Convention'06: Summary of events

The World Brahman Federation (WBF) held its second Annual Convention on July 7, 8 & 9, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza, Monroe Twp, New Jersey. The theme of the convention was ‘ Sanatan Dharma of the new millennium’. Prof. Ramanath Sharma, author of six volumes on Panini, said that this convention should be remembered for a long time for bringing the excellence of Brahmanical knowledge at one place, and at one time. It was truly a family oriented fun filled three day long extravaganza that attracted about 200 Brahmans of all ages coming from far away places such as Hawaii, California, Texas, Canada, and India. On this occasion, AGlimpse of a Tragedy without an End, an exhibition on Kashmir and plight of Kashmiri Hindus, designed by award-winning journalist and author Francois Gutier, was also on display.

Mr. Ashok Trivedi, Chairman of iGate Global Solutions, who came from India to give the keynote address, took his audience to a journey of ‘from rags to riches’. In his talk, he explained how due to sheer hard work, and good forward thinking they were able to translate a concept to a global enterprise. He asked the younger generation to treat time as money and be frugal with both. He cautioned the future aspiring entrepreneurs that it is a long way from a good concept to a successful company. 

In his inaugural address, Dr. Srinivas Yegnasubramanian, the Chairman of the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, USA, and the Sanatan Dharma Foundation, USA, declared that if Vedic Brahman priests were to perish so would the dharma itself, the root of Indian civilization. He further stated that it is not the Veda itself that needs protection, it is the Vedic Brahman priests who have kept the Vedic tradition alive for centuries. In his inspirational keynote address, Dr. M G Prasad, Prof. at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ, said that Vaidic Dharma was not only ‘Sanatana’ meaning eternal but also ‘Pracheena’ meaning ancient, and contemporary, all at the same time. He challenged those who interpret Varna Vyavastha or social arrangements with the caste system. He quoted Bhagvat Gita, and the commentary of Sri Adi Shankaracharya on Bhagvat Gita to describe the relationship between Guna or the quality and Varna. Prof. Ramanath Sharma, said that Brahmana Dharma is not a religion but a value system. Dr. B. N. Hebbar, Prof. of Religion, George Washington University, gave a thought provoking talk in the developmental history of philosophical schools including Buddhism and Jainism. 

Saroja Hanasoge, a Ph.D. student at Columbia University, ruffled the feathers of the stalwarts of Brahmanism this year again by saying that accepting the community norm was actually non Brahmanic. Jaldhar Vyas, a British born, 35 year old, Gujrati Brahman, an IT professional, and a practicing priest at the same time, defended the classic definition of Brahmanism and Brahmanatva. He further said that leading a dharmic life enables one to understand Brahman, the ultimate truth. Dr. Ravi Chandrasekhara, a very young Brahmana, an expert in internal medicine in Dallas, Texas, who is also well versed in Vedas and Upanishads, suggested that we should honor those who have noble character but not a Brahmana by birth, and asked of those who are Brahmana by birth to live up to the ideals of a Brahman. Sailesh Mishra, another young man from Dallas, Texas, an IT professional and an editor of Brahmodaya, the souvenir magazine, proposed for a day to be declared ‘Brahman Day’ and considered it necessary for Brahmans to preserve their identity. He also faulted successive governments of India for the miserable conditions of Brahmans whom he called, Dalits of India today. He talked about his own experience in which he was denied admissions in India’s top schools in spite of receiving very high marks in the exams, due to his Brahman heritage. 

Dr. K Ramkrishna, former president of North American Sankethi Association (NASA), presented Vedant in a very systematic way which was very informative to the general audience. Mr. Umesh Jois, founder of Omkar Foundation spoke about the Hindu religious services program that his Foundation offers to students in colleges. He asked the audience to volunteer for conducting these services at a college in their area. He further went on to say that the program has been made so simple that no special priest training is required.

Dr. Rabinder Koul, representative of Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA), spoke of the history of Kashmiri Pundits, and the atrocities that are being committed on them on a daily basis by the terrorists. He also spoke about the miserable condition under which 250,000 or so Kashmiris are living in refugee camps in Jammu and New Delhi with no end in sight. His feelings were echoed by another speaker, Captain Surendra Tiwari who had served in Kashmir. Mr. Aswath Hanasoge talked about the threats that the Brahman community was facing both here as well as India. He strongly felt that the only way left for us was to come together as Brahman, and also educate the masses about the issues that are important to us.

