SAN DIEGO, Calif. The San Diego Indian American Society’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture Series was held at the Atkinson Auditorium in the University of California, San Diego, here Aug. 17.

In his opening remarks, Dr. M.C. “Madhu” Madhavan, the 87-year-old Indian American founder and executive director, traced the history of SDIAS and its growth from recognizing 10 outstanding students with awards of about $5,000 in 1984 to 54 students this year with scholarship awards of $110,000.

He also pointed out that the 500 people who filled the auditorium to witness the award ceremony and hear the 36th annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture delivered by the president of the Self Realization Fellowship, Brother Chidananda, was also a record for SDIAS.

Brother Chidananda discussed the special relationship between Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of SRF, and Gandhiji and their mutual interest in bringing peace to the world. In 1950, as is known, he had enshrined a portion of Gandhiji’s ashes at the SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades.

He said from 1923, after Yogananda came to the U.S., he began to spread the yoga science of meditation and began telling audiences all over the country about the profound spiritual movement that Gandhiji was creating. Chidananda said, as Gandhi had put, “yoga philosophy to work on an unprecedented level, and by doing so, literally changed the history of the modern world.”

Chidananda went on to outline how the spiritual example of Gandhiji can be a source of inspiration and guidance for the young people in these turbulent times. His address was received with interest and deep attention by the hundreds who attended, according to a press release.

Following the lecture, Prof. Ramesh Rao, Dr. Sabodh Garg and Madhavan presented the scholars on stage. About 85 percent of the cash awards benefitted students from families with no college education. These students also received U.S Congressional Certificates given by Congressman Scott Peters.

Twenty-eight high school graduates from 22 San Diego area high schools will be studying this fall in UC Berkeley, Yale, UCSD, UCLA, Columbia, UC Davis, UC Irvine, San Diego State, Pitzker, Stanford, Dartmouth, Harvey Mudd, Marquette University and Purdue University. Community college students will continue their studies at San Diego Miramar College, Mesa College and San Diego City College.

Two scholars, Rena Alspaw of Mesa College and Sama Sathaya of Valahalla High School, spoke about how they were able to overcome difficult situations in their lives and how the Gandhian approach helped them.

Rao explained SDIAS’s interest in building bridges with India through technological initiatives in cooperation with Qualcomm Institute, including on ways to improve the production efficiency of the Jaipur Foot.

The annual Mahatma Gandhi memorial lecture and awards ceremony was inaugurated by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1984. It provides opportunities for young scholars to learn about non-violence and evaluating its relevance as a policy tool in today’s world.

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