Highlights from Hinduism Conference – Part I

Delightful dawn!
Delightful dawn!

The delightful dawn on the 6th September while driving from Durban, drew us close to one of the historically important town in the Northern part of KwaZulu Natal province, Ladysmith where the Conference on Hinduism was scheduled. A little more than 400 delegates started arriving in batches at the venue, Civic Centre Hall from 7.30 am onwards. The Conference has generated keen interest among the professionals like educators, advocates, social workers, psychologists, doctors and in an equal measure among the common Hindu population. I had said in my previous post that I would try to place a Report on the proceedings of this august Conference. My hearty thanks go to Reantha Pillay, a student-devotee, who has penned this brilliant Report – on the same day, in spite of the long distance to & fro travel – that would, I believe satisfy the curiosity of those who could not attend the Conference. I am giving below the Part I of the Report. I am also thankful to Rishienandan of Pietermaritzburg subcentre for the excellent photos.

Report – Part I

Reantha Pillay

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From time immemorial the family has been the foundational unit of Hindu society; however, in today’s fast paced society, the family system of old seems to face obstacles at every corner.  Divorces, domestic abuse, lack of communication and the ever changing role of women – all these factors present serious challenges to Hindu families.  It is with this in mind that the Hinduism Conference for 2009 focussed on Hindu Families – Challenges and Solutions.  The aim of the Conference was to identify the emerging problems and equip the Hindu community to deal with them.

Admirable arrangement in Civic Centre Hall
Admirable arrangement in Civic Centre Hall

Ladysmith Sub-centre played host to this important event held at the Civic Centre from 9 am to 1 pm on Sunday, 6 September, 2009.  The tastefully decorated venue with the centre of stage occupied by the huge portraits of the Holy Trio, the hall, equipped with data projectors and rows of tables catered for the many delegates from all over KZN and allowed a comfortable environment to listen to the esteemed panel of  speakers.  At this stage I must compliment the Ladysmith Sub Centre on a most well-organised and enjoyable, educative conference.

Mellifluous chanting by Mataji
Mellifluous chanting by Mataji

The proceedings began with the Opening Prayer led by Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji, Head of the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. In her mellifluous voice, Mataji chanted the three most famous pranam-mantras on the Holy Trio. She was accompanied by another nun – Pravrajika Divyanandapranaji – who had recently come from India to stay and serve at Sri Sarada Devi Ashram. This was the latter’s first visit to Ladysmith. The Ladysmith Subcentre welcomed her with an offering of flower bouquet.

Reception to the Revered new Mataji
Reception to the Revered new Mataji

Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj, President of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA, gave his inaugural address.  The address posed the ever relevant question, “Does the Hindu family system have utility in the modern era?” Maharajji brought to the attention of the audience that the traditional family system is still valid and whatever disintegration that our society experiences, needs to be addressed in order to revive old values. Maharajji then looked at some of the challenges facing the Hindu family.

Firstly, Maharajji identified the lack of the extended family unit in modern times.  Here a humorous story about a daughter-in-law not wanting to disturb the “duties of the household” regaled the audience. On a more serious note, Maharajji looked at the wealth of knowledge, wisdom and culture that is being lost with this relinquishment of the extended family model. Secondly, Maharajji addressed the Inter-Religious and Intra-Religious divides that plague our Hindu marriages and highlighted the need to address this issue. Thirdly, Maharajji dealt with the eroding of the key concepts of Dharma and Karma in our family system. He highlighted rebirth as a means for the continuation of traditions and as service to society as well as the importance of self sacrifice for the good of the family, community, country and world at large.

Vimokshanandaji placing his view points
Vimokshanandaji placing his view points

In conclusion, he stressed the important role families play in society in the furtherance of our Hindu tradition and contrasted this to the unitary family system of the West. Hindu families are based on the age-old principle, Vasudeiva Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family permeated by God. The final message was that we need to urgently address the obstacles that prevent us from achieving this ideal.

Maharajji’s inaugural address set the scene perfectly for the four papers that were to follow. In an email conversation, a Counselling Psychologist had this to say about the Inaugural Address: …it was a pity that it was too short. Maharaj should consider presenting a paper in future. It is amazing that being in South Africa for only a few years that Maharaj has developed such insight into the lifestyles and family problems of people in South Africa. Maharaj has made some very interesting and valid points that I hope will be elaborated on in the future.

The first speaker of the morning was Ms Aruna Chetty, an ardent and long standing devotee of the Ashram as well as a social worker.  She is presently the Director of Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society. Ms Chetty’s topic was Creating Security and Family Stability. She began by outlining this concept of safety and security and focused first on the right ways of upbringing of the children. Ms Chetty advised the audience on four key issues.

