Spiritual Blossoms
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Sai Ram. I wonder how many of you thought my last article in this series was rather heavy. Somehow, anything connected with the Atma is always considered to be heavy stuff. But then, if the Atma is the core of our being [as Swami repeatedly reminds us], then should we not know something more about it? It was that consideration that made me deal with that subject, though I was fully aware that not many would be very keen about it. By the way, please note that in the Gita, almost the very first thing that Krishna tells Arjuna is, “Arjuna, you are the Eternal Atma and not the body as you are imagining yourself to be.” I am sure you would also recall the number of times Swami too has spoken on the Atma and raised the question: “Who are you?” So I guess I really do not have to be too apologetic about the subject I have chosen to deal with currently. Well, this present reflection is going to be a follow-up to my last article, and here too I shall comment on some aspects of our intrinsic nature, etc.

Picture1In the last reflection, I mentioned that man must delve deep into himself and recognise that he is a spark of the Divine; and having done so he must then act in accordance with his true nature. Two key words I drew your attention to in this context were: Atma Viswaasam, and Atma Dharma. Let me now try to link these two words to the Media. I am sure you would imagine that I have “gone bananas,” as they say because on the face of it, it is not easy to see any connection between the two – Media and the Atma! I assure you I have not gone bananas and let me argue my case.

I waxed eloquent in my last article about the evils of the Media and all that. Just to make my arguments specific, let me consider TV or television, which, incidentally, Swami sometimes refers to as Tele Visham, literally meaning Tele-poison, which in fact TV has become. Let us, for the sake of illustration, consider a typical TV channel. This channel, let us say, is owned by a Media baron – quite common these days. The baron hires a lot of people and while they may have “creative freedom” to produce programmes as they like, they nevertheless have to toe the [editorial policy] line drawn by the Media baron. If anyone seriously deviates then he or she would be out of a job in minutes. Believe it or not, this happens all the time, in recent Iraq war, for example.

Now these barons crave for two things, money and power. What kind of power? The power to influence the mind of the public and make it believe what the baron wants it to believe; this power to subjugate another mind is quite heady and many crave for it. Besides this power, the baron also wants to make money. So he uses the channel to achieve his ends, and all the hundreds of people employed to run the TV channel have essentially got to produce programmes that would get people hooked on that particular channel, bringing thereby a lot of cash for the boss and also a sense of power.

You may say: “OK, all this we know; it is old hat. Where do Atma Viswaasam, Atma Dharma, man being a spark of the Divine, etc., figure in all this?” That exactly is what I shall deal with next.

For a moment, let us suppose that the owner of the TV channel is a great devotee of the Lord, seriously committed to following His teachings. Swami says Love All, Serve All. Would a person calling himself a true devotee then allow undesirable things to be shown on his channel? Would he pack the programmes with violence, crime, vulgarity, etc., claiming that exactly is what the public wants? Would he say that the Media has the freedom to do what it wants? Would he give the lame excuse that the Media offers only what the public wants to see? Would he gloss over the tremendous power that the Media has to influence the minds of one and all, forgetting his responsibility to Society? Obviously he would not.

So what would a true devotee running a TV channel do? I am willing to take a bet that he would run his TV channel in the same spirit in which we operate Radio Sai service. You will recall we have basically three services: A broadcast service that comes over Asiastar satellite of WorldSpace; another broadcast service that comes over the Afristar satellite of WorldSpace; and an Internet streaming service that can be picked up anyplace where an internet connection is available. Believe it or not, between these three broadcast services, we cover literally the whole earth, from North Pole to the South Pole, full 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. [By the way, how many really appreciate that this is how His Message is being spread constantly across the globe?]

The ideal TV Network owner would not be interested in using the Media to make money but in using it to spread hope, cheer, and good news. He would NOT subscribe to the current Media myth that controversy and scandals alone make news and nothing else. He would not contemptuously dismiss good news as no news. He would not argue that good news does not “sell”. In fact, he would be engaged in broadcasting as a SERVICE to Society rather than as a means of milking Society.

Many may shake their heads and say: “All this is idealistic poppycock. These things will not work,” etc. People who say such things do not know much about the early history of newspapers and broadcasting. I have heard talks by learned professors of journalism [in Western universities] who have pointed out that barely fifty years ago, the newspapers in America were very dignified. How come? Did not the owners want to make money? The answer to that question is strange. These owners in fact were already quite wealthy, and they genuinely thought that publishing quality newspapers was a service that they owed to Society. Sure they would have liked to make more money, but through normal business and not through newspapers [especially by publishing rubbish]. This indeed was the global trend in those good old days. Everywhere, people connected with the Press, be it the owners, or the editors, or the journalists, felt they were engaged in a sacred task, and that they owed a great duty to the public. They felt a compelling need to act in a responsible manner.

