Swamis in New Jersey

The two days that Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami and Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami spent at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey, seemed more like four or five. During this time, the organization's swamis kept our swamis very close, taking us right in to their private swamis-only ashram areas to be among the dozens of them who were here from around the world for the event, introducing us to their senior Sadguru Swamis and taking every opportunity to sit privately with us for planned and impromptu discussions on a wide variety of topics. We spent time with Pujya Sadguru Mahant Swami, the seniormost Sadguru Swami who has for the last year been the administrator and spiritual guide of the global congregation since Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj has reached an age and state of health that brought him to the decision to delegate even those duties. We met long-time friend Pujya Brahmavihari Swami, who was our Gurudeva's host at Pramukh Swami Maharaj's 75th jayanti celebrations in Mumbai and subsequently at their sadhu training center in Sarangpur, Gujarat, in 1995. He is by Pramukh Swami Maharaj's side almost constantly these days. We spoke with Pujya Aksharvatsal Swami, editor-in-chief of the organization's Gujarati and Hindi publications out of the world headquarters in Ahmedabad. We had long discussions with Pujya Paramtattva Swami, born in the UK and currently serving out of the London center conducting important and extensive research work in connection with Oxford, and Pujya Mangalnidhi Swami, born in the US and currently serving in the area of English-language publications out of the North America headquarters here in New Jersey. We had extensive dialogues with Pujya Bhadresh Swami, the order's senior Sanskrit scholar, who serves at the Sarangpur training center and central monastery where Pramukh Swami Maharaj now lives full time, setting up future projects that we will collaborate on. At the end of our visits, one swami turned to us and said, "Despite the fact that we come from a traditional Vaishnava sampradaya, and a unique, highly specialized one at that, and you come from an orthodox Saiva sampradaya, we really feel close to you, as if you are all part of our own order." Indeed, it is easy to set aside the five percent that is different and focus on the ninety-five percent that we hold in common, particularly when it comes to our shared foci of personal religious practice, spiritual progress, virtuous living, proper religious education, and, most of all, the central importance of the guru to show us the way in all of these most important pursuits of human life.

Deity Parade at BAPS Temple in New Jersey

On Friday evening, our two swamis were given seats of honor along with the three of the organization's five Sadguru Swamis who were present at this grand temple inauguration. The Sadguru Swamis of the BAPS monastic order are the equivalent of our Paramacharyas, their most senior monks who have received guru diksha. Our younger swami in attendance was particularly humbled (read embarrassed) to be on the dais with them all.

The traditional parade of the murtis through the streets of the town prior to their installation in the new temple took place entirely on the 167-acre campus in Robbinsville Township, a chiefly rural, farming town just outside Princeton. The participants in the parade were in top form, and everyone enjoyed the entertainment and darshan.

Friday’s BAPS event in New Jersey

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Mahotsav began in earnest today in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami and Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami were honored to be sitting on the stage with the organization's senior sadhus who performed the preparatory pujas to Varuna, Sri Harikrishna Maharaj and Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Following this, 6,000 grihasthins performed the yagna.

The yagna blessed the many marble and panchaloha murtis which will be installed tomorrow in the mandir. Giant screens and sound system allowed the delightfully pure chanting and each gesture of the puja to be seen up close by all present in the gigantic tent.

Later we were taken on a tour of the new temple, which is not finished, so at the request of the swami who designed it, we can show only a few close-up glimpses of some of the finished carving at this time. But it is spectacular. The entire mandir is housed inside a huge building, allowing even the exterior to be crafted of the same Italian while marble used in the interior. It's quite a sight to walk into a somewhat nondescript modern building (all the ornamentation is not yet finished) and discover a full-scale, nearly finished, finely crafted all-stone shikharbaddh mandir. This scenario will allow the mandir to survive hundreds of winters, if not 1,000, in the northeastern location.

