Background

During 1976 members of the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta Philosophy Department joined hands with the SUNY Oneonta Anthropology Department to establish the Religious Studies Committee.

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The committee was instrumental in
  1. bringing together a group of diverse scholars interested in a dialogue between science and religion/ spirituality
  2. identifying courses in the social sciences and humanities that covered issues such as meaning, significance and value of life
  3. recommending the creation of new courses specifically addressing these issues, such as Survey of World’s Religions, Comparative Religions, Creative Living Through Yoga, Zen and Mantra Meditation and Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga
  4. inviting scholars, including Houston Smith (religion), Eugene Long (anthropology), Joseph Campbell (mythology), Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (science) and others, to confirm the message of the dynamic interrelationship between science and religion through public lectures, which were open to the College and the local community.

Through teaching these courses and public lectures, a fruitful dialogue had begun among the scholars of sciences, humanities and arts.

Furthermore, this creative dialogical prepared a fertile ground for the course on the Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga, taught by Professor Malhotra. The first half of this course was devoted to the discussion of philosophy, psychology, science, religion and the spiritual practice of yoga, while the second half was dedicated to the practice of physical, breathing and meditation exercises. The excitement and meaning of studying yoga and meditation extended beyond the classroom to the entire college campus and the local community, thus creating a diverse group of practitioners and scholars interested in pursuing the investigative nature of the phenomenon. Campus dormitory resident assistants began to invite Professor Malhotra to give Yoga and Meditation lecture- demonstration-participation seminars to the student residents, which were presented before mid-terms and finals to help students reduce the stress and anxiety associated with exams. Local churches, hospitals, and other community organizations invited Professor Malhotra to offer similar lecture-demonstrations, as did teachers and students of local elementary and high schools. The SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference (see Venue below), began to open their annual conference with the Yoga and Meditation seminar. When the Hindu community of the Albany-Troy area was distraught because of three suicides within a short period of time, Professor Malhotra was invited to conduct half-a-dozen seminars in order to bring the community together spiritually. Finally, because of the enhanced interest in scientific research related to the effects of yoga and meditation on the human personality and spirit, a number of national and international organizations, such as the Society for the Comparative Study of Civilization, Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Vedanta Society, New York State Asian Studies Society, Metanexus and others, asked Professor Malhotra to conduct the lecture-demonstration-participation seminars for the wellness of their members during annual meetings in the US and abroad.

Professor Malhotra’s seminars on yoga and meditation have been instrumental in initiating an informal dialogue between science and religion among the students and faculty of SUNY Oneonta, Hartwick College (a small liberal arts college, also located in Oneonta), and members of the local community. This has laid the foundation for the Yoga and Meditation Society for the Scientific Study of Spirituality.

For more information contact Dr. Ashok Malhotra at 607-436-3220, the Department of Philosophy at 607-436-2456, or the Center for Social Responsibility at 607-436-2651
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