CHICAGO (Asian Media): Over 450 women attended the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s sixth annual Midwest Women’s Conference at Bartlett near here on March 30.
With “Timeless Traditions: Celebrating the Past, Cultivating the Future” as the theme, the conference focused on the glorious Hindu traditions and their preservation for future generations.
A traditional Hindu prayer and candle-lighting opened the conference, followed by a performance by the mother-daughter duo from the Kalapadma Dance Academy .
Addressing the gathering, Dr. Aditi Sheth, a psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic, said: “At the end of the day – while it `takes a village’ to raise a child, it is a parent’s responsibility, especially a mother’s 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.”
Her obvious reference was to Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book based on the well-known proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Chief Guest (Dr.) Anita Pillai, an Internal Medicine Doctor at Elmhurst Clinic, said that by practicing our Hindu traditions in our daily lives, parents can create memories for their children and prepare a new generation to recognize and celebrate their culture.
She reiterated that one of the most instrumental tools shared in all the testimonials was “family time”, in order to maintain values, and to pass on traditions and culture with solid historical foundations.
Mrs. Bhavna Juthani, a CPA from Indianapolis, spoke about her personal pride of her Hindu heritage and its emphasis on truth (satya), non-violence (ahimsa), and compassion and how these values have guided her in her 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. 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 the World’s Religions on Hinduism’s belief of tolerance and universal acceptance.
Mrs. Vasanti Dave spoke about the importance of understanding one’s religion, traditions, and values and discussed Asmita, or pride in Hindu rituals and passing it from generation to generation. In doing so, one can become a true ambassador of Hinduism and help clarify misconceptions.
Ms. Neeta Panchal, a scientist at Abbott Lab and a mother of young children, said, “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.”
The attendees enjoyed the opportunity to network and socialize during the post-conference reception. They said they were particularly pleased to see the continuation of discussions related to ‘Timeless Traditions’.
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.
BAPS, as per His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, holds the annual conference to facilitate discussion of topics important to women in society and serve as a conduit for empowering women of all ages.
(In collaboration with Asian Media USA)