Ms Aruna Chetty addressing the audience
Aruna Chetty addressing the audience

Firstly, that there are only two ways to teach your children lasting values and they are intense love and personal example. Secondly, children require a set of routine in order to feel stable and secure. Thirdly, one’s home must create a suitable environment for the child’s development. Here she provided a few simple tips to help improve the home environment such as daily meals together and a designated place to pray. Lastly, she warned busy parents that a child’s love cannot be bought by material goods and that it is important to focus on their moral and spiritual aspects and not merely their secular education. Ms Chetty highlighted commitment, communication and correctional discipline as three key concepts required to make a family safe and secure. Ms Chetty’s paper was highly practical and afforded parents a clear guide to creating stability and security in the home.

After the presentation of this paper the conference broke for tea.

to be continued…

18 comments

  1. Om Namo Narayanaya!
    My prostrations at the Feet of the Holy Trinity, Swamiji Maharaj, Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj and Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji!

    What a marvellous conference we had! Many thanks are due to the Master for making this occasion possible. Swamiji Maharaj’s inaugural address was, as usual, thought provoking and inspiring. With our narrow vision, how often we tend to forget that the entire universe is one huge family! Obviously knowing this, Maharaj provided a gentle and timely reminder. The highlight would have been an opportunity to prostrate at Maharaj’s Feet, but to my (and others’) disappointment that did not materialize. I try to submit graciously to Masters Will!

    Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj very eloquently pointed out the need for careful consideration about the choice of a life partner and the necessity of pre-marital counselling in order to minimize or reconcile religious conflicts. Other speakers also did justice to their topics. There is no doubt that all who attended benefited not simply from the content, but also from the holy company.

    Hari Om Tat Sat
    Nirmala Balkaran
    Ladysmith, SA

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    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Sister
      Yes, indeed the Conference was a wonderful confluence of charming but conducive ideas in creating a conflict-free society. I was happy to see a cross section of the society. Everyone seemed to be taking in whatever being discussed in right earnest.
      Of course, to tell you the truth, I did not return happily because I missed meeting our children. One of the Ladysmith branch Youth leader has this to say : After we had completed our cleaning finalities, while we were discussing the function, it had become most clear that we all had the same feeling within our hearts. We all felt saddened that we did not have the blessed opportunity to have met most revered Maharaj. Now, we are sure that most revered Maharaj will grace our humble Sub-Centre soon so that we may be able to offer our pranams lovingly to most revered Maharaj.
      May Master keep us always united!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  2. Dearest Maharaj
    Koti koti pranam and Dandabat…
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    I have just been going through the pictures and articles.
    I am from Kathmandu, Nepal. Do keep showering your blessings and keep me in the loop.
    humbly yours
    Nirmal Sharma
    Kathmandu, Nepal

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Nirmal
      Welcome to this blog! I hope you find some of the Posts interesting. I am happy to know that you are from Kathmandu. Years back I was blessed by Lord Pashupatinath, worshipping whom triggered the desire to see Him in all His glory there. And what an inspiring visit it was!
      May Sri Thakur increase your devotion at His lotus feet!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  3. Aum Namo Narayanaya!
    Dear Maharaj,
    My Prostrations at your Holy feet.
    I was very disappointed that I was unable to attend the Hinduism Conference due to work and children commitments.
    Thanks to Reantha’s beautiful report, it made us realise that all Hindus should have attended. The topics were interesting indeed.
    Maharaj! do the people in India face the same family problems as the people of South Africa?
    Do they have the same lifestyle as South African Hindus?
    I am very excited about reading Part 2.

