Sathya Sai Centers are the heart and soul of the Sathya Sai International Organisation, providing a structured system for helping us realize our inherent divinity and reflect it in society, at home, at work, and in the practice of our faith – thus transforming and divinizing every one of us, one person at a time. Integration of the three Yogas (paths to realize God) is practiced in the Sathya Sai Centers:
- Karma Yoga through loving, selfless service
- Bhakti Yoga through devotional singing, Japa and meditation
- Jnana Yoga through the study of Bhagawan’s teachings and self-enquiry
The role of the Sathya Sai Centers is to spread Swami’s message and His love to as many people as possible, help the members lead exemplary lives as per His teachings, and engage in selfless service activities following the divine command. When Sathya Sai members lead ideal lives, following His teachings, Swami’s message automatically spreads to more and more people, inspiring and motivating them to also live by Sathya Sai’s teachings.
In addition, Sathya Sai Centers should study and reflect on Bhagawan’s teachings that there is only one religion, the religion of love and that there is unity of faith and harmony of all religions. This universality of faiths should be understood and practiced at Sathya Sai Centers so that it is evident to all who visit the Center.
The one and only overarching purpose of the Sathya Sai International Organisation, as stated by Bhagawan Himself, is to help realize one’s innate divinity. This inner divinity, which is latent in every being, needs to be manifested in our daily lives. This has always been the divine directive and will continue to be the primary role and the purpose of the Organisation in the future.
The uniqueness of this Avatar, in the history of mankind, is that His love, His glory and His mission took root and spread in more than 120 countries during His lifetime. The Sathya Sai International Organisation was planned, founded and nurtured by the Lord Himself. It is founded on love and love alone, and presents a blessed opportunity for spiritual seekers to participate in the wonderful, sacred works initiated by Bhagawan Baba to realize our innate divinity and experience that we are the embodiments of the one, indivisible, eternal, all-pervading, divine Atma or divine Love
This is a question which often brings about conflicting answers. On the one hand, if everything happens by God’s will, then all acts are already determined by Him, so, where is the room for free will? How can one be responsible for one’s own actions? On the other hand, Swami advises us to act according to what is right, just and beneficial to society. This implies that we have to exercise free will and that we are responsible for the results of our actions.
Instead of seeing these two viewpoints as contradictory, we should rather understand them as mutually complementary. How?
Sathya Sai often advises us: “Life is a game; Play it!” Undoubtedly, the game of life is pre-destined by God. He has set the scene and the rules, over which we have no command. Nevertheless, within this game we have been allocated the task to play our part. Not only to play, but to play it well. Here is where the exercise of free will comes in. The choice is ours. To play well means to implement Human Values in whatever we do.
Life is a drama directed by God. He has written the scenario and distributed the various roles. From this point of view everything is pre-determined. However, the actors of the drama don’t have to stay inactive. Their duty is to play their roles according to the script of the play by exercising their free will. Respectful obeisance to the instructions of the Director will give them the joy of happily reaching the end of the drama when the curtain falls. At that moment, the only thing that really matters is not what the role was about, but whether it has been executed well.
The most important thing is that, while fulfilling the duties of the various roles of the drama, one should always be aware that behind the screen on which the phantasmagoria of life is projected, the Divine Truth lies hidden as the changeless foundation. The ultimate goal is not to remain trapped in the game of life, but to find the consummation of our performance in the realization of Unity with Him. In this Union the question of free will which now puzzles our minds ceases to exist, because there is not anymore an actor different than the Director or a drama in which the actor has to perform. The three become one, and the spiritual seeker experiences the supreme bliss of Oneness. “Ekam eva advitiyam Brahma”, i.e. “Brahma is only One without a second”: this is what Swami always reminds us as the final Goal of life.
Here a significant thing has to be added. In order to make our will free and be able to act according to the guidance of the voice of God within, one has to release himself/herself from the bonds that place a limit in his/her actions. To do that, the seeker has to develop the two fundamental qualities of discrimination (viveka) and detachment (vairagya). Then only can one’s will be free and faithfully follow the instructions of the Director.
