Dr. Ervin Laszlo – System Stress & Systems Shift

Dr. Laszlo discusses living in an age of discontinuity, the deeper community he feels all religions point to, and his thoughts on a new marriage of science and spirit.

“Ninety-nine percent of the multi-cellular complex species since the Cambrian revolution are extinct. It doesn’t mean that humanity will not become extinct but we have a conscious mind therefore we can perhaps direct our own destiny.”

Biography

Dr. Ervin LaszloErvin Laszlo is recognized as one of the seminal founders of systems philosophy and general evolution theory. He has served as founder-director of the General Evolution Research Group and as president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. A prolific researcher and lecturer, Ervin Lazlo has received numerous awards and academic commendations for his pioneering work. He was awarded the highest degree in philosophy and human sciences from the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, and the coveted Artist Diploma of the Franz Liszt Academy of Budapest, as well as four honorary doctorate degrees.

A versatile lecturer and researcher, Lazlo’s posts have included research grants at Yale and Princeton Universities, professorships for philosophy, systems sciences, and future sciences at the Universities of Houston, Portland State, Indiana, Northwestern University, the State University of New York, as well as guest professorships at various universities in Europe and the Far East. In addition, Laszlo worked as program director for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). In 1999 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Canadian International Institute of Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics.

Ervin Laszlo has contributed widely to the field of evolutionary thinking through his writings, as author or editor of sixty-nine books, over four hundred articles and research papers, and six volumes of piano recordings. He currently serves as editor of the monthly World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution and of its associated General Evolution Studies book series and as president of the visonary Club of Budapest.

Resources

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Mohinder Singh – Inner Violence, Inner Peace

Mohinder Singh, widely venerated traditional Sikh leader, insists that the most fundamental spiritual teachings don’t necessarily need to change in order to remain relevant. In any epoch, he explains, living a truly virtuous life is always the answer and antidote to the problems of the day and the concerns of tomorrow.

“My faith tradition tells me to say you want to have a tolerant society is to demean society. To say ‘I will tolerate you,’ I am demeaning you. To say ‘I will accept you,’ I am still demeaning you. But what about if I was to say, ‘I will respect you,’ it’s slightly better. But what if I say, “I will lay down my life for you.” That is a sacrifice. So it is no good being good yourself, you have to be good to others also. You have to try and have that sacrifice.”

Biography

Mohinder SinghMohinder Singh, a civil engineer by profession, is the chairman of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha in Birmingham, England and spiritual leader to Sikhs around the world. Sikhism, a relatively new religion, is based on the teachings of enlightened masters from the sixteenth and seventeenth century India. Its main tenets promote a life of virtuous action, hard work, and dedication to family and community. Simple in its theology and sympathetic to the teachings of other faiths, Sikhism now ranks as the fifth largest religion with over twenty million adherents worldwide. Mohinder Singh, one of its foremost leaders, is a strong proponent of interreligious dialogue. He serves as a member of the European Council of Religious Leaders and an advisor to the Sikh Heritage Trust.

Resources:

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Dr. Diana Eck – An Opportunity for Greater Human Connectivity

Professor of Religion Diana Eck speaks about our need to seize the unique opportunity of our time. While our challenges our many, she articulates ways in which globalization affords us new frontiers and new possibilities for interfaith and intra-religious connection.

“What is defined as a religious issue is no longer just theological questions or issues to do with spiritual practice. The availability of clean water, refugees, homelessness are all religious issues and are what religious people now need to be addressing.”

Biography

Diana EckDiana Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University and also serves on the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Widely recognized for her work on religion and shifting global perspectives, in 1998 Eck was awarded the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism. In 2002, she received the American Academy of Religion Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion and in 2003 the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

Eck has authored or co-edited several books on India and comparative religion including Banaras, City of Light, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, and Speaking of Faith: Global Perspectives on Women, Religion, and Social Change, among others. She’s delved into the question of religious difference and religious diversity in the context of Christian theology and the comparative study of religion. Her work, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras won the 1994 Melcher Book Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, an award given for work that reflects a significant breakthrough in our understanding of religion. Eck’s most recent book, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation addresses the challenges for the United States of the more complex religious landscape of the post-1965 period of renewed immigration.

Since 1991, Diana Eck has headed Harvard University’s research team for The Pluralism Project, a study of growing religious diversity and the increasing presence of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and other Asian communities in America, funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. And among other noted posts, Eck served as President of the American Academy of Religion from 2005-6.

