BRUCEVILLE, TEXAS, March 5, 2014 (Press Release by H. Venkatachalam): In the vast and enormous collection of Hindu texts, there is a group of Vedic writings known as the “Aranyakas.” The texts are known for their mystical quality, often referring to less commonly understood or performed rituals and expounding on various philosophical concepts. The very word “Aranyaka” means belonging to the wilderness, and has often been interpreted to refer to “forests.” The texts themselves are believed to be inspired by those who left civilization to discover deeper spiritual truths. Anyone who has gone camping or hiking can appreciate how being in the wilderness taps into an awareness; a keener understanding of one’s self and the world we inhabit. Thoreau had Walden Pond, Rama had his sojourn away from Ayodhya, and in not so different of a manner, Hindu Students Association has its annual retreat in Bruceville, Texas: Gateway.
This year’s Gateway occurred on the weekend of February 7th through February 9th. This was the fourth Gateway the Hindu Students Association had organized. Satguru Bodhinathaswami and Senthilnathaswami, from Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, launched the conference with a prayer to Ganesha. From memory, most of the attendees, numbering up to 80 individuals from all across the country, joined in to recite the sacred prayers.
This is what Gateway was envisioned to be when Hindu Students Association created this annual retreat. It was an opportunity for Hindus to experience and learn about the different shades and intricacies of their faith: Yoga sessions helped shape Hindu values of physical and mental health, campfires underlined the importance of camaraderie, and intimate discussions in smaller group settings allowed for spiritual growth. Gateway is, however, more than just a spiritual retreat. It is an opportunity for attendees to learn skills for personal and professional development as well. Ruchita Naik, National Vice-President, explained that “This year’s Gateway was different from previous years’ in that it included more leadership presentations and gave attendees, most whom are still students, windows of opportunity to grow professionally after college.”