Volume 10 - Issue 01
January 2011
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Posted on : Jan 20, 2012


Prof. Vishwanath Pandit


An eminent economist, Professor Pandit received his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, working with Professor Lawrence Klein, Nobel Laureate in Economics. He also taught at reputed universities in the United States and United Kingdom as a visiting Professor. In 1999 he was appointed by the United Nations, New York as Chairman of the Committee on Policy Modelling for Less Developed Countries. He was elected as President of The Indian Econometric Society for 2001-02. He was  also Advisor to the Ministry of Planning, Government of Sri Lanka, during 1989-90.

Recipient of the University Grants Commission Swami Pranavananda Saraswati National Award in 2004, Professor Pandit has served at the Delhi School of Economics for many years in different capacities including Head, Department of Economics, and Director, Centre for Development Economics.

In August 2008 Bhagawan Baba blessed him to serve as the Eighth Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Prior to this, since 2001 he had served to set up the Department of Economics in the same university. He was also one of the four teachers felicitated by Bhagawan Baba in June 2006.

Presented below is an edited transcript of the talk delivered by him in the 'Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality' conducted by Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning on June 10-12, 2011.


My loving pranams at the lotus feet of our Beloved Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba with humility. Respected elders, special invitees, distinguished members of the faculty and most dear students – Sairam to you all.


This is indeed a great event for the Institute not only because teachers and students of all campuses have got together right at the start of the new academic year; not merely because vital matters regarding education are being discussed for future guidance; but much more because we are able to assure ourselves that the Revered Founder Chancellor of the Institute is here with us and we are determined to rededicate ourselves to His Divine Mission of which education is the corner stone.

Bhagawan has told us on many occasions that His educational institutions have been established to produce role models for tomorrow’s world and for this reason the world would be watching us. To this I would like to add, with conviction, that today He Himself is watching us. Let us be aware of this every moment.

In dealing with the topic assigned to me we first need to understand that education refers to the process designed to bring out the hidden goodness and capability in human beings. Nearly two thousand and more years ago Greek philosophers used the term 'Educare', which has been widely used in recent deliberations. To give it greater depth and indeed a higher meaning it was said that,

pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai pandit, radiosai

More commonly, in today’s world education needs to be seen as consisting of three components, namely, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom, sequentially each one leading to the next so that we ultimately end up with wisdom. While knowledge backed by information developed human skills and capabilities to achieve many things in the best way possible, it is wisdom that guided one to decide the priorities. Ultimately, every thing one undertook had to be purposeful not only to oneself but more so to the society one lived in. Enlightened self-interest could be the starting point but one had to rise well above this.


The last few decades have witnessed a phenomenal development in the acquisition of both information as well as knowledge, of incredible dimensions, so to say all across the world. Unfortunately, however this has been accompanied by two other developments. On the one hand, for many reasons which we need not take up now, large chunks of education have become a thriving business and thus been more or less corporatised.

On top of this has been the second development spread over a longer span but reached a critical limit in recent decades. I am talking of the fact that wisdom has ceased to be a serious component of the agenda for education. It is even worse. As someone has said wisdom and virtue have got replaced by folly and vice.

The consequences of these developments are there for all of us to see. Education, particularly that at higher levels has made human beings not only greedy but also self-centred. Swami Ranganathananda, eleventh President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission puts it nicely with his reference to the Ten Commandments of Moses. He says,

Moses gave us Ten Commandments but highly educated persons
today think that there were eleven of these and follow the eleventh
one which says: “Even if you disobey all the Ten Commandments,
make sure that you are not caught by the law.” That is Education today.

                                      - Swami Ranganathananda, Prabuddha Bharata, Feb. 2011

  gift of god, pandit, radiosai gift of god, pandit, radiosai gift of god, pandit, radiosai

It teaches students the elegant ways in which the prevailing systems can be manipulated to their advantage.

We see the impact of this system of education always, unavoidably from the hour we get up and start the day. The newspaper is full of stories relating to crime at all levels, involving children, women, social groups and communities. Instead of helping others the mind is focused on eliminating all obstacles which appear, rightly or wrongly, between me and my selfish objectives. Corruption has become the order of the day. There is a strong nexus between politics, bureaucracy and the corporate sector, all against the poor citizen and their basic rights and needs. Highly educated men and women with brilliant capabilities are involved in different ways at several levels. Commitment to the eleventh commandment is total.

How and why the world had to suffer the severe global recession in 2008 is the most painful example of this phenomenon. The consequent suffering is still not over. Millions have not yet found employment. Enormous number of good people have lost their lifelong savings for old age. Millions of households again are left with no access to health care and education for children even in countries we consider rich. This is not the occasion to get further into details. I would only like to make one observation.

The benevolent Lord of the universe has endowed humanity with everything it needs: precious natural resources, a head full of intellect able to think and discriminate, and above all, a heart full of compassion. All that needs to be done is to use these gifts of God effectively for ourselves and others.

