With the release of the popular film “Eat. Pray. Love.” Bali has become a household name, known for its exotic culture and beautiful environment. It is also, maybe not so well-known, as one of the largest Hindu populations in the world per capita having a culture of Hinduism for thousands of years deep within its roots. Hindu traditions are practiced in everyday life, with their own Balinese flavor.
The second annual World Hindu Summit event (WHS), organized by the World Hindu Federation (WHF), happened in late-June of this year in the capital city, Denpasar of Bali, Indonesia. “Lokasamgraha”, means to “serve for unity, empowerment and welfare” and this saying was the theme of the event; organized by the World Hindu Parisad organization; an organization typically having a controversial reputation in India, but in Bali it does not live this reputation, exemplified in its generous hospitality and variety of attendees.
The purpose of the summit is to network, build cohesion, and unite Hindus of the world for common causes. The five-day seminars covered areas including education, health, environment, and women’s empowerment, was jeweled with extravagant vegetarian meals, entertainment and decor, and culminated in the fifth day’s “yatra” outing to the famous temples of the region and farewell dinners.
Mahaprabhu das who had dual roles, as the Hindu Forum of Europe (HFE) General Secretary as well as ISKCON Europe Communications Director, as well as Bharti Tailor the HFE President were present at the meeting. Mahaprabhu das spoke on third day of the meeting on behalf of the HFE.
“I am often asked in Europe if I am a Hindu” Mahaprabhu das said in his speech to the 100+ attendees, “and I reply that it depends what you mean by Hindu. If you mean an ethnic, national, exclusivist or sectarian religion I am not a Hindu. If you mean an inclusive, non-sectarian, universal family of spiritual traditions based on the Vedas, then yes, I am a Hindu.”
Guests were treated as royalty for the week and speakers of the event included: the Mayor of Bali, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living organization, and countless yogis and gurus, scholars and practitioners from a variety of Hindu faith traditions from around the world. Concepts of the WHS are broad, as it is in its second annual meeting and some of the points of the charter are to better define its aims, but their goals of preventing forced Hindu conversion to other faiths, creating a Hindu moral based education that can be used by Hindus all over the world, and creating a Hindu-based economy system amongst other initiatives, are clearly being set into motion by the involvement of the event.
The HFE was able to give a Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) Ramayana book to the Mayor of Bali, and the President of the World Hindu Parishad organization during the event, as a token of the HFE and ISKCON’s appreciation for being invited.
It seems that the WHS location is chosen more than just for scenic views; Bali really is the “island of wisdom”, as suggested by the President of the Executive Board to the Hindu Dharma Council of Indonesia, a place where Hindus from any denomination are accepted and embraced for what they share in common, rather than how they differ.
By Kumari Sherreitt
Hindu Forum Europe Executive Secretary