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Death and Dying: A Hindu-Catholic Dialogue May 28, 2011 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles Presented by the

Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue

Welcome Welcome to the annual public event of the Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue! The Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue is a group of scholars, religious leaders, and spiritual experts that meets monthly to discuss various topics of mutual concern. Each year the group chooses a theme (such as human rights, neuroscience, and education) and plans a public event around that theme. The Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue is an official dialogue group of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is chaired by Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This year the group has chosen to discuss death and dying in Hindu and Catholic traditions. Over the course the year, the dialogue has discussed everything from theologies of death, to death and spiritual practice, to death rituals, to purgatory and hell, to pastoral care of the dying. This event is an effort to continue those conversations in a public way, in order to promote mutual understanding and enriched spiritual practice. We welcome renowned expert on religion, death, and dying, Dr. Lucy Bregman (Temple University), as our keynote speaker. Please enjoy this day of prayer, presentation, and conversation! Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier, Ph.D. LMU Co-Chair Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue


Program 9:00a

Arrival and Breakfast


Welcome and Opening Prayer Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith

“Death and Dying as a Form of Sadhana (Spiritual Practice)” Pravrajika Saradeshaprana

Moderator and Respondent: Dr. Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier


“The Communion of Saints: The Relationship between the Living and the Dead in Pre-Modern Christianity” Dr. Anna Harrison

“Death and Dying in Hindu and Jain Traditions” Dr. Yajneshwar Shastri

Moderator and Respondent: Mugdha Yeolekar, Ph.D. (cand)



Mealtime Prayer Swami Sarvadevananda


“Catholic Care of the Dying and Grieving” Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith

“Hindu Care of the Dying and Grieving: Wisdom from the Upanishads” Swami Sarvadevananda

Moderator and Respondent: Swami Omkarananda


Coffee Break


Keynote Address Dr. Lucy Bregman

Moderator and Respondent: Dr. Christopher Chapple


About the Keynote Lucy Bregman, Ph.D.

Lucy Bregman, Ph.D., is Professor of Religion at Temple University, Philadelphia PA. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is author of books and articles on death and dying, including Beyond Silence and Denial: Death and Dying Reconsidered (Westminster John Knox, 1999), and Death and Dying, Spirituality and Religions (Peter Lang, 2003), and edited the anthology Religion, Death and Dying (Praeger, 2010). For many years she has taught a course for undergraduates on “Death and Dying,” and edited a textbook for it, Death and Dying in World Religions (now published by Kendall Hunt, 2009). She is now at work on a project about the rise of the concept of “spirituality.”

About the Scholars Christopher Key Chapple, Ph.D.

Christopher Key Chapple, Ph.D., is Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University, where he has taught since 1985. A specialist in the religions of India, he has published more than a dozen books, including Karma and Creativity, Yoga and the Luminous, and several edited works on religion and ecology. He serves on the advisory boards for the Forum on Religion and Ecology (Yale) and the Ahimsa Center (Pomona) and as Editor for Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology. He has been a core member of the Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue since the 1990s. Anna Harrison, Ph.D.

Anna Harrison, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, where she teaches classes in the history of Christianity. She is currently at work on her book project, titled Thousands and Thousands of Lovers: Sense of Community Among the Nuns of Helfta, for which she received an NEH fellowship. A central focus of this and her previous work is medieval attitudes about the relationship between the living and the dead. Swami Omkarananda, MB.BS

Swami Omkarananda, MB.BS, is the Spiritual Director of the Los Angeles Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Marina del Rey. Originally from Australia, she moved in 1973, as a newly qualified doctor, to the UK where she worked as a psychiatrist. Even at that time she was not satisfied with the limitations of the medical model and eighteen years later, she became involved


in yoga, gave up paid work and moved to live in an ashram. Seven years ago she came to the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California and managed the ashram for over three years. She moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and became an active participant in interfaith dialog. She is passionate about teaching yoga philosophy and Vedanta, building community (especially the interfaith community), helping people to develop spiritually, networking, permaculture, sustainability and eco-spirituality. Pravrajika Saradeshaprana

