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Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

A BEACON LIGHT OF INTEGRAL EDUCATION

Sanjay Sahni

  
 

SRl SATHYA SAI INSTITUTE OF Higher Learning is the visible manifestation of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's vision of education which is not only an important means for the transformation of mankind, but also a panacea for the ills that are afflicting it today. More particularly, it is a precious gift of Bhagavan to the youth whom He is moulding to become shining examples of ethical and spiritual awareness to make them the torchbearers of moral regeneration and spiritual reawakening of the world. The Institute has evolved the integral system of education which lays as much emphasis on inculcation of values as on achieving academic excellence. Come 2006, the Institute, a deemed university, will be celebrating its silver jubilee. The birth of the university represented a significant milestone in the glorious unfolding of the Divine Mission of Bhagavan whose watchword, "the end of education is character" forms the main objective of all its activities. From a humble beginning in improvised premises to be acclaimed today 'as the crest-jewel of higher education in India', the Institute has come a long way. On 22nd November 1981 this deemed university was inaugurated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud at Prasanthi Nilayam, and Bhagavan bestowed on it a unique honour by accepting to become its Chancellor.

Divine Vision of the Revered Chancellor

The spirit behind all its achievements is the Revered Chancellor of the Institute, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who from the very beginning chartered its course by His Divine vision. While laying the foundation stone of the Sri Sathya Sai College for Women at Anantapur in 1969, Bhagavan declared: "It is indeed deplorable that education of the spirit has been totally neglected while attention is devoted to the training of skills and for gleaning and garnering information... My Sankalpa is to provide the youth with an education which, while cultivating their intelligence, will also purify their impulses and emotions and equip them with the physical and mental disciplines needed for drawing upon the springs of calmness and joy that lie in their own hearts."

In another Discourse to the students and staff of this college in August 1974, Bhagavan observed, "This college has not been established just to prepare you for earning degrees. The main purpose is to help you to cultivate self-knowledge and self-confidence, so that each one of you can learn self-sacrifice and earn self-realisation. The teaching of university curricula and the preparation for presenting you for the university examinations and the award of university degrees - these are only the means employed for the end, namely, spiritual uplift, self-discovery and social service through love and detachment."

Again, while speaking at the Brindavan College on 31st March 1974, Bhagavan revealed,"Do not be under the impression that you and I have come together only now, since you study in this college; you have come to Me for the sake of far higher triumphs, as a consequence of merit acquired in many previous lives. You and your teachers are destined to achieve tremendous tasks under My guidance, in the execution of the Mission on which I have come."

Another milestone was reached in the history of the Institute when on Vijaya Dasami day after the Poornahuti of the Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yajna on 8th October 1981, Bhagavan announced that from that day the colleges at Prasanthi Nilayam and Anantapur
would be raised to the status of the campuses of the new university.

Evolution and Growth

It was Prof. V.K. Gokak, the first Vice Chancellor of the university, who gave a concrete shape to the vision of Bhagavan. In 1982, the Institute launched its Five Year Integrated courses and PG courses in the sciences and humanities. The same year, the Brindavan College became the third campus of the university. I recall how Prof. Gokak outlined before us, first year UG students then, the grand vision of the academic education in the Institute. To inculcate in students a wide and liberal mental outlook, education in the university was envisaged as a pyramidical structure. The pyramid has a wide base and accordingly the students in the undergraduate courses would begin with the study of languages and awareness courses along with their respective courses in core areas. At the end of the second year, the languages would drop off and the science students would start specialising in their area of interest. This would continue into the PG, after which the student would choose a narrow niche for undertaking research. In 1984, Bhagavan started the Ph.D. programme with the intention of preparing His future teachers. Many doctorates have now joined the university as faculty.

In 1986, the MBA and B.Ed. programmes were launched. Many MBA and PG alumni have gone on to man Bhagavan's institutions in the Ashrams, hospitals, schools and colleges. Others have made their mark in the wide world. Other courses got added in subsequent years: B.Sc. (Hons.) 1992; B.Com. (Hons.), M.Tech. (1993); M.A. (Economics) (2001); M.Phil (2004).

Many academic reforms and innovations were adopted by the Institute right from its inception. It has a merit-based open admission policy enabling students from all over the country to seek
admission to various courses, irrespective of income, class, creed, religion or region, making it truly national in character. Education is provided to students free without any fees whatsoever, in sharp contrast to the rapid commercialisation of education elsewhere.

Sri Sathya Sai Integral Education

The Revered Chancellor of the Institute, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has given the Institute its philosophy of integral education and has been inspiring and guiding the administrators, teachers and students of the Institute since its inception in the practice of this philosophy. According to Bhagavan, "One should have the head of Sankara, the heart of Buddha and the hands of Janaka". An integrated personality is a harmonious synthesis of a discerning intellect, a compassionate heart and efficient hands; it is a beautiful combination of nobility and ability. Nobility without ability is useless to society and ability without nobility is dangerous to it. Spiritual education is the basis of integral education. This is what Bhagavan calls educare. Ultimately, all education should converge into educare.

