Lessons learnt from Sri Sathya Sai at His University – By Narasimhan Venkataraman

Sri Sathya Sai - The Revered Founder Chancellor
It was almost 9 p.m. when I was leaving office. A manager from my department offered to drop me home. While travelling in his car, he suddenly asked me, “Did you also study in Sai Baba’s Institute at Puttaparthi?” When I replied in the affirmative, he said, “I know a few of your college mates who work in our department”. He then added, “You boys work smart. More than that, you all work silently”. It was a revelation to me that in the crowded corporate world, where a lot of people are busy blowing their own trumpets, people who work silently are also recognized. Working silently is what we all learn from our Lord. 

While facing the challenges of the world, I have the confidence deep down in my heart that the Lord is with me, silently working on me. It is not always a bed of roses. Neither is it always the sweetness of success. He makes us go through small failures so that our resolve would get strengthened and we would ultimately succeed. He is always by our side. In moments of anxiety, Swami offers us solace and during moments of indecisiveness, He provides us the direction.

I was almost in tears and it was with a very heavy heart that I was boarding the bus back to Chennai after my two and a half years sojourn at Parthi. Although I told myself a thousand times that I was only obeying the Lord’s command, I was still unable to console myself. I was travelling in the bus and seated next to me was a former student of the Institute who understood my feelings. He consoled me saying that Swami would be really happy when I obeyed His command implicitly, by leaving for home, in spite of my wanting to stay back in Prasanthi Nilayam. That piece of advice from my Sai brother brought a lot of solace to my aching heart. Every time I think about this incident, I offer my gratitude to Swami. It was inevitable that I should leave Parthi one day. But Swami took a lot of care and ensured that I did not feel the separation much. In every other University in the world, students wait eagerly for the time when they would go out of their University looking for jobs or opportunities for higher studies. It is only in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, that students wish to stay back even after their studies are over.

Many questions arise in our mind during our stay at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. While many prestigious Universities around the world boast about the kind of courses they offer and the pay packets the students receive during the campus recruitment, we here discuss about values and think about how to inculcate them. Are we really missing something? The answer is ‘no’. Every organization and every society in the world needs people who are passionate about values. After being a project leader for about a year, when I look back and do a self-analysis, I feel that the areas in which I have to improve are not technical areas. I find that in order to become a better project leader, I have to shed more ego, love others unconditionally and should continue to discharge my duties diligently irrespective of whether I am given the credit or not.  As I look around in my organization and in society and study people who are very capable and who have achieved great heights, I find that their foundation in values is very strong.

Swami makes leaders out of us. Once a devotee asked Swami, “Swami, only a few students study in your educational institutions. Yet the need for such students is very high in today’s society. How can just a few students be enough?” Swami smilingly asked, ‘How many soldiers are there in an Army?’ The devotee replied, “Several thousand”. Swami queried, ‘Yet how many Generals, manage them? Only a few. This Institute is creating Generals, not just common soldiers.’ The amount of confidence Swami reposes in us is tremendous. He calls us “His property” because He knows that His students will play a major role in shaping the destiny of this world.  


Swami has taught the most complicated things in the most lucid style. Once, while interacting with the students, Swami commented, ‘Your studies in the Institute are like the main dish in the lunch. Your interactions with me are like the side dish’. The students protested, “No Swami, our interactions with you is the main dish. Everything else is a side dish”. Swami did not agree. Swami then went on to explain. He asked the boys, ‘During lunch, will the main dish like rice be tasty if there was no side dish like Sambar?’ The boys replied “No, Swami”. Swami continued, ‘Similarly, My interactions with you are like the side dish. All your studies in the Institute will not be purposeful and worthy, if you do not imbibe the precious lessons that you learn here. Remember, the end of education is character. Without character, all that you have learnt will be a waste. Your interactions with Swami will help you in building a good character’.

Having worked in the corporate world, I realize the importance of character. If character is lost, everything is lost. The several corporate scandals that hit the news periodically suggest the importance of character. The greatest asset that each student gets in this Institute is a good character. He is given role models whom he can emulate in his daily life. This is the greatest core competency of every Sai student. If we realize this core competency, we can scale great heights, and yet at the same time remain humble enough to serve everyone in the society. 


-    Narasimhan Venkataraman
Student (2000-2002), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Senior Project Manager, Infosys Ltd., Chennai


Source: Fragrance 2005

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