a widow on her deceased husband’s funeral pyre) from society, which otherwise hindered the path to aatyantik moksh (ultimate salvation). Using education as a basis for improving one’s life, Lord Swaminarayan encouraged His devotees (both male and female) to be hardworking, compassionate and free of all vices.
Gurudev Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa was the first sant from the Swaminarayan Sampraday to introduce the Swaminarayan religion to North America. Gurudev Acharya Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on October 20th, 1970.
He and His sants toured the entire United States, visiting New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Washington D.C., Seattle, and various other places. The disciples residing in these areas were graced with His divine darshan. Jeevanpran Swamibapa also consecrated the flowing waters of the world-renowned Niagara Falls in Canada. Wherever Jeevanpran Swamibapa traveled, He held spiritual and cultural programs, including grand assemblies, through which He preached the Swaminarayan philosophy. During His vicharan (tour) in the North America, Jeevanpran Swamibapa established the first Hari Mandir in the United States, Shree Swaminarayan Temple Seattle in the state of Washington.
In 1979, Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa handed the helm of the Karan Satsang and Shree Swaminarayan Gadi to His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj. Acharya Swamishree further developed Jeevanpran Swamibapa’s legacy by continuing to tour and preach the divine teachings and supremacy of Lord Shree Swaminarayan in the United States and Canada.
In 1970, Acharya Swamishree had visited the USA with Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa. After 17 long years He came to the United States in 1987 with 17 sants for 17 days. It was during His tour of the United States in 1987 that Acharya Swamishree established Shree Swaminarayan Sidhant Sajivan Mandal, New Jersey. Even before the foundation of the mandal, the disciples of New Jersey had held celebrations and gatherings at disciples’ homes and community halls. They continued to hold assemblies in the same manner. Acharya Swamishree fulfilled the prayers of His humble devotees in North America by returning in 1992, 1995, 1998, 1999, and 2001. Since 2001, Acharya Swamishree has visited North America every year.
Acharya Swamishree established Shree Swaminarayan Temple New Jersey, a Hari Mandir, in Secaucus while visiting the United States in 1995. He installed the divine murtis of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa in this temple.
It wasn’t until August 29th, 1998, after ongoing tries to fulfill our beloved Gurudev’s dream of building a shikhar-bandh temple from the ground up in the USA, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree broke ground in the heart of Secaucus, New Jersey on what would be Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan’s first shikhara-bandh mandir in the United States.
Jeevanpran Swamibapa’s dream came to reality in the year 2001, as the temple was ready for opening. His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree, sants, and disciples from all over the world had gathered to celebrate the opening and the Murti-Pratishta Mahotsav of Shree Swaminarayan Temple Secaucus, New Jersey. Disciples had come from places as far as India, England, Africa, and Canada, as well as the rest of the United States. During this grand festival which was held from August 1st-5th, 2001, Acharya Swamishree conducted the inaugural ceremony of the temple and installed the divine idols of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa. Throughout the five days of the celebration, several parayans (scripture recitals), processions, fireworks, a religious drama, a devotional singing night, and devotional dances were held in honor of the occasion. The murtis from the older temple had been installed in the Hari Mandir, Shree Swaminarayan Temple Chicago, on June 24th, 2001.
On August 5th, 2001, the Suvarna Tula (ceremonial weighing of gold) of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa was performed. This was the first time the auspicious ceremony had been held outside of India. At the Suvarna Tula, the divine murtis were weighed against 750kg of pure gold. This historical event was truly a memorable occasion.
Since its opening the temple has and will serve as the inspiration for spreading the divine teachings and ascendancy of Lord Shree Swaminarayan. The temple has and will be Lord Shree Swaminarayan’s center for moksha-seeking Mumukshu.
Much has happened at the temple since 2001. His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree has made annual visits to North America to spread the glory of Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and to fulfill the humble requests of the disciples living in different states and in Canada. He has toured all over and has encouraged disciples to hold gatherings on religious holidays even if they are far from the temple, as one can please and praise the Lord from any location.
In 2004, for the first time in Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan’s history, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree sent nine sants to the USA to preach the Lord’s philosophy throughout the country. Since then, Acharya Swamishree has been annually sending a sant mandal for a prolonged vicharan of North America to spread the Lord’s philosophy when He is unable to reach those locations during His vicharan.
Via Acharya Swamishree’s tireless efforts and His sheer love for His disciples, the small seed of one temple in New Jersey and one mandal in North America has now bloomed into 11 mandals and temples dotted across the continent (Chicago, Los Angeles, Canada, Delaware, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio). Achayra Swamishree and sants, since 1987, have travelled over 1.5 million miles, performed thousands of padhramanis, and have graced disciples living all throughout the continent as well as accepted new disciples. No words can describe just how much Acharya Swamishree has done for the disciples living in North America, the continent most far from the Indian sub-continent, which is no small feat to travel around.