As learnt at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan

N. Kasturi (1897-1987)






... by the rendering of service ... [B.G. 4:34].



The Meaning 

"Life does not need comfort", says Gerald Heard, "when it can be offered meaning, nor pleasure, when it can be shown purpose. Reveal what is the purpose and how he may attain it - and man will go forward again, hardily, happily." Prasanthi is the purpose, Swami says.

And the third path that leads to Prasanthi is, as the Gîtâ too lays down, seva. Seva means 'dedicated activity', 'selfless karma'. Karma (work) is volitional, different from involuntary, instinctive, automatic responses and reactions. Karma is prompted by desire and planned by the mind. It ranges from the casual to the calculated, from the trivial to the tremendous. Whatever the nature or purpose, each act has a consequence, patent or latent. It builds one's habits and character, opinion and attitude, fervour and faith. The sower must reap the harvest. It is his right and it is his responsibility too. He cannot disown these, even when he casts off this body, for the body is not he; it was his, that is all. Another vehicle has to be boarded by him when this one is discarded, a vehicle he himself has wrought by his karma.

The Moghul Emperors built magnificent tombs for themselves while alive - so do all men build, brick by brick, the palaces or prisons which they will inhabit during their future lives on earth. No man can now escape the crown or the cross he fashioned for himself with his karma, during previous lives. Therefore we are exhorted by Swami to pay reverential homage to our karma, whatever it be and wherever it is performed, since it alone has shaped the present and is now moulding the future.

Swami has described the chain of causation thus: Janma (our birth) is caused by karma (the quality and quantity of the activities, physical, mental and spiritual, while here on previous occasions). Karma is caused by kâma (desire, lust, the sense of want). Kâma is the result of mâyâ (the fascination for the false). And mâyâ is the creation of ajñâna (the ignorance of one's reality). The knowledge of one's reality can be gained slowly by those who are action-oriented (karma-prone individuals) but, the investigatory process (the path of jñâna) can often reveal it in a flash. But the negating technique of neti, neti (not this, not this) is faced with its presence in love, power and wisdom everywhere: the action-intensive person has to be led along several levels of activity (sâdhana) to achieve the cleansing of the mirror of consciousness in order that the truth may be reflected therein.


- Citravathi, near
Puttaparthi -


Vedic Way

"Evolution, the steady progress from the lower to the higher levels of being, is the inbuilt plan of existence. The lower creatures busy themselves with their life-sustaining activities but, at the peak of development which is that of man, a new faculty of the intellect developes. It demands to know the purpose of it all and, in its search, discovers the omnipresent divinity. The path of evolution begins therefore in activity; and significantly, the Veda, man's earliest and even today the best 'pilgrim guide' to the temple of truth, commences with the Karma Kânda, the section on action as the first of the three into which it has been divided [see also S.B. 11.20: Trikânda Yoga: Bhakti Surpasses Knowledge and Detachment].

The second is that of Upâsana, worship, when man having realised in the course of his activity that he, and in fact all things, live and move, not at their will but at the subtle command of some supreme controlling hand, bows before this power in reverence and homage.

The third and last section is Jñâna, inquiry ending in knowledge, when man, having recognised this mystery, seeks to examine, understand and finally, draw near its solution.

Scholars and commentators on the Veda generally believe that the first two sections help to purify the mind and clarify the intellect but cannot do more. They can only lead to the culminating stage of jñâna by which realisation is attained. Swami however posits that all modes of sâdhana (karma, upâsana or jñâna) are equally valid paths to the truth, provided they are taken up by men who are straight and clean [see also Yoga, meaning and types].


The Bhagavad Gîtâ is divided in 3 sections:
ch. 1 to 6: Karma Yoga, the yoga of perfect action,
ch. 7 to 12: Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, and
ch. 13 to 18: Jñâna Yoga, the yoga of spiritual knowledge.


Swami has incarnated in order to revive Vedic rites and rituals, Vedic forms of w0rship and Vedic wisdom. The restoration of dharma (morality, virtue, right conduct) can be achieved mainly through this revival, for Veda is the very source of dharma, He has declared. He has instituted an Academy of Vedic Scholars, inspiring them to share their learning and experience with those to whom they were denied for centuries - the masses; He has also revived the rite of Veda Purusha Yajñâ to propitiate the Veda. Another of these rites to which He gives great importance is the Upanayanam, through which He has initiated hundreds of boys, and teenagers into the Vedic way of life by giving them the Gâyatrî Mantra, the key to Vedic wisdom.

