SV150 Launch program (Page 6)

Dharma Bee contest for kids (Page 10)

Vivekananda Express field trips for university students (Page 13)

Dharma and Yoga Fest program (Page 15)

Swami Vivekananda
150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations in the United States of America 2013

Published by Hindu Swayamseva k Sangh, USA Inc. www.hssu s.org

Preface SV150 Launch Poster Exhibition Dharma Bee Vivekananda on Campus Dharma and Yoga Fest Other Organizations 5 6 9 10 13 15 18
“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him—that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.” - Swami Vivekananda

About Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda, born Narendranath Datta on January 12, 1863, was the first cultural ambassador of Hindu Dharma to the Western world. Originally from Kolkata in India, Swami ji was the foremost disciple of Saint Ramkrishna Paramhansa. In a short but eloquent speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893, Swami ji spoke on the universal, pluralistic essence of Hindu philosophy. The response was unparalleled. The first five words of Swami ji’s speech, “Sisters and brothers of America,” evoked a two-minute standing ovation from the thousands of listeners. In the months that followed, Swami ji traveled across America and Europe, speaking about Hinduism, yoga, and Vedanta. Everywhere he traveled, throngs of listeners gathered. In his short lifespan of only 39 years, Swami ji accomplished a remarkable amount . He founded the Vedanta Society and Ramkrishna Mission for social service work. He continues to inspire millions of people to this day.

The Year of Swami Vivekananda
Namaste! It is with immense pleasure that I offer this booklet detailing activities that we as the Hindu community organized across the USA to commemorate Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary. To enjoy and pursue selfless acts is a divine gift. As Sangh swayamsevaks / sevikas we have been blessed with the opportunity to live a life based on the noble ideals of Dharma and Sewa – selfless service for society. For Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh to celebrate the birth anniversary of this great seer is like celebrating our own ideals and vision. Our true success lies in the fact that these activities attracted thousands of families and community organizations, and impressed the entire American society. More than that, we were fortunate to work with many like-minded individuals and organizations that actively participated in SV150 events; we worked hard shoulder-to-shoulder and together achieved our goal. On behalf of HSS, I express my deep gratitude to all those who rejuvenated Swami ji’s inspiring message. The following pages of this booklet illustrate SV150 events held from January to October 2013. It captures in words and pictures the nationwide success stories of our very unique children’s competition “Dharma Bee,” poster exhibition on Swami ji, campus activities by Hindu YUVA, culminating events of “Dharma and Yoga Fest,” and more. HSS has always strived to bring the Hindu community together and develop dedicated, active, and selfless volunteers for society. It is the true treasure of our organization that we are blessed with countless volunteers and supporters. With the active participation of the volunteers as well as blessings of many well-wishers, we have just turned one memorable page in the history of HSS. What can be a greater honour to an organization that is going to celebrate its 25th Anniversary in the coming year! Brotherly yours, Ved P. Nanda Sanghachalak (President), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA

January 12, 2013: It All Begins
On January 12, 2013 - what would have been Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birthday - Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh commenced its year-long celebration of Swami ji’s Birth Anniversary. To kick off the celebrations, HSS held Launch programs at 110 locations attended by over 7,600 people nationwide. The inaugural events included cultural performances by children, yoga demonstrations, guest speakers, and an opportunity for all participants to take a sankalp, or a pledge to imbibe in their own lives some aspects of Swami ji’s message. The Launch programs also featured the premier of a 20-minute documentary produced by HSS on the life and teachings of Swami ji. Additionally, on the inaugural day, HSS opened up registrations for its first-ever Dharma Bee, a nationwide quiz contest for children.

Naperville, IL
U.S. Representative Bill Foster of Illinois’ 11th district joined the Launch program in Naperville. While appreciating the vision and leadership of HSS, he encouraged the attendees to follow Swami ji’s message of universal peace and harmony.

SV 150 Launch in numbers:
 110 programs nationwide  7,600 people participated  Representatives from 265


ganizations attended.
 In 5 places, the number of par-

Morrisville, NC
Over 100 people attended the Launch program in Morrisville, including Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe and local council members.

ticipants exceeded 200.
 Local government officials at-

tended the launch in 9 places.

Parsippany, NJ
The Parsippany Launch program was attended by 130 people. Activities included collective Surya Namaskar, a talk on Swami ji’s life on how to put his vision into action, and a costume competition in which children dressed up as Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, Sharada Mata, and SV150 launch attendees perusing posters other historical figures. The Chief on Swami ji created by shakha children. Guest of the program was Parsippany Township Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr.

