14 August 2021 — Bhubaneswar
Amma received an honorary degree—D.Litt. (Honoris causa)—from the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, August 14, 2021. The degree was bestowed upon Amma virtually as part of the Deemed to be University’s 17th Annual Convocation Ceremony in recognition of Amma’s “great contributions in the field of spirituality, education, environmental issues, humanitarian efforts, love and compassion.”
Upon conferring Amma with the degree, KIIT’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sasmita Samanta, addressed Amma, saying: “Most Revered Mata Sri Amritanandamayi Devi, Amma, very few people in the world have literally touched the hearts of millions through an embrace, thereby becoming legends in their own lifetime. In a world torn apart by strife and shaken by stress, all of humanity is lifting its eyes to you in hopes of finding the emotional support and strength to face the challenges of life with peace and equanimity. As the manifestation of the shining light of Bharata-samskāra, you shine wherever you go and whatever you do.”
The Vice-Chandellor continued, “Your journey from a nondescript village in Kerala to the centre stage of the world in every field—from a village girl named Sudhamani to being fondly known as ‘Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi’… This journey of yours, walking the path proclaimed by the Vedas and recapitulated in subsequent scriptures like Bhagavad-Gītā, has no parallel. Setting aside the attainment of a nirvāṇa or mokṣa from life, you advocate jīvanmukti—the state of perfect awareness and equanimity experienced here in this world while living itself. It remains an enigma how, through mere viśvamātṛtvam, compassion and selfless service, you have been able to raise your voice against social evils such as human trafficking, forced prostitution and slavery. The Vatican, the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the United Nations listen to your sage words on every burning issue. The world has yet to see another apostle of peace providing free food, shelter, healthcare, education and livelihood to the poor, while at the same time providing disaster relief and environmental protection to the entire world. Giving lifetime pensions to destitute widows and to the physically and mentally challenged, establishing a multidisciplinary university and making huge contributions to clean the Ganges… These are but a few examples showing how your heartfelt concern for society pervades all spheres. Be it an earthquake or tsunami in the Indian Ocean or anywhere else in the world, you always remain at the forefront, to mitigate the suffering of the people. As the most personally accessible spiritual leader, even agnostics have to struggle to hold back their tears before you.”
She concluded, “In recognition of your great contributions in the field of spiritualism, education, environmental issues, humanitarian efforts, love and compassion, the management of KIIT University unanimously resolves to confer the Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris causa) on you, this 14th day of August 2021 on its 17th Annual Convocation.”
Amma then was asked to address the gathering. Amma began by saying that she offered the honour of being conferred the degree to all of her devotees around the world, saying, “Whatever little humanitarian service that the Ashram has been able to render to the world is due to the sincere love and dedication of Amma’s devotees. Hence, Amma offers this honour to them and their full hearts.”
Amma then spoke at length about her vision of a holistic education curriculum. “Many of you may know that the true meaning of the word ‘education’ is to bring out what is within us,” Amma said. “Education is that which enables one to bring out one’s hidden talents. We all have many talents, but we are usually unaware of them. The porter uses his head to earn a living by carrying loads, while the scientist uses his head to make remarkable discoveries and inventions. Similarly, we all have infinite power hidden within us. It is just that most of us are unaware of its existence.”
Amma asked everyone to reflect on the true purpose of education. “No doubt the modern education system helps our children pursue name, fame and wealth. But is that all human life is about? Is life’s purpose just to study a lot of books, pass competitive exams, obtain a degree, get a job and secure income? Life and living are not the same. For living, we may need a job, money, a home, a car and other creature comforts. However, these alone fail to make life complete. For that, we need love, compassion, tenderness—a heart that knows and responds to the pain of others. We need broadmindedness and maturity in thought and action. Education should spread light within and without. Education should equally develop discernment and contemplation. It should develop the curiosity to know the internal world just as much as it does to know the external world. Education should teach us to keep our inner eye open just as much as our external eyes. Education should instill awareness and strengthen the deep bond between the student and his nation, the world, his fellow human beings and other creatures, Nature and God.”
Towards the end of her talk, Amma specified five objectives she felt students should strive to attain through their education and educational institutions should help provide:
- To earn a living—the knowledge and skills needed to gain wealth, position and comfort.
- To recognise that mental health—the maturity to control our thoughts and emotions—is just as important as physical health and to attain that maturity as well.
- The training to do one’s duty to repay one’s debt to one’s home and family as well as to Mother Nature, who has compassionately blessed us with food, shelter, sunshine, rain, the hills, forests, rivers, trees and fruits.
- The inspiration to have gratitude, love and respect towards God and Mother Nature, and the motivation to engage in social work and selfless service born out of that gratitude.
- To awaken the awareness of our Inner Self and to understand, “I am not a separate entity. Rather, I am a part of this universe. Just as the water in the waves reaching the shores and the water in the middle of the ocean is the same, I am one with the whole of creation.”
The degree was conferred to Amma in the presence of KIIT’s Chancellor, Prof. Ved Prakash; Pro-Chancellor, Prof. (Dr.) Subrat Kumar Acharya; and Registrar Prof. Jnyana Ranjan Mohanty, as well as Chief Guest Sri. Dharmendra Pradhan, Honourable Minister of Education, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and fellow honorary degree recipients, Nobel Laureate Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn (Chemistry 1987) and Shri Vallabh Bhanshali, Co-Founder of ENAM Securities, Founder, Desh Apnayen Sahayog Foundation, Founder-Director, FLAME University.
This is the third honorary degree conferred upon Amma. In 2019 and 2010 she was presented with Honorary Doctorates of Letters from the University of Mysore and the State University of New York respectively.