The holy festival of Eid marks the end of Ramadan (Ramzan), the period of fasting and a most sacred time of year for those in the Muslim faith. When speaking about the celebrations of religious festivals, Sathya Sai Baba emphasises the importance of focussing on the spiritual significance of the festival. He also emphasises the values and teachings common to all religions. In these excerpts from His discourse given in July 1983, Swami highlights the message of unity and purity inherent in Islam and all religions.
Atma is immanent
The body is mortal; the Jeeva-principle undergoes transformation; but the Atma is Immortal. The Atma persists in unaffected glory in the waking, dreaming, sleeping and the fourth level beyond. The gross body is active in the waking stage; the subtle “I”-consciousness is alert in dreams, the causal Atma is dormant as 'I' in sleep. The real I or Atma has no exclusive affiliation to one body, one country, one nation or one sex. It is in every being, everywhere, in birds and beasts, plants and trees. Each of these reveals its existence. The Atma is all pervading and immanent in Bharat (India), Russia, America, England, all over the world.
All founders of religions have heard this impersonal Voice of God revealing the Atma that activates the entire Creation. Just as the Vedas (revealed sacred scriptures) were 'heard' and propagated as 'heard' (Shruthi), the Quran too was 'heard' by prophet Muhammad. The Quran has Salat and Zakat as the two eyes. Salat means prayer; Zakat means charity. Those who consider charity as a high duty and elevate their consciousness through prayers and continuous meditation on God are Muslims. Islam is a word which denotes not a particular religion but a state of mind, the state of total surrender to the Will of God. Islam means dedication, surrender, peace, tranquillity.
Islam denotes the social community whose members have achieved supreme peace through surrender to the All-Merciful, All-Powerful God and who have vowed to live in peace with their fellowmen...
The Ramzan month is set apart for the holy task of bringing into memory and practice the teachings that prophet Muhammad conveyed and attaining that stage of unity and purity which is truly Divine.
Discipline to Cultivate Sense of Unity and Love
Waking as early as three or four, in the Brahma Muhurta (auspicious moment), prayer is started, and throughout the day, the constant presence of God is sought to be experienced. This is the meaning of upavasa (fast). Also, during the Ramadan month, rivalry is avoided, hatred is suspended, husband and wife live apart though in the same home, mother and children both follow the same spiritual regimen and an atmosphere of brotherhood is maintained. The body, the senses and the mind are subject to rigorous discipline.
Periods of fast comprising a month are prescribed in all religions. The Hindus observe it in Magha (January/February) and Shraavana (July/August) months. Zoroastrians and Christians have allotted for themselves months for the same purpose.
The Quran lays down that all men should cultivate the sense of unity, of interdependence, of selfless love and of the immanence of Divinity. Generally, all men take food of some kind or other for the body five times a day: an early cup of coffee in bed, breakfast two hours later, a heavy lunch at noon, tea at four and a fat dinner at nine. Islam prescribes food for the spiritual nature of man and directs that it be taken five times a day, as prayer. For the arousal of the Atmic consciousness, for earning spiritual joy and for promoting the manifestation of Atmic illumination, prayer is prescribed as many as five times a day, from the dawn of discretion up to the moment of death.
Sathya Sai Baba draws attention to the value of prayer in a group, one of the important spiritual practices of Islam, which emphasis the One in the Many. He stresses that without this essential teaching of Unity, no system of belief can be considered a religion. He urges us all to practise these basic tenets of our faith daily and to live by these principles.
Unity is the basic teaching of every religion
Prayer, in Islam, is also a congregational activity. Prayer in a group produces beneficial vibrations. Islam promises a greater flow of ecstasy when God is adored by a huge concourse of yearning hearts. All of them bow low at the sight of the Masjid. They sit in rows on their bended knees and lean forward until their palms and foreheads touch the ground in humble submission to God’s Will. Misunderstanding, conflict and enmity should not disturb the serenity of the occasion.
Thus, Islam emphasises the One in the Many, the urge for God who manifests in various degrees in various minds. Unity is the basic teaching of every religion. Faith in Unity is cardinal.
Without it, no system of belief and conduct can be a religion. God is One and the teachings in all faiths that exalt Him are all on love, compassion, tolerance, and sympathy.
Demonstrate love and tolerance in daily activity
The Ramzan month, the fast and the prayers are designed to awaken and manifest this realisation. Whichever may be the religion, its emphasis is on unity, harmony, equal mindedness. Therefore, cultivate love, tolerance, and compassion, and demonstrate the truth in every daily activity. This is the Message I give you with My Blessings.
Excerpts from Discourse on Ramadan, Sathya Sai Baba, 12 July 1983