May 31, 2016. Walden, NY: Over 25 students and alumni from eleven universities, including four Ivy League schools, gathered on Memorial Day Weekend to discuss the goals of life according to Hindu philosophy, how to answer tough questions about Hinduism, the role of women in the Hindu tradition and many other topics. Hindu Students Council (HSC), the largest Hindu youth organization in North America, hosted its 25th Annual Camp at the beautiful grounds of the Shanti Mandir, in Walden, NY.
The Annual Camp has been a hallmark of college youth summer activities since 1990, providing them a forum to discuss various spiritual and philosophical topics, enhancing their knowledge about Hindu heritage and history and allowing them to relax and rejuvenate with Yoga, meditation and Bhajans (devotional songs). Campers also develop strong bonds with others that are on the same wavelength and face the same challenges on campuses as well as off-campus.
“As Hindu college students/young professionals, we are constantly faced with the dilemma of finding a balance between our moral values and the cultural values of our adopted homeland,” shared Mahika Jhangiani, a student at University of Connecticut and a first time camp attendee. “Being around like-minded people who are facing the same struggles as me put things into perspective and helped bring clarity and a new vision to my life’s journey.”
Acharya Arun Gossai, a former teacher of Chinmaya Mission and the current president of Bhuvaneshwar Mandir in New York, was the resident speaker for the camp. A young and dynamic youth leader of Caribbean heritage, Acharya Gossai engaged camp attendees on the theme of “Goals of Life”, based on the Hindu concept of the Purusharthas. He lucidly explained the significance of each of these goals and how to incorporate them into one’s life to attain clarity, combat depression and anxiety, engage with the divine and also pursue material pleasures founded on righteousness. Acharya Gossai also led daily Bhajan sessions with his wonderful voice and musical talent and encouraged campers to sing along. Vineet Chander, the Coordinator of Hindu Life at Princeton University, spoke on the issue of dating and relationships in his talk on “The Dharma of Dating.” Sharing his own life experiences and study of the scriptures, Chander discussed the need to balance college and future relationships on the basis of how these relationships enrich the youth and whether they are based on righteous conduct and pursuit.
Sarika Persaud, a PhD student in Psychology at Columbia University and a member of the HSC Board of Trustees, provided insight into the role and contributions of women in the Hindu tradition and history, encouraged the youth to be more forthright in their discussions on issues impacting women, removing misperceptions about the role of women and encouraging the celebration of the female divine.
“Organizing this year’s HSC camp was an amazingly rewarding experience,” remarked Parth Parihar, a PhD student at Princeton University and the General Secretary of HSC. “The enthusiasm of our attendees coupled with the humility and knowledge of the guest speakers made the process enjoyable, enabling me to learn a lot from others and from myself.”
Beyond the various thought-provoking talks and discussions, campers also took time to participate in team building games and activities based on ancient Hindu Kingdoms, enjoyed delicious vegetarian food prepared by the Shanti Mandir volunteers and relaxed in the evening with a bonfire and social interactions.