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8th World Conference First Report
Third session
Third Session

10:30 A.M. November 21, 2005

The third session of the conference commenced on 21 November 2005 at 10:30 in the morning. Moderator Dr. David Gries stated that there would be only one speaker, with the rest of the time devoted to an interactive question and answer session.

Shitu Chudasama

Shitu Chudasama, who is the Youth Coordinator for UK, spoke on the subject of “Ideal Sai Youth”.

Sathyam vada, dharmam chara — Speak truthfully, act righteously. This is the principle of the Avatar and the motto of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. As youth, it is our vision and mission to become exemplary Sai youth. How do we accomplish this? The divine Indweller must become the Ruler of our being. Sai youth must contribute their enthusiasm, creativity and courage to the Organization. The youth must recognize that among the members and elders of the Sai Organization, they will find examples of selfless Love, profound wisdom and extensive spiritual knowledge.

All of us must remember that Swami pays little attention to chronological age. The main qualities of youth are: purity, sacredness, and courage. If a devotee has these then he or she is worthy to be called a Sai youth, regardless of chronological age. Elders must see themselves as they were at a younger age and youth must see the beauty and goodness that has resulted from many years of devotion to the spiritual life. This is the first step in transforming oneself into Ideal Sai Youth. Leaders of tomorrow must be participants of today.

Youth involvement in the Sai Organization should result in the deepening of our devotion to our divine Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It should mean always striving to be aware of our own Divinity. It should also mean that we are consciously involved in selfless action and Love in the world. And it should mean that we have adopted a spiritual way of life enhanced by our organizational programs and activities, perpetuated by our faith, determination and self-confidence. These goals are the purpose of human life.

Before Purity and Divinity can manifest in our hearts we must strive for Unity. Swami says that we are One, regardless of our national origins; and although the world is haunted by suffering, unrest, disorder and agitations, any country filled with noble beings is bound to be peaceful and happy. Baba says that the absence of young men and women of noble character is the reason for the sad plight of our countries. Swami has also said that character is the basis for all our behavior, qualities and actions.

The golden rule for every youth in our Sai Organization is to uphold the sacred teachings and mission of our Lord. His likes and dislikes should become our sacred mantra. Before doing anything, we should ask ourselves, “Will Swami be happy?” Youth should note that the thing that most displeases Swami is boys mixing with girls in the activities of the Organization. The purpose of the Organization is to help us grow spiritually. It is not an outlet to socialize and meet new friends. We should bear in mind that, wherever we go, people will be judging Swami from our actions and conduct.

When we respect and revere our parents, we will feel Bhagawan's divine presence and He will shower us with His Grace and Love. Youth should emulate Pundarika's ideal and serve their parents. If we want to realize God, the first and foremost is we should love and show devotion towards our parents.

Throughout my life I made Swami my best friend. He looks after my every need, wants and desires. People will let you down but Bhagawan will never let you down. Therefore, everyone should look to God as a faithful friend, one's only true friend in life. Swami says, “only those who are immersed in the Divine are dear to Me and are My dear friends. If you want to be dear friends of Swami, conduct yourself in the divine manner. In such a case you do not need to come here. I will come to you, wherever you are. I'll come there wherever you stay. I am with you, in you, around you and behind you. I am not separate from you. You and I are one.”

Youth should have strong and unwavering faith without even a trace of doubt. There must be harmony in thought, word, and deed.

Swami says that youth are generally very good but change their behavior due to environment. As Sai youth, we must make efforts to understand our true nature. The difference between God and man is very subtle. As long as we do not understand this, we will remain human beings. However, once we recognize this truth, we rise to the heights of Divinity.

As Sai youth, we are capable of eradicating the restlessness in society. From today we must keep a check on our desires. We must always make sure that we respect our parents and serve them well. We should always keep in mind the welfare of society and of the nation at large. Swami wants us to earn a good name in society.

