Rescuing Our Vedic Pundits
Why we organized the largest Vedic ritual ceremony in American history
Now that the Ati Rudra Maha Yajna at the Sringeri Sadhana Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, is accomplished, I revisit my initial motivation to undertake this sadhana. I have always felt proud of the affluence of the Hindu community abroad, specifically, the community's efforts and desire to encourage and honor our fine artists, musicians and sculptors by inviting them to various parts of the world. I wondered what the Hindu community could do to similarly acknowledge the merits of the Vedic pundits. Their dedication is the key component in the protection and propagation of our scriptures, which is the basis of Hindu tradition and dharma.
But the self-esteem of these pundits is very disturbed at the moment, as is evident from the very poor enrollment in the pathasalas, the priest training schools. From the original classification of 1,131 recensions of all the four Vedas, only an incomplete ten seem to be available today. At this rate, this number will further dwindle to very alarming magnitudes. To prevent further deterioration, the encouragement of the Vedic pundits is a must. What event could raise the pundits' self-esteem and sensitize the community to this issue? What doable event in America would involve the participation of a number of these pundits and make an impact in our midst?
The Hindu tradition has brought us the power of prayer and service for the welfare of all communities as the highest of ideals. Historically, such services (yajnas) were conducted by emperors for the welfare of their subjects. What yajna can be done here today to accomplish this objective? All these considerations resulted in conception of the Ati Rudra Maha Yajna which I personally consider as a divine sankalpam (conception, resolve)! Performing such a yajna here will help our younger generations to have the feel and appreciation for an authentic Vedic rite and will impress upon them that events of such magnitude are possible to conduct these days! It will also serve to rejuvenate the Hindu community with the reassurance that we are all together in performing such worship for the benefit of all.
To conduct a yajna on this scale for the first time outside India was a monumental task! Meticulous planning of all legal, safety, food, transportation, housing, medical and other operational logistics, in addition to taking care of so many priests' from India (who are totally new to plane travel), stay abroad etc., for a duration of nearly three weeks, was a challenge! All these were accomplished within a span of just eight months, only because of the strength of the blessings of His Holiness, the Jagadguru of Sringeri Peetham.
The support for this massive effort came from contributions from several philanthropists and the selfless dedication of many volunteers who devoted their time and labor for a very worthy community cause. I was very emotionally touched to see so many devotees attending an eleven-day vaidika ritual in the remote Pocono location. All the priests who participated went back with extremely emotional sentiments and very proud of their participation. Almost a once-in-a-lifetime event, this yajna undoubtedly brought all our communities together in a serene and peaceful setting. There is definite hope and support financially, spiritually and physically if the sankalpam has merit and the anugraha (grace) of the Acharya empowers that sankalpam of the devotee.
Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian, 48, a materials scientist with Lucent Technologies, was general chairman of the Ati Rudra Maha Yajna.
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