Graduating students of the University of Nevada in the US were blessed with verses from the Bhagavad Gita, the profoundest of Hindu scriptures, during their second annual interfaith baccalaureate service that included readings and prayers from other religions as well.
Reading Sanskrit 'shlokas' (verses) from the Gita on Wednesday, Rajan Zed, director of Interfaith Relations of Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada, defined knowledge as "humility, tolerance, simplicity, self-control, absence of false ego, detachment and the search for absolute truth".
The baccalaureate service is usually where a sermon is delivered to the graduating class. The first documented baccalaureate service at the university was said to have taken place in 1917.
Many 2007 graduates and their family and friends attended the service, which in addition to Hindu verses, also included hymns, readings from scriptures, blessings, teachings, music and prayers from various religious traditions including Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Bahai, a press release from Interfaith Relations said.
Zed concluded his prayers by chanting "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti", which translates as "Peace be unto all", and the audience repeated after him.
Since Hinduism is a minority religion, there is little awareness about it among the general public and many misconceptions and stereotypes exist.
In recent years, however, there has been an increased attention to diversity and consciousness of the world's faith traditions. There is revived interest in baccalaureate services in number of educational institutions across the country like Yale, Brown, Cornell and Emory.
In use since at least the 8th 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.