Aum Bhûr Bhuvah Swah Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhîmahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
The original form of the body,
the lifeforce and the supreme abode;
that source of life most excellent,
that divine luster we meditate -
may this light illumine our intellect.
One can also remember it as:
om, earth, the ether, heaven,
that vitality we pray for,
the grace of God for everyone,
thinking pure in harmony

Swami usually delivers a daily discourse during Dasara elaborating on the significance of the Vedas and the hidden symbolism of the yajñâ rite. "Let me tell you that the Vedas have but a single object in view - to make man divine", He declared during Dasara, 1974. "They lead man from the animal to the human level and then, persuade him to use his intelligence in order to sublimate his passions and emotions and rise to the height of the divine, where he merges in eternal bliss."

As is described in the scriptures, the vedic sacrificial yajñâ originated from the belief that the Supreme Being had sacrificed Itself in creating the universe. The ancient vedic rishis looked upon the entire cosmic process as the unfolding of a great Sacrifice and believed that man's spiritual nature can best be quickened if he tries to mould himself in consonance with that cosmic order. So, when actions concerned with the ritual of yajñâ are performed, they are understood to symbolise the fact that all activities in life must be performed as sacrifice to the divine.

saha-yajñâh prajâh srishthvâ
purovâca prajâpatih
anena prasavishyadhvam
esha vo 'stv ishtha-kâma-dhuk - [B.G. 3:10]

In the coming about in the beginning of the generations, along with the sacrifices the Lord of mankind [Brahmâ] said to this: 'Be more and more prosperous; may this [sacrifice] bestow upon you all that you desire'

'Along with man, yajñâ too was created' says the Gîtâ. This echoes not merely the cosmic sacrifice of creation but indicates also the spirit in which acts must be done - as exercises in renunciation, in circumventing the ego. Sacrifice could therefore be called the inalienable birthright of man and the proud badge of the species - the inescapable cross he must carry from cradle to grave [see also S.B. 2.9:6].


Right Rites 

The scriptures proclaim that each one of us has five yajñas or sacrificial rites that must be observed as long as life lasts. These lead man away from fear and anxiety, restlessness and bondage to safety and serenity. The Pitri Yajña is the first of these five, where a man's earnings, comforts and joys must be sacrificed in order to foster and please his parents. They are the dearest embodiments of divinity within reach that we can serve and satisfy. They have together endowed us with the bodies wherein we are privileged to reside and witness the resplendent unfolding of God's will. All acts which express our gratitude to them are offerings at this Yajña

The second is the Brahma Yajña, also called the Veda Yajña or Rishi Yajña. It is our duty to adore the scriptures that reveal Brahman, beginning with the Veda which was discovered and communicated by the rishis of yore. As long as he lives, a man must realise that he has been given this body and this span of years in order to make another bid for liberation, having failed to gain freedom in previous births. Man has therefore to sacrifice the temptation to fritter away his allotted time and steadfastly equip himself for the task, by the study (swadhyâya) of the means as described by those who had achieved victory. He must listen, assimilate what he has imbibed and then test its validity on the touchstone of practice. Swami wants man to welcome the wisdom of all ages and lands, for, mountaineers climb routes of their choice only to greet each other at the peak.

The third Yajña is the one that is done for the good of society by the sacrifice of one's egoistic impulses to promote social harmony, peace and justice. It is called the Manushya or Athithi Yajña. 'Manushya' means 'man'; 'athithi' means 'guest', 'he who stays for a day'. It is significant that in this context the alternative term for man is athithi, guest. It is a reminder that every man is but a guest on earth, entering at dawn and departing into the darkness. He therefore owes all gratitude to the human community that receives him as he arrives, helpless and empty-handed, and gives him all that he calls his own for that while - even his health, mental and physical, his prejudices and preferences, his outlook and insight. Man, as an individual, is essentially the product of the society that has moulded and modelled him. He is given this opportunity of life on earth as the limb of a community, in order that he be exposed to various pressures which act as alchemy to turn base metal into gold.

The Yajña begins when he submits to these pressures and acts for the good of all, abandoning his own selfish purpose although he must be ever alert against influences that could stunt him, or make him a robot or drag him with its siren call into slime and slush. "Man is born free but is everywhere in chains," lamented a philosopher who must have forgotten his own childhood for, as every schoolboy knows, "Man is born dependent and bound, but is everywhere striving to break the chains that bind him". He is dependent on the society that sustains him and yet binds him with its language, its customs and controls. By sacrifice he wins his freedom, through gaining clarity of intellect from the company of the good and the godly. Swami says that each man is but a cell in one integral whole, that is, the social organism; and the many parts of this organism are constantly engaged in the task of mutually aiding each other in order to achieve the goal of salvation for all. "Sai has come in order to unite all men into one family through the bond of brotherhood," He revealed.

"I will achieve this Supreme Task by affirming and illumining the fact that the atmic reality of each being is the sole truth, the divine principle on which the cosmos rests. All men must recognise this common bond of divinity. It is this knowledge, this recognition alone that can get rid of the deep-rooted ego which creates the belief that each is a separate entity distinct and apart from all others."

