We are proud to introduce our esteemed and accomplished Advisory Board members. Under their loving and strategic guidance, we hope that Sadhana will become a strong Hindu voice for justice.
Disclaimer: Sadhana does not necessarily endorse the statements and positions of the Advisory Board, and similarly, members of the Advisory Board do not necessarily endorse all of Sadhana's statements and positions.
Aminta Kilawan (Co-Founder)
Aminta Kilawan is an attorney, community activist, and writer. Born in the Bronx to Guyanese immigrants, Aminta's passion for social justice manifests in various aspects of her life. Aminta writes a weekly column for The West Indian newspaper titled, "Civics, Culture, and Community Engagement" in efforts to increase involvement and stewardship in areas such as politics and volunteerism. Aminta uses her voice for multifold purposes: she is a spirited bhajan singer but is also a vocal advocate for her community. Aminta co-founded Sadhana to merge her passion for activism with her love of Hinduism's progressive values. Through her position as Legislative Counsel to the New York City Council's Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations and the Committee on Women's Issues, Aminta drafts legislation, liaises with advocates, and shapes New York City policy on an everyday basis. Aminta graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor from Fordham Law School.
Rajni Bakshi is the Gandhi Peace Fellow at Gateway House and a Mumbai-based author. She published a Research paper in October 2012 titled Civilizational Gandhi. Rajni has a BA from George Washington University and an MA from the University of Rajasthan. She is the author of Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom: for a market culture beyond greed and fear (Penguin, 2009), which won two Vodafone-Crossword Awards. Her earlier book, Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Rediscovery of Gandhi (Penguin, 1998) inspired the Hindi film Swades starring Shah Rukh Khan. Her other books include: Long Haul: the Bombay Textile Workers Strike 1982-83 (1986), A Warning and an Opportunity: the Dispute over Swami Vivekananda’s Legacy (1994), Lets Make it Happen: a backgrounder on New Economics (2003) and An Economics for Well-Being (2007). Rajni serves on the Boards of Child Rights and You (CRY) and Citizens for Peace. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture and a long term associate of Centre of Education and Documentation.
Swami Bodhananda teaches Advaita Vedanta, Yogasutras, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and scores of other Vedantic texts. Swamiji's teachings are imbued with a quality that at once takes the novice listener and the committed student to the sacred space of the higher self. Being himself an embodiment of detachment and compassion, his words guide us patiently to the wisdom of the yogic traditions. In India, Swamiji has trained many students and guided them to the pinnacle ashrama of Sannyasa. Some of these students are today well-known Sanyassins in Kerala and other cities in India. Apart from his erudition in Vedantic texts, Swamiji is a well known management guru, having his master’s degree in economics and political science. He is an avid reader and is well-versed with the contemporary challenges that the corporate leadership and corporate management face. Swami Bodhananda is the author of several books on this subject.
"One of the many meanings of the word Dharma is justice. The Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata, the canonical texts of Hindu dharma, are deep reflections on the ideal and practice of Justice. Respect for and accommodation of all beings as expressions of the same Reality is the basis of Hindu ethics and ideal of justice. Individuals are considered as sparks of divinity and all must get equal opportunity to realize the full scope of their inner potential. Hindu ideal of justice extends not only to humans but also to animals, plants and to the entire ecosystem. To exist is to coexist, declares Hindu Dharma."
Christopher Fici is a Hindu-American whose work, writing, and activism digs into the intersections of social, economic, and ecological identity for the 21st century Hindu in relation to all humanity and to the Earth herself. Raised as a Catholic, Christopher began a long conversion journey into the Gaudiya Vaisnava faith and path during his undergraduate days at the University of Michigan, and after attaining his bachelor's degree in cinema studies he spent five-and-a-half years studying and training in Gaudiya Vaisnava asramas in West Virginia and New York City. Following his monastic experience, Christopher entered the halls of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the oldest independent Christian seminary in America. He received an M.A. in eco-theology and his master's thesis was on "The Anticipatory Community and the Yoga of Ecology," an Interfaith exploration of communal creation/recreation of Earth-honoring faith. At Union, he is one of the project leaders of The Edible Churchyard and will be working towards his Master's degree in Sacred Theology in 2014-2015. He is also part of the GreenFaith Fellowship Class of 2014 where he met some of the wonderful founding board members of Sadhana.
Dr. Anantanand Rambachan is Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College, Minnesota. He is also Visiting Professor at the Academy for the Study of World Religions at the University of Hamburg in Germany.
Professor Rambachan is a prolific writer and author of several books, and numerous book-chapters and journal articles. His major books include: (1) Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Shankara, (2) The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Authority of the Vedas, (3)The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity, and(4) A Hindu Theology of Liberation: Not-Two is Not One. The British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a series of 25 of his lectures around the world.
Among his many public roles, Professor Rambachan is President of the Board of Arigatou International, New York, an international, interreligious organization working with UNICEF and other children’s organizations for the well being of children. He is a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and an advisor to Harvard University's Pluralism project.
