Easwaramma, the chosen mother, is known for her simplicity and compassion. She was an embodiment of Swami’s teachings and a tool behind Swami’s mega missions in education, health care and water supply. Swami has reiterated many times that mother is man’s first preceptor.
The celebration of the life of the Divine Mother began on May 6, 1977 as Children’s Day to commemorate her death anniversary. Globally, Balvikas children come together on this special day and make it memorable by involving themselves in several service and cultural activities.
On the occasion of Easwaramma Day this year, we, the Tamilnadu Balvikas team is happy to launch Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Jyoti Portal in Tamil. http://sssbalvikastn.org/vidya_jyothi/ta/
With Bhagwan’s blessings, let us light the spark of human values in as many school children as possible and help build a better nation!
The Vidhya Jyoti Portal was launched in English on November 23 , 2018.
Log on to http://sssbalvikastn.org/vidya_jyothi/ for access
- Buddha Poornima
Buddha was born 2600 years ago in Lumbini in the Shakya state, on the Nepal-India border. Legend says that his family lived in opulence and luxurious palaces. Some days after Buddha’s birth, his mother passed away. Thereafter he was lovingly raised by his mother's younger sister Gautami. Legend also claims that a seer predicted the newborn prince would become either a great king or a revered holy man. Buddha’s father, King Suddhodana, had an ardent desire for his son to take over the reins of the kingdom. However, he feared the likelihood of Siddhartha renouncing worldly life, so he shielded Buddha from all unpleasant experiences, ensuring that he would be perfectly content with his life. He placed Siddhartha in a palace with servants at his beck and call providing everything he wanted, completely sheltering him from mundane reality. Buddha married and had a son. Nevertheless, despite a luxurious and contented life, at 28 he decided to venture out and see what lay beyond the palace walls.
Parents were subjecting their children to various kinds of bonds and making their lives miserable. As soon as the children come of age the parents are keen to get them married. They do not know what kind of happiness he can get from married life. What happiness have they derived from their own married life physically, mentally or otherwise? No person, however intelligent, thinks about this matter. Even eminent scholars do not care to examine whether it is worthwhile pursuing sensuous pleasures instead of seeking what is beyond the senses. Buddha felt intensely unhappy that his parents and others combined to commit him to the bondage of married life. One day at midnight, Buddha left the palace, giving up his wife and young son, Rahul. At the age of 28, he gave up everything and turned a renunciate. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
Buddha…could not bear to see anyone suffering. He was deeply grieved at the sight of persons afflicted with old age. He was intrigued at the sight of a dead body. None of these natural happenings gave him peace of mind. Buddha considered the movements of the planets and the sun and the stars as natural phenomena. He undertook many spiritual exercises to find out what transcended these natural phenomena. Failing to find the answers by these exercises, he approached many great elders to find the answers. None could give him satisfactory answers. Ultimately he reached Gaya [in Northern India] and sat under a banyan tree to meditate on the problems that worried him. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
Buddha realised that truth is not outside or something accessible through spiritual teachers or special rituals. Truth is inherent in oneself. Although all Avathars (divine advents) have been preaching only good things, men today are content to observe their birthdays without following their precepts. Buddha did not attach any importance to yajnas and yaagas and other religious rituals. The reason is he felt that it was more important to ensure that the five sense organs were pure to begin with. Buddha sought to find out why the mind gets disturbed. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
But none of these practices could show him the path to Nirvana. Ultimately, he realised that Nirvana lay in making use of the five senses of speech, touch, vision, taste and smell in a sacred manner. He understood that japa, dhyana, yoga, yajna, etc., were mere physical activities. These spiritual practices are needed for those who are attached to the body. (Divine Discourse - 14th Jan 1973)
Buddha was born in this sacred land of Bharat. He declared to the world 'Ahimsa paramo dharma' (non-violence is the greatest dharma). He undertook penance for several years, met many noble souls, listened to spiritual discourses, and studied various scriptures. But he was not satisfied. Man aspires for bliss, but how can he attain it? Where there is faith, there is love. Where there is love, there is peace. Where there is peace, there is truth. Where there is truth, there is God. Where there is God, there is bliss. The path of spirituality starts with faith and ends with bliss. Bliss cannot be attained from materialistic pleasures or people of the world. It can be experienced only when the five senses are put to proper use. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
The Three Jewels
The following three headings highlight the essence of Buddha’s teachings.
