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Seva

by Venkatachalam Srinivasan

SEVA SADHANA -1+2

In one of the group interviews, in which I had the chance to be in, Swami beautifully analyzed the theory of 'papam' (sins) and 'punyam' (merits). In fact I searched for an equal word in English for the word 'Punya' and I had settle with 'merit')

Swami says: God has bestowed on the humanity, three special faculties which is not given to any other living beings. They are, (1) The power of thinking, (2) the power of speech, and (3) the power performing. These three faculties, (called 'THRI KARANA), THE THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED, SHOULD FUNCTION IN UNISON IN ONE'S LIFE. Manas Ekam, Vachas Ekam, Karmnaya ekam is called 'Thri Kareana Sudhi'. Swami advises that one should say only what he thinks and do only what he says. Then the life will be blissful without any blemish and will attract divine grace. These special faculties should be used by us with utmost care and to the best use of the society, wherever we live.

Now,. What is a sin (Papa)? If we cause any harm to any body, by the use of any one of these special faculties, then it is a sin. We should not even think bad about others, or utter anything which may cause unhappiness to others and act in the way which causes harm to others. As such, bad thoughts, unpleasant words and harmful acts, corrupt the 'Thri Karna;'

Contrarily, by the use of these three faculties, if some benefit results to others, other than you or your relatives, then it becomes a merit (Punya). It earns you the Grace of Lord.

We are suffering in life because of accumulated 'Papas' (sins) committed either in earlier births or in this life. It is always carried forward, life after life unless and until the accumulations are liquidated. Likewise some enjoy the fruit of their good acts earned during this life and also the previous births. One goes on enjoying its fruit till the accumulated 'punya' is in balance. This also gets consumed gradually.

We often say that we are suffering because of bad karmas. Suffering is karma bound. The result of bad action (sins) are known as bad karma. No body can escape from such bad karmas and we have to endure the effects. There is only one way to come out of the bad karma which is like a negative mark earned by us. It is always in minus. We have to earn enough plus marks by practicing Sath Karma (pious deeds) and gradually reduce the minus marks. A constant practice of sath karma, helps to bring down the negative (i.e.. minus marks) slowly to the level of zero, and then the further continuing efforts (sadhana) put you on the positive side of plus marks. This has to be a constant endeavor. When you think good for somebody, or give benefits to somebody at least by your words, or your action, then plus marks accrues. Even if we curse or think evil of somebody, there is minus accrual. Therefore, we have to be careful and cautious in our thought, word and deed.

When we find somebody, known or unknown, friend or foe, undergoing sufferings, we should not feel unconcerned about it. On the contrary, if you pray form him, think good of him, it would earn plus points. Likewise, we can also attempt to do some good to others by our by our mere spoken words. For example, you find somebody remaining unemployed for a very long period and he is in distress. By our mere 'spoken' words, we can recommend him to someone known to you and help him to get a job, and thereby his earning. This also gets you merits.

We can, by our action, engage ourselves constantly in selfless service to the society which is the highest level of Seva Sadhana, paving the way for your good virtue. We may have our own problems in our houses. We may be busy in our work places. But still, it is desirable to allot a few hours for seva every week. Sri Sathya Sai seva Organisations helps devotees to channelise their energy and work together in offering seva.

Swami says, "Recognize the divinity in all living beings and offer seva, and this seva becomes holier than the worship of the Lord. When service is offered, blended with spiritual practices, it becomes the highest form of yoga- the seva yoga, which is higher than any other yoga, and it bestows the Grace, and leads you to liberation."

In performing seva, the spiritual practices also become important, according to Swami. There are various organisations, offering service to society, and they do it, perhaps, on a much larger scale. But what is missing in their effort is the spiritual base in the thought, word and deed. We can undertake seva even in a small way, within our capacity, but backed by spiritual practices, with underlying feeling that seva we are doing is an attempt to please the Lord. Then we do not look for the fruit of seva. Your only intention is to please the Lord, and this feeling in turn takes you step by step towards liberation. Swami further explained this, by another beautiful example, as to how spiritualism and seva are to be blended. Swami said: "We wash our clothes to remove the dirt from it. What do we do? We mix the detergent in the water and then use the solution for washing. You can consider the detergent as seva and the water as spirituality. In case you try to wash the clothes only in the water, i.e., spirituality, it will not derive the desired result. Likewise, a dry soap or detergent powder cannot be used for removing the dirt. We need both water and detergent to achieve the result. So, when you expect the Grace of God, and a way for liberation, we have to undertake seva with spiritual practices."