An example: Franklin Roosevelt became the President of America when it was going through the Great Depression of the early thirties. He was also the President when World War II broke out. He was a polio-victim and confined to the wheel chair. But the Press hardly ever mentioned it. On the contrary, photos showed him only waist above; and when newsreel movies were shot, they kept the wheel chair out of view. Were they not suppressing news? That was not the way newsmen felt in those days. They simply said: “Roosevelt is doing a great job [and few can take exception to that fact]. Let us not create anxiety in the minds of the American people by telling them that he is a wheel-chair man.” In other words, a man’s physical disability was his personal problem - that was the way people thought then.

What about now? It is a different ballgame as they say. The Press claims the right to literally hound men and women in public positions and who are celebrities, arguing that having become public figures they [the celebrities] no longer have any right to privacy. Things have come to such a sorry state that photographers have become a law unto themselves – just look at the way they hide behind bushes or whatever all the time so that they can click the “right picture”. All is fair in love and war it used to be said. Now it is: all is fair if scandal it is that we want to publish [even if not true!]. Selling and making money by hook or by crook is the only relevant thing. Truth? Who cares? It can go to hell – that seems to be the attitude of most journalists.

In this context I recall what a famous Australian cricket player named Keith Miller once said. Keith Miller burst into prominence after the Second World War as a fast bowler and, along with fellow Australian Ray Lindwall, he was a terror to batsmen everywhere. He was also a charismatic batsman who could swing around the fate of the game in a few short overs [I apologise for this cricketing interlude but then cricket is understood in many countries and so I hope those who don’t follow cricket would forgive me; anyway the point I am trying to make is not connected with cricket!]. Indian readers would appreciate better the talent and contribution of Miller to the game if I described him as the Kapil Dev of Australia.

One fine day, Miller retired from cricket and became a cricket correspondent, as many players often do. In his capacity as a journalist, he once came with the Australian cricket team to India [I think it was in 1964]. However, what he wrote about was not cricket but juicy gossip and scandal. An Indian journalist who read Miller’s columns in the newspaper was shocked. He confronted Miller and told him that what he was writing was not about cricket but about rubbish. Miller replied, “Listen buddy, this is what readers want. If I don’t give them that, I don’t eat! Understand?”

TV news has gone through a similar decline. TV became popular on a big scale in America in the early fifties. The TV networks were owned by big corporations and initially it was mainly “cinema on a small screen, seen at home, free, for many hours a day”. In other words, it was entertainment all the way through. Initially, there was only limited-hours telecast, as it was in radio broadcasting earlier. As the number of telecast hours increased, there was a need to fill time with inexpensive programmes and thus, religious broadcasts in the morning and short newscasts found a place. While all entertainment programmes were supported through advertisement revenue, there were no sponsors for the religious broadcasts and news programmes. The Networks used this to declare a loss and get some tax breaks! In their view, these were unimportant programmes and the producers could do what they wanted - they were making a loss anyway [in these programmes], which in fact was beneficial for the company in terms of tax rebates. But you know what happened? Because the bosses did not care about the programmes, the editors and journalists used their creativity to produce many good, socially relevant programmes. Soon news programmes began to be watched by big audiences. Once the barons got to know this, they told the news programme producers, “Thank you gentlemen; we take over now and you shall henceforth do was we say.” That is how editorial control of TV news got into the picture. And you know what has happened to TV news since then – sensations, scandals, controversy, etc. Good news is no longer news.

Many would loudly protest, but believe me I have talked to many Media-insiders and in private they admit that they have creativity but within the Lakshman Rekhas drawn by the barons. Others would still argue: “All this is pure rubbish. Just look at the wide variety of choice we now get; so many channels to choose from!” May be but as one American commentator wryly observed, “Yeah, I can now choose from over fifty different channels. But the problem is that they all serve the same rubbish in fifty different ways.”

You might at this point be getting tired of all this and are perhaps saying, “Listen; what has all this got to do with Atma Dharma and stuff like that?” Atma Dharma does seem remote, does it not? Let me try and convince you that it is not.

