Hindu Chaplain Installed At UMass Dartmouth
Bal Ram Singh
In one of the unique events that took place in the history of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Swami Yogatmananda was installed as the Hindu Chaplain of the University, amongst the invocations to the beholder of the universe, chantings of peace mantra for the planet, and echoes of conch blowings.
The installation ceremony was graced by Dr. Anthony Garro, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. David Milstone, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Sr. Madelene from Chaplain from Catholic Campus Ministries, Nate Manberson, Pastor from the First baptist church, and Reverened Ann C. Fox, the Minister at Unitarian Church at Fairhaven.
Dr. Susan Costa, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, appointed Swami Yogatmananda of Providence Vedanta Society as the Hindu Chaplain for UMass Dartmouth in late 2006.
Speaking on the occassion, Reverend Ann C. Fox of the Unitarian Memorial Church, welcomed the Hindu Chaplain and appreciated the coming together of different religions at Campus, for a humanitarian cause of serving the student community.
The initiative to appoint a Hindu Chaplain was taken following a suicide by an Indian student two years ago, so that Indian students can get some counseling and spiritual support.
The need for counselling and support is further reinforced by the large number of Indian students at University of Massachusetts, whose numbers have steadily risen over the last 3 years, currently 175 strong, mostly belonging to Hindu religion.
Further, there are over 5,000 Indian Americans living in Providence and Southeastern Massachusetts, who join many UMass Dartmouth events.
“I am very thankful that we can address the concern and care for the spiritual health of students through this appointment”, said Vice Chancellor Costa in making the appointment.
In welcoming the Swami Yogatmananda to the campus chaplaincy, Dr. Milstone emphasized the need of all out growth of students. The Office of the Student Affairs in collaboration with the Center for Indic Studies and Campus Services organized installation of the Chaplain on Wednesday, February 14 at 3 PM in the Library Browsing Area.
According to the Student Affairs Office, appointment of a Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth has not taken place in decades, so this event provides a rare opportunity for the university to show its commitment to the spiritual well being of its students.
Dr. Bal Ram Singh, the Director of the Center for Indic Studies said, “This is a historical event for UMass, and meets a need of students.”
Swami Yogatmananda is the Minister at the Providence Vedanta Society, holds Master’s degree in mathematics, and has been ordained the title of a Swami under the Ramakrishna Mission order. He is also a currently a University Chaplain at Brown University
Born in 1953 in Karnataka, India, Swami Yogatmananda joined Ramakrishna Order in 1976. He received his monastic vows in 1986. After being at Ramakrishna Math Center at Nagpur, India for 20 years, he was posted as the Head of Ramakrishna Mission, Shillong, Meghalaya, India, before moving to the US.
In his speech to the students of UMass Dartmouth, the Swami emphasized the relevance of intellectual knowledge in individual lives and the means for self realization that differentiates virtuous deeds from viscous deeds.
Amit Srivastava, a graduate student in Physics felt ecstatic about the presence of the Swami regularly on the campus. He said “the Swami ji will inspire us like Krishna did to Arjuna in the struggle of our life pursuit.”
Another student, Durga Lakshmi, an MBA student, observed “the Chaplain would be a major source of our strength and mental peace.”
Provost Garro, who has studied Bhagvad Gita several decades ago, said, “I very much look forward to interacting with Swami Yogatmananda to understand the essence of Eastern philosophy.”
The Chaplain would be a key source of support and chief mentor to students of the International community who need guidance, understanding, and inspirations for a fruitful life.
The Chaplain will participate in university activities, such as interfaith dialogue, services for students at graduation time, and contributions to the university newspaper. He will meet students and faculty members regularly for philosophical discussions and counselling, and will maintain office in the Religious Resource Center.
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Swami Yogatmananda soon after the Installation ceremony.