Sri Sathya Sai's Guru Poornima Message on 'Ceiling on Desires'

July 13-14, 1984

On Guru Poornima the 13th of July 1984, Bhagavan blessed the devotees with His Discourse in Poornachandra Auditorium at Prashanti Nilayam. He declared, “Like Rama and Krishna in earlier Yugas, I have come to carry out three Pratijnas (promises). Once I accept a devotee as ‘Mine’, I will not abandon him, come what may. I have come to give, not to receive. When I undertake anything for the good of the world, I will not give it up, come what may.”  He gave yet another Discourse to the devotees at Prashanti Nilayam on the 14th.

Bhagavan addressed the Office Bearers of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations from all over India in Prashanti Mandir on 14th July. Bhagavan in His Address explained the specific objective of the ‘Ceiling on Desires’ programme and clarified certain misconceptions related to the programme. Here are the excerpts:
"We have undertaken tasks of varying magnitudes and description. Before we embark on the execution of these programmes we have to ask ourselves three questions. One: for whose sake are we undertaking these programmes? Two: For what purpose? Three: How are we going to execute these programmes? These may be three different questions, but the answer is one. If we examine deeply, the answer to the first question is: "All for our own sake". The answer to the second is: "For our own happiness and joy." The answer to the third question is that "the results of our work will depend on what we do. If we do something good, the result will be good, if we do something bad, the result will be likewise."

In this world it is not possible to make use of anything without transforming it in one way or the other to make it useful. You cannot have rice for eating without converting paddy to rice grains and then cooking it. Similarly, you cannot have cloth without transforming cotton into yam and then weaving it into cloth. Similarly, a human being needs transformation in respect of three things: The first is bodily transformation; the second pertains to the mind; the third relates to the Atma. The Atma is changeless. It is only the body and the mind that require transformation. How does transformation take place? For instance, if we ask the question whether silver can become God or stone become God, the answer is 'YES'.

We are not aware of our internal impurities

When a sculptor converts a piece of rock into a beautiful idol to be worshipped in a shrine, what was inert and worthless becomes sacred. This is transformation. Similarly, an idol made out of silver becomes an object of worship. In the same manner, everything which is petty and worldly can be transformed in course of time into something sacred and divine. Such a transformation is necessary for man.

Take, for instance, the body. It is an entity which houses much that is bad and that is undesirable. Externally we take great care of the body through bathing and cleaning. We are aware of the external impurity and we try to get rid of it. But, are we aware of the internal impurities? How do we purify them? For this internal purification, we have to acquire sacred thoughts and do sacred deeds. We have the concepts of Jeeva (individual being) and Deva (God). Man is composed of the three Gunas (qualites), Sattva, Rajas, Tamas (serenity, restless activity, inactivity). As long as you are part of these Gunas, you are Jeeva. Once you transcend these three qualities you become Deva. The three Gunas are like the husk that covers the rice in the paddy. When you remove the husk it becomes the rice-grain. Whatever we do, whatever actions we undertake, if they were to be permeated with thoughts centred on God, they would become sacred. Today in our Seva (selfless service) activities, we do not have this lofty sense of dedication. We should get rid of the thought that Seva activities are being done for others. You should understand that they are being undertaken for your own sake and for your own betterment.

Four ways we should try to change ourselves

In Vedantic parlance this identification of yourself with others is called Maitri. In Seva activities you have to develop Maitri (friendliness). Another attitude you have to develop is Karuna (compassion). The third is called Mudita (contented) and the fourth is called Upeksha (indifferent to results). In all these four ways we should try to change ourselves and others.

What is Maitri? It is commonly equated with friendship. In the worldly sense this friendship is a mutual relationship. True friendship lies in regarding other people's comforts or joys or sorrows as your own. For instance we have an example in Ramayana in the relationship between Rama and Sugreeva. Their friendship was based on the fact that each could experience the suffering of the other as his own (Samana Avasta). The bond of friendship is drawn when there is ,a recognition of sharing of experiences common to both.

What is Karuna (compassion)? Seeing a person in distress and expressing verbally sympathy is not compassion. Compassion must express itself in action to relieve the suffering. Nor should you adopt an attitude of aloofness or indifference on the plea that each one is suffering for his own folly. Though suffering may be due to one's mistakes - mistakes to which everyone is prone - we should seek to remedy such suffering just as we try to get rid of our own suffering. Some people try to show off their sympathy by setting up charitable institutions like hospitals, etc.

True compassion should emanate from the heart. It should not find expression in outward manifestations which only reveal one's vanity. In the Sathya Sai Organisations there is no place for such demonstrations of vanity. Everything that is done to help the poor or the suffering should be based on the feelings coming from the heart and appealing to the hearts of those who are helped.

Next comes Mudita. This means acquiring peace of mind through cultivating equanimity in the experience of honour and dishonour, praise or calumny, loss or gain, joy or sorrow. These pairs of opposites should be regarded as things which come and go, like passing clouds. Every Sevak (volunteer) should develop such an equanimity of mind.

The fourth requisite is Upeksha. Apeksha (craving for the fruits) binds man. Upeksha (indifferent to results) frees man. Apeksha means involvement with the worldly concerns. Upeksha means getting rid of this involvement. Take the example of a pumpkin. A green pumpkin, when it is placed in water, it sinks. The pumpkin has plenty of water within it and when placed in water it sinks. The same pumpkin, when it is dried and has no water inside it, floats on water. What is the reason? In the first place the pumpkin has friendship for water and it makes water part of its own self. Similarly, when you are worldly yourself and you move in the world you are bound to it. When you free yourself from worldly attachments you go towards divinity and you are freed from bondage to the world. It is the process of "freeing yourself" that is called "Upeksha".

