RENAISSANCE OF HINDU DHARMA
IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Realizing the Vision of a Great Acharya -- Formation of the
Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha in India -- Conclusions Formulated
During the Apex Conference -- What is Needed is a Collective
Voice -- The Second Conference at Mumbai -- Dharma Samstha
Pramukh Sabha -- Dharma Summit 2005 in the United States --
"Hindu Collective Initiative" -- Temple Issues,
Fostering their Health & Dynamism etc. -- Conclusion:
Recognizing the Wisdom in Uniting Ourselves
the Vision of a Great Acharya
Swami Vivekananda realized long ago the need of unifying the Nation
by bringing together various spiritual forces working on the Indian
soil. With an unfailing foresight, he showed the way for achieving
both solidarity and national integration. "National union in
India", declared Swamiji, "must be a gathering up of its
scattered spiritual forces. A nation in India must be a union of those
whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune."
Formation of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha
In realization of Swami Vivekananda's vision of unifying all adherents
of Sanatana Dharma, a sincere and first attempt was made through
the formation of the "Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha", an
Apex Hindu Body, three years ago in 2003. And, history was thus
made in Chennai starting on 29th November and ending on December
1st, 2003, when for the first time in modern Hinduism, the Heads
of Maths and Mandaleshwars from different parts of India got together
and deliberated upon the momentous issues facing the Hindu society
and the nation. They crystallized the collective Hindu consciousness
and spoke in a single Hindu voice. Thus, the Hindu Dharma Acharya
Sabha, a body which represents almost all the important Hindu religious
leadership in the country, has come about not a day soon. Swami
Dayananda Saraswati, the convener of the Sabha, who guided the proceedings
of the Chennai Sabha conference, highlighted the vision and the
mission of this Apex Hindu Body as well as the basis for its formation.
"Hindu Dharma requires one single voice" he declared,
and exhorted the assembled Spiritual Heads thus: "You are our
strength. You occupy a position, which is very significant. Your
participation, therefore, in this conference is very important in
formulating the resolutions. Later generations will take care of
what they need to take care of. But in our lifetime, we need to
make sure that this Dharma is protected; not only it is protected;
it is handed over intact without any damage to the generations to
issue with the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha was deregulating the Hindu
Religious and Endowments Act that gave the so-called secular government
in India total control over Hindu places of worship while it respected
the autonomy and self-governing features of the non-Hindu institutions
of worship; nor did the Sabha hold back on its objections to proselytization
as an innocuous projection of one's faith. Sanatana Dharma does not
seek to subvert, conquer or denigrate other religious persuasions
and faiths nor does it seek convert others into its dharmic traditions.
It was therefore resolved to appeal to the leadership of the proselytizing
religions in the country to review and change their theological disposition
towards Hinduism in order to promote harmony and avoid any conflict,
violence and disruption in Hindu society.
Conclusions Formulated During the Apex Conference
The following conclusions were formulated during the Apex Conference:
Proselytizing religions should not be allowed to erase the identity
and spiritual and religious Sampradayas of tribals, Adivasis and
hill tribes since these communities are far removed from the political
power centers, are inherently weak and thus deserving of state protection
for the maintenance of their spiritual and religious identities.
Social peace and harmony will prevail in the country only with correct
understanding of the concept of religious freedom, which means freedom
to practice one's own religion without having to feel the "religious"
need to denigrate the faiths of others. The latter obsession appears
to be unique to the proselytizing varieties of the Abrahamic religions,
particularly western Christianity and Islam.
The Acharya Sabha was not formed to antagonize any religion or
religious community in India. India's tradition of grace and charity
embodied in its Santana Dharma has always accorded from very ancient
times hospitality and protection to other non-Dharmic faiths rooted
in the western and or middle eastern religious traditions. However,
the Sabha recognizes now that it is high time that we evolve a strategy
to prevent the continuing disruption of Hindu families and the exsanguination
of Hindu Society by proselytizing faiths which are frequently bank-rolled
by foreign religious institutions or quasi-governmental foreign
agencies cloaked under the pretext of ensuring human rights and
religious freedoms of all people everywhere. In this context, the
Sabha believes that the world should be made aware of the innate
integrity of Sanatana Dharma to achieve precisely the same purpose,
viz., of ensuring that all human-beings everywhere should be allowed
to exercise their freedom of worship and pursuit of their spiritual
enlightenment in whatever manner they deem fit. The Acharya Sabha
was of the view that the spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness of
Hindu Dharma have been exploited by aggressive religions for too
long. The Sabha felt strongly that an organized and unified effort
must be made to preserve the integrity and strength of Sanatana
| The Sabha also
recognized that the Hindu society needs to be strengthened by ridding
it of birth-based caste-centric rigidities such as untouchability,
dowry-related atrocities on women, female feticide and infanticide
etc. Restoring individual dignity through education, employment opportunities
and empowerment of women needed reinforcement through the activities
of Hindu religious leaders. Justifiable and informed pride should
be inculcated in the youth of Hindu Society at being Hindus and to
understand that practicing Hinduism should not stop with the performance
of rituals but involve exemplary practice of values enunciated in
Sanatana Dharma. Such efforts should be directed towards the recovery
and rebuilding of places and sites of worship which are sacred in
Hindu memory -- temples, bathing ghats, pilgrimage centers etc.