Resources:

www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/eck.cfm

Dadi Janki – I, the Soul, Belong to God

Dadi Janki speaks about her life, her awakening, and the purpose of creation. In this multi-faceted exchange with Andrew Cohen, Dadi Janki’s pure expression of the timeless Dharma and Cohen’s articulation of Evolutionary Enlightenment reveal fascinating contours of the contemporary spiritual landscape.

There was a moment when the inner eye opened up, and I was able to look in and discover who I am.”

Biography

Dadi Janki Dadi Janki, widely regarded as one of today’s living saints, first began her work with the Brahma Kumaris when she joined their World Spiritual University in 1937 at the age of 21 and soon became one of its most prominent leaders. Transcending established norms of religion, society, and culture, she has taken universal spiritual truths, worked with them in the laboratory of her own life, and translated them into practical tools for improving the human condition.

Though diminutive in physical stature, and simple in dress and manner, Dadi Janki has earned a prominent role of spiritual influence and prominence on the world stage. In 1974, she left India to base herself in London, England, and has since overseen the establishment of spiritual centers in 84 countries, as well as launched projects in 129 countries to help people contribute to a better world by rekindling their higher vision and values.

In the 1980s the Brahma Kumaris, with Dadi Janki at their helm, gained NGO status at the United Nations. In 1986 she launched the Brahma Kumaris Million Minutes of Peace Appeal, an appeal that collected minutes of peace and quiet reflection. It was so successful that it became the largest non-fundraising project for the United Nations during its International Year of Peace. In the early 1990s, she was invited to be one of the UN Keepers of Wisdom, a group of spiritual leaders asked to provide a spiritual perspective on critical areas of concern in the world.

Over 80 years old, Dadi still travels extensively, as Joint Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris, enabling leaders from the worlds of politics, religion, medicine, science, education, psychology, and other fields, as well as individuals at every level in society, to absorb spiritual strength by renewing their own link

Dr. Joan Borysenko – A Shift of the Human Heart

Dr. Joan Borysenko shares her passion for interfaith and describes some of the seminal work she does re-introducing individuals to the depth of their own traditions.

“The most important thing world religious traditions need to change is the thought that their way is the only way.”

Biography

Joan BorysenkoDr. Borysenko is known internationally for her work on the mind/body connection. Her insights have been foundational in an international health-care revolution that recognizes the role of meaning, and the spiritual dimensions of life, as an integral part of health and healing. Borysenko completed her Doctorate in medical sciences at the Harvard Medical School. Her work has appeared in numerous scientific journals, and has been featured in many popular magazines.

Deepak Chopra, M.D. – A Critical Mass of Connectivity

Deepak Chopra shares his insights on the state of the great religious traditions today and talks about what their future might be. Making the plea for a “critical mass of connectivity,” Chopra describes his vision of an expanding synthesis between science and spirituality.

“Like everything else, our religions will have to evolve as we evolve and be consistent with our map of what we currently see as reality.”

Biography

Deepak ChopraDeepak Chopra, M.D., is one of the best known and widely respected leaders in the field of mind/body medicine in the world today. Integrating the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda with traditional Western medicine and recent discoveries in the field of quantum physics, Chopra has forged a holistic approach to healing that has had enormous popular appeal, as well as widespread professional acceptance.

Chopra’s accomplishments extend far beyond the halls of the medical schools of Tufts and Boston Universities, where he once taught, or the Boston Regional Medical Center where he was formerly chief of staff. He has authored over forty-two books and one hundred audio, video, and CD-ROM titles, which have been translated into thirty-five languages and have sold over twenty million copies worldwide. He is a highly sought-after workshop presenter and inspirational speaker, and has achieved nearly guru status with many of his admirers.

Time magazine hailed Chopra one of the top one hundred heroes and icons of the twentieth century, and credits him as “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” In 1995, Deepak established The Chopra Center for Well Being in California, and is among the founding directors of the Alliance for the New Humanity. Chopra is the recipient of the Einstein Award through Albert Einstein College of Medicine in collaboration with the American Journal of Psychotherapy.

Resources:

www.chopra.com/

Imam Rashied Omar – The Role of Religion in Public Life

Outspoken scholar Rashied Omar raises some very challenging questions about our fixed views of religious extremists and their criticisms of postmodern culture. He points us to begin to deal with the difficult but perhaps singularly important issue of spawning intra-religious dialog between moderates and extremists within the same faith.

“Look, religion has many, many problems. It has contributed towards conflict but so too has secular modernity and post enlightenment. It’s not been a panacea to all of our problems.”

Biography

Rashid OmarImam Rashied Omar is an unusual progressive Muslim. A voice for reform within his religion, he is outspoken and innovative and has committed his life to update his religion for contemporary times. Omar, now 49, attended both a madrasseh (Islamic High School) as well as a secular school in his native South Africa.

