Param Pujya Mahant Swami ji, respected saints, Governor, Chief Minister and all the members of the ‘Satsang’ family! It is my good fortune that I have got the privilege of being a witness and in the good company of this historic event. Such a large scale program which will last for a month! This program is huge not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of time. The time I have spent here, I feel that there is a feeling of divinity here. There is a grandeur of resolutions here. This campus encompasses our heritage, legacy, faith, spirituality, tradition, culture and nature both for our young and the elderly. Every colour of India is visible here. On this occasion, I bow at the feet of all the respected saints for their ability to conceive this event and the efforts they have put in to make that vision a reality. I congratulate them from the bottom of my heart. Holding such a grand event with the blessings of respected Mahant Swami ji will not only draw the attention of the nation and the world, but will also influence and inspire generations to come.
Lakhs of people from all over the world are going to come here to pay their respects to my father like Pujya Pramukh Swamiji till January 15. Many of you may be aware that the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami ji were celebrated in the United Nations as well. This is a proof of how eternal and universal his thoughts are and which were passed on by our great tradition of saints. The spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), which was carried forward by great saints like Pramukh Swami from the established Vedas to Vivekananda, is also being seen today in the centenary celebrations.
We can find thousands of years of our rich and great saintly tradition in this city that has been built. Our saintly tradition has not been limited to just spreading any religion, creed, conduct or thought. Our saints have empowered the eternal spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ to connect the whole world. Just now Brahmavihari Swami ji was also sharing some intricate details. Since childhood, I was attracted to some subjects, and therefore, I used to visit Pramukh Swami ji from a distance. I had never thought that I would be able to meet him. But looking at him from a distance would also make me happy. I was young, but my curiosity was growing. I had the privilege of meeting him for the first time after many years, probably in 1981. I was surprised that he had gathered some information about me. He did not discuss religion, God or spirituality during the time I spent with him. Rather, he concentrated his discussion on subjects like service to human beings and public welfare. That was my first meeting and every word of him was getting imprinted on my heart. He had only one message that public welfare should be the highest goal of one’s life. One should be engaged in this service till the last breath. It is written in our scriptures that service to man is service to God. There is Shiva in every living being. But he would explain complex spiritual subjects in very simple words. He used to serve according to the person, as much as he could digest, as much as he could receive. A great scientist like Abdul Kalam ji would also feel pleased after meeting him. And for an ordinary social worker like me, I would also learn something from him and feel a sense of satisfaction. Such was the vastness, comprehensiveness and depth of his personality and him being a spiritual saint you could learn a lot from him. But I always felt that he was a social reformer in the true sense, a reformist. And when we remember him in our own way, we may find different types of beads, pearls in that garland, but at the core of him were how a human being should be, what the future should be and why there should be change in the systems. However, he was also open to accepting the dreams of modernity.
It was a wonderful confluence. His method was also very unique. He always encouraged the inner virtue of the people. He never told people what to follow or remember God for an end to their problems. He always told people to concentrate on their inner virtue. He would always emphasize on that. He would always tell us in simple words that the inner virtue would get rid of the evils growing inside us. He made this a medium to transform a human being. He got rid of all the age-old evils like discrimination in our society. It was possible because of his personal connection. Pujya Pramukh Swami ji always inspired everyone to help others, to think about others and for the welfare of society during normal or challenging times. He always led in making contributions to society. I was working as a volunteer for the first time during a flood disaster caused by the collapse of the Machchhu dam in Morbi. Our Pramukh Swami sent some saints and other volunteers there to clear the flush and perform the last rites of the dead bodies.
I remember visiting him soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister (of Gujarat) in 2012. Generally, I have visited Pramukh Swami ji at almost all the important points in my life. Not many people are aware of this incident when I contested the election for the first time in 2002. I was a candidate from Rajkot and when I went to file my nomination papers I found two saints there who gave me a box. When I opened the box, there was a pen inside. They told me that Pramukh Swami ji had sent this pen for me and asked me to sign the nomination papers with this pen. This practice has continued since then till my last elections in Kashi. There has not been a single election since then when I went to file my nomination papers and Pujya Pramukh Swami ji had not sent some saints there. When I went to file my nomination papers in Kashi, there was a surprise for me. The colour of the pen resembled the colour of the BJP flag. The cap of the pen was green and the bottom part of the pen was orange colour. It shows that he remembered everything and sent me a pen of that colour. Many people would be surprised to know that he cared for me personally. In the last 40 years, probably not a single year has gone by when Pramukh Swami ji has not sent me kurta-pajama cloth every year and this is my good fortune. And we all know that no matter what a son achieves, no matter how important he becomes, he remains a child for his parents. The country would have made me the Prime Minister, but the tradition that Pramukh Swami ji started by sending clothes to me has continued till now. I believe that this affinity is not a public relations exercise done by an organization, but a spiritual relationship. It was affection between a father and son. This is a long lasting bond and wherever he is today he must be watching my every moment and must be observing my work closely. He must certainly be watching whether I am following the path shown by him.
When an earthquake struck Kutch, I was working only as a volunteer. I was not a Chief Minister then. I met the saints there also and they enquired about my food arrangements. I told them I would visit any volunteer for my food requirements. But they insisted that I have my food there no matter where I go and even if I return late at night. As long as I was in Bhuj, Pramukh Swami must have told the saints to take care of my meals. He had such affection for me. And I am not discussing any spiritual thing with you, but I am talking about a very simple and normal behavior of him.
