Personal work, Office work, and Sai work are all God's work! All take priority when it needs to be done.
But, how does one prioritize? How can you choose one over the other when there is a conflict? Unfortunately, there is no single right answer. Sometimes it's very clear cut but often it is not.
Have you ever been in a situation where your family had an important get together but you also had to meet a critical deadline at work or school? At that time, you may have no choice but to stay back at work a little longer. These situations do happen.
There is an important concept about discipline, prioritizing, and commitment which we cannot ignore.
As Sai youth, we also have a responsibility to serve, and we have to make time for service. This can be through community service, lending a helping hand at our local center, assisting with youth programs, or even SSE. We should set aside at least some time during the week where we are committed to a service project or attending center meetings, etc. Set a priority for that event every week, and make your family and workplace aware of it. Unless absolutely necessary, they will not make demands from you at that time. It is true we won't get fired from our job or spoil a personal relationship if we back out of a Sai commitment. However, we must hold true to our word and as much as possible, following through with our commitments.
This applies to everything in our lives. Set aside the proper amount of time for work and for family, and plan accordingly so that you may make room for all aspects of life including Sai, AND other social/fun activities. Let others know about your priorities and they will help by respecting your time.
Lastly, if our work and personal lives are flexible, it is the greatest blessing to be able to serve. Swami reminds us that during our youth, we have the greatest energy. By utilizing this energy for good work and service, we are depositing into our 'life bank balances'. As we grow older and have greater commitments, we will need to withdraw from that balance. So, let's take as many opportunities as we can to serve Him, while making sure we balance all our other life responsibilities as well.
And underneath all that we do, let us always remember Swami's words. Without Love, all work is a waste:
“Duty without Love is deplorable.
Duty with Love is desirable.
Love without Duty is Divine.”
Baba always reminds us: “God is in you, around you, behind you, above you, beside you.” He is the indweller of our hearts.
Swami narrates a beautiful story from the Mahābhārata: Draupadi, humiliated by the Kauravas, cried out in desperation and utter helplessness, “O Krishna, O Dvārakavāsi (resident of Dvāraka), O Mathurāvāsi (resident of Mathurā), please come to my rescue!” Lord Krishna seemed to have been taking quite a while. Having run out of names and ideas, Draupadi implored, “O Hridayavāsi (Indweller of my heart), please help me!” Krishna appeared that very instant and gave timely help. When Draupadi asked Krishna why He came only the last moment to rescue her, He answered, “Draupadi, when you called me as Dvārakavāsi or Mathurāvāsi, I had to first go to Dvāraka and Mathura as that is how you related to me. But when you cried for me as Hridayavāsi, I responded immediately, since this was the easiest journey for me!”
Looking for God is not like finding a needle in a haystack. He is in our hearts waiting to lighten our soul, just like a beam of sunlight ready to enter a dark room through the tiniest hole.
Now, if God is so close, why can’t we connect and talk with Him? Why can’t we hear His Voice from within? The reason is that there is a dense barrier, which hinders this communication. This barrier is made up of the impurities of the mind. The mind is a bundle of desires. Its main characteristics are the egoistic tendencies of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ (ahamkāra and mamakāra). The main purpose of spiritual discipline is to purify the mind so that the connection to God is strengthened and restored. Then the Voice of Conscience, which is none other than the Voice of Baba within, becomes crystal clear.
One should be very careful not to confuse the Mind with Conscience. Many a time, it happens that people think their actions are guided by Baba, whereas the truth is that it was the monkey mind. How can we distinguish between the two? One method is to examine whether an action is done for the benefit of the little ‘I’ or for society at large. What is the meaning of JOY? According to Sai, it is, “Jesus [God] first, Others next, You last!” If our heart feels light with joy and oneness, it usually is an indication that we are on the right path. On the contrary, feelings of uneasiness after reflecting about an activity may indicate that the mind drove your choices and not the Conscience. Ultimately, this should be determined through deep introspection and seeing what Swami Himself has stated about a particular topic.
In a loving communication to His students, on the Sankrānti day, 1974, Sathya Sai Baba wrote:
Let every human being remake himself. Let us understand that we live not for money making, not for fulfilling our wants, not for scholarly and intellectual pursuits, but for spiritual development. Effects of actions of the past have to be effaced with actions backed by Prema (Love). Every action must have a background of Prema.
