It is a blessing if one is born into a Sai family. Initially, the child will be naturally involved along with the family in Sai activities, prayers at home, and a belief in Swami. As the child grows up, however, it is not only inevitable, but also healthy, for the child to start questioning and trying to develop a deeper understanding of who Sai Baba is, and more importantly, what Sai Baba's teachings mean in his or her life. Being born in a devotee's family does not mean one will become a devotee him/herself.
To become a devotee of any form of God is a process. It requires having faith in Him/Her. This gradual transition of establishing one's own identity, and one's own faith is pivotal in having a solid foundation. How do we develop this faith? Interestingly, Swami has talked about it in two different approaches, both in the same discourse!
- Inquiring Into Truth
“Whatever anyone may say, each is entitled to their own hunger, their own faith, their own kind of madness...you cannot recognize God with worldly knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is essential. To acquire it, inquire into the Truth.”
Swami then went on to narrate a story about believing in something and then practicing it.
“When you speak, you must weigh each word carefully. What you say, demonstrate in action. Have faith in the concept first, then practice it.
Some time ago, I asked a college boy, “Who are you?” The boy recollected that Swami teaches Ayam Atma Brahma. He replied, “I and You are One, Swami.” I said, “It seems your intellect has really blossomed today! Are you really the same as Swami?” He said, “Yes, Swami, You and I are the same.” “Then go outside and give darshan to the devotees,” I said! Who would look at him if he went to give darshan? [laughter] But if faith is deep, God will definitely appear through you as well. People only talk without practicing.”
- Have Blind Faith
“But to believe blindly without inquiry is also great devotion because it is born of total faith. The infant places unquestionable faith in the mother and believes whatever the mother says. This cannot be called foolishness.”
Through both these examples, Swami talks about having faith. Some 'children of devotees' will blindly continue their faith and devotion to Swami. And some will need to inquire deeper, have their own faith-building experiences, and come to their own conclusions about what Swami means to them.
Sai leadership begins and ends with being Swami's "instrument". To know and truly believe that Sai is the doer and we are only His instruments, is the best way to lead, and to be free of egoistic feelings. So, what is our role? How can we be the best instrument as a Sai Youth Leader?
Swami has talked about many qualities of being a leader. One such quality is:
“One who calls himself a leader should always speak sweetly and lovingly.”
Being a Sai Youth Leader bears an important responsibility. There are many social pressures for youth, but as a leader, one must stay firm and have self-confidence to follow His teachings. After all, a leader cannot preach what one does not practice.
The most important of all is "To Be" (to practice goodness and human values). As leaders, it is natural "To Tell" or "To Do" (telling others what to do and how), but it is our character and leading by example, which is critical and essential for a leader.
Being a Sai Youth Leader is an important role, and it is by His grace to be chosen as one. Youth today need direction and guidance, and it is a great service when a leader who is grounded in Swami's principles can lead by example. We have to focus on ourselves and be ready to be His instruments of love and service.
All have a role to play
During the inaugural Summer Course discourse in 1992, Swami announced,
“I want you to be leaders to protect the world. Leaders like lions, self-reliant, courageous, majestic and just. Lion is the king of animals and I want you to be king among men.”
Swami is always looking for leaders! Are you ready?
Swami has spoken extensively on the intimate relationship between man and nature, pollution, and excessive desires leading to destruction of the natural habitat. Here are three important and practical methods to protect and preserve the only place we can call home: Mother Earth.
Intimate relationship of man, God and nature
“Care should be exercised in pursuing comforts as excessive comforts may spoil one’s mind and cause misery instead of happiness. “Na Shreyo Niyamam Vinaa” (Nothing good can be achieved without certain restraints). Because of the advancement of technology and provision of excessive comforts, life has become mechanical and the practice of spirituality has declined. Science fragments everything to pieces while spirituality builds up unity in diversity. Today, man is not making efforts to cultivate the feeling of oneness among humanity.
