What's The Right Education For A Right Society?

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.

This year, 2006, marks the Silver Jubilee of Swami's University, namely, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. While the University itself formally came into existence in 1981, the seeds were sown by Swami as early as 1968, when He established a college for women in Anantapur. Since then, Swami's mission in the area of education has come a long way.

There are many things unique about Swami's University. The free education part no doubt figures prominently in the list of virtues but there are other aspects that are more important which, unfortunately, receive far less attention. Today, we would like to focus on one of these.

Swami often reminds us that a human being is a composite of the body [that is gross], the Mind [that is subtle], and the Atma [that is primordial and the source/cause of everything, including Creation]. Education, Swami says, must therefore address all these three aspects of a human being. If it fails to, then the education imparted would not be balanced, and lack of balance in a human being can cause not only a lot of problems to the individual concerned, but indeed to Society as a whole. Thus, in Swami's University, everything is done according to the philosophy of what is called Integral Education. Integral Education means nursing in balanced proportions, the body, the Mind and also the Heart. If there is such a balance, then the student blossoms as a person of character. Thus it is that Swami often says that the end of education must be character.

Time there was, when teachers and parents took character moulding very seriously. Indeed, this was true in all societies. In India of course, there is a strong tradition in this respect to which Swami often calls attention. In England, the great public schools were supposed to train students to become leaders with character. In America, there is the shining example of George Washington who as a boy dared to tell the truth, unmindful of the punishment he might receive. There is also the inspiring example of Abraham Lincoln, to whom Swami often makes a reference.

Things have changed dramatically after World War II. Many factors have contributed to this almost abrupt change, and we need not go into all the painful details; in any case they are well known. But this much can be said; almost everywhere, education has become a business. One might give all kinds of socio-economic reasons for this phenomenon but the question remains: If character development is considered irrelevant in the scheme of education, then where does it leave Society, especially in this age of Science and Technology? Few bother about this; even if some do, they brush aside concerns and join the rat race.

Parents may say money is important; educational establishments may say money is important; graduates also may say money is important. But there is something far more important and that is morality. If parents, educationists and Society all abandon moral values, then what would happen to humanity? Science and technology are awesome tools and if humans use them without compunction, then Society and indeed the environment can get into all kinds of problems; in fact, this is already happening.

Just to give an example, in the UK, they wanted to pass a bill prohibiting the screening of TV ads promoting fast foods and soft drinks during children's programs, because they were considered harmful to children. Parents and health authorities were deeply worried by the alarming rise in child obesity and juvenile diabetes; hence the idea for such a ban. But the big corporations fought the idea of the ban tooth and nail. The point here is that the corporations peddling these items couldn't care less about the damage to Society; market share is all that matters to them.

One can multiply this example many, many times. Wherever we look, it is the educated who are disturbing Society in umpteen ways, ranging from generating computer viruses to inventing all kinds of weapons that promote conflict and violence, not to mention unwanted gadgets that fuel unnecessary and sometimes dangerous desires. All this has happened in fifty short years.

These days, there is a lot of corporate fraud and people say it is all because people have lost a sense of values. To correct the situation, more laws are being passed. However, if there is no individual character, then Society as a whole would lack character, which means that frauds would go on and even multiply. In turn, one would have to increase the police force, appoint more judges and so on. Society has to pay for all this. But even if Society does this, what is the guarantee that the result would be favourable? After all, policemen and judges without character would compound the problem! How can one suddenly expect judges and policemen to be very honest, when they too have come through the same, 'de-hydrated' educational system?

Yes, as one educationist in the West lamented, today's universities produce clever devils! Many years ago, addressing the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Victor Weisskopf, a professor in MIT declared, 'Knowledge without compassion is inhuman while compassion without knowledge is ineffective.'

In its own way, the world secretly realises this but caught up as it is in the rat race, it makes every effort to ignore the writing on the wall. Indeed, and it is only in Swami's Institute that instruction in worldly knowledge is beautifully blended with basic human values. That is what makes Swami's University so important.

The question is often asked: 'OK, students in Swami's Institutes get a good grounding in values and all that; but does it work in the wide world out there. Where is the proof?.' Dear Subscriber, there is ample proof and be assured we would write about that in later Sunday mails. Meanwhile, we pray that Swami's Grace be showered on you and your family, and that you may continuously enjoy Bliss.

Jai Sai Ram

With Love and Regards,