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A Lesson in Love – Something Beautiful for God

Mr. T R Pillay , Founding Principal

At the conclusion of the first four years of the school’s establishment, I remember asking members of staff what was memorable or significant about the school. One saw the school as a great unifying force for the Sathya Sai Organization and was grateful to the many people who worked dedicatedly for a common cause. Another saw teaching at the school as a sadhana with the opportunity to practice Bhagavan’s advice that Work is Worship, and where the teacher benefits more than the learner. Still another was happy that her employer was God Himself who was not a mere picture adorning the school’s foyer but a living and vital presence. For me, working at the school as founding principal in its first six years was a Lesson in Love as Vision TV so aptly described it in their nationally televised documentary of the school in May 2003.

Spending a whole day filming the school and its programs, the crew of Vision TV, like other visitors, sensed this love and its concrete presence in several features of the school: its loving and peaceful atmosphere; Swami’s tangible presence in the loving and selfless service of our day and night volunteers; the generosity of devotees who support the school across Canada; the hard work of the Trustees and the several Committees who planned the various locations, built and painted their walls, planted their gardens, mowed their lawns, shone their floors, and equipped and maintained its facilities. Of no less importance is the dedication of its well qualified and hardworking teachers; the efficiency of the office staff and the attentiveness and decorum of its students. This observation of love visible could not be otherwise for this first and only school in North America was founded in love for its Founder, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and his noble teachings; and has grown with His Love to become a recognized institution of academic and human excellence.

The Universal Teacher engineered the actualization of the vision of a private school with a mandate to provide quality character and academic education without government funding or tuition fees on September 2nd, 2000. I remember hoisting the school and Canadian flags on that memorable day while 59 students, some barely three feet in height, stood in brand new uniforms with eyes skywards, with their first teachers, Mrs. Prem and a youthful Miss Poddar, fresh from York University and from EHV training in Thailand, and Ms. Recht, the first Secretary, wondering what all that pomp and pageantry was all about.

 

Unlike the children, the teachers and I were from the outset keenly aware that we were entrusted with the enormous responsibility of being custodians of a school that carried His sacred name. While daunted by the task, we were confident that whatever project was blessed by Him would never fail. Indeed, He had said in the fateful interview on November 17, 1999 when the school project was presented to Him by Mr. Dayal Mirchandani and Mr. Satya Poddar, “The school is my Project. Make it happen.” This Divine call to action was followed by remarkable teamwork and planning by Sai devotees in the Greater Toronto Area in preparation for the grand inauguration of the school by Dr. Jumsai from Thailand . Little did we know, however, what momentous events were portended by the fluttering flags as we set course to take a leading role in a grand mission to bring values and character education to Canada as initiated and developed by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

 
One of these momentous events was the precursor to the school’s well recognized and appreciated outreach programs. I remember reading in January 2001 to the Grade 1’s about the young humanitarian Ryan Hreljac, and how he did chores to raise money for Water Wells in Africa . With Miss Poddar’s help, I asked students to write to him expressing their admiration for his selfless sacrifice. One student wrote to him: “We’ll give you a rail ticket to come to our School.” I piggy-backed on that great idea and invited him to visit our school. The culture of giving which has now become so much a part of the school began with his first visit on May 17th, 2001 when these first batch of 59 JK-SK, and Grade 1 students raised more than $3,500 for Ryan’s’ Water Wells in Africa, in the first year and $5,500 in the next, making personal sacrifices for his cause and other worthy causes year after year including $7,500 last year for orphans in Puttaparthi. I was often moved to tears by students who made personal sacrifices such as forsaking birthday parties and gifts in order to swell the contributions made to these worthy causes.

I also remember in those early years how conscious the teachers and I were that our students should practice the values as modeled and extolled by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba through our personal examples and to project the importance of values to others through their own good actions as learners through melodious songs and polished speeches. In our several long planning meetings before the school opened, Mrs. Prem composed a most appropriate school song which enabled students to declare melodiously to the whole world that they were happy children, happy doing what’s right, happy telling the truth; and happy respecting their elders. Students also took these values and value songs to lonely seniors in their lodges at Christmas and Valentines together with gifts which they lovingly made.