    Jai Sri Durga, Jai Sri Durga, Jai Sri Durga!
    Natasha and Vishal
    Newcastle, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Natasha and Vishal
      Your disappointment is but natural. And you are not the only one. Due to family commitments many devotees could not attend the Conference. And I admire them for sticking to the family values of serving children or elders or any other duty. Thats why I thought of posting a detailed Report and fortunately I could see our youth member Reantha attending the function. When I asked her to prepare a Report, she readily agreed and you see, how brilliant is her work! Some readers have opined that reading this Report has made them ‘feel’ that they were virtually there!
      To your first question, my answer would be ‘Not exactly!’ because the Religious conflicts are minimal unlike here. Increase in nuclear family as opposed to Joint family is of course throwing out some problems of security and stability. As we are still conservative, westernization has not become a major problem though in some elite and rich families this is evident. In South Africa the Hindus are placed in a peculiar situation compared to India Hindus. So the Hindus here, have to evolve on their own in order to combat the family disintegration.
      Yes, Part II will be out on Friday!
      May Durga bless you all!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  4. Pranam Maharaj
    It was wonderful to stumble upon your blog.
    I am a resident of New Delhi and have been initiated in July by Most Rev President Maharaj.
    Randomly read some of your previous posts and loved them. It was also interesting to know that Swami Shantatmanandaji used to perform the Jagaddhatri puja at the Ranchi centre.
    I remember you from your lecture in the 2007 Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Delhi ashram.
    Revered Swami Satyeshanandaji (Dr Prakash Maharaj) who shared the dais with you in 2007 is already posted here. It is wonderful to revive the memories of that sublime function and find some great reading on the web!
    Thank you!
    Pranam Maharaj!
    Skendha Singh
    New Delhi, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Skendha
      Welcome to this blog!
      I am happy that you read and loved some of my posts. Yes, brother Shantatmanandaji used to visit Ranchi Sanatorium every year for performing Sri Sri Jagaddhatri Puja, just one month after Durga navami puja. I used to have wonderful time with him during those puja days consecutively for long twelve years. It was literally a mart of joy! Oh! how many people from Kolkata and other places would throng there! And anyone would be charmed when witnessing his doing the puja as his devotion to Ma Jagaddhatri would just overflow to others.
      yes, I learnt that dear Prakash maharaj is posted there. He is a very good TB doctor – a doctor not only with brain but also with heart.
      I do remember 2007 Golden Jubilee celebrations at Delhi Ashram when on one day I was requested by Shantatmanandaji to give a speech in Hindi which I did. It is in the Google videos and many reported to me that they listened to that Talk of mine.
      May Sri Thakur’s blessings be with you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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      1. Rev Maharaj
        Pranam!
        It is very kind of you to respond to every comment.
        I can well imagine Rev Swami Shantatmanandaji’s fervor and single pointedness in worship having witnessed part of it this Mahashivaratri, when the Lord seemed so manifest and heard our prayer as I had proof later.
        Thank you also for your blessings!
        Hope we will see you soon sometime at Delhi ashram again Maharaj :) I look forward to it..
        Sincere Pranam
        Skendha Singh
        New Delhi, India

        Like

  5. Dear Maharaj
    Aum Namo Narayanaya!
    My Salutations to Master, Holy Mother, Swamiji and Revered Maharaj.

    By reading about this wonderful Conference, I feel sad that I could not be there. To be in your holy company is such a spiritually rewarding experiencing. I can understand how the Ladysmith youth felt for not having the opportunity to make pranams at your lotus feet.
    About a week back, I met attorney Krish Naidoo at our temple. (he attends satsang at headquarters). He asked me if I attended satsang, which I replied in the positive. He said that by merely having a glance of you at satsang is enough to elevate his mood spiritually.
    I cannot wait for your visit to Veeraboga Emperumal Temple.
    Loving Pranams
    Yogan
    Tongaat, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Yogan
      Thanks for your appreciative comments.
      Know well that outside objects are only props. The elevating spiritual mood must be existent within oneself. Then only it can manifest and give joy. So, primarily the devotees who visit satsang are all in possession of that wonderful mood because of their bhakti. Mistakenly they attribute the joy to outside themselves! See the Law no.2 of Swami Vivekananda! By the by thanks for sending me the 15 Laws of Swamiji!
      Yes, I too look forward to visit on the ensuing 19th – the very first day of Navaratri celebration – the 125 year old Temple which is, by Sri Vishnu’s grace, well maintained even today. I have always felt an abundance of joy there. Specially the shrine where Mother Parvati is shining.
      May the Divine Mother shower Her blessings to all!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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      1. Dear Maharaji
        Om Namo Narayanaya!
        Please accept humble pranams and good wishes!
        We all really enjoyed a most informative Conference and returned home with a wealth of knowledge.
        In your response to brother Yogan you have mentioned the law no.2 of Swami Vivekananda. What are these Laws? I am very curious to read about the 15 laws of Swami Vivekananda.
        Thank you Maharaj for sharing and caring!
        Om Namo Narayanaya!
        Omilla Bhikha
        Pietermaritzburg, SA

        Like

        1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
          Dear Omilla
          I am happy that the Conference was useful.
          Yes, some passages from Swami Vivekananda’s Lectures and Writings have been codified (by whom, I don’t know!) and circulated through internet as Laws. I reproduce what yogan sent me. The titles are not penned by Swamiji but by the compiler, I presume.
          What You Need to Keep in Mind From Swami Vivekananda,
          1. Love Is The Law Of Life: All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. Therefore, love for love’s sake, because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.
          2. It’s Your Outlook That Matters: It is our own mental attitude, which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.
          3. Life is Beautiful: First, believe in this world – that there is meaning behind everything. Everything in the world is good, is holy and beautiful. If you see something evil, think that you do not understand it in the right light. Throw the burden on yourselves!
          4. It’s The Way You Feel: Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ; feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. It is feeling that is the life, the strength, the vitality, without which no amount of intellectual activity can reach God.
          5. Set Yourself Free: The moment I have realised God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.
          6. Don’t Play The Blame Game: Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way.
          7. Help Others: If money helps a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better.
          8. Uphold Your Ideals: Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.
          9. Listen To Your Soul: You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
          10. Be Yourself: The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves!
          11. Nothing Is Impossible: Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin – to say that you are weak, or others are weak.
          12. You Have The Power: All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.
          13. Learn Everyday: The goal of mankind is knowledge… now this knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man ‘knows’, should, in strict psychological language, be what he ‘discovers’ or ‘unveils’; what man ‘learns’ is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.
          14. Be Truthful: Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything.
          15. Think Different: All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.

