32nd Annual Convocation of SSSIHL…

The 32nd Annual Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL) was held in the Divine Presence at the Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam at 10 a.m. on 22November 2013. The evening programme began with a ceremony to give away the “Sai Krishna” Awards for Excellence in Research. This was followed by a drama staged by the students of the University on the occasion of the convocation.

The Annual Convocation

This year, the ceremonial procession entered the Sai Kulwant Hall at 10.00 a.m. It included the chief guest, Sri Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations; Honourable Chancellor of SSSIHL, Justice Sri M N Venkatachaliah, Former Chief Justice of India; Prof. J Shashidhara Prasad, Vice-Chancellor; former Vice-Chancellors of the University; Members of the Board of Trustees; Members of Board of Management and Academic Council. The procession was led by the University brass band followed by two students carrying the University 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      

The Vice-Chancellor observed that Swami founded this University for imparting Values based Integral Education so that the graduates who leave the portals of this hallowed Institution will become ambassadors of transformation of the individual in particular and society at large for creating a happy and peaceful world filled with love and harmony.

He then introduced the chief guest Sri Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations and Honourable Chancellor of SSSIHL Justice Sri M N Venkatachaliah and extended a warm welcome to them.

The Vice-Chancellor then highlighted the progress made by SSSIHL in the preceding academic year (2012/13). This included new infrastructure (extension buildings and hostel for students in the Prasanthi Nilayam campus), new academic programmes (M.Tech. in Nuclear Medicine and M.Ed.), forthcoming programme in M.C.A, a new Dept. of Music and the proposed Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Advanced Studies.

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 by 14%, increase of research scholars by 30%, increase of students qualifying in GATE, UGC-CSIR, NET examinations from 14% to 17% and the growing qualifications of the teaching faculty (over 60% of all teachers at SSSIHL now have a Ph.D.).

Degrees and Gold Medals to Graduands

Following the Vice-Chancellor’s introductory speech, Sri G S Srirangarajan, The Controller of Examinations, presented the graduands of the year to the Honourable Chancellor, Justice  M N Venkatachaliah for admitting them to their respective degrees. The Vice-Chancellor then administered the convocation pledge to the graduands. This year, 391 students were awarded degrees, 24 students were awarded gold medals and 5 research scholars were awarded doctoral degrees.

Chief Guest’s Convocation Address

Delivering his convocation address, the Chief Guest, Sri Sam Pitroda lauded the unbelievably peaceful, inspirational and overpowering ambience of the University. Sri Pitroda made a special mention of Sri Vikas Bagri, an alumnus of the 2008 MBA of the University and a member of his team, who has demonstrated by his personal example the virtues that this University epitomises.

Sri Pitroda congratulated the graduands and urged them to make a substantial contribution to build a strong, secular and united India transforming it into a world leader. Sri Pitroda narrated his brief background, his travails, ups and downs and his passion for nation building. He emphasized the need for change from Perk, Privilege & Patronage to Productivity, Performance & Processes. He stressed on the need for innovation in sectors like governance, lifestyle, education and health and urged the youth to give their long term commitment to these causes.

He passionately spoke about the developmental work being undertaken currently in the country. He observed that the coming ten years are very crucial for the development of India and urged the youth to look beyond personal interests and focus on community interests and create hope for a better tomorrow.

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Honourable Chancellor’s Address

Honourable Chancellor started his address by conveying his greetings to the graduands and wished them a bright and prosperous future. He observed that we are living in times where Knowledge is an energy source and Universities are intellectual power houses and stressed on the point that growth of true wisdom is essential with increase in human knowledge.

He emphasized that the key to survival in this world is competitiveness and innovation. He felt that we should have a meaningful integration of science and spirituality, education and enlightenment. He also felt that the objective of religious enthusiasm and scientific excellence should be only for achieving human excellence, which require great vision and sagacity.

He described SSSIHL as an enormous experiment in human engineering and man making which in addition to academic excellence has achieved high standards of moral and ethical values under the able leadership of the Vice- chancellor Prof. J Shashidhara Prasad. He described the teachers in this University as acharyas in the real sense from whom the pupils imbibe the spirit of selflessness.

