Monday, July 14, 2014

Guru Purnima's Instrinsic Message of EcoDharmic Harmony

As I prepared to observe Guru Purnima something clicked. Wow! Guru Purnima is observed by the entire Dharmic community - Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs and it also has a strong message of environmental harmony.
It became clear to me that one of the common factors in our traditions is learning wisdom from an enlightend teacher - a Gu - Ru, one who removes darkness of our ignorance. (Gu = darkness or ignorance, Ru = the remover of that darkness).
The Dharmic traditions believe Gurus are an important part of our lives as they help us understand the great Dharma-based Spiritual teachings with roots in the Vedas.
Each one of our traditions has several gurus and guru lineages whose teachings we follow in various ways and we have a special day to honor them! Our parampara calls upon us to honor and pay respect to our Guru (Spiritual Guide) on this day.
Buddhists honor the memory of Buddha who gave His first sermon on this day at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Hindu traditional celebrations vary. In the yogic tradition, Shiva became the first Guru, as he began the transmission of yoga to the Saptarishis. Ved Vyasa, author of Mahabharat, was not only believed to have been born on this day, but also to have started writing the Brahma Sutras on ashadha sudha padyami.
In Jain tradition, Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, after attaining Kaivalya, made Indrabhuti Gautam, later known as Gautam Swami, a Ganadhara, his first disciple, thus becoming a Guru himself.
Sikhs honor the Ten Gurus of Sikhism and the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book as the eleventh perpetual guru of the Sikhs.
I wondered why on this day? Why does Guru Purnima fall on the day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh (June-July) of the Lunar calendar.
I learnt our tradition is implicitly connected with the environment and with the natural seasonal change. This was the start of the rainy season in which travel was difficult. (Traditionally Gurus traveled, remained unattached as they moved from place to place teaching).
However, for four months - Chaturmas - the Gurus did not travel. They stayed in one place and taught the people of that community. So the community started this period by honoring the Guru and settling to learn from him/her.
The dictates of the natural seasons of Mother Earth guided our Gurus and the communities. Now, many of us hope our communities will honor the teachings from the ancient times and sustain Mother Earth by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint and develop EcoDharmic conservation habits.
We at HASC are celebrating Guru Purnima through a historic partnership with EPA's ENERGY STAR® program. Our tradition shows our environmental leadership potential which, if harnessed, can influence global climate change policies. Given the ancient intrinsic harmony in our collective Dharmic traditions, surely we can achieve our values of conservation and energy efficiency through our temples and devotees. Could our youth be mobilized to accelerate this effort exponentially?
On this auspicious day of Guru Purnima, as we honor our Spiritual guides, and thank the great Vedic Gurus who from ancient times have held a light to remove the darkness of our ignorance, we urge all to remember the environmental harmony in which our traditions coexisted and celebrated. We hope our Gurus teachings will guide us to become environmental stewards for generations to come.

First Published on Huffington Post

Guru Purnima's Instrinsic Message of EcoDharmic Harmony

Monday, May 26, 2014

Honoring Spiritual Healing Seva

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Memorial Day our hearts are full of gratitude for America's diverse men and women who made this country strong, and for the many who have died in its service and for those who are healing. Today, we salute the many men and women who serve and those who also nurture their spiritual needs.

During VidyaSeva, our theme for the month of May, we pay tribute to the great gurus and teachers who promoted service through education and knowledge. They all taught us to serve; to serve with devotion and honor. This year as we pay tribute to the many men and women who serve through teach, we are inspired by those who are also healing through yoga and other therapies.

Today we honor one such unsung hero who supports our soldiers - Dr. Dilip Sirkar.
Dr. Dilip Sirkar, Executive Advisory Council member to Hindu American Seva Communities, has begun teaching Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. One of the foremost experts in Yoga Therapy he combines his 45-year experience in Conventional Medicine with his extensive knowledge of Integrative Medicine, including Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy. A recipient of the medal for spiritual fitness, below is his story of VidyaSeva through Yoga.

A few months ago, a Department of Defense ("DOD") employee, who had attended one of my Yoga Therapy workshops in the Washington D. C. area, invited me to teach Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. He connected me with the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, established after 9-11 to provide multi-faith support for all branches of military in the DOD at the Pentagon. I was asked to share my experiences, due to my background as a retired physician and my personal, transformative experiences through Yoga Therapy.

I arrived on the day of the program and observed a beautiful mural outside of the Deputy Chaplain's office, displaying images of the Chaplains of various faiths providing support at events. The top of the mural stated the Office's mission to provide "spiritual fitness for the Pentagon family." I took a tour of the building with the Deputy Chaplain and observed several informational posters about my upcoming presentation throughout the building. Employees approached me and asked for details about the event. It was clear to me that Yoga Therapy had arrived at the Pentagon and was already a part of the military discourse on wellness and lifestyle choices.

Once inside the presentation area, I noticed the room fill up and the organizer had to add seating to the venue because of the positive response. I began by introducing the 150 or so participants to the principles and practice of Yoga Therapy. I offered gentle relaxation chair poses and then introduced breathing techniques because they were in uniform and seated in chairs. The Deputy Chaplain had informed me beforehand that the employees were interested in meditation, so I concluded by doing a guided meditation. My primary focus was on Yoga Therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and drug dependency, because I felt many DOD staff would benefit from this type of practice. 

During the practice session, the attendees were deeply engaged and followed each posture and breathing technique that I offered. As I looked out at the audience, I was struck by the fact that even though the participants were uniformed and from the outside looked so alike, each person's expression of the poses was truly individual and varied from one person to the next. I felt grateful for such a connection and positive response to what I was offering. The attendees were all comfortable with the practice and appeared very relaxed at the end. The stillness in the room during the meditation was palpable and significant, given the hustle and bustle of the more than 30,000 employees working in the Pentagon every day.

Immediately after the presentation, people began asking questions about their individual health problems, ranging from neuropsychiatric disorders to musculoskeletal and cardiovascular issues. The Office of the Chaplain had arranged for lunch for the event, and we continued the Q&A into lunch. The attendees gave immediate feedback and spoke about how wonderful they felt after the practice session. Many connected to the breathing techniques to help treat PTSD and other psychiatric conditions. An employee who is also a certified yoga teacher said he enjoyed the chakra-awakening meditation. I learned more about each participant's background. They shared some of the stresses of their daily life with me and explained how much physical and mental strength is needed to get through their day. I was reminded of the similar stresses I felt in my career as a vascular surgeon, spending long hours in the operating room with a full roster of surgeries daily, and how that led to a significant heart attack when I was 52. I shared how beneficial Yoga Therapy has been in activating the relaxed, parasympathetic part in my body's nervous system, instead of constantly being in a fight or flight state of being.

Many employees asked when I would return to do a longer session. I also received several emails inquiring about another event, and the wheels are already in motion to make that happen. I look forward to going deeper into Yoga Therapy philosophy and practice with employees and their friends and family in a larger setting. The DOD staff are a vibrant, welcoming community who have truly adopted Yoga Therapy into their lifestyle.
Before I left Pentagon Chaplain's office the Deputy Chaplain gave me a medal for spiritual fitness excellence.

It is wonderful to see our Dharmic traditional tools and resources augmenting the spiritual well being. HASC honors Dr. Sirkar for his Dharmic seva/service to our brave men and women and pray for everyone's well being.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi
"May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Celebrate Holi - the Festival of Equality - with Colors in Motion 5k run

Holi is just around the corner on March 17th.  It is not only a fun festival filled with colors, but is also a celebration of equality. The colors equalize all and serve as a reminder that no one should be perceived as higher or lower.  Let us celebrate Holi by serving all in need equally. 

 HASC is partnering with Colors in Motion 5k run in Washington DC on April 19th to celebrate HoliFest. The Color in Motion 5k run is inspired by the festival of Holi. We invite you to participate. Use the promo-code  to get a discount; a portion of the proceeds will be donated for seva and social justice causes.  UtsavSeva (Festivals of Seva) invokes the underlying value, the spirit of equality of the Holi festival - HoliFest - to serve all.  