is Needed is a Collective Voice
Swami Dayanandaji said: "Faced with militant missionaries and
missionary militants, Hinduism has to show that its plurality and
all-encompassing acceptance are not signs of disparateness or disunity.
For that, what is needed is a collective voice. In the Acharya Sabha,
it can find one. Quite simple, it is a Sabha whose time has come.
The idea of the Sabha is to become a massive movement of the people
of Hindu Dharma, with the primary focus on caring for the poor, the
downtrodden and the powerless. This is a commitment," he emphasized.
"But more than such caring proposals, the very fact that there
is now an umbrella body that has representation from all the important
Matams (Hindu monasteries) and Peetams (traditional religious establishments)
in the country will in itself send out all the right signals that
Hinduism is looking for."
Second Conference at Mumbai
In the second Conference of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha (held at
Mumbai, from October 16 to 18, 2005, at the initiative and under the
convenorship of Swami Dayananda Saraswati), Heads of ancient Samprdayas,
which collectively constitute Sanatana Dharma (Hindu Dharma) deliberated
on various issues of importance to Hindu Society. Sixty-four members
comprising Acharyas and Mahamandaleswars of several Peethas and Akharas,
from different parts of the country representing seventeen Sampradayas
participated in the Conference. Three major issues relating to the
sense of self-esteem and health of the Hindu Society were discussed:
The control of temples by the governments treating them as merely
charitable institutions and not as places of worship and cultural
values to Hindus world-wide; the rampant religious conversion in the
country, that is taking pace unabated, without let or hindrance from
governments; and the unjust reverse discrimination to which Hindus
are subjected by organs of State in the country under a wholly untenable
pretext of 'secularism'. The three day conference concluded after
passing unanimously several resolutions for future action
Samstha Pramukh Sabha
In this context it should be noted that there was another conference
of all Dharma Samsthas of India, which took place in Hyderabad during
December 4th and 5th, in 2002, under the banner of "Dharma Samstha
Pramukh Sabha". Representatives of 13 Dharma Samsthas participated
in the Conference and at its concluding session, 19 Dharma Samsthas
had given consent to become members of a Federation of the Dharma
Samsthas in India. In a historical context, one could say that the
Acharya Sabha in Chennai was a sequel to the Hyderabad Conference.
For the Hyderabad conference as well as the Chennai Sabha, Swami Dayanandaji
was the catalyst. He is also the organizer of the Mumbai Acharya Sabha
Dharma Summit 2005 in the United States
The Acharya Sabha's success in Chennai and its radiating effects
reached the shores of the United States to kindle a similar move
for the Indian diaspora there to come together as a united community
to safeguard the interests of Sanatana Dharma through the fostering
of solidarity among the leaders of Hindu Organizations and representatives
of the Hindu temples there. For the first time in North America,
400 participants representing more than 80 Hindu temples and religious
organizations came together for a Dharma Summit on August 13-15,
2005. The conference included Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.
The theme of the Summit was: "The Future of Dharmic Traditions
in North America." The concern that many young generation Hindus
in U.S.A. are not learning and maintaining Hindu traditions was
clearly evident throughout the conference that brought together
presidents and boards of trustees of many temples, Devalayas, spiritual
institutions, and organizations, together with many intellectuals
and committed volunteer leaders from throughout the U.S.A. The rich
mix of Swamis, intellectuals, temple trustees and youth leaders
provided a unique opportunity to exchange different viewpoints,
thoughts and ideas and share experiences on how to impart spiritual
and cultural education to future generations. They also discussed
the serious problem of distortion and misinformation about Hinduism
and India prevalent in schools, colleges, and in the media.
| A workshop was
organized by the Hindu University of America, which is starting a
program to train Hindu priests (Pujaris) to meet the expressed needs
of temples in the U.S.A. for priests who can also communicate with
the younger generation and with the interfaith community. Many of
the speakers associated with temples touched on the subject of integration
with the majority community, pointing to the need to be more actively
engaged in their neighborhoods and communities. It was observed that
a number of Hindu communities are living a rather insular life in
America, unaware of the religions of their neighbors and not really
trying to join into the mainstream or be part of their town or county.