We also met with several senior swamis privately for 45 minutes and then enjoyed an amazing and spontaneous darshan outside. Pramukh Swami Maharaj came on stage to bless some 10-15,000 devotees, who were overwhelmed with the rare appearance of their 93-year-old satguru. They sang and chanted and danced in joy, a sea of people, and he clearly was equally joyous to be among so many of them. It was, as the announcer noted, the meeting of the ocean which receives and the river which gives. It was a spiritual sangam, and we felt blessed to be in such an ocean of love for the guru, a rare and precious sight. By the end of the day, an estimated 20,000 had come, the volunteer staff stretching to organize and park 6,000 cars, dozens of shuttle vans and dozens upon dozens of chartered buses that had come in from all across North America. All drawn by the rare presence of one of the greatest living gurus of our time.

We interviewed Chaitanyamurti Swami, Mangalnidhi Swami, Paramtattva Swami and Bhadreshdas Swami on the idea of trends in Hinduism, for they have a vast international experience. We also conscripted a professor of journalism at Columbia University onto our team.

Stay tuned for more.

What Is Hinduism a Summer Camp Hit in Pennsylvania!

The Sri Venkatesvara temple of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania holds an annual summer camp. Kulapati Easan Katir has been teaching there each year for many years. This year all students got a copy of What is Hinduism and Easan used this as a basis for all his daily classes for three different age groups, in addition to teaching Hatha Yoga.

This is a bit of a long post but these camper book reviews are worth reading!

The book What is Hinduism? is an extremely interesting and educational book. A thorough and complete analysis of Hinduism is presented in an understandable form The authors of this book are the monks at the Kauai Hindu Monastery. The book is truly great and is easily comprehensible by Hind young adults. As a suggestion, the number of pictures could be reduced and diagrams and charts could be added for understanding. This book's use of words and concepts is simply amazing. I would recommend it to any Hindu young adult living around the world. ~~~ Suraj Srinivasan, Cleveland OH

What is Hinduism? helped me understand the classes. Sometimes I got confused with the different views of the teachers, but this book cleared it up. I I liked that the book quoted the Vedas, Agamas, and many other ancient scriptures. The illustrations were also very informative. It would make me enjoyable if there was more information about the different sects.

There are many books that catch my attention, but this book was different. This book really opened my eyes to understanding the actual definition of Hinduism. I now understand that my religion isn't just a random one with strange gods, but a divine respectable one. There is a saying "a man who cannot read books has no advantage over the man who does not read books". But irrespective to that I think that everyone will developa taste for reading this, literate or not. One of my favorite quotes is from the "Yajur Veda" is "That is fullness, this is fullness, from fullness comes fullness. When fullness is taken from fullness, fullness remains.~~~Nini Yaclavalli

What is Hinduism is a very interesting book and tells about the history, religion and special celebrations of India. I learned about karma and reincarnation,. Reincarnationis a process wherein souls take on a new physical body through the birth process and karma means a consequence. This book lets kids know more about their culture, like learning maya and etc. What is Hinduism is a great book. ~~~ Sriya Kandala

I learned all about Hinduism from the book, What is Hinduism? I learned about the chakras and if malice and murder are at the feet would we pray to God's feet? But God has a whole different set of chakras and Sahasara is at his feet. I also learned different ways to manage anger. I also learned about human auras like if your aura is light blue that means you're in high devotion and white is pure spirituality. I also larened how to do hatha yoga and the different steps and I learned how to do a head stand. I learned about ahimsa and how to be nonviolent. Also, why we are vegetarians. I learned that vegetarianism comes from ahimsa. thank you, Monks. Sincerely, Ambika.

