RENO — A one-of-a-kind baccalaureate service was held at University of Nevada, Reno on Sunday.
The fifth 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 and keynote addresses by a swami and kirtan (sacred chant). In addition, it also included blessings by Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Native American and Baha’i representatives who recited prayers in Arabic, Pali, Hebrew, Paiute and English.
Organized by the Universal Society of Hinduism (USOH) in collaboration with Indian Student Organization of UNR, it started with the lighting of a 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 Hindu monk Swami Vedananda from California. Prominent musician Jim Eaglesmith chanted kirtan number “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” and the audience followed him on the chant.
Besides Vedananda, those who blessed the graduating class in their own traditions included Rita Sloan of Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno; Toni de Salvo of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd; Nicholas F. Frey of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Northern Nevada Muslim Community President Sherif A. Elfass; Hindu religious leader Rajan Zed; Buddhist Priest Jikai’ Phil Bryan; Jewish Rabbi ElizaBeth W. Beyer; Nevada Clergy Association President Rev. Gene Savoy Jr.; Native American elder of Paiute Tribe Ralph Burns; and Baha’i Roya Galata.
Zed, who recited Gayatri Mantra (the most sacred mantra of Hinduism from oldest scripture Rig-Veda) in Sanskrit, said 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.