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Note: This guide is not only intended for Balavikas students, this also helps every one who wants to know about the Indian Culture and Spirituality and also refresh the memory of those who have forgotten many of them. This will also guide all parents to teach their children and putting a foundation in their mind about Indian Culture and spirituality. Therefore we take pleasure in posting this in seven parts in our Forum for the benefit of all and are intended for fact-finding reading. Thanks to the author.  ‘saidevotees_worldnet’

Om Sri Sai Ram

GUIDE TO INDIAN CULTURE AND SPIRITUALITY

[Based on the Divine Teachings of BHAGAWAN SRI SATHYA SAI BABA]

By Smt. KAUSALYARANI RAGHAVAN

IV. THE VARIOUS GREAT RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD AND THEIR UNITY

236. What is a religion? Define it.

Religion may be defined as any Prevalent System of faith in super human power.

237. Why do we lead a religious life?

By submitting to God's will and by acting in such a way as to earn His grace, we lead a religious life. Every religion has its philosophy. Religion belongs to the region of the heart and philosophy belongs to the region of the head and both should go hand in hand. Religion is an essential ingredient in the making of man.

238. What is the basis of Religion? How many Religions are there? and how are they classified?

Religion is an essential thing for man to lead a good living. The basis of all religion is Faith. There are at present eleven religions and they are classified as (1) Aryan, (2) Semitic and (3) Mongolian. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Sikhism are of the Aryan Group; Hebraism, Christianity and Islam belong to the Semitic group; Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism, come under the Mongolian group.

239. What is the central truth of all religions?

The Central truth of all religions is that God is the perfect embodiment of love, grace and compassion; He is absolute perfection; He is the father of all creation; All creatures are His children. This is the central truth of all the world's great religions.

"Ekam sad vipra bahuda vadanti" - God is one, though the wise speak of him in many ways. So each religion is a revelation in its own way of this great truth. God is not the monopoly of any particular creed or religion.

240. How a Hindu refers to God?

The Hindus call God by different names like Iswara, Rama, Krishna etc., or Paramatma or Brahman.

241. What is the concept of God for Jains?

The jains who do not directly refer to God, yet speak of the divine principle of perfection. When this principle is embodied in a being, he is called 'Arhat'. The realm of the Divine where no evil can exist, where every bondage to Samsara and its sorrows and tribulations is destroyed and where the individual attains eternal bliss is the highest goal. When all desires are burnt away, all attachment disappears; it is called the state of 'Nirvana' or 'Moksha'.

242. What is the concept of God for Buddhists?

The Buddhists who like the Jains do not postulate the existence of God in a specific or direct manner. They believe that the highest state that a man can reach is the state of "Buddha". He is actually not much different from the "God" of the so-called theists. He is divine, the 'Kevalin' or 'Mukta' or the 'Buddha', the embodiment of love and Pragna.

243. How do the Zoroastrians call the God?

The Zoroastrians call God, the holiest principle in the universe, "Ahura Mazda", the God of truth, wisdom and illumination.

244. How do the Muslims call the God?

The Muslims call Him "ALLAH". The Merciful, the compassionate, the sole Lord of the creation.

245. How do the Jews call their God?

The Jews God is "Jehovah".

246. Who is the God for the Sikhs?

To the Sikhs God is 'Sat' or 'Akal' - the true and the eternal.

247. The different Religions are so many paths to God. Explain.

From the earliest times, man has been aware of the transcendental power, which governs and sustains the Universe, As this idea developed through the centuries a variety of creeds arose. When we examine the world's great religions we will discover that all religions have more or less the same idea of God - though He is called by different names. From the beginning, man hungered for God and has longed to understand His ways. All religions have, with one voice, accepted the three fundamental qualities of God - they are (1) God's omnipotence, (2) His omniscience and (3) His omnipresence; without God's love nothing can live and without His power nothing can be done in this creation. So all the different religions are various roads leading to the one and the same goal which is God.

248. Each religion has its own way of understanding God. Explain it in detail.

Each religion has its own way of understanding God. The Ancient Hebrews regarded God as God of Justice, because the Hebrews have throughout been, for some reason or the other, a persecuted minority in the countries they occupied. The Buddhists and Jains who attached great importance to the destroying effects of greed and desire, tended to dream of a passionless Principle of Divinity, yet full of compassion for oppressed and suffering humanity. All religions believe in Prayer. Prayer is a means of intimate communion with the almighty. The Vedic religion frequently emphasised sacrifice and renunciation and in its later development as 'Vedanta' it stressed the need for man's ceaseless search for the supreme reality, through introspection, Sadhana and love of Truth. Christ emphasised the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He made His followers dedicate themselves to the service of their fellowmen.

The Hindus have their Avatars - God manifesting Himself in human form from age to age to restore Dharma and Sathya in this universe. Being embodiments of the Divine their influence has been immense upon the whole of India and even abroad.

