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Why  does Swami give vibhuti?

Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Flowers, leaves, fruit and other edibles have a temporary  life. Even water  breeds germs if kept in a vessel for days. Only vibhuti remains  unchanged, as  it is the final result of the five elements of creation. Our  desires have to be  reduced to ashes and vibhuti is symbolic of this detachment  and renunciation.  One's mind has to become desireless and detached like the  ashes in which  everything is burnt out. It is that kind of pure mind that has to be offered to God - Sai Baba

The application of this Holy Ash is a reminder for us to achieve our victory over desire. Ash is the ultimate condition of things; it cannot undergo any further change. Ash cannot fade as flowers do in a day or two, it does not dry and disappear or get soiled and unpotable as water does. It does not lose colour as leaves do in a few hours and it does not rot as fruits do in a few days.

Ash is ash forever and ever. This state of ash reminders us of our true nature, which is the atma, our soul. Our soul never undergoes any change. So burn your vices, your bad habits, and worship the Lord rendering yourself pure in thought, word and deed. Reach the state of nothingness and attain liberation by absorbing the essence of the vibhuti that we apply on our foreheads.