Thursday, June 30, 2011

President's Yoga PALA Challenge 2011... Start now...

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President's Yoga PALA Challenge 2011...You can start now...

Yoga has become a universal language of spiritual exercise in the United States, crossing many lines of religions and cultures.  Everyday millions of people practice yoga to improve their health and overall well-being. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to take part in the Million PALA Challenge (MPC). The MPC is offered by the President’s Challenge, a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Developed in partnership with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, the MPC has set a goal to get 1 million Americans to earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA).  Show your support for yoga and answer the challenge!

To achieve PALA, your goal is to be active at least 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Youth (6-17 years) should get moving for at least 60 minutes per day, and adults (18 years or older) should be active for 30 minutes per day.
Ready? Click on the link to register for the Million PALA Challenge and join the Yoga PALA Challenge team!

The official kick off date for the Yoga PALA Challenge is July 29th but you can get a head start and begin tracking your activity now!  Remember that any type of physical activity counts towards earning a PALA certificate, so record your yoga activity as well as taking a walk, going for a swim, or playing a sport. Combine your PALA with nutritious meals for a healthy lifestyle!

The Million PALA Challenge concludes on September 14, 2011 and in order to be counted you must begin by August 1.  Don't delay and start tracking towards your PALA today!  Visit to get started.

And..... If you can, join us as we collectively launch Yoga PALA Challenge in Washington D.C. Check out our website for location and additional information on yoga.

Let's move, be healthy, and be in peace!!!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

HASC Fundraiser lunch on Monday June 27th

If you are in New York, do come for the event Spread the word....  Junoon is supporting Hindu American Seva Charities...

Celebrity chef and philanthropist Vikas Khanna – Executive Chef at Junoon Restaurant –  is hosting a lunch fundraiser on Monday, June 27th from noon to 2 p.m. at Junoon Restaurant (27 W. 24th St.).  Tickets are $25 for a three-course meal prepared by Chef Khanna himself, and they can be purchased at the event itself.

Invitation to Yoga Pala Challenge

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Yoga PALA Challenge 2011

Dear friends and yogathon partners

The yogathon launched on Katrina’s anniversary last year was a resounding success because of the widespread participation.  Our collective efforts were noticed and recognized nationally and by the White House. 

Building on the success of the Yogathon/YogaSeva, now, Hindu American Seva Charities has partnered with the President’s Challenge Program, a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to promote the participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) by:
Ø  Launching a national Yoga PALA Challenge to encourage and motivate individuals across the country to achieve PALA by participating in yoga
Ø  Promoting a healthy lifestyle through yoga and nutrition

Collectively, we have an opportunity to take a leadership role in advocating health and healthy living through the best of our culture and tradition – YOGA – accompanied by nutrition.  We can reach our Pala Challenge goals.

At this time, HASC is putting together a team to help coordinate this national effort. We would like to invite you to be part of it.  Would you like to serve on the Committee to develop an outreach strategy and mobilize our community to promote yoga in our temples, yoga studios, schools, colleges, places of work and worship?  We are continuing to make history…

The outreach and mobilization strategy will be presented at our conference and the White House briefing on July 29 – 31st.  We plan to launch the Yoga Pala Challenge on August 1, 2011.  Our time to plan and implement is short. And the time do it is is NOW!!!
q Planning                            June 10 – June 30, 2011. 
q Outreach begins                 July 1 – July 31, 2011
q Yoga PALA Challenge          August 1 – September 2011… and then ongoing

We need volunteers to be part of the leadership steering committee and be involved in all aspects of the project.  We need volunteers in every state throughout the country to come together, unite, inform yoga students/participants/yogis to log in their time on the PALA website and help bring yoga to the forefront.  This tracking will quantify the positive impact of yoga to our country.  Measure what you treasure!

Please let us know what role you would like to play in developing and implementing this program.  The success of this program lies in your hands.  Just as you made yogathon possible, you can make the PALA challenge possible.  Attached are highlights of the program on the PALA Challenge.

Please click on the link ( to complete the form to indicate your interest.  We will host our first conference call to start the strategy development on Tuesday, July 14th at 9 pm EST. Please let us know of your participation on the first call.

Thank you

Hindu American Seva Charities

184 South Livingston Avenue Ste 9 #174, Livingston. NJ 07039,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seva Essay Competition

Due to the high demand from many students who are home now for the holidays and working on the essays, we have extended the essay competition deadline to June 15, 2011.  This is the FINAL deadline and no additional extensions will be made.  Hence, you still have time to write the essay and be part of history. Temples still have time to continue to post the flyer on their bulletin board and send the notification to their members.  Winners will be invited to the White House for a briefing followed by the conference at Georgetown University (July 29 - 31, 2011).

Join us at the White House 
and Make History!