Mohammed is considered as Allah's (God's) own prophet, God's mouth-piece and in his life he struggled hard and suffered much to save his people from sin and barbarism. Moses was one of the great prophets of the Jews, Buddha for Buddhists and Mahavira for the Jains. So all these prophets taught about God and what they understood they gave it to this world in the name of religion. In their own way of understanding, they gave their teachings. The doctrines of the World's religions have been preserved in their scriptures.

249. What are the great scriptures for the Hindu?

The Hindus have the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and the Dharma Sasthras. The scriptures lay down with great elaboration the eternal values of life.

250. What is the holy scripture of the Christian?

The Holy Scripture of the Christians is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, the section of it which tells story of Christ and his Ministry.

251. Name the sacred scriptures of the Zoroastrians, Hebrews, Sikhs, Buddhists and Islam?

The Zoroastrians sacred scripture is "Zend-Avesta". The Hebrews sacred scripture is called "TORAH" and the "TALMUD". The Sikhs sacred book is called the "ADI GRANTH". The sacred scriptures of the Buddhists are called "PITAKAS" and the sacred scripture of Islam is called the "QUORAN".

252. What is the meaning of the word "Jina" and who is the founder of Jainism?

"Jina" the founder of the Jainism was also called Vardhamana Mahaveera. "Jina" means 'the victor' and it was a sort of a title given to him. The word 'Jina' is also applicable to those who have conquered their lower selves and attained self-realisation. Jina Vardhamana Mahaveera was the elder contemporary of the Buddha and was the second son of the Kshatriya ruler of Magada. Actually legends describe the beginning of Jainism to "Rishabha", who is said to have lived many centuries before Vardhamana. This view is supported in the Bhagavatapurana. But Vardhamana organised Jainism into a coherent creed and the Jains into a solid community.

253. What are the basic principles of Jainism?

The basic principles of Jainisms are - (a) AHIMSA (Positive kindness) (b) SATYAM (Truth-Speaking) (c) ASTEYA (Non-stealing) (d) APARIGRAHA (Non-grasping or contentment) (e) BRAHMACHARYA (Literally, proceeding towards Brahman).

254. What are the beliefs of Jainism?

(1) Jainism believes that every material thing has a spirit in it and so it stresses on Ahimsa.

(2) Jainism lays great stress on purity, that is, purity of inner being as well as external purity.

(3) Sadhana is important to attain perfection. Mahavira himself declared that there are two kinds of spiritual discipline - or 'Vrita' (a) "Mahavrita" or great discipline for Munis or Monks and (b) "Anu-Vrita", the lesser discipline for ordinary folk. The Jain religion did not make much of God or the Transcendent Reality. However they believed in soul. The soul because of its entanglements with the impurities of the world becomes subject to ceaseless rebirth. So to get rid of impurities is the foremost aim of life.

255. Explain in detail the beliefs of Jainism about the soul and karma and who is called a "Holy Man"?

The pure soul is all brilliant, having Anantha Darshan, Anantha Jnana, Anantha Veerya and Anantha Sukha. Because this pure soul gets mixed with the impurities of the world, it gets rebirth. So Jainism says that impurities should be got rid of through pure living. They also believe in Karma or action and its effects. This action binds the soul and cause rebirth. The pure state of being is called "Jnana" and when karma is annihilated through pure and proper living the soul becomes "Anpashamika" state in which karma is neutralized, though it is still present, like fire covered by ashes. When Karma is annihilated altogether the soul is said to be in the "Kshayika" state which leads to 'Moksha' or 'Kaivalya'. There is another state of the soul called "Kshayopastramika" state where some karma is still active. In this state men are called God. But when they reach "Anpashamika" or "Kshayika" state they become "Holy man".

256. In Jainism what are the different stages of moral and spiritual evolution?

In Jainism, all substances or "matter" is of two kinds (a) Astikeya (extended) and (b) Anasti Kaya (Non-extended). The first which is different from matter is spiritual. It is the peculiarity of Jainism that some Jevas are "Muktas" (the liberated) and others are "Buddhas" (the bound). They lay stress upon faith and work. All action leading to peace of mind are "Punya" and Jainism mention nine ways of securing punya - like giving food to deserving, water to the thirsty, and so on. 'Himsa' or causing injury is the great Sin - papa. In the Jain code injury in any form, from simple abuse to murder is a sin.

257. What is "Nirvana" State?

The nirvana of the Jains is not annihilation of the self, but it is new birth into a state of absolute purity and blessedness. It is the state that cannot be described. It is absolute freedom from desire and action - a state of perfect quiescence. The soul exists but it is so much beyond anything. This state is "Nirvana" State. Jainism does not accept a personal God or even a transcendental Brahman. They believe in "Arhats". They are souls full of knowledge and purity like the great Tirthankaras. The 'holy persons' are those who have reached the State of "Nirvana".

258. Who was the founder of Buddhism?

Siddartha (meaning he who has attained his goal) was the founder of Buddhism. His family name was Gautama. He was a prince, son of King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya of the Kingdom of the 'Sakyas' whose capital was Kapilavastu. He was born about 567 B.C. He became "Buddha" or the enlightened one, later in his life and formed the religion Buddhism.

