God Descends For Man’s Ascent - By Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath

I live in an enchanted place, a Goshen, in the midst of Virgin Nature, away from the din and bustle of humanity. The distant blue hills stand as sentinels all around to ward off all negative vibrations from entering this allowed place. The tall trees, the green verdure, the variegated blossoms, the fountain in the middle, the green lawn, a soft carpet for God to tread on, the meandering pathways flanked by tall coconut palms, heavy with the ripened coconuts hanging tantalizingly for one to pluck, and the little flowers peeping out of the trimmed grass, tinted blue, pink, yellow and purple, innocently looking at one as one walks along, transports one to heavenly bliss.

Here, in the midst of this indescribable bounty of God is a beautiful majestic building which gradually rises, tier after tier, to the highest pinnacle on which is a full blossomed pink lotus, chiseled by the devout artisan, praying to the Almighty to place His divine feet on her that she and the whole place may be sanctified. This uniquely lovely building is situated on the highway, on the Bangalore road, a cynosure of all eyes–veritable Heaven on Earth. This is Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus; this is my home.

The Divine Sankalpa was made by our Beloved Bhagavan to start an Educational Institution which would integrate the total personality of Man, his physical, mental, intellectual, moral and spiritual aspects, to mould man into a whole being who would not only be benefited personally but become an indispensable instrument to make the world a better one, to open the eyes of humanity that all these faculties are God-given and one must utilize them to strive to walk the royal road to redemption.

Sri Sathya Sai Arts, Science & Commerce College was initiated and inaugurated by Divinity, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in a rented building on 1968, July 2nd as at that time, the college building was yet to be constructed. To cater to girls in and around Anantapur, even the Intermediate Course was offered. The Degree Course was under the auspices of the Sri Venkateswara University. A large number of students were admitted, catering to the dire need of the time. When the Divine wills it, buildings of great beauty and majesty rise like in exhalations. The construction of the present Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning was completed in an incredibly short time, within a year, by those who executed the Divine Plan. It stands apart as a beacon light which lights up the darkness within the soul of the individual, a boon and blessing to humanity. This lofty and towering college building was inaugurated on 8th July, 1971 by the then President Sri V V Giri, and the hostel by Smt. Saraswathi Giri, in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan Baba. My father was one among the selected few who were present during this unique and august ceremony. Hardly did I know then that I would be blessed to be a member of the Faculty.

Sri V.V. Giri, President of India, and Sri Sathya Sai at the Inauguration of the Anantapur College - 1971

The college was taken over by Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and renamed as Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning on 10th November 1981. Needless to say, the educational system was re-shuffled to cater to the fast changing world of today. It was a wonderful combination of what was good in the old system and what was necessary for the present day. 

Bhagavan Baba constituted a committee of well-known educationists and administrators to plan the working of this singular endeavour. Dr. V K Gokak, an expert in the educational field was the first Vice Chancellor of the Institute. He was the person befitting to carry out the mandates of Divinity, so that the Institute could formulate an educational pattern that would be on par with any well-known university of foreign countries. Since then, with the blessings of Bhagavan Baba, the Institute has maintained academic excellence. The syllabi for all the courses are keyed to a high level that the students who pass out of this university are much sought after, in the academic, the business and the administrative fields.

Right from the initiation of this educational programme, Bhagavan Baba’s personal interest, encouragement and loving advice to the students as well as the teachers is a continuous grace bestowed on all. The motto of this Institute is: “There is only one language, the language of the Heart; There is only one religion, the religion of Love; There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity; There is only one God, and He is Omnipresent.” Along with the educational training, Beloved Bhagavan with infinite mercy blessed us with His Divine Ministry – this constituted the Educare, which alone could bring about a synthesis of the intellect and the heart. It was a pointer to the profound truth that it was not merely the study of secular knowledge imparted through books but the need for moral and spiritual awareness which could make this world a God-given gift to Man.

Swami inaugurating the first Overhead Projector at the Anantapur College - 1978

Those delightful early days when Bhagavan Baba would come to our Campus very often, sometimes informing us in advance, sometimes coming whenever He chose to, are unforgettable experiences. As a mother pays special attention to a young child, so did dear Bhagavan to the children of the Institute. 

