Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 5 December 2013.
Address: c/o Greenville Vedic Center
P.O. Box 5311, Greenville, SC 29606
Activities and Schedule
Devotional service: 3:50 P.M.
Sai Spiritual Education for children: 3:00 P.M.
Study circle for adults on Sai Baba's teachings: 3:00 P.M.
Devotional song practice/learning: 2:30 P.M. Thursday:
Family devotional meetings: 8:00 P.M. Community service activities the first Saturday of each month at 3:00 P.M. and first Sunday of each month at 11:30 A.M. The venue of each event is announced in monthly newsletter. Call 864-468-4493 for more information.
The Sathya Sai Baba Center is not so much a center as a community. Having no central meeting location, they rotate the location of bhajans and other activities between several congregants' homes. However, many members are also involved in various activities of the Hindu Vedic Center of Greenville.
Sai Baba, often called in conversation "Baba" or "Swami," is the second of a series of modern incarnations of Shiva and Shakti. Born in 1926 into the Raju caste as Sathyanarayana, he experienced several revelations as a young man and has become known as a deity-saint, the "embodiment of their consciousness." He prophesies the coming of a third and final Sai Baba eight years after his own death in 2022.
Largely Indian in composition, the group has a few Caucasian converts, and it stresses that all ethnicities and religions are welcome. "Swami wants to make Christians better Christians, Muslims better Muslims," said one congregant. The community offers activities for both children and adults, even a parental support group that meets twice a month. Congregants worldwide are typically wealthy and English-speaking, so they often immigrate to the United States. Indeed, the homes in which this group's bhajans are held are in upper-middle class suburban neighborhoods of Greenville, and many of the congregants are physicians.
As the location of each event rotates, there is no set environment for worship. However, each family that hosts events has a room set aside for bhajans, with an altar as the focal point of the room. Some have Indian carpets covering the floor, and some have an empty chair in which Sai Baba is believed to settle during the service. The altar typically features at least one photo of Sathya Sai Baba, a smiling man with full cheeks and a wide halo of dark hair. Altars also involve a smaller image of the first Sai Baba, who lived in the 19th century, along with flowers, candles and a central murti of Ganesha.
Devotional services begin and end with brief meditations on the syllable "om." Men and women, seated on opposite sides of the room, alternate leading bhajans, praise songs describing the various aspects of God in the form of Vishnu, Shiva, their avatars, including Sai Baba, and other specific deities such as Jesus and Buddha. Accompanied by keyboard and hand drums, the songs begin with the song leader chanting all verses, with the rest of the group repeating after each line. The tempo then increases as the whole song is sung and repeated two or three times, then is returned to the original slow chant to close the song. Some bhajans focus on Sai Baba himself:
"Sathya Sai, Sathya Sai, hear our prayer, Sathya Sai
O Lord of Parthi we call out to you
Sweet Lord of mercy, we call out
You O Lord of Parthi, Enchanter of our minds
Sweet Lord of mercy, let our souls be Thine." Others on other Hindu gods:
"We bow down at the feet of Ganehsa"
"Sri Krishna Sri Rama Sri Bhagawaan
You show us the Way of the Truth and the Light
Sri Krishna Sri Rama Sri Bhagawaan
Our hearts are made pure by Thy beautiful Sight." Others with a broad, pluralistic focus:
"You are all names and all forms, choose any one.
You are all names and all forms, Almighty One."
"Swami, take my hand, Jesus, take my hand,
Dear Lord, take my hand, take my hand and lead the way." And others on deities of other faiths:
"Schma Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echod
Kyrie Elesion, Christe Elesion, Adonai Echod
Allah Hu Akbar, Alhamdulilah, Adonai Echod"
[Translation: "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One [Hebrew; the Jewish Shema]
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy [Greek; Christian liturgical tradition], the Lord is One
God is the greatest, praise be to God [Arabic; Muslim call to prayer], the Lord is One]
"Allah Allah my inner light
Allah Allah my inspiring Sight
Allah O Akbar" A few Christian hymns are also incorporated into the sect's repertoire of bhajans, such as "For the Beauty of the Earth," "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Amazing Grace." Guests are often asked to lead a song from their faith tradition, such as the Christian doxology. For bhajans in English, please see www.eaisai.com/baba/docs/engi.html
One Study Circle discussion concerned the congregants' views on devotion and evangelism, and how those views compare to the teachings of Swami, as read from Sathya Sai Speaks and The Inward Path, published by the Sri Sathya Sai Education and Publication Foundation. Comments include advice to be a quiet spectator and a good listener; to gently take a friend's little finger and lead him or her to God; and encouragement to search for truth within oneself first, and guide a friend along the path only when he or she inquires about the faith. Though this group has not reported miraculous happenings as some Sai Baba communities have (the appearance of sacred ash, nectar, or footprints near photos of the Swami), one man reported being told by Sai Baba in a dream that he was to lead the discussion on devotion. According to scholar Lawrence A. Babb, Swami "frequently appears in devotee's dreams, and because he is believed to appear in dreams only when he wills it, every dream of him is a kind of miraculous communication" (Redemptive Encounters, p. 179). Indeed, the revelation appeared to be no surprise to the congregants.
Jessica Miller and Lindsay Reyes, 2002
Furman University, Greenville, S.C.