Sathya Sai - The Eternal Companion (Volume 2, Issue 12, December 2023)
Messengers of God: Following The Footsteps of Lord Jesus
The Lord, who is beyond name, form, attributes, time, space, and causation, incarnates from age to age when there is decline in the practice of righteousness and rise in evil. God helps reestablish Dharma (Right Conduct) and eliminates evil while nurturing good. When temples of worship became places of business and people were merely following the letter of the scriptures instead of the spirit, Lord Jesus incarnated to teach man the path of love, service, and sacrifice.
His teachings were not restricted to a chosen inner group of disciples but were widely available to the public and are recorded as the gospels in the Bible. The most important teachings are the Beatitudes given by Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ Jesus always emphasized the practice of His teachings over merely following Him physically. As recorded in Luke 6:46-49, Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Likewise, in His discourse on May 17, 1968, during the First World Conference in Mumbai, Swami says:
Obeying My instructions is enough; it will benefit you more than the most rigorous asceticism. Practice Sathya (truth), Dharma (right conduct), Shanti (peace), and Prema (love), which are dear to Me; resolve to keep those ideals before you ever, in all your thoughts, words, and deeds. That can confer on you the summum bonum of mergence in the Supreme Substance of Divinity (Self Realization).
The Parable of The Sower
Practice Above Precept
Jesus emphasizes the importance of practicing His teachings in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-52).
“Listen! Behold, a Sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. The other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately, it sprang up since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Jesus later explains to his disciples that the seed represents the Gospel, the sower represents anyone who proclaims it, and the various grounds represent people’s responses:
“The sower sows the Word. And these are the ones along the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thistles. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Swami also shares a beautiful example of three dolls to illustrate such differences between spiritual seekers. When a wire was passed through the ear of the first doll, it came out of the other ear. In the case of the second doll, it came out of the mouth. For the third one, it did not come out at all. These dolls represent three types of people listening to good teachings in the form of the wire. The lowest kind, like the first doll, does not register anything. The better ones, like the second doll, hear, remember, and repeat the teachings like a parrot, just as the wire emerges from the mouth of the doll. The best ones are those inside whom the teachings stay like the wire that remains in the third doll. They listen, digest, assimilate, and make their lives His message. Those are the best followers of the Lord’s teachings.
Jesus proclaimed the greatest commandment is to “love thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.” The other equally cardinal commandment is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” One may wonder whether it is practical for ordinary human beings to practice these teachings and be perfect like the Father. Studying the lives of great Christian saints who followed the teachings of Lord Jesus gives us clear answers for how to be like Jesus.
A Life of Selfless Service and Boundless Compassion
Saint Teresa, earlier known as Mother Teresa, was born in Skopje, now part of North Macedonia. Her early life was marked by her deep faith and calling to serve the poor and the disadvantaged. At 18, she became a nun, joining the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin, Ireland, where she took the name Sister Mary Teresa. The following year, she chose to serve in India, traveling to Calcutta (Kolkata today) and becoming a teacher at St. Mary’s High School for Girls. She soon became fluent in the Indian languages, Bengali and Hindi.
In 1946, she heard Christ's call to give up teaching and, instead, to dedicate her life to serving poor people living in the slums of Calcutta. Thereafter, her life was characterized by poverty, charity, obedience to God, faith, and incessant prayers. Her famous saying, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” encapsulates her fundamental philosophy of serving humanity through everyday acts of kindness and charity. Her simple living exemplified the poverty in her life. She owned only three sarees (Indian dress), which she would wash by herself. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she requested the Nobel Committee to donate the prize money of the Nobel award (USD 192,000 back then) to charities that help the poor.
One of Mother Teresa’s significant contributions in serving the poor was founding the organization “Missionaries of Charity” in 1950. This organization continues Mother Teresa’s legacy of selfless service by serving the poorest of the poor and providing love and care to those in need in more than 130 countries.
She practiced the divine teaching of Lord Jesus–“When you are serving the least of your brethren, you are serving Me.” When she was serving a baby boy with leprosy, smelly and teeming with pus, someone asked her, “How could you even be close to such a person?”
“I am not serving a leper child but baby Jesus,” was her loving reply.
That is the true meaning of seeing divinity in everything.
She possessed absolute faith in God and implicit obedience to God’s word, especially in the most challenging times in her life. This is an example of the ‘3Ps’ that Swami teaches–Purity, Patience, and Perseverance. She courageously faced the most devastating criticism with only one thought–her avowed obedience to God and His words. She trusted in the power of prayer when she faced challenges in building her mission in Calcutta. She once said, “In our most difficult times, our biggest weapon for our soul is our faith and prayers.” She always carried a rosary, chanting the name of the Lord. On one occasion, when she was wrongly accused of being at fault, she resorted to praying intensely and incessantly and asked all those she knew to pray steadfastly until “God Himself will have no choice but to be the savior.” She was indeed saved by the strength of those prayers.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “The best way to love God is to love all and serve all.” Mother Teresa is a great saint of recent times who exemplified this aphorism in her life. She remains a revered and iconic figure whose legacy endures as a beacon of light and a source of inspiration for those committed to alleviating human suffering and demonstrating God’s love through beautiful acts of kindness and charity.
