I FIRST VISITED PRASANTHI NILAYAM IN JULY 1987 ON THE OCCASION OF GURU PURNIMA. For spiritual seekers of truth, this is the most auspicious day to pay homage to our divine master, who has come to lead us:
Asato mā Sat gamaya
Tamaso mā Jyotir gamaya
Mrityor mā Amritam gamaya
From the unreal to the Real
From darkness to Light
From death to Immortality
However, I did not know the importance of this day at that time. Nevertheless, when I had the first darshan of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Baba, I knew that finally, after a long search, I had found my true master and guide. One glimpse told me He could lead me to what I was longing for in my soul – knowledge of the divine truth and the experience of universal love.
Since then, I have been a regular and active member of Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO), which Swami established all over the world to help us reach the divine truth. All the tools we need can be found in His name S A I:
- S stands for Service
- A stands for Adoration
- I stands for Illumination
In everything He said and did, Swami turned the compass inward. To the modern world driven by technology, WWW means the World Wide Web. However, Swami would advise us to “Surf the Innernet, not the Internet!” To spiritual aspirants driven by divine knowledge, the three W’s, in His words mean Work, Worship, and Wisdom. These three words define the three pillars of the Sathya Sai Organization: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jñāna Yoga.
Service, Karma Yoga
At the entrance of the Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi there is a saying in Sanskrit:
Paropakarārtham idam śarīram
The purpose of this body is to serve others
At Swami’s Mahasamadhi, out of volumes of His teachings, just four words have been chosen to be engraved, to remind us that, above all, His organization stands for the spirit of loving service.
ꕥ LOVE ALL - SERVE ALL ꕥ
The global magnitude to which His work has quietly grown is astounding and unparalleled in the history of mankind. Inspired by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the SSSIO continues to spread His universal message of pure love and selfless service in 111 countries outside India.
Adoration, Bhakti Yoga
One of Swami’s favorite bhajans explains the power of devotion:
Hari bhajana bina Sukha Shanti nahi
Hari Nama bina Ananda nahi
Prema bhakti bina Uddhara nahi
Guru Seva bina Nirvana nahi
Without singing to the Lord, there’s no Peace or Happiness
Without taking His Name, there’s no Bliss
Without Love and Devotion, we will never be Free
Without Service to Him, no Salvation can be attained.
Sri Sathya Sai Centers all over the world conduct weekly group devotional singing to foster adoration for God. He taught us to use our hands to serve all and our lips to praise God in all forms.
Illumination, Jñāna Yoga
The third pillar of the organization is focused on illuminating the mind. To help us do that, Swami created a more transformative kind of education.
⌘ EDUCARE ⌘
Sathya Sai Educare has been aptly described as the Veda of the 21st century revealed to the modern world by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Educare is the Latin root of the English word Education, coupled with Educere which means “to bring forth, manifest, educe”. The purpose of Educare is to bring out from within the hidden treasure of human values: Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence – Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, and Ahimsa.
The word ‘idea’ literally means, “that which is seen.” This implies that human ideals are not just moral principles but divine truths that can be seen through the inner eye of the soul.
Human values are the divine ideals, that serve as beacons to guide our lives. The word ideal comes from the Greek word idea, introduced to philosophical thought by the great Greek philosopher Plato. The word ‘idea’ literally means, “that which is seen”. This implies that human ideals are not just moral principles but divine truths that can be seen through the inner eye of the soul. Swami gave us the ideal version of education and made it our reality with Educare.
While I immersed myself in all the pillars of His organization, I traveled from Greece as often as I could for divine interactions with Him. Bhagawan Baba recognized the importance of ancient Greek philosophy, which is the foundation of western philosophical thought. In interviews, He often asked Greek devotees, and me personally, about the father of Greek Philosophy. “Who was the Guruji of Alexander the Great?” We answered “Aristotle, Swami”. He then continued: “Who was the Guruji of Aristotle?” “Plato, Swami”. “And who was the Guruji of Plato?” “Socrates, Swami!” When He heard Socrates, Swami was blissfully content. He loved and held Socrates in high esteem.
One day He told us: “Socrates is not the right pronunciation. The right pronunciation is So-crat-is”. We were all taken by surprise because this is indeed the right pronunciation in Greek: So-crat-is. And then Swami continued, “His name reveals His identity: ‘So’ means He, ‘Crat’ means Creator. He is the Creator, He is Divine!” And He continued: “Socrates was the same as Me but in a different time. He was teaching young students the same fundamental inquiry as I do: “Know Thyself. Ninnu neevu telusuko”. Always inquire: “Who am I? Who am I?” Then you will know the answer: “I am not the body, I am not the senses, I am not the mind. I am the Master of the body, I am the Master of the senses, I am the immortal Atma!” Socrates was totally detached from the senses. He did not have body consciousness. He was fully aware of his divine nature. So, Socrates died with his mind totally focused on God and he achieved complete union with Him. That is why Swami loved him so much.
