A M.S. in Physics from Northeastern University, Boston is president of Hindu Mahasabha of America aka Hindu Congress of America (HMSA), he is an educator by profession and ex– VHPA Houston Chapter president, ex-Governing Council Member and founder of VHPA Camp in Houston. He has rectified many newspapers publications on Hinduism and educated editors. He started Hindu Club at University of Kansas in 1966. One of the cofounders of Chinmay Mission –US. A subject matter expert and contemporary analyst on Hinduism and Dharma. With over six decades of selfless service experience towards Hindu Dharma sustainability, preser-vation and protection, he has immensely contributed to multiple Hindu organizations, motivated and involved thousands of Hindus worldwide towards volunteering for Hindu cause, issues and empowerment. He is a regular speaker at various regional, national and international forums.
25 JULY 2014 [ HOUSTON, TEXAS, USA]
Please tell us about your background?
Well, I was born in 1939 in a small village in Kathiawad, Gujarat. My mother passed away when I was eight years old. My grandmother took my care for some years and she used to tell me tales of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Also the small village had a Cobra (a snake), couple of times cobra came right near my bed also. My father got remarried and I passed my young life with them. From the beginning, I had strong inclination for Sanathan Hindu Dharma.
What were the three major factors that made you inclined for Sanatan Hindu Dharma?
Probably from past life some ‘Samakara’ were carried forward, my grandmother stories inspired me a lot, when I was 10 years old; I finished stories of Ramayan, Mahabharatand Gita.
I also studied many Hindu ‘sanyasis’ and ‘ religious’ Gurus and their commentary and ways interpreting Hindu Dharma. I just wanted to know Sanathan Hindu Dharma without any middleman, so I studied myself and learnt it. I wanted to know what Lord Krishna tells Arjun and not any Guru interrelates in his own vision about Gita to its disciples. I thought ‘Oh My God’ – What Krishna told Arjun is totally different what some ‘Guru’ based schools are training their disciples. Lord Krishna didn’t tell Arjun to do Bhakti Yoga in Mahabharata, had that been the case Lord Krishna would have presented Arjun with musical instruments and dance troupe at Kurushetra.
I also read Shastras, Patanjali Yogsutra and then came to a conclusion – My goodness; Hinduism is such a beautiful, very well, intelligently and logically composed unified system.
Why current Hindu society lacks ideological unity?
During earlier orthodox period’s ideological unity of Hindus was preserved as they were listening to direct translation of what Lord Krishna told Arjun in Gita and even other scriptures. During classical and modern era, Hindus were subject to translation of Hindu religious texts by a mediator – a ‘Guru’ – who presented Dharma in their own interpretations and as per enjoyments of society such as – over emphasis of Bhakti Yoga over Karma Yoga in achieving salvation etc. That gave me a new mission to educate and aware as many Hindus with the correct ideology. Only way we can unite Hindus is go back to the roots, read whatPatangali says in Yoga, What Maliki says in Ramayana, what Ved Vyas says in Mahabharat – Go back and study that. Upanishad is also a dialogue between Guru and disciple, they were the real Gurus, living in forests – no luxury, so I study that and gradually developed my logic sense, basic – not the level of Adi Sankaracharya :). This is totally different, what Hindu Sastra is composed, When you want to follow the system, you have to follow all the aspects of system. If I were an engineer developing bridge, we analyze many factors like tension, height etc. Similarly Human life is difference challenge and different problem, just like one medicine doesn’t cure-all diseases, one path of ‘Bhakti Yoga’ or ‘Gyan Yoga’ doesn’t met to meet our challenges.
At what age you arrived in America?
I was 26 Years
Which port did you land in America?
I landed in New York and then I had to go to Kansas.
Before coming to America, were you associated with some Hindu organization in India?
After coming to America, what made you associated with Hindu organizations?
That was my inner intuition and interest. When I went to Kansas University, at that time for Americans it was a different experience to see a foreign student, so they invited me to different Churches to talk on Hinduism, Then I have to study more and more to give lectures. I also found out that at these universities, the Jews, the Muslims and Christians have their own political clubs, but Hindus didn’t have any, so I started Hindu Club of Kansas University in 1967.
After that what was the next organization you got associated with?
