Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi’s tour to United States
“Hindus living outside Bharat should maintain their identity and values. We Hindus have a universal message and a mission. So, they should unite and be strong not only for themselves but also for the welfare of the whole world,” said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi while talking to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) workers in United States.
Shri Joshi was on the US tour from August 6 to 20. During the two-week long first trip to the United States Shri Joshi travelled to many cities including Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York. He also visited a Sangh Shiksha Varga of Midwest region held in Indiana and guided the participants there, majority of whom were American-born Hindu youths.
In Houston, a dinner meeting of prominent Hindu community leaders was hosted on the occasion of Shri Bhaiyaji’s visit. In this well attended meeting, Shri Bhaiyaji gave an overview of the accomplishments of RSS in the past eight decades. He gave a very touching account of how Sangh swayamsevaks in Bharat are working selflessly for decades together to create social harmony (samarasata). He narrated many examples of efforts by swayamsevaks, individuals as well as collective, to remove caste discrimination and bring social justice. Bhaiyaji mentioned how the RSS has created a feeling of national unity in the midst of regionalism, casteism and the tribal-non-tribal divide in Bharat. He also said that Sangh has been successful in bringing to the national stage many important issues such as Kashmir, the Northeast and religious conversions. Later, in a very lively interaction, Shri Bhaiyaji answered many questions asked by the audience about Sangh position on anti-corruption movements, Assam riots etc. In his concluding remarks, he appreciated the concern that Hindus in America have for the affairs of their Motherland. While urging the audience to be loyal and contributing citizens of the country of their adoption, he also congratulated them for actively maintaining their values and being the cultural ambassadors of Bharat. In his concluding remarks, Shri Ramesh Bhutada, HSS national Sah Sanghachalak (vice president), thanked Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi for sharing his thoughts.
Gatherings of swayamsevaks and Sevikas were organised in every city where Shri Bhaiyaji visited. While addressing swayam-sevaks and Sevikas, whether in Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles or in New Jersey, Shri Bhaiyaji stressed that being a swayamsevak is not merely about the externals. Being a swayamsevak means having certain qualities. First and foremost is selflessness. Being a swayamsevak means having purity of character, both personal and social. A swayamsevak should have a strong and uncompromising commitment towards the cause of Sangh. Most importantly a swayamsevak should constantly strive to become a good Hindu, to practice Dharma, to live for others and keep away from materialism. Shri Bhaiyaji’s guidance to swayamsevaks was to keep away from arguments but to be constantly active in making Hindu society faultless, self-reliant and dynamic. He conveyed his message very effectively to swayamsevaks of all age-groups through his simple language, practical examples and a very positive approach.
In San Francisco Bay Area, environmentalist Sam Bower, belonging to Green Museum and Pancho Ramos Stierle, belonging Service Space met Shri Bhaiyaji. Both of them are involved in community farming at Oakland. Another environmentalist Prakash Hegde too presented his views on the environmental issues. Ashish Goyal shared his experience working in the area of energy efficiency and solutions. There was a hearty exchange of thoughts, ideas and activities in relation to the environmental concerns. All of them agreed that along with proper governmental policies, the view of humanity towards nature also needs to change. Shri Bhaiyaji spoke about the idea and success of the Vishwa Mangal Gou-Gram Yatra. All the activists were very happy to listen to Shri Bhaiyaji. They resonated with his comment that the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is a family) should be promoted.
While in Washington DC area, Shri Bhaiyaji visited the DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) along with Sewa International karyakartas. DCCK is a charitable organisation that not only feeds thousands of homeless people daily, but also gives job training to rehabilitate many needy people. Bhaiyaji took a tour of the Kitchen to understand their operations. With his vast experience in sewa projects in Bharat he asked many questions about their functioning and the impact of the DCCK on the people that they serve. Bhaiyaji shared information about similar projects in Bharat with the volunteers and staff of DCCK. He also congratulated them for their yeoman services to the poor. Bhaiyaji also commended Sewa International karyakartas for working together with such charity organisations to serve the needy in America.
Shri Bhaiyaji’s visit to Shanti Ashram in Maryland was also very memorable. Shanti Ashram was started by Shri Vyasadev (Victor Landa) who is originally from Peru. Shanti Ashram is an urban Ashram involved in teaching Yoga and meditation. The followers also practice bio-dynamic farming to produce sattvic organic food. Shri Bhaiyaji was very happy to see them practicing agnihotra on a daily basis. He visited the water and yoga therapy centre at the Ashram and also the organic food shop. Shri Vyasadevji presented some literature to Shri Bhaiyaji. While sipping the hot chai with organic jaggery, Bhaiyaji invited Vyasadevji and others to visit some similar projects in Bharat, which they heartily accepted.
Apart from all the meetings and programmes Shri Bhaiyaji did some sightseeing as well. He enjoyed the tour to NASA in Houston as well as the various museums in Washington DC. One very important place he visited was the Fullerton Hall in the Art Institute of Chicago. This is where Swami Vivekananda gave his famous speech at the Parliament of Religions in 1893. It was like a pilgrimage for Bhaiyaji to visit the hall, similarly the Vivekananda House in Pasedena, CA and the Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters in Los Angeles started by Paramahansa Yogananda. During his New York sightseeing, Bhaiyaji made it a point to visit the Vedanta Society, started by Swami Vivekananda as early as 1894, and had discussions with assistant minister Swami Paritushtananda.
On August 18, the meeting with the Native American Ramapough Lenape community was quite an emotional one. Shri Bhaiyaji was accompanied by Prof. Radheshyam Dwivedi, President of the International Center for Cultural Studies and other karyakartas. They were warmly welcomed by Chief Dwaine Perry at the community center near New York. After giving a tour of the sacred ceremonial grounds, Chief Perry also told about their ongoing struggle to get approval for the construction of their traditional ‘Long House’. Chief Perry said that, similar to Hindus, they also believe in respect for all paths and lead a spiritual life in harmony with nature. Shri Bhaiyaji agreed and reiterated the point that this respect for diverse paths only would lead to a more peaceful world.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA Sanghachalak Prof Ved P Nanda was present at the gathering of swayamsevaks in New Jersey. He expressed his gratitude to Shri Bhaiyaji for inspiring the karyakartas through his visit. Prof Nanda also appealed to all swayamsevaks to actively participate in the programmes commemorating Swami Vivekananda 150th birth anniversary in 2013. Vishwa Vibhag Sanyojak Shri Saumitra Gokhale accompanied Shri Bhaiyaji throughout the tour.
In all, Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi’s tour to the United States was a great success. It gave a renewed motivation and clarity of the Sangh philosophy to the HSS karyakartas. Bhaiyaji satisfied the media persons who came to interview him with his candid and clear answers about the RSS position on various issues. His easy approachability was liked by all the karyakartas and leaders of various organisations. The families where Shri Bhaiyaji stayed or had meals were impressed by his simplicity and affable nature. His earnest advice to all those families was to maintain their mother tongue, remain connected with Bharat and to visit other swayamsevak families informally.