Ancient Indian thought system, well known for its relentless argumentation on varied contentious issues, paved the way for maturing deep philosophical a thoughts, and scientific and technological inventions. This volume Vedanta Anviksiki, Science and Philosophy in Contemporary Perspective, which resonates the current expectations from Vedanta in a fast-changing world, is the proceedings of the 21st edition of International Congress of Vedanta organized by the Center of Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth during 11-13 July 2013.
The volume presents thirty-one research papers from reputed scholars on wide ranging topics like metaphysics knowledge and hermeneutics, science and technology in ancient texts interpretation of key texts, digital libraries, yoga and ayurveda, spirituality and science, interfaith dialogue, Indian cosmology and psychology, Vedantic pedagogy, history, culture, social systems, corporate world, governance music and consciousness studies. These papers present vast treasures of India’s knowledge systems and offer potential for multidisciplinary research.
It would be of immense value to the students and scholars of Vedanta, and would stimulate them for more discussions and debates on Vedantic traditions and their contemporary relevance.
Dr Girish Nath Jha teaches Computational Linguistics at Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU and is currently the Chairperson of the Centre. He has over 125 research papers and several books to his credit. He has supervised fourteen PhD and thirty-five MPhil students and has been awarded numerous national/international honours.
Sukalyan Sengupta, PhD, is a Professor of Environmental Engineering and the Director of the Center for Indic Studies at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Apart from the Prasthanatrayi Vedanta scriptures, he has a deep interest in the overlap of Vedanta, cosmology and consciousness.
Bal Ram Singh, PhD, a professor since 1990 at UMass Dartmouth and Institute of Advanced Sciences, conducting research on botulinum and tetanus neurotoxins, and also on yoga, mind and consciousness. He has published eleven books and nearly 300 articles, and is editor of three journals, including Ayurveda Journal of Health.
To A serious scholar of Indic knowledge systems, Vedanta presents a 6,000 years of continuous intellectual tradition and a virtual goldmine of research material. In today’s context where most of the world appears to be on the verge of collapsing into chaos, Vedanta needs to be reinterpreted and perhaps repackaged and contextualized for larger benefit. The younger generation which is progressively hooked on to Western materialism and lingo needs Vedanta much more now than it did earlier. How is the relevance of something we consider good to be established for a sceptical new world is the big question ancient civilizations like India have to answer. Since the new world takes pride in scepticism, argumentation, science and technology, we may perhaps think of offering Vedanta in a new platter to our younger readers. It is this idea that the organizers of the 21"1 Vedanta Congress agreed to take up as a challenge.
A Summary of the Conference
The 21st Congress was organized at the Center of Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth during 11-14 July 2013 under the chairmanship of Prof. Bal Ram Singh, the then director of the host centre. The event had a huge response in terms of submission of full papers out of which we selected a few for presentation in the conference and publication in the post-conference proceedings. The inaugural session was held in the Conference Room 1 in the Woodlands Commons Lobby. The theme of the conference was presented by Prof. Bal Ram Singh, the director of the Center of Indic Studies. Pandit Ramsamooj from the 3 R Foundations presented an introduction to the honourable Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam who later inaugurated the event. Since the year 2013 marked the 150th year of Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, the 21st Vedanta Congress organized many sessions in his honour on the first day of the event. The inaugural lecture on Swami Vivekananda’s impact on the interfaith movement was one of the highlights of the event. Swami Tyagananda from the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Boston delivered the lecture. There were two more Vivekananda keynote addresses on day one - by Asim Chaudhuri, a leading author on Swami Vivekananda and Brian Hatcher from the Tufts University.
The first day had two parallel sessions - one on Vivekananda and the other on Vedanta and Varna System. The session on Swami Vivekananda was chaired by Prof. Ashok Aklujkar from the University of British Columbia. The participants were Makarand Paranjape from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Swami Yogatmananda from the Vedanta Society of Providence, Rhode Island; Jeffrey Long from the Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania; Sukalyan Sengupta from UMass Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and Sukhnandan Singh from Deva Sanskrit University, Haridwar, India. The talks in this session highlighted various facets of the Vedanta practised by Swami Vivekananda including harmonizing sciences with Vedanta, contextualizing Vedanta in contemporary times.
