Lilburn, GA: Contributing to the worldwide commemoration of the 101st International Women's Day, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha celebrated its fifth annual Women's Conference in Lilburn, GA on Saturday, March 24, 2012. This year’s focus was on the ancient Hindu teachings of the four purusharths (goals of life), which resonated with women within the Indian-American community who work hard to balance various aspects of their personal, career, and social lives. BAPS hosted an engaging conference with panelists who shared pragmatic applications of the purusharth teachings. Many Hindu scriptures, including the Bhagvad Gita and Upanishads, speak of discovering a point of equilibrium and balance while making progress through different phases of one's life. The conference presented the perfect opportunity for Indian-American women to coalesce these ageless values with practical scenarios from the twenty-first century.
Following the theme of “Purusharth – Balanced Living,” experts ranging from college professors to healthcare professionals incorporated presentations discussing the four purusharths, namely Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Expressing her thoughts regarding the focus of the conference, Woman’s Conference lead, Rimisha Patel, noted, “In today’s society, while women strive to excel in their careers and raise their families, it is important to pause and reflect on one’s goals in life. This conference focuses on striking a balance among your personal, social, career, and spiritual spheres of life.”
In presenting the Dharma purusharth, Ms. Avni Patel emphasized all that is encompassed within Dharma. She noted Dharma’s importance in providing duty, purpose, structure, and order in our lives. She presented the audience with key questions about our roles and responsibilities and highlighted the exploration of these questions in discovering and fulfilling our spiritual and material aspirations.
Amrita Patel’s talk focused on the Artha purusharth. She appreciated that monetary achievement is not precluded by Hinduism, and that it is an innate human ambition. She highlighted, “Hinduism does not ostracize financial and monetary achievements. It encourages us to reach for the skies while providing guidance to maintain equilibrium in other aspects of our lives.” She also expressed how impressed she was by the number of career-oriented women in attendance and by their amazing ability to maintain their commitment to their families as well as allocate time for community service.
Aspects of the Kama purusharth pertaining to balancing fulfillment of desires and observance of self-control as well as the Moksha purusharth focusing on the true definition of what it means to be liberated from birth cycles were also presented.
Kunjal Patel, a physical therapist from Indian Trail, NC echoed the sentiment expressed by a number of professionals in attendance. In conveying her thoughts, she stated,”Running a private practice and raising twins requires one to have the ability to balance many things in life. From this conference, I am pleased to take home important lessons of leading a moral, successful, and meaningful life.
Another conference attendee, Shalini Pandya, particularly appreciated the thought provoking questions presented during the talks. “It is not every day that one has the opportunity to reflect on the most valuable aspects of living. A sound character, importance of family values, and the pitfalls of materialism are not taught in schools, but forums such as these allow individuals to gain this knowledge.
With over 450 women in attendance, the conference brought together women from multiple generations. The younger generation realized the relevance and value of their heritage and gained an understanding and respect for the traditions and values of the previous generation. The older generation appreciated the challenges faced by the younger generation in balancing their careers while cultivating family values. The conference also helped bridge generational gaps and reconcile differences between women raised in various cultures.
Sheetal Desai, a lawyer attending the conference from Suwannee, GA shared, “Whether you were a college student or first-time grandmother, the message and delivery of the speakers resonated to everyone. Like their origins, these Hindu principles are timeless and are applicable even today."
The conference concluded with a traditional Hindu prayer for peace as well as an opportunity to network and socialize with one another during a post-conference reception. Attendees were impressed with the participation of young women in organizing the event and expressed the importance of holding such forums to address issues impacting women. Many women also felt enriched and inspired by the talks and conveyed their motivation to share the message with their families and friends.