Service, Devotion, & Education
There are many paths that the spiritual aspirant can take to advance towards the ultimate goal of awakening to one’s inner divinity, often referred to as self-realization. While all paths share a common goal and are interwoven, for the sake of understanding, they can be divided into 3 categories known as yogas: karma yoga (the path of work), bhakti yoga (the path of devotion), and jnana yoga (the path of inquiry). Sri Sathya Sai Baba has designed his organization to have 3 wings: service, devotional and education. Each of these interrelated, coordinated wings helps to develop spiritual growth through work, worship and wisdom.
Baba has described selfless service to be the most important activity of his organization.
“I consider Seva (service) as the most important activity of the centers, for it is the highest spiritual practice”. Sri Sathya Sai Baba Discourse, Dec 23, 1971
To be considered spiritual service, it is not the quantity or number of instances one serves that matters, but rather the motive that leads one to serve, the genuineness of love and compassion that saturates the service and the knowledge that when one serves the ‘other’, they are truly serving none other than divinity, who lies at the core of all, including themselves.
“Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
When done in a spiritual manner – by seeing the one who is serving, the act of serving and the one who is being served all as one interconnected being, the sense of separateness diminishes and our awareness of oneness with the universe is increased. Each Sai Center regularly performs service activities in their community such as feeding the homeless, mentoring school children, working with the elderly, teaching computer basics to seniors and low-income people; toys, clothes and food drives for shelters, distributing winter care kits to the needy and environmental seva, to mention just a few.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Universal Teacher introduced to the world the philosophy and concept of Educare, which is to draw out the latent human values of Truth, Right Action, Peace, Love and Non-violence, that are already present within each individual. This fundamental concept, that rather than focusing on information that is given from without, the emphasis should be on transformation that is from within. Baba has also always held that Education should be a means to translate these values into action in daily life, for it is only when such practices are encouraged by parents at home, teachers in our schools, that one can ensure a happy home, a value-based society, an orderly nation and a peaceful world.
The current education program has its roots in the Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas program which was started in India in 1969. Bal Vikas means “inner blossoming”, signifying the drawing out of the inherent beautiful values. The Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas course is based on two principles – Existence of God & Divinity of Man. The classes are conducted to inculcate the five basic human values of truth, righteousness, peace, love and non-violence in children. It is a multi-faith program inculcating in the tender minds of children, love and respect for all sacred traditions and religions.
While all the wings simultaneously serve the spiritual needs of both the individual and society, as they are inextricably linked, the service and education wings more obviously focus on the needs of society, while the devotional wing caters to each individual’s heart to heart connectivity. This wing helps nurture the inner self of all members through group activities such as devotional singing, study circles, public lectures, seminars and meditation.
Group Devotional Singing (Bhajans)
Baba has taught that loving vibrations charge the atmosphere when engaged in group singing of the names of the Lord. This powerful activity trains, expands, and ultimately helps to transcend the mind for both the singers and listeners. It induces one to experience the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness of one’s own Divine Self.
Baba has emphasized the light meditation technique as a simple, powerful means to connect to our inner Divine Self. Members are encouraged to meditate daily as part of the nine-point code of conduct. Also, Baba has recommended all group devotional singing sessions have time dedicated for group meditation.
Retreats offer us time step back from the course of our daily lives and enter a world where we can reflect on our life’s true purpose, where we can realign and rededicate our spiritual journey with renewed fervor. An atmosphere of tranquility and learning, as can be found in Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi is emulated. Activities of group devotional singing, prayer, meditation, musical programs, plays, and practical workshops and talks led by esteemed fellow aspirants unites and inspires us to practice the teachings of ‘Love All, Serve All’ and ‘Help Ever, Hurt Ever’.
Study Circle and the Study of Sai Literature
Just as group singing is a powerful means to open our hearts to our inner divinity, group study also helps accelerate the blossoming of our inner divinity via the development of our discrimination to guide teachings into proper practice. Baba explains in conversations with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba by Dr. John S. Hislop: “What is a Study Circle? It is not just reading books. Each person gives their point of view, and finally values are derived from this. If there is just reading there is doubt. But if each one gives his view, doubts will be answered. The study circle looks at different facets. It is like a diamond with its different facets, but there is one facet that is flat, the top facet, and from this all can be viewed. To discover the top facet is the task of the study circle.”
The goal of studying Sai Literature is to enhance our journey from self to Self – to awaken to our own true Divine Self. This path of Self-Transformation is facilitated by a proper plan of study, guided by both self and group study, progressing first from reading and listening, followed by reflecting upon what has been absorbed, and finally with assimilating and applying the teachings into every aspect of our lives. Quotes regarding Study Circle are presented in the Appendix