Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
During His life Sri Sathya Sai Baba encouraged people to ask Him questions to clear their doubts. He also gave hundreds of discourses addressing many topics. Most discourses are in print. Answers to many FAQs are excerpted from His discourses and referenced. He frequently addressed the same subject with slightly different wording at different times.
In the coming few days, if you have any doubt, ask without hesitation. Bhagawan is ready to clear all your doubts. Make full use of Bhagawan’s proximity. Ask and be satisfied.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 33, Discourse 15, September 25, 2000
International Conference on Strengthening Value Education
Who is Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on November 23, 1926 in Puttaparthi, a small hamlet in South India, which became the destination of pilgrimages for millions of people around the world. On October 20, 1940, Sri Sathya Sai Baba unveiled the mystery surrounding His birth, life, and mission by declaring to the people around, and through them to all humankind, that He is indeed the Supreme Consciousness embodied in a human form and that He took birth for the upliftment of humanity.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba spent His entire life (1926–2011) teaching the supreme truth about divinity and demonstrating to all, the ideal examples of selfless service by providing free health care, free education, free water, and service to the needy, without expecting anything in return.
What is His message?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba is known worldwide as a universal spiritual teacher. Like a perfect teacher, He demonstrated this by living the divine principle every moment of His life. His life is His message – and His message is simply divine love. His message can be encapsulated in two maxims: “Love All; Serve All”, and “Help Ever; Hurt Never”. He emphasized the harmony of all religions, unity of faiths, and the practice of five fundamental human values: Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence. Bhagawan Baba gave thousands of discourses and interviews to explain the highest truth in simple language which went straight to the heart. He left behind many scriptural writings and also performed astounding miracles to benefit humanity. To His spiritual followers or devotees, He is affectionately and reverentially referred to as Baba, Bhagawan, Swami, Sai and Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Secularism really means that you should have equal respect for all religions and beliefs. No one can be asked to renounce his faith in the name of secularism. There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity. There is only one religion, the religion of Love. There is only one language, the language of the Heart.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 27, Discourse 19, July 19, 1994
What is the mission of Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
He established many medical institutions providing state-of-art, free, primary to tertiary healthcare; many educational institutions providing integral education from kindergarten to doctoral studies; and many service activities providing free water, food, and shelter to millions of needy people.
He founded, nurtured, and guided the Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation (SSSIO) which is a spiritual and humanitarian organization that encompasses all religions, all faiths, and all nationalities. The SSSIO continues the mission of spiritual transformation in more than 1,800 Sri Sathya Sai Centres spread in 120 countries, outside India, through educational, spiritual, and selfless service activities.
Who is an Avatar?
An Avatar is the incarnation of the Divine with a unique mission and divine powers. When-ever unrighteousness overwhelms the world, the indivisible absolute Supreme incarnates from age to age to re-establish righteousness for mankind.
What are the three incarnations of the Sai Avatar?
As revealed by Sri Sathya Sai Baba the Sai Avatar incarnation comprises three individual in-carnations in India beginning with Sai Baba of Shirdi (~1835 - 1918), Sri Sathya Sai Baba (1926 - 2011), and Prema Sai to come. In His boyhood years, Sri Sathya Sai Baba became known in His village of Puttaparthi and beyond for His miracles and knowledge. Around the age of 14, Sri Sathya Sai Baba was asked by family and villagers, who are you? Taking a handful of jasmine flowers, He threw them on the ground. The flowers landed, forming the name of Sai Baba in Telugu. The family and villagers were unfamiliar with the name but gradually came to know of the miracles and teachings surrounding the life of Shirdi Sai Baba who predicted that He would be reborn to continue His work eight years after His passing. Sri Sathya Sai Baba during His life made more statements about the Shirdi Sai and Prema Sai incarnations.
What did Sathya Sai Baba say about Prema Sai, the future incarnation?
