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Published on Tuesday, Nov 25, 2008 at 012:00.00 Hrs.IST

The Real Secret behind the effulgence of Sri Sathya Sai University
Chief Guest's address by Prof. G. Venkataraman

Most Beloved Bhagawan,
With immense gratitude and deep humility, I offer my reverential salutations at your Divine Lotus Feet.

Swami, I am aware that as always, you would like to me to speak extempore. However, the dignity, the serenity and the ceremonial as well as the formal nature of this function, compels me to use a prepared text, especially as it has to go into the records. Therefore, dear Lord, I pray that you grant me an exemption this one time to deviate from my usual practice. I assure You, however, that though the text is a prepared one, every single word in it comes from my Heart and nowhere else.

Esteemed Vice Chancellor Pandit, Members of the Governing Body and the Academic Council, Members of the Faculty, Distinguished Guests, and dear Sisters and Brothers in the large gathering here:

Please accept my greetings on this most special occasion.
Vice Chancellor Pandit, I am particularly grateful to you for your generous introduction, and for giving me more credit that I really deserve.

And, Graduands of the Year, I have not forgotten you! Before I do anything else, let me offer my heartiest congratulations to you, not merely for earning a degree or even winning medals and other such laurels, but more so for enjoying the incomparable blessing of being a Student of Swami.

The salutations and the greetings over, now comes the hard part: What exactly am I to say or should I say? I have given much thought to this question, and, seeking anticipatory pardon from Bhagawan, I would like to use this opportunity to say something about which little has been said in the past, namely, how Swami silently moulds those whom He chooses to take in as His Students.

Many years ago, Prof. V.K Gokak, the first Vice Chancellor of this University declared that this University was most fortunate to have as its Revered Chancellor, the very Chancellor of the Universe. What I shall be doing in the rest of this talk is to offer you some glimpses of how our Beloved Bhagawan, has been quietly combining these two very different roles into one.

It is appropriate to begin my narration by taking you back to the inauguration in 1968 of Swami’s first College, namely the Sathya Sai College of Arts and Science for Women, in Anantapur. 

Speaking on that occasion, Swami, after making many critical remarks about how this Society was rapidly cutting itself off from its roots, observed:
QUOTE: This [meaning growing without roots] is an insult to the past, and a sacrilege on the history of Time. That is the reason I have decided that this College be inaugurated on Gurupoornima Day, as a reminder of the highest tradition of Bharat, a tradition in which the highest ideals of life were instilled by personal example and guidance by the Guru, to pupils eager to imbibe. END OF QUOTE.

The Divine Master had made His first move and planted the seed for a Kali-Yuga Gurukulam, with Swami Himself playing the role of the Guru.

The next step in the Master Plan came with the establishment in 1969, of the Sathya Sai College of Arts, Science and Commerce for men, located within the premises of the Brindavan Ashram. Hardly anyone noticed that the seed planted earlier had sprouted into a sapling, and that Swami was now all set for making Educare the basis of all education.

Where the normal operation of the College was concerned, Swami left all the teaching and the management to the teachers. Behind the scenes, however, Swami unobtrusively intertwined His daily life with that of the students. In this way, hardly noticed by anyone, Swami began to run a Gurukulam, behind the façade of an Arts, Science and Commerce College. Thus, while the students learnt from their Teachers what was needed to make a living, from Bhagawan they personally learnt how to make life worth living. That exactly is how Educare became operational, long before the word itself entered our vocabulary.

Yes, what everyone thought was yet another normal college was, in fact, a Gurukulam, a Divine Gurukulam I might add. However, hardly anyone realised this fact. Nevertheless, what was actually happening was that unknown to them, the students lived and functioned more like sishyas of the Divine Guru rather than as college students who had enrolled for obtaining a degree. 

Here is how a typical day was during those glorious Brindavan days. All students rose early, with some rising as early as 4 AM because they had to wash and milk the cows. Others had to clean the garden, water the plants, and take care of the large group of pets that included deer, rabbits, peacocks, and so on. Some even used to plough the fields in the adjoining plot, using a tractor! Nothing was out of purview, from buying feed for the cattle to whitewashing the walls. In between, students would always try to sneak up close to Swami using one pretext or the other, soaking up as much of Darshan and Divine intimacy as possible. As one student fondly recalled, “We just milled around doing something or the other. It was Swami’s house no doubt but our compound.” Inevitably, an amazing bond was built up between the Sad Guru and His chosen disciples.

There are many examples that could be given of this very special relationship, but one incident alone is sufficient to highlight how much Swami meant to the students.

