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The Ramayan Is About Good Governance, Too

Tara Singh

"This Ramayan Conference exceeded my expectations.....it has transformed New York into Ayodhya....the Ramayan conference has its origin in divinity," says an exuberant Dr Lallan Prasad Vyas, Patron of the 21st International Ramayan Conference (21 IRC), and founder of this institution. "It was a gigantic success," observes an elated Dharmacharya Ramlall, 21 IRC Coordinator, who was also responsible for bringing the Conference to New York. And well-known social worker, Ms. Vicky Singh, says: "I am immeasurably impressed with the 21 IRC experience."

The 21 IRC Ramayan Conference began on Friday night (April 29, 2005)
with the staging of a Ramayan Concert at York College Performing Arts
Center, Jamaica, Queens, New York. At the onset, an aura of divinity
swept across the theater penetrating the minds of the expectant audience, whose initial embrace of the aesthetics soon gave way to the spiritual. They could have sensed that something momentous was about to happen. For the first time in New York, the teachings of the Ramayan would be espoused not in the cloister of a Mandir or at a Yajna ceremony, but at a reputable institution of higher learning, York College, CUNY, where interpretations may not necessarily be compatible in every regard. 

At the Ramayan concert, our children--dressed in colorful traditional garments--had been able to match the elegance and diversity of their costumes with their savvy renditions. It was indeed a great joy to watch our future ambassadors of Indian culture using art forms to make important statements. The choreography of the Natraj Center for Performing Arts, as well as, the other organizations, was equally compelling. One would think that those performers have already reached the zenith of artistic excellence.

A magnificent performance was also realized by the East West School of
Dance of upstate New York. In their play, Ramayana, choreographed and
directed by Pt Satya Narayan Charka, they depicted dramatic scenes from
the Ramayan based on the eternal battle between "good" and "evil." It was the story of the battle between Lord Rama and the demon king Ravana, and the burning of Lanka by Hanuman. Suffice to say that the high voltage performances also helped to create the ambience that led to the successful staging of the 21 IRC.  

When registration began on Saturday morning (April 30, 2005), organizers were not unduly troubled by the incessant rainfall, but remained optimistic throughout. Their hard work, perseverance, and commitment would pay handsome cultural and spiritual dividends. During Saturday, April 30, 2005 and Sunday, May 1, 2005, there were over 9 academic sessions covering such diverse topics as the "Ramayan and Conflict Resolution," "The Ramayan and World Peace," "The Ramayan and Family Values," "The Ramayan and Youth," and "The Ramayan and Governance."

For many members of the Saturday audience, the highlight of the academic session was the youth panel who spoke on their understanding of the Ramayan, and how they could help to spread its messages and teachings. Yet others felt that Dharmacharya Jadonath's discourse on: "Science and the Ramayan," was equally brilliant.

On Sunday, however, people's perspective had shifted a little. They seemed to be more enthusiastic about the panel discussion on: "The Ramayan and Family Values." The moderator of that session was even chided for having apparently cut down on "question and answer" time. The important point to make here however, is that each person came away enriched from the conference, but with differing emphasis on presentations. 

There were at least four memorable moments in the conference proceedings. The first one was the ceremonial lighting of the diyas by Shri Chinmoy, Dr Marcia V Keizs (President of York College), Dr Lallan Prasad Vyas (Conference Patron), Dr Cheryl M Smith (Asst Vice President, Academic Affairs), Dharmacharya Chandrica Persaud (Leader of USA Pandits' Parishad), and Dharmacharya Ramlall (Conference Coordinator).

That light was symbolic of enlightenment; the guide to academic deliberations; and the torch of human progress. When Shri Chinmoy played the sitar, it was a somber reminder that tranquility could only be achieved through a better understanding and practice of the teachings of the Ramayan.

That was followed by an electrifying speech by former Prime Minister of
Trinidad and Tobago, and currently Leader of the Opposition, Hon Basdeo
Panday, on the "Impact of the Ramayan on the Lives of Caribbean Hindus,"
in particular. He spoke of the ideal kingdom of Ram Rajya where order,
loyalty, compassion, discipline, duty, deferred gratification, and respect pervaded. The social situation painted in the Ramayan is somewhat analogous to the position advanced many centuries later in Western Europe by such social contract theorists as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

Mr Panday likened one modern day ruler in the Caribbean to the reign of
Ravana of Lanka. In his view, when a ruler who has been duly elected by
his people, and fail to honor his obligations towards them, then the people have a right to seek his removal, even if that means by force.

It's hard to tell if something like this had ever happened before at a conference. When the panel discussion on "The Ramayan and Family Values"
was in session, one member identified as Ram, asked the audience to stand up and applaud the contributions of three of our brightest young priests. There was indeed a standing ovation for Shri Prakash Gossai, Pt. Chunelall Narine, and Pt Swasti Doobay. At this point, the writer observed that  there are also other gems within our community that must not escape our attention, either.

The best moment, however, seemed to be when Pt Swasti Doobay, Pt
Chunelall Narine, Shri Prakash Gossai, Pt Tilackdharray Seerattan,
Latchman Budhai, Pt E Motiram, Dharmacharya Ramlall, and Dr Lallan
Prasad Vyas, joined Mr Basdeo Panday, in singing the famous "Hanuman
Chalissa." That was a scene to behold. It lifted the human spirit into ecstacy. Never before has a thing like this happened. History was unfolding on stage. What a fitting way to end the academic deliberations!

Apart from those four memorable moments, the performance of the 21 IRC
Planning Committee (Dr Marcia V Keizs, Dr Cheryl Smith, Dr Basdeo
Mangru, Mr Matthew Katz, Dharmacharya Ramlall, Pt Swasti Doobay, Ramesh D Kalicharran, Dr Dhanpaul Narine, Srad Kublall, Dolly Singh, Mr Roy D Singh, Pt E Motiram, Mr Navin Phagu, Mr Latchman Budhai, Dr Lallan Prasad Vyas, Dharmacharya Jadonath, Dharmacharya Chandrica Persaud, Pt Tillackdharry Seerattan, Dr Tara Singh, and Dolly Singh), was equally laudable.

Hosting the conference in New York was a formidable challenge, but the
21 IRC was neither daunted by the project scope, nor by its high costs.
Delegates came from over ten countries, and over 1,000 people attended
one or more sessions of the 21 IRC. The project cost was estimated at
$35,000.00. Local business leaders and professionals helped out greatly.
York College was always accommodating to numerous 21 IRC requests. It
was splendid team work. It was also a great week-end for our community
in New York. 

The tentative date for next year's Ramayan Conference to be held in
Birmingham, England, is from August 23 to August 25, 2006. In 2007, the
Conference moves to Guyana. It is envisioned by The International Ramayan Conference that this institution will become the most important vehicle for spreading the teachings and principles of the Ramayan in the Western World. 

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Planning Committee & Panelists Receive Citations from Dr. Cheryl Smith & Dharmacharya Ramlall.

Community Leaders join Mr. Basdeo Panday in Singing the Hanuman Chalissa

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