Study Circle Guidelins
When Heart Speaks to Heart, It Is Love That Is Transmitted – Sathya Sai Baba
What is a study circle?
The study circle is an integral part of Sai Organization activities. Study circle is selecting a message and having each devotee discuss their understanding of the idea.
By sharing different perspectives, a much deeper understanding of the material begins to surface. Through sharing, doubts may be answered. Either Swami’s talks or other scriptures such as the Bible, Quran or Gita may be used as material for Study Circle.
Purpose of Study Circle
The goal of a study circle is transformation, not transfer of knowledge. Sathya Sai Baba tells us that the spiritual growth of a person is best achieved through an integrated practice of devotion, study,and service. The purpose of a study circle is made explicitly clear by Baba as follows:
SaiLiterature”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 or purpose of study circle. Sathya Sai Baba further tells us, “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.” The study circle carries many benefits to participants. The primary benefit is the acquisition of Self-knowledge. Sai Baba says, “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 atmatatwa.
Learning all about external things without knowing your real Self is like studying the branches of a tree, ignoring its roots.
A study circle should not only be just reading and discussing and taking information into the head, but also practicing what is learnt. If knowledge is stored in the mind, it causes confusion. How will real jnana (spiritual wisdom) develop if there is too much confusion?
Whatever insights have been assimilated should be distributed to society at large. In that way we show gratitude for what has been received.
Development of self-knowledge and self-confidence has to be gained before we can help others.
Each has a different make-up –mental, physical, and spiritual. Unless you make earnest inquiry, you cannot discover the remedy applicable to your growth. Study with faith and devotion. Do not confine your studies to this circle and these books. The whole Universe is your University. 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.”
Goals of Study Circle
- Gain a deeper understanding of Swami’s teachings and thus learn more about living a spiritual life.
- Learn how Swami’s teachings have affected others. This can inspire us, help remove doubts we may have, give us a firmer belief.
- Advance spiritually.
- See all the facets.
- Support each other in spiritual endeavors.
- Discover practical applications of Swami’s teachings.
- Share experiences.
- Learn how to put Sai’s teachings into practice.
- Be in the company of good people –satsang.
- Gain confidence in speaking in public.
- Install good values in ourselves.
- Recharge our batteries.
- Teach us patience (as we wait our turn).
- Find answers to problems (through teachings, not group therapy).
- Learn how to handle situations where we disagree with others.
Format for Study Circle
A facilitator leads the discussion by giving an introduction to the passage. He/she then presents a segment of the material and allows the group a short pause to reflect on the reading. The facilitator then will have the participants contribute their ideas and suggestions by taking turns. . Towards the culmination of a study circle, one of Swami’s teaching is chosen so that maybe put into practice during the coming week.
Guidelines for Study Circle
Generally, one should refrain from personal remarks that may be hurtful to others. Study circle should not transgress into a social therapy session. Select a suitable topic that can be understood by all. Focus on Swami’s teachings, although other related material from traditional material is acceptable to present.
- Share your opinion of what was meaningful to you in the passage.
- Discuss what you don’t understand in the passage and why.
- Mention a question that the passage brings to mind.
- Describe the effect of the passage on you.
- Discuss something that happened to you that relates to the passage.
- Discuss how this passage may affect you in the coming weeks.
- Answer a question that someone previously posed.
Role of Facilitator
- Supply copies of the material for all.
- Be prepared; study the material beforehand, and have other relevant material handy.
- Be prepared with meanings of Sanskrit words used.
- Keep the discussion under control and going around in a circle, giving everyone a chance.
- Stay focused on the topic.
- Keep the discussion engaging.
- Have an experience concerning the topic ready to relate, if necessary.
- Create an atmosphere that makes participants comfortable; respect, humor, eye contact.
- Be a time keeper, only allowing each person to speak for two minutes.
- Help attendees avoid sharing personal problems.
- Know the organization guidelines.
- Keep cross talk to a minimum, keep people going around the circle.
- Encourage non-participants to share by perhaps asking them a question about the material. No pressure should be used. If the person still does not participate, let it go; that’s their choice.
Role of participant
- Come prepared, if the reading and topic is announced in advance.
- Participate! Speak! You get out of something what you put into it.
- Listen fully when the material is being read! Ask it to be repeated if you didn’t get it all.
- Listen fully to what others have to say.
- Share your experiences that relate to the topic.
- Ask questions that arise.
- DO be focused and to the point; stay on the topic.
- DO have patience; wait your turn.
- DO pass if you have nothing to say.
- DO be open-minded.
- Talk from the heart, not the head.
- Avoid political issues.
- Don’t make it a social therapy session.
- Don’t take too much time.
- Don’t talk unless you have something positive to say.
- Avoid repetition; don’t simply repeat what someone else said.
- Don’t put on a display of intellectual prowess.
- Talk from the heart, not the head.
- Don’t debate, don’t judge others.
- Remember that the goal is your personal transformation.
- Support the facilitator.