God, Man And Society
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilyam. This Sunday and in the one that follows, we wish to dwell on two important and strongly related topics. Together, they highlight how pertinent, important and vital are Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings to today’s world and the innumerable problems it faces. Swami’s Divine Discourses invariably dazzle us with their overpowering torrent of Divine Love and we become so dazed at the end of it all that we seldom sit back to reflect on the subtler nuances of the Message that Bhagavan Baba’s Discourses always carry. If we were to do that, we would discover any number of crucial lessons that humanity must take seriously if it is to survive. Today, we shall explore some of them.
As we are all aware, on many occasions, Swami has called attention to the quartet – Vyashti, Samashti, Srishti and Parameshti and their inter-relationship. We too have commented on that many times. Not withstanding that, we wish to examine once more the connection between the Individual, Society and God.
If we go back to ancient times, the scriptures did mention Society, Nature, and God and their inter-relationships. However, by and large, the emphasis usually was on the individual, his or her duties and responsibilities, how the individual must relate to God, how the individual must strive to purify himself or herself and become one with God. The relationship of the individual to Society was no doubt mentioned but not heavily stressed. Instead, the focus was primarily on the individual and his/her salvation.
Times have changed. But does that mean that the individual does not have to bother about the goal of salvation? By no means. However, certain new parameters enter into the picture, making the goal of salvation acquire a totally new perspective. Why all this change? That is what we shall now explore.
Let us start by listing the types of security that people normally expect and even demand. The list would include: life security, water security, food security, accommodation security, education security, job security, property security, family security and so on. While in some countries people take all these for granted, in many parts of the world, they hardly exist.
Let us now go back say a hundred thousand years or so to the time of the caveman. Whatever security the caveman wanted, he had to provide it himself. If his life was threatened, he had to protect himself. If he wanted water, he had to go in search of it himself. If he wanted food, he had to provide it himself. As for accommodation, he had to find his own cave or put together stones and create his own dwelling place. May be all this is obvious, but we do have to mention them to make our point.
Cut now to modern times. Today, everyone wants “Society” to guarantee various securities. We want to walk safely on the street? Then Society must guarantee safety. We want job security? Then “Society” must do something about it. We want healthcare? That is the job of “Society”. We want social security in old age? What’s “Society” there for? Does it not have duties and obligations? So on it goes.
So you see, somewhere between the era of the caveman and modern times, an entity called “Society” has emerged which has great relevance to the individual. This emergence is the result of civilisation, and is the direct result of co-operation between individuals. Co-operation is vital for progress and peace, which is why the Vedas stress co-operation.
Society is a kind of a macro representation of the individual. If the individual is the microcosm, then Society is the macrocosm – that is an important lesson that Swami has been giving lately, particularly because the population of the world has swelled and the world has become very inter-connected. To put it differently, the individual and Society are two sides of the same coin. By the way, if God resides in the individual, does it not imply that He is also present in Society? Can we then afford to ignore Society?
In the modern world, the individual has come to expect Society to provide all kinds of security to him or her. In this highly-interconnected world, Society must care for ALL its citizens in EQUAL measure. If some segments of Society become very powerful , then there can be all kinds of trouble – in brief, the collective power of Society can be hijacked to serve narrow interests.
Just consider this. There is a lot of clamour these days for giving market forces a free hand, cutting down Government and all that. But let a huge earthquake happen or huge tsunami strike or a huge hurricane strike . Then will the companies and corporations come to the aid of people? So, whether we like it or not, in today’s highly connected world and a world dominated by technology, we DO need an agency that would care for the common good of ALL people, especially those in the weaker sections. That agency is what we call Society. Please note we are not trying to equate Society with Government. Rather, we are taking Society to be the collective will of all people, aiming at the common good of all in equal measure.
And this is where Swami’s teachings relating to the individual on the one hand and Society on the other, enter the picture. This connection must be fully understood. Some readers may wonder why on earth are we digging up all kinds of “social issues”, when we really ought to be talking about “Spirituality”.
