Dr. Raj Vedam

Scholar – Indian History
Co-Founder of think-tank on Indian History Awareness and Research (Houston, Tx),
Director, Arsha Vidya Satsanga

Dr. Raj Vedam , an acclaimed scholar and co-founder of a Think tank, Indian History Awareness & Research, based in Houston, highlighted how Hindu identity has steadily come to be defined not by Hindus but by others, subverting Hindu identity.

Vedam traced the roots of modern sciences, mathematics and technology and his findings contradicted western narratives that the Indian civilization’s knowledge of mathematics and science came from outside India.

One of the consequences of the “identity crisis” is growing attacks on Hindu identity by organized groups with huge funding from abroad and within the country.

The media and universities have also turned into “hotbeds of Hinduphobia.” Hindu student groups faced enormous backlash and anti-Hindu pressure by hate based organizations, Vedam said.

The western narrative peddled the view that Aryans invaded India, brought in the caste system, imposed a Vedic religion and drove the original inhabitants towards the southern part of the country. One of the direct consequences of the introduction of English in India was the discontinuation of publications of books in Sanskrit and funds were instead used for the propagation of English.

This distancing from Sanskrit meant that Indians could no longer connect to their roots, Vedam said.

One way to reclaim the Hindu identity, he said, is by becoming ambassadors to exemplify Dharma as a logical, rational, responsible system with solutions for global problems, living a dharmic lifestyle, learning about Hinduism, celebrating festivals, visiting temples, supporting scholars, institutions and organizing outreach talks and conferences.

Benny Tillman aka BalabhadraBhattacaryaDasa is a direct disciple of his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He serves as the first African American President of the Vedic Friends Association dedicated to the preservation, promotion and application of Vedic culture and philosophy.

Society, he pointed out, is confused about the real purpose of life, which according to Vedic teachings should focus on self-realization as well as material development. While living in this world we must learn to connect these two and that’s yoga. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just a form of exercise, it is much deeper than that, he said.

The uncertain situation in the world today presents an opportunity for Hindu leaders to offer practical solutions derived from the Vedas.

The need of the hour is to create a more accessible process to introduce Hindu culture and philosophy to the general public and reaching out to communities. He lauded the Hindu youth in Houston for their support in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Benny concluded his address with the one word that “encapsulates the entire Vedic culture” – Namaste. It is a recognition of the divine within each one of us and respecting the spiritual existence within us. We need to lift the word “Namaste” and teach people all over the world to use this to develop a better sense of love and respect for each other.

Among the highlights of the two day-webinar were eight enlightening panel discussions with well-known speakers – entrepreneurs, heads of organizations, religious leaders, academicians, dignitaries, and youth leaders.

Engaging youth in community service has been a cornerstone of the VHPA’s mission. Two panels: “Hindu Youth – Being the Change Today for Better Tomorrow” and “Evolving Nature of Seva (service) in North America” were dedicated to youth and volunteerism to focusing on their current relevance.

Other topics like, “The Hindu Woman as Sustainer of our Timeless Tradition,” “Influence of Hindu Heritage on Life Choices and Decisions” and on early teaching, “Learning Through play,” “The Role of Dharmic Houses of Worship – Challenges and Opportunities,” “The Power of Dharma in Action” and “The Legacy of the Hindus in North America,” were discussed. World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) had earlier planned Swarna Jayanti gala event to mark its jubilee milestone, however, the occasion had to be moved to September 2021 due to Covid-19 crisis. The virtual community conference served as a glimpse into the jubilee event planned next year

About 3,200 people registered and participated in the virtual conference.

“2020 is a landmark year for Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. Established in 1970, we have completed 50 years of leading and serving the Hindu community,” Dr. Abhaya Asthana, President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America said.

“That humble initiative of 1970 has blossomed into a formidable movement over five decades, with many Hindu organizations joining in partnership along the way. Every aspect of Hindu American life, for four generations, has been positively touched by VHPA through its visionary and transformational programs. As we stand at this crossroad, and behold the future, filled with aspirations and hope, we must also turn our gaze back on the amazing journey of 50 years, walking with Dharma in this land of America,” Asthana said.

“As a community, how far have we travelled on this four-laned highway of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha? Where are we? Where do we want to be? And, what do we have to do, to get there,” he asked.

Dr. Siddhesh Shevade, National Executive Director of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, congratulated all VHPA karyakartas for very inspiring 50 years of tireless efforts.

“In this reflection conference, we learned about many new dimension of Hindu Unity and realized needs of Hindu Society in modern times. As Hindu Americans, Let’s achieve those by our own efforts ‘SwayamevMrugendrata’ in near future. We achieve by our own efforts,” he said.

“Reflections@50: Walking in Dharma” represented a confluence of prominent Hindu thought leaders to do a “manthan” of the history of Hindu Americans in the last half century, and chart its course for the next half century and beyond, according to Dr. Jai Bansal , Conference convener.

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