Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (Gujarati: બોચાસનવાસી અક્ષ૨ પુરુષોત્તમ સ્વામિનારાયણ સંસ્થા Bocāsanvāsī Akshar Purushottam Swāminārāyan Sansthā) or BAPS, is a major organization within the Swaminarayan faith. The organization was established on June 5, 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj (1865–1951), a Sanskrit scholar and sadhu. The Akshar Purushottam Upasana, an interpretation of Bhagwan Swaminarayan's succession, led to the formation of the present organization. The former name of the organization was Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha or BSS. Shastriji Maharaj's disciples and successors were Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Presently the sanstha is headed by Pramukh Swami.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is an international social, spiritual and charitable Non-governmental organization affiliated with the United Nations, having received the highest recognition by the organization: General Consultative Status with its Social and Economic Council. Through its 9000 centers, 750 sadhus, 55,000 volunteers and over 1,000,000 followers, BAPS performs over 160 humanitarian activities. BAPS is known from its traditional hand-carved stone Hindu temples to its social work.
Aims & Objectives
BAPS strives to inspire a better and happier individuals, families, and societies by basing their activities on the following principles.
- Inspire one and all towards a better way of life through the humanitarian values of service, purity, discipline, love, tolerance, harmony
- Energize its on-going efforts against dowry, smoking, drugs, alcohol and other destructive addictions
- Promote harmony and peaceful coexistence among all communities through understanding and co-operation
- Develop constructive and creative youth and children's activities to channelise their energy, promoting education and social services
- Sustain the roots of Indian Culture and all the good that it stands for
BAPS has built over 700 mandirs (temples) and 9000 centres in 45 different countries. All activities are centered around understanding the inherent unity of the Self (Atma) and God (Paramatman) through worship, meditation, study of the scriptures, and attending weekly lectures conducted by the sadhus (monks) of BAPS. The fundamental philosophy of BAPS was expounded by the faith's central figure, Bhagwan Swaminarayan, in the late 18th century and entails a comprehensive understanding of five basic eternal entities:
1. Jiva - sentient, living beings which have been shrouded in the cycle of birth and death by the accumulation of Karma due to an eternal ignorance of the true Self (Atman). Jivas are infinite in number throughout infinite parallel universes. Comparable to the soul.
2. Ishwar - the collective realm of deities who govern the metaphysical foundations of different aspects of material nature, i.e. earth, wind, water, fire, and space. Ishwars are also infinite in number.
3. Maya - illusion of material nature essentially "blinding" one from recognizing the inherent truth of Brahman - the highest state of spiritual enlightenment. The source of pain and suffering is caused by desire for sensory objects, which appear enticing due to the attraction for Mayic pleasure. It is here where Swaminarayan and Buddhist ideas of material illusion are in agreement.
4. Brahman - the highest state of enlightenment upon which an individual Jiva essentially becomes one and inseparable from Godhead. The method of accomplishing this, according to Swaminarayan, is by developing a profound ability to conquer the senses and mental cognition through an intense love for God and His divine form and a realized Guru who teaches his disciples with unbroken humility and genuine altruism.
5. Parabrahman - Supreme Godhead. The ultimate creator, sustainer, and destroyer of infinite universes. He is non-dual and can only be characterized by Sat-Chit-Ananda, or Truth-Existence-Bliss. He is the ultimate intelligence behind the laws of nature and is the root cause of all effects. Swaminarayan's philosophy was based upon that of Ramanuja, and he emphasized that this Parabrahman, who eternally resides in an abode composed of brilliant divine light, eternally possesses a divine, heavenly form and is not an abstract, formless being.
In order to escape the binding nature of karma, Swaminarayan's philosophy, much like that of the Bhagavad Gita, can be summarized in Shikshapatri Verse 116,
''Nijātmānam brahmaroopam, dehatraya vilakshanam;
Vibhāvya tena kartavya, bhakti hi Krushnasya sarvadā.
