‘BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute’ for UK & Europe was inaugurated on Sunday 29 May 2022 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’ – in the presence of esteemed guests from the world of academia, including Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, from India, and Professor James Hegarty, of Cardiff University.
The inauguration assembly commenced with a performance of devotional singing by children of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha from around the UK. It continued with Vedic peace prayers sung by a choir of 40 children and a recital of Sanskrit verses by other children, including 10-year-old Maharshi Shah of Coventry.
The assembly, witnessed by thousands online and in-person at Neasden Temple, was inspired through the blessings and vision of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and formed a part of the celebrations marking the birth centenary of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj joined the assembly via video link from India and inaugurated the Institute by lighting a lamp, symbolising the spreading of the light of knowledge throughout the world. Guests and members of the congregation in London followed by lighting their own sacred lamps. Mahant Swami Maharaj then blessed Professor Hegarty as well as representatives from various Hindu organisations who had gathered to celebrate the historic inauguration.
Addressing the assembly, Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “Yogiji Maharaj had envisioned such an institute and was passionate about youths learning and discoursing in Sanskrit. The Research Institute has fulfilled this vision. May students excel in their studies and work together to serve society, expanding the circle of unity across the world.”
Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, author of the ground-breaking and internationally acclaimed Swaminarayan-Bhashyam and Swaminarayan-Siddhanta-Sudha, and widely considered as one of the world’s leading scholars of Hindu philosophy today, delivered the ‘first lecture of the Institute’ by reinforcing His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s messages of global harmony, public service and academic excellence. He also urged parents to encourage their children in the arts.
Professor Hegarty, Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University as well as Head of History, Archaeology and Religion, also addressed the assembly. He said: “I am incredibly honoured to stand before you today. The young people [who sang and recited in Sanskrit] are extraordinary! I cannot believe what I have seen and heard. I offer my deepest respect and thanks to His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj.”
Speaking of the benefits that the Institute will impart, Professor Hegarty added, “The new research centre will soon flourish here in the UK and Europe – and globally – under the sure and skilled guidance of the swamis assembled here today. Research and teaching based on research, if they are themselves based on true and compassionate mastery, can make a difference in the world. The new research institute we inaugurate today will show that. I have no doubt at all.” As an example of the lofty ideals of the BAPS Swaminarayan tradition, Professor Hegarty cited a Sanskrit verse from the Satsang Diksha, authored by Mahant Swami Maharaj, praying for unity, friendship, compassion, tolerance and love to flourish among all people of the world.
The impetus for the institute in London has been a growing interest from both young and senior members of the community to learn Sanskrit and gain a deeper understanding of the scriptures of their faith.
Through its rigorous teaching of Sanskrit, classical Vedic literature and Hindu beliefs, values and practices – all in a traditional Gurukul style – the institute will strive to foster social harmony, interfaith dialogue, public engagement and academic discourse as it generates opportunities for the highest level of value-based education, innovative research and creative expression.
Earlier, on Friday 27 May 2022, the Indian calendrical day of Yogji Maharaj’s birth anniversary, hundreds of devotees had gathered to participate in the ‘Satsang Dikshā Homātmak Pāth’. This unique three-hour ceremony involved offerings to a sacred flame based on the recital of each verse from the Satsang Diksha scripture, in prayer for an auspicious beginning to the new research institute.