Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What makes the Sri Sathya Sai institute of Higher Learning so special?

An attraction like never before

Navaneeth Kumar* hails from the Indian state of Kerala. (*All the names used here are original and refer to actual individuals. This has been done to lend authenticity.) In the early 2000’s, he completed high schooling and reached that point in life when he had to decide the college he would attend and, in turn, the career that he would choose. Not a student with excellent academic credentials, Navaneeth decided to pursue a course in nursing in the city of Bangalore. He got admitted in a college there and, though his heart was not in it, began a new phase of his academic life.

The motto of the University is "Speak Truth; Follow Dharma".
Navaneeth’s heart was in Cricket and that was the primary reason why he had picked a college in Bangalore - so that he could attend matches whenever possible and also try his hand at some bowling if circumstances favoured. Cricket was the only love of his life and it seemed as though it would be the only love of his life.

That was when the Sri Sathya Sai Institute ofHigher Learning (SSSIHL) came into his life and changed it forever. Navaneeth actually discontinued his nursing course midway to enrol in the SSSIHL. He did this knowing mighty well that the 1.5 lakh rupees his father had invested for his nursing education would go down the drain. And he did this without even informing his father! How could he have because fate struck a fatal blow that took his father away from his life forever? Navaneeth did this because he found the true love of his life at the SSSIHL.

What was it that he studied there? What drew him so powerfully that he was ready to make several sacrifices without a second thought?

Navaneeth graduated with a diploma degree in the Mrindangam (an Indian percussion instrument) from the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music affiliated to the SSSIHL. Before the reader concludes that music is Navaneeth’s love of life, let me state music and Navaneeth are now worlds apart and he works as a cameraman and video editor at the Prasanthi Digital Studios in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Navaneeth’s story is a very detailed and lengthy one but it is sure to make one draw breaths of awe and wonder. However, his story is not unique in that sense because thousands of students have passed through the portals of the SSSIHL, having found the love of their lives here. And like every other student, the love of his life that Navaneeth found at the Institute in Puttaparthi is Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It was not as if Navaneeth gave his Swami a special place in his heart - he gave Him his entire heart.

Everything about the University Administrative block is symbolic. It is located on top to signify 'Higher Learning'. It sits beside the museum of Sanathana Samskruti (Eternal culture and heritage). It sits amidst nature and overlooks the stadium which is symbolic of Life being a Game which needs to be played... 


Nobody is spared

People are known to do ‘crazy’ things for love. One can certainly assume that Navaneeth was possibly ‘crazy’ in his love for what he considered as God in human form. However, it's not as if every student in the Institute has been drawn by love for Swami. Take the case of Vijaya Sunder, who graduated from the SSSIHL in 2009, for instance.

He was a brilliant student who sought an Engineering seat in a prestigious college in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. His results in the Public Board Examinations were outstanding and could have got him a seat in any college of his choice. However, fate struck a financial blow here. His father lost all the money he had saved up for Vijay’s education in a chit-fund scam. All of a sudden, Vijay realized that he could not get admission in any college. He felt so hopeless about himself and angry with his parents. Such was his anger that he vented out on his own mother. He told her that he had been reduced to a pathetic state because of his parents’ carelessness and callousness. In return, his mother took him to the altar and start waving the camphor in Arati to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This was the limit, Vijay felt, as he plucked the framed photograph of his mother’s Swami from the altar. He broke it to pieces and said,
“There is no God. God is supposed to give hope - not despair!”

Once again, Vijay’s story is a detailed and lengthy one which is sure to arouse wonder and awe. It can however be summarised by saying that the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL) came into his life and changed it forever. Offering free education of the highest quality, SSSIHL gave Vijay’s life an unbelievable thrust and momentum. Though the MBA degree made him an assistant vice-president at Dun & Bradstreet, Vijay is grateful to his alma mater because it taught him the connection between M(Mind), B(Body) and A(Atma). It is actually this connection that the "Higher Learning" in the name points to. 

