Chapter 2.1 from "Study Circles for Divinity" 
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2.1 STUDY CIRCLE


FROM DISCOURSES OF SAI BABA

WHAT IS A STUDY CIRCLE?

Hislop asked the question, 'What is a study circle?' (Sai replied:) "It is just not reading books. 'Circle, study circle' means taking a point and each person discussing what is the meaning of the point to them. Like a round-table conference. Each person gives his point of view, and finally values are derived from this. If there is just reading, there is doubt. But if each one gives his view, doubts will be answered. The topic is viewed; the study circle looks at different facets. It is like a diamond with its different facets, but there is one facet that is flat, the top facet, and from this all can be viewed. To discover the top facet is the task of the study circle. Swami's talks may be taken, or other scriptures. Take a point. Have everyone think about it and discuss it, and come to the final point where doubt is decreased. If only one person reads, there will be only one meaning. All misunderstandings, all points of views - after these are brought out, the study circle members will get confidence. There is no doubt of this. If each one only reads, this may go on for a year or two, then an allergy develops. Centres must have study circles in this way, and none will note the passage of time. Each one listens eagerly and many will give their point of view. The Bible, the Koran, the Gita, Swami's books may be used. What is wanted is a study circle; rotating. Each one must be given a chance. Only those who are intelligent will think to bother with a study circle."

Hislop: From Swami's description of the conversation to be accomplished in a study circle, the circle should be limited to about 10 people.

Sai: Why? It could be 100 people.

Hislop: But Swami, not even one point would be able to get around such a big circle.

Sai: Not so. Of the group here, only the scientist and Hislop are asking questions. Not everyone in the study circle will be able to say.

Hislop: Oh. I see that situation.  (CSSB 126)

Mind is one, names and forms are different. Gold is one ornament with different forms and names. Colour of cows are different, but the milk is white. God is One, bodies become many. Study Circle group members are many, but the resolution is one.

What is real Study Circle? Study is for steady. Circle is for Purity and Peace. Study Circle participants should experience oneness and constant steadiness. God dispels ignorance. Where there is light there is no darkness. For every word studied in Study Circle, the true meaning should be looked into. The Study Circle should dispel confusion. There should be no scope for depression either. There should be steadiness of mind and equal mindedness in a Study Circle.

Persons are many but the same God is in all. That is unity in diversity. Beings are many but breath is one. There are seven colours in sunlight, twenty six letters in the English alphabet from which books can be written. In a Study Circle, a book is selected, discussed and the meaning taken. A violin has four strings and music is produced by playing on this. Each person takes a different meaning, but the ultimate meaning is one. Sugarcane has different names and forms but juice is one, and it is sweet.

Why Study Circle? How Study Circle? In a Study Circle, there should be no argumentation, otherwise it leads to confusion and hatred. You should develop love, understanding and experience divinity, thus you will earn deservedness from the Study Circle. Understanding is awareness. In a Study Circle, awareness is necessary along with communication. You must listen and think. Awareness should have complete understanding. God is complete. To attain God you must have complete understanding. Members of a Study Circle should not simply get into a routine, but it must be made satisfactory to everyone. (140595)

NOT INFORMATION BUT TRANSFORMATION

You have joined the study class at Dharmakshetra, and are engaged in pouring over all types of books and gathering information and instruction. But, what have you gained? Knowledge about what this author says or that sage teaches is not what your study circle should aim to acquire. Not information, but transformation; not instruction, but construction should be the aim. Theoretical knowledge is a burden, unless it is practised, when it can be lightened into Wisdom, and assimilated into daily life. Knowledge that does not give harmony and wholeness to the process of living is not worth acquiring. Every activity must be rendered valid and worthwhile by its contribution to the discovery of Truth, both of the Self and of Nature. Of what use is it to know everything about Nature, if you do not know anything of the Self? Nature is only a projection of the Self, and so, unless the Self is known, knowledge of Nature is either distorted or deceptive. The Self is the Atma, of which the entire creation is composed and so, knowledge of the Self alone can quench the thirst of man.

You tell me that you have read the Bhagavatha Vahini and all other Vahinis that I have written for you. Good. But, let me ask you, have you put at least a single direction given in them into daily practice? Question yourself calmly and decide to benefit by practising the processes mentioned in them. This is the proper plan of study - Reading, Reflection and Regular Application in Life. Study is WORK. Inquiry into the value and applicability of what is studied is WORSHIP; the experience of the validity and value of the practise is WISDOM. (030374)

Then about the Study Circles. I am not for indiscriminate reading of books, however valuable they may be. Much reading confuses the mind; it fosters argumentation and intellectual pride. What I insist upon is putting the things read into practice - at least, a thing or two. Moreover, you must always remember that the book is only a pointer, a guide, a signpost. Reading is not completion of the journey. It is only the first step. Read for the sake of practising; not for reading's sake. Too many books in the room indicate a person is suffering from intellectual illness, just as too many tins, capsules and bottles in the cupboard indicate a person with physical illness. The reading of books or passages from books is best done at some other time, and not as a continuation of devotional singing or as a preliminary to it. (180568)

Reading is not enough; you may master all the commentaries and you may be able to argue and discuss with great scholars about these texts, but without attempting to practise what they teach, it is a waste of time. I never approve of book learning; practice is what I evaluate. (020258)

Merely finishing the study of book after book serves no purpose. Practising one line from any one book is enough to save you from aeons of darkness, of ignorance, and of yearning for Light. (030374)

PROCEED AT YOUR OWN PACE

Every one of you is a pilgrim on that road proceeding at your own pace according to your qualifications and the stage reached by its means. The advice that appeals to one of you or applies to one of you might not be appropriate to another, who has travelled less distance or reached a more advanced state. When I tell one person to follow one line of spiritual practice, it is specifically for his benefit; do not take it as a prescription for your benefit also, saying, "Swami told him thus; let me also adopt it." Each has a different make-up  -  mental, physical and spiritual. The doctor directs one patient to drink curds and prohibits another from drinking it. When a man is obese, he advises certain types of food; when he is lean, he advises other types. When doctors who treat diseases of the body have to prescribe different remedies, how much more specific and personal must be the remedies for the complex and varied conditions of mental situations and spiritual yearnings and aspirations?

Unless you make earnest inquiry, you cannot discover the remedy applicable to your temperament and its problems. Study with faith and devotion. Delve into the significance and meaning of what you read; and, always have before you the goal of putting what you read into practice. Unless you do so, the study circle will remain a half-circle for ever; it cannot be a full circle.

And, pay attention to one other point also. Do not confine your studies to this circle and these books.  The whole Universe is a University for you. You can imbibe wisdom from the sky, the clouds, the mountains, the rivers, the daily phenomena of sunrise and sunset, the seasons, birds, trees, flowers, the insects - in fact, all Beings and Things in Nature. Approach these teachers with awe, reverence and humility; they will respond with their lessons. (030374)

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