Study Circle

Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Message on Revering Nature and Enviro-Care

Part I. Awareness, Appreciation & Gratitude

Excerpts from Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 21-19 “Nature: God: Man”

 

NOTE TO FACILITATOR – It is recommended that the study circle be conducted in a natural environment (Ex. park, garden, backyard). The group can sit in a circle and the discussion may start clockwise or anticlockwise, so everyone has a chance to share. The facilitator is requested to go over the material in advance. This material is only a reference.

OBJECTIVES for this study circle:

  1. Nature in the context of our lives and Swami’s teachings
  2. Our relationship with Nature
  3. How to lead a life in peace and harmony with Nature

PRAYER

Start the study circle with 3 Aums. The facilitator now takes the participants though the following exercises.

  • Close your eyes. Visualize Swami sitting in the middle of the circle. Now visualize a connection between your heart and Swami’s heart in whatever form that comes naturally to you. It could be in the form of a golden thread, or a beam of light, etc.
  • Ask Swami to send His unconditional love through that connection to you.
  • Feel the strong powerful energy enter your heart from Him.
  • Now visualize the same connection between Swami and everyone present in the room. Visualize everyone connected to Swami like spokes of a wheel connected to the center.
  • Thank Swami for His love and guidance in doing this exercise.

 

I. INTRODUCTION

Discuss the following questions with the group:

  • What is the role of nature in your life? When do you interact with Nature? Are you consciously aware of nature in your daily lives? (Facilitator: Go around in a circle and try to get a summary of what everyone has to share.)
  • Do you believe God is in Nature? If so, why and if not so, why?

II. BABA SAYS

Nature is very close to God, closer than man is, for in man there is a veil of ignorance clouding his vision and marring his sight. But Nature is the purest handiwork of God. If you are able to love Nature and feel in tune with it, you are that much closer to God. It is very easy to know God through Nature, for in Nature there is goodness, simplicity, purity and selflessness.

III. BABA’S MESSAGE CONTINUES

(Excerpts from Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 21-19)

Men run hither and thither

In search of food, of worldly goods,

Of position and power, name and fame;

But few seek to realize God.

This is the truth declared unto you. Men pursue intensively mundane studies

But do not seek to study the path to Liberation.

Dear students! The cosmos is the magnificent manifestation of the Divine. When you direct your vision on this vast creation you are filled with awe and wonder. True education consists in understanding the inner meaning of this creation…

Nature and Divinity 

From this, the sages drew the inference that the beginning and the end are One, which is the Divine. They declared that this One is the beejam (seed) of the cosmos. No seed exists without husk. Because the grain is covered by husk its parts are not visible to us. For the cosmos, Prakruthi (nature) is the husk. The seed of divinity is within it (and enveloped by it). We cannot experience the seed of divinity within as long as it is covered by the husk of Nature. We have to endeavor to get at the truth about Nature. The Upanishads declared: “Isaavaasyam idham sarvam” (All this is permeated by the Divine). That means, there is only one thing that is imminent in the entire universe. If the truths declared by the Upanishads are to be understood, we have to seek the truth of everything in our daily lives. For instance, why has Nature come into being? Nature’s role is to help man, the crowning achievement of the evolutionary process, to realize the Divinity immanent in creation. Mountains help man to build houses by using stone slabs, quarried from them. Trees provide the timber for constructing houses and also firewood for domestic use. Among animate beings, every creature, from an ant to an elephant, is of assistance to man in one way or another. Cows provide nourishing milk to man. Bullocks are useful for ploughing the fields and helping to grow food crops. All other creatures like birds, fish, sheep and others are serving man in different ways. Seen in this light it will be clear that all things in creation are helpful to man in leading his life. Even the sun and the moon are serving man. The sages regarded the Sun as an important deity and worshiped him through the Gayatri mantra.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What are some divine attributes of Nature? (Ex. Selflessness – Swami is ever giving and never expects anything in return. Trees are selfless in giving us shade. Cows give us milk)
  2. Are we only taking what we need from nature or more? If more how as an individual you can be part of the solution?

Man’s Debt to Nature

Thus man is deriving innumerable debt from Nature, and enjoying the amenities provided by Nature in various ways. But what is the gratitude he is showing to Nature? What gratitude is he offering to the Divine? He is forgetting the Divine who is the provider of everything. That is the reason for his becoming a prey to various difficulties and calamities. While he is receiving countless gifts from Providence, he is offering nothing in return to Nature or God. This shows how unnatural and heartless is the behavior of man. When we are enjoined to return good for evil, how unbecoming it is to fail even to return good for good? Man is not learning the lessons Nature is teaching him. The foremost lesson is doing service with no expectation of return. People ask, “Where is God?” The answer is provided by Nature. Who is it that has created the five elements, the five life-breaths, the five sheaths, the five external sense organs and the five internal sense organs, which are all ceaselessly carrying on their functions according to their prescribed roles. The seasons in their regular cycle are teaching a good lesson to man. Therefore Nature is the demonstrable proof for the existence of God. Nature is not under any obligation to any man, it takes no orders from any man, it operates according to the will of the Divine.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What are some individual practices that we can do to reduce our burden on Divine Nature? (Ex. Practicing ceiling on desires to use what we NEED and not what we WANT. Researching to see if things that we already have can be reused before buying new.)

You Must Shed Your Narrow Outlook

Education that does not promote gratitude is worthless. It is the parents who give you education. The guru is the educator. The Divine has given you the capacity to get educated. Hence, the mother, father and the guru are to be revered as God, as enjoined in the Vedas. You must show your gratitude to your parents, offer due respect to the teacher, and base your life on faith in God. You may feel proud that you are getting on in life by your own abilities and intelligence. This is utterly foolish. You must cultivate a wide appreciation of Nature. You must shed your narrow outlook. Realise for instance, how small is the eye. But it is able to see the whole universe. Even your eye is teaching you a lesson. “What a fool are you? In spite of my minuscule smallness, I am able to see the whole universe with my wide vision. But your mind has a very narrow outlook.” You must try to broaden your heart and enlarge your mind. You must dedicate your chittha (will) to the Divine.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. Swami advises us to broaden our outlook. What are some ways we can practice constant integrated awareness of our relationship with Mother Nature?
  2. Human beings in their quest for development walk into forests and cut the trees. As an analogy, how would you feel if someone walked into your garage and stole your bike? Now, how will the animals and local inhabitants of the forest feel?

You Have To Show Your Gratitude To God

Love is eternal. You are the embodiment of Love. You are the embodiment of Peace. You are the embodiment of Truth. You are the embodiment of God. It is only when this supreme truth is realized, and our life is based on it, that our love can make our life meaningful and enable us to comprehend the world. Your studies, your conduct, your actions, all that you see, hear and think- -all these should be regarded as offerings to the Divine. This is the true meaning of Saranagathi (taking refuge in the Divine). All that is seen, heard or experienced should be considered as intimations of the Divine. Have firm faith in the reality of God’s existence. You have to show your gratitude to God for the benefits showered on you. Consider, for instance, how the Divine has filled the atmosphere with life-giving oxygen to enable you to live. The biggest fan made by man can provide breeze only for a small area. But the winds caused by Nature can blow over the whole world. Who is the cause of this wind? There are three kinds of lamps in this Mandir. They illumine a small space. But the Sun created by God illumines the whole world. We pump water with the help of pump sets. Can all the water pumped by these sets equal a fraction of the water got from a heavy downpour of rain which can inundate the Ganga? Who is it that is providing this air, this water and this illumination? We are enjoying all these, but we show no gratitude to the provider of these benefits. We render thanks to those who render trifling acts of service. But what thanks are we expressing to God who is providing such essential life-sustaining amenities for meaningful human existence? Can this be a virtue in a human being? Is it a sign of a right education? Is it the mark of a scholar? No. You must show your gratitude with humility and sincerity to whoever has done you any good.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. On average, how many breaths do we take in a day? The answer is 20160. Can we live without breathing? But how many times do we thank the trees for the pure oxygen we get or the wind that circulates the oxygen? How can we be grateful to the trees that produce oxygen?

IV. STUDY CIRCLE PRACTICE POINTS

Go around in a circle and ask everyone to share suggestions on how the group can practice:

  • Increased awareness of nature in daily life. (Ex. spend some time in nature every day, be conscious of every small observance of nature – a bird’s chirp, the falling drop of water, the gentle breeze, stream flowing, a tree you pass by every day, the sun that rises and sets)
  • Appreciation and gratitude for nature. (Ex. chant Gayatris facing the sun everyday)

 

Part II. Attitude, Action & Service

OBJECTIVE for this study circle

  1. Understanding unsustainable living styles
  2. How can we positively transform our lives to live in reverence and respect of nature? Action and Service
  3. How can we be role models for a life of love, peace and non-violence in nature?

REVIEW FROM LAST WEEK – PART I

In a circle, the members can share their experience from the practice points from last week:

  1. How has observing nature everyday changed your perspective and life?
  2. What did you learn about the environment you live in?
  3. How has the attitude of gratitude changed your outlook?
  4. If you applied different tools to develop cosmic/nature awareness, please share with the group.

I. INTRODUCTION

Discuss the following questions with the group:

  • List some habits of our current lifestyle which are not sustainable or eco-friendly.
  • How many of us think of nature as part of our self on a daily or weekly or ever?

Go around in a circle and try to get a summary of what everyone has to share.

II. SPIRITUAL QUOTE

It is the Infinite, the Ocean of Power, that lies behind all phenomenal manifestations. Our eagerness for worldly activity kills in us the sense of spiritual awe. Because modern science tells us to utilize the powers of Nature, we fail to comprehend the Great life in back of all names and forms. Familiarity with Nature has bred contempts for her ultimate secrets; our relation with her is one of practical business. We tease her, so as to speak, to discover the ways in which she may be forced to serve our purposes; we make use of her energies, whose Source yet remains unknown. In science our relation with Nature is like a captive in the witness box. We cross-examine her, challenge her, and minutely weigh her evidence in human scales that cannot measure her hidden values.

“On the other hand, when the self is in communion with a higher power, Nature automatically obeys, without stress or strain, the will of man. This effortless command over Nature is called ‘miraculous’ by the comprehending materialist.” ~ Lahiri Mahashaya, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda)

III. BABA’S MESSAGE

Science Is Being Used For Destructive Purposes

The artificial instruments produced by man function for a time and then become useless. Scientists today have launched many satellites in space. Sooner or later they cease to function and drop away. No one knows how, when and in what circumstances the planets in nature were created but they have been going round in space ceaselessly and unfailingly for billions of years. These planets have been created for the welfare of mankind and not for destructive purposes. God is the creator of the world for man’s good. All the planets created by Him are serving mankind. Many of the missiles and space instruments produced by scientists are for destructive purposes. Science is being used more for destruction than for construction. What is the reason for this? The Ego is the cause. The sense of egoism and conceit arising from it is the root cause of the destructive tendencies in man. Man today is placing more faith in his physical and mental strength than in the strength coming from faith in God. How long can it last? In a mere fit of sneezing, life may leave this body. What meaning is there in regarding it as permanent? Let no one be proud about his beauty, strength and youth. The ravages of old age are ahead and will overwhelm him. Even while you feel puffed up by your strength and energy as a youth, age creeps on you irrevocably. With the body bent, wrinkles on the face and bleared eyes, the old man becomes a butt of jokes for juveniles, who call him an old monkey. What is lasting in all this? Everything is subject to change and decay in this world. Whether it be physical objects or individuals, all are transient and impermanent. Nothing is lasting. Only your purity is permanent. Purity is the essential nature of man. But if man leads a polluted life, he is degrading himself. ~ Baba, Excerpts from Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 21-19

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What are some ways in which scientific principles are being used for exploiting nature and in-turn affecting our daily lives? (Ex. Cows are being injected with hormones to produce more milk, etc.)
  2. What are the benefits if we use science for a better world?
  3. How can we support nature-friendly practices? Is it always affordable? How can we slowly incorporate such practices into our daily lives? (E.g. Buying organic products)

External Pollution is a Reflection of Internal Pollution

Because of man’s misconduct and immoral behavior, there is pollution everywhere – in air, water, land, and food. All the five elements have been severely contaminated, consequent to man’s unbecoming behavior. If man behaves properly, is pollution of the elements conceivable? It is all due to the extensive prevalence of immoral feelings and improper behavior. The sharp decline of virtues like love, compassion, and forbearance is directly responsible for the wide-spread pollution that one sees today. In fact, one might even say that the five elements are afraid of man! The five elements as God created them are all pure and sacred. There is nothing wrong with them whatsoever. It is man’s misconduct that has caused them all to become polluted. Impurity within gets reflected as pollution without. ~Baba, Summer Showers in Brindavan, May 15, 2000

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What are some of the motivating factors for human development as we know it today at the cost of nature? (E.g. Economic factors, etc.)

IV. PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM BABA

(Posted by: Kumar Mahadevan, Oct 5, 2010 ([saibabalist] Digest Number 2698) – Taken from talks by Dr. Anil Kumar:

Once Swami started reading letters in front of us. He opened an envelope and took out the letter. A boy had written two lines on a long white sheet of paper. There were only two lines on the top. The rest of it was blank. What did Baba say? He tore it there and gave that remaining white paper to a boy saying, “You use it. I don’t want you to waste anything, not even white paper.” Further, Baba said, “Don’t waste food. Food is God. Don’t waste time. Time waste is Life waste. Time is God. Don’t waste energy. Don’t waste water. Don’t waste money. Waste of money is evil.” He taught these wonderful lessons to the boys who were assembled that afternoon.

I recall one of Bhagavan’s visits to the boys’ hostel. He got out of the car and immediately He said, “Hey, come here! On the third floor, a fellow has not turned off the water tap there in the bathroom. Go and close the tap! After using it, you should turn the water off. You should not let the tap run and waste water.” That’s what Bhagavan said.

You must have also noticed that when He calls you for an interview, Bhagavan goes into the room first. As you all go in and sit down, He switches on the fan Himself and the moment you leave, He will turn it off. Why? “Don’t waste energy. Don’t waste electricity.”

Bhagavan sets the finest example for all of us to learn from His own life. That is why Bhagavan has every authority to say, “My life is My message. My life is My message.” As He does not waste anything, we should follow His example and not waste anything either.

V. STUDY CIRCLE PRACTICE POINTS

  • What as an individual would you like to practice to be more nature-friendly? List top 3 things. Please share how you are going to do that?
  • What as a center would you like to practice to be more nature-friendly, including enviro-care services? List top 3 things. Please share how you are going to do that? –
  • Would any of you like to spearhead forming a team of Go-Green champions and implementing Sai Enviro-care Sadhana (spiritual discipline) Program at your center? If you would need any help, the national Sai Go-Green Initiative team will be happy to help you in this sacred initiative (Please contact: saiggh_at_gmail_dot_com)
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