What is a Study Circle?

What is a study circle? It is not just 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 their 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 view - 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 to reading develops.

Centers 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."

Conversations with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba by Dr. John S Hislop

How does a Study Circle become real?

A study circle does not mean only just reading and discussing and taking information into the head, but also putting into practice what is learnt. If knowledge is stored in the mind, it causes confusion and confusion leads to blowing of the fuse. How will real knowledge develop if there is too much confusion? For instance, if you go on eating all the 24 hours, it will result in indigestion. This will lead to disease. What is eaten should be digested and then only you should eat again.

In the same way, you should listen (eat) in the Study Circle and put into practice (digest) what you have learnt. Again you can have another round of listening in the Study Circle. Now what you are doing is only loading and loading and no unloading. How much can you sustain like that? So, you should go on loading and unloading, listening and practicing. You have to practice whatever you have learnt. Then only it becomes a real Study Circle.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 18 Ch.5

How should the Study Circle learnings be used?

In the Study Circle, whatever we listen and assimilate in the mind should be distributed to others. In that way we show gratitude for what we have received. We should not listen and keep it to ourselves only for our benefit. Whatever we hear and practice should also be distributed to society at large, Such gratitude is very important for man. If one does not have gratitude, he leads the life of an animal. Even a dog shows gratitude if you give a little rice. In the Sathya Sai Organization, keeping this in mind, we should maintain unity and help the world. Other organizations may not know the inner meaning of this, but in our organization we should know the inner meaning and we should practice it, otherwise it is of no use. You should therefore be an ideal to others.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 18 Ch. 5

What is the most important learning from Study Circles?

In the study circle you can learn a lot of things, but the most important thing to be learnt is your own true nature --your soul’s reality. Learning all about external things without knowing your real self is like studying the branches of a tree, ignoring its roots. There are many fruits on the tree. We can see the fruits. What happens if you water those fruits? They will fall down. But if you water the roots down below, the tree flourishes and will give fruits which can be enjoyed. You have to develop self-knowledge and self-confidence and then only you can help others.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 18 Ch. 5

What is the aim of a Study Circle?

You have joined the Study Class at Dharmakshethra, and are engaged in poring 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 must aim to acquire. Not information, but transformation; not instruction, but construction should be the aim. Theoretical knowledge is a burden, unless it is practiced, 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 soul, of which the entire Creation is composed and so, knowledge of the Self alone can quench the thirst of man.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 12 Ch. 30

What is the proper plan of study?

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 practicing 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 practice is WISDOM. ' You must first learn about 'what others think you are.' They deal with you as a body, with a specific name and an identifiable form. Then, you must learn about 'what you think you are.' … Merely finishing the study of book after book serves no purpose. Practicing one line from any one book is enough to save you from aeons of darkness, of ignorance, and of yearning for Light.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 12 Ch. 30

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 practicing; not for reading’s sake.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 8 Ch. 21

Are the learnings of the Study Circle same for all participants? What makes a Study Circle full?

Every one of you is a pilgrim on that road proceeding at your own pace, according to your qualification 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 traveled less distance or reached a more advanced state. When I tell one person to follow one line of spiritual discipline, it is specifically for his benefit; do not take it as 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 the 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 forever; it cannot be a full Circle.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 12 Ch. 30

What material can be used for Study Circle?

And, pay attention to one other point also. Do not confine your Studies to this Circle and these Books. The whole Universe is 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. Do not worry that you have no mastery of Sanskrit;  Purificatory act (Samskaar) is enough equipment, for the University that lies around you. Sanskrit is the language of the ancient Scriptures and of Classical Literature; Samskaar is the Language of the Heart, the refined medium of fruitful communion with Nature, in all the manifold outpourings of Divinity.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 12 Ch. 30