It is only in this world that spiritual progress can be made. Annihilation of ego and dissolution of desires can be made here and now. Conquer desires, the little 'I' feeling, vāsanas (past impressions), vikāras (passions), rāga (likes) and dvesha (dislikes). All these have built this world of appearances and illusions. Fill the heart with the Light of Prema, so that the evil qualities of hate, greed and conceit find no place therein.
In winnowing, the dry outer coverings are separated from the grain. So too, you should separate the bad thoughts and emotions from the good and healthy ones. From this Sankrānti day onwards, walk along the flowery path shown by Sai. Receive in full Sai's Grace and Love. Sai is your Hridaya Sthāyi (resident of your Heart). Sai is the One who blesses your life with Peace. Sai is the One who grants your wishes. It is this Sayi, who is your Thayi (Mother)”
What are the Vedas?
“The Vedas are the gift of God for the welfare of the entire humanity. The Vedas make no distinction whatsoever on the basis of religion, caste, nationality, etc. The Vedic mantras can be chanted by one and all. (Swami then called two boys from abroad studying in Prasanthi Nilayam and asked them to recite Sri Suktam).”
The foremost teaching of the Vedas
“The Vedas declare that we should live and work together and achieve noble goals with unity.
Let us all move together, let us all grow together, let us all stay united and grow in intelligence together, let us live together with friendship and harmony. (Telugu poem).
This is the foremost teaching of the Vedas.”
Rudram and its benefits
“The Namaka and Chamaka are taken from the Krishna Yajur Veda. It is an all-inclusive Veda, from which the other Vedas, sastras (scriptures), ithihasas (ancient legends) and puranas emanated.”
“Another important feature of Rudram is the ekathwa (oneness) between the two parts, namely Namaka and Chamaka. The Namaka emphasises the aspect of detachment whereas Chamaka stresses the aspect of desire. But the essence of both aspects is one. What is to be discarded and what is to be desired? Evil is to be discarded and good is to be desired. Both are essential. Whereas Namaka lays stress on detachment, the Chamaka speaks of desires for this and that.
People generally think that giving up of family life, house, land, and other forms of wealth as thyaga (sacrifice). But that is not a sacrifice at all! That can be done easily. What is required is sacrificing the results. That is the real sacrifice.”
“You may perform any number of yajnas and yagas (rituals and sacrifices) and undertake any number of spiritual practices, but all these are useless if the underlying meaning is not understood. You may forget anything in this world, but never forget God. Keep your mind always focused on God. This is My message for you today.”
“You have participated in this yajna (sacred rite) for your good, for your welfare and the welfare of humanity at large. This rite is not merely for a few individuals, it is for the entire world. The mantras chanted here have mixed in the air and spread to the entire universe. These sacred sounds have entered our hearts and purified them. Hence, do not think that the mantras chanted in this rite are confined to only this place. They have spread to the entire world. This rite is not only for the benefit of India but for all the countries in the world. There may be differences in the languages spoken in different countries, but there is no difference at all in the bhava (feelings).
There is not even an iota of selfishness in chanting these mantras. They are for all humanity. They are essential for the well-being of every human being. The Veda transcends the individual and concerns itself with the the collective form. Even Westerners are now printing Vedic texts, with the intention of spreading the message of the Vedas to people of all countries.”
The act of surrender is the greatest form of devotion and faith in the Lord. A child surrenders to the mother knowing that she will take care of all needs, at all times. Swami often times uses the example of how we put blind trust on a surgeon or barber to operate on our loved ones or ourselves, or cut our hair.
To surrender is not easy at all. It is not only the physical act of surrender, but also the mental exercise of “letting go, and let God”. Swami gives the example of traveling by train, saying that we do not keep the luggage on our shoulders during the journey. We keep it in the compartment. The train carries the luggage, not us, and we are not constantly worrying whether the luggage is safe or kept well. Likewise, we need not carry life's burdens on our shoulders. God is here to take them from us. But, not only do we have to give Him our troubles to take care of, we also have to trust that He will take care of it in the best way that HE thinks, and not necessarily the way WE WANT. That is the most difficult part of Surrender. We are not only surrendering our will, but we are surrendering our desires, our worries, and what we feel to be the best of plans.
