Speaker Biographies

Tenzin Gyatsu (The Dalai Lama)The Dalai Lama, or Tenzin Gyatso, 14th in a line of spiritual leaders of Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, was born in Takstar, Amdo (Qinghai) and was acclaimed as the rebirth of the previous Dalai Lama at the age of two.

Formal recognition of his status came when he reached the age of fifteen, when he inherited control the Tibetan government in 1950. Efforts by the People's Republic of China to consolidate their control over Tibet forced him to flee to Dharamsala, India in 1959, where a government-in-exile was established.

Since that time, the Dalai Lama has worked as an advocate for the rights of the Tibetan people and as a proponent of the Buddhist spiritual practice Dzogchen. His cultural and political endeavours include setting up a variety of educational institutions with the purpose of preserving a knowledge of the Tibetan heritage, as well as speaking before the United Nations, the European Union, and national commissions on the matter of human rights.

For his promotion of non-violent forms of resistance in defence of the Tibetan people, he was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. In his role as spiritual leader, he has taught and lectured around the world and has published more than 72 books including The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of its Philosophy and Practice (1995), The Art of Happiness (1998), his autobiography Freedom in Exile (1990), and the very recent Towards a True Kinship of Faiths (2010).

The Dalai Lama holds the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest degree level awarded in the study of Buddhist Philosophy and has received honourary doctorates from universities around the world. He has engaged numerous Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh leaders in dialogue, in addition to engaging leading scientists on questions of the nature of human life and the relevance of faith in the modern world. In 2007, the Dalai Lama accepted his first university appointment as the Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University (Atlanta).

Deepak ChopraDeepak Chopra is the Founder and Chairman of the Chopra Foundation, and Founder and co-Chairman of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. Chopra's Wellness Radio airs weekly on Sirius/XM Stars, Channels 102 and 155, focusing on the areas of success, love, sexuality and relationships, well-being, and spirituality. He is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post On Faith and contributes regularly to Oprah.com, Intent.com, and Huffington Post.

Chopra is known as a prolific author of nearly sixty books with eighteen New York Times best sellers on mind-body health, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than thirty-five languages in both fiction and non-fiction. His New York Times bestsellers, Peace Is the Way received the Religion and Spirituality Quill Award in 2005, and The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2005 Nautilus Awards. His latest New York Times bestsellers include Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet. His latest book, The Soul of Leadership, was mentioned as one of five best business books to read for your career FINS - Wall Street Journal.

His innovative mobile apps for smart phones and tablets: Stress Free with Deepak Chopra, Deepak Chopra's Buddha Guide and Deepak Chopra's Sages and Scientists provide an avenue to explore the world of Deepak Chopra. Released on Mother's Day 2010, the new multi-media project The Mother-Infant Bond: The Biology of Love, produced by TheVisualMD.com with a consortium of partners, reveals never-before-seen scientific visuals depicting the extraordinary biological bond between mother and baby.

Deepak Chopra's popularity as an international presenter and keynote speaker is exemplified in an impressive list of honorariums. Chopra is the recipient of the 2010 Goi Peace Award, the 2010 Starlite Humantarian Award, the 2010 Art for Life Honor, a 2009 Oceana Partners Award Honor, a 2006 Ellis Island Medal of Honor presented by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation, the 2006 Trailblazer Award by the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and the 2002 Einstein Humanitarian Award through Albert Einstein College of Medicine in collaboration with the American Journal of Psychotherapy. He participates annually as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine event sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since 1997. Dr. Chopra is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, an Adjunct Professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization.

Tariq RamadanTariq Ramadan was born in Geneva, Switzerland to parents exiled from Egypt for their association with the Muslim Brotherhood, a political reform movement taking its inspiration from the Qur'an and the collected sayings of the Prophet.

After completing Masters work in philosophy and French literature, he went on to do a PhD at the University of Geneva in Arabic and Islamic Studies and also studied Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Ramadan concerns himself with the place of Muslims in the Western world and the encounter between Islamic faith and the liberal democratic tradition. Advocating a pluralist conception of personal identity drawn from intellectual resources within Islamic teaching and postmodern thought, he lectures and publishes widely on topics relevant to questions of conflict and integration of Muslim communities into Western culture.

His publications include The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism (2010), What I Believe (2009), In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad (2007), and Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2004).

Ramadan presently serves as Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies (Oriental Institute, St. Anthony's College) and teaches in the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University. Concurrently, he holds visiting professorships in Qatar (Faculty of Islamic Studies) and Moroco (Mundiapolis) and is a Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto).

In the public forum, Ramadan has also helped found the Movement of Swiss Muslims, a group committed to interfaith dialogue, has served as an advisor to the European Union on issues related to Islam and secularism, and serves as the President of the Euro-Muslim Network, a think-tank based in Brussels, Belgium.

Robert ThurmanRobert Thurman was born in New York, studied at Harvard University, but left the life he had established for himself to travel the world after a accident deprived him of one of his eyes.

