Delhi Media Conference

On November 21 we began a three-day Media Conference, one of seven parallel conferences during the Congress. We had been given the privilege of being the opening keynote speech and chose to give a 15-minute talk on Hinduism and yoga in the West, focusing on some of the evolutionary changes we have seen in the last 100 years. Tomorrow we will share some slides from that keynote.

The room was filled with the best and brightest of Hindu journalists, newspaper owners, entertainment and film producers and directors, bloggers and more. We learned some new words from the young bloggers--twitterati, tweeple, and more. One girl, about 30, posted 52,000 tweets in the last 12 months! That's 10 per minute for a 24 hour period. She had much to say about the future of digital communications, as did some bloggers, one of which was a 25-year-old man who is regarded as instrumental in the election of Prime Minister Modi, due to his vast blog following. He later came to our table, introduced himself and asked if hinduism Today would provide his team with constant content. "I saw your magazine. Amazing. We have all of the distribution, but are weak in content. You seem to have that more than most. Could you send me articles weekly?" Yes, I said….and Yes, I will.

We put 200 copies of back issues on the 20 tables where the media sat and by the second day, they were all gone. One man (see the slideshow) came on day two with this story: "At the end of yesterday, I took one of your magazines upstairs to my room, intending to scan it briefly. Three hours later I had read each page. As a devout Hindu, it was the most surprising delight of my journalism career. At 10pm I remembered there were other issues on the table, and dressed, going back down to the conference room to retrieve the others. Why don't you have an Indian Edition of Hinduism Today?" I explained. "Then let me do it. That's what I do, print media. let me do it." I explained we have a team that is not quite performing and perhaps one day I would turn to him. 

I was introduced by the organizer, Sunil Pandit, a brilliant scholar and media expert. My Keynote was received with soft applause, making me think it was not all that well received. But later, each one came forward to personally ask questions, share ideas, and such. Yoginathaswami theorized they were stunned by the graphically rich movie I played (and narrated), and that it took them a while to process it all.

Throughout this conference and also the larger Congress subscribers came up to enthusiastically introduce themselves, offer to write for us, etc. It is always amazing to see Gurudeva's vision at work in the wider world. How proud he would be to see the fruition of his hard work and that of his monks. Who would have imagined that from our little island we would be so well known on the other side of the world, so listened to, so appreciated. The new pride that Hindus are experiencing in India seems to be something we have prepared our whole life for! And it is here!

Overall there was a lot of criticism toward the mainstream media that constantly sidelining Hindus in their print and publication. There are loud and emotionally charged voices calling for this to change. India's Hindus want their media to give equal coverage and equal respect to them as to the minority faiths. They seem determined to make this happen in the years ahead. We went on record in defense of using Hinduism as the word for our religion, in India as well as abroad.
There was much about entertainment and its erosive effects on the mind and on the larger culture, much about the tsunami of data and information drowning out comprehension, much about tweeting , much about the oppressive and corrosive attitudes of the Indian press. But there was also much said about hope and possibilities, about the rising youth movement and its special talents, about the natural force and sway of goodness (dharma), much about a better future if we find creative ways to work together.

From Yoginathaswami: "People will stop Paramcharya every few yards in the wide and crowded hallways, asking are you from Hawaii? From Hinduism Today? I know Hinduism Today. I've been to Kauai Temple, I wrote for you some years back, etc. One of the unusual persons among these hallway interrupters was a lady on her way to give a talk about the worldly distractions of modern media. She stopped us and gently asked: "Do you know S. Rajam the artist. He is my uncle and is no longer with us."  Paramacharya of course give her a short history on Rajan and his artwork, sharing how he did hundreds of works of art for us over some 20 plus years. She had tears in her eyes, seeing how we appreciated her famous uncle so much. Turned out that she is an actress, with over 100 Tamil movies to her credit. Wish we had known she was a famous Indian film actress. Bummmer…we missed the photo op!"

More on our Keynote in the days ahead...

For those who want to know the excruciating details of the Media Conference and it goals, here is a long summation:

Mission Statement:
The aim of the Hindu Media Forum is to keep world informed through honest reporting as well as unbiased analysis of events taking place around the globe. To accomplish this goal, HMF will mobilize elements in the traditional as well as the emerging forms of media to come together on one platform.
A satirical quote from the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies sets the tone of the new world order. The power hungry villain in the movie, Elliot Carver, who is a media mogul bent upon world domination, said that "Caesar had his legions, Napoleon had his armies, I have my divisions; TV, news, magazines, and by midnight tonight I'll have reached and influenced more people than anybody in the history of this planet, save God himself." In addition, Carver said in the movie "Words are the new weapons, satellites are the new artillery." While meant as a satire, these lines have increasingly proven perceptive since the power of the media is rapidly replacing military power as the most potent force on the global stage. It is imperative Hindu society understand this changing dynamic, and adapts itself accordingly to this new reality. It is already common wisdom that "He, who controls the media, controls the mind of the people". Expanding this line, many people are now saying that "He who controls the information controls the world". This is supported by a careful analysis of the most powerful countries that reveals that in addition to their existing strengths, those countries have an almost unchallenged hold of the global media as well as the flow of information around the world.
While the Hindu community has established itself in many parts of the media, media institutions remain out of reach of many Hindus. In particular, important developments and issues concerning Hindu society do not get either proper or even the adequate coverage in current media scenario. This lack of coverage combined with the very small presence of voices advocating the interests of the Hindu community has led to the entrenchment of attitudes and mindset that are at very least unsympathetic to Hindu interests, if not downright hostile to Hindus. The active propagation of this adversarial mindset has already had and will further have a detrimental impact on Hindu society in several ways. The first way is that Hindus themselves will act adverse to their own interests based upon the information presented by a compromised media. The second aspect is that forces hostile to Hind society will gain in strength and credibility even within Hindu society, which will allow for the subversion of the Hindu community leading to its decay and downfall.
In order these alarming developments, HMF will devise strategies that will encourage those individuals advocating the interests of Hindu society to establish themselves in the existing media framework along with penetrating entrenched media institutions as well as promote the active creation of new media institutions that will respect the sentiments of the Hindu society and incorporate those sentiments when reporting and analyzing events that impact the Hindu community as a whole. HMF will provide an avenue for established media personalities and other experienced in the dissemination of information to share their expertise and experience with aspiring journalists, reporters, filmmakers, and people who desire to work in all aspects of the media.
The Hindu Media Conference will be conducted by the Hindu Media Forum. The theme of the conference will be "Establishing a robust Hindu presence in all forms of the media". The Conference will specifically focus on devising strategies for the expansion of the presence of Hindus in the existing media as well as the emerging new media. Delegates at the Conference will also deliberate on strategies to encourage Hindus to enter the fields of journalism, filmmaking, publishing, and other professions that are connected with the media. The Hindu Media Conference intends to bring not only journalists and other media personalities together, but also the stakeholders, executives, and important office holders of prominent media institutions along with government and bureaucratic officials connected with the dissemination of information so that they can also provide guidance and direction in charting a new course.
The conference will focus on the role of the print media, primarily in the form of newspapers, newsmagazines, scholarly journals, etc. that cover issues that affect Hindus. The conference will explore ways to establish the voice of the Hindu community in these publications. This will involve actively encouraging Hindus to undergo formal education in the fields of writing, journalism, publishing, etc. at already established colleges and universities as well as create institutions that can impart proper training in these fields. The Conference, while focusing on existing publications, will especially focus on dramatically increasing the number of print publications that cover the issues concerning Hindus as well as providing proper analysis of developments concerning the Hindu community.
The Conference will host a series of deliberations on the role of the electronic media in reporting the developments of Hindu society. Special attention will be devoted to the medium of Television. Television news channels, broadcasting in all languages, have a decisive impact on the public discourse due to its ability to instantaneously report developments that affect Hindus. The Conference will devise strategies in sensitizing Hindus to enter the fields of broadcast journalism, media related technology, and other pursuits concerning broadcasting. In addition to television news reporting, the conference will concentrate on strategies increasing the number televisions programs offering a specialized and more focused perspective of the news, such as in depth television interview programs, programs concerning the discussion and analysis of news events, and eventually the creation of fully fledged television channels that are devoted to broadcasting of policy discussions, in depth coverage of the political process, and a greater focus on developments concerning Hindus beyond the short snippets presented in news programs. The Conference will also focus on encouraging the art of documentary filmmaking, which will focus on issues affecting Hindus similar, which can inform the entire world of historical or contemporaneous events and at the same time instill a sense of pride and confidence in Hindu society.
The Conference will have a particular focus on strengthening the presence of the Hindu society on the alternate forms of media, including the internet, radio, and other emerging forms of media. The internet has since its inception been rapidly emerging as the most prominent means of disseminating information, particularly in developed countries. In developing countries as well, the internet has also been playing an increased role in bringing together dissident and disparate voices, as well as providing access to large amounts of information in very little time. In short, the internet has become part of the popular culture, and will rapidly become the primary source of information. It is vital for Hindus to entrench their presence on this vital medium. The conference will focus on bringing together the many individual elements within the Hindu community who have established themselves on the internet and are disseminating information about the Hindu community to share their experience and acquired expertise in this medium with the younger generation of Hindu activists.

World Hindu Congress in New Delhi

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. "

Bodhinatha’s Travels

A few photos from Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and Shanmuganathaswami of their travels in Singapore.

New Delhi Projects

The map shows a summary of our weeks in Bharat, from North to South and back north again. After Rishikesh and our bath in the holy waters--the glacially cold holy waters--we returned to New Delhi for two days of meetings with teams and individuals who are collaborating with us on projects. We settled into the Ibis Hotel, a new one built in a section near the airport called Aerocity.

Artists and distributors, swamis and IT experts all came to visit. We were also taken to Golak Dham by the disciples of Sri Gopal Sharan whose generosity brought us to India, our Hindu of the Year in 2009 and a dynamic force here and abroad. Golak Dham is his primary ashram here in New Delhi, and we took great joy in being with him and his shishyas, an unusually devout team of sadhaks. The ashram is a veritable park in the midst of the city, with peacocks and fruit trees, meditation paths and a perfectly delightful cow-dung kutir where Swami resides (temporarily we are told).