The school’s most dramatic presentation of the importance of values and their practice as propounded by Bhagawan and other leaders is the parent initiated Walk for Values. It gladdened my heart to see our students and Sai devotees and our supporters taking Bhagawan’s teachings on values to the Toronto community of Malvern. With values emblazoned on their badges and banners, students walked the streets of this community on May 24, 2002 and every year after that. It is most gratifying to see the Walk became a National walk with 12 cities participating and three of them declaring Human Values day in their cities. It is pleasing to note too that there is growing interest globally in the Walk. Australia , for example, staged a National Walk on March 25, 2007, and New Zealand plans to do likewise next year. My wife and I participated in the Walk in Sydney on that day, quite excited of course by this happy outcome of our school’s initiative.

 

Students were also constantly reminded to bear the good name of the school in mind by their behaviour in public. These exhortations had quite unexpected and gratifying results. Apart from this increasing recognition and compliments for their good behaviour, students became recognized for their public speaking and singing excellence with invitations to sing at interfaith meetings, rallies for racial tolerance and understanding, and welcomes and farewells for public figures including the Nobel laureate Archbishop Tutu.

I was pleased to receive a letter from a retiring Supt. of Police who heard our students sing and speak at his farewell function. He said: “The children represent everything good about our youth and they should be proud of what they are achieving and accomplishing in the community. I am impressed by your mission statement, high standards and values.”

The high standards alluded to have been validated by a recent announcement by the Fraser Institute that the school has been ranked as one of the top 37 schools out of more than 2800 schools. This heart-warming news proves that we are indeed succeeding in our goal to balance character education and academic excellence. As founding principal, I am elated by this result just as much as I was when our students impressed the guides at the Ontario Science Centre and National Art gallery in Ottawa and the librarian at Agincourt not only with their politeness but also with their knowledge, their curiosity and their enthusiasm for learning or when I heard that waiters of a Pizza Hut were awestruck seeing each student take a bite of pizza only after thanking God for His graces or how well students took on the responsibility of imbibing our Founder’s teachings from the lessons and personal examples of their teachers and support staff and others working hard for the school, driven by the same values enshrined in their young hearts and revealed often so insightfully in their personal journals and dialogue with others.

I shall remember all these and many more. I shall remember the student who was asked: What is the difference between a dream and reality? And his reply: “They are just different levels of consciousness.”

I will treasure memories of individual achievements and individual acts of concern for fellow men. One student spelt his way to the Regional Spelling Bee Finals three times and even donated his prize money to the school.

Another student showed kindness and caring when he offered his chair to a visitor who had been standing too long in his classroom or to his Principal who had dropped in to watch a class presentation. I shall remember the earnest plea of the student who wanted me to send light and love to her every morning as she was moving to another part of the province; and the student who reminded his mother who was about to punish him: “Hands are for helping, not hurting.”

For me, nothing comes close, however, to the sublime experience of witnessing the growing garland that has occurred many times during the school’s seven years of existence. Such is His Amazing Grace on the school. In times of great stress and personal turmoil, the growing garland was for me and other members of the staff, a reminder that this was indeed His school and that our faith in His Presence is our strength and inspiration. Serving in His school has been the best six years of my life. In my career as an educator, I have never received so much support, respect and love from teachers, parents, students and the community. Indeed much of the success of the school’s initiatives are due to the support of members of the Sai community who respond so readily and eagerly to our calls for assistance. With this kind of human support and the Protection of the Divine, the future of the Sathya Sai School of Canada can only be brighter. What was started as Canada ’s gift to Swami is in reality Swami's gift of love to Canada.

 

On a personal level, I received much more than I ever gave. I am beholden to Swami for my own personal transformation from a selfish and indulgent pleasure-seeker to someone trying to live up to His ideals. His school gave me the opportunity to see His Divine Love in action in the smiling faces of the children; in the hands of loving service offered by the school’s Trustees, volunteers and parents; and in the minds and hearts of dedicated teachers and office staff, all united in their efforts to make “Something Beautiful for God.”

 


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Vol 5 Issue 06 - JUNE 2007
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