It epitomizes the message from the Bhagavad Gita on “Nishkama Karma”, to perform actions without any expectation of the fruits or results thereof.
Swami gives another example of Surrender:
“When Aswathama, blinded by fury, slaughtered the children of the Pandavas, Arjuna caught him prisoner and threatened to cut off his head. But Droupadi, the bereaved mother, interceded to save him! She said it was not dharma to return murder for murder, to slay the son of one’s own guru. Such steadfastness is needed in the path of dharma; that alone is the sign of true surrender: 'Let the Will of the Lord prevail; one’s duty is but to connect oneself with the current of His Grace.' ”
The above example demonstrates that the greatest form of surrender is to follow the path of dharma (Right Action), with full allegiance and loyalty.
“Accepting things as they are”, requires deep faith within you, to trust in His plan, for we have to believe that “Not a single blade of grass moves without His Will”.
The one who experiences sorrow or grief in life feels that it is difficult to put these words into practice. Perhaps, if we can try to remember at that moment, and in every moment, that God is all-loving, all-compassionate, and will take care of us, then, we can slowly learn to give ourselves to Him. He is always here, waiting, for when we are ready to trust Him.
How to practically apply Swami's teaching in our daily life? Surrendering is a practice, one we have to remember each moment as we engage in actions. One suggestion/idea is the “Surrender Box”:
Anytime you have a worry or desire about something, write it out on a piece of paper, and put it in the Surrender Box. Through this action, we are physically giving the problem to Swami. Keep repeating this act it, until you can let go of the problem. Through this practice, we are consciously and subconsciously giving our Monkey Minds the message of Surrender.
It has been said that there would be no Bhagavad Gīta if there was no Arjuna. Sri Krishna gave His divine teachings only when a deserving seeker like Arjuna was ready to receive it. One may wonder: Why was Arjuna chosen among so many others? What was his unique characteristic that made him the recipient of the Holy Gīta? The answer is: Steadiness and one-pointedness!
The following well known story from Mahābhārata illustrates this fact:
Dronācharya was the teacher of archery to Pandavas and Kauravas. One day he addressed all his students and said, “Young princes, you have learned most of the skills necessary for a warrior, and it is time you take a test and show me your abilities. Right now, I want you to show me your skill in archery. There, on that tree is a wooden bird. Aim for, and hit its eye.”
Yudhishthira was called first and took aim. Dronacharya asked, “Yudhishtra, please tell me what you see.” He replied, “I can see the bird, the tree, the fruits on the tree and more birds.” Dronacharya replied, “All right, leave your bow and arrow and go.” Yudhishtra was surprised, but obeyed his guru and did as he was told.
Duryodhana was next. Asked the same question, he replied,“Gurudev, I can see the bird, the tree, the leaves, the fruits, another bird…” But before he could complete, Dronacharya said, “You can go!”
The other brothers were called and dismissed, and finally, it was Arjuna’s turn. Dronacharya asked, “Arjuna, what can you see?” Arjuna replied, “Gurudev, I can see only the eye of the bird, and nothing else.” With a smile on his face, Dronacharya said, “Fire!” and Arjuna let loose the arrow which found its target.
There is a similar example from the life of Jesus. Once He visited the house of Mary and Martha. While Martha busied herself with the affairs of the home, her younger sister Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him with undivided attention. Martha went to him and said: “My sister has left me alone to serve, tell her to help me”. Jesus answered her: “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But only one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part” (Luke 10:38-42).
Only intense concentration can help one strike the target. Swami often says that “Concentration is the essence of Education” and advises His students: “Study to become Steady!” Our love for God should be 100% focused on Him and Him alone. Swami has said that the heart is not a musical chair, not a double sofa. It is just a single chair for God to be seated there. This only deserves to be called Bhakti, devotion. From Bhakti one gets Śakti, spiritual power. With spiritual power the seeker develops detachment from the sense objects, Virakti. Finally Mukti or liberation is attained. Bhakti - Śakti - Virakti - Mukti. An easy formula. The whole spiritual journey in just 4 steps!
