Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality, A Report - Day 1,2 & 3

DAY 3 (12th June 2011):

The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning organised a Summer Course on the theme of Indian Culture and Spirituality from the 10th June to 12th June 2011 at Prasanthi Nilayam. Students and staff from all the Campuses of the Institute participated in this programme.

The proceedings of the third and final day of the summer course in Indian Culture and Spirituality began with Veda chanting from the Holy Scriptures by a group of staff and students of the Institute at 8.30 a.m. in the Poornachandra auditorium in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Dr. Naren Ramji, the fourth Registrar of the institute and an alumnus of the institute was the first speaker of the day who spoke on the topic, “Vision and Mission of SSSIHL”.  The learned speaker quoted expansively from the defining discourses of Bhagawan that laid the Vision of the Institute as bestowing both worldly knowledge as well as knowledge of the Self. He said that if the educated have to fruitfully play their role in the upliftment and betterment of the society, then they should first become better human beings, as true transformation only comes through a personal example.

Expressing his views on the way Bhagawan Baba built the ethos of the Institute that today stands as the ideal to the whole world, he said that the Lord never overwhelmed the administrators with the complete idea of the masterpiece that He wanted to built, but held their hand to paint one stroke at a time. In the process, the Lord made it very clear that His medium of instruction is discipline, which is nothing but practice of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. But this self-discipline cannot be forced from outside, but has to come from within to be rewarding in the way envisaged.

To substantiate how Bhagawan sometimes forced His students to develop an inner connection with Him, he narrated a personal experience wherein the Lord when He withdrew Himself from them to teach them the efficacy of prayer. He encouraged the students to introspect in a spirit of enquiry as to why a ritual or a discipline has been espoused by Bhagawan for His students, to make best use of the same and make it a stepping stone for reaching Him. In this journey, the learned speaker asserted, we should have Saburi, i.e. patience with the right attitude, which is life-changing. This transformation, he affirmed was true freedom, where our inner peace and happiness does not depend on any externality.

He concluded by saying that in the eyes of Bhagawan, there is a difference between a student of the Institute and His student and that we should all endeavour to become His students by putting into practice the teaching He so lovingly bestowed upon us.

The second speaker of the day, Ms. Rajeshwari Patel, HoD, Department of English, Anantapur campus of the Institute, spoke on the topic, “Blending Science & Spirituality at SSSIHL”. The eloquent speaker started on an emotional note, saying that as in the 20th Century the upheavals of the times brought out the best in poetry, we the devotees of Bhagawan should offer our best, in our respective capacities as an offering to our omnipresent Lord.

She reiterated that it was impossible to achieve happiness for humanity unless there was a concomitant increase in its wisdom, in harmony with its increase in knowledge. Referring to the moral and Spiritual challenges of the 20th Century, she held that unfortunately material progress has been conjoint with moral and Spiritual regression, resulting in net loss for humanity.

She called upon the scientific community to take in its ambit the exploration of the universe within man to understand himself more holistically. In this respect she called upon the education fraternity to take the Vedanta as the benchmark of such a standpoint, exploring not only the kshetra, the outer world which is like a field, but also the kshetragya, the tiller of that field - God Himself.

She congratulated the students of the hallowed institute to be in a system of education where values were diffused in the teaching of each subject, by the inspiration of Bhagawan Baba. She said that this is diagrammatically opposite to the strife between the Church and the scientific community in the 20th century, where the scientific community lacked a fundamental knowledge of the spiritual world and vice versa.  

The erudite speaker, quoting extensively from the doyens of English literature alleged that if we have to bridge the two worlds into a wholesome one, we have to steadily progress from the realm of the food – the annamaya kosha to the realm of Bliss – the Anandamaya kosha at the core of our being. This she said was the nature of Atma, defined by Bhagawan as the most fundamental, most elemental core of our beings.

The   next speaker for the day was Dr.  T. Ravi Kumar, the newly appointed warden of the Brindavan campus of the Institute. In his eloquent speech on "Life sketch of Bhagawan - His role as an ideal Student and an ideal Master ", he shared from some of his beautiful moments spent with Bhagawan at Ooty. He reiterated to the student community that one must practice before teaching others, as was exemplified by Bhagawan in His life.

He then recollected the incident where Bhagawan materialized a medallion with 100 Sanskrit shlokas embossed on it, depicting the future 18 centres, where His students would be the guiding forces. He said that the life of Swami has always been an open book and recalled how next year Swami had shared very personal experiences of His life with His students.

He called upon the student community to never miss any opportunity to serve the Lord and His institutions to find fulfilment in their lives.

