The Convocation of the South Asian University, New Delhi
June 7, 2018
Text of the Convocation Address delivered by Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe at the third Convocation of South Asian University in Delhi on June 7, 2018
His Excellency Shri Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, Hon Minister for Education, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, His Excellency Ajmal Hussain B Sial, Secretary General of SAARC, Dr Parashar a Prasad Koirala, Chairperson of Governing Board, Dr Kavita Sharma, President of the University , Excellencies, members of Faculty and student friends, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a matter of great honour and I am truly humbled to be here amongst all of you, delivering the Convocation Address before this august gathering. Let me at the outset, thank the University leadership for having invited me. Also, at the very outset, I extend my hearty congratulations to the young scholars and researchers who have obtained degrees today.
It’s One more reason of my happiness is the fact that today happens to be June 7; 2018. It was on this day, exactly 125 years before that Mahatma Gandhi resolved to fight out every kind of discrimination in a determined manner. Gandhi ji was travelling by a train in South Africa and at the Petermoritzburg Railway Station, he was not just disallowed to occupy a seat in a first class compartment but was literally mercilessly thrown out of the Railway carriage simply because of his different skin colour. This incident awakened the leader in Mahatma Gandhi and later he became a symbol of Universal Struggle against Discrimination. Year 2018 also marks the post- centennial silver jubilee of Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago Address where, in his own way he tried to overcome divisive compartmentalism while using two simple words, at the beginning of his address when he referred the learned audience as ‘Brothers and Sisters’, at the World Congress of Religions. Both, Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda fought for Unity, Integrity and Fraternity of Humanity, which I believe is the quintessential message of the year 2018.
It is but natural for me to recall this message given by two great personalities 125 years ago, here at the South Asian University. Because this land of South Asia is not just a group of neighbourly countries. This is not just a piece of land with a mere geographical identity. Here, Geography is obviously important, but more important is the History. This is a land where there are many languages, variety of apparels and fashions, several culinary traditions, diversity of ways of worships and yet the quintessential feeling of fraternity is common to all of us. Commonality of our Cultural moorings binds us together. This togetherness is unique and perhaps no other geopolitical block of countries has this advantage. Let us take this to our stride and build upon the same. I know, the formal identity of this University is South Asian University. But in reality, cannot we convert this into a University of Fraternity? A University that will produce Ambassadors of Human Values who are empowered to fight against terrorism, injustice and intolerance.
Friends, social scientists in the USA these days have come out with a research showing that the Millennials, that is those born either at the end of last Millennium or at the beginning of this Millennium, thoroughly lack in the ability to Empathise. As a part of solution to this crisis, an Indian Software engineer from Pune has now come out with a computer game that is known as Real Lives. The moment you enter into this game, you get a virtual life in any part of this planet. It could be in Zambia, in Fiji, in Brazil or in Yemen. And as per the socio economic and political conditions of the country of your virtual birth, you face challenges. Challenges of scarcity, of deprivation, of epidemic and natural calamities like Tsunami, of social bickering, of starvation and at times even a challenge posed by excessive abundance of resources. While you face these challenges virtually, you deal with them, negotiate with them, and in the process you learn how to empathise. I am least astonished that the engineer who invented this Game is from South Asia.
I say so because, unlike any other part of the world, it is this part where perhaps people have stronger Emotional Quotients. It was not for no reason friends, that the idea of Gross National Happiness emerged from Bhutan, a beautiful country of South Asia.
In this backdrop, I believe, the graduates of this University could be the vanguards of the universal efforts for bringing the entire Humanity together for the cause of fraternity, of fellow feeling, of friendship. This is a land of Gautam Buddha who had, centuries before the French Revolution, taught us the principals of Unity, Equality and Fraternity. And therefore, I have a reason to believe that while other Universities can rightly teach a student How to Think, this University has the potential of teaching How to Feel. Rationality and logic are important beyond doubt, but perhaps, Emotions and Feelings are more important in the contemporary world. Whether Conflicts or Conciliations, the basis is rarely found in rationality. It is the feelings and emotions that drive us and there comes the importance of genuineness of feelings and emotions. While the world is madly running after Artificial Intelligence, when it comes to feelings, artificiality is perhaps already in abundance and hence the search is for Authenticity of our Feelings. And thankfully, no technology is around today that would convert artificial emotionality into genuine emotionality. And I firmly believe that the greater the authenticity of your feelings, the more are the chances of one being true to himself or herself. The more the intensity of our feelings, the greater are the possibilities of we being genuinely committed to the principles of unity, equality and fraternity. No wonder, Mark Twain had once famously said that ‘all emotion is involuntary when genuine’!
Before I end, I must emphasise that it is high time the universal community realises the need to cultivate this Authenticity. As a student of social science, I believe that People all over the world are facing four crises. They are, the Crisis of Authenticity, the Crisis of Purpose, the Crisis of Ownership and the Crisis of Relationship. And no matter how the sequence of these crises is arranged, every crisis.. one would realise ... is the mother of remaining three crises. When you all set out in the outer world, my young friends I urge you with utmost sincerity to make a resolve to contribute to the solutions to these crises.
And lastly, with this resolve, you all will have to choose your own path, walk with your own energy, your own motivation. No energy source on the earth will be able to show you the light to fight with darkness while walking this path. Mahatma Gautam Buddha had told his disciples that the flame of knowledge may extinguish, the brightness from the learning from examples may not long last but the light of lamp within will be able to help you eternally to find your path. Hence the message of Buddha rightly was Atta Deepa Bhav, Atma Deepo Bhavna, Yee be the light!
Now, equipped with the newly acquired knowledge, friends do prepare for walking the long way ahead in this light from within.
Thank you very much.