Understanding the Self to be Brahmaroop and above the three bodies, one offers the purest bhakti to God. The knowledge of the atman, according to Swaminarayan, is consolidated "when one develops an intense affection for the Sant who has realised the avatar of God on earth," (Vach. Vadtal-11). BAPS is founded on this institution of a profound guru-shishya relationship, and its followers believe the spiritual guru and leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj is such a Sant whom Swaminarayan describes as "brahmaswaroop, behaves above the three bodies and the three states of consciousness," (Vach. Vadtal 11), who is the "naimishāranya kshetra where the jagged edges of the mind become blunt and pious deeds such as chanting the name of God, austerities, observances, meditation, etc. commenced there flourish," (Vach. Sarangpur 7) and through which "Bhāgvat Dharma is upheld," (Vach. Gadadhā I-54). Indeed, "maintaining a profound love toward such a Sant also opens the gateway to liberation," (Vach. Gadadhā I-54).
The disciples of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, current leader of BAPS, thus believe him to be an essence of Hinduism, a Saint, their Guru and a true spiritual teacher through which the knowledge contained in the Vachanamrut, Bhagavad Gita, and the texts of Vedanta are realized.
At 87 years of age, Pramukh Swami Maharaj still continuously travels the world propagating the messages of Hinduism and of leading a good family life.
BAPS celebrated it's Shatabdi (100th year) in Ahmedabad, India on December 2007 via a grand four day festival in which children, youths and the elderly all came together just like one family and rejoiced with great grandeur and pomp. Special days for children, youths and women were witnessed by many - and the final day saw the grand celebration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj's 87th birthday along with the culmination of the year-long celebrations.
During this final day, BAPS was presented with a Guinness World Record. It was noted that the largest Hindu Mandir in the world belonged to and was built by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha - Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India.
Cultural field for Youth
Children learn through stories, rhymes, and Gujarati
, teenagers through multimedia and sports, youths through discussions and dramas, the elderly progress through scriptural reading, discourses and introspection. Activities range from music classes, to scripture study, to fitness.
Major relief activities handled by BAPS Charities
BAPS carries out its humanitarian services through the BAPS Charities foundation.
- 2007 Floods Saurashtra (Kathiyavad) Gujarat, India
- 2006 Floods Gujarat, India
- 2005 Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts, USA
- 2004 Tsunami Relief Work, India
- 2001 Earthquake Gujarat, India
- 1999 Cyclone Orissa, India
- 1998 Cyclone Southern Gujarat, India
- 1998 Floods Surat, India
- 1997 Floods Gujarat, India
- 1996 Cyclone Andhra Pradesh, India
- 1995 Floods Malda, West Bengal, India
- 1994 Pneumonic Plague Surat, India
- 1994 Earthquake Los Angeles, USA
- 1993 Earthquake Latur, Maharashtra, India
- 1992 Drought Jamnagar, Gujarat, India
- 1987 Famine Saurashtra, India
- 1984 Famine, Ethiopia
- 1983 Floods Saurashtra, Gujarat, India
- 1982 Floods Saurashtra, Gujarat, India
- 1979 Floods Morbi, Gujarat, India
- 1975 Famine Gujarat & Maharashtra, India
- 1974 Famine Gujarat & Maharashtra, India
Province of its influence
BAPS is prominent in Gujarat, India and amongst NRI
Gujarati community members. Its international network has grown into 2,710 Youth, 4,070 Children and 1,320 Women centers, 770 sadhus, 55,000 volunteers and over one million followers [Williams, 2001], with more than 600 temples and 9090 centers in 45 countries.
Today the Sanstha is led by the 87 year old Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Pramukh Swami Maharaj is a sadhu and the present leader of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. As leader of BAPS, he is responsible for the opening ceremonies of temples, initiation ceremonies for sadhus, and the major decisions of the organisation. His role as spiritual Guru to disciples, however, consumes the majority of his life work and accomplishments. With no fixed residence, he constantly travels to temples and residences both in India and abroad to meet the devotees and further the spiritual disciplines of Lord Swaminarayan. His primary spiritual teaching is to perfect one's personal bhakti-yoga by understanding the Self as one with Brahman as taught by Bhagwan Swaminarayan.  According to his followers, Pramukh Swami Maharaj represents the essence of Hinduism, leading a life of celibacy, while maintaining a mental detachment from personal wealth or comfort.
