BAPS hosted a special cultural programme with the theme “My Country, My Duty” at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
Attendees of the programme, which debuted as part of the Festival of Inspirations left feeling inspired to reflect on ways they could exemplify model citizenship and answer their respective “call to duty.” The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham stands as a product of one such call to duty made by thousands of volunteers who selflessly chose to contribute their time and efforts to something greater than themselves.
The evening began with John F. Kennedy’s quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” This quote set the tone for reflections on service, further emphasised by Martin Luther King Jr.’s sentiment, “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
The impactful speech given by Pujya Chaitanyamurti Swami at the “My Country, My Duty” programme underscored Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s belief that serving one’s nation is a form of dharma. He equated national service to serving one’s guru, highlighting that the essence of service is integral to Akshardham’s foundation, inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj. The dedication of Festival of Inspirations volunteers, evident both in Akshardham and local communities embodies this spirit.
Guy Chiarello, COO of Fiserv, Inc., reflected on the power of volunteerism at Akshardham, stating, “It’s not about the number of breaths we take, but the moments that leave us breathless. Today, I witnessed the profound impact of families and volunteers dedicated to a grand vision.” Dr. Manjit Singh Bains, affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering and Cornell, lauded Akshardham not only for its architectural brilliance but also for its deeper values. He underscored its pivotal role in educating the younger generation about respect, responsibility and the spirit of giving.
During the program, public servants such as police officers, firefighters and elected officials were honored for their dedication to protecting and serving their communities. A donation of $5,000 was presented to the Rapid Response Partnership of Mercer County on behalf of BAPS in recognition of their efforts in responding to incidents of high complexity.
Another $5,000 donation was also presented to the 200 Club of Mercer County, an association dedicated to providing financial assistance to families of essential personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The event emphasised the far-reaching effects of simple gestures from voting to neighborhood clean-ups, through various skits and addresses.
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of BAPS, conveyed that any profession can be transformed into a service for the broader benefit. “Whether you’re a doctor, a teacher, or any other professional, strive to excel in your role. Don’t just be ordinary; be outstanding in a way that contributes positively to society.”
Distinguished guests included Mr. David Fried, Mayor of Robbinsville Township; Chief Michael Polaski of Robbinsville Township’s Police Department; Chief Robert Garapolo from West Windsor Township’s Police Department; NJ Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak; Mr. Upendra Chivukula, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commissioner; Mr. Guy Chiarello, COO of Fiserv, Inc., and his wife Denise; Mr. Umashankar Nistala, CIO of Fiserv, Inc.; Mr. Marc Chiarello, Executive Director at JP Morgan, with Mrs. Brogan Chiarello; Dr. Pramod Sogani and Dr. Manjit Singh Bains, both esteemed surgeons at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Dr. Bakul Dalal, an internationally acclaimed pathologist, alongside Mrs. Neeta Dalal.
Values such as integrity and morality were also a focal point of the evening. Speakers throughout the program highlighted that no matter how one chooses to live and operate, doing so with a strong sense of morality and kindness is a service in itself. The program concluded with a profound lesson on character: when we choose to make value-based decisions, we have the potential to touch the lives of many people.
To watch future events from the Festival of Inspirations LIVE, visit https://na.baps.org.