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Students of Sri Sathya Sai University are the luckiest of the lots who were (are) blessed, with Bhagawan Himself donning the role of the Chancellor. Lucky chosen ones had the rare privilege of listening and learning directly from the Divine Chancellor. How precious were those moments, experiences and how Bhagawan ‘impressed’ this lot living His message exemplifying Himself as the most Ideal Leader. Given below is the transcript of a guest lecture delivered by Sri Nitin Acharya at the University Auditorium in Prasanthi Nilayam on the occasion of 26th Anniversary of the Department of Management Studies, on 21st August 2012.

I offer myself at Bhagawan’s Lotus Feet!

Esteemed elders and dear brothers, Sai Ram and greetings  to  one and  all.

It is said, if you are anxious about something, it indicates that you are living in the future.  If you are depressed, it would mean, you are living in the past. But, if you want peace, then, you should live in the present.

Swami always emphasized on the power of being in the present. ‘Past is past, forget the past.  Future is uncertain, Present is omnipresent. So, be in the present.’ He Himself used to practise and advise this. But, I feel that, in  the  present  context, post April 2011, we have to make some  exceptions, because, we just can’t forget those golden moments which  we have experienced in  the physical presence of the Divine and now, we should reminisce, ruminate and  introspect every day. Then, the present becomes omnipresent and we can feel that omnipresence of Swami.

So, today I take this opportunity to share with you some of those reminiscences of the year 1996 when I entered into the portals of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

I was blessed to be born in a Sai Family. Yet, I did not have any desire to become a Sai student in my childhood. Staying away from my home and my parents, in the hostel, was acceptable neither to me nor to them. So, I finished my education in Bombay right up to Engineering and thereafter, I got a job. At that time, I felt like putting a full stop to my studies; no more attending classes, obeying teachers, stretching and stuffing our memories and writing examinations for 3 hours without break and then wait for results. No. No. No more listening to the demands of our kith and kin and commands of our teachers.  It was time to start next phase of a rollicking life. In short, I was ‘happy’.

More than 6 years passed.  In 1995, Neeraj, my younger brother joined the MBA course here, in Bhagawan’s college.  For him too, like many of the students, doing MBA was just a means to get the proximity of the Divine.  Becoming a student is the best way to enter the Divine fold. So, Swami fulfilled his noble desire. We started coming to Parthi quite often to meet him and simultaneously have Divine darshan. Prior to that, whenever I used to come to Bangalore on an official visit, I used to come to Parthi or have His darshan at Brindavan. In  fact, it  was a sheer  coincidence that my first outstation  visit  to  one of our  clients  was  in Bangalore, at  Whitefield, in Usha Martin, just couple of kilometers away from  Brindavan.

In the academic year 1995-96, I came to Parthi four times.  My brother used to share his experiences through letters and over phone. During Bhagawan’s 70th birthday celebrations, I arrived in the evening on 22nd November. The convocation drama was going on in Shanti Vedika. I was right at the other end of the stadium. I came to Parthi once again for the Sports Meet. My brother participated in an aerial grid formation, which was being performed for the first time. There was a fire brigade rescue operation being performed by the Brindavan Campus students. Seeing all those performances, I had two tears in my eyes, one a tear of joy and the other one, a tear of sorrow. I felt ecstatic to see Swami’s  boys  performing those  stunts  and  simultaneously, a  little  gloomy, because I felt that I  missed something in my  life. I should have come here for studies during childhood or at least during under graduation. This opportunity is gone and would never come to my life. Thinking so, I felt depressed as I was living in the past with ‘if’s and ‘should have’s.

On my way back to Bombay after the Sports Meet, we were recapitulating the events performed by the students. That time, I made a casual statement. ‘Why not I too apply this year to get into Swami’s college?’. Immediately,  my brother Litesh latched on to that  idea and assured me that  he would make arrangements to get the application  forms  for both M.Tech as well as MBA, so that the  probability of getting  admission  would be double. My parents too supported this idea. We came to Bombay and shortly, the application forms too arrived from Parthi. As I mentioned earlier, it was a casual statement with low degree of seriousness. I felt, ‘what is the harm in filling the form and despatching it?’ Qualifying for MBA is like a hurdles race. First, we should get the admit card, then write various tests in a competitive arena and then, group discussion and interview. Sighting remote chances of clearing all these hurdles, I filled in the application form.  At that time I was anxious as I was already living in the future of a remotest possibility of becoming a Sai student.

I did not realise then that, by filling in that form, I had taken the first step towards Swami. I had knocked at God’s Door.  We all know, when we take one step towards Bhagawan, He takes care of the rest. It happened exactly that way and I landed in Whitefield, Bangalore for the Summer Course. Swami had already made retrospective amendment in my educational qualification by replacing the full stop with a comma.

The Summer Course began on 20th May, 1996. It was based on the epic Ramayana, on the life of Lord Rama.  I started taking notes with the title, ‘Rama – An Ideal Leader’. After the Summer Course, we came to Parthi as college reopened for the new academic year. Swami arrived on 15th of June.  MBA and MFM batches of 1996 were very much fortunate to receive extra attention from Bhagawan. Bhagawan would come to the audio visuals room of the Institute, every Sunday, and deliver discourse on Management. It was like a curtain raiser for our course.  He covered almost all the subjects.  He spoke on Finance and Accounting, Marketing and Sales Promotion, Production and Human Resource Management. He  also  explained  some management jargons  prevalent in  those  days namely,  TQM, Activity  based costing, Re-engineering  and His favorites like ethics in Business, Rural development,  CSR  etc. Bhagawan never used sophisticated tools like power-point, a projector, a flash presentation etc.  For Him, one mike was sufficient and a translator for the convenience of listeners.  If He needed any other thing for further explanation, He would materialize it.  I remember, how He materialised a Scheaffer make pen and explained about its manufacturing, costing, pricing and packaging etc.   Swami came 3 times to the Institute.  Instead of  darshan round  as usual  in  Sai Kulawant  Hall,  He used to start before seven  in the  morning  in the  car,   arrive at the  Institute  and then  spend 21/2 to 3 hours and  go back only for Aarati  at  around 10 am.   Next Sunday,   He called all 45 of us inside the interview room in the Mandir and spent the entire morning till bhajans. He established that one-to-one relation with each one of us. In short, He showered His abundant love and grace so much that the entire class was charged up with energy and enthusiasm.

It is said that good times fly off in no time.  In the Divine proximity, hours pass like minutes and minutes lapse like seconds. Two years of MBA course went like a flash. This (today) was the day when Swami came here, in this auditorium, on 21st August 1996 and the tradition continued for few more years. Boys  used to present  speeches,  small skits, and songs  as  a token  of  gratitude  to  our  beloved  Chancellor on this very day. During our first year, Swami gave discourses every day, for around 2 months in Sai Kulwant Hall. Apart from students and teachers from all campuses, around 5000 devotees got the benefit from the Divine teachings every day.

There are more than 300 universities in India and may be a few thousands all over the world. Amidst them, Our university, ‘Sri Sathya Sai Institute of higher Learning’ is unique. Why is it so? I got the answer to this question during the very first year in Parthi as a student. The answer could be given in just a single sentence; ‘Living with God is True Education and He is the Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University.’ The Prefix ‘Sri Sathya Sai’ makes all the difference. It is applicable not just to the university, but   to any other institution founded and run under Bhagawan’s leadership.

You may say that now, we have a new Chancellor, but I feel that it is only for official purposes. From students’ perspective, Swami still remains and shall remain forever the Chancellor.

Lessons given by Bhagawan during those 2 years of MBA, were not just theoretical lessons, but what He Himself practised right from His childhood. If  you take  a  look  at Bhgawan’s life,  we  realise that  His life  was His  message in entirety. He lived a life full of sacrifice; Sacrifice is the hallmark of an ideal Leader.  A lesson for one and all, especially for today’s so called leaders.

He chose  to  take  birth  in  a  remote  village and  in  a poor  family . Then He went on to fulfil His mother’s wish to provide clean drinking water, medicare, and educare to everyone at no cost. The village got transformed into an international township, equipped with schools, colleges, hospitals,  a planetarium, and  indoor and outdoor stadiums – all accessible with  roads,  air and  rail  connectivity.  He has showered His grace manifold in present time compared to earlier times, with earlier Avatars. Do we require any other example of what an ideal leadership is?

Dear brothers, the whole world is in shortage of an ideal leadership. And now, we, too, are facing the same leadership crunch. People are talking about  Swami’s return in the  same form even more than an year after His ‘departure’ from the physical plane. A book has also been published on this subject.  This is because there is a big vacuum in our lives. We are missing  Swami, Who is multifaceted, playing  various  roles of, Leader, Guru, Mother,  Father, Teacher, Doctor , Actor and  Director in this Drama  called ‘Life’.

But now it’s time to come out of this vacuum. Just compare, the Creator with the five elements of creation. Sri Sathya Sai in the physical form is like associating the Creator with Mother Earth, the grossest element of the creation. But, the Phenomena called Sri Sathya Sai was (is) not limited to a small 5’2’’ physical frame. Sri Sathya Sai is all pervading. He is Omnipresent like ‘space’, the lightest of the 5 elements. He is like air, like a cool breeze on a hot sunny afternoon that refreshes us. He is like water, which quenches thirst of parched throats.  Sometimes, He was like ‘Fire’, most furious among all. Fire has some unique and noble qualities.  Fire doesn’t get contaminated like other elements. It is always pure. Any offering made into fire becomes one with fire and turns it into ash.  Ash is the symbol of purity.  He was a hard task master.  Those, who were near Swami experienced His Agnitatwa (Fire Principle).  Perhaps, that’s the reason, He used to call boys ‘Bangaru’ meaning gold.  Gold gets value only when it is subjected to Fire.

In  short,  when we  associate  the creator with the respective  5 elements of  His Creation, we realize  that  God is  Love  and Love manifests in different forms.

When I arrived in Parthi during 70th Birthday celebrations, I was at the other end of the stadium where the convocation drama was being staged. I never even dreamt at that time that, in the next two editions during subsequent years, I would be there on the stage playing the main role. Swami’s plans are always amazing. I still remember some of the dialogues of the convocation drama held on 22nd Nov, 1997.  The drama ended with some potent dialogues. Today, I would like to end my talk with same words:

‘We will not run away from this fire; we will wait for the fire to test us; we will wait for the fire to purify us.  This is the moment of our destiny and this is the moment of our trial by fire. So, come, let us pray’

With that hope, Beloved Mother Sai, I fall at Thy Lotus Feet!

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II