A spacious living room opening into a balcony, an attached bathroom and another room where Swami could talk to the devotees were built on the first floor, right in the heart of the college building. He would come out into the balcony and give us Darshan in the early morning when we would go for Nagar Sankeertan. Those were days of unbounded joy. If it was a working day, Baba was particular that the college schedule should not be disturbed. He would walk gracefully along the verandah and peep into the class rooms while teaching was going on. The students with their hearts and minds following the Divine, and the teachers with understanding conniving with them followed Divinity, though not physically–but with their whole being, intoxicated with the presence of God. The College, needless to say was the Temple of the Almighty.

Swami would sit on the lawn in the evenings and the students would sing bhajans many a times with Baba playing the Talam to the beat of the rhythm. In John Milton’s words, - “This was Paradise now.” Swami would encourage the students to participate in games and to make the youngsters, who acquitted themselves with expertise, happy, give them presents with His own Divine Hands. Traditional dancing, classical and light music, enacting meaningful dramas, participation in debates not only in the college but even outside in such programmes sponsored by various organizations, was encouraged by Swami. He would even create watches, rings studded with gems and gold earrings for the winners. The recipients of such grace were thrilled beyond measure, a blessing never to be forgotten. 

Swami with Vice Chancellor Prof. V.K. Gokak at the Anantapur Campus Playground - 1984

On a certain visit to our Campus accompanied by our first Vice Chancellor, Dr. V K Gokak and other dignitaries, Baba graciously presided over the March Past of our students and took the salute. It was later that the Sports Meet became an integral part of the blossoming of the total personality of the students. On one such Sports Meet, conducted as usual in the Divine Presence of Beloved Bhagavan in the Hill View Stadium in Prasanthi Nilayam, He was so happy and proud of the girl students who had performed incredible acrobatic feats on the motor bikes. They would go through fire and take a long leap over sixteen students prostrate on the ground. As a token of appreciation, He would shower His bountiful love by giving them costly presents and above all, create gold rings studded with precious gems and put them Himself on their fingers. What can we offer to such a God in return for such abundance of Grace? Nothing but gratitude mingled with the humble resolve that we should implicitly follow the Values so dear to Him and become blessed.

God descended from the high heavens, donning the human garb–to rescue us from the troubled waters of the world. The unique Educare was integrated into the educational system – like two facets of the same coin. In the silence of the early mornings at 5.30 a.m. the Suprabhatam prayer, the Nagar Sankeertan to purify the surroundings with the powerful vibrations of the Bhajans and the early morning Yogasanas contributed to the integration of the body and the mind. Personally, Bhagavan exhorted Mrs. Pushpa Ramanna and me to train them in cutting vegetables–telling themselves that they are cutting their ego, roll chappatis, symbolic of expanding their hearts. 

The Self-Reliance Programmes initiated by Bhagavan is an indispensable training for the youngsters. They had to perforce clean, sweep, mop their own rooms, wash their own clothes and keep the surroundings clean. Serving items of food, senior students helping the teachers in the maintenance of discipline in the hostel during the study hours has to be seen to be believed. This loving Educare of the Omniscient Divinity, Bhagavan Baba, has made the impossible possible-in making the young girls totally self-reliant. 

When Educare and Education go hand-in-hand they foster a sense of belonging to the Alma Mater, self-confidence, dedication, an ardent desire to acquit oneself well in all activities, an awareness of time management, and above all translating into action, the much needed Value – an ounce of practice is much better than tons of precept. 

As there is no hospital here run under the auspices of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, we have to perforce send our children to doctors in the town whenever necessary. Two teachers and some students diligently and with love, look after the sick. The hostel extends all the cooperation. It generates the Value – Hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray.

Another facet of the loving Educare is the divine discourses Swami would give in the college auditorium where all teachers and students would assemble. Virtuous women, Swami would say, are the bed-rock of society. God has endowed them with the inherent selfless love of the mother, patience, compassion, sense of self-sacrifice and the unique power of chastity. The young girls who are trained in this Institute will become the torch bearers to ward off the lurking shadows of the negative currents that have shrouded the world today. In a nutshell, Baba says – Kattu, Bottu, Juttu of the girls if taken care of, meaning the mode of dress, the visible bindi on the forehead and hair neatly tied up, will contribute to the building up of the personality of the girls. Such girls become potent instruments to bring about an awareness that it is not cannons and bombs that are necessary to quell the evil in man but Values and Values alone which are the panacea for the troubled world.

Swami heading to the Anantapur Campus Hostel; Jayamma is on the right along with other teachers

The most unforgettable experience is the visit of Bhagavan Baba to the Hostel, whenever He came to our Campus. He would have food with us. We would decorate the dining table of Bhagavan and place it in a vantage position, so that all the children could see Him. He would walk with such grace among the rows of children seated, talk to them lovingly and crack jokes with them. Mrs. Puspa Ramanna and I had the rare privilege and fortune of serving God. The children hardly ate the food as they gazed at Bhagavan with eyes moist with the unshed tears of devotion. Swami would enter the kitchen, talk lovingly to the cooks, open the lids of the vessels and say with such transparent love that the food seemed very appetizing. Baba would give clothes to all the workers and they would touch His delicate Feet with reverence and gratitude. Though those days will never come back again, they are indelibly imprinted on the canvas of our hearts. We remain ever grateful to our beloved God, Swami, for teaching us that God’s pure love chastens and uplifts one. 

Seated on the Anantapur Hostel Jhoola

After the inception of our Institute, the educational system was overhauled by our first Vice Chancellor, Dr. V K Gokak. The syllabi and the method of teaching were reoriented to keep abreast of the times. The novel change was that, English being the lingua franca, should cater to all sections of society. Hence Communicative English was taken care of. Optional English for the undergraduate and the postgraduate course was also introduced to cater to those students who wanted to specialize in English language and literature. Arts and Science subjects were also an integral part of their curriculum and the syllabi of all the courses were judiciously planned in consultation with experts in the respective areas of study.

Every two years, the senior faculty members in every course, along with experts invited from other prestigious universities, meet and assess the efficacy of the prevalent syllabus, how a change for the better can be introduced periodically. Suffice it to say that breaking through the monotony of teaching the same texts and following the same methods, makes it conducive for both the teachers and the students to gain expertise in their areas of study. These changes are salutary; in that, they whet the intellectual curiosity of the students; encourage them to face the challenges in their adventure of the learning process.

Our teachers of all departments – Arts & Sciences - have attended many seminars and workshops conducted under the auspices of the U G C as well as those conducted by various educational institutions. They have been invited as Resource Persons to deliver talks and also monitor the conduct of the programmes. They have published many papers after doing research in their fields of study, which have been acclaimed at home and abroad as valuable  contributions to the all-round progress of man’s well-being. The Home Science Department’s contribution to the less fortunate ones of our society is the  various nutritious types of food packets from what Nature has provided. This does not demand money or hard labour. Home remedies for common ailments are processed in the lab and are distributed to various medical shops at very nominal prices. Our teacher’s involvement in the unique research programmes is a testimony to keep abreast with the fast changing modern scenario. 

Swami with Jayamma (right) and other faculty member from the Dept. of English

Our teachers guide the students in their M.Phil and Doctoral Research. Needless to say, with the bounteous loving grace of Bhagavan and the encouragement of our dedicated authorities, our Institute is making tremendous strides in the area of productive research. Our Institute has not through any propaganda, but by sheer dint of hard work and dedication of our students with the able guidance of the teachers have acquitted themselves par excellence, in all fields of study. Never to be forgotten is that all this is possible through Bhagavan’s love and grace and His Unique MAGNUM OPUS, EDUCARE.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council visited various universities and declared that our University was one of the best and has awarded the highest grade of A++. That our University is one of the best, speaks volumes of the unique combination of Educare and Education.

The extra-curricular activities are an integral part where the teachers and students involve themselves in reaching out to the needy and the poor. Fortnightly distribution of food packets and clothes to the neglected unfortunate ones and visiting the leper colony periodically, distributing food and clothes to them is a continuous, sacred activity. 

As far back as 1971, our students involved themselves in the NSS Programmes. They would go to the villages and survey their living conditions. They would build houses for them with stones and mud. It was an incredible sight to see the youngsters carry heavy stones and build sturdy huts for the needy. It was all due to the Grace of Divinity. 

Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath with Swami at the Summer Course in Ooty - 1976

Under Baba’s Divine Ministry, we have all understood that education is not merely the study of varied subjects, fragmented as they are today but the integrated awareness of understanding God’s Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence revealed to us in the study of various disciplines, concerning man and his world. 

Faith in God and dynamic humility is the touchstone to our character building which Bhagavan says is the end of education. These two virtues will add value and refinement to the academic pursuits and to the over-all integrated education that we get in Swami’s institutions. 

I conclude saluting the Holy Feet of the Great Teacher of Teachers – Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

- Prof. Jayalakshmi Gopinath
Former Principal, Anantapur Campus
Former Head, Department of English
Former Warden, Anantapur Campus Hostel
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

Source: Vidyagiri: Divine Vision 2006

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