Swamiji, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me, and my darling wife, enormous pleasure to be able to join all of you on such a happy occasion. The glorious architecture of the Mandir, as ever, is a joy to behold and, if I may say so, the warmth of your welcome has been overwhelming, but it always has been on the other occasions I have been lucky enough to come here; (And that’s the reason I keep coming back again!). But to join the Hindu community on the tremendously auspicious occasion of Diwali, and to celebrate with you this most wonderful ‘festival of lights’, is indeed a great privilege for both of us.
I am told that the Diwali and New Year celebrations, at Neasden, are by far the most magnificent in all of Britain and that thousands will gather, later tonight, to watch the fireworks display. My wife and I have seen for ourselves the tremendous effort put in by temple volunteers on this occasion. We were enthralled, if I may say so, by the colourful dance performance we just witnessed and most touched to have been included in the symbolic ‘Puja’ to consecrate accounts books as you bring in the New Year. Perhaps I had better bring my own accounts here as well to be specially blessed! I think that it is a remarkable and precious fact that Hinduism as a faith still touches upon every aspect of day to day lives - professions, culture and most crucially value systems. Long may it last in this era of frenetic change and short term thinking.
If I remember correctly there is a further significance to this date since exactly ten years ago, to the day, is when I first met His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I remember being touched greatly by his humility and tremendous compassion, for all living beings. An attitude which, I believe, is reflected by the entire Hindu community here in Britain as a peace-loving, and values-based community, which has integrated admirably and put so much back into our society. Ladies and gentlemen, this quiet and industrious approach to life is reflected in your remarkable achievements in education, business, the professions, and so many other fields. Some of you may feel that your huge contribution to the fabric of Britain is not fully recognized, but it is my belief that today, more than ever, your community is one of the most positive forces which helps bind the country together, and I thank you most sincerely for this. It really is a remarkable contribution.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, from my wife and myself, I would like to wish each and every one of you a ‘Shubh Deepawali’ and every possible success and prosperity in all your endeavours as you embark upon, what I hope will be, a splendid New Year.