The Institute for World Religions is an educational and religious
center dedicated to the study of the Asian and Western religious
and cultural traditions. Located in the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery,
the Institute benefits from proximity to an environment that is
grounded in traditional Buddhism yet serves contemporary society.
The Institute interprets essential aspects of Chinese culture
and religions for dialogue with the other major religions of the
Dedicated to creating a sanctuary where one can engage in conversation
about theological principles, religious beliefs and spiritual
practices, the Institute encourages the interfaith search for
universal values in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect.
It aims to challenge the boundaries of our minds and avoid attachment
to narrow sectarian differences.
History Of The Institute
The Institute for World Religions is the direct result of ecumenical
inspiration and joint planning between the Roman Catholic Cardinal
Yu Bin and the Buddhist Tripitaka Master Hsüan Hua. Master Hsüan
Hua was the ninth and the most recent Patriarch of the Wei Yang
lineage of Chinese Chan Buddhism. He came to the United States
in 1962 and established the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association
which currently has more than one hundred thousand members. The
Association has established schools and monasteries in Hong Kong,
Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, as well as the United
States and Canada.
In 1976 Cardinal Yu Bin graciously consented to be the Institute's
first director. In 1994 the Institute for World Religions moved
to the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. Its proximity to the University
of California at Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union,
and its location in the San Francisco Bay Area have added a new
dimension to the Institute's potential for rich and mutually beneficial
academic, religious and cultural interchange.
The Institute for World Religions offers a wide variety of programs
designed to deepen self-cultivation, to enhance basic values,
and to foster a genuine sense of mutual understanding among different
traditions. The activities range from public lectures to public
dialogue and practice sessions. Since its inception, the Institute
for World Religions has sponsored an on-going forum for dialogue
and programs that bring leaders of religion and spirituality
into conversation with contemporary theorists of science and
A. Practice of Living Traditions
In conjunction with the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, the Institute
has sponsored the following activities:
- UC Berkeley Chinese Buddhist Students Association Practice and
- Buddhist Women Practice Seminars
- Chan Meditation Group
- Vietnamese Buddhist Community Programs
- Vipassana Meditation Group
- Sutra Lectures
- Prajna Yoga and Meditation Sessions
B. Interfaith Dialogue
The Institute hosts a regular series of public dialogues. Some
recent events include:
- Jewish-Buddhist-Christian Trialogue
- Challenge to Spiritual Traditions: a talk by a Franciscan Priest
and two Theravadan Buddhist Bhikkhus.
Among recent lectures offered at the Institute co-sponsored with
- Gandhi and the Principles of Non-violence
- The New Age of the Organism
- Gender and Spirituality
- Reclaiming the Mystic Tradition
- Brain, Mind and Consciousness
- Two Views of Creation: A Dialogue between Modern Physics and Jewish
Snjezana Akpinar - Director
holds a Doctorate in Turkish Studies from the University of Istanbul,
Turkey, and an M.A. in Oriental Studies from the University of
Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She is President of Dharma Realm Buddhist
University and currently lectures on Central Asian influences
has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Buddhist
Studies, an M.A. in Chinese Language and Literature from the University
of Washington, and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University.
Professor Epstein has been with Dharma Realm Buddhist University
and the Institute of World Religions since their inception. He
teaches Buddhist Study and Practice. His current interests include
Buddhist-Christian dialogue and applied Buddhist Ethics.
Heng Hsien (Bhikshuni)
holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in
Southeast Asian Studies and an M.A. from Brandeis University.
She teaches Sanskrit and translates Sutra texts from Chinese and
Heng Sure (Bhikshu)
holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union
at Berkeley and has a Masters from the University of California
at Berkeley in Oriental Languages. He currently lectures on
the Buddhist Sutras and holds regular meditation classes.
Douglas Powers - Assistant Director
holds an M.A. from G.T.U. and a B.A. and a M.A.T. from the University
of the Redlands. He is Vice President of Dharma Realm Buddhist
University and currently teaches Western Philosophy and Psychology.
took his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His area
of interest is the process of religious acculturation, particularly
in the European and American encounter with Asian religions. He
was a Buddhist monk for 18 years and has studied and lectured
extensively throughout Asia, Europe, the United States and Canada.
The Institute for World Religions in Berkeley is affiliated with
and supported by the Dharma Realm Buddhist University, a non-profit
organization. It shares the religious purposes of the Dharma Realm
Buddhist Association and furthers its educational goals.