Brian E. Brown, PhD, JD
Iona College Department of Religious Studies
715 North Ave.
New Rochelle, NY 10801
Phone: (914) 637-2742
Fax: (914) 633-2248
Thursday 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm and by appointment
JD Law: New York University, 1986.
PhD History of Religions: Fordham University, 1981.
BS Psychology and Theology, summa cum laude: Fordham University, 1971.
Departmental Information and Courses
Dr. Brown joined the faculty of the Religious Studies Department in the fall of 1987, specializing in the History of Religions. He is currently a Full Professor and has regularly taught RST 101: Religion in the Contemporary World; RST 205: Buddhist Wisdom for Christian Living; RST 310: The Religions of China; RST 341: The Story of the Universe; and RST 410: Religion and the Constitution. In 2011 he, along with Sister Kathleen Deignan, working with the chairs of the Biology and Political Science Departments, he created and designed a new interdisciplinary major in integral Environmental Studies. Animated by a common concern for the planetary community of the Earth and a transformed sustainable mode of human living within it, the major offers three tracks - Biology, Political Science or Religious Studies - from which students may choose to concentrate their study. In the fall semester of 2012 Dr. Brown introduced one of two new courses he designed for the Religious Studies Track of the new major: RST 213: Religion and the Natural World. In the future he will introduce the second new course : RST 412: Environmental Ethics and Religion.
As an undergraduate and graduate student of Thomas Berry at Fordham University, Dr. Brown continues to be inspired by the vision and values of that luminous thinker. In 2009 he became one of the four conveners of The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona to further the understanding of Berry's intellectual and spiritual legacy. In his scholarship, Dr. Brown remains consistently interested in the legal, moral, and spiritual dimensions of humanity's relationship with the natural world. Among his publications are articles which have addressed the ecological implications of the Buddhist and Native American tribal traditions, as well as contemporary jurisprudence on the conflicting values of land as sacred reality or as mere property. As a Catholic Historian of Religion, he remains deeply interested in interreligious dialogue particularly between the Buddhist and Christian traditions. Along with Sr. Kathleen Deignan of the Religious Studies Department, he is the co-founder of the Iona Contemplative Sitting Group.
Dr. Brown is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies; the American Teilhard Association; and the New York State Bar Association.
Professional Research and Publications
Dr. Brown is the author of two major works. The first is The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathagatagarbha and Alayavijnana (Motilal Banarsidass, Dehli: 1991; reprint 1994). One of the fundamental tenets of Mahayana Buddhism is the inherent potentiality of all animate beings to attain the supreme and perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood. Dr. Brown's book examines the ontological presuppositions and the corresponding soteriological-epistemological principles that sustain and define such a theory. His second book is entitled Religion, Law and the Land: Native Americans and the Judicial Interpretation of Sacred Land (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1999). Examining a series of court decisions made during the 1980s regarding the legal claims of several Native American tribes who attempted to protect ancestrally revered lands from development schemes by the federal government, this book looks at important questions raised about the religious status of land. The tribes used the First Amendment right of free exercises of religion as the basis of their claim, since governmental action threatened to alter the land which served as the primordial sacred reality without which their derivative religious practices would be meaningless. Dr. Brown argues that a constricted notion of religion on the part of the courts, combined with a pervasive cultural predisposition towards land as private property, marred the Constitutional analysis of the courts to deprives the Native American plaintiffs of religous liberty.