The Maori King Tuheitia inaugurated the second New Zealand Hindu Conference at Hindu Heritage Centre, Auckland on May 16 by lighting the traditional lamp. This is an important event for the Hindu community in New Zealand, and also for race relations. King Tuheitia received a traditional Hindu welcome when a young girl, Deepika Magesan, garlanded the distinguished dignitaries. Shri Haare Williams, the Kaumatua (Maori elder), blessed the occasion with a Maori traditional prayer. This was followed by the Hindu prayer from Swami Vijnananand.
The theme of the conference was ?Sustaining New Zealand communities through health benefits of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda?. Shri Vinod Kumar, president, Hindu Council, New Zealand, welcomed the delegates and highlighted the work carried out by the organisation?strengthening the bond between New Zealand communities; developing creativity of the youth; and understanding and experiencing the Maori culture. He also briefed the delegates about the outcome of the first conference on Hindu Social Services Foundation, Hindu Elders Foundation and Hindu Youth Foundation. He also announced HEART?A humanitarian emergency aid and relief team, an initiative of the Hindu Council of New Zealand. This is in response to help those who needed it because of natural disasters happening around the world, for example, Myanmar.
Shri Rahui Papa, who spoke on behalf of the King Tuheitia and his entourage, mentioned the similarities between Maori and Hindu communities. He said, ?We are the same family but speak two different languages.? He also spoke about common words such as mana, which have the same meaning in Maori and Sanskrit. He said this is a good beginning and we need to take it forward, and assured the delegates that all cooperation will be extended to foster inter-community cultural relations. He appreciated the work of the Hindu Council of New Zealand and also congratulated the organisation for celebrating Matariki (Maori New Year). He was impressed by the welcome accorded by the Hindu community and told the audience that he felt at home.
The conference provided a platform for all organisations dealing with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda to showcase the health benefits to the New Zealand society. Dr Guna Magesan, a senior scientist and the conference coordinator, presided over a plenary session where the overseas keynote speakers made presentations on yoga and meditation. The keynote speaker on yoga was Dr H.R. Nagendra, Vice Chancellor of SVYASA Yoga University, Bangalore, India. He spoke on the ?Integrated approach of yoga therapy?a glimpse of 30 years research?. He spoke on his research on the therapeutic effects of yoga in curing and controlling asthma and bronchitis, obesity and diabetes, hypertension, etc. Since obesity and diabetes are major issues in New Zealand people, his university is willing to cooperate and collaborate with the New Zealand government and health agencies.
The keynote speaker for meditation was Swami Sridharanand, president of Vedanta Centres of Australia and New Zealand. Dr Shirish Karnik, an Ayurvedic practitioner, was the keynote speaker for Ayurveda. He gave an overview of Ayurveda, and how Ayurveda integrates with modern medicine. The session was presided over by Dr Ram Prakash Agarwal of Miami University, USA. The session on ?Working with Government Agencies? was well received by the delegates. This session was presided by Smt. Farida Sultana, founder of Shakti. Representatives from the Auckland District Health Board, Accident Compensation Corporation, and NZ Police made presentations. Three concurrent workshops were coordinated by Paul Barton, Rotorua; Ananya Chaitanya, Foundation of Self Knowledge, New Zealand; and Dr Vijay Srinivasa Murthy, an Ayurvedic doctor. The conference papers were presented by the highly qualified research scholars, university lecturers of both Hindu and non-Hindu origins. Although this conference was mainly for the New Zealand community, there were a number of delegates from India, USA, Fiji and Australia.
The second day of the conference had three plenary sessions on yoga, Ayurveda and meditation. All the sessions were well attended and the delegates actively participated in the interactive sessions. The afternoon sessions had three concurrent workshops. The conference sessions were chaired by well-qualified professionals: Dr Nikhil Zaveri of East Tamaki Health Care, Auckland; Dr Yogini Ratnasabapathy of Waitamata District Health Board; and Rakesh Naidoo of the NZ Police. Similarly, the workshops were run by Sneh Prasad of Auckland District Health Board, Dr Amritha Sobrun, Maharaj of Auckland University, and Shri Venkatesan and Shri Velayudan from India.
The third day of the conference started with a session on establishing a research institute for yoga and Ayurveda. The session was presided over by Dr H.R. Nagendra, Vice-Chancellor of Yoga University from India. Delegates discussed and deliberated extensively on the prospect of the research institute and the response was very positive.
The third New Zealand Hindu Conference with the theme ?Sustaining New Zealand through strengthening relations amongst communities? was announced to be held on May 1-2, 2010.