There are two dimensions to education in these times. One is what is taught in modern schools and colleges and is often referred to as secular education. It is this curriculum which fills the students’ minds with information on literally everything that can be seen in the world outside, from science and environment to stock markets and entertainment. This process provides skills and channels young minds to aspire for a life with a high standard of living but shies away from mentioning values, mistakenly associating them with religion. In fact, for the products of this educational system, values and ethics are for the untutored mind.
The other dimension of education is what goes on inside the exclusive enclosures of madrassas, mutts and missionary schools. Here, religious texts and practices are drilled into unblemished minds to the exclusion of everything else by chauvinistic teachers. These students’ belief in their religion is zealous but their understanding of its philosophy is often superficial. This constricted approach to religious learning often fails to equip students with a broader perspective of the world and frequently results in creating fundamentalist attitudes.
If we look at the troubles that beset the planet today, be it nuclear proliferation, excessive consumerism, terrorism, the menace of cyber crimes or money laundering, at the root of all these evils is not so much a lack of education but one which is unbalanced; an education that caters to the head, ignoring the heart; that trains students in technology but does not teach tolerance; that develops competence but leaves out compassion; that emphasizes profit-making but does not promote sharing and caring. What humanity needs today is a new dimension of education where science goes hand-in-hand with spirituality, technology is joined with human values, and information is coupled with intuitive experience. And this is where the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning comes to the fore.
When Bhagavan Baba inaugurated this unique University on November 22, 1981, He clearly stated the meaning and purpose of education. “The end of education is character. And, character consists of eagerness to renounce one's selfish greed. Persons without a good character cannot claim to be educated ones.” In these words of Bhagavan, we find echoed the thoughts of many enlightened world leaders of the modern era. It was Lincoln who said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing…” and it was Swami Sivananda who said, “The quintessence of man is his character.” So a character-focused system of education is not a novel idea; in fact, it is as old as the mountains. There are many schools in India and elsewhere which for years have been engaged in inculcating morality in young minds. But what is exciting about the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning is that it is only here value-education is passionately imparted with great success at the university level. When a child grows into a young adult, impressing values is something parents shy away from, teachers prefer to bypass, and institutions either do not have in their agenda or presume it is an impossible idea to implement. In this respect, what Baba’s University has achieved in the last two and half decades is path-breaking.
What makes students from undergraduate classes to doctoral studies in this University live together in a dormitory and follow a demanding schedule which includes prayers, physical exercises, and volunteer service activities in addition to academic rigors? Imagine the students of a university obtaining top ranks at the national level in GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) while at the same time maintaining the hostel garden, singing bhajans, and going to villages to distribute food and clothes! What inspires the students of this University, after securing professional degrees, to forsake a prosperous career and dedicate their lives in His service? When you read our cover story, you will see how this University has walked on the road less traveled and proved that competence and success do not have to bypass character, rather, they are attained and easily maintained through a strong foundation of values. For this reason, this Institute has been hailed as a Crown Jewel and role model for the university education system in India by the Government’s University Grants Commission.
In the words of Sri R Venkataraman, former President of India, “The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning is a venue of higher behaviour and a seat of higher understanding.” This deemed university is, in fact, the dream university envisioned by Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, among others. And what is it that has made this bold experiment successful? “It is the infinite love of Bhagavan for His students,” answers the Warden of the Boys’ Hostel in Bangalore, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy.
The impact of selfless love is amazing. When you read the story of the Sai Movement in Argentina, you will find yet another impressive demonstration of how Pure Love can bring about transformations that are lasting and far reaching, time, space, and distance, notwithstanding.
Selfless love: In a nutshell, this has been Swami’s message ever since He declared His advent. “It is only through the cultivation of love that man can find fulfillment,” He says. In this month of November, as we celebrate Swami’s birthday, let us foster this sublime virtue of love and offer it to Him who is present in every being.
Let’s fill the world with His love.
In Sai Service,