Religion without Philosophy is superstition; Philosophy without Religion is atheism. Ralph W. Emerson.

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Unity in Diversity Series
Unity in Diversity Series
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Last Amended: 31 Oct 2020 [original posting 19 Sep 2005]

Who is Sai?

Known variously as “Sai Baba”, “Sai”, “Baba”, “Swami” and “Bhagwan”, he was born in 1926, and is said to have commenced his ministry in 1940, starting with a mere handful of adherents. He physically passed away in April 2011, but his works and teachings live on and have rapidly expanded. This page remains as it was when posted in 2005, with the addition of 'Sai Snippets' below.

Today his ministry is famed worldwide and has many followers in practically all regions of the world. He, however, concentrates his personal centre of activities in the area of Bangalor in mid-East India, where he has performed miracles in respect of practical developments in education, medicine and water projects, principally for the benefit of the poor. In doing this, he attracts the voluntary help of many professional people (architects, doctors, etc.) from around the world in his various enterprises, and hospitals have been constructed in record time.

A Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, V. K. Pillay, wrote in his ‘Quest for Divinity’:

Sai Baba provides much insight into the teachings of the Hindu faith (Sanathana Dharma, translateable as The Perennial Philosophy), and has written a great amount of material on the subject, in addition to speaking regularly to devotees. He receives visitors from many parts of the world. He often refers to the importance of the words of teachers such as Krishna, Buddha and Jesus, and the meaning behind their words. He also refers to Islam, and importantly to Sufi teachings. Sai Baba has advised devotees to study the lives of spiritual saints.

Over the years, Sathya Sai Baba has incurred not only much adulation but also much criticism and accusations for a number of reasons. His community of followers have at times been sorely tested in their faith. But what is clear is that much good and positive energy has been generated which has caused so many people to seek him and his words. I have been privileged to know a family whose child had severe physical afflictions from birth, and with no progress under medical treatment in Britain, the parents in desperation turned to Baba for help. They took their child to India and Baba worked his miracles on the child. Though the child did not entirely recover, the change in him was still monumental. The child’s capabilities were hugely improved and he became an enthusiastic singer of spiritual praises.

Please click here to link to the official Sai Baba site

Further, the Sai Baba organisation has been working for years in the promotion of good values amongst children, based on the Vedic tenets: Right Conduct, Truth, Love, Peace and Non-violence. The Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) group work tirelessly in this regard, and British schools (and in other countries) have received much valued input from their work. Please click here to link to the UK SSEHV site


 

 
Sai Snippets
Some wisdom from Sathya Sai Baba.
Please hover over each text heading.


