“The day when the translation of all four Vedas will be complete, there will be knowledge like the light of the sun; no one will be able to hide it, as no one can keep the truth secret.”
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati
This July, Hindu Student Association’s (HSA) National President Varun Mehta and University of Texas’ HSA Branch officer Eesha Gulati had the opportunity to represent HSA at the 21st North American Arya Mahasamelan, held in Atlanta, GA and hosted by the Greater Vedic Temple of Atlanta. The four-day event, which centered around the theme of “The Value of Vedic Teachings in Modern Times” this year, highlighted several sessions focused on making Hindu texts accessible to the worldwide population. A welcome ceremony lead by Dr. Ramesh Gupta (NJ) and Shri Dhirendra Sharma (GA) set the tone of religious growth and community dialogue for the entirety of the weekend. Overall the Mahasamelan’s activities created a platform for religious growth and professional and academic networking.
Arya Samajis and its founder Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati hold the Vedas and Vedic practices very close to their heart. Hence, each day started with Yoga and a Yajna for the attendees’ physical, mental and religious health followed by two concurrent schedules; the concurrent sessions allowed the conference to cater separately to the needs of the youth and the adults. “I feel our separate [youth] program was effective because there were certain topics that we were able to address comfortably amongst our peers,” said Shaan Patel, a rising freshman at the University of Texas. The youth program included a recreational hike, informal group discussions and visits to the local Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple and the Greater Atlanta Arya Samaj.
For the adult group, among the many scholars and priests present was Acharya Vedshrami Vyakarnacharya, a scholar of the Vedas and the Sanskrit language, who spoke about the importance of language and its role in passing on one’s faith. Due to HSA’s recent accomplishments, the Mahasamelan’s organizers included in their program an exclusive presentation on HSA. Presented by Eesha Gulati and Varun Mehta, this session catered to youth as well as adults; it discussed how to make Hinduism more accessible to younger audiences by encouraging a symbiotic relationship between their interests and Hindu teachings. HSA’s focus on social media and concentration on disseminating knowledge through videos was received with repeated applauses by the audience. Because HSA is the only US Hindu organization for young adults and by young adults, Nupur Gupta, a sophomore at Oxford University exclaimed, “I was so impressed by the level of cohesion, organization and apparent dedication to HSA that I was motivated to start a branch at my college!” Priya Gupta from The College of New Jersey was equally inspired by HSA’s concentrated mission of spreading Hinduism to the 2nd generation Hindus and will be starting a branch at her college. Sanjay Gulati, an HSA south district officer, highlighted the importance of service and specifically his outreach efforts with orphans from the summer for 2011.
The Arya Mahasamelan was a well-attended, and truly balanced event (between religious and organizational discussions). It had its share of religious discourses by by Acharya Ashish Darshnacharya, Professor Jai Taneja, and Acharya Praveen Gulati, as well as organizational development sessions led by Dev Mahajan Ji and Mr. Bhushan Verma ji. Through this event, Varun and Eesha were able to grow their religiously. A discussion with Swami Sampoornananda opened up new venues of the importance of Yagna in ones life and how Hinduism’s Vedic Sandhya should be incorporated in a person’s morning and evening routine. The individual networking also helped the community-at-large get closer on a personal level and build new relationships. The conference even gave the attendees time to get creative to create relevant initiatives for their local Arya Samaj temples and other Hindus to bring Vedic knowledge into the limelight. HSA was honored to have been invited and been given a platform to share its vision of using innovative ways and mediums to empower the Hindu youth through education, service and devotion.