Sri Sathya Sai University
Or All That Glitters Is Not Gold.
Sathya Sai Baba proclaims the moral and spiritual correction of the humanity as the goal of his mission. He promises to restore righteousness in the world and believes that education plays a key role in his mission, not only ought to give people knowledge, but to develop character as well. According to Sathya Sai Baba the students who graduate from his educational institutions are bound to become the new leaders of India who will transform the country. Such social aspirations can easily move the heart of any kind person. Besides that, Sathya Sai Baba proclaims himself as an embodiment of the omniscient and omnipotent God in human form, who cannot have any failures or defeats. However, it is very important to pay attention to facts, to that reality which is behind all the lofty words and beautiful declarations. As Sathya Sai Baba himself teaches his followers, it is important to check if the deeds follow the words. This article is going to evaluate the success of Sathya Sai Baba mission in the area of higher education.
According to the information from the official web site (http://www.sssihl.edu.in/Aboutus_History.htm) the Sri Sathya Sai University (formerly Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) was founded on 22nd November 1981 and has been recognized by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, on (attention!) 10th November 1981. I dare to suppose that this discrepancy in the dates can be due to understandable desire of SSB followers to gain some symbolic meaning to this event connecting it with the SSB’s birthday which is on 23rd November. The university grew out of the colleges founded earlier. They are the college for women in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh state, (1968), Sri Sathya Sai Arts and Science College for men in Whitefield near Bangalore, Karnataka state, (1969) and the College of Arts, Science and Commerce at Prashanthi Nilayam, Andhra Pradesh state (the foundation-stone was laid in 1978). As they state on the official web site the university aims at imparting integral education, development of character being considered the primary objective of education. The education is based on the eternal human values and the university seeks to combine the best of both the ancient traditions and modern advancements. Hostel living has been made compulsory for the students as patterned in the ancient Gurukula style. The education is free of charge and the university is funded and run by Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust.
Colleges in India have to get the accreditation every five years. There is the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) which is an autonomous body of the UGC (University Grants Commission), based at Bangalore. NAAC assesses colleges and ascribes grades based on seven criteria like infrastructure, research facilities and teaching methods. There are nine grades altogether and the highest grade is A++. According to 2006 results, there is only one college in India which has A++, that is the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (deemed university), Prasanthi Nilayam. (http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2006/06/08/stories/2006060801700100.htm)
Sathya Sai Baba himself often praises his students greatly and sees them as a key factor in the transformation of India into a world spiritual leader. He repeats these ideas regularly in his discourses. Also his stand can be seen clearly from his conversation with J. Hislop.
“Hislop: Swami, These young college students who are in Swami’s college here, they have a first-class external education, highest examination scores and so on. And they are also building an inner character of strong morality. Will not these students become the leaders of India? Their fine education will get them positions, and their strong morality will sustain them?
Sai: That is the purpose of Swami’s college.
Hislop: Then in 20 or 30 years we should look for a great change in the Indian nation.
Sai: Twenty years? In ten years.
Hislop: But Swami, in 10 years they are still in their late twenties. People come to power in the late thirties, in their 40’s and 50’s.
Sai: In India people reach positions of power and influence earlier in life. Even now there are a number of examples throughout the nation.
Hislop: Do these students realize their destiny and the great responsibility to the world that they will carry?
Sai: The students say that when they grow up they will do as Sai wills. As positions open in every area of the Indian society, these young men will occupy the positions. Wherever they go they will influence and change the society for the better. Corruption and such problems will sharply diminish. Their influence cannot but express itself.”
(Conversations with Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba. Ch.XI, p.38)
Apparently, this conversation took place in the middle of 70’s. Since then different events have happened in India but no radical changes shown to be connected with Sathya Sai Baba personally or with his students have occurred. However, taking into account everything mentioned above, it would be natural to suppose that the Sri Sathya Sai University should have a good reputation and wide popularity. Nevertheless, some facts make us think that that is not a case.
In the list of the top 400 world universities for 2007 (http://www.topuniversities.com/) there are 3 Indian universities:
- University of Delhi (rating 254),
- Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (rating 269),
- Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (rating 307).
The Sri Sathya Sai University cannot be found in the list.
It cannot be found among three Indian institutes in the list of top 100 Asian universities
- Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (rating 51),
- Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (rating 53),
- Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (rating 99).
It even cannot be found in the list of the most popular Indian universities and colleges which consists of 224 educational bodies (http://www.4icu.org/in/). At the same time we can see Sri Krishnadevaraya University (rating 114) which was founded in 1981 and is located in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh state. This is the very town where one of the Sathya Sai Baba’s colleges is located.
It is a very odd situation after all: a free university with the high level of education, paying a lot of attention to the moral and spiritual development of the students, having a highest grade in India from the accreditation council (NAAC), has not enough reputation and popularity to compete with other universities and colleges in India. The situation can be clarified to some extent if a person surfs the Internet to search more information about Sathya Sai Baba himself. The first pages of practically all search engines will refer to the web sites where former followers of Sathya Sai Baba have been alleging him for many years in sexual abuse, corruption and even in complicity in murders (http://www.saiguru.net/english/ , http://www.exbaba.com/). So far Sathya Sai Baba has been escaping legal investigation only due to the protection of some influential Indian politicians. It is getting more and more difficult for Sathya Sai Baba to ignore these allegations and in this situation a strategy of silence is detrimental for the reputation of Sathya Sai Baba and the reputations of his educational institutions as well.
Another clue to this odd situation is the fact that the director of NAAC, Prof. V.S. Prasad (http://naacindia.org/), has done homage to Sathya Sai Baba and has been a speaker at a big function in his ashram (http://media.radiosai.org/Journals/Vol_01/07Dec01/09_PRASANTHI_DIARY/prasanthi_diary.htm) . Another influential figure, former Minister of Education and Human Resources, Murali Manohar Joshi, is Sathya Sai Baba’s devotee (http://www.rfjvds.dds.nl/ex-baba/engels/comments_on/_the_secret_swami/Joshi.htm).
If we take a common sense view of Sathya Sai Baba’s educational mission, one can hardly expect this single institution among some 300 Indian universities – with its ca. 1000 graduates a year – can really change the situation in the country which population has reached about one billion people.
The followers of Sathya Sai Baba can go on believing that it will happen after all with some miraculous and incredible way. But when it comes to a miracle, an omnipotent God could surely change the situation dramatically even without resorting to such measures as institutes of higher education.
As an old proverb reads: all that glitters is not gold. And, apparently, Indian students know that.