The Practice of the Presence of God
Brother Lawrence was born as Nicholas Herman in 1614, into a poor family in Lorraine, France. He did not have any formal education and had a difficult childhood. He served as a soldier in the army. At 16, he had a profound spiritual awakening that changed the course of his life. This transformative experience led him to join the Carmelite monastery in Paris as a lay brother, where he later became known as Brother Lawrence.
His message and doctrine may be summarized from the title of his most famous work, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” In this small but powerful transformative book, he outlines his approach to a unique, personal, and continuous relationship with God. With the sole desire for constant communion with God, he experienced God’s presence constantly, whether he was worshiping in the church during the set times of prayer or working in the kitchen.
“The time of business,” he said, “does not, for me, differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clutter of my kitchen, where several persons are, at the same time, calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
Bhagawan says that if we want peace of mind, we should not separate work as worldly and spiritual. We should spiritualize every thought, word, and deed. Then, all work becomes the Lord’s work. Similarly, Lord Krishna also proclaimed that dedicating our thoughts, words, and deeds to God makes everything an offering of love and takes us nearer to the goal of Self-realization.
Brother Lawrence was the epitome of such dedication, as evident in his letters, which inspire all spiritual seekers. Here are some excerpts from those letters:
- Let us live and die with GOD; sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us while we are with Him, and the greatest pleasures will be, without Him, a cruel punishment to us. May He be blessed for all.
- Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.
- Ask of God, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please, and as long as He shall please.
- Love sweetens pains, and when one loves GOD, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do you so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him, who is the only Physician of all our maladies. He is the Father of the afflicted, always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine: love Him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere.
- We can do all things with the grace of God, which He never refuses to give to those who ask for it earnestly. Knock, and persevere in knocking. I assure you that He will open to you in His time, and immediately grant you what He has delayed giving you during these many years. Pray to him.
- God knoweth best what is needed for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should always be ready to receive equally and with indifference from His Hand the sweet and the bitter: all would please that came from Him.
- That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.
- Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great, we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures. Let us seek Him often by faith. He is within us: seek Him not elsewhere. Let us cast everything besides, out of our hearts. He would possess them alone. Beg this favor of Him.
At the heart of Brother Lawrence’s teachings was the practice of mindfulness and living in the ‘Presence of God.’ He bridged the gap between contemplative spirituality and the everyday life of an ordinary person. He showed that spiritual growth and union with God were not reserved for the elite, the scholarly, and the ascetic but were attainable by all. He encouraged individuals to turn their hearts and minds to God in the ordinary activities of daily life, like cooking, cleaning, serving others, and seemingly insignificant mundane tasks. He wanted all to offer work as an act of devotion to God and to converse with God. He showed by example and precept that spirituality can be simple, accessible, and transformative, leading one to develop a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.
Saint Francis of Assisi
A Life of Sacrifice, Renunciation, and Love for Nature
Saint Francis was born in a wealthy merchant family in Assisi, Italy. He enjoyed a life of privilege and extravagance, not having any cares of the world in his early years. But his life took a dramatic turn when he heard the voice of God and had a spiritual awakening. This brought about a remarkable transformation that made him renounce all the riches and sense-pleasures. It led him to embrace a life of poverty, simplicity, and complete dedication and devotion to Lord Jesus.
Bhagawan Baba says that the foremost characteristic of a spiritual seeker is dispassion for the world and detachment from worldly pleasures. Lord Jesus says (Matthew 19:24), “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” He emphasized that you cannot serve two masters—God and money. St. Francis made the perfect choice.
The central message of St. Francis can be summarized in his famous prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that
I may not so much 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,
and it is in dying that we are
born to eternal life.
This prayer encapsulates his commitment to promoting love and compassion in a world characterized by strife and materialism. He is the patron saint of animals, birds, plants, elements, and nature. He said one should experience God’s love in the sun, moon, elements, rocks, wind, animals, birds, and plants. Baba says that nature is a gift of God. He also says that nature is a manifestation of God before proclaiming that nature is verily God. St. Francis practiced this proclamation all his life.
There is a beautiful incident when St. Francis and his companions were taking a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a large number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows, and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends on the road and rushed toward the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual gentle, loving way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke to them. But they moved not!
Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He told them, “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly, and all the other things you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
At this point, the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks, and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God wonderfully, according to their nature. Francis walked right in the midst of them, turned around, and returned, affectionately touching their heads and bodies with his tunic. It is said that the brothers who journeyed with him stood still, watching in amazement.
There are stories of how he even tamed a wild wolf and worked with reptiles, influencing them with his pure, divine love. His conduct is similar to that of the sages and saints of yore who lived in hermitages alongside wild animals, including lions and tigers. They lived amidst the wild beasts in harmony and love. One such noble saint is Sage Agastya. No wonder Swami says that love is the greatest power one is blessed with to conquer all, more than even nuclear power.
St. Francis founded the Franciscan order (1209 CE) to share God’s love and message with the multitude and live according to St. Francis’s ideals, emphasizing purity, simplicity, and a life of service to the poor and needy.
It is said that the way one’s life ends shows how one has lived one’s life. If someone is always involved in worldly thoughts, that is what comes to them in the final moment. If one is steeped in holy thoughts, the end will be sacred too. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8: 6 and 8:7).
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever one remembers upon giving up the body at the time of death, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), one attains that state, being always absorbed in such contemplation.”
tasmat sarveshu kaleshu
mam anusmara yudhya cha
“Therefore, always remember Me (the Lord) and also do your duty of fighting the war. With mind and intellect surrendered to Me, you will definitely attain Me; of this, there is no doubt.”
St. Francis of Assisi lived such a noble divine life with his thoughts, words, and deeds saturated with divine love that he left his body singing Psalm 141, which begins with:
Lord, I call to you; hasten to me;
listen to my plea when I call.
Let my prayer be incense before you;
my uplifted hands an evening offering.
Set a guard, Lord, before my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart incline to evil,
to perform deeds in wickedness.
This is an excellent example of leading a divine life, which resonates with people of all backgrounds and is a testament to the transformative power of spirituality and leading a blessed life.
Saint Teresa of Avila
A Life Dedicated to Contemplation and Prayers
Saint Teresa was born in 1515 to a noble Spanish family and is widely regarded as the patron saint for health. After a profound spiritual awakening, she entered the Carmelite monastery. Once, during a severe illness, she experienced a transformative encounter with God, leading to her commitment to faith and a lifelong journey of contemplative prayer and a spiritual life. She emphasized to the other nuns the importance of leading an inward path in solitude and detachment with a vow of silence. She went on to tell them not to be attached even to their personal copies of the Holy Bible. She recommended that people exchange personal copies of the Bible so they don’t get attached to their own copies of the Bible!
Her message is encapsulated in her famous prayer.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away
God never changes
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
These words of prayer reflect her unflinching faith in God’s presence and guidance in the face of life’s challenges and uncertainties. Her message emphasized the importance of a deep and personal relationship with God through contemplative prayer and the pursuit of divine intimacy. She is one of the foremost mystics in the history of Christianity and is recognized for her profound insights into contemplative life. Her doctrine, as expressed in her writings, is best exemplified in her profound and classic works such as, ‘The Interior Castle’ and ‘The Way of Perfection.’
In ‘The Interior Castle,’ she describes the soul’s journey toward union with God through seven stages of spiritual growth. She had unconditional, pure love for all, and not surprisingly, her favorite saint was St. Francis of Assisi. The other classic, ‘The Way of Perfection,’ is a practical guide to prayer and prayer-filled life where three principles are emphasized:
- Fraternal universal Love
- Detachment from created things.
- True humility and practice of silence
‘The Way of Perfection’ is a work of sublime, mystical beauty. Its outstanding hallmark is its simplicity, which instructs, exalts, and inspires all those seeking a perfect way of life.
Baba says that only in the depths of silence can the voice of God be heard. St. Teresa showed by her example and teachings that silence is an important spiritual practice. Her teachings inspire believers seeking a deeper and more intimate relationship with God, and her writings remain a source of remarkable spiritual wisdom and insight for all spiritual seekers.
For spiritual seekers, a glimpse into the lives of these great saints is a source of inspiration to march forward on the way to perfection to attain supreme bliss. Their remarkable lives provide a recipe for a better life, giving us direction and spiritual guidance from following their exemplary lives. Each saint has shown us the path to the fountain of eternal life by their unique dedication to God. While Brother Lawrence’s life shows that anyone can live in God’s presence, making everything God’s work, St. Francis of Assisi demonstrates that one can always be in communion with God through Nature, animals, birds, and creation. Sister Teresa of Avila shows us how to lead a contemplative life, practicing silence on the inward path, while Mother Teresa’s life exemplifies the effectiveness of incessant prayers coupled with service to the poor and the downtrodden to reach God.
With divine grace and our sincere and intense efforts, may we all continue to make spiritual progress and reach the goal supreme, namely Self-realization.
Jai Sai Ram.
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.