A passion for religion: at 25, he becomes the youngest holder of a doctorate at the faculty of theology of the UP

  • Yuvan Mathias Shunmugam is the youngest doctoral graduate from the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria.
  • The 25 year recearned her doctorate in Religious Studies at the spring 2022 graduation ceremony.
  • He spends a lot of time contributing to initiatives centered on the preservation and propagation of his mother tongue, Tamil.

Born in KwaZulu-Natal, Yuvan Mathias Shunmugam made history as the youngest doctoral graduate in 105 years of history from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Pretoria (UP) .

According to the university, 25-year-old Shunmugam earned his doctorate in the science of religion during the spring 2022 graduation ceremonies at the university’s Hillcrest campus.

His thesis was entitled: “The contribution of Nishkama Karma in the philosophies of Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva on social cohesion”.

“My lens examined the Hindu concept of Nishkama Karma and its contribution to the promotion and advancement of social cohesion,” Shunmugam said.

He said:

In my opinion, religion does not do enough in terms of promoting social cohesion.

Nishkama Karma is the act of a selfless or desireless action, or when someone does something without any expectation.

His thesis furthered the principle of altruism in the concept of Nishkama Karma towards developing a connection between Nishkama Karma and concern for the welfare of others.

“Often people focus on the afterlife, thinking about how to please God and how to live a life so that they can attain salvation. In Hinduism we say attaining moksha. In d “Other religions, you’d say ‘go to heaven’, or whatever. And that’s what people focus on, not necessarily how we can help make the world a better place.”

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Many religions propagate the idea that the world is evil and that upon death one will go to a better place, Shunmugam added.

“That’s usually what religion or religions teach. And that’s something I’m afraid I don’t agree with. I think religion needs to do a lot more to promote a much better world,” he said. he added.

The young doctoral student is passionate about Hinduism, religious studies, social activism and language teaching. He sits in various leadership structures, contributing to social justice or decolonial narratives. In addition to religion, he studied archaeology, ancient languages ​​and psychology.

He also contributes to initiatives centered on the preservation and propagation of his mother tongue, Tamil.

He believes that education in the mother tongue is vital for cultural diversity and promotes peaceful and sustainable societies.

“My grandmother was a Tamil teacher and instilled in me my understanding and love for the language.”

Shunmugam credits his supervisor at UP, Professor Maniraj Sukdaven for supporting him and instilling in him a winning mentality.

“Having a supervisor dedicated to your success is important if you want to complete a PhD. I was blessed,” he added.

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