Benedictory Address at ICTEE 2012

January 7, 2012
Amritapuri Campus


Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, President of the Managing Board of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, spoke at the inauguration of the IEEE International Conference on Technology Enhanced Education. Below are excerpts from Swamiji’s benedictory address.

This is a unique and memorable occasion for Amrita University as well as for the field of technology enhanced education. We are indeed fortunate to have so many experts from all over the world participating in this conference. Let me express my heartfelt gratitude to one and all for joining us on this most inspiring occasion.

In today’s world, technology has become part and parcel of everyday life whether it is in the home, office, school, in the government or within an organization. Technology today is an inescapable aspect of our lives. This in itself, should cause some red flags to go up.

Anytime we recognize that something has become an absolute necessity, we should, as people with a discriminating intellect, remind ourselves that it is also something that must be handled with extreme care.

Technological advancements have improved our lives in manifold ways but one thing they are incapable of doing is educating us about the most intelligent ways to use them.

As a columnist from the New York Times recently reflected, the information revolution came about without an instructional manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data. The images don’t show us how to process images.

Benedictory Address at ICTEE 2012

The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that cannot be found on any screen. It may be a controversial perspective but it is Amma’s belief that some responsibilities fall upon the shoulders of the scientists themselves.

After all, the mind of the scientist is one of society’s most refined minds. Therefore Amma says that its essential that scientists working to develop new technology have a universal outlook. They should always ask themselves, “Will this project uplift society? Not only in the short term, but in the long term as well? Is this in humanity’s best interest?”

If someone is unsure, the guidance of someone endowed with a deeper understanding should be sought. As the Indian scriptures say, someone who is learned and capable of deliberation, someone who is impartial and compassionate, and whose heart is dedicated to promoting the welfare of humanity.

Benedictory Address at ICTEE 2012

Technology is an indispensable aspect of modern education but we cannot allow it to come at the expense of the human touch. Just because the students and teachers can see and hear each other, doesn’t ensure that teaching will have the same impact. We cannot allow the one aspect of education that is truly indispensable, to be lost. What is that aspect? It is love. This is often overlooked, yet an essential ingredient in the effective transmission of knowledge.

As Amma says, the intellect is like a pair of scissors; it can only cut but the heart is like a needle that sews things together. Where the intellect fails to guide, the heart illuminates the path. Doubts that the intellect fails to clear can be clarified by the heart. So we cannot let intellect come at the cost of the heart.

We require a balance in our world today, particularly in the area of education. Here at Amrita, under the guidance of Amma, our Chancellor, research and development is aimed at uplifting and educating the poor and downtrodden. Whether it is our haptic devices for vocational training or our wireless sensor system for landslide detection or our e-learning tool for distance education, the Balavidya educational software or an affordable insulin pump or our nanosciences research, all of it has that human touch. All of it has the factor of compassion.

Benedictory Address at ICTEE 2012

Amma’s primary goal is to serve the underprivileged sections of society. Technology should be taken to villages to educate the poor, to help the unemployed, the widows and the tribals. Amma is in tune with the heart of the underprivileged because such are her roots. She knows the problems, the suffering and pain of the weaker sections of society. Therefore Amma feels a deep inner calling to serve them.

Unfortunately in today’s world, many people are interested in technology primarily as a means to make money and gain power but compassion for the world must become our motivation. Otherwise, we will have mere technology and not true technological advancement. In fact, more than success, what we require is the inner longing to serve.

May this conference help us put not only our minds but also our hearts together. If this happens, this conference will be a tremendous benefit to the entire world. Particularly to the younger generation that is looking up to us for guidance and inspiration and a visionary perspective. Thank you so much.

Benedictory Address at ICTEE 2012

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