259. Explain briefly what Buddha taught?

He taught the gospel of the four Aryan truths: (1) Life is full of suffering. Every event is in life painful (birth, age, disease, desire and so on). (2) It is desire that is the origin of suffering. It is the craving or thirst (Trishna) that binds us to the unending cycle of birth and death. (3) It is possible to achieve the suppression of suffering. He said by wisdom and understanding and through full awareness of the self, man can attain the state of bliss. For this he must awaken himself from the Anjana to Jnana. (4) The way to end suffering is to follow the noble eightfold path. In this all extremes are to be avoided and middle path has to be followed. He also said that by torture of the body "Nirvana" or salvation cannot be achieved. He taught non-attachment. He said a wise man, who is a 'Sama Darshi', who looks upon everything in an objective unattached manner, is a real "Bodhi" or truly enlightened person. He said only a pure in heart shall attain Nirvana or liberation. The Buddha does not mention either God or the soul in his teachings. Instead he refers constantly to 'Manas' or mind, which prompts all actions and words.

260. What is Buddhist 'Pancha-Shil'?

The whole of the simple doctrine of Buddha is best expressed in the Buddhist Pancha-shil. It consists of five resolutions. They are:

(1) I will refrain from killing any creature.

(2) I will refrain from false-hood.

(3) I will refrain from adultery.

(4) I will refrain from stealing.

(5) I will refrain from intoxicants.

261. Who was the founder of Zoroastrianism?

The founder of Zoroastrianism was the Persian prophet, Zoroastra, who lived in the 7th century B.C. Zoroastra was greatly concerned about the superstitious beliefs of his people, and so the first truth he taught was that God is one - the wise Lord 'Ahura Mazda' or 'Ormuzd', who is the creator of the universe and who lives in the heart of man as external Righteousness and the truth.

262. What are the characteristic beliefs of Zoroastrians?

The sanctity of Nature is their special belief. Earth, Air, light and water are four sacred elements of nature. So even when they die they do not bury or cremate because they think that will pollute Nature. So the dead are merely consigned to what they call "a Tower of Silence" where the birds of prey devour the bodies.

They are called "Fire-worshippers". Agni is a symbol of purity, Zoroastrians worship Sun, who stands for illumination (Thejas) and purity. They must follow four purities - pure thoughts, pure words, pure deeds and chastity.

263. What is the religion of the Parsis?

The Zoroastrians who emigrated to India are called the Parsis. They also worship the Sun. Their temples are called "Agiyaris" where the sacred fire fed by sandalwood is placed. They are strictly urged to follow the Zoroastrian ethical code summarised in three words (1) 'Humata' (Good thoughts), (2) 'Hukhata' (good words) and (3) "Huvrashta" (good deeds).

264. What is Judaism?

Judaism is the religion of the jews and is older than Christianity. It is strictly a monotheistic religion. Judaism is rooted in the ancient scriptures known to the Christians as the old Testament. Its central belief is a merciful universal God.

265. Who is the founder of Islam?

Mohammed was the founder of Islam. He declared that there is no other God than "Allah" the all powerful, all wise and all merciful. He revealed these sublime truths in his "Holy Quran" - a book which is the Holy Scripture for Muslims.

266. What are the important ideals of Islam?

Islam rests on five solid pillars in short. A Muslim has five moral duties : (1) Prayer, (2) Charity, (3) Fasting, (4) Pilgrimage to Mecca and (5) Holy war.

267. What is Christianity?

Christianity in general, is the religion of those who believe in Christ, as a unique revelation of God. It arose nearly 2,000 years ago, as a section within judaismin in Palestine. It accepted at first the Jewish scriptures as its own, but instead of the traditional belief of the Jews that the expected Messiah or Christ was yet to appear, it held that he had already appeared on earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So Christianity centres round the life and message of the Jesus who was called "Christ" or the Messiah.

268. To whom and where was Jesus born?

Jesus birth itself seems to have been a miracle. He was born in an inn in a cowshed in Bethlehem to Mary, wife of a carpenter, Joseph. He was not born in an ordinary way. He was son of a Virgin, upon whom the grace of the Lord had fallen.

269. Give an idea of Christ's Sublime moral preachings?

An idea of Christ's moral preachings can be got from the famous "Sermon on the mount". The main points are as follows:

(1) Blessed are the pure in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

(2) Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

(3) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

(4) Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

(5) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

(6) Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.

(7) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

(8) Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(9) Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

270. Who is the founder of "Sikhism"?

Sikhism is the latest and the youngest religion perhaps in the world - Nanak was its founder. He was born in 1496 in the village called Talwandi.

271. What is the holy book of the Sikhs called?

The holy book of the Sikhs is called the Granth Saheb. Their temples called "Gurudwaras" have no idols and no elaborate worship. Only the "Granth Sahib" containing the hymns and saying of the Guru is kept in the altar inside these temples.

