Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Shaunaka Rishi Das has recently been appointed Hindu Chaplain to Oxford University, the first Hindu chaplain in the University’s history.
“It’s a sign of the times,” says Shaunaka Rishi, “There are no official Hindu Chaplains for the University, yet there are thirty-six college chaplains, attached to Oxford’s thirty-eight colleges,” he explains. “I was asked by the Hindu Students’ Society of Oxford University to become their chaplain. This request was then recognized by the Student Ministry Forum, a group comprising of all the different College chaplains, who asked me to join them and gave me the title, ‘Hindu Chaplain to Oxford University.’”
Shaunaka says that the appointment is simply official recognition for the pastoral care that he has been providing young Hindus of all traditions since the inception of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in 1997.
“Students, usually in their first two years of university life, come with different difficulties, and I try to help them,” he elaborates. “Sometimes it’s a spiritual dilemma; maybe they’ve just heard their first atheistic argument or met their first Evangelical Christian. At other times, it’s to do with the fact that Indian students tend to be very result-oriented, and are just pushing themselves too hard because of pressure from their family, which in its own way is religious to them. And then there are those that are developing interest in their own tradition and have very specific philosophical questions.”