1.Feature of the Week: Philosophy of Idol Worship
2.Experiences of Devotees
5.Question of the Week
6.From the Editor's Keyboard
7.Subscribe to Sai Vichaar
From the Editor's Keyboard...
Sai Vichaar would like to recall the Naga Sai project by Baba Prayer Center, Chennai. By Saiís grace, Naga Sai was installed at Coimbatore Saibaba Temple in Tamil Nadu, India. These pictures were posted in SaiVichaar. Please refer to Sai Vichaar Volume 2, Numbers 35 and 36 for viewing the pictures. Poor feeding is a very dear activity to Sadguru Sainath. It is in this context, Baba prayer center is proposing a Poor feeding project. Please refer to Sai Activities section for particulars. If devotees are interested to know further details, please write to Baba Prayer Center, 6/1, Papni Apartments, 67th street, Eleventh Avenue, Ashok Nagar, Chennai-600083, India, Phone: 91-044-4892259 email contact: Bharathan at email@example.com.
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Question of the week for this week is
"How does a Sai devotee define truthfulness in devotion?"
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The idol is a support for us in spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is the reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental data. Steadiness of the mind is obtained by image worship. The worshipper will have to associate the idea of infinity, omnipotence, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness, truth and omnipresence. It is not possible for all to fix the mind Absolute. A concrete form is necessary for practicing concentration. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.
Idol worship is not peculiar to Hinduism. Christians worship the Cross-. They have the image of Cross in their mind. The Muslims keep the image of the Kaaba stone when they kneel and do prayers. The people of the whole world keep some image or the other in their mind. The mental image is also a form of idol. Everyone is thus idol worshipper. Pictures, drawings, symbols etc. are all forms of idol only. Idols are not the idle fancies of sculptors, but are shining channels through' which the heart of the devotee is attracted to God and flows towards him. Many would say, "Oh God is an all pervading formless being and how can God be confined to this idol!" Are these people ever conscious of His omnipresence? Do they always see Him alone in everything? No, It is their ego that prevents them from bowing to the idols of God and with that motive, they put this excuse forward.
The idol is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple though it be made of stone, wood or metal is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it represents something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but to a soldier it stands something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. The image arouses devotion in the devotee. A piece of ordinary white paper or colored paper has no value. We throw it away. However, if there is the stamp of Government on the paper (currency note), we keep it safe in pocket. Even, so an ordinary piece of stone has no value for us. We throw it away. However, if we behold the stone idol, we all bow our heads with folded palms, because there is the stamp of beloved lord on the stone. When you worship an image, we do not say; "this image has come from Punderpur. It was bought by Shriram. Its weight is 50 lbs. It is made of white marble. It has cost me Rs. 500/-" No! We superimpose all the attributes of the Lord on the image and pray. When our devotion and meditation become intense and deep, we do not see the stone image. We behold the Lord only who is pure Consciousness.
Image worship is very necessary for beginners. By worshipping the idol, the Lord is pleased. The idol is made up of the five elements. The five elements constitute the body of the Lord. The idol remains an idol, but the worship goes to the Lord. If you shake hands with a man, he is highly pleased. You have touched only a small part of his body and yet he is happy. He smiles and welcomes you. Even so, the Lord is highly pleased when a small portion of his cosmic body is worshipped. An idol is a part of the body of the Lord. The whole world is His body. The devotion goes to the Lord. The worshipper superimposes on the images the Lord and his attributes.
In Hindu way of idol worship, a devotee offers sixteen forms of reverence to the Lord. First, the presence of the deity is invoked. Then a seat is offered the feet are washed, and water and hospitality is offered. The idol is bathed, dressed and invested with the sacred thread. Sandal paste is applied to its forehead, flowers are offered and incense is burnt. Then a lamp is lit and waved before the deity. Food is now offered, together with the burning of camphor. A gift of gold is offered. Finally, the Deity is bidden farewell. In these external forms of worship, the inner love finds expression. The wandering mind is fixed now in this form of worship. The aspirant gradually feels the nearness of the Lord. He attains purity of heart and slowly annihilates his egoism. To the worshipper who has faith in the symbol, any kind of image is the body of the Lord, be it made of stone, clay or brass or be it a picture, drawing etc. Such worship can never be idolatry. All matter is a manifestation of God who is therein worshipped. Idol worship makes concentration for man simple and easy. This is one of the easiest forms of self-realization. It is one that suits the majority of people today. A look at the picture of God will elevate our mind to divine heights. This is truly a wonder and a miracle.
Regular worship of idol unveils the divinity latent in it. The picture comes to life. The idol speaks. It will answer our questions and solve our problems. The God in us has the power to awaken the latent Divinity in Idol. God is enshrined in the idol. From here, He will protect us in a special manner. The idol will perform miracles. The place where it is installed is at once transformed into a temple. Those who live in such a place are freed from miseries, diseases, failures and worldliness itself. The awakened Divinity in the idol acts as a guardian angel blessing all. The idol is only a symbol of the Divine. A devotee does not behold therein a block of stone or a mass of metal. It becomes an emblem of God then. So we can realize God through' worship of Idol. The whole world worships idols alone in some form or another. Idol worship is only the beginning of religion. Certainly, it is not the end. There are different grades of worship. The supreme state is Self-realization. Second in is Meditation on the supreme self. The third is the worship of symbols. The fourth is the performance of rituals and pilgrimages to holy places. The Shastra are like kind mothers. They take hold of the hands of the aspirants and take them systematically to the higher form of worship. Therefore, we all can shed our ignorant disbelief this moment. Enshrine supreme, unshakable living faith in our heart this very moment. Recall to our mind the glorious examples of saints of the past who reaped the rich spiritual harvests. We all too can enjoy great peace, happiness and prosperity here and attain Him here and now if we all have faith in idol worship.