272. What is the most important Principle of Sikh religion?

One most important idea of Sikh religion is that of devoted discipleship. The Word 'Sikh' means "A disciple". The Sikhs venerate their Gurus greatly. Nanak was their first Guru, and Guru Govind Singh their last. The teaching of the Guru is called "Guru Vani" - it is extremely sacred to them. The Sikhs conceive of God as their illumination or Jyothi - Sikhism attaches great sanctity to Japa or meditation on the Divine Jyothi and on the Gurus who are regarded as embodiments of this Jyothi.

273. What are the five requirements for the Sikhs, prescribed by the Gurus?

The Sikhs are distinguished by the following five requirements:

(1) They should wear their hair un-cut (Kesh)

(2) They should carry, by tradition, a steel comb (Kanga)

(3) They should wear a steel bangle (Kada)

(4) They should carry a short and sharp sword (Kirpan)

(5) No Sikh can be without a kachcha - small-sized tight under wear.

274. What is Taoism?

Taoism is a creed of pure Chinese origin based upon the teachings of "LAO-TZE". Along with Confucianism and Buddhism, it is one of the chief religions of Chinese culture. It may be called 'poly demonism' or worship of numerous demons. Magic plays an important role in it. Taoism proclaims the doctrine of "Quietism" - man should possess an inner power which is called the "TE" by meditation and by occult means. 'Lao-Tze' is credited with many miracles and is regarded as the incarnation of the 'Tao' an immaterial omni present and eternal power. He is an embodiment of Absolute good, incessantly waging war against Evil.

275. What is Shinto?

Japan's ancient religion is called Shinto or spirit's way. It is earlier than Confucianism and Buddhism. In its earlier form it was simply a form of nature worship. It gave rise later to a sort of polytheism. Shrines were built in honour of their many Gods. No image but only symbolised tokens of Gods are worshipped. These are called "Shintai" - a good body - out of which the term "Shinto" has come. The ruler of heaven called Amaterasu, who ruled heaven and earth with the help of her brother, Susanowo (thunder-God). The first creatures were divine couple - 'Izanigi' and 'Izanami' who are said to have created the island of Japan. The chief plank of Shinto ethics is that good is an absolute divine quality and must be ceaselessly practiced. Charity is also a characteristic virtue.

276. What is Secularism?

It does not mean anything anti-religious. It merely implies "Sarva Dharma Samabhava" that is, a believer in secularism while remaining an ardent follower of his own religion, looks up on all other religions as different pathways to same goal God.

277. Secularism, in fact, is only a modern term for the old phrase "Religious tolerance" or Sarvamatha sammathee (The Symbol of our Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Seva organizations is an excellent example for secularism and we see the harmonious blending of all religions in this symbol). Explain How?

The symbol of Sri Sathya Sai Seva organizations (Printed on the cover page of this book) is an excellent example of the harmonious blending of all religions. The Om in this symbol refers to the universal Om kara Brahman or Hinduism. The Chakra is Dharma Chakra, of Buddhism. The fire symbol refers to Zoroastrianism and the crescent moon with a star refers to the religion of the Islam and the cross represents Christianity. We have got the "Prashanthi symbol" of the lotus in the middle. This Symbol emphasises the ideals of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai namely Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa. The Symbol teaches us the noble way of living to reach the goal of God. It says that to attain immortality one has to cross it out the "I" feeling in oneself that is the Ego, and that is the sacred holy cross. Make your ego die in the cross. (Put I and cross or cancel it becomes the cross, the symbol of Christianity). Destroy your evil thoughts and bad tendencies in the holy fire and purify yourself and do good, see good and be good. Just like the star that never leaves or moves away from the crescent moon you also see or try to be fixed in your faith to God and never vacillate from your faith and be firm in your faith. Realise that just like the wheel or Chakra, the cause and effect are always rotating and realise every action has got a reaction and if we do good and follow Dharmic path then we will enjoy good results and good life and our Dharma itself will save us from this Bhavasakara which is always changing. Try to Recognise the Om kara, or Pranava, which is the eternal sound, called the "Akshara-Brahmam" or God. God is present every where in this universe which is Omnipresent and which is present even in your heart as well. Try to listen to this Omkaar and follow the path of spirituality. All religions all morals codes like Dharma, Shanthi, Ahimsa, Prema, and Sathya, all leads to the one and the only goal that is God who is Sathya Swarupa. All religions speak about God alone who is the Eternal Truth. The "Prashanthi" symbol of the Lotus in the middle shows that if we follow the spiritual path shown by our Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba then Akanda Jnana will blossom in our hearts and will make us realise the unity in all religion and above all, it will enable us to realise the Eternal Truth or Sathya Swarupa. So what Bhagawan Baba teaches us applies to the whole universe and to all creations and not to one separate Religion or part or sect of Religion. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Himself is Sathya Swarupa in the True sense.

