BAPS Hosts 6th Annual Women’s Conference Highlighting Timeless Traditions
Bartlett, IL: Committed to the progress and growth of women worldwide, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha celebrated its sixth annual Midwest Women’s Conference held in Bartlett, Illinois on March 30, 2013. Over 450 women of all ages were in attendance at the conference which focused on this year’s theme of “Timeless Traditions: Celebrating the Past, Cultivating the Future”. The conference focused on understanding the glory of Hindu traditions, communicating them with ease, and nurturing future generations by preserving a priceless culture and traditions.
The conference started with a traditional Hindu prayer for peace and candle lightening ceremony. A group, which included a mother and daughter, from the Kalapadma Dance Academy performed a traditional dance on stage, while a daughter and her mother shared hosting duties; it was evident that our youth is committed to maintaining their timeless traditions and family values. Dr. Aditi Sheth, a Psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic, stated “At the end of the day —While it “takes a village” to raise a child, it is a parent’s responsibility, especially a mothers’ responsibility. It starts with us….. It starts in our homes –our values like touching feet of our elders, our choice of language…,our food, clothes …all of it”. In 1996, Hillary Clinton wrote a book based on the well-known proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Indeed, it does take a village to preserve our traditions and beliefs which the conference helped attendees to understand, the unique values of our traditions and the importance of passing it down from generation to generation. Encouraging parents to be comfortable in sharing their Hindu beliefs with their children, Chief Guest Dr. Anita Pillai, an Internal Medicine Doctor at Elmhurst Clinic, noted that by practicing our Hindu traditions in our daily lives, parents are creating memories for their children and preparing a new generation to recognize and celebrate their culture.
Several speakers shared insights from their personal experiences and spoke to the audience about their connection with Hindu traditions. Mrs. Bhavna Juthani, a CPA from Indianapolis, connected with the audience by conveying her personal pride of her Hindu heritage. She spoke of the cherished values of her upbringing with emphasis on truth (satya), non-violence (ahimsa), and compassion, and how those values have guided her in all situations of daily life. She stressed the role of her Hindu background in forming her healthy and proud Hindu-American identity and provided examples of many successful Hindu-American women who have done the same. In highlighting her sense of pride, she also reminded the audience of the many contributions to the world by Hinduism (and India) in the areas of science, math, astrology, architecture, and medicine. She highlighted Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 speech in Chicago at Parliament of Religions on Hinduism’s belief of tolerance and universal acceptance. Her talk linked the audience to a priceless heritage and served as a reminder of the traditions and values of their upbringing.
As Hinduism is not just a religion, but also a way of life, Mrs. Vasanti Dave, spoke about living a way of life with pride and conveying it with comfort and confidence. She stressed the importance of having knowledge and understanding behind one’s religion, traditions, and values. She discussed Asmita, or pride, in our Hindu rituals and passing it from generation to generation. In doing so, one can become a true ambassador of Hinduism and the Hindu way of life, better enabled to answer questions and clarify misconceptions.
Dr. Pillai reiterated that one of the most instrumental tool shared in all the testimonials was “family time”, in order to maintain family values, and to pass on traditions and culture with solid historical foundations.
Women of all generations attended the conference, each group finding inspiration in the talks for the current phase of their lives and finding priorities to help shape their future. Ms. Neeta Panchal, a Scientist at Abbott Lab, and a mother of young children shared, “This conference has helped me understand how to relate the basics of Hinduism to my children and how I can help them lead a spiritual life. By talking with other women at the conference today, I was able to ensure my kids get a similar exposure to our culture that I had.”
Ms. Deena Patel, a Health Information Technology student at University of Illinois at Chicago said, “Listening to the speeches today makes me even more proud to be a Hindu, because I realize how the traditions my parents taught me affect my daily life and how Hinduism is a way of life for me”. Not only did the attendees experience a rejuvenation of pride in their heritage, they felt empowered to better represent their faith and values.
Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to network and socialize with one another during a post-conference reception. Participants noted the importance of holding an event focused on women and returning attendees were particularly pleased to see the continuation of discussions related to ‘Timeless Traditions’.
BAPS, drawing inspiration from His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, holds this annual conference as a stage to allow discussion of various topics important to women in society and to serve as a conduit for empowering women of all ages. This year, 10 such conferences were hosted by BAPS across North America. Many women felt enriched by the discussion and identified the importance of implementing the message in their lives, particularly with the future generations.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. Through social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow who have a high esteem for their roots – their rich Hindu culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these character-building activities. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is morally, ethically and spiritually pure, and free of addictions.
About Pramukh Swami Maharaj
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, has inspired millions of people across the world to lead a God-centered, morally pure life. As the present leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has traveled extensively, emphasizing the importance of family harmony, community service and spiritual progress. He embodies the essence of Hindu life. His compassion for humanity, universal wisdom and striking simplicity has touched many world religious and national leaders.