Getting Spiritually Better...              
Print this Page


Continuing our feature Getting Spiritually Better, we offer below the third instalment. We hope you like it, and would share it with others who are interested in enquiry and self-improvement. Do write and tell us what you think, how you find it, whether it is useful, and in what ways this feature can be improved.

Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.

SGH Team.


We discussed earlier the extreme imbalance now being created by man, in the name of progress. However, one should not get scared because all is not lost. In fact, for a variety of reasons, Swami generally disapproves of too much discussion of the negative aspects. Nevertheless, some discussion is necessary, so that one gets a clear idea of what to do about the prevailing situation. The point is that the Universe is like a linked chain of gears. Even if one cog gets out of alignment, it can cause the entire system to malfunction. That precisely is what is happening at present. Man is the only single element in Creation that is causing an imbalance.

Now there is an important reason why man alone is causing havoc and not the birds and the bees. As Swami has pointed out, every entity in Creation except man, be it inanimate or animate, is "hardwired" to do its job. These entities do their respective jobs unknown to themselves. If the entities are inanimate, we say they "follow the laws of Nature". If they are animate, we say they follow their "natural instincts". For example, in orbiting the Sun, the earth is "merely following a law of Nature" - this is how a scientist would describe the phenomenon. Likewise, when a tigress protects its cubs, we say it follows its instincts. In the language of spirituality, every entity follows its own Dharma. What about man? He too has a Dharma that he must follow but God has endowed him with a Mind. Thanks to this Mind, man has a choice - he can either follow Dharma or violate it. Man is not supposed to go against Dharma, but for selfish reasons and personal advantage, he often chooses to. It is this excessive selfishness and self-interest [to which Swami calls attention ever so often] that has now caused massive imbalance in the ecosystem, disturbance to the quality of life, etc. We have to do something about it.

Let us now consider four words that Baba sometimes uses. These are: KNOWLEDGE, SKILL, BALANCE, and INSIGHT. Having talked of imbalance, it is but proper that we now veer the topic to balance! What precisely does Swami imply via this quartet? To make that clear, let us suppose that there is a young man who is in medical school. He studies hard and diligently, and acquires all the medical knowledge he can. Fine. This man not only crams all the texts and pours over all the journals, but, by careful practice, also develops great skills in his profession - he shapes himself into a great clinician or a surgeon, as the case may be. So far, so good. Now, this man has a choice. He can either use all his skills to make as much money as he possibly can, or he can use them for common good by rendering service. There are thousands who have chosen to do the former. We all know they exist, but Society does not honour them, or even know who they are. On the other hand, a man like Albert Schweitzer who chose to dedicate his entire life for the hapless ones in Africa would be remembered for a long, long time. That is what balance is all about. Knowledge and skill are to be used in the way they really ought to be. (For a biography of Albert Schweitzer, visit )

Now one may say: "Listen, your example is not valid. Man has to eat, and everyone cannot be an Albert Schweitzer." Agreed. Swami says that by all means one can charge fees as a doctor, but one must be reasonable about it. Besides, one must set apart some time for specifically serving those who cannot otherwise afford medical treatment. Indeed many do this, in all lands. That is good, and that is what balance is all about. If the knowledge and the skill one has acquired are not looked upon as means for acquiring wealth, but as tools for healing, then there is balance. In due course, such balance would produce spiritual insight. A doctor who regularly serves the poor would become increasingly compassionate, develop patience, and acquire the precious virtue of Kshama or forbearance that Swami invariably extols to the skies. [In this context, see the book Inspired Medicine edited by Judy Warner, and available at the Sathya Sai Book Centre of America, Tustin, CA.]

This is one aspect of restoration of balance. There is also another aspect that needs mention; this aspect is not directly related to one's personal knowledge and skill. Rather, it refers to facing forces of imbalance and disruption that prevail in the world. One must confront these forces in a disciplined manner. In other words, one needs a balanced and disciplined approach while facing the problems of life. If everyone does this, then the imbalance in Society would disappear or at least get substantially diminished.

