Dr. Sivakumar V., faculty member and coordinator in Research/Genomics, Department of Health System Research, Amrita Health Sciences Campus, Kochi, attended the 11th Annual Conference of Science and Non-Duality (SAND19 US) from October 23-27, 2019, held at San Jose, California, USA. The highlight of this year’s program was the talk and panel discussion by Swami Sarvapriyananda, of the Vedanta Society of New York and currently at the Harvard School of Divinity.
Dr. Sivakumar elaborated, "Swami Sarvapriyananda was the first Registrar of the Vivekananda University, at the hallowed Belur Math, West Bengal. Interestingly, the Chancellor of this University, Swami Atmapriyananda was the Chief Guest at our recent Kochi campus convocation and had delivered a scintillating lecture. Had an interesting conversation with Swami Sarvapriyananda and sought suggestions from the organizers to hold a "Health and Spirituality Dialogue" and to explore research possibilities in this field at our institution as well. A noted participant was Swami Chidananda, who informed that he was a senior monk at the Chinmaya Mission and happens to be the senior of our Vice-Chancellor Dr. P. Venkat Rangan during IIT student days! The swami was a fellow speaker as well."
Reverend Bill McDonald, a Vietnam war veteran and chaplain made an interesting presentation on "Determinism of Fate", sharing his experience of spending time in South India with a teacher and learning from ancient manuscripts. He summarized the terms of destiny, fate and freewill, causes propelling the present birth of individuals. He also discussed the role of divine grace as the sole manifestation of a free will in the scheme of things of life as a human being.
There were several noted speakers from the medical field. Dr. Neil Theise, Professor of Pathology and Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, spoke on the non-Western models of body, science-spirituality and consciousness studies. Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist, author and professor at Stanford University, spoke on new areas of research in sensory substitution, time perception, vision and synesthesia. He is also the author of a widely adopted textbook on cognitive neuroscience titled “Brain and Behaviour”. The talk of Dr. Donald Hoffman, Professor of Cognitive Science at University of California, and his lecture on Artificial Intelligence was particularly appealing. The young Dr. Joel Salinas, faculty neurologist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Brain Health Centre, who was born with an extreme form of synaesthesia, an extraordinary neurological trait that reveals unique insights into his patients, enabling him to experience life in a remarkable way, addressed the audience from his first-hand experience.
Dr. Sivakumar added that it was an occasion to catch up with noted spiritual teachers such as Francis Lucille, Thomas Hubl, Peter Russell, Pamela Wilson, Dr. A. H. Almaas, Rupert Spira, Rick Archer and a host of friends and well-wishers. He added, "Given the stature of our university being inspired by Chancellor Amma, it is only appropriate that the spiritual dimensions of health and well being are brought out appropriately through guest lectures, conferences and collaborative research activities."