More than 300 members of the Atlanta community attended a two-day Seminar organized and coordinated by Hindu TRAC, Atlanta, at the Gujarati Samaj Hall, Tucker, Georgia on January 6 and 7.
TRAC (Tradition, Religion, Aspiration, Culture) Program was created and led by Malaysia born Jagadeesan Jegathesan, or ‘Uncle Jega’ as many affectionately call him.
The two-day seminar had a rich mix of uplifting soulful bhajans, and chants of mantras (with full participation by the audience), humor-laden but illuminating talks by Shri Jegathesan and Smt. Lalita; and brief addresses by local youth speakers. Mahesh Patel, emceed the seminar, welcomed all, thanked the Gujarati Samaj for offering free accommodation and gave a brief background of TRAC, Atlanta. Mahesh briefly explained the meaning of tradition, religion, aspirations and culture and said the goal of TRAC is to bring young generation back to better understanding of Hindu traditions, religion and culture. He then introduced the genial, charismatic Uncle Jega, with a unique knack of delivering ‘sugar-coated’ Hinduism with a great sense of humor.
Dato’ (Malaysian Monarchy conferred the title meaning ‘Sir’) J.Jegathesan was born in Malaysia in 1943. He holds a University of Malaysia degree in Economics. He joined Malaysian Government where he rose fast. However, until 33, he remained an agnostic because no one explained him the true meaning of religion. In 1976, he had a profound spiritual experience and he began to read about Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. He became Deputy Director General of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority and began to travel the world, researching major religions and writing books about his spiritual quest. Today, he is a busy consultant with the U.N.International Development Organization and U.N.Council on Trade and Development. In his spare time, he travels the globe, conducting ‘Sadhna’ camps for the youth and to share his TRAC seminars with Indian families. “The reason for these free seminars” says Uncle Jega is “because in my travels, I observed that in just one generation, over 7000 years of Hindu tradition is disappearing…uncared for by the young generation of Hindus! It is disappearing because Hindu parents do not understand their own religion and the reasons behind their own rituals. It is disappearing because their children (and young adults) falsely believe that Hinduism is an old religion of many Gods and confusing, weird looking deities (which they do not understand!) They are embarrassed by their own TRAC.”
A group of singers and musicians kept the audience enthralled with their vast repertoire of choicest bhajans and mantras. With the lyrics displayed on the overhead screen, the audience too began to sing and chant with them. Uncle Jega said that building of temples in itself is not enough. People go to these temples, perform age-old rituals without understanding their meanings. Hinduism is not a religion of idol worship and yet Hindus have become idol-worshippers! Going to a temple is not a must. TRAC is activity based and not temple-based. Temple must be in one’s heart. Hinduism is a very scientific religion. The real meaning is conveyed through symbols and one needs to unveil the mysteries of these symbols, because these symbols transcend barriers of time and language. All these myriad symbols convey three things; (i) the nature of God; (ii) How to reach God and (iii) How to be a perfect person. They all point to ‘Truth’. Once Truth is understood, symbols disappear, he said.
Many acclaimed scientists have sought, observed and marveled at the underlying synthesis between Eastern mysticism and Western science. For instance, Frijof Capra, in ‘The Tao of Physics beautifully relates Nararaj cosmic dance with modern physics. He says,” every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction…without end…For the modern physicists, then Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena.”
Uncle Jega lamented that young generation is moving away from Hinduism because no one tries to explain them its true meaning. They feel embarrassed and confused when their non-Hindu friends ask them about deities, various rituals, symbols etc.and at some point in time, somewhere, they become disenchanted with Hinduism. He then went on to talk about recitation of Mantras. He said that many recite these in a parrot fashion without understanding their meaning. Full benefit of a mantra can only be realized by reciting it with a calm mind, utmost patience, devotion, unfailing faith and constant repetition. One must know the meaning of the mantra and be able to visualize it while reciting it. Uncle Jega explained the meaning of the most revered Gayatri Mantra attributed to the learned sage Vishwamitra and led the audience into its correct recitation.
Ebullient Lalita spoke about Mind Dynamics and realizing full potential of mind. She gave reasons, which can prevent one from unleashing full powers of the mind. Mind should be stilled and free from all negativity. She showed how to experience inner joy and peace by listening to soul soothing music, which can transport the listener into a state of bliss.
Sejal Patel gave a succinct talk on respected grandfather-like Bheeshma, known for taking and observing terrible vow of life-long celibacy. In the Mahabharata war, he was the Supreme Commander who sided with Kauravas. In his last days, after Arjuna mortally wounded him he recited Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhisthira.
Aditya spoke crisply about Royal Guru Dronacharya, one of the revered figures in Hindu mythology, and a basis for the tradition of respecting one’s teacher as one would his parents. He gave a short profile of Dronacharya, and said that he was an exemplary teacher, proficient in martial arts, who stressed discipline and concentration among his Kauravas and Pandavas students.
Purvi Patel, an MBA, with a Doctorate in Pharmacy spoke eloquently about Veer Hanuman’s birth, his childhood adventures, his role in the Ramayana war and in rescuing Sita from Lanka, and saving injured Laxmana’s life with sanjeevani. Purvi lauded reciting of Hanuman chalisa and described Hanuman as epitome of bhakti, wisdom, valor, and righteousness.
Nika Desai, a Financial Analyst and a Sewa International Volunteer, spoke about Swami Vivekananda, who tried to reconcile modern scientific theory with the ancient Vedic theory. He was one of the famous and influential spiritual leaders deeply versed in Vedanta and Yoga.
Mahesh said he hoped the audience found the TRAC seminar useful. “When you go home and remember even 10% of what you have seen and heard today, then you are in the right direction. It will give you confidence to engage in informed conversation with your non-Hindu friends and peers,” he said.
Uncle Jega suggested details of the contents of TRAC 1, and 2 Seminars. He also stressed that young generation should not neglect their mother tongues and subjects like art and music. “Why can we not have a bhajans with a full orchestra for a change? Let’s name it Divine Wind!” He further exhorted the Indian community to reach out to other communities. For instance, help the needy and homeless people in Atlanta. He concluded by thanking Gujarati Samaj for the accommodation, the attendees, and all the volunteers for their disciplined service in the car park and while serving lunch.
At the end of the 2nd day Uncle Jega conducted a ceremony to unite the family. A very emotional and tear jerking ceremony left the family members hugging and truly appreciating the family unit.
Hindu TRAC Atlanta’s Seminar involved many volunteers. With the inspirational guidance of and liaison with Uncle Jega, Hindu TRAC Atlanta is hoping to plan more innovative Seminars in future. Those interested are requested to refer to its website