Thursday, January 7, 1988 to Saturday, January 9, 1988
Sri Sathya Sai Dharma Prachar Parishad launched in January 1987, celebrated its first anniversary at Prashanti Nilayam from the 7th to the 9th of January 1988. Bhagavan blessed the celebrations with His Discourses in the Poornachandra Auditorium on all 3 days of the function and sang Bhajans at the end of the Discourses. Swami Bhoomananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Swami Sachidananda, Swami Bhaskarananda and Sri V. K. Narasimhan addressed the conference. During the Inaugural Discourse on 7th January, Swami expounded on the meaning of Dharma, how it should be propagated and practiced. He said:
“The term Dharma is derived from the root 'Dhr'. Dhaarani means that which binds the universe in unison through Dharma (righteousness). ‘Dharmo Vishwasya Jagatah Pratishtha’ (It is righteousness which upholds the universe). ‘Dharme Sarvam Pratishthitam’ (Everything abides in righteousness). The presence of this Dharma cannot be established by sense of perception or through inferential deduction. It transcends the canons of logic. Its existence has to be derived from the Vedas (the authority of revealed scriptural testimony).
What is Veda? ‘Vetthyanena iti Vedah’ (Veda is that which enlightens or expounds fully a subject or matter). For instance, Dhanur Veda expounds the science of archery. Natya Veda is the treatise on Dance. Sama Veda is the science of spiritual music. Ayur Veda is the science of life and medicine. The prefix figuring before the term Veda indicates the type of science that is dealt with in that particular Veda.
Actions to be performed in daily life
Dharma (Righteousness) and Moksha (Liberation) are transcendental---beyond the intellect and sense perceptions. How can the Vedas throw light on Dharma and Moksha, which are beyond the reach of the senses? They can do so only by indicating the Yajnas and Yagas (sacrificial rites and rituals) that constitute the spiritual exercises leading to Dharma and Moksha. Even the Vedas are not competent to provide direct access to Dharma and Moksha. That is why the Vedas have declared: ‘Na Karmana, Na Prajaya Dhanena Tyagenaike Amrutatvamaanasuh’ (Not by meritorious deeds, progeny or wealth can immortality be attained. It can be experienced only through renunciation). But the Vedas show that through good deeds and practices, one can acquire the competence to realise Dharma and Moksha.
The Emperor Manu coined a special term to describe the significance of the Vedas as the scriptures prescribing the spiritual and worldly actions to be performed by men. He gave the name Vidhana to all the actions to be performed in daily life to direct mankind in the path of truth. At the present day, in the Kali Yuga, the term Vidhana has been associated with legislative bodies. Vidhana means that which lays down the law. Because the proper significance of the term has not been understood, mankind has gone astray.
Dharma is a term which is all embracing. The whole universe is bound by it. What is the need, it may be asked, for propagating Dharma when it encompasses everything. The reason is that, though Dharma is present everywhere, it is covered by ignorance and pride, like fire that is covered by ashes or water by moss. These coveting elements have to be removed so that the true nature of Dharma may be revealed to the world. Dharma Prachar (the propagation of Dharma) is needed only for this purpose.
Dharma Prachar and Practice
Propagation of Dharma does not mean spreading knowledge about something that is not known. Its basic purpose is to promote the practice of Dharma. Only those who practice Dharma are qualified to propagate it. It is because Dharma and Sathya have not been propagated by persons practising them that they have been eclipsed, as it were, and are not perceivable. It is only when they are practised in daily life that their true nature and value will be realised.
A man is judged by the nature of his actions. If his actions are good, he is described as a good man. If his actions are bad, he is described as a wicked person. One's qualities and actions are interdependent. Actions reveal qualities and qualities determine actions. Hence, everyone should strive to reform himself by developing good qualities. Swami Ramakrishnananda (who has spoken earlier) asked what good has been derived by persons who had been listening to spiritual discourses for years and who had been living in the ashram for a long time. Unless an effort is made to put into practice at least a few of the teachings, all these exercises are futile. Qualities like Kshama (forbearance), Daya (compassion), truth, love and sympathy are not associated with any particular nation, faith or community. They are spiritual qualities and are essential for people anywhere, at all times.
Four Types of Purity
Among the qualities a man has to develop if he is to realise his divinity, the foremost is Kshama – forbearance or forgiveness. It is essential for every human being. It is supreme among virtues. Kshama is Truth, Righteousness, Sympathy, Non-violence and all else. Kshama comprehends every quality. How is Kshama to be acquired? It is acquired by practising four kinds of purity:
1. Dravya Soucham (purity of materials);
2. Maanasika Soucham (purity of mind);
3. Vaak Soucham (purity in speech);
4. Kriya Soucham (purity in action or purity of body).
Dravya Soucham (Purity of materials): This covers all things used by a person--from clothes, food and cooking utensils to houses--and all the varied things used by a person. Everything that is in daily use should be completely pure.
Manasika Soucham (Purity of the mind): This calls for total elimination of attachments and aversions from the mind. Hatred and envy should have no place. One should cultivate the large-heartedness to return good for evil and not to cause pain to anyone in any circumstance. This is a mark of a pure mind. Today people are filled with hatred and envy. They cannot bear to see others happy or prosperous. This is a sign of a polluted mind. Men with evil minds develop demoniac traits. To be truly human, one has to have a pure, unsullied mind. He has to recognise that the same divinity is present in everyone. He should realise that the pure spirit that dwells in him and the power that animates him are present equally in every human being. One who is conscious of this unity will have an untrammelled mind.
Vaak Soucham (Purity of speech): This means that one must speak the truth. He must be sweet and pleasant in speech and avoid using harsh words. Excessive talking should be avoided. Purity in speech implies avoidance of falsehood, garrulousness, abusive language, slanderous gossip and speech which causes pain to others. Today there is very little purity of speech. Bad thoughts and bad words are the order of the day. A vile tongue fouls the mind and dehumanises man.
Shareera Soucham (Purity of the body): The body has to be purified by performing Aachamana with water (this ritual involves uttering the names of the Lord thrice and drinking three spoonfuls of water from the palm). When these four kinds of purity are practised, the quality of Kshama develops to some extent.”
On January 8th, Swami clarified the real purpose of the System of Varnas as practiced since ancient times. He dispelled doubts regarding all its misinterpretations. He said:
“As the universe is constituted by the three Gunas (Tamas, Rajas and Satwa) and is permeated by them, the first stage in spiritual Sadhana is to put to an end the Tamasic quality. The Tamo Guna is characterised by Murkhatvam (foolish obstinacy). A Tamasic person lacks intelligence and is inclined to indulge in meaningless questioning and argumentation. It is essential to get rid of such tendencies. Every issue should be deeply studied and the conclusions should be digested. Only then will the experience be rewarding. Endless verbal debates over every trivial matter should be avoided. Such controversies result only in provoking bitterness instead of harmony They do not serve to reveal the truth. The Tamasic person is incapable of perceiving the truth and cannot realise the Divine. He will be caught in an endless cycle of birth and death.
The person with Rajo Guna is one who is excessively happy when he gets what he desires. His ego gets inflated thereby. When his desires are not fulfilled, he develops hatred. Thus, for the Rajasic person, whether the desires are fulfilled or not, the effects are not good. He is consumed by anger and bitterness. Rajasic qualities make a person hot-blooded and hot-tempered. The third quality is Satwa. Even this results in a form of bondage. It becomes a redeeming quality when all pure and meritorious actions are done as an offering to the Divine.
The three Gunas are represented by different colours. Tamas is depicted in black. It symbolises darkness and ignorance. The Rajo Guna, which rouses anger and hatred in a person, excites his blood and turns his eyes red, is represented by the red colour. The Satwa Guna which is characterised by purity and dedication, is represented by the white colour.
Everyone in the world is the creature of one or the other of these three gunas. One's actions are based on these Gunas. The Varnas (categorisation of men under different types) in the Gita has been made on the basis of their Gunakarma Vibhaagashah (Respective qualities and actions). At birth every person is ignorant. When he dies he should die as a Jnani (a man who has perceived the truth). Likewise everyone is a Sudra at birth. This means he is an Ajnani (ignorant person). But when he dies he should die as a Brahmana (Ajnani, who has realised Brahman).
