Dharma Conference in New Jersey Showcases Hindu Religion, Traditions

The 2nd Global Dharma Conference held from September 11-13, 2015 at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, N.J. organized by the Hindu Students Council, brought to the limelight the rich traditions and contributions of Hindu religion to the world.

More than 1,000 people attended the event from 13 countries, including some 40 speakers on 14 panels, and numerous performers and artists, Nikunj Trivedi, chairman of the board at HSC and chair of the conference, said. The conference was largely a paean to Hinduism and what most attendees considered its seminal contributions in the history of civilization, and how those teachings were relevant today.

According to Mathematician and Field Medalist Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University, several inaccuracies in the history of science need to be corrected to recognize Hinduism’s contributions to civilization. He was among a multitude of world famous leaders who had addressed the conference. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal yoga instructor H.R. Nagendra, was one of the high-profile guests at the conference. Nagendra described yoga as a holistic science and dwelt on the Indian government’s efforts to draw global attention to it. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation speaking via video-conference from Bangalore Sept. 12, to a packed audience at Edison, said “dharma” could be used to build a conflict-free world.

A multi-faith panel “Dharma: A Framework for a Pluralistic World Order” included a Rabbi, a Buddhist monk, a Sikh, a Jain, and a Hindu. The Muslim panelist could not make it to the conference, Trivedi said. Panelists agreed there was a need for various faiths to learn to coexist by recognizing and respecting each other’s differences.

Bhargava said there were several misconceptions about the contributions made by Hindus to mathematics and science. In mathematics, for instance Bhargava contended the numbers used today should be called the “Hindu Number System” rather than Arabic Number System and the Fibonacci Sequence (of integers) outlined in the 12th century, should be renamed Hemchandra Numbers after Jain scholar Acharya Hemchandra who developed them 900 years earlier. The Pascal Triangle should be renamed “Pingal’s Meru Prastar” after the 200 B.C. Indian scholar who studied the metrics of verse 1800 years before French mathematician Blaise Pascal, Bhargava said.

Negative numbers and quadratic formula should both be named after 7th century astronomer Brahmagupta who first documented the algebraic properties of negative numbers and wrote the first full quadratic formula, the Princeton professor contended. And the seeds of calculus Bhargava said, were laid by 14th century Kerala-based mathematician Madhava, three centuries before Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. “So Madhava and the subsequent members of his school should be mentioned in any discussion on the foundations and history of calculus!”

Bhargava said in an email clarification sent to News India Times by organizers. The Princeton professor was on a panel with physicist G.N.R. Tripathi and computer scientist Subhash Kak.

At the opening plenary Sept. 11, keynote speaker Padma Bhushan recipient David Frawley, a Vedic scholar and founder of the American Institute of Vedic Studies said the Hindu heritage of yoga should be recognized and not cut off from the practice.

A Women’s Empowerment panel and a Media & Human Rights panel were well attended. Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, a former HSC member, was among the speakers and dwelt on her experience on college campus while growing up as a Hindu; Pratibha “Patti” Tripathi, former CNN anchor and media advisor to the conference, told Desi Talk Davuluri had made it fashionable to say “Hindu-American.”

 

“When I was a CNN anchor, we had to hide our ethnic identity. HSC celebrates their heritage. It’s great to see that sense of pride,” Patti Tripathi said. A panel discussion on India’s political system and how “Dharma” could help reduce poverty, featured University of California, Berkeley economist Atanu Dey, and Rajesh Jain, founder of NitiCentral who is considered the mastermind behind Modi’s “272” campaign strategy, the number of seats needed to win India’s general election.

Entertainers at the conference included flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, mandolin player U. Rajesh, ghatam player Giridhar Udupa, and percussionist Rajeev Mahavir, along with Rachna Sarang Academy of Performing Arts which performed classical Kathak, and a Balinese dance theater group which performed the Ramayana. The HSC honored Prime Minister Modi, Sri Sri Ravishankar and Swami Dayanand Saraswati in absentia with the Light of Yoga award, and bestowed it in person on Nagendra, for their contributions to globalizing the benefits of yoga.

The Conference was packed with panel discussions, yoga/pranayama and meditation workshops/sessions, prayers, demonstrations, classical concert, Bharatnatyam, Garba, Bhangra, Balinese dance, Kathak, etc. Students, young professionals and others from over 20 countries and 50 universities/colleges attended the event.

Topics covered at the Conference included Dharma’s role in Bridging Science and Spirituality, Women’s Empowerment, Showcasing the Arts, Media, Environmental Sustenance, Corporate Social Responsibility, Global Influences and Practices; Guide for the Inner Battlefield, Perceptions of Dharma in Academia, Contributions of Hindus, Youth Perspectives, Reconnecting Yoga to its Roots, Unity of Dharma, Dharma in the 21st Century, Yoga, Sanskrit, etc.

The Executive Committee of this Unique Hindu Unity Conference in US includes: Nikunj Trivedi, Ravindra Jaishankar, Shaivi Sukhadia, Sohini Sircar, Harshit Agarwal, Parth Parihar and Darshna Modi. The key organiser of this event, Hindu Students Council (HSC) is an international forum providing opportunities to learn about Hindu heritage and culture. It is the largest Hindu youth organization in North America, with over 50 chapters across university campuses. Over 130,000 students and youth have participated in HSC activities since its birth in 1990.

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