The talk was followed by a an excellent video film titled, "Living with God is True education" on the Kodaikanal visits of Bhagawan Baba with an entourage of selected students was produced by the Radio Sai team of the Digital Studio. It brought together some of the finest moments spent by Bhagawan with His students in the picturesque hill station. The presentation contained an interview of a student in whose presence the Lord had revealed that it was not the merit of past lives that had given them the qualification of being in His presence, but it was only a manifestation of His Divine grace that had made it possible.

The presentation also showed some moments from the earlier summer course programmes which were organised in the presence of Bhagawan, first in Brindavan and thereafter in Ooty. It showed students going into the town for a cleaning drive, much to the surprise of others.  It depicted very clearly as how service to others has become the second nature of students and how well they continue to serve the society even after passing out of the institute. This was reaffirmed through interviews of some of the employers of the students who heaped praises on the performance of the students due to their positive attitude, desire to learn and a sense of purpose in life.

The last speaker of the day was an alumnus of the Anantapur campus of the institute, Mrs. Nirmala Shekhar, who spoke on the topic “An Ideal Sai Student and her/his Role in Society”. She asked the students as to what was the first step in doing anything? A student replied that it was self confidence. Quoting Swami, she said that Bhagawan had said that it was ‘wanting to do something’. She felt that the essence of the summer course was awakening of the awareness of Lord’s presence in our life. She called upon everyone to watch coincidences as the handicraft of God - moments when God chose to be anonymous. She ended her interesting talk with an experience of how once Swami saved her life.

Towards the end, some of the veterans, outgoing officials were felicitated by the new incumbents. This includes Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath, formerly Principal of Anantapur Campus, Prof. Ramamoorthy, formerly head of SBMAF - Prasanthi Nilayam, Sri BN Narasimhamurthy, outgoing Warden of Brindavan Campus, Prof. US Rao, outgoing Principal of Prasanthi Nilayam Campus and Dr. Siva Shankar Sai, outgoing Warden of Prasanthi Nilayam Campus.

The programme ended with a presentation by some students on the lessons learnt. In the end, Arathi was offered to Bhagawan and Prasadam distributed.



The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning organised a Summer Course on the theme of Indian Culture and Spirituality from the 10th June to 12th June 2011 at Prasanthi Nilayam. Students and staff from all the Campuses of the Institute participated in this programme.

DAY 2 (11th June 2011):

The first speaker, Prof. G. Venkataraman, eminent scientist, and former Vice Chancellor of Sai University, and the Director of Radio Sai spoke on the topic, "Relevance of Sai Education Philosophy in Contemporary World"..

Combining effortlessly and sensitively his reminiscences of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba with his own experiences of the secular world, and citing cogently from Sai Discourses, he elucidated on the topic. To believe, as some do, that there is no connection between spirituality and society is a big mistake. Before we discharge our duty to the world around us we must realize the universality of the Divine.

In order to carry out our duties, we must develop two qualities in ourselves: sensitivity and Integrity. Sensitivity is compassion; and we will be able to carry out this task when we keep in mind the possibility that today’s rich can become tomorrow’s poor. And sensitivity is needed in our dealing with the world at every level.

Integrity is absolute honesty; it also translates into steadfastness. It is practised in daily life in our one-to-one dealings or one-to-many dealings. For example, in business, Sai has exhorted us to keep in mind that ‘Customer is God.’ The evil we do will rebound on us.

We must look for God within—see the same God in everyone around you. Then we can never hurt others. Spirituality and our social obligations go together. Character and integrity are synonymous. Development of individual character leads to burgeoning of national character.

The second speaker was Prof. Viswanath Pandit, eminent economist, and former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He spoke on ‘Role of Values and Ethics in Education.’

He reiterated Sai’s objective in establishing the University that SSSIHL must produce role models. He defined Education as the process which brings out the inherent divinity in each of us. Thus, Education is Educare.

Today, however, everywhere in the world outside, education has become a business; and education has become synonymous with the development of mere skills. Virtue and wisdom are replaced by folly and worse. Quoting from Swami Ranganathananda’s wry prescription of the Eleventh Command for the modern man—‘after violating the Ten Commandments, make sure you escape from the hands of law’.

The learned scholar traced the ills of the modern world to the failure of its education system. The recent recession in the West is a direct consequence; as well as the nexus between the government and the corporate world and rampant consumerism; Prof. Pandit quoted statistics to show how all this has resulted in unprecedented inequalities among the upper classes and the poorer classes.  The rich have become richer, the poor poorer.

