International Seminar on Vedanta

By Hari Narayana Das - 9.2 2018

International Seminar on Vedanta and Science, Kendari, Indonesia

Sulawesi is one of the main islands of Indonesia and Kendari is the capital city of South East Sulawesi. We took a flight from Bali to Makassar for a transit of about two hours then another flight to Pomala airport at Kolaka, Sulawesi where devotees were eagerly waiting to receive us. That evening we had the opportunity to interact with few guests who were leaders of Hindu community there. They were happy to discuss Bhagavad-gita with us and also took some books. Next day, 26 Feb 2018, we started for Ladongi, driving almost three hours via the mountains, where we have the Gaura Nitai centre and which is also conducting Jagannatha ratha yatra every year. Although the number of devotees are less, they are nonetheless very enthusiastic… taking into consideration the fact that the small centre is situated in a forested area and before, due to misjudgement, the local people there used to throw stones at the temple… but after the first ratha yatra in the year 2014 which was fully supported by the Mayor of the locality and the Hindu Parisada there, the locals started to visit the temple and also bring flowers and fruits for the deities.

27 Feb 2018, our destination was Kendari, about another three hour drive from Ladongi, where an international seminar had been organized by the students group in collaboration with the different Hindu councils where we had been invited to give a talk for the youths to strengthen their self-confidence about their vedic roots. This was a very good opportunity to discuss the philosophy presented by Srila Prabhupada in an open forum and where the target audience were students and policy makers of the society.

The chief coordinator for this program was Govardhan Das, a very humble disciple of H.H. Subhag Swami, assisted by a group of very sincere and enthusiastic devotees. Our team was led by Srigarbha das, Gadadar das, Brajanabha das and Nara Narayan das. The secretary of the PHDI (Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia) Kendari, Mr. Kadek was especially instrumental in maximizing the effect of our presence in the region. He and Govardhan prabhu arranged television talk shows with two national TV channels (TV Republic Indonesia or TVRI and SULTRA TV or Sulawesi Tenggara TV) and one radio channel (Radio Republic Indonesia, RRI). The theme for talk-shows was on the ‘Scientific perspective of Bhagavad-gita’ and these would be broadcasted weekly for a month. This reminded us of the interviews of Srila Prabhupada in studios of different TV channels.

We stayed in Kendari at Jatibali village where we were hosted by a kind devotee couple, Mr, Gede Sukanta, who was in the Navy, and his wife, who was serving in the Army. Sukanta told us that originally their forefathers were from Bali who were forced to flee the island and come to Sulawesi during the massive volcano eruption of Mount Agung in 1963. It was so nice to see all the devotees come together for Mangal arati and Sandhya arati every day and eagerly wait for the Bhagavad-gita classes in the evenings; some of them came with family from places fifty kilometres away. And most wonderful were all these small children who would never miss the mangal arati and all of them would chant on japa beads with the rest of the devotees. That evening our host had arranged for us to interact with the students of high school and speak about Bhagavad-gita… it was in a community hall which also served as a place of study, where they teach students in an effort to preserve Hindu traditions or Vedic culture. The interaction went well and many students took Srila Prabhupada books.

28 February was our main event, ‘International Seminar on Vedanta and Science: Understanding the essence of the Vedas for sustaining Hinduism and for Global Sustainability’. The Keynote speaker of the seminar was Mr. Robindro Aribam (Ramanuja das) from Manipur, India who presented that Bhagavad-gita is accepted as the essence of the Vedas and as followers of Vedic culture we must read and scientifically understand how to apply the teachings of Bhagavad-gita in our lives and that the recommended process to revive our spiritual nature, to have a taste of eternal knowledge and bliss, was to chant the hare Krishna maha mantra. The second speaker was Dr. Nyoman Sudiana, Physicist and Head of Hindu Parishada of Kendari, who spoke on Science and Spirituality. The important invitees at the event were Representatives of Hindu Parishada (PHDI), Women Hindu Parisada (WHDI), Hindu Society Council (PEMBIMAS Hindu), Rector of University of Hindu Studies (STAH), Head of Indonesian Hindu Intelligentsia Group (ICHI), Hindu Youth Organization (PRADAH) besides other members of the community. The question and answer session was appreciated by all but many complained that the time allotted for the event was too short and more time should have been given for the interactive session. Students continued to interact with Ramanuja das with many questions even after the seminar was officially closed. We were so much surprised when a girl from the Hindu University asked ‘If the age of Kali is full of faults and is most dangerous, why God created this age? And is there anything good in this age of Kali.’ She was overjoyed when she was told that her question was already present in the Bhagavata-purana and it formed the basis of all understanding of the recommended process to go back to godhead in Kali Yuga, harinama sankirtana.

Because of all these seminars and interactions with the students and leaders of the community people are opening up and becoming more favourable towards Krishna Consciousness and they are more feeling convinced about the authenticity of Bhagavad-gita as it is. We feel that we have been able to be instruments in the hands of our previous acharyas and Srila Prabhupada, they are the mechanic and we are simply parts of the machine. Just as the pieces of glass sparkles when sunlight falls on them similarly when our previous and present acharyas bless us we also shine and become attractive to the common man. Since we are only presenting the words of Srila Prabhupada and our spiritual masters, when they praise us they are actually praising our acharyas, all the credits goes to them. We realize only one thing that Srila Prabhupada’s books were effective fifty years ago and they still continue to have the same effect today, only we have to see the avenues and opportunities to present them to the public very nicely and politely. We also thank Govardhan das and his wife, Sulastra Prabhu, Witendra Das, Gede Sukanta and his wife, Srinath das Brahmachari who is temple president of Ladongi temple and his team for arranging prasadam for all participants and all the wonderful devotees of Kendari. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to H.H. Kavichandra Swami and H.H. Ramai Swami, the GBCs of Indonesia, for their encouragement to increase sankirtan; H.H. Subhag Swami for being our inspiration, and to all the wonderful senior devotees of Indonesia for their blessings and constant support.