When a man grows deeply sensitive to his fellow-men, eagerly partaking of their joys and their griefs as his own, then he clearly experiences the unity of mankind. When he longs to serve others and freely offers them his time, skill and resources to alleviate their suffering, he would at last have succeeded in achieving the immense task of subduing his ego. It is only when this barrier that separates him from other beings is pulled down can he realise that, the barrier was erected by him alone!

This attitude of service and sympathy when steadily followed deepens and ripens with time into the sublime emotion of selfless sacrifice which blossoms into the fourth Yajña, Bhûtha Yajña (sacrifice to all beings). The oblations sanctified by this sacrifice are love, compassion and understanding of all living things that are liable to pain, suffering, hunger and thirst. Manu, the ancient lawgiver [the first earthly creature created from Brahmâ], cautions against any indulgence in contempt, harshness, indifference or insult - even a trace of these would pollute the sacrifice and react on the person who gives, he warns. An ancient scripture named the Vâjasaneyi-(Yajur Veda)-Samhitâ has a section on S'iva wherein God is identified with two hundred and fifty nine entities in the cosmos. This shines forth as the most comprehensive concept of God. The Bhûtha Yajña directs man to treat all these and others beyond too with love and understanding for all forms are His. Or rather, God is all that is, in every cell or atom of everything that exists - in worms, wasps and caterpillars, locusts and bugs, birds, beasts and plants and the hills and springs, the clouds that drift by, and the streaks of lightning that flash and human beings of all ages, creeds, status and temperaments; the child, the decrepit, the blind, the lunatic and the criminal. Everyone of these has to be revered as actors in the divine drama.

The fifth (last) of the Yajñas and the most indispensable of all is the Deva Yajña, the offering of gratitude to God. Christopher Smart, an English poet, was kept in confinement for madness but he had a vision of this knowledge and gratitude; he had sensed the understanding whose radiance filled the universe and whose flames swept through the skies. The words that poured out of his entranced soul was the Song to David:

"He sang of God, the mighty Source
Of all things, the stupendous force
On which all strength depends,
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes
All period, power and enterprise
Commences, reigns and ends.
The world, the clustering spheres He made,
The glorious light, the soothing shade,
Dale, champaign, grove and hill;
The multitudinous abyss
Where secrecy remains in bliss
And wisdom hides her skill."

Glorifying God in acknowledgment and adoration is Deva Yajña. Recognising God as the motivator in the merest particle that pulsates as well as in the vast movement of gyrating globes, recognising His Form in the spiral of a little shell and His limbs in the gaunt branches of a skybent tree is Deva Yajña. Desisting from the sacrilege of dishonoring His call, mighty from the thunderclouds - Dattha (granted, gifted)! Dayâma (full of compassion)! Dayâdhwam (serenity)! - or whispered from every drop of dew whose littlest glisten and glow is brimming delight from the Source of Light itself, this is Deva Yajña. And to exemplify in one's life the humility and love, the calm and courage, the simplicity and serenity that a servant of God must possess is Deva Yajña.


Karma and Prema

Though these five Yajñas are mandatory karma for every man, the Gîtâ exhorts us to remember that all work, all karmas and every rite, ritual, vow, fast, pilgrimage and act of formal worship, all culminate, without exception, in jñâna, supreme wisdom. 'jñâne parisamâpyate'. 'Jñâna is the supreme end' (Ch. IV, 33). The purpose of activity is to remove alloys from the mind and pollution from the brain, enabling unhampered illumination therein. However, Swami tells us plainly that unless sacrifice is motivated by love - love for God, nature and man - all effort can be only as barren as pouring precious ghee over a heap of ashes or scattering seeds on saline soil or singing to a gathering of deaf-mutes.

For, "In the beginning, love arose; Love was the primary germ-cell of the mind," says the Nasadiya hymn of the Rig Veda. That love has ramified into the innumerable nuances of emotion that we know - desire, covetousness, craving, yearning, attachment, affection, relishing, liking, pining and a hundred other forms of fancy and fantasy. Nevertheless, S'rî Krishna acknowledges as valid only the love which is in conformity with dharma, right conduct that upholds and safeguards society. Love is the first-born of the absolute. It stimulated the inaugural activity, the primal positive dynamism. Each being, however infinitesmal or immense, is the expression of the infinite and the eternal and for that very reason the urge to love, to expand and include, to sacrifice and gain, to lose and win, to share and fulfil, makes He and We into One.

"When I love Myself, I love you. When you love yourselves, you love Me. I am you and you are I," Swami once wrote to the students of His College. The devotee of God is blessed with unshakeable conviction of this truth as a reward for his devotion.

"The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye is one eye, one sight, one knowledge, one love", [Johannes] Eckhart [1260-1328], the mystic philosopher of medieval times cries out in rapture. Since we are from God and for God, we are restless until we rejoin Him; and He too is watching us, to see whether we stray, whether we seek to quaff poison to quench our thirst for Him, instead of pure pellucid nectar.