Later, I moved to Boston and there was an organization “Association of Greater Boston” – I became the member of executive committee and during that time in 1969 SwamiChinmayananada ji started coming to America, we were only 5-6 people, we arranged his lectures in Harvard University, MIT, Boston University etc. For next three years he came regularly, I became highly involved with him. He came to my apartment and conducted the ritual of my elder daughter. I also joined the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), first meeting took place in 1971 in New York’s Madison center park, we stayed in YMCA Club, in total there were 15 families.
Which year you got officially associated with VHPA?
Who was the representative from VHPA you met at Madison Square garden at NYC?
Dr. Mahesh Mehta
How did you come to know about first VHPA meeting?
There were a couple of RSS people who told me that there is a meeting of VHPA and let’s go to New York City, there First time met Dr. Mahesh Mehta. He worked very hard to arrange first VHPA national meeting.
When you first met Dr. Mahesh Mehta, what was your impression?
After talking to him, I found out that he is very knowledgeable and his concepts are very clear on what ourSanathan Hindu Dharma is. I was impressed by his history knowledge and am still impressed by him.
Later from 1971 till 1976, I worked with Indian community organizations, hosting Chimayo Mission at my home etc. Later, I realized that my personality is more suited for leading an activist based Hindu organ
What was your next milestone in serving Hindu community?
Later in 1976, my company transferred me to Houston, Texas. I didn’t want to leave Boston.
Which organization you joined while in Houston, Texas?
Well, there were not many Hindu organizations; only one temple was there namely Hare Krishna Temple. There was another gentleman, Mr. Lal Sardana – Hindu worship society; there I used to tell the stories to children from Ramayana, Mahabharat and Bhagawat. Later at temple, I kept telling stories to children, now they are adults.
Later in 1982, there was an international conference of VHPA (Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America) at Baton Rouge, organized by Dr. Mahesh Mehta. Mahesh Bhai told me to start a chapter of VHPA in Houston, Texas. From 1976 – 1982, I was mostly involved in educating Hindu children in Hindu texts.
Wasn’t there any other organization like HSS etc. during that era?
Yes, HSS was there, at that time they used to call it RSS.
In 1982, we started VHPA Chapter, later in 1985; Mahesh Mehta brother in law visited me and updated me on starting VHPA camps, as with children camps parents will join too.
The first VHPA camp was a super success; still children from that camp of 1985 remember how much they enjoyed. I brought 70-80 Hindu children to camp by contacting various Hindu organizations, a relationship I developed when I used to tell Hindu epics to their members children.
So from 1985 – 1989, you were president of Texas VHPA?
I was a governing council member, that time we didn’t use to have president.
In 1984, there was a mega event of VHPA at Madison Garden, NYC. Can you please elaborate on that?
Yes, that was a large and successful conference, it was about Hindu issues, Hindu human rights etc. Speakers were from worldwide. One goods Hindu Kashmiri Hindu leader said that “Hindus will no longer be on the receiving end”, there were many leaders from RSS too.
From 1982 – 1989, how many members were there at VHPA Texas chapter?
15-18. I was governing council member of VHPA.
Later from 1989, which organization you got involve with?
Friends of India Society International, a Hindu political organization in USA with a goal to fight for Hindu cause at a political level. That time all Kashmiri Pundits were forced to migrate from their homeland, we at Friends of India society made a 60 page report comprising facts and figures on Hindu human rights violation in Kashmir and sent that to 540 US Congressman. Our reputation was so good, that in spite of 5-6 people working for society, the message reached senator Pelzer of North Dakota. Senator Prezler office called us for a breakfast meeting, though there were many Hindu organizations that time in Houston, Senator Prezler called us, and the meeting was successful in Houston, Area.
There was a professor in Colorado in International Law, Mr. Ved Nanda; he used to work with Senator Pelzer. We called Ved Nanda and were so dedicated that for a two-hour meeting he flew all the way from N Dakota to Houston, TX. Ticket was not advance book and it may have coasted $600 – that time it was a large amount.
Who was the president of Friends of India Society? Was this organization headquartered in Houston?
Yes, it was a Houston based organization and Mr. Susheem Mehta was president.
Was focus of friends of India society just Kashmir issue?
No, not just Kashmir, but issues impacting Hindus worldwide. Kashmir issue was serious so our focus was Kashmir during that era.