Notable Projects and Achievements
- In November 2005, the President of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj - along with the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the Leader of Opposition, Lal Krishna Advani- inaugurated "Swaminarayan Akshardham", a site in Delhi. Akshardham includes a high monument constructed entirely of stone, two exhibition halls highlighting India Culture and values, Delhi's first large format movie theater, gardens, and a temple (mandir). On December 17th, 2007 in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India's Delhi Akshardham was named the largest Hindu Temple in the world by Guinness Book of World Records representative Mr. Michael Whitty.
- Neasden Temple BAPS constructed what was at the time the world's largest traditional Hindu temple outside India. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London (http://www.mandir.org), also popularly known as the Neasden Temple) was opened in 1995. Constructed entirely from Marble and Limestone, the temple is popular amongst tourists seeking a unique place to visit in London. On 8 July 2000, the Managing Editor of Guinness Book of Records, Tim Footman and Andrew W. Dowsey presented His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj with certificates marking his entries into the world famous record book. The first certificate presented to His Holiness was for building and inspiring the largest traditional Hindu Mandir outside India. The second certificate marked a record 355 Temple Consecration Ceremonies performed by His Holiness between April 1971 and May 2000.
- In 1999 BAPS opened Africa's first traditional Hindu Mandir in Nairobi, Kenya. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi is unique in that the interior is constructed entirely from intricately carved wood.
- In 2004 BAPS broke its own record when it opened the largest Hindu temple outside India near Chicago, USA. Based upon the Neasden Temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chicago is the USA's second traditional Swaminarayan Temple. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston was the first. A similar, slightly smaller temple, it was opened in Texas, a month prior to the opening of the Chicago Mandir.
- July 2007 saw BAPS break its own record again with the opening of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto. The first traditional stone temple in Canada, and the largest such structure outside India. Just over a month later, in August 2007, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Atlanta was inaugurated, breaking the record broken the previous month in Toronto. The BAPS temple in Atlanta is currently thelargest Hindu temple outside India/
- BAPS financed and produced the 2004 large format film, Mystic India, which retraces the 12,000 km barefoot journey throughout 18th century India undertaken by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (who at the time was known as Neelkanth Varni) at the age of 11.
- In October 2007 the Chinese government invited the BAPS, a Hindu missionary organization, to build the first Hindu temple in China, in the Foshan city. The temple will be built following the style of the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. The temple will provide a series of centers for study of Indian culture, Indian languages and Indian music.
Bochāsanvāsī Akshar Purushottam Swāminārāya Sansthā
at the purest level translates
to (The) Bochasan-ite Imperishable Supreme Being, Lord from the first of Men, Establishment
However, for modern and practical purposes, the title can be rendered in English as The Bochasan-ite Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Establishment or The Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Organization of Bochasan. The high Sanskrit formations of Akshar Purushottam Svāminārāya, meaning Imperishable Supreme Being, Lord from the first of Men, understandably adorning references to God, can be left untranslated due to a cumulation of two reasons, the first that Akshar Purushottam Swāminārāya is hardly taken in a literal manner, it is more so Indian terminology for God, God; the second that not even God, God is accurate, as Akshar Purushottam Svāminārāya is much more contextually loaded than that, in terms of the history and the philosophy of BAPS and that which lead to it.
At the outset it is very simple, the title defines belief. Akshar Purushottam Swāminārāya can be taken as a specific Hindu ideology, and thus The Bochasan-ite Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Establishment would be the followers of it. Furthermore, Akshar Purushottam Swāminārāya is a part by part build-up, from the general to the specific, to the said ideology.