What is Hinduism? is an excellent book. It is very detailed and had the answers to a lot of questions that I have been wondering about. It tells me about the stories and creations of my religion, Hinduism. What is Hinduism? has a very descriptive story called the Vedas. I really liked it! What is Hinduism? also has a pair of pages that show how to do your own personal puja at your own home! This book has 4 or 5 pages on how to manage your anger, anger management, and what people will do or say when thye are mad at you. If people are asking you about stories, you can impress that person with all of the many pages of information that you got from this book. ~~~ Pooja Vallampati

This book is an extremely good book. It had a very good structure. Also, the book was clear and informative. that an average American can become an expert in Hinduism by just reading this book. The ajthors did a very good job and this book deserves a 5-star rating. ~~~Ashvath Sekhar

Hinduism is a great religion filled with many great things. It fills up about one seventh, of the worlds population. I myself am a Hindu, but my knowledge on Hinduism is only what my guru wants me to know and what they taught me. There was never a thing where I could freely learn Hinduism in my main language. Thanks to the monks of Kauai, the book "What is Hinduism?" was a fantastic way for me to extend my knowledge from ahimsa to why we are vegetarian. I really want to say, thankyou. -Agashem age 11

I think that the book "What is Hinduism?" is a very explanatory book on all the concepts of Hinduism. it included descriptive words, detailed diagrams, long passages that left me with barely any questions. It also included the 24 asanas of Hatha Yoga, which help us practice mastering the art of the sushumna, the spine. We learned about Ida & Pingala, the masculine and feminine currents that run throughout the body. "What is Hinduism?" includes a few of the Vedas, translated into American English so that everyone can read it. We learned about the Chakras, which are the stages, phases and personalities of life. it explained ,many concepts like: Karma, Dharma and Ahimsa. "what is hinduism explained the 4 denominations of Hinduism. it explained the casualities and traditions of Hinduism through words and through photographs. It really helped me understand the concepts and really dove deep into the qualities, rules, results, and much more in Hinduism. i really enjoyed this book and will consult it throughout my life. ~Anagha Chandury

This summer at the Sri Venkateswara Temple Camp, we read a book called "What is Hinduism?" This book taught me a lot more than I knew already about Hinduism. We learned about the Chakras. We also learned about karma which means what goes around comes around. A very astonishing point is the Milk Miracle of 1995, I also learned that Hinduism is Monotheistic and learned a bunch of different types of yoga patterns. We also learned the different types of human Auras. We have also learned about life after death. we are also learning Ahimsa and not using violence. This week learning this book has been very fund and I would love to come back and learn more about Hinduism next year! ~ Anaya

"What is Hinduism?" is a very interactive text, including many pictures and diagrams. The text incorporates various Hindu practices, traditions, and theory in a very simple and comprehensive manner. No matter the age group, reading the text, you will find the text pleasing and satisfiable to your questions. - Anisha Reddy

"What is Hinduism?" inspired me to take charge of my own life and delve deeper into the ancient, but still relevant, philosophies of Hinduism,. During time spent learning from this text, I have learned a plethora of potent information on Hindu beliefs, such as karma, dharma, god, reincarnation, and Yoga. "What is Hinduism?" has given me the opportunity to reflect on my personal, prior understanding of Hinduism, as well as the way I've chosen to lead my life for the past 16 years. This book has reinstilled my faith in this eternal religion, and I will no doubt continue to study and expand my knowledge from "What is Hinduism?".- Apoorva V.

The book provides students and followers of Hinduism with a foundational knowledge of what I now know to be the world's greatest religion. Through the amazing pictures and detailed text, we are capable of understanding concepts and aspects of Hinduism that we had never considered before. The entire book is also structured in a way that engages students and their personal interests
Ashna

Though I have covered only a few pages of this book, that alone has taken up many hours. Coupled with a great teacher, this book is the most comprehensive, understandable, and aesthetically pleasing Hindu textbook I have come across. Thank you, I will keep this for a very long time. - Harishwer Balasubramani

The illustrated book "What is Hinduism?" gives students a simple explanation of complicated concepts. The high quality illustrations help even more in understanding the concepts written in the book . Several grammatical errors exist. On many pages names are written incorrectly, and missing letters. Punctuation errors including capitalization also exist. If the grammatical errors are corrected in the next published version, then the bopk would be complete. -Harsha Jayaraman