Here is an illuminating passage on this topic by Sathya Sai:
“Some students today talk about Free Will. Only the Divine has free will. Man is endowed with a will but not a free will. When the Divine free will moves, the human will also operates. There are myriad leaves in a tree but not a leaf will move in the absence of wind. The leaves have no free will, but they have a will which can be swayed when a breeze blows. In the tree of life, human beings are like leaves. When the Divine Will blows, the human will begins to move. Thus, there is need for the coming together of Divine Will and the human will. Then, there will be a blossoming of human nature. Man can never achieve anything by his own efforts. There is something which a man accomplishes without much effort on his part. There are other things which he is unable to accomplish even with his best efforts. What is the reason? It is on account of the play of the Divine Will. How the Divine operates may be known from two examples from everyone's experience. The heart beats and the lungs breathe without any conscious human effort. These are the results of the operation of laws of nature according to the Divine Will. There is Nature on one side and human effort on the other. The two should function in unison. When there is such unity you have purity. That purity leads to divinity. These are not three different things, but three stages in the process of a tender fruit achieving ripeness.”
For further reading on this important topic, please see the chapter “The Will,Free or Not?” in the book “My Baba and I” by Dr. John S. Hislop, p. 142-7
What is Karma?
“Everything is composed of time, cause, and duty. The body itself is also bound by time and duty. To sanctify the body, perform pure actions and use time meaningfully. The world of people is bound by actions (Karmaanubandheeni Manushya Loke). No one can survive even for a moment without performing action.
What is action (karma)? Is it only through hands and feet? No, no. Everything is karma. One example. When you ask, “What is he doing?”, you might get the reply, “He’s not doing anything”. So, what is he doing without doing anything? Sleeping! Sleeping is also action! Or, he is just sitting without doing anything. Sitting down is also action. With subtler enquiry, inhalation and exhalation are seen as action. Blood circulates in the body and the heart pulsates —without effort on our part. All this is action (karma). Some action is voluntary while other action takes place involuntary.
You sleep, quarrel, grieve, smile —whatever you do, inhalation and exhalation do not wait for you. They do their job ceaselessly. Does one make a conscious effort to breathe? Does one make the heart beat by will? No. Whatever your mental state, the heart does its job. This is called divine Power (adi-daivikam).”
Law of Karma
“The consequences of every action are implicit in the action itself. For instance, there is a small seed. Its entire capacity to grow into a big tree is latent within it. The seed contains within it the potentiality of growing into a tree with branches, flowers and fruits. There is an interval between the planting of a seed in the ground and its growing into a full fledged tree. Where from has this tree come? Krishna has declared in the Gita, "Beejam Maam Sarva Bhuthaanaam" (I am the seed of all living beings). All that you see in the world is the result of Karma. Everything has a beginning and an end. Pleasure and pain have a beginning and an end. They are inseparable.”
“The truth of the Law of Action and Reaction can be verified from a simple experience. If you stand before a mirror and offer a Namaskar (greeting with folded hands), the image returns the Namaskar. If you assume a threatening posture before the mirror, the image reflects it back in the same manner. Reflection, reaction and resound are three aspects of how Karma operates.”
Devotion burns away results of past actions
“Having said that, bear in mind: No matter how large the pile of your results of your bad actions (karmas), if you pray to God with genuine feeling emanating from the depth of your heart, all karmas disappear like snow on a summer day.
The reflection appears inside the mirror, but it is not stuck to the mirror. The lotus dwells in a lake, but its leaves are not wet by the water. Similarly, no karmas, however heinous or numerous, can trouble a person who has pure devotion. A small spark can consume mountains of cotton. The tiniest spark is enough.”
How to secure God’s grace to overcome karma?
John Hislop: Does God forgive even present karma?
SAI: There are three types of karma: past, present and future. Present karma must continue. It is like the carriage behind which is a trail of dust. If the carriage stops, the dust will settle on it. A doubt might be that the carriage cannot forever continue so as to be ahead of its dust. But the carriage need not always travel on a dusty road. It can get on the surfaced highway where there is no dust. The highway is equivalent to the grace of God.
There is a difference between the benefit of grace and the benefit of bhakthi, of devotion. A patient with a pain is given a sedative which dulls the pain. But grace is an operation that does entirely away with pain. Make no mistake; grace does entirely away with karma. Like a medicine which was labelled, ‘good until 1968’. If used in 1973, the medicine is entirely ineffective. The body is the bottle, the karma in the body is the medicine. God puts a date on the ‘medicine’ so it is not effective.
Hislop: But Swami, grace is a rare prescription!
SAI: It might be thought that grace is difficult to secure. Such is not the case. Grace is the easiest thing to secure if the method is known and used. In the Gita, the method is given. As in driving a car, so confusing at first, but with practice so easy to do all the necessary tasks all at the same time and also carry on a conversation without strain. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with practice. Even ants in a single file crossing a stone will leave a mark.
It is the Name that will guard you and guide you throughout life. It is such a small thing! But to cross the ocean, an immense steamship is not needed. Even a small raft will do. The Name of God is the smallest of the small, and the largest of the large. The mouth is the principle gateway of the body, and the tongue must always carry the Name. Like a small lantern, the Name must go when and where you go, and then you can travel easily through the whole forest of life.- From the book, “Conversations with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba,” by Dr.John Hislop.
Dedicate actions to the Lord
“In other words, whatever actions you perform, dedicate them to the Atma. Perform actions with the motivation to become dear to the Lord (Sarva karma Bhagavat preetyartham). Do not be inactive.” You can be a lawyer, doctor, banker, businessman. Whatever your vocation, work is transformed into worship with this pure outlook. Transform work into worship, offer it to the Lord……..
As is your desire, so is your feeling. As is your feeling, so is the result you experience. It is important that whatever you do, you do it with your heart. The heart is the junction of all energy channels in the human body. When pious intentions emerge in the heart, the entire body is filled with enthusiasm and Divinity.”
“Karma as such has no capacity to bind; it is the conceit, ‘I am the doer’ that brings about the attachement and the bondage. Again, it is the desire for the fruit of action that produces the bondage. For example: the zero gets value only when in association with a digit. Karma is zero; the feeling of ‘doership’ when associated with karma breeds bondage. So give up the sense of ‘I’ and the karma that you do will never harm you. Karma done without any desire for the fruits thereof will not produce impulses; that is to say, there will be no impulse for birth even. The spiritual aspirants of the past performed karma with this high ideal in view. They never felt that they were the ‘doers’ or ‘enjoyers of the fruits’ of any act. The Lord did, the Lord gave the fruit and the Lord enjoyed the fruit- that was their conviction! You too should cultivate that faith.”
Read more and discuss with fellow youth
It is our blessed fortune to be a youth during this Kali Age, with Swami as the Avatar. Swami would spend most of His time with youth. He has declared:
“The future of the country depends on the skill and the sincerity of the youth. Therefore, the necessary enthusiasm and encouragement must be generated among the youth. All my hopes are based on the students, the youth. They are very dear to me.”
Sathya Sai Speaks IX (old edition), 34, 184
During Summer Showers, and at World Youth Conferences, Swami would guide the youth, and at the same time, be a child among them, and be playful. While making jokes and LOL, He would also infuse important, key teachings.
The essence of all Swami’s teachings to youth is clear: Do your Duty, Have Good Character, Serve Society
- Study Well
- Have Good Character
- Be Disciplined, Control Senses
- Keep Good Company
- Respect and serve parents
- Serve Society, Serve the Sai Organization
- Make God your True Friend. He will always be with you.
In a nutshell, what is our duty as youth?
As a student, discharge your duties diligently. Study well and obtain good marks. Respect your parents and serve them. Keep in mind the welfare of the society and nation at large. Earn a good name in society.
There are no shortcuts to being disciplined, focused, and doing our duty. As youth, our peers and social circles play important and very impactful roles in our lives. Swami talks about the importance of having good company, and how that will ultimately shape our habits and character.
Students are generally good but change their behaviour due to environments. The famous scientist Einstein invented great scientific truths. But, in the last stage of his life he began realising the Truth and took to the study of Bhagavad Gita! He used to say "Tell me your company. I shall tell what you are." What is good company---Sath Sang? Sath is Truth, that is, God. So this means you should always be with God."
