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Organized by Vedanta Society Berkeley

All are welcome

Saturday, Sept 8, 2018 at 2:00 PM







Swami Vivekananda, India's 19th century monk and spiritual teacher, was introduced to the East Bay through the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. Known to Unitarians since his acclaimed speech at the 1893 Chicago World Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda was invited to participate in a local Congress of Religions by First Unitarian Church of Oakland minister, Reverend Benjamin Fay Mills. Reverend Mills had attended the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions and been moved by Swami Vivekananda's stirring words. Having learned that the Swami was lecturing in Southern California, Reverend Mills issued an invitation to him, knowing that the Swami would be extremely popular.

Swami Vivekananda delivered his initial talk at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland on the evening of February 25, 1900 from the pulpit of Hamilton Hall. Two thousand people listened in rapt attention as the Swami spoke on, “The Claims of Vedanta On the Modern World.” Some days later he gave another public lecture on “Vedanta and Christianity,” and in March two series of three lectures each in the adjoining Wendte Hall.  The first series was on the principles and philosophy of Vedanta and the second on India’s customs and culture. Reverend Mills’ expectations regarding the Swami’s effect on the congregation were completely fulfilled. As many as 500 people had to be turned away for lack of space. All of his talks drew large crowds, who sat or stood on the edges of the foyer, enthralled, listening to his words of ancient wisdom. Through these lecture series, which were covered colorfully by the local newspapers, Swami Vivekananda became known to a wider section of the Oakland population. Through the venue of the liberal and intellectually oriented First Unitarian Church of Oakland, the swami found a forum for the dissemination of Vedanta in the East Bay. 

Throughout his visit in the West, the essence of Swamiji's message was always the Harmony of Religions. In continuation of that same spirit of Religious Harmony, the Vedanta Society Berkeley is organizing this event.

The following are the speakers:

Speaker on Christianity: Rev. Dr. Riess Potterveld  

Rev. Dr. Riess Potterveld is President of the Graduate Theological Union. He holds an M.Div. from Yale, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. A minister, scholar, and former President of three different institutions, including the Pacific School of Religion and Lancaster Theological Seminary, he has achieved much as President of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), the world’s largest graduate university for the study and practice of the world’s religions. New developments at the GTU under Dr. Potterveld’s presidency have included the rapid growth of GTU’s interreligious model; the creation of the Ajay and Mira Shingal Center for Dharma Studies for Hindu Studies and Indian Religions; establishment of new interreligious Ph.D. and M.A. curricula; the incorporation of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and the Center for the Arts & Religion as Centers of the GTU, and international conferences at the intersection of Religion and Sustainability Studies.


Speaker on Islam: Imran Ghani



Imran Ghani is Admissions Counselor at the Office of Admissions at Zaytuna College, Berkeley. He is studying towards an M.A. at the Center for Islamic Studies. Mr. Ghani graduated with a business degree from the University of Houston. After a brief stint as a business analyst, he was awarded the Rashad Scholarship in December 2013 and began his journey as a student of Islam. After studying Arabic for one year in Egypt and Bayyinah Institute, he completed a degree in Islamic Theology at Zaytuna College. He is pursuing his Masters in History with a focus on historic Hindu-Muslim intellectual relations in South Asia at the Graduate Theological Union Center for Islamic Studies, Berkeley. 


Speaker on Hinduism: Swami Chetanananda


Swami Chetanananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He has been associated with the Order since 1950 and officially joined the Order as a monk in 1960. Before coming to the United States, he worked in the editorial and publication departments of Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Himalayas and also at its Calcutta branch. He was an assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California from 1971 to 1978. He then moved to the Vedanta Society of St. Louis in March, 1978 and at present serves as Minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis. Swami Chetanananda is a prolific writer, having written, edited, and translated several important books in English, Bengali, and Sanskrit on Shri Ramakrishna, many of his disciples including Swami Vivekananda, The Holy Mother, and Vedanta.


Speaker on Buddhism: Rev. Heng Sure



Dharma Master Rev. Heng Sure is Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1976. For the sake of world peace, he undertook an over six hundred mile pilgrimage from South Pasadena to Ukiah, repeatedly taking three steps and one bow to cover the entire journey. In the entire two years taken to make the pilgrimage, he observed a practice of total silence. Rev. Heng Sure has an M.A. in Oriental Languages from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He serves as the Managing Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and teaches on the staff at the Institute for World Religions. He lectures on the Avatamsaka Sutra at the Berkeley Monastery every Saturday evening. He is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and in the ongoing conversation between spirituality and technology.

Speaker on Hinduism: Swami Ishatmananda

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Swami Ishatmananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and at present serves as President of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago. Before coming to the US, he was attached with Advaita Ashrama (Kolkata), an English publication center of the Ramakrishna order for 12 years. He is also the Founder Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, Port Blair, Andaman Islands, and was the Vice-President of the Uttar-Purbanchal Ramakrishna Vivekananda Bhava Prachar Parishad. He has written and translated many articles that have been published in Ramakrishna Mission journals. He arrived at the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago in February 2013 and took charge as the President in March 2013. In September 2014, he was invited by the Ambassador of India in the US to meet with the visiting Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi for a special dinner at New York. In December 2014, he was appointed as the Religious Adviser at the University of Chicago.