Wednesday, January 23, 2013

HASC Recognizes Dharmic Community Inclusion at the Inauguration Prayer Service



What a historic day January 22 was for Sikh and Dharmic Americans! A Sikh American, Ms. Sapreet Kaur was included for the first time in the National Prayer Service held to pray for President Obama, the new Administration and the country.

At the National Prayer Service, we understood the messages that faith leaders expressed from all over the country. Mindful of the bickering in Congress, religious leaders urged Congress to bridge their differences and to work as one. The leaders conveyed the universal messages of compassion, tolerance and selflessness. 

These universal messages are valued by us Dharmic Americans.  It was only last year that the Sikh community witnessed a heinous crime. Over the past many years, they have been victims of hate crimes all over this country. Recognizing them at today’s National Prayer Service, served as a symbol of “American inclusion,” of those deeply impacted by prejudice and hate. The Service also served as a reminder to the country of our pluralistic nature.

Leaders from Dharmic and Hindu temples, gurudwaras and organizations at the Service prayed for the well-being of our President, Vice-President, our government, leaders and country. We at HASC continue to pray for the healing of our Sikh brothers and sisters and seek ways to address our collective social justice concerns and bring our dharma values to the forefront. We pray for our President, the Administration and the country to succeed in the many challenges we collectively face.

It was a moment of enormous pride that in 2009, for the first time, we heard the word "Hindu" from the President and this time at the inaugural in 2013, the word "Namaste".  And in 2009 a prominent Hindu leader was included at the National Prayer Service at the President’s first inauguration.  This year, a Sikh leader represented the Eastern faiths. It is therefore a matter of pride that the Dharmic community was represented by Sikhs. Their inclusion was a historic moment for Dharmic Americans, for all Americans.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Common Sense Gun Safety-Let's Do The Right Thing


Common Sense Gun Safety-Let's Do The Right Thing


We at HASC are still horrified by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

That’s why today we applaud President Obama, Vice President Biden, and their administration for the proposed common sense gun safety reforms that will reduce the number of children and youth whose lives end from the barrel of a gun.

The President’s plan includes:
  • Requiring every purchaser of a gun to undergo a background check (As many as 40% of gun purchases are done anonymously.);
  • Banning military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines that allow for nothing more than the rapid killing of human beings;
  • Making schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans, and
  • Helping ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need and health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.

Congress must act.

Click here to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to pass these common sense gun safety measures. If they are opposed to them, ask them why there are opposed and what they would do instead to protect children.

5,740 children and youth were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009. These proposals represent a good first step to saving children’s lives. 

Civic and Religious Leaders Unite to End Gun Violence


We seek to bring our communities together in support of reasonable steps taken to prevent future suffering such as that endured by the bereaved and traumatized families of gun violence victims… we commit to building consensus and support in our communities for steps that will turn our collective grief into shared hope.
WASHINGTON D.C.– On the one month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, in advance of Vice President Biden's report and policy recommendations to President Obama, and as the discussion about preventing gun violence continues in communities throughout the United States, a number of prominent national leaders, who have served on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships today released the following joint statement (please note: these leaders are not speaking on behalf of the Councils nor on behalf of their professional organizations or congregations, but in their individual capacities). The political, ideological and religious diversity reflected among this group of leaders underscores the common understanding of the importance of meaningful action to address gun violence. The full statement is below:
We come together as faith and community leaders who love our country and its Constitution, treasure our rights and take pride in fulfilling our duties as American citizens. We have come to respect each other out of our service on the President’s Advisory Councils on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships but we speak out today in our individual capacities out of our shared desire to unite our country in addressing the challenges of gun violence in America. We write on the one month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown and are issuing this statement before Vice President Biden issues his report and recommendations.
As we are people of diverse religious, ideological and political views, so our communities are comprised of millions of loyal Americans, some who own guns and some who do not, but all of whom have grieved alongside the families of those lost to gun violence. We come with a common purpose out of a conviction that despite our diversity, we all share a commitment to protect the lives of our people. We commit ourselves and call upon our communities and our elected officials to make every effort to save human lives, especially the lives of children, from senseless gun violence that does not represent the responsible citizenship intended by the Second Amendment.  
Gun violence profoundly affects people in our neighborhoods, our organizations, and our houses of worship. We seek to bring our communities together in support of reasonable steps taken to prevent future suffering such as that endured by the bereaved and traumatized families of gun violence victims. We endorse reasonable steps taken to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people through measures such as ensuring and enforcing universal background checks for gun purchases, collection and publication of relevant data on gun violence, and other constructive measures that will limit gun violence.   
Millions who we serve and their families already suffer the effects of the stigmatizing misperceptions regarding mental illness. As we serve, teach and counsel our communities, we can help those who constitute a danger to themselves and others, and guide them to the intervention and help they need. Now is a time to educate the public and bring support for creating adequate mental health and mental illness resources in the community.  We call upon all sectors of American society, including our government, to see that those in need of mental health services will more readily find and receive them.
We know that these changes are deeply connected with changing our culture and ourselves so that we no longer treat depictions of excessive violence as a primary source of our entertainment. This is a transformation that begins at the grassroots level of family, school, community institution and house of worship.  Without a doubt, the national mourning that has followed the tragedy in Newtown demonstrates that even the incessant cacophony of violent film, music and video that overwhelms our senses each day has not dulled the compassion with which we are endowed. 
We acknowledge that our communities are not in total agreement as to the extent of the measures they currently envision. As religious and non-profit leaders, we commit to building consensus and support in our communities for steps that will turn our collective grief into shared hope. We acknowledge that the privilege of American freedom also carries a moral responsibility, which we recognize we can only shoulder together.
  • Susan K. Stern
  • Melissa Rogers
  • Rev. Leith Anderson
  • Anju Bhargava
  • Angela Glover Blackwell
  • Noel Castellanos
  • Arturo Ch├ívez, Ph.D.
  • Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin
  • Frederick A. Davie, M.Div.
  • Archbishop Demetrios of America
  • Bishop Mark S. Hanson
  • Dr. Joel C. Hunter
  • Lynne Hybels
  • Harry Knox
  • Ven. Miaohong
  • Rev. Otis Moss Jr.
  • Maria Nagorski
  • Nancy Ratzan
  • Rabbi David Saperstein
  • Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
  • Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
  • Elder Steven E. Snow
  • Rev. Larry J. Snyder
  • Rev. Jim Wallis
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins 
  • Sister Marlene Weisenbeck
  • Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
  • Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hindu American Seva Communities Promotes Eco-Dharma through Bhumi Seva