There were several youth breakout sessions, and the feeling of this group was described accurately by Mrinal Shukla, a 20 year old student at Emory, “I arrived at the convention with no expectations and I leave today with much to reflect upon as my Brahman identity grows. This convention is a scholarly gathering in which a youth can get lost in the abstract ideas, however, each individual at this convention appealed to my generation because we shall carry our faith and tradition into the future. This is a difficult responsibility and we must all work together to make improvements and strides towards this passing of the torch”. Ajay Malaviya, a 22 year old RPI graduate, felt that the convention lived up to the part of the WBF mission which was to educate the next generation about our values, and asked for more work shops in future conventions. One of the work shops was organized by Dr. Vanita Shastri,, an executive director of Meru Education Foundation. The work shop for the very young was organized by Sandhya Dwivedi. There was also a well attended poster session held for youth in which the topic was ‘My trip to India’. 

Breakout sessions were held also on a range of topics such as health and fitness, corporate ladder, and conversational Sanskrit. Dr. Jayram, a medical practitioner in the US Army, made a presentation on diabetes which is quite prevalent with the middle age Indian men and women. He was joined by Dr. Ravi Chandrasekhara, an Internal Medicine practitioner, talked about recent advances to combat diabetes. Ms. Ranjana Pathak, vice president, Endo Pharmaceutical, the Industry Rising Star award winner, said that for one to be successful in the corporate structure of America, one must exhibit certain attributes such as awareness, perseverance, interpersonal savvy, resilience, conflict management, advanced communication, energy, and clear and direct communication with compassion. A hilarious one hour session on learning conversational Sanskrit was held by Shekher Shastri.

With 40% participation rate for families with origins in South India, Nirmalendu choubey, the president of WBF, declared that the linguistic divide was a thing of the past. He further said that the Brahmans of the world were united against atrocities committed on Kashmiri pundits, and vowed not to take rest until each and every one of them returned to their homes in Kashmir. He also called for all Indians no matter where they were to work with the Brahman community to secure a merit based India in the field of education as well as job opportunity. Dr. Azad Kaushik, professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, the president of newly formed unit, WBF Canada, echoed the same sentiments in his ‘vision for WBF Canada’ address, and stated that Brahmans must take up again intellectual, spiritual, cultural, economic, and socio-political leadership in India, and across the globe. The President urged everyone to attend the WBF-sponsored World Brahman Convention 2007, being held in Mauritius , on December 20 & 21, 2007. 

In the organizational meeting, WBF Initiatives were discussed in detail and it was agreed that WBF should bring out a booklet on what prayers and rituals their children must learn, create a fund to improve the education of priests, facilitate learning of Sanskrit, develop tools to popularize WBF Initiatives and combat misconception.

Under its community outreach program, WBF held its first Kavi Sammelan in which the Indian community of the NJ area was invited, and they attended in large numbers. It was organized by Anoop Bhargava, a great Kavi himself. The star of the evening was Abhinav Shukla who came from Seattle, Washington. Amongst the poets who entertained the audience, was Dr. Vinod Tewary of Boulder, Colorado. The second Kavi Sammelan included Surendra Tiwari.

This year again, Dr. Anita Dubey organized a cultural program. The program included two vibrant Bharatnatyam dances ‘Krishna Nivedanam’ and ‘Shiv Tandav’ by Gayathri Suswaram, a student at Rutgers, and also a student of Ms. Geetha Prasad, an invocation to Lord Ganesha by Meghana Simha, Shlokas from Bhagwat Gita by Arpita Gorur, Bhajan from Malika Jois, a ‘Mangalam’ dance by Ranjana Pathak, bhajan by Ms. Asha Janardhan, a prominent teacher of Karnatic music, and dances to the tunes of Bollywood music by Sanjana Ojha and Meeta Mishra. The evening ended with after dinner entertainment by Umesh Jois songs to Karaoke music which brought the entire audience to their feet led by none other but Ranjana Pathak. Ms. Tripti Pandey, an eloquent speaker and promoter of Rajasthani art was an invited guest who emceed the keynote address cultural program session. 

On the occasion of the convention, a 96 page souvenir magazine, Brahmodaya, edited by Dr. Ramanath Sharma, Anoop Bhargava and Sailesh Mishra, and a 16 page preconvention issue of newsletter, Eko’hum, edited by Dr. Vinod Tewary, were also published. The articles written by prominent scholars in their fields were found to be inspiring as well as exhilarating. 

World Brahman Federation was established in year 2000 as an umbrella group, and is registered in the state of New York as a Not-For-Profit organization. Apart from annual conventions in North America it also holds international conventions worldwide. The last international convention was held in New Delhi in India in 2003, and the next one is planned in Mauritius on December 20, 2007. WBF has units in India, Nepal and Mauritius, along with one recently formed in Canada. Additional details are available on its website: www.brahmanworld.org 

For additional questions please contact Mr. Nirmal Choubey, President (609-792-5927), or Mr. Sanjay Tripathi, Convention Director, Asstt. General Secretary and Press Secretary (732-979-3022).