MINUTE TO SPARE?
Loving Sai Ram, and greetings from
This Sunday we would like you to
spare a minute to read the following three quotations, all of which relate
I want to oppose the idea that
school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those
accomplishments, which man has to use later directly in life. The demands of
life are much too manifold to let a specialized training in school appear
possible. Apart from that, it seems to me, moreover, objectionable to treat
the individual like a dead tool. The school always has as its aim that the
young man leaves it as a harmonious personality not as a specialist…. It is
not enough to teach a man a speciality. Through it, he may become a kind of
useful machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is
essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling
for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the
morally good. Otherwise, he with his specialized knowledge more closely
resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.
Is that education, which slowly
makes a man into a machine? It is more blessed in my opinion, even to go
wrong impelled by one’s free will and intelligence than to be good as an
automaton. ….The education that does not help the common mass of people to
equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring about
strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and courage of a lion – is
it worth the name?
Our concept of education must have a
soul. It must form a unity. It must take note of the child as a whole, as
heart as well as mind. Unless we train the feelings and the choice, man is
not educated. He is only decked out in certain intellectual tricks that he
has learnt to perform. By those tricks, he can earn bread. He cannot appeal
to the heart, or give life. He is not a man at all; he is a clever ape.
Learning in order to be clever or learning in order to earn a livelihood –
not in order to become a man to develop one’s own manhood and manliness –
means running into danger. Therefore, in every piece of information imparted
to a child, we must convey an appeal to the heart. … There is one way and
one way only. It is, throughout the early years of education, to remember
that there is nothing so important as feelings. To feel nobly, and to choose
loftily and honestly, is a thousand-fold more important to the development
of faculty than any other single aspect of the educational process.
Three different quotes from three different people, but echoing very similar
sentiments. We presume you must be familiar with the first two names. The
third one might not be so familiar; it is the name of an English lady who
came nearly a hundred years ago to India in search of spiritual
enlightenment, discovered Swami Vivekananda, and settled down to become his
disciple, adopting the name Nivedita. Her example recalls the names of two
others, namely, Annie Besant whose name would for ever would be associated
with the Theosophy movement in India and Mira Ben who became an ardent
follower of Gandhi.
Getting back to the quotes, they all, each in its own way of course, convey
the same message which is:
- Education should not, in the name of producing specialists, convert humans
into skilled robots.
- Education must have a SOUL, meaning it must awaken noble feelings latent
in the Heart.
- Education must have a moral base and fill one with moral courage to face
the moral and ethical challenges of the world.
- And finally, education must train one for life rather than merely for
filling the belly.
It does not take much imagination to realise that these are the very
principles that Swami talks about it, and form the basis of education in His
Schools and Colleges.
The question arises: “Why did Swami set up His Schools and Colleges?” Mainly
to act as exemplars to a Society that has lost its way. Just look around;
there are tens of thousands of colleges and hundreds of universities the
world over, all supposed to produce educated men and women. If indeed
students are really getting educated in these educational establishments, as
everyone believes they are, then how come the world is so full of problems
today, indeed more problems than ever before? In fact, it would appear that
today’s Society is better at creating problems than in solving them! So what
has happened to these various educational establishments, including those
with famous brand names? Where have they all slipped?
That is not difficult to determine, if we use the guidelines of the quotes
above, which, by the way, is only a small selection of invaluable quotes
available on education. From the Greek philosophers to Lincoln to Gandhi,
all great men stressed the importance of moral values; and for centuries,
some attempt was made to adhere to them as well as to structure education
around moral and ethical values. It is only in the half century that
followed the Second World War, that values have been withdrawn, rather like
pulling the rug under one’s feet. Following which, the inevitable has
happened everywhere without exception – politics without principles,
business without scruples and all the rest of it; we all know the list,
don’t we? Swami has quoted them so many times.
Is there any particular reason why we are harping on this particular theme
this Sunday? There sure is, a chain of connected links in fact. First, there
was a nasty article directed entirely against Swami in the Hindustan Times,
published from Delhi. Quickly came after that a one-hour TV talk show on
NDTV, against so-called God-men, and inevitably, there was a lot of mud
slinging against Swami. Apparently, the Guardian in the UK also had
something but we have not seen that. Anyway, we shall deal with all this
anti-Swami stuff elsewhere, but here we would like to look deeper and ask
ourselves why Society has become so sick as to see negativity all the time,
often unfounded? There are of course superficial reasons as well as deeper
causes, and may be we should comment on both.
Superficially, things have changed enormously since World War II, thanks to
three factors. 1) Technology, 2) enormous growth in transport and
communications, including TV, Internet, etc., and 3) the engine of economic
growth becoming supercharged with, shall we say, hyper-activity! The net
result of all this is the quest to dominate the mind. In the colonial era,
those with money wanted to dominate the land so that they could have easy
access to commodities and markets. Later, it was the quest for market, or
market dominance, without the expenditure of maintaining armies, that
colonialism involved. Now it is mind-dominance, because once the mind is
dominated, humans can be manipulated in any way the powerbrokers want.