- nārāyaṇ (Son of the original Man) is the general component. It means God and is of Vaishnavite origin. Hinduism → Vaishnavism
- Svāmi-, meaning Lord, in this case and in most cases of a religious capacity (learned holy man, monk, spiritual preceptor), is just a further embellishment at a linguistic level, thus: Lord that is the Son of the original Man or Lord from the first of Men. However this specifically refers to the one Sahajanand Swami, believed to be God. Hinduism → Vaishnavism → Swaminarayanism
- Akshar Purushottam (Imperishable Supreme Being) is a specific deity and philosophy or interpretation of Swaminarayanism. This theology lead to a split in 1907, leading to BAPS. Hinduism → Vaishnavism → Swaminarayanism → Akshar-Purushottamism
- Though it must be said that Akshar Purushottam is in less need of being left untranslated, because unlike Svāminārāyaṇ, which is something unique unto itself, the philosophy of Akshar Puruṣottam really can be gleaned from the English rendering of Imperishable Supreme Being, with one modification. Up until now, Akshar Purushottam has been translated as Imperishable Supreme Being (un-hyphenated), but what is really meant is along the lines of Imperishable - Supreme Being (hyphenated). Imperishable is in fact not an adjective; instead the hyphen creates a pairing of two nouns: (the) Supreme Being paired with (the) Imperishable. This stems from the thrust of the BAPS doctrine, which is the unicity/pairing between the Supreme Being (Purushottam) and his Imperishable (Akshar, represented by the line of gurus, now at Pramukh Swami). Hence The Bochasan-ite Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Establishment.
- Bochasan is a town in Gujarat, associated with that split.
- South Africa
- Amalner, Gujarat
- Ahmedabad, Gujarat (International Headquarters)
- Anand, Gujarat
- Atladra, Gujarat
- Bangalore, Karnataka
- Baroda, Gujarat
- Bochasan, Gujarat
- Bhadra, Gujarat
- Bharuch, Gujarat
- Bhavnagar, Gujarat
- Bhuj, Gujarat
- Bodeli, Gujarat
- Chennai (Madras), Tamil Nadu
- Dabhan, Gujarat
- Delhi, New Delhi
- Dholka, Gujarat
- Dwarka, Gujarat
- Gadhada, Gujarat
- Gandhinagar, Gujarat
- Gondal, Gujarat
- Himatnagar, Gujarat
- Jaipur, Rajasthan
- Junagadh, Gujarat
- Kapadwanj, Kheda, Gujarat
- Radhu, Kheda, Gujarat
- Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal
- Mahesana, Gujarat
- Mahelav, Gujarat
- Mumbai, Maharashtra
- Nadiad, Gujarat
- Nagpur, Maharashtra
- Navsari, Gujarat
- Rajkot, Gujarat
- Sarangpur, Gujarat
- Sankari, Gujarat
- Surendranagar, Gujarat
- Surat, Gujarat
- Tithal, Gujarat
- Vidhyanagar, Gujarat
- Vaso, Gujarat
- Vasoalindra, Gujarat
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- The United States
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Augusta, Georgia
- Austin, Texas
- Bartlett, Illinois
- Bedford, Pennsylvania
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Cherry Hill, New Jersey
- Chino Hills, California
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Clifton, New Jersey
- Columbus, Ohio
- Concord, North Carolina
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
- Dayton, Ohio
- Denver, Colorado
- Detroit, Michigan
- Edison, New Jersey
- Fall River, Massachusetts
- Fresno, California
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Hartford, Connecticut
- Houston, Texas
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Jackson, Mississippi
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- Lansdale, Pennsylvania
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Lubbock, Texas
- Los Angeles, California
- Maza, North Dakota
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Miami, Florida
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Newark, Delaware
- New York, New York
- Orlando, Florida
- Parsippany, New Jersey
- Perry, Georgia
- Lansdale, Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Portland, Oregon
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Richmond, Virginia
- San Antonio, Texas
- San Francisco, California
- San Jose, California
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Savannah, Georgia
- Seattle, Washington
- Syracuse, New York
- Tampa, Florida
- Tucson, Arizona
- Victorville, California
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Washington DC
- Westchester, New York
- Whittier, California