At various times Sathya Sai Baba made comments about the Prema Sai advent to come. In a discourse on 28 September 1990, He said,
When He was asked, in what form the next advent would take place, Shirdi Baba told Abdul Baba alone: “I will give darshan in the name of Sathya for upholding Truth." That is the present advent. The two bodies are different, but the Divinity is one. The first advent was for revealing Divinity. The second advent is to awaken the Divinity (in human beings). The next advent is for propagating Divinity. The three Sais are' Shirdi Sai, Sathya Sai, and Prema Sai. The reason for relating all this is that today happens to be the birthday of Shirdi Baba (September 28, 1835). Baba attained Samadhi in 1918. Bodies are transient. These vestures are assumed only for the sake of devotees. Unless the Divine comes with a form, no one can develop faith in the Formless. The Divine in human form is the preparation for comprehending the Formless Absolute.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 23, Discourse 28, September 28, 1990
How do I explain to friends or family who do not know about Sri Sathya Sai Baba that I believe He is God and He is an Avatar?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba made it clear over many years in public discourses and comments in inter-views, that He did not seek to start a new religion or collect followers for any religion or doctrine. He also said He has a heart-to-heart connection with devotees, no intermediary is needed. If family or friends ask about Sri Sathya Sai Baba, one may share their own experience and the teachings of Sai Baba.
How does one develop divine love?
Sai Baba taught us to chant “Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu” at the end of prayers. What is the significance of that?
One of the cornerstones of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings is the concept of surrendering to God. What does that mean and how does one surrender to God?
What does Sri Sathya Sai Baba say about focusing one’s mind on God? How does one focus one’s mind on God?
Swami talked about the power of prayer. What and how do we pray?
What are the principal teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba teaches that man’s basic nature is divine and that the purpose of life is the realization of one’s innate divinity. Through His teachings, He revealed that this can be attained through the path of divine love (Bhakti Yoga), the path of selfless service (Karma Yoga), the path of Self-enquiry (Jnana Yoga), and the path of meditation (Raja Yoga).
Where can I learn more about His teachings?
The official record of thousands of public discourses made by Sri Sathya Sai Baba from 1953 through 2009 are contained in 42 volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks. The public discourses were given in various cities of India and East Africa and the transcripts, as well as some video and audio recordings, are available. Vahinis (in English and other languages) are the stream of His teachings penned by Sri Sathya Sai Baba and published in the monthly magazine, Sanathana Sarathi (The Eternal Charioteer). These are compiled into 16 Vahinis covering a wide range of spiritual topics, including divine love, meditation, Dharma, education, Jnana, Gita, Upanishads, and Brahmasutra. During summer, Sri Sathya Sai Baba gave discourses to students which are compiled under the series “Summer Showers.” Finally, “Letters” are a collection of correspondence between Sri Sathya Sai Baba with His students, followers, or officers in the Organization. More information is available for download/viewing by clicking here.
Are Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings a religion?
No. Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings are not a religion. Sri Sathya Sai Baba began His role as a spiritual/universal teacher at a very young age through folk songs, theater, exposition from scriptures, and personal examples of the virtues of living a purposeful God-centered life. His family, classmates, teachers, and others in the village were astounded by the extraordinary simplicity and clarity of His message. For more than five decades, Sri Sathya Sai Baba communicated His message of love, universality, and spirituality to a diverse audience from different faiths, countries, cultures,s and traditions. The uniqueness of His style was that He explained age-old concepts with new insights and examples that addressed the needs of modern society. He repeatedly emphasized that He had come to reconstruct the ancient highway to spirituality and not to establish a new religion or cult. His writings and discourses have been carefully documented.
Do I have to give up my religion to follow His teachings?
No. Sri Sathya Sai Baba said that there is only one religion, the religion of love. He encourages us to practice whatever faith or religion we belong to, to the best of our ability. He said that a Christian should become a better Christian, a Muslim should become a better Muslim, etc. and nobody should change their religion.
Did I miss my chance to benefit from his teachings because I did not see him before He left human form?
No. His teachings are universal and eternal, which transcends the barriers of time, space, religion, culture, and nationality. People from more than 120 countries, from different cultures and faiths, follow His teachings and derive benefit from it. Many of them have never seen Him physically. As Jesus said, blessed are those who have seen and believed Him, but more blessed are those who have not seen Him but still believe Him.
Do I have to visit his ashram in India to follow his teachings?
No. We can follow Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings wherever we are. His teachings are universal and eternal. There are many who live their lives by His teachings, are devoted to God, and have never visited Prasanthi Nilayam.