There is a reason for such doubts, which arise from the traditional perception of “Spirituality”. For many, Spirituality simply means rituals, scriptures, Bhagavad Gita, Discourses, Bhajans etc. This is an age-old view, and when that is adhered to, many feel comfortable; this is perfectly understandable. On the other hand, when Swami talks to students, He often dwells on what people would call “practical” matters. Why? For a very good reason.
Consider, for example, Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission in the area of education. When Swami established His University, there were already 108 Universities in the country; why then one more? If we examine carefully, we would realise that Swami has done this to highlight one of the many responsibilities that Society has to bear. Through His University, Swami is giving Society three important messages. They are: 1) Character development must always be at the core of all educational programs. 2) It is not enough to stuff the brain; the body and the Soul also need balanced development. 3) Education must be available free, and students should not be made to pay to pay through their nose, as is increasingly becoming the case. In other word, education must become the responsibility of Society and not be abandoned to market forces.
Similarly, through His amazing Hospitals, Swami is sending the same message in regard to healthcare. Society must assume responsibility for the healthcare of its citizens, and not let citizens fend for themselves.
Space limitations prevent us from going into many important details concerning all this but we would like to point out that when Swami talks of practical knowledge being more important than bookish knowledge, what He implies is that practical Spirituality is far more pertinent and important than textbook Spirituality; which is why He often says that hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.
As Swami repeatedly tells His students, we are what we are because of Society; and therefore we owe a deep debt to Society, all the time. When He went to Delhi in March 1999, Swami delivered a powerful Discourse wherein He gave a new and very practical meaning to KarmaYoga. In ringing tones He said, “People think Seva means taking a broom and sweeping the village roads. That is NOT necessarily the only way to do Seva. In fact, the best Seva you can do is to do your job properly, earning every penny you are paid. Do honest work, do hard work and work such that people are not swindled or cheated but benefited. It does not matter whether you work for a company or in a Government Department. All Karma [action/duty] must be performed reverentially, in the belief that duty is God; work would then automatically get elevated to worship.” Similarly, in Bombay when leading industrialists complained about the growth of crime, He severely reprimanded them for living in skyscrapers and not doing anything for the slum dwellers who lived right below. In fact, so fiery was His speech that next day, the Times of India reported the speech with the headline: Sai Baba Thunders!
Sathya , Dharma, Shanti, Prema, and Ahimsa acquire full meaning only when they prevail in Society, and that would happen only when individuals relate to Society in an intensive way. This is the way individual’s purity would lead to RamaRajya or Utopia. It is because individuals tend to be in their own private shells today that corruption, violence, child labour etc., are rampant in Society.
If Society chokes with Adharma, then the individuals cannot survive for long unless they counter it by making Dharma prevail. That is what our students are taught and that is how when they go out they slowly but invariably make a difference to the work place they are in. Innumerable are the examples of our students standing firm on corruption, whether they are in a company or in the Income Tax Department. In due course, H2H would carry those inspiring stories.
Dear Reader! The tone of these Sunday Specials is likely to make you wonder whether we have forgotten Spirituality and lost our way in social activism. Nothing of that sort. On the contrary, we are trying in our own little way to give you a sampling of the concerns that Swami often shares with His students these days, both present and past. Be assured that we are not making this up!
There is a lot that needs to be said on these topics. For the moment, we would like to take your leave by reminding you that each of us has to realise that we are a part of Society, we are a child of Nature and we are the Embodiment of Love that God is. Thus, all our actions must be such that we do not harm Society; rather it must help Society because Society is God! Similarly, our actions must not go against Nature and must always be filled with Selfless Love. This is the only way we can help mankind solve its problems.
We must be involved but at the same time detached. There is a lot of difference between non-involvement and detachment. Karma Yoga is all about intense and sincere action but without attachment. That is what Sathya Sai Baba’s life proclaims every single minute and if He can be actively involved with Society, why should we duck?
Think about it! Jai Sai Ram.
With Love and Regards,
Filed under: Enlightenment, Guru Baba, India, Individual, Karma Yoga, Prashanti Nilayam, Puttaparthi, Search For God, Self Realisation, Self Realization | Tagged: ahimsa, Dharma, Discourse, God, Man, Prema, Sai Baba, Samashti, Sathya, sathya sai baba, Shanti, Society, Srishti, Vyashti | Comments Off