Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning: A Dream Come True - By Prof. (Mrs.) Jayalakshmi Gopinath

Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath with Sri Sathya Sai (translating the Divine Discourse in Sai Kulwant Hall)

In the present omniscient computer age, scientific know-how and technological achievements have reached unimaginable propositions on one side and surprisingly enough, there is an unprecedented erosion of moral values. The reason for this has been periodically sifted by the Great Masters of the spirit and solutions offered for the well-being of man’s material, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

The remedy lies in one term, Enlightened Education. Education at home, at the school and college levels which if well planned, taking into account that man is not brawn, muscle and brain alone but treasures within a heart and the spark of divinity which alone can make man bring down the kingdom of God upon earth.

We must have a clear picture of the Past to understand the Present. In India in the hoary past there was the Gurukula system of education, where the personal life of the teacher was beyond blemish. His character was a blazing fire of knowledge and renunciation, an example to be emulated by the pupils. Knowledge was considered so sacred that no man ought to sell it. The teacher considered the disciples as his own children and after satisfying himself that the student possessed the cardinal virtues of purity in thought, speech and action, a thirst for knowledge and perseverance, the Guru would initiate him in the learning of the Vedas. The pupil left the Gurukulam not only after acquiring skill and knowledge in learning but also imbibed the values of Truth, Love and Self-Restraint. They were moulded into men of character with a mighty will to walk the path of Dharma.

Later English Education was introduced which catered only to a small minority and the Elite. The consequence was, we as a colony of Britain forgot our culture, our tradition, our ancient system of education, for which we have to blame ourselves alone.

In the modern times, focus is more upon acquiring knowledge by specializing in one field to the exclusion of others. Importance is given more to gain expertise in varied aspects of Science and Technology; Humanities has been relegated a subordinate place. The balance is upset as intellect takes over and the heart is smothered. It is wealth and power alone that is worshipped and only ends matter not the means.

The long cherished dream has become a reality. The heavens have opened up and the saviour, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, has descended to resurrect all that was great and noble in the past, harmonize it with whatever is relevant and necessary to the present and cast it in a new mould which shall be the solution and sovereign remedy for man’s chaotic world of violence, fear and selfishness.

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and Its Campuses

To comprehend the magnitude and significance of Bhagavan’s educational super-plan we have to understand the great avatar’s cosmic vision and His selfless love to make man rediscover his innate divinity.

Says Bhagavan: “No University can regard itself as complete unless it sends out young men and women who are not only learned but whose hearts are full of compassion for suffering humanity.” Character is that on which the destiny of the nation is built. Tirelessly the Avatar of the age says that we must train a large number of young men and women to develop a sterling character and an integrated personality. This can be achieved when young men and women are inspired to look upon others as living images of God. Any satisfactory system of education, says Bhagavan, should aim at a balanced growth of the individual and insist both on knowledge and wisdom. It should not only train the intellect but bring grace in the heart of man. If we are to free ourselves from the debilitating effects and the nervous strain of modern life, we must be saved from the inordinate impact of the screen, the radio, the television and demagogy. The younger generation should be motivated to read the great classics of our country such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the invaluable store of knowledge and wisdom - the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and other sacred scriptures. It is the intangible that gives the nation its character and vitality. The young should be inspired by the great ideas enshrined in our culture while appreciating what is worthy in the others.

Bhagavan proclaims that the future destiny of the nation depends on the spiritual strength and not upon our national wealth. The nation is built in its educational system. Hence education should teach us to live in amity with others. Moral qualities are of greater value than intellectual accomplishments. If a man loses faith in values, he becomes ruthless and attempts to live outside the dimensions of the spirit.

A secular state does not mean that we are indifferent to our own tradition or disregard religion. In a college or university the fundamental values which are the most essential need of our age, lie in the spirit of religion, for what constitutes religion is to adhere to Truth and live in Love. It is a life of realization, gnosis and inner intuitive vision of God.

How then is this vision of Bhagavan translated in His educational system? Bhagavan’s educational system is an integrated one starting from the primary to the postgraduate and research level. Bhagavan’s educational institutions are built on the firm foundation of the Vedic Truths: 

‘Matru Devo Bhava

Pithru Devo Bhava

Acharya Devo Bhava

Satyam Vada Dharmam Chara’

(Revere the mother, the father and the teacher. Always speak the truth and follow righteous conduct.)

Bhagavan emphasizes these eternal values and says that it is the practice of Truth that leads to Dharma, righteous conduct. Dharma leads to selfless love and service to others which again expresses itself in Shanti or peace of mind. Ultimately it leads to Ahimsa, Bhagavan’s oft repeated maxim - 'Help Ever Hurt Never'. These absolute values are like skeins of silken threads that are woven so intricately and harmoniously into the tapestry of Bhagavan’s educational systems, for education is not for a living but for life.