Is Sai Baba primarily a Hindu teacher?
No. Although He lived in India and was born into a Hindu family, the teachings which Sri Sathya Sai Baba came to remind us of are universal and applicable to all people regardless of their faith or belief.
“I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause; nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have come to tell you of this Universal unitary faith, this path of Love. Believe that all Hearts are motivated by the One and Only God, that all names in all languages and all forms man can conceive denote the one and only God. Cultivate the attitude of oneness between people of all creeds, all countries, and all continents. This is the message of Love I bring.“
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 08, Discourse 22, July 4, 1968
What is the SSSIO?
The Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) is a spiritual and humanitarian organization founded by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Organization carries forth the mission started by Sri Sathya Sai Baba who, by His selfless love, universal spiritual teachings, and exemplary life dedicated to social service, touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world.
The SSSIO has been active for over 50 years. Its goal is to help people realize the Di-vine Principle innate in every human being. This is achieved by doing selfless service and achieving self-transformation by practicing the five universal human values of Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence.
The SSSIO neither belongs to nor preaches any religion. It includes people from all religions, faiths, and nationalities. The quest for knowing the ultimate truth about oneself, living in accordance with one’s higher consciousness, and serving society is the mission of nearly 2,000 Sathya Sai Centres and Groups spread in 120 countries.
What is the charter granted to the SSSIO by Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
The Permanent Charter was granted to the SSSIO by Sri Sathya Sai Baba at the Third World Conference in 1981 and updated later with the guidance and approval of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This is a document that describes the SSSIO as a spiritual organization founded for all man-kind. Its objective is to make one realize and manifest one’s inherent divinity. The Charter lays down a code of conduct for members and describes the principles by which the organization shall operate.
Please also read more regarding the organizational structure on the SSSIO website:
The purpose of the SSSIO is to realize one’s innate divinity. What are the practices and challenges in the path to this realization?
Dr. Narendranath Reddy, the Chairman of the Sathya Sai International Organization address-es this question in the following video:
How do I join the SSSIO? Is there a membership fee?
Membership is open to all people who wish to follow the basic tenets of Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings and the organization’s guidelines. The most basic teachings can be summed up by the following: “Love All, Serve All; Help Ever, Hurt Never.” Activities of Sri Sathya Sai Centers include education programs, devotional programs, and service programs. A meeting with officers of a Sri Sathya Sai Center is recommended to understand the functioning of the Center. There are no fees, and solicitation of funds is forbidden.
What is a Sri Sathya Sai Center?
Sri Sathya Sai Centers are a place where members in a geographic area meet for devotional, service, and education activities. This helps members to grow spiritually.
Centers have officers to organize activities and schedule regular meetings for devotional and education activities. Centers also develop many service activities to assist their local communities. There are also regional, national, and international activities organized along the same lines.
Many Sathya Sai Centers and websites have a distinct Hindu flavor. Is Sri Sathya Sai Baba primarily a Hindu teacher?
No. Sri Sathya Sai Baba was a universal teacher who lived and taught in India. But He clearly taught that all religions, races, and nationalities are welcome and represent the same humanity. In some countries where there is a preponderance of members of Indian background, there often is a Hindu, or Indian cultural tendency. Sri Sathya Sai Baba taught that Sai Centers should reflect the cultures of the country in which they reside, but to also be open to all.
As mentioned above, Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said
I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause; nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation to Love.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 08, Discourse 22, July 04, 1968
I attended a Sri Sathya Sai Center where there were only people of Asian Indian ethnicity. Is the SSSIO only for people of Asian Indian descent?
No. There are Sri Sathya Sai Centers in over 120 countries. Because Sri Sathya Sai Baba lived and taught in India, the Indian diaspora has brought knowledge of Baba to many countries around the world. There are many countries in which there are Centers with very few members of Indian origin.
Do I have to wear Indian clothes to attend a Sri Sathya Sai Center (sarees for women, whites for men)?
No, those who attend a Sri Sathya Sai Center are encouraged to wear modest clothing suitable for the culture in which they live and consistent with a spiritual atmosphere. Please consult with Center officers for specific information.