At that time, the Sri Sathya Sai University had not yet come into existence, and Swami’s College in Brindavan was affiliated to the Bangalore University. One year, a student of Swami’s College did so well in the university exams that he won seven gold medals! You might wonder when the boys had time to study, with all the arduous estate management work they did; but then, that is the miracle that happens when Swami is the Mentor.

To get on with my story, it was the custom in those days for students to attend the University Convocation and receive their degrees there. This boy too went, and during the ceremonies, when the Chancellor was about to slip the medals round his neck, the boy whispered, “Sir, if you do not mind, please give the medals to me in my hand. I want my Guru to place these round my neck.”  I guess the Chancellor must have had a shock, but anyway, he silently handed over the seven medals even as the audience watched, wondering what was happening. The medal winner did not wait for the function to end; anxious that he should reach Brindavan before Swami retired after evening Bhajans, he rushed back as fast as he could, fell at Swami’s Feet, and stretched out his hand full of medals, praying to Mother Sai to bless him and put the medals around his neck! An amazing story but true, and, needless to say, Swami was deeply touched.

If students loved Swami immensely, Swami’s Love for students was immeasurable. I shall narrate just one incident to illustrate that fact.
It was sometime around 1975. The College was growing and so was the enrolment. Swami clearly wanted a much bigger building and a full campus for the College, rather than an improvised location within the Ashram. The Hostel too had become quite cramped, and Swami felt that the students urgently needed a much bigger Hostel with superior facilities. So He started making plans and decided on building the New Hostel in the spacious plot adjacent to the Ashram, where the sports ground and the College buildings are now located. All the preparations for the construction of the New Hostel had been completed, and a day for the Bhoomi Pooja had also been decided upon.

The day before the ground-breaking ceremony, Swami came to the Hostel, wanting to talk to the students about the various facilities they would have in the New Hostel. Even as He was entering the Hostel, a student gave Swami a letter. Bhagawan took the letter, came inside, sat down on the chair meant for Him, casually opened the letter and read it.

Swami went through that letter very carefully, and after He finished reading it, Swami turned to the boy who gave the letter and said, “Can I ask the Warden to read this?” The boy replied, “Swami, it’s Your wish.” Swami then asked the Warden to come forward and read out the contents of the letter.

The boy had written, “Most beloved Swami, Humble Pranams at Thy Lotus Feet. Swami, why are you so upset with us? Have we violated some discipline that is dear to You? If so, please tell us. Do not banish us from Brindavan. Why are You building a Hostel for us somewhere, far away from Your Presence? If You say that You are really not unhappy with us, then Swami, break down this Bungalow, and build one right next to the New Hostel where it is coming up. We are not particular that we should be here. We are particular that we should be with You, wherever it is.”

When the Warden finished reading the letter, there was total silence. Swami then asked where Col. Joga Rao was. When informed that Col. Joga Rao was near the proposed construction site supervising the markings, Swami ordered that a car be sent and Col. Joga Rao brought immediately. For the benefit of those who are not aware, I should mention that late Col. Joga Rao was an engineer by profession, saw service in the Army, came to Swami after retirement, and for much longer than most can remember, was in charge of all the construction activities of the Central Trust.

When Col. Joga Rao came, Swami said to him, “Joga Rao, the boys are feeling bad that the Hostel is coming up so far away from Swami’s Residence. What do you say?”
In reply, Col. Joga Rao said, “Swami the new Hostel would not be far away; it’s only in the next compound.” Hearing this, the boys cried out in unison, “But it’s a different compound!”
Swami then looked at Principal Narendra – he was the Principal then. Swami said to him, ”Principal, what do you feel?” The Principal replied, “Swami, these children are away from their parents. They have left their parents and come to You, and therefore Swami, they must always be close to You!”

Swami was deeply moved, and immediately ordered that the New Hostel be located right next to His Residence. Yes, there was a water tank there, but that was not a big problem, said Swami; and that is how we find the Brindavan Hostel where it is today, right next to Swami’s Residence.

That is our Beloved Bhagawan. A major decision had been made, and yet, for reasons of Pure Love, Swami was quite ready to change that decision in an instant, and in the very last moment too! 

Years passed, and Swami established one more College, this time in Prashanti Nilayam. The year was 1980, and with Swami now spending most of His time in Prashanti Nilayam, His attention was focussed on fusing the three Colleges into a full University.

There were of course sceptics galore, who predicted that setting up a University in a village would be impossible, but then, they forgot about the power of the Avatar’s Sankalpa. The University did come up despite the naysayers, with of course, Swami as the Revered Chancellor.

Chancellor Swami was in name, but the role He played continued to remain the same, namely, that of the Sad Guru. Yes, the style was different from what the boys in Brindavan were earlier used to, but the love, the care and the attention that Swami bestowed on every single student remained the same; if anything, they became more intense and focussed.

Swami immersed Himself in all aspects of the University - administrative, academic, financial, and so on; indeed, Swami became preoccupied with even examination reform. All those activities formed a part of His role as the Revered Chancellor; however, behind the scenes, instruction in Atma Vidya continued as before, if anything with greater vigour and with many new innovative strategies.

It is impossible to even catalogue the countless different ways in which Swami moulded the students, but one thing common to all of them was that Prema or Selfless Love was the principal tool used for imparting Atma Vidya. Here are a few samples.

In the early days, Swami would suddenly drop in at the Hostel when all the students were in class. He would then go round inspecting the place to see that everything was in order and spotlessly clean, particularly the kitchen, the dining hall and even the bathrooms. He would also stop by to see the students who were down with illness, materialising vibhuti for them, and promising to send the doctor to see them immediately.  

He would similarly drop in at the grounds most unexpectedly, and indeed, it was such visits that helped in the total transformation of that large patch of uneven land, thorny in many places, into the fine stadium that we now see. Typical of such casual visits was one He made while a volleyball match was in progress. 

Swami just sat down along with those watching the event, and appeared to be keenly following the match. Suddenly, He turned to one of the Teachers sitting next to Him and said, “You see that person serving the ball? Once he serves the ball, his team mates would do anything, including crawl on their knees, bruise their forearms and elbows and so on, to make sure the ball does not touch the ground on their side. Your job is something like that. I serve the ball, and you must ensure that the ball does not touch the ground. I give the initial push, and it is up to the Teachers and senior students to make sure that the enthusiasm, the discipline and the lessons that I teach, never slack. Yes, Teachers must maintain them always.” That was typical of Bhagawan. By the way, that seemingly casual remark made then has a very important message for all the teachers here, including me of course.

One more incident and this one happened in Kodaikanal. As many of you are undoubtedly aware, Swami often takes a big batch of students to Kodaikanal during summer, conferring on them the invaluable blessing of actually living with God for an extended period. To many, the Kodai sojourn appeared to be a picnic because that was how the trip was packaged, but in reality, it was a crash course in Spirituality.

Easwaramma Day, which is observed on 6th May, would almost invariably occur while Swami was in Kodai, and, needless to say, the event was always celebrated in a most fitting manner. The highpoint of the morning function would always be an elaborate Narayana Seva during which food, clothes and blankets were distributed to the thousands who came to Sai Sruthi, Swami’s residence in Kodai.

Normally, after the function is over, Swami would be in a very blissful mood but one year, He seemed rather pensive and withdrawn. Everyone was wondering why, but no answers were forthcoming. Meanwhile, Swami whispered some instructions, whereupon His car was got ready. Swami simply got into His car and drove off, accompanied by a van that followed Him behind. Most people thought Swami was going for a short drive, which He sometimes did; that morning, however, it was different. What was different became evident, only when Swami returned after about an hour and a half, beaming and full of broad smiles. Everyone was both relieved and happy.

Later, gathering students around Him Swami said, “Boys, do you know where I had gone? You all thought I had gone for a drive, did you not? Well, you are wrong. This morning, after the function was over, I began to think of the poor who were too old or sick or both, who could not come here and receive blankets. In fact, they needed the blankets even more than those who came here. Since they could not come here, I decided to go where they were! That’s why you saw Me disappear for a while. I went quite a distance to where the poor huddle together, trying to find some shelter. I went  door to door and distributed the blankets to every old and sick person I could find. That filled with them with joy, and their joy gave me Bliss!”
As one student put it, “Merely being with Swami was a great lesson for all of us, because we picked up so much about the art of life and living. It gave us deep insight into so many things, we were simply not aware of”.

Swami no doubt used many subtle methods to impart the essence of Atma Vidya, but the direct method namely, Divine Discourses, was always at the top of His agenda. Innumerable are the Discourses that Swami has given to students, but out of this very large number, I should on this occasion, make a very special reference to the Discourses that Bhagawan gave over many years, to the students enrolled in the MBA class.

It is important to appreciate that all this was long, long before corporate fraud became an endemic disease, leading to one bubble after another, culminating in the recent economy meltdown that is almost global.

Permit me to take a minute off to place in perspective the recent global economic crisis, in juxtaposition with the incredible Discourses Swami gave more than two decades ago. This is necessary, so that you can not only see how far ahead Swami looks, but also gives adequate early warnings. I have heard many experts analyse the recent global economic crisis, and all sorts of reasons being attributed to it. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, for example, says that greed has always been there and that it was the failure of the regulation mechanism that actually caused the meltdown, rather than greed per se.

In a limited sense, Prof Sen might be correct but I beg to submit, that the REAL cause of the meltdown was that greed was allowed to soar to atrocious heights not merely due to the failure of the regulation mechanism, but much more so due to a fatal fascination for uninhibited consumerism that was deliberately created, throwing all moral values to the four winds. Indeed, there was a silent conspiracy in which there were many partners, such as the financial institutions, powerful lobbies, and of course the Media, all of which, in unholy collusion, created the Economic Tsunami now sweeping almost all countries, dragging even poor countries into the mess, for no fault of theirs.

That exactly is where Swami’s extra-ordinary early warning assumes enormous significance. Yes, dear sisters and brothers, long, long before the financial world woke up to the need for moral brakes, Swami repeatedly stressed that all of us, with no exception whatsoever, must base our lives on the Purushaarthas, where Dharma forms the basis of all human activity, while the quest for Moksha or liberation automatically puts a ceiling on desires.

Let me at this point stress that ceiling on desires is no longer just an option but a dire and urgent necessity. If any proof is needed, I call your attention to a speech made by the Prime Minister of China at a recent international conference, where he gave a stirring call to the rich nations to stop lecturing the developing countries like India and China, and instead take steps to moderate their current unsustainable and utterly wasteful way of life, to something less polluting and more eco-friendly.

By the way, chastened by all the recent traumatic events, the Nations of the world are also talking of a New World Order, which, I believe, clearly has to abandon consumerism as the primary engine that drives the economy. Interestingly, Swami has already spelt out decades ago, precisely such a Global Order, based on the highest Vedantic principles. However, this is not the occasion to go into those details.

In passing, I should mention that my narrative about a Gurukulam hiding behind a University is no invention of mine; Swami Himself made a mention of it during a Convocation many years ago, and I remember that scene very well. Bhagawan said:
“Like Yasoda who held out fresh butter in her hand to attract young Krishna, I too hold out something in My hand to attract students, namely University education leading to the best of degrees, all given totally free. However, once they come into My fold, I do not produce a stick from behind My back like Yasoda did for disciplining young Krishna. Instead, I lovingly offer My students, the priceless treasure of Atma Vidya.”

Dear members of the audience, that is the amazing miracle that hides behind the beautiful spectacle that we are all witnessing now, even as yet another batch of students go out into the world to become the Torch Bearers of Sai.    

It is time to wind up but before I conclude, I cannot but mention an extra-ordinary event that shows to what extent Swami is prepared to go for the sake of His students. The incident I am about to narrate took place on 11th January, 1999, during the Annual Sports and Cultural Festival of this University.

That morning, as Swami was making a ceremonial entry into the Stadium in a specially-decorated chariot, an unintended slip on the part of the person driving the vehicle caused Swami to fall down. Everyone was aghast, naturally, but Swami quickly got up as if nothing had happened, and the procession resumed. Thereafter, the program went ahead smoothly, and Swami seemed perfectly normal to everyone, including to me, who was sitting fairly close to Bhagawan on the dais.

However, in God’s Leela, every incident, no matter how insignificant it might appear, does have meaning, sometimes very deep, as it was on this occasion. And we became aware of that significance only three days later, during the Divine Discourse that Swami delivered on Sankaranthi Day. Here is a small quote from what Bhagawan said on that occasion:

QUOTE: That morning, as I entered the Stadium, I spotted two lorries. Immediately, I could visualise the danger lurking in the corner. I saw the lorries with huge scaffoldings placed over them. I knew one of these was not fitted properly and could give way. If that were to happen, the boys performing feats on that scaffolding would suffer major head and spine injuries. I therefore willed that the boys be saved and decided to take the injury upon Myself…” END OF QUOTE.

The fact of the matter is that when Swami fell in His chariot, He suffered deep gashes and was in fact bleeding profusely. Yet, by His Divine Sankalpa, not one drop of blood seeped to His robe and no one even imagined that Swami had suffered a grievous wound. Dear Students, Swami’s narration is available in full in the Sanathana Sarathi and I strongly urge every one of you to read it. For, if you do, you would understand the profundity of the statement that Swami makes towards the end of that Discourse. He says:
QUOTE: I take upon Myself the sufferings of students at various points of time, in order to protect them.” END OF QUOTE.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, is it any wonder I went off the beaten track to give you a glimpse of something that happens all the time in this University which, when you examine deeply, is really a Celestial Gurukulam?