Turning now to one specific problem to see how policies are designed in the wrong way. As mentioned above most countries including USA and those in Europe are today afflicted with unprecedented rates of unemployment which in turn leads to not only inconsolable inequality in income and wealth, but also several deeper social problems. A somewhat mistaken and indeed oversimplified economic theory is used to promote what is referred to as “CONSUMERISM” as a solution for excessive unemployment. This is not entirely new. One is in fact, reminded of a poem written two centuries back. It runs as follows:  

In today’s world, unlike two centuries ago even mindless consumerism does not work. While private vices abound, public benefits are absent. Obviously, new complexities are at work. These have to be understood before solutions can be made effective. True education must help us to deal with massive unemployment and unprecedented inequalities faced all over the world.

What is wrong with the prevailing system of education and why it must be changed has received attention of our best thinkers. We were warned more than fifty years back by no less a person than Bertrand Russel. He said:

“The human race has survived hitherto owing to
and incompetence. But, given
the knowledge and competence
combined with
folly, there can be no certainty for survival.

Knowledge is power but it is power for evil
just as much
as it is for good. Unless man
increases in wisdom as much
as in knowledge,
increase in sorrow is certain.”

- Bertrand Russel (1960), Impact of Science on Society.


There has to be a way out which must be identified and followed. That is where Divine guidance is needed at the first step. Bhagawan has indeed provided it long back. We have only to understand and follow as He says,

Education means broadening the heart and development of
control over senses. It should make one seek to promote the
good of the world. An education devoid of this is worthless.

- Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Emphasis is on control of senses which in turn requires harnessing the mind. At the practical level, in reply to a question by the enlightened devotee, Dr. Hislop Swami highlights the role of the mind when He says,

     The proper method to deal with the mind is to direct its activity
towards good deeds, good thoughts and not allow it to give any
room for harmful thoughts or deeds. 

No wonder, He keeps on telling us, “Master the mind” such a way that senses are your servants and not your masters. Scriptures of the Sanathana Dharma have exhorted us millennia back,

The public discourse on topics including education in today’s world which runs in terms of ethics is most welcome, even though it is not as widespread as it should be. The difficulty nevertheless, lies in the fact that ethics is not adequate because of its contextual nature. What was taken to be right yesterday is not accepted so today; and, what is taken to be ethically right at place A is not taken to be so at place B. We need to focus on the spiritual foundations which go beyond time and space. This is dharma or, what may be translated, as best as we can, as Righteousness.

While this is one part of the foundation the second part consists of Sathya or Truth. Once again, the translation is as best as we can think of. At this level one must hasten to underline that there is only one Sathya and that is God. But this brings us face to face with a forceful class of people and their strongly held views which may be taken up briefly as follows.


With respect to human behaviour the discussion usually gets focused on what is referred to as Rationality. At other occasions when philosophical issues are under review, attention hovers around Reason. Scientists typically insist on physical verifiability of the assertions made. References to God and more generally to spirituality typically provoke a strong response from this class of thinkers and one has to be prepared for a well reasoned and meaningful response. Without going into an elaborate discussion I like to make some observations that may be helpful in such situations.

My objective is mainly to highlight the problems with this set of terms and how these are often mistakenly used on most occasions coupled with a narrow view of not only human life but also of the environment within which one lives.

The term rationality is usually used in behavioural sciences like economics, sociology and political science. While it is widely used it is seldom easy to define. In most situations rationality simply boils down to the pursuit of self-interest if not pure selfishness coupled with a consistent process of thinking and decision making.

At the root is a highly restrictive view of not only life but also of the society one lives in. In a rigorous critique of this notion of rationality, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Amartya Sen warns us against becoming Rational Fools. Even those not totally against self-interest have raised serious questions.

Here I must mention another Nobel Laureate, Professor Herbert Simon who talks about Bounded Rationality as being closer to and more meaningful for human behaviour. This qualified notion of rationality takes into account all factors, including moral considerations within which decisions have to be made in every context.

Closely related to rationality is the idea of Reason which must characterize human thought and action. While this need not generally be disputed, the principal under discussion has its limitations which need to be underlined. Referring once again to Herbert Simon,  let us note that he says:

The principle of “no conclusion without premises” puts forever
beyond reach normative statements (statements containing an
essential should) whose derivation is independent of inputs that
also contain should’s... Reason is wholly instrumental. It
cannot tell us where to go; at best it can tell us how to get there.

                         - Herbert A Simon, Reason in Human Affairs,
                                        Stanford University Press, 1983

This is very relevant to what may be deemed to be true education. A leading meta-psychologist of our time, who also happens to be an admirer of Vedanta comments similarly on reason as follows:

Reasons set the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us
accept only the known and that too with limitations and live in known

framework, just as if we know how far life extends... The more
the critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes…

  - Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections
 New York, Vintage Books, 1989


Scientists are typically focused on the manifest creation because of which they get more or less wedded to the principle of physical verifiability for whatever they accept as reality. This induces them to question aspects of spirituality and particularly to faith in God as they consider this to be beyond physical verification and usual intellectual reasoning. There are some basic problems with this view.