To show an example, the ozone layer in the atmosphere protects the people on earth from the effects of solar radiation. Because of the advance of technology, several factories have sprung up emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere. As a result, the ozone layer has become thinner which will have disastrous consequences if it goes on unchecked. Scientists are trying to stop the deterioration of the ozone layer but they are unable to find a remedy.
The actual cause for this situation is that more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, which would normally have been absorbed by plants and trees. Due to the alarming extent of deforestation, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased considerably. Therefore, the remedy for this situation is intensive afforestation, growing more trees everywhere and protecting the existing trees without destroying them for other purposes. Thus the relationship of man, nature, and God is very intimate which scientists may not be able to realise.”
Tread softly, move reverentially, utilise gratefully
“I shall tell you of one form of worship which will endow you with divine strength. Godhead expresses itself initially as the five elements, the sky, the wind, the fire, the water and the earth. All creation is but a combination of two or more of these in varying proportions. The characteristic nature of these five elements are: sound, touch, form, taste and smell; cognised by the ear, the skin, the eye, the tongue and nose. Since these are saturated with the divine, one has to use them reverentially and with humility and gratefulness.
Use them intelligently to promote the welfare of yourself and others; use them with moderation and with the idea of loving service to the community, to all. They are all free and full of precious potentiality. Appreciate the plenty and the preciousness. You know from experience that excessive quantities of wind or fire or water are injurious to health. Drinking more water than needed is a torture; inhaling more air is suffocating. Fire in moderation can warm or serve to heat and melt; but, beyond a certain limit, it is catastrophic; sound, beyond a certain limit, is a calamity, a weapon which can distract and drive people mad.
So, efficient use of these is itself a form of worship. The body is equipped with mechanisms which ensure a steady degree of warmth, beyond which or beneath which man cannot be healthy and active. Prakrithi (Nature) is in essence Divinity itself, lshaavaasyam idam sarvam: all this is divine. Vaasudevassarvamidam: all this is Vaasudeva (God). So, tread softly, move reverentially, utilise gratefully.”
Atmosphere is purified by chanting the Divine Name
“The recitation of the names of the Lord will help to purify the atmosphere as a result of the sacred sound waves getting absorbed in the atmosphere. The atmosphere that has been polluted by impure sound waves can be purified by the chanting of the Divine Name.
Likewise, sacred thoughts, pure speech and pure actions will purify other polluted elements. There is no better purifying agent than this. Crores (one crore is ten million) are being spent to purify the Ganges water. Of what use is this exercise if the Ganges continues to be polluted by the discharge of drainage water into the river? First, prevent the flow of filthy effluents into the Ganges.
In the same manner, the evil thoughts arising in the mind should be diverted; and the mind should be filled with pure, Godly thoughts by reciting the Divine name.
Everyone participating in bhajans should sing the name of the Lord and thereby serve to purify the atmosphere, and promote the well-being of the nation.”
For more inspiration:
The concept of spiritual discipline, or Sādhana in Sanskrit, is very broad and includes various practices like repetition of God’s name (japa), devotional singing (bhajans), selfless service (seva), meditation (dhyāna), etc. A simple way to classify these practices is to use the name of SAI:
S : stands for Service. Selfless Service is the best way to turn away from the narrow interests of the little ‘I’ and expand the consciousness to the understanding of ‘We’. Swami has said:
“As long as you are clouded over with this possessive attitude, thinking only of yourself, your family, your people,your things, you can be certain that sooner or later you will be cast into sorrow. You must travel from the stage of identifying yourself with ‘I’ and ‘mine’ to the higher stage where you are constantly identifying yourself with ‘we’ and ‘ours’. From selfishness you must gradually travel to selflessness, from bondage to liberation.”
A : stands for Adoration. Group devotional singing is the royal path to the awakening of the Divine Presence within. Bhakti (devotion) is one of the best ways to destroy the ego, which is at the root of the feelings of 'I' and 'mine'.