Vancouver, Canada
In Vancouver, over 150 people participated in the Launch program. As part of the program, children and youth prepared posters on different aspects of Swami ji’s life and message, including his childhood, introduction to Ramkrishna Paramhansa, trip to America, founding of Ramkrishna Mission, and contributions to the world.

On January 12, 2013, HSS held SV150 launch programs at 110 locations nationwide, spanning 30 states.

SV 150 Sankalp: The Pledge
One of the most important features of the launch program was the sankalp, where all participants took a personal pledge to imbibe some aspect of Swami ji ‘s message into their own lives. Some examples of the pledges people took include:      “I will read the Bhagavad Gita over the course of this year.” “I will do yoga every morning.” “I will spend one day every month doing community service.” “I will visit all the places Swami ji visited in my neighborhood.” “ I will tell one inspiring pauranic story to my kids at bedtime every day.”

Rochester, MN
The SV150 Launch program held at the Hindu Samaj Temple in Rochester included a yoga workshop and presentation on the life of Swami Vivekananda. The event was considered so unique and creative by the local community that it was covered in the news media by the local ABC news channel.

Shrewsbury, MA
A total of 135 people attended the SV150 Launch program in Shrewsbury. Activities included energetic team-building games, Surya Namaskar, and discourses on the contribution of Dharma and Yoga towards establishing universal peace. The children put together a cultural program for all the attendees; performances included skits on Swami Vivekananda, bhajans, and musical performances.

Portland, OR
Eighty people of all age groups attended the SV150 Launch program in Portland. Activities included yoga, games, and story-telling, as well as a skit on Swami ji’s life performed by the children. The occasion was blessed by the presence of Swami Shantarupananda, from the Vedanta Society of Portland, who was the chief guest of the program.

Swami Vivekananda is Coming to Town
HSS prepared a 24-poster mobile exhibition on Swami Vivekananda titled, “The Trailblazer of Yoga and Pluralism.” The posters use images and text to beautifully illustrate various aspects of Swami ji’s childhood, adult life, and spiritual message to the world. The exhibition which was displayed at universities, public libraries, temples, parks, community events, and other public places around the country was a great success. The exhibition was also displayed at the Dharma and Yoga Fest, a large-scale program that took place in 30 cities of USA, in fall of 2013. (See page 14.) Tens of thousands of people perused the exhibition over the course of the past year. The exhibition succeeded in bringing the life and message of Vivekananda to the masses. In addition to designing the posters, HSS also published a book comprising all the exhibition posters in a coffee table book format. The exhibition book was presented by local HSS leaders to notable public figures as a token of mutual friendship and support on behalf of the entire Hindu community.

3,306 Children Participate in National Contest
HSS organized a nationwide quiz contest called “Dharma Bee: Sri KrishnaVivekananda Challenge” to encourage children to learn about Hindu culture in a fun way. Dharma Bee tested children’s knowlDharma Bee participants after the Level 1 exam. The edge of the life and teachLevel 1 exam took place in 156 cities nationwide. ings of Sri Krishna as well as Swami Vivekananda. Across the country, 3,306 children from 629 cities participated in this contest. Participants were of all ages - from kindergarten to eighth grade. Dharma Bee was launched on January 12, 2013 - Swami ji’s birth anniversary and activities continued through June. Children were organized into four groups according to their age, and each age group went through three levels of competition. First was locally in their own towns; next 1,100 contestants were selected to go on to the regional level; and finally the 135 regional winners got together in June for the national finals in Chicago. Prizes totaling $50,000 were distributed to winners at all levels.

Sample Dharma Bee Questions
The Dharma Bee exam questions became progressively tougher as participants advanced through each level. The children truly took up the challenge, and many parents commented that they themselves never learned as much about Sri Krishna and Swami Vivekananda as their children did through Dharma Bee. Some sample written exam questions include: 1. 2. 3. Who was the father of Swami Vivekananda? Swami Vivekananda was born during which festival? When Narendranath studied at Presidency College, who was the principal of that college?
ANSWERS: 1. Vishwanath Dutt, 2. Makar Sankranti, 3. W.W. Hastie

To supplement their academic learning about Swami Vivekananda and Sri Krishna, Dharma Bee participants volunteered for community service activities. 1,100 children spent a total of 5,000 hours working for 400 different projects around the country. The goal was for children to put Swami Vivekananda’s ideals of “sewa” and “karma yoga” to practice in real life.

