After reflecting on abortion, it became immediately apparent that contraception is a closely related moral topic. In fact, it is often the case that if contraception fails, abortion is the next form of contraception. The contraceptive pill is one of the most widely used forms of medication in the world. Since the first clinical trials in the 1950’s, nearly 200 million women have taken the contraceptive pill, and today, over 70 million women rely on it for contraception. We look to what Sri Sathya Sai has to say about limiting population and family planning.
Sai Baba’s discourses yield no use of the word “contraception” in public talks given by Him. However, when addressing the issue of Family Planning in 1966, Sai Baba told:
The Doctor in charge of this Primary Health Centre spoke of Family Planning and of the artificial methods popularised here for the limitation of children. Though such methods may appear to succeed, they are fraught with much danger; they will inevitably lead to large-scale demoralisation of character and weakening of moral stamina; stamina on which the ultimate strength of a people depends. The regulation must come from within, not from without… (Kothacheruvu Village, Opening of the Primary Health Centre, 3-8-66)
At the same time, the leadership of the Catholic Church was about to take a portentous step that would create an irrevocable crisis of authority. In 1968, Pope Paul issued a papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which effectively told the World’s Christians, and Catholics in particular, that taking the pill was not an option for family planning.
The pill brought fresh miseries and worries for other women. Whatever its advantages as perceived by some, the pill increased pressure on women to become sexually available, while absolving men of responsibility for contraception. This is an issue that Sai Baba has repeatedly taken up.
In 1969, Sathya Sai Baba was to illustrate the consequences of contraception more emphatically:
“On the plea that the increase of population is harmful to the progress of the country, limiting births by artificial means is adopted as a policy and practices are being propagated on a national scale. This is an absurdly wrong step. This is like chopping off the head because the door is too low and you do not want to enter with a stoop. What you have to do is to discover means of growing more food, by, to give one example, utilising the vast sources of underground water. Artificial means of preventing conception will promote licentiousness and bring down on the country bestial promiscuity. Those who encourage these dangerous tactics must rather encourage sense control and self-restraint through Yoga and Seva, methods advocated in the scriptures by sages who knew the calamities that are the consequence of irresponsible fatherhood or frustrated motherhood. The innocent ignorant victims of this campaign, broadening out with so much fanfare, can well be educated to master their lower urges and sublimate them into more beneficial channels. Without mental preparation and determination these artificial methods may cause insanity and other complaints, ill-health and manias. Through the media of films, books, music and the behaviour of elders, young minds are excited and aroused into indulgence.
Through the campaign for Family Planning, they are persuaded to adopt means by which they have no responsibility for the consequences of that indulgence. This is, indeed, burning the future strength and progress of the nation at both ends! The best method for family planning is the ancient one: making man realise through Sadhana his innate Divinity. I desire that the doctors among you ponder over the inevitable calamities that will follow the spread of artificial means of family planning, means of escaping the restraints imposed by society, scriptures and culture on the lower instincts of min. You must help to guide the nation along right lines. I bless you that you may succeed in this noble mission of serving the best interests of the nation”. [Lions Club, Rajahmundry, 10-9-1969]
So the important aspects of this issue are character and moral stamina. Character comprises good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Stamina is the capacity to persevere, endurance, staying power, fortitude, strength, courage, bulldog courage, grit, true grit, and backbone. In the same discourse Sai Baba went on to say: “Through the campaign for Family Planning, they are persuaded to adopt means by which they have no responsibility for the consequences of that indulgence.” Sai Baba’s comment exposes this ultimate ignorance, providing indulgence for its own sake.
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