Value-based Education in Practice


B.N. Narasimha Murthy

AMONG THE EDUCATIONAL institutions which have religiously put into practice the ideals of value-based system of education set forth by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, two institutions of Karnataka State can be ranked as most outstanding. These are: Sathya Sai Vihar, Alike and Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli. Founded by a great visionary and selfless Tapasvin (man of penance), late Sri Madiyal Narayan Bhat, these two institutions became a part of the Divine Mission of Bhagavan when He accepted them by a deed of registration during His visit to Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli on 14th August 1978.

Under the umbrella of Bhagavan's divine grace and direct guidance, the two centres flourished very rapidly, and now they impart value-based education to over two thousand students from all over India. The centres, which also have hospitals, agricultural farms, dairies, a publication division and an orphanage, are manned by a group of 60 Tyagajeevis (men of sacrifice) who were inspired by the ideals of self-sacrifice and selfless service to mankind by their mentor, Sri Narayan Bhat whom they lovingly called Anna (eider brother). They accepted the vow of lifelong celibacy and dedicated their life to Lokaseva (service to mankind). When these institutions were accepted by Bhagavan Baba, all of them rededicated themselves to the Divine Mission of Bhagavan. They are bound by a sense of brotherhood and they live together in the Ashram named Prem Kutir on the campus.Their oath-cum-prayer given to them by their illustrious mentor runs thus: "Oh Lord Sathya Sayeeshwara, grant us the divine strength to build up a mighty organisation of dedicated missionaries who offer themselves completely as messengers in Your great mission of establishing Dharma in the world. This life of ours filled with Your love is dedicated at Your Lotus Feet for achieving this glorious ideal!"

Sathya Sai Vihar, Alike - the Little Garden of the Lord

Sathya Sai Vihar in Alike is situated in a valley surrounded by hills. The location is breathtakingly picturesque and the campus reminds you of the Gurukulas of ancient India, The beauty of the place and the goodness of the people living there reflect God's grandeur and munificence. The sky above reveals the infinity and eternity of truth. In their unifying experience, you can see the face of God in the trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Once a saint who was living in the Himalayan mountains was brought to Sathya Sai Vihar by his disciples. After staying for a day there, he exclaimed, "Men go to the Himalayas in search of God, but your Anna has brought Himalayas down to this place!" God in the form of Bhagavan Baba has graced these institutions in Alike with His visits twice - in 1979 and 2001. During His first visit Bhagavan stayed on the campus for one day in the beautiful Mandir specially built for Him with great love and devotion.

Sri Sathya Sai Lokaseva Junior College, which was started in 1972, with science, commerce and arts sections is one of the premier institutions in the State. It is affiliated to the Board for Pre-University Education in Karnataka. In recent years, the college has garnered limelight by securing 100% results in the State-level public examinations and very high ranks in the Common Entrance Tests conducted by the State Government for selecting students to engineering and medical colleges. The principles of Sri Sathya Sai Educare are integrated into the process of education here and 'integral education for total development of the student' is the motto. Most Sri Sathya Sai Lokaseva Vidya Kendra, Alike, of the students reside in the hostel attached to the college and a few day scholars from the local villages also attend the college. Needy students are provided free food by the institution.

A fully residential boy's school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi was started in 1984. The school admits boys to sixth standard and imparts education till tenth standard.

An orphanage located in Sathya Sai Vihar houses about 100 destitute children drawn from very poor families and orphans with the objective of educating them and moulding them into cultured citizens of the country. These children also attend the educational institutions run by the Trust.

Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital which provides free medical care to all those who come to its portals from the surrounding villages was inaugurated in 2002. During His divine visit to Sathya Sai Vihar in 2001, Swami declared that He would establish a 'Superior Hospital' there. A spacious building which looks more like a temple than a hospital was built on the top of a hill overlooking the campus within a year. Baba Himself arranged for the construction of the building and provided all the equipment and instruments required for the hospital.

Sri Sathya Sai Vocational Training Centre provides training in computer processing and printing to the needy villagers free of cost. The Kannada Monthly - "Sanathana Sarathi" - is printed here. The publications division of the Trust has also published more than thirty books in Kannada on the life, work and teachings of Baba.

Shiva Nilaya, a spacious and well-furnished guest house, serves the needs of the visitors to the centre. A very well-maintained and vast agricultural farm and a dairy form an important part of the centre.

Sathya Sai Grama - a Land of Penance

The centre at Muddenahalli which is located at a distance of seven kilometres from the main road between Puttaparthi and Whitefield was christened by Swami Himself as 'Sathya Sai Grama' in 1973. It nestles in the sylvan surroundings at the foot of the reputed hill station - the Nandi Hills.

Sathya Sai Grama is a sprawling campus of over a hundred acres filled with thousands of trees and plants, dotted with majestic buildings. The centre has the proud privilege of receiving Swami on its hallowed grounds 27 times in the last three decades. When He stepped on this land for the first time on 14th August 1978, Swami looked around admiringly and said, "This is a Tapobhumi - a land of penance!"

Anyone who visits the campus experiences the powerful spiritual vibrations pervading the place. Prema Deepa - the light of love - was the name given by Bhagavan to the Mandir here; it is an exquisite piece of Indian temple architecture situated almost on the highest spot in the campus. It was inaugurated by Bhagavan on 15th August 1994. Encircled by an ornamental garden, it has now become a place of pilgrimage for devotees.

More than eight hundred students study in the educational institutions in Sathya Sai Grama. Out of them, 700 boys drawn from all over India reside in the hostels, and others come from eight villages around the campus. These villages have been adopted by the centre for their all-round development. The alumni association of the educational institutions at Sathya Sai Grama - the 'Children of Sathya Sai' - are doing commendable work in these villages with the objective of transforming them into model villages worthy of emulation.

Sri Sathya Sai Lokaseva Composite Pre-University College, which was started as a high school in 1973, was upgraded in 1982 with the addition of  Pre-University section in commerce. A science section will also be added from the next academic year. The magnificent building of the college was declared open by Swami in February 1987.  The college is reputed for its excellent results in the S.S.L.C. and P.U.C. Public Examinations and effective education in human values on the basis of the Sathya Sai ideals.

Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Kendra is a Central School with classes from sixth to tenth standard. It is a fully residential school started in 1998.

A beautiful auditorium and a modern dining hall adorned with sculptural embellishments are an added attraction in the campus. Sprawling playgrounds and good sports facilities are another important feature of these educational  institutions. The students have won accolades in sports, games and athletics in State level competitions. The vast agricultural farms and a modern dairy which occupy the western side of the campus lend a heavenly charm to the place.

One important and very encouraging development in Sathya Sai Grama isthat some of the alumni have joined the centre as Tyagajeevis. It augurs well for the fulfilment of the grand vision of the founder of the institutions, Sri Narayan Bhat, regarding their contribution to the divine mission of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Role Models of Integral Education

If one wants to see how values are integrated with studies in schools and colleges, one should see the functioning of these two institutions because seeing is believing. The entire environment in both the institutions is saturated with values of Sathya, Dharma, Santhi, Prema and Ahimsa as taught by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Both the students and teachers are shining examples of morality, ethics and spirituality in practice. In fact, these two institutions present a model which all educational institutions of the country can emulate to give value-based direction to our system of education.

Let me complete this article on these very unique institutions of Bhagavan by recalling a revealing incident that happened in July 2003 at Brindavan. Bhagavan had called for interview, a group of students and teachers from Sri Sathya Sai Lokaseva Junior College at Sathya Sai Vihar. Those were the students who had secured the highest ranks in the engineering and medical entrance examinations in the State. For the first time in the history of the State, students from the same college had secured first rank in both the engineering and medical entrance examinations. When I submitted this good news to Bhagavan, He said joyfully, "It is not history; it is His story!" We can look forward to His story unfolding with each passing day bringing peace and joy to mankind!

sourced: Sanathana Sarathi pgs 376-380 November 2005