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Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. As you must have noticed by now, we often use catchy titles for our Sunday Specials to arrest your attention and hold it, at least for a while, before it turns to other matters. We are sure you understand what SMS stands for, Short Message Service, that is used by millions every day, may be several hundred million times, to send text messages. What about SMN? What does it stand for and of what use is it, if any? Those are the things we would like to place before you, and we hope you would do us the courtesy of giving us your attention for a few minutes to enable us to make our point.

SMN is our abbreviation for a string of three Sanskrit words that Swami uses sometimes. TheySai Cell phone - SMS are: Sravanam, Mananam, and Nidhidyasanam, meaning respectively: Listening, recalling and digesting. What Swami means is wise words must first be heard. They must then be recalled and reflected upon. Thereafter, the meaning of what one has heard must be absorbed, digested and internalised for subsequent use as circumstances might demand. While Swami uses these words in the context of absorbing spiritual teachings – He used to do this often in earlier times while speaking to students – they, in fact, apply to any learning process. For example, if one is attending a class in science, say, the student must obviously pay careful attention to what the teacher is saying, take notes and so on. Later, the student must study the relevant textbooks, supplementing this study with references to class notes. Such a revision must not be casual or cursory; on the contrary, it must not only be intensive but also reflective, that is to say, the student must try and understand the meaning of what is being studied. After that, the student must absorb and internalise the lesson learnt.

Swami uses an analogy to drive His point. He says a person is hungry and a plate of food is placed before the person. If the person wants to appease his hunger, he must eat the food; merely staring at the plate of food would not do. Having eaten the food, it must be digested and the nourishment absorbed; only then would the person get the energy the food is supposed to provide. In the case of food, one does not have to make any special effort to digest the food; it is an automatic process. [Of course, at the more fundamental level, this so-called automatic process is Divinely-ordained, as the second of the two verses we all chant before meals convey.]sai_walking_beside However, where knowledge is concerned, a special effort is needed to achieve absorption, assimilation and internalisation. Only then would the purpose of learning have been served. If lessons learnt cannot be recalled when required, then of what use is the so-called learning? That is the point that Swami regularly used to make.

Now why are we trying to make a special effort to draw your attention to what ought to be really obvious? For a very simple reason. In recent years, people have become so busy in life, they have stopped paying attention to spiritual teachings and absorbing them. “No time” – this seems to be the standard excuse.

Take for example, the lesson to practice ceiling on desires. Few realise how important it is especially in the context of global warming. The one single factor that most contributes to global warming is carbon dioxide emission. And what are the factors that contribute to heavy carbon dioxide emission? Energy consumption. Every time we drive a car, take a flight, switch on a light, and so on, we are either directly or indirectly contributing to and adding to the carbon burden of Planet Earth. These days, many people are constantly travelling by air, so that they can cover large distances in short time. When we fly, the plane emits carbon dioxide. One may say: “I am not responsible for that emission. The airline must take responsibility for it. After all, even if I did not take the plane, the flight service would still be operated, and there would be pollution anyway.”

Superficially, that might seem to be a valid argument. However, what has happened with respect to smoking shows that on deeper examination, this argument is not wholly valid. It is a well-established fact that a concerted effort made by millions of people to either cut down or completely stay away from smoking has made serious dent in the sale of cigarettes. In a similar fashion, if people made a conscious effort to travel less – and it does seem that there is a lot of pointless travelling – then the airlines would be forced to cut down the number of flights, which would bring down the carbon footprint.

The point is simply this. In matters like this that must necessarily involve large numbers of people, someone must get the ball rolling; no use saying let someone else do that. When someone makes bold to start, often the movement does pick up movement. Where spiritual matters are concerned, does it not stand to reason that we devotees must kick-start all such processes?

We do not wish to sound as if devotees are totally indifferent to Swami’s teachings. Service activities by devotees are quite strong, and there is also an active effort to engage in EHV. That said, times are such that we could do a lot more. We would not like to go into all those possibilities right now, but would like to place before you one thought. May be we are too busy to make time for others; but how about making time for our own selves? What we mean is this: Why not take say about 30 minutes or even 15 minutes everyday to do some serious introspection, study and absorb the numerous writings of Swami so that we improve at least a tiny bit at the end of the session? If we improve even incrementally every day, then over a period of time the gain achieved can be substantial. After all, every ocean is made only by little drops coming together.

