Spiritual Facets of Integrated Rural Development: Sri Sathya Sai Perspective

Sri Sathya Sai supervising a construction project
People who are engaged in rural development work should depend on Divine grace besides self-effort. People should have a pure heart and strive for selflessness. The very purpose of modern organisations (which are made up of people) is to recognise the Divine principle that is present in everybody. For this, an individual should concentrate on the spiritual heart on the right side and not on the physical heart on the left side, which may become dysfunctional anytime (without any prior notice). People engaging in rural development should not regard their work as a matter of philanthropy (benevolence or generosity), but consider it as an obligation unto them. The reason is that the same soul is present in divergent physical entities (Ekoham Bahusyaam). People engaged in rural development work should cultivate this Atmic outlook, which is very important to create the dedication and commitment among the rural people for the overall progress of their own villages. People should therefore implore for Divine Grace, which can be secured only through devotion to God.

People engaged in service activities in rural areas in India may also face some obstacles in the form of allurements and resistance (on account of disbelief) from local people. Since the attention of all people will be in the direction of youth engaged in service activities, they have to be extra cautious about their conduct. In one’s youth, one may get bad thoughts due to the monkey mind. One should not be shaken by such bad thoughts. One should sit in a quiet place and repeat to oneself very firmly, “I am not a monkey, I am a man”, ten times. By doing this all the bad thoughts would vanish and one will also develop Self-confidence. If one gets angry, one should repeat, “I am not a street dog, I am a man” with conviction. A street dog gets angry very fast even for the slightest provocation, which barks even at its own shadow. Keeping this in mind, one should not waste even a minute but should be preoccupied with some productive and motivating work. If we are idle at any point of time, the evil/bad thoughts will sneak into our mind. So, one should never be idle. Balance is very important in life. Good thoughts, good looks (means being able to look at the phenomenal world in a dispassionate manner without any crooked intentions), good speech and good actions lend balance to one’s own personality, whereas bad thoughts, bad looks, bad speech, and bad actions lead to imbalance. A bird flaps its wings at the time of its take-off and once it is air borne it spreads its wings and maintains the balance.
Sri Sathya Sai serving the villagers around Puttaparthi during the Narayana Seva at Prasanthi Nilayam in 1950s
A human being in reality has taken birth for service, and to sacrifice for others, and not for looking up to comforts in one’s life alone. The most important of all the five elements today is Praana (life), and not wallet (money container). ‘Krishna Tulabhaaram’ wherein one of the wives of Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, tried to weigh Him against gold and jewels but in vain, demonstrated this principle. Later the Divine consort, Rukmini, put the Tulsi (basil) leaf on the scale chanting the Divine name of Krishna with humility and devotion and that tilted the scales on the side bearing the basil leaf.

Youth should cultivate the spirit of self-surrender. Youth should go to villages and identify the needs and problems of villagers and serve them honestly and sincerely to satisfy their wants. If people purify their hearts, they begin to empathise while seeing the problems of helpless people. This motivates them to undertake service activities that benefit the poor and the needy. Such selfless, dedicated, dynamic and hardworking youth become role models for innocent villagers. People engaged in rural development should be free from jealousy, hatred and anger so that love germinates in their hearts. As a result, they become sensitive to the problems of rural people and respond to their demands with genuine concern.

Source: Values-Oriented Rural Development, Chapter 2, Man Management: A Values-Based Management Perspective 

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