NEWCOMERS - FAQ's
please find the most commonly asked questions below.
- What is the purpose of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council and its Centers?
To help individuals regain self-confidence and faith in God, to foster Love, to realize the Oneness of all, and to awaken people to the Divinity inherent within them.
The Sri Sathya Sai Global Council helps spread the understanding and application of the message of Sri Sathya Sai Baba throughout the world. It is responsible for ensuring that programs are carried out in accordance with His instructions and that the teachings disseminated are genuine.
Practical spirituality is the theme of the Sathya Sai Baba Organizations. Practical spirituality strives to incorporate the universal human values of Love, Truth, Right Action, Peace and Non-Violence in all aspects of our lives during every conscious moment.
The Sai Center strives to provide an environment where people who aspire to spirituality can assemble and learn from one another. This is accomplished by engaging in devotional, educational, and service programs recommended by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, which help us to progress along the spiritual path. These programs embody the universal values emphasized by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. An important application of the program is the rendering of selfless, loving service to our fellow human beings.
- Are you based on a particular religion?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said, “I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause; nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have come to tell you of this universal unitary faith, this path of Love.” He asks us to plant the seed of His teachings in the soil of our own culture so that it can grow up reflective of our culture; He asks us to cultivate the attitude of oneness between people of all creeds, all countries, and all continents. He has said, “Let the different faiths exist and let the glory of God be sung in all languages and tunes.”
It is not intended to promote any one religion over another, but to lead people toward the understanding of the underlying spiritual principles present in all religions; to make a Hindu a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, a Jew a better Jew, a Muslim a better Muslim, etc.
In practice, many Sai Centers around the world tend to be strongly influenced by Hindu practices, because Sri Sathya Sai Baba began and initially focused His mission in India, which is predominantly Hindu. Therefore, the majority of the members are of Hindu origin and the practices and rituals they see performed in Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s ashrams in India are dear to them.
Sri Sathya Sai has emphasized that the centers should be centered in the local culture and demonstrate the same core spiritual principles found in all religions.
Members strive to overcome egotism and selfish desire and to fill themselves with the Glory of God. Members strive to ground their every thought, word, and deed in love and selfless service.
- How are the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba considered universal?
Sathya Sai Baba instructs us to seek to see “Unity in Diversity” through striving to see the divinity inherent in all, regardless of caste, creed, color, nationality or gender orientation. He says:
There is only one religion, the religion of Love.
There is only one caste, the caste of humanity.
There is only one language, the language of the Heart. There is only one God, and He is omnipresent.
All cultures and religions are respected as they teach the same basic values of love, truth, right action, peace, and nonviolence.
- What can I expect when visiting a Sai Center?
An usher or designated member may introduce themselves and greet you as you enter. They will help orient you as to the proper protocol for placement of footwear and designated seating for men and women. You may be provided a newcomer’s booklet and resources that can provide more information. If you would like, they would be happy to sit next to you to help guide you to various elements of the program.
- What is the appropriate attire to wear at a center function?
Attire should be modest and elegant, befitting the ambiance and sanctity of the premises. Attendees are requested not to wear shorts or what could be considered revealing clothing. Many men choose to wear white, which is customary attire for Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s students and faculty, symbolizing unity and purity. Many women choose to wear traditional Indian attire that is worn at the ashrams in India. Both Western and Eastern attire, of any color, is appropriate. A simple rule of thumb many choose to follow is to wear what one would if invited to the residence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
- How is the altar decorated?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has recommended the altar be simple, set up with minimal cost, without unnecessary embellishment and paraphernalia. Appropriate adornments include a candle/flame, flowers, and a picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Some centers also have a chair for Sathya Sai Baba, which serves as a reminder of His constant presence.
- What are requirements for membership to a Sai Center?
To quote Sri Sathya Sai Baba from 21st April 1967:
… who can be members of these organizations, and what are their qualifications? (1) Of course, they must be eager aspirants for spiritual progress. (2) They must have full faith in the Name that the organization bears and in spreading that Name, in the manner suited to Its Message and Majesty. (3) Besides, the member must have won recognition as a good person. That is all the qualification needed; nothing else counts. First All India Conference, Madras | April 20-21, 1967
An individual may join a Center after becoming familiar with its purpose and the guidelines under which it functions. In joining, the individual acknowledges having carefully read the Center Guidelines, agrees to honor them, and makes a commitment to work in harmony with other members to achieve the goals of the Center. Members are expected to undertake spiritual discipline as an integral part of their daily lives and abide by the following Nine Point Code of Conduct:
- Daily meditation and prayer (according to one’s own religious practice).
- Devotional singing/prayer with members of their family once a week.
- Attendance by their children in the Educational programs conducted by the Center.
- Participation in community service and other programs of the Organization.
- Regular attendance in group devotional singing organized by the Organization.
- Regular study of spiritual literature with special reference to Sai Teachings.
- Practice of the principle of ‘Ceiling on Desires’ and the utilization of any savings thereby generated for the service of mankind.
- Soft and loving speech with everyone with whom one comes into contact.
- Not indulging in talking ill of others, especially in their absence.
- What prayers and rituals are observed in Sai Center devotional programs?
No prayer or ritual is required. Devotional programs tend to follow the traditions of the majority of members, taking into account the local culture, while trying to incorporate elements that demonstrate unity in diversity.
An effort is made to provide meanings of the rituals and prayers offered, along with translations for any unfamiliar languages.
Commonly used prayers and rituals include:
- Maintaining silence prior to and following the program sets the proper ambiance and connection to spirit.
- Chanting Aum to start the program. Aum represents the sound of creation, the universe and divinity itself. It calms and connects the heart and mind and soul and sets the atmosphere for the program.