The only way out is Sai’s prescription: practise ‘Ceiling on Desires.’ Quoting from the Yajurveda, Prof. Pandit stressed on the urgent need expand the concept of Ethics to Dharma; and take Dharma to the level of Sathya—God. He mentioned that the so-called Rationality and Reason have only resulted in selfishness and happiness is not related to economic success. There is a need to develop a ‘binocular’ vision—secular as well as spiritual awareness. Sai’s Golden Triangle of God, Man and Society must be our goal, the goal of education. Skill formation must go with development of spirituality.

The speech was followed by the second part of the video, ‘Living with God is True Education’.

The third speaker of the morning’s programme Sri K. Chakravarti, the first Registrar of the University and for the secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, delivered an erudite talk on ‘Innovation in the Head, Passion in the Belly and Compassion in the Heart ’:

Quoting from a wide range of poets and writers, the learned speaker focused on the need for compassion; and the training of the minds of students. As someone closely following all Sai’s programmes and especially the progress of the Sai University, Sri Chakravarti expressed satisfaction that Sai students are among the top 1% of the country. Even the quality our research is better than the national average.

However, there is need to improve, and how do we do it? The learned speaker has a complete prescription: learn to learn. In other words, the teachers of SSSIHL must teach their students on how to learn. Classroom learning should inspire students to read the classics from their respective fields. The extracts in textbooks will be understood more in context only when the entire original text is studied, he emphasised. Even for relaxation, instead of fiction, students should resort to poetry since it is not only relaxing but also elevating.

Sai students, Sri Chakravarti emphasized, must practise Swami’s ideals: especially sharing and caring: sharing with others what we have and caring for others with a sense of equality and compassion. Thus a Sai student must foster his or her higher self.  Above all the value to nurture and practise is compassion, mercy. Let the noble and sublime side of our personality play its role. A responsive heart is what matters. At the same time Sai students and teachers must aim at pushing the frontiers of knowledge.

Sri V. Srinivasan, the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, was the fourth speaker of the morning and he spoke on "Guidelines for the Institute". He recalled Bhagavan’s definitive statement: ‘I am God, you are also God, and the difference is that I know it and you don’t.’ He went on to allude to the various festivals celebrated in Prasanthi Nilayam, attended by thousands of devotees from all over the world, all brought here by Swami’s love acting as a Divine Magnet.

Sri Srinivasan went on to elucidate the guidelines laid by Swami for the University.
The first is, “Service to Society, where service to society is service to God”.
The second is, “Cultivate love in your heart because only when you cultivate love in your heart you begin your journey Godwards”.
The third is, “Truth is 3-H—harmony between head, heart and hands: thought, word and deed”.

He recalled a meeting with Swami: when Swami asked them what the meaning of Swaraj is; they all said ‘complete freedom’. Then Swami commented that no one in the universe has attained complete Swaraj only He, God, has because he alone enjoys Free Will.

Another guideline emphasizes that our mind should pursue not just information, but wisdom. Here he alludes to an episode from Ramakrishna’s life: when the Paramhamsa said that in order to attain God you should pine for him. He added that, true freedom is self-regulation. This ought to be the goal of every Sai student. He concluded by quoting Swami, “I give you what you want, in the hope that one day you will ask me what I have come to give you.’

Before the last speech there was an interesting Quiz based on the life and message of Bhagavan Baba, where teams from all the campuses participated enthusiastically. The quiz master, Sri Shashank Shah, a post doctoral fellow in Management, admirably brought the entire life and mission of the Avatar of the Age in front of the audience through insightful questions and slideshows of rare photographs bringing the moments to life. Even elders enthusiastically participated in the event answering questions passed by the participating students. Fittingly, the quiz ended in a tie with all three teams scoring exactly 80 points.

After the lunch break, the campuses met separately for further discussion on the selected discourses by Bhagavan Baba on Indian Culture and Spirituality, with the teachers acting as facilitators. These discussions prodded the students to introspect on the finer aspects of a spiritual life in harmony with the rich Indian heritage. Select Representatives from the groups presented the learnings.

Students assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall by 04:30 pm. After Vedam Chanting, there was a summary presentation by students after which, there was a music programme by the students of Ananatpur campus of the University.

After Dinner, the three campuses met seperately and continued the much sought after Satsanga talking about individual experiences with Bhagawan.


DAY 1 (10th June 2011):

The Programme started at 08:30 am with Invocatory Vedic Chanting and Universal Prayer by the students. This was followed by a Welcome Note by the Registrar of the University, Dr. Naren Ramji. Prof. J. Shashidhara Prasad, the Vice-Chancellor of the University gave the inaugural address.

