April 19, 2008
"Friends I am very happy that
I am with you and in particular in the Toronto area. Canada
and India are great nations with technology and advancement
and we have great human beings. By integrating these great
beings, we can make a great world." These were the words
uttered by the pioneering rocket scientist and former President
of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during a special welcome
assembly held at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Canadian
Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians in Toronto.
Dr. Kalam visited the BAPS Swaminarayan Complex on Saturday,
April 19, 2008 as a part of his first trip to Canada.
The former President was greeted
upon his arrival at the steps of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan
Mandir by Pujya Gnanpriya Swami, and the Directors of BAPS
Canada. Pujya Gnanpriya Swami garlanded Dr. Kalam and applied
a chandlo to his forehead and tied a nada-chhadhi on his
right wrist as Vedic prayers were chanted. Inside the Mandir,
Dr. Kalam paid respects to the sacred images by offering
flowers, after which Pujya Gnanpriya Swami explained the
spirit of volunteerism of the Mandir. He also discussed
the significance of the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni,
where Dr. Kalam joined him in offering prayers and abhishek.
Dr. Kalam was then guided through
the Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians.
Dr. Kalam was pleased that His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami
Maharaj had inspired such a beautiful and educational museum
in Toronto. After viewing the beautiful wooden carvings
in the Haveli, Dr. Kalam entered the main Prayer Hall and
was welcomed with a standing ovation by thousands of devotees
and visitors. They also greeted him by waving the Indian,
Canadian and BAPS flags.
After the national anthems,
Dr. Kalam was garlanded and presented with souvenirs by
Pujya Gnanpriya Swami. The Attorney General of Ontario,
Hon. Chris Bentley welcomed Dr. Kalam on behalf of the Premier
of Ontario, Hon. Dalton McGuinty. The High Commissioner
to India, Mr. R. L. Narayan in his speech mentioned that
he was pleased to welcome Dr. Kalam to his first visit to
Canada. He thanked BAPS for organizing this event. Other
dignitaries present at this special welcome assembly included
Dr. Lucky Laskhmanan, Chairman, Lasar Technologies & Vice-Chairman,
Process Research ORTECH Inc. and Shri Satish Mehta, Consul
General of India in Toronto.
Thereafter, BAPS children creatively
extolled the achievements of Dr. Kalam and Pramukh Swami
Maharaj and their common vision of preserving and promoting
the rich values and heritage of India, in all parts of the
world. Dr. Kalam presented a book he has written "What can
I give?" to the BAPS Library and requested all the children
to read it.
In his address, Dr. Kalam expressed
his honor to visit this "beautiful temple" created with
the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the dedication
of volunteers, young and old. He spoke of the positive impact
associated with BAPS and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, "whenever
I have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj and visited various BAPS
Swaminarayan temples around the world, I have noted the
righteousness in the heart of the devotees"
Dr. Kalam continued by conveying
a personal message, asking the assembly to repeat his words:
"Where there is righteousness, there is beauty in character.
Where there is beauty in character, there is harmony in
the home. Where there is harmony in the home, there is order
in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there
is peace in the world." He concluded by expressing his faith
that BAPS would spread this message of righteousness across
Despite having to catch a flight
out of Canada, he prolonged his stay as much as possible
to answer questions of the children. Below is the summary
of the answers. BAPS youths in USA participated in a similar
session with Dr. Kalam when he was in New York a month ago.
Q1: Dr. Kalam,
you have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj a few times, would you
share your experiences and impressions with us.
"I have met Pramukh Swami Maharaj nearly ten times. He loves
human beings whether they are from India or Canada or any
part of the world. I learnt from him that along with material
happiness, you also need a spiritual life for becoming an
integrated human being and a happy human life."
Q2: Now that
Indians have migrated to all parts of the world, how can
we, as Indo-Canadians be loyal to Canada and also be proud
of India? How do we balance this feeling of pride for both
"It is a fantastic question. You have to give your best
to Canada, you have to contribute and work for the prosperity
of Canada and at the same time keep your identity as Indians.
Then when you visit India, share your experiences with everyone
a scientist talks about scientific advancement and its contribution
to the society. But you as scientist emphasize often for
a need of spirituality and a value-based learning system.
Can you help us understand why it is important, and how
you realized a need for it?
"What does science give us? Science helps us in agricultural
production, medicine etc. and to gain wealth but it is not
sufficient for a good human life. Spirituality is important
for peace, righteous and pure life."
being a successful and influential scientist and most loved
President of India, how can you be so humble?
"I believe that it comes out of your parental induction
and from your teacher. When I was a 10 year old boy, I had
a great teacher. His way of life, how he led and taught
me, together with my parents really influenced my life a
As he departed, he personally
offered his best wishes to many of those gathered in the
assembly. He also conveyed his respects to His Divine Holiness
Pramukh Swami Maharaj. A month ago, Pujya Yagnavallabh Swami,
Pujya Viveknidhi Swami and Girishbhai Patel also had a short
meeting with Dr. Kalam in New York.