Getting Spiritually Better
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Continuing our feature Getting Spiritually Better, we offer below the fifth 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.


Earlier we saw that if Creation/Nature/Society is viewed as distinct from God, then one's perception and judgement can both become clouded. One would be deluded by the feeling that one can make one's own pact with God via prayers, rituals, and what have you, and thereafter do what one likes when one goes out into the world. Such behaviour is of course is illogical, but then as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, desire and attachment can blind even the most intelligent of persons to obvious reality.

We see a lot of this illogical behaviour in the world today, in individuals, in families, in communities, and in nations as well. Seldom do people realise that strife in society is born of extreme selfishness. Despite the bloody French and the Bolshevik Revolutions, the same mistake is being made over and over again. Somehow, people seem to think that they know it all, that their actions are infallible, and that they are above mistakes. One small example is enough to convey the point.

 TERRORISM, WHO IS RESPONSIBLETill the seventies, terrorism on a global scale was unknown. But now, terrorism has become so widespread that life has changed in many communities. Terrorists use deadly weapons like automatic rifles, grenades, remote-controlled bombs and the like. Most terrorists are poorly educated and cannot manufacture small arms and weapons. The factories where they get manufactured are mostly in the developed countries. Many companies in these countries saw the manufacture and sale of small arms as a lucrative business and went about it in a thorough manner. Initially, dictators were the big customers but soon, deadly weapons found their way into the hands of groups inclined towards violence, like rebel groups and terrorists. Now arms have to be purchased; they don't come free. How to finance the purchase? Many strategies have been developed, including drug-trafficking. And who were the best customers of the drugs? People living in rich countries. Thus, while some people in the affluent countries were becoming rich by selling arms to the have-nots, their own countries began to suffer the 'reflection' via drug menace, increase in crime, etc. Here, one must not forget the irresponsible role played by the media in giving a lot of prominence to violence in the papers, in TV, and in films. In short, terrorism has been fathered in no small measure by the greed of small-arms manufacturers, and unconsciously perhaps, promoted by the media in its pursuit of sensationalism. At last, the societies in which these arms peddlers are located are beginning to feel some of the backlash.

Another example: A good many of the first-world corporations do not hesitate to bribe left and right to get a 'market-share' in the so-called developing countries. The multi-nationals have no compunction in bribing politicians, military men, and government officials both highly-placed and petty. But at the end of it all, they cry loud about corruption in these countries. They reap what they sow.

In short, rich people everywhere are trying to build 'islands of prosperity' in a vast ocean of poverty. This is just NOT possible. This trick has NEVER succeeded and it NEVER will. Baba says, "You cannot have a mound without a pit." It means that if there are abominably rich somewhere, then there has got to be other people living in dire poverty elsewhere. Sometimes, wealth and poverty co-exist right next to each other, and automatically this produces tension. In 1999 when Swami went to Bombay, He addressed a huge, elite gathering there. Prior to Baba's Discourse, many speakers prayed to Swami to do 'something' about the terrible state prevailing in the city - high crime rate, kidnapping, extortion, etc. When it came to Swami's turn, He said that the rich of Bombay alone were responsible for what was happening. They lived in posh skyscrapers and penthouses but did not care a damn about the poor living in horrible slums adjacent to their swank homes. They wallowed in extreme selfishness and were preoccupied only with making more and more money, so that they could have a 'good time'. This just cannot go on. Swami made it abundantly clear that the wealthy created the imbalance, and now they have to face the music.

Pure selfishness breeds pure disaster, but curiously, even when disaster stares in the face, no one is prepared to do anything. Insensitivity is widely prevalent today, and naturally this leads to problems - the greater the greed, the greater is the insensitivity; the greater the insensitivity, the greater is the disaster that finally descends. All these are well-known truths and quite easy to understand. But when the mind is clouded by desire, these obvious facts become very difficult to comprehend. Instead, one gets deluded by the feeling that one can 'get away with it'. One CANNOT - there is no such thing as a free lunch; there never was and there never will be.

