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VHPA New England Region Youth Conference 2005

Mona Khaitan

The VHPA led and sponsored annual New England Region Youth Conference, which will be held on October 1, 2005 at Massbay Community College from 9 am - 5 pm, is a title that needs some explanation (Register at: youthconf05@hotmail.com). It neither caters exclusively to the youth nor is it a regional conference this year. The youth from kindergarten to literally persons with grandchildren participate fully in this conference. Secondly, this year the “youth” will be coming from across the United States as MMNA joins hands with VHPA. In case you are wondering why it is called a Youth Conference, a unique feature of this conference is that it is organized and run exclusively by high school students with minimal adult advisement and intervention. Why? To give our brilliant and able high school students an opportunity to plan and lead a major educational event. This is a forum where young and old alike make new friends and rejuvenate old relationships while engaging in a meaningful satisfying discussion on the topic of the day.

This year the conference theme is Karma Yoga: Science of Action. It is a fitting topic as all must engage in action continuously throughout life. When the high school students started reading Swami Vivekananda’s book on Karma Yoga, many interesting topics worthy of discussion emerged. These included Actions and consequences, Disciplined Living, Good vs. Bad Actions, Living Fearlessly, Karma and Dharma, goal of Life, Svadharma, Destiny vs. Free Will, Social vs. Individual Good, Desire – Root Cause of Rebirth, Reincarnation – Scientific Basis, Nishkama Karma-Yoga. In brainstorming planning sessions, the students selected the topics of interest by grade level so that students in various grades could comfortably discuss the topics at their particular level of maturity. The sessions have been divided into groups by grade levels of 3-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12, and over 18 adults. Only one designated adult would be present at the grade level sessions to remove any adult constraint and to allow full freedom of expression and participation. Each grade level sessions is being facilitated by a youth from a higher grade. The parents would be able to leave their younger children comfortably under supervision where they play games, listen to stories, and engage in arts & crafts.

The high school students have not only been reading but writing as well. For each topic chosen, a summary of the topic has been written by high school students and included in the brochure being mailed. A full page discussion on the topic would be given in the Souvenir Book being published for this conference presented to each registered participant. The purpose is that all attendees should be able to relate to the ideas being discussed at various break-out sessions and become knowledgeable about the topic quickly.

In case the above writings create an impression that our youth are all work and no play, the afternoon cultural program should dispel any such doubt. The audience is asked to relax and enjoy the dances that include bhangra, kuchipudi, bharatnatyam as well as a humorous skit in store for them. According to past tradition, select local teachers have been nominated and invited for appreciation (acharya satkara) that have made a difference in the life of the nominating student. In the morning opening session, Pandit Gadhadar Das, the Hindu Chaplain of Columbia University would speak on the “Meaning of Karma.” In the afternoon closing session, Dr. Kumar Nochur of Sri Lakshmi Temple would give five practical suggestions that can be incorporated in our lifestyle on the concept of Karma Yoga.

But just don’t read about this stimulating and timely conference on Karma Yoga after the fact. Register now and participate  (youthconf05@ hotmail.com). The youth committee invites you to join in the conference at a nominal cost of $5. (Jaya Asthana 508.875.0432; Brij Garg 603.898.1312).

VHP of America’s mission is to promote unity amongst Hindus through a network of local chapters and like-minded organizations, provide community service to people in distress, cultivate self-respect and create opportunities for imbibing Hindu values through Bal-Vihars, Youth camps, Family retreats, and establish world-wide contacts between Hindus.

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