How is Sri Sathya Sai University different from other Institutions? – By Tumuluru Kumar

My family members have been devotees of Bhagavan, since 1972, when we happened to visit Brindavan (Whitefield), during a visit to Bangalore. However, I never imagined then, that I would spend two years at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.  

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Campus

It was the spring of 1987. I had completed my B.Tech. and was preparing for further studies. Like most engineering graduates, my eyes were set on pursuing an M.Tech. or an MBA in some University in the United States of America. I had completed my GMAT and GRE and a few Universities had already responded favourably.  

Man can Propose but God has His own Ways

My mother insisted that being her only son, I should not leave India. “They never come back,” she said; “Why not pursue further studies in India itself?” Saying so, she produced a notification from the Sanathana Sarathi, inviting applications from prospective students for the second batch of the newly started MBA programme at Puttaparthi. Dutifully, I filled up the application form and went in for the tests as per the schedule – always sure that at some point of time I would lovingly convince my mother that I should go abroad for further studies. 

We were staunch devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, but we had never heard of an MBA Programme at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL). Few days later, I was informed that I had been blessed with a seat and that I was required to join immediately. My father discussed the matter and left the final decision to me. I joined the Institute on the final day of admission.

The Chancellor interacting with students of the MBA programme at SSSIHL

The courses at SSSIHL are not very different from the courses offered across many other Institutes and Universities in the world. What makes SSSIHL students so special is the presence of Bhagawan, His interactions with and His love for His students. I am grateful for what I have gained by being a student of this hallowed Institute. When I reflect on my one and a half decades of work experience and my interactions with colleagues in various organisations, I can confidently say, “This Institute is the best place for all learning and there is no greater Teacher than Bhagawan.” 

Follow the Master
There is a rat race to reach the top rung of the ladder in organisations; there is a passion for money making. In this process, the basic human values of love (empathy, team work, sharing and caring), honesty, service (hard work, corporate responsibility) etc. are lost. Individuals today, place themselves ahead of the organisation, leading to disturbing trends in the industry – dishonesty, lack of responsibility, lack of accountability, lack of trust, unhealthy competition and so on.  

Independence Day Celebrations at the Institute

What then is the role of the Sai Students and how well are they prepared for taking up the challenge?

Money comes and goes, Morality comes and grows

I have applied this simple principle in all organisations that I have worked for. Peers, supervisors, suppliers and customers – all appreciate this fundamental value. The organisation too benefits and grows in stature.

An example from my work-life: One of our local suppliers was failing on his commitments all the time. There would be delays in delivery, poor quality of products, etc. leading to cost over-runs and loss of value. I visited the supplier to understand the problem better. It had transpired that various individuals were taking cuts to place the orders. This led to the supplier delivering products of inferior quality and thus delaying the supplies. As head of the operations, I explained the philosophy to the supplier – If there were to be any cuts – it would be to the organisation, not to individuals. The motto was to maximize value to the organisation. My colleagues were well compensated by the organisation and did not need to be dishonest. The supplier understood the philosophy. We have, since then, received products at extremely competitive prices and the quality and delivery of the products too has improved greatly. We have also been happy to give more orders to this supplier – thus improving his lot as well. The Management noted this aspect and congratulated my staff for the efforts they had made to improve the supply chain. It has been a win-win situation for everyone concerned.

Love All, Serve All

Many organisations have realised that their growth is being hampered by a lack of appreciation for soft skills and they are now placing great value on the ability to operate in multi-cultural and diverse teams. There is a growing emphasis on training and staff development. Many organisations have also realised the importance of development of the immediate environment in which they operate and are using a percentage of their profits to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities. 

Senior students training their juniors in instrumental music at SSSIHL

The SSSIHL student is well trained in these soft skills. The Institute is diverse in its nature. The seniors impart soft skills to the new students. There is a sense of camaraderie. I remember very fondly, when I joined the Institute as a new student – I was immediately made to feel at home by my fellow students in the Hostel and in my room. They had been with the system for many years and they realised that as a new student I needed to be looked after and made comfortable. They indicated what was expected of me, explained the rules and made my first few days as comfortable as possible.

 A team of Hostel students taking care of electrical work
The students in the Hostel not only perform their individual chores but also rotate responsibility on a regular basis. Students perform social activities involving development of the community and neighbouring villages. No other University or Institute imparts these skills to its students. It is possible only at SSSIHL, under the guidance and Love of Bhagawan.  

Students doing community service during the weekends - cleaning Hostel premises

I remember when we went to Kodaikanal with Him, Bhagawan would ensure that all our daily needs were looked after and that we were very comfortable. He was the Mother and the Father, the Manager and the Director – all at the same time. It was an amazing experience! I am mentioning here a few incidents that took place during this trip, that are very close to my heart and which I have carried into my work-life. 

Where the Chancellor serves and leads by example...

We had reached the Sai School in Ooty for lunch. The staff and the little children gave a rousing welcome to Bhagawan and the accompanying MBA boys. As we went for lunch, the meagre staff was struggling to serve us and manage the excited children and devotees at the same time. Bhagawan looked at us and said, “Will you just stand there and expect to be served?” He then picked up a vessel and started serving Himself! Many of us rushed to assist Him. It was a great lesson in leadership and team work.

I also remember the day when Bhagawan travelled from Kodaikanal to Coimbatore one afternoon, and reached there at tea time. He brought with Him a jack fruit and honey. He lovingly served the fruit to us, explaining that the fibre in the fruit was good for our health. The honey was to help in digestion. What loving care!  

Time Waste is Life Waste…..
The Golden Principle of Planning and Time Management 

The Sai Student is well equipped to plan and manage time. The student is always under pressure to juggle through the various routines in the Institute and the Hostel. The morning prayers, Hostel routine, class hours, Darshan, games, social service and off to sleep at 10 p.m. – make up most of a student day. The student thus learns the importance of time and plans his work and assignments accordingly.  

In one of the many interactions with the MBA students, Bhagawan had once said, ‘Work hard. Ensure that through your work you earn a good name for yourself and the Institute. This will be the best way to show your gratitude to Me and the Institute’. Incidentally, building a good image will also create a platform for subsequent students coming from our Institute to gain entry into the corporate world. 

The graduands of SSSIHL at the Institute's Annual Convocation

We must stand committed to Bhagawan’s teaching, ‘Work is Worship, Duty is God’. Swami says, ‘My Life is my Message’. We must make our lives fit enough to reflect Swami’s Message.

- Tumuluru Kumar
Student (1987-1989), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, International Food Policy Institute, Ethiopia


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