May 24-27, 2013, Schuylkill Haven, PA – Hindu Students Council celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda at HSC’s 23rd Annual Camp. Over 55 Hindu students and young professionals from 18 different universities across the nation gathered on Memorial Day weekend on the grounds of Vraj Bhoomi Mandir in Pennsylvania.
Attendees delved into Hindu Dharma through interactive talks with cutting-edge scholars of religion and engaged in discussions about Hinduism in America. Students debated about issues facing Hinduism on college campuses and how to address Western misappropriations of Hindu practices and philosophy without compromising its core Dharmic values.
“This year’s HSC camp was highly successful in terms of providing the education needed to bring Hindu youth back in touch with their cultural and spiritual roots. Far too many young Hindus go without access to the deeper teachings of their tradition and follow a diluted version learned by merely copying their parents,” said Ravi Jaishankar, President of HSC.
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena gave a lecture on the women-centric traditions of worship in Hinduism and the way such philosophies can help reshape our world. The lecture on Shakti and Tantric traditions led to a lively discussion regarding their application in contemporary life. And Dr. Jeffrey Long, from Elizabethtown College, gave an overview of Vedantic principles, which sparked a deep discussion about Hindu philosophical concepts that also link to modern science.
“HSC helps to develop a more foundational sense of what it means to be a Hindu by providing access to the various symbolic and spiritual teachings embedded in Hindu practices and philosophy,” Jaishankar explained.
Kanchan Banerjee, member of the HSC Board of Trustees, presented about misunderstandings regarding the caste system and discussed how the Hindu concept of Varna transcends hierarchical notions that have been linked to caste. And Aditi Banerjee, co-author and editor of Invading The Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies
in America, gave a talk about Lord Krishna’s teachings in the Gita on the idea that the Dharmic path can differ based on situation and context, unlike Western notions of absolute morality.
“It is great that the HSC National Camp brings together the community to reflect on important Hindu issues and to develop plans to thoughtfully cultivate Hinduism in the United States in the future,” remarked Neel Koyawala, Co-President of HSC’s University of Pennsylvania Chapter.
The camp’s spiritual, intellectual and social activities formed a deep sense of connection and friendship among the youth. Students participated in yoga, games, discussions, bhajans, prayer and temple visits. Attendees also were able to bond through a cultural celebration at night of garba and bhangra.
“I learned a lot about the different aspects of Hinduism and about myself in regards of to how I interpret it and apply it in my everyday life,” said Gayathri Kollipara, from HSC’s University of Michigan: Ann Arbor Chapter.