Tread Softly, Sathya Sai Baba’s Teachings on Nature & the Environment
Tread Softly, Sathya Sai Baba’s Teachings on Nature and the Environment – “. . . all this is Vaasudeva, God. So, tread softly, move reverentially, utilize gratefully.”
by Tina K. Schweickert
ISBN 0-9748668-1-4; 202 pages; glossary, source citations, photos of Sai Baba.
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Whatever man seeks to achieve, he has to rely on Nature. Nature is not anyone’s private property. It belongs to God. Without the grace of the Lord no one can enjoy the benefits of Nature. Not realizing this truth, some people embark on the exploitation of Nature, out of arrogance and self-conceit. This is highly misconceived.
–Sathya Sai Baba
Tread Softly, Sathya Sai Baba’s Teachings on Nature & the Environment is a compilation of the environmental teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba-the highly revered spiritual leader and world teacher whose life and message are inspiring millions of people throughout the world. Sathya Sai Baba’s timeless and universal teachings, along with the manner in which he lives his life, have been attracting seekers of Truth from a variety of religious backgrounds and countries around the globe over the past 50 years.Photo of Sri Sathya Sai Baba
This collection of Sai Baba’s quotes from discourses and written works are intertwined with the author’s own stories as an environmental policy advisor, land conservationist, and spiritual seeker. Her close affinity with Nature has inspired her life’s work, including her quest for a higher understanding of our modern environmental crisis.
Tread Softly brings out Sai Baba’s teachings which focus on the divine qualities of Nature which he says should compel us to “tread softly, move reverentially, and utilize gratefully.”
Excerpt (author’s words): Sathya Sai wants us to realize it is not enough to witness the beauty of Nature or be grateful for Its bounty. We must seek to know it as God Itself-a physical manifestation of the Divine in every leaf, twig, blade of grass, as well as insects, predators, songbirds, and stones. Everything, all of Creation, is an aspect of God, as are we.
Excerpt (Sathya Sai Baba): After knowing who this “I” is, you must try to know what this outside world is. You see these flags fluttering; now, what is it that flutters? Is it the cloth, or the rope, or the wind? You know it is the unseen wind that causes that flutter. So, too, you see the effect, not the cause, when you observe Nature around you. The bungalow is seen, not the foundation under the earth; the tree is seen with all the crowning glory of leaf and blossom and fruit, but the roots that grip it and feed it are not visible. You cannot therefore deny them. So, too, for everything that can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched, God is the cause. Man is born as man because he is to realize this truth and feel the presence of God in all beings and things.
His message is a wake up call for humans to raise their spiritual awareness and live in greater harmony with the natural world, which is now suffering from our mistreatment.
Excerpt (Sathya Sai Baba): Today, all the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space) are polluted and, consequently man is mired in insecurity. Today the world is losing its ecological balance as man, out of utter selfishness, is robbing mother Earth of her resources like coal, petroleum, iron, etc. As a result, we find earthquakes, floods, and such other devastating natural calamities. Human life will find fulfillment only when ecological balance is maintained. Balance in human life and balance in Nature, both are equally important.
Excerpt (Sathya Sai Baba): Trees play a vital role in helping mankind to receive oxygen from the atmosphere while they absorb the carbon dioxide exhaled by human beings. Hence, the ancients favored the growing of trees to control atmospheric pollution. But, nowadays, trees are cut down indiscriminately and pollution is on the increase.
The author’s commentary brings insight into his teachings for people living in the modern western world far from Sai Baba’s ashram in the remote Indian hamlet of Puttaparthi.
Excerpt (author’s words): Sathya Sai says that it is the pollution in our mind that is the source of our problems, including those of environmental pollution-correct the mind and the environmental pollution is also corrected. We can create anti-pollution laws and educate young people on the importance of a clean environment. But until we understand our Highest Self as one and the same with others, and until we understand the source of true happiness comes from within, not without, the environment will continue to decline. The pollution of selfishness and greed manifests itself as pollution in the environment. As we connect more with the Divine within us, we will view Nature from this level and “treading softly” will follow naturally.
