Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality
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Man can make genuine progress only when the idea that education is for earning a living is given up. The link between education and jobs should be totally snapped. Education should be for life, not for a living. Only one who realises this truth is a truly educated person. From ancient times this truth had been recognised by the sages of Bharat, who preserved the nation's cultural heritage. Knowledge does not mean mere book-lore. It is not the transference of the contents of books to the brain.
Education is intended for the transformation of the heart. Man today is proud about the little knowledge he has acquired about the physical world and boasts that he knows all about the universe. True knowledge is that which establishes harmony and synthesis between science on the one hand and spirituality and ethics on the other. Man, therefore, should at the outset determine the true value of education.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Benedictory Address, SSSIHL Annual convocation, 22 November 1985
The Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality serves as an induction programme to all students and teachers of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning with an objective to expose students of the University to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Bharat. It orients students into Bhagawan Baba’s educational philosophy and gives them deep, first hand insights into how they can directly benefit from this unique institution.
At universities across the world, induction programmes go beyond the academic and practical requirements of university life and include social elements, that more often than not, disperse the focus, time and energies of students.
At Sai educational institutions, integral education (which includes the focus on a connection with the Higher Self) is a close confidant to the academic curriculum. It is in line with the vision of the Founder Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, that spiritual and empirical education must go hand in hand. In fact, He had initiated the series of Summer Courses as early as the 1970s. It was and still is an effective way to inspire young minds to follow a life of good values and character.
The event—which took place from the 8th to 10th June 2018 at Prasanthi Nilayam—marked the beginning of the academic year for students and teachers of all the four campuses of the university, as well as Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music, Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam (Class XI and Class XII) and Sri Sathya Sai Gurukulam English Medium School, Rajahmundry. Over 2500 students and 200 teachers participated.
The Format
Each day is typically split into the morning, afternoon and evening sessions.
The morning sessions consist of talks by teachers and research scholars of the university. Typically, they entail key insights and lessons from the ancient Indian scriptures, spiritual personalities and concepts. The sessions also feature a short video show on Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
In the afternoons, students and teachers from all four campuses have breakout sessions where they discuss teachings and lessons from Bhagawan Baba’s discourses. This year, the main theme was Discipline, Duty and Devotion, based on a Divine Discourse delivered by Bhagawan Baba on 19 June 1996.
The evening sessions on the first two days of the event consisted of three talks by students and teachers of individual SSSIHL campuses, along with veda chanting and bhajans at the Sai Kulwant Hall.
Perhaps the highlight of the day for students are the post-dinner Parayanam sessions. They consist of 2-3 talks by alumni or teachers of the Institute who share personal experiences with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the profound impact they have had in shaping their lives. The valuable and profound life lessons and the sheer love that Baba had for His students and devotees is vividly communicated through these intimate sessions.
Given below is a brief daily report of each day of the event.

Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality 2018

8-10 June 2018 | Prasanthi Nilayam

 
 
Day 1 – Friday, 8 June 2018

Following the invocatory Vedam Chanting by students of the Muddenahalli Campus, the Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality 2018 commenced at 8:30 a.m. at the Poornachandra auditorium, Prasanthi Nilayam with a welcome address by Sri Ruchir Desai, Associate Professor, Dept. of Management & Commerce, SSSIHL. He traced the evolution of the Summer Course from its inception, way back in 1972, to its current status. He also spoke about the importance and relevance of India as a country in spreading love and sharing wisdom in the world. Sri Desai expressed his hope that the Summer Course this year satiates our hunger for learning and growing.

In his inaugural address, Prof. K B R Varma, Vice-Chancellor, SSSIHL welcomed all the participants of this year’s Summer Course and highlighted the importance of education and reiterated the necessity for the right kind of education. Prof. Varma narrated how such knowledge was endowed in the earlier years in India, at educational hubs for the world, such as Nalanda. He also spoke at great length about the role of culture in benefiting both, the society and the Self.

A brief video of Bhagawan Baba’s Divine discourse (originally delivered on 14 January 1990) was then broadcasted. Baba emphasized on the nobility and glory of Indian culture and the need to remember it and imbibe it for every Indian and individual. He said that Bharatiya culture is characterized by sacred thoughts and feelings, not narrow-mindedness, and that the essence of Bharatiya culture is ‘universal happiness’. He declared that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, and the root of Indian culture. Reminding us that real culture is that which transforms, He said that the function of culture is to remove the bad, the defects, and acquire that which is good.

This was followed by a panel discussion, titled, Daiva Preeti, Paapa Bheeti, Sangha Neeti (Love for God, Fear of Sin, Morality in Society). The panelists comprised of teachers from the university. Each panelist shared myriad experiences, personal and of students, and others drawn to Swami’s fold. They drew various conclusions and shared insights into this seemingly simple teaching of Bhagawan Baba. Also deliberated upon was a bottoms-up approach to this concept. Experiences were narrated relating to how people who were carrying out good and moral acts in the society were led to God and developed love for the Almighty.

The morning session was drawn to a close by soulful rendition of various Hindustani and Carnatic songs by the Department of Music, SSSIHL. A cascade of devotional songs interspersed with insightful commentary extolled the beauty and importance of ‘Naama Sankeertana’ and ‘Naamasmarana’, singing and recollecting the Divine name of the Lord in their programme aptly titled, ‘Naam Ratan Dhana Paayo’.


 
 

The evening session of the first day of the event commenced at the Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam with a summary of the morning session followed by three speeches by students and faculty of the university.

The first speaker, Miss Kanchan Kumar, Student, II M.B.A., Anantapur Campus, SSSIHL talked on the glory of Bharatiya culture. She reminded us that our culture has survived into the modern times, despite foreign domination. The entire edifice of Bharatiya culture is based on the interconnectedness of one with everything and everything with everything, she said. The vedas are based on an oral tradition dating back thousands of years and are based on the metaphysical truth and oneness of all. She urged everyone to reestablish the core values of our great culture.

The next speaker, Sri Suvam Gurung, Student, V Integrated M.C.A., Muddenahalli Campus spoke on the significance of prayer. Using the metaphor of admissions, he said to fellow students, that it is important not just to be ‘admitted’ to the university but to ‘submit’ ourselves to the Lord through prayer. He questioned the ‘impact’ of prayer - does it work or not? Just as a mobile call cannot connect without cellular signal or battery power, a prayer cannot be effective without love, compassion and faith. The quality of prayer is what the Lord desires, not the quantity. Prayer can move mountains, he said. At the same time, we must submit to the Divine Will and have faith that whatever happens is for our own good. In this manner, he concluded, we will not have expectations and disappointments.

Lastly, Sri Darshan Gera, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Mathematics & Computer Science spoke on the topic, Sai Vibhuti. His talk focused on the Divine glory of the Lord, which is beyond comprehension and understanding. Vibhuti, or holy ash signifies desirelessness and auspiciousness; provides us with protection and leads us to liberation. He narrated examples of Lord Shiva, Shirdi Sai Baba and Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and how they — through vibhuti — healed disease, taught spiritual lessons and shared their love of humanity.


 
 
Day 2 – Saturday, 9 June 2018
Following the invocatory Vedam chanting by students of Brindavan Campus, SSSIHL, the second day of the Summer Course in Indian Culture & Spirituality 2018 commenced at 8:30 a.m. at the Poornachandra auditorium, Prasanthi Nilayam, with a talk by Ms. Rani Java, Management Consultant, Bangalore.
True to the title of her talk—Living with Divinity is True Education—Ms. Java shared several personal experiences she had with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. They brought to the fore several important insights, the most significant and recurring one being the need to have faith in Bhagawan Baba with complete surrender. She also narrated several instances of how Baba helped her in times of need and shared numerous experiences of her journey of devotional evolution and how she grew to love and revere Bhagawan Baba as God.
Following this, a Quiz on Bhagawan Baba’s Life & Teachings: Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan, saw participation from students of the university and school. The three areas of focus on the quiz were His Divinity, His Message and His Life.
As the saying goes, save the best for last. The last item of the morning session was a delightful drama production by teachers, doctoral research scholars and students of the university. Titled Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha (Dharma protects those who uphold or protect dharma), it depicted instances from The Mahabharata, portraying the timeless war between good and evil and how God always stands by the good. It culminated with Lord Krishna teaching humanity that one must do dharma because that’s the right thing to do, and that we must have faith in the Lord, as His ways are beyond human comprehension. It is pointless to use our human intellect to challenge His doings.

 
 
The evening session commenced at the Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam with a summary of the morning session followed by three speeches by students and faculty of the university.

The title of the first speaker, Sri Ujjwal Priydarshi, Student, III B.Com. (Hons.), Brindavan Campus, was Gratitude to my Master. He elaborated several instances of his time with Bhagawan Baba, right from his time at Sri Sathya Sai Primary School. The talk focused on the love Sai has for all His children. He urged the audience to leave the future to the Lord as He knows what is best for us. Hence, he concluded, it is our duty to spend our lives in service to Him - Our Life, His Message.

The next speaker was Sri Rinil Khatri, Student, II M.B.A., Prasanthi Nilayam Campus. His talk, White & Orange, underlined the story of the relationship between God and His devotee: an unending saga of pure love, as he called it. The metaphor of orange (God) and white (man) was well depicted by examples of how the orange influences the white, once we attach ourselves to it, with faith and surrender. Equally, he said, the white can also do its part by following a certain way of life with the right attitude and tap the inner fountain of happiness within us.

The last speaker, Sri G Aditya, Doctoral Research Scholar, Dept. of Management & Commerce acknowledged his indebtedness to Bhagawan Baba in his talk, Guru Seva. He talked about instances of seva even as a student, for example prasadam distribution at Sai Kulwant Hall, and how Sai Himself lovingly taught Him lessons in service, such as perfection in performance. Another example was on how the guru looks at one’s availability and not ability. As Bhagawan Baba often said, if we take one step towards the Guru, he will take a hundred towards us. Finally, he said, Guru Seva is the royal path to Divine Grace.


 
 
Day 3 – Sunday, 10 June 2018
The final day of the event day began with the invocatory Vedam chanting of the ‘Suryapanishad’ by students of the Anantapur Campus at the Poornachandra auditorium, Prasanthi Nilayam at 8:30 a.m. Swami Atmashraddhananda, Ramakrishna Math, Belur, Howrah kindly graced the occasion with a wonderful talk on Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitaya Cha (Striving for One’s Emancipation and Welfare of the World). He traced the evolution of man’s journey in life through the four Purusharthas of Kama, Artha, Moksha, to dharma in a practical manner. Referring to the Kathopanishad, he explained the nature of heaven and hell being non-eternal and how each individual’s period of stay there depends on his/her karma. He ended his talk by reiterating the need for ‘shraddha’ to tread the middle path between ‘self-emancipation’ and ‘world-welfare’.
This was followed by a melodious Musical Presentation by the Dept. of Music, SSSIHL. It focused on unity and was aptly titled, Sam Gacchadvam - Let us move together.
Next up was a Panel Discussion, Self-Confidence to Self-Realization. References were made to Bhagawan Baba’s illustration of how Self Confidence is the foundation, Self-Satisfaction is the wall, Self-Sacrifice is the roof and Self-realization is the life lived in this abode. The entire discussion was replete with profound insights, shared through personal experiences, short video clips, and a comprehensive discussion on every aspect expressed by Bhagawan in the progression from Self Confidence to Self-Realization.
As is tradition each year, new faculty that joined the SSSIHL family were welcomed to the audience by Dr. B Sai Giridhar, Registrar, SSSIHL. In addition, four long-standing senior Professors, Dr. (Miss) S Kanaka Durga (Dept. of English Language & Literature), Prof. (Mrs.) B Andallu (Dept. of Food & Nutritional Sciences), Prof. Shiv R Pandit (Dept. of Management & Commerce) and Prof. K Venkataramaniah (Dept. of Physics), all of whom have now retired, were felicitated and honoured for their outstanding service and contribution to the Institute since the 1970s and 1980s.
Prof. (Miss) Rajeshwari C Patel, Professor, Dept. of English Language & Literature and Director, Anantapur Campus offered the valedictory address. She summed up the lessons learnt over the three days. Some of these included: Narrow mindedness and Indian Culture have nothing in common; Right action and Service; Music as the most influential form of art; Unswerving devotion can help us navigate through life; The Spirit of Sportsmanship; and, Dharma is beyond our intellect - only the Lord can decide what is right and wrong. She ended with the message of togetherness and unity from Bhagawan Baba’s Divine Discourse broadcasted earlier that day.
Following the vote of thanks, the Mangala Aarti to Bhagawan Baba at 12:45 p.m. marked the conclusion of the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality 2018.
After a specially arranged lunch, the students and teachers then travelled backed to their respective campuses and institutions.

 
 
Education must enthuse youth to understand the precious heritage of Indian culture and spirituality, and to evoke the higher powers they possess. Though there are perennial sources and springs of strength within them, they behave like weaklings and ignoramuses. Patience, tolerance, tranquillity and calmness have to be implanted in the heart.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
© Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Vidyagiri, Prasanthi Nilayam - 515 134, India.