Highlights from Hinduism Conference – Part II

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Today is September 11. In 1893, on this same date Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions at Chicago, USA. This lecture practically catapulted him as an international figure. The last line of his famous lecture succinctly gives the gist of Hinduism: I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

When the Conference on Hinduism held at Ladysmith Civic Centre on Sunday 6, September, 2009 concluded amidst chanting of vedic mantras as closing prayers, when the delegates started departing in a mood of delight, all of us felt that the ideas that were discussed so forcefully would ever remain etched green in our memory-land and to say in the words of one of our Blog readers from Ladysmith “What a marvellous conference we had! Many thanks are due to the Master for making this occasion possible…There is no doubt that all who attended benefited not simply from the content, but also from the holy company.”
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 II of the Report. I am also thankful to devotee Rishienandan of Pietermaritzburg subcentre for the excellent photos.

Report – Part II

DSC_0311Reantha Pillay

The captivating centerpiece of many who attended  the Conference will undoubtedly be the paper delivered by Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. He spoke on Reconciling Religious Conflicts in a Family. Maharajji’s focus areas were Inter-Religious marriages and Hindu intra-marriages i.e. marriages between Hindus of different linguistic/faith backgrounds. After Maharajji’s humorous disclaimer that the paper will not bring an end to parental worry nor end the debate on this issue, Maharajji began what was to be an insightful and most interesting paper.

Saradaprabhanandaji presenting his solid views
Saradaprabhanandaji presenting his saintly views

Maharajji established the fact that Inter-belief marriages have occurred since the Rig Veda, that is some 5000 years ago and therefore cannot be said to violate the spirit of Hindu Dharma. Post establishing the social validity of this practice, Maharajji went on to illustrate how it could be generally beset with unending problems. However, Maharajji in a positive note, pointed out that despite its inherent problematic nature, there are inter-religious marriages that  have proven successful and this was dependent entirely on the couple and their genuine love for one another and also their ability to sustain a successful marriage. Maharajji urged parents and the general  members of society to be flexible and cautioned against attempting to break a relationship founded on strong  pure love. At this junction Maharajji warned about the greatest casualty – children and the uncertainty they experience when these marriages begin to  flounder. He also addressed the Inter-sect marriages saying that they were not as problematic and marital success could be assured with little difficulty. His 6 practical tips for parties contemplating such a union are:

  • Premarital counselling
  • Beware of Conversion
  • Acquire negotiating skills to resolve conflict non violently
  • Address the issue of an Identity Crisis
  • Foster Communication Skills
  • Avoid destructive family bigotry

Swami Saradaprabahanadaji concluded in saying that marriage is a means to attain God realisation and a vibrant Hindu marriage can attain this whilst simultaneously bringing peace to a family.

Veena Singaram's visual impact paper
Veena Singaram's visual impact paper

The third paper presented was entitled Leadership qualities and Responsibilities of the Mother and was by Ms Veena Singaram, a lecturer. Ms Singaram looked briefly at the various challenges facing Hindu women, such as the need to balance the roles of a wife, mother and leader. She also briefly looked at various aspects of leadership and identified the key qualities necessary to be a leader.  Ms Singaram drew from the wealth of great Indian women such as Sri Sarada Devi, the epitome of purity and unconditional love, as well as many other historical personalities. She also looked at great men such as Gandhiji, Washington and Lincoln who honoured their mothers. Ms Singaram advised the audience that motherhood in its nature encapsulates leadership as they require similar traits.  She ended on a very practical note providing Hindu mothers with a few important gems of advice namely :

  • Parents must imbibe positive qualities
  • They must attempt to and subsequently gain an understanding of their children.
  • “Practice what they preach”
  • Educate their children on religious and cultural issues.
Naidu presenting his no-nonsense paper
Naidu presenting his no-nonsense paper

The final paper was delivered by Senior Counsel, Advocate H Kessie Naidu, entitled Balancing Hindu values with Westernization.  Advocate Naidu drew from the inspiration of Swami Vivekananda, whose role in modernizing Hinduism and embracing western science cannot be denied. Advocate Naidu acknowledged many aspects of westernization – technology, medicine and the decreasing importance of caste system through constituent democracy. He did, however, caution the audience of the pervasive and persuasive nature of westernization and its effect on our dress, language and lifestyle. He then addressed this issue of Hindu values which lay hidden in the intricacies of our scriptures such as non-violence and the sanctity of life. Advocate Naidu attributed the rise in promiscuity and the death of our vernaculars to mindless attachment to westernization.

He concluded by stating that awareness of the essential values of Hinduism is necessary and thereafter one is required to discern and select the positive aspects of the western world. In this he echoed Swami Vivekananda’s teaching that India should not simply imitate the west but rather absorb and assimilate some western ideals whilst retaining our glorious spiritual heritage. Advocate Naidu’s paper was entertaining and highly relevant given the times we live in.

