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Shaunaka Rishi Das

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Title: Shaunaka Rishi Das  
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Subject: Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Bhaktivedanta College, Academics of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Jonathan Michie
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Shaunaka Rishi Das

Shaunaka Rishi Das
Born 18 February 1961
Religion Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Shaunaka Rishi Das (born 18 February 1961) is the Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS), a position he has held since the Centre's foundation in 1997.[1] He is a Hindu cleric, a lecturer,[2] a broadcaster, and Hindu Chaplain to Oxford University.[3] Education, comparative theology, communication, and leadership [4] are his main fields of interest.


  • Oxford 1
  • Media and Broadcasting 2
  • Interfaith and Theological Dialogue 3
  • Personal Faith 4
  • ISKCON 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


As Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies he maintains the vision and ethos of the OCHS and encourages the Centre’s continued growth and development in all spheres.[5] In this role he oversaw the formal recognition of the OCHS by Oxford University in 2006,[6] and developed the Centre's publishing partnerships with Oxford University Press, Journal of Hindu Studies, and with the Routledge Hindu Studies Series.[7][8] He has also been responsible for forging formal relationships between the OCHS and Universities in the USA, Europe, India, and China.[9] He is the first Hindu Chaplain to Oxford University in its 800 year history.[10]

Media and Broadcasting

He is a regular broadcaster, making the Hindu contribution to 'Prayer for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 since 2007.[11] He was also a participant in the popular History of the World in 100 Objects series broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and published by Allen Lane.[12][13] He has acted as a consultant for a number of documentaries on Hindu culture and traditions.[14][15] He has written articles for The Guardian[16] and The Independent newspapers, Business India,[17] and has written the Hindu entry for the Annual Register since 2004.[18]

Interfaith and Theological Dialogue

Shaunaka Rishi Das, by way of an invitation to the International Colloquium of Christians and Jews, was introduced to the world of inter-religious dialogue, in 1985, by the then Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Rabbi David Rosen.[19] From that time he developed a personal interest, and played an active part in such dialogue. He was an early member of the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum, acting as its Chairman from 1998 to 2002.[20][21] From 2002 -2004 he was a trustee and executive member of The Interfaith Network UK,[22] and from 1998-2004 acted as a consultant to the International Interfaith Centre, Oxford.[23]

Rishi Das has been a pioneer in promoting interfaith and comparative theological dialogue in his own community. As the first Convenor of the ISKCON Interfaith Commission (1997–2010)[24] he led the consultation which resulted in the publication of ISKCON's Statement on Relating with People of Faith in God,[25][26] which has been translated into six languages, and forms part of the course curriculum at Bhaktivedanta College, Belgium.

This Interfaith statement was a significant step for ISKCON, addressing issues of integration in a global society, as well as laying out a clear theological basis for dialogue. It has also been recognised as a pioneering statement from any Hindu tradition, advocating informed engagement with others over presenting a position of policy to others.[27] Responses to the document noted its importance in addressing modern issues while keeping with the integrity of the ancient tradition.[28][29]

But we Christians may also recognise a new factor, namely that ISKCON is the first global Vaisnava movement that is just now coming to understand its vocation to enable Westerners to understand Indian philosophy and spirituality.[30]Rev. Kenneth Cracknell

He has also been responsible for facilitating various conferences, seminars, and symposia promoting Vaishnava-Christian dialogue at different levels.[31][32] He was instrumental, along with his colleagues, Anuttama Das, and Rukmini Devi Dasi in launching the annual Vaishnava-Christian conferences, held in Washington DC, since 1997.[33]

Personal Faith

Born an Irish Catholic, and expressing an early interest in the priesthood,[34] Rishi Das joined a Hare Krishna ashram, in Dublin, in 1979. In 1982 he was given Brahmanical initiation - ordained as a priest - in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.[35][36]

Inspired by biblical and philosophical reading, which began when he was fourteen, Rishi Das developed a broad interest in spirituality.[37] He said of this early period: love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our words and all our deeds, and love our neighbour as ourselves struck me as an instruction, as a plea, and actually, as a necessity. Considering how to do to that, how to forsake all and follow God out of love has provided me my greatest challenge in life.[38]

Joining a Hindu movement in the Ireland of his time did not feel like a courageous act for Rishi Das. Of his first encounters with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) he said:

They were speaking Christianity but not calling it that. I knew I had met the people I was to practice with. My desire was to be a Christian. I had to struggle with the fact that I found it being practised to the highest standard by non-Christians.[39]

To sample his spiritual thought in the form of prayer we can refer to one of his BBC Broadcasts:

