Many youth activities take place around the country but not many are actually inspired and organized by the youth themselves.
One such team of took it upon themselves to bring together the Yuva around the New York tri-state area for the third installment of Hindu Youth Conference HYC in progressand challenge them both mentally and physically with the theme of "Hindu Awakening". So how did they go about organizing such an event for youths between the ages of 13 to 25?
Well, it starts by selecting a place to meet and getting parents interested enough to pay the deposit for the place! Regular weekday conference calls supported by hundreds of email between the team and sub-committees to plan the program down to the finest detail and finally to execute those plans. It's interesting to note that this is the third such youth conference each one progressively improving on the previous in quality and quantity.
You can talk about "Hindu Awakening" or you could act on it. Vigorous morning exercise and team games brought the 60+ attendees closer. A mini crash course on Samskrit allowed them to follow the instructions and get organized quickly.
Getting everyone to talk and discuss the Misconceptions of Hinduism was done creatively as only youth can again through another game; a game of charades where teams had to first identify the misconception through acting it out and then expand on it. It gave a chance to look at topics like cow worship, wearing of bindhi, re-incarnation and many gods versus one god. By studying these issues, the youths are arming themselves if they're ever questioned on them by members of our host nation. The western faiths are continually belittling Hinduism using these arguments.
Quite often, in the western world, there is no formal training in Hinduism. We have temples where we do Bhakti but if you do not have access to a Hindu monk or someone who has knowledge in Hinduism, your questions are likely to remain unanswered. The youth at the conference created another forum to talk about Hinduism and that is through group discussion.
This is an open session where any topic related to Hinduism can be brought up and discussed amongst the youth only. There was even a session to learn the art of Raas/Garba, a Gujarati dance celebrated during Navratri.
In this conference, the youth were lucky to have an eye-opening presentation on Bharat Darshan presented by Dr Yelloji Mirajkar. Through a PowerPoint slide presentation, Yelloji used western facts to prove many ancient myths about Hinduism and gave validity to the theories on Ramayan and the Mahabharat as well as a whole host of other interesting facts.
Under sea explorations, NASA satellite images and chemical make up of water in the Triveni-Sangham shed any confusion about the existence of Dwarka, Bridge to Sri Lanka and existence of River Saraswati.
Sri Saumitra Gokale, a Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) pracharak, gave a short but inspiring talk on the role of Hindu Youth. Quoting examples such and Vivekananda, Adi Shankaracharya, Ram, Laxman, he explained that in history, it is the youth that had done more for dharma than others. "The youthful energy has achieved great things in the past and is still capable of achieving great things today" was his message.
Srimati Sonal Shah was the chief guest and concluded the day with a definitely "awakening" in the youth. Through her humorous yet serious talk, she exposed the hypocrisy of the western way of life highlighting its wasteful ways and compared them to the simpler but more genuine life in India.
She mentioned how Indians would sacrifice whatever they had for their guests but we in the west cannot even sacrifice a little time for them. Her message was simple but inspiring and paved the way for the all attending the conference to begin thinking about what they can do to help.
It is said that Hinduism is not static; it doesn't have just one set of scriptures, rules etc. It is ever evolving, expanding, even correcting and adapting through the ages. Through the Hindu Youth Conferences, today's Hindu youth in America are exploring the beauty of Hinduism.
Perhaps the Hindu Parents need the awakening and further support their children in this venture. If the current trend is anything to go by, then the next conference will require a place that will hold at least 120 participants!