In an effort to practice what our dharmic texts have preached, HASC in collaboration with Oxford University's Bhumi Project and the University of North Texas, is working to advance greening of our temples and places of worship in the America. The Bhumi Seva initiative was launched in July 2011 at the White House.

HASC is pleased to announce a dedicated and highly talented volunteer team leading the initiative. Their brief bios are attached.

As part of the BhumiSeva initiative, , HASC has undertaken a pilot project with select temples to develop, track, and share the “green” progress together.  We hope that more places of worship will take advantage of our humble offerings and together we can make our dharmic places truly a living testimony to dharmic teachings and traditions. The progress of the effort with temples in the pilot program is part of an international greening effort and will be highlighted globally.

HASC has compiled various guides and booklets to help make our Puja rituals and temples more eco-friendly.  We will provide these to the select temples and help them assess their temples greening level so that they can increase energy efficiency.

HASC is inspired by the great Dharma teachings that are highlighted in this profound verse: The Almighty is Omnipresent everywhere in the universe, including planet earth (in the oceans, rivers, forests, mountains, air, water, atmosphere, and space).  Take only what you need from the bounties of planet earth; sacrifice greed so every one's needs are also met; do not plunder, do not hoard. Whose property is it after all? It all belongs to God. (Ishopanishad 1.1)

For additional information on the project, please contact Pankaj Jain, Eco-Dharma and Bhumi-Seva Project Director (Pankaj.jain@unt.edu ) and Arjun Bhargava, Associate Project Director (arjun@hinduamericanseva.org).

HASC celebrates Swami Vivekananda’s birthday through Interfaith Seva


- Launch Interfaith Annadaanam Program and
Appoint Hemant Wadhwani, NJ/NY Seva Project Director - 


Livingston, N.J. January 12, 2013:   Hindu American Seva Communities (HASC) honors Swami Vivekananda on his 150th birth anniversary, today.  For HASC Dharmic Seva and Vivekananda’s message is the catalyst to building Pluralistic Communities.  We are grateful to Swamiji for bringing Hinduism to America and laying a path for us and inspiring us even today….All differences in this world are of degree and not of kind because oneness is the secret of everything. ….. They alone live, who live for others….. You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself…..

On this auspicious and celebratory occasion, HASC is proud to launch an interfaith Annadaanam (homeless feeding) program and announce the appointment of Hemant Wadhwani as HASC’s Seva Project Director, NJ/NY metro area.

“Hemant is a role model to our community and a tireless community worker. Most recently he organized a Dharmic response for Sandy victims.  Hemant has worked with HASC from its inception and serves on HASC’s Executive Advisory Council Board.  With his leadership to our community, HASC’s seva programs will continue to expand and strengthen our country.  We urge the community to reach out to HASC to start seva projects and donate food to feed the homeless. We ask what Swami Vivekananda asked– Are you unselfish? That is the question. If you are, you will be perfect without reading a single religious book, without going into a single church or temple.” observed Anju Bhargava, HASC founder.

The Annadaanam program (a homeless feeding project), developed by Hemant Wadhwani, is a partnership with Muslims Against Hunger.  HASC piloted this interfaith collaboration on August 3rd, 2012 at our White House conference, “Dharmic America Future: Seva, Innovation and Tradition”.  The Next Generation Seva Leaders prepared food packages and distributed to the homeless in the Capitol Hill area.  Now we are expanding this program in the NY/NY metro area.  HASC and Muslims Against Hunger are willing to pick up the excess food from Temples and Restaurants and distribute it to the homeless in the NY/NJ metro area.  Hemant can be reached at hemant@hinduamericanseva.org.

Brief bio: Hemant Wadhwani started his career working at Diversified Investment Advisors building financial applications for the pension industry. During the first internet boom in 2000, he co-founded Translation City and has since been working in the language translation/international business services field servicing Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, and government agencies. Hemant is also a community development specialist having served as an advisor and board member at the NJ Asian American Health and Human Services Association, Real Medicine Foundation, India Youth Climate Network, the Sindhi Association of New Jersey, Save Latin America, Newark's Sumei Arts Center, Harlem/South Bronx Youthbuild mentorship programs, Healthy Harlem Soup Kitchen Project, and the United South Asian Donor Registry. He is active with many faith and interfaith organizations. He has also been appointed to a number of commissions and advisory committees by the Governor and state legislature of New Jersey. Most recently, Hemant launched the Hanuman Capital Initiative to bridge the funding gap related to both global development and local urban economic development needs. Hemant has a B.A. in Economics from Manhattanville College and an M.S. in Management with a specialization in International Business from New Jersey Institute of Technology.