Later in 1985, there was an ambassador Sida Shankar Ray, he was visiting Houston for a cultural event. He wanted to meet us, he gave us 1 hour and the meeting went over for three hours. He was grandson of Ashutosh Mukeerji, a great revolutionary. He said “Friends of Hindu Society” is the original group that knows about what’s happening in Kashmir. He thanked our group for updating US congress man on Kashmir Hindu human rights violations which helped Americans understand India’s position on Kashmir. The ambassador told us that you are the only guys whom I can talk to on political issues.
When Hindu Mahasabha of America was was started?
It was in 2002, when first meeting of Hindu Mahasabha of America took place. Mr. Israni used to host HMSA meeting. It was on Dec 5th 2005. In 2006, we started Hindu Memorial Day under Hindu Mahasabha of America.
What led to start-up of Hindu Memorial Day?
For last 1200 years, millions of Hindus have lost their life because of invaders from Abrahamic faiths, so we thought we should have Hindu Memorial Day. So we selected 14th August. The reason we selected 14th August, because it was the first time our motherland was partitioned (India was divided by British and Pakistan was born), otherwise culturally it was united. As our Hindu system is not a political system, it’s a cultural system.
In 2007-2008, we invited around seventy to eighty year old Hindu – Sikh women, who were real witness to partition in 1947 and they told audience the horrendous experience they had to go through. For example one woman said that she was a teenager and her uncle threw her into moving train (bound to India) from window as there was no room to enter train. Another said that they left Pakistan in two buses, one bus forgot the route and went in wrong direction, all Hindus and Sikhs were slaughtered by Islamists. Some others escaped via. Boats and tunnels. Thus the main goal was to aware Hindus to not forget the past, as said by famous intellectual George Sanathan ”Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”
Hindus are forgetting their past; still Hindus are being killed in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Temples and other religious places are being destroyed; thousands have been converted by Christian missionaries. Thus the aim is to lets aware Hindus of the implications of forgetting History and the consequences in current and future. The mission of HMSA is to make Hindus aware politically. Most of the Hindus are engaged in cultural celebration and preaching’s from Hindu gurus at various organizations. Unfortunately, in my lifetime I never heard from any Hindu guru educating Hindus on current social – political issues the Hindu society encounters or ways to resolve them. All are busy in cultural celebrations with closed eyes to social – political issues society is facing largely.
Who else HMSA invited for Hindu Memorial Day?
Tapan Ghosh, a Hindu leader from West Bengal, India. When general public said who Tapan Ghosh is and why you don’t invite a big famed name, I said these are the unsung heroes of Hindus, if we invite them, their moral will be boosted and they will feel that Hindus from far overseas bother about them.
Have you visited West Bengal and met Tapan Ghosh?
Yes, twice I visited West Bengal and have met Tapan Ghosh. I was so disappointed to see that how Hindu girls are kidnapped by Islamists and were kept in Illegal detention and gang raped. I also saw how Tapan Ghosh led Hindu Samhanti is protecting Hindu women dignity in West Bengal and assisting Hindus facing Human rights violation in West Bengal. I decided to help Tapan Ghosh and his organization.
I was president of HMSA for six years and now we have Dr. Rudranath Talukdar as president. That doesn’t mean I will quit working for Hindu empowerment. I will work with more vigor.
We discussed about you 60 years of Hindu social service legacy… now we have a Hindu nationalist Govt. in India under the stewardship of Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi, what are your top five recommendations for Indian PM.
- My first point is to get rid of this minority commission, Article 370 and let’s have a uniform civil code. Nobody should be treated as minority; everyone should be same and regarded as ‘BharatVasi’.
- About the defense, in 1964 when China exploded nuclear bomb, United States and Russia were both with India, suggesting carrying out Atomic bomb. Our politicians didn’t have guts to do that. Indira Gandhi went for it in 1970’s. So my request to Narendra Modi is to make India the first rate nuclear power so that no country is able to raise figure at us at military level.
- Third point is getting rid of all corruption, total erase of corruption.
- Fourth is to improve law and order situation and lastly is to bring the true history of Bharat to common masses.
Actually, I would like to see that India becomes party less, no political party. To become Member of Parliament one should pass a tough exam, see… for an office clerk positionin Govt. one has to give exam, member of parliaments are people responsible for whole country, and thus they should have some qualification and wisdom. Implement a tough exam for every incoming MP, they should know Hindu history, geography they must know, whole political system they must know and political management and what are they forces deployed (inside and outside) to destroy our country, they should know and then only he should be able to become MP.
