Beliefs and Practices in the Sathya Sai Organisation
Primary teachings are:
- Love - for all creatures.
- Service - to others.
- Put a ceiling on one's desires.
- The world is maya (illusion), only God is real.
- Every person is God in form, though most do not experience this as their reality.
- Meditation - Baba teaches two techniques, so ham (Upanishadic mantra for repetition and focus) and jyoti (Light meditation).
- Inclusive acceptance of all religions as paths to realizing the One (God).
- Ahimsa (non-violence), shanthi (peace), dharma (right conduct, living in accord with natural law), and sathya (truth).
Nine-Point Code of Conduct
Center members are expected to do their best to practice the Nine-Point Code of Conduct in order to be examples of Sathya Sai Baba's teachings:
1) Daily meditation and prayer (Jap).
2)Group devotional singing (bhajan) or prayer with family members once a week.
3) Participation in Sai Spiritual Education (Bal Vikas Programme) by children of the family.
4) Participation in community service work and other programs of the organization.
5) Regular attendance at the Center's devotional meetings (Bhajan or Nagar Sankirtan).
6) Regular study of Sathya Sai Baba literature.
7) The use of soft, loving speech with everyone.
8) Not speaking ill of others, especially in their absence.
9) Narayana Seva. Practice placing a ceiling on desires - consciously and continuously strive to eliminate the tendency to waste time, money, food and energy - and utilize the savings for service to mankind.
Sathya Sai Baba resides much of the time in his main ashram called Prashanthi Nilayam (Supreme Abode of Peace) at Puttaparthi, Andrah Pradesh, India. In the hot summer the guru leaves for his other ashram called Brindavan in Whitefield (sometimes called Kadugodi), a town on the outskirts of Bangalore.
He is regarded as an excellent orator in his native language Telugu. He claims to be the Kali Yuga purna avatar (full divine incarnation of this era) of Lord Shiva and Shakti. He says that he is omniscient, omnipotent, able to create matter from mere thought. He also stresses he is free from desires. He preaches love and the unity of all religions. Sai Baba claims to be pure divine love.
Baba asserts that he is an avatar of God, and a reincarnation of Lord Rama, of Sri Krishna, and of Shirdi Sai Baba. Many of his followers say that he is the primary avatar of our times. Many claim to have had awake-visions of him as various Gods and Goddesses. He has repeatedly claimed to be the actual reincarnation of Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Shakti and Vishvarupa.
Sai Baba has left India only once for a visit to Uganda in 1968. It was reported by two devotees, Dr. Patel and Dr. Gadhia, who lived there at the time that Sai Baba warned them to sell their belongings and leave the country. A few years later, Idi Amin pulled his coup and began his murderous rampage telling Asians they must leave the country. Dr. Gadhia, who had heeded Sai Baba's warning, sold all his belongings and escaped to London where he was able to start a new practise. Dr. Patel lost his property but was able to escape. Sathya Sai Baba was also seen speaking to natives in their mother tongue of Swahili.
Sathya Sai Baba can be seen in person performing what he claims are miracles daily in the form of materializations of small objects, for example jewelry such as bracelets, rings, watches, rosary beads and especially vibhuti (holy ash) and kum kum. He says that he can heal diseases of his devotees sometimes by his spiritual power and sometimes by taking on the disease himself. There is anecdotal evidence that supports this claim. Followers attribute many miracles to him which they have witnessed in his presence and in their own countries, such as spontaneous vibhuti manifestations on the pictures of the guru in their homes, and bilocation the appearance of Sai Baba in their own presence while he is also in another place. Followers also report that he has materialized out-of-season fruit several times. He says he performs these miracles to attract people and then to transform them spiritually. He gives little importance to his miracles and stresses Divine Love as being his greatest miracle.
He teaches a rather traditional but syncretic form of Hinduism that has come from many sects and movements including advaita, occasionally drawing from other religions like Buddhism, Sikhism, and Christianity. He claims to be a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, a spiritual leader who blended Islam and Hinduism in his teachings, and has a nominal Muslim following. The only real Christian influence can be felt in the institution of regular Sunday School sessions for devotees and the symbol of the cross on the Sarva Dharma Symbol of his organization. He says that he has come to restore faith in, and encourage the practice of the teachings in the Vedas, which stress unity among diversity.
One important practice in his ashrams is darshan (spiritual sight). During darshan Sathya Sai Baba walks among his followers. He may listen to a few chosen persons, accept letters, or materialize and distribute vibhuti (sacred ash). Sathya Sai Baba claims that his darshan has spiritual benefits for those who attend it. Usually people wait hours to get a good place for darshan. Sathya Sai Baba sometimes invites people for a group interview with him in a room in the 'ashram's 'mandir' (Hindu temple). Followers consider it a great privilege to get such an interview. Sometimes a person from this group is invited for a private interview.
Across the globe local Sathya Sai Baba groups assemble to sing bhajans (devotional songs that praise Jesus, Buddha, Krsna, Shiva, etc.), study Sathya Sai Baba's teachings, do collective community service (called seva), and teach Education in Human Values (Sai Sunday School). His followers generally do not proselytize. Bhajans are sung at nearly every meeting.
Sathya Sai Baba interacts with all people on a heart-to-heart basis. There are no intermediaries between himself and those who yearn for knowledge and experience of God. Every day for more than 50 years, Sathya Sai Baba has walked among and talked with the spiritual pilgrims who gather around him in increasing numbers. He offers solace and inspiration to all sincere seekers of truth.
Sathya Sai Baba places great importance on proper education for young people. Parents and community leaders are urged to concern themselves with the informal as well as the formal experiences to which their children and young adults are exposed.
He has established a model education system, which includes primary schools, secondary schools, and an accredited university with three campuses, offering undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees. No fees are charged (except for food charges) to students, and admission is open to all, regardless of race, religion, or economic condition.
In addition to emphasizing the pursuit of academic excellence, Sathya Sai Baba's system of "integral education" is designed to foster self-discipline and pro-social conduct. Students are required to take courses on morality and spirituality and to devote several hours each week to some form of community service. Sathya Sai Baba says that "the end of education is character".
Sathya Sai Baba has built an ultra-modern 300-bed hospital close to the university and ashram. Highly specialized operations, including open-heart operations and kidney transplants, are performed routinely. There is absolutely no charge to the patient for professional or hospital expenses (only charges incurred are for out-of-hospital medications). Motivated by the desire to serve humanity, doctors, nurses, and workers in the hospital render extraordinary, compassionate, and loving care to all patients.
Service to those in need. Recently, Sathya Sai Baba initiated a project to provide an adequate supply of pure water to 1.5 million inhabitants of the State of Andhra Pradesh (India) who were living in drought conditions. The Prime Minister of India traveled to Prasanthi Nilayam (Sathya Sai Baba's main ashram) in order to inaugurate the project. Sathya Sai Baba demonstrates that it is the duty of society to ensure that all people have access to the basic requirements for the sustenance of human life.