Hindu philosophy teaches us that performing the right action itself is an act of worship. Moreover, it is even better to perform the right action when it is beneficial to others. As Hindus and members of Navya Shastra, we believe that making genuine attempts toward ushering a new age of reform in the Hindu religious tradition is not just the right thing to do, but an integral part of our dharma (religious duty).
With this in mind, we have taken several steps to facilitate and encourage a movement for Hindu renaissance in the first full year of Navya Shastra's existence. The following is a list of our organization's accomplishments in 2003 (Kaliyuga year 5104-5105).
A letter was sent to the trustees of the newly-opened Veda Vidya Peetham?s SIES Vedic School (Mumbai, India) urging them to accept young boys and girls from all castes for Vedic training.
A letter was sent to His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetham (Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu) requesting His Holiness to accept young students for Vedic training from all castes, including Harijans. We requested His Holiness to lead the Hindu renaissance movement beginning with this important symbolic gesture.
A congratulatory letter was sent to Hon. Dr. K. Pichai Sivachariyar, head of Sri Karpaga Vinayagar Veda-Agama Vidyalaya and Siva Neri Kalagam (Pillaiyarpatti, Tamilnadu) Vedic and Agamic priest training schools on the note that he has been active in training priests from non-brahmin communities. Navya Shastra urged Dr. Sivachariyar to accept Harijans and female students to be trained as Hindu priests.
Indo-Asian News Service published Navya Shastra?s press release regarding the plea to His Holiness Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetham on 3 June 2003.
A letter detailing Navya Shastra?s goals and objectives was presented to His Holiness Sri Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji of Seetanagaram, Andhra Pradesh, by Navya Shastra founder-member, Sri Rahul Saxena, during His Holiness? visit to the Hindu temple in Sunnyvale, California. His Holiness was also congratulated on His Holiness? exemplary work to uplift tribal communities throughout India.
Navya Shastra co-chairperson and co-founder, Sri Vikram Masson, attended the Global Dharma Conference 2003 in Edison, New Jersey. Sri Masson met and presented a letter to His Holiness Sri Dayananda Saraswati Swamiji of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam (based in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu; Rishikesh, Uttaranchal; and Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania) and coordinator of the Acharya Sabha of the All India Movement for Seva regarding Navya Shastra?s goals and objectives. Navya Shastra persuaded His Holiness to bring up the issues pertaining to Navya Shastra at the November 2003 meeting of the Acharya Sabha.
Navya Shastra members Pathmarajah Nagalingam and P.N. Kumar took the initiative to engage the Saiva leadership in South India and to inform them of Navya Shastra's goals and activities. A letter was sent to Adheenakartars of five prominent Saiva Adheenams of Tamilnadu. The five Adheenakartars were:
1. His Holiness Sri-la-Sri Shanmukadesika Gnana Sambandha Paramacharya Swamigal of Tirukkailaya Paramparai Dharumai Aadheenam (Dharmapuram)
2. His Holiness Tirukkailaya Paramparai Seervalar Seer Sivaprakasa Pandara Sanniti of Tiruvaavadudurai Aadheenam (Tiruvaavadudurai)
3. His Holiness Sri-la-Sri Kasivasi Muthukumaraswami Tambiran Swamigal of Turupanandal Adheenam (Turupanandal)
4. His Holiness Sri-la-Sri Arunagiri Gnana Sambandha Desika Paramacharya Swamigal of Madurai Aadheenam (Madurai)
5. His Holiness Tavattiru Santhalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar Swamigal of Perur Adheenam (Perur)
Their Holinesses were requested to admit all Hindus, including Harijans, into their Vedic and Agamic schools true to the spirit of the Periyapuranam. Navya Shastra implored Their Holinesses to usher in a new age of Hindu renaissance.
Navya Shastra co-chairperson, Sri Vikram Masson met with His Holiness Sri Dayananda Saraswati Swamiji at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania to discuss issues pertaining to Navya Shastra vis-ŕ¶is the November 2003 meeting of the Acharya Sabha. A letter written by Navya Shastra?s advisor and priest emeritus, Hon. Sri Rajarathina Bhattar, explained Navya Shastra?s core beliefs and inspiration. In another letter, Navya Shastra senior advisor O.P. Gupta declared that the Vedas do not sanction casteism, and that all scriptures subordinate to the Vedas are not binding on Hindus. His Holiness was moved by Navya Shastra?s detailed presentation and agreed to include Navya Shastra's proposals as part of the agenda in the November 2003 Acharya Sabha discussions.
Navya Shastra senior advisor Dr. Bala N. Aiyer, visited the Kamakoti Peetham (Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu) and met with Jagadguru Shankaracharya His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, as His Holiness Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal.Their Holiness were requested to lead the Hindu renaissance movement by allowing for children from all castes to be trained at the Vedic pathashala at the Kamakoti Peetham. Although the Swamigals, in spirit, are not opposed to such reform in the Hindu religious tradition, they voiced the opinion that the time is not yet ripe to introduce these changes.