The body is the temple of God and the students have to nourish their body to keep pace with the tight schedule of the academic programme. Discipline being the motto they queue up for all items of food. Silence has to be observed, as the intake of food is a sacred offering to God residing within. Prayer is chanted before partaking of the food and so the food is sanctified. It’s now time for the students to go to college and they go in perfect lines. It looks as if the contingent of a squadron is marching ahead to the holy task of performing their duty. All assemble in the auditorium for the Sarva Dharma prayer which is ah adoration of the Gods of all religions.

Sri Sathya Sai interacting with students at the Anantapur Campus Prayer Hall, 1984 (Prof. Gopinath is standing first to His left)

The prayer is followed by bhajan for 20 minutes and prayer talks are alternated with the bhajan days, when the students and the teachers speak on topics ranging from personal experience after coming to the Lotus Feet, and on topics revolving around their understanding of man, in all the complexities of his social, cultural, religious, aesthetic, philosophical, moral and spiritual dimensions. 

Sri Sathya Sai at the entrance of the Anantapur Campus building

In the Institute, the temple of Saraswati, the unique feature is to impart education in its true sense. Therefore Education is totally free of cost. The teachers and students are members of an endearing family. The Vice Chancellor, Registrar and the Controller of Examination are their elder friends ever ready to help them out of any difficulty. It is built on the Supreme Truth that education is not a commodity either to be sold or bought. It is sacred. These great values are inculcated in this community of teachers and the students by none other than the Divine Founder Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who not only gives the education freely on a golden platter but like a loving mother and fond father looks after every need of the student.

Distinctive aspects of our educational system are the Self Reliance programmes, the Awareness

Course and the Sports Meet. The students have to be self-reliant. They look to the overall cleanliness of the Campus. This collective work fosters the sense of cooperation, adjustment, dignity of labor.

The inspiration is due entirely to the Perfect Divinity - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, whose illustrious example right from his childhood days till the present moment is worthy to be emulated.

Sri Sathya Sai with Anantapur Campus Faculty, July 1987 (Prof. Gopinath is standing second from left)

The Awareness course at the U.G. and the P.G. level is designed by eminent scholar-devotees under the guidance of Bhagavan Baba. Students are exposed to the hallowed life of Bhagavan, great seers and saints, literature written by Baba and on Baba, literature of the world at large, science and great scientists, humanists, art, music and many such branches of study The chief aim is to broaden their vision, enthuse and elevate the students to transcend the limits of what they study within the four walls of their class room. 

Anantapur Campus Sports Meet presentation

The Sports Meet of all the Sai educational institutions is conducted in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan Baba in the imposing Hill View Stadium. It is an incredible display of expertise in Sports and Games. This is a stupendous spectacle, God’s miracle, visually translated in the devotion and the excellence the students achieve in the harmony of the body, mind and soul. These are the chosen children that have been blessed to study in His institution.

Anantapur Campus Band at the Hill View Stadium

Nothing can be achieved without the grace, love and compassion of Bhagavan Baba. It is the Divine Ministry that has made the Impossible Possible. It’s not only in His educational institution that the students are shaped but they gather for every festival at the Holy and Sacred Prashanti Nilayam. Each festival or celebration is a wonderful synthesis of culture, tradition, worship, festivity, grandeur and joy. The Divine Potter has shaped the young clay into lovely forms both alluring to the eye as well as strong and sturdy to outlast the buffets of the world. The youngsters perceive the truth that there is only one caste, the Caste of Humanity, only one religion, the religion of love, one God – the Omniscient one. 

I feel a justifiable pride in saying that the Women’s college in Anantapur was the first to be initiated. This is because Bhagavan says, “The woman, the symbol of sacred motherhood, is the very pivot on which the family, the society and the nation revolves. If she is educated-the whole world becomes enlightened.” 

Sri Sathya Sai at the Anantapur Campus with Warden Jayalakshmi Gopinath

There is no summing up or an end to what one would like to say of Bhagavan’s Educational Institutions. It is ever growing and ever expanding. It is the magnetic impact of Bhagavan’s Divine presence, His transparent Love and concern for the burgeoning youngsters, His synthesis of the old and new, His mercy and Divine vision which is bringing about the rapid transformation in the youth, leading them steadily on the royal path from Becoming to Being.

- Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath
Warden (1971-2011), Sri Sathya Sai Hostel, Anantapur Campus
Former Head, Department of English and Principal, Anantapur Campus
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

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