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THE ZENITH OF HOLISTIC LEARNING

The Sublime Story of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School,
Prashanthi Nilayam, India - Part 1


Why this Cover Story? An Introduction

Part 1:
A School That Not Only Educates, But Elevates!
-The Unmatched Mission of SSSHSS

Part 2:
Curriculum Designed to Train Future Torch Bearers -
A Typical Day in the Unique SSSHSS

Part 3:
‘The School Is His Making’ -
When God Becomes Guru, Guardian And Guide

Part 4:
Honing Talents to Offer it as a Homage - The Multifarious Extra Curricular Activities

Since His early childhood, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s mission of spiritual awakening has been rooted in spiritual activism. He has devoted every second of His sacred physical presence on earth to uplift and inspire humanity through a silent spiritual revolution.

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Apart from the stupendous Sri Sathya Sai Water Projects that are bringing clean water to millions in drought prone areas, the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Services that provide primary and tertiary care to millions of sick people free of cost, the one project that Bhagavan Baba has tirelessly devoted Himself to and personally overseen for the past four decades and more, is the reform in the field of education.

By redefining the true aim of education to be blossoming of the inner self and development of human character, Bhagavan Baba has rewritten the destiny of the entire human race, and its relationship to all other forms of life on the planet. Today, not only in contemporary India, but around the world, including at apex policy making bodies, the Sri Sathya Sai Education in Human Values is being recognized universally as the panacea for the ills of modern society, a perfect model that provides for an integrated development of human excellence.

Bhagavan Baba’s life continues to impact millions who strive to live in the light of His teachings of Truth, Peace, Love, Right Conduct and Non-violence. Yet, the extent of this Supreme Teacher’s influence is most strikingly evident in the lives of the young men who attend His Higher Secondary School in Prashanthi Nilayam, India, a short walking distance from His residence, the Yajur Mandir.

Privileged to live out a curriculum designed by the source of all wisdom, God Himself, the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prashanthi Nilayam enjoy a simple living, high thinking lifestyle in a peaceful, pure and nurturing environment, where, only the most sublime of human emotions are encouraged to blossom; where students are sensitized to seek eternal lessons in every detail of their seemingly mundane lives.

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Recently, the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School once again made headline news due to its stellar performance in the all-India level CBSE exams held nationwide for Grade X and XII students. Yet, the academic performance is only a tip of the iceberg that is the holistic system of Sri Sathya Sai Education, devoted to the development of the integrated personality of Sai students.

To offer our readers glimpses into a residential school system where the timeless values of character building are a way of life, this month’s cover story comes as a 6 part series. Each section highlights some facet of this fascinating model of learning under the loving care and the watchful eyes of the Lord of the Universe.

This sacred seat of learning remains untainted because it involves no monetary transaction or exchange. For four decades, all Sai Education from kindergarten to Ph. D level is offered free of cost! Unthinkable as it sounds, thousands of students have graduated from the portals of the school which is essentially residential, contributing only a nominal sum for their hostel accommodation and food. No tuition fee has ever been charged!

To explore the generous source that supports and sustains this colossal project is as viable a proposition as an attempt to fathom every mystery of the cosmos. Yet, the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School is an ideal case study of perfection and detail combined by the divine alchemist to create an ultimate recipe for human success.

A SCHOOL THAT NOT ONLY EDUCATES, BUT ELEVATES!
The Unmatched Mission of SSSHSS

It was the month of March – the busiest and most crucial period in the life of every student in the XII grade. It was going to be their second and last rendezvous with a public exam – a test which could make or mar their future forever. In India, for all English medium schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education of the Government of India, the nation-wide annual assessment conducted by this Board for the students of X and XII grade is like the Holy Grail.

For the schools, it provides a one-time prospect to establish their credentials every year; and for the pupils, it is the opportunity of a lifetime - if they slip in this trial, it could be a burden which could bother them umpteen times as their lives unfold in the near future - their post secondary education depends upon the results of this performance.

Every student, therefore, strengthens his/her heart and soul to do their best, and utilises every extra second available in the month of March to ensure that they make a mark for themselves. Parents and teachers everywhere virtually take charge of their wards completely – providing for all their material needs and comforts. Nobody wants to take a moment away from their teen during this time of the year.

Spontaneous Concern – A Common Sight in Sai School

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It is peak examination season, one boy is sick, so his friend voluntarily reads out lessons for him
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During the peak of this hectic and stressful period, the scene inside the Sri Sathya Sai Hostel for Junior Boys was as busy, but there was something strikingly different about it, especially in one corner of the hostel. Satish was preparing intensely for his toughest subject, which was only a day or two away.

That morning, however, to his surprise, he found his classmate, Ramesh, all-covered up and completely silent, lying on his bed; this was very unusual.

He went near him and gently touched his hand. His heart sank. His fellow student and dormitory inmate was sick during this critical period! Extremely weak and running a temperature, Ramesh was in no position to study – his spirit was high, but flesh was frail. It was too much for Satish to stomach – how could he study when his own classmate was in such a helpless state?

He immediately brought his condition to the notice of the concerned teacher, and soon Ramesh was administered the right medication. But his energy levels were still abysmal; he could not bring himself to sit and start studying. “I cannot let this happen,” Satish said to himself; the predicament of Ramesh bothered him more than anything else.

Even though he had a long way to go in his personal preparation for the most difficult exam, Satish sat by the bedside of Ramesh and read out all the chapters, questions and answers, explaining slowly and clearly till it registered in Ramesh’s mind. It didn’t matter if he was going to lose a few marks; at the most challenging moment of his roommate, he wanted to be there, all the way with him, and see to it that he too comes out with flying colours.

Brotherly Affection Binds Students

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It is at moments of crisis that true love and brotherly concern become apparent
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If this was the poignant picture in one room of the hostel, in another room, on a different day, there was a dissimilar, but no less stirring, sight.

Before the boys proceed to the examination hall, they first assemble in the hostel Prayer Hall, offer special prayers, and are then served cookies and fruit juice. That day, it was Economics for the XII grade, the most challenging exam for Dinesh. So, while he joined the group prayer, he opted to skip the snacks and returned quickly for a last minute review. A few hurried seconds passed, and then he was completely taken by surprise.

Someone had quietly placed the cookies next to his notes. He turned around instantaneously and found Vignesh silently walking away. Even in the rush and tension of such an important exam, his classmate had noticed what he thought nobody would ever know.

Not only that, Vignesh did not even mind sparing those precious extra moments for his fellow student! It was too overwhelming; he ate the biscuits but focused his thoughts only on the examination paper, lest tears overpower him completely.

One United, Loving Family

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The teacher woke up at 12 in the night and massaged the sick boy's feet for hours till the boy slept
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On another occasion, Naval Kishore, a student in grade VIII, who was not keeping well for sometime, fell ill like never before. His temperature shot up and he was in pain. It was past mid-night. Being helpless, he woke up one of his roommates.

And the next instant, everybody was up in that room. Each one tried to do what he thought would help Naval Kishore – fanning him, giving him water, infusing strength through caring words, and so on.

Each one, in his heart, was actually tensed and ready to do anything he could. One boy rushed to the teacher who occupied the adjacent room. A mild knock and the teacher opened the door. Very concerned, he asked, “What is the problem?” The boy informed him about the sorry state of Naval. The teacher rushed in immediately. The next moment he was at the bedside of Naval, and sent one boy to fetch a particular medicine from his room.

In the meanwhile, as he instilled courage into Naval with sweet words, the teacher started massaging his feet. In a culture where elders, especially the teachers are revered and respected, this spontaneous gesture of parental concern demonstrated by the teacher touched Naval’s roommates deeply.

“Thou Shalt Speak the Truth, Tread the Path of Righteousness”

One of them said, “Sir, let us do it. You do not have to do this.” In fact, the sick boy himself was moved. “Sir, please, you don’t have to press my feet.” It stirred his heart because he felt he was only fifteen and here was his teacher aged over fifty serving him with such humility. But the teacher replied, “Will you ever tell your mother not to press your legs?” And continued, “I know at this moment you are missing your mother, but Bhagavan has kept me here to help you. I am sorry, I cannot give you a mother’s love, but I will give you the best I can.”

And for the next hour or so, he sat by his bedside, showering him with his love, and diverting his mind through inspiring stories and consoling words. The boy was so overwhelmed that he almost forgot his pains, and finally slipped into sleep peacefully. It was 2 a.m. in the morning by then.

The story of Vighnesh R. is another eye-opener. He completed his XII grade at the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 2005 securing third place in academics, and joined a University pursuing his graduation in engineering in the state of Tamil Nadu. During the course of the curriculum, the professor graded and returned a particular test to the students, asking them if anyone needed any clarification. A few students went up to the lecturer requesting him to award more points in some answers where they thought they rightly deserved more.

Rajesh too approached the faculty member in the staff room. Pointing to a particular answer, he said, “Sir, in this question, the maximum marks is 5, but I have been awarded 7. I think there surely is a mistake here.” The lecturer was astounded. He stared at Rajesh with disbelief, and then turning to his colleague sitting beside him, said, “I have been in the teaching profession for the last 20 years, but never before did I come across a student like this!” He then asked Rajesh, “Where do you come from? Where did you do your schooling?” With great pride and fulfillment, Rajesh said, “ Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam.”

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The beautiful and edifying facade of a building that is home to the wondrous blossoming of human excellence - The Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam
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God Loving, Not God Fearing

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Prayer - an indelible part of every
Sai student's personality
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When an external examiner was on duty in this School to invigilate the CBSE exams, he was taken aback by the tension-free atmosphere that prevailed in the examination hall during such an important event.

No student appeared perturbed or interested in malpractice! And the school staff too was very relaxed! It was completely a new experience to him. Very surprised, he looked at one student and rather sarcastically remarked, “Oh! All are God fearing in this school!” And almost instantaneously, the boy looked back and said, “No Sir, God loving!”

This tiny anecdote, along with the others preceding it, actually sum up the vision, vocation and the very purpose of the existence of this noble edifice of learning – the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, which offers completely free education to all its students and which is truly second to none! Because it is not an educational institution where you find tutors and students, you see here only brothers – some senior and others junior. While some may consider teachers to be mere instructors, here they play many vital roles.

They are life-coaches, expert child psychologists, caring well-wishers, dedicated mentors and powerful role models infused with a missionary zeal and passion for good living and a Godly life ever reverberating in their sinews and veins. There are no students here, only ‘gifts of God’. For, this is an institution founded by God Himself!

Mr. Habbu, the school’s first principal emphatically states, “This is not an establishment of bricks and mortar, pupils and teachers; here every student is an institution by himself.”


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Habbu video

 
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"Every student is an institution by himself" - says Mr. Habbu, the School's first Principal
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“Bhagavan says each one of you is a divine spark, and our aim in this school is to ensure that this tiny divine flame in each student flourishes into a forest fire,” says Mr. Veda Narayan, who teaches Sanskrit. “Each one should shine with that divine effulgence, and we see this happen so beautifully every single day. Ordinary pieces, that once come in contact with the Divine Master, Bhagavan Baba, transform into masterpieces.”

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School Prayer Hall - here is where the heart of every student softens and broadens..
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...juxtaposed with the venue
where the intellect is sharpened
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Blossoming of the Infinite Potential of Sai Students

Quoting just one instance of the many, Dr. Shailesh Srivastava, who teaches physics, says, “There was a student who completed grade XII in our School, continued his graduation in Sri Sathya Sai University, and later went to a reputed university in the USA to pursue his post graduation in Management. A few months later, at a felicitation ceremony in that college where student talents are recognized and rewarded, he was adjudged the “Best Student” of the University. And you know why?

Because he was multi-faceted and so meticulous. He excelled in basketball, was part of that Institute’s band, spoke eloquently and was brilliant in academics too! The Principal of that college was very impressed and at the same time surprised. Next day, he called him to his room and asked, ‘How did you manage to master everything?’ The boy replied, ‘Well, this was the way I was brought up. We did so many activities, as part of our routine everyday, in my school in Puttaparthi.’”

Nurturing the Head, the Hands and the Heart

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Mr. Sivaramakrishnaiah, the current Principal
of the School in his office
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“To create such dynamic yet balanced personalities is the constant endeavour of this school,” says Mr. Sivaramakrishnaiah, the current Principal of the School. “The school is a part of Bhagavan’s grand mission. We have grown under His shade and our mission is to spread His message of Love.

"Swami says, ‘A human being is composed of three elements – Head, Heart and the Hands.’ Head here refers to intellect, Hands stand for service, and Heart represents the spirituality within.

"These three components are not only studied and talked about here, but also positively fostered and practiced. The net result is that, the students learn to excel in Work, Worship and Wisdom. And therein lies the key to a dynamic and balanced personality.

"The daily schedule in the school and the hostel combined is designed by Bhagavan in such a way that these principles, consciously or unconsciously, get embedded in their being.”

 


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Principle Video

 
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Watch Mr. Sivaramakrishnaiah, the current Principal explain the objective of the school
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Joy and Love Fill the Air

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When a new student arrives, the seniors welcome him warmly and even carry his luggage to his dorm!
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“When I stepped into this school in 2007, after having secured admission for the XI grade, my first experience was very touching,” says Abhay Kini, who hails from Bangalore.

“The XII grade boys met me right at the entrance and welcomed me heartfully. In fact, they didn’t even let me carry the smallest piece of my luggage; not even my bucket!

"Then they joyfully escorted me to my room, showed me my cupboard, answered all my preliminary questions patiently, and before they left, said,

"Brother, have no worries. You are going to be happy here. We wish you all the best, and if you need help, do not hesitate to ask us.’

"I was clearly overwhelmed. Since it was a Sai School, I knew I was not going to face any form of ragging or hazing, but at the same time, I had never expected such a warm welcome."



Part 1:
A School That Not Only Educates, But Elevates!
-The Unmatched Mission of SSSHSS

Part 2:
Curriculum Designed to Train Future Torch Bearers -
A Typical Day in the Unique SSSHSS

Part 3:
‘The School Is His Making’ -
When God Becomes Guru, Guardian And Guide

Part 4:
Honing Talents to Offer it as a Homage - The Multifarious Extra Curricular Activities

Please Note: While this feature highlights the boys’ hostel and school, its counterpart, the girls school from Grade 1 through 12 functions in a separate facility and is popularly known as the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School, which is indeed a misnomer as the school also participates in the Grade XII CBSE. We hope to bring you a detailed story on it in the near future.

To know more about this school, please visit www.ssshss.org.in

 

- Bishu Prusty
Heart2Heart Team

 

Dear reader, how did you like this article? Did it inspire you in any way? Is it informative enough? Please write to us at [email protected] We look forward to your feedback, comments and suggestions to help us serve you better.

 


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Vol 6 Issue 07 - JULY 2008
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