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Means vs Ends - Resolution of a timeless debate

Updated on October 8, 2015

Have you arrived here directly?

Then you have missed quite some juice! :)
It is highly recommended that you read the first part of this same debate and experience that provokes a lot of thought and provides insights. The link to the first part is given below:

Debate: Are Means more important than the Ends - an experience with Sri Sathya Sai

And now, once you have come through that part, you would have seen a poll. The majority of the people (90% as of date) chose the means used to realize an end as more important than the ends themselves. Let us just twist the question a little bit to provoke more thought and make the choice a bit more difficult.

I mean, as an example, would you like to be completely adherent to the duties of a soldier even if you are being led by a tyrant because means are more important to you? Or would you disobey orders and be a bad soldier because you feel that you need to overthrow the tyrant ruler? The debate rages on....

A question on means and ends...

Which one would you prefer?

See results
Calvin always succeeds in  bringing out the truth in an awesome and funny manner! :)
Calvin always succeeds in bringing out the truth in an awesome and funny manner! :)

The 'infamous' five

(Continuing the story from where we left off in the previous part.)

Presently, His gaze fell on the five boys. Pointing to each one of them -

“You, you, you, you and you - get up”, Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) said. Slowly, they rose in the order in which they had been pointed out. They stood with their heads hung low. They could clearly see that Swami was upset and they decided it was best to keep their mouths shut.

“These boys flout the discipline and come ahead of the lines everyday. That should not be allowed. You punish them and do not allow them to do this henceforth. Such activities must be strongly discouraged.”

Saying so, Swami stormed off, back into the interview room. All of a sudden, there was an applause. The students who were seated in the portico were all clapping joyfully! They were happy that the ‘menace’ they had been facing all this while had been put to an end by Swami himself. Now with the warden becoming aware and taking things into his hands, discipline would surely return.

With downcast eyes and lowered heads, the ‘famous five’ sat down in their places for what they considered would be their last day in the front rows.

Pushkaraj Gumaste with his master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, during a trip to Kodaikanal in 1993.
Pushkaraj Gumaste with his master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, during a trip to Kodaikanal in 1993.

A challenge is thrown

A few minutes passed and the interview room door opened again. This time, it was almost noiseless and had one not been alert, one would not even have noticed it opening. Since the ‘famous five’ were right in the front and alert, they saw the door opening. Swami once again pointed out to each of the five. This time, however, He seemed to be smiling. He beckoned them into the interview room.

Pushkaraj and his friends had no idea as to what was going on. Though it is a great privilege and chance to be called into the interview room, in their current circumstances they did not know whether it would be such a joyous experience. The call had come and they responded by rising and slowly filing into the interview room. Once they went in, Swami closed the door shut behind them. He came around and looked at all of them. They were all visibly sad and downcast. Swami burst out into a smile.

“I told you that I would get you into trouble didn’t I? See! I got you into trouble.”

The boys silently acknowledged the fact that Swami had indeed done what He had said that He would do. What else could they do?

Then, the smile on Swami’s face vanished instantly. With all seriousness He said,
“Now, come ahead of the lines and sit in the front daily if you really love Swami.”

The boys looked at Him, scarcely able to believe their ears. But Swami was as serious as can be. He blessed all the five boys and then sent them out of the interview room. They walked back to their places and sat down. They simply did not understand what to make of what Swami had told them. But He had thrown a challenge at them and they would do anything necessary to win it.

It was a challenge to come ahead of the others having been marked in red!
It was a challenge to come ahead of the others having been marked in red!

The struggle and fulfillment

The five boys were now the focus of not only the warden but the entire student community as well. There was no way in which they could bunk the lines and go ahead. Try however hard they might, they never could go ahead. But they could not sit silently and resign to fate because the divine challenge kept rankling them.

After several failed attempts, they realized that it would not be easy to accomplish the challenge. However, they spent a lot of time in contemplation and planning on how they could accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Pushkaraj got his plan in place. It would take time - weeks or possibly months too. But it seemed like a foolproof one and he prayed that it would succeed. What he did was something out of the box and special.

The hostel housed about 400-500 inmates. Given the large number, on any given day, there would be at least one or two sick boys suffering from fever, sprained ankles, injuries from playing, nausea, weakness and the like. He volunteered to take these indisposed boys for darshan on a cycle and then get them back to the hostel. (The distance between the hostel and the darshan hall is nearly a kilometer.) It was a service that he did to all the sick members in the community.

The sick were happy because in spite of their injuries, illnesses or indispositions, they could go for darshan. The warden and others were also happy that the boy was being so service-oriented. And Pushkaraj was happy because of the joy he derived from the service. Within a couple of months, his plan worked out as he had desired.

The warden allowed him to take the sick boys early to the darshan hall as they needed time to get seated and could not be participants in the ‘mad rush’ that the students would indulge in. Thus, he began to reach the hall much before everyone else. This time, whenever anyone saw him in the front, they did not mind or complain for they felt that he deserved it. In due course of time, Pushkaraj became a regular in the front lines of the portico and he had ‘earned’ that place. He was very happy. He no longer needed to bunk lines and flout discipline to achieve his goal. The warden and teachers were happy because the student who had been reprimanded as undisciplined had turned a new leaf and was serving members of the community. The sick boys were happy too.

Does one need to say that Swami was happy?

All the members of the former ‘famous five’ had similar experiences. In a span of a few months, each of them won the challenge by getting into various service activities centered around the mandir. Soon, they all had achieved their objective through ‘legal’ means!

The experience also taught another lesson in a very subtle manner -

When you serve your fellow beings, you get a chance to be close to God. Service to man is service to God. And therefore the best way to love God is to love all and serve all.

A deeper thought will show that there is no difference between the means and the ends...
A deeper thought will show that there is no difference between the means and the ends... | Source

Resolution of the debate

An understanding of this episode from the life of Pushkaraj Gumaste lends valuable insight to the debate on the means and the ends. Sitting in the front and being with his Master was definitely a noble end which is worthy of emulation. However, Pushkaraj was achieving the same by breaking discipline which Swami did not like. He made it very clear too. At the same time, Swami also made it clear that His objection was only about the means being deployed for the end and not the end in itself. And that was also made very clear by what He told them in the interview room. He encouraged them to adopt the noble means for their noble ends.

That has been Swami’s stand always. Once, He asked during a discourse in a Trayee Session,

“The Bhagwad Gita helps one to attain the ultimate goal in life. What is the essence of the Gita?”

Many replies were given but Swami simply remained silent. Obviously the correct answer was yet to come. Swami then changed His approach by asking,

“What is the first stanza of the Gita?”

This time, many came forth with the correct answer. The same happened when Swami asked, “What is the last stanza of the Gita?”

Swami smiled and now asked,

“What do you get when you combine the last word of the last stanza with the first word of the first stanza?”

That was easy and the boys in a chorus shouted,

“Mama Dharma!”

Swami nodded His head and said, “That is right. Mama Dharma is the real essence of the Gita.”

Mama Dharma loosely translates into ‘My Dharma’ and therefore implies that leading one’s life according to the principle of Dharma is what the Gita is all about.

So, when one asks of Swami,

“Swami, are the means more important or the ends?”, Swami’s response would be,

“When Dharma (righteousness/goodness) is the goal and Dharma is the means of achieving it, where is the difference between the means and the ends?”

And that is the answer. The nobility of the “means” is influenced by the “ends” they achieve and the nobility of the “ends” are influenced by the “means” used to achieve it. Therefore neither is more important than the other. Both influence the other and so, both are equally important. If one collapses, the other collapses too.

The final word is Swami’s:

Dharma is the means and Dharma is the goal.

A lovely quote showing the interdependence of the 'means' and the 'ends'.
A lovely quote showing the interdependence of the 'means' and the 'ends'.

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      All your articles are nice. Pl keep posting them any way

    • profile image

      Dr sanjay aggarwal solan 

      6 years ago

      Sai Ram Arvind Bhai, this article makes us relive those moments when we also happen to use any means to be in front rows of devotees , later feeling guilt and hoping Swami doesn't be in eye to eye contact with us offenders. I think half of our 'DARSHAN LIFE' was spent with guilt in mind.

    • Teekay63 profile image


      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Brother, inspiring piece as usual - if the means are dharmic, then the goal will have to be dharmic (whether we "like" the presumed/perceived/expected end or not, and judge it as being "good" only because we "like" it) - the terms "good" and "bad" are vague...depending on whose (mental) perspective it is, right? Unlike dharma which is truth, and as our Beloved says, if we follow our mama dharma, then the end will be dharmic and "good" as God wills it. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks a ton.Inspired a lot and truly these articles seems something like swami is here physically teaching everyday moral lessons.

      What a love of Swami....

      Thanks again..Sairam.

    • poornimasrinath profile image


      6 years ago from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA

      Great inspiration as usual :)

    • profile image

      Kokila Vaidyanathan 

      6 years ago

      Fabulous :-) really thought provoking. Resolution given by Swami is so simple yet profound. Dharma as the means to attain Dharma as the Goal. You really are the best chef as described by brother have an art to prepare the dish and serve it beautifully. Sairam and thanks a lot for the wonderful sharing.

    • aravindb1982 profile imageAUTHOR

      Aravind Balasubramanya 

      6 years ago from Puttaparthi, India

      @Anil Kumar - The point you have brought up is also totally within the framework of "Dharma" being the means and "Dharma" being the ends. Swami has spoken about "Atma Dharma" and "Para Dharma".

      Atma Dharma is the basic premise for everything which states - Everything is God/Divine.

      Para Dharma seeks to make the Atma Dharma practically applicable for day-to-day living.

      Thus we have "Stri-Dharma" (Dharma of women), Putra-Dharma (Dharme of a son), Vyapara-Dharma (Dharma for business) and so on. Basically, these are guides which translate the Atma Dharma that everything is Divine into practicality of relationships, professions etc.

      When Atma Dharma and Para Dharma 'appear' to be in conflict, Atma Dharma holds for it is what has given birth to a Para Dharma.

      Therefore, attaining the Lord (which is realization of the ONENESS of the whole universe) becomes highest Dharma.

      So, in order to attain it, when 'Para Dharmas' seem to get 'violated' it does not matter. :)

      But Dharma is still the means and Dharma is the goal! :)

    • profile image

      Anil Kumar 

      6 years ago

      Then how de we answer the "Three births - return" boon of the dwarapalakas of vaikunta? I think the answer, lies in what our Lord had said that when the GOAL is attainment of GOD, nothing matters (whatever the means) - examples that our Lord gives are: Meera put aside her husband, prahalada his father, lakshmana his wife, Bali his preceptor and soon... Only in the case of attaining the LORD the means do not matter, for all elese the conclusion of the article is fine.

    • profile image


      6 years ago from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India.

      What a Divine inspiration behind your anecdote?

    • profile image

      Magaswari Murugiah - M'sia 

      6 years ago

      Thank you so much brother for sharing all this beautiful experiences of swami with all of us. Every time I read, I feel like I'm in the situations and living it with swami. Thank you for all this wonderful experiences swami. With love and gratitude ~ Jai sairam


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