There are two ways of dealing with disruptive forces. One is by external imposition of authority, and the other is by self-regulation. The latter implies self-discipline [and this is where balance comes into the picture]. A simple example: Consider the case of a person going to a service counter in a bank or post office. When this person arrives there, he finds that there are already many customers ahead of him. In some countries, people often crowd and push their way around to get service. But in these very countries, there are also places where people stand in queues and get served in the order in which they arrived. Sometimes, when discipline is lacking, a policeman is posted. Then there is order; but this lasts only as long as the policeman is present! The moment he turns his back, it is back to square one - chaos! In this case, order is possible only through external imposition. But in other societies, order is self-imposed. People ALWAYS stand in queue because they know that it is good for them and the right and proper thing to do. In this case, there is self-regulation. The same is true of driving, for example. In some countries people drive carefully and spontaneously follow rules. In other countries, people drive rashly; this is due to extreme selfishness, compounded by the total absence of any external enforcement agency. The examples can be multiplied.

Curiously, Nature also provides such examples. There are objects called magnets. They produce magnetic fields that we use in many different ways. These fields arise because the atoms in the magnet are all aligned - that is, every atom is like a tiny magnet, and all the tiny magnets co-operate by pointing in the same direction. Suppose we now take a piece of ordinary iron. All the atoms in it are tiny magnets no doubt, but they will be pointing in arbitrary directions. Thanks to this randomness in orientation, the different atoms 'cancel' each other and the piece of iron does not behave like a magnet. However, if the iron piece is brought into contact with a magnet, then this piece also behaves like a magnet - we have all seen how ,if a pin is lifted by a magnet, it can lift another pin. Break the contact between the pin and the magnet, the pin goes back to its random state - there is discipline only as long as there is policing by the external magnet!

Discipline imposed from outside does work; however, the moment the external force is removed, there is indiscipline once again. As Swami says, discipline is best when it comes from within. It is usual to refer to this as self-discipline. Now what is this self? Who is this self? Spirituality says that this self is NOT the lower self that we usually mistake it to be but the Higher Self. The lower self refers to the body while the Higher Self refers to the Atma, which is the core of our being. It is the Atma or God who is resident within. To use Swami's language, true Self-discipline is not the product of force but comes from the Source! It comes from the Atma.

Self-discipline is something we all are familiar with because we all practice it to some extent or the other. For example, when we go and stand in a queue spontaneously, it is an act of Self-discipline. When we are trying to enter a public place [say a bank], and there is an old person who is also trying to enter, we spontaneously move aside to permit that person to go in first - this also is an expression of Self-discipline.

Self-discipline also implies Self-control. True Self-control implies control over the senses as well as the Mind. A truly Self-controlled person does not have fits of anger or fly into a rage. He is balanced in his outlook and the very embodiment of equipoise. A person may not have great knowledge of worldly matters but can still be balanced in his outlook through sheer Self-control and Self-discipline. This is the point that is being made.

Now there is an important point about Self-discipline, Self-control, and Self-regulation, that is best discussed by comparing public attitude and reaction to the dangers of smoking on the one hand and the danger of AIDS on the other.

Many years ago, medical evidence revealed that smoking could lead to lung cancer or serious heart problems. This turned off many from smoking. Fear of deadly diseases made people exercise self-control and avoid smoking altogether. Contrast this with what is happening in the case of AIDS. AIDS is a killer disease. If contracted, there is almost no chance of survival. Millions have already died of AIDS and millions more are on the verge of death.

Everyone knows what causes AIDS. It is the quest for sensual pleasure that lands one in trouble. Has the fear of the disease promoted self-control? Has it kept people from sensual indulgence? Not quite. All anti-AIDS propaganda assumes that Self-control is neither possible nor required. The way suggested for avoiding AIDS is a have-the-cake-and-eat-it-too approach. Such a bypass is not possible in the case of smoking, and so in that case, people totally abstain from the bad habit. But in the latter case, it seems to be a different story.

This approach is fundamentally wrong. There are certain things one must do because it is one's duty to do so, and there are certain things that one must NEVER do under any circumstance because it is morally wrong to do so. Life must be lived bearing in mind the fact that there is a Moral Law governing the Universe.