As I said earlier, Sai youth must always follow Swami's dictum of: Sathyam vada, dharmam chara − Speak truthfully, act righteously. This is the essence of Unity, Purity, and Divinity.

Interactive Panel

At the conclusion of Mr. Chudasama's talk, Dr. Gries announced that the questions the delegates had written on the 3 x 5 index cards that were passed out at the conclusion of the previous session had been categorized and sorted and given to the panel members. He introduced the panel as consisting of Dr. Michael Goldstein, Dr. Narendra Reddy, Air Chief Marshall N. C. Suri, and Dr. William Harvey, member of Prasanthi Council.

Question 1. Why are previous Conference recommendations and resolutions not implemented?

Answer 1. Dr. Goldstein: Many recommendations and resolutions have been made. Suggested changes to the Charter are being considered by the Prasanthi Council. Some resolutions may have been changed by Swami, some by the Organization, some were not suitable for adoption, some were impossible to implement, and it was resolved not to implement them. Some in responsible positions may not have been responsible. We all do our best but we are all imperfect. Still, we should always come together in the spirit of Love and Unity.

Q2. There were a number of questions about the importance of vegetarian food. Swami advises us to abstain from non-vegetarian food. There are some officers that are not vegetarians, what is your opinion on this? Is being vegetarian necessary to achieve Unity, Purity, and Divinity?

A2. Dr. Reddy: It is important to be a vegetarian for a spiritual seeker. Swami has been giving many discourses on food. Food is not only what we eat but also what we see, what we hear, etc. It connotes all sensory experiences taken in through all the sense organs including the mind. Swami has given us the pathway of vegetarianism. Sathwic (pure, serene) food is very important in order to put us in tune with the Divine. Swami says that the subtle essence of our food becomes our mind. Therefore, our thoughts are influenced by the food we eat.

Swami's four basic requirements of His devotees are: vegetarianism, no smoking, no gambling, no alcohol. Whatever food we take should be offered to God. We shouldn't be too obsessed with food. We are devotees of Swami and He has told us what is good for us. Sathwic food is good for us, and it is very important in order to tune into the Divine. Even sathwic food in excess becomes thamasic (indolent, ignorant). We should follow His command. Offering the food to God before eating is the first step to Unity, Purity, and Divinity.

Dr. Harvey: A point about enforcing rules on others. We should try to set good examples, by focusing on trying our best to follow Swami's teachings in our own lives. We have to be careful not to judge others. Swami once said it is more important what comes out of the mouth than what goes into it. Let us first be sure we study and discuss Swami's teachings on this, and other subjects. And one of His main teachings is for us to avoid criticizing or finding faults in others. We should work on ourselves, set good examples and try not to become judgmental.

Q3. In Europe we talk about our own culture. Why can't we spread Baba's culture of Unity when we go back?

A3. Dr. Goldstein: We are one spirit. We are consciousness. It pleases God that there is diversity in the world, with Unity as the basis. Don't talk of Sai culture. Think of Unity in diversity. It transcends all cultures.

Q4. Is it necessary to have Hindu rituals and Indian culture in Sai Centers in Australia?

A4. Dr. Goldstein: Swami says that all Sai Centers should reflect human values. Swami emphasizes the human values. The primary thing is Love. Do not emphasize the rituals. Emphasize the Unity of faiths and reflect the five human values.

Q5. Should Sai Centers in the West be outposts of Hindu spirituality and culture?

A5. Dr. Goldstein: No.

Dr. Harvey: The most important thing is that we try to make the people that visit our Centers feel comfortable. The emphasis should be on the universality of Swami's message. People do not have to change their religion or adopt a new one because they are drawn to Sathya Sai Baba and His teachings. Therefore, we should not give the impression that one has to worship Him within the context of any particular religious orientation.

Also, it is just a matter of common courtesy that we should seek to make visitors to our Centers feel comfortable. Welcome them warmly and lovingly, because whether they realize it or not they were drawn there so that they might experience some of the Love that we have received from Swami. Let's not put obstacles in their way. Try to explain things in a loving way. The setting should reflect universality of faiths. Swami's Love should be allowed to flow through us.

