Organized by the Hindu Students Council and supported by over 35 organizations, the conference featured luminaries such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living, Swami Paripoornananda, the head of Sreepeetham in India, Dr. HR Nagendra, Chairman of the Indian Government’s Experts Committee for the International Day of Yoga, Fields Medalist Dr. Manjul Bhargava and many others. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar provided insights on how the principles of Dharma can help develop a conflict free society, while Dr. Nagendra discussed Indian Government’s efforts in making yoga available to millions of Indian people in order to appreciate its roots and medical benefits.
The Council also recognized Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be visiting the USthis month, along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Dr. HR Nagendra, with the “Light of Yoga Award” for their pioneering contributions in making the International Day of Yoga a major success.
“The fact that some of the most renowned saints, a former NASA scientist, a Fields Medalist and 40 others came together on HSC’s platform is testament to the organization’s 25 year history and brand value,” added HSC Chairman and Conference Chair Nikunj Trivedi. “This conference is therefore a celebration of HSC’s legacy and an opportunity to map out the course for decades to come.”
The conference opened with HSC students chanting the sacred symbol “Om”, which was followed by a moment of silence for the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Dr. Bhargava, along with physicist Dr. GNR Tripathi, computer scientist Dr. Subhash Kak and Professor Alok Kumar, discussed the need to recognize the significant contributions of ancient Hindus in the field of science and mathematics. For example, Dr. Bhargava argued that the number system used today should be called “the Hindu Number System” rather than Arabic Number System and the Fibonacci Sequence (of integers) outlined in the 12th century, should be renamed “Hemchandra Numbers” after Jain scholar Acharya Hemchandra who developed them 900 years earlier.
In his keynote speech at the opening plenary session, Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), founder of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the winner of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India, said that yoga was a gift of the ancient Hindu sages and should be not cut-off from its roots and holistic benefits.
On a panel on women’s empowerment, female monk Swamini Svatmavidyananda, female yogi Shambhavi Chopra, and Dr. Indrani Rampersad challenged western feminism, which often does not take into account transnational and spiritual concerns, and proposed ways in which females can find strength in understandings of gender found within the Indic traditions. Another panel on Human Rights featured noted human rights activist Tapan Ghosh of Hindu Samhati and Dr. Ali Alyami, Executive Director and founder of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights inSaudi Arabia. Both spoke passionately about the persecution of Hindus around the world and implored the global community to take action to protect the rights of Hindus where they are minorities and are denied religious freedom.
An inter-faith panel, moderated by noted public intellectual and writer Rajiv Malhotra, discussed a framework for a pluralistic world order. It featured Rabbi Justus N. Baird, Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary inNew York, Pastor David Davis of the Nassau Presbyterian Church inPrinceton, Buddhist Monk Venerable Bhante Kondanna, Jain Monk Venerable Amrinder Muni, noted Sikh speaker Ratanjit Sondhe and Hindu leader Dr. Mahesh Mehta.
“What you see here is youth taking charge of Dharma and moving it forward in a bold and holistic way”, remarked Ravindra Jaishankar, HSC President and Conference Program Chair. “The conference, while epic in its scale, also marks a new beginning for the American Hindu youth and their engagement with the community and the greater society.”
Along with a weekend of intellectual and spiritual rejuvenation, the conference included an international concert emceed by former Miss America Nina Davuluri. It featured thrilling classical Indian dances, a dramatic Balinese theatrical act based on the Hindu epic Ramayana as well as a mesmerizing musical performance by renowned Flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, Mandolin player U Rajesh, Ghatam (Indian clay pot) player Giridhar Udupa and Percussionist Rajeev Mahavir.
Allegra Lovejoy, a recent graduate ofPrincetonUniversity, noted: “I was deeply inspired to see so many people – both presenters and attendees – who exhibited a humble and dedicated seva [selfless service] attitude. Many traditions and backgrounds were represented, and I learned something from each person I interacted with. Participating in this conference has motivated me to learn and practice dharmic spirituality much more seriously than before.”
As the conference came to a close, attendees appreciated the multiple applications of Dharma beyond religion as well as the need to preserve the holistic nature of yoga beyond exercises. The Council hopes that future conferences produce an even greater impact regarding Dharma’s potential to guide and support sustainable society throughout the world.