By Basu Ghosh Das
World Vedic Conference ‚Äď Ujjain ‚Äď Jan 13-17 ‚Äď a brief account of the proceedings
The Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan (The Maharshi Sandipani National Institute for Vedic knowledge), which is an ‚Äúautonomous organization of the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India, organized the just concluded ‚ÄúWord Vedic Conference‚ÄĚ at Ujjain, from January 13-17, 2007.
HH Bhakti Charu Maharaj, ISKCON GBC and sannyasi, who has established a large ISKCON center at Ujjain, which is well known in Vedic literatures as ‚ÄúAvantipur‚ÄĚ, one of the ‚Äúsapta puris‚ÄĚ or seven revered towns of Bhaarata (India), kindly invited me to represent ISKCON at the conference.
Before I begin to describe the conference, I would like to publicly thank both Sriman Bimal Krishna Prabhu and Sriman (Dr.) Ganga Narayan Prabhu, who are the co-Presidents of ISKCON Ujjain, for so kindly hosting myself and my ‚Äúparty‚ÄĚ at the newly constructed guest house there.
HH Bhakti Charu Maharaj is well known within ISKCON for his prasad arrangements, and the prasad at the Ujjain temple is plentiful and sumptuous!
The conference began with a large assembly of invited vedic scholars and brahmanas, some of whom are ‚Äúmodern academic scholars‚ÄĚ and many of whom are ‚Äútraditional scholars‚ÄĚ. The Governor of Gujarat, Sri Nawal Kishore Sharma, inaugurated the conference in their presence by lighting the traditional lamp, which is always done to inaugurate such functions and events here in India.
The conference consisted of several features. Among them were: ‚Äúacademic sessions‚ÄĚ that were ‚Äútopic wise‚ÄĚ, various symposiums, memorial lectures and special lectures, a demonstration of certain yagnas (fire sacrifices) from the Rig Veda, and cultural programs.
Also there were a number of programs conducted by vedic scholars from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (temple trust) which included veda parayana (vedic recitation), havanshala to demonstrate vedic sacrifices, a model temple of Lord Balaji (Krishna) where the Deity worship according to Vaikhanasa agamas were performed, an exhibition of charts on both vedic rituals and literatures, as well as on Ayurveda and ancient herbs.
The ‚Äúmodern academic scholars‚ÄĚ who attended mostly belong to various modern educational institutions both within India and abroad.
Some of the noted foreign scholars who attended were Professor George Cardona, who is retired from the University of Pennsylvania: he did extensive research on Panini‚Äôs ‚Äúvyakarana sutras‚ÄĚ (samskrita grammar), Professor Hans Henrich Hock, from the University of Illinois Linguistics Department, and Professor Ras Vihari Joshi, who had much contact with Srila Prabhupada at New Delhi in the late 1950‚Äôs, who is now 80 years old and has been the Visiting Professor of Samskritam and Philosophy for many years at the El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico. He attended with 2 of his Mexican students.
Some of the prominent Indian academic scholars from modern educational institutions in India were Sri R. Krishnamurthy Sastry, the retired Principal of Madras Sanskrit College, his son, Dr. K. Ramasubramanian, who is an Associate Professor at IIT-Bombay, 82 year old Dr. B.V. Subbarayappa from Bangalore, and Professor Kamlesh Dutta Tripathi, who recently retired at Vice Chancellor of the Kalidas Sanskrit Academy, at Ujjain. It should be mentioned that Dr. M.B. Athreya, a well known ‚ÄúManagement Guru‚ÄĚ, who holds a Phd from Harvard Business School, and is the honorary director of the ‚ÄúSringeri Shankaracharya Institute of Management‚ÄĚ at New Delhi, also attended, and did Dr. Mayank N. Vahia, Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. There were many other scholars in attendence, too numerous to mention here.
There were also a number of ‚Äútraditional vedic scholars‚ÄĚ, including 23 scholars of the Rig Veda, 77 scholars of the Yajur Veda, 25 of the Sama Veda and 12 scholars of the Atharva Veda.
Some of the thematic topics at the ‚Äúacademic sessions‚ÄĚ were as follows: ‚ÄúDimensions of Science in the Vedic Literature‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúVedic Poetry and Human Values‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúContribution of Oral Tradition in the preservation of the Vedas‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúPhilosophical Hymns in the Vedas and their Social Significance‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúVedangas: Their role and importance‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúThe Vedas and Contemporary Crises‚ÄĚ,
‚ÄúSchools of Vedic Interpretations‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúContribution of Smriti Literature in Preservation of Vedic Tradition ‚Äď with Special Reference to Jurisprudence‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúVedic Philosophy and it‚Äôs Heritage‚ÄĚ (where I spoke from notes prepared in advance: I did not submit a paper), ‚ÄúArt, Architecture, Culture and Education in the Vedic Literature‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúVedas and Management‚ÄĚ.
Under the theme of ‚ÄúVedic Philosophy and it‚Äôs Heritage‚ÄĚ, I was asked by Prof. Vachaspati Upadhyay, the Secretary of the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain, and Vice Chancellor of Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapith, New Delhi, to speak on ‚ÄúThe Vedic foundation of the teachings of Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada‚ÄĚ.
