This is the best of times, undoubtedly, many would concur. It is absolutely baffling and fascinating when we see all that we are surrounded by today. Everything that was considered unthinkable, found only in sci-fi stories, is real in this millennium. To think of it, it is amazing how television, which was a wonder fifty years ago, has today become as common an accessory as a table in every home - be it a flat in a metro, the shanty in a city slum, or a hut in a village. Today the mobile phone, which has totally changed the communication landscape of this century, is as ubiquitous as people. In fact, the number of mobile phone subscriptions in Europe is more than the continent’s population. Imagine a tiny shop selling a dozen utilities in an obscure corner in Africa, and then visualize a huge shopping mall selling everything from ‘pin to plane’ with branches in every city and town on the planet, and at the same time expanding exponentially every day. See the huge difference in possibilities? That is how much our lives have changed since the Internet has invaded our lives. The whole world is, virtually, inside our home, and amusingly, for the modern day kids, ‘Google is God’ as it has answers for almost everything. We are in a state of constant awe, thanks to the intellectual exploits of modern man. Surely, what has been achieved in the last few decades in every discipline, especially in our understanding of Nature and harnessing of science, is something that could not be accomplished in so many previous centuries of human civilization.
Kudos to modern man’s ingenuity and intelligence; none of this would have been possible without the systematic acquisition of knowledge and their application. But at the same time, we are deeply disturbed and shocked, almost on a daily basis, with events that unfold in our neighbourhood, and what the media delivers to us. If one day it is about an IT professional who did not think twice before trading off confidential data of his company’s clients to a third party for making a quick buck; the second day it is about a smart banking executive, with access to sensitive information of the bank’s customers, who siphoned off funds from many accounts surreptitiously. The next day you hear the devastating news of a distinguished doctorate, who drives his SUV loaded with explosives into an airport terminal. The fourth day’s story is that of a school kid who takes his father’s firearm and shoots his classmates dead, over frivolous classroom fights. Pick any day’s newspaper and it can easily depress you.
What a paradox! We have advanced so much, yet, at times, it seems all our achievements are pointless. Today we have more knowledge, but little wisdom; great discoveries, but no discrimination; more medicines, but less well-being; an increasing number of experts, but earth-shattering problems. We have great connectivity, but little time; fancier houses, but broken homes. We have diverse food, but less nutrition; an increasing number of hospitals, but new and sinister diseases. We buy more, but enjoy less. We have multiplied our possessions, but lost our peace. We have added years to our lives, but not life to our years. To sum up, we have learnt how to make a living, but not a life. Can a person be called educated just because he/she has degrees and qualifications against their name?
For most parents, education is only about ensuring that their children get good grades and secure highly-paid jobs - nothing else. For many youngsters, being educated means acquiring a few technical skills and collecting degrees to build an impressive resume. Ask any professional how much of what he learnt in his college he actually uses in his work, and the answer will be precious little in most cases. What the students carry with them when they leave an educational institution is not the subjects, but the system and its ambience. For the other category of youth, who do not work so hard for a cushy job, education means ‘freedom’ - a license to indulge in whatever their instincts and company dictate. And it is for this reason that behind all the perverse activities and immoral acts in our society today, we find, not ignorant people or school-drop outs, but highly educated minds. One shudders to think what the world would be if all the so called intellectuals that our education system creates cannot distinguish between virtues and vices, confidence and arrogance, doing things right and doing the right things.
It is for this reason that Bhagavan Baba says, “Only if education is blended with culture, will it shine forth as true education. And what is culture? It is the cultivation of discrimination between good and evil, sin and merit, and truth and untruth that we experience in our daily life. Education must remove evil thoughts, feelings and qualities; cultivate the good, and make one broad-minded. True and eternal education never changes when the heart is filled with compassion; it becomes sacred and aspires for the welfare of one and all.” To instill in young minds such a higher and sublime quality of learning, Bhagavan Baba started the Sri Sathya Sai University in 1981, though He opened the first college in Anantapur for women way back in 1968. On the inauguration day of the University, Swami said, “The students are the roots. The tree will grow with branches on all sides, countless flowers will bloom; it will provide and promote, peace and security, to the world.” True to His Word, today, beautiful blossoms have bloomed, and through the fragrance of their selfless service and ideal lives, they have become harbingers of a future that is filled with hope, harmony and goodness.
In the cover story of this issue, we have the inspiring story of such ‘fragrant flowers’ of Sai’s Education Mission who have not only shone beautifully basking in the Sunlight of their Divine Chancellor, but also have given themselves away completely in sharing the fragrance of their noble education to the distraught, poor and misguided. When Ms. S. V. Radha and Ms. S. V. Mala, former women students of Baba’s University, decided to set up a Sai School in a rural area called Otteri, in the outskirts of Chennai, more than two decades ago, all they could see in that village were dilapidated huts and muddy roads. At the same time, that area was a hot-spot for communal violence and a breeding ground for criminals where unemployed and uncared-for youth were brainwashed into becoming anti-social elements.
Today, thanks to the Sri Vishwa Vidyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School (SVVMHSS) run by these Sai University alumnae, where the Sai Model of Holistic Education is put into practice in letter and spirit, the rural children have become national icons and the pride of Chennai city. What is most heartening is that apart from them becoming ideal citizens, they have also become models of inspiration for their families, and agents of change in their society; they have transformed the character of their locality from God-forsaken to one that is reverberating with God’s Name. How did it happen? “It is all because of what Swami taught us in His University, and purely due to His Grace and Concern,” says Ms. S. V. Mala, the Principal of SVVMHSS. But what is the complete tale of this social miracle? Read our cover story The Divine Oyster in Otteri to find out.
Bhagavan Baba often says, “Education can yield peace and prosperity only when, along with technical skills and objective information, students are equipped with moral ideals, righteous living and spiritual insight.” The products of Sai’s University and Schools are such individuals for whom sound discrimination and good character are central to life, rather than amassing wealth and indulging in self-elf-aggrandisement. And you have seen several examples of such inspired individuals in our Harnessing the Heart section. In this issue, we have yet another thrilling account of a former student, who is a practicing lawyer. When you read his story of how he could stick to his principles and come out triumphant in the murky world of law where he had to deal with criminals and corrupt officials, you will know what Swami means when He says, “Take care of your character, and you will need no other wealth or power.”
Truly, character is the precious gift of true education. But what is the truest manifestation of an educated person? It is pure love, Swami says. If we have a heart filled with compassion, a head that bows down in humility, and a hand that is eager to serve selflessly, then we become true human beings, nay, Divine Beings. When we have more such Divine Beings on this planet than the so-called human beings, the much awaited new age of peace and harmony, brotherhood and love would have arrived. Dear reader, let us try to become such Divine Beings, now!
Let’s envelope ourselves with good and noble thoughts every moment.
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