The importance of self-improvement should not be underestimated; it can make a huge difference not only to the person concerned but also to the environment the person functions in. Recently, we have been getting some mails telling us how the writer stood fast by Dharma, facing great difficulties. Drawing upon the power of Swami’s teachings and placing unqualified faith in Him, they have invariably pulled through, even when it seemed that there was no solution in sight. We are making active plans to regularly publish such “Dharma-success stories” if we might call them that. But getting back to the point we were tying to make, self-improvement changes the quality of life for all; and when the person concerned is in a position of authority, it can make a difference to a corporation, a community and even a nation.

Gandhi was a classic example. He started off as an ordinary man, spiritually that is. But drawn to Sathya and Dharma, he read a lot about virtue and character, reflected on what he had read and finally reshaped his life. And what a difference it has made to the world! Cynics might dismiss all this by saying, “Oh, Gandhi was exceptional and he lived in different times.” But we are forgetting that Mother Teresa lived in more recent times; and did she not make a difference by transforming herself? And we should not forget that even those whom we might not regard as great icons have been influenced by reflecting on values.

Recently, the diaries of President Ronald Regan have been published and they contain a very remarkable story. As some of you might know, one day when he was President, Regan was shot. The bullet did not kill Regan, but he certainly was wounded. He was rushed immediately to Hospital, being administered emergency aid along the way. In the Hospital he underwent surgery and then removed to the ICU. Thanks to all this attention, Regan survived; but while in the ward, he suffered a lot of pain. A strong believer in God, Regan decided to pray God to relive his agony. But suddenly he remembered his Bible, and so before he started praying, he said, “God, You have said we must forgive those who hurt us, even as Jesus did on the Cross. God, I forgive that man who took a shot at me. I do not know his reasons but whatever they were, I do not wish to harbour any personal hatred towards that person, blaming him for the pain I am now suffering. Oh dear Father, please have pity on me and now do something to make this pain less” - something to that effect.

Another Presidential story, this time relating to Bill Clinton. Recently he appeared on a talk show and one of the first things he was asked was about a certain US Senator who had recently got into political trouble, thanks to some indiscretions the Senator had committed; as a result the Senator has had to resign his post in the Senate. In earlier times, this Senator had gone out of the way to give hell to Clinton , when the latter was President. So Clinton was asked how he felt about the Senator now getting it all back? Did he feel a sense of satisfaction and joy? Did he feel vindicated? And so on. Clinton ’s reply clearly showed that he had spent time reading the Bible and absorbing its lessons. He said that the feeling uppermost in his mind was one of concern for the family and the trauma they were experiencing. Clinton said he knew exactly what that suffering was, and having gone through it himself, he felt he was very sorry for the family, hoping that God would give them the strength to pull through.

The point that we are making is that amazingly, men like Lincoln, Kennedy, and the two just named, even while functioning in a highly polarised and even poisoned atmosphere, implicitly practiced what Krishna says in the Gita: Adveshta sarva bhootanam, meaning bear no ill will to any body nor hate anyone. You know something? If people start practicing this seriously, then one can achieve a huge reduction in the problems the world is facing today, without spending a penny. Even without going out into the villages and sweeping the roads – the standard routine one is supposed to go through as a part of Grama Seva – one can make a big difference to the world. In the house and family there would be more peace; in the community there would be more peace; and in the world too there would be more peace.

Let us get back to what we started with and wrap up. No matter how busy we are, we should never allow ourselves to be so busy as to neglect the fundamental purpose of life. And as a part of that process, we must make some time at least to read and reread a bit of Swami’s teachings, meditate on the deeper meaning, and see how one could reshape one’s life based on what Swami says.

It is to promote this personal Sadhana that H2H has the Sai Inspires service. We do hope that you use it for more than merely glancing at the latest message from Swami as you open your mailbox. In this context, we venture to suggest that Study Circle activity also could be taken more seriously than appears to be done at present. We hope you agree with us.

Thank you for your patience. May be God be with you. Loka Samasthaa Sukhino Bhavantu.

Jai Sai Ram.

Source: Sai Inspire: "Sunday Special" 9th Sep. 2007