No high or low among the Varnas
It is on this basis that the four Varnas (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra) had come into existence. Those with predominantly Tamasic qualities comprise one group. Those who are prone to excitement and anger form another category. And those who are inclined to renounce everything and who are pure in thought, word and deed, form a third group. The ignorant and dull-witted were described as Sudras. The excitable, the courageous and the high spirited were described as the Kshatriyas. Those who were devoted to God and led a pure and sanctified life were described as Brahmanas. These categories were associated with qualifies and actions. Straying from this basic truth, the social system took a wrong turn. The result is that today society is riven by innumerable divisions and conflicts. Actually among the Varnas (groups), one cannot be called high and another low. For instance, Sage Vyasa classified the single corpus of the Vedas into four different collections. Among the four, can one be ranked higher than another? All have equal status and authority, are equally sacred and preach the same path of righteousness. Likewise, when men are classified according to their qualities and vocations, one category cannot be regarded as superior to another. No one is competent to determine such ranking. It is through narrow-minded interpretations that such distinctions and divisions have been made to the detriment of social harmony and progress.
Birth alone is not the basis of Caste
The right to interpret the Shastras is given to the Brahmanas. But Brahmanas have been defined as those who have made a thorough study of the Shastras, who have no self-interest and who live up to Shastraic injunctions. Anyone may acquire these qualifications. They are not confined to any caste on the basis of birth. Only qualities and actions are determining factors and not birth. A Kshatriya is one who is prepared to lay down his life for his country. The nation's safety should mean more to him than the protection of his body. This attitude of sacrifice may be displayed by anyone and he should be regarded as a Kshatriya. All those engaged in agriculture have been described as Shudras. Everyone needs food. If food is not grown by the so called Shudras, the world will perish. The entire purpose of classifying people according to their qualifications and functions is to ensure that persons in each category carry on their duties with dedication. It is the failure to maintain the purity and sacredness of the system as envisaged by the Shastras that has resulted in indefensible divisions and social chaos.
All are children of God. He is the sole Lord of mankind. People may seem to differ in their names and forms and in their beliefs and practices. But the parent is One alone. Recognition of this basic truth of oneness is Brahma Jnana (Knowledge of the Absolute). This knowledge is not gained by studying the scriptures and holding metaphysical discussions. What has to be recognised is the truth that every being in the universe is an embodiment of the Supreme. Awareness of the unity that subsumes the diversity is the highest knowledge.
... Bharatiya culture is not the product of ephemeral efforts. Bharatiya Dharma is the embodiment of unchanging and eternal truth, unaffected by time, place or circumstance. Without realising this supreme truth, people are polluting their minds with conflicts of caste and creed. All religions have taught what is good and everyone should lead a righteous life based on this knowledge. If the minds are pure, how can any religion be bad? Let every Bharatiya take heed of this fact. Every effort should be made to purify the mind. All the religions are different paths, leading to one and the same destination. All devotees should experience this truth and live up to it in their daily lives, setting an example to the rest of the world. Their devotion should not be artificial. They should adhere to the right path, lead righteous lives and thereby experience enduring bliss. Only then will their spiritual effort be fruitful.
What use is there in meditation in which one counts the beads of a rosary while his thoughts are centred on some petty thing? Listen to the words of the wise, purify your thoughts and concentrate your mind on God. God can be installed only in a pure heart. The aim of all Sadhana should be to purify the heart. All the available time and opportunity should be utilised for this purpose. It should not be wasted in any way.”
During the Valedictory Discourse, Swami emphasised on using this rare human birth for a higher cause. He said:
“In spite of his precious birth as a human being, man leads a life worse than that of the animals. Animals are not consumed by envy. They do not take pride in their possessions. They have no bank balances and they have no monthly salaries. They live happily from moment to moment, content with whatever food and shelter they can get. As man's knowledge and skills have increased, his moral calibre has declined. Man has to discover the secret of good life. He has to realise that he has taken birth not for enjoyment of worldly pleasures but to realise his divine destiny by the cultivation of good qualities and by performing good actions. To indulge in demoniac actions while having the human form means degrading human nature.
Of what use are wealth and position if one has no peace of mind? A quiet conscience is man's brightest jewel. To achieve inner peace, desires have to be subdued and all thoughts should be centred on God. Engage yourselves in service activities in a spirit of dedication. Do not hanker after leadership. True service consists in helping the poor and the forlorn in the society with humility and dedication. This is mal service to the Divine. ‘Dil Mein Ram, Haath Mein Kaam’. (Rama in the heart and service with the hand). Prepare yourselves for serving the people with God in your hearts and strength in your arms!”