I : stands for Illumination. Regular study of Sai teachings and participation in study circles (satsangs) is of paramount importance in getting spiritual wisdom. A verse of Adi Śankarācharya’s well known poem Bhaja Govindam, often sung by Sathya Sai Baba, says:
From spiritual company comes non-attachment;
from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion,
which leads to contact with the changeless Truth;
Contact with changeless Truth bestows Liberation.
Swami has often said that the three fourths of spiritual discipline is Atma-Vichāra, i.e. inquiry on the Self, contemplation on the question ‘Who Am I?”
Self-inquiry is of two types:
a) the process of negation or neti neti (not this, not this), through which the spiritual seeker detaches from the outer covers of the Soul, such as the body, senses, organs of actions, mind, intellect etc. All these are instruments to be used in daily life, but they don’t constitute our real Self.
b) the process of assertion of what we really are or Soham (I am He). This great truth is repeated by our breath 21.600 times per day. Always remember that we are much more than the body-mind complex. Our real nature is the immortal Self, which is not different than God.
This is not just a theoretical concept, but has much practical value in daily life.When one is detached from the outer self and is firmly established in the divine Presence within, one is capable of discharging the daily duties in the best possible way, by following the inner call to implement Human Values. One will always act with love, justice, serenity, integrity, selflessness, determination and discipline. In turn, this way of action will purify the body and the mind, and will lead the spiritual aspirant to the ultimate goal of Self realization.
For further instruction, please refer to the book Sādhana - the Inward Path, a valuable compendium of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s quotations on Spiritual Discipline.In the foreword of this book, professor N. Kasturi writes:
“Sādhana is all of life; every act, thought and word is a step towards or away from God. And God is not high up in the heavens; He is in us, with us, beside us, behind us, before us. He is in every cell, as life; He is in every atom as activity. He is all this and more besides. Every human being is equipped with Intelligence by means of which he can inquire, investigate and experience the central Truth: God is his own Truth. Sādhana leads one to the Inward Path, the Nivrritti Mārga, as distinct from the Pravrṛtti Mārga, which leads him away into the objective world where the senses misinterpret and mislead. Bhagawan has come to put mankind back on the rails of Śraddhā (faith) and Bhakti (devotion), so that it can proceed smooth and safe to the Bliss of Self-Realization. Let us make these pages our Manual for Liberation. He will bless our journey, provided we start on it, for He is both Light and Love”.
Knowing that we are God means to have the firm and steady conviction that our real nature is the divine Self. This is called Self-confidence. Realising that we are God means to have the actual experience of our true nature as divine Love. This is called Self-realisation. Between Self-confidence and Self-realisation there are two major steps to be taken: Self-satisfaction and Self-sacrifice.
Swami gives a simple 4-step formula to proceed from knowledge to realisation:
- Self - confidence
- Self - satisfaction
- Self - sacrifice
- Self - realisation
The term Self-confidence in Sanskrit is Atma-visvasa, which literally means faith in Atmā, the Divine Self. This is important to understand, in order to not confuse the meaning of self with the psychological usage of the term, which refers to the individual personality with its limited characteristics. The term Atmā refers to the divine Self, which is beyond the limits of the individual self or little ego. The firm conviction that our real nature is the divine Atmā, beyond the body-mind complex, should be the foundation for the mansion of our life.
Upon this foundation we need to erect the walls of Self-satisfaction by learning to draw happiness from the inner source. This comes when our actions satisfy the divine Self, i.e. God within. Such kind of actions are those which are infused with the Human Values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-violence. The more one acts in this way, the more he/she has the sense of inner fulfillment and joy, as well as the expansion of consciousness from ‘I’ to ‘We.’
On the strong walls of Self-satisfaction we can then build the roof of Self-sacrifice by selflessly serving our fellow men and women for the purpose of uplifting society. There is a Sanskrit saying often repeated by Swami, which says: Nakarmanā na prajayā dhanena, tyāgena ekena amritatvam ānasuh, i.e. immortality is not attained through self-centered actions or progeny or wealth; it is attained only by sacrifice.