Navya Shastra chairpersons and co-founders, Dr. Jaishree Gopal and Sri Vikram Masson, along with Sushri Ramya Gopal and Sri Gautham Rao met with His Holiness Sri Dayananda Saraswati Swamiji in Troy, Michigan. A bound packet of letters written in English, Hindi and Tamil by Navya Shastra members and supporters detailing Navya Shastra?s plea for equality of all castes in Vedic/Agamic education, as well as brahmopadesham for all Hindu children, was handed over to Swamiji. His Holiness responded enthusiastically and again promised that he would bring up the issue at the first ever round table conference of Dharmacharyas in November 2003.
Navya Shastra received an official reply from the Tiruvaavadudurai Aadheenam (Tiruvaavadudurai, Tamilnadu) to the letter sent in August 2003 regarding the ending of caste-discrimination in the orthodox Hindu institutions. This famed orthodox Aadheenam, located in the town where Rishi Tirumular received the holy Tirumantiram, also praised Navya Shastra for working towards eradicating caste discrimination and endorsed Navya Shastra?s position.
Navya Shastra supporter Smt. Maya Ravindranath, an Art Excel teacher and ardent devotee of Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of the Art of Living foundation, met with the new-age Hindu Guru at a gathering in New Delhi on 30 October 2003 and presented him with documents pertaining to Navya Shastra. Smt. Maya Ravindranath urged Sri Sri Ravishankar to speak up on behalf of Navya Shastra and toward reforms in the Hindu religious tradition in general.
In a press release, Navya Shastra protested the decision by UNESCO to group Vedic chanting with world folk arts as ?Heritage of Humanity.? While Navya Shastra lauded the effort to preserve the Veda-chanting heritage, Navya Shastra?s press release stated that the holy Vedas deserve a place alongside the Bible and Qur?an as seminal texts of world religion. Navya Shastra?s press release further asserted that UNESCO, in an effort to preserve the Veda-chanting tradition, has endorsed the caste system by promising funds for brahmin-only Vedic schools. Navya Shastra publicly urged all schools receiving funding from UNESCO to select candidates in a caste-blind basis. The press release was published by Hindustan Times, Hindu Press International and other news agencies on 17-18 November 2003.
The meeting of the Acharya Sabha was convened in Chennai, India from 29 November to 1 December 2003. This mammoth gathering of over seventy orthodox Hindu religious leaders (Mathadipatis, Peethadipatis, Adheenakartars and Mahamandaleshwars) discussed various topics pertaining to contemporary Hindu society and decided to form an apex body of all orthodox Hindu institutions. This apex body of Acharyas represents the first attempt in the history of Hinduism to form a body of orthodox Acharyas from various sectarian traditions specifically to confront Hindu societal issues. The apex body is to meet regularly and directly address issues plaguing Hindu society. Sri K. Vaidyanathan and Dr. Uma Sampathkumaran, Navya Shastra associate committee members, were present at this meeting. Booklets about Navya Shastra were distributed to all the delegates, as promised, but due to time constraints, the delegates did not get a chance to address adequately the topic of Vedic/Agamic equality for all Hindus proposed by Navya Shastra. Some Acharyas, however, did bring up a proposal to support education, including basic Hindu religious education, and economic upliftment to the downtrodden sections of Hindu society.
On 6 December 2003, Outlookindia Magazine (http://www.outlookindia.com) published an in-depth piece on the decision by UNESCO to place Vedic chanting as heritage of humanity entitled, ?Vedic chanting makes it to UNESCO's intangible heritage of humanity list, only to ruffle a few feathers.? Navya Shastra co-chairperson and co-founder, Sri Vikram Masson, was interviewed by journalist, Harsh Kabra, and our position on the matter was detailed in the ensuing article. Navya Shastra maintained the position that UNESCO has marginalized and diminished the most important scriptures in the Hindu tradition by simply listing them as a heritage of humanity, alongside world folk art forms.
Navya Shastra senior advisor, Prof. Ramdas Lamb, was one of the invited guests at the International Association of the History of Religions (IAHR) conference in New Delhi, India. He delivered a lecture on the topic of Hinduism in America, which included a discussion of Navya Shastra and the overall purpose of the organization.
Overall, calendar year 2003 has been a successful one for Navya Shastra. We have been fortunate to have many dedicated members, who have given their time, effort and commitment to our organization. We are deeply indebted and thankful to all our members, especially the advisory, working, and associate committee members, for their tireless work and continued dedication toward the accomplishment of our individual projects. Navya Shastra strongly believes that our collective efforts are a continuation of the dharmic tradition laid down by the great Rishis who composed the scriptures as well as the immortal saints and sages who disseminated that knowledge. Over the last year, our biggest success has been to spread the name of Navya Shastra in the Hindu world, and to make it known that there is a moderate voice among Hindus to reform the tradition from the shackles of birth-based casteism. We firmly believe that the success of our organization is not measured by our accomplishments alone, but also by the transformation that we bring to the Hindu mind because the first step toward reform must begin with reform of one?s own thinking. Aum Tat Sat!
summarized by Gautham Rao