Spiritual leader J P Vaswani, head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission who influenced millions through his books and preaching, died in the city on Thursday morning. He was 99, a few days short of his 100th birthday which falls on August 2.
“He was admitted to a city hospital for age-related problems three weeks ago. His condition deteriorated a couple of days back. He was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday and passed away this morning,” said Usha Karnani, one of his close aides.
The Mission had planned grand celebrations to mark Vaswani’s 100th birthday.
Vaswani was last seen in public on May 30 at a function at the Sadhu Vaswani Mission attended by President Ram Nath Kovind. The President, who inaugurated the Sadhu Vaswani International School, bowed before the ever-smiling Vaswani who offered him his blessings and wished him success. On Thursday, the President was among those who mourned Vaswani’s death. “Sad to hear of the passing of Dada J P Vaswani, a spiritual leader who contributed so much to our society. He dedicated his life to the betterment of humanity, promoting simple living, high thinking and education. My condolences to his countless followers,” Kovind said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed grief at the passing away of Vaswani, who was fondly called Dada by his followers. “I am saddened beyond words on the passing away of Dada J P Vaswani. He lived for society and served the poor and needy with compassion. Blessed with immense wisdom, he was passionate about educating the girl child, cleanliness and furthering peace as well as brotherhood,” Modi said in his message.
Born in the Sindh province, now in Pakistan, in 1918, Vaswani was known to be a very bright student and graduated in science at a very young age, before joining his uncle and guru Sadhu T L Vaswani who founded the Sadhu Vaswani Mission in 1929. He took over as the head of the Mission after his guru passed away in 1966.
The Mission runs several educational institutions and has offices across the world.
An eloquent speaker and very popular preacher, Vaswani espoused the cause of vegetarianism and campaigned extensively for animal rights. Every year, the Mission observes November 25 as Meatless Day. He is also known to have written more than 100 self-help books.
Vaswani’s mortal remains will be at Sadhu Vaswani Mission for people to pay their last respects till 2 pm on Friday. After that, a darshan yatra will be taken out in the city that will end at the Mission. The “mahasamadhi” (last rites) will be performed at the Mission at 5 pm on Friday. Several prominent people, including former deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, are expected to attend the last rites. The Mission has made arrangements for live darshan on Facebook from 6.30 pm to 8 pm.
Though a spiritual leader, Dada Vaswani was known for his rationalist beliefs. “Unlike many other spiritual leaders, Dada was modern in his outlook, thoughts and ideas. He was a rationalist to the core and always subscribed to the idea of a modern India as imagined by the likes of Pandit (Jawaharlal) Nehru,” Karnani said.
His popularity cut across age, culture and communities. People from all walks of life frequented the Mission premises and had close interaction with the leader. “Be it politicians, actors, educationists or spiritual leaders, they were all drawn to Dada as he held them in thrall through his oratory which was dominated by philosophical teachings and thoughts,” Karnani said.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani and actor Aamir Khan were among those who visited the Mission regularly to listen to him. Even former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had visited the Mission premises and interacted with him, recall his aides.
One of his close admirers, Ashok Hinduja, of the London-based Hinduja Group, said he would always remember the forever-smiling face of Vaswani. “Words are not enough to convey the sadness I felt when I heard this morning that our beloved Dada is no more… Always smiling, even in most painful situations, is how we shall always remember him,” he told The Indian Express.
Vaswani had initiated a global peace initiative, ‘The Moment of Calm’. His birthday is also observed as World Forgiveness Day.