Who is Pdt. Munelal Maharaj?
Pdt. Munelal Maharaj is a youthful, dynamic Hindu leader, who inspires countless devotees of all ages and walks of life with his riveting lectures, packed with deep philosophy, moral guidance and practical lessons and stories. Having been raised in the Caribbean and studies at Chinmaya Mission, Mumbai, India, he touches the hearts of audiences throughout the world, who thrill to the sound of his soul-stirring voice offering its melodious and enchanting renditions to the Lord with unparalleled love, devotion and sincerity. His advice, though given from the platform of Hindu Dharma, is universal, and has reached lost youths, repaired broken families, healed wounded hearts and instilled new courage among those who were ready to give up.
His personal aim is to dispel the myth that Hinduism is as an incomprehensible, antiquated religion that has no relevance to modern society. His lifelong goal is to promote Hinduism as a dynamic, blissful, incomparable pathway to better living, especially for the youth. In today’s world, where questions abound, and answers are few, he offers spirituality, morality and devotion as the key to society’s problems. He attempts to explain the teachings and practices of Hinduism in such a way that it becomes applicable to our daily lives. His message to the world, simply put, is “Learn about your religion – learn how to live life to its fullest”, and “Always keep inspired.”
Pdt. Munelal Maharaj was born in Chickland Village, Upper Carapichaima, Central Trinidad, to Shree Parmanand and Shreemati Kissoondai Maharaj. As a young boy, he eagerly attended Raamaayana yagnas and satsangs whenever he could, and would often join with the Bhajan groups to play harmonium, dholak, manjeera or dholak with great spirit.
His enthusiasm for the religious and cultural sphere led him to devote his time and attention to further developing his commitment to this field. At the age of 13, he began performing Poojas, and delivering public discourses on the Raamaayana - the youngest Pandit at the time to do so. He began to develop his skills as a lecturer, singer and musician, and in 1990, he released his first Bhajan cassette, for which he won a national award in 1991 - the NAFEITA award for youth achievement in culture. In 1990, he also performed the singing of 108 Bhajans in a single session - a feat he has since repeated on seven more occasions.
His desire to deepen his knowledge led him to India in 1993, where he spent three years at the Chinmaya Mission in Mumbai, studying Hindu Philosophy, Sanskrit and Vedanta under Swami Anubhavananda, along with the guidance of Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Tejomayananda and many others. After completing his studies, he toured India extensively and received the blessings of many great saints and Masters, including Shree Satya Sai Baba. He also completed several recordings in India before returning to Trinidad in 1996.
Since his return from India, he has dedicated himself to taking Hinduism to new dimensions in the western world through his many different projects, which include Yagyas, Satsangs, Bhajan Concerts, Workshops, Retreats, Youth Camps, as well as his books and CD’s.
Just a few of his pioneering activities are mentioned below:
He is married to Naveeta Maharaj, daughter of Pdt. Randhir and Shreemati Draupatie Maharaj, and they have two beautiful daughters, Vaishnavi and Saakshi. They currently reside in Lange Park, Chaguanas, Trinidad.
His focus on keeping the youth involved in religion and culture has led him to conduct lectures, yagnas, satsangs, workshops, retreats and youth camps throughout many parts of the world. At present, his travels have taken him to:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What led you to choose this path in life, particularly at such a young age?
A. As a young child, it was always a great source of joy and inspiration to attend and participate in all the various yagyas, satsangs and poojas that took place in and around my village, and also throughout the country. I was always drawn to religious activities. However, there was one area that was a bit disappointing to me. Being quite young and inquisitive, I was always very interested to understand what was taking place in all of these devotional functions. But unfortunately, many Pandits did not take the time to explain what was going on, particularly in the poojas. So gradually, the desire grew within me, to go to India and study Hinduism - not only for my own benefit, but also, so that I could bring back this knowledge as a young person myself, to present and explain to other Hindu youths, many of whom may have the same questions as I had. And that is why, no matter the composition of my audience, I always make a special effort to reach out to the youths, because I strongly believe that they are the future of our great religion. Our leaders MUST focus especially on teaching and preparing the youths so that when the time comes to pass over the torch of Sanaatana Dharma, they will be ready.
Q. What is your definition of ‘spirituality’ and why do you sometimes refer to it separately from religion?
A. I think that originally ‘spirituality’ and ‘religion’ were meant to be the same. But at some point, they began to differ in purpose and meaning. Today, religion has become entangled with more with various leaders, institutions and organizations. If two religious leaders disagree today, one of them may very well found a new denomination tomorrow. Religion has become more about whose Church, Mandir, Prayer Hall, Mosque, or Synagogue can attract a bigger crowd, or can collect more funds in the donation box. But to me, the most unfortunate thing of all is that religion today, seems to have become more of a practice of exclusion rather than inclusion.
That is why, I am not a member of any ‘religious’ group or organization – because I choose not to limit myself to one group, but prefer to retain the freedom to be able to support any group, Hindu or otherwise, who may request my assistance in carrying out God’s work.
And for me, that is true spirituality. Spirituality means seeing God in everyone and everything – not just in the Mandir or Church or Mosque – not only in your altar or the pooja room or the confessional. Spirituality is not limiting, but expansive. Sometimes you hear ‘religious’ people say, “I will have nothing to do with you, because your God is not my God!” or even worse, “I can’t speak to you because you do your pooja differently from how I do mine!”
How can we talk about ‘your God’ and ‘my God’? Is that what religion teaches us? Can that really be what the Lord wants from us? Definitely not. The goal of religion or spirituality is simple – LOVE – not romantic love, but DIVINE LOVE. Spirituality is simply seeing God in all of mankind, and feeling that divine Love for everyone you come into contact with, for your family and friends, your work colleagues, even the beggars on the street. True spirituality means realizing that we all one, we have all originated from the same Divine Source and our only purpose on this earth is to love and help each other – not hate and torment others because we don’t see eye to eye with them.
Q. Is there any special message you would like to give to those who come to you for spiritual guidance?
A. Yes. Being a spiritual or religious person does not mean that you must be serious and tense and stressed-out all the time. True spirituality means developing a connection with God, which is tapping into the Source of limitless joy.
My personal philosophy about living a spiritual life is simply to live a positive life. This means:
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