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Three Jewels
- The Noble Eightfold Path
The Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.In a Buddha Poornima speech, Baba beautifully explained the true meaning of the prayer used in the Three Jewels:
Buddham sharanam gachchaami, Dharmam sharanam gachchaami, Sangham sharanam gachchaami. The real meaning of the prayer is: you must divert your Buddhi (mind) towards Dharma (right conduct). And right conduct should aim at serving society. When this is done, society gets purified. (Divine Discourse, 15th May 1997)
Jewel One: Buddha
A Buddha is anyone who has fully awakened to the true nature of existence, liberated himself from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, and has eradicated all negative qualities and developed all positive qualities, including omniscience.
Baba points out that a true human being is someone who pursues the path of truth – the Dharmic path, which is comprised of:
Samyak drishti (right vision), samyak bhavam (right feeling), samyak sravanam (right listening), samyak vak (right speech), and samyak karma (right action)…Truth, righteousness and sacrifice should be the way of life…It means:
buddhi (intellect) should follow the path of dharma, and dharma should be fostered in society. Only then will the country prosper.
This is also the inner meaning of the word SAI. S denotes spiritual change, A denotes association (social) change, and I denotes individual change.
Man's mind will become pure and sacred only when these three changes take place. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
Jewel Two: Dharma
Buddha said non-violence is the greatest dharma. Love will be fostered only when non-violence is practiced. When love is fostered, there will be peace in the world. When there is peace in the world, man will naturally take to the path of dharma. When man follows the path of dharma, he will attain Truth. It is, therefore, the primary duty of every man to foster these life principles. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
Baba points out the true meaning of Dharma:
To achieve happiness, man embarks on acquiring various kinds of knowledge and pursues various occupations. He seeks happiness through marriage and having children and building a mansion for his residence. But is he happy thereby? No! What is dharma? Is it celibacy or the duties of a householder or a renunciate (sanyasin)? These are transient obligations which have to be observed as incidental duties in the journey of life. The supreme duty is refraining from causing harm to anyone. This truth is proclaimed in the scriptures in the exhortation: ‘Speak the truth. Speak what is pleasing’ (Sathyam bruyaath; priyam bruyaath). Thus, pleasing speech is declared as a supreme duty. (Divine Discourse, 5th February, 1998)
Baba tells us:
What is the meaning of knowledge (Jnana)? It is not mere acquaintance with numerous books. Even the acquisition of information about all the objects in the animate and inanimate is not knowledge. True knowledge is awareness of the relationship between the individual and collective (Samashti) and their oneness.(Divine Discourse, 5th February, 1998)
Jewel Three: Sangha
The true Sangha embraces everyone and everything. The true Sangha is a universal heart to heart relationship with every living being. It embraces everything, from the tiny cells to the flowers and trees to the distant stars.
When we break through to this understanding, then we realize the true Sangha – the true community of all beings – and understand that the positions or labels we might give ourselves are barriers to our understanding of oneness and are obstacles which must be cleansed from the mind.
Baba repeatedly tells us that the individual, society, creation and the creator are One. Therefore, the goal of education is not simply to earn money for ourselves and our immediate family but to help society. In speaking to His students, Swami once said:
You are struggling hard to acquire worldly education. You are spending hours together concentrating on it. What is the benefit that accrues from it? You acquire this education merely to fill your belly. Even this education can be used for the welfare of the society. Leave selfishness and aspire for the happiness of all. Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu. (May all the people of the world be happy!) This should be our prayer and aspiration. That is the true spiritual practice. Vyashti means individual, samashti means society. So, you should progress from vyashti to samashti, from samashti to srushti (creation), and ultimately merge in Parameshti (God). You should attain the unity of individual, society, creation, and the creator. Only spiritual transformation can bring about social welfare. The first letter S in the name Sai stands for service (work), A for adoration (worship), and I for illumination (wisdom). So, the very name of Sai symbolizes the unity of work, worship, and wisdom. (Divine Discourse, 30th May, 1999)
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
Buddha’s view on life was like that of a doctor. To attain wisdom and liberation, first he offered a diagnosis through the Four Noble Truths and then prescribed the Noble Eightfold Path as the cure. In order for us to fully understand the Four Noble Truths and investigate whether they are valid, Buddha recommended a certain lifestyle be followed, i.e. the Noble Eightfold Path, consisting of:
- Right Vision
- Right Thought and Feelings
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The essential teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path is that we control our senses. When we control our senses, then we will see good in the world. Hence, Buddha declared that the first requisite is Samyak darsanam (Having the right vision). The implication of this statement is that, having been bestowed with the great gift of eyes, man should use them for seeing sacred objects and holy beings. But, on the contrary, by using his eyes to look at unsacred objects and evil persons, man fills himself with bad thoughts and becomes prey to evil tendencies.