This week at Sri Venkateswara Temple Camp. we have studies Hinduism through the fabulous book, "What is Hinduism?". Our class was educated on the chakras, and the parts of one's body where memory and reason, where fear and lust, are located. Not only did we read the stories and articles throughout the book, but we had the privilege of absorbing the knowledge that the wonderful pictures and photographs provided us. The book exponentially increased my awareness of the goings-on of my religion. I was able to understand why Hinduism is the greatest religion on Earth, because Hinduism provides answers to all of our unanswered questions. I learned that God is in all of us, and because of this, nothing in the universe can be purely evil. "What is Hinduism?" taught me that temples are a place where many things can happen, and it taught me of the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna. We learned of the 24 asanas, and even put them into practice during yoga each morning. Though the teachings of the book, we learned about Hindu ideals, especially ahimsa, the concept of nonviolence, from which our belief in vegetarianism sprouts, and karma, the principle that what goes around comes around. Another Hindu concept we learned was reincarnation, and the belief that every living things has an eternal soul, and eventually a soul will achieve moksha, or salvation. The book taught me so much about Hinduism that I did not know before, and for that I thank you at the Kauai Hindu Monastery for creating this masterpiece. - Keerthi medicherla

This book is a 400 page book all about Hinduism and all the religious aspects of hinduism. It explained about the different Chakras and how to pray and do poojas. How to celebrate different Hindu holidays and has snip-its of the Vedas. All about god and the different groups like Saivism, where people believe strongly on Lord Shiva. Some improvements that could be made in this book is adding more vedas so we can get a better picture of the Vedas.There is also a couple spelling and grammer errors throughout the book. This book thoroughly explains what Ahimsa is and the Hindu code of conduct. I learned how we are a monotheistic religion and God is made out of energy. This book helped me learn a lot about Hinduism and what my religion is all about. - Maanasa Humchad

This book is a very detailed, well-written book that describes the small details of hinduism. It past the misconceptions of Hinduism and explains the true beliefs of our religion. It helped us to see aspects of Hinduism that we hadn't thought too much about and we all learned new things about the great religion.
It explained beliefs well also, giving evidence and full explanations. It informed the readers of miraculous events, personal experiences and takes on the subjects, and wonderful, helpful. easy to understand analogies. The pictures helped to clearly convey the messages or story being told. There were also many stories of how others have experienced God.
This book helped to clarify some of Hinduism's most basic beliefs, like karma and reincarnation, and the planes of reality between life forms with a soul, and god. It also explained, much better than schools textbooks, about our beliefs in our single God taking the many male and female forms that we've believed in for so long.
The book "What is Hinduism?" has been very helpful, very enlightening, and very interesting to read, and i look forward to delving further into ti as to further comprehend and learn about this great, ancient religion. -Nithya K.

"What is Hinduism?" teaches people of all ages about all aspects of the Hindu religion. With the colorful, clear, important pictures printed in the book, it is easy to see the various subjects the book describes. People of all religions, including Hinduism, can benefit greatly from reading, "What is Hinduism?". I have learned so many new things about Hinduism. I encourage everyone to read this book. By even simply looking through the pictures, you can gain new and important knowledge about one of the oldest religions in the world. "What is Hinduism?" thoroughly explains all parts of Hinduism. - Priya Rathinavelu

This book was very helpful. I learned about the traditions, values, and philosophies of Hinduism. The pictures and drawings allowed me to understand all that i was learning even better. I will definitely continue to read this book fully once i am home from camp. Thank you for teaching from this book, because I think it is a great book for all Hindus to study and read from - Sahana Rao

"What is Hinduism?" is a beautifully crafted book that depicts Hinduism in a unique and interesting way. First of all, the writing pulls the reader in without being obtrusive in any way. The pictures and color schemes used throughout the book made it even easier to read and understand the topics discussed. secondly, the first hand testimonials were a great way to convey to the reader how real people felt about the topic. And lastly, the content, footnotes, excerpts, etc. show a certain light to the religion that makes it an excellent informational read, inside class or out. -Shreya Sharma

To the Monks of Kauai's Hindu Monastery
What is Hinduism? Now I know!

