And the Greatest is Love - An Article by George Bebedelis
It is so wonderful that in the Sathya Sai Organisation Christmas is celebrated along with the major festivals of all other religions in the same spirit of reverence and honour.
The unity of all faiths is a fundamental principle of Sai teachings, which inspires all seekers of truth around the globe. Sathya Sai Baba came to put aside narrow-mindedness and to teach humanity that all faiths glorify the One God. All names and forms are His, with all hearts motivated by Him alone. He has said:
There is only one religion, the religion of love
There is only one language, the language of the heart
He always reminds us: “Love is God; live in love”. St. John in his first Epistle has said the same:
He who does not love, does not know God; for God is love.
John 1, 4.8
Christianity is based on the principle of love. One of the scribes once approached Jesus and asked him: Which commandment is the greatest of all? Jesus answered:
Two are the greatest commandments. The first is, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is, you should love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these two. On these two commandments all the law and the prophets depend.
Mark 12:28-3, Matthew 22:35-40, Luke 10:25-27
The intensity of one’s love for God is the first lesson taught by Jesus. Sathya Sai also emphasises that one should be fully dedicated to God and not be a "part-time devotee." Our heart is not a musical chair. It is not a double sofa. It is just a single chair for God to be seated. The first song that Sathya Sai taught to His disciples was:
Manasa bhajare guru charanam, dustara bhava sagara taranam
O mind! Adore the feet of the Master, because it is so difficult to cross the ocean of life.
From Jesus’ life we have a similar example. Once He visited the house of Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Lazarus in Bethany. While Martha busied herself with the affairs of the house, her younger sister Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him with undivided attention. Martha went to Him and said: “My sister has left me alone to serve, tell her to help me.” Jesus answered her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But only one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Our devotion should be one pointed and our love for God should be one hundred percent focused on Him and Him alone. This is the meaning of Jesus's words: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Let us now reflect on the second great commandment: “You should love your neighbour as yourself."
When Jesus was asked who is your neighbour He gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke, 10:30-37): A traveller who was a Jew, while travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a very dangerous road that was known as the “Way of blood,” was beaten, robbed and left unconscious along the road. First a priest and then a Levite came by, but both avoided the man. Finally, a Samaritan came. Although Samaritans and Jews despised each other due to religious differences, the Samaritan decided to help the injured man.
Martin Luther King, while narrating this parable in one of his speeches, said that it is possible that the priest and the Levite did not stop because they were afraid in case the robbers were still around. Or it is possible that they thought that the man on the ground was merely faking and wanted to seize them. The question that the priest and the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Not me, but he first. What is the meaning of the word JOY according to Sai?
Jesus first, Others next, You last!
Sathya Sai Baba
The act of the Good Samaritan, who ignored the religious differences between Jews and Samaritans and brushed aside fear, reminds us of Sathya Sai Baba’s words:
No reason for love, no season for love.
Divine love transcends limitations and is offered unconditionally to all.
I would like to share here one of my sweetest experiences with Sathya Sai Baba (Swami) which happened many years ago, during August 1998. At that time Swami used to come out for darshan a second time, in the morning after the interview was over. It was Sunday and the Sai Kulwant Hall was full of devotees. The students and teachers of the educational institutions of Swami were all present. The veranda was full. Everybody was waiting for Swami to come out before 9am, when bhajans commence. I skipped breakfast so that I could sit in the front row in order to move forward when darshan was over. When Swami came out, He walked with His majestic gait among all devotees and when He came up to the veranda He turned towards the place I was sitting, He looked at me straight in the eyes and He nodded at me to come up. I immediately ran forward and knelt in front of Him.
Swami asked me many things about my daily life in Greece and my spiritual practice. At one moment He asked me: “What is your religion?” I answered “Christian, Swami.” Then He asked me: “What is the meaning of the Cross?” I was well prepared, because I had read so many books of Swami and heard so many of His discourses. So I answered without any delay: “Swami, the vertical line is the I (ego), and the straight line means that one has to cut across the ego.” Swami was very pleased and turning to the boys that were sitting around, He said: “You see, very good answer!”
At that moment I dared to continue and say to Swami: “Swami, Jesus and you are One!” I thought that Swami would be pleased and praise me once again to His students. But no, this time Swami seemed to be surprised. He frowned at me and asked: “How do you say that? Jesus wore a white robe, He had blonde hair, while I am wearing an orange robe, my hair is black. How is it possible that we are One?” Then with great confidence I answered to Him: “No Swami, Jesus and You are One. We daily sing in the bhajans that Allah, Jesus, Sai, Krishna, Rama are all one. The form may be different, but the Atma is One!” Swami was happily impressed! He turned to his students and said: “You see, very good answer!”
Then He turned again to me to test me a little more and asked: “If the Atma in everyone is the same, then you are also God like Jesus and Me!” Immediately I answered: “Yes Swami, I am also God, but there is a difference with You: You do know that You are God, but I don't know.” Swami was now really happy. He once again turned to his students and said: “You see, very good answer!”
So, the main goal of our spiritual sadhana is to know our true Self, the Divine Atma, which is the same in all. When this is done, one experiences unity and love for all beings. On Sathya Sai’s Samadhi out of the innumerable volumes of His teachings, just four words have been chosen to remind us always of the quintessence of His message: “LOVE ALL―SERVE ALL”
This is also the quintessence of Jesus’s teachings. As Christmas approaches, let us keep in mind Jesus’ words and honour His birth by making our heart a source of love for one and all. Let us reconsider the priorities we have in life and make a serious effort to identify the real goal. The journey of life is not linear, but circular. Love is the beginning and the end. Man has originated from love and yearns to go back to it. When the journey is completed, the circle closes and the Soul becomes what it has always been, i.e., love, and experiences the fathomless peace and bliss of the Divine union.
I would like to close with St. Paul’s well known “Praise to Love,” as found in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:
If I speak the languages of men and angels, but have no love, I am like a resounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have no love, it earns me nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love has no envy; love is not puffed up; love has no pride. It does not behave itself unseemly, it takes no thought for itself; It is not made angry, It thinks no evil. It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, has unshakable faith, hopes fully, endures all things. Love never fails.
Though prophecies may come to an end, tongues may cease and knowledge may vanish away, love has no end. For our knowledge is only in part, and prophesies give only a part of what is true. But when That which is perfect will come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.
Now we see things dimly, as if in a glass; but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know in full, even as God's knowledge is full. Till then remain faith, hope, love, these three. And the greatest is love.
Athens, December, 3, 2017