Being and Seva
by Vijaya Rajiva on 05 Nov 2023 15 Comments

An Interpretation of Sri Satya Sai Baba’s Social Philosophy


Sri Satya Sai Baba’s Social Philosophy is premised on the Unity of Being which is expressed in three strands of Hinduism, the Vedic, the Upanishadic and Devotional. The Vedic strand expresses both the one Transcendent Being and the Immanent, the Upanishads express the unity of the Transcendent Brahman and the Immanent Being, Self. The Devotional expresses the Immanent Divine, Bhagvan. Seva, or Service is related to the Immanent Divine.


In his lecture on the Gayatri Mantra, Sri Satya Sai points out that Savitur, the Sun, represents the Immanent Divine and the Transcendent Divine, which includes all beings. Hence he arrives at the idea of the Unity of Being:

“The Gayatri is a universal prayer enshrined in the Vedas. It is addressed to the Immanent and Transcendent Divine which has been given the name ‘Savita’ meaning ‘that from which all this is born’ .... (Sri Satya Sai Speaks, Vol 13.34: June 20,1977)


“...Divinity is actually latent in all things in the universe. It is this Omnipresence that provides a powerful undercurrent of unity to the otherwise apparent and bewildering diversity”. (Summer Showers in Brindavan 2000/ch 7).


“The strife and conflict between human beings started the moment humanity forgot its fundamental unity... It is time that this trend is reversed and that the fundamental unity among humans is re-established... (Satya Sai Speaks, Vol. 42, ch.4:21, February 2009)


There are three central concepts in Satya Sai Baba’s social philosophy: Brahman, Bhagavan and Seva. These taken together constitute Being. Brahman is Consciousness, Bhagavan is the personal expression of Being and Seva is service to that Bhagavan and to all living beings. All three concepts are derived from the Vedic, Upanishadic, and devotional traditions of Hinduism.


The Vedic tradition describes the plenitude of Being, the Immanent expressions of Being, the Upanishadic tradition extols Being as Consciousness and the devotional tradition of Hinduism celebrates Bhagavan as the appearance of Being in human form. This is, of course, the concept of Avatar.


I. The Vedic Corpus:


The Rig Veda speaks about the multiplicity of gods and goddesses in the universe, and the Gayatri Måntra about the Sun, composed by Rishi Vishwamitra, represent the Immanent Divine and the Transcendent Divine.


II. The Upanishads:


The Upanishadic expression is: Prajnanam Brahman (Consciousness is Brahman). It is from the (Aiteraya Upanishad). All Being is consciousness.


As is well known, much of the Upanishads focuses on the relation between Atman (Self) and Brahman. The unity of Being is expressed in the Mahavakyas:

Prajnanam Brahman - Consciousness is Brahman

Tat Tvam asi              - You are that

Ayam atma Brahma   - This atma is Brahma

Aham Brahmasmi      - I am Brahma


III.  Bhagavan


Bhagavan is the name for God as incarnate in devotional Hinduism and is therefore the personal expression of Being. This word Bhagavan is found in all the Puranas. In the Puranas, Being appears as incarnate human form. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is an Incarnation, and in the Srimad Bhagavatham He is so described and worshiped.


Hence, any human with divine attributes is often referred to as Bhagavan, even when he /she may not be considered as an incarnation. Sri Satya Sai uses the word Bhagavan (translated as God) in many discourses. Bhagavan is an embodiment of Love, and Seva is service to Bhagavan, and to all beings, since Love is characteristic of all Being, embodied or otherwise.


IV. Seva


Seva is loving service. This introduces the idea of ‘Love’ into the concept of Being. Being then is Consciousness, Love and all conscious beings who are part of Being. As said above, Satya Sai points out that an Incarnation is an embodiment of Love.


All of the above are expressed in Satya Sai Baba’s many lectures (in Telegu, translated into English, and can be found in the Collected Works of Sri Satya Sai Baba).


Like many of the great Hindu saints, Satya Sai uses Love to describe both the Transcendent and the Immanent Brahman. He was fond of saying:


“God is Love and you are that.


“I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added lustre.


“I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause; nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have come to tell you of this Universal unitary faith, this path of Love. Believe that all Hearts are motivated by the One and Only God, that all names in all languages, and all forms man can conceive denote the one and only God. Cultivate the attitude of oneness between people of all creeds, and countries. This is the message of Love I bring.” (from Satya Sai International Organisation).


“Love is God, God is Love. Where there is love, there God is certainly evident. Love more and more intensely; transform the Love into service; transform the service into worship... that is the highest sadhana (spiritual practice). There is no living being without that spark of love; even a madman loves something or somebody. You must recognise this love as but a reflection of the Premaswaroopa that is your reality, of the God who is residing in your heart. Without that spring of love that bubbles in your heart, you will not be prompted to love at all.” (from Sri Satya Sai International Organisation).

Seva, the Sanskrit name for service is central to understanding the social philosophy of Sri Satya Sai Baba. The humanitarian and educational projects started by him and continued by devotees, both in India and internationally, included free speciality hospitals, schools, colleges, a university, free drinking water to millions, rural outreach programs, and similar activities throughout the world.


Sri Saty Sai Organisation was founded in the 1960s by Satya Sai. Initially it was called ‘Sri Satya Seva Samithi’ and it was established “to enable its members to undertake service activities as a means to spiritual advancement” (SSSCT).


The message from Satya Sai, from start to finish, has been that which has been echoed by saints and sages of the Dharmic traditions: Anandam (Joy /Bliss) Love, Peace (these three aspects were mentioned recently in a meeting of spiritual leaders from all religious traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam).


This combination of Anandam, Love, Peace was possible because in the Dharmic tradition they are aspects of Being. The individual self, atma, is Conscious and is Loving.


Hence, Seva is an integral aspect of Atma.  

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