What one sees influences the feelings in the heart. The state of the heart determines the nature of one’s thoughts. The thoughts influence one's life. Hence to lead a good life the first prerequisite is pure vision. Man has to cultivate a sacred outlook. As a result of looking at cruel, ugly, and wicked scenes man leads an animal existence.
The very first inquiry one should make is to ascertain what is pure, edifying, and godly that he should see. Whatever he sees leaves its imprint on man. Few realize the effects of this. (Divine Discourse, 5th Feb 1998) This was the first lesson Buddha taught. Buddha wandered all over the country in search of spiritual peace and liberation. After many years of inquiry he came to the conclusion that the secret of spiritual wisdom was not to be derived from scholars or by study. He realized that spiritual understanding could only come from mastery of the senses. (Divine Discourse, 5th Feb 1998)
2. Right Thoughts and Feelings
Swami tells us that the Noble Eight fold path can be easily followed when we fill our hearts with love.
Baba also explains that love is the way to God and that love and life are the best teachers.
There is no need for you to follow this person or that person in the search for a Guru. The heart full of compassion is the altar of God. Nature is the best preacher. Life is the best teacher. Fill yourselves with awe and reverence at the handiwork of God, the manifestation of His Power and Glory that is called the World. This is enough instruction and enough inspiration for you. (Divine Discourse, 14th January, 1973)
3. Right Speech
Speech is the most important aspect to every human contact. Sai says:
From developing sacred vision, man should proceed to samyak vachanam (sacred speech). Buddha declared that only sacred thoughts could lead to sacred speech. Buddha declared that the tongue should not be used recklessly to utter whateverone thinks. The tongue has been given to speak the truth, to amplify on what is sacred and pure.
The tongue has not been given to man to pamper the palate with delicious sweets. It is not given for talking as one likes. It is not to be used for causing displeasure to others. Nor is it to be used for indulging in falsehood. The tongue has been given to man to speak the truth, to be sweet to others, to praise the Divine and enjoy the bliss derived from such sacred speech. (Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
4. Right Action
Buddha emphasized goodness in action (samyak-karma). The mark of good action is harmony in thought, word, and deed. When there is no such harmony, the action belies what is said or thought. Buddha went on to declare that good action is conducive to good spiritual progress (samyak-sadhana). Good deeds constitute genuine spirituality. Mere formal worship or ritualistic practices do not constitute spiritual striving. These religious practices are good in a way but they do not constitute spiritual sadhana.
True spirituality consists in the unity of thought, word and deed in all their purity and sacredness.Buddha declared that when spiritual striving of this nature has been completed, there is samyak-jivanam (leading a pure life).(Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
5. - 8. From Right Livelihood to Right Concentration
The next four steps of the Noble Eight fold Path are Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Buddha) stressed the need for Samyak Vak (sacred speech). Anudvegakaram Vakyam Sathyam Priya-hitham Cha Yat (one should speak only those words, which cause no annoyance to others and which are truthful, agreeable and wholesome). Whatever you speak should not cause any disturbance to others. It should be truthful as well as pleasing. You cannot always oblige but you can speak always obligingly. Sacred speech is the manifestation of divinity. God exists in the form of Sabda Brahmam (sound principle).
…Under any circumstances, do not let your speech be tainted by harshness. Never become agitated. When you understand that all are one, there will be no chance to get agitated. All bodies are like mirrors, showing you your own reflection in them. How can you be angry with your own reflection? You should speak with love. There is no divinity greater than love. When you fill your heart with love, your thoughts, vision, words and deeds will be suffused with love. (Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
The Goal Of The Noble Eightfold Path Is Nirvana
Baba speaks about Nirvana in this way:
Today man aspires to attain mukti (liberation). What is mukti? It is not the attainment of a heavenly abode. Mukti means freedom from suffering. You need to have mukti at three levels – body, mind and soul. For example, you are hungry. When you eat food, your hunger is satiated. This is also a kind of mukti. You are suffering from a disease. You take a medicine and get cured. This is also mukti. All this is related to the body.
