“HINDUS LIVING outside of Bharat should maintain their identity and values. But we Hindus have a universal message and a mission. So, Hindus should unite and be strong not only for themselves but for the welfare of the whole world.” These were the inspiring words and guidance from RSS Sarakaryavah Shri Suresh ji (Bhayyaji) Joshi while talking to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) karyakartas in the United States. His two-week long first trip to the United States started on 6th August 2012. Shri Bhayyaji traveled to many cities including Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York. He also visited a Sangh Shiksha Varg (HSS training workshop) of Midwest region held in Indiana and guided the participants there, majority of whom were American-born Hindu youths.
Later in a very lively interaction, Shri Bhayyaji answered many questions asked by the audience about Sangh position on anti-corruption movements, and 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 sanghchalak (vice president), thanked Shri Bhaiyyaji Joshi for sharing his thoughts.
Gatherings of swayamsevaks and sevikas were organized in every city where Shri Bhayyaji visited. While addressing swayamsevaks and sevikas, whether in Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles or in New Jersey, Shri Bhayyaji stressed that being a swayamsevak is not merely about the externals. Being a swayamsevak means having certain qualities. First and foremost is selflessness. Being 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 Bhayyaji’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, environmentalists Sam Bower, belonging to Green Museum and Pancho Ramos Stierle belonging to Service Space met with Shri Bhayyaji. Both of them are also 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 Bhayyaji spoke about the idea and success of the Vishwa Mangal Go-gram Yatra. All the activists were very happy to listen to Shri Bhayyaji. They resonated with his comment that the idea of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the whole world is a family, should be promoted.
While in the Washington DC area, Shri Bhayyaji visited the DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) along with Sewa International karyakartas. DCCK is a charitable organization that not only feeds thousands of homeless people daily, but gives job training to rehabilitate many needy people. Bhayyaji took a tour of the Kitchen to understand their operations. With his vast experience in seva projects in Bharat he asked many questions about their functioning and the impact of the DCCK on the people that they serve. Bhayyaji shared information about similar projects in Bharat with the volunteers and staff of DCCK. He also congratulated them for their yeoman service to the poor. Bhayyaji also commended Sewa International karyakartas for working together with such charity organizations to serve the needy in America.
Shri Bhayyaji’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 Bhayyaji was very happy to see them practicing agnihotra on a daily basis. He visited the water and yoga therapy center at the ashram and also the organic food shop. Shri Vyasadev ji presented some literature to Shri Bhayyaji. While sipping the hot chai with organic jaggery, Bhayyaji invited Vyasadev and others to visit some similar projects in Bharat which they heartily accepted.
Apart from all the meetings and programs Shri Bhayyaji did some sightseeing as well. Bhayyaji 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 Bhayyaji 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 Bhayyaji 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 Saturday 18th August, the meeting with the Native American Ramapough Lenape community was quite an emotional one. Shri Bhayyaji 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 Bhayyaji agreed and reiterated the point that this respect for diverse paths only would lead to a more peaceful world.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA Sanghchalak Prof. Ved P Nanda was present at the gathering of swayamsevaks in New Jersey. He expressed his gratitude to Shri Bhayyaji for inspiring the karyakartas through his visit. Prof. Nanda also appealed to all swayamsevaks to actively participate in the programs commemorating Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary in 2013. Vishwa Vibhag Samyojak Shri Saumitra Gokhale accompanied Shri Bhayyaji throughout the tour.
All in all Shri Bhayyaji Joshi’s tour gave a renewed motivation and clarity of the Sangh philosophy to the HSS karyakartas. Bhayyaji satisfied the media persons who came to interview him with his candid and clear answers about the RSS position and various issues. His easy approachability was liked by all the karyakartas and leaders of various organizations. The families where Shri Bhayyaji 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.