A Truly Collaborative Asian Religions Course at Hartford Seminary

June 29, 2016

With warm welcoming remarks from Dr. Uriah Kim, Academic Dean of Hartford Seminary, a week-long summer course titled “Spirituality and Practices of Asian Religions” began on June 13 for the second time this summer. This course was made possible by the collegial collaboration between Dr. Michiaki Okuyama of Nanzan University and Dr. Uriah Kim who oversaw the content and coordination with the lecturers, and on-site logistical arrangements respectively. However, it was beyond the two individuals who made this course truly remarkable. The Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order took the responsibility upon itself to invite Shinnyo-en temple staff and members from around the world and provided some logistical support to the Shinnyo-en participants. In addition, Shinnyo-en Foundation continued a grant to Hartford Seminary to offer this course for the second time. The fifteen participants included one Shinnyo-en Singapore temple staff member and several temple staff and non-staff practitioners from Shinnyo-en Japan. The Hartford participants were Master’s or Doctoral students at Hartford Seminary as well as a couple of the community members.

They occupied the modern and serene conference room for a week as the following three Asian Religions experts shared their knowledge and expertise in spirituality and practices of Asian Religions: Dr. Alison Melnick of Bates College, Dr. Jean DeBernardi of the University of Alberta, and Dr. Clark Chilson of the University of Pittsburgh, each of who was specialized in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese religions respectively.

Dr. Jean DeBernardi
Dr. Alison Melnick

In addition, Dr. Kenta Kasai, Research Fellow of the Center for Information on Religion in Tokyo, presented Shinnyo-en Buddhism in the context of Asian religions.

Dr. Clark Chilson
Dr. Kenta Kasai

For five consecutive days, this course provided the participants with a safe and comfortable place to engage in discussion with one another. This resulted in creating a stimulating learning opportunity among the participants who came from various spiritual and religious, and social and cultural backgrounds.

On the last day of the course on Saturday, June 18, Dr. Uriah Kim, who acted as the course on-site coordinator, took the participants to the Shinnyo-en New York Temple in White Plains, NY. This field trip consisted of a temple tour, a service, a guided meditation and also a luncheon with Shinnyo-en members.


This course was a result of a true multi-organization collaboration among Dr. Michiaki Okuyama, Nagoya, Dr. Uriah Kim, Shinnyo-en Order and Shinnyo-en Foundation. In particular, Shinnyo-en Foundation would like to thank its Board of Directors, Dr. Kenta Kasai and Eitaro Hayashi for collaborating with Drs. Okuyama and Kim to plan for the field trip at the NY Temple. Without those individuals and their organizational supports, this course wouldn’t have been possible.

Please also read the article by Hartford Seminary and also see more photos here.