First of all, most of us including sophisticated intellectuals do accept many scientific propositions which we never will be able to verify. This is because we trust great scientists who have undertaken the complicated verification and sometimes even their deep intuitions. Can we not apply the same principle to great saints and sages who have had great enlightenment and a deep vision not possible for us, the ordinary mortals?

Second, there is the fundamental question namely, “What is God?” Spirituality gives us remarkable freedom to choose. Scriptures declare, “Thou art That” meaning God. Bhagawan has repeatedly told us “Love is God and God is Love”. How can it be simpler than that?

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As mentioned earlier a basic problem lies in the fact that we are totally tied down to the manifest world of body, mind and intellect. We have to go beyond this construct. Delivering the Convocation Address at the SSSIHL in 1985, the eminent physicist, Professor E. C. G. Sudarshan advised that humanity has to balance the manifest world and the unmanifest aspects of life by means of what he called a Binocular Vision. More recently great physicists have come around the view of God and spirituality as Super Consciousness. We need not pursue this any further now but those interested may look for well reasoned view points in Chapter - 6 (The Road from Physics to Metaphysics) of this book:

ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai ramayana, radiosai
"Journey Into Valmiki’s Ramayana, Part-2" by Prof. G. Venkataraman published by Media Division, Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam.


We may not think of it most of the time but subconsciously we are always in search of happiness in all our endeavours. However we have to be clear about two aspects of this phenomenon and true education must take care of these.

On the one hand let us make sure that we are not after temporary pleasures which appear to make us happy for a short while. Unfortunately this does happen quite often. Second and a closely related question is about what we seek happiness from. These are indeed two sides of the same coin and education must take care of both of these.

It is the failure of the existing system of education which has led humanity to many of the problems it is grappling with. In more recent times economic problems are sought to be solved by wrong methods. One of these is what is usually referred to as Consumerism, as mentioned earlier. Many people are squandering money on many things which are becoming scarce for others, typically the poor householders. Bhagawan has warned us about this problem way back in 1976 as He advised us to exercise a Ceiling on Desires when He said:

Today in the world there are several economic problems which are
troubling us. We should also enquire how these problems have arisen,
from the spiritual angle. The available commodities are limited
and our desires are unlimited. To take only the steps which will
increase the economic output is not the correct thing to do. It is
indeed a weak point. The shortest cut is to contain our desires to
match the available material…. Students should take great care
to see that they do not waste food, they should take only what they
need and not waste anything. Share your excess food with others.

- Summer Roses on the Blue Mountains, 1976, p. 117-119

Twenty five years later we have a renowned economist claiming on the basis of his rigorous empirical research that,

Income growth does not, however, cause well being to rise, either for higher
or lower income persons, because it generates higher aspirations...
Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never able to cover.      

              - Richard Easterlin, “Income and Happiness”, Economic Journal,
                    Royal Economic Society, July 2001, Vol.111, 465-484.

The observation is further documented by the following diagram based on hard data from Japan.


- B S Frey and A Stutzer, “What Can Economists Learn From Happiness   
     Research?”, Journal of Economic Literature
, June 2002, Vol. XL, 402-435

Clearly, durable and true happiness has to be sought from something else; not just from wealth or income. If this is the case why pursue education for money. Thus, let education be for life and not mere living, as Bhagawan has been telling us. That gives us happiness.

7. The Divine Directions

More than a century back the renowned philosopher, John Stuart Mill had clearly diagnosed the basic source of ailment of human society and true education as the cure.

Selfishness is the principal cause which makes life unsatisfactory.
There is no reason why man should be a selfish and egotist
devoid of feeling for others. Education must rectify this.

We are indeed fortunate that the compassionate Lord descended in human form to direct us with true education as the foundation of His divine mission. He has warned us of the six deadly enemies which have to be conquered at the very start of one’s journey towards self-realization. To see God in every being is the ultimate goal but a beginning needs to be made with the feeling of pain when someone is hurt. This has marvellously been put by Bhagawan when He says,

Just as all parts of the body form one organism, similarly, all beings
are like various limbs of God. When there is an injury to the leg it is
the eye that sheds tear. The same type of intimate relationship exists
between God and all the beings.

Elaborating this Bhagawan exhorts that our spiritual endeavour must get reflected in this principle of service to society to which He sometimes referred to as “Love without Duty”. What inculcates that is true education. Quoting Him again we note,      

Finally, let us recall Bhagawan’s message for all of us. We have rights which are excessively discussed in today’s world but these must come out of the responsibilities we carry. That the two must go together is ingrained in India’s ancient culture. Let us recall how our beloved Lord puts it as follows.

"Bharat taught that a small section of the society can never
the inexhaustible resources of the world
and for the effective
functioning of the community
it is necessary to divide different
tasks to particular
groups of people and let each section of the

community contribute its share to the common good.”

- Bhagawan Baba

Thank you and Sai Ram.


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