Dear Lord, my desire is to serve you, and I offer what I think is best. Please let me know what You desire, and bless me with the grace to accept what you think is best.[40]

And for a touch of his well known humour:

Over the next few years as I tried the ‘lose-weight-without-any-change’ method, as I wore ever tighter clothes, and weighed myself to depression, I felt doomed. My lowest point was the day I weighed myself after a haircut.[41]


Shaunaka Rishi Das was Editor-in-Chief of the ISKCON Communications Journal, from 1993 until 2006, and was Chairman of ISKCON Communications Europe from 1991-2003.[42][43] Currently he serves as an executive member of ISKCON's Ministry of Educational Development,[44] a founding member of the ISKCON Studies Institute, is a trustee of Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium, and is Editor-in-Chief of the ISKCON Studies Journal.[45]

See also


  1. ^ Banerjee, Akanksha (Sun, 13 Aug 2006). "Oxford gets a Hindu flavour". CNN-IBN. Retrieved 2 February 2010
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Academy for Leadership
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ OCHS, Brochure, 2008, Oxford
  10. ^ White, Malini (23 August 2013). "An Unusual Spokesman". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  11. ^ - 12 March 2007
  12. ^ A History of the World in 100 Objects, Neil MacGregor, Allen Lane, 2010, London
  13. ^
  14. ^ Eat, Pray, Light, Tuesday 2 November 2010, 11.20-11.55pm BBC ONE
  15. ^ The Hidden Story of Jesus, Broadcast UK - Channel 4 - 2007
  16. ^ -Saturday,1 July 2006
  17. ^ S. R. (2009). The Rig Veda and credit crunch. Business India, 826 (15 Nov), 110-111.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Memories of a life less ordinary". Wexford People. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010
  20. ^ Dwyer, Graham; Richard J. Cole (2007). The Hare Krishna movement: forty years of chant and change. I.B.Tauris. pp. 247. ISBN 1-84511-407-8.
  21. ^ "Exhibition celebrates NI’s religious diversity" 11 October 2001. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  22. ^ Retrieved 2 February 2010
  23. ^ International Interfaith Centre
  24. ^
  25. ^ Rishi Das, ISKCON Communications Journal, ISKCON in Relation to People of Faith in God, Vol.7, No.1, 1999, Oxford
  26. ^ Edwin F Bryant & Maria Ekstrand The Hare Krishna movement: the postcharismatic fate of a religious transplant, 2004 Columbia university press p409
  27. ^ Burkett, Delbert (ed). The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. Blackwell Publishing, 2011. Page 261. Blackwell Reference Online. 8 February 2011>
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Cracknell Kenneth, ISKCON and Interfaith Dialogue,ISKCON Communications Journal, Vol 8, No 1 June 2000
  31. ^ Cracknell Kenneth The Nature of the Self a Vaishnava-Christian Conference, Conference Report, World faiths encounter: Issues 13-18, World Congress of Faiths, 1996
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Coleman, Simon; Peter Jeffrey Collins (2004). Religion, identity and change: perspectives on global transformations. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 1. ISBN 0-7546-0450-0.
  35. ^ Family Blog by Shaunaka Rishi Das -
  36. ^ "Memories of a life less ordinary". Wexford People. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010
  37. ^ "Memories of a life less ordinary". Wexford People. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Memories of a life less ordinary". Wexford People. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010
  40. ^ Rishi Das, BBC Radio 4, Prayer for the Day, broadcast, October 22nd, 2009
  41. ^ Rishi Das, BBC Radio 4, Prayer for the Day, broadcast on October 23rd, 2009
  42. ^ Rothstein, Mikael (1994). "TM og ISKCON i historisk perspektiv". Indiske religioner i Danmark ( 
  43. ^ Bergeron, Richard; Bertrand Ouellet. Croyances et sociétés: communications présentées au dixième colloque international sur les nouveaux mouvements religieux, Montréal, août 1996. Les Editions Fides. p. 331.  
  44. ^
  45. ^ "Windsor 2009 - Delegate Biographies: Shaunaka Rishi Das". Windsor 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 

Further reading

  • Maurice Ryan, "Another Ireland", Stranmillis College, Belfast, 1996.
  • "Memories of a life less ordinary". The Wexford People, Wexford, 8 April 2009.

External links

  • The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
  • Personal Blog
  • Jesus Through Hindu Eyes, BBC Radio 4, 2002
  • Hinduism and Modernity, Guardian newspaper, 2006
  • Our Declining Trust is a Greater Evil than Terrorism, Independent newspaper, 2004
  • The Interfaith Network UK
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