A Single Body 

Mankind has become today not one family as the scriptures anticipate but, what is more laudable, one single body, through the progress of science that swallows in gigantic mouthfuls time and space and the very concepts of nations and national frontiers with each new discovery that cascades. Through the curious working of fate, science that promotes belief in materialism has brought about the reality of the One Immanent Will that, faith and hope had hitherto upheld.

We have indeed grown today into one single body nourished by earth and sky, with limbs that dig the moon and dip into the satellites of Saturn, with a nervous system that responds to the remotest bleep and with a memory that preserves the history of millions through millennia. But mankind has also grown into a maniac intent on suicide, or homicide! The beast is suffocating under the weight of its pachydermic coat, its fangs, claws and horns. It is fast sinking into its own accumulated filth. Swami has arrived to rescue mankind from perdition. He was hailed as Guru even as a toddler and who, at the mere age of fourteen announced that He had come to countermand extinction, to immobilise fratricidal fury, to cleanse its memory and motive and to feed it and foster it on a diet ot Divine Love.

This role of Savior was assumed by Swami, when he responded to the anguish of helpless men caught in the inexorable march of events towards destruction. Sai has not the slightest trace of anger in His composition. His hands hold only one weapon - the weapon of Love. He is Love. He showers Love, He arouses Love, He affirms Love, He accepts Love. "If you desire to know My Nature, let Me tell you, I am Prema Swarupa," He says, "Love with Form".

Love understands. Where there is understanding there is sharing and caring. "Love is self-lessness; self is lovelessness," Swami declares. Love involves sacrifice; it sweetens the act of sacrifice. The very first sacrifice was performed by God who sacrificed His uniqueness and His freedom, when Maya induced the desire in Him to appear as the Many. This primal desire was the desire for love, the need to give love and get love. Love is the law, the truth, the perennial pattern, the Rta [or spelled as Rita] of the universe, it is that to which the universe clings; it is that which is the purpose and end of everything in existence.

The philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin speaks of love, as the property of all organised matter.

"Love - that is to say, the affinity of being with being - is not peculiar to man. It is a general property of all life and as such, it embraces in its varieties and degrees, all the forms successively adopted by organised matter. In the mammals, so close to ourselves, it is easily recognised in its different modalities, sexual passion, parental instinct, social solidarity, etc. Further off, that is to say, lower down in the tree of life, analogies are more obscure until they become so faint as to be imperceptible.

"If there was no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level - indeed, in the molecule itself - it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in the 'hominised' form ... . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being. This is no metaphor and it is much more than poetry... . Love, in all its subtleties, is, nothing more and nothing less, than the more or less direct trace marked on the heart of the element by the psychic convergence of the universe upon itself. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfil them."

The vision of Teilhard de Chardin, the mystic of modern times is much the same as that of Meister Eckhart of many centuries ago. It is also the same in its essence as the truths the Rishis of Vedic times proclaimed. When godly men speak, their words may be many but their understanding is indivisibly ONE.

      "Dasavathara Danava Samhara"      
text bhajan


Push and Pull

Our individual soul has been separated from the Supreme Soul. But the alienation has not happened due to estrangement. Fullness of love has caused it, as it may seem. In fact, paradox lies at the very root of the universe, its nature and behavior, as science is discovering every day. The separation is only for the sake of a Game of Love in which we run around trying to get 'back' home. There is really no 'wandering', for how can we wander away from Him, who is all-pervading? There can be no 'separation' too; for how can He, who is indivisible, separate us from Him, and divide into the many? But He sets each little fragment of His vast cosmic mind to imagine itself clothed in an amazing infinity of forms and colors and shapes and then He plays the game of illusion wherein they 'wander' around time and space, through alternating moods of agony and ecstasy.

"Who could have breathed or moved if the skies were not filled with joy and love?" asks the Upanishad. Indeed! For the need to give love and to receive it, is the reason that caused Him to devise this exuberant absurdity of mâyâ, of the 'multitudes' that seek Him with the tribute of love, joy, the emotion with which He plays at hide-and-seek with Himself. Love is the source of Joy. To love is to be joyful. We long to live because we love the world, in spite of all the contradictions it presents to us or even on account of them. Why? Because our varied moods of love and joy for the million things of the world are faint echoes of God's first desire, to give and receive love and confer joy.

It is true that agony and agitation rather than love and joy seem to be the keynote of existence in the world. But that is because we have forgotten our truth and strayed into frail falsehoods. If only we remembered that we are inseparable parts of the Vastness, that is Eternal and All-pervading, time and space would be as harmless to us as the shadows that the sun casts. They leave us unscarred.

