First Hindu Mandir Pandits’ (Priest) Conference (HMPC) -2012
Over 32 Pandits and 40 adult and youth delegates representing more than 20 Mandirs (Temples) and Hindu organizations, from across the county, participated in the First annual Hindu Pandits’ (Priest) Conference (HMPC), from April 27th through 28th, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA. The First HMPC was hosted by The Hindu Jain Temple (HJT) & Sri Venkateswara Temple (SVT), Pittsburgh PA and organized by World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and Hindu institutions. Delegates ranged in ages from teenagers to those in their seventies and came from a variety of ethnic and career backgrounds. The Theme of the conference was .Role of Pandits in Sustaining Dharma in America.. The objective of the HMPC is sustainability and advancement of Sanatana Dharma by making the modes of worship meaningful and relevant for the younger generation of Hindus. The conference provided an opening for better understanding between the Hindu Pandits in North America and Hindu devotees in terms of mutual support and empowerment. Conference began with group chanting of Ganesh Atharvashirsha by all the Pandits. The praasaad (hall) of Hindu Jain Temple was filled with divine vibrations. Krishna Sharma, Chairperson of HJT and GG Hegde, Chairperson of SVT welcomed all the delegates. In his opening remarks Pandit Suresh Joshi of HJT said, .I welcome all the delegates who are working towards sustenance of Dharma through Mandirs.. In his keynote address on elevating the profile of Pandits’, Pandit Roopnauth Sharma of Canada said, “The mandir belongs to the people (devotees) who come to the mandir.” He proposed to accomplish this by making the Pandit a key figure in the sustaining of spiritual and cultural element of North American Hindu society and providing the infrastructure and opportunities for personal development and growth of the Pandits within the organization and community. He stressed on the important role that the Pandit has as a performer of religious functions, as a teacher/counselor, as a mandir executive and as a community leader. “We must collectively define a career path and opportunity for growth for the Pandits in North America.” Sessions included a variety of topics relevant to the Mandirs, Pandits and Youth . tomorrow.s torchbearers of Sanatana Dharma. Topics included .Pandit Adjustment, Growth and Development., .Serving the Youth and Young Couples., .Compensation, Benefits, Housing, Long-Term Service Issues.. Bhakti Mehta of Coalition of Hindu Youth (CHY) and Harishwer Balasubramani of SV Temple youth group jointly said, “Having a level of comfort between Pandits and youth will create a home in our mandirs.” During his speech Pandit Ram Hardowar of NY drew applause by quoting, “In Hindu dharma we don’t have GOD. We have BRAHMAN, we have ISHWAR. Let us use the words that have a meaning for us.” Sadasivanatha Palaniswami of Kauai’s Hindu Monastery (Hinduism Today) presented the Hindu Jain Temple youth group with rudraksha beads to plant them on temple ground. Pandit Murali Bhattar of MN demonstrated his iPad and highlighted the role of technology in Pandits. duties. In her parting thoughts Swamini Svatmavidyananda of Arshavidya Gurukul said, “Doctors and healers, for example, cannot say that they have clients, and neither can teachers. Likewise, the priests also do not have customers. Themselves being in service of Ishvara, they serve other devotees.” She added, “In the North American context, the priests face certain unique challenges of negotiating linguistic and cultural barriers. To address these issues, my guru, Pujya Sri Swami Dayanandaji has planned a priests’ training course at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Florida.” In the concluding session of the conference, delegates agreed on two resolutions: 1. Form a Hindu Mandir Pandit Sabha (a think tank) to enhance to facilitate communications and knowledge exchange. 2. Formulate an exchange program to observe and learn from Operation and Spiritual activities of other Temples. Pandit Venkatacharyulu of Sri Venkateswara Temple and Mahendra Bhalakia of Hindu Jain Temple thanked all the delegates, volunteers and the organizers for a wonderful first ever Hindu Mandir Pandits’ (Priest) Conference (HMPC) in the USA.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America (VHPA), founded in 1970 and incorporated in the state of New York in 1974, is an independent, nonprofit, tax- exempt and volunteer-based charitable organization serving the needs of Hindu community in USA. It aims to build a dynamic and vibrant Hindu society rooted in the eternal values of Dharma and inspired by the lofty ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, i.e. the entire creation is one family.