ONTARIO, CANADA, September 24, 2013 (Press release): Over 250 adult and youth delegates representing over 85 Mandirs (Temples) and Hindu organizations from across the world attended the eighth annual Hindu Mandir Executives' Conference (HMEC) that was held from September 20 through 22, 2013 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. It was co-hosted by a record 44 Hindu temples and Hindu organizations from across Canada and the United States. The program consisting of 23 sessions with 115 speakers and moderators.
Addressing the participants by videoconference, Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukul said, "This get-together is bound to create better bonds and good networking among the people connected to the Hindu Mandirs across America and Canada." Swami Pratyagbodhananda from AVG stressed that religious thoughts should lead into practicality and spirituality and not dogma.
Twenty sadhus and sadhvis attended the gathering. The conference was inaugurated by Pujya Dada Vasvani Ji who talked about being proud of our rich Hindu heritage. The editor of Hinduism Today, Paramacharya Palaniswami addressed the important topic of "Hinduism in America - Promise and Perils." Sri Sri Ravishakarji of Art of Living Foundation and Dr. Pranav Pandya of Gayatri Pariwar addressed the conference via video messages and spoke about propagation of scientific aspects of Hindu rituals and practices and the role of the mandirs. Swami Parmeshananda of Bharat Seva Ashram who is a Hindu representative in United Nations spoke about how to bring Hinduism on World Stage.
Mandir issues were at the forefront of the discussion. Swami Shantananda of Chinmaya Mission stressed educating our youth and children on our faith, culture, values and their active participation in temple management. It is the mandir's responsibility to instill pride and spiritual greatness of Vedic knowledge. HAF's young lawyer Harsh Voruganti shared the upcoming changes in R1 visa regulation, building bridges with the local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies to ensure safety and security. Varsha Rengesh of Bhartiya Temple, Michigan, shared what has worked well for them for their outreach and seva programs that are not just limited to Hindus but serve the entire local community.
Members from Coalition of Hindu Youth led the youth session. Youth discussion was focused on taking small steps to make positive changes in our Mandirs, while keeping the long-term goal of networking in mind. They identified that culture, peace, curiosity and sense of community are some of the reasons why youth come to Mandir and requested Mandir executives to focus on creating an environment for youth involvement and empowerment. Varun Khanna who is doing his Ph.D. in Sanskrit at the Cambridge University spoke about the need for Hindu community to support Hindu Studies in Universities. Sanatana Dharma National Scholarships for youths in USA and Canada were presented at the conference by Tej Tandon of Om Temple, Massachucetts.
A number of activities and thoughts on advocacy of issues pertinent to the Hindu community were presented. While describing the accomplishments "Common Seva Divas across all temples" in which more than 80 temples conducted blood donation drives in memory of 9/11, Ms. Luz Rodriguez of Washington DC described the need for Bone Marrow registration drives through the temples. The Hindu Chaplaincy Initiative was discussed in detail at this conference.
In addition to the books on Vivah Samskar and Antyesti Samskar that are already published, HMEC plans to release Simantonnayan samskar and a Vrat manual for young couples in coming year. Vishal Agrawal of Hindu temple of Minnesota led the discussion on how to share and exchange various Bal Vihar and youth program material among temples in North America. The role of Vanaprasthi Network (HAVAN) and Priest Network in enhancing operation of Temples and Institutions was discussed. Dr. Lakshmanan of Sringeri Temple of Brampton led the discussion on the common by-laws for temples. Dr Doobeyji of Vishnu Mandir inaugurated the gala dinner that was organized in Ram Mandir for all delegates and invited guests of the conference.
The eighth HMEC deliberated on the following 4 resolutions:
1. Set up a Dispute Resolution Council to resolve & mediate disputes and conflicts related to North American Mandirs.
2. Denounce Indian Government interference in Hindu Mandirs in Bharat to preserve their sanctity.
3. Mandirs to develop strategies & implementation plans to Secure and Protect Hindu Mandirs in America.
4. Assist Hindu Health workers against treatments such as vaccines, etc. with non-vegetarian ingredients.
The Encyclopedia of Hinduism preview launch and parting thoughts were delivered by Swami Chidanand Saraswati. Arti Patel of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha spoke on the topic "Future is bright." A temple tour was organized for the interested delegates on Sunday morning. Delegates from Florida announced their plan to host HMEC 2014 in Florida which was applauded by all.