Celebrate Ugadi by Purifying your Heart
This year we would be observing Ugadi on Wednesday 23 March 2023. Ugadi is a festival which holds great importance in the Hindu lunar calendar. Derived from the Sanskrit words “yuga” (age) and “adi” (beginning), Ugadi marks the beginning of a new year and is celebrated by many across the southern states of India. It is on this day that people have a sacred bath, clean their homes and wear new clothes - amongst other traditions- signifying a fresh start. It is also on this day that our beloved Swami encourages us to celebrate by “purifying our hearts”.
“Man has progressed in the worldly sense but morally he has regressed, He is not able to give up his narrow-mindedness and criticism of others”. He continues by saying “[People] are only interested only in external cleanliness and are not concerned about purifying their hearts which are tainted with evil thoughts and evil feelings. It is rather easy to have external cleanliness and to wear new clothes but that is not the purpose of celebrating festivals. True celebration of Ugadi lies in giving up evil qualities and purifying one’s heart.”
- Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 35, p76
Though it may sound like Swami is telling us to not celebrate Ugadi at all in the material world, He simply doesn’t want us to merely limit our celebrations to just materialism. He lovingly explained,
“Today you may wear a new shirt, but how long will it remain new? Tomorrow it becomes old. Nobody reads the same newspaper every day. Today’s newspaper becomes tomorrow’s waste paper. Our life is like a newspaper. Once you have finished reading a newspaper, you do not like to read it again and again. You have been given this birth, and you have gone through varied experiences of pleasure and pain. Enough is enough. Do not ask for another birth as you would not like to read yesterday’s newspaper. You should pray “Oh God! You have given me this life and I have gone through all the experiences of pleasure and pain. I do not want to have another birth”
- Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 35, p86
Initially, purifying one’s heart sounds like a daunting and difficult task. Where does one even begin? What must one do? One of the key evil qualities tainting our hearts is desire, and true happiness does not come from giving in to these desires, but instead in eliminating them. Swami said,
“Having attained such a precious life, man is not making any effort to live like a true human being. Today he has become a bundle of desires. He is spending all his time and effort in fulfilling his desires. He is under the mistaken notion that fulfilment of desires will confer happiness on him. He should realise that only annihilation of desires will lead him to ultimate bliss. True happiness lies in the state of desirelessness”
- Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 3, p76
Eliminating desire alone won’t purify the heart as much as it is a step in the right direction. It comes down to how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. Swami said,
“Right from this moment, embark on a new life giving up bad thoughts and bad qualities. Purify your heart. Only then will your life be blissful. There is no point in reading sacred texts or visiting noble souls unless you purify your heart in the first instance. Let your thoughts, words and deeds be sacred. This is the true significance of celebrating Ugadi. Being Sai devotees, you should give up selfishness and dedicate your lives for the welfare of society. Fill your lives with love. Stop criticising others. Respect even those who hate you. Hatred is a bad quality. It will ruin you. Hence, get rid of this evil. Love everyone. Help the poor and needy to the extent possible. Help ever, Hurt never.”
- Divine Discourse, 13 April 2002
This Ugadi, let us turn our focus away from merely cleaning the world around us, to cleaning ourselves from within by removing the evil qualities such as hatred, jealousy and desire. Let us celebrate Ugadi in the way in which Swami wishes us to, by loving all and serving all. I will leave you today with the great words of Sage Vyasa "Paropakara punyaya, papaya parapeedanam "(one attains merit by serving others and commits sin by hurting them).
In point of fact, I believe that Ugadi ought to serve as the initial stage in progressing towards the implementation of the teachings that Swami discusses on a regular basis. Putting these ideas into practise on a daily basis does not have to include anything particularly difficult; rather, it may consist of as little as paying attention to the smallest details of your routine activities. The phrase "Watch your thoughts when you are alone and watch your words among others" is one that I nearly remind myself every day. Just reminding myself of this helps me with this internal purification by ensuring that both my thoughts and words are pure.
Also being present in the moment helps me to eliminate any desires in my mind and instead reminds me about how grateful I should be for everything that has been provided to me and for everything I have. I believe that having that presence of mind is what opens the door to more effective self-analysis.
In my experience, having that level of mental present is the key to conducting more fruitful introspection and self-examination. Overall, I do not think Ugadi should be celebrated only on the allocated day of the year, but we should be celebrating it every single day by constantly reflecting on ourselves and removing these evil qualities from ourselves.
Om Sri Sai Ram.
Yuvraj Kewal Chaudhary
Sai Centre of Papatoetoe
(Auckland, New Zealand)