Professionals in panel discussions
Professionals in panel discussions - Dr Behariram and Rakhi Beekrum

The conference was concluded with a panel discussion that generated great interest. Prompted by the astute questions posed by the members of the audience, the panel consisting of Dr Behariram (Graduated from Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine with a Masters in Family Medicine Degree. Presently manages the Crisis Centre at the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital, working exclusively with survivors of sexual assault especially children) and Rakhi Beekrum (Master of Social Science (Psychology) University of Kwazulu Natal.  Counselling Psychologist at Student Counselling Centre of the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine and runs a private practice in Durban) handled the queries enthusiastically. Questions were fielded at the paper presenters too who did not lag behind in giving quality responses them.

Veni Govender, the dynamic Director of Ceremonies
Veni Govender, the dynamic Director of Ceremonies

I cannot conclude this Report without mentioning about the Director of Ceremonies for this Conference. She was Veni Govender, an eminent Educator of Ladysmith and also a devotee of the Ramakrishna Centre there. The spirited way she started the program, the vigorous manner she veered the responses, the creditable control that she could exercise over the floor and above all the dynamism that she displayed in directing the program cannot but be applauded.

There can be no denying that audience delegates walked out feeling far more equipped to deal with the challenges facing Hindu families. The Conference was undoubtedly a resounding success which harbours only good for families of the future.