Air Chief Marshall Suri: It is important to have a focus on equality. Baba has now given me the inspiration to look into other religions. I have learned prayers from other religions. They are all to the same God. The focus in the Sai Centers should be the unity underlying all faiths.

Q6. Will Swami answer these questions?

A6. Dr. Goldstein: Swami likely will not address everything in His Discourse. His answers come in many ways. The answer may come from friends and others, it could be an insight. That is Swami's way. He is Divinity. We must look into our own heart and reflect on our actions. Swami will uplift and inspire us and help us address these questions.

Q7. How can we always be connected to Swami?

A7. Dr. Reddy: Swami says “Hear no evil, hear what is good. See no evil, see what is good. Speak no evil, speak what is good and think no evil, think what is good— this is the way to God.” Let us practice this and be in tune with the Lord. Onetime when I asked Swami, how to communicate with Him when I am not in His immediate presence, He told me, “When you have a problem, go to a corner, sit quietly, think about Me and the answer you get is My voice. It is in the depth of silence that the voice of God can be heard.” It means that we can always be connected to Swami by turning our mind inward. Let us practice the essence of the values: Help Ever, Hurt Never and Love All, Serve All.

Dr. Harvey: We are always connected to Swami, we just have to switch on our receiving unit. The experiences we are given are specific messages to each of us, especially when we are here in the ashram. Swami says that none of us come here of our own volition. He has brought us here, and He is constantly looking at each of us — in the context of our past, present, and future. The most important thing is for us to keep in mind this fact. We'll never understand Him fully through the mind. So don't try. “Relinquish the imperative to understand,” He has said. He is giving us precisely the experiences we need. We are fortunate to be here and must take this Love back home and share it. Practice seeing God everywhere: practice, practice, practice.

Air Chief Marshall Suri: In order to be near Swami, you have to surrender to Him. If you do, you will be near to Him. This morning I was sitting on the veranda wanting padnamaskar. An inner voice said, “Move to the other side,” which I did, and I got padnamaskar. If you want to hear Swami, surrender. If you want to serve Swami, surrender.

Q8 How can I Love people who constantly irritate me or try to rule others' lives? Explain how can I see God in them?

A8. Dr. Harvey: Everything is God; everyone is God. He has taken all these various forms. The person who is irritating us is playing a role. The role has a purpose that is divinely inspired.

But we should not be focusing so much on what others are doing, but on how we are responding. That is the key. Our buttons are being pushed for a good reason, to stimulate us to reflect upon our own behavior, or reactions and emotional responses. Go inwards. We should look at ourselves, continually go inward. We have to ask, 'Why does this irritate me so? Why am I upset?'

Dr. Reddy: Whenever we are criticized, Swami wants us to understand that God is speaking through the person who criticizes us. Our critics are our real friends because they point out our flaws so we can improve. We don't like people pointing out our flaws, but it is helpful if we can take this positively and learn from it. What can I learn? How can I improve? Try, try, try to accept everything that happens as Swami's Prasad to us, and reflect on our reactions in the light of Swami's teachings.

Dr. Harvey: Pain and suffering have a positive value for our spiritual development. If we never get out of our comfort zone, we stagnate. Swami frequently asks, “What change is there in you from coming to Prasanthi Nilayam for many years?” We must strive to welcome every experience that comes, even the painful ones, that come to us. Everything is for our good. Just witness everything and don't label it good or bad. We should always remember Swami's message that whatever happens is through His Will, and is for our good.

Q9. What is the role of the Sai Organization in responding to disasters such as the tsunami?

A9. Dr. Goldstein: We are a spiritual Organization. We render service when we can. But we are not an Organization like the Red Cross. Adversity in the world and suffering of fellow beings is an opportunity for us to respond lovingly, to alleviate that suffering. Collectively as an Organization, it allows us to use our resources for this purpose. We are not primarily a service Organization but service is for our sadhana.

