Cornell University in Ithaca
Hindus are urging Ivy League Cornell University in Ithaca (New York) for a chaplain and permanent-designated prayer room for Hindu students.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Cornell should respond to the requirements of Hindu students by providing a Hindu chaplain for their spiritual care and designated prayer-meditation hall for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise; which would help in their personal growth.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted that like students of other religions/denominations, Hindu students also needed a chaplain for spiritual support and mentorship, dealing with stress, performing religious/worship services, helping them in personal crisis, hold retreats, counseling, assistance in celebrating religious days/festivals, keeping traditions alive, etc.; as they were away from their families and loved ones. Zed stressed that this “chaplain” should be instead called “purohit”.

Founded 1865, Cornell reportedly already houses two chapels—Sage Chapel and Anabel Taylor Hall Chapel, and it has 29 affiliated chaplaincies.

Rajan Zed indicated that Hindu chaplain and Hindu Prayer Room would be a step in the positive direction in view of reportedly substantial number of Hindu students on the campus, as it was important to meet their spiritual needs. Some other universities in USA now offered Hindu prayer room and a Hindu chaplain.

Zed urged all US higher education institutions, both public and private, to respond to the needs of their considerable Hindu student bodies and offer prayer facilities. Universities/colleges needed to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism, Zed added.

Rajan Zed suggested that the Hindu Prayer Room preferably should have a shrine containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc.

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If Cornell really believed in its stated “values”, whose theme is “diversity and inclusion”, it should be more receptive to the needs of its diverse student body; Zed pointed out, and urged Cornell to work in this direction as an issue of fairness and equality in customer service.

Moreover, Cornell’s Student Assembly on April 27 also reportedly called on Cornell for hiring a Hindu chaplain.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

Research university Cornell, which ranked among best grad schools, has about 21,904 students and boasts of 45 Nobel laureates. Robert S. Harrison, Martha E. Pollack and Dr. Kenneth I. Clarke Senior are Trustees Chairman, President and United Religious Work Director respectively of Cornell.

+Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary 

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