After the welcome note and the inaugural address, the first speaker of the session was Sri. A.V. Gokak, the seventh Vice Chancellor of the Institute. The learned speaker presented a historical review of Indian culture and Spirituality and Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s role in it. In his erudite exposition on the salient features of Indian Culture and Spirituality, Shri Gokak stressed that it is the Culture and Spirituality of a nation that determines the character and conduct of each individual, ultimately defining the direction and pace of its progress.

Quoting extensively from renowned philosophers and thinkers like Shelley and Victor Hugo, Sri Gokak opined that man is not merely an evolved animal, but, as declared by Bhagawan, is potentially Divine, if only he can come out of Maya that deludes him from his own reality.

In the age of globalization what is important to us is that we should merge Spirituality of the East with the materialism of the West for the development of the world at large, yet not lose our national identity. At the same time we should also recognise the fact as Bhagawan says,
There is only one caste: the caste of humanity
There is only one religion, the religion of love,
There is only one language, the language of the heart,
There is only one God, He is omnipresent.

Sri Gokak concluded by saying that evolution cannot happen unless there is a revolution in the human Consciousness and this is where Bhagawan should be our Divine Flame igniting Spirituality in our daily life.

Sri S.V Giri, the sixth Vice Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai institute of Higher Learning, was the next speaker. The learned speaker spoke on “the Philosophy and Concepts of ancient Gurukula system”. Sri Giri observed that Swami’s philosophy of Integral Education, on which is founded Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, can be understood only by combining the ancient Gurukula system with the modern system of education.

 The speaker emphasized the fact that only when the mind is concentrated and pure, students can lead happy lives and attain their goals. To cultivate a focused mind, he emphasised on the role of discipline and also drew analogies from the scriptures, talking at length about Nachiketa and Satyakama. The erudite speaker went on to say how teachers should conduct themselves; and stressed their impact on the lives of students.

The speaker defined character from a practical standpoint and also highlighted the important dimensions of character, namely wisdom, heroic will, compassion and universal love, competence and untiring labour towards perfection.

In his concluding remarks Sri Giri recollected from his career as the Central Vigilance Commissioner that even a small compromise on one’s values would eventually lead to a catastrophe in one’s life. He believed that education of today should emulate the Gurukula system and always teach students to discriminate between right and wrong, making them able citizens to serve the society.

Thereafter a video, ‘Living with God is True Education’ was screened. The video, specially produced by the faculty and students of SSSIHL, with inputs from Radio Sai, showed Swami’s educational system closely cultivating the values already emphasized by Sri Giri in his talk on the ancient Gurukula system.

Sri B N Narasimhamurthy, Warden, Muddenahalli Campus of the Institute spoke on the theme ‘Ideal Masters and Disciples from Ancient India’. Sri Narasimhamurthy said that the SSSIHL is the dream University of all sages and saints of ancient India and the renaissance period as it provides an ideal blend of the physical and metaphysical.

He recollected Bhagavan’s emphasis on the dictum, ‘The Soul of Education is the Education of the Soul’.
Dwelling on the core of his topic he gave examples of many master-disciple duos from different periods of time, starting with Yajnavalkya and Janaka from the Upanishadic times, Krishna and Arjuna from the Itihasas, all the way to AdiShankaracharya and Padmapada of the Historic times.

He elucidated the ABCD of life as:
A – Awareness of God within as bliss and as beauty without
B – Balance of Mind
C – Control of Senses
D – Dedication to the welfare of mankind

Sri Sanjay Sahni, Director, Brindavan Campus spoke on the topic. ‘Educational Philosophy of Bhagavan Baba
Sri Sanjay Sahni stated that the educational philosophy at SSSIHL is rooted in the Indian culture and heritage. He classified his talk into 5 dicta highlighted by Bhagavan as the core values for human life. These include:
At the individual level: Satyam Vada; Dharmam Chara
At the family level: Matru Devo Bhavan; Pitru Devo Bhava
At the society level: Paropkaraya Punyaya; Paapaya Parapeedanam
At the national level: Janani Janmabhumischa Swargadapi Gareeyasi
At the universal level: Samasta Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu
He laced each of these examples with very touching incidents from Bhagavan’s life which he was a personal witness to.

After a lunch break, the students broke into small teams of 20 and discussed on select Summer Course Discourses by Bhagawan and His other Discourses on Educare. There was one anchor discourse which was studied by all and six auxillary discourses of which one was read by smaller groups.

Students assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall by 04:30pm. After Vedam Chanting, there was a summary presentation by students after which, there was a music programme by the students of Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam campuses of the University.

After Dinner, the three campuses met seperately and shared their experiences with Bhagawan with Love and Devotion.