Nation’s Oldest Catholic University Appoints First Full-Time ‘Director for Hindu Life’

Georgetown University's Jesuit Residence
Photo Credit: Patrick Neil

WASHINGTON — The nation’s oldest Roman Catholic university announced this week that it has appointed its first “director for Hindu life,” who they are noting to be the first Hindu priest chaplain in the nation.

Georgetown University’s newspaper The Hoya explained on Tuesday that Interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry Howard Gray, S.J. sent out a campus-wide email advising that Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan had been selected for the appointment.

“Br. Sharan was drawn to Georgetown by its commitment to interreligious student formation, and by the vibrancy of the university’s Hindu community,” Gray wrote.

Sharan had previously worked at the University of Edinburgh, where he had served as chaplain since 2010. He completed Hindu ritual training at Vishwanath Sannyas Ashram in India and also serves as a senior monk at Shri Golok Dham Ashram.

He follows Pratima Dharm, a Hindu Army chaplain who worked at Georgetown for only three months before resigning in January for personal reasons.

“I pray as I prepare to leave you that you will continue to live out the very pluralistic principles of Sanatan Dharma [an alternative name for Hinduism] at Georgetown,” Dharm stated upon her departure.

There are estimated to be 400 students and staff at Georgetown who identify as Hindu.

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Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, released a statement on Wednesday applauding the appointment and urging Georgetown to make additional accommodations for Hindu students.

“GU should make efforts to provide specific designated space for worship, congregation and cooking to Hindu students, like some other religions on the campus,” he said. “It should preferably include a shrine containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.”

As previously reported, Georgetown University drew controversy in April when Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards delivered a speech at the school.

“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly told reporters. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university.”

But Michael Khan of Georgetown Right to Life explained that many of the students at the Roman Catholic university don’t identify as Catholic.

“We’re probably the most liberal Catholic university in the nation,” he stated. “Many of our students and faculty aren’t Catholic and are very hostile to Catholic doctrine and Jesuit and Catholic values. We certainly have an active and strong pro-life group on campus, but there’s an equally, perhaps stronger, pro-choice group on campus.”

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  • rfsb

    You had to get a bit about abortion into your story, Heather, didn’t you, even though it was irrelevant to what you started writing about. Don’t you have an editor?

  • The first two commandments:

    You shall have no other gods before me.

    You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    Hindus have trouble with both of these. The catholic church has trouble with only one.

    • sangrita

      Which one? You know the Catholic ten commandments are the same, right?

      • The Roman Catholic church traditionally glosses over (deletes) the second commandment against idolatry, and splits the 10th commandment into separate prohibitions against coveting wives and coveting goods.

        • sangrita

          This charge comes typically from fundamentalist Christians who need a history lesson or two. It is a question of what happened first. Just as Catholics didn’t add seven books to the Bible (the seven books were removed by the Protestants), the Ten Commandments were changed by Protestants as well.

          There are actually three versions of the Ten Commandments, Jewish, Catholic (also used by Lutherans), and Protestant.

          In the early Catholic Church, a slightly different emphasis was placed on different commandments.

          Then 1500 years later, the Protestant in objecting to certain Catholic practices, once again changed the emphasis of the Ten Commandments.

          Pay close attention to the dates of the following, as they make a long story short:

          + Jewish Ten Commandments *** BEFORE 1000 BC ***

          1. I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt.
          2. You shall have no other gods but me.
          3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your G-d in vain.
          4. You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.
          5. Honor your mother and father.
          6. You shall not murder.
          7. You shall not commit adultery.
          8. You shall not steal.
          9. You shall not bear false witness.
          10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

          + Catholic and Lutheran Ten Commandments *** ABOUT 100 AD ***
          1. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
          2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
          3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it, you shall not do any work.
          4. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
          5. You shall not kill.
          6. You shall not commit adultery.
          7. You shall not steal.
          8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
          9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
          10. You shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

          + Protestant Ten Commandments *** ABOUT 1600 AD ***

          1. You shall have no other gods but me.
          2. You shall not make unto you any graven images
          3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
          4. You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
          5. Honor your mother and father
          6. You shall not murder
          7. You shall not commit adultery
          8. You shall not steal
          9. You shall not bear false witness
          10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor

          The Commandments were never numbered in the Bible and even if you look at Exodus 20 and compare it to Deuteronomy 5, you will see that the Commandments are listed very differently.

