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September 9, 1999
Dharma Sansad Seeks To Involve 2nd Generation Indian Americans
Arthur J Pais
When Swami Tatadmananda speaks of the recently-held Dharma Sansad he discusses one idea he felt resonated throughout the conference -- that the future of Sanatana Dharma in America will be shaped by the second and coming generation of Indian Americans.
As an American convert from Catholicism, Tatadmananda has special interest presenting Hindu philosophy to the West. He is also passionately interested in interacting with younger Hindus, offering them insights into the practical aspects of Hinduism. For instance, some months ago, he conducted a retreat for two dozen members of Network of Indian Professionals, teaching them meditation and stressing the need to slow down.
He was among more than 20 dharma gurus representing Hindu, Jain and Sikh faiths who attended the Dharma Sansad to review the state of Hindu religion in general and discuss ways to bring spirituality into the new millennium. A key concern was second generation Indian Americans and how they can be made active members of the congregation.
The Dharma Sansad was held at the sprawling Basanta Dhama in Austin, one of the most visited Hindu facilities in North America.
Tatadmananda reminded the religious leaders that the scores of Hindu temples and shrines built in the past two and half decades (at an estimated cost of $ 100 million) across North America will not serve useful purposes if the coming generations will have no interest in Hinduism.
One way to bring the young into the fold and keep them there was to explain to them Hinduism in a way they understand it, he added. Several practices have changed over a period of hundreds of years, he continued, suggesting in a lighter vein that there was nothing "heretical" if the young Hindus in America learn to chant Om Jaya Jagadish Hare as Om, Hail to The Lord of the World.
Stressing the need to teach the young to integrate spirituality, the Sanatana Dharma and success, Dr Kamlesh Lulla, a NASA scientist, said: "Our Hindu youth in this country is faced with a dilemma: Can they achieve the American dream and continue to be good Hindus?"
"The answer is 'Yes,' " he said resolutely.
"Achievements without spirituality are hollow. Achievements with spirituality are the true accomplishments."
To Vijay Pallod, a Houston businessman and father of three children, Dr Lulla's words were "more than inspiring".
Pallod, a governing council member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, said what was said and discussed that the Sansad had meaning for non-Hindus, too.
"If our children become spiritual, they can be example to children of other religions who can be spiritual in their own way," he said. "We need to have more religion in America. Our children will not have a good future without a strong religious and spiritual foundation."
Pallod, who is among the most vociferous critics of the re-edited version of a Xena episode which was aired last week, was at the Dharma Sansad with his friends, Tusta Krishnadas of the World Vaishnava Association, and Syamasundar Das of the Chaitanya Mission. Together, the three convinced the Dharma Gurus to pass a resolution against fictionalizing Hindu deities, and condemning Universal Studios for refusing to withdraw the re-edited version of the television episode.
Krishnadas said what was depicted in the newest episode of Xena amounted to "cultural imperialism." If the imperialism is not checked, he said, "the image of Hindus and of India will be tarnished beyond repair.
"We have to fight these demons who are kicking us in the face."
The younger generation was very much on the mind of Vishwa Prakash Tripathji who exhorted the gurus and the congregation to set examples for the young. He said parents ought to promise their children on their birthdays that they would each give up a bad habit and adopt one good habit. "The children should also do the same," he said.
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