Pravrajika Saradeshaprana was born in England and migrated to Australia with her parents when she was four. In 1968, she came to America to join the convent of the Vedanta Society of Southern California. She is active in interfaith work, being one of the Hindu representatives on the Interreligious Council of Southern California, the Los Angeles Archdiocese Hindu-Catholic Dialogue, and the Hindu-Episcopalian Dialogue. She has written papers for domestic violence advocates on counseling Hindu clients, and helped to organize conferences to educate clergy in the diagnosing and counseling of victims of domestic violence. She has taught in academic and religious environments on Hindu spiritual practices in general, but is particularly interested in Hindu women’s spirituality and spiritual practices and puja (ritualistic worship). Swami Sarvadevananda

Swami Sarvadevananda is the assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California. He is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India. In addition to regular lectures and classes, he addresses schools, colleges and other religious groups throughout Southern California and other parts of the United States whenever called upon. He represents the Vedanta Society as a delegate on the Interreligious Council of Southern California and the HinduCatholic and Hindu-Episcopal Dialogue of Los Angeles and serves as one of the directors of the Hindu Students’ Organization at USC. Yajneshwar S. Shastri, Ph.D.

Yajneshwar S. Shastri, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Gujarat University (Ahmedabad, India). He is President of the World Peace Foundation, Gujarat, and is Joint Secretary for the Indian Philosophical Congress. He has written twelve books and hundreds of research papers in the field of Indian Philosophy and Religions. Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith

Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith is Director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He was ordained a Greek Catholic Priest in 1987. Father Alexei served as president of the Interreli-


gious Council of Southern California for five years and is the recipient of numerous commendations and awards: in 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Religious Leadership Award of the Valley Interfaith Council. He is Pastor of Saint Andrew Russian Greek Catholic Church and Administrator of Saint Paul Melkite Greek Catholic Mission in El Segundo, CA. Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier, Ph.D.

Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Her teaching and research interests include women in Hinduism and Christianity, comparative theology, and Asian and Asian American theology. Mugdha Yeolekar, Ph.D. (cand)

Mugdha Yeolekar, Ph.D. (cand), is completing her doctorate at Arizona State University. She recently returned from India, where she was conducting fieldwork in Maharashtra on ritual practices associated with Dattatreya (Hindu deity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva). Her research was funded by the Taraknath Das Foundation, Arizona State University, and the American Academy of Religion. She has taught courses on Introduction to Hinduism, Sanskrit, Hindi, and Rituals and Symbols Across Religions at Arizona State University.


Acknowledgements The “service of faith and the promotion of justice,” the final line of Loyola Marymount’s mission statement, encompasses all those ways in which the University engages its Catholic intellectual, cultural, and religious heritage. This mission also honors the reality of religious diversity on our midst and embraces interfaith dialogue in formal and informal contexts. The desired outcome of such encounters moves us beyond tolerance to mutual respect and understanding, deepens appreciation of one’s own faith, and creates opportunities for engaging others who share a longing for meaningful lives. Together with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the diverse communities of faith throughout this great city, we believe that participating in interfaith dialogue in our community is a requirement—not simply an option—of biblical faith. Thus, it is our privilege to sponsor the Los Angeles Catholic-Hindu Dialogue and this annual forum. Center for Religion and Spirituality

Michel McNaught, Interim Director Elsy Arévalo, Assistant Director Johanna Fontanilla, Coordinator, Yoga Studies José Antonio Medina, Coordinator, Seminar on Formation for Hispanic Ministry Linda Claros, Graduate Assistant Lovely Hammett, Research Assistant Loyola Marymount University

David W. Burcham, President Rev. Patrick J. Cahalan, S.J., Chancellor Joseph Hellige, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and CAO Cherie Mills Schenck, Ed.D., Senior Director of LMU Extension

Learn more about the Center online at

Center for Religion and Spirituality Loyola Marymount University University Hall, Suite 1840 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659

2011 Forum for Hindu Catholic Dialogue  

Annual event of the Los Angeles Hindu-Catholic Dialogue, hosted by LMU Extension