Revered Founder Chancellor’s Benedictory Address

This was followed by the Benedictory Address of the Revered Founder Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who described a man of knowledge as the one who understands the five aspects i.e. what is education, what type of education should be acquired, what is the standard/yardstick of education, what is the type of education to uplift humanity and what is the use of present day education. He emphasized that character and culture are essential for students, which can be achieved through practical knowledge and not by superficial knowledge. He stressed that practical knowledge can be acquired by ‘educare’ i.e. by bringing forth the divinity immanent in man. This ‘educare’ has to be used for social welfare.

The Divine Benediction was followed by the national anthem and Mangala Arati, marking the end of the 32nd Annual Convocation ceremony.

The “Sai Krishna Award” for Excellence in Research

The evening session commenced with the presentation of “Sai Krishna Award” for excellence in Research, which has been instituted to recognize and honour the top researchers of SSSIHL. 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 research.

The winners of the awards for research in three categories this year, were selected based on evaluation of the research work of the applicants by eminent external experts. The experts used multiple rigorous criteria to evaluate the research work carried out by the applicants. They focused on the quality of the work and not merely the number of papers published or conferences attended. They also considered the number of citations for the papers of the researchers.

The Honourable Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Justice M N Venkatachaliah then gave away the awards. The awardees were:

  1. Dr. Sai Sathish Asst. Professor, Dept. of Chemistry for Excellence in Research in Sciences
  2. Dr. R. Prabhakar Rao, Associate Professor and Head Department of Economics for Excellence in  Research in Management, Commerce, Economics and Education
  3. Prof. (Miss) Rajeshwari C Patel, Professor and Head, Department of English Language & Literature for Excellence in  Research in Languages and Philosophy

Drama : Sai Kathamrutham – Stepping Stone to God

This was followed by a Drama presented by students of SSSIHL on the occasion of the 32nd Annual Convocation, entitled Sai Kathamrutham – Stepping Stone to God.

The drama begins with an episode from Shirdi Sai Satcharita, which teaches the lesson of detachment to a millionaire seeking quick Brahma Jnana from Shirdi Baba. When Baba is ‘frantically trying’ to get Rs 5/- on loan from a couple of persons, the millionaire who is already in possession of 50 notes of 5 rupees in his pocket never thinks of parting with the money for the Master from whom he seeks Brahma Jnana. Elaborating this point a story of Kaivalya is enacted. Kaivalya, who is asked by the Prime Minister of the country to act as a Brahma Jnani, with a perverted aim, finally ended up becoming a complete renunciate developing great detachment much against his previous nature.

The next step in Brahma Jnana is Shraddha and Saburi. This lesson is illustrated through a beautiful story narrated by beloved Bhagawan. The story illustrates the undying passion of a young seeker who relentlessly, and with one pointed determination, seeks to possess a mantra left by his departed Master. After many ordeals, when his fate takes him to the royal kitchen in search of food, he meets the king who upon knowing the sad story of the seeker, decides to help him get the mantra written on the leaf that is in the possession of a dancer by name Ratnavali. When the disciple ultimately gets possession of the leaf on which the mantra is inscribed, a mere glance at it enables him to attain his goal of self-realization.

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The final episode is a depiction of God’s grace that is essential to attain Brahma Jnana. Depicting the beautiful story of Hari Gopal, a die-hard devotee of the Lord of Badri, it is emphasised that the Lord is always there for the devotee, and when called upon with a pure heart, the Lord is always there to respond. Hari Gopal, in pursuit of his life-long ambition, set out for Badrinath with money earned over 40 long years, only to reach at a time when the gates of the temple are being closed for the season to be opened six months later. Despite his wailing, when none pays heed to him, he resolutely decides not to leave without having darshan. God showers His grace on Hari Gopal and converts six months into a day. The next day when Hari opens his eyes, He has the divine darshan of the Lord.

The drama conveys that to establish a connection with God one has to first detach oneself from the world. One must then cultivate a persevering faith in God and lastly, one must take up but a single step towards Him and God will take a hundred steps closer to the devotee, leading to the merging of man with God.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II