Venerable Priya Sraman, Buddhist chaplain, left Tufts in January and assumed the role of Buddhist chaplain at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In the coming weeks, Tufts will appoint an interim Buddhist chaplain, who will fill the role during the search for Venerable Sraman’s permanent replacement, according to the Rev. Elyse Nelson Winger.
Nelson Winger, who serves as university chaplain at Tufts, said that Venerable Sramanoriginally came to Tufts as Buddhist in residence in 2016, while he was earning his master of divinity from Harvard University. In 2018, he was appointed to the role of Buddhist chaplain.
"He is certainly the one person who has created the Buddhist Chaplaincy as it is today," Nelson Winger said.
In an email to the Daily, Nelson Winger outlined some of Venerable Sraman’s accomplishments during his time as Buddhist chaplain. She said he led meditations and discussions, invited nuns, monks and other religious leaders to campus and hosted annual mindfulness meditation summer programs for faculty and staff.
In addition, Venerable Sraman mentored students in the Tufts Buddhist Mindfulness Sangha, an organization dedicated to upholding Buddhist practices, according to Ryan Dreher, co-president and treasurer of the Mindfulness Sangha.
Both Dreher and Kayleigh Ford, the organization’s other co-president, shared memories of Venerable Sraman that they felt reflected his thoughtful and down-to-earth approach to his role as Buddhist chaplain.
Dreher, a senior, said that Venerable Sraman made himself accessible to students who had questions about topics ranging from Buddhist practices and spirituality to problems in their daily lives.
“The words that he used and the lessons that he taught were so incredibly powerful and extremely eye-opening and energizing in a way … It's like, if you've ever asked a question, and had someone answer it so well that you couldn't help but laugh, or just kind of smile, that’s literally what he would be like,” Dreher said. “Anything that you would ask him, he would just take his time with [it] and answer it in the most beautiful way.”
Ford, who is also a senior, said that Venerable Sraman was approachable.
“A lot of the time when I would respectfully bow to him or call him 'Bhante,' which is a respectful word for a teacher, he would laugh at me," Ford said. "So that just goes to show how not full of himself he is — he has no ego at all."
In an email to the Daily, Zachary Cole, chief of staff of Emory's Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, said that Venerable Sraman will be Emory's first Buddhist chaplain.
“As Emory has become more spiritually diverse, the need for a staff chaplain for the Buddhist and mindfulness communities has grown,” Cole said.
Cole also described how Venerable Sraman's appointment as Emory's Buddhist chaplain reflects progress toward its Office of Spiritual and Religious Life’s mission of encouraging interfaith engagement on campus.
Nelson Winger explained that Tufts’ chaplaincy is in the process of selecting an interim Buddhist chaplain, who will assume the role sometime in the coming weeks and will remain until a permanent replacement is found.
The search process for Venerable Priya’s permanent replacement will occur over the summer, according to Nelson Winger.
“We are looking for a chaplain with Buddhist ministry and chaplaincy training who has experience working with college and university students; who is a trusted spiritual leader and teacher; who has experience in providing pastoral care and in mentoring student leaders; and who has a demonstrated background in service and social justice leadership,” Nelson Winger said.
According to Nelson Winger, the hiring process will involve a search committee made up of University Chaplaincy team members, students and campus partners, who will meet with candidates and make recommendations.
Nelson Winger expects that the new Buddhist chaplain will begin their role in August 2021.
"We are excited to welcome a new Chaplain who will work across the Tufts campuses and who cultivates with us a community that is supportive of religious pluralism and interfaith engagement," Nelson Winger said.