WHEF 2016 – A meeting of minds

The Fifth annual World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) started with a bang with accomplished speakers.

Coverage of Friday evening speakers at WHEF
Coverage of Friday evening speakers at WHEF

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he fifth World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF), founded by Swami Vigyananda got off to a great start on 18th, with keynote speeches by Congressman Ed Royce, entrepreneur and philanthropist Gururaj Deshpande followed by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. A fine effort by the WHEF team in the USA resulted in nearly 500 participants over the three days, drawn from all over the world. Even as track sessions were going on, one could see exchange of views and opportunities between participants from all over the world.

WHEF’s mission is in Creating and Sharing Surplus Wealth for the betterment of the society.

WHEF’s approach is based on the foundational wisdom in the Bhagawad Gita: “Think in future, for the future”. It is that step towards creating “That, which sustains”. The end goal is to generate surplus wealth and make society prosperous. Its vision is Making Society Prosperous and its philosophy is Dharmasya Moolam Arthah (Economy is the Strength) by Acharya Chanakya. WHEF’s mission is in Creating and Sharing Surplus Wealth for the betterment of the society.

The event started on Friday afternoon and the 7PM session started off with Congressman Ed Royce, freshly re-elected from the 39th District to Congress, recalling how the India caucus in the Congress was a meager 8 members 20 years ago and how it has now grown to be the biggest, with almost 160 members. He praised the two largest democracies in the world, India and the US and described his experiences during his visit to Bhuj after the 2001 earthquake as part of USAID. He said the the devastation he saw was something he had never seen in his life before. He also witnessed a young dynamic man bringing order from under chaos and thought to himself – hmmm… Maybe this man is going to lead his country one day. The man he was talking about is the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ed Royce was followed by Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande, founder of several startups, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He mentioned how some of the most wealthy entrepreneurs live in Palo Alto yet the neighboring city of East Palo Alto languishes in poverty. The solution lies in helping impoverished communities become vibrant – this alone will solve their problems. His approach is to with with a community, find their strengths and empower them to innovate and prosper. He added that Change is inevitable and that “We can lead the change or get dragged to be changed – the choice is ours”. He explained one of the initiatives that he is associated with in India, Akshaya Patra and mentioned one of its founders Mohandas Pai, himself a philanthropist, entrepreneur and investor. Deshpande also lauded the efforts of Los Angeles based Vandana Patel for her work in the US. Akshaya Patra, serves more than a million meals a day in India and is also involved in several initiatives for the upliftment of the poor and needy. Deshpande concluded his talk with this observation – Hinduism has the ability to reinvent itself and stay rooted in reality.
At WHEF 2016Author with Swami Vigyananda and Shri Mohandas Pai at WHEF 2016

The third speaker, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard started her speech, explaining the meaning of the word Aloha – I am coming to you with respect, love and we are one. She lauded WHEF which exemplifies the contribution of Indians around the world. She also announced to loud cheers that Hawaii and Goa are to become sister states. Gabbard said that Hinduism is about tolerance, respect for others and spirituality to bring people together. She quoted Mahatma Gandhi on how he said to “lose yourself in the service of others”. She concluded her speech with the words, “Building wealth is good but building a world that can understand each other is more important” and quoted Mahatma Gandhi and said that we “all are children of God”.

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