When the little self is thus set aside, the radiant sun of Self-realization will illumine the mansion of our lives. Swami says:
“Embodiments of Love! Whatever other beliefs you may cherish or not, have firm faith in God. All things in the world are liable to perish. The Self alone is eternal and changeless. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of mankind lead mundane lives forgetting God. Make God the foundation of your life. Carry on your normal duties. Duty is God. Work is worship. Spiritualise all your actions and treat whatever happens as actions for your good. Learn to experience perennial bliss by seeking union with God. Never forget God. Do not go after the things of the world. Have no fear of death. When your life is rooted in these three maxims, you will realise the Aathman.”
As an inner preparation for the first World Youth Festival on July 2016, a global sādhana or spiritual discipline programme has been developed for Sathya Sai Youth, referred to as the “Sadhana of Love”. This programme has been designed on the framework of the above 4-step formula and its purpose is to support the realisation of one’s true nature as pure love. It is therefore strongly recommended for those who really yearn for Self-realization, to participate in this programme as described in the following link: Sadhana of Love.
For more guidance regarding spiritual practice, you may also refer to the previous question: “What exactly is spiritual discipline (Sadhana)? What are some ways we can incorporate it into our daily lives in order to help us achieve Self-realization?”
Swami gave a series of discourses on the Bhagavad Gita, explaining many Shlokas/verses (more than 5) from the sacred text. It is well documented both in the Divine Discourses, and in His writings in the GitaVahini. Swami expounded on the teachings of Lord Krishna as found in many chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. The reference quote given in the Sathya Sai with Students blog is not found in His discourses or writings. But, Swami commented that for the redemption of mankind, diving deep into one Shloka and practicing it is more beneficial than memorising all 700 Shlokas. He compared this to a matchbox with 700 match sticks – only one good match stick is enough to light a lamp. Similarly, to light the lamp of love and realise the Atman, you need only practice the essence of one Shloka – that will suffice.
God, who is beyond name, form, attributes, time and causation takes a form and a name with divine attributes for the redemption of mankind. This, He does in His infinite compassion, because the beings who dwell in the mind-body-attribute complex can easily relate to God with form. After many years of spiritual practices and with the purification of the mind, one moves from the form to the formless. At that stage, the seeker realizes that God is both with form and without form. He is both immanent in the creation and at the same time, He is transcendental. Examples given of God without form is like the vast ocean, and God with form is like the icebergs, which can again merge back into the ocean. God without form, which is comparable to Satchidananda (being-consciousness-bliss), takes a beautiful divine form with a sweet name, comparable to the iceberg, because of the intense love, prayers and devotion of the devotee. Thus the form becomes formless, and the formless assumes a form from time to time, depending on the needs of the time and the intense longing of the devotees.
Yes, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma exist – as God can appear in any name or form as per the longing of the devotee – as He is all names and forms, and at the same time beyond all names and forms.
First and foremost, with Swami's teachings, 'one size does not fit all'. However, to be a mother is a blessing and great responsibility.
Swami has said,
“The mother should look after the children herself during the early years instead of placing the child in the custody and care of babysitters and servants."
"The mother must set the example in making the shrine the heart of the household. She must enforce discipline over the children in personal cleanliness, in humility and hospitality, in good manners and acts of service. She must persuade the children by example and precept to revere elders and to allot some time both in the morning and evening for prayer and silent meditation.”
The mother is the first spiritual teacher of a child, and therefore, her thoughts, words, and actions play a pivotal role in the child's life, starting as early as the moment of pregnancy! Thereafter, both parents play equal roles in rearing the child, with responsibilities extending to the entire family, and even extended family. There is no real timeline as to when a mother should go back to work, as every family's situation and circumstances demand differently. It is more important to see what works best for the family, and ensure that the child is provided with the most nurturing environment possible. The family’s intent in making its decisions is critical.
