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- Sathyam Sivam Sundaram - Part IV
The Life of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.
Between You and Me
The Song He Sings
Love on the March
The Call and the Echo
Words with Wings
Moves in His Game
Closer and Closer
Dabbling and Diving
References added to SSS by Vahini.org
Reference to "The All, in All"
* Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna, by G.V. SubbaRao, from Sanathana Sarathi, December 1997
Reference to "Love on the March"
* Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna
* Divine Discourses on Dasara by Bhagavân Sathya Sai Baba
Reference to "Facets of Truth"
* Bhagavad Gîtâ, Chapter 11, verse 12: The Yoga of the Universal Form; on the confrontation with the complete of His reality.
Reference to "Festival of Light"
* How Kasturi received his name.
(taken from the book "Loving God" by N. Kasturi)
Reference to "Sign and Signature"
* The Story of Dhruva, in text and pictures.
(Source: Srîmad Bhâgavatam, Canto 4, Ch. 8-13)
Reference to "White Man's Burden"
* The Crucifix (Taken from: 'My Baba and I' by John Hislop, pp. 17-21.)
Between You and Me
I should apologize for allowing ten eventful years to pass by since placing Part III of 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram' in your hands before doing the same with Part IV, although Bhagavân has been keeping me alive and attentive beyond my expectations. But since I have never felt that I am the writer, I plead 'not guilty' and desist.
It has become well-nigh impossible to keep pace with the ever-expanding manifoldness of the manifestation of Divinity that is Sai. That almighty Love overwhelms us into blissful silence; the all-encompassing Power makes us aware of our inadequacies. Nevertheless, the Divinity in us draws us to Him, even while He seeks us, the straying as well as the steady one, to keep us in His cosy custody.
Lord Krishna describes to Arjuna those who had received the impact of His grace, thus: "My sweetness has soaked into every level of their consciousness. They live in Me, by Me, for Me. They take delight in narrating stories centred around My sport and My compassion. They share with others the love, the wisdom and the power I impart, and all reap immense gain thereby."
I invite you to participate in this holy sharing. Travel from page to page as a pilgrim, with humility, faith and hope, tarrying at every turn to fill your hearts with visions of the many-turreted Citadel of God and of God Himself. With each vision of His glory, we shall gain nearness and dearness to Him, who has come to accept us as His own nearest and dearest.
The Song He Sings
Thirty five years ago, when Baba was emerging from teenage, He sang this song while at the mandir (temple) on the outskirts of the village where He was born. He has been, since childhood, a stream of sweetness, singing His way into the hearts of all around Him. Since He was not of the earth, but very concerned to transform the earth into Heaven, His songs then, as now, were designed as a call to man to benefit from the mystery, the majesty and the magnificence of His incarnation. This song, in Telugu, emerged from Him spontaneously, on the morning of Vaikunta Ekadasi (the holy day in the Hindu calendar celebrating the opening of the doors of Heaven), in 1945, while devotees were busily stringing thick garlands of tulsi (basil) leaves to worship Him.
I have heard it sung since 1948 by those to whom He dictated it. It was also printed in 1946, along with other songs sung by Baba in those early days, at Venkatagiri by the Raja Saheb.
"Choothaamu, Ra Ra," it exhorts us. "Come! We shall see! Come! Awake!" it warns. "Arise!" it commands. "Advance!" it pleads. And through this song, in cosmic compassion, the call comes to each one of us even today.
Come brothers! Come sisters! We shall go
To holy Puttaparthi now. It seems
He wears a lovely robe of orange silk.
His is heavenly glory; He is the Lord Himself.
He calls to give us freedom.
He says, they say, "I shall shower grace."
On the Chitravathi sands,
In the shadow of the hill,
This Baba, they say, daily reveals
That He is God in human form.
It seems He was at Shirdi last,
And is here, for our sake, again.
Come brothers! Come sisters! We shall go.
They say He waves His hands
As He often did, while there.
'Tis said they offer all you ask of Him.
He is, they say, Siva and Rama,
Krishna and Maruti too.
All forms of God are one in Him;
You can see Him as such and such,
When you are good and true.
He is the God the Kaliyuga doth need;
That's why, they say, He's come
To cleanse the world of lie and sin.
Of mercy, he is the ocean vast.
Come brothers! Come sisters! We shall go.
They say He is resplendent,
Resting on a floral swing.
Our hallelujah is the swing;
Adoration, the plank; homage, the chains;
Hymns in praise, the fragrance of the flowers.
Whenever one prays in agony,
It seems He heals in a trice;
Like the cow, when the calf does moo,
He hurries, hastens, runs.
His glance, they say, is soft and soothing;
His words are nectar-sweet.
Those who go to Puttaparthi
Are on the royal road, they say,
While we, they say, tarry in lanes, cursing destiny,
Caught in maya, with none to liberate us.
As soon as He Wills, 'tis said, His palm is full
Of vibhuti, which He gives at once
To those who struggle, suffer, stray.
Do not say, "We are busy now; some time later."
Come brothers! Come sisters! Let us go.
We'll go to holy Puttaparthi
For the darsan of the Lord.
Join us, you uppish pseudo-wise,
And learn a little of His glory.
He digs His fingers into a heap of sand,
With a chuckle on the lip
And a twinkle in the eye;
Wet balls of sand become laddus round!
From far, far away, some dim-eyed dons
Pronounce it magic, mantra, tantra.
Be deaf to them; get up and start.
Don't reckon hardships; the reward is great
In Parthi mandir, now, on this holy day,
Tulsi leaves are strung into garlands galore,
While He sings this song to bless the happy throng.
This call has brought the world to Puttaparthi where the Third World Conference delegates, numbering about ten thousand, from various units of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, are meeting during the Birthday festival, 1980.
This tulsi leaf - Part IV of 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram' - is offered at His Lotus Feet by a humble garland stringer.
27-7-1980 (Guru Poornima)
I. In Confidence
From Baba, His Story
At Ootacamund in the Nilgiri Hills, when the Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality for college students came to a close, Baba held an exclusive session with the student participants. He was then in an unusually jovial and reminiscent mood. He desired to thrill the students with an account of His early days at school, so that they might realize that His oft-quoted statement, 'My Life is My Message', was true even when He was physically emerging into boyhood, and even before He had announced His advent as an avatar. He related to them how He moved among his cousins and classmates, His teachers and comrades, and also the villagers of Puttaparthi, Bukkapatnam, Uravakonda and Kamalapura. He would exhort them to ponder over this chapter of His story and implant in their hearts the ideals He had placed before Himself even as a child. When the summer course of 1978 held at Bangalore concluded, students who had heard of the Ootacamund discourse pleaded with Him to disclose to them episodes of His boyhood days, at school and outside, in which He provided glimpses of His Leela (divine play); and Baba graciously revealed to them a few more incidents of the past which laid bare His mission and His divinity.
In the pages of Part I of this series, I have mentioned that even as a child of five summers, He had earned the epithets, 'Guru' and 'Brahmajnani', because He corrected and counselled the children who gathered around Him as playmates, and because His conversation and conduct were on a level of consciousness higher than even the adults who sought to guide Him. Even as a child and later at school, He was meek but morally fearless, abhorred violence, vengefulness and falsehood, and preferred simple living to gaudiness and ostentation. He could easily sing, dance, and compose hymns and poems, while other children of the same age were still struggling with the first few letters of the alphabet. He also demonstrated ready compassion for birds and animals. He avoided meat and eggs, and shed tears of sympathy when drought animals like bullocks were mercilessly beaten. He stood forth as the leader of a band of children to whom He taught the ways of God and the means to win His grace.
He stayed most days at the house of the Karnam (village accountant) where the mistress, Subbamma, tended Him with maternal care. Baba sought shelter in her affection in order to avoid the sight of slaughtering fowl in His family home nearby and to watch the Puja (worship) conducted by that Brahmin lady in the room set apart for ceremonial rites. Baba never played truant at school. Rather, He relished the company of children, whom He helped to get the best out of school.
Towards Upper Primary School
At Ootacamund, Baba narrated the story of a journey in a crowded cart drawn by a pair of bullocks from Puttaparthi to Bukkapatnam, and from Bukkapatnam to Penukonda, sixteen miles away. He was then ten years old. He and the other children could scarcely squeeze into the cart; a few spilled over. They were in the lower primary class and could join the upper primary school only when they had passed an examination which was to be held at Penukonda town. There were eighteen children in all, overcrowding the vehicle. Whenever the road rose to negotiate a bump or a hill, the bullocks could not drag the cart behind them. So the children were pulled out and made to walk up. There was also no brake to hold the cart in check as it rolled downhill and, as a consequence, the children had to walk the road downhill also! The children were sent to the 'distant, unfamiliar town' from their homes, after propitiatory prayers to the family deities, prayers that were also meant to help them pass the examination.
At Penukonda they stayed together, and the teachers who led them gave last minute lessons. Baba agreed to be in charge of the kitchen. Lunch and dinner for the party were cooked by Him and He did not demand or welcome help from anyone. This arrangement continued on all the three days of the examination. Baba had no time to revise His texts, nor could He attend the special classes held by the teachers. Yet, when the results were announced a few weeks later, He happened to be the only candidate declared fit to proceed to the upper primary school! The good people of Bukkapatnam, the village three miles away, warmly welcomed Baba into the school situated in their village, taking Him through the streets on a chair placed on a flower-bedecked cart that was drawn by caparisoned bullocks, right up to the doorstep of the school. They were all happy, even proud, that the 'wonder-boy' of Puttaparthi, already famous as 'God's Son', was attending classes in their school.
Baba was the cynosure of all eyes at Bukkapatnam. Though He seldom listened to the lessons and rarely opened His textbooks, He was hailed as the brightest pupil of His class. This drew upon Him the envious looks of the ones who trudged along with Him every day from Puttaparthi. They often overpowered Him physically while on the Chitravathi sands and dragged Him along, ruffling His shirt and knickers and damaging them out of shape. When the Chitravathi was flowing, they dowsed Him with gusto. Baba said that He neither protested nor complained, but bore all this as the pardonable sport of ignorant youngsters. His refused to name any of the tormentors nor did He bear any ill will against them.
In those days every classroom echoed with the swish of the teacher's cane, which was busy falling on the backs or palms of the luckless little brats. When the teacher got too exhausted to inflict the punishment, this privilege was transferred to the brightest boy in the class. Baba said that one day the question presented before the pupils was: "Describe the glory of India." The answer had to be in English. The other boys knew little of India, and less of English. Baba, however, tersely but confidently replied, "Consisting of high mountains, large rivers with many branches and many plains, India is beautiful with all these grand contents." Baba then related to us details of the rest of this episode:"The punishment the others deserved according to the teacher was my slapping them on their cheeks. I was to hold their noses tight with the left hand and then give them the resounding slaps. There were about thirty students in the class, some far taller than me, and I had to climb upon a bench to fulfil my most unpleasant and unpopular duty. But I could not bring myself to slap them as forcibly as the teacher wanted and my blows fell softly on their cheeks. So the teacher was angered. He called me near and shouted, 'Did I want you to apply Haldi (turmeric, used as a cosmetic) to their cheeks? I asked you to beat them. I shall show you how.' He held my nose and counted the slaps he gave me, about thirty or so, before he stopped. I bore it all in silence, for a teacher should not be insulted or let down. It was my fault for having annulled, by softness, the purpose of the punishment he desired to inflict, however absurd the prize for my superior knowledge of Indian geography and history."
Baba disclosed that, being the monitor of the class, He was burdened with duties and clothed in authority."I undertook to show the students and the monitors of other classes how a monitor should conduct himself. I would reach school a few minutes earlier than the rest. I cleaned the blackboard before the class commenced and often had to clean even the benches and desks,"
Baba explained."Rama sat at the feet of Vasishta and attended class with other boys [See Ramakatha Rasavahini, Ch. 5]. Krishna, too, had Sandeepa as his guru, [see Bhagavatha Vahini Ch. 41] while Sudama and others were his classmates. When the formless, attributeless Divine Principle takes human form and appears among men, It has to conduct Itself as an agreeable companion and as an understandable example to contemporaries."
In His discourses Baba confirmed that He had 'willed' the incident at the Bukkapatnam school when the chair stuck to the posterior of Kondappa, one of His teachers. He confessed that His intention in reducing him to a ridiculous figure was not to avenge His having been made to stand up on the bench for hours. He had designed it only to reveal a little of His uniqueness, give a glimpse of His divinity, and to make the world around Him sit up and ask, "Who is this boy?"
When Kondappa's hour of teaching was over, he naturally had to vacate the chair for Mehboob Khan who was to take the next class, but he could not get up because the chair stuck to him. [see The Rhythms of His Feet] The boys suggested that the calamity had happened because Sathya was punished. Then Mehboob Khan, who loved and adored Baba, and who had glimpses of His divinity, revealed to Kondappa, "You do not understand. Raju is not an ordinary person; He is a divine boy and I have seen divine brilliance in Him many times. Withdraw the punishment you have given Him immediately and your own punishment will disappear." Then Mehboob Khan asked Baba to step down from the bench and Kondappa, too, could get up and walk away.
Swami narrated the events at Uravakonda (about thirty miles away from Anantapur), where He spent about two years with His elder brother who was a teacher of the Telugu language in the high school there. [N. Kasturi:] I myself visited Uravakonda a year and a half ago. There I walked along the long, broad verandas of the high school, hallowed by His footprints. I spent some times in the room which was once His classroom and sat on the same desk that had been used by Him as student - a bench-cum-writing desk, with a makeshift shelf underneath the incline of the top. Three pupils could sit on each bench with their books in the bottom shelf. I sat on the bench and imagined little Baba seated next to me!
Dr. Moinuddin, now a medical practitioner at Uravakonda, was with me at the school that day. He had been a contemporary and classmate of Baba. He said, "I was allotted a seat on the bench directly behind Baba, and I could tease Him by whisking away His cap. He would then implore me to return it to Him, for no student could attend class without a cap. I knew that Baba would not fight or complain to the teacher or whisk away my cap in turn; He was so quiet, soft and non-violent. So I would insist on His creating some sweetmeat for me - a rasagolla, a laddu or a Mysore pak. I was tired of taking sugar-candy. Baba would then circle His palm twice or thrice and produce for me my favourite sweets. But this invariably set all tongues dripping. So a general clamour would arise for a repetition of the act and the noise would bring in the teacher. Then, he too, would have his share before the lesson began." Another of His classmates, Sri Sitha Rama Rao, told me that Baba had confided in him that He would set the world right and establish the reign of truth in all lands.
I saw the tangled branches of the old dwarf trees right in the centre of the quadrangle. Baba had described to us how He used to play the monkey game on five trees in that quadrangle. Two of the trees have now been axed, but Providence has spared the rest. The monkey game involved two rival bands of primates. They crawled along the branches, then dangled without dropping, moving from one hold to another, trying to unnerve and to demoralize members of the rival band, until one of them was touched and declared 'out'. They snarled and growled at their rivals as angrily as they could. They swung and swayed, clung and clambered, slid and slithered. If they fell, they 'died' and were pronounced 'down and out'. They shook the branches with all their might to unseat the 'monkeys' of the opposite gang, loudly jeering and cheering all the while. If any of them slipped into the vocabulary of homo sapiens and revealed his true identity, he 'died' at that instant. Baba gave each one of them some sweets at the end of the game. Many like Dr. Moinuddin, who had once frisked and frolicked on those trees, are even today chewing the sweet cud of memories of the game.
The Scout Troop
Swami related in a discourse the story of His 'boy scout' days."We had a physical instructor," He said, "who formed a school scout troop. He was very insistent that I should enrol, and though I, too, was eager to use the chance to direct the 'good turns' of scouting towards the path of Sadhana (spiritual discipline), I could not join because my family was too poor to afford the uniform and other contingent expenses. To make you aware of the depth of their poverty, I shall relate an incident: I used to attend classes every day wearing the same shirt, for I did not have a second. Some of the boys who discovered this fact started laughing at me. They teased me on the way to school and back and, pulling at my worn-out shirt, they tore it. As I had no pin to even keep it together, I was forced to use a cactus thorn plucked from the fence of my neighbour's field to serve the purpose.
"Realising the reason which held me back from the troop, my chums were very sad. The boy who always sat to the right of me was the son of the chief accountant at the revenue office. He went to his father and persuaded him to make two pairs of uniforms comprising a khaki half-sleeved shirt along with khaki knickers. He rolled up one pair and put it on the shelf of my desk with a note that was addressed to me which read: 'You must take this and wear it. We are brothers, so do accept this from me.' But I was not happy, and decided to refuse this gift. I left the uniform on the shelf of his desk along with a note saying, 'If you wish our friendship to last, you must not indulge in such games of giving and taking material objects. When a needy person accepts something from another, anxiety lurks in his mind as to how he might return the favour, while pride enters and pollutes the mind of the giver over his act of charity. True friendship should be from heart to heart. If we build friendship on a give-and-take basis, the person who takes feels small and he who gives feels proud. Such friendship does not last. So I am not accepting the clothes you left on my desk and am returning them to you with this note.' The next day that boy pleaded, 'You can return them to me after leaving the scout movement.' But I did not agree even to that. 'I do not need nor seek help,' I told him. 'I seek only the chance to help and show others the best way to help. Besides, your father got the uniforms made for you - they were not meant for my use. I am Truth, as my name indicates. If I wear it instead of you, I will be setting Truth aside.'"
I am tempted to relate in this context what happened to a kinsman of mine about twenty years ago. He had bought in Rangoon, a Burmese umbrella, flat-topped, with a bright, garish-coloured cloth cover, as a birthday gift for his sister living in Bangalore. But as she refused to accept it, it was lying unused. Later his parents placed it before Baba as an offering. Baba told them, "Why do you bring Me stolen articles? This belongs to your daughter, whether she uses it or not." Anything offered to Baba must be 'ab initio' intended for and dedicated to Him.
At Uravakonda, I looked into the well from which Baba used to draw water for His home everyday and carry it, slung across His shoulder, in big mud pots. The well is at least one kilometer away, and Baba trudged the distance six times a day. The well, the only potable water well in the village, being very deep, He must have gone through great physical strain to get the pots filled. "The time spent in supplying water for the home did not leave me any time for other activities," says Baba. I was also able to see Mr. Mehboob Khan, the teacher who loved and revered Baba as a boy, and who had foreseen that He would one day become a World Teacher.
The house where Baba lived with His elder brother is now a jumble of mud blocks. We scrambled in and stood reverentially before the sacred spot where Baba had started sitting every Thursday after declaring Himself as the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai. Even as we were standing lost in reverie, an old resident of the village related a story of those years: "One night, a group of women from an adjacent village journeyed to Urvakonda by bullock-cart to witness a movie. They were huddled in a thick cluster in the cart. Taking advantage of the oncoming night, a woman unfastened a gold ornament from the hair of the woman sitting beside her. The loss was discovered only when the women alighted, but none suspected the other, since they knew one another well. Some suggested that the ornament might have got loosened by itself and fallen on the road, while others asked the lady to recollect whether she had worn it at all. Then an old man ventured to say, 'There is a 'miracle boy' here whom we can consult. He is the brother of the Telugu teacher.' As soon as they trooped in, Baba sighted them and said, 'Eh Janakamma! Give the jewel back!' The startled Janakamma did as Baba had ordered, her head bent in shame. Baba told the others, 'Go! Take her also to the movie with you. Repentance is enough punishment. Forget this lapse. It was your fault, tempting the weak-minded woman. I am sure she will not do it again, for she has been blessed by Me.' "
The Rocking Chair
Baba told the students how He had borne poverty and hardship in His childhood and youth, in silence and without complaint. There was a rocking chair in the house, upon which Baba sat one evening. When His brother's brother-in-law saw Him rocking Himself in the chair, he was very incensed and remarked, "Who gave you permission to sit on that precious chair and rock back and forth like a Maharaja! Get up and go out of here." Baba replied, "The day is coming when I will be a Maharaja sitting on a silver chair. You will live to see the day." This angered him all the more, but he did not pursue the persecution. About seven years later, the Rani of Chincholi, who could not bear to see her Swami sitting on a wooden chair, brought a silver chair for Him. But Swami did not permit the chair to be unpacked even during the Shivaratri or the Dasara celebrations. On the occasion of Swami's birthday, His brother's brother-in-law came to Puttaparthi. Then Baba asked him, of all people, to unpack the silver chair and place it in position on the dais of Prasanthi Mandir which was then ready for Bhajan gatherings. The man shed tears of repentance and asked to be pardoned. Baba soothingly told him not to worry. This was, perhaps, the only instance when Baba reacted, for He usually bears others' anger with remarkable indifference and restraint. He told the boys that He was ever alert to guard the honor and reputation of the family in which He was born, and to ward off the derision of cynics and carpers.
The General Stores of Kote Subbanna, from where Baba got His apparel and items of stationery in return for songs and slogans, was still there as I could see. It is now being run by Subbanna's grandson. Subbanna had once sought Baba's help for boosting the sales of his baby foods and ayurvedic drugs. Baba agreed, and in return got from the shop the articles He most needed but could not purchase. The publicity value of Baba's lilts was great, for, as I was told by the contemporaries of Subbanna, when these were sung in chorus by several boys carrying placards advertising a product, it would be sold in no time. Venkapa Raju, Baba's father, thanked Subbanna for the help he was rendering Baba, as a result of which He could replenish His wardrobe and get a few notebooks. Whenever a new product (like 'Balamrit' of Pundit D. Gopalacharlu of Madras) had to be introduced to the people of Uravakonda, it was done by means of such street music. There was a weekly fair at the town, and on such days, when the villagers from surrounding areas assembled, Subbanna had a hey-day with his placards and his merry 'choirboys'. [see for this story 'The Cattle Fair']
Swami said that even as a boy He had been intent on correcting the vagaries, vices, defects and deficiencies of society, by means of ridicule and satire expressed in drama and poetry. 'Cheppinattu Chesthara?' which means, 'Are your deeds in accordance with your words?' is a fine example of His educative experiments. It exposed the hypocrisy of parents and teachers - an evil which children and pupils spontaneously absorb. So also today, Baba exhorts us to coordinate thought, word and deed. He tells us that when He spent vacations at Puttaparthi, He composed long lampoons in folk metres, on the evils of drink, the absence of literacy and the irresponsible accumulation of debt by the villagers. These songs were quickly learnt by the children who were taught by Baba, and were recited by them in groups in front of every house. Some householders were angered at this onslaught on their shortcomings and fixations, but many encouraged the boys to continue their reformatory task.
The village accountants also were a target of Swami's lampoons. There was one who prided himself on his 'Hitler moustache', on his watch with its shining strap and even on his Don Juan diversions. Swami told the students how he had composed a satire in verse on him and trained a band of urchins to parody his pomp. They stood opposite the door of his house and sang it till their voices turned hoarse. The butt of their ridicule came out to thrash them, but the members of the gang fled into the many lanes and could not be impounded. Such shout-and-run tactics were continued until he shaved off the horror under his nose, removed the leather-strap from his wrist and gave up his secret visits. Baba also wrote a play in Telugu entitled 'New Times', which revolved round a poet who was ignored and insulted while alive, but whose stirring poems provided his son enough ammunition for a rousing victory in an election a few years after the passing away of his father.
The house where Thammiraju, the teacher who persuaded Swami to produce the play entitled 'Cheppinattu Chesthara?' on the annual day of the school, still stands intact opposite a heap of mud that was once the house of Seshamaraju. It is indeed a thrice holy spot, for Swami spent many hours there with His teacher and his devoted wife, engaged in providing them precious glimpses of His Leela, while also playing with their son who was His own age. By merely calling out their names, He had made to appear on a wall of that house images of the Ten Incarnations of Vishnu (see: Bhagavân on Bhâgavatam) and various other deities and saints revered by the teacher's wife. She wrote a poem about this incident in the monthly magazine published by the Sai Samaj, Madras. The house of Narayana Sastry, immortalized as the person who had witnessed the golden aura around Swami when He left home to 'carry on the task for which He had come', is almost adjacent to the place where Seshamaraju lived. Narayana Sastry had once the pride of his scholarship pricked by Baba when, as a little boy, Baba had questioned Sastry on his exposition of the classical texts. We could get some idea of the ecstasy that must have overpowered Sastry that day, when we met and heard Dr. Baronowski of the University of Arizona, who was wonder-struck and delighted by the aura he saw around Baba for days together at Brindavan, Whitefield, when He gave Darsan to the thousands gathered on the grounds there.
Swami told the students that He had seen what we would call 'hard days', at Uravakonda, though He was the favourite of the school and the town. He was the 'hewer of wood' and 'drawer of water' for the family of His brother. He collected dry twigs and branches from the hills around and tied them up into a head-load bundle which he brought home every two or three days. He drew water from a well, the only potable source, which was not too near. In spite of these and other exhausting chores, He was ever fresh and vibrant and full of infectious humor. His neighbors were anguished at His plight and entreated Him to write to His parents asking them to take Him away. Some even offered to write the letter themselves. But He told every one not to worry for He was happy that He could be of service. "Why are you bothered? I enjoy being useful," He would say.
I stood on the very dais from where Swami used to sing, everyday before the lessons began, the school prayers before the assembled students. It was from that very dais that, one historic morning, Swami had announced, "I do not belong to you henceforth. I belong to them who need Me and call on Me." [See The Serpent Hill] Swami said that He came down the steps even before the congregation realized the significance of what He had declared. Then He walked to the house where His brother (Seshamaraju), the Telugu teacher lived. Throwing His books aside, He moved on to the edge of the town, where stood the house of Anjanajulu, the government inspector of Excise Revenue. Anjanajulu loved and adored Baba. Perhaps he was one of those who needed Him and called on Him to illumine and liberate. But He did not enter the portals of that house. There are dozens of round, flat-topped boulders obtruding among the trees in the open ground in front of that house. Swami sat atop a medium-sized one, right opposite Anjanajulu's house. The congregation that followed Him from school had swelled now to a sea of heads all around. Anjanajulu had a vision that the trek from school marked the inauguration of a World Revolution. So he had a Mantap (a commemorative structure) constructed over the stone, for it had to be marked out from the rest. Recently Baba permitted the good men of Uravakonda to purchase and take possession of the land around, and to erect a community hall for carrying on service activities under His inspiration.
Seated upon that boulder, Swami revealed that His devotees were calling Him and that He could no longer pretend to be a student or even a member of the Raju household. "I have My task to complete," He declared, indicating that a part had been accomplished while He was at Shirdi. He then directed the congregation to sing Bhajans (devotional songs) and to recite the name of the Lord. He stood forth as the Teacher of Teachers, whose message can liberate man from grief and greed. "Manasa Bhajare" He sang, "Guru Charanam, Dustara Bhava Sagara Taranam" (Adore in song with sincere devotion the feet of the divine teacher, for they can take you across the ocean of misery). Who was the divine teacher whose feet He was referring to? Those who knew Him (but they were only a few) recognized that they were in fact the feet of Sai. Swami was emphasizing even in those early years that union with God demands communion with man. Swami saw the helplessness, the distress and the disease that sapped the happiness of people all around Him. He was moved with compassion. The candle was no longer under the bushel. Its light was soon to spread, bright and blazing, in every heart and home, school and sanctuary, village and town. Swami had made the clarion call to the entire world to clasp the feet of the Divinity which had condescended to encase Itself in human form, and to be saved from pollution and perdition. Those Lotus Feet which He presented in their magnificence that day, have walked on rose petals, snowy mountain terrain, rain-soaked slush, fair-weather tracks and sandy seashores, ever carrying consolation to grief-stricken people in all lands.
During the short time He was at Uravakonda, Baba had installed Himself in the hearts of both the old and the young. He had brightened their eyes with laughter and sweetened their ears with song. He was the bard and the boast of the school, the pride and paragon of the populace. Every family had some story to tell about His mysterious power, His love and His wisdom. So when He left home and school and talked of His task and of those waiting for Him the world over, their courage failed and their tongues were tied in unspeakable sorrow.
The Tiger Skin
His return from Uravakonda and the announcement at Puttaparthi that He was the Sai Baba of Shirdi, came when He was only fourteen years of age. But the villages around, and even far off Anantapur (forty miles away), knew of His being Sai Baba. (photo: on throne in mandir)
One day a jeep-driver crossed the river bed and walked the streets of Puttaparthi, trying to locate Swami. His master, a young English sub-divisional officer, had gone for Shikar to the forest on the other side of the Chitravathi, and while returning to Anantapur the vehicle had stopped right opposite Puttaparthi village. The driver did his best, as did the officer, to get the vehicle moving, but failed. The driver suggested that there was a 'Boy' at Puttaparthi who could materialize Vibhuti (sacred ash). Yes, "create, by a circular movement of His palm, the very panacea for all ills, even for the jeep!" Stranded halfway, the Englishman agreed and let the driver go to the village, while he himself sat in the jeep. The driver bumped into the Boy at last, but was astounded to hear Baba say, "I am coming, myself, to the jeep." He walked across the sandy bed, and on reaching the road, peeped into the vehicle and saw the carcass of a tiger that the officer had shot barely two hours ago. Swami's deep love for all beings could not tolerate animals being killed or tortured. He said,"I stopped the jeep at this place, for it is a mother, whose three small cubs are at this very time loudly wailing and calling out to her, that you are carrying. Go back! Recover those cubs and gift them to some zoo where they will be well looked after. And do not shoot wild beasts again, for they have caused you no harm. Why do you kill them, surround them and lay traps to catch them. Shoot them instead with a more superior weapon, your camera. That won't maim or kill them."
The Englishman was at once enlightened, and he never carried a firearm again. Shooting wild beasts armed with a camera, he discovered, was far more adventurous and Sathwic (pure). He presented the orphaned cubs to the zoo, and when the tiger skin came back from the taxidermist, he brought it to Puttaparthi. Prasanthi Mandir was then under construction. He met Baba and placed the skin at His feet. Sakamma of Coorg pleaded with Him to sit on it in Yogic fashion, with a rosary between His fingers. She had a photographer ready. And Baba obliged, though He has never sat in Dhyana (meditation) or held a rosary!
A Book On Him
Smt. Nagamani Purnaiya has written a book in Telugu (later also translated into and printed in English), entitled, 'Divine Leelas of Bhagwan Sathya Sai Baba'. In the foreword to the book she says, "I have availed myself of every opportunity of witnessing His divine powers." The book describes more than 140 miracles, of which she says "more than 115 were witnessed by me with abundant joy." Nagamani Amma was the wife of Sri Purnaiya, the chief commercial superintendent, southern railways, and the miracles she records were revealed at what is called the 'old' Mandir (temple) in the village, in the first few years after Swami's announcement. When the present Mandir called Prasanthi Mandir was inaugurated in 1950, the Mandir at the village became old! The miracles described relate to cures effected by the administration of Vibhuti created by Swami, and of raging floods subdued at His command. Baba revealed to her, "It is because of your faith and trust in Me that your bus could cross the river in spite of the surging floods." Swami created Tulsi (basil leaf) garlands, rings and pendants for personal wear. He also performed surgical operations. "One day I saw Swami throwing something like a banana peel over the wall," narrates Nagamani Amma. "Then He came towards me and asked for water to wash His hands which were red with blood. 'You had prayed to me to cure that man, so I operated upon him,' He said. That night I could not sleep due to my anxiety for the man, since he was operated upon without cocaine and in full consciousness. I was very troubled by the thought of the pain he must be suffering in the adjacent room, and so I stayed wide awake. At daybreak Swami called me and asked me to give the patient some surgical cotton. 'Go and give the cotton at once' He commanded. When I went in, after hesitating at the door for a while, I found the patient eating a plate-ful of idlies and chutney. Swami stood behind me. 'This is not an operation by a doctor,' He chuckled. 'I have done it; so there is no pain caused, no rest required and no special diet prescribed. He can eat whatever he wants.' I was shown a long mark on the stomach but could discover no stitches. Swami said, 'The Vibhuti I created and applied on his brow acted as an anaesthetic. I created a Trisul (trident) and a knife for the operation. After I had finished, I smeared Vibhuti, and it was all over.'
"On another day, four men came to Prasanthi Nilayam with the intention of testing Swami," continues Nagamani Purnaiya. "When they reached Bukkapatnam, three miles away, they exchanged the wrist watches they wore, deciding among themselves to find out whether Baba would discover what they had done. 'If He is God, He should know,' they thought. Swami called them and said, 'I know why you have come and what you were talking on the way. One is wearing the watch of the other. I know that you have come to test Me, but this is a place for devotees. You can go back to where you have come from.' "
The Song He Made Them Sing
Baba had not only to encourage Bhajan and give a boost to the declining Bhajan Mandalis (groups of Bhajan singers) in the village, but He had also to compose Bhajans and Namavalis to satisfy the demand for new songs. During those early years He wrote quite a few. The four pillars of the mansion of Sai Dharma were first demarcated in one such song composed by Him when He was seventeen years of age.
With Sathya, Dharma, Santhi and Prema
Let, step by step, the pilgrim road of life be trod.
Your duty is to but trudge and try;
Whether you win or lose the game - 'tis the Will of God.
Fill your mind with God, be devoted in full to Him;
'Twill grant you freedom from grief and pain.
Janaka was king, but he lived in God;
He ruled his realm and gained Moksha (liberation) too.
Why yearn for superhuman skills? Have faith, O man!
They swell your ego and blind your wisdom eye.
While passing through this trackless jungle,
The name of God is the only guide.
Your heartland is a precious field;
Plough it with your mind; and use
Your virtues as animals yoked.
Hold the intellect as the whip to urge them on,
And gather the harvest of love and light.
Love on the March
The Avatar had illumined the world for forty-five years when this narrative was completed up to Part III of 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram'. That name, which flashed into my consciousness when wondering what title to adorn His biography with, now brings to my memory a prophetic declaration by Swami Vivekananda. During his discourses on Bhakti Yoga he announced,"Religion, which is the highest knowledge and the highest wisdom, cannot be bought; nor can it be acquired from books. You may turn your head in all directions, you may explore the Himalayas, the Alps and the Caucasus, you may search the bottom of the sea and pry into every nook and corner of the world, be it Tibet or the desert of Gobi, yet you will not find it anywhere till your heart is ready for receiving it and your teacher has come. And when that Divinely appointed teacher comes, serve him with childlike confidence and simplicity. Freely open your heart to his influence and see in him God manifested. Those who come to seek truth with such a spirit of love and veneration, to them the Lord of Truth reveals the most wonderful things regarding truth, goodness and beauty."
Translators of this passage into Indian languages have, even without the knowledge of the Sathya Sai Avatar, interpreted truth as Sathyam, goodness as Sivam and beauty as Sundaram! The Lord of Truth is, best translated as Sathya Sai. Baba has revealed the most wonderful thing about human beings - that the core of every individual is Sathyam-Sivam-Sundaram, and that this awareness alone can confer liberation. I had no inkling of this truth. Vivekananda himself must have led me to the teacher, the Lord of Truth.
Baba blessed the city of Anantapur, headquarters of the district of which Prasanthi Nilayam is a part, with the College of Arts and Science for Women, not with the intention of adding one more to the hundreds already dotting the land. His plan was to create an educational institution which would mould the girls entering its portals into daughters revering the spiritual traditions of Bharat (India), sisters eager to serve the ever-expanding circle of their kith and kin in the villages of this land, wives wedded to simplicity and sincerity, and mothers skilled and eager to instil ideals of service and spiritual discipline in the hearts of children. Before long, Bhagavan blessed Anantapur with another structure dedicated to the furtherance of 'higher living', a Kalyana Mantap (wedding hall). "When love is the lever that operates the mind, only good can result. I have come to restore love among mankind, to cleanse it of meanness and restrictive attitudes," He declared, while inaugurating the building. The Mantap is used as a community hall of service. Baba Himself arrived a few years later, when devotees celebrated therein the wedding of four indigent Harijans, and showered grace on the happy couples. He created for each bride a gold Bottu (a sanctified ornament, worn to indicate wedlock) that the groom had to place around her neck as part of the ritual [see 'With Wounded Wings' for an example of a gold necklace Baba materialized], and for each groom a gold ring which the bride had to put on his finger. The Harijan families were entertained to a hearty feast which they shared with the devotees and with Bhagavan Himself.
Seventy Apartment Flats
In the month of August 1971, when thousands gathered at Prasanthi Nilayam for offering homage on the sacred day commemorating the birth of Krishna, Baba declared,"People tell me that mankind is today on the brink of destruction, that the forces of hypocrisy and hate are spreading fast over all the continents, and that anxiety and fear are stalking the streets of every country. There is no need to tell Me this, for I have come here for this very reason. When the world is on the verge of chaos, the avatar comes to still the storm raging in the heart of man."
The Dasara festival in September afforded an opportunity for the vast gathering of seekers to benefit by what it has actually become - a course of divine lessons on the mystic symbolism in Vedic culture. Baba explained that the Yajna (ritual sacrifice) was a reminder of our essential duty to sacrifice the self in order to visualize the Over-Self. The body is the altar; the world we live in, the oblation; Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge), the sacrificial flames which accept, transmute and sanctify the oblation; and the sublimation of the consciousness (Purusha) into the Absolute (Purushottama), the fruition thereof. Bhagavan also announced,"This year Dasara marks a new chapter in the history of the Nilayam. Recognize that Divinity is its core; yearn for that Divinity and strive to reveal It in yourselves through Sadhana, to which this campus is dedicated."
The prayer hall had a new frontage added to it, besides an extended porch with silver doors and traditional temple sculptures and ornamental domes having golden finales. The Mandir was proclaiming the presence of the Avatar. The residents and visitors were to be conscious of the presence and to mould their daily schedules in conformity with the spiritual upliftment that they could partake in the sanctified atmosphere. Baba blessed by His divine presence, more than seventy flats which were allotted to devotees who were anxious to spend their days in Sadhana. The allottees had come from different parts of India and even from overseas. They professed different faiths and spoke different languages. But Bhagavan showered grace on them all for, as he declared,
"There is only one caste, the caste of humanity;
there is only one religion, the religion of love;
there is only one language, the language of the heart;
there is only one God and He is omnipresent."
The flats have since increased in number to about 300. Sadhakas (spiritual aspirants) eager to spend their days, or at least some months every year, in this atmosphere of silence, self-reliance and surrender to the Divine Will, are fast increasing in number.
October saw Bhagavan at Hyderabad, enthusing the citizens into Nagarasankirtan, inspiring them to instruct their children in the rudiments of Sadhana and transforming the baser ideas and goals of the elite by His discourses at the Academy of Vedic Scholars, growing in strength and usefulness under His benign guidance. On 25th October 1971, Baba laid the foundation for a Lingam-shaped temple at Hyderabad, the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh."I am consecrating this temple for devotees who, instead of following Me from place to place, can now gather here, assured of Darsan,"
He said. At Dharmakshetra in Bombay, the divine residence is named 'Sathyam'. 'Sivam' is second in the series, while 'Sundaram', in Madras, was raised last. Of the three, Baba said,"Sathyam is the feet, Sivam is the trunk and Sundaram the head. On Sathyam we stand, on Sivam we act and on Sundaram we think. In Truth we are born, in Goodness we live and into Beauty we merge."
Bhagavan inaugurated 'Sivam' on the Telugu New Year Day in April 1973. This architectural gem, enshrining the cosmic message of emergence from and mergence into the One, was completed in eighteen months. Here He materialized a Lingam for continuous worship by devotees who may be so inclined, and installed it in the hall which forms the Peetha (base) of the Lingam structure. For seven days thereafter, large concourses of people listened in rapture to the recitation and exposition of the glory of Shiva and of the Lingam which He is, as described in the Shiva Purana texts. The event marked the dawn of a cultural and spiritual revolution, with 'Sivam' as the fountain of inspiration.
During the Birthday celebrations, 1971, Bhagavan explained,
"Life is a challenge; meet it.
Life is love; share it.
Life is a dream; realize it.
Life is a game; play it"
- a message which thousands now cherish and live by. He spoke of the three bodies which each one is encased in - the gross, the subtle and the causal. He said that intelligence is master of the gross body, intellect of the subtle and intuition of the causal. Every day during the celebrations, all those who were alert to the proceedings could advance a few steps towards self-control, self-knowledge and self-realization. Christmas came soon after, and in His discourse Bhagavan emphasized omnipresent Christ, saying "All are One in Christ and the One Christ is in all," He assured.
The Conference Did Meet
The Eighth All India Conference of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization was held at Abbotsbury, Madras, in the last week of December 1971. Baba had encouraged the organizers to proceed with the preparations in spite of the country being involved in a war with Pakistan, for He said that the war would be over by that time. "The civil war in Pakistan, between its western and eastern halves, forced millions of terror-stricken people to take refuge in India. They prayed in their agony that we should help them. True to our culture and tradition we sacrificed a great deal, gave them food and shelter and sent them back to their homes after ensuring that they could be safe and live there in peace. "We do not wish to expand or dominate or injure anyone," Baba said after the conflict ended. His Will prevailed. The Pakistani army surrendered, administering indeed a pleasant surprise to India. This happened barely a week before the conference was due to start with more than 3000 delegates gathering at Madras from all over the country.
Many had come from outside India. The Cowans - Walter and Elsie, Dr. John Hislop and many others came from the USA. The Cowans returned home in April 1972. At a gathering of 'Friends and Fellow Seekers' Elsie said, "We have come from India, my husband and I, brimful of the most astounding news that can happen to anyone. It is so fantastic that many of you may doubt it, because hardly any of us realize the great importance and the tremendous power of this Great High God, who not only walks the earth but cares for all the planes from earth to eternity. Walter died at Madras. Sai Baba resurrected him." And Walter confirmed, "While in the Connemara Hotel at Madras, two days after I arrived, I was taken very sick with pneumonia and was in bed. As I gasped for breath, suddenly, all the body struggle was over. I died."During the conference, Bhagavan inspired the devotee-delegates to endeavor to translate the love they bore for Him into acts of service for those less fortunate than themselves. He exhorted them to share their resources, power and skills with others who are also integral parts of the same God whom they revere equally. Service must not become a routine gesture, an exhibitionistic activity or mere oral outpourings of sympathy. 'All for one, one for all' is the ideal towards which society should march. Bhagavan castigated institutions and individuals who deride holy festivals, defame holy men, deny God and thereby undermine the faith, charity, sincerity and honesty in man. He pointed out that man had mastered vast fields of knowledge, yet he had no knowledge of himself. He limped, though his legs were strong; he was insane, though his inside was sound; he was deaf, though his ear was sharp. The time had come to awaken him to this absurdity and infuse confidence into his behavior. Before the delegates left for their homes, He directed that all traces of dislike or distrust they may have had in their hearts for Pakistan be drowned in the flood of Universal Love that they had experienced. "All mankind must be welcomed into the warm fold of your love," He said.
In a letter to the residents of Prasanthi Nilayam on the New Year Day 1972, about the Madras conference, Baba said,"The sessions of the conference gave Ananda (bliss) to all. But more time and attention was devoted to the needs of the tongue and the stomach than to the needs of the Atman. For those who have appetite for the Atman, these cravings are trivial. It is best to keep feeding and feasting at a low key. In Madras this did not happen." Baba is uncompromising in His emphasis on values. He also explained, "Where material comforts are overstressed, Ananda escapes. Sadhakas should reckon that idle talk, voraciousness, indulgence in backbiting and scandalmongering, the denigration of others and the exchange of flattery, are inveterate enemies. Only those who avoid these evil tendencies can earn Swami's grace. May you deserve that grace in the year ahead. Determine today to get out of the old ruts and move along the paths laid down by Sanathana Dharma. (universal eternal ancient wisdom)"
A College for Boys
The foundation stone for a Sathya Sai College was laid on 16th March 1972 on a vast piece of land lying adjacent to Brindavan, near Whitefield. This building was planned by Bhagavan as a unique architectural gem, comparable in its magnificence to the one which houses the women's college at Anantapur. It had been designed as a reservoir of Jnana (spiritual knowledge, wisdom), promising to transform the land into a place of peace and prosperity."Parents, politicians and teachers are all responsible for the extent to which the educational system has deteriorated," Baba said. "In education, as in all sectors of modern life, borrowed ideals, imported systems and fickle loyalties have brought disaster in their train. Everyone is engaged in offering advice or criticism, but none in actual execution to set an example. When the students of this college become leaders and teachers, the number of persons able to voyage happily on an even keel over the turbulent sea of life will increase. Injustice, untruth and unrighteousness will be recognized as disgraceful and demeaning social evils, instead of being tolerated and even appreciated. Truth, justice, love and grace shall soon return to earth. The reorganization of education is one of the means towards this end," Baba declared.