Since these ‚Äúacademic sessions‚ÄĚ were many, they were held simultaneously at 6 venues in three separate locations, and in fact all of them were within two kilometers of ISKCON Ujjain!
Since there were so many sessions and visiting lecturers, we, the speakers, were not given much time to make our presentations. So in the short time allotted to me I explained how Srila Prabhupada spread the vedic concepts of ‚Äúsattvik living‚ÄĚ, simple village life and gave special emphasis to cow protection. Cows are glorified at length in the Rig Veda, and of course in the Smriti literatures, like Srimad Bhagavatam. I explained that our inspiration was Srimad Bhagavatam, and that the teachings of Bhagavatam were being propagated throughout the world. Further, I explained that westerners were taking to the ‚Äúvedic lifestyle‚ÄĚ and were propagating the concept of ‚Äúvarnashrama dharma‚ÄĚ as mentioned in Bhagavad-gita, based on ‚Äúguna and karma‚ÄĚ and not simply birthright.
There were several other interesting lectures that I attended. Dr. P. Ramanujan of ‚ÄúCdac‚ÄĚ (http://cdac.in) presented his computer program, so far not released yet, wherein you can view of a scan of a palm leaf manuscript and then by clicking on a menu it can be seen, just below the original scan, in one of 8 scripts, including Roman script! This software is to be released as ‚Äúfreeware‚ÄĚ in the future on the cdac.in website.
Dr. M.B. Athreya, who chaired one of the sessions on ‚ÄúVedas and Management‚ÄĚ pointed out that the organizers ought to take help from modern management concepts to increase the attendance at the conference. He suggested that all the students of Vikram University at Ujjain, as well as all local College students should have been given a vacation in order to facilitate their attending the conference! He spoke eloquently on Vedic concepts of management with frequent references to Bhagavad-gita, which apparently is his favorite Vedic literature!
There must also be a reference made to two of the cultural programs that were presented in Samkritam: the drama of Kalidas, ‚ÄúMalvik-Agnimitra‚ÄĚ, the ‚ÄúHarikatha ‚Äď Gita Govinda & life story of Jayadev Goswami‚ÄĚ narrated in Samskritam by Smt. D. Uma Maheshwari of Hyderabad and her dance troupe‚Äôs presentation of the ‚ÄúDasavatara stotram‚ÄĚ of Jayadev Goswami.
The program was concluded in a valedictory function presided over by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, Sri Rameshwar Thakur. As Governor of Andhra Pradesh, he has presided over the establishment of a ‚ÄúVedic University‚ÄĚ at Tirupati, - which is located in Andhra Pradesh - where all of the subject matter is ‚Äútraditional‚ÄĚ, based on Vedas and Vedic literatures, and not based on the ‚Äúmodern educational syllabus‚ÄĚ and outlook.
Dr. Ram Rajesh Mishra, the Vice Chancellor of Vikram University, Ujjain, speaking very eloquently at the valedictory function said that the Vedas should not be preserved as per the western outlook, but the traditional vedic system should be preserved. There should be facilities for traditional vedic scholars, including land, financial support, etc.. All the branches of the Vedas should be preserved, and the old guru parampara should not be lost. He made his statements with feeling and passion and with a genuine yearning for a return the glorious vedic age!
Also at the valedictory session, Dr. Gautam Patel of Ahmedabad proposed a series of resolutions to be submitted to the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, who hails from Madhya Pradesh (the state wherein Ujjain is located), Sri Arjun Singh, who is also the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Maharshi Sandipani Rasthriya Vedavidya Prathisthan, Ujjain.
The resolutions called for setting up Vedic Universities throughout India, and for other measures that the Government should take for supporting Vedas, scholarship in the Vedas and for supporting vedic scholars, etc.
Of course, on the sidelines of the conference, personally I was able to meet and discuss with many of the visiting scholars. Several of the visiting vedic scholars came with us and visited ISKCON Ujjain and took prasad there. One of them, Dr. Sugyan Kumar Mahanti, now head of the Sahitya (literature) department of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sanstha (National Sanskrit Institution), Bhopal Campus, (Bhopal is the Capitol of Madhya Pradesh), had 18 years ago conducted a 10 day spoken samskrita course at ISKCON Baroda, and he subsequently conducted the same seminar at ISKCON Vrindavan. He was very enlivened by his visit to ISKCON Ujjain.
Prof. R. Krishnamurthy Sastri, his son, Dr. K. Ramasubramanian and Dr. P. Ramanujan all stayed with us at the ISKCON Ujjain ashram and I am sure that they enjoyed their time there!
In fact, myself and several of the devotees at ISKCON Ujjain were pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Ramasubramanian dancing in the sandhya arati in the temple, one evening, for quite sometime!
In conclusion, there were many positive experiences that I had at the conference! Much more could be written about the proceedings at the conference, but that would take much time and space to narrate. If any of the readers of this article would like to know more about the conference or have an interest in any area of vedic learning, feel free to contact me via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will reply to you.