The mother is the closest to the child right from birth and will love the child more deeply than any other. Hence, that love itself nurtures and raises a child into a good human being. Whenever and wherever possible, we must provide our children with such positive influences and environments.
Swami has talked often about women going to work. He always coupled it with the importance that women must also place on the home and family, as that is their primary duty. It is truly a balancing act of being a homemaker and working outside. It's a great responsibility, but also a fortune to be born a woman. Women are naturally endowed with such noble qualities, like the ability to be a role model in a child's life, and shape the child’s character.
“Today, women, because they are educated, compete with men to take up jobs. There is nothing wrong in going for a job. However, they must take care of their home needs before taking up a job. When wife and husband go to offices, who will look after their children at home? If the mother is not at home to guide them properly, the children go astray. If both parents go out for jobs, they may be able to satisfy their desire for money, but there is a large possibility of their children getting spoiled because there will be nobody at home to discipline them. Whatever moral values you have learnt, you have to teach your children. Whatever you have studied will have value only when you care for your children's progress. Women should recognise their responsibilities and conduct themselves accordingly.”
Today, many women work as many hours as men, and therefore, it is very important for the husband/father too to help around the home, and take equal responsibility of chores and child-rearing.
Ultimately, children are God's most precious possessions, which He gifts us with the opportunity to take care of and love. It is our great fortune and duty to foster these beautiful, pure souls who come into this world, into beacons of His Love.
God is captured by the pure hearts and prayers of devotees, through the magnet of Love, and it is irresistible. There is nothing wrong in praying fervently, and expecting and hoping that He will fulfill our wishes.
Like a child, we can ask our Mother to give us what we want. Yet, just like the earthly Mother, our Divine Mother will not give us something that is not good for us. No matter how much we ask for something, God doesn't fulfill some of our desires because they are not good for us.
Karma also plays a big role in our lives. Swami reminds us that every action has a consequence, and He is just an observer. He reminds us to always think good, do good, and be good, for we sow what we reap…and it all begins with the ‘thought’. So, we always get what we deserve. Yet, with all this said about karma, there is still “Grace”. Aah, how sweet it is!
“God's grace can destroy the effects of past karma or modify its rigor. Never doubt that. If the law of Karma is so unbreakable, then why recommend sadhana(spiritual discipline), good living and cultivation of virtue? Prarabdha (karma from previous actions) will melt like mist before the Sun if you win the Grace of the Lord! The Grace of the Lord is needed for the dawn of Jnana (wisdom) also.”
Thus, we have:
- Our efforts
- God’s grace
- Trust, Surrender, Accept
We do our part, and hope and pray for the best. His Grace helps us. Ultimately, we have to trust that He will do what’s best for us. And we have to Surrender to His will, and accept the final results.
“Our relationship is only heart-to-heart and love-to-love, nothing else. Swami is love personified. Swami gives importance to love and nothing else. Do not give any value to mean and meaningless talk.”
“Talking of faith, I must issue a warning. Many people are collecting money in various places using My Name for various purposes like arranging receptions, building temples, doing Puja, etc. That is unauthorised and against My wish and command. Do not yield to such requests and encourage this practice, which I condemn.
There is another set of people who trade on your faith. They advertise that I am 'talking' through a medium or some other thing. Treat all such people and their agents as you treat cheats; if you do not treat them so, then you are also accomplices in the cheating process.
There are others who gather groups of followers and admirers and collect money. They even declare, ‘Baba sent me to you to take from you some money’ or ‘Baba has given me this’ or ‘Baba blessed me specially thus and thus’ and then ask for your help or your praise or your purse! I ask you to chastise all these types of men and turn them away, whoever they are.”
“There are some who extol others for the absurd reason that Sai Baba speaks through them! How silly? It is all drama which cheats sick minds. Do not fall a prey to these. That is why I say, keep your devotion within yourself, under control, and not be led away by crooks and self-seekers. These lead you astray by giving you a wrong idea of the Lord's manifestation. They befoul the faith that their brothers and sisters repose in God.”