Sathya Sai Baba speaks to the need to treat all the basic elements with humble respect and gratitude, especially water and rivers.
Excerpt (Sathya Sai Baba): The most vital requirement for man is water. It sustains life. Three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Water is described in the Upanishads as Jivam (the life-force). Hence, the foremost form of the Lord is water.
(Author’s words): One of the purposes for holding the International Rivers Conference at the Kumbh Mela was to consider the controversy over whether the holy Ganga can ever truly become polluted. Some believe it is too sacred; Mother Ganga has self-purification qualities that won’t allow her waters to be harmful to anyone. Sai Baba appears to suggest this as well in the previous quotes. But it must be understood that the spiritual qualities of the river are quite different than the actual physical qualities. Spiritually, it is the Hindu belief that the Ganges can cleanse and purify individuals of all sin without itself being defiled in any way. This is the internal meaning of the sacred river. Externally, in the physical sense, it is easy to see that the Ganga is polluted. More waste is poured in than the natural cleansing qualities can assimilate.
(Sathya Sai Baba): Crores (one crore is ten million) are being spent to purify the Ganges water. Of what use is this exercise if the Ganges continues to be polluted by the discharge of drainage water into the river? First prevent the flow of filthy effluents into the Ganges.
Sai Baba provides specific guidelines for limiting our use of resources by leading a simple life where money, food, time, and energy are used wisely and not wasted.
Excerpt (Sathya Sai Baba): Nature is more progressive than Man, and to protect Nature, Man has to make use of it within limits. When Man tampers with Nature recklessly, It reacts adversely and trouble arises. In order to protect Nature, Man has to place a ceiling on desires.
The author draws from years of experience living on her land in western Oregon, where wildlife habitat and farmland are intermixed, as well as her career with government agencies regulating land use and protecting habitat. She sees the current systems failing, because they simply do not reflect a higher consciousness of being with Nature.
Excerpt (author’s words): So let our cultivation and use of the natural world find a harmony, a sustenance, that draws from allowing Nature to function independently and become what It must be. Let us learn how to cultivate in tune with divine law. Once we do this, we will know we have arrived home to a new world. Farms and cities would be patterned after natural conditions providing a system of feedbacks to ensure Nature thrives and continues to teach us.
In one of the songs he wrote about himself as the avatar of our age, Sai Baba says that, for him, there’s “no reason for love, no season for love, no birth, no death.” For him, all is love all the time. He is not this particular form that is simply born and then dies but is something much more, beyond form. He is pure Atma (universal Soul). He embodies the underlying essence, the stillness, the peace, contentment, and supreme love felt at the heart of Nature. Perhaps this is why he understands so well the suffering of beings when they, or their habitat, are harmed. This is why he understands the pressure being felt by the basic elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space in attempting to absorb human-caused pollutants and maintaining their balance in the face of human disturbances.
About the Author
Tina Schweickert earned a master’s degree in history of science from Oregon State University and undergraduate degrees in environmental science from Willamette University and fine arts and biology from Pasadena City College. She worked as an environmental policy analyst and educator for both state and local government and has volunteered with various nonprofits.
She is currently active in the Sathya Sai Baba Organization of America. When not writing or helping others publish their books, she can be found working at her family farm and wildlife preserve near Silverton, Oregon.
“Foster the tiny seed of Love that clings to “me” and “mine.” Let it sprout into Love for the group around you and grow into Love for all mankind and spread out its branches over animals, birds, and those that creep and crawl and let the Love enfold all things and beings in all the world. Proceed from less Love to more Love, narrow Love to expanded Love.”
–Sathya Sai Baba
For more books on Sai Baba, see the Sathya Sai Book Center of America website: www.sathyasaibooksusa.org
For recent articles on Sai Baba’s environmental teachings and water projects, go to the Heart 2 Heart e-Journal at: www.radiosai.org
Many of Sai Baba’s quotes and photos courtesy of the International Sathya Sai Baba Organization website: www.sathyasai.org/default.htm
Sai Baba Books & Publications Trust: http://www.sssbpt.org