Let us start with the print media. Let us say that a person committed to Atma Dharma is in the publishing business. By the way do not imagine that a person swearing by Atma Dharma has to look and dress like a Rishi! Nothing of that sort, as Krishna makes very clear in the Gita. Following Atma Dharma simply means performing all actions in life charged with the Divine feelings of Selfless service, Love, and compassion. Incidentally, EVERYONE is bound by Atma Dharma, from a king to a pauper; no one is exempted, ever.

To get back to our Dharmic publisher, he would say: “People may say all sorts of things about freedom of the Press, the right to publish anything that the editor considers fit, etc. I am not concerned about such views. I am not bothered about what others say. I will do only that which my Conscience permits me to. Swami has clearly declared: ‘Follow your Conscience. Your Conscience is your true Master’. I am in this business not to make money but to serve the public. I have a duty that I must, as Krishna advises, perform selflessly.”

If the publisher says this to himself and acts accordingly, he is following Atma Dharma. It is as simple as that. Acting selflessly and in accordance with one’s Conscience is what Atma Dharma is all about really. What is so complicated about it?

Even after all this, doubts will not cease. Many would murmur, “If the publisher acts this way, he would go broke in five minutes. All this will not work in this day and age.” Is this really true? Let us examine.

Let us say there is a publisher who actually does all that I have described [incidentally, in the forties, I have myself seen many newspapers in India which all functioned in precisely this manner]. What is the publisher doing? He is upholding Dharma. Swami says, if someone protects Dharma, that very same Dharma would protect him in turn. If the publisher had TRUE FAITH in this word of God, there is absolutely no doubt that he would NOT go broke and become penniless. People simply do not realise how many millions are out there hungering for good news and inspiring stories. You know, even in the case of TV, for example, the Public Broadcasting Service in many countries [America, for example] is a good example of how people who want wholesome programmes are willing to come forth and extend support. May be one will not make millions but we are not talking about that, are we?

Just consider the example of Radio Sai. Three years ago at this time if anyone had told me that I would be in the radio business, I would have declared that person to be mad! And yet, as I mentioned a little earlier, we can now be heard all over the world 24 hours a day. Is this not an expensive business? You bet it is. But then, that is where hidden goodness suddenly surfaces to lend a helping hand. You know what happened? In brief: Dr. Noah Samara, Chairman of the WorldSpace Corporation came to Prashantinilayam for Swami’s Darshan and straightaway offered channels on his satellites. On the day we were on the air for the first time, 23rd November, 2001, Dr. Michael Nobel, a Member of the Board of the WorldSpace Coroporation, speaking in the Divine presence said that they in WorldSpace were amazed how many people across the globe had heard of Sai Baba simply by word of mouth, got transformed and started doing good work. How much more can be done, asked Dr. Nobel, if the Message of Global Harmony could be broadcast continuously? That is how a helping hand was extended to us. By the way this is no freak incident. If you look carefully at the various projects of Swami, they all bear testimony to the goodwill of tens of thousands across the world who have come forward to contribute to the sustenance of goodness in Society, in many different ways.

The word Atma connotes Universal Oneness. That Oneness is God, who is present in everything, from an ant to Brahman, as Saint Tyagaraja once sang [a phrase that Swami sometimes refers to]. When we recognise this Cosmic Oneness, we begin to feel a responsibility to the whole of Creation and not just our so-called loved ones. As one thinker wrote, what we normally mean by love is limited love. True Love is Infinite, and that feeling of True Love can come only with what Swami refers to as Atma Bhavam.

To wrap it all up, any subject on earth can be looked at in two different ways – one is from a limited vision that encompasses oneself, one’s family, one’s friends and so on. Limited vision implies narrow mindedness, Sankuchitha Bhavam as Baba refers to it. The other is broad mindedness or Vishaala Bhavam, in Swami’s words. Vishaala Bhavam comes only when one’s gaze is turned towards the Atma.

What I have tried to do in this article is to describe how a person with broad vision would handle his duty as a Media publisher. He would not treat publishing as a money-making enterprise but as a sacred duty to Society. So let us not imagine that the Atma is irrelevant to daily life. If it were, would Krishna have talked about it to Arjuna? As Swami says, the Lord came as Krishna mainly to give to humanity the gift of the Gita.

Here is a teaser! How about dealing with the subject of Corruption and the Atma? Would you give it a try or would you sigh and say, “Well, that proves this guy has really gone bananas!” Even if you think I am nuts, I would like to hear that from you direct! So, how about writing to us?

Jai Sai Ram.


Volume - 2 Issue - 10 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004