Thank you so much for creating this book! I feel like it is a little, colorful. compact summary of Hinduism. Before this book, Hinduism, to me, seemed like a confusing muddle of philosophies and beliefs, but, now i know how everything connects! Hinduism now makes clear sense to me. The world. universe, and God make sense to me. Having this book is like having an all-knowing monk or guru with me. I can reference it whenever I want to practice hatha yoga. explain and understand the Vedas in english, make sense of colors of the auras and chakras, or the 4 sects of Hinduism. I will forever cherish this book, keep it as my constant companion which an answer my questions about the world. and pass on his teachings, messages, and philosophies. this book opened up my religion to me. Thank you for creating such an irreplaceable, beautiful blessing.
A proud Hindu,
Shruthi Shivkumar (13 years old)

This 394 page book takes the reader through the finest corners and the center ethics of Hinduism. It captures the attention of any soul who has many questions about the existence of mankind, as well as the universe. I was entranced by the beauty that the book pulls out from the religion and pulled in from the poetic and dramatic structure of a tale that easily simplifies the complicated religion known as Hinduism ~ Sneha Hoysala

August 1, 2014

The book "What is Hinduism?" is a clear description of what Hinduism really is. As a Hindu myself, I often experience false perceptions of Hinduism. However, this book gives an accurate image of what the religion really is. Through vibrant, interesting illustrations, easy to read writing, and great photographs, "What is Hinduism?" captures the true essence of Hinduism. Whether for a confused or curious Hindu, or a non-Hindu who seeks to learn about this beautiful religion, this book answers all questions in a simple, yet informative way. The only thing that I would change about this book is the way the authors constantly write about how Hinduism is the greatest religion in the world. I personally agree, but for those who simply want to learn about Hinduism, the incessant praise of Hinduism may come across as unappealing. To really change the way the world view Hinduism, we need to present the facts before our personal opinions. Right now, this book may only be appealing to Hindus. Aside from that, the book was very well-written and informative and thus far, I believe it remains the greatest book on Hinduism in plain English
- Sri Medicherla

Overall, the book "What is Hinduism?" can really further one's knowledge in both a religious sense and an intellectual sense. this book is so , extremely, comprehensive. It covers all aspects religiously, socially, and culturally regarding the details of Hinduism. i also appreciated the wording of this novel. The information was presented in an accessible manner and it was rarely dull. this book has also been extremely applicable to my life. I am able to remember specific topics and integrate them into my daily religious practices. I really enjoy this book, and it is one that i can read for many years to come. ~Anonymous


1. Camp was awesome, because of what we learned in class and because of the very fun teachers.
2. I would change the curfew to earlier time because of sleep. I also think that you should tell campers what they shouldn't eat because of health.
3. Yes ~Anonymous

I enjoyed learning from this book! I found this book very informational and interesting. This was a very good book and i am looking forward to more books like this! ~Anonymous

This book was extremely helpful in illustrating the core concepts of Hinduism while demonstrating hinduism's large room for individual growth. I really enjoyed the metaphysics section as it made me really think about my body as a purely physical entity. I also liked the Hinduism Code of Conduct.It helped solidify my abstract thoughts into a way to live my life. ~Anonymous

This book is very informative and is great for first-time Hinduism students. It provides special info that people cannot easily access. ~Anonymous

This book is truly fantastic. All my life, I have searched for answers to my questions about Hinduism. This book has taught me so much more than I thought that I could know. It helps me understand so much about my religion I have even given it to my teacher so he could learn from it and share its knowledge to my classmates. I am truly grateful to this book which helped me connect to my religion far beyond what i expected. ~Anonymous

Departing for Maryland and Bengaluru

It must be the day for travel. Just a few hours after Sadasivanathaswami and Senthilnathaswami left, Bodhinatha and Shanmuganathaswami headed to the airport to begin their three week journey. After some time on the mainland, the two will be headed to India. Wishing them a wonderful trip!

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