His People in Delhi
On 25th March 1972, Bhagavan arrived in Delhi for a ten-day stay. Baba often begins His discourses to the mammoth crowds before Him with the benediction, "I am most happy to share your Ananda and to find you sharing My Ananda." Those ten days were spent in sustained ecstasy and inexpressible, divine delight. After His return to Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba spoke to a gathering of devotees on the Delhi visit thus:"The longing of My people in Delhi was so poignant that it took nearly half an hour for Me to alight from the plane. Lakhs of people presented themselves before My residence and clamoured at all hours of the day and night for Darsan. Unless one group moved on, there was no room for the next to get Darsan. I had to climb up to the terrace so that the huge concourse could get a glimpse of Me... Drawn by the Ananda that the Darsan gives, masses of people from Meerut, Jullunder, Patiala and some other distant towns and villages gathered for Bhajan and the discourses. On 1st April I agreed to go to Kurukshetra during the hotter hours of the day, since I did not like to disappoint the Delhi crowds and deprive them of Darsan. There, Gulzarilal Nanda had arranged a meeting of ascetics and students at the university campus. But there were three Lakh people waiting for Me on that ground that was familiar to Me as a field for corrective teaching. I warned the Sanyasis (ascetics) of the corrupting influence of institutionalism and hierarchism. I told them to keep away from the contamination of political involvements."
Jogendranath Joshi, an eye witness of the Kurukshetra meeting writes, "Until Baba arrived, thousands of students were surging in confusion and evidently getting increasingly restless and unruly. But as soon as He ascended the dais and looked around, the wild emotions were soothed; apparently menacing hordes were instantly transformed into brigades of peace."
The U. S. Ambassador at Delhi, Professor Keating, was so impressed by the reverence that motivated the Delhi crowds, that he said, "I cannot grasp the full impact of Indian culture through the study of books, nor can I vouchsafe for the authenticity of the scriptures of this land... but when I see in the capital city of this land, in the seventh decade of the 20th century, a phenomenon like this - five Lakh ardent men and women milling round to get a heartening glimpse of this five foot personality - I feel that I can hear the heartbeat of this ancient people."
Khushwant Singh, then editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, wrote thus on this unique wave of adoration that stunned the bustle of Delhi into silence: "A traffic jam is a rare occurrence on Delhi roads as kerbs are broader than in any other city. But here it was - a traffic jam with cars and buses snarling up all avenues within a radius of two miles, the focal point being the house where Sri Sathya Sai Baba was staying."
Baba explained it as the natural manifestations of the longing for light and love. He deprecated expressions such as 'Triumphal Entry', 'He Took Delhi by Storm', etc., which the journalists used, as also the word 'invaded' used by Ariel in his column: "Last week Delhi was invaded by one of India's most renowned mystics and seers, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who received a welcome from the classes and the masses, more rapturous than most welcomes Ariel has witnessed over the years."
Baba said at Prasanthi Nilayam,"We went to Meerut one evening, but the gathering was so vast and thickly packed that the car could not proceed to even within a mile of the dais. We were advised to return to Delhi, but the moans of the multitude persuaded Me to appear before them on the platform. I sang a few Bhajans, which the huge gathering repeated after Me, line by line. Having satisfied their thirst, I got back to the car as mysteriously as I had ascended the dais. I have been telling you since six or seven years that the day when millions will gather to benefit from the Avatar is approaching close. I advise you to garner and to treasure all the Upadesh (teaching) and bliss that you can today, so that you can sustain yourselves ruminating on the sweet memories of the experience."
For Baba, as for the millions, it was love, light and bliss every moment. The News Chronicle reported an incident which symbolizes the divine love: "Baba's car was moving at quite a speed near India Gate, when He suddenly asked the driver to stop. Everyone was surprised at this. Baba got down, crossed the road, went to an old man in tattered clothes sitting on the pavement and, bending down before him, materialized a ring which He Himself put on one of the man's fingers before returning happy to the car." Sri Ramanujam of Newsweek fell in with a scooter driver named Ashok Kumar, who had resolved to give up his evil practice of overcharging his customers the moment he had Baba's Darsan. The impact of the divinity cleansed his heart of vicious greed. Another incident worth recording happened when Baba was at the American Embassy with Professor Keating. He materialized a ring and put it on the Ambassador's finger, but the recipient was rather unhappy since it was quite loose. Noticing the embarrassment, Baba said, while sitting at the table for tea, "It will be tightened. You may ask how? Just as it came unexplained, the ring will also be tightened by itself." When he rose after tea, Keating found, "It was tight."
Instead of Baba invading Delhi, He offered Himself to be invaded! He addressed a gathering of the capital's elite at Kamani Hall and another of over one hundred and fifty thousand citizens at the play grounds of the Modern School. He spoke to members of the Seva Samithi and the Seva Dal who were engaged in various service activities as part of the spiritual upliftment process recommended by Him.
Back at Brindavan, Baba decided to initiate another great movement for teaching the wayward world that God is not a tyrant up in Heaven, but a way of life.
Shower of Light in Summer
He planned the month-long Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality in order to instil into students the qualities of humility and reverence. Three hundred students from various colleges all over India, as well as seniors from the Sai college, stayed in a camp and went through a spiritually-oriented curriculum which centred round our heritage of moral and spiritual wisdom, intensive practice of positive secularism and the study of the lives and messages of mystics and saints of all creeds and countries. More than all, Bhagavan Himself graciously took on the role of author, producer, director, preceptor, participant, provider and instructor. Meera Bharani, a student at the course, said, "We were inspired to adopt nature as our teacher, life as our school and service as our task." Onita Bahl, another participant, said, "Bhagavan was the most taxed teacher at the camp. He talked to us every evening and on some days, in the morning hours also. He spent most of the day with us - watching, consoling, warming, cajoling and clarifying. He personally supervised every detail of the daily schedule - the recitation of Om (the Primordial Sound) in the early hours of the day, the Nagarsankirtan, the classes and the daily Bhajans, besides conducting question-answer sessions every Sunday. We asked him, 'Where does the soul reside?' 'How can one conquer ignorance or delusion (Maya)?' 'How should one meditate?' 'How is one to engage in action (Karma) without being involved in consequence?' 'How does one practise Pranayama (breath-control)? And so on. He listened with compassion and analyzed our problems in order to still the waves of doubt in our minds through His highly illuminating expositions. He filled our hearts with the gift of grace. None of us can ever be the same again."
The array of intellectuals who had arrived from all parts of the country, included pundits, professors, vice-chancellors, writers, judges, administrators, artists and poets all of whom were thankful and happy for this opportunity provided them. They, too, felt the impact of divinity and benefited from the unique experience. On the valedictory day Bhagavan told the students,"You are all bright and beaming with inspiration imbibed from the atmosphere of peace and self-control, the vision you have gained of your own reality, the sense of mission you have acquired, the inner resolutions you have formed and the invigorating lessons you have assimilated. Now cherish with reverence what these elders have taught you out of their love for you. Go back happily with the courage born of self-confidence. Share your Ananda with your parents, friends, companions and teachers. I shall be with you wherever you are; you can never be alone and helpless hereafter."
The Mother's Role is Over
On 6th May when the summer course was progressing ahead full steam, mother Easwaramma cast off her mortal coil at about 8.00 a.m. at Brindavan, in the very presence of her son, the Divine Avatar. She was happy and in good spirits till the last. When I paid my respects to her the previous night, I had found her surrounded by children. She was then narrating stories about Puranic heroes, and the children kept insisting for one more story before they unwillingly crept into bed.
The passing away of the Mother did not cause even a flicker in Baba's demeanour. The left half of the mausoleum at Puttaparthi wherein lay the body of the Father, had been demarcated to serve as the tomb for the Mother. So Baba had the sacred body sent with a few volunteers to Puttaparthi, where it was buried that same evening. The sudden death plunged the village in gloom, as residents of Prasanthi Nilayam bewailed the loss of their Prema Matha (loving mother). The women devotees had been orphaned by the death. They led the long line of mourners who were invoking the Lord through Bhajans, to grant them strength to bear the loss. Meanwhile, at Brindavan, every item in the schedule of the camp remained undisturbed. "Duty-Devotion-Discipline," Baba always emphasises. The few who knew what had happened, dared not spread the news without the specific permission of Baba, for whom death was but a curtain drop, a wink in the wakefulness of the eternal, a footstep to be followed by another in the soul's march to its source. Even when the Father passed away at Puttaparthi, the event did not disturb the normal routine at Prasanthi Nilayam. Baba's emphasis on duty and discipline as the two banks of the stream of devotion, was seen in action that day, the sixth of May.
On 20th July Baba inaugurated, at Puttaparthi village, the Easwaramma High School, a fitting memorial to the universal affection with which Easwaramma had evoked the goodness dormant in thousands of rural and urban women and children. Baba declared, "This village will certainly be uplifted when more of its children receive higher education. The new teachers who will reside in the village will spread both knowledge and the enthusiasm to earn it."
The conference of the Sri Sathya Seva Dal comprising about 3000 members from all over India, met at Prasanthi Nilayam in the fall of 1972, only a few days prior to Dasara. Bhagavan received them as His prema putras, children fostered with (His) love! He wanted them to lead the resurgence of spiritual yearning among the youth. He encouraged them to develop faith in Sai, for each dal or petal can be alive and active, colorful and fragrant, only if it is attached to the torus. He directed them to practise the teachings of Sai and to be shining examples revealing their worth to the world. The lesson that one must learn from the yajna that lasted seven Dasara days is, Baba said, that, "Yajna alone gives Jaya" (sacrifice alone can confer glory). During the festival, on 17th October, Bhagavan announced that the auditorium at Prasanthi Nilayam - the most beautiful and spiritually vibrating hall in the East, with soul-inspiring sculptures and paintings - would be called Poornachandra, in memory of the late Poonamchand Kamani whose dream it was, which was realized through Baba's grace.
The birthday celebrations followed in November. Bhagavan conferred valuable boons on the thousands who had gathered at Prasanthi Nilayam - the divine darsan, the revitalizing smile of recognition and compassion, the gift of sweets from His own hand and, more than all, the message of the atman to be enshrined in the heart.
The Mew is Heard
One incident which occurred on the 23rd of November deserves to be highlighted in the Sai chronicle. About sixty devotees had arrived from far-away Gauhati, the capital city of Assam. They had travelled in a special railway coach for seven days before they reached Bangalore, and they had before them another week-long ordeal to get back home. Baba appreciated their devotion and gave them darsan and a short spiritual discourse at the prayer hall. He filled their hands with the precious gift of vibhuti. He saw in the group a girl named Lakhi and he gave her vibhuti a second time, saying, "This, for the cat."
The cat was Minkie, whom she had rescued from the city drain on a rainy day and brought home to keep warmed and fed. The kitten was not, however, welcomed by her elder sister who was a nurse in the biggest hospital in the city, but who could not stand cats. She blamed Lakhi for bringing the horrid thing and keeping it as a pet. One night when a few guests had arrived for dinner, the cat stole into the kitchen and ran off with a bite of fish. This enraged the lady so much that all her bellicose adjectives exploded in one burst at Lakhi's face. Lakhi could bear it no longer. She caught Minkie by the neck and spanked her severely with a longish stick. The poor thing yelled in pain. Suddenly, every picture of Sai Baba in the house - there were sixteen of them hanging with garlands after the Thursday bhajans - fell on the floor! The guests ran out of the house into the open courtyard, for they were sure that an earthquake had struck.
But the lady noticed that only the pictures of Baba had dropped; all others were intact on the walls! It was then that she realized that Baba had given a sign to save the cat. She shouted to her sister, "Lakhi! stop! stop! Don't kill it! Baba is angry with us!" Lakhi placed Minkie on the table. She was in tears, and her sister, too, was sobbing. The cat tried to allay her pain by shaking in quick quivers. The guest had come back by now and they too witnessed the struggle of the cat to regain her poise. Lo and behold! When Minkie shook herself, puffs of fragrant vibhuti emerged from her fur and fell thick on the table! The fragrance announced that Bhagavan had blessed the cat.
Six months later, on 23rd November, when Lakhi was present with many other devotees from Assam at the Prasanthi Nilayam prayer hall, Bhagavan, in His infinite compassion, remembered Minkie, the unwelcome cat, and sent to her His most valuable prasad. He instantly detects every denial of love and warns us when we miss our way. His hand reaches beyond the horizons of space and the chronologies of time. He teaches us, by example, to wish well for every form of life, be it man, beast, bird or plant. His love has no limit, for He is in all.
Christmas 1972 was a festival during which Baba further elaborated the concept of Cosmic Christ. He traced the expansion of the Christ consciousness right up to Christ's declaration, 'I and my Father are One' and said that this was the acme of Advaithic (non-dualistic) experience. Baba said, in addition, "This is the truth of Jesus and also of every one of you. You are all, fundamentally, the Cosmic Christ."
On 5th January 1973, Baba addressed the ASC(S) army personnel at Bangalore. He seldom misses an opportunity to bless the members of the armed forces, for He likes them to know, more and more, the glory of the land that they have vowed to defend. He instils inspiration and courage in their hearts. Since He can and does accompany each one of them, however far or near, His grace is much sought after by soldiers. On 14th January, Baba advised a large gathering of devotees,"Fill yourselves with awe and reverence at the handiwork of God, the manifestation of His power, love and wisdom that is called the 'universe', and upon which the great expanse of space, the huge nebulae, the stars, the satellites and comets, the birds, beasts, insects and plants, all contemplate. They can give enough instruction and inspiration to you."
In January Baba was at Guindy, Madras, to unveil a monumental pillar at the temple where He had installed an image of Sri Baba of Shirdi, 25 years earlier. On the sides at the base of this pillar are inscribed Bhagavan's directives for the regeneration of man.
Kakkara Halla Linga
Since the biggest shed (there were only three then) could not hold even half the number of pilgrims who came to Prasanthi Nilayam (abode of eternal peace) for Shivarathri (night of Shiva), Bhagavan quietly motored to the Bandipur forest on the border of Karnataka. The warden of the jungle brought news that there was a quiet spot on the Kakkara Halla stream, with a patch of dry sand. So Baba, and the few who were chosen by Him, drove in a van into the forest. A herd of twelve elephants had been spotted minutes earlier, but had discreetly made itself scarce. As Bhagavan alighted from the van He stood and broke a stalk of jungle grass, about an inch and a half long, and another about half its length, and bound them together in the middle with a bit of stalk skin. It became a cross. He was about to drop it into Hislop's open palm but He desisted. "No! I must give you another," He said. Holding the grass cross before His face, He blew upon it. This became a wooden cross having the same dimensions, with a small silver icon of Jesus on it.
"This is the wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified; this is the correct image of Jesus on the cross," He said, and gave it to Hislop who was kneeling, and in tears. (Later he got the wood examined, and was informed that it was at least twenty centuries old. He had the silver icon photographed and the photographs enlarged. He was surprised to note that there were marks of sweat on the brow and signs of froth at the corners of the mouth. It had all the signs of pain heroically borne). (See: Reference to White Man's Burden for this story by Hislop). Then Baba moved down the bank of the stream and sat on the sand with those who had accompanied Him, including the warden, guards and a few tribals attracted by these mysterious happenings in their part of the world.
From the sand that was heaped as a raised bed, Baba created a translucent lingam, five inches long and four inches across, seated on an eight-inch-high base. "Straight from Kailas where it was being worshipped. See the sandal paste, the kumkum dot, the bilva leaf," He said. He transformed the sand into an icon of Shirdi Sai Baba, an idol of Laksmî (goddess of happiness and eternal companion of Nârâyana) and another of Durgâ (wife of Lord Shiva). And, finally, He created before the wonder-struck gathering, a casket which was full to the brim with Amrith (nectar)-sweet beyond imagination and with a divine fragrance. Even the tribals who had huddled around him received their share of prasad from His hands.
The lingam was at Brindavan the next day and Baba allowed a large number of devotees to participate in the puja. I could recite the Rudra-adhyaya from the Vedas, in praise of Shiva, during the ritual ablution of the lingam. And I can still recall the thrill of my pouring on the lingam the holy water of the Ganges, transported by Baba with a wave of His hand from the very source of the river in the Himalayas.
The Land of Valour
Baba responded to the prayers of the residents of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, first visiting the town of Mogha near the country's border. He was there on the 15th and 16th of March. He inaugurated the Muralidhar hospital, where more than two hundred thousand people had gathered for His darsan. "It is remarkable how the news of Bhagavan's arrival spreads at such short notice and with such great speed in every direction by word of mouth," said Sri Sohan Lal, who had witnessed the phenomenon. Baba advised the devotees:"Punjab has earned a reputation for valour. It should make a name for spiritual courage, which comes from faith in God... Pray to God asking Him to endow you with an intellect that does not waver and a mind that is balanced."
Baba left Mogha for Simla by car. Forty thousand people had gathered on the ridge, many from the suburbs and the homesteads in the villages lying amidst the mountains. Simla had not seen such a massive assembly in living memory. Baba told them that though man had probed outer space and explored the deep, he had yet to learn to be at peace on earth. Man wants peace and happiness but he does not know how to acquire them. He runs after petty desires and short-lived pleasures. "There is a surfeit of preachers but a shortage of practitioners," Baba said. He advised and directed the people to concentrate on fundamental gains rather than superficial ones. He gave two discourses the next day - one on the ridge and the other at the grounds of 'Woodville', His residence. On another day Bhagavan paid a brief visit to Kufri and Phagu, past the snow-covered road. A magnificent view of the silver-robed Himalayan peaks can be had from these hamlets. Though the snow was knee-deep, about 200 men and women followed Him. Baba picked up a little snow and changed it into a pair of gold earrings for a tribal girl. He blessed many with vibhuti, and an old lady with a ring. The visit of the Lord to the Himachal Pradesh marked a turning point in the lives of many. Groups of seekers from many of its towns and villages continue flowing into Prasanthi Nilayam to be in His presence for a few days.
At Delhi, a pandal (an outdoor auditorium) which could seat more than two hundred thousand people, was found inadequate on some days. Bhagavan was present there during morning and evening Bhajans, moving amidst the thousands and showering grace on the sick in the form of curative vibhuthi. He also addressed a select gathering of ministers, academicians and others at Vigyan Bhavan. He spoke to them on the urgency of moral regeneration and of the role of the individual in the process. Bhagavan was very liberal with His time and conferred the fortune of personal conversation and counsel on hundreds who yearned for the chance.
Next, Bhagavan motored to Jaipur, instead of going by air as had been earlier planned, thus allowing thousands to have Darsan as He drove by. At Jaipur, Bhagavan laid the foundation stone for the Sri Sathya Sai College for women and for a temple. He also addressed a gathering of 50.000 on the need for selfless service.
From the 28th to the 30th March Baba was in Bombay, making a short visit to Poona on the 28th. He addressed a packed assembly of two lakh Bombayites at the Vallabhai stadium. Next, He flew by a chartered plane to Rajkot, in Gujarat, to bless the Raj Kumar College during its centenary celebrations and to open the Digvijaya Singh wing of the college buildings to commemorate the late Jam Saheb of Nawanagar. "The youth need colleges, for there they can learn to live and move with others of their own age, coming from different social and economic backgrounds. They can learn tolerance and cooperation and realize their talents and virtues," He told the gathering.
On the Telugu new year day Baba was at Hyderabad for the inauguration of the holy 'Sivam' mandir."Let the new year bring you Ananda. You can get it by serving the poor, the disabled, and those who earn their livelihood by strenuous physical labor," He said. Baba blessed the juveniles at the remand home in Hyderabad. "I like children. I take great care of them, insisting on discipline, reverence to parents, moderate food and allotment of time to study, prayer and meditation. I also recommend some form of service," He said.
The main topic on which Baba focussed His discourses in the summer school was the Moha Mudgara or Bhaja Govindam of Sankaracharya. In July, Baba was again in Bombay for visits to the central school for the deaf and the Sathya Sai Service Centre at Koliwada, a hamlet of fishermen which had been adopted by the Seva Samithi. He also attended a Bal Vikas programme featuring the children of the mill workers at Worli.
The Dasara message was one of "sacrifice, detachment and renunciation" through positive and constructive activity."Do every deed as an act of worship to Him; let every thought be a longing for Him; make every word a hymn of thanksgiving for His benevolence."
Bhagavan has been repeating in His discourses, the Vedic exhortation to the youth to "revere your parents as God," for reverence is fast disappearing in Indian families. He emphasized that the home is the earliest and best school, where one's most enduring skills and habits are imbibed. It is the place where one's heart should always be, wherever one might physically wander. We love our country because the tombs of our fathers, the temples of our God, the fields which have fed us and the rivers we have bathed in, all exist therein. To demonstrate the value of reverence, Baba inaugurated the birthday festival by His visit to the mausoleum of the parents, where His 'sisters and brothers' joined Him along with their children and grand children. Every act of His is a lesson to us.
Baba and Godavari
The year 1974 witnessed a miraculous event in Rajahmundry, a small town on the bank of the Godavari river. Rajahmundry is a town that revives nostalgic memories of ancient glories, sheltering many religions and cultural institutions, and entering contemporary history once every twelve years when lakhs of pilgrims from all over India travel thither for a holy bath in the river. Bhagavan willed that an All India Conference of office bearers of the Sathya Sai organizations be held there for three days. Over 6000 delegates attended the conference and the gurus who taught Bal Vikas children comprised an additional 750 persons. Swami Karunyananda, the life and soul of all service activities in the Godavari districts, who had discovered in Sathya Sai Baba the God that he had been seeking, was certain that devotees of Baba in the delta region of the Godavari would participate wholeheartedly to make the conference a phenomenal triumph. From every village, young men arrived at Rajahmundry before the new year. They put up pandals, levelled the grounds, dug drains and raised dining halls and kitchens, singing bhajans all the while. They filled the stores with provisions until Swami Karunyananda insisted on "no more" and many villagers returned disappointed and sad that their offerings could not be accepted in the pool. Women streamed into the kitchen and took up the task of preparing elaborate menus. Large quantities of milk, curd and ghee (clarified butter) arrived at the campus in buses reaching Rajahmundry town from every corner. The delegates were guests of the Godavari region and the hospitality bordered on worship. It was a revelation of the deep roots that the Sai message had taken in their hearts and how it had blossomed as love and service. Bhagavan's discourses helped integrate the office bearers into an effective instrument for the revival of dharma. He also blessed the Bal Vikas movement describing it as the basic activity of the Sai movement, and the gurus as its most useful pioneers. Bhagavan's presence during all the three days of the conference induced pilgrims to come to the Godavari from places as distant as Calcutta, Bhopal and Patna.
Prasanthi in Villages
On 3rd February 1974, Bhagavan visited the village of Kannamangala, about six miles from Brindavan. He announced that He had started a college in that region, so that students hailing from its villages could become leaders of the ideal of total revival and reconstruction which He called Janata-Kalyan (peace and prosperity for the people). He advised the students to revere the village and to live there with their kith and kin. "Encourage the formation of the Bal Vikas, the Seva Dal, the Mahila Vibhag and the Seva Samithi in your region," He said. The visit to Kannamangala was indeed historic, for Bhagavan has since visited more than ten villages in that area. He has renovated temples, provided shelters, expanded school buildings, tapped underground water and deepened existing water wells. He has helped promote literacy and has laid the foundation of moral reform by awakening the conscience of the people.
Bhagavan has directed the 4000 Seva Samithis in India to adopt a village each and to serve its people with love and understanding. The old boys association of the Sathya Sai colleges, called 'The Kingdom of Sathya Sai', is shaping itself into an efficient and sincere instrument for continuing this seva (service) in the villages. Bhagavan's grace has reached the villages around Puttaparthi in the form of medical and educational facilities.
Sivarathri '74 was celebrated by Bhagavan at Prasanthi Nilayam. A shed which could seat over 20.000 people had by then risen on the grounds. Speaking about the lingam and its mystery, Baba said, "The Lingam is that which has neither beginning nor end, that towards which all beings move, and that in which all beings merge." The atmosphere at the Nilayam was vibrant with awe and adoration, awaiting the arrival of the lingam. Thousands prayed as one when the first pangs began to show on Baba's face, announcing the great event. A heavy unreasonably large oval, the symbol of the Shiva principle, was persuaded by their sincere yearning to take birth in Baba's physical body and gradually rise along the gullet, to emerge from the mouth and drop into His hands. Holding it aloft for everybody to see, He announced that it was the symbol of cosmic space, the space-time-causation continuum, in concrete form. It represents both the cause and the final effect. It had a luminous trisul (trident usually referred to the one wielded by Lord Siva) inside it. Ecstasy shone on every face. There was no tear of regret for the past, no sigh of anguish for the present, no grimace of anxiety for the future. All were at once alight with delight. Then they heard the voice of Bhagavan,"Cherish this vision of the emergence. Nourish the Ananda that now gushes in your hearts. I assure you that you have indeed been rendered immortal. You need not pass from birth to death again."
No one in that mammoth assembly could have been the same when he rose and walked away. It took days of ministration by Bhagavan to send the longing, lingering devotees home.
In 1974 Baba visited Bombay twice, in early March and in mid May. In March, He blessed a rally of 2500 Bal Vikas children, addressed a gathering of teachers from the university and various colleges, and inaugurated the extension projects of the Industrial Training School and the Agricultural polytechnic at Dharmakshetra. Speaking during the rally, He said, "Parents today are not competent to guide their children. They utter lies, accept bribes, indulge in gambling and spread scandal. They use foul language and boast aloud. Children must make elders ashamed of their habits." In May, He presided over the annual day of the Dharmakshetra school, and flew to the town of Ratnagiri in answer to the prayers of devotees there.
After 27 Years
On His way back from Bombay in March, Bhagavan spent two days at Sandur, in the Bellary District of Karnataka. He inaugurated one of the factories set up by the Raja Saheb to exploit the mineral wealth of that area. The Raja Saheb welcomed Baba, who had last graced the erstwhile kingdom 27 years ago. He related how, in 1949, when he gave up the reins of the state, Baba had assured him, "Don't worry. You will found an organization bigger than the state of Sandur!" And Baba had now come to bless that organization.
The summer course in May-June was widely acclaimed as a must for young people who were about to confront the comedies and tragedies, the follies and frivolities of the human situation, for it strove to equip them with the knowledge of the sages and seers of every land, and bring them into contact with the Avatar of the age. On 19th June, two days before the close, Baba answered a question that was baffling analysts - Who is Sai? He revealed Himself in as much as our dull and dithering reason can accept."I have come to unite all mankind into one family and to affirm and illumine in each of you your Atmic Reality... Do not crave from Me trivial material objects. Instead crave for Me, and you will be rewarded,"
He declared. No wonder! General Cariappa, former commander-in-chief of the armed forces of India, then called upon the thousand participants for three full-throated cheers of 'Jai Sai Dharma', which echoed all around.
The Dasara festival commemorates the victory of the gods over the demons, of light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance. So the thousands who throng to His presence are involved in disciplines which help them advance towards that victory. The women's college at Anantapur staged the play, "The Bishop's Candlesticks" and the boy's college at Brindavan (Bangalore) staged a Telugu play 'Pandava Vijayam' (triumph/victory of the Pandavas). Both plays were based on the sovereign cure that selfless love and devotion can effect. The Bhagavata Bhakta Samajam, a group of musicians and speakers drawn together by the bond of brotherhood and the common purpose of fostering 'the perennial philosophy of theism', and which holds three-day sessions of its activities comprising Vedic homa(ge), Puranic readings, devotional songs, folk dances, dramas and musical recitations, was affiliated to the Academy of Pundits by Bhagavan. They added many attractive items of educative and entertainment value.
It was during the birthday festival in 1974 that Baba spoke strongly against the use and abuse of funds. He has always been against public appeals for money, and has warned devotees against both, asking for and giving such donations. He declared that nothing should be brought for Him, because He needed nothing. "Those who bring or advise others to bring, will be kept away," He said.
In March 1975, Bhagavan visited Delhi, spending a week to confer darsan on the multitudes there, besides making short visits to Amritsar, Chandigarh and Simla. He made a visit to Jaipur to see the progress made by the Sathya Sai college in that city. Then He boarded the plane to Bombay, where He unveiled the 40-foot-high pillar erected on the Dharmakshetra hill, depicting the harmony of religions. He was at Prasanthi Nilayam on 20th March, where thousands were waiting to be blessed by darsan of the divinely wrought Sivarathri lingam. On the 25th, when He blessed, by His presence, the Sathya Sai College for women at Anantapur, He advised the residents:"Women students and teachers must be very vigilant that they do not attract the eyes and tongues of men by their dress, movement, or behavior. Be a little behind in fashion, it does not matter; but do not outrage the traditions and conventions of our culture."
With Cows to Gokulam
On 29th August, the Birthday of Lord Krishna, the pages of the Bhagavatha [Bhagavatha Vahini] which describe His boyhood were re-enacted at Puttaparthi. The cows, buffaloes and camels, and also Sai Geetha, the elephant, were taken in procession from Prasanthi Nilayam to their new home, about a kilometer away. Rural pipes and drums led the line. Sai Geetha followed in regal splendor, and the cows, with their attendant seva dal members, came next. Calves, frisking, jumping and butting, were held in check by the college students, while the immovable buffaloes stood and stared until they were pushed and pulled forward. Students of the women's college and others from Prasanthi Nilayam followed behind, singing bhajans. Sai Krishna was also there, with devotees singing around Him in joy. They had witnessed, three days earlier, another page of the Bhagavatha come alive. Incessant heavy rains had brought the Chitravathi into the village, and she swelled into swirling anger. Indra, the God of rain, appeared to cast his anger on the cowherd village again, but unlike as in the Bhagavatha days [see BV, chapter 38], this Krishna did not lift a mountain on His palm to shelter man and beast. He disappointed the peaks, by walking up to the open terrace of the east Prasanthi flats and cast a look at the turbulent waters seeking entry. That was enough. The flood began to recede steadily. During the Dasara festival Prasanthi Nilayam was quiet, except for a few extra ceremonies that the inmates were allowed to observe. For Bhagavan could not, in His boundless love, impose on the devotees, however eager, a ten-day stay Dasara and another ten-day stay on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Advent, scheduled from 14th to 24th November.
Slice of all the Maps
"All Roads Lead to Puttaparthi" was the headline in the daily papers. Special trains, reserved coaches, omnibuses, trucks and tractors, scooters and cycles, horse-drawn vehicles and bullock carts, all unloaded thousands of pilgrims in a continuous flux at the Nilayam. From overseas, thousands alighted at Bangalore and taxied to the place. The prophecy that Baba would be an orange speck in the distant eminence, well nigh came true. Besides the construction of seven gigantic sheds, hundreds of ad hoc shelters hastily contrived, and scores of tents and pandals were permitted to fill every patch of available space in and around the township. 5000 members of the seva dal stayed on duty night and day, cooking, serving, sweeping, cleaning, guarding, guiding and helping. Teams of doctors were stationed in temporary clinics and at the hospital. Kitchens for serving eastern and western food were set up.
A rally of bal vikas pupils (about 1000, selected from every state) was held. These children had the privilege of marching past Bhagavan Himself. More than a thousand bal vikas gurus attended a two-day conference which was inaugurated by Bhagavan. For the world conference of office bearers, 8000 delegates came from over fifty nations.
On the 18th, the imposing and inspiring 'Gopuram', (temple) built by devoted hands in the south indian style of temple architecture, was inaugurated. Baba had the ancient temples of Puttaparthi, rebuilt including the Gopala Krishna temple, associated with its history through the ages. That day all the new silver idols of the deities installed in the temple were placed on a huge chariot and taken in procession through the village - a great day in the annals of the holy hamlet. The Vedic rite of Purushottama Yajna was also part of the jubilee celebrations. The final ceremony of offering the last oblation in the sacred fire, delighted the huge gathering on the jubilee day.
The world conference was an inspiring experience. Devotees from a multitude of nations and affiliated to various religions, humbly walked up to Bhagavan and offered garlands of flowers. Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut who had watched the tragedy of the human race from the moon and remarked, "When will civilization make man realize mankind?" could have derived faith and hope that day at Prasanthi Nilayam. The huge concourse offered Bhagavan the solemn pledge of loyalty to His teachings. They promised to cultivate truth, peace and love, and progress along the path of duty, devotion and discipline.
On Shivarathri in 1976, Baba announced, while hoisting the Prasanthi flag to mark the inauguration of the festival.
"The Lingam that emerges from the Universal Absolute, Brahman, is the cosmos - first conceived as a wish, later formed as an idea and finally adopted as a will. The cosmos is the will of Shiva concretised. You, too, are therefore, willed by Shiva and formed by Shiva from Himself."
During the last week of March, Bhagavan flew to Hyderabad and stayed at Sivam. The elite of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad were invited by the Sathya Sai Seva Samithi to share the grace of Bhagavan. The meeting was presided over by Shri Mohanlal Sukhadia, then governor of Andhra Pradesh. He said that the task for which Bhagavan had incarnated was to "put humanity back on the rails." In His discourse Baba emphasized,"There is no east or west distinguishable on the globe. All mankind is one. The cosmos is energy felt as matter. Man relies on his sensory experiences and on the inferences that he draws from those experiences. Therefore he lacks the knowledge and awareness of experiences beyond the sensory world."
On the Telugu new year day Bhagavan addressed a vast gathering of devotees at 'Sivam'. He blessed the seva dal members who had established all over the cities on that day no less than a hundred first aid centres for rendering service to the ailing and the distressed. He inaugurated a boarding school for children on Castle Hill, where a historic building had been acquired by the Samithi for the purpose. The school is run on the lines laid down by Bhagavan, who insists that children must learn humility, service and reverence, imbibe our ancient cultural heritage, be disciplined and devoted, participate in bhajans and take only sathwic food, even while mastering the prescribed academic curriculum. Dedicated teachers serve the children, adoring their assignment as the 'worship of Sai'. Referring to the arrogant vandalism of modern man which has led to the pollution of rivers and oceans, the advance of deserts into arable areas and the desecration of forests, Bhagavan said in a discourse on 6th May,"Nature is God's vesture. The universe is a 'university' for man. Man should treat nature with reverence. He has no right to talk of conquering nature or exploiting the forces of nature. He must proceed to visualise in nature, its God. All are but temporary, short-term tenants in God's estate."
Bombay had the good fortune of welcoming Baba on 12th May, the anniversary of the inauguration of Dharmakshetra, which also happened to be sacred Thursday and, luckily enough, the triple holy day of the Buddhists - the day Gautama was born, the day he became the Buddha and the day of His Parinirvana (Liberation).
The Blue Mountains
The 1976 summer course on Indian culture and spirituality was held at Nandanavanam in Ootacammund, in the Nilgiri Hills. It was scheduled to last fifteen days, and the participants, who numbered about two hundred, were selected from the Sathya Sai colleges. One feature of the course was that the role of lecturers was assigned to the senior students, who spoke on the Vedanta, the Gîtâ, the Purushottama Yajna, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Hanuman, the Bhagavatha, etc., after deep study and reflection, with clear understanding. Dr. S. Bhagavantham pronounced the project "a resounding success." Subsequently the students spread out for social service to the city bus stand, railway station and the market area. Their sadhana of cleaning the area was so efficient that the municipal council passed a resolution expressing its grateful appreciation, and communicated it to the organizers. When the camp was concluding, Bhagavan disclosed to the students at a special meeting, details about His school days, and His relations with His parents, teachers and schoolmates, and with the brother who was His 'guardian'. As he was describing the role that He had planned for the students seated before Him and exhorting them to cultivate such qualities as fortitude, detachment, sympathy, humility and reverence that He Himself had held forth as a living example even as a child, He waved His hand and created a silver plaque with the map of India embossed on it, which had Puttaparthi, Bombay, Bhubaneshwar, Madras, Delhi, Calcutta, Shillong, Hyderabad and other cities marked on it by means of brilliant gems embedded in the silver. Bhagavan announced that those were some of the places from where the Sai message would be propagated by them in coming years. Bhagavan's discourses were mainly on the strategy of Lord Krishna in relation to the Kaurava-Pandava conflict, as depicted in the Mahabharata. Since we have Lord Krishna with us now, and since the conflict between the two forces of Dharma (righteousness) and Adharma (unrighteousness) symbolizing Daivic (godly) and Asuric (demonic) tendencies was even today confronting mankind, Bhagavan's analysis of His methods and motives in the epic was part of His present message itself.
While at Ootacamund, Baba motored down the ghats (slopes) on the Kerala coast to the historic town of Calicut, famous as the town where Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, had landed in 1498 AD. Thirty miles north of Calicut, on a hill that is embraced by the sea on three sides, and which was named 'Sri Sailam' by Rabindranath Tagore who spent some days there, the Sri Sathya Sai Trust in Kerala had planned to construct a Vidya Peeth (public school) to provide education on Sai lines. Bhagavan graciously laid the foundation stone and blessed the project. More than 30.000 people had gathered to be blessed by His darsan and sambhashan (speech).
Gurupurnima, a time when spiritual aspirants all over the world welcome their preceptor into their hearts, found Bhagavan at Puttaparthi. The students and teachers of the high school which had been established there to commemorate Mother Easwaramma, who bore the Avatar, were blessed by Bhagavan on that auspicious day. The state minister for education declared that it was a significant step forward in Bhagavan's programme of increasing facilities for educating rural folk. Bhagavan proceeded to Puttaparthi village where a new hamlet of a hundred houses had been built for the Harijans whose hutments had been washed away by the angry floods of the Chitravathi some six months earlier. Bhagavan told the huge gathering of devotees present that every living being is a cell in the cosmic body of God, and that castes that are described in the Vedas as forming the limbs of God, form an integral part of the whole. He said that worshipping the feet of God is best done by serving the poorest and lowliest among men.
On all the ten days of the Dasara festival 1976, Bhagavan spoke on the mind, its vagaries, its potentialities and on the sadhana which can straighten and strengthen it. In the midst of the busy schedule of the Vedic Yajna, Bhagavan found time to meet more than three hundred district presidents of the Sathya Sai Seva organization who had journeyed thither from all the states of India. They had two sessions with Him during which Bhagavan stressed the need for discipline and gave them advice on many aspects of their duties and responsibilities.
This Dasara was rendered memorable when Bhagavan defined what He characterized as the 'Sai Religion', while elaborating upon the impact of the Mathi (mind) on Matha (creed). "The religion that feeds and fosters all religions and emphasizes their common greatness is the Sai Religion," He said.
During the second world conference, held during the golden jubilee week at Prasanthi Nilayam, a cardinal decision was taken by the devotees that a twenty-four-hour Bhajan emanating from devout hearts gathered in more than 8000 centres in over forty-five nations from New Zealand to Iceland and from Taiwan to Trinidad, would girdle the globe. The day for this universal prayer was fixed as the Saturday-Sunday immediately preceding the birthday of Bhagavan every year. To a Bhajan gathering at Prasanthi Nilayam Baba said,
"Bhajan must be as continuous as breathing. In fact, the breath is ever engaged in Bhajan for it is constantly repeating the fundamental mantra, 'Soham' (I am That). Twenty-four hours is just a wink when measured against a lifetime. Your life is a song on the glory of God. Sing it from your soul, sing it aloud, sing it in chorus so that the atmosphere polluted by greed, hatred and envy can be purified by the holy vibrations."
All the villages around Puttaparthi now look forward to the birthday week. For them, this sacred occasion is heralded by the chariot festival, in which the idols of all the deities worshipped in the temples of Puttaparthi are taken in procession through the crowded streets of the village to the delight of everyone - men, women and children - whatever their caste or creed. On the birthday itself, Bhagavan proceeds to the Samadhi (tomb) of His parents and distributes food and clothes to the villagers.
On His birthday in 1976, Bhagavan declared that miracles are the spontaneous and natural expressions of Avatarhood:"Rama means, 'He who confers joy'; Krishna means, 'He who attracts'. Every act of Mine conferring joy or attracting the heart, becomes a 'miracle' in your phraseology. The avatar comes to reform and reconstruct, and his 'miracle' invariably has this result. The Chamatkara (miracle) has as its aim the Samskara (refinement) of mankind. How is that achieved by the Avatar? Everyone so drawn is persuaded through love, to love all (since all are the same Atman encased in distinct bodies), and to transform that love into Paropakara (service). As a result, their minds get sanctified, their intellects clarified and their hearts purified. Thus they are able to realise their core, the Atman, which is but a wave in the ocean, the universal, eternal, absolute Paramatman. This is Sakshatkara (realisation), the goal of human life."
Every December, on the fifth day of the month, the Sri Sathya Sai Seva organization celebrates 'Medical Service Day', each centre drawing up its own programme according to the needs of the area and the resources - human and material - that it can command. Gifts are made of oxygen cylinders to hospitals, wheelchairs for the physically handicapped and Bhajan cassettes and books for the blind, besides projects of medical check-up for slum dwellers and rural folk that are initiated on that day. In 1976 Bhagavan blessed those who gave and those who received. He sounded a warning against the indiscriminate use of medicines and medical drugs. He advised the people to resort to the cheaper and often more effective methods of fasting or dieting, Yogasanas (postures prescribed by yoga) or physical exercises, and desist from such deleterious habits like smoking and drinking. "Anxiety, worry and tension have to be overcome in order to gain and preserve health," He said.
Large numbers of christians from the east and the west come to spend Christmas and New Year in the immediate presence of Bhagavan for, as they have found, this is the only place where "peace on earth and goodwill among men" can be experienced." 'Christ' is only another name for the Ananda principle in the heart of man," Baba said. "Meditate on Him and seek His love for all living beings. Let Him be born in all His Divine splendour in your heart. Then you can celebrate Christmas in humble thanksgiving and sincere adoration, with penitence and prayer. Do not desecrate the day with drink and dance, revelry and gluttony,"
He said to the gathering of devotees on the New Year Day, 1977. He created a medaillion that had Mary and the child Jesus on one side and Joseph on the other. It showed the sanctity of Mary and the sturdy simplicity of Joseph. It was indeed an exhilarating moment.
Shivaratri 1977 was celebrated at Prasanthi Nilayam. Bhagavan called upon the devotees to"strive, for that is your duty; struggle, for that is your assignment; yearn, for that is the path."
He exhorted them to overcome sloth, dullness and prejudice, which hide, in the darkness that they create, the beauty of the unity of every individual consciousness in the Divine. "All i's are only reflections of the One I," He explained. Meanwhile a crystal oval, the Shivaratri Lingam, emerged from within Him, interrupting the Bhajan He was singing to enthuse the gathering. He held it before the gathering of astonished devotees."It is the symbol of emergence of the five primordial elements," He clarified. "The Lingam is the essence of all attributes and names. It is the formless with form, the nameless with name, the primal emergent from the Divine," He explained.
Next morning He announced the unpleasant news that He had decided against continuing, in subsequent years, the celebration of Mahashivaratri, which was drawing from all over the world countless numbers of pilgrims eager to benefit from Darsan of the Divine manifestation, and to look on the 'symbol of the cosmos', created by Shiva Himself. But, seeing that thousands, unable to get even a near glimpse, were returning disappointed every year after journeying long distance over sea and land, spending large sums of money and suffering much hardship, Bhagavan, out of His infinite mercy, directed that in the coming years they might celebrate the 'Night of Shiva' in their own native places, where He would certainly be with them.