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18 comments

  1. Revered Maharaji
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Please accept humble Pranam!
    While the world brings its many joys and successes, it also brings pain and suffering to all. Having said that… this spiritually educative blog certainly brings a little peace of mind and joy to many a weary soul. The aspects of knowledge that were imparted to all delegates at the Hinduism Conference were powerful capsules to be utilized in our daily lives so that we can gain inner peace and security. I was one of those 400 eye-witnesses who returned fed sumptuously with food for thought along with enticing breakfast + enjoyable lunch!
    My heartiest congratulations to the devotees of the Ladysmith Sub Centre for organizing a brilliant give and take in ideas and to Reantha for compiling a colourful and comprehensive report.
    Yours in the Service of the Master
    Avithaa
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Avitha
      Enriching our lives with noble thoughts and accepting life’s challenges with a positive attitude is by far one of the most important requirements to live healthily.
      I am fully aware of your eagerness to take advantage and participate in the Spiritual and Cultural Activities that are hosted at HQ, Pietermaritzburg and other centres. It is good that you along with some other devotees always take the time and efforts irrespective of the distance, to partake of most, if not all our functions and lectures. I have also seen such people who get tired if they attend one satsang in a week and cannot go for the second program!
      I appreciate you for your regularity, steadfastness and devotion.
      May Master always protect and guide you is my fervent prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  2. Dear Maharaj,
    This is so amazing. We all remember his famous first lines “My brothers and sisters of America” but his last lines are so thought provoking too. Thanks for this!
    Moutusi Dey
    Berkeley, USA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Moutusi
      Welcome to this blog! We all try and picture our Great Swamijee at the Parliament of Religions…
      A Magnificent, Majestic, Magnetic God-man, who never spoke in public, addressed a crowd of nearly four thousand people! His culture, his eloquence and his fascinating personality made a profound impression on the American people.
      The newspaper “Herald” wrote “Vivekananda is undoubtedly
      the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him, we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation”.
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  3. Revered Maharaj
    Pranam!
    The brief report is well compiled by Reantha and gave us a glimpse of the entire proceedings and the consequential benefits for the participants and their families. A truly well conducted conference!
    Every line and syllable of Swamiji is no doubt precious and your bringing the last lines of the famous speech of Swamiji at Chicago to focus is really noteworthy for its aptness and guidance. This will motivate many of us to revisit and reinvent the essays and speeches of Swamiji.
    with humble pranams
    Prof V V Subramanian
    Chennai, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanm||
      Dear Vavesu
      We all reflect and recollect on Swamiji’s talks at the Parliament of Religions especially in the month of Septemeber.
      This was an earth shattering experience for the world….. because Hinduism was born in the west! Many new ideas were born and practiced after Swamiji’s brilliant speeches.
      Yes indeed! these Educative conferences not only brings about wholesome changes in one’s life, but also strengthens the mind so that we can brave the obstacles and hindrances that come our way.
      Pray always that you may have the strength, vigour and energy in your heart and body. God Bless!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  4. Respected Maharajji,
    Namaskar.
    We devotees, are highly indebted to you for bringing forth this perpetual stream of spiritual delicacies that guide us to become better human beings and also help us cross the milestones of our spiritual journey. We seek your blessings for continuous spiritual development.
    Pranam!
    Lisa Sen
    Kolkata, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Lisa
      “Not I, but Thou, O Lord”. We are just His instruments. He is the Operator. It is ONLY by His Grace that the postings are regularly read and appreciated by so many devotees. By the love of Thakur we have been made “bond servants”. He was love inside and outside. Wherever any good work is done in the Spirit of Sri Ramakrishna, His power and light will be given to us. Those who take the Name of Sri Ramakrishna will become “World Movers”. Dedicate yourself to Him, and know for sure that you and your family will be blessed immensely.
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  5. Revered Maharaj
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    It was indeed an honour and great pleasure to all of us, being the members of the Ladysmith subcentre, to host this year’s Hinduism Conference.
    We are indeed blessed to have a great team of devotees in Ladysmith who worked tirelessly to make it a success.
    The approximately 400 guests that attended was far beyond our expectations. The fantastic response shows that people look foward to learning and experiencing our rich Hindu heritage.
    I found that the papers presented was absolutely relevant and very informative.
    The paper delivered by Swami Saradaprabhanandaji was most interesting.
    I am sure the guests walked away more enlightened and better equipped to deal with issues that they may be experiencing.
    I would also like to encourage our youth to discuss certain issues that they found interesting, at their youth meetings. This, I am sure will stimulate their young minds into thinking positively.
    Thanks to Reantha for a wonderful report.
    It is absolutely a privilege to belong to an organization like the Ramakrishna Mission.
    Thanks to Swami Vimokshanandaji and Swami Saradaprabhanandaji for your continued guidance and support.
    Hope to see Maharaj soon!
    Yushavia and Prevesh
    Ladysmith, KZN, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear daughter-dad duo Yushavia and Prevesh
      Yes, you both are right! I would also like to encourage our youth to discuss certain issues that they found interesting, at their youth meetings. This, I am sure will stimulate their young minds into thinking positively. This is a brilliant point! To guide the youth is not an any easy task. Open discussion on Religion, Spiritual Advancement, Daily living, etc enables one to realise one’s defects and remedy them. Many youth are facing extreme difficult challenges in their lives, it is now very necessary to reflect on the Teachings of the Holy Trio and try and make this world a better place for all.
      Love all, this is the real jnana, the real bhakti of this age. Help, and serve with a loving heart and you will receive bhakti, moksha, jnana and vijnana.
      More Conferences, Youth Programmes and Seminars of this nature should be held at the Sub Centres to encourage and help youth to understand their problems and overcome them boldly. Unity and harmony must be present for any organisation to flourish, and this was clearly evident among the devotees and youth at the Ladysmith Sub Centre.
      Thank you for penning your thoughts. As a responsible parent, you and Yushavia’s mother have always been in the forefront in all the programs. Thats wonderful!
      May the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swamijee continue to inspire you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  6. Dear Revered Swamiji
    Om Namo Narayanaya
    I thank Swamiji for sharing such inspiring messages via this blog with those that have a thirst for divine realisations. I am an avid follower of this blog but have to date not been active by sending through responses. I think it is time that I became active as there is so much to be learnt via this blog.
    God has given us choices and it depends on which we decide to feed – The GOOD or the EVIL. It is through the sharing of divine knowledge that we help ourselves to inculcate the RIGHT values in our lives.
    Yours in the service of the Holy Trio.
    Poobal
    Richards Bay, SA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Poobal
      It is really heartwarming to note that you are an avid reader! and yes! by sending comments, readers make me realise that this blog is being useful.
      Sri Ramakrishna said ” Devotees of God belong to a caste by themselves.” Our ideal is to unite all mankind into that “One caste of devotees”. In Tamil there is an ancient saying : Ondre kulam, Oruvane daivam – One caste, one God!
      Give your mind as a sacrifice to Him on this auspicious ensuing purattasi month. You may like to read about the fasting as given below:

      A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO FASTING
      Fasts have a tendency to be oriented toward things like giving up food or television. But there are many other creative ways we can welcome God’s healing touch.
      HERE ARE SUGGESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER:
      1. Fast from anger and hatred.. Give your family an extra dose of Love each day.
      2. Fast from judging others. Before making any judgements, recall how God overlooks our faults.
      3. Fast from discouragement. Hold on to God’s promise that He has a perfect plan for your life.
      4. Fast from complaining. When you find yourself about to complain, close your eyes and recall some of the little moments of joy God has given you.
      5. Fast from resentment or bitterness!. Work on forgiving those who may have hurt you.
      6. Fast from spending too much money. Try to reduce your spending by ten percent and give those savings to the poor.
      May the Divine Mother bless you and your family with the right understanding, patience and love on your onward journey to the Truth.

