Secrets of Wisdom from ex-Indian President and Rocket Scientist

Before I share with you the amazing synchronicity of what I found in the trash (old bucket to be precise), I need to share a little back story.

Both my grandparents, on my mum’s side, died a few years ago.

They came to the UK from East Africa. Following a revolution and losing all their possessions and property, they got British Passports, and began life in London, starting from nothing.

They were both very spiritual, and went every week to a Hindu temple. The Swaminarayan temple in north London. It was in an old disused warehouse which they converted into a big hall.

My grandparents used to take me there from time to time as a child. I enjoyed prostrated in front of the statues - it made me feel like an adult! I remember the dusty carpet as my nose touched the floor, and feeling like it was so tiring after about a minute or two of bowing down and getting up. I was amazed how fit by grandad was as I struggled to keep up!

The temple was in a large hall - simple in design. It seemed quite large to me, as a child. But they had bigger plans.

When I was about 10 years old, I remember my grandfather collecting aluminium cans from the streets of London, to raise money for a new temple. I may have helped him once...I’m not sure.

He walked for hours in the cold to find those cans. The temple was using the collected cans to raise money for a grand project they had in mind. They had a big vision.

Ultimately, 7 million cans were recycled! It turned out to be one of the largest recycling projects in the UK.

A few years later, the community built the biggest Hindu Temple in Europe. Here’s what it looks like now!

neasden temple.jpg

As stated here, ‘In total, a hundred full-time volunteers and over a thousand part-time volunteers offered their time and talent over the two years, many taking extended holidays or a gap year, and some even leaving their jobs and businesses.’

The head of the religious organisation was Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He died recently - 13th August 2016.

You can see his picture and find out more about him on the temple website here.

I never really followed the religion, and mainly went to the temple on Diwali - the festival of light. In fact, it’s coming up again in a few weeks.

But the other morning, as I was walking to my local cafe, I saw a book, half-soaked with water, in a bucket, dumped outside someone’s house. I took a photo and picked it up, to read in my local cafe.

transcendence in the bin.jpg

The book was written by former Indian President, Abdul Kalam. I’ve heard lots of incredible stories about Kalam. A rocket scientist, turned Indian President. Many consider him one of the greatest presidents India has ever had.

Once I arrived at my cafe, order a cup of English Breakfast tea and after exchanging some banter with the barista I sat down.

I glanced through the table of contents, and decided to read the chapter on Compassion.

I chose this because just last week, I was attending the International Empathy and Compassion Conference in Oslo. I was invited with Awake Academy, to film with James Doty, Head of the Center for Compassion at Stanford University and Prof. Paul Gilbert, leading compassion researcher based in the UK.

As I read through the chapter on compassion, it talked about two teachers, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and one of his key translators, Thubten Jinpa.

Here is the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s words on compassion, shared in the book:

Warm-heartedness is a key factor for healthy individuals, healthy families and healthy communities. Scientists say that a healthy mind is a major factor for a healthy body. If you are serious about your health, think and take most concern for your peace of mind. That’s very, very important.

Kamal goes on to quote Thupten Jinpa’s definition of compassion

‘A mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering is relieved’.

Thupten Jinpa highlights three elements of compassion:

Cognitive: ‘I understand you’.
Affective: ‘I feel for you’.
Motivational: ‘I want to help you’.

In the book, it shares how the Dalai Lama even visited one of their temples. The Dalai Lama said this of his visit:

‘Your Organisation is doing great service to mankind by spreading the message of goodness and joy. It is indeed commendable that the Swaminarayan movement has not limited its work to the movement alone, but has gone out in society and conducted a door-to-door crusade against the evils of society, to promote peace and harmony. I am deeply impressed by the fact that the youths are so actively involved in the activities of this movement.’

In another bit of synchronicity, my dad has actually read this book too. He enjoyed it. And he’s not religious as such, either. Apparently the President worked with Pramukh Swami as he has a network of many volunteers in India.

Strange how I discovered all this through the book in that bucket.

When I was little, Pramukh Swami wasn’t that famous. He used to visit homes. And he visited our home!

So, in his honor, I’d like to finish this post with these words from Pramukh Swami Maharaj, from the end of the book Transcendence, which I found in that bin.

Kalam concludes with two quotes. He starts with Albert Einstein:

Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown solus with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labours of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.

Kalam goes on to say:

It simply overwhelms me to see how beautifully these words are summarised by the life and message of Pramukh Swamiji. It is like a scientific formula of spirituality.

In the good of others lies our own;
In the progress of others lies our own;
In the joy of others lies our own.

I hope you’re inspired to research further into this organisation, and to explore what service and compassion means for you.

If you have any thoughts or insights to share, feel free to do so.




BAPs Charities - secular charity, focusing on the spirit of service
Mystic India - award winning film, based on the life of Swami Narayan

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