The SSSIHL was established in 1981. The Ad Block design was inspired from a monastery in Greece. Swami then added more details to the design via Buddhist domes and some features from the Somnath temple. 
“But Vijay is beholden to the SSSIHL because it gave him a free degree...” might be the doubt that arises. Vijay actually completed a 4-year course in Engineering before joining SSSIHL and the entire money came to him as a loan in the most unexpected circumstances. Such circumstances are just too mysterious to be considered as a coincidence!

Even then, if one were to go with the line of argument of Vijay being beholden for financial reasons, that line of argument would crumble when it comes to the case of another student. Victory Craxi has ‘victory’ emblazoned in his name itself. He comes from a wealthy and powerful family that could have afforded his education in the best of schools and colleges the world over. However, Victory joined the Sri Sathya Sai School at Puttaparthi even as a young boy. Though he was the nephew of the then Prime Minister of Italy, Mr.Bettino Craxi, he went through his schooling like any other child, sacrificing the VVIP status. What did he have to gain from the educational institutions of Sri Sathya Sai that convinced him that his 'sacrifice' was actually not a sacrifice?

Education for Life - the philosophy of the SSSIHL

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that education must be for life and not for earning mere living. Every student is a seed that is planted in the soil of education. While the seed needs the fertiliser of secular education, it's most important need is the water of value-system. It is the fence of discipline that protects the tender sapling from vagabond animals. Once the sapling grows into a tree, it provides fruits and shelter for the very animals from which it had to be protected!

However, it should not be forgotten that all this requires the tending hand of a gardener because each seed/plant is different. Each seed needs a different set of inputs and different care to manifest the plant of potential that lies within. Education should actually be the process of making latent that Divine power which is patent within. Bhagwan Baba calls this process as ‘Educare’. This divinity can express itself in many ways - as many ways as there are people in the world. But the end of education must be character - nothing more, nothing less.

The Convocation Ceremony in progress in 2009 with Dr.Samuel Sandweiss as the Chief Guest.

The secular education and academic degrees conferred by the SSSIHL are definitely valuable. But they are at best the gift-wrapping provided to the education of the soul. In a world where highly materialistic ends are gift-wrapped and marketed in noble terms, the SSSIHL strives to provide nobility and ability by gift-wrapping them in materialistic degrees!


In SSSIHL, just as in Life, ‘I’ is the least important. The focus is always on ‘HL’ (Higher Learning) that one gets in association with SSS (Guru/God). That continues to happen even today, years after the physical passing of Baba. He continues to guide, guard and goad His students to pursue ‘Higher Learning’ and not be satisfied with simply ‘higher earning’.

The University Administrative Block being inaugurated on 22nd November 1982 by the then Chief Minister of Karnataka,
Sri Gundu Rao. Here he is climbing up the staircase with Bhagawan Baba. 
And that is the reason why students throng to the SSSIHL - because higher learning is the ultimate goal of our lives whether we realize it or not. After all, man is a soul and has a body. It is only when he properly places his sense of identity that he is able to gain the ultimate joy, satisfaction and peace in life. The SSSIHL shows that all this need not come to a person at the cost of academic degrees and a good standard of living.


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5 comments:

  1. Sairam Bro Aravind,

    As always wonderful. Please correct the typo 'unbelieva,ble thrust'

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  2. this one I'll fwd to folks here- especially an Inian lady friend who meanwhile became a CEO at Bayer and still taking classes at age 50-her hsuband trouble shoots the Neuclear Plant at Mt Diably- Northern CA, also 50 and still taking classes daily. Seems to ne all native Indians here are well todo live in big mansions and are so ambitious and in competition as to who can achieve the highest honors-- granny

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  4. Another memorable article from you dear Aravind, enjoyed reading every word of it. Thanks a lot. Sairam.

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  5. Nice Article Aravind. Yes students in swamis institute are like pure gold. The ideals set by Sai institute cannot be found anywhere else

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