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Then & Now
A day in Ashram

(Deemed University)

Twentythird Annual Convocation (November 22, 2004)
Introductory Address


On behalf of the thousands who have gathered here, we pay our obeisance to Saieswara, the Universal Sadguru.

The first stanza by Kalidasa and the second (slightly adapted) by Adisankara are half a millennium apart, but bear evidence to the fundamentals of Indian culture, - its stress on purity, trikarana sudhi, and universal brotherhood.

Most revered Chancellor, our beloved Chief Guest of the day Sri Rasgotra, Hon'ble Justice Bhagwati, Members of the Institute Trust, Governing Body and Academic Council, Distinguished guests, Members of the Faculty, Graduands of the year, Dear students of the Institute and Dear Brothers and Sisters.

I deem it a great privilege to extend a most cordial welcome to all of you on the occasion of the Twenty third Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
1. While inaugurating the Institute a score and three years ago, the Revered Chancellor unfolded His vision thus “My sankalpa (determination) is to provide to the youth an education which, while cultivating their intelligence, will also purify their impulses and emotions and equip them with physical and mental disciplines needed for drawing upon the springs of calmness and joy that lie in their own hearts. Their higher nature will have to be fostered and encouraged to blossom, to place them on the path of self-confidence, self-sacrifice and self-knowledge……”

This universal philosophy of Bhagawan is made operational through the methodology of Integral Education adopted in the Institute combining the five ideals of education - namely knowledge, skill, balance, insight and integrity harmonized in the teaching learning experience. The products of the Institute have come to acquire a distinct identity with their positive attributes, sound learning and character – all because of the inherent soundness of the system and the loving guidance of its Chancellor. No wonder, the Institute stands out as a beacon light and is ranked in the top grade of the University system in the country. It is a privilege conferred on me to welcome you to the portals of such a hallowed institution.

About the Chief Guest

2.1 I have a special word of welcome to our Chief Guest of the day Shri Maharaj Krishna Rasgotra, an ardent devotee of Bhagawan. He was the Foreign Secretary to the Government of India and later the High Commissioner of India in London. Having entered the Indian Foreign Service in 1949, the second batch after independence, Shri Rasgotra has held several diplomatic assignments in France, America, England and nearer home, Nepal. His experience in working with the United Nations Bodies, General Assembly as well as UNESCO and other specialized agencies has been very extensive. He is a very fluent and facile speaker in English and French. In recognition of his contribution to public life, he was conferred the honour of Padmabhushan. He is currently on the Management Committee of Sri Sathya Sai International Centre and School for Human Values, New Delhi.
2.2 Known for his liberal attitude and purposeful approach to international relations, he is a Diplomat par excellence. His deep understanding of the history of civilizations and the cultural contexts of different nations lend a realistic touch to his attitudes and approach. The students of the Institute have had the privilege of listening to him on several occasions when he spoke in the Kulwant Hall impromptu, all the time the underlying theme being to influence policy makers to change from the old to a new order in constructive and peaceful ways. On behalf of the Institute, I extend to him our most cordial welcome.

Major Developments during the Year

3.1 I take this opportunity to highlight some of the important developments during the year

3.2 While maintaining the primacy of its commitment to character building, the Institute has systematized and broadened its research efforts by introducing a three semester M.Phil. course and shaping several interdisciplinary projects. A spin off of this type of research effort is to bring the fruits of research and its methodology to the undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

3.3 Five theses that have been approved for award of Ph.D. this year, cover a wide range of subjects spanning from high end soft computing at one end to insights from Mahabharata on values centred leadership in organizations and individuals. These are sophisticated areas of research. Bhagavan identified them all when the research scholars were selected. With His blessings they have been able to produce theses which have all been applauded as path-breaking in their respective spheres.

3.4 Recognizing the relevance and quality of the research carried out in the Institute, the University Grants Commission has awarded a five-year research support to the Department of Biosciences. More such projects are likely to follow. The University Grants Commission is also presently considering a proposal to identify the Institute as one of the Universities with Potential for Excellence in the country’s university system. Hopefully this will happen soon considering the laurels which have been conferred on the Institute already.

3.5 While the academic strengths have been outlined as above, far more significant are the spiritual dimensions of the Institute’s efforts. Three things stand out for special mention in this regard.

(i) One of the facets of Sri Sathya Sai System of Integral Education is that the activities of the Mandir form an integral component in the mosaic of the Institute’s curriculum. Bhagavan especially blessed this academic year by allowing the students to chant Vedas and Upanishads every morning and evening at the Mandir. What started as a modest effort of reciting some Suktas swelled very quickly into a torrential flow of sophisticated Vedic chants, marked by the purity of the rendering and sonorousness of the chants. It was an exercise in demystification to demonstrate the universality of Vedic hymns and to establish that they are not sectarian but meant for every one. Nowhere else do we see a congregation of students and devotees running into thousands, chanting Vedic hymns without a break for a couple of hours at a stretch. We express our heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan for this blessing.

(ii) Swadhyaya Pravachanam, that is stressed in the Vedas as continuous life long learning, assimilation and articulation, came out in all its force. It is difficult to single out any one hymn or a sukta but the underlying themes that the origin of life is in sacrifice, and that all things work in unison came to be understood and appreciated by one and all. The regular recitation of excerpts from Vedas every day and enacting skits and plays at intervals to illustrate the practical significance of the eternal verities of the Vedas presented a harmonious blend of precept and practice of the spiritual dimensions of life. The entire audience became Swami’s students and had an exposure to the depth of the wisdom contained in the Vedas.

(iii) Grama Seva which was commenced a few years ago, has now become a regular annual feature of the Academic calendar of the Institute. The exercise undertaken during the recent Dussera festival demonstrated how much the spirit of service stays reinforced and the instruments for rendering of the service refined. This massive exercise of faith and devotion was carried out in its true spirit and the joy was immeasurable.

Concluding Remarks
4.1 As is well known, at Prasanthi Nilayam everything has a place and everything is in its place – be it Dasara, Diwali, Muharram or Ramzan, Christmas or New year days galore.. The impact is deep and lasting on everyone who has been blessed with an opportunity to be here. His Excellency the President of India was here as the Chief Guest for the Convocation in 2002. Experiencing the atmosphere and picking up a familiar stanza, he expressed his feelings thus:

Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character.
When there is beauty in character, there is harmony at home.
When there is harmony at home, there is order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that he gave expression to his feelings through the same stanza when he inaugurated the restored ancestral residence of Swami Vivekananda at Kolkata on the 26th September this year.

4.2 One more instance: All of us who had the privilege of witnessing the drama staged by the Institute students on the Independence Day this year were transported back to that day more than 50 years ago and felt in our beings what it meant to be free – not merely freedom in the political sense but to earn Swaarajyam – being spiritually free and confident. That is the intense and enlightened patriotism which the Revered Chancellor instills in His students. It is most heartening that the Institute is responding to His vision and is exhibiting the will and power to brace itself for the right causes – Atmano Mokshaya Jagat Hitayacha.

Concluding on that note of optimism, I once again welcome you all to this Convocation.