Christmas & New Year Symposium: Unity in Diversity and the Interconnectedness of Life


Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, PhD, DD, has been a congregational rabbi for 20 years and studied with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. He is Professor of Religious Studies at Middle Tennessee State University and an award-winning author, poet, essayist, and educator.

Jan Willis

Jan Willis, PhD, is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists for over four decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for 39 years. She has published a number of books and articles on various topics in Buddhism, including her memoir, Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist, One Woman’s Spiritual Journey. In December 2000, Time magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium" and in May 2007 Ebony magazine named Willis one of its “Power 150” most influential African Americans.

James Finley

James Finley, PhD, clinical psychologist, lived as a monk at the cloistered Trappist monastery of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky where the world-renowned monk and author, Thomas Merton, was his spiritual director. Dr. Finley leads retreats and workshops throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author of Merton's Palace of Nowhere, The Contemplative Heart and Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God. He also has several audio sets and DVDs which can be found on his website.

Inderjit Nilu Kaur

Inderjit Nilu Kaur, PhD, has studied Sikh Kirtan since early childhood. She has reflected deeply on the shabad in the Guru Granth Sahib, and its path of truth, love and equality. She has given talks at universities, community forums and youth retreats, and published in scholarly journals and in magazines. Inderjit is currently in the PhD program in ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley, and has earlier obtained a PhD in economics from there.

Peter Rogen

Peter Rogen has, over the past five years, devoted himself to the study of Rumi's poetry and thought, and has given more than 125 dramatic presentational readings of Rumi's work, accompanied with historic and anecdotal commentary on Rumi's life and times. He has presented Rumi's poetry at many venues, inspiring the audience to dive deeper into the wisdom and beauty of Rumi's poetry.

Beverly Little Thunder

Beverly Little Thunder is a Standing Rock Lakota woman and a participant in the ceremonies of her people for over 45 years. She has led Sweat Lodge ceremonies since she was in her early 20’s. She is the founder of Kunsi Keya Tamakoce, a retreat center in Vermont, which hosts many different ceremonies each year. Beverly Little Thunder travels and shares her tradition and stories with people all over the Americas. She hosts seminars and speaks on University Campus’ across the country. A grandmother and great grandmother, she has recently retired from her work as a nurse and is now focusing full time on her role of spiritual adviser and guide.

Krishnan Namboodiri
Krishnan Namboodiri is a Tantric priest from South India, trained in the classical tradition of mantras (sacred sounds), pujas (prayer ceremonies), homas (fire rituals), and yantras (sacred geometric designs). He performs many daily and special rituals for the ashram.

Latif Bolat

Latif Bolat specializes in Sufi music and the ancient Turkish mystical-devotional music genre. By creating an intimate, storytelling atmosphere, he explains Turkish folk and mystical music and its sociopolitical and cultural elements.

Gaura Vani

Gaura Vani began studying sacred music in Vrindavan, India, at the age of six. Today, he shares the magic he received and performs extensively with his kirtan ensemble throughout the world. His albums include Ten Million Moons and Nectar of Devotion.