Annual Conference on Hinduism
by Deveshnie Govender
Religion forms the building blocks of any individual’s life. In the rapidly changing society which is being bombarded with Westernization and technological advancement many of us face the dilemma of deferring from our routes and are faced with the predicament of losing sight of our ultimate goal of life: God Realization. With this in mind the Annual Hinduism Conference attempts to revive our faith and re instill the crucial values of Hinduism and our Religion.
Dundee Sub-centre played the role of hosts to the last year’s Annual Hinduism Conference which proceeded from 9 am till 1 pm on Sunday, 3 September, 2011 at the Dundee Moth hall. Upon entering, the welcoming pictures of the Holy Trio provided for the central attraction and together with a colour co-ordinated tasteful deco, provided a hearty environment for the devotees as well as the esteemed panel of speakers.
I am happy to present here a Report written specially for this Blog by one of our Dundee Sub-centre’s youth members. Ms Deveshnie Govender is presently studying for Bachelor of Accounting Science at Johannesburg in the University of Witwatersrand.
The proceedings began with Prayer to the Holy Trio. Inauguration of the function was done by Ms R D Bedassi who is the chairperson of the Talana Museum Board of Trustees as well as the Treasurer of the Aryan Benevolent Home in Glencoe as well as the 1860 Legacy Foundation. She is also a member of the Child Welfare of South Africa, Glencoe branch. She is a reputed for her involvement in different community welfare projects.
Being a senior educator in the Northern KZN region Ms Bedassi pointed out the richness of our cultural heritage and emphasised that the greatest threat that we face today is the challenge of an identity crisis. She discussed the law of Karma, pointing out that good Karma is created through living a dharmic life. She discussed 9 Hindu values which lead to the attainment of moksha.
- Satyam: Truth. All should lead a life of honesty and compassion.
- Astheyam: We should guard against greed and selfishness.
- Daya: We should practise compassion and sympathy, and be kind and merciful.
- Shanti: Patience, forgiveness and tolerance should be the hallmark in our life.
- Arjavam: We should practise simplicity and straightforwardness.
- Madhuryam: Sweetness and disposition should be of prime importance to us.
- Dama: We should practice self-control and not act upon impulse.
- Dana: Give, teach, purify and protect.
- Akalmasham: We should attempt to live a life that is free of sin. This will lead to a positive action resulting in a positive reaction.
She concluded that we should attempt to prevent bad deeds and be non-judgmental. It was with this inspiring inauguration that the function was officially begun.
The first address which could also be classified as the Key-note address was by our Revered Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj, the President of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA.
He pointed out that many of our Hindu youth are not able to give clear answers when questioned by youths from other religions about our scriptures. It is because Hinduism has many scriptures. Hinduism has delved into every facet of spiritual life and human experience, there is, therefore a great treasure-house of spiritual literature, any one of them passing off as an important Hindu scripture. Generally, the Upanishads are regarded as the umbrella under which they all fall. However, the Vedas also are pivotal. Any sect, new or old, wanting to be regarded as a Hindu sect must be able to justify its principles and teachings on the basis of the teachings of the Upanishads or the Vedas.
Upon analysis, we find that some of the ideas have been lost. However, the Bhagavad Gita is regarded as the very quintessence of Upanishads and Vedas. We find that every saint has brought the Bhagavad Gita into their teachings, thus showing the universality of the Bhagavad Gita. It speaks to all humanity for which Hinduism stands.
Sri Ramakrishna said that the gist of the Gita can be found in the repetition of the
word “gita” ten times, which then becomes tagi, meaning ‘renunciation’. Master
emphasized that more than just reading scriptures, putting the teachings into practice was more essential! Maharaj said that practising five ideas with faith, sincerity and dedication was far more superior than learning off the scriptures by rote.
He further added that we were blessed to have the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna as our modern scripture, and doubly blessed that it is available in English. Master is the personification of the Vedas and hence all the scriptures are within him.
Maharaj’s paper was extremely enlightening and uplifting. Maharaj quenched the spiritual thirst among us and managed to pacify the scriptural turmoil within our minds. It was on this high note that the conference broke for Tea and snacks.
Panelist’s presentation on Parenting
The second speaker was Dr HB Parbhoo who is a long standing member of the Ramakrishna Centre. He is also the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. Dr Parbhoo is also a specialist physician in Durban.
His paper “Parenting – A Hindu Perspective”, aimed to resolve the dilemma numerous parents face. He dealt with the theme of protection versus pleasure, guided growth with Self Responsibility. He discussed how the past values (hard work, sacrifice, good habits and education) which were treasured and admired are now being neglected in search for enjoyment and entertainment. He emphasized the fundamental importance of creating a loving, proper environment for children, an environment where children have the opportunity to explore and express themselves. The theme of protection versus pleasure was also discussed whereby the child has to realize their growth is their own responsibility. “My Life”.
If parents do not guide and provide a pertinent role model for their children, they seek for it in the media, and so adopt bad habits. He gave a guideline to parents: provide love in the first five years, then discipline for the next 10 years, when the child reaches 16; the parent should attempt to become their friend. Through performing and completing one task at a time, being ever-vigilant, we will develop mind control and will power. He said that we should not blame others for our faults, that we should mind our own business, make ourselves perfect and others will become perfect in our eyes.
