Maheshbhai Mehta pioneered and established Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) in 1970. His vision was to preserve, promote and propagate Hindu values among the second generations Hindu Indians in America and the Americans. These values are based on the three pillars as envisioned by Shri Maheshbhai: sampark (network of contacts of like-minded people), seva (social services, servicing the society at large) and Samskār (Hindu values).
He was a true leader with leadership qualities who communicated his vision, mission and goals with clarity to all members of the organization. He was a person with ability to build a team by developing personal relationship with each member and Governing body of the organization. He led by example and established strong, trusting relationships to ensure success within the team and for the organization as a whole. Under his leadership many organizations took birth to represent Hindu culture and values such as Ekal Vidyalaya, Hindu Mandir Executives Conference (HMAEC), Hindu University of America (HUA), India Quality Group (IQG), Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV) and Hindu Students Council (HSC), just to name a few.
Under his leadership VHPA has supported thousands of children for formal education from grade 1-11 under Support a child (SAC) project, thousands of children getting preliminary education under the umbrella of Ekal Vidyalaya (a project initiated by VHPA) and offered seva both here in America and in Bharat helping thousands of poor/needy people regardless of their age, ethnicity, race or religion. He was able to develop and a build 1st generation of Hindu leaders in many Hindu organizations and transitioned to build 2nd and 3rd generation Hindu American leaders to represent Hindu values and culture because he was able to effectively communicate with younger generation leaders with his listening ability and his willingness to accept new ideas to nurture the organization.
His ability to plan and build a team to execute successfully numerous major conferences such as the International Hindu conference at the Madison Square Garden, New York in 1984, Global Vision 2000 conference in 1993 celebrating centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s address at the Parliament of World Religions held in Chicago at the Capital Center arena in Washington D.C. and the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations in the year 2000 exemplified his leadership quality and his ability to build relationship with his team and volunteers.
I am one of the fortunate persons who met Shri Maheshbhai 65 years ago when I was 12 years old and attended his Shakha in Khadia/Sarangpur (place in the city of Karnavati today, known as Ahmedabad, Gujarat). I had lost contact with Shri Maheshbhai till I met him in Boston in 1982 where I attended VHPA chapter meeting at his home in Needham, MA.
My immediate family members and my extended family in Bharat have had many interactions with Shri Maheshbhai and we all treasure the time that we spent together. As a matter of fact, whenever he visited us my wife Bakula always was very eager to hear Maheshbhai’s thoughts on various current matters. He spoke with clarity and that made it easier to understand the subject matter. He would communicate with any age group effectively on subjects that interest them and people would listen to him intently. He was really a mesmerizing orator and well versed on many subjects whether it is science, Hindu values & culture, Dharma or political.
Maheshbhai was very caring person not only for the volunteers of the organization but for all family members. Every time you talked to him over the phone or in person, he would invariably ask about well-being of family members.
I remember when Gaurangbhai was performing the Antim Kriya for my Pujya Pitashree. I was visibly shaken and quite sad. Maheshbhai came to me and gave me a big hug and whispered in my ears, “that when my father passed away, I was in a far village being a Pracharak of RSS and there was no communication available and I did not get the message that my father had passed away until after five days.” He understood me being sad and shaken but his comment gave me some strength and I appreciated him sharing a compassionate message with me.
I would close my comments with two appropriate shlokas from Bhagwad Gita that summarize Shri Maheshbhai who inspired me and many people around the world who were associated and interacted with him over the years.
yadyadaacharati shreshthastattadevetaro janaha |
sa yatpramaanam kurute lokastadanuvartate |
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जन: ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते॥
This shloka states that whatever the great person does, the commoners follow. Whatever standards they set in their lives; the commoners will try to emulate them.
Thus, Gita states, one should always perform their duties like the great ones who have set the best examples in society.
I am sure we all have such kind of personalities and figures in our mind that we would like to follow them in our lives, in our actions, and in our thoughts. To me this great personality is no other than Shri Maheshbhai Mehta and as a common person I will try to pursue the standards that he set.
Both my wife Bakula and I along with our family members will dearly miss his presence. His inspiration, guidance and his witty nature will be missed sorely; however, his legacy and mission continue and we will put every effort to fulfill his dream to create Hindu centers in North, South, East and West in the USA. He is no longer with us in the physical form but his blessings are with us and we pray that Ishwar grant his soul “sad gati”.
His soul will live forever like it is mentioned in the Bhagwad Gita:
nainaṃ chindanti śastrāṇi nainaṃ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṃ kledayantyāpo na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
नैनं छिद्रन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावक: ।
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुत ॥
The pain of losing Shri Maheshbhai is unbearable. But death is an inevitable truth that will come to all of us and loved ones sooner or later. Death is painful because even the soul does not want to leave the body. This shloka of Bhagwad Gita explains that soul cannot be injured through weapons, fire, water, or wind. It neither dies nor is born, it is ever-present in the universe. So, Shri Maheshbhai must be present somewhere else in the world in some other form.
Hari AUM. Hari Aum Tat sat Jai Guru Datt.
Shri Girish Gandhi is a member of VHPA’s Advisory Board and a former vice president of Seva. He serves as secretary of Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV), a rural empowerment NGO, founded by Maheshbhai.