Prakash Joshi
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Farewell to Rev. Pandurang Shastri Athavale

Flint Center for Performing Arts at DeAnza College, cialis sale San Francisco
by Prakash V. Joshi
March 2004

 In May of 1997 when I stood at the gates of the beautiful Westminster Abbey in London, cialis England thousands of followers of Shri Pandurang Shastri, 'Dada' were full of joy and excitement as their spiritual leader who had taught them to see "God in all people" were about to witness a historic moment, Dadaji was about to be presented with the Templeton award by Prince Philip for his outstanding work, 'For Progress in Religion' The prestigious award was valued at $1.21 million.

But this time it was different, outside the DeAnza College, in the garden with a water fountain in the middle plus a band playing, there were thousands of followers, mostly of Indian descent waiting this time in silence to say goodbye to 'Dadaji'(elder brother), their spiritual leader who had turned their lives around. They had come from as far as New Zealand and Fiji but mostly representing The West Zone Swadhyay Kendra, Vancouver (BC), Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

Dadaji passed away on October 25th last year at 83. His daughter, Didiji (elder sister) has been traveling with his ashes around the world to give followers, in millions now, an opportunity to memorialize him.

The memorial started at 10:15 on the morning of March 13th 2004, with the arrival of Didiji as she brought forward an urn containing his ashes. As the band played, 83 doves were set free representing one for each year of his life. As they flew off, the eyes of the crowd turned to the clear sky witnessing yet another moving experience, a plane circling above with a banner, 'Tava Chaha Parinam Hoga-Dadaji' , 'Your wish will come true-Dadaji'.

As the Indian inspirational music played, the crowd followed Didiji and invited dignitaries into the theatre lined up with Dadaji's photos and his popular sayings.
Children under 12 years were guided by the volunteers to a special room.
Once seated Didiji paid respect to the ashes by lighting a lamp and garlanding them with flowers and Dadaji's favourite scarf.

The dignitaries who spoke included Hon. Governor Brown who compared Dadaji's work with Mother Teresa whereby how just one individual's spirit had touched lives of millions. The Indian Consulate General, Hon. Mr. Mishra reminded the crowd of the Padma Bhushan awarded to Dadaji by The President of India in 1995. Congressman, Hon. Mike Honda praised his tireless work in trying to create one family, "A family of human beings". Jagmohanji representing the sikh community made special mention of Dadaji paying respects to holy "Guru Granth Sahib" in 1997 at Nanded. (In the words of the holy priest , Avtar Singh, at Nanded Gurudwara, India, (Such welcome as bestowed upon Dada has never been given to anyone, even to a prime minister or any dignitary").
Didiji often overcoming with emotions and tears briefly described Dadajis work and showed a video, emphasizing the importance of the continuation of his work even though it had been a tragic blow to all the followers. The video ended with the 40,000 youths in Baruch shouting, "We will, We will", promising Dada to continue with his work.
As about 2,400 followers lined up to view the ashes, a team of men in white recited slokas from the Bhagavad Gita, holy Hindu book.

Born on October 19, 1920 in Raigad District, of a Brahmin family, Dadaji as a child hated to see cast differences. He founded the Swadhyaya (Self- awareness) movement in 1958 which preaches that barrier of cast, gender and religion must be transcend in order to recognize the true equality of all people. He has transformed nearly hundred thousand villages in India, carrying on mass movement bestowing dignity on the underprivileged, bringing social reform through participant toil for the poor without any expectation of personal gain. His spiritual base being the Bhagavad Gita describing his work as "Apounasheya Laxhmi", impersonal wealth. He was awarded Magsaysay Award in 1996 for community leadership comprising of $50,000.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation honours outstanding Asians every year. The Award is named after Philppine President Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1957.

Dadaji's followers number in millions worldwide and about fifteen thousand in America.

As Ruskin Seth, a follower and a resident of San Francisco said, " We are part of history, our children and grandchildren will be very proud to know that we were in presence of a such great person."

"It took hundreds of years for people to realize the greatness of Christ so it's not important that there are still plenty who don't know of Dadaji's great work, it is up to us to stay focused and carry on with what he taught us", said Mahesh Shah.

Dinesh Patel added, "I really didn't realize his true worth in India, when I was young but coming to United States, after listening to Dadas 'pravachans' and going on Bhakti -pheri has had a profound change on me and my family. It has brought respect, peace, love and harmony in this sometime difficult the materialistic world".

Yatin Parikh spoke of the the fond memories and some very hard times they had incurred during the first bhakti-pheri (devotional visits) to Vancouver in the cold winter of 1996. Not only had they got lost in a new city but couldn't find a single motel/hotel to spend the night in due to the football game. They searched till two O'clock at night and then decided to spend the night in the car. Fortunately they didn't have to spend the whole night in the car. Total strangers to me but it was their thoughts and the fact that they had come all the way from San Francisco in the name of brotherhood which had inspired me to go to Westminister Abbey in 1997 and find out more about Dadaji, as a reporter. But this time I had come to San Francisco, not as a reporter but as a member of the Swadhyay Pariwar, to pay homage to a humanitarian whose simple humble message " of seeing God in all" had a profound effect on me.

Prakash Vinod Joshi, AScT, Eng.L
Senior Materials Engineering Technologist

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