(PRWEB) April 22, 2014
Los Angeles based Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF) and the Berkeley-based Graduate Theological Union (GTU Berkeley) have agreed to enter into a multi-phase partnership. This historic collaboration has the goal of establishing a Center for Dharma Studies within the GTU, as well as the first Graduate School of Hindu Dharma Studies in higher education as an affiliated institution of the GTU. Both initiatives are unprecedented steps towards fostering the philosophies and applications of Indic knowledge systems and their engagement with important global issues, in the domain of higher education. The first two courses in Dharma studies will be offered in the fall semester of 2014.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Convener of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, the founder of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam institutions in India and the USA, and AIM for Seva, who recommended the GTU, as a respected, multi-faith university, expressed the view that the “GTU is a unique institution. Its uniqueness lies in its way of teaching…each professor is also a practitioner of the religion.” Prof. Shiva Bajpai, an eminent historian and President of the Dharma Civilization Foundation, observed that “DCF had been seeking a prestigious institution in the American Academy, for the development of a center of excellence for teaching and research on Dharma centered Indic philosophical traditions, with academic rigor and critical constructive reflection that also respects the self-understanding of these traditions. And the GTU is a perfect fit for this.” Dr. Manohar Shinde, Chairman of Dharma Civilization Foundation, said that, “It was his hope that the GTU will be a great place for the creation of a community of academic scholar-practitioners, from many Sampradayas (denominations) both within Hindu Dharma and the other major Dharma traditions such as Jain, Buddhist and Sikh which can enrich the global discourse on engaged and applied Dharma."
The Graduate Theological Union is the preeminent inter-religious university in North America, and enjoys a prestigious status in academia. The GTU collaborates with U.C. Berkeley, in California and is home to the largest Ph.D. program in religious studies in North America. As a consortium of independent theological schools, the Graduate Theological Union includes nine Christian seminaries, a variety of centers and affiliates, including the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Islamic Studies, the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Founded in 1962, the Graduate Theological Union is dedicated to building bridges within and across different religious traditions by educating students for teaching, research, ministry, and service. GTU President Riess Potterveld noted that, "This partnership fits perfectly the mandate of the board of trustees of the Graduate Theological Union to expand the representation of the world's great religious traditions at this consortium and create a robust and singular place for scholars, students, and the public to engage one another to build deep mutual understanding and promote the common good.”
Initial course offerings sponsored by DCF at the GTU will include a course on the classical sacred texts of Hinduism, with emphasis on commentaries of Adi Shankara, taught by Dr. Ann Berliner, Professor Emerita at California State University, Fresno; and a course on Comparative Indian Ethics: Dharma, Justice, Gender, and Ecology, taught by Dr. Purushottama Bilimoria, Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia; Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, and former Visiting Professor at University of California, Berkeley. DCF will thereafter strive to enhance the GTU’s common M.A. and Ph.D. programs with Hindu and Dharma centered concentrations. Ms. Shaila Rao Mistry, member of the Board of Trustees of DCF, said that, “This initiative will have an enormous impact, in terms of creating a platform where the next generation youth of Indian born parents, to study their heritage with pride, and for all students of religion and spirituality to explore the richness and relevance of Indian thought in contemporary contexts.”
The Dharma Civilization Foundation, founded in Los Angeles in 2012, is an organization of academic, professional, and spiritual leaders from the Indian American community which seeks to establish the systematic academic study of Dharma, its interpretation and contemporary application, through the creation of academic and intellectual infrastructure in the U.S. such as professorships, endowed chairs, scholarships, centers, academic institutions, conferences, and publications. Dr. Ushakant Thakkar, Senior Vice President of DCF, said “We may be a young organization, but we have big dreams. DCF is seeking the active participation of the Indian diaspora and many social groups and communities of Indic origin in this movement to engage the academia. In addition to GTU, we are also in dialog with USC and UCI in Southern California.”
DCF is seeking to forge active collaborative partnerships with many other religious and spiritual traditions of Indic Civilizational origin, such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation, Vedanta Society of LA, Friends of OSHO community, Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation and so on. Conversations for the possibility of future partnerships have also been initiated with BAPS – Swami Narayan, Chinmaya Mission, Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi) community, Swadhyaya Parivar of Shri Pandurang Athavale and many others. DCF also aspires to work together with Jain, Indian Buddhist and Sikh leadership in higher education to cultivate distinct and related studies in Indic religion and culture. Kalyan Viswanathan, the Executive Vice President of DCF added, “DCF seeks to build enduring bridges between the ancient Spiritual traditions of India and modern academic environments. These bridges are long overdue, both in the west and in India.”