278. Describe the greatness of Indian culture and spirituality?

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that Indian culture is born of the heart and of intuitive wisdom. It is the source of all religions of the world. It is difficult to properly and fully understand the multifaceted Indian culture. It is not connected with odd and fertile things such as the objects of the material word. Indian culture can be compared with 'Kalpavriksha', the tree that gives all one wants. Approach with reverence and in a spirit of earnest enquiry alone will enable you to comprehend it.

It is ridiculous if we, having been born as Indian calling ourselves Indian, are not able to understand the inner meaning and the real significance of Indian culture. Like the elephant which in spite of its strength, obeys the trainer, ignorant of its own strength, we are ignorant of our own strength and follow others. Like a beautiful garland of flowers, our Indian culture is made up of variety of castes, creeds, religions, customs and we have got a variety or number of languages and differences; yet we live in unity. Our devotion to God and spiritual way of living is the unifying factor. In no other country we can see such a variety and such a high standard of living. Indian culture and spirituality, has got no equals. Our Veda is our treasure. What is not in Veda cannot be seen anywhere. In the "spiritual field, India occupies a very significant role of a Guru". We Indians have got such a great heritage and culture to our credit. God has chosen this land for proclaiming His truth. The very fact that all Divine Avatars have taken place in this sacred land shows its greatness. Our land is a Yaga Bhoomi and not a Bhoga Bhoomi. Our ancestors, the great sages had realised Divinity and gave great Truth to the whole universe in the treasure of Vedas, Upanishads and great Epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. Our culture and spirituality and our Sanathana Dharma does not belong to one company or religion, but it is for the whole universe. This is the greatness of India and her culture.

279. Bhagawan Baba compares Our Indian culture and spirituality to the great "Triveni Sangamam". Explain in detail.

Bhagawan says that we must consider Sathya, Dharma and Ahimsa as manifesting themselves to us in the form of silvery mountains. The great Ganges is considered to be sacred and pious and has been born on this Mountain. The culture of India is just like the pure stream of the Ganges. Just as the Ganges can never become dry so also Indian culture can never be rooted out. The deeds we do can be compared to sacred 'Yamuna', 'Saraswathi' the third river is the spiritual stream which flows in our lives like blood flows in our bodies. We see that the blood of the Indians is like Saraswathi river. The performance or deeds of Indians like the Jamuna and their Cultural life is like the Ganga. So we see in an Indian the great "Triveni Sangamam". The combination of these rivers is the country of India. We cannot say that an Indian is a combination of just flesh and blood or a combination of earth and water. We should regard an Indian as the combination of these three the Triveni Sangamam. Indians trying to go in an improper way and trying to imitate other culture because they are not aware of the sacred stream flowing inside which is the stream of knowledge? Saraswathi does not mean only literature but also is the goddess who gives perfect bliss and Ananda. This Saraswathi will establish the Atma and is the stream connecting man with God. She will root out the impurity of man and make him sacred and pious. So the greatness of our culture and spirituality is thus compared to the great and sacred 'Trivenisangam' of our country, by Bhagawan Baba.

280. Who is an Avatar and why does an Avatar take place?

The word Avatar means "descent". It is the descent of God on the earth in a human form. Its purpose is to establish Dharma, the supreme Law of righteousness in the world again and again. There are two aspects of the Divine birth, One is the descent that is the birth of God in humanity another is the 'ascent' that is the birth of man into the God-head or rising into the Divine nature Or consciousness. The supreme Divinity resides in the heart of everyone and yet conceal from us from yoga Maya. The Divine birth is different from ordinary birth. The God-head takes birth through his own Maya. The God-head dwells in and yet stand upon and over Nature as its Lord and master, is the special feature of an Avatar. In the case of an Avatar He is manifest in physical form and that Nature is conscious of the Divine presence of the Lord, the inhabitant. (Adhistatri Devata). An Avatar is thus a dual phenomenon of Divinity and humanity. The Avatar comes to bring near the kingdom of heaven to earth as well as to build the kingdom of heaven within the individual human heart. The Avatar comes to reveal the Divine nature in man above his lower nature and to show what are the Divine works by which he can achieve unity with the Divinity residing within him.

281. Why do we call our Bhagawan an Avatar Purusha?

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is really Sathya Swarupa. He is in reality Sathyam, Sivam and Sundaram. That is Sath, Chit and Ananda. His real nature is that He is Siva Shakti Swarupa and he has taken this human form in order to reform us and to re-establish our old Sanathana Dharma. He is an embodiment of Prema, Karuna and Shanthi. The Leelas and miracles performed by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Baba clearly prove that he is the God in human form. He is the Lord of the nature, which is his own creation and agency and therefore though in a human body, he has supreme control over Nature, which is ever at his service for carrying out whatever may be his 'Sankalpa', 'Leelas' and miracles with him or what we normally call 'Siddhis'. If used freely these Siddhis, the power will be lost. But in the case of Bhagawan Leelas and Miracles is an innate part of his 'Swabhava' - his nature. He was born with them as Lord and Master of nature, as the supreme Purushottama,- and they were not acquired after birth through yogic practices. That is why Bhagawan not only uses these powers freely but extensively over a very wide range for the propagation of the objective for which he has incarnated himself on this earth. He has got all the qualities of an Avatar. Bhagawan is Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. This is evident by his life itself. Bhagawan Baba's Leelas show clearly well that he is not bound by time, qualities and nature. He is beyond everything. He is in everything and everywhere.

