XXXI Annual Convocation Of SSSIHL – A Report…

The 31st Annual Convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Deemed to be University) was held in the Divine Presence at Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam on Thursday, 22November 2012. The convocation ceremony was held in the morning between 11.00 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. In the evening session, which commenced at 5.00 p.m., the “Sai Krishna” award for Excellence in Research & Teaching was followed by the annual convocation drama, performed by the students of the University, which concluded at 7.30 p.m. Given below are highlights of the day’s proceedings.

The Annual Convocation

This year, the ceremonial procession entered Sai Kulwant Hall at 11.00 a.m. It included the chief guest, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Homi Bhabha Chair Professor, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of India, Prof. J Shashidhara Prasad, Vice-Chancellor, former Vice-Chancellors, Members of the Board of Trustees, Board of Management and Academic Council. The procession was led by the Institute brass band followed by two students carrying the Institute Standards on either side of the Registrar, who carried the Ceremonial Mace.

The Vice-Chancellor sought the blessings of the Revered Founder Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Registrar, Dr. Naren Ramji formally welcomed the chief guest by garlanding him. The proceedings of the Convocation began with chanting of Vedic hymns by a group of students. Thereafter, the Vice-Chancellor prayed to the Revered Founder Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to declare the Convocation open. The convocation was declared open in Bhagawan’s voice.

Vice-Chancellor’s Introductory Speech        

Offering salutation at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Vice-Chancellor observed that the presence of Bhagawan could be felt at this function as His children prepared to leave the portals of the hallowed Institute founded by Him, carrying His message of love into the world.

He then offered a warm and affectionate welcome to the chief guest, Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

The Vice-Chancellor then highlighted the progress made by SSSIHL in the preceding academic year (2011/12). This included new infrastructure (extension buildings and living spaces in the Prasanthi Nilayam and Anantapur campuses), new academic programmes and the commencement of SSSIHL’s fourth campus at Muddenahalli, Karnataka.

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He highlighted the collaborative research between SSSIHL, SSSIHMS and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA for better diagnosis for patients with fatal diseases and also the new Chondrocyte Cell Culture Lab at SSSIHMS. The latter will explore the possibilities of chondrocyte cell culture in treating knee cartilage defects, thus helping patients avoid joint replacement surgeries and the symptoms and costs associated with it.

He then highlighted key statistical facts of the university such as the Student-Teacher Ratio at SSSIHL of 8:1 (compared to 30:1 for ‘A’ grade Institutions in India), year-on-year increase of research publications and the growing qualifications of the teaching faculty (over 60% of all teachers at SSSIHL now have a Ph.D.).

Highlighting the Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality (in June 2012), the Vice-Chancellor reiterated how the Institute continues its best efforts in imparting values-based Integral Education to students (as conceived by Bhagawan Baba) along with developing their academic excellence.

Degrees and Gold Medals to Graduands

Following the Vice-Chancellor’s introductory speech, Sri G S Srirangarajan, The Controller of Examinations, presented the graduands to the Revered Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for the award of degrees and the Vice-Chancellor administered the convocation pledge to them. Gold medals were thereafter presented to meritorious students. This year, 457 students were awarded degrees, 22 students were awarded gold medals and three research scholars were awarded doctoral degrees.

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Chief Guest’s Convocation Address

Delivering his convocation address, the Chief Guest, Dr. Anil Kakodkar stressed that this institution has a strong spiritual basis and social foresight that enables students to remain rooted in India and her value system even as the students scale new heights in terms of higher education.

He congratulated the graduands and advised them to become a part of the nation-building process as education empowered them to be a major constructive force to propel inclusive growth of the nation as a whole. Referring to the challenges facing the nation, Dr. Kakodkar cautioned that fast economic growth should also reduce the disparity gap lest it should cause frustration in youth which might be difficult to contain. Elucidating on a new education paradigm shift, the distinguished speaker emphasised the need for creating a holistic learning environment, (making education student-centric) and quick translation of new knowledge for moving towards a better quality of life. Research in universities, he said, should aim at pushing frontiers of knowledge as well as evolving technologies for all-round development.