Since God's game, mâyâ, fosters this illusion of separation, we must strive and struggle to realise ourselves as no other than the Supreme Self. The first step in breaking through the belief in our separate identity (ego) is to help another. The association that service creates, brings an understanding of the problems of the other. Understanding grows into sympathy and sympathy inevitably flowers into love. Love wishes to become one with the loved. Only in love can we realise our one-ness with all, and from that stage realise that there is one ONE, and so, recover peace and quiet at last.

This stage of returning to the source of infinite love has been called Brahma Vihara, the journey to God, by the Buddha who insists that he who aspires to reach this stage "shall deceive no one, entertain no hatred for anybody and never wish to injure through anger. He shall have measureless love for all creatures. Above, below and all around him, he shall extend this love." Where then, is the place for anger or hatred for there really is no 'other' apart from ourselves? Such passions only prolong the agony of dismemberment. Give love a place in your heart, for when it is fostered there, its warmth will expand the membranes of your individuality until they fall apart and you are able to rest on the sea of infinite love.


Give and Gain

The emotion of love however in moments of absorption is so exalting, that it is no wonder that the bhakta resolutely declines to accept the truth that he himself is God, there being no other, and insists on trudging never-endingly towards Someone who waits over the farthest horizon.

"In love, loss and gain are harmonised. In its balance sheet, credit and debit accounts lie in the same column and gifts are added to gains. In this wonderful festival of creation, this great ceremony of the self-sacrifice of God, the lover constantly gives himself - to gain himself", writes Rabindranath Tagore in one of his essays. Since Creation dawned in a longing for love, it is love alone that fills the world, whether it is love thwarted that brings pain or love fulfilled that gives joy. Love that is selfish is love that is foolish, for then we are persisting in the belief that we are distinct entities apart and against every other in the world. But love that serves others is a ritual of great power, for it repeats that First Divine Act when the emotion of love surged in the Cosmic Being. And it is ordained that we too must sacrifice, sacrifice our selves to regain Him.

This is the path of Seva, Swami says, "The fulfilment of man's life on earth consists in filling himself with the love of God and channelising that love into acts of service, service of all who are embodiments of God." There is really no 'other', no 'neighbor'. Everyone is oneself, for all belong to an indivisible Whole. Service uplifts us, delights us, satiates our hunger, expands our horizons. Service to man is worship of God, in the one who gives and the one who gets, in the helper and the helped.

God has endowed us with this marvellous body, this unique brain, this soft supple tongue, this amazing mind, these hands that can hold the tottering and heal the trembling. These are not given to us in vain, to be neglected or to be misused for hatred, envy, lust or pride. They have been given in order that we constantly engage in a great yajña, a sacrifice of recognising and loving Him through all we do.

Swami teaches us that the yearning men have to serve others is the echo of that primal desire for self-expression and selfexpansion which caused the multitudes to arise; and the longing to help and care and draw close to the other is also the longing for unity that drives all beings, when tired of multiplicity. In service therefore man finds the best means of allowing his individuality to flower, his personality to be fulfilled.

Swami says that seva, considering the served as God, is the highest spiritual sâdhana, yielding fruit much quicker and more abundantly than the sâdhana of japa (mantra-meditation) and dhyâna (meditation); for, it enables us to constantly practise in daily life that understanding, which comes only at the culmination of many years of spiritual struggle, that vision of God in the ant, which Thyagaraja saw, that vision of the divine in the donkey, as Ekanath saw.

Swami tells this story. Once Ekanath, the great mystic poet was carrying a pot of water from the sacred Ganga, as it emerged from the Himalayas to Rameshwaram, at the southernmost point of India. He had made a vow to walk the distance of fifteen hundred miles and bathe the S'iva linga at this sacred spot, on the confluence of three seas. The long pilgrimage was almost ended, he was nearing the shrine, when his eyes fell on a donkey writhing in agony as it lay dying of thirst. Ekanath ran up to it and poured the holy water, without hesitation, into that gasping parched mouth. The animal's eyes gleamed with gratitude as it looked up at its savior but his companions were struck dumb with shock at this unorthodox breach of the vow, after so long a journey, when it was almost on the edge of fulfilment. Ekanath however exclaimed in great joy, "The purpose is realised! S'iva asked and received. S'iva came and accepted."


They go Godward

During a discourse at the Poornachandra Auditorium, Swami was clarifying the ancient axiom,
'Sarva deva namaskaaram, Keshavam prathi gacchathi' - 'Incense offered to any god, anywhere, reaches the one God, Keshava'.
And then, He framed another pivotal axiom on the same lines:
'Sarva jiva thiraskaaram, Keshavam prathi gacchathi' - 'Injury inflicted on any living thing anywhere reaches the one God, Keshava'.
There is no jîva apart from Deva. Each jîva is a cell in the Divine Body. It is He who is the recipient of seva offered to anyone; and it is He who is the real target which is hurt when anyone is injured, defamed, belittled or neglected. Swami asks us therefore to desist from disservice, if we are not able to be of service. That restraint itself He considers laudable!