“People say, 'Baba appeared to me in a dream and commanded me to do this and that, to you, to collect so much from you etc.’ Do not give heed to such cheats; punish them in the way they deserve. That is the advice I have to give you.
Do not believe if anyone comes to you and declares, ‘Sathya Sai Baba came to me in my dream and commissioned me to do publicity for him. Please help me as far as you can’. I do not commission any one for such work, either in dream or while he is awake. Such men are cheats; treat them as such, without mercy”
“There are quite a few who declare that I am coming ‘upon them,’ possessing them rather, and they sway, shake and shiver and say all kinds of things, claiming that I am speaking through them or that they are under My Influence. They answer questions and 'foretell' things and perform many tricks to collect money or things from people who do not know Me and My reality. All this is sheer deceit; it is a disease that is spreading. Do not encourage it; nip it whenever you see cases of people suffering from it. Such people have agents and brokers; block them first and their puppets will disappear. They wear the dress of holiness, but their greed announces them as vile. People say 'Baba appeared to me in a dream and commanded me to do this and that, to you, to collect so much from you etc., etc. Do not give heed to such cheats; punish them in the way they deserve. That is the advice I have to give you.”
“In order to make known My majesty and My glory as the Divine that has Incarnated, miraculous happenings of an amazing nature do take place in certain areas. Taking advantage of the attraction that those happenings draw upon them, many misuse them for personal propaganda and aggrandizement. They trade for money the Vibhuthi (sacred ash) that the pictures in their altars shower! They go about pretending that they are "superior devotees" of a higher order and conferring boons and blessings on the innocent folk whom they fleece. Others put forth false claims that vibhuthi is emanating from the pictures of Baba in their homes, that Amrith (nectar) is dripping from them or that material objects are falling from them, like written answers to questions. Samithis and other Units should have no contact with such cheats and crooks. Anyone who is attached to such or who encourages such can be immediately removed.
There are others who claim that I am speaking through them, and answering questions put to them. These people must be either insane or hysteria-affected or they are possessed by some ghost or by the greed to earn money thereby. I can only tell you that it is not I that speaks through them. I do not need media; nor do I need substitutes or subsidiaries or representatives.”
“There are some people who are doing business in the Name of Sai. They are cheating others, pretending to be devotees of Sai. I do not approve of such behaviour. They are not devotees at all. They are going to different parts of the country and also abroad to make money in the name of Sai. It is a big crime. I do not ask for even a single paisa from others. I never approve of such business. Whoever it may be, if somebody approaches you with such a crass motive, tell him to get out at once. Do not allow business to enter the field of spirituality.”
“In foreign countries, some Indians are claiming themselves to be Swami's devotees, and they are telling many lies using the name of Swami for collecting money. Some claim they are constructing temples and schools for Swami, and they collect money. These are all blatant lies. Swami has not accepted any money for any purpose. So be careful, and keep those people at a distance who approach you for money in the name of Sai.”
Excerpts from Discourse for American devotees on 27 July 2002 at Prasanthi Nilayam
“Yet others, invoking the name of Swami and claiming that they have been endowed with miraculous powers by Swami Himself, are collecting money. There can be nothing more diabolical than this.
This is a matter to which Swami has thus far never made even the slightest reference, to anyone and at any time. Sai’s name is being invoked and a bad name is being brought to Sai by people engaging in such foul actions. This is one of the ways in which Sai activities are being converted into business transactions.”
“Utilize the chance of association with Me as much as possible, and endeavour as quickly and as best as you can, to follow the directions that I have been giving. Obeying My instructions is enough; it will benefit you more than the most rigorous asceticism. Practice Sathya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema, which are dear to Me; resolve to keep those ideals before you ever, in all your thoughts, words and deeds. That can confer on you the summum bonum of mergence in the Supreme Substance of divinity.”