Montclair, CA. The 5th Annual Hindu Mandir Priests’ Conference was held on 24th & 25th June at Nithyanandeshwara Hindu Temple, Los Angeles Aadheenam on future of North American Hindu Priests.
Delegates from Hindu mandirs and organizations from all over North America, especially Southern California, participated and has been focusing on creating a platform for Priests, Management and Devotees to enhance the services offered at the Mandir. The conference served as a Hindu think-tank to deliberate on issues faced by priests, and sought to empower them to become spiritual activists of the community.
The evening started with Arati. In her welcome address Ma Nithya Mukthikananda, Mahanth of Mahanirvani Akhada and coordinator of the host temple, stressed the importance of the priests in the Hindu community not only for the rituals they conduct but also for the ‘Jnana, Space and Presence’ they share with the community. Supporting them means supporting our temples.
In his opening address, Dr. Abhaya Asthana, President of VHPA raised a thought provoking question: ‘What will be the legacy of Hindu Americans hundreds of years from now?’ and offered hope that the Hindu community will be known for bringing spiritual transformation to North America. He described how temples are the vehicles of this change, emphasized the importance of supporting our priests and highlighted what can happen if we don’t—citing an example of a U.S. priest who has been in the country for more than 40 years but has not experienced growth since leaving India.
Prominent Hindu leaders, and highly respected priests delivered keynote addresses. Swami Adrishananda of Sri Nand Shiv Durga temple, Montebello said that temple is where spiritual awakening starts, as spiritual food is
offered at the temple. Pt Roopnauth Sharma of Mississauga Ram Mandir, Canada in his video address said, priests are the conduits of the connection between the individual and God and need to constantly update themselves. Sri Narasimmacharya Cherukupally of Panchamukha Hanuman Temple, Torrance said it’s important to consider that priests need challenge and expansion.
In a special address, His Holiness Paramahamsa Sri Nithyananda Swami, Mahamandaleshwar of Mahanirvani Akhada, stressed the importance of developing the right inner and outer image for Hindus worldwide. He added, the Spiritual legitimacy for Sanatana Hindu Dharma can be brought about by living the agamas, making the yogic and vedic sciences as a reality (rather than just a theory), and expressing the powers described in them we can build the right inner image. This is directly relevant to the priests since they are in the best position to make this happen.
The informative workshops on the second day offered practical learning modules designed to empower priests with skills for effective communication and community engagement. The sessions covered a variety of topics including the importance of participation of priests in
interfaith events, importance of continuing education and growth for priests, importance of youth involvement in priesthood, legalities that priests should be aware of during marriage counseling, etc.
Delegates from various organizations including, Swami Narayan Mandir, Brahman Samaj of N.A., Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, Riverside, Irvine Mandir, Vedanta Society of Los Angeles, Ekal Foundation, Indic Foundation, Param Shakti Peeth of America, Pasadena Durga Temple, Claremont School of Theology, Nithyanandeshwara Hindu Temple, Ohio, Nithyanandeshwara Hindu Temple, Phoenix and Nithyanandeshwara Hindu Temple, Seattle participated and shared their experience.
The program concluded with a unique forum where priests, temple executives and devotees formed focus groups and brought forth their honest perspectives and solutions in creating a thriving dharmic ecosystem for mandirs. In his closing address, the Sri Mahant of Mahanirvani Akhada
Sri Nithya Mukthananda said that Hindu temples should be universities, and centers for cultural revolution. He concluded with the vision that priests will become the center of this cultural revolution.
Hindu Mandir Priests’ Conference (HMPC) is an initiative of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA).