Unique, one of a kind baccalaureate service in the world, was held at University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) in USA on May three.
“Eighth Annual Hindu Baccalaureate Service of UNR (Dikshant Utsav)” blessed the graduating class in the traditional Hindu style, complete with applying tilak (religious mark) on the foreheads of graduates, participatory reading of Gayatri Mantra in Sanskrit, keynote address by a Swami, a Mormon choir, classical dance of India based on shlokas, traditional lamps lighting and blessing through a Cherubic Hymn. In addition, it also included blessings by Christian (various denominations), Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Native American, Baha’i, etc., religious leaders who recited prayers in various languages from Arabic to Paiute to Spanish, etc., besides English. UNR Associate Dean of Students Marcelo F. Vazquez, offered advice to the graduates.
Organized by Universal Society of Hinduism (USOH) in collaboration with UNR Indian Student Organization, it started with lighting traditional lamp before the statue of goddess Saraswati, patron of learning and the arts, and included blessing of the upcoming graduates with wisdom from Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita—all ancient Hindu scriptures, by well-known Hindu monk Swami Vedananda from California.
USOH President Rajan Zed, who opened the Service with a recitation of Gayatri Mantra (the most sacred mantra of Hinduism from oldest existing scripture Rig-Veda) in Sanskrit and audience repeated after him, said on the occasion that the purpose of this baccalaureate service was to root the graduating class in divine spiritual tradition so that they had a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success.
Education in Hindu tradition had been deep rooted; Rajan Zed pointed out and added that after many important universities in ancient India, like Taxila, Nalanda, Sarnath, Amaravati, Banaras, Kanchi and Ujjain; great Indian universities also flourished in medieval period, like Odantapura (745 CE), Vikramasila (810 CE), Somapura (480 CE), Jagaddala (1090 CE).
Special certificates were issued to graduates with the parting advice “dharma chara” (practice righteousness). Prominent artist Sikha Guha and her team gave shloka blessings through the medium of dance, Tamara Saakyan and Irina Kasimova of Sparks Russia Orthodox Church offered blessing through Cherubic Hymn, L. Martina Young gave blessings through a silent dance and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided blessings through the choir.
Besides Vedananda, those who blessed the graduating class in their own traditions included Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada Director Michael Patterson, Ahmad A. Fayed of Northern Nevada Muslim Community, Jorge N. Chavez of the Saint Therese Roman Catholic Church of the Little Flower, North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation & Temple Beth Or Rabbi Elizabeth W. Beyer, Buddhist Priest Jikai’ Phil Bryan along with Carole Ann Maupin, Ryan J. Earl of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baha’i teacher Daniel J. Williams and American Indian Spirituality Scholar Brian E. Melendez. Reciting a universal prayer lead by Phillip B. Sanderson, all these religious leaders stood-up together blessing the graduating students who were in the ballroom and all other upcoming graduates in absentia.
City of Sparks issued a “Proclamation” few days back to mark the eighth anniversary of the Hindu Baccalaureate of UNR. US Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller and US Congressman Mark E. Amodei also sent testimonials recognizing Eighth Annual Hindu Baccalaureate Service. Washoe County had issued a special Resolution to mark the significance of First Annual Hindu Baccalaureate Service of UNR.
Baccalaureate service basically means service where a sermon is delivered to the graduating class. In use since at least the eighth century, origins of the baccalaureate service point to an Oxford University statute of 1432, which required each bachelor to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of the academic exercise.
UNR, the flagship institution of the state established in 1874, which has nearly 20,000 students, is known for helping to create the world’s most accurate atomic clock, earthquake expertise, highly ranked MBA program, several Pulitzer Prize winners and for “study of the behavior of matter at extremely high temperatures and densities”. About half-a-dozen Hollywood films were shot at UNR, which claims to be “one of the nation’s top public research universities” and is home to one of the largest earthquake-simulation labs. Marc A. Johnson is the President.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.