The Three Pathways to God
Every year, 24thApril, the day when Sri Sathya Sai Baba left His physical form is celebrated as Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam and considered auspicious by millions of devotees around the world. ‘Aradhana’ means worship or prayer and ‘Mahotsavam’ means grand festival. Devotees all over the world lovingly offer their prayers by way of practising Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings which would please Him than any materialistic worship with pomp and show. This day is also now celebrated as World Human Values Day by the SSIO and many cities who are practising His teachings and living the five human values namely Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love and Non-violence.
We take up various spiritual practices to purify our hearts and transform ourselves. Sri Sathya Sai reminds us constantly that the reason we have taken human birth is to realise our Divinity by constant and sincere practice of His teachings. This year, in his letter to the members of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation, Dr. Narendranath Reddy, urged everyone to take up 40 days of spiritual practice from March 22nd – April 30th.
The spiritual practices (sadhanas) which we are requested to practise are represented in the three pathways to divinity reflected in the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba – the paths of Devotion (Bhakthi), Service (Karma) and Wisdom (Jnana). Over the 40 days we will therefore, (a) chant daily Om Sri Sai Ram (108 times), (b) undertake any service activity, including small daily acts of love and kindness, in thought, word, or deed, and (c) read, contemplate, and put into practice one quote from Swami, every day, from the compiled list of 40 quotes offered.
In His discourses, Sri Sathya Sai Baba frequently expounded on the importance of these three pathways to Divinity. He stated that in this Kali Age, the practice of devotion, through repetition of the name (namasmarana) is the one sure way to reach God:
It may not be possible for you to undertake rigorous spiritual practices like meditation, penance, yoga, etc. It is enough if you chant the Divine Name. Do not undertake practices which you do not understand. Take to the simplest path, i.e., namasmarana. In Krita Yuga, meditation was prescribed as the means to liberation. In Treta Yuga, it was yajna. In Dwapara Yuga, people performed archana (worship), and in this Kali Age, namasmarana is the prescribed path to liberation. “In this Kali Age, chanting of the Lord’s Name alone can grant you liberation. There is no greater path than this.” (Sanskrit sloka) So, sing His glory and cross this ocean of worldly life. Namasmarana is the basis of all spiritual practices.
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 35
How can we offer love and gratitude to our Lord who is the embodiment of love? We can express our love to Him by doing selfless and loving service to all, keeping in mind that we are serving God in everything and everywhere. This is the path of karma yoga, or selfless service:
Neither by penance nor by pilgrimage nor by study of scriptures nor by japa can one cross the ocean of life. One can achieve it only by serving the pious.” Service is very important. Serve everybody with the conviction that God dwells in all. As you serve others, you have to kill your ego. It cannot be called service if it is done with the feeling that “I am serving others”. Sarva karma Bhagavad preethyartham (do all actions to please God). This is the attitude one should have while serving others. There are many who take part in service activities, but how many are able to enjoy the benefits derived therefrom? First of all, you should understand the term service. True service is that which is done with divine feelings, forgetting oneself. Service should be done as an offering to God. Service has value only when it is done with daivabhimana (love for God) and not dehabhimana (attachment to body). Even a small act of service done with the sole intention of pleasing God will acquire great significance.
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 35
Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that three fourths of spirituality is Self-enquiry. In this journey Baba’s teachings are the foundation and the guiding light. To walk the path of wisdom (jnana) during the 40 days of intense spiritual practice, we have been offered 40 quotes on which to reflect, enquire and practice. The practice of His teachings leads us to Self-realisation:
Just as thick fog is dispelled by the rays of the Sun, ignorance melts away before the powerful rays of knowledge (Sanskrit saying). Knowledge is acquired by uninterrupted inquiry. One should constantly be engaged in the inquiry of the nature of Brahman —the reality of the I, the transformations that occur to the individual at birth and at death, and other such matters. Just as you remove the husk that covers up the rice, so too you have to remove the ignorance that adheres to the mind, by frequent application of incisive Atmic inquiry. It is only when full knowledge is won that one can get liberated, or, in other words, attain moksha. After attaining the abovementioned Atmic knowledge, one has to follow the path of Brahman and act according to the new wisdom.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba assures us that when ignorance and delusion is removed through this constant enquiry into the reality of the ‘I’, the true Self is revealed in all its splendour–this is our inner nature, wisdom itself:
It shines with its own splendour; it is the witness of the activities and consequences of the three qualities (gunas); it is immovable; it is holy and pure; it is eternal; it is indivisible; it is self-manifested, it is peace; it has no end; it is wisdom itself. Such an Atma has to be cognised as Oneself.
In His infinite love, Sri Sathya Sai Baba came as Avatar to make us realise our divine nature. He came to teach us through His life, His message and His works. Thus, the three paths namely living in love, doing selfless service and Self-enquiry leads us to the supreme goal of Self-realization.
He reminds us that the five human values of truth, love, peace, right conduct and non-violence are divine and that to live these values is to live in God. During these 40 days of spiritual practice, culminating in Human Values Day, let us draw closer to God through our daily practice of devotion, service and wisdom.