These are complex matters and maybe we shall comment on them in detail
elsewhere, but the bottom line is that everyone is in a tearing hurry in
pursuit of their own particular objectives. Those who “inform” wish to do it
all very quickly while those “who want to be informed” also want it all very
quickly. We see it here all the time working for Radio Sai and H2H. Our boys
here work so hard round the clock but most people simply do not have the
time to read or listen to what we offer via H2H and via Radio Sai. Most
devotees stir into action only when there is a blast of negativity in the
What we are trying to say is that since everyone seems to want everything in
a hurry, the media obliges by having instant opinions and instant
commentators. These days, wars, whether they are fought in Afghanistan or
Iraq or whatever, are played out in front of TV cameras. Everything from
protests to soccer matches to war and insurgency has become subjects for TV
shows, talk shows and so on. Is it any wonder that “instant experts” appear
everywhere airing opinions left and right without bothering to check whether
they are accurate or not? News now means negativity, sting operations and so
on. Good works and good news are “boring” and not “newsworthy”. That is the
mantra circulated everywhere, and is it any wonder that those who want bang
for their bucks as they say, dare to project even falsehood as news, as long
as they do a sort of “balancing act” making it appear that they have given
If you think about it deeply, all this is because we have all been brought
up bereft of values. Our schools have let us down and that is because
Society simply did not think that moral base is important in education. When
values are drained away, understanding disappears; when understanding
becomes scarce, conflict arises; when conflict erupts, there is pain and
This is a huge topic, and we simply cannot do justice to it here. But this
much we can and will say. If there is one educational institution that has
steadfastly stood for and helped students to absorb values and practice them
in the modern world, it Swami’s Institute . That is Swami’s greatest gift to
humanity, an Institute that helps students to really understand what
morality and human values are all about and how higher learning is related
to all that.
So what does higher learning, morality etc., have to do with negative
reporting that is appearing to drown out the good work being done by Swami’s
institutions? Simply the following. We must, all of us together but each in
our own way, help the Divine Light to reach far and wide. Divine Light
cannot be extinguished; however, it can be covered and eclipsed. And we have
it in our power to remove that cover. How? Well, if our readers, old
students and the like would only take a few minutes off now and then and
share with us, good news they have access to, we can spread it far and wide.
The world today is actually very hungry for good news. We know it because of
the mail we receive. But the sad point is that good news is not easily
accessible. That is because the traditional news agencies do not regard good
news as news at all. If however, Sai devotees, share with us what they know,
instances where people have come out better by adhering to Dharma, then when
others read it, it would give them some courage. We need to hold each
other’s hands. There are so many things we can do and do so easily. However,
at present we do not; that must change, and when that change occurs, there
would be fewer and fewer takers for non-news, bad news and wrong news. For
example, strange as it may sound, not many people in Chennai/Madras are
aware how much Swami has done to bring water to that troubled city.
When there was no drinking water, everyone hollered and prayed, depending on
their disposition. But once water was provided by Sai Baba, few bothered to
remember Him and almost took it all for granted, as though it was the job of
Sai Baba to do the fixing. Not only is this phenomenal accomplishment
ignored, but instead, people ask, “If Sai Baba is God, why did He not stop
If people only took time off to do some serious reading, then would they
have such questions? These days, people seem to want Vedanta in five
minutes, and the Gita in just two! If that is all the time we can give to
God, then why should we expect God to keep on bothering about us? They ask
about God hiding Himself during the tsunami. Who gave land that we so
readily pollute? Who gave water that we so readily pollute? Who is killing
millions in genocide, God or man? So what are the self-appointed bleeding
hearts doing about it?
Let us pull all this together and wind up this seemingly random and
apparently disconnected exploration, so that you can see the purpose behind.
This is what we would like to say this Sunday, as our bottom line:
1. If some people sling mud at Swami, it is in part because of the corrupted
value system of today, which reflects on the tragic erosion of values, in
all segments of Society.
2. We may be feel hurt; that is but
natural. However, we should not let our feelings run away too much.
3. If criticism comes from the
riff-raff, and let us remember that many who try to tarnish Swami do belong
to that category, we should not engage in a direct confrontation with them.
4. That said, it does not mean we
should always remain silent. There are occasions when one has to exert for
the sake of Dharma. That was Krishna’s lesson given to Arjuna. Depending on
the circumstances, we must make our judgement and react as fitting and
5. We did that from here when we
dealt with the UNESCO; that story has been told elsewhere.
6. Similarly, on this occasion,
there have been some well composed, dignified and strong response from a few
devotees, especially one of Swami’s students; more about this later in H2H.
7. Meanwhile, devotees must try and
spend more time trying to absorb Swami’s teachings as well as details of the
amazing missions He has executed. It is not enough to have some vague
feeling about the Hospitals for example. We must be aware of the moving
details so that stench can be rebutted by the fragrance of details about
There is much more to be said on this and related themes. For the moment,
please do reflect deeply on the extra-ordinary achievements of Swami’s
University, and its moral authority. This year, the Institute held its 25th
Convocation, and as always, it was held on 22nd November. This might appear
like a routine procedure, but if you look at the record of the three hundred
and odd universities in India, including those who can trace their history
as far back as 150 years, there is not a single university that can boast of
such regularity. Even if the Guest of Honour is the President or the Prime
Minister or whatever, our Convocation has always been held on 22nd November.
May seem like a small thing but compare it with the record of others and you
would know what we are talking about. Is the world aware of it? You think
this is a small achievement? Well, do you know that right now, a major
University in UP, the land of birth of Rama and Krishna, is facing problems
because the Vice Chancellor has suspended nearly a hundred students from
contesting student elections? And you know why? Because all these students
have criminal complaints against them, including murder, yes murder! A
university with students on its rolls who have murder complaints registered
against them? Amazing but true!
Is it any wonder we have invited your attention to the meaning and purpose
of Education? Who in this wide world has done for so long and so
consistently what Swami has done and is still doing? Why is the world silent
about it? Why are we devotees so ignorant about it? Some thing to think
about this Sunday!
Jai Sai Ram.
With Love and Regards,