 
A true human being... Man constantly strives in various ways to elevate his status and condition. As he succeeds in one effort, he seeks success in another, and so it goes on. But, what is the hallmark of a true human being? Human life is bound up with gains and losses, ups and downs. One has to face them. Only the one who overcomes these challenges with fortitude is a true human being. What is the reason for the vicissitudes in life? The cause is to be found in one's desires. It is beyond doubt that desires are inescapable. For instance, one seeks to achieve some ideals. Another may seek to do well in studies and secure a good job. Yet another may desire to acquire a good name and bring up a good family. There is nothing wrong in such desires. But what we are witnessing in the Kali Age is the limitless growth of desires. As a consequence, people fall into bad ways. There should be limits to every desire. There should be a limit even to the pursuit of power and position.
Expansion of Love... It is the Divine Will that operates as Love in each of us. It is He who prompts the prayer - "Let all the worlds be happy." For, He makes us aware that the God we adore, the God we love, the God we live by, is in every other being as Love. Thus Love expands and encompasses all creation. Looking a little closer, we discover that life itself is Love. They are not two but one. Love is the very nature of life, as burning is the nature of fire, or wetness of water, or sweetness of sugar. We tend a plant only when the leaves are green; when they become dry and the plant becomes a life-less stick, we stop loving it. Love lasts as long as life exists. The mother is loved as long as there is life in her; when life departs, we bury her without the least compunction. Love is bound with life. In fact, Love is Life. The person with no Love to share is as bad as dead. This is the reason why love expands in an ever widening circle.
Perception of good and bad... Good and bad lie in your mind; they are not outside. Hence correct your feelings in the first instance. Get rid of all animal qualities so that humanness can blossom in you. If you notice even a trace of hatred in yourself, drive it away at once. Having attained human birth, it is shameful on your part to have evil qualities like hatred. Do not fall prey to infatuation. You should be attracted only towards God and none else. You love your son because you consider him to be your reflection. In fact, the one who loves you, the one who hates you, or the one who criticises you - all are your own reflections. At one time, one may be angry and later the anger may give way to love. Love God with all your heart. Love for God will transform your heart. It will drive away hatred and other evil qualities. You can achieve anything through love.
Evaluating one's thoughts... When thoughts come surging to your mind, you should spend at least a few minutes enquiring whether such thoughts are good thoughts or bad ones, and whether they are for the good of your country, and whether they are going to be helpful or not to the community around you. If they are bad, you must immediately put them aside; and if they are good, you must make an attempt to promote them. When a thorny plant is seen, it is removed the moment it is recognised as a thorny plant; but when a good fruit tree comes up, we try to take care of it and promote its growth. In the same manner, in the field of your heart, as soon as bad ideas sprout, you must pull them out and throw them away. As the seeds grow into a big tree, man also must try to grow and become Madhava (God) ultimately.
The depth of God's presence... God is present as the power immanent in the atom. Since atoms are to be found everywhere in the universe, God too is immanent everywhere in the manifested universe. ... See God even in the smallest insect and the atom, and at the same time, realise that all these form a part of the cosmic nature of God.
Everything is energy... Everything has energy latent in it - a piece of paper has it, a strip of cloth has it. When the latent energy is exhausted, death results; when energy fills, birth happens. Being-awareness-bliss (satchidananda) is energy. We (sat) are (chit) happy (ananda). Energy is all, and energy is derived from God. That is the very basis of all people. Now, we are building super-structures somewhere else, not on the basis. The foundational divine principle is being ignored. We are fascinated by subjects and studies that promise to feed our stomachs and make us materially happy and powerful. But the hard truth is the Divine beneath all. People must either know the supreme truth of the One Being behind all becoming or at least know the practical truth of love and brotherhood. These two points are the limits that education must ever keep in mind - the starting point and the goal.
There is only One... There is nothing other than Divinity in this world. The principle of Divinity present in a grain of sand and in a big laddu (a delicacy) is one and the same. Once you realise this truth, you become Brahman verily. You are subjected to unrest and suffering because of your dualistic feeling. You perceive unity as diversity, instead of visualising unity in diversity. Number one is the basis for all other numbers. Likewise, names and forms vary, but all are essentially one. There is no second person. Other than Divinity, there is no second entity in this world. Many spiritual aspirants and yogis have made concerted efforts to understand the principle of Divinity. They ultimately realised, Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti (Truth is one, but the wise refer to it by various names). As you have not understood this truth, you are deluded by the apparent duality.
All are one's brothers and sisters... Desire and pray for the welfare of the entire universe. Develop the sense of unity and banish the feeling of differences. This is true service to the country. You should live in unity and be charged with the feeling that all are your sisters and brothers. Your sense of togetherness ought to exceed even that which is found amongst the members of a family. You all know that when Vivekananda delivered his address in Chicago at the Parliament of Religions on the subject of the wisdom of our ancients, he began with the words, "Brothers and Sisters of America." The audience was so thrilled to hear this that they gave him a standing ovation. They were so happy to be referred to as brothers and sisters. Today, however, Bharatiyas (Indians) are ashamed to regard others as brothers and sisters. We have to spread such a spirit amongst one and all. Humanness is something that came along with us at birth and not later. The human being and the quality of humanness came into existence at the same time. How is it that we have forgotten such a divine feeling?.
God's Will... It is most essential you understand that everything happens as per His will. Whatever happens is for your own good. With such firm conviction, you should accept pleasure and pain, good and bad with equanimity. It may be difficult for you to bear misfortunes. You should pray to God to grant you the necessary strength to bear them. Difficulties are like passing clouds. They will certainly give way to happiness. Man always strives for happiness. How can one attain it? True happiness lies in union with God. In fact, God is beyond happiness and sorrow. Whatever you may do, He says, "Tathastu" (So shall it be). He showers His blessings on you saying, "Let it be for your own good". You will be free from sorrow once you understand the Bhagavad-tatva (nature of Divinity). If you are undergoing difficulties, do not get disheartened. Have faith that God is making you go through the ordeal for your own good.