All donations collected for this event will be used for the following Dharmic causes: Feed the Homeless; Promote Wellness and Nutrition; Empower Women and Youth; Promote energy conservation and environment protection. Please donate generously.

Register for the event and serve the community:  Please share this announcement with your friends and family.

Contact HASC at with any questions you may have and with your feedback. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Utsavseva

What would our life be like without the caring love of our friends and families, the opportunity to have learned from and be loved by those who are with us or no longer with us, the support of our friends and co-workers, the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifices of others and the beauty of nature. So many reasons to be grateful for as we celebrate the national Thanksgiving Day. So many ways to express the gratitude through seva.
As a wise Indian American guru is teaching, "For many of us, when we think of seva (service), we envision great feats, sacrifices, large philanthropic donations, and other grand gestures. While seva (service) can be all those things, seva can be much more accessible in our daily lives. Giving to others through service is simply recognizing what you do best in any given moment and offering that as a gift to someone else." We believe that this process transforms ourselves, our families and our communities and our country.

The Dharmic Hindu American community continues to work with various stakeholders on the national stage not only as an equal participant, but a veritable host to them. The community's collective hard work brought the Dharma voice and values to the forefront and shows we are successfully weaving our traditions and culture in the pluralistic tapestry of America. As New Americans we are showing our willingness to take responsibility in building our country. Seva is becoming an increasing prominent public aspect of the expression of our values.

Thanksgiving is a national Utsav. This year it adds an interfaith element as our Jewish friends and neighbors celebrate Hanukkah. Let today be another important day to share random acts of kindness and interfaith seva with generosity and joy. UtsavSeva promoted by our Dharmic American communities across the country, invokes the underlying value of the festivals through Community Service throughout the year. This month we celebrate Dhan Seva in November. Click here for seva details.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah.

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Anne Frank

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Count My Seva! I Pledge to Vote...

Today polls are open in many states. Get your seva voice heard.  Go out and vote. If you are not registered to vote, click here to register to vote in your state.


Transform your seva values into action at the polls. 

You can apply your seva values of ethics, spirituality and pluralism to the political process and bring a positive social,  political, economic, health, education, geo-political change. But only if you get involved and vote.

Voting is our right to influence the direction of our country and the way political seva is conducted. We must get our vote counted and voice heard! In our tradition, seva (service as awareness of self transformation) is a key expression of our spiritual practice (sadhana). Our actions prepare us for our salvation, moksha, through inner transformation.

Our seva, for decades, has influenced the many communities we live in, work and raise our families. We have been feeding the homeless, conducting blood drives, teaching the inner city children, hosting langars, healthcamps….. positively impacting our communities in seva centers in temples, gurudwaras, satsangs, yoga studios, meditation centers, many seva organizations (not-for-profits) and interfaith destinations .
But we have not fully engaged in the civic and political process. We have not brought our transformative seva awareness, the voice of social justice to the forefront.  Pledge to Vote today.

Many of us who do seva (service as a self realization process), find we are applying the principles of our spiritual practice (sadhana) in many spheres of our lives and are transforming.  Our namaste honors Divinity within each of us.  We serve understanding the whole world is one single family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). We find our seva affecting our inner self, and see its experience of ethics in the way we work and play, what we buy, the way we treat people, and how we engage in relationships. Let’s extend that transformative awareness to the decisions we make for our schools, communities and our country.

We urge you to go and vote. Your Dharma and Values Based voting matters.  Read more at

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Happy Diwali: Let's Transform Ourselves, Our Communities and Our Country through UtsavSeva