At the mental level, mukti means controlling the vagaries of the mind. But true liberation lies in understanding the principle of the Atma, which neither comes nor goes. This is termed as Nirvana. (Divine Discourse, 7th May, 2001)
In 1997 Swami also said:
Buddha's emphasis was entirely on purity in every aspect of daily life. Purity in vision, purity in thought, purity in speech and purity in action. He considered the spirit of sacrifice as true yajna. Sacrifice is the means for attaining Nirvaana (freedom from the bondage of mundane existence. (Divine Discourse, 15th May, 1997)
Buddha Poornima or Vesakh is an auspicious Buddhist festival. It is the first full moon night of May. Significantly Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and entered into Parinirvana on the first full moon night of May, symbolically demonstrating that we are born and die each moment and in the same moment we are carried by eternity.
Baba has observed on Buddha Poornima in this way:
Embodiments of Love! We are celebrating today Buddha Poornima, or Buddha Jayanthi. What does Poornima (full moon) signify? It signifies wholeness. When the mind is filled with love, it achieves fullness. As long as the mind is filled with darkness (evil thoughts) there is no meaning in celebrating Buddha Poornima. Get rid of this darkness. Without the light of love in the heart, what use is there in having illuminations outside? Light the lamp of the Divine in your minds. Banish hatred and envy from your hearts. Man is the victim of two evil planets: attachment and hatred. To escape from their grip, the only way is to cultivate love. (Divine Discourse, 15th May, 1997)
Siddhartha advocated the practice of meditation. What is that you have to meditate upon? What is meant by meditation? Does it mean concentrating upon a particular object? No, no. That is not meditation at all. To meditate upon the principle of “I am I” is true meditation. No other Sadhana (spiritual practice) can match this… Buddha recognised the principle of unity and based his life on this truth. Under the direction of many yogis, he had performed various kinds of meditation and penance, but ultimately found them to be a mere waste of time as none of these could lead him to the ultimate experience of oneness.
He regretted having wasted his time in such a manner. One should find fulfillment in life by making proper use of the time. This is the primary duty of man.
Buddha could attain the experience the unity of all creation. There was total transformation in him once he attained the vision of Ekatma (oneness of the Atma). He realised that all worldly relations like mother, father, wife, children were false. He transcended body consciousness. That is why he earned the appellation Buddha (enlightened one).
Truly speaking, Buddha is not just one individual. All of you are Buddhas. You will see unity everywhere once you understand this truth. There is unity in the apparent multiplicity. When you are surrounded by many mirrors, you see a number of your reflections. Reflections are many, but the person is one.
Leaf Invitation Activity (From King Janaka to Sage Vishwamitra)
India is a diverse country and various festivals are celebrated through the year. Festivals add colour, joy and spice to our lives. It brings family and friends together and helps in sharing happiness with one and all. Every festival has a story to tell and by celebrating the festivals, we learn to appreciate the significance behind the same.
The Tamil Nadu Balvikas, is happy to share a video of a vibrant Dance drama presented by the Tamil Nadu Balvikas students at Puttaparthi. This colourful Dance drama, by the enthusiastic students highlights major festivals celebrated through the Tamil Year, beginning with _______ in the month of ______ and ending with ________ in the month of _______.
The Significance of the Crucifixion
Tradition-minded and egoistic men considered Jesus a false prophet and they tried by every means to thwart His mission. Jesus, however, did not waver. Faced with opposition, He continued to be an example of living Truth, and to purify society. Many disciples followed Jesus but throughout history, it has been the experience of Rama, Krishna, Jesus and Muhammad that disciples however close are seldom fully dedicated. Most are only part-time devotees. Jesus had 12 disciples, most of whom had faith in Him and lived His teachings. But, Judas yielded to greed. He betrayed His Master for a mere 30 coins. He could not find joy in life after this treachery. His mind gave him no peace. He had to seek refuge in suicide.