To highlight this principle of friendship, compassion, love and seva, and through it, the lesson of the underlying divine reality of all, has been the purpose of sages since centuries.

'Sarvaani bhoothaani Kalyaneem Vaacham' - 'Friendship with all ... speaking with pleasing words to every living being, to my own people, and to the foreigner'. this was the Vedic prayer. Over and over they express this wish:

"May all beings look on me with the eye of a friend,
May I look on all beings with the eye of a friend,
May we look on one another with the eye of a friend,
May there be understanding and concord,
With our people and with foreign people
May we unite in our minds, unite in our purposes,
And not fight against the divine spirit within us".

Friendship (sneha) which draws people close is the fruit of seva. A wiseacre once said, 'God gives us our relatives but, thank God, we can choose our friends!' Well, there lies the rub, for when we have the freedom to choose, we have the freedom to choose wrongly and suffer. But in friendship, which is no idle whim or fickle fancy but is the richest essence wrung out of service and sacrifice, there is no question of a wrong step. That which is born from good can never grow bad or cause harm. Sneha leads to love, and when love interpenetrates hearts, they become one."


The Friend in Need

Seva to the best of our ability to everyone in need - this should be our guiding star, for, need is indeed the call to which the Savior responds. "When you call on me, I come" says Swami, "or rather, when I do come, it must be in response to your call though you may not even be aware of having called. If you need me, you deserve me." Let this criterion of God be ours too when we offer that help to others, for, "This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends," said Jesus. But, take note, he died for the evil-doers and the wicked too; "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". To these men of God, there are no foes who stand apart from those whom they call their friends. They offer their service and love to all who need them. Theirs is a friendship that cannot be defined in human vocabulary.

But, while this Passion of Christ is played out at the human level, where even hatred unto death is received with wideopen arms, at the higher philosophical level we have this explanation, by Swami: "There are no foes, for there are no others". The very first lesson in seva that Swami gave the world lay in His choice of Puttaparthi, a historic relic of long lost glory, lying supine on the banks of a lean, famished river (Citravathi) and sunk deep in the midst of bleak hills, far away from everywhere. It was a village in dire need and so it deserved Him, on the basis of that credential alone, just as the world rolling towards fire, fury and fratricide needs Him today and therefore has Him.

Love in action! This is the seva that Swami is teaching us by His example from His childhood days when He would seek out the hungry and insist that His parents feed them and clothe those whom He brought to their doorstep. He protested when bullocks were yoked to heavily laden carts. He warned the villagers against illiteracy and gambling. He ridiculed their fascination for glamor and glitter that impoverish the rural folk and their indiscriminate adoption of urban fashions in dress and demeanor. He filled the air with songs on the Names of God and evoked such powerful divine vibrations that the dreadful demon cholera was driven away from the villages around. He taught the teachers at school that to spare the rod was to save the child, for the rod can only feed resentment and revenge. It can only toughen the skin and harden the heart [see Sathyam Sivam Sundaram].

At school Swami helped His companions struggling with their sums. When any of them had fever, His palm provided the remedy. He restored stolen articles, discovering the places where they were hidden by thievish boys and saved them from further downfall, by timely advice. He revealed the realm of the spirit to the elders of the village. He instructed them in methods to tap the strength and courage the Âtmâ was ready to confer in profusion.

When the day came for breaking the bonds of family, kinsmen and school, He announced the purpose of His Incarnation: to elevate service to man as the surest and smoothest route to God. "Do not worry", [see here for the contents of the letter] He wrote with selfconfident assurance to His elder brother (Seshamaraju) who was naturally agitated at what he considered the increasing impudence of this young boy, "I have an unfinished task before me. I have a mission to fulfil." Swami declared that He has come to confer Ananda on all men, to rescue every pilgrim who strays from the straight path, to give every deprived person what he lacks, to confer on all who adore Him both peace and plenty, to encourage all to achieve serenity.


Our Task Too

This description of His task is a reminder to us that we too have a similar task before us, for we are but the echo of the divine, of all that He proclaims. We too have been assigned a mission and have an unfinished task to complete, a destination to reach. Swami's objectives are in fact guides for all persons seeking Prashanthi.

(1) We have to adhere to non-violence in thought, word and deed; we must be cheerful so that we might spread cheer. We should not carry into the company of men, faces darkened - by gloom, unlit by smiles and bitter with envy and spite. Soft and sweet speech alone is the worthwhile sâdhana, says Swami.

(2) No sensitive individual can stand by with folded arms, when a companion loses control of himself and rushes headlong towards a crash. It is our duty to help. Swami wants us to be equipped not only with medical materials for 'first aid', but even more essential 'first aid" kits of wound bandages and balms of sympathy, courage, consolation and counsel. "When God has incarnated as man in order to rescue, reform and rehabilitate man, why do you hesitate and refrain?" asks Swami.