This Diwali, with a grateful heart, I am rejoicing and celebrating a paradigm shift. I am jubilant that the word Seva, starting from the first conference we co-hosted, now is a prominent part of the President's vocabulary.
President Obama's 2013 Diwali message conveyed, "....Contemplation and prayer remind us that that people of all faiths have an obligation to perform seva, or service to others. And the flame of the diya, or lamp, reminds us that light will ultimately triumph over darkness..."
Together we've come a long way sevaks! In April 2009, when I joined the President's Inaugural Advisory Council, the words - Dharma and Seva - were new terms for the White House officials.
2013-11-02-homeless.pngToday we can proudly state that in a very short time, we have brought the Dharmic Seva voice of the community to the highest levels in the country - the White House. Collectively, we have succeeded in creating a national seva and social justice voice where there was none. We have demonstrated how we, Dharmic and Hindu Americans and our Traditions, strengthen America domestically and globally. The commitment to serve the people in need, as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, especially during festive times, comes across as UtsavSeva.
This year the message of seva was amplified at the Capitol Hill where Diwali was celebrated for the first time and our ambassador Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Ami Bera lit the lamp. Our collective Seva Voices prove we are effective Dharmic problem solvers, ready to tackle difficult tasks facing our country every step of the way.
"Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one's duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness." (Bhagavad Gita 17.20)
The four White House Conferences have become a Springboard to Action to solve problems facing America. We have seen the Dharmic and Hindu community in America join other religious communities on the national stage, not only as an equal participant, but a veritable host to them.
The community's 2009 seva response to the President's "Call to Serve", resulted in the first ever community assessment report (2010) leading to obtaining the service of the first Hindu AmeriCorps VISTAs. The collective seva efforts lead to four historic Dharmic American Seva conferences at the White House.
Alluding to the first conference, in 2011, President Obama said, "This summer the White House hosted its first ever convening to promote community partnerships around seva and we have a service supporter here. Diwali, it is a time for reflection and remembrance of those in need. With so many Americans facing challenge it is important for us to remember our obligation to humanity and to one another."
UtsavSeva promoted by our Dharmic American communities across the country, invokes the spiritual values of the festivals through Community Service throughout the year. During Deepavali we celebrate Dhan Seva in November. Click here for seva details.
The very foundation of Indian civilization is based on the pluralistic acceptance embodied in the ancient perennial Vedic saying: "Ekam Sat Vipra, Bahudha Vadanti," meaning, "The Truth is One. The Realized Ones describe the One Truth in several ways". Diwali shares a special connection with American values as it exemplifies the ideals of "E Pluribus Unum," or, "out of many, one."
While the story behind Diwali varies from region to region, the essence is the same: to rejoice in the Inner Light and understand the underlying reality of all things. The spiritual meaning of Diwali is "the awareness of the inner light." At the heart, Hindu philosophy emphasizes the presence of that which is pure, infinite and eternal, which is something beyond the physical and the mind. Diwali is the celebration of the awakening and awareness of the Inner Light.

The strength of the Dharmic culture is the multitude of ways in which the Puranic (ancient traditional) stories and epics are brought to life through colorful festivals and selfless service (seva). These stories and epics bring to surface the deep philosophical truths of the ancient Hindu scriptures, known as the Vedas. The Festivals often express the common Vedic tenets of Hinduism, and of other Dharmic cultures, making them accessible to people from all walks of life.
A festival is a joyful synthesis and expression of spirituality, religion, philosophy, culture, service and social values. The spiritual aspect is founded on the human instincts of joy and happiness. The philosophical aspect is grounded in the struggle between the forces of good and evil with the ultimate triumph of the former. This struggle and ensuing victory of good is to be celebrated and used as a reminder to us, and future generations, that selfless service and giving are an interwoven part of the traditions.
Festivals form a lifeline that binds the Hindu and Dharmic cultures to family, the community and to the country where they reside. Festivals connect and bring people together in camaraderie and service. Hindu festivals also reflect and sustain the underlying pluralistic values for diverse people to co-exist harmoniously.
Festivals are also a time to donate and help those in need. Seva during Diwali means bringing in light, especially in the life of those less fortunate than us. Diwali unifies every religion, every home and every heart, and India transcends into a land of myriad lamps. Here in America, we are continuing this celebration marking it as a unifying pluralistic festival advancing community service and sharing of common values of pluralism and collaboration.
We hope as you celebrate and share the message of Diwali, the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, with your friends, family and neighbors, you will be inspired to help those who need. You will bring UtsavSeva to action!
We wish you a very Happy Diwali and a New Year filled with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and seva this festive utsav. With grateful hearts we thank you for your support and blessings.
Namaste and Shubh Kamnaye


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Strengthening Shakti Through Ganesha Principles
Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Founder, Hindu American Seva Communities