Betrayal by people who pretend to adore is happening since ages. Corrupt, greedy and selfish people spread falsehoods about their own Masters. We have heard of a Judas, 2000 years ago. But in the Kali Age, people are obsessed with money and Judases have multiplied. They seek to amass paltry riches whereas good character, good conduct and knowledge of God are the three real treasures to be gathered. Land and buildings, silver and gold, dollars and other currencies are temporary and trivial. They are possessions only until life lasts. But those three treasures will stay on, sustain and strengthen you until you attain union with the Infinite.
- “The Way of Jesus”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 14, December 25, 1979, Prasanthi Nilayam
Changes in the nature of the reactions and the lines of approach are brought about by the whims of the moment, the turns and twists of desire and the pressure exercised by the environment, the region and the times. Last night you witnessed a play about Jesus enacted by the students. The disciple who was most loved, Judas by name, decided to work against the Master, yielding to the low temptation of a few pieces of silver. Greed for money is a demon that gets hold of the weak. When one is overcome by it, one loses all trace of discrimination and accepts with ease, wrongful ways of satisfying it.
The success of the task for which I have come will very soon reverberate throughout the world. The truth that all faiths are facets of the One and that all roads lead to the same Goal, is provoking to some persons. You witnessed in the play on Jesus how His emphasis on the basic truths of good and godly life was misinterpreted by even the leaders of religion, who sought to hide their own failings by slander and falsehood. They even plotted to inflict torture on Jesus. All the acts of Jesus were pure and holy, and filled with selfless love. One can have adoration for one’s religion, but it should not be defiled by hatred towards other religions. Be engaged, rather, in tasting the sanctifying, sustaining stream of Divine love. That will confer lasting Ananda.
- “The Task will Triumph”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 14, November 23, 1979, Prasanthi Nilayam
Jesus on the Cross
When Jesus was being crucified, He cried out to God, “O God, Why do You punish me like this?” Immediately He realized the Truth and said, “O God, let Your will prevail. It is You who has created me, sustained me, and protected me. I will not act against Your Will. It was a mistake on my part to blame You”.
When He recognized His mistake, an ethereal voice said, “All are one my dear son, be alike to everyone.” Once you recognize your mistake, Divinity manifests. Man today does not recognize his mistakes; instead he looks for mistakes in others. Do not be bothered about others fault; search for your own faults and rectify them. Only then will your life be sanctified.
- “Develop Steadfast Faith in God”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 31, October 1, 1998, Prasanthi Nilayam
Only that person who has realized, “I am not the body, I am not the mind; I am God verily”, is a real Jnani. When you say, “This is my body”, who are you? To whom are you referring? The expression ‘my body’ connotes that you are separate from the body. When you say, “This is my mind”, the mind is separate from you. Similarly, when you say, “This is my Buddhi (intellect)”, it means the Buddhi is separate from you. In all these expressions, what is that ‘My’? That ‘My’ is ‘I’. This ‘I’ is what was referred to by Jesus Christ as the ego that has to be cut. That is the real significance of the cross. You cut the ego.
- “Install God in the Altar of Your Sacred Heart”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 42, December 25, 2009, Prasanthi Nilayam
Jesus was crucified on the cross. Mother Mary could not bear that scene and wept inconsolably. Jesus then remarked, “Why do you cry? This is natural. Whatever has to happen will happen, hence you should not shed tears”… God can do anything at His Divine will. Everything is God’s gift only. One has to realise this fact and develop faith accordingly. If you are enjoying good times, it is God’s gift. On the other hand, if you are passing through difficult times, it is also God’s gift. You should develop such steady faith. If you are suffering from malarial fever, you will be given bitter pills. That is also for your good.
- “Contemplate On God, the Real Hero for Victory”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 41, December 25, 2008, Prasanthi Nilayam
The followers of Jesus have got broken into schisms on various counts; but, the life of Christ is a lesson of Unity. When Christ was on the cross, ill-feelings towards the men who tortured Him troubled Him. Suddenly He heard a voice alerting him. “All Life is One, my dear Son Be alike to every one!” This was followed by another admonition, “Death is the Dress of Life”. As one casts of the worn clothes and dons another set, so, the soul dons and doffs bodies. Therefore, Jesus was warned against hate and ill-feelings, as well as the lamentation to which man is heir.