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  6. Adarneeya Maharajji,
    Saadar Pranaam!
    Your words are as REASSURING AS WORDS OF “MAA”!
    Your reply to Natasha & Vishal, “And I admire them for sticking to the family values of serving children or elders or any other duty.” also gave me lot of assurance for feeling of GUILT WHEN I ALSO MISS SOME OF THE PROGRAMMES IN ASHRAM!
    I always had this wish that somehow 11th September and Swamiji’s speech and specially last paragraph of that speech “I fervently hope….” should be brought into focus rather than just words of “SISTERS AND BROTHERS…”. I sincerely feel that IT IS ONLY THESE WORDS WHICH ACTUALLY CONVEYS WHOLE ESSENCE OF SWAMIJI’S MESSAGE GIVEN ON EXACTLY 108 YEARS BEFORE WTC BOMBING… IS IT A MERE COINCIDENCE! NO…. IT WAS A PROPHECY THAT IF WE DO NOT STOP “FANATICISM” (which now has taken shape of TERRORISM) THINGS LIKE 9/11 WILL HAPPEN…….. Still people dont understand?
    Once again my humble pranaam for showering this NECTAR OF HOLY TRIO’S MESSAGE which is just like feeding us with sweetest dessert amidst tasteless food of other worldly matters.

    Bharat Churiwala
    Mumbai, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Bharath
      “If God, the dispenser of the universe is not generous, people’s wants can never be satisfied by man’s charity alone”.
      We need to try and see the Lord’s Lila even in all the miseries and sufferings in this world. He is the Supreme Benefactor. The Lord wants us to manifest our greatness, our Godliness by serving all with a loving and open heart. This is the opportunity that we are all given…to do good works.
      Sri Ramakrishna has declared that God is before you in MANY forms.
      Realize this by direct perception, and make this human birth a blessing. Seek refuge in the Lord. Always keep constant remembrance of Him.
      May His Grace flow continuously on You and your family.
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  7. Dear Maharaj
    Aum Namo Narayanaya!
    A heartfelt thanks to your effort, time and kindness spent on these blog discussions. Your interest and communication makes the common man feel in touch with learned people of God and indeed the word of God and breaks the boundaries that Hindu religion often places between Men of God and the flock accessible only to those who can donate more or are more influential!
    I echo the sentiments of our other devotees in my disappointment at not being able to attend the Hinduism Conference due to work commitments. It would be wonderful to read the actual talks given by our revered Maharaj, Swamiji and Mataji especially as the blog leaves us asking for more. These topics are pertinent to our community and I am sure that everyone would love going through these talks as it was delivered.
    Please grant us this!
    With much love
    Dr Shivani A Singh
    Paediatric Critical Care Specialist
    Durban, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Shivani
      Wonderful to note that you are enjoying the postings on the blog.
      Dont be disappointed that you were not present at the Conference; it has been recorded, and copies of the DVD can be obtained from the Ladysmith branch officials.
      It is my prayer that the periodical postings bring readers closer to God and help people realise and understand that we are all nothing but sparks of that One Divine Being.
      My thanks to Dr Hasu for affording me an opportunity to see how silently you both work at the leading referral hospital. The work that you both perform tirelessly really brings smiles on the lips of the tiny sick babies. That spark of Divinity really shines forth in both of you.
      Service in the spirit of worship as Master said in the Gospel that was read on that day at your home – meditation with open eyes – are “standout” traits in your lives, and may you both be abundantly blessed with peace, love and happiness.
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  8. Dear Sir,
    I am impressed with your blog !
    May I share with your readers something woth-knowing?
    Yes, please visit the website and open the slides to know the  significance of Hinduism in the words of greatest western scholars like,
    Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot, Julius Robert Oppenheimer – father of Atomic bomb, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Voltaire, Friedrich Hegel, Werner Heisenberg so on and so forth!
    Let me know your worthy comments on this!
    Yours truly,
    Salil Gewali
    Shillong, Meghalaya, India

    Like

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