There would hardly be an occasion when Pramukh Swami himself did not call me or talk to me on phone in the most difficult moments of my life. There is a mention of one such incident in one of the videos which was played here. My party had planned an Ekta Yatra to hoist the tricolor flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar in 1991-92. That yatra was going on under the leadership of Dr. Murli Manohar ji and I used to look after its arrangements. I had taken Pramukh Swami ji's blessings before leaving, and therefore, he was aware where I was going and what I was doing. There was an encounter with terrorists when we were passing through Punjab and some of our colleagues were killed. The entire country was concerned as many people were killed when bullets were fired. We were moving towards Jammu. Later, we hoisted the flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. But the moment I landed in Jammu, I got a call from Pramukh Swami ji and he enquired about my well-being. He wished me good luck and told me to tell him everything once I returned.
I became the Chief Minister and the Chief Minister’s residence was barely 20 meters away from Akshardham where I lived. I could see the Akshardham temple every day whenever I would go out somewhere. The terrorists attacked Akshardham and I called Pramukh Swami ji. I was worried. It was a deadly attack as bullets were fired on the temple. I was worried about the saints as it was a matter of concern. It was not clear at that time what the situation was. It was a big terrorist attack and so many people were killed. What did Pramukh Swami ji ask me when I called him over the phone? He enquired about my well-being as my residence was near Akshardham. I was surprised and told him that he was still worried about my well-being even in this hour of crisis. He told me to leave it to God and everything would be fine as God is always with the truth. It is very difficult for any human being to remain normal under such circumstances. It is not possible without the deep spiritual power which Pramukh Swami had attained after learning from his gurus and through his penance. You think that he was my guru, but I think that he was like a father figure to me.
But one more thing that draws my attention and I had also mentioned this when Akshardham was built in Delhi. Someone had told me that it was the wish of Yogiji Maharaj that Akshardham should be built on the banks of Yamuna in Delhi. Yogiji Maharaj must have mentioned it casually, but look at his disciple who was constantly reminded of the words of his Guru. Pramukh Swami was a disciple of Yogiji Maharaj. We see him as a Guru. But I see the strength of Pramuk Swami as his disciple who realized the dream of his Guru and built Akshardham temple on the banks of Yamuna in Delhi. Today, people from across the world visit Akshardham and try to understand the great heritage of India through that temple. This is a work done for the ages. It is a work that will inspire the future generations. Temples are not a big issue in India as temples have been built in our country for thousands of years. But I think that Pramukh Swami ji has established a great tradition of how to combine spirituality and modernity in temples. I understand that a great tradition has been established by Pramukh Swami ji. There was a saying earlier that if one has to become a saint then he should join the sect of Sant Swaminarayan. During the discourse here also, it was often said that if one has to become a saint then one should join the Sant Swaminarayan sect. But Pramukh Swami has changed the entire culture of the saintly tradition. The way Swami Vivekananda ji highlighted public service through the Ramakrishna Mission, Pramukh Swami ji also, in the same way, emphasized on the role of saint for the welfare of society. Every saint sitting here has also been involved in some social duties and they continue to discharge their responsibility in this regard. Being a saint does not mean only to bless somebody and he will get ‘moksha’ (salvation). They go to forests and work among the tribal communities. They put their life at risk as a volunteer whenever there is any natural calamity. And Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj has a great contribution in establishing this tradition. Not only would he spend his time and energy on creating our identity in the world through temples, he was equally concerned about the welfare of the saints. Pramukh Swami ji could have lived in Gandhi Nagar, Ahmedabad, or any big city, but he preferred to spend most of his time in Salangpur, about 80-90 kms away from here. And what did he do there? He emphasized on a training institute for saints. Today when I meet people of any ‘Akhara’, I tell them to visit Salangpur for two days and see for themselves what should be the training of saints and how should our saints be. They go and visit that institute. It is a modern institute where different languages, including English and Sanskrit, are taught besides science and spiritual traditions. In a way, it is a complete effort to make a capable saint in society. One should not only be a hermit, but should be capable also. He has created this entire saintly tradition. He has used Akshardham temples as a medium to introduce our great tradition of India to the world. Pujya Pramukh ji Swami ji Maharaj has set up an institutional mechanism to create the best kind of saintly tradition. People will come and go and will be saints for centuries. But he set up this institutional mechanism so that this tradition would continue for generations. I can see this today. It is my experience that he did not differentiate between devotion to God and patriotism. For him, a ‘satsangi’ is one who believes in both devotion to God and patriotism. The one who lives for devotion to God is also a ‘satsangi’ and the one who lives for patriotism is also a ‘satsangi’. Today, the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami ji will be a cause of inspiration for our new generation and a curiosity will arise among them. You study Pramukh Swami ji in detail and you will find that he did not preach anything which is difficult to comprehend. He used very simple words and told useful things about normal life. He created such a huge organization. I have been told that there are 80,000 volunteers. While we were coming here, our Brahm ji was telling me that these are all volunteers waiting for the visit of the Prime Minister. I reminded him that if they are volunteers then I am also one of them. I told him to add one more to the figure of 80,000. Well there is a lot to say, old memories are haunting my mind today. But I have always felt the absence of Pramukh Swami. I would always enjoy sitting with him. For example, if you are tired and sit under a tree, you feel good. Now the tree does not speak to us. I also felt the same whenever I would go and sit near Pramukh Swami. I felt as if I was sitting in the shade of a banyan tree and at the feet of a storehouse of knowledge.
I don't know if I will ever be able to write these things or not, but the journey of my inner being is tied to the saintly and spiritual tradition and I am very fortunate that I continued to get strength to work by protecting myself in the midst of a vindictive world. I owe it greatly to Pujya Yogi Ji Maharaj, Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj. Not ‘Rajasi’ or ‘Tamsik’, one has to continue moving while staying ‘Satvik’. Many many best wishes to all of you!