- “He whom Christ Announced”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 11, December 24, 1972, Bangalore
Jesus was crucified on a Friday and He rose from the tomb on a Sunday. That is why Sunday is taken as the day of worship and service in churches. Catholics gave importance to Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, while Protestants gave importance to the birth of Christ. Catholics celebrate Christmas by worshipping Mary on the evening of 24th and Protestants celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th.
- “Unity Based On Divinity”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 25, December 25, 1992, Prasanthi Nilayam
Easter Sunrise Surprise (video)
Jesus is Alive! (Easter Story for Children)
On Thursday night, while praying in a garden, Jesus was taken to the Romans. On the next afternoon, which was a Friday, Jesus was put to death by hanging on a cross. (In the centuries to follow, Christians called this day Good Friday.)
After Jesus died, a man named Joseph (from a place called Arimathea) put Jesus in His tomb that nobody had ever used. The tombs they used then were cut out of rock, almost like a cave, they weren't buried deep in the ground like they are now. Before Joseph left, he and some men rolled a large heavy stone in front of the tomb.
Jesus’ closest disciples, Mary and Mary Magdalene made spices and oils as a sign of respect to Jesus and went very early Sunday morning to go see His body.
As they were just about at the tomb, the earth suddenly shook and an angel came down from heaven.He easily rolled away the stone at the entrance of the tomb and sat on top of it.
The women looked at each other and rubbed their eyes since they couldn't believe what they had seen. The angel was so bright -- almost as bright as lightning! His clothes were as white as snow.
There had been guards watching the tomb so no one would steal Jesus' body. When they saw the angel, they fell over and they couldn't move or speak because they were so afraid.
Then the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who has died. But He isn't here; He has risen just as He said He would! Come and see for yourself, the tomb is empty."
The women were confused. How could this happen? They were sure Jesus had died, and now He was alive? They looked in the tomb and the cloth Jesus had been wrapped in, was lying on the ground; the tomb was empty. Then the angel spoke again, "If you want to find Jesus, He's on his way to Galilee."
So the women hurried away, They were laughing and crying at the same time. They didn't know what to feel; they had been so sad that Jesus was dead and now they were so excited that He was alive! They just knew they had to find Jesus, and they had to tell the disciples the good news.
As they were running down the path, they turned a corner, and there was Jesus. "Greetings," He said. The ladies fell at His feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my disciples to come to Galilee. That is where they will see me."
The disciples came to Galilee, having heard by this time that Jesus was alive. They were sitting around talking about it when Jesus walked into the room and said to them, "Peace be with you."
The disciples immediately stopped talking. Even though they had heard He was alive, they were shocked to see Him standing there with them. Jesus said to them, "Why do you look at me like you've just seen a ghost? Why don't you believe what you're seeing? Look at the scars in my hands and feet. It is really me! Touch me and see, I am not a ghost but a real person."
The disciple's mouths were open in amazement because they still didn't know what to think. They were so full of joy, and yet it was impossible. Jesus understood what they were thinking, so He said, "This is what I told you would happen" . Jesus had told the disciples when they had the Last Supper together; they took the bread at communion and Jesus said, "this is my body which I have given to you..." but the disciples hadn't understood what it really meant.
Then Jesus told them, "You have seen these things that have happened, so stay in the city and soon I am going to give you what God has promised you: the Holy Spirit."
Jesus had one more person to see. His name was Thomas, and he was one of the disciples that wasn't there when Jesus met with them. Thomas had also heard that Jesus was alive, but would not believe until he saw Jesus with his own eyes.
A week later when Thomas finally saw Jesus, Jesus said to him, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Stop doubting and believe." But Jesus continued, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; but it is more amazing for those who don't see me, and believe anyway."
That is exactly what faith is: 'believing in God even though you can't see Him.'[Ref : http://www.dltk-bible.com]
We live and die, Christ died and lived - this is Easter!!!
Many of us have heard about Jesus Christ. He lived among us as both God and man and was born to human parents, Mary and Joseph, in a little village called Bethlehem. Jesus Christ is a Hebrew name. Jesus means the one who will save us from our sins and Christ means The Anointed One. What happened at Easter explains why we give him this title.
Looking at ourselves, we can see we are very prone to doing wrong (sin). God sent his Son to live as a human being and teach us how to live a good and honest life, how to follow Gods law of love and how to love one another. By living as a human Jesus went through and understood every human emotion and difficulty. He showed us how to manage these emotions and difficulties in a way that is pleasing to God, rather than giving into them and displeasing God.