          • Thank you for so expansively repeating what I wrote. It is hard to avoid the perception that the Roman Catholic Church prefers to combine the prohibitions on foreign gods and on worship by idols, because they choose to worship by idols.

            After a careful examination of the Hebrew text and the tradition of the church, I have improved on the combined Catholic commandments: Thou shalt have none other gods before me, but Thou mayest make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth, and Thou mayest bow down thyself unto them, and serve them provided Thou nameth them not other gods before me, but that Thou nameth them saints and holy men.

  • Amos Moses

    CORRECTION …………… JESUIT University ….. not necessarily catholic …………… and not really a surprise in light of that …. ecumenism is their stock in trade …………..

  • kenster777

    They just need to read II John to realize that this does not line up with his word.
    Just like saying karma instead of what a man Sows so shall he Reap.
    Hinduism has no place in any Christian conversation because it comes from the anti-christ

  • Becky

    Hindu…Catholic…both idolaters.

    • sangrita


      • Amos Moses

        No …….. idolaters worship anything but Father/Son/Holy Spirit ……… the creatures and not the Creator …….. objects or the ideas they represent …. anything in place of God ……….. not all Catholics worship Christ ….. they worship many times a FALSE Christ …. a “Vicar (vicarious) of Christ” ………… and there is no salvation in that ………. as it is idolatry ….

        • sangrita

          No, Catholics do not worship the pope, he is merely the church’s leader. Just like your fundamentalist denomination has a human leader.

          • Amos Moses

            “Just like your fundamentalist denomination has a human leader.”

            Fundamentalist is not even a defined term other than a pejorative …….. so not even sure what you are talking about ….. but to quote …………

            Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, November 18, 1302

            “The pope, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, possesses the same full power of jurisdicton that Christ Himself possessed during His human life.”

            Pope Clement VI., Acta Clementis, c. 1350; cited in the Roman Catholic publication: Granfield, Patrick, The Limits of the Papacy, NY: Crossroad, 1987; p.36.

            “The pope can do all things God can do.”

            Nicolaus de Tudeschis [1386-1445],
            famous Benedictine canonist and abbot,
            in “Commentaria” (lvi, 34)

            “Though unworthy, We take the place of God on earth”

            Seems many popes disagree with your assessment ………

          • sangrita

            So what? There have been good popes and bad popes. We’re talking about a period of almost 2000 years, not everyone’s going to be an angel.
            And you know what I’m talking about – your church, whatever it is, has a leader. No different than the pope being the leader of the Catholics. Do you worship your church leader? No? Then why do you think the Catholics do?

          • Amos Moses

            Popes set policy ………. these popes have set policy that stands to this day …………

          • sangrita

            So did Jerry Falwell.

          • Amos Moses

            We are not talking about Jerry …….. we are talking about the RCC and their beliefs ……. that is what you are defending ……….

          • sangrita

            No, I am saying that Jerry Falwell is to boob tube Christians what the pope is to Catholics – simply their human leader and not someone who is worshipped.

          • Amos Moses

            No ……….. JF is not ……. sorry ………. not even enough of an analogy to be called a bad analogy ………….

  • hytre64

    Why in the world would a Catholic/Jesuit University actively encourage and support Hinduism among its students? Do they no longer believe that Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father but through him”?

    Are they just willing to take their tuition ($50,000/yr) and merrily congratulate themselves as the students continue down the wide road that leads to destruction?

    • Amos Moses

      The “Society of Jesus” does not believe Christ is the only way ………. say it aint so ……. /Sarc ……….

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Humanism is not Christianity. Sound doctrine is the lifeline of Christianity. (Galatians)

  • katwomansz

    Georgetown University has become a great embarrassment to Catholics. In their quest for diversity and the dollar they have sacrificed Catholic values.

    Catholics don’t worship statues of Saints. They are merely reminders of great people who did the right thing and we believe they are now in heaven and we try to follow their selfless examples of service to Christ and his people on earth.

    But allowing Hindu statues on Campus borders on Satanic in my opinion because they do worship those!