75 best entries of the essay competition will be invited to the White House for a briefing and conference July 29 to 31, 2011. Social innovation through Seva Centers.  Click here for the flyer and  Huffingtonpost blog on President’s Interfaith Challenge .

Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) is sponsoring a two-day event aimed at increasing Seva (service) and visibility across America.  This event will include a briefing by the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The theme of the event is “Energizing Dharmic* Seva (Service): Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” and is designed to inspire all towards community service.  This event opens at the White House on July 29, 2011 and continues at Georgetown University Campus on July 30th and 31st as Festivals of Service. * Dharma(ic) is defined as one’s obligation or duty to serve.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 
Mahatma Gandhi

Be the Change!  Share Your Seva Plan!

To impact change and encourage new service ideas, HASC is sponsoring a widespread civic and service participation essay contest.  We would like to hear your service plans in America and abroad! The winners of the contest will be recognized by HASC at the White House briefing in Washington D.C.  75 best entries will be invited to the White House for briefings. Nominees will be recognized on the second day of the conference at Georgetown University.  

With your Seva Plan you can become change makers. You can be part of the ongoing seva movement. You can play a role in America valuing the talents of its diverse faiths, its pluralistic multicultural communities, the New Americans.  Interfaith cooperation and community service is an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.

You can download the essay questions at

Email all entries and queries to: Uma Chaudhary at  with contact information and include a short biography.

·         Hindu American Seva Charities
184 South Livingston Avenue, Ste 9 #174, Livingston, NJ 07039

“Be the change you want to see in the world." 
- Mahatma Gandhi -


By Pankaj Jain, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of North Texas
Dr. Pankaj Jain is an Assistant Professor of Indian Religions and Ecology at the University of North Texas. He has taught Indian Films, Sanskrit, Hindi/Urdu languages, and literatures at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean University, Jersey City University, and the University of Iowa. In his scholarship he connects the ancient Indic traditions of Hinduism and Jainism with contemporary issues – particularly the environment.
Hinduism contains numerous references to the worship of the divine in nature in its Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras, and its other sacred texts. Millions of Hindus recite Sanskrit mantras daily to revere their rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. Although the Chipko (tree-hugging) Movement is the most widely known example of Hindu environmental leadership, there are examples of Hindu action for the environment that are centuries old.
Hinduism is a remarkably diverse religious and cultural phenomenon, with many local and regional manifestations. Within this universe of beliefs, several important themes emerge. The diverse theologies of Hinduism suggest that:
The earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess, and must be treated with respect.
The five elements - space, air, fire, water, and earth - are the foundation of an interconnected web of life.
Dharma - often translated as “duty” - can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth.
Simple living is a model for the development of sustainable economies.
Our treatment of nature directly affects our karma.
Gandhi exemplified many of these teachings, and his example continues to inspire contemporary social, religious, and environmental leaders in their efforts to protect the planet.
The following are ten important Hindu teachings on the environment:
1. Pancha Mahabhutas (The five great elements) create a web of life that is shown forth in the structure and interconnectedness of the cosmos and the human body. Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together the elements are interconnected and interdependent. The Upanishads explains the interdependence of these elements in relation to Brahman, the supreme reality, from which they arise: “From Brahman arises space, from space arises air, from air arises fire, from fire arises water, and from water arises earth.” Hinduism recognizes that the human body is composed of and related to these five elements, and connects each of the elements to one of the five senses. The human nose is related to earth, tongue to water, eyes to fire, skin to air, and ears to space. This bond between our senses and the elements is the foundation of our human relationship with the natural world. For Hinduism, nature and the environment are not outside us, not alien or hostile to us. They are an inseparable part of our existence, and they constitute our very bodies. 

2. Ishavasyam – Divinity is omnipresent and takes infinite forms. Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita (7.19, 13.13) and the Bhagavad Purana (2.2.41, 2.2.45), contain many references to the omnipresence of the Supreme divinity – including its presence throughout and within nature. Hindus worship and accept the presence of God in nature. For example, many Hindus think of India’s mighty rivers – such as the Ganges - as goddesses. In the Mahabharata, it is noted that the universe and every object in it has been created as an abode of the Supreme God meant for the benefit of all, implying that individual species should enjoy their role within a larger system, in relationship with other species. 

3. Protecting the environment is part of Dharma. Dharma, one of the most important Hindu concepts, has been translated into English as duty, virtue, cosmic order, and religion. In Hinduism, protecting the environment is an important expression of dharma. 

In past centuries, Indian communities – like other traditional communities – did not have an understanding of “the environment” as separate from the other spheres of activity in their lives. A number of rural Hindu communities such as the Bishnois, Bhils, and Swadhyaya have maintained strong communal practices to protect local ecosystems such as forests and water sources. These communities carry out these conservation-oriented practices not as “environmental” acts but rather as expressions of dharma. When Bishnois are protecting animals and trees, when Swadhyayis are building Vrikshamandiras (tree temples) and Nirmal Nirs (water harvesting sites), and when Bhils are practicing their rituals in sacred groves, they are simply expressing their reverence for creation according to Hindu teachings, not “restoring the environment.” These traditional Indian groups do not see religion, ecology, and ethics as separate arenas of life. Instead, they understand it to be part of their dharma to treat creation with respect. 