As with many ashrams in India Golak Dham is building-blossoming one could say. His current project is a goshala. Swami has made it a central feature of the ashram and built it in granite and stainless steel, so it is perfectly clean. He's make it two stories with a long ramp that allows the cows access to the upper level where they are fed and curried each day.

Almost everywhere we went this past month, the presence and protection of the cow was there. It seems to us, unverified but anecdotal, that the consciousness of cow care and propagation is reaching new heights here in India. Over the decades we have encountered many expressions of it, but not on this scale and not with this intensity. Today someone stopped us in the halls of the Congress at the Ashoka Hotel (story yet to be told) to share about a goshala in Virginia which we need to research for our article.

All the meetings in New Delhi proved fruitful, as you will see in the slideshow. So much more effective to have discussions in person, the old-fashioned way.

What follows is optional reading, a cute poem by a 14-year-old girl about her experiences milking a cow, composed in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe's Raven poem (monks who milk daily may find the following difficult to read to the end).

Once upon an evening balmy, with a book that did enthrall me, Lo! I heard my mother call me, call me from the lower stair. And with soft impatient moaning, then I laid my book down, groaning. And, since there was no postponing, ran to see what waited there.
Said my mother (small, but sturdy), "See, the clock now says 6:30. Go put on your barn clothes dirty, and your boots so big and strong, for the cows are nicely waiting, and their cuds they're masticating, and their milk's accumulating in the udders, all along."
Thought I, "Mother, so deluded, from this happy task excluded, your ideas may be disputed by the ones that truly know. True, the task may be quite pleasing, warm milk from the udder squeezing, listening to the rhythmic wheezing, and the chewing soft and low.
"True, some cows may come politely, with their long tails moving lightly. Coming calmly, daily, nightly, steps so dignified, so sure. But the other has to vent her anger on the one who's pent her... If she does decide to enter, coverall things with manure."
From the green and tender pasture, she runs fast and then runs faster, fleeing from her irate master, jumping fences, dodging trees, plunging deep in mud and water to escape from those who sought her, and when you have finally caught her, thick with mud up to her knees.
Finally to the barn you lead her, and you truly want to beat her, but to quiet down you need her, so the milk will gently flow. So you pat her and you stroke her (though you greatly want to choke her) and to peaceful calm provoke her, speaking quiet, speaking slow.
All to failure come your ruses. She to settle down refuses and inflicts upon you bruises with her hard and filthy hoof... With her tail so wet and muddy, sharply swats at everybody till your stinging face is ruddy and you want to hit the roof...
Wildly panting, wildly glaring, from her hot eyes madly staring till it takes an act of daring to draw close and wash her off. With warm water then you flood her, gently cleanse the miry udder, hose the dirt into the gutter, dry her with a downy cloth.
All at last is calm and quiet. She licks up her grainy diet, so you settle down to try it with the milk pail 'twixt her knees, milking quickly, leftly, rightly. She is standing quite politely with her long tail moving lightly, quite as calmly as you please.
And the milk comes smoothly, surely. She is standing quite demurely, with her tail so long and curly swatting gently at the flies. Suddenly you feel a shudder . . . hoof moves swiftly past the udder, tips the pail into the gutter, leaves you blinking in surprise.
Then with rage your heart is seething and your lungs have trouble breathing, but her sides are calmly heaving, calmly swishing is her tail. Try to milk with hands aflutter, but you squeeze an empty udder, for the milk is in the gutter, so you set aside the pail.
So you step up then to loose her, to departure to induce her, but disdaining thoughts of truce, her foot is planted on your toe. Frantically you pound her, screaming . . . quite unmoved she rests there, dreaming. Finally, pain enough it deeming, placidly she turns to go.  
Trudging home in evening's hour, longing vainly for a shower, feeling tired, sore, and sour from the fracas you've been in, though you know you should not borrow trouble from the unknown morrow, yet you know, with certain sorrow, you must do it all again.

Ashram on the Ganga

For decades we have enjoyed a rare and close connection with Swami Chidanand Saraswati, whom all endearingly call Muniji, the head of one of the great ashrams in Rishikesh and our erstwhile Hindu of the Year. We are eager to visit them and to join in the famed evening arati to Ganga Mata that they hold every night.

We cross the bridge and walk through the narrow streets that lead to this amazing place, sitting with Muniji and his able administrator Sadhvi Bhagavati for a few minutes before the call comes that all have gathered at the water's edge.

Muniji guides us to the ghat where hundreds have gathered and where that very day 12 priests chanted the Hanuman Chalisa for twelve full hours, 54 rounds that they will repeat tomorrow.

Such a sweet way to be with the river and with devotees of the highest caliber. Hours pass. Devotees come to their guru's garden to ask questions, seek counsel and blessings, offer gifts and service. Swami speaks a lot about the need for toilets in India! A surprising but much-needed subject that is dear to him. He even has a bio toilet experiment that he shows us, right in the ashram.

A lovely way to end our day in Rishikesh. Jai Ganga Ma!

Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.

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