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  The importance of Master P S Athavale

Pandurang Shastri Athavale who died on October 25,2003 at the age of 83, has left behind a 20 million strong world-wide network of followers who reach out in service to the community around them. They do so because they are ‘moved’ by devotion.  In the course of their work, they discover who they are in the universal scheme of things. And in the end they arrive at ‘true’ knowledge of life’s purpose. They are all practitioners of Swadhyaya.They are known as Swadhyayis.

In the 1950s, young Athavale was invited to lecture on the Vedas at an inter-religious conference in Japan. He impressed his audience but when asked how to *live* a life based on the Vedas, he was flummoxed. It was then that he determined to demonstrate that a Vedic life can be actively lived. He began teaching at his father’s school and attracted mostly the educated middle class. He soon picked 19 of his promising students and bid them to live among ordinary people of Gujarat. They were to do nothing more than live and observe among ordinary people going about their lives, the while remaining aware of what they learnt during Athavale’s lectures.

The Swadhyaya movement is said to have begun there. The 19 observers are said to have experienced all the three yogas prescribed by the Bagwad Gita: bhakti or devotion, karma or action and gnana or knowledge. One first intuits and realises that the God-principle resides in him. If so, it must reside in every living thing and therefore we are all connected. From there, acting ‘self-lessly’ is effortless, for service to others is also service to oneself. This conviction is at the root of the Swadhyaya movement.

While this knowledge has always been available to scholars and seekers, Swadhyaya movement’s unique success is in making ‘the knowledge’ available to all. In the Swadhyaya Parivar (family) are farmers, fishermen and Harvard alumni. There are Christians and Muslims. The very rich and the impoverished. Indians and foreigners. Athavale --fondly known as ‘Dadaji’ universalised India’s traditional values shorn of all flavour of the sectarian kind that has come to be known as ‘Hindu’. His is also a social movement because Swadhyayis are motivated to go beyond personal salvation, to greater common well being.

Pandurang Shastri Athavale is one of modern India’s Great Masters. Until he won the Templeton Prize and the Magsaysay Award not many in India had heard of him—such was his chosen low profile. Yet his followers were in tens of millions.

Here is a fine overview by Pankaj Jain where you will find many links that will lead you deeper into Swadhyaya and news of it in action.

Pankaj Jain, Umesh Patel and web links