In Sanskrit, one-pointedness is called ekāgratā. Here is what Sathya Sai says about this most important quality:
“Gīta means song. Krishna sings at Brindavan with the flute. He sings on the battlefield too; in both places the call is for the particular to merge with the Infinite, the Universal. For Him, the Rudhrabhuumi (place of cremation) as well as the Bhadhrabhuumi (sanctified ground) are the same; they are equally placed for imparting Upadhesh (spiritual instruction) in the form in which the Bhakta (devotee) most likes it, namely, song. And imagine with what concentration Arjuna heard it? His concentration was steady as that of the Gopis (Cowherd girls) who listened to the message of the flute in Brindavan. He forgot the opposing armies and became immersed in the teaching secured. If you develop that ekāgratā (one-pointedness) in the Kurukshetra of your own particular 'battlefields', you can assuredly also listen to the Bhagavad Gīta or the Sathya Sai Gīta intended for you.
The Gīta was spoken to remove the ajñāna sammoha (the delusion caused by ignorance), and it succeeded in removing it so far as Arjuna was concerned; others like Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra also heard it, but did not benefit because they were still bound by their own particular brand of ajñāna (ignorance). Dhritarashtra was all the while worried that the battle had not started yet, and that his sons' enemies had not been destroyed! So he was not benefitted. Therefore, many may read the Gīta but only a few benefit. You must have Arjuna's Vairāgyam (Detachment) and Ekāgratā (One-pointedness) to derive profit from the Gīta. Nirmala hridaya (pure heart) and Nischala bhāva (firm disposition of mind) are essential.
Have a time-table for spiritual sustenance, just as you have now for physical sustenance. A breakfast of pious repetition of Lord's name and meditation, a lunch hour of ritual worship of the Lord, 'tea and snacks' of reading scriptures or sacred books in the afternoon and a light dinner of devotional music in the early hours of the night. If you follow this regimen, you can sleep soundly and wake up refreshed.”
Divine Discourse, September 27, 1960
So, one should rest assure that steadiness and one-pointedness are two of the most important qualifications of a spiritual seeker who yearns to experience God’s Love and be immersed in His Divine Effulgence.
Swami has said very little publicly about eating eggs.
In one instance, Swami put eggs in the same sentence as meat when referring to proteins. While there are nutritional and harmful effects on the body from all types of foods, Swami reminds us that we have to look deeper. Being on the spiritual journey, we have to also consider the subtle effects foods have on our minds, and our abilities to turn Godward. Swami has said:
“There should be some regulations with regard to food. Many doctors emphasize the value of proteins and recommend meat, eggs, etc. Proteins got in this form serve only to build the body but do considerable harm to the mind. Doctors are primarily concerned with the gross physical body. They pay little attention to the subtle form of the mental makeup. Most of the diseases that are prevalent in the world today are related to the mind. Mental illness seems to outnumber physical ailments. Vedanta has declared that the mind is the cause of man’s bondage or liberation. This means that the mind has to be used properly and turned godwards. Equally, the mind is responsible for health or sickness. In this context, food is all important. Proteins are present in milk, curds and vegetables as much as in meat. If in the matter of diet, the doctors give the right prescription, diseases can be averted.”
Divine Discourse on 07 February 1993
Anecdotally, a couple of individuals from the USA said that Swami told them in a private interview, “In the US, eggs sold are not fertilized, and hence, they are okay to eat.” In other interview experiences, Swami approved the eating of chicken for one devotee’s health issues, but not for others in the same interview group.
Still, this is very much a personal decision. Many feel that eating eggs is similar to consuming meat, while others reject them for philosophical reasons. For example, many people do not eat any dairy products at all (milk, cheese, butter, eggs) because it comes from an animal. Others do not agree with the conditions that farm animals are maintained in, in addition to the use of hormones and chemicals that may become a part of the dairy products. One cannot judge or be judged for these personal decisions.
It is imperative to remember how foods affect our body and mind. For example, sugars and fats are not meat, nor are they forbidden, but they impact us greatly and must be consumed in moderation. Keeping a balanced diet is supremely important. Let us remember the “big picture” about food. We must listen to our inner selves and act according to what feels right within.
In closing, here are Swami’s words where He has been very clear about the topic of meat:
“Today, let it be anyone, whether one deems himself a devotee or not, he should give up meat eating. Why? Meat eating promotes only animal qualities. It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one’s thoughts. By eating the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed. How sinful is it to feed on animals, which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings! This leads to demonic tendencies, besides committing the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals. Hence, those who genuinely seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food. Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Rama and Krishna, they fatten the chickens. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee? Therefore, whether they are devotees in India or outside, they should give up meat eating from this instant. … Therefore, those who aspire to become devotees of God must give up meat, liquor and smoking.”
Divine Discourse on 23 November 1994
It is only by Swami's Grace that we come to know of Him. It is He who draws us to love and have faith in Him. Nothing is in our hands. For the youth to realise this golden truth is also by Swami’s will.
So, what then, about our efforts? One cannot be taught to realise this grace. It comes only from within. It starts with Faith in God, with Love for God,...nay, it all begins with Self-Confidence.
“Have faith in your own Self. Otherwise, you cannot have love for God.”
Dec. 25, 2001
Swami teaches us time and again that without believing in our 'true selves' first (Atma Vishwas), we cannot have faith in the God dwelling within us. When you develop faith in the One within, you turn to it for all your needs. It is through this faith and confidence that we develop Love for God, knowing that He is there for us at all times.
This Love for God is the driving force for appreciation of God, and of His work. When there is Love for God, realising His Love for us comes easy. But, it cannot be taught. It must be experienced.
It starts with our own efforts by having Divine Thoughts, reading His words, and by remembering Him at all times. Swami reminds us that all we need to do is take one step towards Him, and He will take the rest towards us. By trusting Him and loving Him, we will feel His Unconditional Love.
Through these experiences, we ultimately strive to be beacons of His message and legacy of Love.
There are two distinct questions here:
1. How can I explain who Swami is?
The best way to speak about Swami is through the five Human Values of Truth, Love, Righteousness, Peace and Nonviolence, which comprise the essence of His teachings. Out of these five, the value of Truth is of primary importance because it sets the spiritual foundation of the Sai philosophy. Swami has said:
“Truth is not merely telling the facts about what you see or hear or know. These are temporal truths. Facts relate to momentary appearances. Truth relates to unchanging reality. In its full sense, Truth can be applied only to what comes out of your heart in its pure and unsullied form as the voice of conscience. It is true for all time – past, present and future. It is not affected by changes in time or place... To know one's Self is Truth... When you seek the Truth, you are seeking God. Truth is God.”
This is a good first step for people who don’t believe in God, in order to open up to a deeper understanding of life. The same can be done through the value of Love. True Love is not the commonly understood attachment to desired objects and persons, and is beyond the limitations of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. In its highest degree, Love is not different than Truth. Swami repeatedly reminds us: “Love is God; Live in Love” and “The best way to love God is to love all and serve all”.
It is very important, when speaking about Swami and his teachings, to refer to the spiritual, religious and philosophical background of the person whom we address. The teachings of Sai can be found in all cultures. He has not come to bring something new, but to awaken us to the eternal truths already existing in the major spiritual traditions of the world. The uniqueness of his message lies in the universal call for Unity of all religions and philosophical paths. Talking about philosophy, it is useful, especially in the West, to refer to great philosophers of ancient times. One of them was Plato, whom Sathya Sai has spoken about in multiple discourses. He has explained that the essence of his teachings is Truth, Goodness and Beauty or Satyam, Śivam, Sundaram. Philosophy seems to be more easily accepted than religion for a skeptic mind, which gives much importance to science and seeks logical arguments. An article on Plato’s philosophy that is in parallel with Sai teachings can be found at:
2. How can I explain what the SSIO is?
The Sathya Sai International Organisation (SSIO) is the vehicle through which Sathya Sai teachings can be put into practice. It is a global organisation that aims to serve all societies which are in urgent need for a radical ‘paradigm shift’ from matter to Spirit, from information to transformation, from competition to cooperation, and from self-centeredness to selfless service. The name of SAI summarizes the tools that SSIO uses for this spiritual and moral undertaking:
S - stands for Service. The Sri Sathya Sai Organisation is often called Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization in order to emphasise the spirit of loving Service which it values so dearly. On Swami’s Samadhi, out of the innumerable volumes of His teachings, just four words have been chosen to remind us always the sublime cause that this Organisation stands for: “LOVE ALL SERVE ALL”. There are countless instances of selfless service, easily accessible through the media, which show clearly the aim of SSIO. A valuable source of the activities of SSIO is the Sathya Sai Universe website:
A - stands for Adoration. Sathya Sai Centres all over the world perform regular group devotional singing, which normally takes place weekly. Swami’s fundamental message regarding the Unity of all religions becomes a living experience when all seekers join their voices in praise of the One Almighty God. The great saying of Rig Veda goes: “Ekam Sat viprāh bahudhā vadanti”, i.e. “Truth is One, but sages speak about it in various ways”. Allah, Iśvara, Rāma, Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Zorastra, Mahavira… are all ONE. And this One is the resident of our Hearts. Group devotional singing is the royal path to the awakening of the Divine Presence within. It is true, however, that it is not easy to introduce this practice to a newcomer, who does not believe in God. This has to be done step by step and with the proper procedure.
I - stands for Illumination. Regular study of Sai teachings and dialogue with senior members is of paramount importance in order to understand the Sai philosophy. This is often called Sathya Sai Educare. The word Educare is the Latin root of the English word, “Education” meaning “to bring out, to manifest, to educe”. The purpose of Sathya Sai Educare is to bring out from the depths of one’s heart the hidden treasure of Human Values and guide the seeker to the ultimate realization of his or her divine nature. Sathya Sai Baba has said: “Everything is within you, nothing is outside. Close your eyes and see yourself. Turn your vision inward and ask yourself, “Who am I?” Your breathing process will give you the correct reply: So-Ham, So-Ham. So means “That”. Ham means “I”. “I am That” – I am God. Your breathing process makes you aware of your divinity every moment. This is the highest sadhana (spiritual practice).”
The following videos on YouTube provide an overview of the SSIO and its activities:
As a last note to this important question, we have to keep in mind that the best way to speak about Sathya Sai and the SSIO is through our lives. Actions speak louder than words! In the old days Swami said, “My life is My message”, but later changed it to “Your life is My message”. In a communication given to one of the professors of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning many years back, Swami wrote: “The best method of spreading Vedanta philosophy is to live it; there is no other royal Road”.
Problems are there to motivate us to understand more deeply about ourselves and the true reality of life. When confronted with a problem, the simple solution is to ask Swami for guidance. Here are some helpful tips:
- Swami has advised that one should sit in a quiet corner and pray intensely, asking for God’s guidance. This should be done for 15-20 minutes. Swami has assured that guidance will be given.
- Studying Swami's teachings to see what He has said about a particular topic is a great way to get the answer to any question one is seeking. His discourses give answers to most of the problems or inquiries we may have.
- Listen to your conscience or higher self as all wisdom is located there. The practice of self-inquiry can help you get in deeper contact with your inner voice for the divine guidance within.
“God resides in your heart and listens to all your prayers. If you aspire to attain His grace, contemplate on Him incessantly. Worldly difficulties come and go. Do not attach much importance to them. Through prayer one can overcome any difficulty. Only God’s grace is true and everlasting, strive to attain it. Chant the name of God day in and day out. That alone will protect you at all times. Just as air is all pervasive, God is present in you, with you, around you, below you, above you. Hence be in constant communion with Him.”
Swami has talked about how people from around the world come to India for spiritual peace. Being a haven for spirituality and morality, it leads the rest of the world in the right direction, like an engine leads the train.
India has been the spiritual leader, and always laid down disciplines to cultivate Universal Love; the Yagnas and Yagas (spiritual disciplines/rituals) which are recommended in the Vedas. These are for the welfare and security of all mankind.
In His 65th Birthday Discourse on Nov. 23, 1990, Swami said:
“Bharat (India) is a naturally well-endowed country. It is the primary source of all morality, spirituality and worldly wisdom. It is Annapoorna (a land of plenty) … Bharat has produced many great sages and saints who have taught profound truths … It has been the leader in the knowledge of various arts and sciences, in music and literature … Bharat has been the preceptor for all nations.”