(3) When He is seen filling empty hands with boons and making barren hearts bloom, we must yield gladly to the urge which prods us to imitate Him. Let us discover what others lack. Food? Freedom? Fun? Sight? Insight? Silence? Let us assess our own resources. When we are reluctant to share the riches we hoard and the skills we parade, we are holders of stolen property in the eyes of God. How can we uplift ourselves, when we are unwilling to jettison the junk we hold so dear?

Even time can weigh heavy, when it is not spent to spread joy through light. Swami has declared that miracles (chamathkara); induce transformation (samskara) which manifests as paropakara (service) which cleanses the mind so effectively that it disappears. That even heralds the vision of the Supreme (sakshathkara). In fact, each of us in entrusted with this body-mind-intellect mansion of marvellous mystery, so that we can march, steady and straight, along the corridor of time, through the horizons of space, to the Savior and the source. We are all cells in the body of the One. How then can one cell be happy, when another is hurt, when another is tortured or strangled or silenced? The universe is a living system with a flow of will that courses through it, much as blood through the body or sap through the tree.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, befriend the lonely, nurse the sick, lead the blind, lift the lame, guide the lost, lend your tongue to the dumb, smoothen the wrinkles of the old - these acts of service can draw the dew of Divine Grace down on you. Let a hundred desolate faces bloom when they imbibe the sunshine from your looks. The recording Angel will, then, as Swami says, get your name entered beside Abou ben Adam, as one whom God loves.

' Jay Sai Ram '

Thy Neighbor

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self" is the command. "More easily said, than done", shrugs Freud. It is an impossible assignment for many. Why, they ask, "what can I gain from it", they grumble. The answer is, "Your happiness can never be full until he is happy." We and our neighors are bound not only in space but in spirit. We breathe the same air and drink the same moonbeams. Our health can be worsened by his slovenliness. Until his home is clean and bright, we cannot claim that ours are clean and bright. So, pay heed to your own need.

Many may demur, arguing, "how does my neighbor deserve my love?" Swami says, "the neighbor is given to you as part of a plan which has given you to him as his neighbor, so that you can love and serve each other and expand your ego, until it is rendered too thin to be felt. Judge him not, lest you be judged by him". "Do not bargain, lest you lose the gain within reach."

Again, let us try to identify this "thy neighbor." He is 'everybody', without doubt. The Vedas declare that the globe is a 'family home' (vasudha eva kutumbakam), a bird's nest (viswa needam). It is a spaceship which is the cradle, the arena and the grave of all the countless species of the living cells arising, acting, activating and getting atrophied or absorbed in the Divine. No line drawn on maps can exclude anyone from our neighborhood. He may not pray to his God the way you pray to yours but it is the same God that responds to both. Swami says, "There is only one God and He is omnipresent". So we cannot deny the love due to the neighbor on the plea that he prays in a language that our God does not know, or appreciate.

(4) When the avatâr is intent on conferring peace and plenty on all who adore Him, we mortals have to grasp the significance of that vow of providence. Swami says, "All Names are Mine. I reside in All places." Therefore, those who adore Him belong to all denominations, creed, and religions. Swami says, "There are no atheists. No one should be labelled as an atheist. For, though a person does not believe in God, personal or impersonal, he cannot live without love, which is God. His love may be directed to himself or another, to a pet animal or profession, to riches or renown. Or it may be directed to God or goodness, service or sacrifice, virtue or values. No one can live long on lies; he has to accept truth, at least the truth of his existence and of his extinction." Therefore, the message that we must translate into our daily life is: Promote peace and plenty, as your share in the universal adoration to God.

(5) Swami directs everyone to sanctify their emotions, impulses and passions and equip themselves with total devotion, bhakti. What exactly is bhakti? Sage Vyâsa defines it as joyful involvement in the worship of the Lord. Sage Garga (see S.B. 10:8) identifies it with the longing to listen to the narration of God's glories. Sage Sandilya who has authored a classic text on bhakti says it is unhindered ecstasy drawn from the thought of God. Sankaracharya explains that bhakti connotes the illumination that results from the awareness of one's reality. Sage Nârada, the supreme example of devotion, tells us in his book on bhakti, that it is the quality that induces us to offer all our actions to God. Swami, however, identifies bhakti with serenity, derived through the faith that the just arid loving God gives us only boons - whether we treat them as bouquets or blows. The bhakta welcomes good and evil; he dare not even know them as such. He sees, hears and feels only the grace of God. All that happens to him or from him is either wages or bonus from his Employer and Director. The more we adhere to this serene disinterestedness, this unruffled equanimity, the nearer we approach the ideal of servitude to God.