Sarvabhootatma, Sarvantharyami indweller of all the hearts. He is the external witness. Bhagawan Himself have declared it in his Divine discourses and has shown many forms of the Divine, to his devotees and has proved that he is an Divine Avatar. Let us see what Bhagawan says about Himself.

282. What does Bhagawan say about Religions and about the symbols used to describe God?

Bhagawan says all religions are but roads leading to the same goal, God. We must try to know the unity and should show respect to all religions. Bhagawan Baba says as few blind, feeling some part of an elephant and describing it, the great thinkers of God, describe what they felt and formed their own religion and modes of living. All religions shows the path way to God. So all are same. All religions comes under Sanathana Dharma. Society or religion is very important. In diversity one should see the unity. We think God Shiva have 'Damaruka' or Drum and 'Trisula'. Lord Vishnu have 'Chakra' and 'Sankha' what does it really mean? 'Damaruka' and 'Sankha' both represent the sound and Trisula or Chakra both represents the Kala Chakra or Trikala or Time. It only means God is beyond Time and God is Sabdha Brahman. We describe God as having Sankha, Chakra, Ghada, Padmarn in his four hands. All these symbols have asignificant meaning. 'Sankha' means sound. It means God has control over sound. 'Chakra' means the time. God controls the time in his hand. 'Ghada' means strength. So it only means all the strength are in God's hand and Pushpa or Padma means flower. It is our "Hirudayapushpam" or "heart". It only means that we must offer our heart as flower to God and then He will accept it in His hand. So each religion has its own way of worship - and moral codes. We must treat them equally and show respect to all the religions. We should not forget god is one, and only one without a second, we must develop this unity, and 'Samabhava' to all religion and must try to recognize the Eternal Truth that is God.

283. What are the four pillars of Baba's Philosophy?

The four Chief Principle which Bhagawan Baba asks us to follow are (1) Sathya, (2) Dharma, (3) Shanthi, and (4) Prema. If we follow Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi and Prema it is possible to attain God. Bhagawan asks us to Arise and Awake to establish the Sai Sam Rajya and Sanathana Dharma based on the solid foundation of Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, and Prema.

284. What is Sathyam?

The prompting that comes out of the heart or the feeling that emanates from the heart is called "Rutha". "Rutha" means the feelings and the ideas. They are of paramount importance. They set out all the guidelines for action and have a determining influence. The feeling that has been shaped in the heart when it comes in the form of speech, it is called "Sathya" or Truth.

285. What is Dharma?

When Sathya or Truth, is put into Practice that is called Dharma. Dharma is that which is born from the heart, that which is then expressed in the shape of words and that which is then put into practice. Dharma is not a thing that can be determined by each and every person as per his whim. Dharma that comes out of one's heart is his 'Dharma' then how can it become the Dharma of the God? So in our heart - not physical but spiritual heart, we must try to locate and recognize Atma thatwa. The word I refers to Atma and never to body. The Vyavaharika Dharma or Dharma relating to the daily routine will be changing from day to day. So it is not real Dharma. But Dharma is not changeable, it is eternal, it is immutable, it is Truth. Our Swadharma really means "Swa" means Atma. So it is Atma Dharma

286. What is Prema?

The selfless love for God or the supreme is called Prema. This kind of love expects nothing in return. True Prema flows from the heart and it is real devotion. The fuel Prema yields the Divine flame of Shanthi.

287. What is Shanthi?

Shanthi, or peace, in its lower aspects is that equal state of mind which remains unaffected either by joy or sorrow or by any other pair of opposites. In its higher and more positive aspect, it is not exactly Ananda but Madhura Ananda. When you apprehend the prevalence of God everywhere - the entire manifestation appears as the projection of Divinity.

288. How is Prema to be cultivated?

Consider always the faults of others however big to be insignificant and negligible and consider your faults however insignificant and negligible to be big and feel sad and repentant. Realise that the one and the only God resides in the heart of all creatures and try to love them all. Try to understand the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of all creatures. Follow Bhagawan Baba's advice. Start the day with love, fill the day with love and end the day with love for that is the way to God. Realise that God is Pure love or Prema and He is Prema Swarupa. That is why we say "God is love" if we realise all these things then we can follow the path of love.

289. Quote some of the great saying of Indian culture or the words of Indian Wisdom?

Some of the great words of Indian Wisdom - are ''Sathyam Vada" (meaning Speak the Truth and "Dharmam Chara" - meaning do the right thing. The greatness of our Indian Culture lies in our belief "Mathura Devo Bhava" - (worship mother as God), "Pithru Devo Bhava" - (worship father as God), Acharya Devo Bhava - (worship the Guru or teacher as God), and "Athithi Devo Bhava" - (worship your guest as God). These advices deserve to be preserved in the caskets of our hearts like precious gems and to be followed in order to win the grace of God.

