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An institute that aims at quenching dentity-crisis' - The Times of India

Sheeba Nair ()
October 21, 1998

Title: An institute that aims at quenching dentity-crisis
Author: Sheeba Nair
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 21, 1998

Try imagining a Mumbai-bred teenager waking up at 4 a.m.,
tidying up his or her room, then leaving for a session of yoga
or jogging, then bathing and also finishing a simple breakfast
by 8.30 a.m. - all voluntarily?

Have you met an aspirant of engineering who attends into
spiritual classes to understand the science of life? What about
those English- medium bred youths who practise Sanskrit in a
'gurukul' atmosphere?

Such seemingly strange experiments in education have always
found place in Bertrand Russell's theories on Education, Leo
Buscaglia's "Love Classes" and institutions like Rabindranath
Tagore's Shantiniketan, the Sri Aurobindo Education Society at
Pondicherry and New Delhi and J Krishnamurti's Rishi Valley
School in Tamil Nadu.

While these institutions are still struggling to preserve their
culture against the onslaught of conventional educational set-
ups, there are many more joining this mission of alternative
holistic education.

The Vedanta Academy, situated 108 km from Mumbai, amidst the
picturesque hills of Malavli near Lonavla, is yet another
endeavour in this direction, guided by Swami Parthasarthy, an
acclaimed exponent of Vedanta.

Designed as a university, conducting a three-year residential
course on Vedanta, the ancient system of Indian philosophy, this
academy is aiming to be an oasis to quench the 'identity-crisis'
suffered by the new generation.

A step into the 11 acres of the sprawling lush green expanse
interspersed with a dozen roofed buildings is enough to present
you an example of neat planning and managerial experimenting.

Well-trimmed gardens, sparkling floors, clean surroundings,
disciplined arrangements and the serenity of the atmosphere -
the genuine attempts by this team of teachers and students to
translate intellectual knowledge into practical living cannot be
hidden.

Curious to know the 'secret dosage' that keeps this atmosphere
going, you glance through the syllabus of the academy - a blend
of the teachings of Upanishads, Bhagvad Gita, the Vedanta
Treatise with Shakespearean plays and English poetry makes you
question.

Explains Jaya Row, the trustee of the institute and an
accomplished Vedantin, "The Vedanta analyses life per se, so
this academy basically imparts knowledge on preparing mind and
intellect to live life. We want to teach in a holistic manner by
including every possible source that can provide rich insights,
and that is what the Shakespearean plays and English poetry also
do".

The rigorous routine, the demands of self-change in daily life
apart from the theoretical knowledge does not seem to be that
easy. es, it is difficult in the beginning to adjust, but then
the very purpose of our coming here is to change ourselves, so
there's no question of resistance. My voluntary decision to
join this institute has been possible only after my willingness
to opt for this transition," justifies a newly-admitted student.

And why would a youth want to undergo this unconventional
course? "This course does not prepare you for any vocation like
the conventional courses. It's a specially designed course
which disciplines one's intellect such that wherever it is
applied it makes one successful," clarifies Ms Row.

Her son Ajay Row, a recent entrant to the course, is equally
enthusiastic about this career, (unlike other youths of his age
in Mumbai) when asked about his decision. "There is so much more
to life and I didn't want to be the same 'stress- ridden,
anxiety-filled, confused' like my peers. Also, the earlier I
learn to face the challenges of life, the better".

"The pre-requisite for any success is to learn the art of life
which is fundamentally defined in the Vedanta. For me, this
clarity was enough to provide inspiration to join the
institution and also to shift my career from being an accountant
to that of spreading this concept through lectures and seminars,
proudly exclaims M.K. Srinivas, a graduate from this academy.

Binita Bhakkar, a physiotherapist-turned-full-time aspirant of
spreading the wisdom of Vedanta has a similar story to say.

According to Ms Row, most of the students take up the similar
career as Srinivas and Binita, by conducting classes in and
around the city they reside. However, the others get the benefit
of application of this training in whichever vocation they
pursue in their life. "Success depends on how you can identify
opportunity, face them and bring results. So the Vedanta course
empowers the students to chart their success by making them life-
oriented," she notes.

Her son Ajay confirms, "I plan to come back and pursue my
graduation in science. However, my month-long exposure, has
amazed me completely by changing my way of looking at life, my
objectivity, making me calmer, less agitated and less stressful.
I am convinced that it will definitely improve my career in
life.

Though the turnover of students has been very few so far. the
endeavour of this institute to channelise and direct the new
generation towards a better human life adding value to education
by going back to the roots of Indian culture and tradition - is
indeed genuine.

A visit to this academy will be enough to remove the doubts, as
affirms a fresh student, "Before I came, I was 95 per cent
convinced, and today after a month I am 100 per cent convinced
about my decision."


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