      Like

  7. Respected Maharaj
    Pronam!
    It was nice to read the article on Hinduism Conference Part 2. My special thanks to Ms. Reantha Pillay for highlighting the seminar with vital points.
    Recently I read one book that is based on the research and findings on Counciousness published by Ramakrishna Mission (Goal Park Kolkata center). This book is accumulation of research papers, speeches that are delivered in the seminar. I will like to highlight that there are some devotees who due to their lack of time fail to attend all the seminars that are held by Ramakrishna Mission in and around the world. Is it possible to publish the speeches that are delivered in various Ashrams. specially the speeches that are delivered by the Reverend Monks?
    The idea came to me while reading the above article- it would have been great if we could have got the exact wordings of Swami Saradaprabahanadaji Maharaj. The article carries huge significance in today’s world where still some people are against inter-caste marriage because of their misconceptions and orthodox views that have developed over time.
    Please let me know if there is any way to obtain the soft copy of Maharaj ji’s speech.
    My salutation to all Monks on 11th September who are manifestation of the power of Swami Vivekananda.

    Regards,
    Arnab Lahiri
    Bokaro, Jharkhand, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Arnab
      Thanks for your appreciative words!
      Yes, on your request, I have made available the exact words of Swami Saradaprabhanandaji here. You may just copy and paste it in your Word and can read it leisurely. Like you, whoever is interested in that document may access the same link given above.
      May you continue to draw inspiration from the fiery words of Swami Vivekananda is my prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

      1. Respected Maharaj
        Pronam!
        I have no words to thank you. Believe me, every day I used to check this webpage to see if my wishes are granted. I really need the speeches, since being a Human Resource student and counselor I face situations of inter-caste marriage and conflict that arises in family. The number of ‘Family conflict’ has risen a lot in today’s world owing to several reasons, prime among which are workaholic, work culture, stress, working parents, and of course, due to degradation of love, trust and spiritual values.
        I am yet to read the entire paper but am sure that this will add value to all the readers here.
        I am sure that the words of Swami Saradaprabhananda Maharaj ji will be beneficial not only to me, but also to all those who will read the same. Please convey my thanks to Maharaj ji as well for giving us the speech in this group.
        Please keep posting as we are really enlightened to read and gain wisdom from you and Respected Maharaj of SA Ashram.
        Eager to listen more from you.
        With pronam at your Holy feet
        Arnab Lahiri
        Bokaro, Jharkhand, India

        Like

      2. I need a copy of the speech.
        Am doing a research on intercaste marriage and my parents are opposing it. I need help…thanks!
        Akshay

        Like

  8. Revered Swamiji
    Thank you for the link to Swami Saradaprabhanandaji’s paper on ‘Reconciling Religious Conflicts in a Family’. The focus areas being Inter-Religious marriages and Hindu intra-marriages.
    I am impressed with content of the Conference as it was a topical issue that most religious organisations usually shy away from in an attempt not to upset deep seated feelings and traditions.
    The Ramakrishna Centre of SA offers counselling and help centres and these issues are a reality in the communities we live in.
    I am an example of a mixed race marriage and interfaith marriage. Double trouble ? No. I am blessed with three beautiful children. Our religion has its basis on HINDUISM and we find that as practising Hindus it has not interfered with with my spouse’ faith. Hinduism has a universalist approach.
    So what has happened : ADAPT , ADJUST, ACCOMODATE.
    Societies are merging. Thomas Friedman in his book ‘The World is flat’ explains that historical and geographical boundries are breaking down. The youth will ‘ migrate ‘ to areas where work is offered. I am a product of that. I yearn for Satsang with the GREAT GURUS and fortunately I am able to do so like this very instance. Easier modes of tranport and telecommunication has made the world flatter. Humanity will start to realise that Mother Earth has limited resources and we need to start to think as one big global community. The religious organisations that start to embrace this global outlook of life will be those that are embraced by our future generations.
    I often have to debate with my Human resources dept in forms and applications that indicate race. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to have been born in a society that is multicultural. It has offered me an opportunity to have a broader vision of life and at the same time create a universalistic outlook.
    The approach of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA is in the positive direction. The paper is valid in the era that we are currently in.

    Inba Govender
    PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Inba
      Many bloggers have been appreciating Swami Saradaprabhananda’s brilliant paper. We are all born to learn and there is no limit, no end, to the things to be learnt. Having met your spouse on a few occasions, I was amazed how wonderfully she has, as you have rightly phrased, ‘adapted, adjusted and accommodated’ with your practice of Hinduism. It is vice versa too. Her respect and reverence towards our Teachings, to me and our devotees defined clearly the words: “adapt, adjust, accommodate”.
      We must all understand that no one, individually or collectively can have proprietary rights over God. That Divine power is the God of all. His Grace is upon all mankind. All barriers of caste and creed, race and religion, selective violence and sectarian quarrels should be transcended. It is always good to be broad minded and liberal, but hold fast to your own chosen ideal. He is our all in all.
      May the Lord grant us good minds and right understanding to help each other to live in harmony and love.
      May we all gain bliss.
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

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