We are being exemplars of people who recognize the Divinity within all. We are not here to formalize an army of disaster managers. Our service is to uplift others. Hungry people can't think about God. Serving food to hungry people empowers them to see the Divinity in themselves. Obviously, when human suffering occurs, then they can't think about God. They are mainly concerned about sustaining their bodies. The same is true for other handicaps such as mental disturbance, homelessness, alcoholism, etc.

We must think in terms of the higher spiritual significance of service. We are not here to create a bureaucracy of managers who will go out in the world, responding to every tragedy. As leaders, we always pray to Swami for guidance, and try to act appropriately in terms of whatever guidance we get. Often, leaders pray and obtain guidance. We are always looking to serve, but we should not become preoccupied with making the Organization a place to train people to go out and manage disasters. Seek Swami within. Adversity and enemies are opportunities to go inwards and to Love.

Q10. Doesn't the Organization need to set a vision? The Organization is not addressing its sustainability. The speakers are not addressing the theme of the conference.

A10. Dr. Goldstein: First of all, there is no question of addressing sustainability. This Organization is imbued with Divinity, founded in the name of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Imbued with Love, wisdom and power insofar as we are able to come together as devotees and tap that Love, the Organization is invulnerable and eternal as is Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Swami has said so.

The vision is not a five- or a ten-year plan of building edifices, etc. The vision is that all will look for Love in our hearts, find that Love and practice that Love and then take that Love into the world as embodiments of Love. That is the vision of the Organization. This was also said by Sri Indulal Shah and by Sri V. Srinivasan.

There is effectiveness and efficiency. With effectiveness, we know what is right by looking into our own hearts and the Charter. With regard to efficiency, we do what we do with the least amount of energy. Sometimes, when we are acting with the highest Love in mind, it is not the most efficient. Sometimes, efficiency is mindless or insensitive. We're not efficient in the economic sense. It is not the Organization's nature. At times like this, we must think who we are. We come together to pursue the purpose of this Organization, but we have to do within an orderly structure.

Q11. Can there be social mixing of sexes in the Sai Organization? It is strange in my society to separate the sexes. There are no arranged marriages in the west, how are they to meet?

A11. Dr. Harvey: Try to look at what Swami says, and strive to move towards that.

Our minds will foster doubts, always. We worry what happens if my child does not meet the right person. It comes back to the fact that we have to keep working on ourselves and to pray for stronger faith. Our mind convinces us that we are the doers, but that just is not so. All is God's Play. He is the Director. It is all in Divine order. We have to relax, to “let go, and let God.” Have confidence that things will work out. We don't have to be worried that we are the ones who do everything.

Air Chief Marshall Suri: Men and women can relate. Our understanding of Love now is based on animal instincts, but Love should be pure. Swami gives us options, take time to think about what will be correct action. Do relations have to be physical? It is the manner in which we relate to one another that becomes important. Love is different from relationships. We have the task of letting people know the difference. The problem you mention is not foreign to Indians.

Q12. All the members of the Prasanthi Council are men. Why? This panel is all men. Why?

A12. Dr. Goldstein: Swami appointed the members of the Prasanthi Council. With regard to the panel, I thought these people would be the best to serve you.

Q13. What should we do about money? Money is a problem in organizing events. Could our Sai Center turn to other Centers when we don't have money for the event? Should Sai Schools levy fees?

A13. Dr. Goldstein: We should not levy fees in Sai Schools. Don't embark on anything that exceeds your resources. Let Swami guide you from within.