For the first thirty years Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life in Israel under Roman dictatorship. Jesus began his public teaching and service in his thirties and even though he never travelled far from Bethlehem, his reputation spread throughout Israel. The Roman governors and the Jewish leaders took note of his growing popularity and were deeply troubled by his key messages, which they found so different to their own laws and teachings.
When asked how he was able to perform miracles Jesus told his followers his power came from God his Father, not from his own abilities. He told them that his teachings would always remain and should he be killed God will bring him back to life on the third day. This turned out to be his most controversial statement – his claim to be the Son of God. His followers didn’t understand it and his critics said this broke Jewish and Roman laws. And for this reason the religious leaders asked the Roman government to execute him. However, at each trial they put him through, the counsel found he was not guilty of breaking any Roman or Jewish law. The trials established that Jesus was an innocent man. But fearing his growing popularity they persuaded Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor, to authorize his execution. And this brings us to the weeklong Easter event. (John 17-20)
Easter Week begins on Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter Sunday, and ends on Easter Sunday. There are three important days during this week. Palm Sunday is the day people took Jesus through the streets like a king, spreading palm branches on the roads for him to walk on. Maundy Thursday is when Jesus, knowing he was about to be killed, had a special meal with his disciples (The Last Supper), and was arrested later that night. Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified (nailed by his hands and feet to an upright wooden cross, where he was left hanging till he died). On Sunday Jesus rose from the dead, this is Easter Sunday.
After the Last Supper, Jesus knew the time of his death was at hand. He was troubled and afraid and went to a nearby garden called Gethsemane to pray. If Jesus is God why was he afraid, you may rightly ask. Jesus lived his humanity to the full experiencing every human emotion, as we’ve said earlier. In this instance he showed us it is normal to fear suffering and pain. The difference between Jesus and us is the way he prayed when he faced this challenge. He didn’t ask God to stop it, as we do, he didn’t ask God to make it easier for him, as we do, he didn’t remind God he is a good person living a good life and so shouldn’t suffer. Instead he begged God for strength and ended his prayer with the words, “Not my will but yours be done”.
While he was praying, Judas who was one of his disciples came with a crowd, walked up to him and kissed him on the cheek. This was to identify that Jesus was the person they were looking for. Judas was paid thirty silver coins to do this. The crowd arrested Jesus. His followers ran away in fear. The crowd took Jesus to a trial held by the Jewish religious leaders who said he should die because he claimed to be the Son of God.
The next day, Good Friday, they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate and told him that Jesus should die. Pilate finally agreed and the soldiers led him away, gave him a heavy wooden cross to carry up a hill to the place where the worst criminals were crucified, called Golgotha. When Jesus was crucified, his body was pulled downwards by his nailed feet and airflow to his lungs was restricted, killing him in three hours. He was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb. Pilate ordered two Roman guards to guard the tomb and a huge stone to be rolled against its entrance, so that no one could steal Jesus’ body. Jesus’ friends left feeling very sad.
That was because they did not know what was going to happen next.
Early on Sunday morning (Easter Sunday) some of Jesus’ friends went to the tomb to finalise his burial rites according to Jewish custom. To their surprise, the stone was rolled aside, the guards had vanished and the tomb was empty!! They stared at the tomb in disbelief and at that moment an angel appeared to them and told them Jesus had risen from the dead. They recalled Jesus telling them that he would return to life after three days, if he was killed. This was a life changing moment, because for the first time they accepted that Jesus was who he claimed to be. He was the Son of God, and not just another Jewish Rabbi.
They ran to tell others, and on the way, met Jesus himself but didn’t recognize him till he spoke. Jesus knew his disciples and followers would find it hard to grasp his resurrection because they ran away in fright when the Roman guards took him to be executed. He did things to reassure them that the person they were seeing was truly him – the same person that had died on the cross. He walked with them, ate with them, showed them the wounds on his hands and feet and when one of them (Thomas) was still struggling to believe, he allowed him to touch his wounds.
Their joy at seeing him return to life could not be contained and they quickly went around sharing the good news. This time they were not afraid of Roman persecution as they knew that this little boy who was born in a stable and had grown up among them was divine. They finally understood God’s complete control over life and death and they accepted that Jesus was the Son of God and he alone was worthy of their worship.