4. Our environmental actions affect our Karma. Karma - a central Hindu teaching - holds that each of our actions creates consequences – good and bad – which constitute our karma and determine our future fate, including the place we will assume when we are reincarnated in our next life. Moral behavior creates good karma, and our behavior towards the environment has karmic consequences. Because we have free choice, even though we may have harmed the environment in the past, we can choose to protect the environment in the future, replacing environmentally destructive karmic patterns with good ones. 

5. The earth – Devi – is a goddess and our mother and deserves our devotion and protection. Many Hindu rituals recognize that human beings benefit from the earth, and offer gratitude and protection in response. Many Hindus touch the floor before getting out of bed every morning and ask Devi to forgive them for trampling on her body. Millions of Hindus create kolams daily – artwork consisting of bits of rice or other food placed at their doorways in the morning. These kolams express Hindu’s desire to offer sustenance to the earth, just as the earth sustains themselves. The Chipko movement – made famous by Chipko women’s commitment to “hugging” trees in their community to protect them from clear-cutting by outside interests, represents a similar devotion to the earth.
6. Hinduism’s tantric and yogic traditions affirm the sacredness of material reality and contain teachings and practices to unite people with divine energy. Hinduism’s Tantric tradition teaches that the entire universe is the manifestation of divine energy. Yoga – derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite” - refers to a series of mental and physical practices designed to connect the individual with this divine energy. Both these traditions affirm that all phenomena, objects, and individuals are expressions of the divine. And because these traditions both envision the earth as a Goddess, contemporary Hindu teachers have used these teachings to demonstrate the wrongness of the exploitation of the environment, women, and indigenous peoples. 

7. Belief in reincarnation supports a sense of interconnectedness of all creation. Hindus believe in the cycle of rebirth, wherein every being travels through millions of cycles of birth and rebirth in different forms, depending on their karma from previous lives. So, a person may be reincarnated as a person, animal, bird, or another part of the wider community of life. Because of this, and because all people are understood to pass through many lives on their pathway to ultimate liberation, reincarnation creates a sense of solidarity between people and all living things. Through belief in reincarnation, Hinduism teaches that all species and all parts of the earth are part of an extended network of relationships connected over the millennia, with each part of this network deserving respect and reverence.

8. Ahimsa (Nonviolence) - Non-violence is the greatest Dharma. Ahimsa to the earth improves one’s karma. For observant Hindus, hurting or harming another being damages one’s karma and obstructs advancement toward moksha - liberation. To prevent the further accrual of bad karma, Hindus are instructed to avoid activities associated with violence and to follow a vegetarian diet. Based on this doctrine of ahimsa, many observant Hindus oppose the institutionalized breeding and killing of animals, birds, and fish for human consumption.
9. Sanyasa (Asceticism) represents a path to liberation and is good for the earth. Hinduism teaches that asceticism – restraint in consumption and simplicity in living – represents a pathway towards moksha (liberation) which treats the earth with respect. A well-known Hindu teaching -
Tain tyakten bhunjitha – has been translated, “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”
One of the most prominent Hindu environmental leaders - Sunderlal Bahuguna - inspired many Hindus by his ascetic lifestyle. His repeated fasts and strenuous foot marches, undertaken to support and spread the message of the Chipko, distinguished him as a notable ascetic in our own time. In his capacity for suffering and his spirit of self-sacrifice, Hindus saw a living example of the renunciation of worldly ambition exhorted by Hindu scriptures.
10. Gandhi is a role model for simple living. Gandhi’s entire life can be seen as an ecological treatise. This is one life in which every minute act, emotion, or thought functioned much like an ecosystem: his small meals of nuts and fruits, his morning ablutions and everyday bodily practices, his periodic observances of silence, his morning walks, his cultivation of the small as much as of the big, his spinning wheel, his abhorrence of waste, his resorting to basic Hindu and Jain values of truth, nonviolence, celibacy, and fasting. The moralists, nonviolent activists, feminists, journalists, social reformers, trade union leaders, peasants, prohibitionists, nature-cure lovers, renouncers, and environmentalists all take their inspirations from Gandhi’s life and writings.
(Acknowledgement: Adapted from the essays by Christopher K. Chapple, O. P. Dwivedi, K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Vinay Lal, and George A. James in Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water and Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, both published by Harvard University Press. Thanks also to the essays by Harold Coward and Rita DasGupta Sherma in Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, published by SUNY Press. I am also indebted to kind comments by Reverend Fletcher Harper and for his invitation to write this article.)