Gateway 2012 – “Be You, Be Hindu!

published on February 18, 2012

Gateway 2012: Finding Dharma with Hindu Youth
By Ambika Khanna


The Hindu Students Association (HSA) hosted their annual camp ‘Gateway’ in Bruceville, Texas from February 3 to 5.  From all the HSA branches, there were a total of over 130 attendees.  This year’s camp sought to provide a gateway for young Hindus in “finding your dharma, ” as the camp theme demonstrated.

The weekend was filled with various activities such as icebreakers, games, cultural dancing, bhajan night and speeches by the keynote speakers. This year the keynote speaker was Jeffrey Armstrong, also known as Kavindra Rishiji. We were honored to have Brahmachari Girish Chaitanyaji (Chinmaya Mission, Austin) and Acharya Praveen Gultaiji (Arya Samaj of Greater Houston) as the other speakers.

As a newcomer to HSA, this was my first time attending one of HSA’s events.  Although I have attended other spiritual retreats, I thought the HSA experience was unique. Undaunted by the large number of attendees, the district and national officers continuously engaged the Hindu youth with breakout sessions that sought to challenge young minds to think critically in regards to their faith.  Moreover, the attendees were provided ample opportunities to socialize, thus solidifying friendships amongst peers.

In addition to the long-lasting friendships made, the keynote speakers did an excellent job addressing issues that affect today’s youth.  A perfect example is the way in which Girishji answered a question posed by one of the attendees: How do we train our minds? Girishji was able to discuss various aspects on how we can do so not only as students, but also as young professionals. He urged us to use the Bhagavad Gita as a source of inspiration as we seek the answers to our questions. Moreover, he advised that regular study groups is key in helping us overcome the tumultuous thoughts and desires in our minds and enjoy calmness and focus in our endeavours.

Jeffrey Armstrong was our other guest speaker. His first lecture instructed today’s Hindu youth to “reframe the argument.” He represents a unique perspective having been raised as a Christian. Accordingly, he provided direction in how to effectively communicate our spirituality as Hindus to non-Hindus. This aspect was greatly appreciated by several Hindus with non-Indian origins. Although it happens periodically throughout my work-life, I never think about how to re-frame a discussion so our beliefs can be explained in a positive manner to non-Hindus. This was further reinforced as we were sharing the Greene Family Camp with a Jewish spiritual group. Interacting with other spiritual non-Hindus at the campsite allowed us put our teachings and thoughts into action.

He also conducted a workshop on chanting mantras. His workshop complemented the HSA mantra project, which presents Hindu mantras in a more appealing form to the Hindu youth. For me, this was the highlight of the weekend.

Moreover, Armstrong spoke on how the etymology of many western religious terms stem from Sanskrit roots. His talk was therefore not only mind-opening, but also thought provoking. I immediately felt a sense of gratitude for my faith and how deep its roots are. As Sean Glover, alumni from Texas State University remarked, “I felt like it was a well-organized event with a balanced social and spiritual atmosphere. The people were amazing, the activities were fun, the campground was beautiful, and I enjoyed our guest speakers. For many, Gateway is a chance to reconnect to their faith and devotion to God while also, as in my case, delving deeper into what it means to be Hindu and to follow the path of yoga.”

Being an HSA event for the South District, the event was organized by the HSA South District Officers. All the attendees were impressed by the level of organization and professionalism of the event. In addition to the organization of the district officers, the HSA national officers and the Board of Directors presented the four HSA projects, Mantra project, Hindu Animation project, Quickfire project, and Hinduism Awareness Week. The presentation, led by the HSA president Varun Mehta was innovative, engaging, and unique. With the vision and purpose of each project explained, we were broken up into our “families” (social groups) to work on new ideas for each project.

Overall, the camp was a great success.  Everyone had a good time and was inspired by the various planned activities. Whether it was Hindu Jeopardy or performing Suryanamaskar, every activity brought us closer together and helped to give us a better understanding of ourselves and our culture. Gateway 2012 has truly brought light to HSA’s motto- “Be You, Be Hindu!

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