As a youth, he protested actively against apartheid and was jailed for his views. As he recounts, “My struggle has been how to build a bridge between my faith commitment and my participation in protest against racism and apartheid, which I believed is evil.”

In the mid-eighties, Omar traveled to Sudan to see how Muslims were dealing with politics and religion and felt the move to the right and the extremist interpretation of Islamic law was hardly a workable solution. He became an imam in Cape Town and began to work for what he felt was an integrated politics, one that worked from a deeper spiritual ethic, in his case, from the heart of Islam. He has used the platform of the mosque to highlight important social issues, being among the first imams to invite an HIV positive individual to speak to his congregants to build awareness, compassion, and response to the HIV-AIDs pandemic overtaking South Africa.

Resources:

www.kroc.nd.edu/people

The 21st Century Man Must Become Less Egocentric -Sulak Sivaraksa

This outspoken dissident, social activist, and Thai Buddhist monk speaks about why we need to go beyond traditional religious structures. He emphasizes that while religions can powerfully lead to a personal relief and release, what we need now is a deeper and more complex view that takes into account the interdependent factors that create inequity and suffering in our 21st century world.

Every religious tradition has its negative elements, which we must not ignore. But the positive element in every religious tradition is tremendous. It deals with the mystery of life. It deals with transcendental. We need that transcendental element. Through it, we will become less and less selfish. We will become more mindful and will want to serve others. But to serve others means that we must confront suffering.

Biography

Sulak SivaraksaSulak Sivaraksa was born in 1933 in Thailand and has become one of the leading Buddhist activists in the world. Widely respected for his heroic stand against political and social corruption, he is the recipient of 1994 AFSC Nobel Peace Prize, the 1995 Right Livelihood Award, and the World Future Council.

Sivaraksa is the founder of the Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation and the initiator of a number of effective social, humanitarian, ecological, and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand, as well as beyond his native country’s borders. As one of the founding fathers of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, established in 1987 with the 14th Dalai Lama, Vietnamese monk and peace-activist Thich Nhat Hanh, and Theravada Bhikkhu Maha Ghosananda, Sulak has worked to unite Buddhist leaders across traditions and nationalities to affect a greater good.

Sulak is widely published and has developed models of sustainability for our rapidly changing social and economic environments. His work for greater democratic freedoms in his homeland and his outspoken personality forced him into exile from Thailand in 1976, and led to his arrest several times for lese majesty (defamation of the king). International support secured his release each time. Sivaraksa continues to campaign tirelessly for an engaged spirituality that is not afraid to confront international political, social, and economic issues directly.

Resources:

www.sulak-sivaraksa.org

The Challenge of Islam Today – Tariq Ramadan

Islamic scholar and author Tariq Ramadan’s chosen mission is to create an independent European-Islamic identity. His interest in dialogue between Islam and the other faiths is exceeded only by his passion to promote intrafaith dialogue within Islam itself—to bridge the gaps between Islam’s past, present, and future, and across continents, generations, and cultures. Here, Tariq speaks about the challenges modern Muslims face as they strive to retain traditional values yet keep pace with a rapidly changing world.

“We need to speak about spirituality as a Muslim, about love, about sexual [roles], about commitment—I’m speaking about ethics of citizenship. These [Muslim] ethics should nourish my European citizenship and the way I’m dealing with others.”

Biography

Tariq RamadanNamed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important innovators of the 21st century, Tariq Ramadan occupies a unique place among leading Islamic thinkers. Representing a new generation of Islamic reformers, Dr. Ramadan advocates the exploration and application of Islamic traditions and values within a modern pluralistic context, calling on Western Muslims to embrace Western culture rather than reject it.

A Swiss national, he is a well-respected professor of philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg. He is, in his own words, “a European who has grown up in Europe. I don’t deny my Muslim roots, but I don’t vilify European culture either.” He encourages self-criticism within Islam and also combats the negative misconceptions so prevalent in the non-Muslim world. In fall 2004 Ramadan was appointed Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.

Ramadan has written more than twenty books exploring the difficult issues of reinterpretation and reform within Islam itself and between the Islamic world and its neighbors around the globe. His books include Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2003), Islam, the West, and the Challenges of Modernity, To Be a European Muslim, and Jihad, Violence, War and Peace in Islam. He has also published a total of 700 contributions or articles in collective books, academic reviews, and magazines.

Ramadan serves as an expert in various commissions linked to the Brussels Parliament, and is a member of several working parties concerned with Islam in the world and on the continent: Deutsches Orient Institute, British Council, Vienna Peace Summit, and the “Laïcité et Islam” commission of the French Educational League.

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