We have heard that you met Honorable Indian PM Narendra Modi when he was in USA long time back? Can you please provide more insight into that meeting?
The purpose he visited was as a RSS Pracharak. I was working for RSS at that time and am still working for RSS empowerment. I asked him questions and he answered, he knows me personally. Then he came to my house to meet Arvind Ghosh, a great writer based in Houston. NarendraModi wanted to meet Arvind Ghosh and meeting was planned at my house. Later second time he came to US when Dr. Gutupalli invited him for dinner, I was sitting with him in the back seat of car and there were lots of discussion. At that time I asked him that I can’t sleep after reading and hearing about the horrendous condition of Hindus in Kashmir, he said “don’t worry …sleep without any worries, everything will be alright” he had such a confidence. At that time it was feared that PM Narsimbha Rao will give Kashmir to Islamists, but Narendra Modi said “that will never happen”.
What is your message to American Hindus?
First, they should get involved in the American political process, it doesn’t matter which political party they are with – Democrat or Republican or Tea party etc. They have already learnt in school about US political system, but not at all practical, they must get involved with US political system and then whenever something goes wrong with Hindu society, immediately should exert influence on senators and congressman, American Hindus should create political press groups.
All other civilizations and faiths have political pressure groups, but Hindus don’t have one. The reason is Hindus are busy in developing temples, doing Bhakti (devotion to deity) all the time. So all the Hindus must study Hindu Dharma deeply and hear what Bhagawat Gita says, what Ramayan says, discuss with friends. Hindus have advantage now as internet is available, at that era, there was no internet. Now we have thousands of Hindu websites, they must go and read that. First generation is now retired, thus the charge is now in the hands of second generation to develop them self as preachers and educate fellow Hindus on Hindu Dharma and Hindu activism at social and political levels.
Any examples we have where we see American Hindus facing bigotry and racism as a result of non-involvement in American political system?
First example we see is the defamatory book written by Wendy Donigner, if there would have been substantial Hindu social and political voice in America, such derogatory book would never have published.
Second example we saw in California textbooks which had tens of incorrect content on Hinduism. This was because Hindus had no representation in the board which developed such textbooks. In this regard the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) took lead and fought for this issue and has been doing a good job as second generation Hindus. They fought very well in the case of California textbook issue.
Third example, go and make your American friends and make them aware of what Sanatan Dharma is. Study what Gita tells us.
Which publication on Gita you recommend to our users which depicts direct message of Lord Krishna to Arjun w/o any commentary?
The best Gita publication I recommend is published by Gorakhpur Gita Press; they have Sanskrit Sloka and its translation in Hindi, English and Gujarati – no 3rd party commentary. That way you know what Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna, otherwise one may get confused after reading commentaries of translators as everybody has different interpretation of Gita.
Same way they should read Upanishads, Valmiki Ramayan, Mahabharat, and Bhagawad – in original Bhagawat they will know that Radha name is not mentioned. So go to the original Sastra and read it.
Personalities whom you met and were inspiring?
- K.C. Sudharshan (former RSS Chief)
- Swami Tilak (VHP leader), in 1980. A very knowledgeable person, I learnt Sanathan Hindu Dharma and process.
- Swami Chinnmayananda, first met him in Mumbai in 1963, got inspired in Sastra Knowledge.
- Swami Pashiana – Vedanta Society head, a very knowledgable person with knowhow of Upanishad.
How can our readers reach you?
They can reach me at email@example.com
Thanks for being at one on Hindu Talk Show at World Hindu News!
Thanks for having me at WHN!
Rahul Chandra is a member of World Hindu News editorial board and a freelancer journalist. For more than a decade, he has been reporting, developing and publishing news & press releases for US and Indian Hindu organizations. Previously he has been an editor at World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) quarterly publication – Hindu Newsletter and Hindu Digest based out of Washington, DC. He has also been a media and PR coordinator for Hindu Congress of America (HMSA) at Texas in 2011. His interests include Hindu philosophies, Hindu human rights and Hindu social & political empowerment related journalism. He has also reported and published news on plight of Pakistani Hindu refugee in India and Bhutanese Hindu refugees in US. You can contact him for interview opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.