Selfishness deludes and deludes heavily. It makes people imagine that wrong is right, that Adharma is Dharma, and that they have a right to do what they are doing. Nowhere is this business of 'right' more obnoxiously evident than in the media. The media people believe that they know what is best, that in their system there are self-corrective forces, and that therefore they are NOT answerable to anyone. Functioning within bounds, they can do much good to Society. However, in the name of 'objective reporting' etc., they can now very much influence events and shape them the way they want. Thus, crime and sensationalism have driven out good deeds as news and events worth reporting. The examples of good people in Society are not considered newsworthy; instead, prominence is given to glamour, unscrupulous characters, gory events, and the like. Everywhere the argument is: "This is what the people want; this is what they like. Otherwise, how would it all sell?" Can one say: "People want drugs. So, let us make cocaine freely available in the super-markets"? The media fiercely claims its rights. But what about the damage to Society? Who finally pays the cost of crime, social unrest, etc?

The moral of it all is the following: We just cannot ignore that we live in a Universe created by God, that the Earth forms a part of this wonderful Creation of the Almighty, and that Society is a limb of Nature. Krishna makes a brief but clear reference in [the Fourth chapter of] the Gita that the whole of Creation is like a closed gear-chain. Every entity in Nature forms a cog-wheel; it is in some manner or the other, linked to every other entity. Every entity receives and also has to give. Every entity except man is 'programmed' by Nature to do this automatically. But man has been given the 'freedom of choice'. This does NOT mean that he can choose and do as he likes. Rather, THIS 'FREEDOM' IS REALLY A TEST ADMINISTERED BY GOD TO SEE IF MAN WOULD MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE. That choice alone is correct which is in harmony with the rest of Creation. That choice alone is correct that does not seek to grab but to receive and give in fair measure as God intended.  TERRORISM, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE

The history of mankind clearly shows that civilisation has grown through co-operation and not through divisive tendencies. As Baba often tells us, the very word mankind ought to remind us that man must be KIND!

Some people are likely to get frightened by all this. They might wonder: "What is all this business about sacrificing and all that? That may be OK for renunciates, but surely householders cannot be bound by such strict norms." Swami has addressed such doubts and given clear answers. He says, one need not abandon one's family, or one's business, and distribute all that one has. One can lead a normal life, even a family life. The only requirement is that one must not succumb to excessive desires; nor must one ignore the importance of mind and sense control.

In this context, Baba draws attention to the four guiding principles of ancient Indians, known as Purushaarthas. The four components of the Purushaarthas are: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha, meaning, Righteous action, wealth, desire, and Liberation. What is implied is that one can acquire wealth and one can have nominal desires, provided they both are within the bounds of Dharma. A man with a family would perforce have to seek a certain amount of wealth in order to fulfil his obligations, and he can certainly have some legitimate desires [like ensuring good education for his children, for example], but all this has to be within the bounds of Dharma. This automatically forbids cheating, corrupt practices, and the like. Indeed, all ancient societies have recommended such guidelines. The common underlying principle is harmony with Creation, and harmony with the rest of Society. These ideas are more valid today than ever before.

Today, everyone is gloating over scientific and technological advances. True, such advances have benefited man a great deal and made life more comfortable; to that extent, these advances are to be welcomed. But when man starts to play God [as in cloning experiments, for example] instead of trying to rise to the level of God [as God wants man to do], then one must sit up and take notice. Today, in the name of return to shareholders and the like, multi-national drug companies do not hesitate to avoid the development of much-needed vaccines in the poor countries of the world. Some even go the extent of saying that if there are epidemics and numerous deaths, that is just Nature's way of controlling exploding populations. Clearly, such feelings emanate from the head and NOT the heart. Swami uses the word Hridaya for the Heart, and goes on to add: Hridaya = Hrid + Daya. Daya means compassion; thus, THE HEART MUST BE SEAT OF COMPASSION AND NOT CALLOUSNESS.

