Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya is an institution whose vision is to be a centre for artistic and scientific learning, in keeping with holistic values. The institute is the brainchild of our late patron Swami Shantanand Saraswati.
He envisioned an institute where arts and sciences, ancient and modern, can be learned and explored, synthesised into a holistic experience for the student, since “Truth is One and Paths are Many”. The ultimate goal is to serve humanity through education.
‘Saraswati’ literally means ‘that which is constantly flowing’. ‘Maha’ means great and ‘Vidhyalaya’ translates ‘to seat of knowledge’, therefore “a great seat of knowledge that constantly enlightens the ever changing and moving mind”
In 1975, a Hindu monk, Swami Shantanand Saraswathi set foot in Perth Australia. Swamiji (as he is reverently addressed), held Satsangs or spiritual discourses at the homes of devotees wherein he taught the simple, universal truths of serve, love and give - selflessly.
His approach was all embracing and his ideology simple: “Follow any path, religion or doctrine, but believe in it sincerely, because the sincerity of your belief will illuminate your path and guide you to the ultimate common goal - Self-Realisation - Oneness with God. He taught that all the great Prophets, since time immemorial came to show mankind that the only way to lasting peace and happiness was to realise “your oneness with God”. The only difference was how they expressed this to the masses who heard them. Christ declared “Be still and know that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. Buddha declared “Every soul, every pebble is destined to one day reach the ultimate state of Nirvana”. Krishna declared that “The Jivatma (Individual Soul) after having passed through thousands of births and deaths will eventually merge and become one with the Paramatma (Universal Soul)”
The path toward this ultimate goal, Swamiji taught, can be many and varied but the goal is but one. To illustrate this he quoted a well known verse in the Hindu scriptures “Many and varied are the rivers on the face of this earth. Starting at different points on the earth they meander, twist and turn along their arduous journey but ultimately end in the same Ocean.” Thus is our journey - the journey of the Soul - whatever be its chosen religion, creed or path it finally merges the One Universal Truth.
With foresight of this ultimate Goal , Swamiji conceptualised two institutions in Perth for his followers and all who wished join in. The Institutions “Annalakshmi “ and “ Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya” (SMV) would become vehicles for volunteers to practice an ancient and time tested form of Yoga - “Karma Yoga” or the Yoga of Selfless service.
He taught “ Whether you cook, serve, sweep or dance do it with passion, dedication and single mindedness not for financial gain, name or fame but with the singular purpose to bringing a little joy to your guest”.
This process he taught not only benefits the guest but purifies you hastening your journey to the Ultimate.
tasmai sa hovāca—dve vidye veditavye iti ha sma brahmavido vadanti parā caivāparā ca
“To him, he said—Two kinds of knowledge are to be known—so indeed the knowers of
Brahman declare—the higher (parā) as well as the lower (aparā).”
Swamiji expounded the principle of ‘Arts for Art’s sake’ and ‘Serving humanity through arts, culture and education’. Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya, (previously operating as The Temple of Fine Arts) began in 1981 and has been serving the Perth community in the dissemination of the knowledge contained in the great text of Dramaturgy - the Natyashastra. SMV’s aim to not only teach the students performing arts but also the ideals of Karma Yoga itself - the essence of which is the heart to serve, love and give.
In Hindu philosophical thought, the purpose of education is fourfold. It concerns the realisation of dharma (truth), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation). Indian art is intimately associated with Hindu practice and philosophy. It is a way of inspiring an aesthetic sense and directing it to a spiritual purpose. Hence, art is always underpinned by a spiritual urge, a looking beyond the here and now to the eternal - to moksha.
SMV is a centre for learning. Saraswati is the Goddess of learning, knowledge, and wisdom. The Sanskrit word sara means “essence” and swa means “self.” Thus Saraswati means “the essence of the self.” Saraswati also means “that which is always flowing. Saraswati is revered by all persons interested in knowledge, especially students, teachers, scholars, and scientists ‘Maha’ means great and ‘Vidhyalaya’ translates ‘to seat of knowledge’, therefore “a great seat of knowledge that constantly enlightens the ever changing and moving mind”.
SMV is dedicated to the promotion of culture and fine arts in Australia and beyond; transcending age, cultural, social and geographical boundaries. It offers courses in dance, music, linguistics, culinary sciences and Ayurveda (Vedic approach to health). Arts and sciences, both ancient and modern can be studies, explored and synthesises into how we live.
Over the past 36 years, SMV has staged internationally acclaimed dance and music productions such as Swan Lake, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lady White Snake, Ramayana, The Legend of Mahsuri, and Naad Brahma in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and the USA. SMV collaborates with various artistes within Australia and internationally on joint works and productions.
SMV plans to continue exploring new creative work within WA’s major theatre scene and establish itself as a uniquely differentiated performing arts organisation.
An institution of higher learning that fosters a broad and engaging learning culture and encourages interdisciplinary and cross-cultural education, with the overall goal of working together to produce a positive transformation of the world.
To be a world class institution of higher learning that serves humanity through arts, culture and education.
- To promote the advancement of learning, knowledge and the professions and provision of education based on the premise that “Truth is One and Paths are Many”.
- To promote the exchange of ideas in teaching methodology between different schools and educational disciplines.
- Knowledge is divine
- Search for truth
- Education should be holistic – spiritual and moral as well as intellectual; grow the heart and spirit as well as the mind.
- Education for the betterment of the individual, mankind and the world
- Education is a tool to break down boundaries – encourage cross-boundary learning and research – between disciplines (arts, sciences, religion, etc), between cultures, between religions, between ancient and modern
- Respect for knowledge and the knowledge-giver
- Access to all who thirst for knowledge
Matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava
"Be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God"
Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.11.2
In 1991, Swamiji established Annalakshmi to serve Perth, where volunteers serve healthy sumptuous vegetarian cuisine following the ancient Hindu adage ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ - “Guest is God”. Here all are invited to enjoy our hospitality and “Eat to your heart’s content and Pay what your heart feels” , which has enabled guests with means to facilitate the feeding of those without.
Twenty six years later and nearly 3 million meals serve and counting the key to Annalakshmi’s growing popularity over the years is its mouth-watering food prepared by experienced and skilful cooks, and that it is run by volunteers dedicated to its ethos. Annalakshmi has since its inception, advocated a health conscious approach to food, organised cooking classes, cooking demonstrations and talks on health and wellness.
Swamiji visualised a large acreage in the outskirts of the city which would encompass a number of beautiful ideas, including an Ayurvedic Centre of Healing and Holistic Health, an organic farm for vegetables and herbs, a visual arts hub for Indian Artisans and Craftsman to create, display and disseminate their art form, a countryside campus for SMV students of performing Arts, a countryside branch of Annalakshmi, a Hindu home for the Elderly (Residence for Seniors), an Amphitheater, a dairy where cows are worshiped and loved, and finally interspersed somewhere in the magnificently landscaped gardens, Swamiji asked to build a Universal Temple called simply - “The Shrine”.
The Shrine would have 4 entrances each one representing one of the 4 major religions of the world i.e. Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. People will choose to enter through the entrance of their faith and pray within the walls of their chosen path. But as they go deeper inside their temple they find that they all emerge in a central circular hall which houses neither symbol nor scripture familiar to them but the illumination of a singular all embracing flame.
The Arts Sanctuary project is in its infancy and we invite anyone from the public who wish to contribute in any way toward this or any other of the pursuits of Karma Yoga.
All are welcome to join the movement of “Serve, Love, Give”.
We have a diverse mix of volunteers, all of whom are passionate to teach that great science given to us by Bharata Muni, for nothing other than simply for the 'love of it'.