Integral education aims at the all-round development of the human personality - the physical, the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual. Acquisition of knowledge when supported by its proper utilisation leads to skill; the harmony of knowledge and skill leads to balance of mind which is the basis for spiritual insight. The surest sign of spiritual insight is the blossoming of true love in the heart, springing out of recognition of the oneness of all existence.

The university is a modern Gurukula combining the best of the past and the present. All the campuses of the Institute are wholly residential. The students reside in the hostels along with the Warden and a band of resident teachers carefully hand-picked by Bhagavan. Character moulding is a twenty-four hour endeavour and the Institute could not be otherwise. The key to success in community living in the hostels, which represent a mini-India, is understanding and adjustment. Mutual tolerance and courtesy, sacrifice and service to fellowmen, civic sense and social sensitivity - the blessings of community living under the watchful eyes of committed teachers are immense. The daily routine in the campus is designed with the guidance of Bhagavan and has multifarious activities to foster the development of integrated personalities.

Prayers before sunrise and at bedtime, before meals and at the commencement of classes in the Institute help the students to still their minds and periodically reconnect to the Divine who is the source of all succour and energy. Spiritual talks in the college and-hostel, the value-based Awareness Course, the spiritual study circle sessions and above all exposure to the divine influence of Bhagavan strengthen the moral and spiritual fibre in the student's personality. Since 1990, a number of summer courses in Indian Culture and Spirituality were organised for the benefit of all students.

Physical culture is encouraged through participation in jogging, games, sports and yoga in the mornings. The objective of physical culture is physical fitness, though annual competitions are organised to spot and nurture sporting talent. The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet on 11th January is an important event in the academic calendar of the Institute and represents the expression of students' love for Bhagavan manifesting in the form of breathtaking sporting feats and aesthetically delightful programmes, charming one and all.

While co-curricular activities in literature, music, dance, drama and other fine arts along with harmonious community living foster emotional balance and self-reliance in students, social service activities instil in them self-confidence, humility, dignity of labour and helpful nature apart from nurturing their talents. Service in the kitchen and dining hall, cooperative stores, dispensary, maintenance, audiovisual department, garden and myriad other areas is undertaken by the students under the guidance of their teachers. The annual Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva in the villages around Puttaparthi during Dasara celebrations and initiated by Bhagavan in 2000 is a great educational experience for the students and staff of the university.

The Crest-jewel of Higher Education

At the first Convocation of the Institute on 22nd November 1982, the late legal luminary Sri Nani Palkhiwala observed, "This Institute is a tribute to the great organising genius of its founder, Sri Sathya  Sai Baba. Without His initiative and inspiration it would have been impossible to found an institution of this character. We are witnesses to a great event in the history of our country. This  deemed university is a memorable experiment in the moral and spiritual regeneration of India. It stands for nothing less ... This Institute aims at becoming a nation-builder."
 
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India declared at the Institute's Convocation in 2002, "The purpose of real education is to initiate a learning process that transforms students into good human beings with knowledge and value systems. Is value education possible? Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning has given an answer in the affirmative."

In December 2002, the Peer Team of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which is set up by the University Grants Commission to assess and accredit higher education institutions, visited the Institute and reported, "The Peer Team puts on record its appreciation for providing the members of the Team the opportunity to spend time with the Institute faculty and the students so as to develop a thorough insight into the higher education process of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, particularly the integral higher education interwoven in the blueprint and design of higher education products. This made us realise that there is a way to correct our already degrading university education system in India, if we decide to do so.

The Peer Team feels that this Institute stands out as a crest-jewel among the university education system in the country and this model is worthy of emulation by the institutions of higher learning in the country and elsewhere, so that these benefits would be reaped fast and on the widest possible scale."

NAAC granted accreditation at the A++ level to the Institute for five years in 2002-03 placing the Institute in the highest bracket of Indian universities.

I would like to conclude with the following experience of an alumnus of the Institute. He was facing a job interview and the Managing Director of the company, who was on the interview panel, enquired, 'I understand that you are a student of Sai Baba's college. I have heard that Sai Baba creates and gives rings, necklaces, etc., to his devotees. What has He given you?" Spontaneously, the boy replied, "Sir, I am a village boy. Today, this village boy is sitting and talking with so much confidence to the M.D. of one of India's most prestigious research based companies. The confidence that you see in me is Sai Baba's gift to me."

Faith in oneself and faith in Divinity is truly the quintessence of education at the Lotus Feet of our Beloved Bhagavan.

sourced: Sanathana Sarathi pgs 384 to 389 November, 2005