Various speakers encouraged the temples to reach out more, to study
the philosophy, history and practices of the faiths they are surrounded
by, get to know the leaders of other religious communities, participate
locally through charitable programs, free clinics, free feedings and
the like. There was a strong youth presence from the Hindu Students
Council. Unfortunately, participation by women was less than the organizers
had anticipated. Legal aspects, media and interfaith relations, successful
temple management practices, and financial resource development were
also discussed. A plan of action was proposed to follow up on the
insights and recommendations generated in the earlier sessions.
"Hindu Collective Initiative"
The positive experience of this conference resulted in overwhelming
demand for a "Hindu Collective Initiative" that will allow
all Hindu religious organizations to work together to shape the
future of Hinduism in North America, raise awareness of issues,
and provide a platform for a united Hindu voice. Together they will
address issues such as promoting changes to enhance the participation
of the new generation, correcting biased and distorted views of
Hindu traditions in educational institutions and the media, improving
temple management, developing resources, enhancing the role of the
temple, and helping the temples and religious organizations to reach
out to the larger community with voluntary services (Seva) and education.
Saraswati, the convener and patron of the Dharma Summit outlined a
basic organizational structure for continued cooperation, envisioning
a Steering Committee to implement the goals of the Dharma Summit,
with the help of volunteers and supplementation of efforts by salaried
Temple Issues, Fostering their Health
& Dynamism etc.
Hindu temple issues, such as training of priests and their specific
duties with regard to ceremonies at homes, temples, funerals, weddings
etc and the division of duties among priests were discussed. Traditionally
in India, these are handled by two different groups of priests.
One performs temple ceremonies, the other performs all home ceremonies.
In the absence of adequate priests, many temples have priests from
either tradition performing both tasks, one of which they are not
often trained for.
The second is the recognition of the need for both teachers of
Hinduism and Counselors to deal with personal problems of devotees.
Priests are trained to perform neither of these functions, though
some priests have done both successfully.
Participants debated whether community members should be trained
to fulfill the role of spiritual counselors, or if the priests should
be so trained, with the general opinion favoring the former. Some
temple leaders recognized the "disconnect" between temple
priests and youth, and recommended that priests officiating here
get trained in American cultural ways and language, preferably even
while they are in India. It was reported there are 50 massive temples
in America and over 700 smaller ones. Media and community relations,
participation inter-faith groups, the legal aspects of temple management,
legal obligations of temple trustees including financial and fiduciary
responsibility, with a strong emphasis on liability, libel and defamation,
avoidance of litigation and effective ways of responding to hate
crimes were covered.
| The Bridgewater
Temple of New Jersey, which is just a 15-minute drive from the venue,
outlined an interesting program called the "Traveling Mandir."
The motivation here is to keep college-age children involved in Hinduism.
Their parents organized a one-hour temporary temple at the local college,
Rutgers in this case, on Sunday during the same time others are going
to Christian services.
| The importance
of volunteer help, especially under the leadership of women, was acknowledged.
In fact, it was said more than once that a strong contingent of selfless
volunteers is more essential than abundant finance to the health and
dynamism of a temple. Future financial security was addressed in discussions
about wills and endowments.
Recognizing the Wisdom in Uniting Ourselves
The above chronology of events are presented here merely for the benefit
of the attendees of the Second Acharya Sabha meet in Mumbai, India,
so that the participants can appreciate the energy, enthusiasm and
expectations of the efforts so far expended by the Dharmis and Acharyas
in furthering the renaissance of Sanatana Dharma both in India and
among the Hindu communities in North America. We realize that there
may be movements in other parts of the world where Hindus live and
work. We know for certain that in the United Kingdom, Hindus are well
organized. Hopefully, in the years to come, Sanatana Dharmis everywhere
will come together globally at regular intervals much as other religionists
do to protect diverse modes of worship in the preservation of their
respective cultures and heritages. As Sanatana Dharmis we applaud
all such conclaves of other religions but often neglect to recognize
the wisdom in uniting ourselves to highlight our innately pluralistic
approach to Godhead and faith without ever having to belittle or nullify
the faith of others
-- Swami Jyotirmayananda Puri
|1. "Hindu Dharma Acharya
Sabha: The Apex Hindu Body
-- Its Vision and the Mission" (Souvenir)
|2 .Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha
Conference 2003, (First Conference at Chennai):
|3 .Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha
Conference 2005, (Second Conference at Mumbai):
|4. "Arise, Awake and be
Vigilant to Safeguard Dharma"
|5. "Be better known about
India and Her Culture"
(Brochure released during the 'Dharma Summit 2005')
|6. "Shaping the Future
of Dharma in North America."
|7. Dharma Summit 2005 (Souvenir)
|8. "India Abroad"
(August 26, 2005)
| Top |