What is the significance of this extraordinary event? What does it mean for how we live, work and worship? Here are some of life’s lessons that Easter teaches:
- 1. There will always be suffering in our lives. Things will go wrong, our plans won’t always be successful, we won’t always get what we want or pray for, our health will fail us. In these times, we remember God’s power over all things, we remember he loves us more than anyone else can and that he will help us through our difficulties, if we ask him to.
- 2. Easter teaches us to forgive because in Jesus’ death God forgave us our sins. We seek Gods forgiveness daily, we in turn must forgive others and not seek revenge or hold grudges. Even when he was on the cross Jesus prayed for those who persecuted him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
- 3. When your friends fail you, remember Jesus was betrayed for thirty silver coins.
- 4. Never judge yourself as better than others. Jesus was far above his followers in every way but yet he served them. No problem was too small for him to notice, he walked miles to reach people in need. He helped them knowing they could never repay him.
- 5. Live a simple life, be grateful for what you have. God has chosen your life for you, and everything that happens in it. Accept the path you have to travel as his will and you will feel happy and fulfilled. Somebody else’s life may seem better but your life is perfect for you.
- 6. Pray at all times. Prayer is your inner strength because it keeps you close to God and when you are close to Him you have nothing to fear, no harm can come to you.
So where do Easter Eggs, Easter bunnies and chocolate fit in? They are just external signs of celebration, traditions that people have made popular because they enjoy following them.
Originally, church leaders did not allow people to eat eggs during Holy Week. Families saved the eggs their chickens laid that week, boiled and painted them and gave them to children on Easter morning. People then made egg shapes out of cardboard and later papier mache, filled them with treats and got children to paint these and hand out as presents. People also saw the egg as a symbol of new life and so used it as a symbol of the new life that’s celebrated at Easter. Soon other ideas started being used like making chocolate, marzipan or sugar icing eggs instead of boiling eggs. To add more fun people started the Easter Egg hunts and Easter Egg rolling, two popular traditions followed even today.
An egg hunt involves hiding eggs in the garden for children to find on Easter morning. Egg rolling is when hard boiled eggs are rolled as a symbolic re-enactment of the rolling away of the stone from Jesus’ tomb. In the United States, the Easter Egg Roll is an annual event held on the White House south lawn each Monday after Easter. This is a family day, entry is won by public lottery and the winners spend a day of family activity with the President and the First Lady.
The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have originated in Germany. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies (called kittens), so they became a symbol of new life. Legend has it that the Easter Bunny decorates and hides eggs for children to find on Easter Sunday. Though the rabbit doesn’t do the work alone. In Switzerland Easter eggs are delivered by the Easter Cuckoo and in Australia by the Easter Bilby (small rat like animal).
THE GARDEN TOMB, Jerusalem
Looking at the meaning of Easter and the traditions associated with it we can see that traditions change to suit our convenience. We do the things we like and they become tradition. We avoid the things we don’t like and those traditions slowly disappear. In contrast, Jesus’ resurrection was and remains the most amazing divine event of all time. It is recorded in Jewish and Roman history, and the sites of his birth, death and resurrection and the places where he lived and worked are preserved in Jerusalem and available for the public to visit. Easter proves who Jesus is, it shows us that God accepted his sacrifice on our behalf, it shows us that God has created all things and has power over everything, even life and death. Unlike tradition, these facts have not changed for the last 2000 years, there are no updates or versions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Easter helps us accept our present circumstances, gives us courage to meet our trials and hope for the future because our future belongs to God.
A Blessed Easter to each one.
The New Year has commenced. Form today onwards, listen only to good things, speak only good words and do only good actions. Through these things, we sholud have purity of heart. Make your life sacred by always thinking of God. if people adopt this sacred path, there will be peace and prosperity in the world. swami blesses the entire gathering and concludes His Discourse. In the coming year, let all be happy, prosperous and peaceful. Pray to God with your sacred heart Then only can You overcome all difficulties. No government, no army, no weapons can protect you from troubles and difficulties. There is only one protector. That is God. In order to seek protection from God, devotees should offer prayer. Through prayer only can you earn God's grace. So, Pray Wholeheartedly: Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu (May all the beings of all the worlds be happy!)
-Bhagavan's Discourse at Sai Sruthi, Kodaikanal on 14th April 1993.