Dr Parbhoo’s paper was higly relevant and intriguing for both parents as well as children.
Panelist’s presentation on Harmony of Four Yogas
The third speaker was Ms Indrani Basdeo who is the Secretary of the Etete Satsung group. She is a long standing member of the Ramakrishna Centre. She occupies the career of a legal manager in a financial company.
Ms Basdeo attempted to enlighten us upon the 4 yogas. As humans we are all in an endless search for real peace and happiness. Through the grace of our divine Lord, Swami Vivekananda gave us the nectar of Vedanta; however this gift remained unopened. Yoga is the union of the individual soul with the almighty Lord. In the attainment of this one goal there are various different paths according to our temperaments.
These 4 yogas are: Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga.
Bhakti yoga – Emotional Path, the relationship between the devotee and God.
Jnana Yoga– Intellectual Path, the reading and studying of the scriptures. This involves intellectual discrimination. The necessity for us to discriminate from the real and the unreal leading to spiritual realization, the expansion of our intellect. It was here that Ms Basdeo used a funny story of a camper and doctor for better understanding. They both went camping, when the camper told the doctor to look up and tell him what he saw, the doctor provided a list of stars and planets! When the doctor asked the camper what he saw, he simply replied “our tent has been stolen!”
Karma Yoga – working- This involves selfless service in the spirit of worship. The essence of Karma Yoga is selfless service. “Numerous individuals think, if I help what will happen to me, however a great individual does it for no gain”. It is considered as a spiritual action. The secret of action is purity and serenity of mind.
Raja Yoga – Spiritual Path- This includes the meditation and prayer aspect. By concentrating our mind, it becomes much more powerful thus providing us with a better quality of life. She also used a story to illustrate this and linked it to handling turbulence in our lives such as traffic jams.
It was here that Ms Basdeo posed the question of “How do we train our mind? “ She provided the answer of constant practice and dispassion. Swami Vivekananda says that the 4 yogas are capable of taking us to supreme infinite knowledge and bliss. Many question which is the best to practice? The best is a combination of all four as this results in maximum usage and maximum benefits that will lead us into reaching our goal more rapidly. The Harmony of the 4 Yogas are best given in the Bhagavad Gita. In conclusion she provided us with an intriguing element called “sandwich sadhana”!
First slice: Dedicate everything to God in the morning. Filling: Work performed. Other slice: In the night dedicate all your actions to God.
We should attempt to open Swami Vivekananda’s unopened gift thus pursuing peace and happiness. It was a well prepared and presented paper. The stories and parables used definitely made for easier memory.
Panelist’s presentation on Relevance of Rabindranath Tagore
The last paper of the Conference was delivered by Ms Raisha Singh, a member of the Newcastle Sub-centre who also acts as the course co-ordinator of the Faculty of Peace Studies, Spirituality and Culture run by the Ramakrishna Centre. Professionally she occupies the post of the Ladysmith Campus Manager.
Peace and Harmony
The Unity of Man
Liberation and emancipation of woman
Divinity within us
Ms Raisha Singh highlighted how we are touched by the meaningful enormous literature penned by Rabindranath Tagore, creating a new art of living. He translated the essence of creative impulses into social context. His writing and the wisdom of it surpasses time and space. She emphasized the importance of interpreting Indian philosophy and religion and expanding our horizon of love. In conclusion, Ms R Singh elaborated on Rabindranath Tagore to such an extent that he is well known as an extremely great personality that made him win a Nobel Prize for Literature. The relevance of the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore is especially appropriate in the 150 years celebration of arrival of Indian indentured labourers.
The Conference was concluded with a panel discussion led by our Revered Maharaj. It was here that Maharaj in his inimitable way, summarized the main concepts of the three speakers. He deeply appreciated the time given by the delegates by attending the Conference and listening to the learned panelists. But that was not enough, he added. Maharaj exhorted the audience to ‘implement the ideas’ that have sunk into their minds so that the lives of elders become an example to the youth and children.
Prompted by Maharaj, youth were asked to provide their opinions or observations. Nibha Ramkelawan, a student devotee, provided an exceptional response highlighting the relevance and importance of our organization and the proper moral grounding it provides. She elaborated that in a Christian pre-dominant schools, the youth often faced with various challenges and it was through learning from Conferences, literature and guidance and through the grace of our Master, the Hindu youth overcome these. To other topical questions fielded at the paper presenters, I should confess, that the learned panelists definitely did not lag behind in giving quality responses to them.
This report will not be complete without the mentioning of the Director of Ceremonies, Ms Ashnee Jaggath an eminent educator of Danhauser secondary and devotee of the Dundee Sub-centre. The spirited way she started the programme, vigorous manner she steered the responses and professional control she exercised over the floor and the exceptional dynamism she displayed in directing the programme cannot but be applauded.
And kudos to the Dundee Sub-centre Chairperson Mr Shaiel Chunder and all the members of its Committee for making everyone feel absolutely comfortable.
Through the grace of our divine Master, it was evident that the audience and delegates left the Conference feeling enriched and motivated to deal with challenges and far more knowledgable on certain aspects of Hinduism. The Conference was undoubtedly an incomparable success and definitely an annual event we await with bated breath!
Hari Om tat sat! Jai Sri Ramakrishnarpanamastu!