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Hindu Baccalaureate Service at an American university

Reno, Nevada, Mon, 12 May 2008 NI Wire
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The acclaimed Hindu and Indo-American leader Rajan Zed broke another ground on Sunday by organising first Hindu Baccalaureate Service at a respected university in Western USA complete with Gayatri Mantra, tilak (religious mark) over the foreheads of graduates, and lamp lighting in front of statue of goddess Saraswati.

In July last, Zed recited the first Hindu prayer in the 218 years history of United States Senate in Washington DC, thus setting an American religious milestone.

Washoe County issued a special Resolution to mark the significance of first Hindu Baccalaureate, which was read on the occasion by Commissioner Robert M. Larkin, Chairman of Washoe County Commission.

First Annual Hindu Baccalaureate Service of University of Nevada-Reno (UNR), titled as Dikshant Utsav, was started by Zed with 'Gayatri Mantra' (the most sacred verse from Rig-Veda, oldest scripture of the world composed around 1,500 BCE), and included recitation from Bhagavad-Gita by doctoral student Subhashree Misra; blessing the upcoming graduates by well-known Hindu monk from California Swami Prapannananda with wisdom from Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita—all ancient Hindu scriptures.

Organised by Zed in collaboration with Indian Student Organisation of UNR, it also comprised of Bahai prayer in Persian by Roya Galata, Christian prayer/blessing by Reverend Dr. Bruce Taylor, Jewish prayer in Hebrew by Rabbi Elizabeth W. Beyer, Buddhist prayer in Pali by Reverend Phil Bryan, and Islamic prayer in Arabic by Imam Abdul Rahim Barghouthi. Zed ended the Service with "Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrityor mamrtam gamaya", which he then translated into English as "Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, Lead me from death to immortality,"

Special certificates were given to graduates on the occasion, which gave parting advice as –satyam vada (speak the truth), dharma chara (practice righteousness), matrudevo bhava (treat your mother with great respect), pitrudevo bhava (treat your father with great respect), etc. Various other religious/spiritual leaders, including Swami Pooja, David Mitchell, Rhys Andrews, Robert Petrovich, etc., also attended this historic event. Sanjeev Dey, a doctoral candidate in Chemistry, who attended the Service with his wife Suchitra Datta (also a doctoral candidate in Chemistry), said that it was a memorable evening of his life.

Education in Hindu tradition has been deep rooted; Zed says and adds 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 AD), Vikramasila (810 AD), Somapura (480 AD), Jagaddala (1090 AD). The purpose of this Baccalaureate Service is to root the graduating class in divine spiritual and cultural tradition so that they have a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success, Zed stresses.

The flagship institution of the state founded in 1874, UNR enrols over 16,000 students with a total budget of $500 million and has over 100 graduate-degree programs. It is one of the top 150 research universities in the country, whose biochemists have begun to develop genetically modified grapes. The University fields competitive teams in 18 sports.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion followers. Moksha (liberation) is the ultimate goal of Hinduism.

Details of the picture attached (from left to right): Swami Pooja, Rabbi Elizabeth Beyer, Reverend Bruce Taylor, Rajan Zed, Imam Abdul Barghouthi, Commissioner Robert Larkin, Reverend Rhys Andrews, Reverend Phil Bryan, Swami Prapannananda, at the historic first Hindu Baccalaureate Service in a university in Western USA.

Photo by: Roger B. Weld

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