Amma Receives Doctorate of Humane Letters from SUNY

25 May 2010 — Buffalo, New York

The State University of New York (SUNY) presented Amma with an honorary doctorate in humane letters at a special ceremony held on May 25 at Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo North Campus.

Dr. John B. Simpson, the President of State University of New York at Buffalo, addressed the gathering, which included a mix of SUNY Buffalo faculty and students, as well as faculties from Amrita University.

“Through this conferral, we pay tribute to the far-reaching contributions of a distinguished educational leader, prominent humanitarian and esteemed spiritual leader. Through her leadership of Amrita University as well as through her humanitarian work, Chancellor Amma exemplifies the value of international dialogue and dedicated public service in the global arena. These are values at the core of the University at Buffalo’s mission as an internationalized public university seeking to prepare our students to contribute meaningfully to the global world,” he said.

Just prior to the actual conferral of the degree, President Simpson said, “In great appreciation of [Amma’s] extraordinary humanitarian service and commitment to expanding educational opportunities and international cooperation throughout the world, the University at Buffalo is privileged to confer upon her the State University of New York Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters. State University of New York honorary degrees—proposed by our campus and approved by the State University Board of Trustees—represent the highest form of recognition accorded by the State University. These degrees are conferred upon individuals of exceptional distinction, whose achievements and contributions serve as inspiring examples to the university’s students.”

SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin then said, “By virtue of the authority vested in me, the faculty of the State University of New York concurring, I confer upon Chancellor [of Amrita University] Mata Amritanandamayi Devi the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.  In token thereof, I hand you this diploma and hood appropriate to the degree.”

President Simpson and SUNY Lewin then placed the ceremonial cowl over Amma’s shoulders to thunderous applause. Amma is the first Indian to receive this honour.

Amma then delivered an address on education, in which she discussed the importance of including universal spiritual values in core curricula, the role of meditation in developing and gaining control over the mind, and the complimentary relationship of scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom, among other topics.

Amma said, “It is Amma’s prayer that we develop the expansive-mindedness to embrace both scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom. We can no longer afford to see these two streams of knowledge as flowing in opposite directions. In truth, they compliment one another. If we merge these streams, we will find that we are able to create a mighty river—a river whose waters can remove suffering and spread life to all of humanity.

Other dignitaries to address the gathering included Dr. Satish K. Tripathi, Provost of University at Buffalo, and Dr. Stephen Dunnett, University at Buffalo, Vice-Provost for International Education.

“Because of Chancellor Amma’s vision, thoughtful leadership and commitment to academic excellence, the University at Buffalo and Amrita University faculty and students have benefitted from an ambitious educational and research partnership,” said UB Provost Satish K. Tripathi.

“As the UB/Amrita partnership has grown, I know it has been largely due to Amma’s behind-the-scenes role in nurturing and encouraging our institutional relationship. From the beginning, she has seen the potential of this partnership for the benefit of our respective universities and our faculty and students.

“Moreover, in these challenging times, it is heartening to know that our students’ worldview and life approach are expanded and enriched through their appreciation of the transformational impact of global humanitarian work which is modeled exquisitely by Chancellor Amma.”

The ceremony was exquisitely arranged with performances of both classical music both from India and the West, including organ performances by University at Buffalo faculty Roland E. Martin and students of the Natya School of Indican Classical Dance in Buffalo, directed by Tejaswini Rao.


Key Points from Amma’s Address

“Spiritual education is a training that helps us to truly understand ourselves. It gives us strength and helps us comprehend  the deeper realms of knowledge. It gives us the ability to face life’s challenges with courage and equanimity of mind.”

“Education is not only to help us live a comfortable life of plenty. When our plans fall apart, when we face failure and loss, when we are knocked down, education should help us get back on our feet. Education should help us regain our mental  equipoise, self-confidence and positive attitude, so that we can continue forward.”

“In fact, studying is a form of austerity. It’s a process, like the bud unfolding into the beautiful fragrance spreading flower.  Understanding this, we should approach our topic of study with love and patience.”

“The world of knowledge is limitless; the possibilities are as vast as the universe. Therefore, before deciding whether a discovery is beneficial or detrimental, we need to contemplate with a meditative mind.”

“When we are walking, if our mind suddenly tells our feet to stop, they will do so. When we are clapping, if our mind tells  our hands to stop, they will immediately become still. But if we tell our thoughts to stop, will they  listen? No. We need to  cultivate the same level of control over our mind as we have over our physical body. This is the goal of meditation.”

“Few of us ever try to still the mind, but in reality, it is from the still mind that many wondrous discoveries and inventions  have taken birth.”

“Knowledge is like a river. Its nature is to constantly flow. Wherever it can flow, it does so, nourishing culture. On the other  hand, the same knowledge, if devoid of values becomes a source of destruction for the world. When values and knowledge become one,there can be no more powerful instrument for the welfare of humankind. Today, physicists have even begun  investigating the possibility that the essential substratum of the manifest universe and the individual are one and the same.  We are standing on the threshold of a new era wherein material science and spirituality will move forward hand in hand.”

“It is Amma’s prayer that we develop the expansive-mindedness to embrace both scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom. We can no longer afford to see these two streams of knowledge as flowing in opposite directions. In truth, they complement one another. If we merge these streams, we will find that we are able to create a mighty river—a river whose waters can remove suffering and spread life to all of humanity.”