When you are tied to Kama you cannot get Rama

In the Ramayana, when Rama decided to go to the forest, Seeta wanted to accompany him and she gave away all her possessions. By giving up attachments to the possessions she could get Rama. But, when in the forest she developed a desire for the golden deer, she was separated from Rama. In the first place when she removed Kama (the desire for possessions) she became one with Rama. The meaning of this episode is, so long as you are tied to Kama, you cannot hope to get Rama or God.
This does not mean that you have to renounce the world. Living in this world as you are, you must strike a balance between worldly life and spiritual life. Man's life is like gold in its native state, associated with dirt, which is impure. It is impure in the initial stages. When you begin to purify your thoughts, speech and actions through seeking good contacts and cultivating noble ideas, you will be transforming yourself. This is the process of Upeksha.

More than Tapas (penance) Dhyana (meditation), service to others is the means by which one transforms oneself. In rendering service, you should be moved by genuine concern for those you serve. You should try to ascertain the cause of their suffering and try to remove it. Only then can you do Seva (selfless-service) properly. Momentary sympathy or charity or competing with others in exhibiting one's generosity is not true Seva. In rendering service if you try to do something which is beyond your capacity it is a sign of your ego. If you give less than what you can, then you are a thief (denying to others what is due to them). You must be discriminating in your service. You must regard service as a Sadhana (spiritual effort).

Do not do Seva to please others

You should believe that service is a path to God realisation. These activities are to be undertaken not for the sake of Sathya Sai or even for the sake of society. They are purely and essentially for your own sake. It is to transform your own lives that you undertake Seva. Through the medium of Seva you can reap the fruits of Japa and Dhyana. By making your fellow-beings happy you are making God Himself happy.
The Seva that you do, should not be done out of a sense of compulsion or to please others. It should be whole-hearted and spontaneous. In organising Seva activities do not attempt to compare one state with another. Because some states have taken up some work in some villages, you should not feel that you should do the same thing. Do whatever you feel is your duty and what is necessary for the areas in which you are working. Do it with all your heart without comparing yourself with others.

There is the programme connected with Ceiling on Desires. You must realise that this programme has not been launched to raise funds. The object of the programme is to prevent waste of money, time, food or other resources and to use all these for the welfare of the people. The money that is saved need not be kept for the Sathya Sai Organisations. It may be used in the best way you choose for the benefit of others. Do not waste time. Time wasted is life wasted. Time is God. Sanctify all the time at your disposal by undertaking seva activities in a pure and unselfish spirit.

Aims of the "Ceiling on Desires" programme

Today we waste time on unnecessary and unwanted things, in indulging in unnecessary talk and doing meaningless actions. In all these actions we are sacrificing the body to time. Instead we should try to make time our servant. It means spending our time in good thoughts and good deeds. Every second of your daily existence you must ask these questions "How am I utilizing time? Is it for a good or bad purpose?"

Likewise, with regard to food you must ask: "Am I just eating what I need or more? Am I wasting food?" So also with regard to money: "Am I using this money for my own selfish needs or for boosting my name and fame, or to satisfy my ego and vanity?" Once you start seeking answers to these questions, there is no greater Sadhana.

These are the aims of the Ceiling on Desires programme. It was never the purpose of this programme to collect money for the Sathya Sai Organisations. The object was to encourage you to share your money with others, to give you an opportunity to utilise your surplus resources for some good and noble purpose which will sanctify your life. 

Three types of strength are given to a person: physical strength, mental strength and the power of money. It has been said that all these should be offered as Yajna (sacrifice). This sacrifice is not offered to God. God, who has given you the body and the mind, does not need them for himself. God is also the source of all wealth. What does He want with your wealth? Use it for sacred purposes. The Seva programme is intended only to provide you with opportunities to make your lives sacred and worthwhile. It is to develop the spirit of sacrifice. 

Understand the basic purpose of all service activities
Hanuman on Rama's Mission
Was it beyond the power of Rama to discover Seeta in Lanka Himself? What need was there for Him to send Hanuman? Rama wanted Hanuman to go on the search, so that He could show to the world the devotion and steadfastness and faith of Hanuman. It is a case of Grace on the part of Rama. In the same manner, if Sai so much as wants to do so many things Himself, He could do anything. This endeavour is not for the sake of Sai. It is done through these Seva Organisations so that members of the organisation get the chance to do service and redeem themselves. Try to understand the basic truth that these avenues of service have been provided so that you will get good name for yourselves and not for the sake of Sai.

If people have any wrong notions about the service programme, endeavour to remove their doubts and explain the real purposes. For instance, some people say for the sake of the 60th Birthday Celebrations they have embarked on this project of Ceiling on Desires. This is a wrong notion. Tell these people it is not so. Sathya Sai does not need anything and He does not ask anything from you. Our idea is that we should undertake some development programme, so that the villages can get benefited. The idea is to save money that is now being wasted in one way or the other, so that it may be made available for doing something good. Above all, the basic purpose of all service activities is to effect a transformation from the state of man to the state of Divinity. Fill your hearts with that which is godly. Then there will be meaning to your volunteer service.”

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