The largest Hindu temple outside India is opening this weekend in the US. Set in 185 acres between New York and Washington DC, this new global hub of spirituality cannot come at a more timely moment in world history. While war is raging in Europe with huge anxieties over Asia and the richest and most powerful country of the world riven with infighting, the timeless wisdom of India, of an inclusive peace with people, animals and nature, is desperately needed. Community is cultivated creatively and patiently, and it gives purpose and belonging to each one of us.
The Gujarati BAPS diaspora mobilised 12,500 selfless volunteers from a country which taught the world that time is money, to achieve this task over a dozen years. They also raised over a $100 million in philanthropy without any donor names on the stones. The Akshardham Temple is located in Robinsville, New Jersey.
Its geography between global finance and politics is also apt – we desperately need a spiritual and ethical finance which draws from Dharma’s vast ocean of wisdom on the essence and limits of wealth. If money is power, then its fiction has been turned to fact, destroying the very soul of human culture and community.
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The very fact that the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha was able to mobilise such resources, and then open its palace of wisdom to the world for free, shows the real meaning and power of sustainability – to protect, preserve and reinvigorate human values of compassion, tolerance and interdependence. It also expresses a living dynamic diaspora, which is happy to share its values with the world, without being preachy or selfish about its motives.
Today, even well-funded global multinational corporations cannot amass such talent, skill and sustainable wisdom so beholden they have become to markets and short-termism. That a diaspora from Gujarat can do so is also testament to the history and heritage of the Indian state, which has given the world Gandhi, Patel and Modi too.
For Gujaratis, leadership and community building are part of their DNA. If only the world were to recognise and value this at such a critical and tense time in world history. Let’s all visit Akshardham and recharge our spirits, taking our friends with us.
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