Back in October, just days before Yoginathaswami and I were to leave for India, the Vishva Hindu Parishad urged us to stay an extra week in India for the most important Hindu congress ever, offering to pay our expenses and also give us a Keynote speech in the Media Conference. With Bodhinatha's blessings, we said yes and during the days before the Congress were able to go to Rishikesh, and have critical meetings in New Delhi.
The World Hindu Congress 2014 proved to be an amazing gathering, held at the prestigious Ashoka Hotel. Swami and I were deeply moved by the spirit of the Congress, replete with calls for cooperation, optimism for Hinduism's future and a palpable sense of hope and good will. Many business men and entertainers came forward to express their love of Hinduism and Indian culture and history, many who had before hidden their Hinduness for many complex reasons.
In fact, one of the fascinating subtexts was what I called the Nomenclature Wars, rousing (I mean really forceful) demands that the word Hindu never be used, the women's group calling for the use of "Indian civilization" in its place. On the other side, our own sharing of Gurudeva's attitude about this, a call for taking possession of the "H" word with pride and purpose. We tried (probably with little effect) to explain how this renunciation of the name of our religion looks to observers outside of India, and how much of a fairytale it is to hope to change the name of our religion in Webster's dictionary. Of course, some argued, as we knew they would, that it is not a religion at all, but a culture and lifestyle. Hmmm! Our term, "the 'H' word," went a bit viral and was repeated in other sessions including the concluding plenary. Hindus are really conflicted about the name.
The presence of the Dalai Lama at the opening ceremonies was a highlight. The spiritual leader of the Tibetian Buddhists said some interesting things: "I regard Buddhists as the chelas of India's ancient gurus, who were among the greatest philosophical minds of humanity. In fact, Buddhists are reliable chelas, and modern-day Hindus may wish to return to the study of scripture and a non-consumerism way of life. I can say, honestly, that I am a good Hindu." This group loved such commendations from an eminent world leader, and it set the pace for the many sessions to follow.
The mood of the moment was one of promise, and it was noted that now, for the first time in 800 years, India has as its leader a Hindu, and a devoted, bold and disciplined Hindu at that. The election of Narendra Modi some months back has set the entire nation on a new arc toward a future that many Hindus had lost hope of ever seeing. Now that hope has been rekindled, and speech after speech spoke of the possibilities ahead.
The room was filled, every seat taken and people standing in the aisles and hallways, something rarely seen at any conference. After to opening plenary, the delegates broke up into seven parallel conferences which sought to embrace the fullness of Hindu dharma: economics, politics, media, women, youth, education and human rights.
The Congress is the brainchild of the 50-year-old and infinitely dynamic Swami Vigyananand, who gave a rousing opening speech. Swami has spent years working toward this day.
Two reports follow, one from Yoginathaswami and another from Rahul Chandra of World Hindu News.
Yoginathaswami: "You could not enter the giant hall secured by armed guards unless you were registered participant. This is because of the security for Dalai Lama who is one of the guests for the inauguration. An interesting point in Dalai Lama's speech was that he openly admitted that Buddhism is the chela of Hinduism. He then added, the chela is doing fine to keep the tradition going but the Guru is not. Hindus need to work harder to keep the Sanatana Dharma tradition and religion intact."
World Hindu News: "World Hindu Congress 2014 was completed successfully with more than 1600 Hindu leaders from 50 countries participating. The mammoth congress had seven conference agendas, 45 sessions, 1500 delegates and 200 speakers from 50 countries. The conference reverberated the Hindu resurgence globally and enabled Hindu leaders and representatives from across the globe to share solution models for Hindu social, political, youth, women, business and media requirements. "