There was a similar question about whether a Sai Center may accept support from government agencies. The answer is no! Of course, unusual circumstances may arise. In that event go through the Sai Organization hierarchy and obtain approval from a higher authority in the Sai Organization. Normally, we don't involve ourselves with other agencies about money. What is the single most important thing the Centers should observe? Swami told Dr. Hislop that the Organization should have as little to do with money as possible. Use common sense, but in general, we should avoid those situations that cause us to become embroiled with money. We're not fundraisers, finding money to train people to do this, that and the other. This is not the nature of the Organization. We are spiritual aspirants. We are a group of loving people.

Dr. Harvey: Frequently, we reflect on the nature of our Organization and draw parallels with other organizations, but we are unique. We view service as a spiritual practice. Our service activities do not have to be big, large scale projects. It is service to smile at someone, or to ring up a shut-in with a few words of cheer. We don't have to have big projects. Look for the Unity beneath the diversity. Navigate the world with awareness that all are One. We don't have to think of ourselves as “doing” so much. Swami assures us we will reach the goal.

Q14. Is it right to try to correct the faults of others?

A14. Dr. Reddy: We are not here to correct others. Never try to find fault with others. We are all here to know who we are. We are here to transform ourselves and mind our own business. Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Forgiveness should be our very nature. On her deathbed, when Holy Mother Sarada Devi was asked to give her final message, she said, “If you want peace of mind, don't find fault with others but find your own faults.” You can find answers to this in Prema Vahini. If any member of the Sai Organization commits faults, we should not criticize them behind their back; if we feel it is necessary, we should meet them personally and settle the matter with mutual understanding, respect and Love.

Q15. Heads of the Sai Organization are becoming status conscious. How could this be remedied?

A15. Dr. Goldstein: The remedy for officers who are so status conscious is to treat them with Love. If they remain status conscious and this is a problem, then there is recourse to higher levels of the Organization. But first reflect and check that this is not something within yourself that you are projecting onto others. Make sure there is no dirt in your own eye. If status consciousness is detrimental to the function of the Sai Center then appeal to a higher level in the Organization.

Dr. Harvey: The faults we see in others are reflections of unresolved issues within ourselves. It means we have work to do on ourselves. When we find ourselves finding faults, we should take some time out to reflect on the irritating events. And then ask do I have some tendencies in the same direction? For example, we might conclude we have 10% of the bad behavior, and the office bearer has 90%. Work to reduce your 10%. If you reduce yours to 5%, you will find what you now perceive in the other is reduced by 50%.

We need to give others the benefit of the doubt. There is always another side to the problem. When a child comes up to the teacher on the school yard complaining about another child, the teacher always knows there are two sides to the story. However, as adults we tend to take sides when we hear a complaint. Swami tells us not to take sides, not to enlarge the conflict. Show patience, Love and understanding, and solve the problem quietly as you do with small children. Bring people together in a loving way.

Dr. Reddy: Swami tells the story of Dharmaraja, who was an embodiment of goodness and righteousness and Duryodhana, who was a man of evil nature. Sri Krishna sent both of them to the town to look for a good person. Dharmaraja came back and said all the people in the town were good while Duryodhana could not find anybody good other than himself. Swami says the world is thus our own reflection. We have to wear the eye glasses of Prema (Love) and then we see everything as Prema.

Q16. Office bearers in the Sai Organization should not hold an office in another spiritual Organization. Please discuss.

A16. Dr. Goldstein: Office bearers should be single-minded on this Name and Form. If an office bearer wants to be in another Organization, then they should resign as an office bearer from our Organization and just be a devotee.

Q17. Should overseas Sai Centers in their meetings copy what happens at Prasanthi, or should they reflect the local culture?

A17. Dr. Goldstein: The Center should reflect Prasanthi to the extent that it is steeped in Love only. All Centers should reflect that Love. Regarding the actual content of the programs, we talk about Unity in diversity and that God is in all names and forms. Therefore, Centers should adapt to all cultures. Do you go back and make wholesale changes? No. We should evolve toward our own culture. We need to be conscious of culture. It's a part of creation. Don't become preoccupied with this. As we become enlightened, Love will shine through Swami's Divine message in all lands and cultures.