Two of our swamis, Paramacharya Sadasivanatha Palaniswami and Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami, are attending the Sixth Annual Hindu Mandir Executives' Conference (HMEC) in Columbus, Ohio, today. This year, about 250 people are attending, representing Hindu organizations of all kinds from around North America, even one all the way from Australia.
The messages here are more mature and relevant than in past conferences. Youth are more seriously engaged, telling us their uncles have been listening and are now giving them full responsibilities in their mandirs instead of orders. There are over 70 youth delegates at the conference this year!
Sadhavi Chaitanya of the Arsha Vijnana Pitham gave the keynote address on how to look at the temple during the opening session last night. It was rousing, delightful, so witty and deep.
In the plenary session before lunch, Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami gave a presentation on the "14 Questions People Ask About Hinduism," our revised edition of "10 Questions" with four new questions and answers: “Is Yoga a Hindu Practice?,” “How do Hindus view other religions?,” “Why do some Hindu Gods have animal features?” and “Why do Hindus cremate the dead?” As Paramacharya controlled and read the graphic-rich presentation via wifi on his iPhone, everyone in the hall was captivated. The presentation was received well, with dozens of people coming up afterwards, thanking the monastery for providing these tools, especially "14 Questions." One gentleman from Orlando, Florida, said he has purchased 3,000 so far and used them as the central element for youth study sessions he holds at his temple and for distribution in the local community.
Our supply of 14 Questions pamphlets, just off the presses and shipped directly to the conference, was devoured within thirty minutes, some 500. Volunteers had put them along with a copy of the magazine on every station in the conference hall, and extras that were piled on a table outside disappeared within minutes after the session broke. The appreciation for what we do, the magazine, the resources of all kinds, is repeated again and again as we try to walk the halls--emphasis on try--stopping every 20 feet for another discussion with an inspired follower of Hinduism Today.
One of those hallway conversations was with Sadhavi Chaitanya. She told us about how they use so many resources from the monastery's website at her ashram, from the panchangam to the yamas and niyamas booklets and just about everything else that can be downloaded. We asked her to write up her wonderful talk from last night for an "In My Opinion" piece in Hinduism Today.
Another wonderful meeting took place with Swami Nikhilanand from JKP Radha Madhav Dham in Austin, Texas, whom we met at last year's HMEC in Houston.
Senthilnathaswami gave two warmly received presentations back-to-back today, one on "Hindu Heritage Endowment and Endowment Models for Mandirs," discussing the difference between quasi endowments and true endowments and the advantages of HHE, and another on "The History of Hindu India," discussing the ongoing issues with US social studies textbooks--the place in US public education curriculum where India and Hinduism are taught about--and how Hinduism Today's Hindu history lesson series, and a new release, The History of Hindu India, compiling all five lessons into one hardcover book, can be used as resources to help guide the slow change of curriculum standards as well as to provide supplementary materials directly to schools and social studies teachers. (Bulk copies of the history lessons can be acquired here.)
For up-to-date news on the conference, follow @HinduismToday and @CHYnetwork (Coalition of Hindu Youth, HMEC’s youth group) on Twitter, and for ongoing updates from the swamis’ travels, follow @KauaiMonastery.
Hindus believe there is one Truth, we just all don't agree on the name and nature of God. To compare Hinduism with other religions, you need to ask the orthodox practioners what their beliefs are. For example, one Christian minister explained that he believes we are fallen beings, not inherently good and need to be redeemed or face eternal Hell. Hinduism believes the opposite: we are divine beings with instinctive, intellectual and intuitive natures. Everyone will eventually become a spiritual being and attain God realization. That is about as far apart as we can get in beliefs. There is really no way that the two can be compared.