We conclude with a beautiful little story by Tolstoy, who drives home the point that children are more natural and easily co-operate, whereas it is the elders who create division. The story goes roughly like this: There lived in a small village in Russia two little girls who were good friends. One day, it was the birthday of one of these girls, and her mother had dressed her up in a nice dress, naturally. This girl went out to meet her friend to show off her new dress and also to play with the other girl. It so happened that it had rained earlier, and there were pools of muddy water in many places. While playing some muddy water splashed on to the new dress, and the birthday-girl immediately began to cry. Hearing the wail, her mother rushed out, and seeing what had happened, slapped the other girl for dirtying the pretty dress of her dear daughter. It was now the turn of the other girl to cry, and soon came out her mother, feeling outraged. A violet quarrel ensued between the two ladies, and the two fathers were forced to join and take sides. All this attracted a big crowd, and many who had nothing to do took sides and joined in the quarrel, creating a huge commotion. At that time, an old man who lived in the village and who had gone to the neighbouring village returned. Seeing the commotion, he asked a small boy as to what was the matter. The boy told the old man what had transpired. Then slowly, the old man made his way to the centre of the crowd and addressed the two quarrelling families. He chided them and said this was not the way to live etc., but the two warring ladies would simply not listen. They asked him how they could forget when such gross injustice had been done - each blamed the other for the whole affair. The old man then slowly said, "Why do you continue fighting when the two little girls have forgotten all about the original incident?" The ladies asked belligerently, "What do you mean?" He replied, "Come with me," and took them some distance away from the crowd. There they could see the two girls playing happily, making paper boats and letting them float down the flowing rain water. The old man then said, "If they can forget, why can't you? Learn from children, if you do not have the sense to reason out what is correct." The old man then went away, as the two ladies hung their heads in shame and silently returned to their homes.

Swami always stresses unity. A good man always sees unity in diversity. One who is not good sees diversity in unity. We must be united in the family, in the Sai Organisation, and in the community in which we live, without compromising the basics. Life ought to be based on give and take, with more of give and less of take. We must give with pleasure and joy and the feeling that we are giving to none other than God Himself, masquerading as our brother or sister. Nothing is lost when we give; in fact, much is gained, as St Francis so clearly reminds us. This is the way to be in harmony with God, Nature, and mankind.


Make me an instrument
of Your Peace!

Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is injury, Pardon;
Where there is discord, Unity;
Where there is doubt, Faith;
Where there is error, Truth;
Where there is despair, Hope;
Where there is sadness, Joy;
Where there is darkness, Light.

O Divine Master!

Grant that I may not seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

St. Francis.


  • In the world of today, there is too much of grab and not so much of give. Fortunately, this is not always so. For example, at the time of great natural calamities like earthquake, cyclones etc., people do come forward to donate liberally and offer service in various ways. But by and large, there is no longer as much sensitivity as there used to be in olden days.

  • Some analysts say that people in countries where poverty has been totally abolished are more sensitive than the people in countries where abject poverty and wealth co-exist. They argue that in countries where poverty is common, many of the well to do have become immune to the difficulties and the sufferings of others less fortunate and in the process also become quite insensitive. On the other hand, people in affluent countries are strangers to poverty, and they become quite disturbed when they see suffering, and feel a strong urge to help. All this is sociology.

  • But even in affluent countries, increasingly the focus is on "me". Thus it is that people talk of the "me" generation and so forth. People increasingly ask, "Why should I help?" or "What's there in it for me?

  • Why do people think this way? In one discussion group, a participant said, "When I look around, I find Adharma everywhere. People seem to be getting away with it all the time. My faith in Dharma is therefore getting shaken. So, I mind my business, try to honest and good, and leave it at that.

  • In other words, people develop tunnel vision as they say, giving one excuse or the other for inaction and insensitivity. Individuals do this, communities do this, and whole nations do this. Somehow, people feel they can erect "walls" and remain secure within. Is this possible? Can one have islands of security in a vast ocean of misery?

  • People who have such ideas of impregnable security also constantly talk of inter-connectivity of the modern world, how the world is a global village and all that. How can one have inter-connectivity and isolation at the same time? Or is that they feel they can have close connection where grab is concerned and isolation where give is concerned?

  • When it comes to money making, there is no morality. The poor have no rights; only the share-holders, and the companies. Immoral practices are given a dubious legal veneer, and legitimised through questionable international organisations.

  • There is a rigid mind-set amongst the haves that makes them feel that they have an inalienable right to do what they want, even if it means trampling over the have-nots. This may appear to work in the short run but will certainly not in the long run.

