A brand-new centre of learning and research of Indian languages and scriptures, a first outside of India, has been launched at London’s BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, popularly known as .
The BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute UK & Europe is driven by 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 Hindu tradition. Through its rigorous teaching of Sanskrit, classical Vedic literature and 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.
A Gurukul refers to the ancient Indian tradition of learning in the context of a guru (teacher) and shishya (pupil).
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His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, who joined the launch ceremony virtually on May 29, 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.”
The inauguration assembly commenced with a performance of devotional singing by of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha from around the UK and Europe. 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.
Professor James Hegarty, Professor of and Indian Religions at Cardiff University as well as Head of History, Archaeology and Religion, told the assembly: “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.
“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.”
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As an example of the lofty ideals of the tradition, Professor Hegarty cited a Sanskrit verse from the ‘Satsang Diksha’ text, authored by Mahant Swami Maharaj, praying for unity, friendship, compassion, tolerance and love to flourish among all people of the world.
Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, author of the internationally acclaimed ‘Swaminarayan-Bhashyam’ and ‘Swaminarayan-Siddhanta-Sudha’ and one of the world’s leading scholars on Indian philosophy today, delivered the first lecture of the Institute by reinforcing His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s messages of global harmony, public service and excellence. He also urged parents to encourage their children in the arts.