Seton Hall University's Institute for Communication and Religion (ICR) will host Swami Sarvapriyananda—the leader of the oldest Hindu organization in the United States—for a special discussion on how to foster religious harmony in an increasingly diverse and divisive society from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, in the Theatre-in-the-Round in the Bishop Dougherty University Center.
During the event, "Religious Harmony: Community, Communication, Collaboration," Sarvapriyananda will share insights from the Hindu Vedas that have allowed worshippers of India's numerous religions to reconcile the differences between their faiths for thousands of years. In particular, he will talk about the Vedic quote, "Truth is one," which conveys the idea that all religions are actually correct — they are merely different ways of arriving at spiritual enlightenment.
"Diversity is a good thing," said Sarvapriyananda, who oversees the 125-year-old Vedanta Society of New York. "The truth doesn't have to be a binary. It's not true or false. Rather, it's a plurality."
Sarvapriyananda believes the United States is an ideal place to adopt this concept because it is a country founded on the principles of diversity. But the problem, as he will discuss, is that many people are turning away from specific religions in favor of embracing broad spirituality. To correct this, Sarvapriyananda thinks religious leaders should try connecting with young people while educating the general public on the importance of practicing faith. He is therefore grateful an organization like the ICR exists to further that mission.
"I think it's excellent," Sarvapriyananda said of the Institute. "It's really a worthwhile endeavor and something that the other universities across the land would do well to emulate."
The ICR is just as excited to host Sarvapriyananda, whose visit marks the first time in Seton Hall history that a Hindu dignitary has spoken on campus. Institute Director Jon Radwan, Ph.D., said the ICR was eager to expand its programming scope beyond Christianity now that it is in its second year, and he knew Sarvapriyananda would be the perfect person to shed light on a religion as "fascinating" as Hinduism. It is an honor to welcome a religious leader of his caliber, Radwan acknowledged.
He also pointed out that Sarvapriyananda's message of religious harmony is a lesson everyone should experience.
"Religious intolerance and fear are often caused by ignorance," Radwan said. "If we truly learn about each other’s traditions, we can find commonalities that bind us together and build hope for the future."
About Swami Sarvapriyananda
Swami Sarvapriyananda is a prolific speaker and published scholar who currently serves as the Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York, an organization affiliated with the Ramakrishna Order of Hinduism. Since taking over the VSNY — which is the oldest society of its kind in the United States — in 2017, Sarvapriyananda has spoken on a range of religious issues such as "Spiritualizing Everyday Life" and "Karma and Freedom" at locations across the country. These talks are so renowned that many of his speaking engagements, including a recent event at New York City's Rubin Museum of Art, have been sold out while videos of his speeches have garnered between 7,000 and 519,000 views online. Additionally, Sarvapriyananda has written several papers on topics related to Hinduism, with his work appearing in the International Journal of Development Issues and Vedanta Kesari.
About the Institute for Communication and Religion
Launched in Fall 2017, the Institute for Communication and Religion within the College of Communication and the Arts provides a nexus for ongoing scholarly exploration of communication topics critically important to religion and society. Guided by the spirit of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, the Institute seeks to engage in public dialogue and debate, promote academic inquiry and support the religious dimension of creativity — all while upholding the values of servant leadership, curricular innovation and intellectual excellence.