Ravi Subramanian Gahanna, Ohio, USA
I took one-day leave (on following Monday) and started for Shirdi next day morning. Train was about to leave at 11.00 AM. We went to station, station was jam packed and there was no chance of getting any seat, my son was too young, I asked Ticket collector for the confirmation, he refused and told us to go back as it would be impossible to go with that ticket. After several request we failed to convince him. In addition, I told my wife to that we would go back home and try some other time. She said no we will go now itself and we got into one compartment, which was in front of us, when train was about to leave. It was reserved compartment, train was full, and train left the station. We were standing near the door. TT came and asked us to get down at the next station, as that was reserved compartment.
After some time, we watched there were two seats vacant and nobody was sitting on it. We slowly went there and occupied that seat. After some time TT came and told us to vacate that seat, we told that we would vacate the seat if some one comes. Nobody came until evening. Again TT came and told us that he would reserve that seat in our name and asked us for some money and we paid Rs 50/sleeper. And we got three births and we slept comfortably, we thanked Baba and I started getting into Baba. Next day we reached Kopergaon. It was raining heavily anyhow we reached temple, had darshan several times and evening we started for station to catch train at 9.00PM, and we reached station at 8.00PM.
On reaching station, we came to know that train is running late and it didnít start from its starting point. I was worried about the ticket as it was also waitlisted. I asked stationmaster, as he was not having any status he was unable to tell me. Train was delayed and at last, it reached Kopergaon at 3.30 in the morning. And one couch stopped in front of us and fortunately, it was open too. We got into the train, surprised to see only two seats were vacant we kept our luggage there, and I got into another compartment to see ticket checker to confirm our tickets. To my surprise, he said, "the seat where you are sitting is reserved in your name". This shows how Baba takes care of his devotees. In that coach everybody was sleeping, doors were opened and only two seats were vacant. Anyhow, journey was excellent. At last, we reached home on 25 August. Another surprise was waiting there, the training letter. That letter was hand delivered on the day when we were in Shirdi. It said training started on 25th of August and asked me to join immediately, of course I couldnít go that day, but I could join next day and from that day onwards whatever happens to me it happens only on Thursday. I started on 20 November 97 from India to US, my first interview in the US was on 4 Dec, Thursday has become lucky day for me.
Swamy, Hyderabad, India, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
A few minutes ago, my wife, who is a staunch Sai devotee was playing a cassette of Sai Arati and offering him Arati. The music was excellent and soothing and I too was enjoying the lyric, the tune and the voice of the singer, who could convey a sense of devotion to Sai. Arati is performed regularly in all Hindu Temples and the same custom has been introduced in Shirdi too. The question arose in my mind, like so many questions keep arising like waves in a turbulent sea. The question is: "Why do the priests / devotees offer Arati to God?" I got a few answers out of the possible many. I want to share the answers with all Sai devotees who may like to add the many other answers for my enlightenment.
1. The first is of course to do with light. Many temples in India are dimly lit and Arati gives an opportunity to get a better view of the God. Thus the light is physical and the devotion it evokes in the mind of the devotee helps kindle the spiritual light.
2. While Arati is performed with many types of lamps, camphor is the most common ingredient in all temples. Camphor has excellent medicinal properties; especially it protects against many diseases in a hot climate that pervades most of India. The camphor and other aromatic substances purify the atmosphere and when the devotees place their palms over the Arati and bring the palms to their eyes and nose, they absorb the medicinal benefits. This is born out by the books on Homeopathy.
3. The camphor Arati, especially is very short lasting and thus it signifies the short span of human life and the physical, sensual pleasures which come of attachments caused by AVIDYA or AGNANA. Thus Arati inspires the devotee to seek God who is permanent. "Make hay while the sun shines" is a popular adage. Since the Arati is short lasting, it compels the devotee to focus his attention on the God.
4. Bells are usually rung while the Arati is being given. The rhythmic sounds of the bells have a nice soothing calming effect on our mind, which helps in seeing the real God in the physical image.
5. In many temples, the Arati is also accompanied by chanting of Vedic Mantras or beautiful songs, which extol the virtues of the presiding deity, especially the all-pervasiveness. These again reinforce the devotion and help the devotee in his / her chosen path to reach spiritual enlightenment.
There could be several more possible reasons and the origins of this excellent practice are lost in antiquity. I will be grateful if Sai devotees could shed more light on this subject. While camphor is used in many temples, it seems that at least during Sri Sai Babaís time, it was not used in Shirdi. Can any of Sai devotees throw some more light on this?
Srikanth.K, New Haven, CT, U.S.A
MRK, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Veena Gupta,New Delhi, India
'Sai Amrit Vani' is a small booklet consisting of 32 pages and Shri Ram Bhakt Society, A-73(Basement) Shivalik, (Near Malvica Nagar) New Delhi-110017 distributes them free, along with an Audio Cassettes to any society/organization who wants to start recitation. So any organization can make arrangement to collect the material from them. I will try to take steps to put it on the web site by scanning the booklet. They also distribute a Note book for writing 'Sai Ram' or 'Om Sai Shri Sai Jai Jai Sai' to be written in any language. On 5th of March 2000 (Sunday), they are organizing a function near Shri Sai Mandir Lodhi Road where they will reward the devotees who have completed ten such copies, with a copy of Sai Sachitra or with a beautiful laminated photo of Baba. Distribution of Udi will be a difficult task and may not be possible. I will continue to write my experiences with Baba as long as He wishes.
"How do spiritual pursuits help material contentment?"
Sheena Bhatia, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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