This is the basic philosophy of Sai, as I understand it. He urges us to do seva, but first step is to evolve ourselves into spiritual beings. Even in the 9-point code of conduct, the very first step insisted by Swami, is to do pooja, prayers and meditation every day morning. Next we should attend Bhajans, Nagar Sankeertans etc. arranged by the organisation. It is also necessary that all family members should join together and conduct Bhajan in our own homes. Other rules are also mentioned such as 'Narayana Seva', i.e., feeding the poor, attending to our character building etc. We have to show our earnestness and while we initiate the first few spiritual practices, then Swami will take further steps towards us to make us full. Sathsang, and reading of Sai literature will also help to imbibe spiritual knowledge and practice. With such a spiritual back up, if we offer any service, however small it may be, it becomes the highest form of yoga and worship. There is a risk of 'ego' rearing its monstrous head, when you are constantly engaged in service activities. We have to be very watchful and alert. We should feel humble when we are engaged in activity. We have only duties to perform; we have no rights and certainly no rights for fruits of action. It is not accepted by Swami if we 'talk' about the service we offer. Without expecting the fruits of action, we should only perform and move on.

SEVA SADHANA-3

Whenever mass community work is undertaken, the devotees normally sing bhajans. We should follow this practice and engage in nama smarana even while we are busy with domestic work. Remember the name always and do our sadhana. Swami had declared what will please Him the most. He says that when other people in general are happy by your service, Swami will also be happy. As such we should try to make other people happy by our devoted seva and then Swami is happy. The Divine Grace flows unto us automatically.

I wish to recall a petty event to illustrate how we can bring happiness to fellow citizen. Some years ago, I was trying to cross a main road, in Madras city. On this point, the road takes a steep rise approaching a bridge. I noticed an old cart man who was pulling a handcart. His legs were slipping, unable to move the cart due to heavy load and gradient. Impulsively, I moved over and started pushing the cart from behind. The cart man felt the relief in pulling the load over the gradient road. He was surprised and looked back. His eyes were sparkling with gratitude. After helping him out to reach the steep road, I walked off. He stopped and was looking back to spot me, apparently to thank me. I did not give him that chance. I was lost for him having mixed in the city crowd. I saw the smile on His face and I believed that itself was the best reward.

During the years of Sai Seva, I had tried to follow the above principles, and guidance provided by Swami Himself. At times, nay many times, there could be many hurdles in the way while attending to certain assignments given to us. But when we surrender everything to Him, and then engage in seva, He is there to remove all the hurdles and we can experience the signs of His Grace. Very often, the most difficult jobs, which make us think that we are up against a blank wall, are tackled beyond our expectations and the bliss we derive out of it is beyond all expressions. We come to know very well that but for His Grace and intervention the job could not have been accomplished. By this way, we experience Swami through and through, and this realization brings us more and more joy. This has been my personal experience several times.

Swami has referred to three methods and attitudes which characterize one's performance of duty. "Duty with Love is Desirable; Duty without Love is deplorable; and "Love without Duty is Divine." Swami often stresses the importance of performing selfless seva; It is sheer Love, without duty, which is supreme.

We should understand that it is not for the sake of Swami that we are engaging ourselves in seva. We should not give shelter to the feeling that by our seva, somebody is getting the benefit. Swami says, that the devotee engaged in seva, is himself benefited by this act. We should cheerfully undertake seva without any selfish or other motives and prompting. Seva is done out of our own inner urge and having done it, we should leave the matter at that. Grace will accrue on its own.

SEVA SADHANA -4

Previous posting: ………..We should cheerfully undertake seva without any selfish or other motives and prompting. Seva is done out of our own inner urge and having done it, we should leave it at that. Grace will accrue on it's own

It was illustrated with a beautiful and imaginary example:

Suppose that a group of us are proceeding on a pilgrimage by a special bus. On the way, all the passengers alight in front of a hotel for having lunch. After finish the lunch, you are making payment at the cash counter. You then you notice a beggar sitting outside. You pay extra cash to the cashier and ask him to give food to that beggar and go the bus and occupy your seat. In case you had told the beggar that you had paid enough money to the cashier and that he would give you food, the net benefit out of this charity is lost. Since you did not utter a single word about this to the beggar, the message of your action is moving upwards to God. At this time, you should forget the whole episode of your charity and carry on with out travel. Sooner the Lord will take notice of it. Suppose you could not contain your mind. A fellow devotee is sitting next to your seat. You open your mouth and tell him that you had just asked the cashier of the hotel to feed the beggar and had paid for it. You felt that you had done a great charity that day. But the moment you uttered these words to your friend, the message comes down and does not reach God and you may not get any benefit out of your charity. More than doing a seva, it is important to keep the action within ourselves and offer the same to the Lord, instead of speaking about it. When you speak about it, you are availing the fruit of your action by trying to get recognition of the seva. This is the true SERVICE WITHOUT DUTY.

It is not a question of how big a seva you have done. God is only looking for the quality, not only in the work, but also in the mind when you engage yourselves in service. When we get chance to do the individual seva, we should keep it within ourselves. When we are given a chance to work in the organization, we should understand that we are only a tool and that we should feel happy to have got the chance. Our only duty is to engage in the activity to the best of our ability as per instructions of the leaders in the organization. Another important factor which we should remember is that, we should subject ourselves to the discipline of the organization. "Devotion, Duty and Discipline". These three are the basic norms emphasized very often by Bhagavan.

If only we could follow the dictums and engage ourselves in selfless service, God's Grace will automatically come to us. Let us offer the fruits of our action all Sadhana and service, at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan Baba.

SEVA SADHANA-5

Rewarding Experiences

It is indeed a blessing chance to work as Seva Dal, in Madras city, where there are ample chances for integrated group activities. Excellent leadership and innovative ideas provide great opportunities here. I wish to share some of my experiences, so that it may help motivate my dear brothers and sisters in SaiNet.

I moved over to Madras, (previously I was in Bombay) in the year 1982. Those days the main thrust in service activities, (even to day), are in the sphere of Health and Hygiene. Several medical camps were being organized by the Madras center in addition to the weekly free medical clinics run by it, in several locations. Such medical camps included free eye camps for cataract operation, Dental camps, Pediatric camps, Geriatric camp and Polio surgical camps.

When I started participating in the above medical camps, it was totally a new experience for me. I could never imagine that there could be so much scope for sevadal volunteers in medical camps. A lot of preparations had to be undertaken by the volunteers. First of all, the message about the camp had to be reached to the poor and the needy who lived in city slums. I joined the other senior volunteers and visited the slums and the news conveyed house to house. We even identified the possible patients for each camp. On the day of the camp, the patients have to be received and registered. The attitudes and expectations of the patients were of different kinds and each one needed care and attention till his r her turn came. The role of the volunteers during the operation and post operation stage was also very important. The duties included assistance to the patients in answering call of nature, providing sponge bath etc. The volunteers had also to handle all the para-medical works including dispensing of medicines, in which there are trained hands.

In one of the eye camps, in which I participated for the first time, I witnessed such selfless service by others. The patients operated for cataract were very old and poor, with differing demands and needs. During night hours, if we switch on fans, some would call out and order us to switch off. Other would insist on having fans. The volunteers who were posted on 3-shift basis, were seen fanning the patients individually by hand fans. Even in the middle of the night, when somebody wanted to pass urine, the volunteers would hold out pans and carry it to the bathroom. The seva made them love the patients and do anything possible for their comforts. They had been trained in that way. Highly motivated souls indeed!

There was the other Polio surgical camp. We were struck by the huge gathering of the parents carrying their polio afflicted children to the camp. The camp did suffer a limitation in reaching the maximum level of perfection since almost all cases needed surgical correction. These were operations in mass scale, and as such all patients could not be accommodated.

The selected children were admitted into the make shift wards. The first duty of the volunteers was to carry the children to bathrooms and give them a good bat. The volunteers had to prepare the children carefully for the surgery. The nails had to be trimmed and hair shampooed before they were wheeled into their wards. As the in the case of elders, the children were also very difficult to handle, especially so when they were in severe pain after the surgery. It needed lot of love and care in looking after the children.

One has to participate in such a seva to experience the joy and mental satisfaction flowing from it.

SEVA SADHANA - 6

Rewarding Experiences

We had a seva dal leader, named Mr. G.Venkatesan who inspired us and extracted maximum out put from our loving seva activities. A bout three years back, both of us visited Prashanthi Nilayam on some important assignment. Having finished the job, we were preparing to return to Madras, and we informed the Secretary of the Central Trust about our return plan. The same evening, he told us that he had informed Swami about our return and also had obtained permission from Swami to sit us in the front line, during the next morning darshan. I was very much thrilled to know that we were to sit in the front row with Divine Permission.

We were staying in Private Lodge in Chitravathi Road. Early next morning we got up and finished our early morning bath and were getting dressed. I found my friend trying to wear the same shirt and pant which he was wearing the previous day. I made comment. I told him that since Swami had permitted us to sit in the front line, we should dress neatly like a bridegroom (in Tamil language 'Mappilai). My friend replied that he is a Pillai, i.e., son of Swami and I could dress as a Mappilai (bridegroom) if I so wished. We terminated our dialogue at that, and proceeded towards Mandir for Darshan. We were ushered into the front line. There was not much time left for Swami to make His appearance.All our eyes were glued towards Poornachandra Auditorium to have the first glimpse of Bhagavan.. Swami moving towards gents, slowly reached the place where we were sitting, and stood in front of us, just about two feet away. Swami was looking at me with His Divine charming smile, and then He uttered: "Emi Pellikkodukku?" I could not understand Telugu Language and hence I could not make out anything. Like an innocent fool, I was also smiling back at Swami. Swami continued to smile at me for another few seconds and then moved away from us.

Swami had entered the interview room with chosen devotees, and then the music stopped. I was excited to know what was the meaning of Swami's words. My friend Mr. Venkatesan who speaks Telugu, explained that Swami was asking me if I was the bridegroom. "Pellikodukku' means the bridegroom. He further told that Swami was only trying to prove that he was with us in the Lodge with us in the Lodge when we were discussing about the dress.

We all know that Swami is Anthariyami and also Omnipresent. And yet, when we get a confirmation through our direct experience we feel very happy. I felt immensely more happy by Swami's remarks than by getting any possible Pada Namaskar.

May Swami bless us all.

Sai Ram.

Bombay Srinivasan