Hindu monastics at Harvard

Hindu monastics at Harvard

BY Emily Farnsworth , HDS Correspondent

Now a monk of more than 25 years in the Ramakrishna Order, Sarvapriyananda is the current minister and spiritual leader of the Vedanta Society of New York and one of three Hindu monastics in residence at HDS this school year. They are the first to participate in a new program made possible by a generous gift from Vibhu and Ajit Nagral out of their interest in strengthening the Hindu presence on campus.

Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Parkman Professor of Divinity and professor of comparative theology, explains that this new program will be similar to the Buddhist Ministry Initiative, which began in 2012 and has provided scholarships for monks to come from Asia for a year of study at HDS.

The new program at HDS has two main objectives: to enrich the HDS community, and to enable the participating monastics to return to their communities with expanded horizons. Two months into the semester, these aims are already flourishing — in both formal and informal ways.

The three monastics are easy to spot on campus. As Brahmacharini Shweta Chaitanya of Houston’s Chinmaya Mission quipped, “We dress quite loudly.” Her bright yellow robes indicate that she is, in her words, “a monastic in training.” Her Nike trainers and cardigan sweaters, however, signal that she and the other monastics don’t shy away from the modern world.

Sarvapriyananda says he is open to taking questions from the curious.

“I’d be delighted to talk about monastic life, Vedanta, or Hinduism — whatever they’re interested in,” he added. “It’s one of the reasons we’re on campus, actually — to be available.”

Sharing their world, learning from others strengthens both communities.

He has felt more than welcome, in fact, with many people asking whether he has the necessary clothing to survive a New England winter, and some even offering to take him shopping. He appreciates the kindness he has encountered, recognizing that as a resident of the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) on the HDS campus, he lives in “a bubble inside a bubble.”

Read the rest @ https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/11/hindu-monastics-expand-their-views-at-harvard-divinity-school/


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