February 23, 2015 4:01:43 am
What is common between a sitting MLA from Pune district, a technical officer from Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) and an executive vice-president of a software giant? They all are students at the Pali department of Savitribai Phule Pune University. If the head of the department is to be believed, over 60 per cent of his students are professionals or have retired from big posts in different organisations.
“We get people from all walks of life and all religions too. We have specialist doctors, big entrepreneurs, retired professionals and businessmen among others in almost all streams — from certificate courses to doctoral programmes,” said M A Deokar, HoD.
As per Deokar, there are mainly three types of students who take admission in the department — people who follow Buddhism, people who are inspired by rational and logical teachings of Buddha and people who are into meditation and spirituality and hence want to learn more about the ancient history of Buddha. “The teachings of Buddha have always been considered rational and hence appealing to the people who want to find logic to spiritual teachings. Secondly, there is less left for imagination, less things to believe in, and less taboos in Buddhism. The teachings are about how to improve oneself and whatever one is seeking is in oneself, hence the teaching don’t ask you to do anything other than becoming a better human being, which immediately connects with people in today’s time,” he says.
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Shubhashree Barua, retired general manager of a private firm who is a first year MA student, says: “At a certain stage in your life, your interest moves on to the ‘whys’ of life. Spirituality starts mattering more and what better way to learn more about it than studying Pali, a language in which most of Buddha’s teachings were written in.”
Till 2000, there were no Indian students in the department. Gradually, Indian students started coming in and now the department has more than 300 Indians. “The most number of students are in the certificate course as that is the entry level. We also have two applied courses, almost 90 per cent of students who are opting for these have other jobs as counsellors, psychologists etc. They are studying here especially in Applied Mahayana Buddhist Psychology and Ethics course. Another new group that has been coming in large numbers has people working in areas related to environment,” says Deokar. “MLA Gautam Chabukswar from Pimpri started with a certificate course here in 2002. Today, he is doing his M.Phil and is also a visiting faculty here,” he adds.
Suryakant Bhosale, a third year Bachelor’s degree student who is also a technical officer at ARDE, says: “There is too much stress in life and teachings of Buddha are in sync with today’s generation’s thoughts. It asks you to look for answers within and this helps people in becoming a better contributing human being of the society. Secondly, all Buddhist books, i.e. on culture and its ancient history, are in Pali and hence learning the language helps students understand this better.”
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