And now, do you know what, at the end of it all, Swami wants from His students? Swami spelt it out in a most moving manner towards the end of a Discourse He gave in Kodaikanal in 2007. I remember that scene very well. In a voice choked with emotion, Swami said:
QUOTE: I have only one concern. As long as students are here with Swami, they are fine. However, I am deeply worried about what would happen to them once they go out. This is a matter of constant concern to Me.

I have absolutely no worry or concern about anything, including Myself.
I do not have any desires, for I am totally beyond desires.
Nor do I have any attachments.
However, I DO have one anxiety, and that is about how students would behave when they go out. If they conduct themselves as ideal students, it would fill Me with joy. That is all the expression of gratitude that I expect from you! END OF QUOTE.  

Dear Sisters and Brothers, and my dear Students, I ask every one of you present here:
Is there any Chancellor that has expressed so much concern for the students of his University?
Is there any Guru who has been worried so much about the future of his disciples?
Or, is there any mother who has expressed so much anxiety about her children?
God alone can show such care, concern and anxiety, all of which are born of Prema or Selfless Love.
And that is because God is Love and Love is God.

That God is right here, playing innumerable roles as a part of His unfathomable Divine Drama, roles that range being the Chancellor of the Universe to being the Revered Chancellor of this University, and everything that comes in between. Of these numerous roles, I chose today to focus on the Lord’s role as the Sad Guru, steering personally the destiny of the only authentic Gurukulam of modern times, otherwise known as the Sri Sathya Sai University. Yes, every student who joins here, comes under the direct care of Swami on day one, and remains thereafter under the Divine Umbrella for the rest of his or her life!

Dear Graduands of the Year, at this point, there is something very important that I must bring to your notice. Many years ago, an eminent scientist from Austria named Victor Weisskopf, emigrated to America where he became a Distinguished Professor in the famous technical university MIT. Prof. Weisskopf was not only a very cultured man but also a highly sensitive individual. Speaking once to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Weisskopf said:
QUOTE: Knowledge – by knowledge, the learned professor meant scientific knowledge – knowledge without compassion is inhuman, while compassion without knowledge is ineffective. END OF QUOTE

The last few decades have seen an incredible decoupling of values from learning, which calls to mind Swami’s caveat that worldly knowledge and professional skills alone are not enough. Rather, they must be properly balanced, a balance that comes only when values become an integral part of the learning process. Thus it is that our ancients never separated Vijnana from Jnana; in modern language, that is what Educare is all about.  

All of you here have had the wonderful blessing of studying in a University that was established specifically for reviving our ancient tradition, where Sathya and Dharma come before everything else. After listening to my narrative about how much Swami has given of His time and energy towards shaping you, and how He has showered His Love unceasingly and in such abundant measure, I do hope you appreciate that when you go out, you have a very special responsibility.

But, dear students have no fear, for Swami would be with you all the time, would He not? So go out there, and spread Selfless Love, both individually and collectively, bringing hope, cheer, and joy, to a world that desperately needs it.

Please remember, that although you might have entered this University via the normal route of entrance tests etc., you are here because Destiny has favoured to be among the Chosen Ones. And for the Chosen Ones, Swami has a special Message, which I must bring to your attention. Swami says:
QUOTE: The intensity of My Love would be felt throughout this World. You are My instruments from which this Love would radiate. I have prepared you for this and drawn you to Me. My work is ceaseless, and so too is your work, without an end.

Be about My work, and your breath would then carry the scents of the Blossoms of Heaven, your example would be that of the Angels, and Your day would be My Joy! END OF QUOTE.
That is the task set for you by your Beloved Sad Guru, and I wish you Godspeed in your efforts to carry out this sacred task.  

Most Beloved Bhagawan, I began with You and naturally I must also end with You. The Divine Mother that You are, You would surely be wondering why I did not say anything about Your students. Swami, I do not have to say anything, because the whole world is talking about their sterling character and the wonderful work they are doing. I thought I would use the opportunity given to me today to tell the world the secret behind that miracle.

I am aware that Swami is not concerned about such matters, but I felt that I should not miss this opportunity to place on record something that humanity would otherwise hardly ever know about.

Beloved Swami, offering this talk to You in the highest tradition of this ancient land, I now pray for Divine permission to conclude, expressing once again my deepest gratitude to You, for the extra-ordinary Grace conferred on me today.
Finally, I thank all of you in the audience for giving me a patient hearing.