Why is there no peace?... Why is there so much anarchy and confusion in the world today? Why is there no peace? Is it because there are no educated people, and is it because there are no educational institutions? No, there are plenty of them, but the educated people do not have the necessary culture and breadth of vision along with their education. Our country has been known as the spiritual treasure house. Yet today we are forgetting the spiritual treasure and the real strength of our country. Children are not understanding even the meaning of education. For the root word 'Vid' if you add 'Ya' then you get Vidya (education). Here 'Vid' stands for illumination and 'Ya' stands for that. Therefore, that which gives illumination and light is Vidya. That which gives you light and sheds your ignorance and that which gives you wisdom and superior knowledge can alone be called Vidya. What promotes ignorance and darkness cannot be called Vidya.
The power of discrimination... In the Gita, the Lord has declared that in humans He is the power of discrimination, Buddhi. Man cannot achieve greatness by the acquisition of all forms of wealth. It is intelligence that makes man respected. One who does not exercise this power of discrimination is no better than birds or beasts; it is to raise man to a higher level that the Divine comes down as Avatar. Avatar means descent. To stoop down to lift up the child to cuddle and to raise man, who is caught up in petty desires and trivial pursuits, Divinity descends to the human level and teaches how one can divinise oneself. This is the teaching of the Gita. All great scriptures, be it The Bible, The Quran and the others have originated for the same purpose. The scriptures by themselves, cannot redeem you. They serve only as guideposts. They indicate the roads to be taken to realise the Divine.
The cause of grief... What exactly is the cause of all grief? It is attachment to the body that produces grief as well as its immediate precursors: likes and dislikes. These two are the results of the intellect considering some things and conditions as beneficial and some other things and conditions as not. This idea of beneficence and maleficence is a delusion. Still, you get attached to objects that are considered beneficial, and you start hating the others. But from the highest point of view, there is neither; the distinction is just meaningless. There is no two at all, so how can there be good and bad? To see two where there is only one, is ignorance or delusion (maya). Absence of the knowledge of the identity of "That (Tat)" and you (twam) is the cause of all ignorance - the word tatwa, used to mean 'principle', enshrines this great philosophical doctrine. If this truth is not learned, one has to flounder in the ocean of grief. But if it is learned and if one lives in that consciousness, then one can be free from grief.
Man's perception... Ardent seekers have sought keys to all knowledge, the one thing that, if known, all else is known, that is latent in every atom of the Universe. They described it as something that is beyond words, beyond the ken of human imagination and understanding. It is best, they have themselves admitted, that God is pictured in the human form, so that man can easily comprehend Him and approach Him and derive bliss out of that contemplation. Man can conceive only human qualities and human attainments, though he can multiply them to the maximum and allow the resultant quantum to fill and overflow his heart. Release the twin doors of lust and anger, and remove the bolt of greed, then, you can enter the sacred precincts of Moksha (Liberation)! Greed is the monstrous evil that drags man down. Greed arises from attachment to the senses and catering to them. Put the senses in their proper place; they are windows for knowledge, not channels of contamination.
Self-examination... All are in you; you are in all. You have to get this conviction fixed in your consciousness by means of analysis, discrimination, and intellectual exploration. You have to isolate and dismiss from the consciousness the impressions of the senses, mind, intelligence, etc. These have nothing to do with the Atma, which you really are. The Atma is unaffected by any subject or object. Even if the senses, mind, intellect, etc. are inactive, that inactivity will not affect the Atma! To know the Atma as such an entity, unaffected and unattached, is the secret of spiritual wisdom. Every single act of yours must be carried out with this wisdom as its background. That awareness of the Atma will guide you in both the out-moving and in-drawing paths; it will not block action but fill it with purpose and meaning; it will build up faith and moral life; it will take you to the realm of deliverance along the road of renunciation of the fruit of action, and not renunciation of action itself.
Cultivation of love and devotion... Fill the reservoir with water; then, when you turn the taps, the buckets will be full. Cultivate love and devotion, then your activities will be saturated with compassion and charity; they will yield the golden harvest of joy and peace. The water must be pure; Love must be unselfish and universal. You can yourself judge whether your Love is narrow or broad, whether your Devotion is shallow or deep. Are you content with your achievement? Examine it yourself - pronounce the verdict on yourself, by your own discrimination. Purity of motive is the best guarantee that you will have peace. An uneasy conscience is a tormenting companion. Righteous action will leave no bad effects to disturb your sleep or health. So be righteous, and avoid all prejudices against others on the basis of caste, creed, colour, mode of worship, status or degree of affluence. Do not look down on any one; look upon all as Divine as you really are.
Attachments and desires... The mind is made of the warp and woof of wishes. So the first thing to be conquered is the demon of desire. For this, it is unnecessary to wage a huge war. It is also unnecessary to use pleasing words to persuade the desire to disappear. Desires will not disappear for fear of the one or for favour of the other. Desires are objective; they belong to the category of the "seen". With the conviction that "I am the see-er only, not the seen", the steady-minded one releases oneself from attachment. By this means, desire is conquered. You must watch the working of the mind from outside it; do not get involved in it. That is the meaning of this discipline. The faculty of the mind is like a strong current of electricity. It has to be watched from a distance and not be contacted or touched. Touch the current, and you are reduced to ashes. So too, contact and attachment give the mind the chance to ruin you. The farther you are from it, the better. By skillful methods, you have to make the best use of it for your own welfare.