290. Who are the main religious reformers of our country?

The Alwars and Nayanmars established the faith of Hinduism in South India. The Alwars are worshippers of Lord Vishnu and the Nayanmars are worshippers of Lord Siva. The Alwars are Ten in number and the Nayanmars are sixty-three in number. The great Sankaracharya, Madvacharya, and Ramanujaacharya established the ideals of Hinduism and spread their philosophy namely Advaita, Dwaita and Visishtadvaita throughout the world. This great and sacred country Bharat is well known for its attachment towards God. A number of great sages and seers of Vedantic Truth are born in this country. Great Maharishis like 'Valmiki', Vyasa, Agasthiar are all born in this country. The great sages proclaimed the Truth of Veda to the whole world. In the later years, Mahapurushas and Siddhupurushas like Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda, Aravinda, spread Indian culture and Spirituality by their teachings and life. Great Seers like Buddha, Mahavira, Gurunanak all are born in this holy land as they have enlightened the whole world by proclaiming great Truths. Great Bhaktas like Meera Bai, Kabir, Tulasidas, Ramadas, Surdas, Andal, Jayadeva and so many have been born in this holy land and have spread devotion in this country. Even God has taken birth many times in human form as 'Avatars' in this holy land. Example Rama, Krishna, Shirdi Sai, and Sathya Sai Baba. Avatars have taken place in order to preserve our Sanathana Dharma and they have enlightened the whole universe by their life and teachings.

291. What is real Vidhya or Education?

Vidhya is enriched by Vinaya and humility. True education is judged from the cultivation of good character and good conduct and not merely from the attainment of degrees. "Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati" is the saying. One who understands the Supreme Being will himself become the supreme being. The real Education is the Education about Atma or Brahman. So "Brahmavidya" is real Vidhya. That is the supreme knowledge or wisdom or Jnana.

292. What is the end of all these Education and Wisdom?

The end of education is Character and the end of Wisdom is freedom.

293. What will be the end of all culture?

The end of culture is perfection.

294. What is the end of knowledge?

The end of all knowledge is love.

295. What is the purpose of all these information?

The purpose of all this information is Transformation. The Transformation must be in our character.

296. When and where was Bhagawan Baba born?

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on November 23rd, 1926 on a Karthikai Somawaram day in the village called Puttaparthy in Andhra Pradesh.

297. Who are the blessed couples to whom Bhagawan Baba was born?

In the village called Puttaparthy in the Ratnakaram Raju family Kondamaraju was a saintly centenarian who built a temple for Sathya-Bhama, the consort of Lord Krishna. His eldest son was named by him after a famous recluse who adorned the family Venka Avadhoota (Venka - who has given up all attachment to worldly things). He called him Vengappa Raju. This son married a distant relation, a daughter who was born after the construction of a temple by her father to Siva and so named Eswaramma. This pious and holy couple had a son and two daughters. Then afterwards Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born to them, who proved quite soon that he was uniquely Divine in nature and attainments.

298. What was the name given to Bhagawan Baba by His Parents?

Since Bhagawan Baba was born soon after finishing the Sathya Narayana Pooja, His parents named him as Sathya Narayana.

299. How Bhagawan came to know in the name of Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

At last in the village of Puttaparthy on the twenty-third day of May 1940, while scattering gifts into the outstretched palms of all who came, Baba declared that He was Sai Baba of Shirdi come back again to Save Humanity from down fall. He asked them to worship Him every Thursday as the first installment of spiritual discipline. Afterwards Sathya Narayana was worshipped as Sai Baba, the saint of Shirdi, come again, according to the promise he had made at Shirdi. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Baba has proved that he is the same Sai Baba of Shirdi without doubts to his devotees by his Leelas and by performing many miracles. He gives to his devotees sacred ash or other curative gifts of Grace like pieces of the gerua gown that Sai Baba wore at Shirdi. (The saint had entered the tomb in 1918).

300. What was the very first song which Bhagawan Baba taught to humanity?

The very first song which Bhagawan Baba taught was an invitation to surrender to the feet of the Guru who had so mercifully, appeared to save this humanity. It is as follows "Maanasa bhajare Guru charanam, dustara Bhava saagara tharanam". The meaning is "Oh ye seekers! worship the feet of the Guru with all your mind. You can thus cross the ocean of grief and joy and the cycle of birth and death".

301. What is the real meaning of the word "Guru"?

The "Guru" is called so because the letter "Gu" signifies "Gunathitha" one who has transcended the three Gunas or qualities, the Thamasic, the Rajasic and even the Sathwic and the letter "Ru" signifies one who is "Roopavarjitha" who has grasped the formless aspect of God-head. Of course, he could come to that stage only through the sublimation of the lower into the higher qualities and the steady and conscious ignoring of the part played by mere name and form. The Guru destroys the illusion and sheds light his presence is cool comforting. In order to realise God, one should approach a Guru who knows the Truth by experience and whose daily activities, words and thoughts reflect this realisation. If we do not get such a Guru let us Pray to the Lord Himself to show the way, and then he will surely come to our rescue. The Guru helps us to cross this 'Bhavasagara' if we surrender to him whole-heartedly, and fully. Guru is the physician for the illness which brings about the suffering of alternate birth and death.