Swami describes all this via three phrases as follows: Love for God, Fear of Sin, and Morality in Society. If One REALLY loves God, then one would not do anything that would come in the way of becoming one with God. 'Sin' is anything that comes in the way. It can be of the text-book type such as stealing, telling lies, injuring a person etc. It can also be of a more subtle form. Craving for worldly things is also a type of sin, although most people would not consider it that way. One may not like to call it sin but it certainly is an impurity that impedes one's spiritual progress. If one takes care to be as pure as possible, then morality in Society is automatic. Indeed this is what was happening in olden times in all societies. But in more recent times, God has been put on the back-burner, as the phrase goes, and the concept of sin and morality have more or less vanished. Yet, people do feel the need for truth and ethics of some sort. This includes those who do not believe in God. The famous mathematician Von Neumann [who made numerous brilliant contributions] did not believe in God but felt that ethics was needed since otherwise Society would turn chaotic. The Communists said God did not exist but Communist Russia laid down norms of ethical behaviour for its citizens.

This kind of external imposition has seldom worked. What has worked is spontaneous adherence to morality. Such spontaneous observance comes about when one loves God, and realises that one is intrinsically Divine. This is the point that Baba stresses often. One is moral because it is natural for one to be so.

A word now about the six deadly enemies of man. All these are internal. As Swami says, they come pretending to be great friends but once they have us in their hook, they literally twist us around their little finger. These six demons are: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Madha, Maatsarya. The original Sanskrit words have been included because Baba makes frequent reference to them. They mean: 1) All types of desires, primarily lust, 2) Anger, 3) Greed, 4) Attachment, 5) Pride, and 6) Jealousy. To this list may be added two more, namely, Ahamkara, and Mamakara, meaning respectively, ego, and the feeling of 'mine'.

Note that Desire occupies position number one. Desire is a standard weakness of the senses and the Mind. Desire is actively promoted in a thousand different ways in today's world because it suits those interested in making money through the exploitation of our weaknesses. A huge industry has been built up, far bigger than any other industry, and this is the one that panders to the senses. It is a multi-trillion dollar industry. It is this industry that has exploited every human weakness and created a clinical approach to fighting AIDS, cleverly subverting a moral approach. People are in fact brainwashed into believing that a moral approach will not work. People are made to believe that they are weak! No, that is not true at all. There is in each one of us the Power of God and with that power, any obstacle can be overcome. We just have to have faith in that power and invoke that power. We don't try that because we are brainwashed all the time.

This is one of the issues that has to be seriously examined. As Baba often tells us, "We see through the eyes of others, we hear through the ears of others, and we think through the minds of others." We would realise how true this is, if only we reflect for a minute and examine how much we are under the influence of the media.

In short, we have to judge events, products, relationships, etc., from a fundamental point of view, based on our own discrimination. God has given man the powerful tool called Buddhi - capacity for discrimination. Why lock it up? Baba most emphatically declares that Buddhi has been given for using and not storing away. Buddhi is what will distinguish good from bad, and right from wrong. If we wish to stay away from the bad and engage always in righteous action, then we MUST invoke Buddhi.

By way of wrapping up this chapter, the following observations can be made:

  • Today, there is a severe imbalance in Society, and in man's attitude to many matters pertaining to Nature and to Society.
  • To correct this imbalance, every individual must use the power of spiritual discrimination, i.e., Buddhi and then only act.
  • The feeling has grown that the rights of the individual are supreme and that responsibilities do not matter much. Swami, on the other hand, emphatically asserts: Responsibility first and then only rights.

In this context, it is pertinent to recall how societies evolved. While in the animal kingdom the general rule has been the survival of the fittest, human evolution has been marked by co-operation. But for co-operation, one would not have towns and cities and the thousands of social institutions that we take so much for granted these days.

Co-operation is an important element of social evolution. That is why, Baba often recalls Vedic chants that highlight the value of co-operation. Indeed, one must go even further and aim at the higher stage of self-effacement. That is what the truly wise ones do. Instead, the slogan is competition, cut-throat competition. This may be good for business but severely detrimental to Society and human progress. By aggressively promoting extreme competition, one is literally going back to the survival-of-the- fittest regime.

The philosophy of extreme competition promotes ego, excessive feeling of mine, jealousy, greed, etc., all of which, we have seen, are deadly enemies. It makes one a demon, wiping out all traces of humanness and compassion. It is extreme selfishness that is making young people abandon old parents, casting them aside as if they are worn out socks. It also leads to stress, depression, etc. Is this right?

People hide from imbalance or sweep it under the rug. This we cannot afford to do. We must look squarely at the issue, and see how we can, as genuine seekers, not be individually guilty of it.


Volume 01: PDS / 04 Date : OCT 15 2003