- The Gayathri Mantra is an ancient Sanskrit chant for illumination of the intellect
- The Sai Gayathri is a Sanskrit chant dedicated to Sri Sathya Sai Baba for protection and illumination.
- Bhajans (Devotional singing) are a call and response style of singing to express love and devotion in unity. Traditionally the first bhajan invokes Ganesha, the principle for discrimination, which helps dissolve ignorance.
- Aarthi is a traditional Indian flame ritual performed at the closure of a prayer session, where one offers unwanted troubles and qualities into the flame, which serves as a gateway to our inner divinity.
- The Samastha Lokha Prayer is often chanted at the conclusion – praying for peace and happiness to all beings everywhere
- The session usually closes by chanting Aum followed by Shanti (peace) three times – signifying peace to the body, mind and spirit.
- Vibhuti is often distributed at the conclusion of the program. This auspicious ash symbolizes the commonality and oneness of all that is evident after passing through the purifying flame. It is usually applied to our spiritual eye, in the forehead region as well as imbibed.
- A Meditation session is held for a few minutes to absorb the divine vibrations created during the meeting and focus on the oneness of ourselves with all.
- What is Study Circle?
Study circles are interactive sessions where members discuss teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba that can be practically applicable in our day to day lives. The emphasis is on practical application and transformation, not information or scholarship. There are no teachers or experts, but rather each participant goes within to share and learn with the rest of the group. Sri Sathya Sai Baba has stated that each individual participant provides a shining facet of the diamond to shed light on a topic and the collective goal of the group is to identify the top facet, that unifies all facets.
- What is Seva (Spiritual Service)?
The teaching that’ Service to Man is Service to God’ underlies any service activity engaged in by members. It is the quality that is more important than quantity. A simple smile, a lending hand, or a listening ear can be considered Seva (spiritual service). Whether an act is Seva is determined by intention to help; to identify, love, and bond with those we serve; to act as mere instruments thorough which God serves; and to visualize those whom we serve as God themselves.
- What is Sri Sathya Sai Educare (Bal Vikas)?
Bal Vikas in Sanskrit means “Blossoming of the Child”. This program was launched by Sri Sathya Sai Baba to enhance the blossoming of “truth, beauty and goodness” in the child. Educare is the term used by Sri Sathya Sai Baba to bring attention to the process of drawing out the core values that are already present withing individuals. Sri Sathya Sai Educare – Blossoming the Divinity Within is the formal educational program designed for children of members ages 6 to 18 in Zone 1. The educational process involves drawing out the inherent values by setting the proper example, providing inspiring stories, group devotional singing, group activities, silent sitting and life applications to be followed during the week.
- What is the Young Adult Program?
The Young Adult (YA) program, designed for those 18 to 35 years old, is intended to meet the challenge of providing an opportunity for them to develop leadership skills, find their strengths, explore their creativity, and associate with peers who are also followers of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and His teachings. These youths, many of whom are of Indian origin but have grown up in the USA, are a bridge between East and West, as well as between childhood and adulthood. They are a valuable resource for both the older adults and the children and often are giving leadership positions within the centers.
- Is it necessary for members to participate in all facets of the center’s programs, or is it enough just to go to the devotional singing program?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has recommended activities in each of the three established spiritual paths of selfless service (karma or action), devotion (bhakti), and spiritual knowledge (jnana). The various activities are designed to enhance and supplement each other for our spiritual advancement. One should strive to participate in as many center programs as possible.
- Do I have to give up attending my church/temple/mosque?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has not come to start a new religion, but rather to strengthen one’s connection with the religion of their family and heritage by showing the underlying principles of unity in diversity and human values that underlie all religions, when understood properly.
One is welcome to join a Sai Center and maintain ties with their traditional houses of worship. People often find an even greater love and appreciation of their religion after learning Sai’s teachings.
- How do Centers handle the expenses to run a center or fund service activities?
Fees or dues are never charged for any Sai Center activity. Donations are never solicited from members (except as described below) or the public. Centers pay no fees to the Sai Organization at any level. However, some necessary fees may be charged at cost for room and board at conferences/retreats. Officers of the Sai Organization use their own funds, not donated funds, to cover personal expenses incurred in carrying out their duties.
Centers may meet their expenses by allowing members to make voluntary, anonymous contributions. The method indicated by Sathya Sai Baba is to place a box in a private room; each person may go in to the room and place the money in the box, if anything. If the amount collected is insufficient to meet the project expenses, the officers may elect to make up the difference, modify the project to require only the donated amount, or abandon the project. If a project is abandoned, any money collected is returned to the members.
No one should divulge who has given or promised to contribute to a project. No one should feel pressured to contribute or should be embarrassed by their inability or unwillingness to contribute to a center activity.
Special projects must be discussed and approved by the members and acted upon only if there are sufficient funds. Centers should not embark on projects for which there are insufficient resources of money, time, personnel, energy, or skills to successfully complete the project.
Any financial considerations will be the collective responsibility of all the Center officers under the direction of the President. Careful records of all financial transactions (e.g. sale of books) are kept and reviewed by the Center officers on a quarterly basis and may be reviewed by the Regional President.
These rules are in keeping with Sathya Sai Baba’s injunction that Centers should have as little to do with money as possible, since money draws attention from our spiritual focus.
“Fund collection is as much opposed to this movement as fire is to water.” Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Centers should guard against amassing excessive funds by analyzing the cause of the excess and take steps to remedy the situation. If excess funds are developed, temporarily stop voluntary contributions. In addition, excess funds can be made available for special projects such as public meetings, medical camps, or other member-approved service activities aimed at serving the community. Some funds may need to be preserved in an organizational account for conference deposits, etc.