The parallel session on Vedanta and Varna System was chaired by Madhu Jhaveri from the UMass Dartmouth and saw very interesting presentations (most of them on skype from India). After tea, there were two panel discussions - the one on Swami Vivekananda was chaired by Sukalyan Sengupta. It had eminent participants like Swami Tyagananda, Asim Chaudhuri Makarand Paranjape, Brian Hatcher and Rajiv Malhotra from the Infinity Foundation.
The second panel discussion was on the topic Modern Perspective on the Origin of Indian Civilization and was chaired by Bal Ram Singh. The participants in this session were Girish Nath Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University; K. Srinivas (on skype) from Pondicherry University; Ashok Aklujkar, R.P. Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
The day ended with a public lecture by Rajiv Malhotra on the topic The Continuity and Unity of Hinduism: Challenging the Thesis that Vivekananda "Manufactured" a "Bourgeois Hinduism". The talk was chaired by Makarand Paranjape.
The highlights of the day 2 of the event was a plenary session chaired by Rama Rao Pappu from the Miami University. The distinguished speakers in this session were Ashok Aklujkar who spoke on Rethinking the Early History of Vedanta and Bina Gupta from the University of Missouri, Columbia who gave a talk on Social Implications of Advaita Vedanta Metaphysical Conception of Reality as One.
Day 2 saw many sessions on the core themes of the Congress such as Cosmology and Psychology; Yoga and Ayurveda; Various Schools of Vedantic Philosophy; Science and Spirituality; Applied Aspects of Vedic Values; and Vedanta and Consciousness Studies. The day closed with two public lectures - one by Jeffrey Armstrong on Vedanta, the Devas and the Removal of Sectarianism from Vedic Culture and the other by Pandit Ramadheen Ramsamooj on Vedic Educational Model for Current Times. The session was chaired by Madhu Jhaveri.
Day 3 started with a plenary session chaired by Prof. R.P. Singh. There were two talks in this session - Rama Rao Pappu from the Miami University spoke on Religious Conversion: Gandhian-Vedantic Perspectives and T.S. Rukmani from the Concordia University spoke on Sisupala’s Moksa in Bhagavata Purana: A Critique. The day 3 had other important sessions like Science and Technology in Ancient Texts; Key Texts of Intellectual Tradition; Applying Vedanta to Modem Society; interfaith dialogue; pedagogy; history; culture; language studies; and digital libraries. The day witnessed two more key events.
There was a panel discussion titled An Experiment with SALT Education Model - American Vivekananda Academy chaired by Bal Ram Singh. The participants were Pandit Ramadheen Ramsamooj, Larry Myatt (Consultant, Charter Schools), Karen Cabral (Teacher, AVA School), Yanu Pokhrel (AVA student), Tanka Regimi (AVA student), Shavika Mishra (AVA student). The last session on day 3 was the valedictory session chaired by Girish Nath Jha of Jawaharlal Nehru University. The keynote in this session was delivered by Jerry Solfvin (Center for Indic Studies, UMass Dartmouth) on the Vedic Cure for the Loss of the Sense of Mystery in Western Science. The valedictory address was given by Swami Yogatmananda and the vote of thanks was given by Sukalyan Sengupta.
The conference concluded on 14 July 2013 with a quick morning panel discussion on the topic Vedanta in Academia, Business, Health, and Society moderated by Satya Parayitam from the Charlton College of Business and Center for Indic Studies, UMass Dartmouth. In the discussion many young participants debated on various aspects of Vedanta in contemporary times - Raj Kumar, Center for Indic Studies, UMass Dartmouth; Mamta Tripathi, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Candace Badgett, Maharishi University of Management; Ved Mitra Shukla, University of Delhi; Jeffrey Armstrong, Vasa Vedic Academy of Science & Arts; and Sanjay Saxena, New England Gayatri Parivar.
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