The unique part of Dharma Bee contest was that it included much more than traditional written questions. Children also had the opportunity to present poems, design posters, write stories, deliver speeches, and create drawings about Swami Vivekananda. The Level 2 exam also involved a sewa or community service aspect, through which 1,100 children volunteered over 5,000 service hours for 400 non-profit organizations and causes. The idea was to inculcate Swami ji’s sewa manobhav (sense of service and compassion) into the children’s lives. Those participants who were selected for the national finals also visited a Hindu ashram in their area and personally met a Swami to gain a deeper understanding of Hindu Dharma. To help the children prepare well, HSS offered a plethora of study material , including collections of stories, video clips, workbooks, and sample tests. Additionally many local HSS chapters organized story sessions and study groups to

give participants an opportunity to learn together. Tele-classes became another popular way of teaching kids, particularly for those children who lived far away from local HSS chapters. The chief guests at the final prize distribution cereOn June 15-16, 2013, the mony included Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and regional winners in each Swami Ishatmananda of the Vedanta Society. age group came together in Chicago for the Dharma Bee finals. A total of 135 children and their families participated in the weekend’s festivities. The final exam components included a speech contest, written exam, poster presentation, and team activity. All the finalists also visited the Art Institute of Chicago where Swami Vivekananda delivered his historical speech on September 11, 1893. Swami Ishatmananda of the Vedanta Society and the first Hindu congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard spoke at the prize distribution ceremony. On that occasion, 45 children from Chicago’s shakhas performed a mesmerizing one-hour play on the life of Swami ji. Overall, Dharma Bee was a rousing success. It not only helped in building children’s intellectual knowledge about Dharma, but also inspired them to practice the teachings of Swami ji and Sri Krishna in their own lives. Children, parents, and organizers all had tremendous feedback about Dharma Bee and are looking forward to the next such contest.

Dharma Bee finalists in front of Swami ji’s statue at “My daughter learned a lot by the Lemont Temple in Chicago.

participating in Dharma Bee. She wanted to visit Parliament of World Religions at Chicago regardless she was selected in finale or not,” said Bhuvanesh, father of one of the participants.

Young Hindus Inspired by Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda’s message is of particular significance for young people. His birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day in India. Swami ji himself was quite young and accomplished a lot in his short life. His bold and daring personality, adventurous sprit, infinite energy and enthusiasm appeal tremendously to youth. Accordingly, high school and university students participated enthusiastically in SV150 activities. Youth activities included events on campus, camps, retreats, and field trips to places in USA associated with Swami Vivekananda.

Vivekananda Express
A group of young Hindu Americans in Silicon Valley decided to mark Swami ji’s 150th birth anniversary by tracing Swami ji’s steps in America. The first stop of Vivekananda Express was the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, California. Here, Swami ji had delivered a famous speech in the 1800s that brought many residents of Berkeley in contact with his message and led to the establishment of the Vedanta Society there. As part of Vivekananda Express, a group of 100 students and young professionals experienced this historical place first-hand ; they were shown the wooden chair where Swami ji sat as he waited for his turn to speak and the podium where he delivered his speeches. The group also participated in hiking, team games, and group discussions on Swami ji’s message of Dharma and Yoga. The students went on to visit other places in San Francisco, Oakland, and Alameda that Swami ji had visited.


Hindu Dharma Awareness Events
"Swami Vivekananda was indeed one of the foremost cultural ambassadors of Hinduism and India to America and his message naturally connects with the youth. This is what makes him an icon for the Indian American youngsters." - Sairam Thyagarajan, HSS youth volunteer Hindu YUVA and other Hindu student organizations arranged SV150 commemoration events in various universities. At Montana State University, for example, students organized an event on campus where they presented a video on Swami ji’s life, followed by a group discussion. Students distributed Swami ji’s books and t-shirts to all participants. The university also arranged the “Trailblazer of Yoga and Pluralism” exhibition which was appreciated by students, faculty members, and visitors.

