Friday, April 29, 2016

Academic Conference at Harvard Highlights ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary

Academic Conference at Harvard Highlights ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary Over the weekend of April 22nd to 24th, more than thirty scholars met at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions to talk about the growth, impact, and challenges of ISKCON since its inception in July 1966. Participants included some scholars such as retired professors Thomas J. Hopkins and Larry Shinn, as well as the retired head of the British Council of Churches’ Committee on Interfaith, Kenneth Cracknell. Ravi M. Gupta, William Deadwyler, and Edith Best. The three-day event was entitled “The Worldwide Krishna Movement: Half a Century of Growth, Impact, and Challenge,” and commemorated ISKCON’s 50th anniversary. Graham M. Schweig Schweig, who is a Professor of Religion at Christopher Newport University, served as host and welcomed everyone on Friday evening at Harvard Divinity School’s Sperry Room, where ISKCON Founder-acharya Srila Prabhupada himself spoke back in 1968. After Professor Francis X. Clooney, Director of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions, extended his welcome and shared some opening remarks, Schweig continued with his keynote, in which he spoke about the long history of interactions between Harvard University and ISKCON. Next, Muslim scholar Sanaullah Kirmani, who had attended Prabhupada’s talk at the Sperry Room nearly fifty years ago while a young student at Harvard, recalled his experience. He spoke very movingly about how Prabhupada’s talk had affected him, both as a young scholar and as a spiritually-minded person, throughout the rest of his life. Finally, Franklin & Marshall Emeritus, Professor Thomas J. Hopkins shared memories of visiting ISKCON’s first center, 26 2nd Avenue, in its earliest days. The conference continued over the next two days, with five panels held on the history, sociology, theology, global movement, and challenges of ISKCON at The Center for the Study of World Religions, just across the street from the Sperry Room. The papers’ subjects ranged from an overview of Caitanya Theology, women education ,sociological and theological issues. The only academic in Russia Dr. Sergey Ivanenko has written a book about ISKCON. Other scholars presenting papers hailed from the U.K. and other European countries, as well as of course the U.S. In his closing remarks on Sunday, Thomas Hopkins expressed his amazement at how far and wide the Hare Krishna Movement has grown in the last fifty years. At the conclusion of the conference, senior organizer Graham M. Schweig offered appreciation to the event’s sponsors, which included the ISKCON Dallas and ISKCON Houston communities. #laxmi
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