July 17, 2011 marked the conclusion of “Walking Together: Feel the HSA Pulse” dinners by the Hindu Students Association (HSA) in Houston, Austin and Dallas. An enthusiastic crowd of over 115 people attended the most recent banquet in Houston, which was sponsored by the Hindus of Greater Houston.
The dinner and classical entertainment evenings were primarily held to update the local communities about the organization’s progress. Over the past year HSA has successfully raised awareness of Hinduism on a national platform through their projects, such as Hinduism Awareness Week, the Animation Project, the Mantra Project and the Quickfire Video Project, and events, such as Gateway, Emerging Chakras, and Dharma Initiative.
The evening began by showcasing HSA’s newest animation video, “What is Yoga?” which utilizes the social media and viral marketing to enlighten people on Hindu philosophy and practices. This video has attained over 3,500 viewings since June 26th on YouTube alone. HSA, realizing the overwhelming amount of time young adults spend on Internet media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, has capitalized on this medium as a way to engage people and begin dialogue on Hinduism. . Raj Pawate, an active parent in HSA, applauded HSA’s innovative decision, “Adopting social media technology is a significant milestone for HSA; I’m sure this will significantly increase the involvement of second generation Hindu Americans in HSA.” This video is a fun and stimulating way to learn more about Hinduism at the touch of a button.
Ramya Ravi, HSA’s National Chief Financial Officer, discussed how Bhakti yoga can be used by all on a daily basis through the Mantra Project. Bhakti yoga is the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion (bhakti) to a personal form of God; this could include dancing, singing or just listening to invocations of the scriptures. The Mantra project seeks to integrate Sanskrit mantras into the daily lives of the new generation by making them easily accessible on sites such as iTunes and YouTube. Varun Mehta, HSA’s National president, hit home with the audience when he said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have music which empowers you mentally as you study for your organic chemistry exam?!”
Pundit Suman Ghosh, the torch-bearing disciple of Sangeet Martand Padmavibhushan Pt. Jasraj, graciously accepted HSA’s humble request for a performance at the event as his donation to HSA. Before the performance, he encouraged the audience to realize that Bhakti yoga should “go beyond the barriers of our religion, the world should know about it, practice it, and allow individuals to get the opportunity to enrich themselves and their lives by following this.” Hindu mantras, ancient texts, scriptures, yoga and music are enriched with knowledge and the potential to enlighten all individuals.
Along with the enchanting performance, which invoked Bhakti yoga in all who attended the appreciation dinner, Pandit. Suman Ghosh also pledged to dedicate his time and resources to help the younger generation with their efforts to increase the Hindu voice at various levels. Pt. Suman Ghosh expressed how HSA’s drive, initiative, enthusiasm, unity, and steadfast leadership have awed and impressed him, “The ability to have so many young level-headed individuals strive forward to reach a goal is the major strength which has gotten the support for the community.”
HSA’s progress is steadily excelling on a national level with all the projects and the recognition it is receiving. HSA has also seen great strides from each of its branches across the nation. Supriya Aggarwal, the president of HSA at the University of Houston, commented on the achievements in Houston’s own backyard. “Hindu Students Association has progressed incredibly within this past year. The branch at the University of Houston successfully organized the first Holi and Diwali to be celebrated at the UH campus in a decade, as well as the first ever Hinduism Awareness Week. We’ve achieved so much in so little time, and we look forward to continuing these new-built legacies.”
Houston’s community was touched at how HSA is engaging the young adult population. Vijay Pallod, a longstanding member of the Hindu community and key supporter of HSA, expressed his sentiments, “They are our future and I think that in the Hindu community we lack youth leaders, and we hope that HSA will bring forth talented individuals who will help guide the younger generations to be proud of their culture.”