“Sixth 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 and kirtan (sacred chant). In addition, it also included blessings by Christian (various denominations), Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Native American, Baha’i, etc., representatives who recited prayers in Arabic, Pali, Hebrew, Paiute, Spanish besides English.
Organized by Universal Society of Hinduism (USOH) in collaboration with UNR Diverse Organization of South Asians and UNR Interfaith Students Club (ISC), 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 (USA). Prominent musician Jim Eaglesmith chanted Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan “Vaishnav jan to…”.
Special certificates were issued to graduates with the parting advice “dharma chara” (practice righteousness). Renowned dancer L. Martina Young blessed the graduating class with a dance item, while Wingfield Hills Sparks Ward Choir of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) directed by Angela Knight presented a blessing number.
Besides Vedananda, those who blessed the graduating class in their own traditions included Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church Presiding Priest Fr. Stephen Karcher, Deacon Rigoberto Ruano Mireles of Saint Thérèse Church of the Little Flower, Toni de Salvo of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Nicholas F. Frey of LDS, Suhayb Alsharekh of Muslim community, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, Buddhist Priest Jikai’ Phil Bryan, Barbara B. Weinberg of Jewish Temple Sinai, Native American elder of Paiute Tribe Ralph E. Burns and Baha’i Roya Galata. Reciting a universal prayer, all these religious representatives raised their hands blessing the graduating students who stood in front of them and all other upcoming graduates in absentia.
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd gave a musical number “Here I am, Lord” from Isaiah Chapter six of The Bible directed by Gloria Melms. Associate Dean Marcelo Vasquez thanked on behalf of UNR. Miss Washoe County Chelsea Ann Mihaylo was master of ceremonies, while ISC President Daniel R. Sanchez concluded.
USOH President Rajan Zed, who recited Gayatri Mantra (the most sacred mantra of Hinduism from oldest 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).
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 over 18,000 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 here and it 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.