Monks Attend Uberoi Experts' Conference

Here are Acharya Arumuganathaswami and Sannyasin Sivakatirswami at the Uberoi Foundation Experts’ Conference, 2011. They are with Professor Siva Bajpai who is a member of the Foundation and a leading expert Indian historian who has been collaborating with with Hinduism Today for over 20 years.

In the past five years he has been working directly with Arumuganathaswami on the five chapters of what is now Himalayan Academy’s newest publication: The History of Hindu India. Sivakatirswami first contacted him back in 1991 to inquire if he would be willing to assist us with our work then on the Hindu Timeline and we have had him as a consultant in Indian History every since.

The Uberoi Foundation was created by Professor Mahinder Uberoi in 2006 when he passed away. Professor Uberoi ordered that his assets be used to establish a foundation “for the scholarly study of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and other related religions and their music and arts.” Visit the Uberoi Foundation web site for more information.

The foundation first began holding annual Experts’ Meetings in 2008 and this is third one. The Visions and Objectives statement of the conference reads: “The 2011 Uberoi Foundation Experts’ Meeting, “In Our Own Voices: Dharma Education in North America” seeks to facilitate the emergence of innovative/create theories, approaches, methods to education/scholarship in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh Dharma Traditions.

The conference was in it’s second day when tour swamis arrived to listen to the panel in progress: Strategic Planning and Coordination in Promoting Dharma Educations and Studies.

Here is Professor Damodar R. Sardesai who has been teaching Indian history since at University of Southern California since 1961, A highly regarded academician, he talked today about the problem of the future of Indian studies in America, where the current crop of highly qualified Academics are all nearing retirement age and the urgency of the need to encourage and mentor new blood in this field.

He noted that although many young students are interested in this field, they are often driven by their parents and peers into other professions. He noted that higher education is getting more and more expensive in the US. Students are now often exit their university study period saddled with $60,000 dollars of debt. He encouraged the Uberoi Foundation to work on strategies to provide scholarships to help induct new people into the field.

To give you some Idea of the high level of the participants, here is the conference write up on Professor Sardesai’s background:

Professor Damodar R. Sardesai has been at UCLA since 1961, first as a doctoral student (Ph.D. 1965) and since 1966 as a member of the History faculty. Before coming to UCLA in 1961, he received from the Bombay University his Bachelor’s (1952) and Master’s (l955) degrees, ranking first in Social Sciences for which he was awarded the Sir William Wedderburn Prize. In 1979, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Great Britain.

At UCLA, Professor SarDesai taught in the History Department as Assistant Professor (1966-69), Associate Professor (1969-77) and Professor of History (1977-94); Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Pre-Modern Indian History, 1998-2001 and as Emeritus Professor of History. His administrative service includes: Vice-Chair and Chair of the History Department; Chair, South and Southeast Asian Studies (ISOP) for 14 years; and as the first Director of the University of California’s Education Abroad Program in NewDelhi, India 1993-95. At UCLA, he served as member and/or chair of dozens of committees at the department, college and senate levels and on committees of UC statewide senate. Currently, he is a member of UCLA Senate’s Council on Research, 2002-2005. In 1971-73, he was invited to reorganize historical studies at the University of Bombay as Chair of its History Department. In 1998, Professor SarDesai was recalled by UCLA to be the first holder of the newly-endowed Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian History, a position he held until 2001.

Professor Subhash Kak spoke on the sobering fact that most of the teenagers from Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist temples are not participating in their faith activities across America. He noted the projected possibility that in twenty years, Hindu temples will be empty. He stressed the need to bring an experiential dimension to the foreground for young people. Simply giving them an academic intellectual education about Hinduism and rituals at the temples is not satisfying and a new approach to education in dharmic religions is needed to fill this gap.

