September 11, 1893, marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of world religious thought and the emergence of a new paradigm in inter-religious understanding. On that day seven thousand selected elite attending the first World Religious Parliament in Chicago's Columbus Hall listened to Swami Vivekananda's exposition of Hindu Dharma as a universal religion that teaches mankind the ideals of spiritual brotherhood, religious tolerance and universal acceptance.
According to Swami Vivekananda the essence of Hindu Dharma is that it is a supreme ideal of Universal spiritual humanism that helps us to look upon the whole humanity as one spiritual family, irrespective of differences in colour, race, faith or nationality.
About his own role as a religious teacher he declared: “To me every country is the same. I see God in human form in America, in England and it is all the same to me.” Swami Vivekananda wanted a synthesis of the best of the oriental and the best of the occidental. He wanted India's young generation to imbibe the tremendous material skills of the western nations and, at the same time, to preserve their own traditional spiritual and cultural heritage. That is what is happening now.
Dharma is, technically speaking, the sustaining principle of life. It is defined as “that which sustains the worlds” (“Dharati lokaan iti Dharmah”). The whole of the Vedas constitutes the standard for Dharma. As the guiding purushartha, is the integrating, harmonizing and elevating principle that guides our everyday life in all situations, in both individual as well as collective life.
As an instrumental value, Dharma helps us to adhere to certain ethical principles while pursuing the path of artha and kama. it thus finally takes us to the supreme, transcendental purushartha of moksha.
As an intrinsic value, it is an end in itself. A person who follows the ideal of dharma in all his thoughts and actions can spiritualize his whole life. He will always guide his actions and thoughts, not only for his own good, but also for the welfare of others. His every action becomes an act of worship; his thought becomes an act of meditation; he feels the presence of God everywhere, and the whole world becomes a temple for him. The line of demarcation between the secular and the spiritual vanishes. The secular merges with the spiritual and one's whole life becomes a spiritual sadhana.
This universal ideal of Dharma, originally expounded in the Vedas, Smritis, and classics of the Mahabharata, especially the Bhagavad Gita is also described with minor variations in Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions. The Dharma ideal is the great contribution of the Hindu heritage to world thought and culture.
It is a matter of great joy that the Hindu Students Council is organizing this Global Dharma Conference at New York from September 11 - 13, 2015. Its relevance in our troubled times can hardly be overstated. The ideal of Dharma can inspire and guide humanity in the twenty-first century along the path of peace, non-violence, tolerance, and universal brotherhood. I pray to God that this conference may inspire our younger generation all over the world with the universal ideal of Dharma.
It is significant that this date marks the 122nd anniversary of the day on which Swami Vivekananda first brought the message of Hindu Dharma to the attention of the world. And it is equally significant that this conference also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hindu Students Council (HSC), which is organizing this conference. I congratulate the Hindu Students Council for organizing the Global Dharma Conference and wish the program all success. And, on it's silver jubilee year, I pray to Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda for further success and expansion of the Hindu Students Council and it's activities.
With Namaskar and Prayers,
Vedanta Society of Northern California
2323 Vallejo Street