What shapes our character? How can we be individuals with a good name in society? Swami has on multiple occasions, also spoken about the importance of controlling our senses during this stage of youth. During Summer Course of 1995, Swami spoke to international youth, and explained that it is difficult to ‘control’ our senses, as we cannot close our eyes or our ears when we are around bad company. He went on and clarified that we can however, ‘divert’ our senses. When we are around bad company, we can turn around and walk away. If there is negativity on TV, we can change the channel.
Young men and women! Consider love and sacrifice as your very life breath. Control your senses. Sense control is essential for the success of any spiritual practice. Humanity can rise to Divinity through sense control.
Service & Leadership
As youth, Swami expects us to be energetic, to be “strong leaders, like lions”, and be useful to society. As we age, our responsibilities grow, with work, marriage, children. This precious stage of youth is a golden opportunity to serve without needing to worry about any extra ‘luggage’. Serving is also an important activity which humbles us, and makes us stay grounded. Serve parents, first and foremost, for they have given us life.
Everyone should realise what one owes to the society in which one is born and from which one derives so many benefits. Young people should reflect on the question what gratitude they can show to the society which has given them so much. What service are you doing to society? Every man should show his sense of gratitude to society by rendering selfless service.
Remember that you are the future torchbearers of Sri Sathya Sai Organizations. The elders of the organization today may be aged and have their own constraints. Youth have to take the initiative to lead the organization from the front. Each state organization should have its own youth leader to take up major responsibilities. Ensure that you keep yourself distant from politics. Work for the welfare and progress of society. That is the greatest sadhana.
God is Your True Friend
Swami’s Love for Youth is tantamount to nothing else we have experienced. His Divine, Selfless Love is like a magnet, which attracts Him to youth. He is ever-willing and ever-ready to help youth during their time of need. He knows the distractions, the challenges, and pressures we face in our environments. What should we do, and how can we meet His expectations? Make Him your True Friend, and have faith He will help you through your travails.
Let your behavior be exemplary wherever you are. As long as you are in Prasanthi Nilayam, you lead a disciplined life. Continue to do the same even after you leave the place. Be always immersed in the Divine, not in deep wine. Only those who are immersed in the Divine are dear to Me and are My dear friends. If you want to be dear friends of Swami, conduct yourself in the divine manner. In such a case, you do not need to come here; I will come to you wherever you are. I will come there, wherever you stay. I am with you, in you, around you and behind you. I am not separate from you. I and you are one.
While I said earlier, there are no shortcuts to leading a life of Discipline. Swami, the all-merciful, gave youth at the 2007 World Youth Conference, one simple sadhana.
If you really wish to know the secret of sadhana, it can be explained through very simple methods. For example, make your mind steady and still for as short a period as eleven seconds. You can attain realisation even in such a short period. Realisation cannot be achieved by becoming restless like a clock. Just eleven seconds of stillness of mind would be enough. But you don't do even that. You can achieve a lot during this period.
Symbol of divinity: Traditionally vibhuti symbolises divinity, which is obvious from the various ways that Easwara (Shiva or God) is described. One of these descriptions is that his entire body is smeared with greyish-white (sashivarnam) vibhuti. Sashivarnam stands for the color...neither pure white nor dark but a combination of these. This simply means that among the several strengths that Easwara possesses is the power of maya (illusion, a mixture of the real and the unreal).
Yet there is another significant meaning for vibhuti. What remains of the human body when burnt away is a small quantity of ash. The human body, consisting of different organs and senses, undertaking ever-so-many activities while alive, gets burnt away after death like a piece of firewood and reduced to a small quantity of ash. You can purify or transform any matter with fire; it all reduces ultimately to ash.
Vibhuti is a sacred substance, as its color or form does not change further. If you burn iron, it reduces to ash; if you burn wood, it reduces to ash; if you burn the human body, it reduces to ash; if you burn anything, it reduces to ash. Thus, ash is the ultimate substance, which does not change its form. When it is burnt, it still remains as ash. The one thing that remains permanent and does not change is ash.
This is the lesson one must learn and constantly remember. It is in this context that pundits take this ash in the name of the five elements and wear it in the center of their brow. This signifies that all the elements are equivalent to ash. What remains ultimately as an unchanging substance is ash, and this is why Easwara himself wears ash all over his body. Ash is the only substance symbolically equivalent to God, and that is the reason I create and give vibhuti to the devotees who come to me. This is to convey to them that ash is permanent and even liked by Easwara. —Sathya Sai Baba (Summer Showers in Brindavan, 1974-2:31).
Sacred ash in the Christian religion-Sacred ash is given prominence in the Christian tradition on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.On Ash Wednesday, worshippers in churches are blessed with black ashes by a priest or minister as a sign of penitence and sacrifice. These ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday (Sunday before Easter) celebrations and mixing them with olive oil and water. The priest makes the mark of the cross on each penitent’s forehead with the black ashes, the cross being a chief symbol of Christianity and Jesus’s life of sacrifice. Symbolically, this ritual is similar to the three parallel lines of vibhuti smeared across the forehead of devotees of Lord Shiva.
The Christian priest offers the worshipper an instruction while the ashes are applied, such as, “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” The Judaic and Christian association with ashes also signifies repentance before God, sincere sorrow for sins and faults, and the desire to change for the better.
For this reason, Psalm 51 is another scripture often cited in association with Ash Wednesday: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:10-13) - Dr.Sastry Pappu (Sathya Sai Newsletter, March 2008)
Benefits-In the Brihad Jabala Upanishad (one of the ancient scriptures)the following benefits have been described.
- It is named Vibhuti since it endows one with prosperity;
- Bhasma - "ashes" because it burns away all sins;
- Bhasitam - "brightened" because it increases one's spiritual splendor;
- Ksharam - "destruction" since it removes danger; and
- Raksha - "protector" for it is an armor against the machinations of evil spirits.- Sathyam Sivam Sundram, volume 1. (The wave of the hand)
Paramam Pavithram Baba Vibhuthim
Paramam Vichitram Leela Vibhuthim
Paramartha Istartha Moksha Pradhanam
Baba Vibhutim Idam Asrayami
Sacred holy and supreme is Baba’s vibhuti
Pouring forth in brilliant stream, this play of Vibhuti
So auspicious is its might, it grants liberation
Baba’s vibhuti, its power protects me
Inspired, want to learn more...
The meaning of the Gayatri mantra is as follows:
We contemplate the glory of Light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle, and causal. I am that vivifying power, love, radiant illumination, and divine grace of universal intelligence. We pray for the divine light to illumine our minds.
Bhagavan has in His own words set out the following benefits of regular chanting of Gayatri Mantra:
"It is essential to recite the Gayatri mantra at least three times during morning, noon, and evening. This will serve to reduce the effects of the wrong acts one does every day. It is like buying goods for cash, instead of getting them on credit. There is no accumulation of karmic(result of action) debt, since each day's karma (action) is atoned for that day itself by reciting the Gayatri mantra". [17-3-1983]
"Brahmaprakasha, the effulgence of the Divine, will descend on you and illumine your intellect and light your path when this mantra is chanted". [20-6-1977]
"Gayatri is the reliever of all diseases (Sarva roga nivaarini Gayatri)". [23-8-1995]
"Gayatri wards off all misery (Sarva dhukha parivarini Gayatri)". [23-8-1995]
"Gayathri is the fulfiller of all desires (Sarva vancha phalashri Gayatri)". [23-8-1995]
"Gayatri is the bestower of all that is beneficial". [23-8-1995]
For further information on the Gayatri mantra, please see:
"There are two roads to fulfillment: prayer and meditation. Prayer makes you a supplicant at the feet of God. Meditation (dhyana) induces God to come down to you and inspires you to raise yourselves to Him; it tends to make you come together, not place one in a lower level and the other on a higher."
Sathya Sai Speaks V, 'Lamps Lit from the Same Flame'.
Additionally scientific studies around the world have shown that the practice of meditation can:
- alleviate anxiety and depression;
- promote focus and concentration especially in stressful situations;
- enhances learning, self awareness, creativity and memory;
- reduces the risk of heart disease and inflammatory disorders.
For further information on how to and when to meditate, please see: