Volume 6 - Issue 07
JULY - 2008
THE ZENITH OF HOLISTIC LEARNING
The Sublime Story of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School,
Honing Talents to Offer it as A Homage
Take the daily schedule of a typical X or XII grader of any school in India affiliated to the CBSE, which conducts nation-wide examinations for students of these grades. Their routine is a tough rigmarole of classes, tuitions, homework, and more studies. This is because the importance of the results of these examinations can never be over-estimated. Good marks in these competitive tests could be the first step to a glorious career.
The schedule of the boys in these grades in the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, is equally tight, the only difference being academics takes only two hours of their daily routine outside of the classroom instructions during school hours. At the same time, their board examinations results are far superior than any average school. [See Part-3 of this Cover Story] A large proportion of the boys’ time in this school is spent in a multitude of extra-curricular activities. This is because the focus of the school is not to create excellent careers for their students, but to hone their talents, and transmute the boys into balanced and inspired individuals who will love to live for a higher ideal in life.
One of the important events in the school’s calendar is the Annual Sports Meet, which is held on January 11 every year. This is an occasion when, in front of Swami and a large international audience, the students display a scintillating variety of programmes which calls for extraordinary dexterity of the mind and the body. The items include mind-boggling gymnastics to vigorous aerobics, thrilling martial arts, complex yogasanas, dare-devil bike-stunts and so on. But the most amazing feature about this whole endeavour is that everything is decided and rehearsed to perfection in a span of less than four weeks.
Unity of Purpose Leads to Astounding Results
Sourav Kumar, a student in grade XII, says, “In 2007, we had a trainer who had coached participants of the Afro-Asian games. He taught us martial arts stunts, and at the end of the programme he revealed: ‘Dear boys, I cannot believe what has happened here. What requires nine months to train participants elsewhere, happened here in one just month! I am still baffled. Maybe it is because of Swami’s grace.”
This sense of awe and amazement seems to be a common experience of every outsider who interacts with the students of this school. “Apart from an agile body, and the students’ disciplined minds, the secret of this success lies in the unity of purpose,” explains Mr. Venkateswarlu, who teaches Mathematics at the school. “Everybody works with the sole intention of pleasing Swami and is ready to work as hard as it takes to achieve this goal. When such pure determination and devotion is present in ample measure, miracles are bound to happen,” he explains.
“Coming from Bangalore, a metropolitan city, and not used to demanding physical work, when I found myself in the group doing martial arts, I thought I will not be able to take it at all,” recalls Abhay Kini, a student of grade XII. “In the beginning, it was strenuous, but our teachers were there to guide and take care of us every step of the way. After a few days, it just became a part of my schedule. I was more active than ever. It was a wonderful experience.”
“But the best part of Sportsmeet is that all the 1500 students are involved in one item or the other, and each one is giving it his all to see that smile on Bhagavan’s face,” says Shivam Chopra, grade XII.
“Swami is always particular that every student participates in one event or the other,” explains Mr. Venkateswarlu and continues, “Even when He used to come to distribute prizes to the boys after the Sports Meet, He used to express great happiness if every student was a recipient of some prize or the other.”
TEAMS – Together Everyone Achieves More with Sai
Manoj G. Praharsh, currently a student enrolled in the Management program at the Sri Sathya Sai University, recalls his Sports Meet experience when he was in the school, “We had practiced for an event for three weeks, and now with exactly 4 days left for the Big Day on January 11 came the news that for certain reasons, our programme had to be changed.
We were a group of more than 100 boys. This unexpected predicament was too much for us to handle. It was a very testing time; nevertheless, a few senior brothers belonging to grade XII of our group immediately sat together, discussed, and chalked out an alternative. But we just had only three and half days at our disposal; so, we all sat and prayed together. Later in the day, the senior brothers shared their idea. They conveniently broke the large group into three small groups of gymnastics, break dance and aerobics, and utilised each one’s core-competence suitably.
You may not believe, on January 11, the final presentation was a scintillating performance! In less than 4 days we had achieved what would otherwise have taken us 20-25 days. Swami’s grace was of course there, at the same time, it demonstrated to us the power of a focused mind and a selfless goal-oriented effort. Somebody, at that time, shared with me an expansion of the word TEAMS - Together Everyone Achieves More with Sai. I think it explains the whole idea beautifully.”
Love: A Course in Miracles
The magic of this team spirit is evident in the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, in a number of activities, all round the year. “Another striking example is the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi. On the day of the ceremonial immersion of the idol of Lord Ganesha every year, we make huge and impressive chariots and palanquins to carry the idol in a grand procession to the sacred presence of Bhagavan,” says Sourav of grade XII.
Describing what happened last year (2007) during this event, his classmate, Shivam, says, “The theme of our chariot was a tall and colorful garden. But we had only one day to create this structure, because we had to decorate the hostel too. We just had three or four rods which were not even welded together, and the next day the entire structure was supposed to be presented in front of Swami! With a cool head, we listed the jobs, divided it among ourselves and went about the work with single-minded devotion. Twenty four hours later, from nothing rose a charming construction. We were ourselves stunned. We were prepared to do anything to see a smile blossom on His face.”
Unlike the two-day chariot-making during Ganesh Chaturthi, one mega operation which goes on for nearly two weeks every year is the Grama Seva. “It is such a wonderful opportunity for the boys to go to the villages and see the living conditions in the rural areas,” says Mr. Venkateswarlu. “For many students coming from the cities and towns, this service activity, which involves lovingly distributing food packets and clothes to the poor and underprivileged, is a revelation.”
Grama Seva Offers a Whole New Perspective
“I had never been to a village before,” says Shivam Chopra of grade XII. “During the onward journey I was complaining because it was a tedious trip with bumps and jumps every now and then. But after I saw the humble living conditions of the rural people and their simple lifestyle, believe me, the return journey suddenly became more comfortable.”
“But the most touching aspect,” adds his classmate, Abhay KIni, “was how the villagers welcomed us as if each one of us was Swami Himself. They were so beholden to us when we gave them food packets and clothes. For me, it was a deeply moving experience to come face to face with the harsh realities of life in rural India and to experience the joy to loving service.”
Mr. Venkateswarlu, the Mathematics teacher who is deeply involved every year in organizing this activity, says, “Often, I have heard boys come to me after the programme and say, ‘Sir, once I start earning money, I am surely going to do something for such people, even if not in a scale as mammoth as this.’”
Keshav, an alumnus of the school working as Director of BHH securities, says, “The few years of stay in the school has instilled in me a very strong value of service. I never loose an opportunity to go out of my way if I can make a difference and make somebody’s life better.”
“Almost every alumnus of the school who is now financially independent, is engaged in some service activity or the other – big or small, individually, or as a part of a group,” states Mr. Venkateswarlu. “I know of a boy, Shantanu, who had adopted two children of his neighbourhood; there is another who freely coaches poor students who cannot afford to pay for tuitions; the third visits an orphanage and spends a minimum of half an hour every week day, except Sundays when he spends the whole day there; the fourth, who is now a doctor, is a regular participant in free medical camps organized by the Sai organization; and so it goes, on and on. The list is endless. The impact of Grama Seva on the boys’ psyche is much more than that meets the eye.”
Holy, Holistic Education, KG to PG Offered Absolutely Free
As all Sai Education programs, from KG to PG or starting from elementary school all the way to university level are offered absolutely free of cost by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to thousands of students each year, generations of families today are deeply indebted to Bhagavan for His divine magnanimity. Grama Seva offers them the perfect impetus to express their gratitude for His love and generosity by making selfless service an integral part of their lives even after they leave the sacred school and pursue professional vocations in any part of the world.
Fine Arts Draw Out Inner Creativity
If the Grama Seva is a one-time mammoth service project every year teaching students valuable lessons of life, another activity which keeps the boys busy all round the year is music and drama. They get umpteen opportunities to present their creative talents before Bhagavan, and every time it is a great chance and an even greater learning experience. Mr. Rammohan Rao from the English department of the school, who has been the guiding force behind such programmes, sharing just one of his experiences, says, “It was the month of March in 2005. The examinations were on. Earlier the boys had practiced one drama but never got an opportunity to perform before Bhagavan. The academic year was now coming to a close, and I thought, in a few days all boys will be gone and they will miss this chance forever. I was very concerned, so I prayed to Bhagavan, and encouraged the boys to practice what is called ‘visual meditation’.
Actualizing A Dream Vision
“At the time of night prayer, we would all sit together and visualize… that Bhagavan is actually seeing the drama in the Sai Kulwant Hall…He is rewarding the boy who played the role of Shirdi Baba…He is so full of joy…everyone is so happy... and so on. In spite of examinations, the boys practiced whenever they had a little spare time. We prayed day after day, for weeks, and finally Bhagavan did respond! On March 29, on the last day of the examination, the boys staged the drama!
“And it unfolded exactly how we had meditated! Swami was so happy watching the drama and at the end blessed the boy who played the role of Shirdi Baba with a chain! The power of prayer is unimaginable. We are entities of body, mind and spirit, but spirit is the greatest! The boys had learnt a lesson which could be their perennial source of strength in the face of any adversity.”
No Detail Insignificant For the Divine Teacher
Such invaluable lessons of life can be learnt only at the Lotus Feet of a Divine Master. And every time they got such an opportunity, the take-home for every student after the event was precious. Narrating what happened this year (2008), Krishna Sastri of grade XII says, “There was a drama on Mira bai, and this was to be staged in the month of March. Before the presentation began, we assembled in the Bhajan Hall, and soon after darshan, Swami came inside.
I was playing the role of Mira and was therefore draped in a pink sari. Bhagavan looked at me and asked, ‘Are you not going to change into white sari?’ I said, ‘Yes, Swami, after the fifth scene.’ Swami then asked, ‘Will the time be sufficient to change?’ ‘Yes, Swami,’ I replied as it usually takes 5-6 minutes to change the sari. But He asked the same question again. ‘Yes, Swami,’ I replied again. The same thing happened for the third time! And I returned the same answer.
Finally, Swami said, ‘Ok! I will see.’ And as the drama proceeded, exactly after my fifth scene, Swami suddenly returned to the interview room! And I had enough time to change my costume. The moment I was ready, Swami was back on the stage. I instantly remembered His words, ‘I will see.’ What a priceless lesson it taught me! I know for sure that Swami is omniscient. Though at times He may pretend as if He knows nothing, He is actually aware of everything at all times.”
Such has been the impact of various extra curricular activities that fill the students’ calendar in this school. People, who stay in Puttaparthi and have seen the school boys in action, know this is not even tip of the iceberg. Because there is so much that happens everyday. There are friendly matches in all outdoor games – cricket, football, basketball, volleyball, shuttle badminton, and so on, right from the start of the academic year. Later, all the boys are divided into five houses and inter-house competitions begin which go on all through the year.
Creative Avenues Abound in the Curriculum
“There is ample opportunity for the students to explore their creativity,” says Mr. Venkateswar Prusty, the Computer Science teacher who oversees this area of learning. “Here, the boys produce lovely short videos for different occasions. On Teachers’ Day, it is about gratitude to teachers; on Farewell Day, a token of love to every senior brother; and on the Hostel Anniversary Day, it is on their ‘Home Sweet Home’.”
“Every Saturday in the school we hold the Talent Search Programme (TSP) wherein we have an assortment of competitions,” says Mr. Sai Surendranath, who teaches Commerce and coordinates TSP in the school.
"The opportunities range from elocution and ‘pick and speak’ to mono-acting, staging skits, essay writing, composing poems, model making, bhajan antakshari, thermo-coal modeling, charades, dance, music, painting, sketching, vedam chanting – individual, pair and group, to a variety of quizzes. Other than this, there is plenty of action going on on the sports field.
Self-Confidence - the Stepping Stone to Excellence
“Over the years I have seen boys who used to fumble while speaking blossom into excellent orators; those who used to fiddle around with the tabla become excellent percussionists playing in front of Bhagavan; others who were scared to stand and talk, play leading roles in the Convocation drama of the University; and so on.
“I always had stage fear. I couldn’t stand in front of an audience,” says Karthik of grade XII. “But when I was in grade VIII, I was given the tiny role of attendant in a skit – all I had to do was enter the stage, put a file on the table and disappear. I did this part again and again during the practice sessions, and my brothers encouraged me a lot. Slowly, I started becoming confident and with time, I lost all fear of the stage. Now, I can face the audience any day.”
Another XII grader, Shivam Chopra, says, “I never knew I could write poems. My TSP captain, who was a senior brother, goaded and guided me to write, and I did very well for my house. Later, I had the opportunity even to present my poem in front of Swami!”
Mr. Sai Surendranath cites another instance and says, “I remember there was a student in the XI grade who used to sing, only when he was alone in his room. He had a lovely voice, but would never sing if anybody was around. I encouraged him to come out of his shell many times, but I never had any impact on him.
Finally, one day Swami was to come to the hostel. I called this boy, gave him a cassette and said, ‘There is a beautiful song in this tape which will suit your voice. Please learn this song. Swami is likely to come to the hostel tomorrow. If you practice, you could sing this song when Swami is sitting on the swing in the hostel quadrangle.
It is a great opportunity. If you feel you are not confident, we can cancel even in the last moment. So, there is no need to worry. Just give it a try.’ Swami did come and He enjoyed the boy’s performance so much that He asked him to start singing bhajans in the Mandir next day itself! And today he is a professional vocalist.”
Behind All Achievement – One Inspiration
“If there is one person to whom all the credit should go for the blossoming of students’ personalities in this school, it is Bhagavan Baba alone,” asserts Mr. Sai Surendranath, and explains, “It is because, though on the physical plane He is the Founder of this School, He brings Himself down to the level of a seemingly substandard school student. He is personally concerned about every aspect of their welfare – health to academics, family problems to financial constraints.
I remember, in the earlier days, He used to suddenly drop in during practice sessions of Christmas carols and spend a lot of time guiding, encouraging and smiling with the students. Touched by His charismatic Love, each one of these buds have blossomed into great actors, good singers, expert sportsmen and so on. And it is also for this reason that they find fulfillment in their lives only when they offer these talents, which they regard as His gifts, back to Him in whatever way they can, whether they are here or elsewhere.”
- Bishu Prusty
Vol 6 Issue 07 - JULY 2008
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