He urged students to retain the spirit of trusteeship and contribute substantially to their roots, the society around, the institutions that brought them up and the nation at large. It is this spirit of trusteeship, he said, and the desire to support others who were not as fortunate or successful as us that makes this world a better place.

Revered Founder Chancellor’s Benedictory Address

This was followed by the Benedictory Address of the Revered Founder Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who emphasised that it was only Sathya and Dharma that had the power to protect the world. He advised students to realise the sacredness of the culture of Bharat, serve society selflessly and earn a good name. Stating that students are His only property, Bhagawan told them that education was not merely for a living but for life. Lakhs of students, Bhagawan said, received degrees every year, but what students should acquire is the degree of Educare, and manifest their innate divinity.

The Divine Benediction, followed by the national anthem and arati, marked the end of the 31st Annual Convocation ceremony.

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The “Sai Krishna Award” for Research and Teaching

The evening session commenced with the annual “Sai Krishna Award” for Research and Teaching Awards ceremony, which has been instituted to recognize and honour the top researchers and teachers of SSSIHL each year. The awards alternate between top researchers and top teachers every year. It consists of a certificate, a memento and a cash award of Rs.25,000.

This year, the awards recognized excellence in teaching. Sri G S Srirangarajan, The Controller of Examinations, was the master of ceremonies.

He explained that Bhagawan Baba compared teachers to the overhead tank and students to taps. In a values-based integral education system like SSSIHL, the role of the teacher is more than teaching, research and associated administrative responsibilities. It extends beyond the walls of the classroom and demands the teacher’s time and attention for the all-round personality development of the students in the physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, psychological and spiritual domains.

The recipients of the 2012 awards for best teacher, one each from the Anantapur Campus, Brindavan Campus and the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus, were selected based on a comprehensive evaluation of their performance in teaching, mentoring and participation in the co-curricular activities of our integral education system.

Honourable Justice A P Misra, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, and member, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Public Charitable Trust) then gave away the awards. The awardees were:

  1. Anantapur Campus: Ms. U. Suma, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Commerce
  2. Brindavan Campus: Sri Ruchir Desai, Associate Professor, Dept. of Commerce
  3. Prasanthi Nilayam Campus: Dr. R. Gowri Shankar, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Physics

Divya Yatra: Convocation Drama

This was followed by the Annual convocation drama, presented by the students of SSSIHL. The drama this year was entitled, “Divya Yatra” (Divine Journey).

The drama used the metaphor of a train’s journey to depict the life journey of a man.

The opening scene showcased passengers boarding a train compartment from the City Station and ultimately reaching the station of Shanti Kunj (abode of peace), halting en route at Daulat Nagar (city of wealth), Parivartan (transformation) and Imtihan Ganj (stage of test).

Each station (and the plots and sub-plots between them) symbolised the various tests (in the form of worldly temptations) a man would typically face on a spiritual journey and how he would have to transcend them (the temptations) if he were to attain supreme peace, the ultimate goal of man’s earthly journey. The drama highlighted the teachings of Bhagawan that man should have ‘less luggage and more comfort’ – i.e. we must shed the luggage of our desires in order to make the journey of life comfortable.

In conclusion, it portrayed that those who had full faith in God could reach their final destination which was no other than Sri Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam. The presentation included flashback episodes from the lives of Rama, Krishna and Jesus. Realistic depiction of a train journey (including a set with a train, a station and related props), excellent acting, prompt stage management, appropriate songs and good direction made the drama an impressive presentation.

At the conclusion of the drama, gifts were presented to the participants. This was followed by Bhajans and distribution of Prasadam. Bhagawan singing the Bhajan, “Prema Mudita Manase Kaho Rama Rama Ram” was followed with Arati at 7.30 p.m.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II