Prof. Rambachan has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over 25 years, as a Hindu participant and analyst. In 2008, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he delivered the distinguished Lambeth Interfaith Lecture at Lambeth Palace in London. Professor Rambachan led the first two White House Celebration of the Hindu Festival of Diwali in 2003 and 2004.
"The practice of justice in human relationships is the highest form of religious life. The interior life of holiness and piety must find outward expression in a passion for justice. These two aspects of authentic spirituality mutually nourish and are incomplete without each other. Without the concern for justice, personal piety becomes obsessively self-centered. At the same time, attentiveness to and cultivation of the interior spiritual life nourish and provide the motivation for the work of justice. Justice cannot be equated with charity. The latter seeks to offer relief and care to those who are the victims of injustice. Justice seeks to change and transform the structures that cause suffering."
(Excerpt from Prof Rambachan's "A Hindu Theology of Liberation, SUNY Press, 2015)
Shrestha serves as the Hindu Chaplain at Wellesley College and Advisor to students of Dharmic traditions at Brandeis University. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in global health and journalistic writing and received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. In college, her love of stories and growing consciousness of social inequality led her to leave her pre-med track and explore other routes to being a part of serving and healing the world. She ended up working at a mental health center, then on a farm, and then landed in divinity school. She has been involved in racial justice work throughout the years and is particularly interested in that intersection between the "inner" spiritual life and the work of engaging in the sacred and beautiful mess that is community and the "outer" world. She is passionate about mental health, talking about gender, race, and sexuality, and working with folks to navigate issues of identity and faith. She loves hiking, writing, and her sweet pit bull mixes Clooney and Scout.
Varun Soni (he/him) is the Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California (USC) and the first Hindu to serve as the chief religious or spiritual leader of an American university. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the USC School of Religion and a University Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy. Prior to USC, he spent four years teaching in the Law and Society Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A prolific public speaker and scholar of religions, Soni has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, National Public Radio, ABC News, Sunday Times, Forbes and Voice of America. He is the author of Natural Mystics: The Prophetic Lives of Bob Marley and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Figueroa Press, 2014) and he contributed to the edited volume My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis Books, 2012). His essays and commentaries have appeared in a number of print and online publications, including the Huffington Post, Washington Post, Jewish Journal, Religion Dispatches, CrossCurrents and Harvard Divinity Bulletin.
"From theoretical and textual perspectives, Hinduism provides us with a progressive vision of the world that brings together spirituality and science, and that orients social justice around compassion for all sentient beings. As Hindus, it is our great challenge, and our unique opportunity, to translate this vision of a progressive Hinduism from theory to practice, from abstraction to application."
Ravina Natasha Vibart-Jadubans
Ravina Natasha Vibart-Jadubans is a mother of two loving children, wife of spiritual leader of the Shaanti Bhavan Mandir Pandit Jadubans, ardent Hindu and a devotee of the great Lord. Ravina tries very hard to upkeep the motto her late Guruji used, "the hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray," by giving back wholeheartedly to the less-fortunate and to the community at large. Her passion is her family, and although busy with the activities of every day life, Ravinaji embarks on various projects to serve humanity. She believes being a Hindu is not only about praying and performing rituals but one must understand that the supreme being is instilled in everyone and when we serve others, we are in turn serving God.
I see Justice in these words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, “Like the bee gathering honey from different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scriptures and sees only the good in all religions”. And I see Love in these words of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita which depicts the power of our sweet religion, “The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind."
John J. Thatamanil
John J. Thatamanil is an Assistant Professor of Theology and World Religions at Union Theological Seminary, where he teaches a wide variety of courses in the areas of comparative theology, theologies of religious diversity, Hindu-Christian dialogue, the theology of Paul Tillich, theory of religion, and process theology. He is also an passionate but irregular practitioner of vipassana meditation and includes time for meditation in virtually all of his courses at Union. Dr. Thatamanil is the author of the The Immanent Divine: God, Creation and the Human Predicament (Fortress Press, 2006) and Mission in the Marketplace: Metropolitan Chrysostom on the Identity and Mission of the Mar Thoma Church (CSS Press, 2002). He is currently completing his second book, The Promise of Religious Diversity: Constructive Theology After Religion (Fordham University Press).
Professor Thatamanil is a past-president of the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS) and the founding Chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Theological Education Committee. He is a frequent lecturer in churches, colleges and universities both nationally and internationally. He also co-edits (with Dr. Loye Ashton) a book series for Fordham University Press on “Comparative Theology: Thinking Across Traditions.” He blogs periodically for The Huffington Post and other online publications and has published editorials in The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.
At the heart of the form of Hinduism to which I am most drawn, Advaita Vedanta, is a conviction that the jivanmukta, (one who is liberated while living) who is established in the knowledge of nonduality, becomes an ocean of compassion. Such a person is understood to transcend ethical life insofar as the ethical life is driven by effort, the will to do what is right. But the jivanmukta need no longer work by deliberate effort to be ethical; he or she is now trans ethical. Now, grounded in the knowledge of the unity of reality, compassion for all beings is his or her natural and innate disposition. My love for the Hindu tradition as a Christian theologian is grounded in this grand spiritual aspiration to arrive at radical self-transformation for the sake of the good of all.