The right purpose of life... Every single thing has its Dharma (right purpose). Water has as its Dharma, the nature and obligation to move. Fire, the Dharma to burn and consume. And the magnet, to attract and draw unto itself. Every one of these is keeping up its Dharma unchanged, including the Solar system and the stars of the firmament. Among the things endowed with Consciousness or Chaithanya - the plants and trees, the insects and the birds, born out of eggs or the mammals - all have managed to treasure their specific Dharmas unaffected through the passage of time. But the human being, whose intelligence sweeps from the inert and the infinitesimal to the Super-conscious and the Universal, is the only living thing that has slipped, and is sliding down. The experience of many generations of seekers, who sought the means of contentment and joy, embodied in the precepts of practical living collectively called Shaastras is neglected, and new-fangled nostrums are recommended and tried on a vast scale.
Behaviour formed out of habits... The unceasing toil of each succeeding day has as its aim and justification this consummation: to make one's last days sweet and pleasant. But each day also has its evening. If the day is spent in good deeds, then the evening blesses us with deep, invigorating and refreshing sleep, the sleep about which it is said that it is akin to samadhi. One has only a short span of life on earth. But even in this short life one can attain divine bliss by wisely and carefully using the time. Two people, in appearance the same, ostensibly of the same mould, grow under the same conditions, but one turns out to be an angel while the other stays on with their animal nature. What's the reason for this differential development? Habits, behaviour formed out of these habits, and the character into which that behaviour has solidified. People are creatures of character.
... and its requirements ... Dharma says 'Satyam vada' and 'Dharmam chara': Speak the truth and practise righteousness. Sathyannasti paro dharmah: there is no better stabilising factor in society, no more support for individual progress than Satya, Truth. Hiding the truth or perverting it or denying it or defacing it are all signs of cowardice; no bold person will stoop to cover the face of Truth. Besides, you must know that the Vedic injunction is: "Dharmam chara - Practise Dharma." It is not enough if you learn about it; you must act it, fill every moment with word, deed and thought that reflect your awareness of Dharma. That type of living is the hallmark of what is called seelam (character) in statements such as "Seelam param bhushanam - Character is the most precious jewel." You must examine every moment of your waking time to check if you are observing the precepts of Dharma or straying away!
Act accordingly to reach the goal ... When you feed the cow with fermented gruel so that it may yield more milk, the milk emits an unpleasant smell. When man engrosses himself too much with the trifles of the world, his conduct and character become unpleasant. It is indeed tragic to witness the downfall of the child of immortality, struggling in despair and distress. If only every one examines these: "What are my qualifications? What is my position?" Then they can soon realise their downfall. Will a tiger, however hungry, eat popcorn or monkey nuts? Aim at the goal which your lineage entitles you; how can the parrot taste the sweetness of the mango if it pecks at the fruit of the cotton-tree? Let your effort be in keeping with the dignity of the goal. Never slacken effort, whatever the obstacle, or however long the journey. The goal will near you faster than the pace with which you near the goal. God is as eager to save you as you are eager to be saved.
What is freedom? ... What do we really mean by freedom of the individual? No one in the world has absolute freedom. Some people think that freedom is being able to speak out whatever they feel. True freedom consists in the recognition of that Divinity, by knowing which, all else is known. Freedom should express itself from the heart. 'Heart' here is not your physical heart, or related to any particular place, time or individual or a country! 'Hrudayam' refers to that Divine principle which is equally present everywhere, at all times and in all people, in every country. Only when unity and harmony is achieved from within, will freedom be meaningful. Without these, to talk about freedom means empty words, without any experience in real life. Also, do not think that spirituality means being alone and living in solitude. The aim of spirituality is to sow the seeds of love in all mankind and enable the buds of Peace to blossom in every mind.
What are fine arts? ... I am concerned with the spiritual arts, the finest arts, rather than the fine arts. I want spiritually elevating subjects to be depicted in dance, like Radha and Krishna and their sublime relationship, which is beyond the ken of people. One must give up themes such as drunkards, evil men, power-drunk personalities, and clowns, which cater to vulgar tastes. Adjust all items of dance and dramatic representation to the spiritual urge in humanity; foster it, fertilise it, and take people a little nearer to the Goal. The human being is a compound of animal and angel, we can say. The human has in it the wolf, the monkey, the bullock, the jackal, the snake, the peacock, the bear -but beneath all these, the pure spark of Divinity is there too. It is the duty of all who cater to the senses to transform the low values that are now pervading and transmute them into higher values.
Reflecting on one's journey ... You go from place to place, like postal parcels, collecting impressions on the outer wrapper, not on the core of your being. A blind man going places is not worried whether it is night or day. So too, you do not differentiate between one place and another. You behave equally unconcerned, equally senses-centred, in all types of places. You do not allow the holiness of the place to act on your mind. As a result of pilgrimages, your habits must change for the better, your outlook must widen, and your inward look must become deeper and become more-steady. You must realise the Omnipresence of God, and Oneness of Humanity. You must learn tolerance and patience, charity and service. After the pilgrimage is over, sitting in your own home, you must ruminate over your experiences and determine to seek the higher, richer and more real experience of God-realisation.
God is Love ... God is the embodiment of Love. Love is His nature. His love pervades the entire cosmos. This divine love is present in one and all. Pure Love (Prema) is described as beyond speech and mind (Anirvachaneeyam - indescribable). Divine love cannot be obtained through scholarship, wealth, or physical powers. God, who is the embodiment of love, can be attained only through love, just as the effulgent Sun can be seen, only through its own light. There is nothing more precious in this world than Divine love. God is beyond all attributes. Hence His love also is beyond attributes (Gunatita). But human love, because it is governed by attributes (Gunas), results in attachment and aversion. Love should not be based on expectations of a reward or return, like a business deal. Love is not an article of commerce, like a loan with a repayment schedule. Pure love, which is a spontaneous offering, can originate only from a pure heart.

 

Love, Purpose and Unity are His Themes

"Only when we are able to develop the feeling that we are all the children of God, that we are all one brotherhood and that none really is apart and alien to us, the flower of forebearance will blossom in our heart. Only when there is love, there will be forbearance. Forbearance is but the result of love and compassion towards all beings."

The above statement was central to a discourse that Sai gave on May 12, 1981 at Dharmakshetra, India. That discourse was one of many hundreds (if not thousands!) given over the years, but in this particular discourse it seems that many key aspects of his teachings emerged.

"When the mind is cleansed of all its dross and impurities, and noble and pure feelings are cultivated, then will dawn the Vision of Wisdom and the entire creation will be glimpsed in its true light as Brahman (the supreme Godhead itself).

"If there be no flower, the fruit-bud is not born; if there be no fruit-bud there will be no fruit either. In the same manner, if there be no dedicated activity (Karma), devotion (Bhakti) will not arise. Without devotion, wisdom (Jnana) will not dawn."

In this discourse, Sai called for believers to propitiate God with good conduct, good thoughts and keeping good company. Worshipping God through one's own virtues is no ordinary worship and is a far higher and advanced mode of worship.

So, rather than worship by normal means, including the ritual prayer and worship with flowers, instead apply the eight "flowers" of self worship. These eight "flowers" are the following practises:

But, spiritual practise should never take the believer to excess. Sai advises believers to cultivate the habit of moderation. He says that if we take anything to excess, it will ruin our health.

Sai Baba poses a series of radical questions: How important is the organic life of eating only? What is the value of all the technological advances if we do not uplift our humanness? Is it an advance if we have not enhanced our peace?

The above is but an extract of the essential points of Sai's discourse. However, it is most certainly worth reading the discourse in full, particularly as Sai uses many similes to explain various important points. To see the full text click here to load the text in a new window.

To attempt to summarise all Sai's teachings:

It is not Sai Baba’s intention to convert anyone from his or her existing religious faith, nor is he creating a new faith. Quite the reverse; he wants to help Christians to be better Christians, Muslims to be better Muslims, Hindus to be better Hindus…

The Unity in Diversity series
 


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