- Anoopam Mission
- (est. 1965)The Anoopam Mission was founded in 1965 as an independent branch of the SWAMINARAYAN MOVE-MENT. It is dedicated to the worldwide spread of the theistic devotional Hinduism (BHAKTI YOGA) and strict moral code of Sri Sahajanand Swami, better known to his followers as Swaminarayan (1781–1830).Swaminarayan believed that God was not the impersonal deity portrayed in the writings and oral tradition of VEDANTA. Saints and RISHIS (wise souls) were teachers who had traveled to Earth to help a suffering humanity find the way to God; the swami considered himself to be an incarnation of an earlier guru, Lord Swami Narayan, who was believed by his followers to be God.In the mid-20th century, His Supreme Holiness Brahmaswarup Param Pujya Yogiji Maharaj (d. 1971) sent what he called the Anoopam Mission to the United States. Its success was due to the dedi-cation of a young man named Jashbhai, born on March 23, 1940 in Sokhada, Gujarat, who had as a young college student crossed paths with Yogiji Maharaj. Yogiji was so impressed with the young man that he called him Saheb, a term of great respect. Saheb organized meetings and recruited his peers onto the path of bhakti, especially as expressed through the lineage of Yogiji Maharaj. He encouraged the young men to live a life based on spirituality, service to others, and positive assis-tance in their community.Those attracted to his teachings developed a new way to live as SADHUS. They did not renounce the world but accepted it. They did not take vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty; instead they had families and participated in life on an every-day level but focused on a mission of service to others. Their aim was to integrate the life of holy people with that of lay people.Saheb was expelled from the larger movement in 1965, after a dispute with conservatives who did not want women to become sadhus. He and his fol-lowers established the Brahmajyoti (light of God), in Mogri, Gujarat, which became the new movement’s international headquarters. Groups developed in the surrounding countryside and areas adjacent to the mother organization, with similar institutions set up for community service. Followers began to migrate to the United States in the 1960s, and Saheb traveled to visit them in 1973.The Anoopam Mission in the United States encourages members to live frugally in a commu-nity atmosphere. The excess income they make in their careers is saved to enhance and carry forth the obligations of the mission. Over 100 American members (called sadhaks) engage as a group to work with devotees toward spiritual goals.Sadhaks are distinguished by attire that reveals their commitment. Blue shirts and cream colored slacks are worn by the men. Cream is the symbol of the Earth; blue is symbolic of the sky and the greatest of spiritual attainments, which is to unite with God into the bliss of Oneness. These colors reflect the transformation of each person’s mission from Earth-bound to spiritual-bound.Members also wear a saffron and white badge showing an eight-spoked wheel. The hub of the wheel represents Saheb, while the spokes are the internal purification rituals required in the move-ment. The spokes also represent eight brothers who were blessed by Yogiji Maharaj as the leaders of the mission.Saheb has continued to extend the mission to 25 countries throughout the world. After begin-ning in India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, the mission now has centers in several countries in Europe, Africa, and the Far East. The mission now sponsors educational institutions, health-care organizations, social wel-fare programs, and relief programs for assistance in floods, earthquakes, and water conservation. The international headquarters remains in Mogri, Gujarat, India.Further reading: Saheb—Profile of a Guru and His Mis-sion (Uxbridge, England: Anoopam Mission, 1989).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.