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The former President of India, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was honoured in a special memorial assembly at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London with the launch of his final book, Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji, on Wednesday 2 September 2015.
The event, an integral part of the year-long celebrations to mark the Mandir’s 20th anniversary, was a tribute to Dr Kalam’s lifetime of dedicated service and contribution to India and the world.
Present for the ceremony was a gathering of senior BAPS swamis, including Sadguru Pujya Mahant Swami, Sadguru Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and Pujya Atmaswarup Swami, as well as His Excellency Ranjan Mathai, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, and other highly distinguished guests, civic leaders and community representatives.
After the traditional lighting of the holy lamps to inaugurate the auspicious occasion, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami introduced the work of the Mandir in London over the past 20 years in serving worshippers, well-wishers and the local community. He also thanked the constellation of guests for their invaluable support and goodwill in this lofty endeavour.
Pujya Atmaswarup Swami, currently head of Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, then introduced Transcendence with the help of inspiring video presentations. They highlighted Dr Kalam’s spiritual and philosophical transformations during his fourteen-year friendship with His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Dr Kalam explicitly cites the inspiration he obtained from Pramukh Swami’s leadership of BAPS, and shares his vision for a society in which science and spirituality are fused.
In his keynote address, Mr Mathai paid tribute to both Dr Kalam as statesman, scientist and rishi, and the London Mandir, “the great jewel of Indian tradition and culture on British soil,” citing Dr Kalam’s description of it in Transcendence as “an incredible combination of heaven on earth.”
The High Commissioner went on to say: “You have provided a shining example of the greatness of India’s highest spiritual traditions in this foreign land. This extraordinary artistic achievement is a contribution to British and indeed world culture. Your commitment to social causes, betterment of lives and encouragement to the young has made you a living centre for the wider Indian community in the UK. Your example has helped to build the image of Indians in this country, and much credit goes to you for being open to both Indian and British traditions.”
Concluding the ceremony and citing several passages from Transcendence, especially an interview of Nelson Mandela, Pujya Mahant Swami urged the audience to not only read the book, but to imbibe its messages. “It is a universal book, for people of all faiths, nations, ethnicities and vocations, because it is about higher values such as peace, spirituality, tolerance, patience and service.” This, he explained, would be the highest tribute to Dr Kalam’s life, work and legacy.