Closing all Mandirs in USA, Canada, Europe and Australia
As concerns around the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic grow, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, following the guidance of public health agencies, has decided to close all mandirs in USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, as well as suspend all public social and religious activities, including conferences, until further notice. These steps are being taken to proactively protect the health and safety of volunteers, visitors and local communities.
Although the drastic steps are necessitated by the nature of the pandemic, BAPS will continue to provide spiritual guidance to devotees and Hindus. At a time when prayer, reflection and family activities can bring calm, solace, and peace of mind, BAPS will be using novel means to hold its weekly assemblies and instructive activities for all age groups through interactive online forums.
Bhavisha Modi, Realtor Associate in Princeton, New Jersey, said: “I find it very reassuring that we have found a way to continue my children’s weekly religious instruction in English, as well as the Gujarati assemblies that I attend on Sunday evenings online. There are even online webcasts planned to teach spiritual lessons together as a family. I find it amazing that these platforms were created globally in less than a week. It speaks volumes on the organization’s infrastructure. It also shows that we take our spiritual life seriously.”
To prevent large gatherings, BAPS mandirs will be closed throughout USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, but devotees will be given daily darshan through the websites of each mandir. Dr. Kashyap Patel, a cardiologist in Atlanta, Georgia, said: “Satsang happens in social settings. But in exceptional times, we have to find other ways. We realize that our gurus and seers insisted that we accompany each other and serve each other on the spiritual journey, but this calamity has changed the world – for the moment. That doesn’t change the fact that my spiritual life gives me the wisdom I need to approach the difficulties my family and I face. My gurus, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, have always stressed the importance of family values, communication within the family, and using spirituality as a means to come together and find pragmatic solutions to everyday issues. Now is the time I apply them.”
The organization is working closely with local authorities in towns and cities within which their mandirs are located. It will comply with local regulations and find ways to support the local community as they have during past calamities and disasters.
Dr. Viral Desai, an optometrist in Houston, Texas, said: “The situation is unfortunate, but I find that I will use this time to come closer with my family through spiritual discussions, conversations, and bonding time. We have learned a lot of important and practical concepts through Satsang. Now that we have more family time due to less travelling, I will be able to apply those concepts for stronger bonding.”
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha will continue to assess the situation and develop its guidelines regarding mandir visits and resuming activities based on recommendations from the CDC and local government authorities. Further information about individual mandir statuses can be found at: www.baps.org/global-network.
The spiritual leader of BAPS, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, has offered prayers in India for the well-being of all those affected by the pandemic. BAPS’s response to the pandemic hopes to show that spiritual continuity is possible in midst of social distancing.