Omityetdaksharmaadau Prayuktam dhyanam
(From Atharva Shikhopanishad, 2)
Meditation has to be done on the single letter OM.
It itself is the mantra for meditation.
Dr. Bhupendrakumar Ratanji Hajratwala, creator of the Scouting merit program in Hinduism, passed away at his home in Pleasanton, California, of congestive heart failure on Thursday morning, October 27.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Graham-Hitch Mortuary, 4167 First Street, Pleasanton, California.
Dr. Hajratwala founded the North American Hindu Association in 1983 in order to create a merit badge that Scouts could earn for Hinduism, parallel to the awards offered by various Christian denominations. Dr. Hajratwala wrote a booklet to teach children the basic tenets of Hinduism through simple lessons and activities, and designed a badge that has been awarded to more than a thousand children since being officially approved by both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. His son, Nayan, then a Cub Scout, was the first recipient of the Dharma Award and now runs the organization.
He was born in Navsari, Gujarat, India, on April 8, 1942. He was the sixth child, and the fourth son, of Ratanji and Kashi Narsey. He was one of the first youths in his family to attend university, earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Gujarat University in Ahmedabad in 1962. In 1963, he continued his studies in the United States, earning a master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1965 and a Ph.D. in pharmaceutics from the University of Iowa in 1970. Dr. Hajratwala started his career as director of research at a laboratory in San Francisco, then migrated with his young family to New Zealand in 1971 to take a position as a professor at the University of Otago. Upon their return to the United States, he became a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, in 1979. He authored more than 100 scientific research and review papers and two laboratory workbooks. In 1987 he received the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of the university’s highest honors.
In 1988 Dr. Hajratwala underwent a triple bypass surgery and subsequently retired from the university, taking up a second career as a Certified Financial Planner. He started a business, American Educational & Financial Services, in Canton, Michigan.
While in Michigan he was active in many community organizations, founding an Indo-American community newspaper, The Indian Horizon, and taking a leadership role in the Hindu Temple of Canton. During his term as Chairman of the Board, the temple systematized its finances, raised more than $100,000 to fund a new building, and hired its first full-time priest from India. Dr. and Mrs. Hajratwala were major donors to the temple, funding a new commercial-grade kitchen that was dedicated to the memory of his parents.
In 1998, he and his wife retired and moved to Pleasanton, California. In retirement Dr. Hajratwala enjoyed many creative pursuits, including calligraphy; traveled widely; and co-founded a social organization, the Tri-Valley Gujarati Seniors group. He wrote frequent articles, including a column in India Currents magazine, and presented talks and discourses on Hindu texts such as the Upanishads and Bhagawad Geeta. He authored and, with the North American Hindu Association, self-published several books, including a well-regarded translation of the Eeshopanishad, books on Hinduism for children, and a series of instructional booklets detailing his community’s rituals for births, marriages, and deaths.
Dr. Hajratwala was preceded in death by three brothers, Chimanlal, Jayantilal, and Ranchhod; and two sisters, Kamu and Kanchan.
He is survived by his wife, Bhanu, of Pleasanton, California; his son, Nayan, and granddaughters Zoë, Ava, and Téa, of Saline, Michigan; his daughter, Minal, and daughter-in-law, Lakshmi, of Culver City, California; his brother, Manhar Narsey, of Suva, Fiji; his sister, Lila Sholanki, of Toronto, Canada; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Dr. Hajratwala was passionate about educating young people about Hinduism. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the organization that he founded: North American Hindu Association, 9803 Goldfinch Court, Saline, MI 48176, USA . (Or via http://naha.us/donate).