Strengthening Shakti Through Ganesha Principles

Posted: 09/11/2013 9:34 am

The Vedic Hindu statement -- Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah states Non-violence is the foremost duty to the extent that it supersedes all other duties. On this 9/11 national day of remembrance let us pray that obstacles to the path of peace and social justice dissolve in thelight of knowledge. Let our service projects bring awareness of all the myriad issues we are dealing with.
This week, I along with millions of Hindus, observed Ganesh Chaturthi, through prayers, as a day of birth and renewed remembrance of Ganapati principles, the remover of obstacles. In this iconic image, the divine is seen as the leader of senses and the message is that by controlling our mind we transform ourselves. As the inner self gets strengthened obstacles in the outer realm melt away.

Holding those ideals I prepare to face an obstacle in front of me, as today, I saw ignorance in full display. I saw my sacred feminine icons of strength, icons whose stories inspire nobler aspects in me "artistically" shown as victims of domestic violence. To me it seemed someone had abused my own inner archetype as these are images that I relate to and identify with. I felt defiled.
I wondered how are these mutilated images making Hindus in India or abroad, stronger in dealing with abusive behaviour? These images project powerlessness of Hindu psyche. Instead of learning about the strength that these images portray, they are projecting victimization.
For me, the Shakti principle is the the innate strength of a woman, not an image of victimization. Nor an object or deitification nor perverse desire.
As an empowered Hindu American I asked myself what can I do transform this into apositive action? How can I reduce the social injustices impacting women not only in the Hindu community, but almost all communities across globe?
As I have understood, Hindus see the divine in everyone. Perpetuating domestic violence certainly is not in Vedic Hindu philosophy.
I want to believe that the organizers of that negative campaign had good intentions and a desire to bring change and an awareness of the problem. I am curious why focus only on the Hindu community, when India is a secular country with all faiths represented?
From a Hindu viewpoint, I can understand the dichotomy that they must feel. Here are the Hindus who have a culture in which women are honored, they are treated as goddesses, they are feminine icons of wealth (Lakshmi), tremendous strength and courage (Durga), and sustenance and knowledge (Saraswati), but in the society we see a social injustice gap.
So the question arises. How can people, including Hindus who come from a culture of such noble thoughts, treat women in this lowly and baser fashion? Why is society not reflecting Dharmic values? How do we change behavior?
I believe change comes from within our communities and Hindus, people of Dharmic traditions, are united against domestic violence. I see this unity cutting across all practicing Hindus, whether they are the most orthodox and conservative or the most progressive or even the "secular" Hindus.
We don't need images denigrating our sacred icons to remind us that domestic violence and other aspects of social injustice are adharmic (against our religion).
What we need is to understand the strength of our culture. We need to educate and empower ourselves - to not only understand the innate divinity in each other - but also the true inner meaning of our own sacred icons. We need to imbibe the meaning and live up to the higher nobler values. We then transform ourselves and are empowered to bring a change in the external behavior.
We need to bring education of higher values into the education system globally. Here in America, the Dharmic community will address ways of dealing with social injustice issues such as domestic violence and human trafficking at our 4th annual Seva conference cohosted with the White House - Transforming Ourselves, Our Communities, Our Country.
As we celebrate the interfaith social justice message of Swami Vivekananda on his 150th birth anniversary across the globe, including the White House, let us contemplate on his message ...
2013-09-10-swamivivekananda.jpg Swami Vivekananda said: "...On The Basis Of Being Right and Doing Right - The Whole World Can Unite...Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. No one can or ought to do this for them..."
To bring change I feel we should take a pledge to augment the festivals with a call to action against social injustice. Festivals of Service (UtsavSeva) is community service augmenting the spirit of Hindu festivals through seva events organized during this time and connecting them with the cultural heritage.
Let us educate ourselves and see our goddesses as our ancient rishis intended them to be seen - as icons of strength not of victimization, as symbols bringing the ancient Vedic teaching to life.
This festival season, as part of 9/11 day of service and especially during Navatri, let us invoke the Shakti consciousness and during Diwali enlighten the world through knowledge and right action.

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