The Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Brahmasutras are core pillars of the Hindu philosophy and Vedic way of life. It has been nearly 150 years since a bhashya, or commentary, on any of the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad Gita—collectively known as the Prasthantrayi—has been written. On 30 August Parliament of Victoria welcomed world-renowned Sanskrit scholar Mahamahopadhyaya (meaning prestigious scholar) Bhadreshdas Swami to recognise his contributions to Hindu philosophy.
Bhadreshdas Swami is an ordained monk of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). His achievements span from 6 Master degrees in various Darshans (philosophies), a PhD in Sanskrit from Karnataka State Open University, a D. Litt as well as the Mahamahopadhyaya (Prestigious Scholar) award by Kavikulguru Kalidas Sanskrit University in Nagpur, India and the Indian government. His academic achievements span certificates from 62 universities, 7 books on Vedic literature and more than 25 books being edited in the field of Sanskrit and Vedas.
Parliament of Victoria invited Bhadreshdas Swami to the Parliament House during his 1-week tour in Victoria.
The felicitation ceremony at the Parliament of Victoria was organised in a bi-partisan way with the support from the Presiding officers, The Honourable Shaun Leane and the Honourable Colin Brooks, former president of the Legislative Council Mr. Bruce Atkinson, the Consulate General of India in Melbourne Mr. Raj Kumar, Mr. Craig Ondarchie MLC (Member for Northern Metropolitan), Mr. Abhijit Bhide (Hindu Council of Australia), Mr. Rajiv Baheti (Hindu Organisations, Temples and Associations Forum) and other leaders from Indian organisations joined in the felicitation.
The lineage of commentaries (Bhashya) on the Prasthantrayi is a part of India’s intellectual heritage. Now, in the 21st century—inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj and blessed by Mahant Swami Maharaj—Bhadreshdas Swami has advanced this tradition by writing a commentary on the Prasthantrayi according to principles of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the Swaminarayan Bhashya known as the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan.
This is the first time in 1,200 years, a bhashya has been written by one author on all three texts of the Prasthantrayi.
Furthermore, Bhadreshdas Swami has written the ‘Swaminarayan-Siddhant-Sudha’—a vadagrantha that offers an exposition and justification of philosophical principles. For such a vadagrantha to be written by the Prasthantrayi-commentator (bhashyakar) himself is unprecedented in the history of Vedantic literature. Thus, the creation of these texts by Bhadreshdas Swami is considered by many scholars to be this century’s most important work in Vedanta philosophy.
The Parliament of Victoria also awarded a certificate of honour for his contribution to the study of Sanskrit and Vedanta in Hindu philosophy.
Addressing the assembly, Mr Brooks said, “The Hindu community is a vital part of our Victorian community. It is vital for us to understand the Hindu faith, traditions and culture. I had the opportunity to look into the extraordinary work he has done and the challenges he faced in producing it. Bhadreshdas Swami has enhanced the Hindu culture. His work from another part of the world has profound influence on us all here and not just the Hindu community in Victoria.”
Mr Atkinson added, “It’s important for us to have the inspiration from people like Mahamahopadhyaya Bhadreshdas Swami. Being here, helping us to meet challenges.”
Thereafter, Mr. Raj Kumar also addressed the assembly on behalf of the Indian government.
Bhadreshdas Swami addressed the audience by acknowledging his gurus, “I would like to dedicate this honour to the lotus feet of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and my beloved guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj. Whatever strength, knowledge and inspiration I have is solely due to their grace and blessings.”
He went on to explain his own personal experience, “I have been traveling in Australia for the past month. Here in Victoria, I have seen the work the elected members of Australia are doing to promote multiculturalism. I have observed the sincere worship of tolerance and harmony on this beautiful land. I have also realised the strong bond that exists between the Parliament of Victoria and various cultural communities.”
Explaining the bhashya he said, “Scriptures such as Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita teach us how to understand our self and how to understand others. They teach us how to love our self and how to love others. They guide us to accept the existence of other people, other communities, other cultures and other religions. They inspire us to celebrate the diversities of cognitions, conceptions and beliefs. We learn to tolerate and to respect others from these scriptures. With this thought in mind, we decided to present this special gift to the Parliament of Victoria.”
On behalf of BAPS Australia and the Hindu community Bhadreshdas Swami presented the Parliament of Victoria with a special gift of the 6 volumes of the Swaminarayan Bhashya.