Another expert, one of many with a long and illustrious career (see below) Professor Madhu Madhavan, describe a program that he has instituted in San Diego State University, which is a three week sponsored India study abroad program. He noted that countries like China and Japan had strong programs to encourage foreign studies to come and study there, but India did not. He said that the best way for American students to get a correct and proper view of India that was not biased by faulty information in American textbooks was to actually go to India and see for themselves. We offer this CV of “Madhu” as just one example of the many distinguished academics at this conference. We cannot possibly include them all in this slide show, but you can read about all the presenters and panelists here at on the Uberoi site

Professor Madhu Madhavan, known as “Madhu”, has had a very distinguished academic career for over half -- a century. In February 2010, he was conferred Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award for Community Builder and Peace Medal by Morehouse College and Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Atlanta in its 10th Anniversary year. On January 6, 2011, he was honored in New Delhi with Distinguished Community Service Award and GOPIO Medal by Global Organization of Persons of India Origin. He has been honored with many other awards and citations for his academic and civic contributions.

He is the recipient of record five Fulbright professorships to teach in Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia; was visiting professor at I.I.T. Madras, Madras School of Economics, Chennai, National Institute of Bank Management, Poona, Universiti Putra Malaysia and University of the Philippines; chaired UNDP Mission to India, member of World Bank Missions to Iraq and Greece and was Resident Scholar at IMF Institute. He has lectured extensively in many countries around the world.

He founded, with the support of his friends, San Diego Indian American Society in 1984 to establish Mahatma Gandhi scholarships up to $4,000 each for high school graduates (450 awards so far) in San Diego county irrespective national origin and funded by people of India origin and Mahatma Gandhi memorial lecture. The silver jubilee address was delivered by Raj Mohan Gandhi with Arun Gandhi in the chair. The society has funded projects both in India and the US.

His other civic activities include chairmanship of World Affairs Council of San Diego

He is a professor of Economics and Asian studies Emeritus, San Diego State University and Director, SDSU -- PSG India Study Abroad Program. He served the World Bank from 1963 to 1968 and Annamalai University from 1955 to 1960.

Professor Ved P. Nanda is a world renowned authority on International law. He is the current chair of Uberoi Foundation and widely acknowledged as for his dynamic driving leadership for the Uberoi Foudations’s mission. He was the MC for the conference. Here he is opening the post dinner presentations called “Partnership Strategies among Institutions with Related Goals” during which different organizations gave five-minute presentations on work was closely related to the mission of the Uberoi Foundation.

Professor Ved P. Nanda is John Evans University Professor and Thompson G. Marsh Professor of Law at the Sturm College of Law, University of Denver and serves as Director of the International Legal Studies Program there. In 2006 Professor Nanda was honored with the founding of the Nanda Center for International Law. He was also Vice Provost at the University of Denver from 1994-2008. He holds or has held numerous official posts in international, regional, and national professional and civil society organizations. In addition to serving as the Uberoi Foundation chair, he was the founding president of and is currently a Trustee of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of the Rockies (Denver), and is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Iliff School of Theology, Denver. He has received numerous national and international awards, including honorary doctorates from Soka University in Tokyo, Japan and from Bundelkhand University, Jhansi, India. He is widely published, having authored or co-authored 24 books in various fields of international law and over 200 chapters and major law review articles. Professor Nanda is a frequent guest on television and radio and writes regularly on international issues for the Denver Post.

The audience is every attentive even after a 13-hour-long day.

Professor Ramdas Lamb describes his newly created Dharma Academy which he calls a “satsanga” of academic who love the dharmic religions which provides a safe environment to academics to express their spiritual commitment to the Indic religious traditions. Professor Ramdas openly professes himself as Hindu and year ago when people told him he would have to change his name back to a Western name, he stood by his guns telling everyone openly. “Ramdas is who I am!”

He, along with Professor Rita Sharma also talked to the swamis about a growing interest in their students about Hinduism, becoming Hindu and taking up careers in Hindus studies. They see Kauai’s Hindu Monastery as a possible point of contact for these students who could come to visit and get a sense of authentic Hinduism happening in America and find out more about Hinduism today by way of providing them encouragement and support to go forward with their sense of Hindu identity and vocation.