Do I have to follow a vegetarian diet to benefit from His teachings or to be a member of the SSSIO?
It is not necessary to be a vegetarian to be a member of the SSSIO; however, Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings reveal the spiritual and health benefits of a vegetarian diet, and Sri Sathya Sai Baba stressed that His followers should be vegetarian. If members become vegetarian, they do so through their own choice and their commitment to the spiritual principle of divinity present in all beings.
How should one respond to those who find old internet posts describing the SSSIO as a cult?
The SSSIO is not a cult and welcomes people of all faiths and encourages them to practice the religion of their choosing. There are no membership fees and members are encouraged to follow their own conscience to connect with their innate divinity. The universal, human values of truth (Sathya), righteousness (Dharma), Love (Prema), peace (Shanti), and non-violence (Ahimsa) fare the core teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and are common to all great religions of the world. Members are encouraged to serve society by serving needy people in their communities with love and compassion and believe that service to man is service to God.
The SSSIO has many service projects which require funds to be successful, such as schools, hospitals, medical clinics, feeding the poor. Is it true there is no solicitation of money in the SSSIO?
There is no public solicitation of funds. The various projects undertaken by the SSSIO are undertaken with funds offered voluntarily by individual members. For example, if a local Sai Center wishes to initiate a project, all the members are informed of the opportunity to participate in the project. If the project is still short of funds, the officers may decide to cover the balance themselves. Projects are started only if there are sufficient resources to carry them out with no pressure or obligation placed on members. Officers personally cover their expenses and travel costs.
Can I donate to SSSIO projects?
Yes, if your motive to donate is solely to benefit those being served by the project, anyone may donate. To donate to Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation for supporting international projects, please see here: https://www.sathyasai.org/about-us/organisation/ssswf. For further guidance, please contact your local Sri Sathya Sai Center or an officer in the SSSIO.
Some Sathya Sai Centers offer classes in learning the Rudram, a Vedic chant. Why should we learn the Rudram?
All the Vedas are intent on helping man to become aware of Divinity in him and all around him. Picture for yourselves the peace that seers gained by that awareness, and yearn to learn the lessons the Vedas treasure, for all mankind irrespective of caste, creed, race or nationality.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 15, Discourse 48, October 20, 1982 - Dasara, Avatar Day
Vedas are infinite, but it can be summarized as Brahma Sathyam (God alone is true), Jagat Mithya (the world is illusionary), Jivo Brahmaiva Na Parah (we the embodied beings, we are nothing but divine). The goal and purpose of human life is to realize and manifest our innate divinity, see the same divinity in the whole of the creation and also help others realize the same truth.
Sri Rudram or Rudraprashna or Rudropanishad is a very important part of the Krishna Yajur Veda. The heart of the Vedas is the Yajur Veda, and the heart of the Yajur Veda is Krishna Yajur Veda, the heart of which is Sri Rudram, which has 11 Anuvakas in Namakam and 11 Anuvakas in Chamakam.
Veda chanting benefits us the most if we chant with conviction. If we chant it with devotion, correct intonation, and sincerity it will benefit us. Vedas are time-tested and proven as people have chanted these scared mantras for thousands of years. By contemplating, we will get results. Secondly, one must know the meaning of the mantras in order for it to sink into one’s heart for added benefit. Finally, one must endeavor to practice it in daily life for optimum benefit and eventually it will become a part of us.
More details can be found in https://sathyasai.org/festival/mahasivarathri (Message of Sri Ru-dram)
What are the official Organizations of Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
- Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) which operates around the world in over 120 countries to spread the message and love of Bhagawan and carry out humanitarian work to serve the needy.
- Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of India (SSSSO) which is charged with spreading Swami’s message and do various service activities helping the needy in India.
- Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSSCT) which carries out the administrative activities related to Prasanthi Nilayam, and various educational institutes and medical institutions founded in India.
What is the structure of the SSSIO?
The Prasanthi Council was formed by Swami in 2003 for the administration of the SSSIO.