  • Before getting on to the spiritual aspects, it is important to remember that walls of isolation simply cannot be built, especially of the one-way type that facilitates grab and avoids give. Let us say a country becomes very rich. There is no poverty, and there is a so-called high standard of living. The people then start looking for "excitement" in various ways. This takes them to other lands, many of them very poor. There, while having a good time, they create severe imbalance, economic and cultural. They also, unconsciously perhaps, tend to play havoc with both the Eco-system and local morals. For example, tourism has tended to destroy many coral reefs in the Far East. In due course, this imbalance in its own way, recoils upon the affluent.

  • The point is that the Law of Reflection, Reaction, Resound simply cannot be by-passed. The sooner mankind realises this, the better.

  • More fundamentally, it is important to realise that there is a higher purpose to human life, and that it cannot be based just on taking without giving. On the contrary, as St. Francis eloquently says in his famous prayer, it is only in giving that we receive. It would be a crying shame if man, who is supposed to be the pinnacle of creation, lags behind other species in this respect.

  • When it comes to giving, one can recognise people of four categories. Category one consists of people who are incapable of ever sharing. To the second category belong people who give out of condescension or for other ulterior motives like publicity. In the third category are people who offer out of compassion. The last category is very special and needs discussion.

  • Starting from the year 2000, Baba has been organising what is called Grama Seva or Village Service. This service activity is usually arranged in October, and lasts about ten days or so. During this period, literally all the staff of students of the three campuses of Baba's University [the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning] are involved. Their task: to prepare sweets and food, carry these along with clothes to about a dozen villages every day, and distribute them to all the families living there, without any exception. In practice, this means distributing on an average day, about thirty thousand food packets and laddus, and several thousands of sarees and dhotis. This is done every single day for about ten days at a stretch.

  • People ask what is the purpose. Some members of the staff say: "This is Swami's way of teaching students how to care and share." Other staff members observe: "Grama Seva sensitises our students to the problems of the poor in the villages, and induces them to stay back in the country to serve it." The students feel that the service opens their eyes to the problem of the country, and so on. What about Baba?

  • Baba's view reflects the highest possible spiritual philosophy. He says [in essence]: "Giving, even with compassion, implies a feeling of "me" and "them". This is the feeling one gets if he focuses on the lower self within. You must not focus on the lower but the Higher Self or the Atma. If in the other person you see the body, then you would se a different person. If, on the other hand, you see the Atma within, then you would see only the Self because the same Self or Atma resides in all. I am giving you this opportunity to serve so that you may see your own Self in others, rather than just poor villagers.

  • This last point is very important, and incidentally illustrates how Baba elevates even simple acts to the highest possible level. It may be difficult for us to do so all the time, but this is a perspective we ought not to lose sight of.

  • As regards the question "What's there in it for me?', it is useful to remember that there is a negative as well as a positive response possible. The positive response would be: "God has given me a wonderful opportunity to serve and I had better seize it. If I let is pass, it would disappoint God." Those who love God in their Hearts would certainly think this way.

  • If, for example, they are thinking of spending some money to have say some fun, they would stop and rethink. They would say: "Why not I spend this money on helping some unfortunate person?" This is real positive thinking. One can spare not only money but also time and kind words [very scarce these days!] Those are positive responses to the question posed earlier.

  • In this context, the famous story of the Good Samaritan is very pertinent. As we all know, there was a man who had been attacked by highway robbers who after relieving the unfortunate victim of all his belongings also beat him black and blue and left him helpless by the side of the road. Soon there came that way a Levite. He saw the pitiable plight of the wayfarer but went on without stopping. After this came a priest, and he too ignored the wounded man. May be he did not think there was anything in it for him. But the noble man from Samaria was different. He took time off, stopped, helped the victim, placed him on his donkey, took him to an inn in a nearby village, and also gave money to the innkeeper to take care of the wounded person. He saw there was that there was something in if for him, because he was a person with a positive outlook.

  • The question of outlook is very important in today's society. Society is stratified, and there are groups like intellectuals, artists, educators, administrators, politicians, businessmen, white collar workers, blue collar workers, and so on. Two questions arise: 1) How is a person belonging to any particular strata supposed to conduct himself? 2) How are the different strata supposed to relate to each other?

  • The answers to these are contained in three golden rules that flow from Bhagavan Baba's teachings. GOLDEN RULE 1: Irrespective of the group to which you belong, every action of yours must be selfless and for the benefit of humanity or at least your community. GOLDEN RULE 2: Every segment or strata of Society must have no thought other than serving all the other communities. GOLDEN RULE 3: Whatever resources one possesses, be it physical strength, wealth, or intelligence, must be regarded as treasure of God given to one for holding in trust on His behalf. Thus, everyone is a Trustee of God, holding in trust whatever is the gift given by Him.

  • What is one to do with the treasure given by God? The answer is simple. One just to see what happens on a typical festival day in Prashantinilayam. Baba gives baskets and baskets of fruits or sweets to His boys. And what do they do with it? They distribute the goodies to the devotees gathered there. In the same way, every gift of God that everyone holds in trust is meant to be shared with the rest of mankind.

  • Thus, a doctor must use his medical knowledge to serve the community.

  • The question arises: "How will the doctor live if he starts treating everyone free?" Baba has given a clear answer to this. He says [in effect]: "By all means earn a salary. Or, if you are a private practitioner, you can certainly charge fees. But do so only when the patient can afford. If the patient is poor, treat him free."

  • Another question: "I am not a doctor but a ticketing clerk working for an airline. I don't make much money and so I cannot give charity. I am not a doctor and I cannot give free treatment. I am just a small worker at the ticketing counter. What is it that I can give?" Baba has an answer for such questions also. He says [in effect]: "Yours is a job where you come in contact with the public all the time. Make sure you deal with them in a pleasing manner. Sometimes, the customers may be irate, and even make unreasonable demands. Don't lose your cool; be patient; talk gently and try to reason with them. If you cannot oblige, you can at least speak obligingly!"

  • The important point here is that doing one's duty with devotion and in a manner pleasing to those who are being served is also a kind of giving. As Baba often says, if only people worked conscientiously and with sincerity, half the problems in the world would disappear. Yes, if this happened, where at all is the scope for corruption? This is a point worth thinking about seriously.


  • Do a self-audit and check how selfish or unselfish you are!

  • What precisely are the reasons that make a person selfish? Is the craving for money, power, position, advantage of some kind, or all of these?

  • What "harm" would befall if one were to be a bit less selfish?

  • Is there any advantage at all in being unselfish?

  • Who is the richest man in the world and who is the poorest man? [Swami has given the answer! Look for it!! Also, get hold of the story that Swami tells about Alexander, in this context.]

  • With regard to the so-called public servants [meaning government officials], Gandhi often used to says: Before you spend any public money, picture in your mind the poorest person you have come across and ask yourself whether what you are going to do would in anyway benefit such a person. This is worth remembering.

  • The interpretations of the Purusharthaas given earlier represent the standard version. Swami once gave a most unusual interpretation not found anywhere else. It was a purely spiritual interpretation. He said: "Man's only Dharma is to follow the Atma. Aaartha means wealth no doubt, but the wealth that man must seek is the Knowledge of the Self or the Atma. Kama means desire. What is the desire one must truly have? One must yearn for the Vision of the Atma or Atma Darshanam. And of course, Moksha means liberation from attachment so that one can become one with the Atma!

  • People often take this view: "People are poor because they are lazy. I work hard, and am entitled to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Why should I help the poor? How do they deserve my support?" Examine critically what is right and what is wrong in any, about this argument?

  • Can one remain totally insulated from the problems of Society? Can they, will they ever catch up? If so in what manner?

  • Is it correct to say that one must take care of the poor just as an insurance against trouble? Why not invest that money in tight security, or even get away to another land where there is no poverty? Can one remain insulated there?

  • What is courage? Is courage needed for following Dharma, and if so of what variety?

  • What is the fountain-head of courage? Is courage shaped by external or internal factors?

  • What is the connection between courage and conviction?

  • Gandhi was very courageous; a fanatic also is very courageous. Is there any difference between the two? If so, what is it?

  • In the Gita, Krishna chides Arjuna for being a coward. How could Arjuna a renowned warrior be accused of cowardice? Arjuna had battled even with Lord Siva Himself! What exactly was Krishna driving at? [See Message of the Lord, for clarifications on this point. The point is important because moral courage is so very much needed in today's world; yet, it is in such short supply!]


Volume 01: PDS / 08 Date : DEC 15 2003