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
Swami asked us in many interviews: “What was the essence of Plato’s teachings?” Despite our Greek heritage, we were unable to respond, when he first asked this question. Then Swami Himself gave the answer: “The essence of Plato’s teachings was Truth, Goodness, and Beauty: Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram”. Swami’s biography is called ‘Sathyam, Sivam , Sundaram.’ Just like that, with three simple words, He showed the unity between Greek philosophy and Sai’s teachings.
In November 1996, during Bhagawan’s 71st Birthday celebrations, the Greek devotees performed a drama in Poornachandra Auditorium. The drama was entitled “The tales of Janaka”. King Janaka was a karma yogi, dedicated to serving his people. Though he was burdened with the responsibilities and duties of a King, he remained detached from the world and firmly focused on the spiritual path and the final goal, Self-realization. The drama consisted of three stories selected from Bhagawan’s divine discourses. These stories described the yearning of King Janaka for truth and his meetings with three great sages of ancient times: Vasishtha, Śuka, and Ashtāvakra.
Swami used to call our group ‘drama boys’, and showered us with special blessings during the rehearsals. He would visit us daily at Poornachandra Auditorium to supervise the rehearsals, give advice and guide us on every detail. In the drama there were two female roles, one was the Queen, the wife of King Janaka, and the other was Mother Sita, the wife of Sri Rama. However, Swami had given us strict instructions that only boys should perform all the roles in the play. So, the two female roles were assigned to two boys in the group, by Swami Himself. One of the two was me, who received the role of Sita! At first I could not appreciate what later turned out to be a unique blessing for me.
As Swami used to come daily to Poornachandra, we had the chance to ask for every little detail to get clarity in our minds. We reviewed all the discourses of Swami relating to the play, as well as other books, but we could not find the name of King Janaka’s wife anywhere. So, one day we decided to ask Swami about this, “Swami, please tell us the name of King Janaka’s wife.” Then, Swami became very serious. He closed His eyes as if He was connecting with the Tretha Yuga thousands of years in the past. We eagerly awaited His answer. Then Swami opened His eyes, looked at us mischievously, and with a big smile said: “The name of King Janaka’s wife was… Mrs. Janaka!!!”
The next day, He came to my friend who was playing the role of the Queen and asked him: “How are you, Mrs. Janaka?” As I jealously longed for His attention, Swami responded immediately. With the same playful smile, He asked me: “How are you, Mrs. Rama?” This was the divine humor of Sai!
In the first story of the drama, King Janaka returns to his palace very tired. He is seated on his throne and in front of him is a table full of delicacies. The Queen, seated by his side, tenderly massages his feet. King Janaka falls asleep and has a strange dream. In the dream, he has lost his kingdom and he is wandering exhausted and hungry in a forest. There he comes across three robbers who take pity on him and invite him to share some food with them. Before he has a chance to take one bite, a tiger appears. Scared, they scream, “Tiger! Tiger! Run for your lives!”
Is This Real or Is That Real?
At that moment, Janaka wakes up, full of fear. He looks around and finds himself seated in a comfortable sofa; with a table full of delicious food and the Queen is tenderly massaging his feet. He falls into a trance, and wonders aloud, “Is this real, or is that real? Is this the truth or is that the truth?” Perplexed, the Queen asks: “What are you talking about, my King? What do you want to know Maharaja?” But King Janaka does not respond; he keeps asking, “Idi nijama? Adi nijama? ‘Is this real’ or ‘is that real?’”
The worried Queen calls the ministers, but no one comprehends the dilemma of the King, who continues to question “Is this true or is that true?” They try to bring him back to his normal state, with no success. Finally, they decide to call the great Sage Vasishta, the family preceptor. When Vasishta arrives, he sees the King in this trance, and with his yogic vision, he understands the depth of his dilemma. Then he says to him: “King Janaka! Life during daytime is a daydream; during nighttime is a night-dream. They are both illusions. Idi nijamu kadu, adi nijamu kadu. This is not true, that is not true. You alone are true! The Self that is present as Pure Consciousness in both dream and waking states is the only true reality. The world is constantly changing; the Self alone is real and changeless. Only the Self exists, and He is Brahma, the One without a second.” Every interaction, every moment with Swami reminds us to question the illusion we live in and pursue the divine reality, which is One without a second (“Ekameva Adviteeyam Brahma”).
Gift of Guru – Brahmānandam
My search for the gift of divine knowledge led me to my guru Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, on that auspicious Guru Purnima day. Over 35 years in His presence and His organization has granted me the most valuable gift of all: oneness with my Guru to experience divine bliss, Brahmānandam.
Jai Sai Ram!
Mr. George Bebedelis
About the Author:
Mr. George Bebedelis serves as the Director of the Institute of Sathya Sai Education of South Europe (ISSE-SE) and Co-Chair of the SSSIO Education Committee. He served as National Council President of SSSIO, Greece. George has an extensive background in Sathya Sai Education and has received guidance from Swami over many decades.
George was born and lives in Athens, Greece. He has a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, a Diploma in Pedagogy, and a master’s degree in history and Philosophy of Science from the National University of Athens. He teaches Mechanical Engineering in secondary vocational education in Athens.
References:First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 5