Subsequently the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation (SSSWF) was formed as per divine directive in 2006. The announcement was published in the March 2006 Sanathana Sarathi: “By the divine command of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation will henceforth assume responsibility for the governance of all functions of the SSSIO. The foundation will work together with the Prasanthi Council to accomplish the administration of these Organizations.” The SSSWF is registered as a 501(c)(3) public charitable foundation in California, USA. It supports the humanitarian relief projects and other works of the SSSIO around the world.
The Charter and Guidelines of the SSSIO were developed under the personal guidance of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The SSSIO has been expanding the divine mission of Bhagawan since the inception, and selflessly serving its officers, members, and the public around the globe.
Please read more regarding SSSIO structure at https://www.sathyasai.org/about-us/organisation
Why do some people give up the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization?
Out of more than 7.8 billion people on earth, only a small percentage have spiritual inclinations to search for the Truth and know God. Out of them, a fortunate handful are called by Sri Sathya Sai Baba to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. He has said that He has been preparing us to serve Him for many lifetimes and those who serve Him selflessly, with love and devotion, will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death – not only them, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will also be liberated. He exhorted us to consider the Organization as our very life-breath.
But Baba has warned us that when the ego descends, His work stops. It is unfortunate that a handful of people leave the Organization. We should never be so unfortunate.
This question was addresses by Dr. Narendranath Reddy during a talk and it appears in the video below:
I have heard of another Sai Baba in Muddenahalli. Is this the passing of the torch from Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
No. Please go to the SSSIO official website and go to News and Announcements to download the official joint statement by the SSSIO, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, and the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization of India regarding Muddenahalli: https://www.sathyasai.org/announcements/sssct/2019-joint-statement
Why is service an important part of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teaching and the SSSIO?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that we are all embodiments of divine love. One of the paths to experience this is by doing selfless service. In doing this, one experiences the joy of helping, and the heart is filled with love and bliss. The service done maybe a small one but when it is done with a large heart, it can yield great results.
The goal of the SSSIO is to help people transform spiritually and realize that they are part of the divinity of the universe. Providing selfless service enables the doer to recognize the divinity in all.
Whatever talent a person has, should be dedicated to the service of the rest of humanity – indeed, to all living things. Therein lies fulfillment…. Service to man is service to God, for He is in every man and every living being, in every stone and stump. Offer your talents at the feet of God. Let every act be a flower, free from the creeping worms of envy and egoism and full of the fragrance of love and sacrifice.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 04, Discourse 43, December 05, 1964
Man should in the first place realize the truth that He has been endowed with the human body not for seeking His selfish ends but for service to others. The wealth one possesses, the scientific skill one acquires, and the medical knowledge one obtains, are all secured from society. Since man has gained His wealth, knowledge, and expertise from society, He has to discharge this debt to society by doing some good in return.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 27, Discourse 04, January 23, 1994
How can I serve in SSSIO projects?
There are about two thousand Sri Sathya Sai Centers throughout the world. Each one has a service branch that coordinates the many activities that members provide to the community. Participation is open to all community members that agree with the SSSIO philosophy that loving service should be performed without expectation of any reward. The real benefit is trans-formation of our hearts and making us better people.
All acts of service done to others are to be treated as service rendered to God.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 27, Discourse 04, January 23, 1994
How do I find a Sri Sathya Sai Center?
Please go to sathyasai.org. Look for Zone and Country websites box near the bottom of the home page.
I am part of a church and am interested in service. Can I also participate in service projects with the local SSSIO center?
Yes. Sai service activities are open to all who want to participate. A main motto for the SSSIO is “Love All, Serve All.” All activities and participants must follow the precept that the activities are non-discriminatory and are free to recipients. Service activities are not intended to promote any organization or to recruit members.
During a service activity, how do I introduce myself to people being served? How does the organization introduce itself to the community regarding its service activities?
The SSSIO is an international organization with members who have been inspired by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has inspired the members to see that serving their fellow men and women helps them to expand the spark of divinity that is inherent in each person. We can introduce ourselves as a member of the SSSIO whose goal in service is to help others and help improve our community by providing loving service to those in need. By helping others, we are really helping uplift ourselves spiritually and thus we feel better about ourselves and our community.
How can one apply Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings to better handle criticisms and challenges in everyday life?
This question was addressed by Dr. Narendranath Reddy during a talk and it appears in the video below: