WHICH DO WE NEED MORE,
SMS OR SMN?
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. They 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.] 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
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
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
Jai Sai Ram.
With Love and Regards,