Swami speaks of the mysterious but momentous kinship between the eyes and the feet. When a thorn pricks the foot, the eye weeps. It blames itself for causing the foot to bleed. "I failed in my duty. I should have been more vigilant and noticed the thorn lying in wait on the track. The foot has no means to look ahead", it laments. Swami advises us to assume the responsibility for guiding and leading the defectives and delinquents, the wayward and the vacillating, the myopic and the moron, for service to them is service to God. Each of them is a challenge, confronting us and insisting on response. How can anyone sleep when men shriek for relief from torture chambers? Or, feast, when children scramble for crumbs? Or sing, when birds are caged? Or play, when lambs are skinned alive? The Buddha announced that he would not wish to be liberated until the last living being attained release, for, he could not feel free when a 'brother' was in prison.

Swami opens our eyes to the stark truth. During a discourse, at Bombay, he said, "When a policeman escorts a criminal, you have to conclude that a criminal too is escorting a policeman". Both are bound; neither is free. The one is responsible for the other. Seva must result in the victory of love over hate, of contentment over greed. Then, the two can escape from bondage and peace will reign.


Worship the Feet

Swami reveals a profound significance in the scriptural version of the origin of the four castes. The fourth caste, the workers, the s'ûdras, form the feet of the Cosmic Person, the Purusha. The feet, Swami tells us have to carry, unaided, the burden of the body (the thighs representing the landlords, industrialists and traders (vais'yas), the shoulders representing the guardians of peace, the fighters against inimical forces (kshatriyas) and the head representing the thinkers, planners, poets and prophets, visionaries and saints (brahmins)) [see SB 3.6:30-34 & Sathya Sai Vahini - The Divine Body]. So, those who long to worship the Cosmic Person, God, can fulfil their vow, by serving those who serve all but who can claim service from none else. "This is the pada puja, the pada namaskaram, I welcome most", says Swami. Pada puja and pada namaskaram are two traditional forms of worshipping the Feet of one's spiritual preceptor (guru). Service (seva) is, according to Swami, the path by which the action-oriented can attain Prasanthi. It has to be offered with discrimination and detachment. It must help in destroying one's ego. So, it should avoid pomp and publicity, fanfare and flattery. The Upanishad directs us, "Give with faith, do not give without faith. Give in plenty. Give with humility. Give in fear." Swami says, "Give and forgive." Do not degrade the recipient and insult him by treating him casually. He is God, confronting us with a situation we ourselves have brought about. Swami has substituted the word Nârâyana Seva (service to God) in place of the drab, and dry name which was current like "feeding the poor", since service has to be a sâdhana for expanding the reach of one's love.

Seva serves to promote the consciousness of unity which is divinity itself. Suffering torments, despair disheartens without distinction of creed or color. Gratitude for the soothing balm, the healing touch, the warm handshake, the pat on the back is given and received with equal joy in all languages, by all people. Love for God is best manifested as service to man, to every living being.

Swami has laid down a curriculum for the training of those who choose the sâdhana of seva. Besides mastering the usual channels of service among civic and rural communities, emphasis is laid on meditation sessions, yoga lessons, choral chants and, what is, in a sense, unique, the study of monistic and dualistic systems of philosopy, which reveal facets of the reality of God, nature and man.


Every One is He

Karma undergone or performed without the awareness of God in oneself and in others can only be counterfeit, approved and applauded by people who crave for the superficial and the artificial. Karma has to be worship and worship can sprout only in hearts, not contaminated by egoism, or hypocrisy, but illumined by love, untarnished, unlimited. When the contamination is noticed and the process of cleansing is inaugurated, every further step is rendered smoother by the previous one. Swami says, "If you take one step towards Me, I will rush ten steps to help you."

The purified heart vibrates in consonance with every other heart. When Emperor Dasaratha asked the assembly of citizens, how is it that you wish to see my son, Râma, installed as crown prince, while I have been ruling the empire so justly?", their spokesman recounted the sterling virtues of Râma. Among them, he highlighted, "When men grieve, He greatly grieves with them; in their hour of joy, He rejoices greatly with them." [see RRV]

Man has to worship God in the form of man. No other form, not to speak of the formless, can enthuse him so highly. God appears before man, in order to chisel and chasten him, as Swami says, "In the role of a blind beggar, an idiot, a leper, a criminal, an orphan, a lunatic or as mad. You must peer behind the mask of mâyâ, and revere the God, the embodiment of love, wisdom and power, through seva." The sages declare, "We shall summarise the eighteen Purânas (each one a heavy tome elaborating with examples the Divine Attributes of God's multifarious manifestations) in a single sentence: "Helping others is the best act, while hurting them is the worst."

The Gîtâ has laid down seva as the effectual means of attaining Prasanthi, Supreme Peace, sans desire, sans fear, sans I and sans he.



About Narayana Kasturi