Regional Youth Retreats
Weekend youth retreats were held at three places around the country to bring young, socially active Hindus together. Activities at these retreats included team-building games, yoga workshops, leadership workshops, discourses and discussions on Swami ji’s message, and presentations on Hindu Dharma. Retreats were held in Southern California (with 44 youth from five different states), Atlanta (with 17 students from six universities), and New Jersey (with 25 students from seven universities).

Inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s fierce resolve and dedication to his goal, several students and young grads decided to devote a portion of their lives as “vistaraks” or full-time volunteers for the Hindu cause.  Eleven high school and college students spent a few weeks of their summer vacations volunteering full-time for HSS. They traveled to different cities and organized Hindu Heritage Camps, exhibitions, and other events to raise awareness about Hindu Dharma. Two college graduates and young professionals decided to devote at least one full year of their lives to the Hindu cause. They are volunteering fulltime for HSS, helping to strengthen local chapters and organize other events to promote Hindu Dharma.


Culmination of the Year of Vivekananda
The SV150 celebrations concluded with grand Dharma and Yoga Fest (DYF) programs, held in 26 cities, to commemorate Swami ji’s groundbreaking address at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893. The event featured activities along four tracks - Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. Influential speakers at the event included Puttige Mutt Swamiji H.H. Shri Sugunendra Teerth (who spoke in Sanskrit as the Chief Guest at the New Jersey DYF), Yoga Rishi Swami Baba Ramdev, and Dr. David Frawley. A unique aspect of this program was active involvement from Hindus of non-Indian Yoga Rishi Swami Ramdev and Sri origin. HSS reached out to yoga studios, ve- Suguneendra Teertha Swami of gan restaurants, kirtan groups, Buddhist tem- Udupi Sri Puthige Matha, along ples, etc. for their participation; DYF truly suc- with HSS President Ved Nanda at the New Jersey DYF. ceeded in bringing together Dharma followers of all backgrounds.

Houston, TX
The Houston DYF program attracted nearly 1,000 participants from 66 community organizations. Activities included: a panel discussion for adults, a speech contest for middle and high school students, melodious bhajans, Bhagavad Gita recital by devotees from 23 different temples / spiritual organizations, a panel discussion on social service, Pranayam and Ayurveda workshops. The grand finale consisted of a mesmerizing play on Swami ji’s life performed by children of Greater Houston and a keynote speech by Shri Harish Parvathaneni, Consul General of India.

San Francisco Bay Area, CA
San Francisco Bay Area hosted DYF programs in Santa Clara and Pleasanton, attracting a total of 15,000 people. In addition to yoga and meditation workshops, devotional singing performances, and discourses on Jnana Yoga, DYF featured a “Hindu Theme Park,” where children enjoyed a Hindu character parade and played games such as “Feed Krishna’s Cow” and “Help Hanuman

find Sita.” The Bay Area program also included an appealing “Krishna Leela” by 250 children and energetic performances by hip hop bhajan artists Jai Uttal and MC Yogi. Thousands of people throng at the San Francisco Bay Area DYF. Finally, “Vivaah” (wedding per Vedic tradition sanctified by fire) was one of the most unique features of the program, as singer MC Yogi renewed his wedding vows according to Hindu tradition.

Bloomington, IL
The Bloomington DYF brought together 2,500 Dharma-minded people from all over Illinois. Activities included a grand Ganesha procession, presentation on Ayurveda, book exhibition, and energetic bhajan performances. Several public officials attended the program as special guests, including Illinois State Senator Jason Barickman, the Mayor of Bloomington Tarr Renner, and the Mayor Pro Tem of Normal Sonja Reece.

White Plains, NY
More than 1,000 people from Queens, New York City, Westchester County,, Long Island, and Connecticut came together for the DYF program in New York. The event featured meditation workshops, classical Indian dance demonstrations, and a costume competition for children. Officials from the City of White Plains graced the occasion.

Los Angeles, CA
A team of 150 volunteers worked together to organize the Los Angeles DYF, which was attended by over 3,000 people. The activities included a rangoli competition, havan (fire ceremony), and speeches by university professors and other eminent scholars. Children enjoyed an exciting “Hindu Theme Park”, which featured fun-filled games along a Hindu cultural theme.

Orlando, FL
Over 600 people gathered for the Orlando DYF program to pay tribute to Swami ji. The program began with a step-by-step guided Ganesh Puja performed by 150 children. Attendees later participated in panel discussions on Swami ji’s relevance in the 21st century, bhajan performances, and

guided meditation workshops. Shata Ben-Avri, owner of Yoga Central, said about the program, “It’s wonderful to be part of this festival and what it represents - yoga in its many classical forms.”

Atlanta, GA
Over 600 people attended the DYF program in Atlanta. The event started off with a guided Ganesh Puja performed by children. Other activities included discourses by eminent speakers from various spiritual organizations, soulstirring bhajans, and a panel discussion on Karma Yoga. The program concluded with a creative dance-drama - Sri Krishna Leela - performed by 90 children and adults.

Seattle, WA
Over 1,000 people from 30 community organizations participated in Seattle DYF. Activities included a Sri Krishna Puja performed by children, on-site sewa projects in which attendees helped package food parcels for homeless shelters, and discourses by eminent speakers including Chinna Jeer Swamiji and Philip Goldberg (author of American Veda). Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee, 48th District Representative Cyrus Habib, and Bellevue City Council Candidate Vandana Slatter also attended the event.

Denver, CO
The Denver DYF attracted a crowd of 800 people, including participants from 30 community organizations. Krishna Leela was one of the highlights of the cultural fest. Other activities included kirtans by seven organizations, spiritual discourses, meditation / yoga workshops, a blood donation drive, and carnival games for children. Among the distinguished guests were State Representative Janak Joshi and Director from Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office, Suzette Davis.

Phoenix, AZ
Over 2,500 people attended the Phoenix DYF. Activities included a kirtan concert by the Mayapuris, havan by Gayatri Parivar, and a tihar song by the Bhutanese Hindu community.

Bhakti Sangeet at the Atlanta DYF.

Vivekananda Programs by other Organizations
In addition to HSS, a number of other Hindu organizations conducted many programs to celebrate Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary.

Sewa International USA
Sewa International organized a laser light show on Swami Vivekananda’s life for the dual purpose of bringing awareness about Swami ji and raising funds to support education, healthcare, and disaster relief projects around the world. The shows, which were presented by renowned laser performer Manick Sorcar, took place in 12 cities of USA.

Samskrita Bharati
Samskrita Bharati conducted various programs in USA and Canada as part of “Vivekananda Abhiyaanam 150.” The initiative included a series of 150 Samskrita-related activities, including spoken Samskrita workshops, family retreats, tele-lectures on Vivekananda and Samskritam, and Samskrita skits for children. The activities were inspired by Swami ji’s emphasis on learning Samskrita as an important way to preserve our scriptures and spiritual knowledge.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad, America
VHPA’s celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary year concluded with a grand two-day event, “World Without Borders,” in Chicago. The event was attended by many eminent speakers and scholars, including Yoga Rishi Swami Ramdev, Swami Chidananda Saraswati, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, Stephen Knapp, Jeffrey Armstrong, and Dr. Rajiv Malhotra among others.

Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation
Swami ji had said, “If the poor child cannot go to education, then education must go to the child.” Working since 25 years, Ekal today is running about 52,000 schools in tribal villages in India, supporting nearly 1.5 million children in the most remote, under privileged parts of the country. In 2013, Ekal launched a whirlwind series of 40 fundraising concerts to raise money for its village-development initiatives and contribute to Swami ji’s vision of an educated Bharat. Swami ji’s poster exhibition was displayed at Ekal fundraiser events this year.

Blessings for SV150
Dozens of saints, temples, Congress representatives, community leaders, and Hindu organizations supported Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’s SV150 initiative. “It is my pleasure to congratulate HSS and its members, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Swami Vivekananda….We could all benefit from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda when it comes to self-confidence and seva (selfless service).” - Aaron Schock (U.S Representative Illinois’ 18th district) “I am happy to learn that in America you’re all celebrating 150 years of Swami Vivekananda.” - Pujya Sri Sri Ravishankar (Art of Living) “I appeal to all the Hindu Temples and Dharma Associations of North America to be a part of this initiative of HSS.” - Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidya Gurukulam)

“I am pleased to see efforts of spreading universal message of Swami “I commend your vision Vivekananda through programs like and l e a d e r s h i p … . Dharma Bee Contest, Dharma and Yoga Best wishes as you Fest, and programs for the youth.” celebrate t h i s - Swami Shantananda (Chinmaya Mission) important milestone and for continued success in the future.” - Jim Gerlach (U.S. Representative, Pennsylvania’s 6th district)

Tulsi Gabbard

Swami Chidananda




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