During his travels, he was fortunate to meet and befriend Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. From that meeting developed a lifelong passion for Tibet, its faith, culture, and people. Thurman studied under the Dalai Lama and became the first American to be ordained a monk in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Thurman returned to the United States and completed a Masters degree and a PhD in Sanskrit Indian Studies at Harvard University. He taught at Amherst College until he became the Je Tsongkhapa Professor in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, the first endowed chair in that field of studies in the United States, at Columbia University in 1988.

Around the same time, he helped to create the Tibet House, a non-profit organization established to preserve Tibetan culture, at the request of the Dalai Lama. Through lectures, translations of important Buddhist text, and his own writings, he has brought the plight of the Tibetan people to the attention of the United States and the rest of the world.

His publications include The Central Philosophy of Tibet: A Study and Translation of Jey Tsong Khapa 'Essence of True Eloquence (1991), Essential Tibetan Buddhism (1995), and more recently The Jewel Tree of Tibet (2005) and The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny, Tibet and the World (2008).

Thurman and his wife are working to develop a tract of land, donated to the Tibet House, into a healing center that applies holistic medicinal practices derived from Buddhist medicinal teachings and other holistic medicinal traditions.

Gregory BaumGregory Baum was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923 to a Protestant father and a Jewish mother and was sent to England as a teenager for safety. At the outset of WWII, he became a refugee and was interned in Canada in 1940. He received a BA in mathematics and physics (1946) from McMaster University, before going on to complete a MA in mathematics at Ohio State University (1947). A conversion to Roman Catholicism in the interim was instrumental in shifting his academic interests towards the study of theology. He went on to complete a DTh at the University of Fribourg (1956).

Baum served as a peritus, or theological advisor, during the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) to the Ecumenical Secretariat, which produced three conciliar documents, ‘On Religious Liberty’, ‘On Ecumenism’, and ‘On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions’. His participation in the formal proceedings of Vatican II garnered international recognition. It also signalled the subsequent course of an academic career devoted to questions about the relation between religion and society and inter-faith dialogue.
Baum has since served as Professor of Sociology and Theology at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and Professor of Theological Ethics at the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. His publications include That They May be One (1958), Religion and Alienation (1975), Theology and Society (1986), and more recently Signs of the Times: Religious Pluralism and Economic Injustice (2008) and The Theology of Tariq Ramadan: A Catholic Perspective (2009). He also founded the journal The Ecumenist in 1962, which he edited until 2004.

Baum was invited to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures in 1987, subsequently published as Compassion and Solidarity: the Church and Others (1988). Two years later, he was invested as an Officer in the Order of Canada in recognition of his ability to inspire persons from a wide-variety of faith backgrounds. He holds honourary degrees many universities including Wilfred Laurier University (Kitchener, Ontario), McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), and Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec).

Professor Steven T. KatzProfessor Steven T. Katz (born August 24, 1944, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A.), B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Cantab), D.H.L. (honoris causa), B.D. (Cantab), is Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University, Boston, Ma., and holds the Alvin J. and Shirley Slater Chair in Jewish and Holocaust Studies.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge [England] in 1972.   Prior to coming to Boston he was Professor of Near Eastern Studies (Judaica) at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, where he was Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies from 1985-1988 and Director of the Jewish Studies Program 1985-1989.  In addition to his regular teaching appointments at Dartmouth College (1972-1984) and Cornell University (1984 to1996) he has been a visiting professor at Yale, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and in 1989-90 was the Meyerhoff Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was a visiting University Professor at Yeshiva University (1995-6), and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University from 1981-1984, again in 2002-2003 with the support of an NEH Fellowship, and again from 2006-2008.  He was Chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Museum for five years and still serves on that committee, and is presently the Chair of the Holocaust Commission of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.  He is one of two American representatives to the International Task Force on the Holocaust, established by the King of Sweden, and now sponsored by the European Union.
            His many publications include: Jewish Philosophers (1975); Jewish Ideas and Concepts (1977); Post-Holocaust Dialogues, which won the National Jewish Book Award in 1984; Historicism, the Holocaust and Zionism (1992); and the multi-volume study entitled The Holocaust in Historical Context, vol. 1 of which appeared in 1994, and was selected as “the outstanding book in philosophy and theology” for that year by the American Association of University Publishers.  Katz has also contributed to and edited four important books on mysticism printed by Oxford University Press: Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (1978), Mysticism and Religious Traditions (1983), Mysticism and Language (1992), and Mysticism and Sacred Scripture (2000).  He has edited two volumes on the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish thought: The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology (2005) and Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses During and After the Holocaust (2007) which was selected as the runner-up for the 2007 National Jewish Book Award in Anthologies and Collections.  He is the editor of the prize-winning journal Modern Judaism, and has served on the editorial teams of The Cambridge History of Nineteenth Century Religious Thought, and The Cambridge History of Judaism.  He was the sole editor of Volume IV of The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, which won the 2007 National Jewish Book Award in the reference category. 
Katz has published over 100 articles in scholarly journals in the fields of Judaica, Holocaust studies, philosophy of religion, and comparative mysticism, and has lectured all over the world, including China, India, Israel, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  He was awarded the University of Tübingen’s Lucas Prize for 1999.  Past winners of this award include the Dalai Lama and Sir Karl Popper.  He is a Fellow of both the American Academy of Jewish Research and the Academy of Jewish Philosophy.

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