Shri Diljit Singh Rana, “Lord Rana” is a British businessman and politician, and a member of House of Lords. He has set up a charitable foundation which runs the Sanghol Education Complex in India which includes religious education. He pointed out that what is called “modernization” in India is nothing but “Westernization” and he encouraged those involved in the field of education in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism to seriously consider focusing also on the youth in India itself. The current generation of young Indians in India are receiving very little education in their Hindu traditions; and unless we do something about it the transmission of dharma to the next generation in India will be seriously compromised.

Sivakatirswami made a presentation on Hinduism Today. He started by asking the 120 people present how many have been reading Hinduism Today. Virtually everyone in the room raised their hands.

Swami briefly share the history of Hinduism Today and Gurudeva’s vision for apublication that would help bring a global consciousness of the Hindu renaissance and foster international networking among Hinduism. He also described how our educational center sections are re-purposed for mass distribution.

On Sunday morning Panel Six was held: Dharma Education from Primary to High School Level. It was Professor Siva Bajpai who insisted that Acharya Arumugaswami must come to this conference to personally release the new History of Hindu India the he and Acharya had been collaborating on together for nearly five years. Prof. Rukmani (center) of Concordia University was a consultant for the book. We had shipped a few copies ahead to the conference and they were all sold out.

Here is the team that made it happen.

Arumuganathaswami was also one of the official presenters on the K-12 panel and presented a twenty-minute keynote.

He detailed this history of the California text book controversy, and the incredibly “insane” way in which the texts on India and Hinduism get into our children’s text books. Acharya in his capacity as managing editor of Hinduism Today has been following this issue in minute detail since 1991 and shared with the academics present the serious problems of how India and Hinduism are presented in the texts and how the process can be leverage for change. He concluded his presentation with a recommendation: “Here we have, for you, free of charge a new logo for you: the Uberoi Foundation Curriculum Review Board.” His recommendation was that the Uberoi could establish a board of academics that as a team could be a powerful lobby in presenting Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh demand for fair and accurate representations in our children’s text books. He pointed out that the issue has widespread ramifications: 3.6 million children get a dose of bad information on Hinduism and India each year in American schools. He received a standing ovation from the audience.

The conference concluded with the Uberoi Foundation honoring top scholars for their contributions to Dharmic Religions Studies. Here is Professor T. S. Rukmani receiving her award before departing early for her flight back to Montreal, Canada.

A picture with the Trustees of the Uberoi Foundation along with Katherine Nanda, Ved Nanda’s wife (left) and Rita Sharma (right), who presented the awards to honored scholars.

A closing picture of all the scholars who were honored.

When we left for the conference we did not know what to expect. We came away with inspiration and a sense of hope that we have been witnessed what one closing presenter said was “the beginning of a movement.” For a conference like this there was a very high level of focus on action, strategic planning and practical initiatives. These will all require a lot of follow up, both with strong financial support for the Uberoi Foundations work in the proposed areas of scholarships and other similar programs and serious seva commitments on the part of academics in this field who need to come out fearlessly to deal with the issues. If this can happen we may be at a tipping point where Hindus themselves take back control of the terms of discourse, dialog and intellectual landscape and content that is passed on to the next generation.


3 Responses to “Monks Attend Uberoi Experts' Conference”

  1. amma debora says:

    I wasn´t born in India, I´m not a hindu and yet I can see and appreciate how important this “History of Hindu India” is to many many children. It will give them a full picture of the people they belong to. Congratulations to Kauai´s Hindu Monastery, and specially to Ganapati Kulam team, for putting this book together.

  2. Chandrika Shanti says:

    Wow, totally awesome!

  3. Markandu says:

    A timely book for the entire Bharata Mata children to read and understand.
    Jai Bharata Mataki Jai!

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