302. What is the meaning of Baba? Why does he calls himself by the name Sri Sathya Sai Baba? Who is He in reality?

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in reality is God and he is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Satchidananda). He has come in this human form as an 'Avatar' to save this Humanity and to restore the Dharmic path and establish the glorious Sanathana Dharma back in this universe. Bhagawan Baba himself proclaimed to the world that he is in reality "Sathya Sai Baba" and he says "SAI BABA" means the Divine father and mother. The word 'SATHYA' means Truth, it is something which is unchanging during all the limes. The word 'SAI' has three sounds in it. 'SA' 'AA' 'YE'. 'SA' stands for the sacred and Divine. 'AAYE' means mother. In different languages, we have for mother Aayee, Mayee, and Thayee. Like Aayee means mother, Baba means father. SAIBABA is therefore Divine mother and father of this creation. In the same way we use the letter 'SA' for Divine, for mother we can use the word 'AMBA' for father we can use the word 'SIVA'. SA-AMBASIVA (SAMBASIVA) or SAIBABA are exactly the same. There is no difference between the two. Therefore it becomes evident that Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is Siva Shakti Atmaka Swarupa in reality. If we take up the word BABA, it is B.A.B.A. The first B stands for Being. A stands for Awareness; the third letter B stands for Bliss; the fourth letter A is for Atman. The first B - Being - is sat, the next letter A - Awareness - is 'Chit' and the third letter 'B' is Bliss or Ananda. The last letter A stands for Atma. That means Satchidananda is Atma. Bhagawan's name itself clearly tells his real nature, and there is no doubt about it. His life and message itself will prove it. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is in reality "Siva Shakti Atmaka Swarupa" or God. He is the indweller of all beings and He is the Omnipresent, Omnipotent God come in this Human form. He has taken up this form out of his mercy and Prema towards Humanity. He is "Loka Guru" and the "real Guru" and it is our greatest luck that we have got the God, our Bhagawan right in our midst.

"MAANASA BHAJARE GURU CHARANAM

DUSTHARA BHAVA SAGARA THARANAM"

Worship the Divine Lotus feet of the Guru, the Guru who is announcing Himself, who has come again for taking upon Himself, the burden of those who take refuge in Him. (This is the only way to escape from this endless round of birth and death and attain Divinity). I feel myself greatly blessed in obtaining the Divine permission and blessings of Bhagawan Sri Sri Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Himself, to release this book and also Bhagawan’s special permission to add the texts, based on His Divine teachings, namely, the Alphabetical representations, Numerical representations and the 108 Moral Maxims, from this second edition onwards. (Hence this additional preface).

God's word is that if you have devotion to God, He will look after your welfare as eyelids look after the eyes. But when would this be? He says that would be done provided the devotee spends all the time in the thought of God, provided he accepts God to be all pervading and as present in everything.

So in order to promote this attitude, let us try to realise the divine advice given by Bhagawan in each and every basic word or alphabet and number so that we will ever remember His divine advices.

By the grace of Bhagawan, I have collected 108 valuable and simple moral codes for daily practice since Bhagawan says wisdom or self realisation can be attained only by practice and not by reading or preaching. Let us accept these 108 Divine sayings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as the most precious, noble and divine 'Japamala' (or say 'Thapamala' for sadhana is tapas) given by Bhagawan specially for our benefit and specially handed over to us in order to save us from this Bhava Sagar (endless suffering from the cycle of birth and death) for the prosperity and welfare of ourselves and the whole humanity as well. If we wear it as a "Kankan" with a determination to practice and ever remember in our heart, then God will install Himself in our hearts and enable us to attain Divinity. All this information is for transformation's sake. As we read Ashtothras and prayers every day, so also let us read these moral codes daily with devotion and prayers to Bhagawan to purify our hearts and minds and enables us to put into practice His valuable commands in order to win the grace of our beloved Lord and attain His lotus feet by service, devotion and Prema.

Bhagawan, please grant us the fragrance of Prema Bhakti and the beauty of good conduct and character fully blossomed with wisdom of Jnana without any blemishes of bad qualities, bad deeds or bad thoughts, so that we can be like specially accepted Lotus flower in your divine hand, specially chosen for your worship, that is specially chosen for your divine mission and shower your grace and blessings on us to enjoy your Prema and attain your lotus feet.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Source:  GUIDE TO INDIAN CULTURE AND SPIRITUALITY Published by

Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publications Trust Prashanthi Nilayam, India

Sent with Sai love by Sai brother M. Palaniswamy, ‘saidevotees_worldnet’

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/saidevotees_worldnet/


Chapter-5