Walter Cowan Block
On 28th April, the Cowan block of the hostel at the Brindavan campus was inaugurated by the President of India, Sri B.D. Jatti, himself an ardent devotee of Bhagavan ever since the days when he was in the ministerial cabinet of Karnataka. The hostel was built within the campus itself, because Bhagavan could not deny the students of His college the proximity to Him that they ardently prayed for. Elsie Cowan was present at the function and expressed her immense joy at the name which Baba had given to the hermitage of Saraswati (the goddess of learning), to commemorate her husband, Walter Cowan, whom He Himself had resurrected. "We, too, who reside in this hostel, are awaiting resurrection," said a student in his exaltation that day. The President was elated at the increasing pace of the Sai era in education. He welcomed the Sai colleges which emphasize moral and spiritual progress, highlight a variety of skills and promote projects of social service. He praised all those students who had won high academic distinctions and, at the same time, mastered with equal enthusiasm the techniques of farming, animal husbandry, dairying and canteen management, besides yogasanas (postures described by yoga), elocution, music, nursing, histrionics and photography. Architecture is said to be the art of perpetuating song in stone; the Cowan block is indeed a Bhajan in brick and mortar. One cannot but sense the presence of both, penitence and grace in the dormitories, corridors and halls. "Fill your heads and hearts with light and love, rather than mere facts and figures," says Baba. The hostel is a reservoir of both, the light of knowledge and the delight of Seva.
Since some years, the sixth of May, the day the mother of the Avatar bade farewell to the world, is known the world over as Easwaramma Day, and is dedicated to the service of children by children. It has grown into a week-long festival, with the children from Bal Vikas groups chumming with children from the slums in games and play, visiting children's wards in hospitals and singing Bhajans in homes meant for retarded, ailing and delinquent children. Like rays of light, they carry the sparkle of joy into others gloom. They also offer to the elders, and present to toddlers, the pictures they paint, the models they make, the pets they play with and the floral designs they assemble. They sing and dance, they mimic, recite and enjoy themselves.
The summer course in 1977 was based on the Ramayana, the epic reservoir of dharma. The first seven days were devoted to an intensive study of various versions of the Ramayana in the languages of India as well as those of nations to the south and south-east of India. Bhagavan discoursed on the ideals embodied in the heroic personalities described in the Ramayana. Over 40 students from Sai colleges spoke to the large concourse of participants, with a large sprinkling of learners from overseas, on the saints and the philosophers of the world. For thirty days the students, boys and girls from colleges of India and abroad, lived in the Brindavan campus, away from the noisy and polluting distractions of the city, in an atmosphere of devotion and dedication, of prayer and meditation, of love and service, of mutual help and encouragement. Bhagavan would be amidst them in the lecture hall, at lunch and at dinner, during their hours of service in the villages around Brindavan and during the elocution and quiz competitions on Sundays. As many students confessed, they experienced both, "immensity and eternity." On the final day, when the students were sobbing in sorrow, Baba comforted and consoled them with gifts of grace, assuring them that since they had installed Him in their hearts, He would ever be with them, guarding and guiding, wherever they may be.
"Never forget God...
Never believe the world as reality...
Never be afraid of death,"
He told them at the valedictory session. [see also Swami's Ramakatha Rasavahini]
During the ten days of Dasara 1977, [see Divine Discourses on Dasara] Bhagavan elaborated on Santhi (inner peace) and the means of getting established in it. His discourses traced the faults and failings that foul the body, the mind and the faculty of reason in man. He analysed the habits and traits that disturbed and depressed the emotions of man and prescribed the exercises by which physical, mental, emotional and occupational equipoise could be gained. He also referred to the conflicts created by ethical and philosophical schools, as well as by fanatical loyalty to particular forms and names of the one, omnipresent God.
The seven-day Vedic rite of Jnana Yajna, [see Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna] which forms an important part of the Dasara festival, was inaugurated by Sri Govinda Narain, the Governor of Karnataka. An indication of the surge of devotion to the Avatar, which binds human hearts 'though they come from the ends of the earth' was the joint recital of songs on Baba, both in English and Sanskrit, by Ida Marion St. John from California and Gita Orescan from Germany. On Vijayadashami, the tenth day of victory (Dasara), Bhagavan allowed a few poets to recite their verses composed in various languages. Mrs. Zeba Bashiruddin, a professor of English from Hyderabad, sang a few of her mellifluous Urdu poems on Baba.
Mention must also be made here of the announcement that was made that day about Bhagavan taking under His benign guardianship a number of educational institutions of the Loka Seva Vrinda in Karnataka, to be run on patriotic and spiritual lines by a band of His own devoted teachers. The Vrinda was orphaned by the death, in a car accident, of its founder and promoter, Sri Madiyala Narayana Bhat, an educationalist who had sought to reinforce the secularist curriculum laid down by the State with the spiritual ideals of duty, devotion and discipline.
The Wedding Knot
Dasara at Prasanthi Nilayam fills devotees with reverence for the heritage they live in. The birthday inspires them to reshape their lives as desired by the divine incarnation. The week was ushered in with a big bang of blessedness. Baba had made it known that indigent parents from the villages around Prasanthi Nilayam could celebrate the weddings of their children without incurring any expense. He would be the priest, parent and providence. The call was heard by parents of all castes, who had been knocking at the doors of astrologers and moneylenders. When Baba Himself was the High Priest, no astrologer need be consulted about the future of the wedded couples. When He Himself was providence, no moneylender need be approached to get the funds needed for celebrating the wedding. Hearing this, young men hurried to the homes of prospective brides and saw to it that their parents did not let go this miraculous chance to have the marriages celebrated in Baba's presence. One hundred and thirty four couples were registered at Prasanthi Nilayam in a few days. Baba gifted a wedding sari each to all the brides, much to their surprise at receiving this costly present. The grooms got dhotis (men's wear) and angavastrams (cloths slung over the shoulder) with borders of zari (brocade). They were also given silk shirts stitched to size by tailors brought to the Nilayam for this very purpose. They were then taken to the Kalyana Mantap (a structure raised for the purpose of auspicious events or functions) on the outskirts of Puttaparthi village and seated in rows under a decorated pandal. Girl students from the Sathya Sai College in Anantapur acted as 'ladies-in-waiting' for the brides, and boys from the Sathya Sai College in Bangalore were the 'best men', for the grooms. Vedic hymns were recited by brahmin priests during the wedding rite. The couples garlanded each other, symbolic of union in wedlock. Baba gave each groom a gold Mangalasutra (auspicious thread worn by married women), and as it was put around the neck of the bride and knotted, He sprinkled on the heads of the couple, grains of rice. Bhagavan gave each bride another sari, besides bangles, kumkum (vermillion powder, considered auspicious), and haldi (turmeric) which are all a must for her in wedded life. He also gave each couple plates and cups for their new home. Then they poured handfuls of rice on each other's heads - a rite to ensure prosperity. The sari and angavastram ends were knotted together to symbolise the union of hearts for the joint pilgrimage ahead. The 134 couples then slowly made their way in procession to the Mandir, with folk dance, pipe, tom-tom and Bhajan parties in the lead. Later, along with their kinsfolk, they all had a wedding feast at the Nilayam itself, oblivious of any differences of caste or economic or educational backgrounds. It was a heartening experience for all those who have the welfare of mankind at heart. It was a festival of love, an object lesson for all those who have faith in the overpowering impact of love. Now a large number of Seva Samithis are arranging, under their own auspices, simple weddings for poor villagers.
Fury of Wind and Water
Another event that preceded the birthday was the 8th All India Conference of the Sai Seva organizations. While the celebrations were in progress, it became known that a terrific cyclone had hit the Andhra coast. A tidal wave over 20 feet high had swept over the coast and sped itself about thirty to forty miles inland. The devastation inflicted by both wind and water, was enormous. Tens of thousands died, caught by the waves. A large number of cattle lost their lives, and coconut groves over several square miles were toppled. Scores of villages were washed off the face of earth. The few who survived were confronted by disease, despair and decimation. Bhagavan directed the Seva Dal from Andhra to rush to the area, even while the festival was progressing at the Nilayam. Truckloads of cloth, rugs, garments and whatever could be laid hold of, were got ready to be transported by devotees to the affected areas. More than eight lakh rupees poured into the bank for relief work. Four relief camps were quickly established in the afflicted areas, along with a complement of trained Seva Dal members, both men and women, including teams of doctors. Remote spots which had been isolated by the floods were selected. I witnessed a massive transport of provisions and materials, in the form of head-loads, by devotees. They had to wade through slush and mire, braving the stench of rotting corpses and carcasses. Indeed the first task was to bury or burn the dead, lying in heaps on the ground and caught in trees and bushes. Kitchens which provided food for over five thousand forlorn victims, kept working for more than a month in four strategic centres - Kattamajeru Gudapalem, Adavuladeevu, Ganapavaram and Barrankula - in the region lashed by the furious elements. From some kitchens, cooked food was taken to even more remote places, and the victims fed wherever they were found. Children were given milk and special foods. Besides these, the Seva Dal erected hundreds of hutments to enable people to continue their normal occupations of fishing and farming. They were given sets of kitchen utensils and cooking vessels, as well as garments, reed mats and rugs. Bhagavan assured the children who were orphaned by the calamity that He would be their guardian. When the relief centres were closed, the exhausted Seva Dal workers gladly noted that the faces of the village folk around them were lit with gratitude, contentment and devotion towards Bhagavan. In order to avoid such colossal loss of life in future, Bhagavan directed the Seva organisations to build at each place where they served, a community hall for the people, which would serve as a shelter whenever wind and wave rushed furiously onto land.
When the holy day of Shivaratri approached in 1978, the people remembered the previous year's announcement by Bhagavan regarding the cancellation of the ceremony. But the prospect of such deprivation was so painful that thousands would not at first believe it. So they continued to stream into Prasanthi Nilayam in time for the occasion. Rumours were afloat that Bhagavan would be at Brindavan that day. May be Shivaratri would be celebrated at Brindavan? Or would it be at Hyderabad? So thousands also gathered at Hyderabad and at Brindavan in Whitefield. But Bhagavan did not oblige. He was in the Nilgiri Hills, and returned only two days later.
The magnificent row of buildings which comprise the Sri Sathya Sai College near Brindavan, was opened at a joyous and colorful function by Bhagavan on 19th of May, 1978. The Karnataka minister for education, Sri Subbaya Shetty, inaugurated the library building with the Prajnana (highest wisdom) Pradarsan on the first floor. The Pradarsan contains an impressive collection of charts, drawings and pictures showing phases of Japa, Dhyana, Yoga and Puja. It has photographs and models of the holy places of India. Books of all major religions and portraits of saints, mystics and thinkers of all faiths adorn the place. The sayings and teachings of Bhagavan, explained and illustrated, find a place of prominence. To be among these records means being reminded of the inevitable journey to God - that oft-forgotten goal becomes clear once again.
The auditorium, was inaugurated by Srimati Govinda Narain, while Sri Govinda Narain, the governor of Karnataka, inaugurated the summer course in Indian culture and spirituality which commenced on the same day. The discourses during the first week were all on the Bhagavata Purana [see Bhagavatha Vahini], which is about the former avatars of the Lord, including Krishna.
Bhagavan said that the youth of the country suffered the imposition of pointless and purposeless curricula. They were being shaped in colleges, into recalcitrant unemployables and sent out into the world with begging bowls called 'degrees' and 'diplomas'. They saw through foreign eyes, thought along borrowed concepts and held only film stars as their ideals. They had become rootless saplings, drifting with every whiff of wind. Their patriotism was not even skin-deep, for they had no knowledge of, or love for, their traditions and culture, their poets and saints, their fellow men and homeland. Dr. Benito Reyes, president of the world university in Ojai, California, who attended the course and stayed with the participants, commented in high appreciation on the benefits derived from it by westerners who had no knowledge of the depth and vastness, the value and validity of the spiritual message of India, so vividly perceptible in Bhagavan. He quoted T.S. Eliot and asked, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" and answered, "It is here."
No sooner had the summer course ended then the organizers were persuaded to accept another assignment which was more spectacular and more fundamental - managing at Brindavan a ten-day orientation course on spiritual education for 665 teachers from the elementary schools of Andhra Pradesh, deputed for training by the state government. The government had planned a well-nigh revolutionary project of recasting the elementary schools (for children between the ages of six and twelve years) in the entire state, providing special emphasis on prayer, music, dance, painting, modelling, and parent cooperation with the teacher, so that the school house became a house of work, worship and wisdom, of love and service, of spiritual discipline and yoga. Dr. Chenna Reddy, first as governor of Uttar Pradesh and later as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, knew about the Bal Vikas classes conducted by trained gurus of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva organizations, and had watched the children grow into self-reliant, cooperative and service-minded youth, revering parents, elders, and teachers. So he prayed to Baba to give the 665 teachers an orientation course, holding the camp in the college campus at Brindavan itself, so that they may benefit by the impact of His grace and from exposure to the simple, unaffected band of students whom He had trained as examples of His message.
The teachers were chosen at random from the outlying villages of every district. They had no time to prepare for the journey into a vastly different linguistic and climatic region, the state of Karnataka, nor were they aware of the discipline, the do's and dont's, spontaneously honored at the Brindavan campus. But the ten-day stay was amazingly alchemic. Baba entered their hearts and made them soft and pure. Several deep-rooted habits such as smoking, eating harmful foods and arguing aloud were jettisoned without a tear, while a sense of dedication was added to their professional skills. They began to feel like patriotic warriors who were engaged in driving away the demons of sloth and selfishness from schools, restoring to children their heritage that they had been denied so long. Bhagavan had planned lectures by devoted teachers in the morning hours. He formed ten groups of thirty teachers each, who met on alternate days to discuss among themselves the feasibility and necessity of the suggestions that arose in these lectures. The reports of these discussions were placed before Bhagavan in the evening and Bhagavan would choose some outstanding conundrum that required further analysis and clarification by Him.
Bhagavan also personally supervised the teachers' boarding and lodging and enquired about their health and requirements. He gave woollen rugs to those who had not brought any with them, sets of books to some, and cassettes of His Bhajans and discourses to others who had access to cassette players in their villages. He posed for photographs along with teachers and trainees from each district, and also arranged for each one of them to receive a free copy on the day the camp ended. Most of the teachers desired to visit Mysore and Puttaparthi, besides going round Bangalore itself, but they could not afford the cost. So they appealed to the government of Andhra Pradesh to loan them the money which they all agreed to repay out of their salaries. When He learned of this, Baba Himself arranged for buses, and saw to it that they were loaded with hampers of food and plenty of fruit with which the teachers could regale themselves while on the road.
The teachers were filled with admiration at the intelligent and hearty response they received from the student volunteers deputed to attend to their needs. They concluded that it was the love that Bhagavan embodied and showered on those whom He chose, that had moulded the students in His college into young men of whom the nation could be proud. When the teachers left the campus and the presence of Baba, they were all in tears.
The Face of Divinity
Towards the end of the course, on the eighth day, the trainees had the singular good fortune of listening to a talk given by Dr. Frank G. Baronowski of Arizona University, on the uniqueness of Bhagavan's aura. This speech equipped them with faith in the divinity of Baba - a precious possession that would fortify them throughout their lives. Dr. Baronowski said,
"I was not brought up in any belief, though I am a Christian by birth and a roman catholic. The scientific community in my country finds it difficult to accept God. "It is not scientific," they assert. The aura that Swami projects is not that of a man. The white was more than twice the size of any man's, the blue was practically limitless and then there were gold and silver bands beyond even these, far beyond the building, right up to the horizon! I am risking my reputation when I make this statement. Two days ago, right outside this hall, I looked into His eyes. They had a glow in them. It was clear to me that I had looked into the face of Divinity. If ever I can use the phrase, 'I have seen Love walking on two feet', it is here."
On 14th August 1978, Bhagavan formed the Loka Seva Institution into a new trust, the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust, of which He agreed to be the President. This He did at Muddenahalli where, too, there are schools and hostels maintained as part of the Loka Seva complex. Bhagavan concluded the formalities of the transfer and change of name. He later addressed the members of the trust, teachers and students:"This holy institution was established by Narayana Bhat quite early in his life. He was ever eager to offer pure and unselfish service, so he planted the seed which has now grown into this tree. We have arrived at the stage when we can eat the ripe fruit, but this tree has also to be well cared for by us."
The Muslim festival of Ramzan (Rammadan) in 1978 was a landmark in the history of Puttaparthi, for the muslims of that village celebrated in the mosque that Bhagavan had built for them. It is a simple and spacious mosque, with an ambience of spiritual fragrance. Professor Bashiruddin of Osmania University expressed the gratitude of the muslims of the region and described to the vast gathering how the impact of Bhagavan's teachings had made him a more understanding practitioner of the message of the holy Koran. Janab Fakhruddin, convenor of the village Muslim committee, offered thanks to Bhagavan for this gift of love, saying "We had earlier to walk four miles to Bukkapatnam, through sun and rain, slush and sandy river bed, to recite our prayers." Bhagavan told the Muslims that the real significance of the Ramzan fast was "to be near God and detached from sensual desires." He also said that the Ramzan month was one during which the holy Koran was communicated to Mohammed. The message of Bhagavan is that the truly religious will neither deny the validity of any particular religion or group of religions, nor declare that salvation can be secured through one path only. So He encourages all those who have faith to march forward along their chosen paths, whichever religion they may follow or be born in, since all spiritual paths lead to the same goal.
Baba's grace is boundless and universal. So people from all lands and followers of all creeds gather at His feet. Several sects and communities of India who have special festivals to commemorate their regional deities, also discard age-old boundaries and conventions and gather in thousands wherever Baba may happen to be, feeling such celebration to be truly meaningful in His presence. The Onam festival of the Malayalam-speaking Keralites - Hindus and Christians - is held by thousands year after year with all the orthodox observances. Bhagavan has thrown new light on the legend which forms the background of Onam. What was for long a season of folkplay and dance, has now taken on the habiliment of a spiritually-elevating sadhana week.
Prolong Your Life Span
Dasara 1978 began as usual with the hoisting of the Prasanthi flag over Prasanthi Mandir and the celebration of the annual day of the Sri Sathya Sai Hospital in the evening that same day. Bhagavan touched the hearts of the massive gathering of devotees present when He gave them the most worthwhile reason for preserving and promoting their health."The one grand reason for maintaining health, which I am urging you to do, is that you have yet to witness and delight over many more Leelas and Mahimas (expressions and manifestations of divine qualities) far surpassing those you have witnessed so far, and many more wonders, victories and triumphs. You can thrill with ecstatic delight when you witness these. So guard yourselves carefully. Maintain good health and keep your hearts ever filled with joy,"
During the discourses related to the Vedic yajna which lasted for a full week, Baba expounded the meanings of various scriptural passages. The verses from the Gîtâ which He prescribed for repetition while saying grace before every meal, were given special emphasis by Him, for they remind one of the immanence of God in the food made ready, in the fire that was used for cooking it, in the cook, in the one who ate it and in the activities which the eater could fulfil as a result of the strength that the food conferred on both, his body and brain.
Dasara is an occasion when thousands from all over the country and abroad see for themselves the triple ideal of Sai education - duty, devotion and discipline - practised by the boys and girls of Bhagavan's colleges. They can listen to these students speak profoundly on a variety of topics and share their own intimate experiences of love and service towards Sai and towards all those upon whom He bestows His grace. They can also be audience to plays, choirs and orchestral music by students from all parts of India and from places as different and far apart as Hawaii, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Libya. Integration of mankind is no more an armchair dream; it is being realized here.
Save Villages from Cities
Twenty-five thousand people gathered at Prasanthi Nilayam for the Birthday festival in 1978. Bhagavan emphasized that it was not because of the birthday that so many people had assembled, but it was because they assembled that the birthday was celebrated!"I have no interest in publicising the date on which this body, which I willed for a purpose, appeared among mankind. I want each of you to celebrate the day I am enshrined in your hearts as My birthday,"
To those who wished Him a 'Happy Birthday', He replied that "this is a superfluous wish, for I am always happy." The festival included a musical recitation by students, with the college orchestra providing excellent accompaniment to a narration of the story of the Sai Avatar. Baba exhorted every one to transform 'daily living' into 'truly living', visualising God as the very breath of life. Bhagavan had called delegations of Seva Dal units (comprising men and women living on Sai ideals and trained for service to the distressed, the disabled and the diseased) from all over India. He directed them to engage themselves more in rural areas, where the evils of city life were becoming rampant. Villagers are misled; they imagine the city-dwellers to be more happy amidst cinema houses and cars, immersed in exotic and intoxicating life styles. They do not realise that their physical moral and economic stamina is being corroded by gambling and drinking, by noise and slogans, and by the rowdiness that thrives on such life patterns. "Save them from moral and physical pollution," He commanded. When one of the district convenors suggested that each seva dal member should always carry with him a mini first-aid box so that he could serve people more often, Baba modified the contents of the box, saying, "Carry in it a few tablets of discrimination and detachment, an ounce or two of sense-control, a packet of love and a bandage strip of fortitude. Only then can you effectively render first aid to people suffering from a stroke of ego or a bout of greed, a jaundiced vision or an allergy to serving others."
On 28th November 1978, Baba laid the foundation stone of the College of Arts, Science and Commerce at Prasanthi Nilayam. In the north-east corner Bhagavan laid the first line of stones after sanctifying the spot and placing there nine precious gems created by Him in the palm of His hand. Baba wills that every college must have an auditorium as magnificent as the college itself, and also a special building, as impressive as the rest, for the library. He considers the library to be a fundamental part of every educational institution. He selected Sri Ramanathan Chettiar of Madurai and the Rajmata of Navanagar for laying the foundation stones of these two allied constructions.
Christmas brings thousands into the presence of Baba, for they find in him the teacher who can reveal the true glory of Jesus and lead them along the path illumined by the Son of God. Baba told them that day,"Carols and candles, readings from the Bible and staging plays about the incidents from the life of Jesus are not enough. When Jesus declared that the bread of the last supper was His flesh and the wine His blood, what did He really mean? He meant that every being alive with flesh and blood, was He Himself and ought to be treated so. That is to say, every living being is divine. Therefore no distinction should be made between separate physical bodies as good or bad, friend or foe, we or they."
Baba also revealed that Jesus' actual name assigned to Him by His parents was Isa. And Isa, when constantly repeated, echoes Sai! Both words mean Iswara (God). Baba said,"In the Tibetan monastery where Jesus spent many years, His name is recorded as Isa, which means 'Lord of all living beings.' "
The Tamils celebrated their new year on 14th January, so Baba flew to Madras to bless them on that holy day and to inaugurate the construction of a Dharmakshetra (an arena of righteousness) in that city, which was to be called 'Sundaram', to complete the series which had started with 'Sathyam' in Bombay and continued with 'Sivam' in Hyderabad. The festival also has the overtone of a harvest celebration as the farmers of Tamil Nadu offer gratitude to the bullocks that helped them grow grain and the cows that gave them milk. They boil the milk on ceremonial hearths and allow it to boil and spill over as a symbol of abundance and happy sharing. The Telugu new year day was celebrated in March, and Baba heightened the joy of the celebration by being present at Hyderabad for a full week. He called upon the city-dwellers to serve the villages, to which they owed much, by helping the farmers and artisans to combat poverty, disease and exploitation.
Meanwhile, on 30th January 1979, Swami entered the west coast harbor town of Mangalore in Karnataka State, to proceed to Alike, the headquarters of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust, which runs two huge educational complexes for children, mostly from rural regions. One complex is at Alike itself in the midst of the valley, nestling among the spurs of the western ghats. The other one is at Muddenahalli, on the foothills of the mountain range around the Nandi Peak, in the plains to the east. Alike is a dream come true, a vision vivified by faith and hope, as if Divine grace had shaped itself into its dormitories, playgrounds, libraries, classrooms and gardens - a hermitage where the heart of the late Madiyala Narayana Bhat throbs in the activity of the increasing band of devoted teachers, an academy with palm groves whispering 'Sai Ram' to every breath of wind.
Led into the Light
Baba's discourses dispelled the gloom that had descended upon the district when its patron, Narayana Bhat, was killed in a car accident. He restored joy in the hearts of the students (numbering over a thousand), the more than sixty teachers, several well-wishers of the project (who had cooperated with Narayana Bhat, its founder, and stood by him through thick and thin), the grateful parents and guardians of the thousands of boys and girls whose careers had been shaped by the Loka Seva institutions, the old students who were rendering service in various fields of activity, and the farmers, traders and workers from the village and plantations lying in the region. Baba likened Alike to a place of pilgrimage, when He noted that "you pay sincere attention to the development of the children under your care and transmute them into worthy children of India." Before returning to Brindavan, Baba visited Puttur and Chokkadi villages near Alike, Mangalore and Manipal, in the same coastal district. At Manipal, the centre of a popular educational complex built around well-equipped medical and engineering colleges, Baba found at 11 p.m. at night a gathering of at least fifteen thousand people waiting for Darsan. Such was their longing to have a glimpse of the Lord and listen to His voice.
The summer course in Indian Culture and Spirituality in 1979, laid emphasis on the Bhagavad Gîtâ. For one full week attention was concentrated on this universal scripture which propounds and elaborates upon the three paths of Karma (action), Bhakti (devotion), Jnana (knowledge). Bhagavan's daily discourse provided simple and satisfying commentaries on the philosophical principles underlying the teachings of Lord Krishna to His diffident and deluded warrior-friend, Arjuna. Swami, like Krishna Himself, exhorted the student participants to do their best, without calculating the odds, and leave the rest to God. He declared, as Krishna had done on the battlefield, that victory is the reward for the brave and that bravery is drawn from the Atman, the Inner Spring.
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer of the Supreme Court of India, while inaugurating the month-long course in the presence of Bhagavan, said, "It is time that we wean our colleges from becoming houses of vice and violence, with students getting addicted to drugs and cultivating only materialistic desires. Baba's balm of Prema must penetrate Karma, kindle Jnana and sublimate into Dharma." He spoke on the inadequacy of science and its inability to restore peace, morality and brotherhood. He stressed that India must discover her soul and listen to the voice of the sages. Bhagavan pointed out that leaders of today had no will to promote moral and spiritual excellence in their people, while the people themselves had no urge to warn their leaders of the disasters that lay ahead when this foremost duty was neglected.
Denise Eversole, who was among the two hundred foreign students at the course, speaks about its impact on her thus:"What is it like at the summer course? Let me throw out some adjectives to see if I can highlight its essence: packed, hot, uncomfortable, thrilling, awesome, pure essence, inspiring, stretching, blissful, catalytic, cathartic, revitalising, transforming, beautiful... Here we were at the feet of the same Soul which was the historic Krishna, Who first communicated the Bhagavad Gîtâ to Arjuna about five thousand years ago. As Sai Baba explained to all the students the true meaning of spiritual life and how to live it, I found every question I'd ever had, completely answered."
Karen F. Blanc summarises the message conveyed by Baba:"All life is a meditation. Formal prayer and what you think of as meditations, are means, not ends. They are good and are meant to help prepare the mind for concentration. But along with such spiritual exercises and practices, there must be examination of individual and collective attitudes. Instil and cultivate in yourselves love and respect for all religions. Return home and do God's work, wherever you are, with conviction, confidence and enthusiasm. If life ever becomes difficult, remember these evenings and think of Me, call on My name, and I give you this promise that I will always heed your call. You will never be alone again."
Karen went on to describe a thrilling miracle which happened on one of the evenings. The participants had many a chance to thrill at miracles that occurred whenever they were in Baba's presence. "But this was a big one, really first class," said Karen."Maynard Ferguson, the world-famous jazz artist, gave a concert for us, about twelve hundred people, one night at the auditorium of the college. Baba was seated in the middle of the stage and Maynard Ferguson was standing next to Him on the right. He played Indian classical music set to jazz, with Baba tapping away at the beat gently with His hand. Then Ferguson played an incredible trumpet solo with all his heart. Baba stood up and made a large circle, clockwise with His right hand. Swoosh! Out of the air in front of everyone, Baba materialized a solid gold medallion, suspended from a chain, and placed it around Ferguson's neck. There was no movement in the auditorium. Not a flicker. It was as if time stood still. Overwhelmed, Ferguson wept like a child, just as we sat there with tears in our eyes and a sob in our throats.
"Why was it so beautiful? Maybe, because we all knew at that moment, without question, what we had once known as little children but had long since forgotten. There is a part in us all, at the very core of our being, that wants to believe in angels, that good triumphs over evil, that Jesus did really walk on water and that Moses had once parted the Red Sea... . We want to believe all that and, regardless of what we say, we want to stand by the good guy... and we ourselves want to be good. That is why we wept and that is why it was so beautiful. The medallion was not a magician's trick. It was made for us all. It was so that we could all know, once and for all, that 'It is so, as it is written.' "
As soon as the summer course ended, Baba returned to Prasanthi Nilayam with a large number of students from various colleges who desired to spend a few more days in His presence at the 'International Temple of the Sai Avatar'. There a Sathya Sai college was inaugurated on 1st July, the first-year classes being held at the Easwaramma High School building itself.
The Buds Blossom
The Avataric mission of restoring humanity to man and raising him to Godhood are being translated into action by Bhagavan through educational reconditioning. He has blessed a world-wide project which supplements the state directed, institutionalised, secular education. It is called Bal Vikas, which means 'Blossoming of the Child'. Children in the developed countries (and, by contagion, in the developing nations also), are exposed to the ills of the machine age, the clash of isms, the conflict of races, obsession with war, the dominance of violence, an over indulgence in sensual pleasures and the open flouting of all morals. The Bal Vikas routes back the child to its age-old culture so that it may grow strong and straight. It instils a sense of reverence towards parents, elders and teachers, who are repositories of learning. It encourages self-knowledge, self-reverence and self-control, while enveloping the child in the warmth of Divine love. Children grow up under the watchful care of teachers whom Baba has blessed with the sacred title, guru. The teacher upon being conferred that title becomes bound to remove, as Lord Shiva does, the weeds of evil from the tender mind, to sow, as Lord Brahma does, seeds of courage and compassion, and to foster, as Lord Vishnu does, good thoughts, good speech and good deeds, elevating the profession of a teacher into a task carried out by the Holy Trinity.
Baba has developed schools called Vidya Vihars (education through joy), where children are fostered after being admitted as whole time inmates. When the children enter their teens, they are taught elementary texts on spiritual discipline, besides being introduced to the technique of Yoga, social service, choral service, meditation, etc. These classes are referred to as 'pre-Seva Dal'. High schools that have been set up by Baba in several places pay special attention to the development of character and to programmes of Sadhana and social service. Then there are the colleges where the most impressionable years of adolescence and youth are spent under the gracious guidance of Bhagavan Himself."Students are My hope, the source of My delight. They are what I live by," says Baba.
During the Dasara celebrations in 1979, students of different religions from the Sri Sathya Sai college in Puttaparthi, presented themselves in their ceremonial costumes and described, to the great delight of the vast gathering, the main principles of each religion. A Sikh from New Delhi, a Zoroastrian from Bombay, a Christian from Hawaii, a Muslim from Libya, a Buddhist from Sikkim and a Hindu from Kabul were the participating students. When Baba stood in the centre of the group as they finished, all were pleasantly surprised that Sai, the sum of all religions and the goal of all sadhana, had condescended thus to teach them the unity of faith. The students of Sai colleges have mastered the art of coordinated labor. They have presented orchestras and plays on Sri Ramakrishna, Sankaracharya and Jesus, besides having set the Ramayana and the Sai stories to music. Bhagavan is, of course, the invisible and also, almost always, the visible source of all their achievements. While inaugurating the first anniversary of the association of old boys of the Sri Sathya Sai college at Brindavan, Baba directed them to utilise all their resources and talents in the service of the villages around Brindavan after a keen study of their urgent needs:"Students must spring like tiger cubs into the arena of the villages and cleanse them of pollution. They must teach and train the illiterate residents of the villages to live happily and with dignity. They must strive, along with the villagers, and lead them forward."
Baba also said on that occasion,"I am encouraging these boys to be examples of the strength and equanimity that can be gained by constant practice of My message. I am ever prompting them to speak and recite, sing and enact this message, so that it is installed in their hearts. Whatever I do or get done, whatever I say or direct others to say, it is to emphasize, clarify or exemplify this message - the Atmic Reality of man."
Bhagavan's message and the master projects planned for its realisation, drew many educationalists, administrators, scientists, communication experts and psychologists to the colleges He has founded. Seminars on spiritual and moral guidance were held at the Brindavan college. Summer schools brought together college professors from all over the country besides overseas countries including Singapore, the Philippines, Fiji, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and USA. Bhagavan conversed with groups of vice-chancellors, headmasters, professors, scientists and technicians, unravelling to them the insidious causes of the universal malaise and revealing the curative measures urgently needed. As a result of the impact of these conversations, the Sathya Sai Study Circle was formed in Bangalore, to probe into the defects of the educational system, and for restructuring and reforming it on Sai guidelines. Swami assured the group, "I promise you that I will be with you and take an active part in guiding the activities of the Study Circle." Truly, the Avatar has no rest! But, as Bhagavan says, "Had I needed rest, I would not have incarnated."
During the Birthday festival week in 1979, two thousand Bal Vikas gurus met at a conference in Prasanthi Nilayam. Bhagavan blessed them and enlightened them on the problems that they have to encounter and promised to reveal to them the solutions whenever they prayed for light. The play 'Jesus' was presented by the students on 22nd November. The costumes, the sets and the actors appeared so authentic that the audience of twenty-five thousand responded with a continuous ovation lasting several minutes. Jesus Christ was very accurately portrayed as the Son of God, with mercy, power and love in His voice, gestures and reactions.
Shiva on the Spot
Devotees who sought the home where Bhagavan incarnated as Sathyanarayana, the home of the parents Pedda Venkappa Rajju and Easwaramma, were for years shown an empty patch of land at the end of a rubble track in Puttaparthi. They were very sad that no holy structure marked that spot, after the Prasanthi Mandir and the temples of Ganesa had come up on the outskirts of the village that was immortalized by the birth, childhood and boyhood of the greatest Avatar in human history. They pleaded with Bhagavan and prayed in unison. So a simple but charming temple was constructed there, in which Baba installed an idol of Shiva on 22nd November 1979, fulfilling the long-cherished desire of millions.
The Avatar's decision to declare the cloistered village, Puttaparthi, still lacking even in several basic amenities, as the hub of the Sai Dharma Chakra (wheel of righteousness), raised around the Mandir rows of three-storeyed residential flats also housing banks, shops and a bus station. Besides these, it has added to itself a resplendent suburb with ornamental arches at both ends, containing rows of magnificent structures comprising the elementary and high schools and the College of Arts, Science and Commerce, besides a hostel for over a thousand students.
In June 1980 Bhagavan visited Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India, famed through the centuries for the artistic genius of its people, for its mountain ranges which are the source of several rivers and for the harmonious blending of cultures and races. He spent ten days amidst the people until it became difficult to decide who loved the other more - the people of the state or Bhagavan.
The march of love continues - fresh, full and free.
The Call and the Echo
"I have My work to do; My devotees are calling me," Baba had declared when He was fourteen years of age.
With that, He had walked out of school and home into the garden where He exhorted the huge gathering to worship the feet that were to lead mankind from untruth to truth, from darkness to light and from death to immortality. At sixteen, He announced that His mission during the incarnation was to confer bliss on all beings everywhere.
Pointing to the bold, bald hills on the outskirts of Puttaparthi village (then a confused jumble of mud huts around a few brick houses, 'scarce five minutes from the Stone Age', as Schulmann described it), Swami, when He was seventeen, confided to the Pujari (priest) Lakshmiah:"The Sai Pravesh (Advent of Sai) will convert that region into Prasanthi Pradesh (a region of perfect peace). Upon that hill there will rise a grand Bhavan (hall). (It was inaugurated seven years later). At that time, hundreds (why hundreds?), thousands (why thousands?), lakhs (why only lakhs?) - the whole of India will be there. The whole world will come and wait for Sai Darsan."
Pujari Lakshmiah could not believe his ears. He protested and said, "No, I cannot believe this. How can this happen?" Baba replied, "You will have to believe it when you stand where we are now, trying to catch a glimpse of Me standing on the porch of that grand Bhavan." Lakshmiah is alive to this day, trying to catch a glimpse standing on the same spot!
What is the nature of the 'strategy' that Swami employs to draw such huge gatherings? On 23rd November 1975, the 50th birthday of Bhagavan, devotees from forty-six nations of the world from New Zealand to Iceland, offered their sincere homage to Bhagavan. Why do so many people travel such long distances at such a great expense of time and money braving the inconvenience of foreign food and living habits?
Of course, He has no compulsion, no urge, nor even a need to frame a strategy. He just acts; it is we who label these acts as 'strategy'. He calls us to proceed from 'I' to 'We', a call which must attract because it is a call which echoes from the depths of one's own self.
'Bhoomaa eva sukham:' - 'In vastness alone, is happiness', proclaims the Upanishad.
"Expansion is life; contraction is death," says Baba.
He leads us to the vastness, the 'We', and how He does it is the strategy.
'Subrahmanyam' (Su-brahman-yam) is the refrain of the heart-pounding valedictory Bhajan that He instructs us to sing.
It preaches the Brahman path; Brahman That is the Divine; That is both immanent and transcendent; That is beyond the reach of words and the flight of imagination. The path involves the discipline of all-inclusive love and the acceptance of ever-expanding kinship until the entire cosmos is subsumed. Baba says,"All beings exist, become aware and are delighted, because God willed so, God who is Sath-Chith-Ananda. So, no single being is exiled from His grace. God is omnipresent, and no being can shut Him out."
"I have come," says Baba, "in order to repair the ancient highway leading man to God... I have come in response to the prayers of sages, saints and seekers for the restoration of that road."
Therefore streams of afflicted men and women, groups of sadhakas as well as curious seekers of truth, and even such individuals who have attained relatively higher stages of realization, proceed to wherever Baba is, certain of His assuring smile and alleviating conversation. In His presence (and even far away from it, whenever we recollect the blissful moments), we feel elevated - even the lowest and lowliest of us - for He reminds us that we are a part of Him, as Divine as Himself. In fact, we are Divyatmaswaroopas, embodiments of the Divine Atman, as He invariably addresses us.
The nth Degree
We know that we have secured in Him a 'pace-maker' for our hearts. Under His benign guidance, we rise to the nth degree of fullness. He says,"I am God: you are also God. But while I am aware, you are still unaware. That is the only difference."
As Sankaracharya had done 1300 years ago. He is telling us to experience Soham (I am He) and Sivoham (I am God). Ignorant persons jeer when Baba holds up the mirror to reveal the Divinity that is latent in us. One such person remarked, "Baba is trying to escape criticism for His assuming Divinity, by taking us also into His 'Divine' fold and transforming us into willing accomplices of his impersonation!" But the belief that all beings are parts of the one Divinity is as old as the Vedanta, and as universal.
Bayazid, the Sufi saint, said, "I went from God to God, until they cried for me in me, O Thou I!"
Hui Neng, the Buddhist mystic, said, "When not enlightened, Buddhas are no other than ordinary beings; when there is enlightenment, ordinary beings at once turn into Buddhas."
Eckhart, the Christian mystic, declared, "The seed of God is in us, the seeds grow into God."
Thousands are drawn to His presence through His power, His wisdom and His love. Sai Baba means 'the Divine Mother and Father'. Baba has the unlimited love of the Mother and the unsurpassed power and unalloyed universal wisdom of the Father. How can man withstand the impact of such a unique incarnation?
All Who Need
Unlimited love! On the gateway tower (Gopura), on the inner gateway arch and on the altar inside the prayer hall, one can see the sacred symbol of one's own religion amidst the equally revered symbols of other faiths. No question is asked and no brow raised by anyone who belongs to the Sai family, when you declare yourself to be a Hindu or a Buddhist, a Parsi, a Christian, a Muslim or even an atheist. The only question asked and the only thing with which Baba is concerned is how earnest, how distressed, how compassionate, how self-controlled you are. He created a cross for the pilot of the twin-engined aircraft which took him from Entebbe to the wild life sanctuary at Serengetti in East Africa. In the Bandipur forest He put one dry stalk of grass across another and, blowing upon it, converted it into a wooden cross with a silver Christ for Dr. Hislop [see reference to "White Man's Burden"]. He gave Professor Bashiruddin a silver locket with Allah inscribed on it in Arabic. On Bakr Id day, He showed a group of Arab pilgrims at Prasanthi Nilayam, the huge gathering of fellow-muslims kneeling that very moment before the Kaaba in Arabia. He spread His palm before their eyes and they could see the sacred scene on it. There are many Jews like Dr. Sandweiss, paying homage to Him thus: "I believe Baba to be an incarnation of God. It appears to me now that all those stories in Hindu, Christian and Hebrew literature are not symbolic: there really is a spiritual level of reality that can make itself manifest."
Buddhist monks have built in Ceylon and Malaysia, Sai prayer halls and centres of service. He performs the Navajyoti rite, and through that ceremony initiates Parsi boys into spiritual exercises. The parents are grateful to Him for this act of grace. No one is a stranger, no one is kept aside or aloof just because he is too young or too old, recalcitrant or incorrigible. His is the sunshine that disinfects all faiths and cults. He has declared that He will hold and lead by the hand those who stray away from the straight road and miss the realm of peace, joy and love.
He does not outlaw atheists for, He says, even they do love something - animal or plant, person or sect, ideal or ism. That love, He says, is God. They too, would not like being called liars but, like others, delight in speaking the truth. This homage they pay to truth indicates that they revere God, who is truth. Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch philosopher, declared, "Wherever you encounter truth, look upon it as Christianity." The atheists appreciate beauty and are charmed by it. God is beauty and thence arises the attraction it exerts on them.
Baba does not try to mould men in the crucible of any cult. He does not prescribe any single spiritual exercise or peddle any patented panacea to cure the ills of men. "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavily-laden, and I will give you rest," is the message even now. They come with broken hearts, damaged illusions and unfulfilled ambitions. They bring their burden of real and imagined pain. After meeting Him, they pray, "We cannot ask Thee for aught, for Thou knowest our needs; in fact, Thou art our only need." And having spoken thus, they stay.
Whereas most gurus are interested only in the mantras and exercises that they prescribe for people's grievances and the fees or gifts that they are offered in return, Baba is interested only in us, whether we undertake Sadhana or Seva of any kind or not. Moreover, since the Divine Spark is enshrined within man in five caskets, (the physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual and the felicitous), one encased within the other, Baba tends to them one by one, with affectionate care, to enable us to reflect on the splendor of that Spark [see also: Prasnottara Vahini, ch. 7].
Baba says, "I never ask you to earn Me; I want only that you need Me." Under the tender care of this physician, psychiatrist, guide, teacher and friend, we become aware of untapped springs of courage, fortitude, aspiration and adventure within us. Baba also directs our thoughts and activities towards society - the society in which we were born, which reared us and equipped us with a vision to face the future and to fulfil our obligations. Schumacher has said, "Although there are constant temptations to forget it, we all know that our lives are made or marred by our relationships with other human beings. No amount of health, wealth, fame or power can compensate us for our loss if these relationships dissolve. Yet they all depend on our ability to understand others and their ability to understand us." Baba declares that there can be no fulfilment of our lives until we ourselves have concern for, confidence in and compassion towards others.
Baba's infinite love, wisdom and power produce an indelible impact on each of us, sometimes in a moment, when we stay in His presence to imbibe the message that He radiates. Paul Roberts writes in Vogue (Christmas number, 1976) on the few minutes he spent in His divine presence, thus: "Baba, the remote and powerful figure I had watched in awe for months, hugged me like a long-lost friend, and in a surpassingly loving way began to tell me my worst faults. Indeed, He told me things no one could possibly have known, answered every question I would have asked and gave advice which I still treasure... I felt and still feel inexplicably closer to Him than to anyone else in the world."
R. K. Karanjia, editor of Blitz, who described himself as a sceptic, a critic and a Marxist, who had in the past openly questioned and criticised Sathya Sai Baba, was able (like many other critics, sceptics and Marxists) to meet Him and gain a cordial interview. He writes, "The encounter was a fantastic, almost shattering one. He went on to amaze me with knowledge of the most intimate developments affecting my life and work."
A Gap, a Gasp
Dr. Samuel Sandweiss, the psychiatrist from San Diego, California, narrates, "After my initial visit to Sai Baba, I began to experience an inner awakening, as if a once-familiar but closed-off centre was opening up and I was becoming acquainted with a part of myself that I had long ago forgotten. I identified the experience as one of devotion, and wondered whether such a centre lies dormant in all of us awaiting release through some personal spiritual experience. This awakening or unfolding was for me a source of great joy, and with it came a deepening feeling of my love for Baba and for people in general."
Baba has Himself revealed that this happens in His presence: "Each of you feel a gap within you, a thirst, an urge, a 'Divine' discontent, a call to which the response from within is weak and vacillating. This has persuaded you to travel long distances to Me, braving obstacles and discomfort for the sake of securing peace, strength and guidance."
Gandikota V. Subba Rao of the U.N.O. writes, "Meeting Him is an intensely personal, emotional and uplifting experience. The temptation to glorify Him, to wax lyrical over the spiritual greatness and magnificence of Sathya Sai Baba is difficult to resist."
Sribhashyam Appalacharya from Kakinada town, a repository of ancient scriptural wisdom, writes after staying for a few days at Prasanthi Nilayam, "Bhagavan is a Veda - what He says, happens; Bhagavan is a Sastra - what He does, is exemplary. He elaborates the truth with many a metaphor, simile and story as a Purana does; His words are the highest poetry, for they confer bliss and liquidate the littleness in man."
Dr. F.J. Gould of the University of Chicago reveals, "He perceives the individual's needs with unbelievable insight. He perceives, defends, breaks them down in some swift way. He studies behavior and its determinants... He somehow transfers the individual from one context to another... Many devotees of Baba have perceived His influence through changes in their own lives. New things become important; new values become prominent. To speak in a more technical language, the individual's utility structure changes."
The Conjurer Confesses
Dr. E.B. Fanibunda from Bombay is a dentist and also an amateur magician, well-versed in the theory and practice of conjuring. In 1954 he published a book on a series of original and effective methods which practitioners of magic, mind-reading etc., could adopt. In appreciation of his proficiency he was given the 'Linking Ring' award by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, USA. This is his account of how he reacted to Baba:"There were about a dozen people waiting in the sitting room of Mr. Munshi's house. Baba was due to come out of the inner apartments in a little while. The author (he writes in the third person) stood unobtrusively in one corner of the room. Baba entered the room and everybody stood up. Everyone was elbowing and pushing the other to get close to Him. Baba, however, came and stood near the author, so near that the author was almost touching His left side. By this time the author's practised eye had already given Baba's gown the 'once over'. Nothing was detected. Someone from the crowd asked for Vibhuti Prasad. This was the moment the author was waiting for. Baba pulled up His right sleeve, almost up to the elbow and, in the process, turned His right hand over. The author could see there was nothing in the palm. Quickly the hand went round in circles a few times and the Vibhuti appeared between His fingers which were partly closed to hold it. The Vibhuti was given to some people. The author wished that Baba would now materialise some more so that he could also get a little bit for examination. Lo, behold! Baba's hand went round and round a second time and some more Vibhuti appeared from nowhere. This time the author held out his hand and received His 'visiting card'. The author immediately knew from his past experience that the Vibhuti was materialised without any sleight of hand or trickery. He did not now require any further demonstrations from Baba to convince him that He did possess suprahuman powers for which the author had no explanation to offer and still has none." (1976)
In the Yoga Journal from Holland, Sharon Warren writes,"The following morning, when I went to attend Bhajans, I happened to have an aisle seat. Baba strolled to the women's side that day and, as He passed, He stopped beside me. He then gestured with His hand with that special majesty which always means a divine materialisation, and then there was the sacred ash pouring from His fingertips and into my palms. He said, 'Vibhuti... eat'. It was like a dream. My heart was so full of love and devotion and gratitude that it just overflowed. I felt I could not hold any more. I was aware that He knew my need, and that was so comforting. I have been blessed to experience love throughout my life from many different relationships, but nothing could compare with the purity of the love I experienced when this transpired. It transcended any human relationship I had ever known."
I and Thou
The fascination that draws the object to the subject is, if we may so name it, a move in His strategy. Vivekananda said,"God is both, the subject and the object. He is the 'I' and the 'Thou' (the Thwam and the Thath). How, then, are we to know the Knower? The Knower cannot know Himself. The Atman, the Knower, the Lord of all that exists, is the cause of all the vision that is the universe, but it is not possible for Him to see Himself, know Himself, except through a reflection. You cannot see your own face except in a mirror. Similarly, the Atman cannot see Its own nature until It is reflected... The perfect man, the avatar, is the highest reflection of that Being, Who is both, subject and object. You now find why avatars are instinctively worshipped as God in every country. They are the most perfect manifestations of the Eternal Self. That is why men worship incarnations such as Christ and Buddha."
We are Sathyam, Sivam and Sundaram. The deep calls on the deep; the blue responds to the blue. We see ourselves reflected best in Baba who is in fact, the most sublime manifestation of Sathyam-Sivam-Sundaram. When we forget ourselves and start wandering into the wilderness of falsehood and vice, He comes, so that we may recognise our glory in Him.
Ed Fleure writes, "Baba's life is dedicated to the task of uplifting humanity, to awaken us to our spiritual heritage and to give us courage and faith. Our stay with Baba was a supreme bringing-up. Love is His greatest miracle. From morning to night Baba is constantly giving to and serving others. It was Maharajji who had kept enquiring, when we were leaving his ashram to go to Baba. When at last Baba gave us leave to return, He blessed us, 'Be friends with God.' Surely, this was a new style of blessing. Friends with God? How can that be?
"When we came back to Maharajji, He gave me a Hindu name. And lo! It was the name of a friend, companion and class fellow of Sri Krishna - Sudama. So I had to practise the constant presence of God as my friend."
This remark of Baba and its actual confirmation by a saint in the Himalayas proves that Baba has no wish to by-pass the form you might have accepted and adored. He could have renamed Ed Himself, but He encouraged him to return to Maharajji, the guru he had 'found'. But, since He knew that 'behaving as a friend' was the way for him, He saw to it that the name selected for him by Maharajji was Sudama. Of the nine paths mentioned by the sacred texts on Bhakti, the path of Sakhya (friendship) is next only to the last and highest path of Atma-Nivedanam (self-surrender).
Once, when Baba was asked about His 'methodology', He said,"I have no methodology or machinery or strategy in the accepted organizational sense. My methodology is a simple one, based on conversion by love, and the machinery is one of human cooperation and brotherhood. Love is My instrument and My merchandise."
He says that He can best be described as Prema Swaroopa (Embodiment of Love). What are called 'miracles' are fundamentally manifestation of that love. It is love that prompts Him to speak to each seeker in a language that he can understand - Swahili in East Africa and Adi to tribals from Along. It is love that persuades Him to heal the physical and mental wounds of man. It is love that illumines the darkness of our hearts and corrects the crookedness of our habits and attitudes. The miraculous cure by Baba of terminal diseases, and the saving of life in countless instances of accidents and disasters, are all expressions of His love.
He materialises holy ash in order to arouse faith and gives gifts of rings or lockets to protect the wearer. This He does out of overpowering compassion and love.
J. Jagathesan, the Malaysian devotee who is also the author of the book, 'Journey to God', writes,
"The greatest miracle of all is His transformation of the hearts of countless men and women to make them tread the path of godliness and goodness. Agnostics now sing in praise of God, drunkards have turned from searching for the spirit in the bottle to the Divine Spirit in man, drug addicts who found transient escape and bliss in this 'modern' scourge of mankind now seek the permanent bliss and peace that only God can give, and millions of ordinary men and women who used to listlessly pray as a matter of ritual or habit now find a new meaning, a new dimension to their prayers - whomsoever they may pray to or to whichever religion they may belong - for they are now convinced that God does exist, and that His grace can be obtained through Bhakti, through Sathya, Dharma, Santhi and Prema and, most of all, through selfless and loving Seva to others, regardless of race, religion, caste or colour, and without any thought of reward."
The love that He plants in all those who need Him (and who does not?) reaps a huge harvest of humility, reverence, generosity, fraternity and freedom.
Cousin Losing His Mind
Sandweiss speaks of a cousin of his, Jerry by name, who was a professor of mathematics in the eastern States. "Looking at the question from a purely mathematical standpoint, Jerry felt, it was indeed probable that an avatar might presently exist, so he joined a group that was going over to see Baba... My cousin, during the first interview, asked Baba to produce something for him. He had bought a cheap ring in Greece and was wearing it on his little finger. He wanted Baba to transform this ring into something else. Baba declined. Jerry felt let down... He began to examine his own sanity... Baba called Jerry for an interview again the next day. When he came out, Jerry was in an unusually bright and receptive mood, his face radiant. Jerry, it seems, pleaded again with Baba to do something with the ring and took it from his finger. Baba said that this was not His wish. Jerry continued to plead. Finally, Baba took the ring in His hand, blew on it, and returned to Jerry an altogether different ring which, needless to say, fitted his finger perfectly. This had obviously shaken him... The transformation that the few minutes with Baba produced in Jerry was indeed a greater miracle. A woman in the group asked for someone to help carry her bags and Jerry spontaneously volunteered. 'I never do this,' he said, 'I must be losing my mind!' "
The conquest of the mind is the consequence of years of yogic sadhana. Baba says,"You are imprisoned in your ego. Though you should try to liberate yourselves from this bondage quickly and safely, most of you do not seek from Me the key to this liberation. You ask Me for trash and tinsel, petty little cures and gains. Very few desire to get from Me the thing I have come to give - liberation itself. Even among the few who seek liberation, only a minute percentage sincerely stick to the path of Sadhana and, from among them, only an infinitesimal number succeed."
Jerry had taken, after his exposure to Baba, the first step in liberation from the prison of his ego.
Dr. Dhairyam, writes, "In the present world crisis of character, Bhagavan's grace will certainly act as a powerful catalyst. It will bring about a transformation among the people of the earth who are presently so diverse in spiritual development. Among those who are transformed, one finds nonbelievers, escapists, drug addicts and agnostics, as well as highly evolved sadhakas, well-versed vedic scholars, renowned scientists, artists, poets and pundits, as also simple, ordinary folk who delight in His divine discourses. Bhagavan accepts and welcomes them all as His children. He is compassionate to the sinner, comforting to the distressed and a guide to the agnostic and the confused, whom He leads by the hand into the realm of light."
Awakening during Dreams
Dreams are also part of the Sai strategy. He has appeared in the dreams of many who were unaware of Him and has drawn them to Himself. Karen Fromer Blanc dreamt that a person with a huge crown of hair came to her and said, "Stay with your Hilda." "Hilda who?" she wondered. Five years later she discovered Hilda Charlton, Baba's devotee. The discovery transformed her life. Now she has written a book entitled 'Dear Hilda'!
John Prendergast of the California Institute of Asian Studies has written an article 'Swami Dreams', focussing more on their instructional value and less on the paranormal processes. He says,
"The overall aspect of these dream-experiences with Sai Baba is difficult to gauge, but my own relationship with Baba has deepened immeasurably. I would characterise the primary influence as being the opening of my spiritual heart, of beginning to balance the intellect with the values of love and compassion. Between the spring of 1977 and 1979, Sai Baba has appeared to me during the dream-state nearly forty times. These have profoundly affected my spiritual awakening and the quality of my relationship with Him. Sai Baba has said that it is impossible to see Him in dreams without His willing it. My own experience of active guidance, chastisement, healing and ecstatic states conferred by Him during the dream-state tends to confirm this. My relationship with Sai Baba is, in fact, more intimate in the dream than in the waking state... As the dream-state relationship grows and deepens, my own inner strength and confidence grows and manifests itself in the waking state. In addition to this effect of the dream-reality nurturing and supporting the waking reality, the distinction between the two realities has softened. Increasingly the two blend, so that dream-images rise in the waking mind like distant clouds."
Willie Kweku Ansah of Accra (Ghana), writes, "Soon after this (the Sathya Sai Centre's invitation to devotees to enrol for a trip to Puttaparthi) I started seeing Swami in my dreams. The first night I woke up with a rather vague feeling that I should think of going to Puttaparthi. I discarded the thought immediately. The next dream was more detailed and lengthy. I saw myself in front of a tall building which had protruding platforms on the first floor. Bhagavan was on the ground floor and I was doing Namaskara (bowing in devotion). At this time I did not know that to dream of Bhagavan was a privilege and not an ordinary occurrence. I dismissed the dream as my silly imagination. In my third dream I saw only the face of Bhagavan for an instant or two. I was forced to wake up in a sweat and with a clear command to go to Puttaparthi."
"I gave my name to the planning committee without an inkling of where the money for the trip would come from. I need not have worried. Within the next few days I made, through a friend, three times my normal annual income for no compelling reason. So the matter was settled. All other arrangements went through without a hitch. Need I also mention that some of the persons I travelled with I had already seen in my dreams. We arrived at Puttaparthi on 21st November. The last thing on my mind were my dreams. A friend decided to take a round of the prayer hall, and as we made the turn, I stopped dead in my tracks. My friend asked what the matter was and I uttered something incomprehensible to him. But what had stopped me was the fact that my dream was staring me right in the face with all its details - the protruding platform, the architecture and the colors."
"One surprise followed another when private interviews were granted in a room on the ground floor, and I did my Namaskara exactly where I had dreamt it. However, all these surprises were nothing compared to what I experienced when I went to bid farewell to Bhagavan. 'When are you coming again?' He asked. I was not expecting the question, as the very thought of being so lucky as to come again was far from my mind. I was, therefore, flushed, and in delighted confusion blurted out that I did not know and that this time I came because I had had a dream... Bhagavan interrupted in a tone which seemed as if He was irritated; I was accounting something He already knew. 'I know I know,' He said, and patted my back. Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras (1.38) says that the aspirant gets guidance through dreams, but even he does not mention that the guru, if he is an avatar, can frame dreams for us and figure in them himself, furnishing timely guidance."
A Book and a Journey
Baba says, "No one can come to Prasanthi Nilayam unless I call him." The dream is one of the means He uses to draw people towards Himself.
Lawrence Galante from New York writes, "I enrolled at Hoftra University to study more of my profession, Tai Chi, and the related philosophy. Then I awoke one morning from a vivid dream. In this dream the title of a book was clearly visible to me with the cover layout. It was entitled, 'Sai Baba: Contemporary Mystic, Master and God'. Then it dawned upon me, 'Why not? Why not write my thesis on contemporary mysticism and use Sai Baba as my subject?' I cleared it with the university... I decided that I could not write about Him unless I first saw Him and confirmed these miracles for myself. I also realised that I might just go to Him and find out that He was a fake. If so, I had reasoned, I could still write a thesis to expose a colossal fraud. That would also do. (Baba says, 'Come, see, experience, examine and then believe'). But how do I get to India? My bank account was nil. I turned to Sai Baba and addressed Him saying, 'If you want me to write this, then you must provide the money for me to get to India, because I am broke. ' Within 48 hours, I received a cheque in the mail for a thousand dollars from the city of New York, a sum that was owed me for several years and which I had been trying in vain for some time to collect...
I remained with Sai Baba for two months. Daily I observed him attending to the multitudes that came to Him - healing the sick and materialising objects and giving them away as gifts to devotees. Everything that Baba taught me was good and all of His endeavours were beneficial. He also gave me permission to write about Him which is what I am doing now. Sai Baba does not work in secrecy. His activities are an open book for all to witness and draw their own conclusions from. Baba often says 'My Life is My Message.' I pray, that I may receive more and more His message."
Baba has declared very often that He wills the dream as a means of communication with the dreamer, in order to grant him courage, confidence and clarity of thought.
Miss Occah Seapaul of Trinidad has also been directed by Baba to publish in a book, her talks on His message to several groups of devotees on that West Indian island. Receiving His counsel in a dream is as mandatory as a personal command. According to Aurobindo, "The avatar, or divinity, acts according to another consciousness - the consciousness of the truth above and the Leela below." Baba told Dr. M.S. Ramakrishna Rao of Vishakhapatnam, when he enquired about the authenticity of a dream in which Baba had rendered him the clarification of a spiritual problem,"When I appear in a dream, it is to communicate something to the individual. It is not a mere dream as is generally known. Do not think that these incidents you experienced in your dream are stretches of your imagination. I was giving answers thereby to all your doubts."
H. Narayana Rao, while in bed in the intensive care cardiac unit at the K.E.M. Hospital in Bombay, awaiting implantation of an artificial pace-maker, dreamt that visitors were streaming into the ward. Among them was Baba, who stopped near his bed and spoke in His soft, reassuring voice, "My son! I know how much you are worried about the artificial pace-maker and the operation. Do not worry in the least. From now on your pulse will gradually improve. Count the days from today, and on the eleventh day, which will be Saturday the 17th, you can go home." And in spite of the doctors putting forward various other proposals, he was discharged exactly on the 17th, with his heart quite normal.
When I read a letter from Professor Kausal of Kurukshetra in which he had mentioned that he had resigned his job after being advised by Baba in a dream to do so, I was reminded of another devotee who withdrew a petition he had filed in a civil court. His claim to some property was so strong that he fought his rival through all the labyrinths of law, in spite of all the tension involved and the massive sums of money he had to spend. The suit had possessed him and he was refusing to reconsider. But Baba appeared in his dream and ordered him to give up his mislaid attachment. "Properties are not proper-ties," said Baba with a strange emphasis. Kausal writes, "The dreams are effective, vivid, personal and peace-giving. I cannot brush them aside, especially since Baba later confirms them and continues the advice He vouchsafes during the dream-session."
Baba urges people by means of dream-appearances to come to His presence. He smoothens the difficulties that deter them from undertaking the journey and encourages them to enter the spiritual path towards self-realisation. We have already seen this stratagem of His love in the accounts given by Willie Ansah of Accra and Lawrence Galante of New York.
Dr. Sandweiss writes of another interesting instance of Baba's compassion: "Lila and I were discussing Sai Baba, and she became intrigued. She read a book about Him and began to consider the possibility of meeting Him herself. She was then deeply in debt and there seemed to be no feasible way for her to get the money to go to India. Her husband, Homer, an inventor, had no steady income at that time and had not been able to sell an invention in over five years. Yet, as highly unrealistic as the trip did seem, she made plans to go and obtained her vaccination certificate and passport. Then some strange things began to happen. One day, feeling particularly depressed, she had an unusual dream in which Baba appeared, His eyes twinkling with fun. Soon afterwards, Homer hit upon an invention. After a swift and improbable chain of events, some people became interested in it and his financial position suddenly and quite unexpectedly improved - the first time in years that this had happened. Lila now had enough money for the trip just a week before takeoff, and being completely prepared, she found herself jubilantly boarding the plane with us."
It is beyond doubt that Baba plans, designs and structures the dreams through which He initiates or deepens His impact on people. Ponder over another incident related by Dr. Sandweiss, involving Jeff from California.
Dr. Sandweiss writes, "In the interview room where we all sat, Baba was smiling and rocking back and forth blissfully. He turned to Jeff, the fellow next to me, and said casually, 'I've come to you twice in dreams.' Now, as a psychiatrist, I have certainly never heard of a colleague talking this way to a patient. Psychiatrists deal with dreams all the time; but to say, 'I've come to you twice in dream' would be somewhat disconcerting for the average patient... Baba began to describe and interpret one of Jeff's dreams and it became quite evident to me that He had in some way fashioned the psychic experience of this man, had actually created dreams for him and visited him in another dimension of reality. Everything that Baba said was confirmed by Jeff. Here was the greatest psychiatrist I had ever seen!"
Sri Jaganhesan once asked Baba towards the end of an interview with Him, "Bhagavan! Why don't you ever come in my dreams?" "Baba", he writes, "bent down lovingly and replied, 'Okay from now on I will come in your dreams on Wednesdays.' I regard Tuesday as a holy day because a Vibhuti-materialization from His picture in my house first occurred on Tuesday, 8th June 1976. Recognising this, Baba laughed, and without my asking amended His statement the next moment. 'No, No! Tuesdays, eh?' " And on Tuesdays the dream brings Baba into his view as an unfailing gift of grace.
Once, during a visit to Brindavan (Whitefield) along with Dr. Sandweiss, Elsie Cowan excitedly knocked at his room very early one morning saying, "I am feeling very close to Walter this morning." When Walter had cast off his mortal coil at Tustin, California, Baba had telegraphed to Elsie, "Walter arrived here in good shape." Elsie told Sandweiss, "I feel that Baba and Walter have paid me a special visit. I have been wide awake since six o'clock and full of energy." When both of them reached Prasanthi Nilayam that evening, Baba called them in along with a few others and, in the midst of the conversation, He suddenly said to Elsie, "Walter and I paid you a visit this morning." "Yes, Yes!" said Elsie, "At six o'clock I felt so filled." "No, five minutes to six!" He corrected her. And Sandweiss adds, "I began to see Baba less as an omnipresent controller of great forces than as a manifestation of pure love. Clearly, His love for His devotees motivates His actions."
Baba has often said that being in this body, as distinct from the 'Shirdi' body, He feels it is not enough if a few needy humans get spiritual guidance from Him:"It is necessary to draw all and sundry and provide them with succor and sustenance. I must give them what they want until they begin to want what the Avatar has come to give."
Shirdi Baba appeared in dreams to give warnings and counsel; He spoke in symbols and veiled phrases; He helped solve mundane problems and personal tangles; He invited to Dwarakamai, through mysterious intimations, Sadhakas and service-oriented souls, suffering and suspicion-afflicted persons, and awakened their latent, inner urge towards self-realization by a mere look, a touch, a smile or a pinch of sacred ash. This same strategy is unfolding on an even grander scale in the Sathya Sai era. Now the world has to be awakened and shaken out of its arrogance and schizophrenia by revelations of truth and declarations of love. While in 'Shirdi' form, the declaration of being an avatar was made in the comparative privacy of conversation. In the Sathya Sai manifestation, the declaration that He is all the names and forms through which mankind has adored God down the centuries, was made at a World Conference in Bombay before twenty-five thousand listeners, and many times subsequently, when hundreds of thousands were present. Through films, tapes, books and oral testimony, the uniqueness of this Divine Phenomenon and His wisdom, power, love and compassion are drawing increasing love and adoration, which has united millions into one ever-growing family of mankind.
Arthur Osborne once said that Shirdi Sai Baba, was 'incredible'. Dr. S. Bhagavantham announced that Sathya Sai Baba is 'inexplicable'. I have to conclude that He is 'inscrutable', for He is the very embodiment of the Divinity described in the following story from the Upanishads, revealing Its glory and power.The Universal Absolute, Brahman, conferred victory on the gods in their war against the demons. The gods were saved from thraldom and became mighty once again. But in their pride they ascribed their success to themselves; they traced it to their own prowess. To make them aware of their dependence on the Source of all power and wisdom, it appeared before them as a pillar of light, even while they were celebrating their victory in drink and dance, revelry and rejoicing. Noticing this strange Phenomenon, the gods were curious to know what it was and why it was interrupting their noisy spree. They sent the god of fire, Agni, to investigate it and report. The Phenomenon accosted the god who replied, "I am Agni. I can burn all things that come in contact with me." The Phenomenon invited him to burn a tiny stalk of dry grass which It placed before him. But however forcefully and gigantically he fell upon it, he could not burn it. So he returned to the gathering of gods, crestfallen and humiliated. The god of wind, Vayu, next ventured to challenge the Phenomenon to reveal its identity and its intentions. He, too, had to eat his boastful words, foiled by the blade of grass. Indra, the lord of the gods, was incensed by the overwhelming powers of this column of light, but he, too, had to swallow his pride and realise that a god as feeble as he had no right to confront that mighty Source of Glory.
Baba had declared even in His teens,"Not only today, but at any time hereafter, it will be beyond the capacity of anyone, however hard he may try and by whatever means, to assess My true nature."
Critics and commentators do not realise that in the realm of the sacred, any explanation is a limitation, a hesitation, desecration.
Scholars and scientists, isolated in their conceit, have for over four decades set out to expose Him as a fraud, a juggler and a trickster, but failed to tarnish even the hem of His robe. In this age, when the senses are the final criteria of knowledge, when passion rules the brain and prejudice pollutes the mind, a phenomenon shedding light, showering love and embodying truth automatically becomes a target for doubt, suspicion and denigration. Every wayward preacher comes to find in Him a challenge that he is powerless to understand and accept. He is an unpleasant and unwelcome reminder to the half-baked persons who are disembogued by modern universities, of the inadequacy of the intellect and the infirmity of the senses. How else are we to interpret the presumptuous assertion that the "halo around Baba rests entirely on the miraculous production of material objects which appeal to, and excite the wonder of, credulous people"?
Let Shri M. Rasgotra explain to us what that halo rests on: "We all emerge from the encounter with Baba in interview, exalted and radiant, as if Baba has stripped us of our motley cloaks full of patches, and fitted us out in love's pure raiment for a fresh journey towards a new destination. The transformation begins almost at the first moment of contact, and the process of ceaseless and irresistible uplift never slackens thereafter."
Shri B. Ramanand, while describing a wedding that was celebrated at Prasanthi Nilayam during which he had witnessed Baba for the first time, writes, "In five minutes we felt He was one of us; He talked to us as if He had known us intimately all along. This intense humanness, this wonderful camaraderie He has for all persons whom He meets, this remarkable quality of being one with the people around Him, this superabundance of good humor, joy, love and affection to all, made a powerful impact on me."
Baba says that His much-debated miracles are as insignificant before His true purpose as a mosquito when compared to the mighty elephant. We pay homage to Baba recognizing the waves of gratitude that surge around His feet from hearts reinforced by the impact of His love, minds cleansed by the splendor of His grace, intellects made healthy and wholesome by imbibing His wisdom and bodies strengthened and straightened by the inflow of His compassion.
Richard Bock of Los Angeles, who was advised by Ravi Shanker and Indira Devi to approach Baba in the spirit of a pupil going to a guru, writes, "I remember going through a period when I wore a Japamala (rosary) with 108 beads, as a sort of badge. Baba came over to me, looked at it and said, 'It's heavy for Om.' He meant that I was showing off. So, I realized, it was nonsense. Like everybody else I did Namaste when Baba came into the room. He came over and hit my hands, saying, 'jhootha bhakti'. When I found out later that it meant 'false devotion', I realized that I didn't know what I was doing. What He was getting across was that until you feel it in your heart, don't go through a ritual. The next thing was that everybody wanted to touch His feet, so I figured that was something I, too, should do. When I tried to touch His feet, He said, 'No'. I realised, then, that I was doing it because every body else was doing it, that I myself didn't have any inner motivation at that moment to touch His feet."
I Want You
Like the Upanishadic god of fire, Arnold Schulman, too, belittled the Sai Phenomenon, in spite of a tour of India that included a visit to Brindavan and a few minutes with Baba. That experience was enough for him to conclude - and be happy in the discovery - that mystics in India were clever exploiters, and their disciples ordinary 'psychopathic compulsives'. Baba has declared,"Those who deny Me are blinded by ignorance or pride, so they need even more compassion and grace. Those who stay away, or stray away, I shall beckon back."
Baba, from Whom nothing can be hidden and for Whom nobody is distant, became aware of this blinkered tourist's belief. Schulman was mysteriously 'possessed' by an idea - to write a book on Baba - which he tried his best to explain away, circumvent, rationalize and deny; still it would not leave him alone. He told himself that it was insane, impracticable and impossible, but it refused to loosen its hold on him, persisting in its emphasis. Three months later, when he was able to secure an interview, Baba told him, "I asked you to write the book not because I wanted your book. The book is publicity. I don't need publicity. I wanted you, you, you!" And He sent him back to America, wiser and happier, the veil of supercilious ignorance regarding mystics and their disciples removed from his now clearer vision.
Like the Upanishadic god of wind, Samuel H. Sandweiss, M.D., renowned psychiatrist, proceeded towards the Phenomenon in full confidence that he could easily prick the bubble of its bombastic magnificence. He writes, "I would go as a scientist to study and understand the psychological realities of a situation shrouded in mysticism, only to prove that miracles do not exist." Sandweiss approached the Sai Phenomenon and soon returned like the god Vayu, to his companions who were drinking and dancing, unaware of the reality which was directing their destiny. Sandweiss had decided to meet Baba when he heard extraordinary stories about Him from Indra Devi, to whom he had gone for consultations regarding Yoga. Baba, even when physically present at Prasanthi Nilayam or Brindavan, arouses ardour and yearning, awakens curiosity and interest, stimulates thirst and restlessness, assures comfort and cure and alerts and admonishes in dreams and through visions. Each one who moves to His presence with hope and confidence, has a story to tell, each more fascinating and reassuring than the other.
Pardon me if I present myself as the insolent Indra who, in 1948, was too impertinent to put up with the 'miracles' of Baba, yet was too curious to tolerate Him without a personal examination. I was then famous in the Kannada-speaking region of India - the state of Karnataka - as a humor writer, and I had a large reading public admiring me as the Stephen Leacock of that language. I then aimed my humor at Baba, 'the Phenomenon'. The word Sai in Kannada means 'die' - it is expletive, a command to extinguish life. "How can a person calling on us to address him as Sai be adored in Karnataka?" I quipped. Besides, I had gulped, without discerning, the dictum spread by the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission that the performance of miracles is a very unspiritual exercise which drags the Sadhaka into the depths of worldliness. So I hastened towards Baba in the hope that he could be exposed and explained. Like Indra, I returned after the encounter with my prejudices corrected, my myopia cured and my pride pulverized. I am engaged ever since in enthusing all people to follow the message of Baba and in adoring Him as the savior of mankind. Those who venture to defy or deny Him, ultimately return to remain in His presence with folded hands and supple minds, meditating on His form, reciting His name and elevating themselves to divinity.
When Arnold Schulman heard himself ask Baba, "Are you God?" Baba replied, "How can an ant measure the depth of the ocean or a fish discover the truth of the sky?" This answer stuns our reason dumb. But every act of Baba does the same.
After thirty-one years of having known Him, I feel that to doubt the authenticity of the following experience of Indira Devi is a sacrilege to Sai: "I looked up at the picture of Bhagavan and prayed, 'Bhagavan, please take me to Puttaparthi for your birthday.' Two days later, a young man who had come to the Sai Centre at Tecate, phoned, 'Mataji, could you go to India tomorrow if Warner Bros. pay your trip? They want Baba's permission to make a documentary film on His life.' " She was met at the airport by someone from the company. When she came to Prasanthi Nilayam with the proposal, I felt elated at the prospect of the film. She was very much there during the Birthday festival and she carried Baba's response to the request back home. But when she contracted Warner Bros., who had arranged and paid for her trip, "No one knew me there," she writes, "nor about the trip, nor the film, nor Bhagavan. The red-faced executive told me that he would investigate and let me know. Years have passed and I am still waiting to hear what he has to tell me from his inquiry!"
Muriel Engle writes from San Diego on the Pacific Coast: "Ruth has a teaching job in Mexico. She is busy going back and forth. She attends Bhajans on Thursdays at Santa Barbara, but is still a sceptic. Her health problems have been tormenting her since long. She has bouts of extreme pain for several days at a stretch. One evening in her little room she suffered from terrible pain, and in her desperate agony she was crying out, 'Oh is there someone to help me? Anyone? Why am I suffering this? What shall I do? Oh, help!' "
Suddenly she felt a gentle touch on her arm. She stopped shouting and, as she turned, there stood Baba beside her bed, "Don't shout so," He said, "I am always here." Then, He disappeared. And along with Him the pain, too, had gone. This is another instance of His omnipresence. Baba says,"There is only one God and He is omnipresent. He has no favourite dwelling place or chosen followers or special groups of devotees. Call - He answers, He manifests, He blesses."
Letters to Him
Professor S. Bashiruddin of the Osmania University, while driving down with Baba from Ooty, in the Nilgiri Hills, asked, "Swami, if a devotee sends a letter or a telegram to Your Bangalore address but You happen to be at Ooty, Bombay or any other place, would it be redirected to You if it is marked 'Urgent'?" Baba answered, "A letter or a telegram is a mere carbon copy. If the thought in the letter or telegram is sincere, it need not be delivered to Me. The moment the thought is shaped in a devotee's mind it reaches Me, and the necessary guidance is transmitted."
When a few university men belonging to a blatantly propagandist and rationalist association, wrote to Baba insisting on an examination of His credentials, Baba said, "Sai is not a subject for a university examination; He is an object for universal examination."
Joel Roydon had no respect for Baba, who was worshipped by his wife. So he astonished his friends when he announced that he was flying to India with her to meet 'the wild-haired character'. When asked what he proposed to ask Baba for, he jocularly replied that he would ask for a rainbow in the sky. "No magician can ever pull a rainbow out of his sleeves," he jested. When he reached Puttaparthi and sat on a rock atop the hill to enjoy a smoke, "We saw a rainbow go straight up the eastern sky," Joel writes, "never curving, and within seconds it had reached its peak. As quickly as it grew, it dissolved itself, from the bottom up!" Next, when he was called by Baba for an interview, the question with which Joel was greeted was, "So, how did you like the rainbow?"
Aldous Huxley says, "The divine mind may choose to communicate with finite minds either by manipulating the world of men and things in ways which the particular mind to be reached at that moment will find meaningful, or else there may be direct communication by something resembling thought transference." Denise (Saivahini) Eversole wrote in the daily paper, Movement, in California, about her visit to a Sathya Sai Baba shrine in South India: "Vibhuti pours from Baba's photographs, and two small, enamel medallions of Baba exude a jasmine-scented sweet nectar called Amrita. A large jar daily fills up with this syrup, and the photographs are scraped clear. [See also: Gifts of Grace] Both these manifestations of Baba's grace are given freely to all visitors. We received large containers of each, and watched carefully as more, and yet more, Vibhuti and Amrita formed and poured from the blessed objects... Nearby the Kauveri river, a short walk from the temple leads one to a pair of stone feet. From the feet oozes an oil with the most enchanting fragrance. This we wiped on our scarves and kerchiefs and whatever else we had, and watched as more oil oozed up from between the toes. It was my fourth visit to this shrine, but I never tire of witnessing these evidences of God's omnipotence."
Since Coming Back
In April 1972, Elsie and Walter Cowan returned from India to California. To a Sai group Elsie announced, "We have come back from India, my husband and I, brimful of the most astounding news that can happen to anyone. It is so fantastic that many of you may doubt it, because hardly any of us can imagine the great importance and the tremendous power of this great, high god, who not only walks the earth, but cares for all the planes from earth to eternity. Walter died at Madras; Sai Baba resurrected him!" A few months later, Walter Cowan wrote to me, "I am really feeling fine. Would you believe that I have gained about thirty pounds since 'coming back'?" Inscrutable, but true.
Examiner and Examinee
Here is another story from Mexico: "A dozen families live on our hill in Mexico which slopes down to the Pacific Ocean, about 300 feet below. Most of the people are retired Americans. There are one or two Mexican families also. The hill itself is not of solid rock, but is sedimentary ocean-floor uplift, comprising a mass of sand, boulders, clay, seashells, etc. A recent vertical cut for a new highway weakened the hill. In September 1976, it started sliding towards the ocean. Before long, two houses had fallen and other houses broke into half. The authorities ordered all remaining houses to be evacuated, because government geologists had declared that all the houses would be destroyed by the earth movement. At this critical juncture I was scheduled to leave on a tour of Sathya Sai Baba centres. We prayed to Baba to save the houses of our small community.
"Throughout the tour I remained anxious about this occurrence, but on my return was relieved to find all the remaining houses intact as before. The geologists were measuring the hill each day and were unable to discover why part of the hill was stationary and had not moved even a fraction of an inch. Of course, they did not know about the prayer nor that we had affixed a picture of Bhagavan to a window directly facing the ocean side."
John Hislop, who wrote me this letter, has published a book entitled, 'Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba'. Baba tells Hislop,"It is perfectly all right to ask all these questions and clear all your doubts. You are examining Swami and Swami is giving the answers. But when all this is finished and the next time you come around, Swami will be the examiner and you will have to be ready with the right answers in your mind and heart."
"Before going to Sai Baba, I told Indira Devi that everything but the miracles I can accept," writes Richard Bock. "Those bothered me because I had read the Ramakrishna Kathamrita, which says that you have to be aware of Siddhis (ascetically acquired powers), for they can lead you astray. So I felt that showing off this power was somehow egotistical and was not the highest level of expression. Therefore, I had doubts as to His motives in displaying them. But when I got closer and began to experience them, I realized that they were so natural to Him, and the reason behind them so sound, that I could see He was coming from a different space. He was not becoming something - that He already was - so there was nothing that could spoil Him... For a Westerner, it usually takes something to blow his mind off the material world that he is entrapped in and the idea that everything can be figured out scientifically. So Baba creates something out of time, breaking what usually look like scientific natural laws, and creates a so-called miracle.
"The thing that blew my mind was what happened when Indira Devi asked Him if she could have some more of the 'healing ash', because she had given away all of her first supply to people. He said 'yes' and, as I was watching, he moved His hand in a circle and then held up both hands, as if to receive something. Then an urn, about four inches high, appeared in mid-air and plopped into His hands. I saw this and said, 'That's not sleight of hand, that's not up His sleeve, that's something else.' He took off the top and spilled all the ash onto a piece of paper. Then He poured again, and another urnful of ash poured out, so that in total He had poured out double the amount of ash that the urn could possibly hold. Next, He put half of it back in the urn and distributed some to the people near by. What was left He put in a little handkerchief bag and gave it to Indira. He touched it and said, 'Now this will be an inexhaustible supply and you won't run out of it.' Well, she has had it for ten years now and it is still flowing. And she has given it to thousands of people. After that experience with Baba, whether or not God exists is no longer a question in my mind." This is what Richard Bock related to an interviewer from the Movement, in September 1979.
Baba is so compassionate that He designs a new strategy for every individual He decides to reform or transform. At one and the same time, in all parts of the world, increasing numbers of people experience His grace by means of an 'inner voice' or intuition, during silent spells or amidst the clank of crowds, or through His direct manifestation in physical form - conveying warnings, revitalizing faith and clearing doubts. A telegram which in fact was never transmitted, a letter which was never posted or a phone call which was never dialled, can reveal His affection and awaken, assure or advise a person struggling in the dark, ultimately revealing the hand of God beckoning him to Prasanthi Nilayam.
On Sivarathri day in 1958 the monthly magazine designed to communicate the message of Bhagavan to the world was inaugurated. He named it Sanathana Sarathi. These two words taken together spell the function that Baba has taken upon Himself. Sanathana denotes His being the very source of all this 'becoming'. In a written message to Shri. R.R. Chatterji of the Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, Calcutta, announcing the mission for which He has assumed this human form, Baba made a declaration which nobody since the days of Lord Krishna had the good fortune to listen to:"There was no one to know who I am till I created the world, at My pleasure, with one word. Immediately earth and sky were formed, mountains rose up, rivers started flowing, sun, moon and stars sprang out of nowhere to prove My existence. Came all forms of life - plants, insects, beasts, birds and men. Various powers were bestowed upon them under My orders. The first place was granted to man, and My knowledge was placed in man's mind."
Sanathana means 'timeless, eternal'. Baba has said that He always was, is, and ever will be. He is Sanathana, now limited in time and space, so that He can be availed of by us. The Upanishads speak of embodied beings as chariots which are drawn along by the senses (horses) through the objective world. Safety lies in choosing a knowledgeable Sarathi (charioteer) and installing him with unimpeded authority in the chariot. By taking upon Himself the role of the Sanathana Sarathi, Baba has revealed that He is the eternal Inner Motivator in all-recognized or unrecognized, acknowledged or ignored, respected or slandered. "My knowledge was placed in man's mind," He says. But the mind allows itself to be covered by veils, so that pure knowledge becomes warped or is denied.
The first issue of the magazine contained a message from Baba wherein He spoke of the high purpose which it had set out to fulfil:"From this day, our Sanathana Sarathi will lead to victory the cohorts of truth - the Vedas, the Sastras and similar scriptures of all faiths - against the forces of the ego such as injustice, falsehood, immorality and cruelty. This is the reason why it has emerged. This Sarathi will fight in order to establish world prosperity. It is bound to sound the paean of triumph when universal Ananda is achieved."
Baba is ever conscious that He is the cosmic principle that has transformed Itself into human form. He is the goal, the guide and the guardian whom every being seeks. He gives expression to this truth in His discourses and writings. As a proem to His discourses He sometimes sings, in either Telugu or Sanskrit, a short verse which lifts the veil of mystery hiding him from our eyes, and in a flash makes us aware of some facet of His plan to rehabilitate man. He declared,"The same Vishnu who rewarded Dhruva with material and spiritual glory and saved Prahlâda from the cruelty of those who sought, through torture, to break his faith in the Lord, that same Gopala who showered grace on the impoverished and famished Kuchela, is here now, the embodiment of Wisdom and Bliss, the ruler enthroned in the hearts of good men, the compassionate monitor of all those who stray away from the right path."
On one occasion He sang another poem which had spontaneously blossomed on His lips:"Why does the sun rise and set everyday without delay or disruption? Why do the stars that light the sky to the delight of all eyes, hide their splendorous faces when the day dawns, and never even slyly peer to tell us where they are? Why does air always be around, giving us the breath of life? Why do these streams and rivers roar, murmur, gurgle and gossip over rock, pebble and sand, as they meander along towards the parent sea? How is it that the billions that constitute mankind, though they are caskets treasuring images of the same entity, remain distinct from each other in appearance, achievement, aspiration and attitude? This is the answer: Know that I am the One who has ordained that these be such and shall behave so."
The Five Elemental Aspects
The Upanishads declare the tests to decide the genuineness of Bhagavân's incarnation thus:"For fear of Him, fire burns; for fear of Him, wind blows. Indra, the mighty god of gods, also stands in awe of Him. Death hastens towards or flees away, as He directs."
When a greedy forest fire advanced towards chuchuma ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border, where stood the Sai Yoga Institute of Indra Devi, her prayer to Baba turned the fire back by a sudden twist of wind when the flames had reached within yards of the ranch. Shri K.A. Raja, Lt. Governor of Arunchal Pradesh, writes that a huge bamboo cluster within yards of his official residence at Tezpur caught fire and was exploding merrily immediately adjacent to the thatched huts of some Nepalese workmen. Mrs. Raja hastened to the scene and called aloud to Baba to soften the fury of the flames. The letter relates, "The fire extinguished itself in a few seconds; not even a dozen fire engines could have done that job." Similarly, Baba has many a time prevented rain by a mere gesture or oral command, when it had threatened to drench the thousands gathered to have His Darsan and listen to His discourse.
The president of a coach factory near Madras had made a commitment to deliver about 25 coaches as the first instalment of an agreement between the government of India and the government of an overseas state - a prestigious assignment that was secured in spite of overwhelming competition from countries in the front line of industrialized nations. But troubles dogged him at every step. He was very unhappy that he would not be able to load the coaches onto a Japanese ship that had already left Bombay for Madras to take the cargo on board. He prayed to Baba to save the reputation of his factory. Baba said, "The ship will be delayed; hurry on with your work."
The ship faced a fierce storm off Cochin and had to undergo some repairs at Colombo. When it finally did reach Madras, the port was too full to allow it into the docks. When, at last, it was ready to receive the coaches, they were waiting, spick and span, to be carried overseas. Bhagavân can initiate or pacify storms when He wills. He welcomes into the realm of death those who clamor for release, and brings back from the gullet of death those who were gobbled while they had yet to play the role He had in mind for them. The words emanating from Him are, therefore, divine commands, which can charge us with an immense potency and purity and change us into reservoirs of love and light.
On another occasion, preliminary to the hoisting of the Prasanthi flag at the Nilayam, the following poem was sung by Baba:"The cowherd boy, the son of Nanda (foster father of Krishna) [see: Bhagavata Vahini, Chapter 44], has come again among you, embodied as Ananda, so that He may collect His playmates. The same Râma [see: Ramakatha Vahini] has come again, with a great deal of Aaraam (leisure), since now there is no burden of imperium, no dynastic responsibility; He has come again to give his erstwhile followers the chance of service. The same Sai has come to you from Shirdi to be in the midst of his erstwhile companions and comrades. Once again, the same all-comprehensive, omnipresent Principle named Vishnu has come in this comprehensible, cognisable human form, so that you may benefit from Him. He has come without His instruments and weapons, for He has willed to forge them here itself."
Baba has herein asserted that He is the self-determined human expression of that super intelligence, that absolute will. He says,"For you, birth is an anxious moment; childhood is fraught with anxiety; living is a series of anxious moments; livelihood is earned through a chain of anxious events; old age and death cause dire anxiety; even joy brings about the anxiety that you might lose it soon; all activity is saturated with anxiety. But barter all this anxiety for only one anxiety - how to win the grace of Sai - and you will be free from the big brood of worry and unrest."
His prologue-verses often deal with devotees, telling them how steady faith alone can earn eternal peace:"Compassion in the eyes; sweet words on the tongue; nectarous gleam on a smiling face; joy ever residing in the heart; reassurance in every gesture of the hands - that is Sai. Do not lose hold and give up the Savior who has come to you."
Ponder over the significance of this verse He sang years ago:"Something you have held, while seeking to hold something, hold on to it most firmly. Something you did ask for, though asking is not needed; persist till the gift is granted. Some desire you have entertained in your mind, though there is no need to desire; still, knock at the door until it opens and your desire is fulfilled. Either I must grant you the thing that you crave for, unable to withstand your yearning; or you must realize its very absurdity and conquer that worthless yearning."
True to the declaration He made at the first World Conference that He is all names and forms by which man has ever tried to describe God, the annunciatory verse He sings on days dedicated to Râma, Krishna or Shiva would often be about the identity between Him and the deity that is being adored. On a Shivarathri day a few years ago, He proclaimed, while standing before a festive gathering of twenty-five thousand people,"This day Shiva has come into the view of mortals - Shiva, dwelling in the village of Parthi. He carries on Him matted hair, the Ganges flowing from it, the eye in the centre of the brow, the dark-complexioned throat, the serpent wristlets, and tiger-skin around the waist, the red dot on the forehead and the pan (betel) - produced redness on the lips."
When He led a party of about a hundred and fifty devotees to the famous Himalayan shrine of Nârâyana, He addressed them at Hardwar before starting on the mountain trek, saying, "Yours is a unique chance: going to Nârâyana with Nârâyana."
The Unseen Force
Once Baba sang a verse in which He declared that He is the Unseen Force that regulates the movements of celestial bodies and all forms of life, and designs the destinies of each of us. This was when He inaugurated the all India conference of Sai organizations held at Madras. If the Will is all-powerful and eternal, it can, of course, come down and move as a man among men. At another time He said,"There are three types of men: those who seek happiness for themselves first, with no attention paid to others; those who consider others first and thereby derive happiness; and those who will try to prevent others from being happy even at the cost of their own happiness."
To a group of Americans He once gave a message that was different in emphasis."You are the smiling flower," He wrote, "you are the twinkling star. What is there on the earth and in the sky that you are not? Then, why need you desire? You are the God of the universe. You create the universe and, after playing with it for sometime, draw it into yourself and are the same again. What you really are is Truth - Consciousness - Bliss."
Baba insists that every one be made aware of the goal of life, which is to pass from the stage of 'I am in the Light' to the stage 'the Light is in me' on to the ultimate truth that 'I am the Light.' When you are the Light, there can be no darkness, no desire, no fear, no hatred, no ego.
In the following message to children, Baba is simple and direct, as if they were really sitting around Him, their eyes wide open in wonder:Dear Children,
You have been born in this most glorious country, Bharat, and have grown up here. Unless you learn to know of its history, its holy traditions, the lives and teachings of its men of wisdom and piety, what else is there for you to learn? Light the lamp of morality and righteousness, the lamp that once shone bright in this land. Let its light illumine the world.
In a message to students He has asked,"Can the goal of life be just this? To struggle amidst the waves of joy and grief that rise and fall in the visible, objective world; to be carried along the swift current of desire, gathering food, shelter, comfort, and sensual pleasure and, finally, to flounder on the rocks of death?"
In another message He emphasises a basic truth:"Seeking a high standard of living instead of a high level of living, has played havoc with human society. A high level of living insists on morality, humility, detachment and compassion; a competitive race for luxury and conspicuous consumption is not encouraged. Now man has become a slave of his desires and finds himself helpless before the urge to earn pleasure and luxury. Being too weak to keep his baser urges under control, he cannot arouse the Divinity that is latent in him."
Baba has said that in this incarnation He is the supreme teacher. "Aham Satyabodhaka" (I am the Teacher of Truth), He says. He teaches at all times, in all places and by all means. He showers love and wins you; He withholds love and cures you. Once He administered a mild admonition to some devotees who had expected a continuous flow of 'plums and roses'. Then He enlightened them:"Do you delight when I allow you to be near Me? The next moment I might cause the sorrow of separation. Do you feel that Sai takes delight in your tears? Just then I might make you laugh till your sides ache, and continue to grant you joy, again and again. Do you feel a sense of elevation when I praise you a little? That very moment I may prick the bubble of your pride by means of ridicule. Do you feel secure when I tell you not to fear? The next moment I might inflict pain and appear indifferent when you pray for relief. I do not allow you to go back, nor do I allow you to go forward! I madden your mind and smother your ego. Find out how any one can move away from this charming Sai, the embodiment of Love and Light. Find out the reason why He is indispensable, in spite of this dual role."
In this message He has revealed that every act of His, every flash of anger or twinkle in the eye, every smile or curve of the brow, has a deep significance for the recipient. Many such messages are composed in verse extempore and sung by Baba, expressing the mood of the moment and answering unspoken thoughts and questions that agitate the mass of people gathered to hear Him."When you have before you the wish-fulfilling tree," He sings, "why do you desire to foster inferior trees?" "When you have for the asking the cow (Kamadhenu) that yields all that you need, why do you seek the common cow for milk? When you have the Meru mountain, rich in gold and silver, why do you run about frantically in search of petty gains? When you have with you the Sai Who gives liberation, why do you crave for lesser joys that dissolve again into grief?"
Most of Baba's discourses are a commentary on some such basic idea enshrined in poetry and song.
A group of Americans once prayed for a message to take home with them to the States. So Baba, in His own attractive calligraphy, wrote,"The fruit has to be sweet, though the rind can afford to be bitter. It is the juice and its sugar content that count; put away the rind of anger, malice, envy and greed and assimilate the sweetness of the fruit, so that sweetness can develop within you... Be a lotus: The lotus is born in slime and mud, but rises up through the water and lifting its head above it, refuses to get wet, although it springs from water. Be like the lotus or the lily-unattached."
Baba teaches us by means of His letters, discourses, books and articles. He writes in simple and elegant, colloquial Telugu or English prose. The message is always extempore, His ideas receiving expression as mellifluous poems and songs showering exquisite delight. His script is reminiscent of charming monastic artistry; the lines are straight and parallel, resembling floral garlands spread out upon a paper. Poetry and melody shine through each sentence, and behind each phrase and clause lies a form that is clearly human, though it carries divine wisdom. Thus Baba's message enables mankind to benefit from the grace and wisdom that He has come to confer.
The Mother Feeds
Baba speaks of Himself as the mother yearning to feed an unruly child who, in its ignorance, refuses to eat what will cure its hunger. The child has to be coddled and coaxed, wheeled and petted, even caught unawares sometimes by means of a story or a song, to induce it to accept the food it needs. Baba's immeasurable love persuades Him to pack a medical dose in a sweet smile, a panacea in a palatable parable or a profound thought in syrupy joke.
Let us dip into the books that Baba has given man in order to draw him to the feast that He has prepared for his hunger. A number of scholars, cynical of matters beyond their ken and proud of their academic achievements, receive these books by post (sent mysteriously by Baba Himself) or through some inexplicable source. These become for them invitations to the Presence, fresh and fascinating as they are.
Baba has said that if He were to be identified by one characteristic more than any other, He could most aptly be called Prema Swarupa, the Embodiment of Love. The very first Vahini (stream) that flowed forth from his pen to fertilise the mind of man was the book 'Prema Vahini'. Nârada, the great exponent of love as a spiritual discipline, defines that path as Sathasmin Parama Prema Swarupa (it is of the nature of supreme devotion or love to That). The love is described as supreme, because it is full and free, with no conditions, no trace of bargaining, no taint of fear. Once such love is practised and experienced, all distinctions drop, duality ceases, and only the truth remains.
Baba quotes the love of the simple milkmaids and cowherds of Brindavan towards Krishna as the best example of this Parama Prema. Krishna Himself appreciated it thus:"They long for Me so deeply, their thoughts, words and deeds are so imbued with Me, that they have no sense of time or space, no consciousness of their bodies and their needs. They are so absorbed in Me that they are like rivers that have merged in the ocean and lost their individual names and distinctions."
Sankara, the great philosopher-saint, wrote of Bhakti:
Swa-swarupa anusandhanam bhaktirithi abhidheeya the
(the constant contemplation of the Reality which is one's innermost core, is Bhakti).
Baba elaborates on this truth:"The Atman is the inner core, it is the reality that has to be contemplated upon... When Krishna advises Arjuna to surrender all activity to 'Me' and to take refuge in 'Me', it is but an exhortation to spend every moment in the awareness of the real Me, the Atman, the Swaswaroopa."
Baba says in Prema Vahini"Only through love can faith become steady; only through faith can knowledge be gained; only through knowledge can Parabhakti (complete devotion, self-surrender) be ensured and only through Parabhakti can the Lord be realized."
"Jnanadevathu Kaivalayam," says the Gîtâ (knowledge alone can confer freedom). Bhakti clarifies the vision, cleanses the mind, strengthens self-control and purifies thought, so that the Lord may be reflected clear and complete in the heart. Regarding the age-old controversy on the relative status of the three paths - Bhakti, Karma and Jnana - that lead to God, Baba writes,"I do not agree that Bhakti, Karma and Jnana are separate. I do not place any one before the other, nor will I accept a mixture of the three. Karma is Bhakti; Bhakti is Jnana. A piece of candy has taste, weight and shape; the three cannot be separated. Each bit has all the three; we do not find shape in one bit, weight in another and sweetness in the third. When the candy is placed on the tongue, the taste, the weight and the shape are simultaneously experienced. Similarly, Jnana, Karma and Bhakti may be truly experienced only as one whole."
Karma is love in action, Jnana is love experienced and Bhakti is love universally shared. Thus Baba dismisses in one stroke all disputations about the superiority of any one of these disciplines over the other.
Cups of Many Shapes
Baba has silenced traducers of idol worship too. He says that no one can adore the nameless, formless absolute principle, without sacrificing one's alloy in the crucible of devotion to that same principle in a mentally cognisable and acceptable form."No one can be a Nirguna Jnani (knower of the attributeless) without being a Saguna Bhakta (worshipper of the attributeful)" He says.
"Iswara anugrahadeva pumsam adwaitha vasana," says Sankara: It is only through God's own grace that one can comprehend Him as being without name and form.In 'Prema Vahini' Baba says, "Idols serve the same purpose as metaphors and similes in poetry. They illustrate and illumine the Divine."
He has also said that idols are only artistic and attractive containers which people use for quaffing the nectar of divine effulgence."You cannot quaff it without a cup. One person may like to drink the delight in a 'blue cowherd boy of Brindavan (Vrindâvana)' cup, while another may relish it in a cup depicting the ecstatic 'cosmic dancer' (Lord Shiva) of Kailas. The choice may depend on either hereditary predilection, or on personal choice, or on a wave of spiritual awareness. Whatever the reason or the shape of the vessel, it serves the same high purpose - to help imbibe the joy, the power, the love, the wisdom and the splendor of the one divine entity."
In the Bhakti Sutra, Nârada has said that a bhakta (devotee) has no worldly worries for he has surrendered himself to the Lord.Baba writes, "This does not mean that he would sit quiet. Service of man, for the bhakta, is service of God, for he sees God in every man. Free from the alternating waves of like and dislike, worry and exaltation, the bhakta sees the divine as the motivator in himself and in others. He is ever-engaged in good deeds for such is his basic nature. In whatever he does, thinks or speaks, he promotes lokasangraha (the welfare of mankind). He has no worry or disappointment, because for him it is God who provides, performs, proposes, plans and dispenses."
While the monthly serials of 'Prema Vahini' in the Sanathana Sarathi were percolating like fresh water into desiccated hearts, another series of Baba's articles was published in the same magazine to remove the weeds of doubt growing wild therein. They were collectively entitled 'Sandeha Nivarini'. Even in His teens and twenties, Baba took delight in prodding those who gathered at His feet to ask Him questions on spiritual matters. These became the cues for dissertations, short and long, with many an interspersed parable, poem or song, to lead the questioners from darkness to light.
I remember many such question-answer sessions taking place on the Chitravathi sands. Dayananda Sagar (a lawyer), Vittal Rao (a sylviculturist), V. Hanumantha Rao (a civilian officer), and a few others, were prolific interrogators. Many brought their doubts before Baba and prayed for solutions. There were pundits and sadhakas from Venkatagiri, Yerpedu, Vyasasram, Thiruvannamalai (Ramanasram), Pondicherry, Kanhangad and Varkalai Narayanaguru Asram. They returned happy and restful, for their problems received Baba's clear analysis, deep diagnosis, intimate unravelling and effective remedy. There was, one day, a hoary monk from Rishikesh who asked Baba with a touch of nonchalant conceit, how to escape the coils of mâyâ. Baba answered,"Mâyâ does not exist, until you look for it. Don't look for it, it won't affect you. The image of your face is inside the well only when you peep to discover whether it is there."
The monk confessed to me later it was a reply he had never received so far, and it had solved for him a doubt that had haunted him for years.
In 'Sandeha Nivarini' Baba says,"I am happy when anyone asks Me about things he has not understood. Of course, you have every right." Then he asks the pupil, "But are you reflecting on the answers I give and are you practising what has been told to you, with the conviction born of faith?... What am I here for? Is it not for explaining to you things you do not know? Ask me without hesitation or fear. I am always ready to answer. Only, the enquiry must be earnest, emerging out of a genuine desire to know and to practise what is good."
It can be revealed now that the 'bhakta' who visits Baba with questions - personal, philosophic and religious - in every chapter of 'Sandeha Nivarini', is a creation of the divine pen. Baba reveals through this character, His infinite compassion towards the Samsayatma, the person afflicted with doubts. He poses the problems and provides the answers. He writes,"bhakta! I converse with you about every point you place before Me, and allow many to take part in this conversation. The sun's light falls upon the mirror, the light from the mirror upon the walls of the bungalow and the light from the walls upon the eye. Similarly, this 'Sandeha Nivarini' has been planned in order that the illumination of My teaching may fall upon you and thence on to the pages of the Sanathana Sarathi, so that the effulgence may illuminate the world and bring light and harmony into the heart of mankind."
Dharma Is the Refuge
The next book to be serialized in the pages of the Sanathana Sarathi was 'Dharma Vahini'. Baba says,"Dharma is like the river Saraswati, flowing unseen beneath the deeper levels of human consciousness, feeding the roots of activity, filling the springs of thought, cleansing the slushy eddies of feeling. When the river runs dry or is clogged by greed and hate, the avatar comes to let in a torrent of grace and restore its fresh, free flow."
Buddha declared that Dharma is the very basis of good life. He insisted that everyone should surrender to its dictates so that the misery that is ever at the heels of life may be avoided. Ashoka, the historic emperor, sweetened every law of his empire with Dharma. He inscribed on rock and pillar his exhortations:"Hitherto my people and my forefathers went on Vihara yatras (pleasure trips); hereafter I propose only Dharma yatras (pilgrimages). Hitherto they gave Dana (charity, usually in the form of money); hereafter they must give Dharma dana (the gift of the knowledge of Dharma). Hitherto they sought Dig vijaya (conquest of territory); hereafter I exhort them to relish Dharma vijaya (the triumph of righteousness)."
Ashoka knew that Dharma sustains, strengthens and saves.
"Why should man take to the path of Dharma?" asked Schopenhauer, and then replied to himself, "To preach morality is easy; to lay the foundation for morality is not." Faith in God, who rewards the good and punishes the bad, was a stout bulwark of Dharma for ages. But secularism has undermined this faith. Baba, however, in 'Dharma Vahini' has installed Dharma on an unshakable foundation as the unity of all life, indeed, of creation:"Whoever conquers the ego and overcomes the natural tendency to regard the body and its furniture as his true self, is surely on the path of Dharma, for he would soon discover the truth behind all this scintillating multiplicity. He would realise that the objective world is like a gem-studded veil over Brahman, which is the one and only truth. Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahman (All is verily Brahman). When man is aware of this truth, there will be no 'other': all will be 'you'. Since you love yourself most, your love will flow in full measure towards all and encompass the living and the non-living."
As a red indian chief wrote to the president of the United States of America in 1855,
"Every part of this earth is sacred to my people - every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the woods, every clearing and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people."
Dharma has to be built on this deep understanding of the depths of being."Build your life," says Baba, "on the atmic plinth, the faith that you are a wave upon the ocean of bliss, a spark of the cosmic intelligence." Then He asks, "When you worship an idol, what is it that you really do? First, a form of God is imprinted on your mind. After that you meditate on His power, grace and omnipresence, and project these qualities upon the idol, thus enabling your consciousness to transcend it and become unaware of the lithic substance before you... In the same manner, imprint onto your consciousness that form of God which delights you most and fills you with illumination, and project that form on every man, beast, bird and insect, on every tree and plant, on every rock and rill; this Sadhana will make you true, good and beautiful."
This is the fundamental norm: Atmic awareness - the unceasing remembrance of the one appearing to be many. And to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" often asked by those wearing 'I-glasses', Baba answers, "You are your brother; his health is your health; your holiness is his. There is no difference or distinction. If you swim, he swims; if he sinks, it is you who sink."
The Source of Power
Baba does not agree with the dictum, 'knowledge is power', for knowledge may induce conceit, competition and conflict. Instead He always emphasises that 'Character is Power' and, elaborating upon the basis of character, He quotes the Bhagavad Gîtâ (Ch. 12, verses 13-19):"The man of character hates none, is kind and compassionate, free from egotism, treats pleasure and pain with equal unconcern, behaves ever with forbearance, is ever content, self-restrained and steady in his conviction of the unity of the universe. He has no feeling of harassment from the world nor does he in any way harass the world. He has no trace of anger, fear, anxiety or exultation, nor is he bound by the chains of infatuation or vengeance. He neither craves nor grieves, but passes unscathed through good repute and bad, welcoming both, heat and cold. He is satisfied with fortune, be it good or bad, and has no home which he is loath to leave."
Seva has two invaluable consequences: the negation of the ego and the experience of kinship. Baba reminds us that even charity is cruelty unless one heart meets another in warm fraternity. The fragrance of love and the sweetness of sincerity must sanctify every act of Seva. Baba teaches us in the book 'Prasanthi Vahini', how Dharma can lighten the travails of family life and how social life can become healthier and happier through the regulation of relationships according to Dharma. Masters and servants, elders and youngsters, teachers and students - all can benefit if Dharma prevails.
But the ancient academies of Dharma have now become hotbeds of greed and jealousy. "Beautiful groves and fields are becoming thorny jungles with no viable path," says Baba. He lays down in some detail how parents can preserve and promote the culture of this land and save Dharma from pollution. He pleads for a revival of the status of the village temple as a reservoir of Dharma. He says, "It can, if maintained on ancient lines, circulate sanctity and vitality through every vein and nerve of the social organism."
It is always richly rewarding to delve into the significance of the names that Baba sometimes gives to people or things. His residence at Puttaparthi, constructed in 1948-50, was named Prasanthi Nilayam (the Abode of Supreme Peace). All beings have to obtain it, sometime, somewhere; each has to build it for himself with His guidance and grace. Baba has cautioned the humanitarians and the philanthropists of this era that people today do not yearn for toys and trinkets which feed avid appetites; they yearn rather for the glory of God, peace on earth and goodwill among men. They need calm contentment rather than loud sensationalism. W.M. Dixon said in his Gifford Lectures, "In the new Garden of Eden, there will be good roads and water supply, unlimited picture houses, unstinted soft drinks, excellent sanitation, humane slaughtering, and the best of schools, wireless installations, free concerts and lectures for all. There will be no far horizon and invincible hopes. We shall cease to think of birth and death, of the Infinite, of God, and the sublime secrets of the universe. I am not much in love with these sixpenny Utopias." Baba has been insisting that those who draw five-year plans for dams, powerhouses, railway lines and factories must also provide adequate correctives for the devastation of traditional values which will follow the vast accession of pettiness and profit. People intoxicated with sudden prosperity and disheartened at the loss of traditions need Prasanthi and Prema to confer courage and equanimity.
Baba's book, 'Prasanthi Vahini', gives us the key to the treasure-house of that peace which escapes understanding and defies logic, namely Prasanthi, which the Gîtâ calls the goal of human endeavor. Santhi means 'peace'; 'pra', the prefix, means 'larger, superior'. Prasanthi is Santhi unaffected by desire, greed, hatred or anger. It is not curtailed by adversity or multiplied by windfalls. Baba says that we must cultivate the three virtues of Viveka (intelligence), Vairagya (detachment) and Vichakshana (discrimination) in order to equip ourselves with Prasanthi. He prescribes the Viveka Chudamani, composed by Sankara, as the text which can develop in us these three virtues. Baba says,"Like children playing with dolls you, too, call some beings elephants and others horses, some friends and others enemies, and spend your entire life in such make-believe. Once you realise that without the spirit they are all just the same inert substance, the notion of 'many' and the diversity of name and form, both disappear and there can be no liking or disliking any more... You laugh and weep, love and hate, live in joy, sorrow, anger and fascination, but all these varied reactions do not make the objective world less unreal."
Vairagya gets a new meaning in 'Prasanthi Vahini'. Raga means 'attachment' and Vairagya comes when you realise that the stone to which you were attached is really God. The 'stoneness' is like a veil cast by your ignorance upon what is really of the same substance as you yourself. The Vairagya that results from this illumination is lasting and most sublime.
Baba has also commented favourably in this book on the eight traditional stages of spiritual education, but He has given each of them wider and deeper meaning. The first discipline is yama, which includes non-violence, honesty, celibacy and non-acceptance of gifts. Baba says, "This is the meaning usually given to this word. But I would say that Yama is really the giving up of attachment to the body and the senses."
The second discipline is niyama, which is described in rajayoga texts as 'physical purity, mental exaltation, austerity, steadfast study and the attitude of surrender to God.' But Baba explains it in the following manner: "niyama is steady prema fixed on god, the Supreme Oversoul, regardless of time, place and circumstances."
Asana, the next discipline, lays down the place, time and postures for the sadhaka engaged in meditation, to help him gain steadiness and stability. Baba has clarified it with a simple formula: "The best posture is udasina" (the posture of full relaxation and complete detachment). In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali recommends sthira sukha asanam (a steady, comfortable style of sitting). Baba writes, "I am telling you the same thing in other words, that the most effective asana is the one least affected by the external world, and udasina means 'unaffected.' "
About pranayam Baba says, "In yoga, this step is explained as breath control. But the control of the vital airs is possible only for those who are aware that the world is an amalgam of truth and falsehood. The picture of the universe in the mind's eye will be like letters written long ago by lead pencils, now hazy, indistinct, indecipherable and giving impression half true and half false. Only a person aware of this peculiarity of creation can command the vital airs to obey his will."
Baba also elaborates upon and clarifies the fifth stage called pratyahara, or the withdrawal of the senses of perception from the external world in order to free the mind for uninterrupted meditation on the inner one. How can this be done? The awareness that the external world is born of maya and sustained by maya, will provide the motive force to withdraw the senses. According to Baba, no other achievement can accomplish this task. So here, too, the acquisition of wisdom is a vital prerequisite.
Baba continues,"Patanjali declared that when the chittha is established in one thought, it is called dharana. I would say that dharana implies more than mere negation of the multiple activity of the chittha... Treat your chittha like a little child; caress it into good ways, leading it with tenderness. Gradually make it aware that all that is 'seen' is illusion, superimposition, make-believe. Remove its fears with love reprimands and focus its attention on the goal."
Dhyana, the next stage, has a book for itself from the pen of Baba. Suffice it here to say that He reveals to us that dhyana is an uninterrupted dwelling of the consciousness within the consciousness itself. And the final stage of samadhi - the savikalpa, where there is but a trace of the knower, the to-be-known and the knowledge, and the nirvikalpa, where even this trace is effaced - is like the ocean, into which the consciousness finally merges. That is the goal where supreme peace reigns.
For the people of the world today, Prasanthi Nilayam has become a place where they can bask in the warmth of such a peace. On Christmas Day, when mankind celebrates the advent of the Son of God to establish 'peace on earth and goodwill among men', hundreds of Christians from overseas gather at Prasanthi Nilayam to share with fellow Christians from India the presence of Baba, who has come on that same divine mission and is engaged in transforming man into an instrument for fulfilling that mission. He has directed every unit of the Sathya Sai Seva organisation to close each session with the prayer, Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu (May happiness and prosperity reign everywhere). But He has also warned them,"While repeating the prayer, if you do think ill of others or look down upon anyone, if you cannot tolerate difference of dress, language, faith or temperament, you can never promote peace. Your hearts have become pits of hatred, greed and jealousy. But from this day on, while your tongues pray for peace, let your hands be engaged in service and your hearts dwell in love."
Prescriptions for Peace"Today, quacks with new fangled ideas lay down rules for dhyana," says Baba. Each one has his own special prescription and claims that his system can confer more benefit than that of others. But none have themselves experienced its sweetness or sanctity. That is the real reason why dhyana has drawn on itself the cynical laughter of many. My intention is to instruct such people and guide them onto the right path."
Baba goes on to reveal in these words the origin of His book, 'Dhyana Vahini':"Even the most potent drug will not cure when it is only extolled in elaborate phrases at the bedside of the patient. The drug must be taken in and allowed to work its way into the blood stream. Your reading what I write on dhyana will not make it easier. The mind is a mad pleasure-seeker, running after mirages seen through the inefficient and, therefore, deceptive senses of perception. The multifarious desires that infect the mind have to be quelled and the mind focussed on Ananda only. Of course, when the mind is enlightened that God is the highest Ananda, it will itself turn to God. When knowledge is accepted as the master and given charge of the reins, when the mind is denied the food that breeds depravity, when the senses are tamed by firmness and faith, dhyana will surely lead you to that Goal."
Baba distinguishes between concentration, contemplation and meditation. Concentration is an unwavering determination in one's daily life, in the realm of the senses, the feelings and the intellect. Contemplation is achieved when the senses withdraw for some time and attachment to the objective world slackens. "When you have completely broken away from all attachment, you enter a state of meditation," says Baba.
Baba gives the guidelines for meditation and mind control in 'Dhyana Vahini'. He says that dhyana is a life-sustaining as dhanya (food). "The methods vary greatly," says Paul Brunton, who has tried quite a few, "but they generally consist of physical asceticism and worldly renunciation, together with attempts to induce a contemplative mood by disciplining, during fixed periods, the confused drift of thoughts and impressions which make up man's inner existence." Baba explains the choice of place, posture, timetable and the curriculum, but lays greater stress on the compassion of the Lord who responds to the prayer embodied as dhyana. Since God assumes, for the sake of the sadhaka, the name and form that he meditates on, Baba assures us that dhyana need never be a barter endeavor; the summit can be reached by perseverance, for He raises up to Himself the struggling and the exhausted.
Baba warns us against nine enemies that waylay the earnest sadhaka. Three of them are physical: adulterous urges, greed to possess things or gain exclusive love and the tendency to injure living beings; three are verbal: delight in causing panic by false alarm, speaking lies and spreading scandal; and three are mental: craving for what belongs to others, envy and cynicism. Baba directs that meditation on the form be accompanied by an unbroken absorption of the sweetness of the name by which that form is identified. When the form slips from attention, the name will soon bring it back; when the name drops from awareness, the form will restore it to the mind. "Thus, the constant presence of God in the consciousness is ensured," says Baba.
Blossoms of Bliss
Mention can be made here of a small book, 'Dialogues with the Divine', brought out by the Maharashtra Branch of the Prashanthi Vidwanmahasabha, an all-india academy of scholars and sadhakas founded by Baba. "This work has," as Baba writes, "blossomed out of the bliss that V.S. Page has earned and enjoyed in his inner-self," when he sat at the feet of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and questioned him with humility on various problems arising out of his studies and spiritual practices. Baba tells him,"Nothing can be attained without ceaseless practice. So every moment you should remember God and be happy in the thought. Then only will you be able to attain peace. Are we not at peace when one thought ceases and another does not arise? You have to wait for that gap, be at one with that peace. Then that peace will become continuous and lasting.
"Thoughts ever rise and subside as ripples on the surface of water. You have to look at the mass of water, not merely at the ripples. Similarly, the Atman ever dwells in peace; but man fails to realise this, and remains ever absorbed in the vacillations of the mind. Nityavadhan (constant vigilance) is needed to ignore the waves and watch the water... Restlessness is but the rise and fall of the wave on the ocean that you are."
The next Vahini to be published serially in the Sanathana Sarathi was the 'Jnana Vahini' (Stream of Wisdom)."Whenever the gross and even the subtle are transcended, when the intelligence is clarified, when the self is free from feelings, impulses and instincts, what remains in the consciousness is the true self only. The person, then, is one with the eternal truth, the one beyond everything. He becomes Brahman or Paramatman," says Baba.
This awareness is the acme of ananda. In the Taittiriya Upanishad it is declared that "from ananda all this is born, through ananda all this lives, in ananda all this is merged, and in ananda all this rests." The greater the awareness of Paramatman the more the ananda. Baba summarises the truth in one sentence:"Awareness is life," and then goes on to reveal, "all men are Divine like Myself; the only difference is that they are yet unaware of their divinity. They have come into this karmic prison through the karmas of many lives. I have taken to this mortal form out of My own free will. They are bound to the body while I am free of this bondage."
Another of the Vahinis is the 'Upanishad Vahini', a synoptic review of the ten principal Upanishads, with a prologue and an epilogue on the rare text called the Brahmanubhava Upanishad. These Upanishads are esoteric and highly cryptic, but they elucidate the highest truths discernible to the intellect of man.
Baba stopped short of the fifth form in high school, when He was fourteen years of age. He did not read books or learn from any teacher. He is wisdom incarnate. He is poet, pundit, linguist, educationalist, artist, mystic - the best in each field. In His discourses He quotes freely from the Bible, the Koran, the poems of the Sufis, the dialogues of Socrates, the sayings of Johnson, the dicta of Herbert Spencer, Kant and Karl Marx, and from the myths and legends of ancient cultures. He quotes from the Upanishads and reveals new significances in the utterances of the sages, to the astonishment of the savants who have too long been content with arid dialectics they have treasured.
On fifteen evenings Baba held a gathering of over five thousand students and scholars at Brindavan spellbound by His elegant and eloquent analysis of the Vedic word, Brahman, which means, as Baba writes in the 'Jnana Vahini', 'big, enlarged, gross, high', since it comes from the root 'brh'. He carefully untied the knots which pegged that portentous word to a cluster of irrelevancies and misconceptions. He traced the genealogy of the word from its roots to the tallest branch and the tiniest twig. He ransacked without compunction the nooks and corners of vedic texts to expose the excrescences that had gathered on that word as it rolled down the corridor of time. On subsequent evenings, for another fortnight, Baba spoke on another vedic word, Bharat. He elaborated upon the origin and migrations of the word among peoples and through the texts. Baba has declared more than once, that the revival of vedic studies and research, with the aim of reviving the practice of vedic ideals, is one of His plans for rehabilitating man.
The Flow of the Upanishad
Baba, therefore, decided on a small book on the Upanishads, in order to rivet the attention of the world to the efficacy of vedanta. As editor of the magazine which published serially the chapters of this book, I had an amazing experience every month for a whole year. After despatching the magazine on the 16th of the month, I would go to Him for the next part of the series. Announcing the name of the Upanishad Himself, He would ask me to wait for a while in His room and proceed along the veranda with a notebook and pen, towards the room where there stood a table with a chair by its side and nothing else besides. Once, it was the turn of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad to be summarised and simplified. It is the biggest and the profoundest of the ten. I am certain that Baba had never read it or consulted others who could talk on it. And there was no copy available anywhere within miles. But forty minutes after he moved out with the pen and the notebook as His sole possessions, I could descend the eighteen steps from His room with a ten-page dissertation on the truths this Upanishad enshrined! I peeped into the script as I walked towards the press and my eyes fell on the Telugu words which said, "The grandeur of the intellect of the Sage Yajnavalkya is impressively evident in this Upanishad." I told myself, "The grandeur of the omniscient teacher that Baba is, is now impressively evident to me."
Vedic literature is classified as ritualistic, consecrational and metaphysical (karma, upasana and jnana), and the Upanishads are grouped under the third category. But Baba says that each principal Upanishad deals with all the three and is, therefore, instructive for all types of sadhakas. Besides special rites described in most of them, the adoration of preceptors or deities is also recommended. Baba says, "The Upanishads enshrine the whisperings of God to man." About the ten on which Sankara and other scholar-saints have written detailed expositions, Baba says,"Humanity stands to gain or fall by these ten... They are the synthesis of human thought, experience and aspiration at their highest. They confirm the possibility of human perfectibility. They declare and demonstrate that man can secure the awareness of God as His reality if only he casts off the veil of ignorance that he now delights to wear."
Baba's 'Geetha Vahini' is the Bhagavad Gîtâ retold in order to save modern man from the myopia of egoistic materialism. He has declared that He has come to unify and clarify, fructify and fortify the holy aspirations of man. The doubts and delusions which torment us while we are engaged in the 'Battle of Kurukshetra' with our outer and inner kith and kin, are treated here with love and sympathy by Sai Krishna, who also provides us with the answers.
I was once taken by an octogenarian pundit, a professor of sanskrit and a retired inspector of sanskrit schools in the state of Orissa, to the Gita Mandir that he had built at Puri. He had spent all his earnings on the construction of this memorial. The temple is in the form of a magnificent chariot, over twenty feet in height, complete with wheels and horses. He had explained to me, with a glint in his eye and a tremor in his voice, the symbols he had got carved around the chariot. The figures represented various steps in sadhana and stages of spiritual achievement. There was Hanuman on the flag of the pole fixed atop the chariot. And when we stood in front of the chariot. And looked up, I could see two mysteriously real statues seated upon it - the Lord, and His disciple who was just awakening from his self-inflicted stupor! It was a moment of thrill for me. I had not expected such a satisfying impact. I saw the disarming smile on the countenance of the Lord when He recognised the dawn of self-knowledge on the doubting and dismay-ridden mind of His disciple.
His hand extended lovingly towards Arjuna as if He wished to draw him closer to Himself, and on that hand I could see, resting upon His palm, the book of books - the 'Geetha Vahini' of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba! I saw Sai Krishna comforting, consoling and convincing Arjuna.
The pundit knew that Baba's 'Geetha Vahini' was not a resume or a commentary or an abridgement. It was the voice of Krishna Himself, ringing over the clash of hate and greed and calling us into more worthwhile victories.
We are encouraged in 'Geetha Vahini' to offer Baba the prayer He puts into the heart of Arjuna: "As you are guiding this chariot, guide me also and show me the way," for He is in fact the charioteer installed in everybody. The Gîtâ as expounded by Baba, is a textbook of yoga and a guide for sadhana. It is a yogasastra and brahmavidya rolled into one. Through simile and story, sneer and laughter, banter and reprimand, question and counter-question, Baba pours into us the nectar of wisdom.
At Kurukshetra, Krishna said that the mind and its vagaries can be tamed by abhyasa (discipline) and vairagya (detachment). In 'Geetha Vahini' Sai Krishna adds vichara (discriminative reasoning). Baba also analyses the concepts of kshetra, yajna, yoga and maya and sheds light on many corners which the lamps of the ancient masters did not illumine. The ideal of nishkama karma (selfless action) gets a glow of heroism when He interprets it as a conscious refusal of the fruits of activity, a courageous turning away from both triumph and failure.
There are many passages in 'Geetha Vahini' of self-revelation by Baba, where it becomes difficult to determine who is speaking to us so intimately - Krishna or Sai. "How can I ever forget him who never forgets Me?" is the question. "Forgetting is a human frailty. Let me tell you: There is no need for yoga or tapas, or even jnana. I only ask you to fix your mind on Me, dedicate it to Me. That is all I demand, and all that you need to do."
This is the promise of grace which all Arjunas can hope to receive: Grace revives us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It revives us when we totter through the dark alleys of a meaningless and empty life. It revives us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility and our total lack of direction and composure have become intolerable. It revives us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when stale compulsions reign within us as they have done for decades, and when despair destroys all happiness and courage. Sometimes, at that moment, a wave of light breaks into our darkness, like the voice which Tillich describes in his book, 'The New Being' saying, 'You are accepted.'
'Geetha Vahini' also condemns fanatic, blinkered gurus and pompous exponents of the Gîtâ, whose oratory sounds hollow because they do not themselves practise what the Gîtâ preaches.
The Gîtâ is the central gem in the crest-jewel of the great Indian epic, the Mahâbhârata. Sage Vyâsa wove this intricate tapestry of sublime heroism - physical, mental, moral and spiritual. He had also codified the vedic hymns and rituals. He prepared a magnificent garland of aphorisms summarising the basic philosophic truths. In spite of his encyclopaedic scholarship and great creative skill in the realm of thought, Vyâsa was afflicted by a deep, inner sadness. He had no sweetness or peace left in him. Nârada, the sage who propagated the validity of devotion as a means of achieving bliss, had advised Vyâsa to describe the glories of God who had incarnated as Krishna. The exposition that did emerge from this advice is called the Bhâgavata Purâna. And Baba has given it to us again in a sweeter and a more concise form, as 'Bhagavatha Vahini'.
Sentence of Death
Baba's 'Bhagavatha Vahini' flows clear and cool, straight from the page to the heart. The book contains 338 pages, the first 270 and the last 90 of which thrill us by the narration of the Leelas of Krishna and of the dedicatory acts of those who received His grace, while about 40 pages are devoted to the vast regions mapped by Vyâsa under the compulsions of scholastic norms. As a result, 'Bhagavatha Vahini' is not just a book; it is a tonic, a balm, a pilgrimage, a hallelujah, a clarion call, a beacon light. It is designed by Baba to loosen our bondage from the trivial and to tame the wildness of our minds. Vyâsa's son, Suka, had recited the Bhagavata for the benefit of King Parikshith, who had been cursed to die at the end of seven days. The recitation occupied those seven days. Since the king had filled his mind with this narrative of the glory of the Lord, he died with the name of God on his lips and the form of God before his eyes. Each one of us is under such a 'sentence of death', only we do not know when death will confront us. The 'Bhagavatha Vahini' can save all those who choose to be free from the fear of death and prepare them for passing beyond the realm of life, cheerfully and hopefully.
Remembering the Past
The latest of the Vahinis to emerge from Baba's pen is a lucid narrative of Rama's life, the 'Ramakatha Rasavahini'. Baba has announced that He is the same Rama come again to carry out His mission through His horde of followers. Drawn by His love, we have the same good fortune now to share in His task of remoulding man after His image.
While recounting the incidents in His life as Râma, Baba has included in His narrative certain details of dialogues and diversions not contemplated by Valmiki or any subsequent author. He mentions many additional events and encounters which fill the lacuna that have long disturbed admirers of the Ramâyana. The controversy over whether Râma is to be reckoned as an historic prince or as God incarnate, has been set to rest by Baba. 'Ramakatha Rasavahini' is the very nectar of the epic.
Letters from Him
The Avatar's pen writes letters to persons anguished by doubt or defeated by disaster. These letters carry His love and mercy into their hearts and heal the wounds that fester there. Invariably, they feed and foster the springs of spiritual striving and help in the growth of love.
No occasion is too routine, too trite or too grand for Him to play His role as a teacher. Writing to a couple on the occasion of their marriage, He tells them,"You are not just boy and girl coming together. You are Shiva-Sakthi, hyphenated, as truly as I am, the right and the left halves of the same body. May you be ever in the shade of joy and contentment; may you both float as one on the waves of ecstatic love; may you sway merrily on the flower-bedecked swing of faith held by the ropes of courage and confidence; may this boat which you are boarding this day, be loaded with happy comradeship and festivity, health and wholesomeness, to reach safe and smooth at the lotus feet of the Lord. Row it forward, both of you, with the oars of self-surrender and service, and let its sails be filled with the breeze of grace."
In a letter to a devotee on his sixtieth birthday. He writes,"Awaken! Sathya Sai who resides in your heart as your loving Mai (Mother), is heaping ananda on you. He is blessing you that you may have a long life, sound health, peace of mind, devotion to God, detachment from the transient objects of the world and success in the search for your own truth, your reality. May you, your children and your grandchildren be happy and prosperous; may you spread delight all around you; may you achieve the role of the witness content in the contemplation of the manifold leelas of God; may you ever be in good and godly company and may your hours be spent in the recapitulation of the glories of God. Here, hold forth your palm and receive this Amrita that I am offering, the amrita of love. No nectar can be sweeter and more invigorating."
Sai Will Save You
To a ninety-year-old devotee fast sinking into the lap of the Lord, He wrote,"Narasamma, accept My blessings. Sai is in your heart; He will not move away. Say 'Sai' with every breath; spend every moment repeating that name. Spend all your thoughts trying to picture Sai standing near you. Sai will save you. You will be merged in Sai. You will be in Sai eternally."
It need not be said that a gentle calm descended upon the face of this blessed lady. Seconds before her death she chewed some vibhuti, miraculously dropped into her mouth by Sai, who gave her both darsan and prasad as promised.
His letters quicken the pulse, warm the heart and soothe the pain. A devotee wrote to Him that he had to sorrowfully forego his visit to Prasanthi Nilayam during the Dasara celebrations, because his mother was seriously ill. Some months earlier, the government had posted him as magistrate in a town only a few hundred miles from Prasanthi Nilayam, but he had prayed to Baba that he may be transferred even nearer. However, he was actually shunted to a place a thousand miles away on the Bay of Bengal, near the Orissa border! Baba wrote to him,"I got your letter. I accept your prostrations. I am aware of the anguish which you communicate to Me. The anguish of separation from the One you really adore and love is the best sadhana. Be brisk in that sadhana. Continue yearning, more and more ardently. That is the best means of ensuring Sai's presence in your heart. I know you are happy only when you are in Sai. And, remember always, that your happiness is My daily food. My dear child! Why are you sad at not being able to serve Sai during the Dasara festival that is nearing fast. You are sorry that your mother's illness prevents you from coming to Me. Well, is not service to your mother, service rendered to Me? The mother who is called Aay-i, Thaay-i and Maay-i is no other than Saay-i. Serve her, and through that service, worship her. Why hesitate or doubt or grieve? All the time, ever with you as close and as alert as the eyelids to the eye, Sai is guarding you. He is where you are, accepting your day's puja, receiving your offerings and giving you the Ananda of grace. He will not forget you or give you up; He will never move out of your heart. Convey My blessings to your mother. Tell her on My behalf to fix her mind on the Atman as Râma, to the exclusion of every other thought. That is the strongest support, the most reliable refuge. That is the unshakeable, unseen base; the rest are but short-lived superstructures, mirages, castles in the air. Tell her to have the name always on the tongue and to meditate on God seated on the swing that oscillates in her heart. Tell her to picture God playing on the waves of Ananda inside her consciousness. That is the real sadhana which I teach every day.
"Convey My blessings to your grihalakshmi (wife, also referred to as the goddess of prosperity and felicity presiding over the home). You can, very soon, be in the Presence and derive the Ananda you crave for."
Sai - The Resident of Your Heart
He wrote to an old lady whose husband had died in an accident:"Marriage binds two persons together as husband and wife. What were they to each other minutes before? The one would not have worried for the other if the wedding had not happened. Where was the son or the brother before conception? Life is an interlude between what was and what will be. During this interlude one should not lament over what cannot be helped or set right, but should seek God and take refuge in Him. Your husband lived a good life in the light of the Truth he had glimpsed. He did no wrong to anyone; he loved and served the suffering and the illiterate; he salvaged many families from penury and infamy; he helped many young people to go through college; many sick persons were saved by his timely donations; he was ever cheerful and spread cheer wherever he went; and, at last, God willed that he cast away the body that limited him. Of what use is it now to calculate what might have happened had he not gone to Madras that day?
"Your duty now is to sustain the greatness he earned, to follow the ideals that he had placed before himself. Your husband is here, in My presence, and he will be here forever as he had wished to be, even when alive. Swami will not allow him to be separated from His presence, he is now free from all bonds and boundaries.
"You are indeed fortunate that destiny drew you to him and gave you so many years of loving companionship with such a fine person. His thoughts were pure; there was no blemish of envy, hatred, or greed in him. So his place is with Me, forever. I am writing this letter to you in order to shower on you the cool rain of love. That rain will scotch the flames of grief that are now raging within you. Your husband is at Prasanthi Nilayam, in the presence of Sai, having attained that climax by his spiritual aspirations."
The Gîtâ describes the Lord as the friend of all beings (sarva bhootha suhrd). These letters reveal that he is more reassuring than any father, more affectionate than any mother, more considerate than any kinsman and more just than any human authority. The blessing that Baba confers on lives dedicated to God who is enshrined within us is, invariably, everlasting life in Himself.
Words with Wings
Letter to Me
Let me take the liberty of allowing you to read one of the letters that Baba wrote to me (N. Kasturi) twenty-two years ago. It illustrates His omnipresence and His omniscience, as well as His boundless love - attributes that He has decided to demonstrate in this Avataric form in order to draw into the crucible of transformation the peoples of the world. I had returned to Bangalore after a long and arduous pilgrimage to the holy shrines on the Ganges, to Bodhgaya, Dakshineswar, Kamarpukur and Puri. I was urged to take my mother and wife on this pilgrimage by Baba Himself. He had blessed us the day we had set out, and assured us that we would have Him with us during our journey. He had said, "On three railway tickets, four shall travel." Baba, we knew, is the stowaway in every ark which breasts the deluge of delusion; He is the companion of all who progress on the road of pilgrimage.
When I had finished the assignment He had given me, I wrote to Him at Kodaikanal hill where He was staying at that time, expressing our gratitude and informing Him that all three of us had clear and tangible visions of Him at Rishikesh, Varanasi and Gaya. In the reply that I received, Baba wrote,"Your letter reached Me at Kodaikanal in time, but since we came down to Madras that very day, I could not send you a reply. I reached Madras on the 25th, around midnight. (The letter is dated 26th.) I am happy that you have returned full of joy after visiting the holy places with your Mathru Devi (venerable mother). How can delay, disappointment or danger cross your path when Swami is ever with you? My name is not distinct from My form. The name recalls the form as soon as it is pronounced or heard. When the form is seen, the name comes into awareness that very moment. So, since the name is ever dancing on your tongue, the form, too, has to be before you and beside you. What need is there to mention this in your letter as a gift from Me? I have to manifest the form, whenever and wherever My name is remembered with faith or sung with devotion.
"You might say that those visions were boons of grace from Swami. No, I always say, 'Sadhana first, Sankalpa later'. That is the correct order. My Sankalpa or Will confers bliss only after assessing the depth of yearning in the devotee. Sadhana is the essential prerequisite. You were a professor and so you can understand this easily. You must have evaluated the written answers of your students. You evaluate and assign them marks only after careful scrutiny of what they have written, don't you? I, too, measure and weigh the sincerity and steadiness of the Sadhana you have imposed upon yourself and I frame My Sankalpa accordingly. Of course, many are not aware that the misery in which they find themselves can be negated by Sadhana.
"At Kodaikanal, thousands had gathered for the evening Bhajans. They were having darsan for the first time in their lives. It was their 'right' to get darsan that had brought Me to this hill station. For, as you know, I had not planned to come here. It all happened so suddenly.
'Your daughter was very upset the other night over her husband's health. His illness had taken a turn for the worse. I was there when your daughter wrote Me a letter about his condition. She posted it next morning to the Puttaparthi address. It has not reached Me yet, but I knew its contents even while it was being written. When Swami's grace is available in plenty, why fear?"
Now I wish to quote from a letter written to a devotee who, due to desperate financial straits, had desired to flee the country and proceed to Malaysia, but later planned to commit suicide when his steamer ticket and travel documents were stolen by pickpockets inside the harbor area at Madras. This letter was written when Baba was twenty-three years of age:"Pattabhi, dear devotee. Swami is writing to you; see, He is blessing you. Dear child, but what madness is this? What a letter you have written and left at home! It is foolish to be hasty. Think over your affairs calmly. Slow deliberation always reveals the true and the beneficial. Think of the crores of people the world over who are in conditions far worse than yours. Remember always, you have Me to guard you and guide you. How many of them have this fortune? Consider that. Are you the only victim of poverty and indebtedness? The step you are contemplating cannot give you rest or peace. It is not right. It is not manly to run away from responsibility. Listen to Me! Go back to your place, be bold and face the world with courage, for courage will set you free. It will conquer all obstacles. Give up your foolish plan to escape."
And Pattabhi went back, recovered self-confidence and made a success of himself.
While with these individuals Baba is so gracious, He does not pardon or pass over indiscipline or ill-behavior among those He wants should lead exemplary lives. He wrote to a state president of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi:"There is no use My writing about the Samithis. I have been saying that the next world should be gained by man's triumph over the fascinations and fancies of this world; but the members of the Organisation have given up all thought of future lives and the other world. They behave as if this life, this world, is the only one. To them, this seems the only measure, the only goal. For such persons, illumination can be only as faint as the glow-worm in the night. Though the stars twinkle in the sky and appear as tiny specks when compared in brightness to the moon, they are really much more brilliant. Each of them is a hundred suns rolled into one. But for the limited vision of ignorant onlookers, the star is a spark and the moon a huge source of light. Such men think of the future, because of its 'distance', as quite trivial, and of the present, due to its immediate 'proximity', as very important. They pay no attention to the stars but continue to be overawed by the moon. Civilisation today is concerned with the atom, but it ignores the Atman."
Read this Aloud
When He is away from Prasanthi Nilayam for long, Baba often writes letters to be read aloud to the residents. Usually, they are sharp reminders of the need to respect the rules and regulation He has laid down for them."Blessings to all at the Mandir!" He writes. "Tell them all to fulfil their assigned duties and responsibilities. The daily schedule of puja, dhyana, bhajan, sankirtan and study should be followed punctually and with faithful devotion. People should move among one another with love and reverence. Of what benefit is sadhana if it is done without controlling jealousy, envy, pride, anger and malice? However long you may live in the ashram, these vices will undermine any merit you acquire. As the proof of the rain is in the dampness of the ground, so the proof of sadhana is in the subjugation of the senses. Give up all irrelevant and impertinent talk and activity. Cultivate self-examination and self-discovery and develop, through discipline, the inner eye. Make the best of this chance acquired as a result of your good actions in many previous lives. Of course, Swami's grace and love are always with you, but to earn them more and more, sadhana has to be done everyday, with greater and greater enthusiasm. The residents of Puttaparthi and Prasanthi Nilayam have to pave the way for mankind, so, they have to lead pious, humble and disciplined lives."
Now for some letters Bhagavân has written to be read out to the students of Sri Sathya Sai colleges. Since they have had the opportunity of a closer association with Baba, and more chances of listening to intimate expositions from Him on the unity at the base of this illusory multiplicity, these letters reveal the crux of Baba's teachings regarding the individual and the universal, the Atman and the Paramatman.
On Janmashtami (celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna) in 1974, He sent this letter to the college students at Brindavan. (It may be news to some, but it will not surprise His devotees to know that these letters are written by Baba Himself in English)."Come, one and all," He writes, "and see in Me, yourself, for I see Myself in you all. You are My life, My breath, My soul. You are My forms, all. When I love you, I love Myself; when you love yourselves, you love Me. I have separated Myself from Myself, so that I may love Myself. My beloved ones, you are My Own Self."
This is only further evidence supporting Baba's declaration that He created the universe of Himself, with one word, to become all this diversity (ekoham, bahusyaam).
Let me quote from another letter where Baba indicates that He is the inner motivator: "My boys," He writes,"the bird with you, the wings with Me; the foot with you, the path with Me; the eye with you, the form with Me; the thing with you, the dream with Me; the world with you, the heaven with Me - so are we bound, so are we free, so we begin and so we end, I in you and you in Me."
Viewed superficially, it may appear epigrammatic effusion, but below the surface lies the treasure of truth: "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me" (John 14:11). Essentially man is but a fraction, a fragment, a fiction in search of a fact. God, alone, adds value to the zero by standing as an integer by its side.
Gustaf Stromberg from Mount Wilson writes, "The development of a living organism is in many ways like the building of a machine designed to perform a definite function in the future. A plan must first be made and this can only be made by an intelligent being, with his attention focussed not only on his past experience but also on the purpose for which the machine is constructed. Nature, apparently, has foresight and intelligence, and it is capable of highly organised activity. Since an impersonal nature cannot have such characteristics, we are led to the idea of a personal God." The letter of Baba mentioned above, is reminiscent of such a One.
The self and the Self
Now the letter unravelling the truth of each of us, addressed to the students on Janmashtami, Lord Krishna's birthday:Dear boys,
In the world of today, so full of people who are selfish, unloving and unloved, the brand of atheism known as 'self-love' has spread to the extent of almost becoming a universal religion.
What is the Self? It is the Self that says 'not I', for if it says 'I', then it is the unreal self. The real Self is selfless, and has no thought either of or for itself. It is the Self that has now forgotten itself, because somehow, it can visualise itself only in others. It is the Self that loves selflessly, because pure love is but selfless affection. It is the Self that seeks the truth with selfless determination, because truth is selfless wisdom. It is the Self that is quiet, because in silence lies cessation from all worldliness. It is the Self in wordless meditation, because wordless meditation is the conquest of the mind through union with the Divine. It is the Self that does not judge, but evaluates. It does not compare, seek security, or even see itself. It is the Self that has completely absorbed itself and yet, in a strange and mystical fashion, it is more itself, more complete and more real than it has ever been. This is the real Self.
God is love, and love is selflessness. Selflessness is the abolition of all sense of the ego and separativeness, of all spurious identification with the isolationist life of that counterfeit thing called 'self'; self is separativeness, and separativeness is the denial of wholeness, holiness, God.
The denial of God is known as atheism. As can now be understood, atheism is not the denial of this or that religion or of this or that concept of God. It is rather the denial of a life of love, which is the nature of God, and the assertion of the life of the egoistic self. In short, real atheism is the denial of love and the assertion of selfishness.
The Godward process called 'self-sacrifice' is, in its essence, love. For God is love, and love alone can lead to Him. As the most godly act is one of love, the most godless act is one of hate.
But hate, which is separativeness, can arise only when there is selfishness. Thus it comes to pass, that the most godless, loveless, atheistic act, is the act of selfishness.
Love must be totally selfless to be Godward, to be Divine. Its criterion must be, 'the Beloved, first'; its technique must be 'your happiness before mine'. The way to happiness is to forget oneself and to remember God, Sai Krishna.
With Blessings and Love, Sri Sathya Sai
His Two Eyes
There is a mysterious episode concerning an Indian couple who live in America. The husband, Dr. Y.S. Thathachari, is a dedicated biophysicist who has worked for some years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after that at Stanford University and the University of California. As early as 1960 he suffered, as the doctors suspected, from rheumatoid arthritis. But the experts who examined him at Stanford - after dozens of X-rays, brain scans with radioactive mercury, a surgical excision, chemical tests and a biopsy of the scalp lesions (he had developed several bumps on the scalp) - declared that he had "aggressively malignant and metastasising tumors in the skull, the neck, the ribs and the hips, the cancer having the features of both ewings and retiaulum cell sarcoma." It was a death sentence enveloped in medical abracadabra! In a letter to me on this judgement, Thathachari wrote, "Thus after delivering blow after blow, the surgeon told me, 'Sir, miracles do happen. We hope such a miracle would happen to you.' " That was in 1962. The couple returned home to Madras to be in the midst of relatives, while trying out palliative therapies.
In January 1964, doctors at Madras discovered widespread destruction in the pelvic bones. Soon they pronounced that the liver was affected by the cancer. Let Thathachari complete the account of what transpired:
"In 1965, I felt like seeking the blessings of Bhagavân S'rî Sathya Sai Baba, following a chance reference by a friend. Baba blessed me and my wife and directed us to go back to Stanford, continuing the endoxan, if I wished to do so. In 1970, when I approached Him again, He asked me to discontinue all drugs and dietary supplements. He gave me an assurance of cure and dispelled that ever-present dread of recurrence." Thathachari is now pursuing his teaching assignment and research projects in America with undiminished zeal, thanks to the 'miracle' that happened. When asked how he brought about this most wondrous miracle that defied all medical predictions, Baba replied, "All I did was to invest him with confidence and willpower to cure himself. It is My abounding love reciprocated by the intensity of the devotee's own faith, that finally produced the desired result."
About three years ago Baba wrote to them,"My dears! I know that though your bodies are far, far away, your thoughts are with Sai. That awareness and attachment is sufficient to keep Me near. Thoughts have no walls or boundaries; they can reach Me across the oceans. There is no one without Me; I am with and within every one.
"When only the body is near but the thoughts are afar, the situation is like frogs leaping around a lotus flower. But bees know of the ambrosia that the lotus is ready to give; they yearn to partake of its sweetness and ever hasten towards it. Bangaroo! (a word meaning 'gold', which is applied to a child who is charming and well-behaved.) You have Swami's grace in plenty. Where the Name is, there is the Form.
"Busy yourselves with the duties which are entrusted to you, in good spirit and fine health. Sai is ever by your side. He is the charioteer of the vehicle of your life. The ship of life, however heavily loaded with the cargo of joys and sorrows, can certainly arrive at the harbor of self-realisation, if it is propelled by holy mental energy. Repetition of the Name is the 'dug-dug-dug' of the pistons; the steering wheel is love; the anchor is faith. Continue the journey in confidence. Sai is always guarding you from harm and pain. You both are like His two eyes. Swami is constantly showering His compassion on you. He counsels you from within and corrects you. On your part, be immersed in the duties entrusted to you; remember, that is Swami's work. When you discharge your duties, convinced that the work is Mine, health and happiness will be added unto you."
When a devotee, R. Lal, telegraphed from Bombay that he had a severe heart attack, Baba wrote to him, "It is not in any way connected with your heart. Do not exaggerate the small malfunction. Shiva-Shakthi is in your heart; that Shiva-Shakthi will not permit any infirmity or injury to affect it. Be happy. This day, Mother Sai is conferring on you the boon of Her love. That will grant you health, joy, peace, courage and contentment."
This is how He consoled a stricken Hindu wife:"Mother, the news that your husband attained merger with the Divine came to you all of a sudden. It is quite natural that you were shocked at the accident which killed him, and feel miserably lonely and deserted. The daughters of Mother India do revere their husbands as their all, and are ever concerned about their health, honor and peace of mind. Yet one should not forget that the body is composite of diverse elements. It must disintegrate into those elements, however much one might guard it or lay claim over it. It is a feeble contraption, prone easily to be put out of action. A slip, a stumble, a hit, a sneeze, a little carelessness or a moment of recklessness, is enough to damage or destroy it. No one can avoid death, even if one manages to lengthen one's life by avoiding all these. Even avatars take birth resolving to die some day. When birth occurs, death has to follow. To grieve over death, which is an inevitable and inescapable consequence of birth, is not a sign of wisdom."
About ten years ago, He wrote a letter to a devotee in Gujarat:"Two fundamental messages ringing through Indian culture down the centuries are: 'Revere the mother as Divine. Revere the father as Divine.' These are sacred commands. When the parents are by-passed and hurt by disobedience, I am sure I, too, will soon be by-passed and disobeyed. When your son treats you a non-existent, how can he claim to revere Me? That claim is patently false.
"The Lord does not demand external grandeur; He examines only whether internal purity exists. A life lived badly is like a body without life. The body, in Sanskrit, is called Deha, meaning 'that which has to be consigned to flames'. A body belonging to a person who does not strive for inner purity can live only for that consummation, to justify that appellation. It serves no other purpose, and it cannot be blessed by the grace of the Lord."
"The value of education has to be measured in terms of the virtue it implants, because virtue, alone, ensures peace and joy. Without it a man is as good as dead, or even worse. Education must endow man with a sharp, discriminative capacity. But for your son, it is an ugly and vulgar acquisition. (sathya, dharma, santhi and prema are the cardinal virtues.) Sathya is what I teach; Dharma is the way I live; Santhi is the mark of My personality; Prema is My very nature."
The Will and the Way
Here are two more messages sent to the Hostel boys:
- 'Where there is a will there is a way' is absolutely true. At first the will is your own. It has to be strengthened by the assent of God; but until you convert it into the almighty will of God, you seem to be playing a particular game which you do not desire to give up. You can always change the game, if you so wish. You are not weak and helpless. All strength and power is within you. God-vision is yours the instant you will it with concentration. But you simply don't choose to do so.
"Sai is not mocking, He is perfectly earnest. He is giving expression to the truths gathered from the depths of experience. 'trust in, and submission to the supreme will in all circumstances', means 'the vision of truth' or 'realisation of the eternal principle of all creation'. 'If God Wills' means, 'if you assert your own all-powerful will'. The real solution, therefore, is to awaken the inherent power and splendor of your soul. Do it, boys! You are verily the immortal truth, the great changeless reality. May victory ever be yours. With blessings, Baba."
- "Boys, through the awareness of the divine, alone, can we bring true peace to the world. There is no doubt that considerable effort is being made by great leaders of the world to bring about peace and harmony on the material plane. But Sai does not see any sign of their success.
"The only way left for us is to turn our minds within ourselves and to find out that the true and everlasting basis, that supreme source from which, alone, we can bring true happiness and peace to the world. That basis is God, who is, in fact, dwelling in the hearts of every one of us. He is the universal spirit.
"Every one of you is an embodiment of the divinity. You are Sath-Chith-Ananda, but have forgotten this truth. Realise it now. Meditate on the reality until your mind dissolves and you stand revealed as truth itself, and enjoy, as Sai has been enjoying, that eternal bliss. With blessings, Baba."
He Teaches through Letters
Pundit Veerabhadra Sarma is a renowned Vedic scholar. He can expound the sacred scriptures and hold vast gatherings spellbound for hours by the clarity, simplicity and sincerity of his Telugu oratory. He is also a leading minstrel of the popular Burrakatha musical recitals, and has composed a Sanskrit 'Sai Geetha' and 'Puja Vidhana' on classical lines. He was chosen to be a member of the party that undertook the pilgrimage to Badrinath when Bhagavân decided to bless that holy Himalayan shrine.
In spite of these unique distinctions, his material poverty was so acute that one day he blamed Baba for 'neglecting him and heaping upon him misery after misery.' His wife, who could not bear this sacrilege, offered to write to Baba about the situation. She was certain that His blessings would clear the sky. But Sarma was adamant. 'No prayer should proceed from either of us to Baba, who has mercilessly betrayed our trust," he insisted. This was on 20th January 1962, at Kakinada, eight hundred miles from Prasanthi Nilayam. Bhagavân, of course, sensed his pique and was aware of his obstinacy. So he wrote Sarma a letter Himself, which reached him on 23rd January 1962. Sarma revealed to me its contents. The letter is a miniature Gîtâ which reveals the love that Baba showers upon those who are misguided and move away from His fold, the courage He instils by revealing to the desperate their own inner treasure of strength and the course He lays down for their liberation from the entanglement of ignorance.
It reads thus:"Dear child Veerabhadram! You are Bhadram (secure, happy, full of confidence and joy), aren't you? You might ask, 'What kind of Bhadram is this? Of course, that question is natural. When life flows clear and smooth with no hurdles to cross, to feel that it is so because of oneself and to forget God, and when that flow encounters obstacles and obstructions at every turn, to lament and lose heart - are these not signs of the intellectual frailty inherent in man? You, too, are human, dear Bhadram, therefore it is no wonder that you are overcome by depression and despair when troubles bother and obstruct you at every step.
"Though the life of man is basically a manifestation of immortality and an unbroken stream of ananda, he strays away from the awareness of the atman, the spring of that ananda, slavishly yielding to the vagaries of the mind, the intellect and the ego. Sinking and floating, rising and falling on the turbid waves of the sea of delusion, he is tossed between anxiety and calm, grief and joy, pain and pleasure. He is afflicted with the evanescence of the world and the unreality of his desires.
"Why are you confounded and confused by this false panorama? Remember, you are thereby despising and denying your own atmic identity. You have stored in your brain the Vedas, the Sastras, the Purânas, the Ithihasas and the Upanishads, but you behave like a dull boor. You bewail your lot and weep at your plight as if you had no resources to fall back upon. This attitude is not worthy of the learning you have accumulated. You have to draw strength and courage therefrom and further the blossoming of holy, heartening thoughts.
"Should this one single trouble - want of money - make you stoop in weakness and fear? You have with you the name which is the Dhanavanthri (Divine Physician) for all the ills and anxieties of man. Instead of letting that Name dance joyously on your tongue, why are you paying so much attention to what you call loss, grief and worry?"
"You are the repository of so many branches of scriptural scholarship, but you have neither realised their value nor attempted to experience the joy they can give you. This must be your prime goal. Instead, you are spending your days in the mere satisfaction of having acquired this knowledge, as if fluent oratory were the best purpose to which you could devote your learning. The result is that you are led into the baseless belief of being attacked by anxieties and adversities."
"Really speaking, these are all objective phenomena, passing clouds that are but a feature of the external nature. The ananda that the atman can confer on you cannot be lessened or hindered in the least. Have firm faith in this truth. Don't you know, bangaroo, the freedom, the delight and the tranquillity you can derive by contemplation of the ananda that the unbroken awareness of the atman can endow you with? Knowing this, even if you are confronted by the seemingly most insurmountable problem, how can you get entangled with or be affected by circumstances and phenomena in the objective world?"
"To preach to others is quite easy, but to put even a fraction of what is preached into actual practice and experience the felicity promised, is extremely difficult. You have been announcing in ringing tones that 'Swami knows everything; Swami is the unitive embodiment of all the names and forms by which man has adored God down the ages. But when problems overwhelm you, you forget to establish these truths in your own life."
"Don't I know? The other day, when you had been reduced to plead with your father for help and when you were about to proceed to where he resides, your wife suggested, 'we shall write to Swami about our troubles and losses', let Me ask why you told her, 'I won't allow this; you should not write'? I shall even tell you the reason. You thought she might inform Me about various other details. Don't I know? Can I know this only if she writes to Me? Foolish bangaroo!"
"Don't I know that you went to Ramachandrapuram to give a series of talks on the Gîtâ and returned with a minus balance? The Gîtâ discourses did not receive the response you expected because your talk was pervaded and polluted by the Burrakatha style that has long struck root in you. It cannot be easily overcome. Bear with it patiently and, with steady effort, be rid of it. If you desire that your Gîtâ lectures be appreciated, some improvements are called for. Without effecting them, why do you moan, be gloomy and dejected, blaming your scholarship and your experience as mere useless loads.
"Well, for Me, who is fostering all these worlds, fostering you and your family is no burden. I am giving you these series of troubles in order to teach you some lessons. Study is not all important. Practising what you have learnt is very necessary. My purpose is to bring to your notice this facet of the process of learning."
"Let Me tell you this. He who plants a sapling cannot but water it; if he had no will to water it, he would not have planted it at all. This is the identifying principle of the jiva and the atman, the individual and the universal, man and god. You had written and published that the name of Swami is dancing and the form of Swami is being adored in home after home. And by this little vision, you were filled with ananda. But know now, that the name of Sai will arouse ecstatic delight filling the entire world, nay, every inch of it. People now sing 'All is Sai-full, this world is Baba-full.' This fullness will be realised, without doubt. Be bold; be in bliss; take up the burden of the duties assigned to you. Seek realisation through the four stages leading man to God - Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha."
"When you resolve to progress on these lines, the Lord of Parthi will Himself be available to you to lift you and liberate you. Therefore, bangaroo, seek and gain your own motivating principle. I will never give you up. I will not forget you, no, never."
"You have been maligning the rich; give up this erroneous habit. Not only the rich but you should not dishonor any one in any way. If they are bloated in their ego, they will suffer. How can it affect you? Remember, Sai resides in all; so maligning another means maligning Sai Himself."
"Convey my blessings to your wife and children. I have written this long letter out of the compassion and love that I bear towards you. Be ever in joy; be ever intent on practice and experience. The Resident of your heart, Sai."
Bhagavân conveys a world of meaning, an ocean of grace or a Gîtâ of wisdom, even through a short telegram. When Walter Cowan, whom He had revived from death, passed away at last, nineteen months after his 'coming back', Baba's telegram to his wife, Elsie, from Prasanthi Nilayam declared, "Walter arrived here in good shape"! Dwell on that sentence for a while. Walter had uttered, "Baba! Baba!" just before he passed away, for he was filled with years of grateful devotion. And soon after, Baba announced that Walter's soul had arrived. Similarly, when Narayana Bhat of Alike was killed in a motor accident, Baba had sent a message to his mother which read, "Narayana Bhat has merged in Me."
Sai Baba autographs books, pictures and photographs, while walking between the rows of seated devotees and visitors. Very often He simply writes His name as we know it; at other times, He may write 'Blessings' or 'Blessings with Love'. Once, when someone reached out with a photograph of His having a dark background to be autographed, He borrowed a pen and wrote with it in a white script, the blue-black ink in the pen obligingly turning white. Thus, the method, style and content of His message - all are uniquely elevating.
Words Do His Will
Baba's words are known to cure not only every type of disease or ailment, but also to effect a miraculous change of attitude towards truth in the most incorrigible persons.
Sri M.K. Mishra, a mining engineer from Morena district in Madhya Pradesh, writes,
"Some of the northern districts of this state - Bhind, Morena, Gwalior, Shivpuri and Datia - and some adjoining districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, were infested with dacoits since the dawn of India's independence. The governments of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan tried their utmost to decimate them, but in vain. The dacoits were virtually in control of these districts. In 1960, Acharya Vinobha Bhave toured this region in order to persuade the dacoits to give up their life of crime. He was able to persuade a few of them to surrender. In October 1971, Madho Singh, who was the leader of the most prominent gang, approached Sri Jaya Prakash Narain to persuade him to take up the unfinished work of Acharya Vinobha Bhave. With the help of the Sarvodaya workers, J.P. contacted various gangs of dacoits. Ultimately his efforts bore fruit and about four hundred dacoits agreed to surrender.
"One problem that was agitating the minds of the dacoits as well as the sarvodays leaders, was whether the dacoits should make an open confession of their crimes. Some sarvodaya leaders advised the dacoits to contest the criminal cases started against them in court. The dacoits were also of the same view."
"On 23rd August 1972, Srimati Prabhavati asked Sri Hem Dev Sharma, secretary of the shanti mission in Gwalior, to bring a copy of the Hindi translation of Part II of 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram', written by professor Kasturi. Sri Hem Dev Sharma's neighbor was a devotee of Baba, so he was able to procure the book from her. On that day, J.P. addressed the dacoits and read out the story of Kalpagiri as narrated in chapter six ['with wounded wings'] of this book. Bhagavân's advice to Kalpagiri, who had committed heinous murders and who was roaming about disguised as a sannyasi, to go to the police to make a clean-breast confession and undergo cheerfully the punishment he may be awarded, was listened to by the hard-boiled dacoits. It touched their hearts deeply, and convinced them that their real salvation lay not in refuting their misdeeds or trying to secure acquittals from law courts but in confessing them humbly in a spirit of repentance."
Moves in His Game
Death is our birthright, a gift everyone can claim. It is a relief for the tired and a refuge for the persecuted, a lesson for the wayward, a jolt for the epicurean, a milestone for the pilgrim, punishment for the poltroon and paradise for the faithful.
Baba's elder sister's husband died at a young age, when he was just twenty-five years old. Baba chided me for shedding tears. He asked, "If there is to be no birth and no death, how am I to spend My time?" Death is but a move in His game, an 'exit' in the divine play, at which the player has to leave the stage. Baba says that the finitude of the body and the infiniteness of the soul have to be stoically accepted. He creates ash and applies it to our brow to remind us of death, and the change of the body thereafter into a heap of ashes. That helps us develop detachment towards worldly things and turn our gaze towards lasting values.
Baba has come to assign death its legitimate place in the scheme of existence, neither more nor less. He brought Walter Cowan back from the region beyond death because, as He said, "he has not completed the work he has to do." Baba does not will the effacement of death. "Why do living beings die?" we ask. "For the reason they are born," He answers. Anything put together has to disintegrate; anything that originates has to end. But man can escape rebirth by cutting off the roots, namely the deposits of karmas, good and bad, that burden his account in the book of God. Achieve a nil balance not by the renunciation of your physical, mental and intellectual activity, but by the renunciation of the fruits thereof. Doing your righteous duty, be indifferent towards the fruit of your actions. God gave you body, mind and intellect; God also planted desire and designed the entire plan. Let the fruit of His grace belong to Him. Then, there is neither plus nor minus in your account. You need not come again to balance it. So long as your actions are not totally selfless and duty-bound, you must accoutre yourself in a physical body in order to transcend from the limited to the unlimited. Baba told Schulman, "I know how your past has shaped you and I watch you shaping your future. I know why you suffer, how long you have to suffer and when your suffering will end."
While gifting a rosary of 108 pearls to Indra Devi, Baba said, "Keep this on the sick person and help him to pray for recovery. He will be cured." "Of any illness?" asked Indra Devi. "No," said Swami, "not if the illness is a form of payment for karmic debt." A rosary was given by Baba to Shrimati Venkatamuni of Madras. When her aged mother-in-law approached the threshold of death, her bed surrounded by many of her kith and kin, she placed the rosary on her chest and prayed for her recovery. Her mother-in-law did regain consciousness and sat up to greet the dawn of another day, curious to know the reason why the house was so full of people. When her own son, afflicted with frequent fits since childhood, was dangerously on the verge of death, Shrimati Venkatamuni ran to her room to bring the rosary. But her fingers could not hold it; it slipped out of her grasp again and again. When she could at last hold it and take it to her son, it was too late. The illness was a form of repayment of karmic debt which, when repaid, gave him release. Baba told her later that her son was here to liquidate the balance of his debt and he had now attained the region of everlasting bliss. "If you have genuine affection for him," He said, "be happy that he has been relieved of the body that gave him no peace."
Father and Son
Shri Soundararajan, the renowned singer of South India, was pathetically distraught when doctors declared that his daughter's heart could be saved by an operation possible only in the USA. But Baba cured her in a remarkably short time. He created a Rudraksha seed and directed her to drink the water in which it had been ceremonially washed. Shri Soundararajan's son had been ailing from a malignant type of jaundice. When the doctors gave up all hope, he was brought home and placed before a portrait of Baba, at his own request. Shri Soundararajan put through a telephone call to Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam. He was able to contact Baba, but the line was subject to so much disturbance that neither could his prayer be conveyed to Baba nor could he catch the voice of Bhagavân. His son passed away with the name of Baba on his lips. Later, Baba told Soundararajan that his son was a great soul who had achieved liberation from the bonds of birth and death after paying off the little balance of his karmic debt.
Baba addressed a mammoth meeting at a football field at Rajahmundry. Two weeks later He received a letter from one who, with his son by his side, had heard Him speak that day. "My son was so inspired by the discourse and by the Bhajans that he became totally immersed in You. He was constantly doing Bhajan and reciting Your glory and Your majesty. He passed away while he was in that heightened consciousness. I am glad I could claim such a pure soul as my son. We gladly performed the last rites knowing that he had attained the highest goal attainable by man." There are cases of Baba conferring this boon directly, when prayed for.
The eight-year-old daughter of a lady known as Chincholi Rajamma, used to visit Puttaparthi with her mother in the forties. She skipped and ran, laughed and crooned, and flitted about like a ray of sunshine in the presence of Baba. One evening, while Baba was about to proceed with a small group of devotees to the Chitravathi sands, she brought His sandals and placed them on the ground before Him. Baba patted her on her head and said, "What do you want? Tell me." She surprised everyone and shocked her mother by her reply: "I want to be absorbed in You." Baba said, "You are a child; you have to get married, bring up a family and make your mother happy." But the girl insisted that these things were trivial when compared with mergence in Him. Where from did she learn all this, people wondered. Baba wiped her tears and said, "Your father is no more; you have to be with your mother." But she protested "If, as you say, I get married, I will still have to leave my mother. No, I wish You would shelter me for ever." Baba was silent for a while. His response to the agony of the tender heart was, "Good, Good," and He tweaked her cheek. Five days later at Bangalore, on a Thursday, she died peacefully with her eyes fixed on a portrait of Baba which she had herself adorned with garlands barely three hours before, while continuously reciting Bhajans. The mother is now grateful that the Lord has welcomed her daughter into His arms.
Sri Ranajodh Singh was for some years, in the thirties of this century, the inspector-general of police in Mysore state. His daughter was suffering from acute colitis which prevented her from taking food and drink. Her parents were devotees of Baba and she, too, had deep faith in His divinity. It was a Thursday when Baba surprised them with a visit. He spoke compassionately to the patient and, creating a dosa - hot, tasty and crisp, with the fragrance of fine ghee - gave it to the girl to eat. When Sri Ranajodh Singh prayed that He bless them with a visit the next Thursday also, Baba did not reply but left the house. On the ensuing Thursday, the girl sat up on her bed, had a bath and did puja before Baba's portrait. Then saying, "See! Baba is calling me!" she left her body behind. Baba had long ago created for her a silver plate with the markings of two feet which He called Vishnu Padam (the Feet of Vishnu), which was always reverentially kept under her pillow. When she died, the plate disappeared and was never traced again in spite of an intensive search. The parents were filled with supreme gratitude for, as some Americans who tended a young man named Steve at Whitefield, when he was nearing his end through cancer, declared, "If only people knew how resplendent it is to die in Baba." On his last day, Steve stopped 'reliving his days of drugs and alcohol' and emerged from the purificatory ordeal with an illuminating prayer on his lips and an expression of delight on his face, when his prayer was answered by Baba.
Dr. Kraemer of Honolulu writes in the same strain of gratitude, "This is to inform you of the sad yet glorious news of Meeke's passing away. She must have passed straight into the hands of Baba. She was so peaceful, so smiling, so completely without the slightest trace of apprehension or anxiety, and she could think of Baba's name until the very last moment."
On His Palm They Saw
A certain person was a captain during the second world war, but since he died of a commonplace disease in a civil hospital, his widow did not get much by way of pension. So she had to earn some money teaching music, in order to keep her three children - two daughters and a son - in elementary ease. The son passed his B.Sc. examination with a first class from the Madras University, while still in his teens. The army authorities gave him a job in their cantonment office at Bangalore. His mother, who was overwhelmed with joy, sent him to offer homage to the family deity, Venkatachalapathi [Venkateshwara, Venkateshwer or Venkatachalapathi,
is another form of Lord Vishnu who is also very popular as a Hindu deity], in the temple on the Thirumalai Hills in Andra Pradesh, so that he could join duty at Bangalore with divine blessings.
However, what did happen was that the boy got drowned in the holy tank of the temple. His body was in police custody for two days as it was unidentified. The anxious mother was confronted by the photograph of her son's corpse which appeared in the daily papers. But, Baba appeared to her in a dream and directed her to come to Puttaparthi. There she was taken by a mysterious stranger to the Presence. Bhagavân called her and her children for the precious interview. "Don't weep," He said, "for your son who led a disciplined life and was full of devotion, has now merged with God. When he has found the lotus feet of Bliss, you should not indulge in grief." But she could not be consoled.
Then Baba said, "I know your heart is broken since you could not have even a last glimpse of his body. See, it is here." Saying this, He spread His palm in front of her, and she could clearly see the events of that fateful pilgrimage appear upon it: The son slipped on the steps of the tank, and a few people jumped in to save him. It was too late. Even first-aid could not revive him. A lotus-like bunch of flames rose from his body and proceeded towards the innermost shrine where the idol of Venkatachalapathi is installed, disappearing in a blaze of glory at the Lord's feet. Then she saw the idol come alive and change into a charming image of Baba Himself.
After some time Baba spoke to her, "Mother, the one you loved as your son was a staunch devotee of the Lord during his previous life. He was engaged in Tapas for twelve years on the steps of this very holy temple tank. His deepest desire was to attain Jala Samadhi (Water-mergence) in those sacred waters. To fulfil that desire he took birth again and, as your guru, has led you to Me. Remain in Puttaparthi, ever singing the glory of Venkatachalapathi, who has accepted your son into His fold."
Today is Thursday
Sri Ramakrishna, professor at the Victoria college, Palghat, was returning home during the afternoon recess, when an old man stopped him in the middle of the road. He appeared to the astonished professor as the very embodiment of the Sai Baba of Shirdi. He said in Tamil, "Today Is Thursday," as if that was a strange piece of news, "so I am taking Ramesh with me." Ramesh was the professor's fourteen-year-old son. He had left for school that morning. The professor hurried home to discover that Ramesh had come home from school with high fever. He kept himself alive only until he could see his father and mother together at his bedside. The father wrote to me, "How kind of Baba to tell me that He was taking Ramesh, whom He had given me as a boon, and that too on a Thursday, the day when He advises us to offer ourselves at His feet." Some weeks later, at Ootacamund, Baba called in the professor and his wife for an interview, and confirming His announcement, blessed the boy's picture in his bungalow with showers of Vibhuti.
The mother of Lynn, a girl from San Diego on the pacific coast of America, also had the consoling thought that it was a Thursday when her daughter fell from a tree and died, while attempting to save her younger brother from a dog. Lynn adored Baba. She was the brightest child in her Bal Vikas group. Her mother bore the calamity courageously and calmly, for Baba had granted her the wisdom to bear such blows of fate.
On 31st December 1973, I had a letter from New Delhi from a bereaved father. He wrote, "I know I will not get any reply from you, as you are very busy. But I must write what I feel, because it helps me in getting nearer to my Lord, Sai Baba."
"I lost my daughter in Safdarjung hospital on 21st December 1973. She died of burns. During the eight days I was with her, Baba was always 'with me'. His presence gave me so much courage and peace that I could face the ordeal without a tear or murmur, and could accept it as His doing. I know that her death was so ordained; that is why my prayers to Baba failed. But His blessings were constantly with us, and His Charanamrit and Vibhuti were given to her before death. You will be glad to know that her end was very peaceful. Her bodily agony was not anywhere as great as similar patients in her ward. Please convey my thanks to the Lord."
When an aged devotee, Raval Seshagiri Rao was on the last breath of life, Baba entered his room at Prasanthi Nilayam and revived him while helping him sip coffee. He was privileged to have been in charge of the shrine for over fourteen years. He was well-versed in the scriptures and very regular in japa and puja. As a matter of fact, he was passing out with the Upanishads on his tongue and Baba before his eyes. "The five fundamental elements which, in combination, became this body of mine, are now parting company," He said. "What a glorious death," I said to myself. But Baba knew that he had yet to pay the last instalment of his karmic debt. So He turned to him and reprimanded him saying, "Why did you embark on this journey without first securing a ticket from Me? Get down! Do your shrine duties as usual. Attend the forenoon Bhajans and perform Arati." [see also: Signs and Wonders, for the story of Raval Seshagiri Rao] There is no need to add that he did as he was told.
You Cannot Die
Let us consider the confession of a person living in Bangalore, who was preparing to die. Vrajlal P. Parekh wrote on 18th August 1972, "Six years ago, I sat in the Darsan line around the Sai Ram tree at Brindavan in Whitefield. Baba granted me a private interview. He exposed my private thoughts and worries and blessed me with the words, 'Be confident; have peace of mind. Baba's blessings are with you.' I was not blessed with vibhuti. My faith in Him strayed hither and thither when my luck ran down in business, and I was caught in much anxiety. Though I had secured a diploma in commerce in 1938, I found myself unfit in modern business techniques, and was financially completely ruined. I was sorely dejected, and decided to separate my soul from this body. I purchased a bottle of Tik-20 and kept it in a secret place. After having deeply thought over the matter, I decided to make use of the poison on 4th September 1970, the night of Ganesh Chaturthi.
"But my elder sister, who had been ailing for a few months, passed away suddenly that very day, as if bidding me to postpone my suicidal act. I could not understand the mysterious ways of Baba. I became more gloomy and finally fixed the date and time as 4 p.m., Friday, 11th September 1970, to swallow the poison with a pinch of vibhuti, so that I might have a peaceful end. I went to my shop early that morning with the bottle in my pocket. I was alone and no customer was expected in the afternoon. I was feeling happy as the time fixed for death was approaching. I was reading the Sanathana Sarathi which had come at noon by post, wondering how I would experience the miracle of Baba while dying into Him.
"At 1.30 p.m. two plainclothes men walked into my shop and wanted me to accompany them to the Seshadripuram police station. I could not imagine why I was wanted. In a terribly confused state, I closed the shop and went with them. The bottle was in my shirt pocket. At the station I was told that the inspector had gone out. I was told that there was a warrant for my arrest from a magistrate at Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. Then I realised that a case had been filed by a Moradabad merchant for non-payment of a bill by me. I had explained my difficulties to him and pleaded for being allowed some time to make the payment, but he did not believe me and proceeded against me in court, charging me with cheating. The warrant was bailable, but I had to present a surety.
"Meanwhile I was asked to go into the 'lock-up'. The police officer said, 'Take out all the articles in your pockets and place them on this table before you go in.' I hesitated on account of the bottle. I said that it was only a civil case and prayed to him not to send me in. He sympathised with me and allowed me to sit on a bench beside him. I then sent for my elder brother, who arrived there very soon. I handed over the tell-tale bottle to him just as it was, wrapped in paper, and asked him to keep it at home without telling anyone. He was also to get someone to stand surety for me.
"Just on the stroke of 4 p.m. (!) the inspector of police arrived and ordered that I be put in the cell. He would not give ear to my pleadings or explanations. I recalled Bhagavân's assurance, 'Baba's blessings are always with you.' I felt most happy when I discovered that Baba had prevented my suicide. I saw Baba in the cell, laughing at me for my folly.
"I was in the cell for hardly four minutes. My brother came with the surety and I was released. My brother scolded me severely for having kept poison in my pocket. Baba had foiled my first attempt by causing the sudden death of my sister, simultaneously releasing her from the painful ailment which she could not endure in her old age. Again, he foiled my second attempt by causing a warrant from 1.800 miles to be served on me, and have me go into the cell without the bottle at the exact time fixed by me for suicide. It is indeed beyond human comprehension to gauge His mystery."
You Have Come
Many who have come within the horizon of heavenly grace have died in peace and joy, pronouncing the name of Baba or even declaring that they had been blessed by Baba's darsan. Baba says that we cry koham at the time we are born, puzzled by the problem, 'Who am I?' Likewise, when we die, we should draw the last breath in joy, uttering Soham, 'I am That.' "Baba is calling me," "Baba is here by my side," profess devotees before they pass away. On the day when Baba had the Cowans with Him at Whitefield to shower further grace on the resurrected Walter and his wife, He asked Walter to narrate his experience at Madras while ostensibly accompanying Baba to the Seat of Judgement. When Walter had finished his narration, there was a strange flutter in the minds of all present. Indra Devi spoke on the overwhelming compassion of Baba. She described how Baba had fulfilled a boon which He had granted years earlier to my mother: "I shall give you divine nectar when you leave this world," Baba had said. She left for her heavenly abode one noon, at Prasanthi Nilayam, when Baba was at Brindavan. But a few minutes before she died, nectar gushed from the idol of Shirdi Sai Baba kept near her bed, from the toe of the right foot that was placed over the left knee. She noticed it and held her cupped palm to receive the gift. Kasturi helped her sit up and drink the nectar, about two ounces of fragrance and sweetness. Then she lay down again and passed into Sai." Baba listened to her narrative and then said, "Yes, I keep My word to those who are steady in their faith. I also give Darsan when death calls on those who have dedicated their lives to Me."
While on the topic of deathbed darsans, I must also relate here the narration of my revered guru, Mahapurushji, of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission, about the 'shower of peace' from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A sweeper named Rasik lived at Dakshineswar. One day, as the Master was returning from the direction of Panchavati, absorbed in a spiritual mood, Rasik knelt before him and prayed, "Father, why don't you bless me? What will be in store for me?" The Master assured him, "Your wish shall be fulfilled. You will see me at the time of death." A few years later, as the moment of death approached, Rasik cried out in joy, "You have come, Father! You have really come!" and saying this, breathed his last.
When we find Sai devotees facing death or enduring the departure of their beloved ones, we are apt to judge them as insensitive and dull. No. They meet death heroically, for they are certain that Baba will be their guide, guardian, friend and teacher, through as many births and rebirths they may have to pass. He is at all times with us, in us, beside us, before us and behind us. So, instead of being anxious at the time of death, devotees approach this final act as children being led to school by loving parents, or as graduates attending the convocation, or as a mountaineer approaching the summit, or as rivers merging into the sea.
There was a doctor serving in the hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam. He was about 60 years old and appeared to enjoy good health in spite of a damaged heart. One evening Baba sent for him, and he left off eating his lunch. "Bhagavân is calling me," he said, and hastened towards the Mandir. Just as he neared it, he fainted and did not recover. Death was sudden and painless. His wife, who had imbibed Baba's teachings on karma, on the Atman and on the eventual mergence in Paramatman, bore the blow with courage and wisdom. She told the women who ventured to console her, "Perhaps you fear that I am a hardhearted woman because I do not weep. No. It is only because I know that weeping is futile and foolish." Mr. Sethu from Delhi, writes in a letter, "I believe that whatever Baba does, it is for our own good, though it may not immediately seem so to us."
Closer and Closer
On the ground floor of the Mandir at Prasanthi Nilayam, the room at the western end of the long veranda through which one has to pass to arrive at the steps leading to the first floor, is known as the Interview Room. Persons blessed by Baba with a chance for private conversation and guidance, sit outside the door of this room till He directs them to come in.
Since the day of the Annunciation (23rd May 1940) when Satyanarayana declared Himself to be Sai Baba [See also: Serpent Hill], suppliants from all quarters have been streaming into the village of Puttaparthi to have His darsan, to participate in the bhajans and to earn counsel, consolation, confidence and courage from Him. And on the 23rd of November, 1950, the twenty-fifth birthday of Bhagavân, was inaugurated the Prasanthi Mandir.
Earlier, Swami was residing with a few devotees in the village itself, at a mandir constructed on a small plot of land gifted by Subbamma, the 'foster-mother', on the eastern outskirts [see also: Serpent Hill and Sai Baba Again]. When the seekers swelled in number, a long extension with a corrugated sheet roof was added as a shelter, and a separate structure with a sleeping room and a bathroom was built behind the mandir for Baba's use.
Baba, who was then in his teens, moved among the pilgrims either in the kitchens, where they would be working, or in the extended shelter where they stayed. Persons anxious to win the precious gift of His grace, or those wishing to benefit from His premonitory warnings and preparatory guidelines for spiritual progress, followed Him from one room to another, until He finally sat down somewhere upon a bedroll on the floor. They gathered in a semicircle at His feet and prodded Him with prayers, petitions and problems. On most evenings, Baba moved to the sandy bed of the Chitravathi and, while bhajans were being sung, called a few to follow Him into the thickening dusk so that He could grant them interviews.
The shrine before which bhajans were sung, was on an elevated platform at the western end of the long shed. After the bhajans it was 'closed', a thick blue curtain being drawn across the shed from south to north. Pilgrims proposing to depart were often granted interviews in the mornings and afternoons on the other side of that curtain. Then, as now, all hours of the day were spent by Him in the task of repair, reconstruction and reform of the individuals whom His Will had drawn to His presence. Repair of physical abnormalities and subnormalities was also carried out by divine surgery during such interviews.
Pada - Puja
During the years at the old mandir (and for about five years after the new mandir was occupied by Baba), every person or family leaving the presence for a substantial length of time was blessed with the opportunity to offer Pada-Puja to Swami. Pada-Puja means 'worshipping the feet'. Seated on a silver chair in a room at the eastern end of the veranda, Baba graciously placed His feet on a silver plate. The devotees poured water on the feet while Vedic hymns were recited. They then placed flowers on the feet while the 108 names of their chosen deity were repeated. After this they waved incense and lighted camphor. They offered fruits or sweets, bits of which were tasted by Swami and blessed, to their immense satisfaction. On such occasions Swami would initiate a boy into the Gayatri mantra or a child into the alphabet, would 'christen' a baby or bless a couple about to be married. There were days on which as many as three or more such pujas were performed - a measure only of the extent of Baba's compassion. After the puja, people would linger longingly, until Baba had answered the questions which tormented them and solved the riddles which baffled them. Days might melt into weeks and weeks into months, but the afflicted would await the great experience. Each day was 'the day'; each moment, 'the moment'. There were no definite days or hours when one could expect to converse with Him and undergo the 'conversion'. However, if one had to leave before one had been given this golden opportunity, one would sadly depart, hoping for better luck next time.
In spite of Prasanthi Nilayam being imposing and spacious, it did not have, until 1974, a separate, secluded room for personal conversation with the Avatar. The persons selected by Bhagavân from the rows of eager devotees, were called into the room at the eastern end of the veranda, fifteen or twenty of them at a time. Baba would first address them as a group on the various aspects of sadhana, giving them inspiration and insight. Then he would meet each one individually to impart His message, providing them solace and strength. After diagnosing their ailments, He would prescribe the antidote for their cure in a soft, unobtrusive atmosphere of love.
The events that take place during the interview are recorded only in the tablets of memory. Baba delves into personal feelings and inbuilt agonies, and is ever engaged in revealing and correcting faults, disinfecting habits, filtering emotions, fumigating passions and fostering virtues - a process that discourages publicity.
The First Interview
Dr. John Hislop writes,"When he had his first interview with Bhagavân, this writer was seated in a small room with his wife and several others who were part of the interview group. All attention was on the slender, elegant, graceful form of Bhagavân - His deep, luminous eyes, the sweet, warm smiles, and the charm. The critical and questioning mind stopped its restless activity. Anxiety about the world and its problems faded away from the consciousness. There remained just a feeling of quiet happiness. Although Baba was speaking, one was surrounded by quietness. In that peaceful state of being, one's awareness deepened without effort. There was a perception that something alive, something unknown, was in one's heart. In a moment, the realisation came that a current of love was moving in this writer's dry, 'western' heart, and then it was very clear that the source of that love was Bhagavân - nay, more - that the sweetness of Bhagavân Himself was there, with life, in the heart."
How could Srî Sathya Sai Baba, a stranger never seen before, come into the heart of a mature man and bring about a change from within, a change from which there is no turning back? Surely, God is the only stranger who can do this.
Hislop writes,"On that memorable day when I first came into the presence of Sathya Sai Baba, I reached the end and goal of my forty-seven years of search for the One. Who could say the truth so directly that I could see for myself that it was true. Never can I forget that day."
Hislop and his wife contacted Theosophy from Dr. Annie Besant and J. Krishnamurthi, through Thray Sithu U Ba Khin and Mahesh Yogi - a series of splendid teachers who struggled on the path of jnana. "But when I came into the presence of Baba on that ever-memorable day in 1968," writes Hislop,"I made the totally surprising and unsuspected discovery that I was a Bhakta! Never had I shown that tendency to myself and I was truly amazed." "The Lord has to come in human form to move among men," says Baba, "so that He can be listened to, contacted, loved, revered and obeyed. He has to speak the language of men and behave like human beings do. Otherwise He will be either neglected and negated, or feared and avoided."
Thus the Lord revealed Hislop to Hislop, and directed him on to that road within himself which leads to Him.
Doubts and Defects
Another person who underwent a similar revelatory experience was Swami Abhedananda, for long a resident sadhaka at the ashram of Bhagavân Ramana Maharshi. He wrote to me on 23rd December 1961, "To be frank, I must admit that I have been hearing of Srî Sathya Sai Babajî and about his mahimas for a long time. But hearsay does not convey a good opinion about Him. Recently, nearly a week or ten days ago, I got your book, 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram' from a devotee of His, and I went through it. It is very interesting and illuminating, and is driving me to have a darsan of the Divinity. Will you let me know whether and when I shall be able to have the darsan?"
"Although I have been living my life in this fashion for over twenty years now, I still have doubts and defects. This body is at the fag end of its life, having passed the age of seventy-six. I cannot delay relishing the summum bonum, the certainty of which my doubts do screen. May I request you also to help me earn His grace and thus be liberated from these doubts and defects, this sinuous, unending samsara."
Even before my reply reached him, he had had a vision of both, Ramana Maharshi and Sai Baba, on the 27th at 4 a.m., while fully awake at the Ramana ashram. Baba spoke to him in clear Telugu, and directed him towards a new process of meditation. He came to Prasanthi Nilayam and was immediately blessed with an interview. His letter to me dated the 5th February 1962, gives an account of the grace Baba conferred on him:"I must thank you for being instrumental in exposing me to Baba's grace, which helped clear all my doubts. I was really astonished to find my old-age infirmities disappear and my weakened limbs regain strength merely by His touch. His clear exposition, with analysis and analogies, not only put an end to my long-harbored doubts, but made me see Truth face to face in its sublime nature."
"Not only this, but His transformation at the time of my leave - taking into Muralidhara Krishna (Krishna with the flute) in dazzling splendor, is a sight I shall never forget. The darsan of Saguna Brahman (the Universal Absolute incarnated as a 'limited' being), was a blessing bestowed on this poor soul to reveal the oneness of Saguna and Nirguna."
Hislop, too was very prone to accept God only as the Universal Absolute; the limited, temporal, particular incarnation, was to him less glorious and divine. So Baba gave Him, also, a vision of Himself as Krishna, in order to make him aware that the Divinity is full and free, and that It cannot be diminished or devalued if It takes the form of an avatar.
Abhedananda continues in his letter,"I was still a believer only in Nirguna Brahman, and considered everything that was visible to be mithya. This gracious transformation of His changed me, and made me see everything - visible and imagined - to be Sathya, a part of that same Absolute Principle."
"Baba had anticipated all the difficulties and doubts which I carried to Him regarding my efforts in sadhana, and He cleared them all. He instructed me, convincing me about the validity of His advice, and how to proceed further. I am not quite convinced with the popular view attributing Avatarhood to Baba. He seems to me to be the perfect Poorna [purna: complete, full] Brahman, personified to end the unsettled state of the world by making man realise his own real nature, which is Bliss."
Sri Maharajakrishna Rasagotra, presently India's envoy to France, writes of moments he has spent in Baba's presence:"Words cannot sum up the quality of such moments spent in Baba's company. He sits there, a picture of compassion, nay, the very embodiment of Love transforming each fleeting fraction of time into a moment of revelation, enlightenment and release. When He enters a room, you feel enveloped in the warmth of His love. You feel a part of Him, and the identification of one with the other is complete. Perhaps that is why there is nothing in one's past, present or future which is hidden from His gaze."
No more Cobwebs"Years ago, when I first sought Him out in a remote place, without prior appointment, acquaintance or introduction, he brought up, without any suggestion or provocation from me, the subject of death, saying, 'The loss of your child weighs upon your heart still. The living must get reconciled to the inevitability of death.' He then proceeded to bring into my vision an altogether new horizon with which I was not acquainted before," says Sri Rasagotra.
I heard Him gently ask a devotee thus: "What is the cause of your worry? What are all your fears based on?" And He continued, "Your worry and fear is based on your experience in the past, experiences of yesterday. But today is not yesterday. And tomorrow will be different. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. Why do you then give fresh life in your heart to the ghosts of yesterday?"
The interview is an occasion when Baba cleans the cobwebs from the brain, erases the wrinkles on the brow and cures the myopia of the intellect, by removing the distractions from the mind. He advises us to pay attention to the breath and listen to the 'Soham' it recites. He fixes a silencer to the tongue. He sweetens and softens the speech, he lightens the burden on our shoulders and gives us hope for the future. He gives new meaning to our actions and places, new goals for us to achieve. In fact, he sublimates our emotions and sanctifies our passions. Sri Rasagotra, who has experienced the grace that Baba confers during an interview upon those who go to Him with constant yearning, writes,"A man who goes in for a meeting with Him, seldom comes out the same. He emerges from the encounter, exalted and radiant, as if Baba has stripped him of his motley cloak of many patches and fitted him out in Love's pure raiment, for a fresh journey towards a bright, new destination."
"The transformation begins almost at the first moment of contact with Baba and the process of irresistible uplift never slackens thereafter. Perhaps this is His greatest appeal, which draws to Puttaparthi and Brindavan, men and women of all faiths and beliefs from every part of the world. The impact of His personality is instantaneous, electrifying and elevating. In His luminous presence, one feels part of a higher order of reality, lifted out of oneself, as if one were on a different, altogether purer plane of existence, where there is no lust, greed, anger or falsehood, and where, while there may be suffering and pain, there is no fear."
William Penn writes,"That is the wonderment of Baba; once He enters your life, He fills it completely. It becomes totally different, totally delightful."
Baba installs Himself as the Master in every heart that is warm with love. No problem is beneath His notice or beyond His benediction. He challenges us with dilemmas, and when the effort fails and the ego surrenders, He deals with our personal problems with intimate sympathy. So most of what happens then - the counsel He bestows, the courage He installs, the dilemmas He reconciles, the despair He overcomes, the symbols of grace He gifts, the revelations He vouchsafes and the doubts He resolves - is not recorded to be retold. Some idea of what those whom Baba selects, earn during an interview, can be gained from the following account received from a participant.
What Does Happen"There were seven others in the batch which Baba called into the room that morning. A doctor from Bombay, a lady from Sri Lanka, an American couple from Los Angeles, two American scientists from the Psychic Research Society in New York, and a gentleman from Hong Kong. A remarkable assortment indeed, and a good sample of the variety in the eager rows of visitors sitting before the mandir awaiting this stroke of luck. There was an ornate chair in the room, but Baba sat on the floor, with us sitting around Him. As He sat down He created vibhuti, and gave us each a share, He called on me to translate His Hindi into English, though my Hindi was poor and His English was unexceptionable. It was a unique experience for me and I was genuinely happy at getting the chance. Perhaps that was the reason why He asked me to do so. Baba made us feel quite at ease, as if we had gathered before our family hearth. He appeared extremely youthful and handsome, cheerful and buoyant - the very embodiment of graceful charm."
"He suddenly turned towards the American couple and asked them if that day was not the 33rd anniversary of their wedding. They were stunned. It took a few seconds for them to say yes. He then created a ring with His portrait embossed on it, and placing it on the trembling palm of the lady, He asked her to put it on her husband's finger. He waved His hand yet again: a gold chain, with a golden lotus suspended from it, emerged. He directed the gentleman to put the chain around the neck of his wife. Their joy knew no bounds; they had never dreamt that Baba would remind them of the significance of that day. How could He, when they themselves had forgotten it in His presence. And Baba had now celebrated it with such unforgettable grandeur!"
"Baba asked the scientists, 'What is your explanation for the materialisation?' They sat silent. 'The laws of physics,' Baba said, 'do not allow something to be created out of nothing. But they do not hold good as far as I am concerned.' They asked, 'How is that?' Baba said that science was limited to the world that could be perceived, that was manifest. But the spiritual eye can see matter where even the most powerful microscope can find none. 'I need no X-rays or chemical graphs to diagnose a disease. You, too, can develop such spiritual insight. I am here to reveal to man this possibility and to lead him to new vistas of peace and potence,' Baba said."
Why Bring to Life?"The scientists asked Baba whether He had gone out of His body to rescue a man who was drowning in a well at Kuppam village, as was reported by Murphet. Baba said, 'I did save the man, Radhakrishna, from drowning; but I did not go from here to there to do that. I was there already. I am everywhere at all times. I need not go or come back.' "
"They asked Baba, 'On what basis do you bestow grace upon people?' Baba replied, 'I bestow grace when a person has fully surrendered to Me and when the situation so demands. At Madras, Walter had three attacks of heart failure, full and fatal, but I saved his life all the three times, for that was needed. I also brought Radhakrishna back to life for just ten days, because I deemed it necessary. You ask Me about death and the extension of life; but I say that you are neither born, nor can you die.' "
" 'Can you grant grace to a country as a whole?' asked an American. 'I can,' said Baba, 'if I desire. I have granted these two scientists special grace, giving them many chances to watch Me and listen to Me, for they are interested and have the capacity to help humanity by the knowledge gained from these experiences.' Just then, one of the scientists observed that the stone on a ring materialised earlier by Baba, was missing. All of us started looking for it; but Baba indicated, with a smile, that He had dematerialised it."
"Then Baba rose and gave short personal interviews to each of us. Within minutes, all my doubts and uncertainties had been resolved. He injected into my life a new sense of purpose. As I stood speechless before Him, He reassured me, holding my hands in His, saying, 'Do not worry. I will take care of you. I am always with you, beside you, in your very heart.' "
"A few days later Baba called the two scientists, two new couples from America, a British citizen and myself into the interview room. He enquired about the missing gemstone. Then He took the ring back from the scientist and, holding it before His mouth, gently blew upon it three times. The missing stone reappeared, firm and beautiful. 'It is Sankalpa, the Will, that does it' Baba explained."
"Baba then spoke of the need for the cultivation of compassion and humility, self-control and a virtuous character, among scientists. He spoke of the atom bomb and other destructive weapons, and described the holocaust wrought by such weapons. As He began speaking, 'Seven thousand years ago, on the historic battlefield of Kurukshetra..' an American intervened with the question, 'How does Baba know of events that took place seven thousand years ago? From books, or through other means?' Baba smiled, 'I know what happened seventy thousand years ago! I can go forward and backward in time, and learn of anything I wish. Time and space can impose no limitation on Me.' "
"Someone questioned Baba about the halo that Hislop had written He saw around Baba's head. 'Thousands have seen the halo,' Baba said. 'You must be both, near Me and dear to Me, to be able to see it,' He added."
"This question led to many others, and Baba answered them all in a short talk He gave us: 'You are surprised that I can be in two bodies at the same time, or in a thousand different places. When I give you a ring or any other object materialised by Me, it instantly informs Me whenever you are in imminent danger. I can reach you immediately and render all necessary help. However, even if you have only genuine love and devotion for Me, My response will still be immediate. I respond to every sincere prayer, no matter what form or name of God you may adore and worship.' "
"Once, in this very room, Indra Devi of Tecate (Mexico) was sitting with others, listening to Me. She had an American gentleman, whose wife was in the States, sitting here. I knew that her car had met with serious accident while she was in it. Even while engaged in conversation with them, I saved her and gave all necessary assistance. Here, I told her husband not to worry, and to go home as planned."
" 'Now science and technology have advanced tremendously, but man has no peace of mind. Tranquillisers and sleeping pills have become a must for everyone. A simple and regulated life which includes natural foods and plenty of physical exercise, is the best remedy for the complicated diseases that haunt man in all lands. I do a lot of work as you must have seen, and take a small quantity of simple food. I do not take milk, curds, butter or fruit-juice. This body will continue to be in good health until its ninety-fourth year. I must admit that, occasionally, I take upon Myself the ailments of My devotees, but these only pass through My body without having any effect on Me.' "
Helping Thousands"Someone asked how many hours Baba slept at night. 'I do not sleep at all,' He replied. To a question about gesticulating with His hands, Baba said, 'During bhajans, when I am seated, you find Me gesticulating with my hands or fingers. Sometimes it appears as if I am writing in the air. People are curious to know why. At such times I am communicating with people you cannot see. I am engaged in tasks that you cannot understand. I write replies to questions asked by someone far away, and help thousands of people in every part of the world.' "
"Then He called us into the antechamber, one by one, and spent some time with each, healing and heartening, comforting and correcting. I secured a second chance to touch His feet and to draw strength and spiritual sustenance from another assurance of His ever-present grace."
"An American asked, 'When will I have another chance?' Baba smiled and, patting him on his back, replied, 'Today, a group of villagers has come. I give Myself first to the needy and the poor. Most of the people who come here have no money to spend for a long stay, I'll give you another chance when I am free.' "
" 'The material is only a baser state of the spiritual, of the divine. It is the fulfilment of God's Will, the measure of His power. Creation can take place only when the power of the spirit is channelled properly. Sai Baba is bringing this truth into our awareness today,' said the octogenarian, Dr. Sigfried Knauer, MD, of Mexico. Speaking about the interview he was granted, he told an audience at San Diego, 'He called me in. After some minutes of talk, which I will keep to myself, Baba asked me to cup my hands, and he slowly dropped one by one, thirty-three tiny amber-colored pills. (Thirty-three vertebrae, He explained.) The pills had formed in His palm, one after another.' "
"At Bombay, before my departure from India, Baba called me into one of the rooms at Dharmakshetra, where He was alone. He circled His hands a few times, and turning His palm up, He showed me how a liquid was slowly filling one hand. 'Oil,' He said. It had an exquisite fragrance. Then He rubbed both palms to spread the oil evenly on them, and He gave me treatment with the oil. In gratitude, I wanted to touch His feet, but He did not let me do so."
No Reaching"By what path can we reach You soonest?" once asked a doyen of Hindu metaphysics. Baba replied, "I am too near to you to prescribe a path for you. You cannot reach Me. If you need Me, I am yours." W.G. Steve, an architect from Honolulu, narrates, "The little interview room was crowded, and Baba launched into a spiritual discourse, with specific comments directed towards some but seemingly applicable to all. Then came the individual session during which He quickly cut into the secret depths of our being - our problems of health, previous meetings when He had contacted Irene in a dream (!) and, would you believe, the details of that dream, difficulties we encountered in our individual efforts in sadhana, the personal desires of each of us, and our own internal turmoils. Vibhuti was also manifested. All this was quickly, naturally and spontaneously delivered and conferred with love and understanding, which rendered new meaning to old words. Here was a confidante, guide, doctor, friend, father, mother and god beside us both, as One."
How is this supremacy of the spirit attained? When Baba says that we, too can attain it, what does He really mean? Dat Pethe sheds light on this:"Whenever a meeting of two individuals takes place, it is really two separate psychological setups that meet, each set-up confronting the other with a complex of innumerable experiences, stored memories, sentimental attachments, bias towards various matters and situations, and countless idiosyncrasies. These form the background and the source from which the words used in conversation by the two individuals originate. But when Baba is talking to somebody, one is struck by the discovery that on His side there is no such set-up at all. And He gives us the power to get over the handicap of our own confused and disorganised set-up."
Once, to an earnest aspirant clamouring for an interview, Baba said,"I am giving you interviews every day (through the inner voice). It is you who always avoid granting Me an interview, an enter-in-view, from viewing you as Me, in Me."
When we realise the truth in Baba's declaration, "I am in you and you are in Me; we are really One," the so-called 'interviews' with Him become superfluous. Jerry Bas writes,"A fellow pilgrim from the United States, when about to return home, prayed to Baba for an interview. Baba stood before him for a few seconds and said, "Be great! Be great! In reality, you are great!... Interview? Interview is small; it makes you separate." That reply is worth pondering over in silence for some time.
Dabbling and Diving
The Cosmic Visitor
Jonathan Swift wrote in his characteristic, caustic style, "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign - that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Vilification is the tribute that envy offers to mystery. Ignorance breeds either humility or obstinacy; it seldom blossoms into inquiry and illumination, for it cannot recognise itself. It clothes itself in pride and revels in the petty practice of slander.
Dr. Gokak [see also: Cities Aflame, for a song by Dr. Gokak and Facets of Truth] describes Baba as the 'Cosmic Visitor'. Baba Himself announced in His twenty-first year,"No one can comprehend My glory, whoever he may be, whatever his method of inquiry, and however sustained his attempt."
No wonder He attracted a campaign of vilification when He was just fourteen years of age. His father threatened to beat the alleged 'megalomania' out of His head. Brandishing a heavy stick [see: Serpent Hill], he accosted Him saying, "Are you God or a fraud?" when Baba replied, 'I am Sai Baba come again; worship Me,' the stick dropped from His father's hand. Miracles soon convinced him that it is best to leave his Son alone. Baba's elder brother drew His attention to the barbs of pettiness and prejudice aimed through rumor and scandal at the dazzling, new phenomenon Who had arisen from a 'hamlet between the hills'. Baba wrote to him,"These people have to be pitied rather than condemned. They do not know. They have no patience to judge aright. They are too full of lust, anger and conceit to see clearly and know fully, so they make all types of allegations. If only they knew, they would not talk or write like that... People are endowed with a variety of characteristics and mental attitudes, and each judges the other according to his own level of perception, debates and defends his point of view in accordance with his particular degree of enlightenment." [See: Resume - 1926 -1961]
Slanderers prowl around those who stand above the common level. Peggy Mason, editor of Two Worlds, writes, "A great light arouses detractors. Jesus was scorned as a wine bibber and a consort of publicans and sinners, who had received his healing powers through the good offices of Belzebub." Baba, too, was scorned while yet a boy of fourteen, as being possessed by a spirit. His brother and parents subjected Him to a painful process of exorcism [See: Serpent Hill]. The villagers of Puttaparthi spread the story that the boy was possessed by some local sprite which, through their efforts in that direction, would soon set him free. Baba says that detractors only help in separating the chaff from the grain, and even this by itself is sufficient reason to welcome them.
Baba is an open book. There is nothing exotic or esoteric about Him, nor is there any trace of abracadabra in His teachings; His ministration has no mysterious ceremonial or initiatory rite; He is ever intent on giving and forgiving; He never accepts for Himself any gift or offering or present; if you need Him, He says, you certainly deserve Him; He is by your side when you call, no matter where you may be; and love is the only currency He deals in.
Invokes a Sense of Unity
Therefore, institutions trying to propagate and promote special cults, purveyors of dubious remedies and agents of 'exclusive' roads to the Abode of God, naturally try to keep their own flocks intact by means of slander. Baba declares before hundreds of thousands of people, belonging to every caste, creed and religion, and assembled from every part of the globe,
"There is only one caste - the caste of Humanity;
there is only one religion - the religion of Love;
there is only one language - the language of the Heart;
there is only one God, and He is omnipresent."
This message demolishes the walls laboriously built and vigilantly preserved by petty, separative minds, who readily take refuge in slander and vilification as their first line of defence against this Cosmic Visitor.
Blatantly yellow journals felt encouraged to turn their slander towards the divine phenomenon by forces that could not, however, disturb it in any way. They spun spicy tales which they hoped would distort and damage its image and fetch them quick returns. Periodicals that were restrained were prompted into this nefarious adventure by those having vested interests. But Baba, being the embodiment of Love, has only love to offer in return for such presents. He says,"In every age, in every land, these unfortunate people drudge for their daily bread. I stand between the heap of praise and the heap of blame, blessing both. You recite My name in your homes; they shout My name along the lanes and by-lanes, and all over the marketplace. Why do you begrudge the few paise they earn by selling their stuff to provide their children a little food?"
Baba, in His infinite compassion, advises, "Pity them, they do not know... Pity them, for they cannot know." When I proposed to publish the first part of His biography, 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram', in 1954, after a six-year stay in His presence, He at once demurred, saying,"Readers will not accept the book as authentic, since they do not and cannot know My truth. They will treat it like a fairy tale, as they do the Arabian Nights. Wait, I have still to make the world eager and ready for that book. Now, people will doubt your sanity; later, they will blame you for underestimating Me."
And exactly this happened. The book was released in 1960. On 8th February 1962, I received a letter from Swami Abhedananda, for long a resident of the ashram of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Thiruvannamalai, who had recently met Baba: "In my humble opinion, an avatar is only a particle of the supreme Brahman, descending on the earth simply to moderate the ups and downs of humanity, and to alleviate their imaginary woes." He then went on to charge me with the sacrilege of underestimating Sai Baba, saying, "He seems to me to be the perfect, Poorna [purna: complete, full] Brahman, personified to end the unsettled state of the world, to rectify human defects and to bring man to realize his own true nature and its bliss."
Another group of people who cannot be happy with a divine phenomenon in their hemisphere, are the 'rationalists'. They are allergic to the very idea of God. And here is Baba declaring that He is God, and that every one is God, including those who deny God. Such people adore only their ego or their ism. They called a halt to their logic somewhere about the forties of the present century, before Eddington, Jeans, Freud, Jung and Einstein highlighted the limitations of science. Science has now humbled itself before the inscrutability of the cosmos. "The universe is a thought of God," says Jeans. The cell and the atom, matter and energy, are dealing surprise after surprise on syllogisms and systems laboriously built by hoary pundits of science. The once-respected faculty called 'intellect', has been discarded as a superstition by front-line thinkers in biology, psychology and physics.
As Paul Brunton writes, "If any one considers all the evidence of intention and, failing to believe that a higher power directs all, comes only to atheism; it is because the mind which such a person considers as evidence, is already closed by bias or ill-balanced by emotion, upset by suffering or too distracted by the five senses, or is faulty in yet some other way." Atheism is kept alive by the tendency to rebel against adult beliefs; it is a sign of juvenile stubbornness. Some propagate this cult because they have no courage to accept a stance considered out of date, while others behave in that manner for, being unhappy themselves, they desire to undermine whatever happiness is available to others.
A group of so-called rationalists once initiated a project with great fanfare, to 'investigate' Baba by means of certain tests which they announced in various periodicals. "We shall ask Baba to take off his gown. What about his hair - it may be fake; some say it is, so we shall have to find out. Perhaps we would have to use metal detectors to check if he is concealing some things on him," they announced.
"Grotesquely ridiculous and grossly insulting," exclaims R.K. Karanjia, editor of Blitz, who had himself in the past openly questioned and criticized Sathya Sai Baba. The faithful followers of the 'investigators' thereupon vilified Karanjia as having been bribed, bought out, hypnotized, converted, or otherwise influenced by Baba!
The sallies which such persons indulge in, remind us of the adventures of Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza. It is now well-established that what we call 'reason' is only a state of mind, and it is perverted and polluted by unreasonable likes and dislikes. It can be distorted by propaganda. It is so riddled by self-love that one sees things only as one wishes to perceive them. Child experiences, too, create bias towards persons, principles and procedures. But more than all other defects, our reason suffers from a tendency to rationalize prejudices, in order to salve the conscience and shield the ego from guilt.
"Take off the gown... pull at the hair... pass a metal detector over the body!" No wonder the Sancho Panzas were laughed off the stage. Many were aware of Dr. Osis' remark that "in the scientific community, as in every establishment, there is inertia, conservatism and hostility towards anything radically new." But no one could have expected such a caricature to emerge from this community.
Baba says,"How can science, which is bound by physical laws, investigate transcendental phenomena, for these lie far beyond its scope and comprehension... I have repeatedly declared that those who want to understand Me are welcome here. It is the spirit of investigation that is important. Foreign para-psychologists have come here and examined Me in a positive and constructive spirit. They do not write slanderous letters or make public demands. But the very approach of these people (the 'investigators') was wrong. That is why I refused them. I want people to come, see, hear, observe and experience Me. Only then will they understand and appreciate the Avatar."
Diving into Sai
Dr. Karlis Osis, a director of research from the prestigious American Society for Psychical Research, and his friend and fellow-worker, Dr. E. Haroldson, visited India three times, met many people who had a long association with Baba, journeyed thousands of miles on fact-finding assignments, and stayed at Prasanthi Nilayam for months together - seeing, hearing, studying, observing and experiencing. Dr. Osis writes, "The abundance of the phenomena encountered and the magnitude of the miraculous effect, were a complete surprise to seasoned para-psychologists like us... I have been an active searcher for twenty-five years and have travelled widely, but nowhere have I found phenomena which point as clearly and forcibly to spiritual reality as the daily miracles of Baba."
Baba says,"Those who wish to secure pearls must dive deep to get them. It is useless to dabble in shallow waters and claim that the sea holds no treasures."
Dr. Sandweiss journeyed to Prasanthi Nilayam and 'dived' with the intention to prove its barrenness, but to his own amazement, his efforts yielded pearls aplenty. His apprehensions about mass hypnotism, group hysteria and uncanny influences, were quickly laid low. Before he started on his voyage of investigation, he had written, "The opportunity of observing such events at first hand and of investigating their psychological mechanisms myself was very appealing. I felt that observing Baba in person would give me an idea of what might have taken place at the time of Christ to propagate those incredible stories." He has since written the now well-known book, 'Sai Baba', on the last page of which he has described the 'pearl' he secured, thus:
"It has been my good fortune to draw close to Him at a time when it is still possible to become friendly with him on a personal level, and see the clear signs of His greatness in a close and intimate way. Yet I feel that soon Baba will become but an orange speck on the horizon, surrounded by millions of eager faces. And like the people in His village who were once blessed to know the sweetness of His being from daily personal contact with Him, I, too, will one day be saddened by having to view Him only from a distance."
Karanjia, too, on the suggestion of both, Baba's devotees and adversaries, finally decided like Sandweiss to 'dive'. He now recalls,
"I myself went to Puttaparthi to put all available criticisms straight to Baba, and to obtain His answer... The encounter was fantastic, almost shattering... Sathya Sai Baba revealed Himself as a scientist of consciousness, showing mankind the way to realize the indwelling God through love, devotion, detachment and selflessness, to evolve to a higher level of enlightenment.
"The false dichotomies created by Western thought between man and God, Purusha and Purushottama, simply do not exist in the Hindu scriptures, which propagate the mergence of God in man and man in God as the basis of religion. Baba personifies this philosophy... Baba's holy mission leads us deep into the spiritual significance of the Cosmic Drama. It aims to first unmake the materialistic, ego-bound man, and then to remake him in the image and likeness of God."
Karanjia goes on to quote the English version of a Telugu poem, which Baba once sang as a prologue to one of His discourses:
'I am the Dance Master;
I am Nataraja, the Lord of Dance.
You are all my pupils.
I, alone, know the agony
Of teaching you, each step of the Dance'.
Ruminating over the cosmic dimensions of the agony that this poem tries to express, Karanjia writes, "To one who carries the burden as well as the glory of human agony, campaigns of calumny indulged in by a few misled people can hardly touch him." And as simply and naturally as Christ's plea from the cross, for forgiveness for those 'who know not what they do,' Baba blesses the calumniators.
To those who are troubled by His assertion that man is Divine, the question asked is, "As God is omnipresent, can He not be found in man?" To those who feel hurt by His treating the rich as lovingly as the poor, the reply is,"They bring to Me their troubled hearts and sick minds. I cure them by asking them to divert their wealth and power to spiritual ends like Seva."
Those who will have Him 'perform' a miracle which suits their taste, must first understand that He is no 'performer'. What we call a 'miracle' is, in fact, only a concretization of His love. Baba also explains,"Articles that can be worn by devotees are given by Me, so that by wearing them the recipient can keep contact with Me throughout his life."
Most questions and doubts arise only from cleverness. The reason is used, as Aldous Huxley says, "to create internal and external conditions favorable to its own transfiguration by and into the spirit." Huxley goes on to assert that, "cleverness has given us technology and power. Therefore, we believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that we have only to go on being cleverer in a yet more clamorous way, to achieve social order, international peace and personal happiness."
In accordance with Bhagavân's constant advice, let us now resolve to understand ourselves by transfiguring reason into spirit, rather than disfiguring it into cleverness. Let us determine to resolve our own mystery. Only then, says Baba, can we hope to understand Him, to understand that we are a part of Him. Then the truth, 'My Me is God', will shine. Let little minds dabble; we shall dive.
"O God! How does it happen?
in this poor old world
That Thou art so great,
Yet nobody finds Thee;
That Thou art so near,
yet nobody feels Thee;
Thou givest Thyself to everybody,
yet nobody knows Thy Name.
Men flee from Thee and say
they cannot find Thee;
They turn their backs and say
they cannot see Thee;
They stuff their ears and say
they cannot hear Thee."
Thus lamented Hans Denk, as have also countless other human beings. God heard the cry. He pitied this poor world, and willed to rescue us. He incarnated as Sathya Sai.
Sai has come as small as man, so we can find Him amidst us.
Sai has come as near and dear, so we can feel Him close.
Sai gives Himself to everybody, yet no one knows His name (All names are His!).
Sai is everywhere, so as to whichever direction we flee, we find Him there.
Sai is behind us, beside us, before us, so we can never turn our backs on Him.
Sai ever resides within our hearts, so with ears stuffed we still hear His voice.
Humans need not lament their weakness any more. Sai, the Avatar of Divine Love, is here. Let us rejoice and listen to His voice. The poor, old world of today will be the happy new world of tomorrow.
Jai Bolo Bhagavân Srî Sathya Sai Baba - Ji Ki -
Glory to Thee, Beloved Lord Sathya Sai Baba -
Glory to Thee!!!
Glossary - List Sanskrit Words
Aaram: relaxation; rest.
Abhyasa: practice; discipline.
Amrit(h)a: immortal; divine nectar.
Ananda: joy; bliss; eternal bliss or peace.
Angavastram: a cloth, usually brocaded, slung over the shoulder.
Arati: to offer a camphor flame before one's guru or deity.
Artha: wealth; purpose.
Ashram: a meeting place or residence for spiritual aspirants.
Ayurveda: a traditional Indian system of medicine.
Bhadram: careful; secure; happy; full of joy and confidence.
Bhajan: devotional song or hymn.
Bhakti: devotion; self-surrender.
Bhakti yoga: path of devotion.
Bilva: a sacred tree, associated with Lord Siva.
Brahman: the Absolute; the Creator.
Brahmajnani: one who has known Brahman.
Chamatkara: inexplicable, miraculous act.
Charanamrit: water sanctified by washing the feet of one's guru or deity.
Daivic: of or like a god; godly.
Darsan: the act, by a saint or a revered person, of giving an audience to devotees.
Deha: the body.
Dharana: inward concentration; the negation of all activity.
Dharma: duty; nature; a code of ethics.
Dhoti: loin cloth.
Dhyana: meditation; contemplation.
Dosa: a South Indian dish.
Ghats: slopes; mountain range.
Homa: rituals that involve making offerings in the fire alongside a recitation of hymns.
Idlies: a South Indian dish
Iswara: the Lord.
Janata: the people.
Japa: prayer; meditation; contemplation on the Divinity.
Jaya: glory; victory, success.
Jhoota: false; fake.
Jnana: knowledge; wisdom; knowledge of the Attributeless.
Jnana yajna: a fire ritual performed in search of knowledge.
Kaliyuga: the last of the four 'ages' as described in the Puranas.
Kalyana: well-being; prosperity; success; freedom.
Kalyana mantap: a structure raised for the purpose of an auspicious occasion or event.
Kama: fulfilling the legitimate pleasures of life.
Karma: action; deed.
Koham: who am I.
Kshetra: field; region; place.
Kumkum: vermillion powder, considered auspicious.
Laddu: an Indian sweetmeat.
Leela: miracle; divine sport.
Lingam: an oval-shaped symbol of the Absolute.
Mahima: an expression, a manifestation of divine glory.
Mala: rosary; garland
Mangala: auspicious; propitious.
Mangala sutra: auspicious thread, worn by married women.
Mantap: a commemorative structure.
Mantra: a word or group of words having power to illumine the mind.
Matha: a cult; a school of thought.
Maya: illusion; ignorance; erroneous perception; the perceptible world.
Moksha: liberation; freedom from all bondage.
Nagarsankirtan: an early morning chorus of street singers, usually the residents of that area.
Namaskara: an Indian way of paying obeisance, by joining one's hands and lowering one's head.
Namaste: see namaskara.
Namavali: a lyrical string of names expressing divine attributes or the nature of the Divinity.
Nishkama: selfless; without desire.
Nityavadhan: constant vigilance.
Nirguna: attributeless; the Absolute.
Nirvikalpa: the ultimate stage of mergence with the Divinity.
Niyama: self control.
Om: an Upanishadic symbol which unfolds the Absolute.
Pandal: an outdoor seating arrangement.
Parabhakti: absolute devotion; complete self-surrender.
Paramatman: the Universal Atman; the Absolute.
Peetha: base; a place.
Parinirvana: total liberation from all bondage.
Paropkara: service (rendered to others).
Poorna: full; whole; complete
Pranamaya: the vital sheath.
Pranayam: to discipline, have control over one's breath.
Prasad: anything received with devotion to god.
Prasanthi: perfect peace or bliss.
Pravesh: entry; advent.
Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses (sense-urges).
Prema: love; devotion.
Purusha: an individual consciousness.
Purushottama: the Universal Consciousness.
Rudra-adhyaya: a section in the Vedas dealing with the hymns of Rudra (Siva).
Sadhaka: spiritual aspirants; students or seekers of spiritual knowledge.
Sadhana: prayer; spiritual values; spiritual discipline.
Saguna: having specifically definable attributes.
Sakhya: friendship; companionship.
Samadhi: tomb; absorption in the Absolute.
Sambhasan: dialogue; discussion; speech.
Samsayatman: a person (an atman) afflicted with doubts.
Samsara: a life of limited existence, of joys and sorrows; the world.
Sanathana: timeless, eternal.
Sanathana Dharma: a way of life followed to discover the Absolute; another name for Hinduism.
Sankirtan: singing aloud the praises of God.
Santhi: peace; inner peace.
Sanyas: (a life of) renunciation or ascetic.
Sanyasin: a male or female renunciate or ascetic.
Sakthi: power; power of creation.
Sath(yam): truth (absolute)
Savikalpa: the penultimate stage of mergence with the Divinity.
Seva: service, usually that rendered to others.
Siva(m): auspiciousness; goodness (absolute)
Sivoham: I am the Absolute.
Soham: I am That.
Siddhi: ascetically acquired power.
Sundara(m): beauty (absolute)
Swaroopa: embodiment; essential nature.
Swa-swaroopa: one's own truth or reality.
Tantra: mystical techniques followed in worship in order to accomplish a material objective.
Tapas: spiritual discipline.
Trisul: trident (usually referred to the one wielded by Lord Siva)
Tulsi: basil leaf.
Udasina: a posture of complete relaxation and detachment.
Upadesh: teachings; the imparting of spiritual knowledge.
Upasana: contemplation upon a limited form of the Absolute.
Vairagya: detachment; dispassion.
Vibhuti: sacred ash; a manifestation of divine glory.
Vichakshana: analytical; discriminating.
Vidya peeth: a place where knowledge is imparted.
Yajna: a fire ritual.
Yama: self-control; having mastery over the senses.
Yatra: journey; trip
Yogasana: any posture prescribed in yoga.
Reference to "The All, in All"
Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna
By G.V. SubbaRao
From Sanathana Sarathi, December 1997
For many years since 1962, Bhagavan Baba has been conducting a Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna (a ritual) for seven days during Dasara for the promotion of the material and spiritual well-being of mankind. After a break of about three years, the performance of this rite (yajna) was resumed in October this year (1997) in the Puurnachandra Auditorium.
The ritual (yajna) is the means for securing awareness of the Divine. It is governed by mantras, sacrifice and divinity. Hence by performing the ritual for seven days, one secures the two-fold well-being (shreyas) and the awareness of the Divine (jnaana). It may be asked why the ritual should be performed for seven days. The number seven has a special esoteric significance in relation to creation. For instance, there are said to be seven worlds (saptha lokas), seven sages, seven seas, seven sacred mountains, seven musical notations (svaras), seven colors of the Sun's ray, and so on. If these are worshipped as symbols of the Divine, awareness of the Divine arises. By the performance of the ritual for seven days according to Vedhic injunctions, man can acquire the ability to get rid of the seven veils of ignorance, ascend the seven stages of spiritual knowledge and achieve liberation (moksha).
Before the commencement of the ritual (yajna), the Vedhic pandiths take the prescribed vow to perform the ritual after chanting the mantras for sanctifying the place of ritual.
All the Vedhic pandiths who taking part in the ritual, wearing sacred orange robes, arrive in a procession from the temple (mandir) to the Puurnachandra Auditorium to the accompaniment of auspicious nadasvaram music and the chanting of Vedhic hymns by students.
The ritual begins with the lighting of the sacred sacrificial fire. The fire is started by the rapid rubbing of two sacred wooden sticks by the priests. The sacrificial fire starts burning by the natural emergence of fire in the latent sticks, symbolic of the latent presence of the Divine in every object in creation. Bhagavan has often declared that if one turns the vision inward he would be able to experience the light Divine effulgent in one's heart.
In this ritual (yajna), seven principal deities are worshipped. Ganesha, Surya (the Sun God), Devi (The Divine Mother), Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Agni Shakthi. Vedhic chants are recited to adore the four-faced Brahma who is the propagator of Vedhas. The Fire God (Agni), the transmitter of devotional fire offerings to the deities (dhevas), is also propitiated by the offerings to the sacrificial fire. Altogether, seven divine potencies are worshipped. Bhagavan has declared that all these potencies are in man.
Before worship is done to any particular deity, the help of Vighnesvara (Ganesha, Ganapathi) is invoked for the prevention of any obstacles to the worship. Ganapathi is worshipped as primary deity who is the embodiment of the sacred mantra "Om" (Pranava). He is the bestower of knowledge and powers of various kinds.
The worship of the Sun-God is an important part of this ritual. The priest engaged in this Sun-worship repeats the sacred mantras relating to the Sun while offering prostrations (Surya-namaskar) to the Sun-God. The Sun is the bestower of health and is the Lord of all planets in the solar system. The worship is offered not to the physical sun but to the presiding deity, Suryanarayana.
Another important feature of the ritual (yajna) is the worship of Devi. She is Paramesvari, Chithsvarupini, and Maayasvarupini. She represents Nature, the Mother of the Universe, and is the supreme embodiment of Love. She represents seven material forms of the Divine. In the ritual, Devi is worshipped by the recitation of Lalitha Sahasranama and the reading of the Devi Bhagavatham.
Vishnu is worshipped in this ritual by the recitation of Bhagavatham and Purusha Shukta. Vishnu is hailed as the all-pervading Lord of the Cosmos in the Purusha Shukta. The Sage Shuka told King Parikshith that by listening to the glories of Vishnu in the seven days given to him before his end, he could attain salvation.
The reading of Vaalmeeki's Raamaayana is another significant item in this ritual. The regular reading of the Raamaayana has great value for the spiritual aspirant. In this context, Swami has often stressed the special importance of Sundarakanda, in which Vaalmeeki extols the exploits of Hanuman, the Supreme devotee of Raama.
The most important aspect of this ritual (yajna) is the worship of Shiva. This worship is done by the worship (puuja) offered to one thousand lingas of Shiva and by the offerings to Shiva in the sacrificial fire on all the seven days of the ritual with the chanting of "Rudram". On the final day of the ritual, Bhagavan materializes various precious objects and offers them to the sacrificial fire. Bhagavan has declared that what everyone should offer in the sacrificial fire are his bad qualities. Swami has explained that the sacred smoke rising from the sacrificial fire, fully charged with the power of the sacred Vedhic mantras, enters the clouds and purifies the rain tailing from them. The smoke of the sacrificial fire thus purifies the pollution in the atmosphere and on earth.
Brahma as Creator is propitiated in this ritual by the chanting of the Vedhas by the priests (rithviks). The Vedhas are eternal and are the basis for all dharma. Bharath (India) is esteemed as the soul of the Vedhas and the land that gave the Vedhas to the world. Bhagavan has proclaimed the glory of the Vedhas in many of His discourses.
Pandiths who have mastered the Rik and Yajur Vedhas had a prominent part in the ritual. Bhagavan has often emphasized the purifying and sacrificial power of the Vedhic mantras.
Bhagavan's discourses during the seven days of the ritual (yajna) are veritable spiritual feasts for the devotees. Bhagavan explains in the simplest language profoundest Vedhaantik Truths so that everyone understands the message of the nondualisitic (a-dhvaithk) doctrine and the oneness of the individual self and the Supreme Self. This, indeed, is the real purpose of the "Spiritual wisdom ritual (Jnana Yajna)".
Baba generously honors all the priests (rithviks) and others participating in the ritual with gifts of clothes and other things. This year's Vedha Purusha Yajna has become one of the most memorable in the annals of Prasanthi Nilayam.
Reference to "Love on the March"
Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna
by G.V. SubbaRao
From Sanathana Sarathi, December 1997
For many years since 1962, Bhagavan Baba has been conducting a Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna (a ritual) for seven days during Dasara for the promotion of the material and spiritual well-being of mankind. After a break of about three years, the performance of this rite (yajna) was resumed in October this year (1997) in the Purnachandra Auditorium.
The ritual (yajna) is the means for securing awareness of the Divine. It is governed by mantras, sacrifice and divinity. Hence by performing the ritual for seven days, one secures the two-fold well-being (shreyas) and the awareness of the Divine (jnana). It may be asked why the ritual should be performed for seven days. The number seven has a special esoteric significance in relation to creation. For instance, there are said to be seven worlds (saptha lokas), seven sages, seven seas, seven sacred mountains, seven musical notations (svaras), seven colors of the Sun's ray, and so on. If these are worshipped as symbols of the Divine, awareness of the Divine arises. By the performance of the ritual for seven days according to Vedhic injunctions, man can acquire the ability to get rid of the seven veils of ignorance, ascend the seven stages of spiritual knowledge and achieve liberation (moksha).
Before the commencement of the ritual (yajna), the Vedhic pandiths take the prescribed vow to perform the ritual after chanting the mantras for sanctifying the place of ritual.
All the Vedhic pandiths who taking part in the ritual, wearing sacred orange robes, arrive in a procession from the temple (mandir) to the Purnachandra Auditorium to the accompaniment of auspicious nadasvaram music and the chanting of Vedhic hymns by students.
The ritual begins with the lighting of the sacred sacrificial fire. The fire is started by the rapid rubbing of two sacred wooden sticks by the priests. The sacrificial fire starts burning by the natural emergence of fire in the latent sticks, symbolic of the latent presence of the Divine in every object in creation. Bhagavan has often declared that if one turns the vision inward he would be able to experience the light Divine effulgent in one's heart.
In this ritual (yajna), seven principal deities are worshipped. Ganesha, Surya (the Sun God), Devi (The Divine Mother), Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Agni Shakthi. Vedhic chants are recited to adore the four-faced Brahma who is the propagator of Vedhas. The Fire God (Agni), the transmitter of devotional fire offerings to the deities (dhevas), is also propitiated by the offerings to the sacrificial fire. Altogether, seven divine potencies are worshipped. Bhagavan has declared that all these potencies are in man.
Before worship is done to any particular deity, the help of Vighnesvara (Ganesha, Ganapathi) is invoked for the prevention of any obstacles to the worship. Ganapathi is worshipped as primary deity who is the embodiment of the sacred mantra "Om" (Pranava). He is the bestower of knowledge and powers of various kinds.
The worship of the Sun-God is an important part of this ritual. The priest engaged in this Sun-worship repeats the sacred mantras relating to the Sun while offering prostrations (Surya-namaskar) to the Sun-God. The Sun is the bestower of health and is the Lord of all planets in the solar system. The worship is offered not to the physical sun but to the presiding deity, Suryanarayana.
Another important feature of the ritual (yajna) is the worship of Devi. She is Paramesvari, Chithsvarupini, and Mayasvarupini. She represents Nature, the Mother of the Universe, and is the supreme embodiment of Love. She represents seven material forms of the Divine. In the ritual, Devi is worshipped by the recitation of Lalitha Sahasranama and the reading of the Devi Bhagavatham.
Vishnu is worshipped in this ritual by the recitation of Bhagavatham and Purusha Shukta. Vishnu is hailed as the all-pervading Lord of the Cosmos in the Purusha Shukta. The Sage Shuka told King Parikshith that by listening to the glories of Vishnu in the seven days given to him before his end, he could attain salvation.
The reading of Valmiki's Ramayana is another significant item in this ritual. The regular reading of the Ramayana has great value for the spiritual aspirant. In this context, Swami has often stressed the special importance of Sundarakanda, in which Valmiki extols the exploits of Hanuman, the Supreme devotee of Rama.
The most important aspect of this ritual (yajna) is the worship of Shiva. This worship is done by the worship (puja) offered to one thousand lingas of Shiva and by the offerings to Shiva in the sacrificial fire on all the seven days of the ritual with the chanting of "Rudram". On the final day of the ritual, Bhagavan materializes various precious objects and offers them to the sacrificial fire. Bhagavan has declared that what everyone should offer in the sacrificial fire are his bad qualities. Swami has explained that the sacred smoke rising from the sacrificial fire, fully charged with the power of the sacred Vedhic mantras, enters the clouds and purifies the rain tailing from them. The smoke of the sacrificial fire thus purifies the pollution in the atmosphere and on earth.
Brahma as Creator is propitiated in this ritual by the chanting of the Vedhas by the priests (rithviks). The Vedhas are eternal and are the basis for all dharma. Bharath (India) is esteemed as the soul of the Vedhas and the land that gave the Vedhas to the world. Bhagavan has proclaimed the glory of the Vedhas in many of His discourses.
Pandiths who have mastered the Rik and Yajur Vedhas had a prominent part in the ritual. Bhagavan has often emphasized the purifying and sacrificial power of the Vedhic mantras.
Bhagavan's discourses during the seven days of the ritual (yajna) are veritable spiritual feasts for the devotees. Bhagavan explains in the simplest language profoundest Vedhantik Truths so that everyone understands the message of the nondualistic (a-dhvaithk) doctrine and the oneness of the individual self and the Supreme Self. This, indeed, is the real purpose of the "Spiritual wisdom ritual (Jnana Yajna)".
Baba generously honors all the priests (rithviks) and others participating in the ritual with gifts of clothes and other things. This year's Vedha Purusha Yajna has become one of the most memorable in the annals of Prasanthi Nilayam.
Divine Discourses on Dasara by Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba
Divine Discourse: 14 October 1988
In the human body, the Divine flows through all the limbs as the divine essence (rasa) and sustains them. This divine principle is called the Embodiment of Divine Sweetness (Rasaswaroopini, or Angirasa). These divine principles that permeate and sustain the physical body should also be worshipped as mother goddesses. Then there are the great sages (maharishis), who investigated matters relating to good and evil, right and wrong, what elevates man or degrades him, and, as a result of their labors and penance, gave to mankind the great scriptures, indicating the spiritual and mundane paths and how humanity could redeem its existence. These sages have also to be revered as divine mothers.
The cow, the earth, the presiding deities for the body, the sages, and the guru are all worthy of worship as the embodiments of the divine Motherhood. Although these five appear in different forms and names, they have one thing in common with the mother. They play a protective and sustaining maternal role for mankind and hence should be revered and worshipped as divine mothers.
Conversely, the mother of every child displays in relation to the child the attributes of these five entities. The mother nourishes the child, provides the necessaries for its growth, teaches the child what it should know and what it should avoid, and leads it on the path of righteousness.
The life of a man who cannot respect and love such a venerable mother is utterly useless. Recognizing one's mother as the very embodiment of all divine forces, one must show reverence to her and treat her with love. This is the true message that this nine-night festival (the Navaratri) gives us. The supreme Shakti manifests herself in the form of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Durga grants to us energy --physical, mental, and spiritual. Lakshmi bestows on us wealth of many kinds --not just money but intellectual wealth, the wealth of character, and others. Even health is a kind of wealth. She grants untold riches to us. And Saraswati bestows intelligence, the capacity for intellectual inquiry, and the power of discrimination on us. The Navaratri festival is celebrated in order to proclaim the power of the goddesses to the world. One's own mother is the combination of all these divine beings. She provides us with energy, wealth, and intelligence. She constantly desires our advancement in life. So she represents all the three goddesses that we worship during the Navaratri festival.
Divine Discourse: 18 October 1991
The term Devi represents the divine power that has taken the passionate (raajasic) form to suppress the forces of evil and protect the serene (satvic) qualities. When the forces of injustice, immorality, and untruth have grown to monstrous proportions and are indulging in a death-dance, when selfishness and self-interest are rampant, when men have lost all sense of kindness and compassion, the Aathmic principle assumes the form of Sakthi, takes on the passionate (raajasic) quality, and seeks to destroy the evil elements. This is the inner meaning of the Dasara festival.
When the divine Goddess is in dreadful rage to destroy the wicked elements, she assumes a fearful form. To pacify the dreaded Goddess, her feminine children offer worship to Her with sacred red powder (kumkum). Seeing the blood-red kumkum at her feet, the Goddess feels assured that the wicked have been vanquished and assumes her benign form. The inner meaning of the worship of Devi with red kumkum is that thereby the Goddess is appeased.
During the ten days of the Dasara, the demons (rakshasas), in the form of wicked qualities, have been routed. Rakshasas do not mean demonic beings. The bad qualities in men are the demons. Arrogance is a demon. Bad thoughts are demons. Ravana is depicted as the king of Rakshasas. He is said to have ten heads, but he was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana, and what are his ten heads? Lust (kama), anger (krodha), delusion (moha), greed (lobha), pride (mada), envy (maatsarya), the mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), will (chitta),and ego (ahamkara) --these constitute the ten heads. Ravana is one who has these ten qualities.
Each one can decide for himself whether he is a Ravana or a Rama, according to his qualities. Rama is the destroyer of bad qualities. When engaged in this act of destruction of bad qualities, He manifests His passionate quality (raajo-guna). But His passionate quality is associated with His serene (saatvic) quality. Even in cutting off Ravana's ten heads, Rama showed His love. This was the only way Ravana could be redeemed.
When the Lord metes out a punishment, it may appear harsh. But what appears externally as passionate (raajasic) is in reality serene (saatvic). In a hailstorm, along with rain there will be hailstones. But both the rain and hailstones contain water. Likewise, there is serene quality even in the Lord's passionate actions. Similarly there may be passionate quality even in slothful (thaamasic) actions. These depend on the time, place, and circumstances in which the Lord acts. Butter can be split with a finger. But a powerful hammer is needed to break a piece of iron. The Lord deals with serene persons in a serene way. He applies the passionate weapon against passionate persons.
People worship the Lord as Roudraakaara, attributing dreaded forms and qualities to the Divine. This is not proper. The Divine has only one attribute: the embodiment of love. It has been said, "Love is God. Love pervades the Cosmos." Hence, one should not view the world from a worldly point of view. It should be viewed through the eyes of love.
Embodiments of Divine Love! All the festivals of Indians (Bharatiyas) have been designed to promote divine love among the people. It is to confer such love on the people that the Lord incarnates on earth. He Himself demonstrates how love should be expressed. He showers His love and teaches everyone how to love. Hence, experience this love and joy in your life and live in peace.
Divine Discourse: 9 October 1994
Indians (Bharatiyas) have been celebrating the Navarathi festival from ancient times as a mode of worship of Devi, the Divine as mother. They worship Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati during those nine days. Who are these three? These three forms have fascinated man. Their esoteric significance is represented by three potencies (shakthis): karma, devotion (upaasana) and spiritual wisdom (jnaana).
The significance of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati has to be rightly understood. The three represent three kinds of potencies in man: will power (ichchaa shakthi), the power of purposeful action (kriya shakthi), and the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi).
Saraswati is manifest in man as the power of speech (vaak). Durga is present in the form of dynamism. Lakshmi is manifest in the form of will power. The body indicates purposeful action (kriya shakthi). The mind is the repository of will power (ichchaa shakthi). The Aathma is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi). Purposeful action comes from the body, which is material. The power that activates the inert body and makes it vibrant is will power. The power that induces the vibrations of will power is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi), which causes radiation of energy. These three potencies are represented by the mantra, Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha. Bhur represents the earth (bhuloka). Bhuvah represents the life force, conscience in man. Suvaha represents the power of radiation. All three are present in man. Thus, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati dwell in the human heart.
Men are prone to exhibit passionate (raajasic) qualities like anger and hatred. They are the menacing manifestations of Durga. The extolling of the Divine in song and poetry and the pleasing vibrations produced by them indicate the power of Saraswathi. The pure qualities that arise in man, such as compassion, love, forbearance, and sympathy, are derived from Lakshmi.
When people worship Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi externally in pictures or icons, they are giving physical forms to the subtle potencies that are within them. The unfortunate predicament of man today is that he is not recognizing the powers within him and developing respect for them. He goes after the external, attracted by the physical forms. The relationship between the material and the subtle has to be understood. The remedy for man's life is contained within himself. But man seeks remedies from outside.
What should do during these ten days of the Navarathri festival? Convert your will power (ichchaa shakthi) into a yearning for God. Convert purposeful action (kriya shakthi) into a force for doing Divine actions. Convert your power of discernment (jnaana shakthi) into the Divine Itself.
Divine Discourse: 14 October 1994
Navarathri means "nine nights". What does the nine signify? There are nine planets (grahas), according to astrology. The human body has nine openings. If a deep inquiry is made, it will be found that mankind is dependent on the planets. Although astrologers speak about nine planets, in reality, only two "planets" matter: attachment (raaga) and hatred (dwesha).
In the worship of the deities during Navarathri, one of them should be worshipped each day, not externally but with one's heart and soul. Bodily actions are ephemeral. The body derives its value from the spirit within. Hence it should be regarded as a sacred temple. During the Navarathri festival, for the purpose of eradicating one's demonic tendencies, the deities were worshipped with sacred powder (kumkum). The red powder is a symbol of blood. The meaning of this worship is that one offers one's blood to the Lord and receives in return the gift of peace from the Lord.
Therefore, the Navarathri festival is observed by contemplating on God for ten days, cleansing one's self of all impurities, in order to experience the divinity within. The penultimate day of the festival is dedicated to what is termed "worship of weapons (aayudha puja). The weapons to be worshipped are the divine powers in man. When the divine is worshipped in this way, one is bound to progress spiritually.
Reference to "Facets of Truth"
Bhagavad Gîtâ, Chapter 11, verse 12:
The Yoga of the Universal Form;
on the confrontation with the complete of His reality.
bhaved yugapad utthitâ
yadi bhâh sadrsî sâ syâd
bhâsas tasya mahâtmanah
Word for Word
divi -- in the sky; sûrya -- of suns; sahasrasya -- of many thousands; bhavet -- there were; yugapat -- simultaneously; utthitâ -- present; yadi -- if; bhâh -- light; sadrsî -- like that; sâ -- that; syât -- might be; bhâsah -- effulgence; tasya -- of Him; mahâtmanah -- the great Lord.
If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form.
Reference to "Festival of Light"
How Kasturi received his name.
(taken from the book "Loving God" by N. Kasturi)
'On the twelfth morning of my life, a label was attached to me amidst a great deal of religious noise. My father saw me for the first time only then, when he came to name me. The name which has stuck to me ever since was an ancient one, much the brighter, because it was borne by a series of grandfathers. The rule was that the first son must be named by the father after his own father. So, I was given by father the name his father bore .... My first son was named Narayana by me, because that was the name my father had .... Father took me from mother's hands and sat on the floor facing the family shrine with me on his lap. He prayed to God to bless the name and help me to add some more fragrance to it. Then he raised me by the shoulders to his face and whispered thrice in my right ear a long string of strange sounds, by which I was to be known thereafter. It was a nine-syllabled rodomontade (ranting talk). I had tumbled into the Brahmin caste and so, the last two syllables had to be Sharma, symbolizing that status. The rest of the name, Kasturiranganatha indicated, neither the God idolized in my village nor the God installed on the Seven Hills. It denoted God, as adored by millions in Tamilnadu, installed in a reclining posture, on a multi-hooded many coiled serpent and described by that name as "musk-dot adorned". Kasturi means 'musk', 'ranga' means 'stage', and 'natha' means 'director' or 'master'. The temple of "Ranganatha with the Kasturi dot" is situated on an island, called Sri Ranga (The Stage), in the Kaveri River, formed by it while half-way from the Mysore Plateau to the Bay of Bengal. [Picture: "When He first drew me to Himself"- (1948)]... The substance called musk is valued as a precious perfume. Since it is also dark in color, a dot of musk between the brows serves to ward off the evil eye. It was preferred by nobles and princesses over cheaper contrivances. The brow of the idol at Srirangam was marked with the Kasturi dot, for nothing less could satisfy the devout worshippers. The name "Director of the Stage" reminds us that 'All the world is a stage'. God directs the cosmic play, unaffected Himself. he reclines magnificently on terror and poison, with His head on a pillow of calm. His will achieves and motivates. The Katha Upanishad declares, "Seated, He journeys; reclining, He is everywhere".
Kasturi Ranganatha Sharma was too long a word to be uttered in full, every time I was spoken of or to. The caste symbol 'Sharma' could be painlessly amputated. The rest symbol too had to be curtailed, but, the problem was, head or tail? My grandfather was accosted and referred to, by all who had to deal with him, only as Ranganatha, and for the daughter-in-law (my mother) to mouth the name of the father-in-law was taboo! So, the second half had to be jettisoned. The result was, I came to be known as the fragrant animal substance used for 'dotting' the Divine Brow.I could stand with folded hands in the presence of the "Kasturi Ranganatha" only in my 70th year! It came about through Baba's Grace. Friends invited me to a town called Tirupur to speak on Baba, on the 24th day of December. And Baba directed me to go. But, I longed to spend Christmas Day with Baba, since it reminded me of my entry into the world stage. I asked permission to go over from Tirupur to Srirangam and worship Him in the Ranganatha, reclining on the serpent. The serpent, Baba says, is symbolic of pollution, poison and death and God is pictured as overwhelming, quietening and mastering these evil traits. Baba said, "Yes. Go to Sri Rangam and eat your fill of sweet rice". The reference to sweet rice did not surprise me. Years previous, when we were proceeding to Madras, Baba, as was his wont, asked every single person in the car to sing for Him a song. My genes had no music among their components but I had to obey, nevertheless. Memory brought up for me a song I had heard a clown sing during a play I chanced to attend while at school. it was a prayer to Shiva for a morsel of sweet rice, wrung out of a hungry onlooker at a feast conspicuously consumed by the rich. Baba must have discovered that my subconscious had hooked up this particular lilt, for the reason, that I myself had an unfulfilled hunger for this dish, deep within me! He decided to remove that pang at Srirangam on my 70th birthday.
I was thrilled when I stood before the shrine and filled my eyes and heart with the entrancing vision of the 20 foot idol, stretched on the coils of a seven-hooded serpent excluding captivating icono-charm. To my eyes, the Feet, the upraised soles were not of dark green stone as the rest of the Divine Body was. They were alabaster with a shade of blue. They were soft, tender, fair, familiar, alive; they were Baba's! I removed myself away from the portals of the shrine with great reluctance. Sweet rice was, I believed, the routine offering at Ranganatha shrine but that day, we were given only laddus and muruks.
We had one more temple to visit on that holy island - a famous Shiva temple with the sacred Jambu Tree. When we moved out of that temple, the priest ran behind us, to announce that it was specially sacred day when "Sweet rice was offered to the deity." This was welcome news indeed. He insisted on our turning back into the temple. He made us squat on the clean floor to the right of the shrine; he spread banana leaves before us and served sizable heaps of the dish Baba had asked me to 'eat my fill'.'
Reference to "Sign and Signature"
The Story of Dhruva, in text and pictures.
(Source: Srîmad Bhâgavatam, Canto 4, Ch. 8-13)
[Maitreya said] .......(6) Now following, I will describe the dynasty famous for its virtuous activities, o best of the Kuru's, that evolved from the Manu called Svâyambhuva, who was a part of a plenary portion [knowing Brahmâ] of the Personality of Godhead. (7) Uttânapâda and Priyavrata, the two sons of Queen Satarupa and her husband, as being part of the plenary expansion [Brahmâ] of the Supreme Lord Vâsudeva, were there for the protection and maintenance of the world. (8) Of the two wives of Uttânapâda, Sunîti ['the one of good conduct'] and Suruci, was Suruci ['the one delighting'] far more dear to the husband than the other one who had a son called Dhruva [the immovable one']. (9) When once the king was patting the son of Suruci named Uttama ['the one of excel'], whom he had placed on his lap, did he not welcome Dhruva who also tried to get on his lap. (10) Queen Suruci who, being too proud, was envious, made the child of the co-wife, Drhuva, who tried to get up to him, listen to her, speaking so that the king could hear it. (11) 'My dear child, you do not deserve to seat yourself where the king sits, that place belongs to me because, although you were born as a son of the king, you were not born from my womb. (12) O child, try to understand of yourself that, because you are not my own but from the womb of another woman; the matter you desire is out of your reach. (13) If you so desire, you can only by means of penance, having satisfied the Person of God and by His mercy having found yourselves a place in my womb, seat yourselves on the throne of the King.'
(14) Maitreya said: 'Pierced by the harsh words of his stepmother, he out of anger began to breathe heavily, as a snake struck by a stick, seeing his father looking on as a silent witness, upon which weeping he went to where his mother was. (15) Having heard from the others what had happened did Sunîti lift her heavily breathing son, who's lips were trembling, on her lap and did she grieve about what was said by her co-wife. (16) Losing her composure the woman lamented with a fire of grief that burnt like dry leaves in remembrance of the things said by the other wife and looking through the tears falling from her beautiful lotus face she spoke. (17) Gasping for air the lady found no way to avert the danger and said to her son: 'Do not wish others anything inauspicious, my dear son, a person will have to suffer himself from the ill he wishes to happen to others. (18) The truth of what mother Suruci has told you about having taken birth from the womb of me the unfortunate one and having grown up from the milk of that breast, is that the king has become ashamed or in other words, that he regrets having accepted me for his wife. (19) If you desire to occupy the throne as also Uttama does, then just engage yourselves in the worship of the lotus feet of Adhoksaja, the Transcendence, my dear son, without being envious, as all that your stepmother has told you is factual. (20) The unborn One [your great-grandfather, Brahmâ] no doubt acquired his supreme position in the universe receiving the qualifications to create, from worshiping the One of whom we know the lotusfeet and who can be approached by the ones who conquered the mind in selfregulation. (21) Likewise, found the Manu, your worshipable grandfather, who in worshiping with unflinching devotion and by great charity in executing sacrifices, achieved the divine in earthly happines, that is difficult to achieve by other means, his liberation thereafter. (22) Of Him, the Kind One taking care, my dear boy, you should take shelter as also persons desiring liberation have to seek the lotus feet; when there is no room for doubt there should, from ones original nature, be a systematic engaging of ones mind in devotional service to the Original Personality of God. (23) Looking for others who could mitigate your difficulties I know of no one else to go for but for Him, the lotus-eyed One, my dearest, who, among all others, is sought by the Goddess of Fortune, with a lotus flower in her hand, herself.'
(24) Maitreya said: 'Thus having heard the purposeful words of the mother he, carefully considering it to himself, left his fathers house. (25) Nârada who came to hear about it and knew of what he was about to do, was surprised and with the hand, that could expel all sin, touching his head, he exclaimed: (26) 'Oh that might of the rulers! Unable to tolerate any infringement on their prestige, this one being only a child, has taken at heart the unpalatable words that came from his stepmother.' (27) Nârada then said: 'Why is it my dear boy, that presently finding no respect being insulted I cannot see the attachment to sports and games normal for boys like you? (28) There is no reason to be so dissatisfied for a person free from illusion; each is different in this world according his own karma and thus there are different choices. (29) Therefore you should be satisfied, dear one; whatever the nature of what destiny prepares a person, is by an intelligent person seen as a way towards the Supreme. (30) Therefore isn't it, as I am convinced so, that the yoga your mother told you to do for elevating yourself to His mercy, is too difficult for a person like you? (31) The greatest sages who were on the path of detachment for many births never came to understand what they were looking for, despite of being in the full of the severest austerities. (32) So now, stop with this resolve of yours, it will take you nowhere. Just reserve that for the future, you will see that there will then be ample opportunities for yourself. (33) Any person who is satisfied with whatever happiness or distress that is set for him by destiny, can reach with his embodied soul the other side of darkness.(34) To what is better one should feel pleased, to what is of a lesser quality one should be compassionate and to what is equal one should be friendly; thus fostering no desires one is never affected by tribulation.'
(35) Dhruva said: 'This balance of mind you talk about o Lordship, is of those who are merciful to people who are affected, but for persons like us it is very difficult to see it the way you said it. (36) The spirit of the ruler is not so much of submission, considering the intolerance I met with Queen Suruci; thus I cannot tolerate it to be pierced by the arrows of the harsh words. (37) Please tell me an honest way that fits with my desire for a superior position in the three worlds, o brahmin, that not even others like my father, grandfather and forefathers could acquire. (38) Your Honor, of Lord Brahmâ you are born as a true part playing the vîna traveling like the sun all over the world for its welfare.'
(39) Maitreya said: 'Thus hearing of what he told him, was Nârada very pleased, whereupon he compassionately replied to give the boy good advice. (40) Nârada told him: 'That path your mother told you about is certainly your ultimate destination; render the Supreme Lord Vâsudeva your service by fully absorbing Him in your mind. (41) One who in the name of duty, virtue, gratification and liberation desires after the goal of life of the soul, should in that only be for the cause of serving His feet. (42) To that, my dear, with my blessing, go to the bank of the Yamunâ and be purified by the holy of the Madhuvana forest where one is always nearer to the Lord. (43) When you have taken a bath in that river there, the Kâlindî [the name of the mountain where the Yamuna rises], three times a day, which is very auspicious performed the right way, you should seat yourself having prepared a sitting place. (44) Through the threefold of breathcontrol [prânâyâma: controlling the in-, the outgoing and balanced breath] gradually giving up the impurities of ones thinking to the life's air and the senses, one should with an undisturbed mind meditate upon the supreme spiritual master. (45) Always willing to grace, with His pleasing mouth and way of looking, his straight nose, high brows and intelligent forehead, he is the beauty of the demigods. (46) Youthful, attractive in all his limbs and with lips as red as a rising sun, He is the shelter of the surrendered, transcendental in every respect; the worthy one merciful like the ocean. (47) Marked with the srîvatsa [a few white hairs on His chest]and of a deeply bluish color, He is the original Personality, garlanded with flowers, showing the conchshell, the disc, the club and lotus flower in His four hands. (48) His helmet, pearl earrings, necklace, bracelets and the Kausthuba jewel, He wears to garments of yellow silk.(49) He has small bells of gold around His waist and His ankles and is of a superior calm, peace and quietude pleasing as well the eye as the mind. (50) He takes His place on the whorl of the lotus of the hearts of those who in worship unite in the light of the glittering of the nails of His lotus feet. (51) One should this way regularly see the Lord His smiling, so affectionate with the devotees and thus in full attention with ones mind meditate on the greatest of all benedictors. (52) The mind thus meditating the very auspicious form of the Supreme Lord is, being enriched, very soon freed from all material contamination and will never come down from that.
(53) Please hear from me the very, very confidential mantra to chant, o prince, from which, done for a seven nights, a person can see the beauty of the beyond. (54) 'Om Namo Bhagavate Vâsudevâya' [my respects for Vâsudeva, the Supreme Lord]; with this mantra [called the dvâdasâksara-mantra] should the learned one exercise respect for the physical of the Lord, the way it should be done, with the diverse paraphernalia and as someone conversant with the differences to place, time and the country [desa kala vibhaga-vit]. (55) One purifies with the help of water, garlands of forest flowers, roots, the diverse fruits and vegetables, fresh grass, buds, bark and with the respect of tulsi-leaves, which are very dear to the Lord your master. (56) One can begin with getting oneself and worshiping a deity made of physical elements like earth and water [clay], or, as a great personality, be of full self-control and in peace control your speech and eat frugally from whatever the forest offers. (57) To that one should meditate on the intriguing activities performed by the Supreme Lord of Wisdom, the way He, by His own potency, so inconceivably incarnates out of His own will. (58) To be in service of the Supreme Lord as I told you is the recommendation of the previous teachers of example who one, within ones heart, for sure should respect with the mantra's, as they are the embodiment of them. (59-60) Thus with ones body, mind and words simply thinking of the Lord engaged in the service is the Supreme Lord to the regulations of bhakti worshiped. The devotees engaged sincerely and seriously does the Lord who brings love, reward what they desire in regard of the spiritual life and benefits [the so-called purusârtha's] of conditioned souls. (61) In complete detachment from all sense-gratification must one, being serious in bhakti-yoga about ones liberation, unrelenting exercise respect that is steeped in love for Him directly.'
(62) Thus being addressed by him, circumambulated the son of the king him offering his obeisances and did he go to the Madhuvana forest which, imprinted by the feet of the Lord, was the right place to be. (63) When he thus had withdrawn himself entering the forest, thought the respected sage it wise to pay the king a visit in his palace and seated there comfortably, he spoke to him. (64) Nârada said: 'Dear King, what are you thinking so deeply about with a wry face - have you lost your grip on the gratification, the religion or the economy?
(65) The king replied: 'O brahmin, my sweet boy, my son, although he is only five years old and actually a great personality and devotee, I have, being too attached to my wife and too hard of heart, banished from here together with his mother. (66) I worry whether, without being protected by anyone in the forest, o brahmin, the helpless boy who's face is like a lotus, hasn't, emaciated of hunger, in fatigue lying down, been devoured by wolves. (67) Alas, how cruel I was, being conquered by a woman; just imagine how most hard hearted I refused him the affection when he out of love tried to climb on my lap.'
(68) Nârada said: 'Do not, I say, do not be aggrieved about your son. He is well protected by the Godhead, o master of men, you don't know how widespread his influence is over all the world. (69) The boy is quite capable; after performing what is impossible for even the greatest around, he will, to the better of your reputation, directly come back to you, my dear King.'
(70) Maitreya Muni said: 'The king, hearing of what Nârada had told him, began to think about him and fell in neglect about his opulent kingdom. (71) Meanwhile was, after taking a bath, fasting that night, the Original Personality worshiped [by Dhruva] with perfect attention as Nârada had advised it. (72) For the first month worshiping the Lord, he only ate, to the bare necessity of preserving his body, fruits and berries in the morning after every third night. (73) The next month the innocent boy continued his respect for the Almighty, eating every sixth day as mentioned, having daily food prepared from grasses and leaves gone dry. (74) The passing third month long he drank each ninth day water only, fully absorbed in his respect for the Lord of Wisdom, Uttama Sloka. (75) That way continuing into the fourth month, each twelfth day he ate air only, controlling his breath, meditating in worship of God. (76) By the fifth month still in control of his breath, did the son of the king, meditating on the Creator, stand on one leg like a column without moving. (77) In all respects concentrating the mind in the heart, meditating the resting place for the senses and their objects, did he not look for anything else but the form of the Supreme Lord. (78) Finding his repose, having taken into the heart the Absolute, the complete of the reality, the primary principle and person of all, all the three worlds began to tremble. (79) As he remained standing on the one leg did he, the child of the king, press half the earth down with his big toe bent, just like the king of elephants does who as a boat balances left and right with every step. (80) Thus he, in the full of his meditation having stopped his breathing, closing all gates of the body confining the life's air, suffocated all the worlds and soon all the great ones from all places sought their refuge with the Lord.
(81) The godly said: 'We never saw anything like this, o Supreme Lord, seeing the flow of the universal breath obstructed; You as the reservoir of all existence, so kind to the needy, we all, taking shelter with Your Honor, therefore approach to save us from the calamity.'
(82) The Supreme Lord replied: 'Fear not, this choking of the life's air happens on account of the son of King Uttânapâda who is in deep thought of Me; I will ask the boy, strong in his determination of penance, to stop with this. Please return to your homes.'
(1) Maitreya said: 'They, thus being freed from all fear, offered the Lord of the extraordinary their obeisances, upon which they returned to their three worlds. The Lord with the thousand faces [Sahasrasîrsâ, the original Vishnu] then from there went away to the Madhuvana forest desirous to see him, His servant [Dhruva]. (2) He who from the maturity of his meditation was seeing Him, brilliant as lightening manifested on the lotus of his heart, all of a sudden noticed that He had disappeared, but looking around he could see Him there outside of him in the same form. (3) With Him present before him, he, confounded, fell to the ground; prostrating his body like a rod offering Him his obeisances and while looking at Him, was the boy as if he was drinking Him, like he was kissing Him with his mouth and embracing Him with his arms.
(4) Seeing that he wanted to glorify Him, but lacked in experience to do so, did the Lord, who is the prayer in accord with the scripture in the heart of each, understanding the boy, mercifully touch his forehead with His conchshell. (5) By that receiving the inspiration to be able to say just what he wanted, could he, offering his prayers in the love of his devotion, understand what the supreme of the soul was all about and that, without jumping to conclusions, he would be the Dhruva of renown and fame who could not be denied his own world.
(6) Dhruva said: 'Let me offer my obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord and Original Person, who as the One within, from His internal potency commanding the universal energy, entering my words and breath has brought to life my passive senses as well as my other limbs, my hands, legs and skin. (7) Certainly You are the One, Supreme Lord, who, after by his own potency creating this vast outer world called mâyâ - that unlimited complete of the reality with its modes - has entered as the Original Personality, appearing in the temporary qualities variously the way fire does in fire wood. (8) Like a man rising from his sleep, could the one [Brahmâ] of surrender to You, see this whole universe through the knowledge given by You, o my Lord; in relation to You as the shelter of all who desire liberation, how can anyone who is of learning forget about Your lotusfeet, o friend of the distressed? (9) It suffers no doubt that for those, who under the influence of the outer world are missing the right conception and worship You for other purposes, You are, as the cause of liberation from birth and death, like a desire tree; and You are that even for persons in hell who desire a gratification that is only appealing to their senses. (10) That which is the bliss of the embodied, derived from the impersonal spirit can't compare to the bliss derived from meditating on Your own, You Magnificence, Your lotus feet and the hearing of the topics from the ones who love You. And what to say comparing it to the bliss of those who from their high positions have to fall down destroyed by the sword of death? (11) I pray to enjoy the intimate association of those who are constantly engaged in your devotional service, o Unlimited One, of those great devotees by whose purified hearts one can easily cross the terrible and vast ocean of dangers that is the material existence; I pray that I go mad of drinking the nectar of the stories about Your qualities. (12) They, so high, my dear Lord, never think of the material body, their relating to their sons, friends, home, wealth and wife; they, o One of the Lotus Navel, have achieved the association with those who in their hearts are always after the fragrance of Your lotus feet. (13) The animals, trees, birds, reptiles, gods, demons and men, driven by the material energy are found throughout the gross of the universe in varieties of existence and are for several reasons seen and not seen, o Unborn One, that I know, but this I do not; from this transcendental form, O Supreme One, I do not know but the end of my argument. (14) At the end of each epoch is all of this universe withdrawn in the belly of the Supreme Person lying down in retrospect in the company of Ananta Sesa as His bed; from the ocean of His navel sprouted the golden sphere, with Brahmâ on the whorl of the lotus. Him, that Supreme Lordship I do offer my obeisances. (15) You are the eternal of liberation, the uncontaminated, the Supreme Soul full of knowledge, the changeless, the authentic Original Person, the Supreme Lord and ruler of the three modes, the continuing intelligence through all actions of the intellect, the transcendental vision and witness, the maintainer, enjoyer and the one that is different from all. (16) You, in whose opposite nature the various energies of knowledge and ignorance are always found and who is that continuing Brahman, the cause of the material manifestation, the original one and unlimited that is simply blissful, I offer my respects. (17) Compared to other benedictions are Your lotus feet for sure the true one, o my Lord, and although as such You are thus the personification of the goal of life of each person, o beloved Fortunate One, you do, eager to bestow your mercy, maintain the poor of heart like I am, the way a cow does a calf.'
(18) Maitreya said: 'Then, thus truly being worshiped by the fine intelligence of his good intentions only, did the Supreme Lord who is always in favor of his devotees, speak after first having congratulated him. (19) The Supreme Lord said: 'I know of the determination within your heart, o Son of the King. Since you are sworn to piety, I shall give to you, although it is difficult to fulfill, all that good fortune. (20-21) Never, My good boy was there such a brightly glowing place known as the planet of Dhruva, around which all the other planets and constellations of stars are circling like a group of bulls does stationary around a central pole [for crushing grain]. It is the planet around which, keeping it to their right, along with the stars, all great sages of the forest, whose lives stretch beyond a millennium, like Dharma, Agni, Kasyapa and Sukra, move circumambulating. (22) As soon as your father has left for the forest, will you be awarded the whole world. It will be under the pious protection of your rule for thirty-six thousand years without decay in the full sense of power. (23) When your brother Uttama, being killed in hunting, is sought in the forest by the all too afflicted mother, will she run into a forest fire. (24) After performing great sacrifices for Me, the heart of all sacrifice, and having distributed great charities, you will also, after having enjoyed the blessings within this world, at the end of your life be able to remember Me. (25) Thereafter you will head for My abode that is worshiped on all planets and is situated above those of the rishi's and having gone there, you will never come back.'
(26) Maitreya said: 'Thus, after assuring the boy His personal protection, did He the honored and worshiped Supreme Lord who has Garuda in His flag, with him looking on, return to His own place. (27) Although with the result of service Dhruva had of his determination achieved the feet of Vishnu, was he not very pleased with the satisfaction obtained and did he return home.'
(28) Vidura said: 'Why is it that he, with the very affectionate worship of His lotus feet obtaining the in one lifetime rarely achieved supreme position of the Lord, having reached that far, being so wise, felt not fulfilled within his heart ?
(29) Maitreya replied: 'Of his stepmother her harsh words he was pierced in his heart and remembering them all he did not desire liberation from the Lord of salvation and thus he suffered grief. (30) Dhruva said to himself: 'What by their trance the four Kumâra's, those infallible celibates, never could achieve in one birth, I've understood within six months, but achieving the shelter of His lotusfeet I fell down because I had my mind on other things than Him. (31) Oh alas, just see the unfortunate of my bodily consciousness; having approached the lotus feet of Him who can cut all bonds, I have prayed for that which is perishable. (32) My intelligence was contaminated by those intolerant ones of God who are doomed to fall down and so I most ignorantly could not accept the truth of the instructions of Nârada. (33) Like dreaming in my sleep I sought my refuge with the illusory energy of the divine, complaining from within my heart; seeing it in opposition I, under the influence of the outer world, lamented that my brother was my enemy, although he is just of the temporary. (34) This, what was prayed for by me, is as useless as treatment given to someone whose life has already ended; after satisfying the Soul of the Universe by austerities, which is very difficult to do, I prayed with the One of Cutting with the World, for a repetition of birth and death and are thus without fortune. (35) From Him, willing to offer me His full independence I, alas, of material foolishness, asked for material prosperity; it is like a poor man who asks a great emperor that is impressed by his virtue, for a few broken grains of husked rice.'
(36) Maitreya continued: 'My dear Vidura, for sure are persons, like yourself, who are eager to taste the dust of the lotus feet of the Lord of Liberation, in serving Him, of no interest for themselves after that which is automatically achieved by it; they consider themselves very rich. (37) Having heard that his son had returned as if he came back after dying, could king Uttânapâda, not believe it why a sinner like him would befall such a good fortune. (38) Keeping faith in the words of devarishi Nârada, he was overwhelmed by the tidings the messenger brought and being very satisfied, he offered him a highly valuable pearl necklace. (39-40) Very eager to see his son, he in great haste got on a gold ornamented chariot drawn by the finest horses and left, accompanied by the sound of conchshells, kettledrums, flutes and the chanting of hymns, the city together with brahmins, the elderly and his officers, ministers and friends. (41) Both his queens Sunîci and Suruci got, hung with gold, together with Uttama on a palanquin and joined the procession.(42-43) Seeing him approaching a small forest nearby, the king hurried down from his chariot and was immediately overwhelmed with love as he came near him. Emotional of his great anxiety he with both his arms for a long time embraced his son, whose bondage of endless material contamination was destroyed by the Lord His lotus feet. (44) Thereupon smelling his head over and over, he, seeing his greatest desire fulfilled, bathed his son with the water cool from his eyes. (45) After respecting his fathers feet receiving his blessings, he bowed his head to his two mothers and was honored by the foremost of the nobles. (46) Suruci, having picked him up as the innocent boy fell at her feet, embraced him and spoke, choked up with tears, to him the words: 'May you live long'. (47) Anyone with whose qualities and friendship the Supreme Personality, Lord Hari, is pleased; unto him do all living beings, like water of itself flowing to the lowest position, offer respect. (48) Uttama and Dhruva both overwhelmed with affection embraced one another over and over, with their hairs standing up, while they let their tears run freely. (49) Sunîti, his mother, embracing her son more dear to her then her life air, gave, being satisfied touching his body, up all grief. (50) There and then, o heroic one, he was wetted auspiciously by the incessant tears from the eyes and the milk that started flowing from the breasts of the mother of this hero. (51) The people around offered her, the Queen, praise: 'The fortune of your son will vanquish all your pains now he has returned in order to protect the face of this earth, after being lost for such a long time. (52) The Supreme Lord, who can deliver one from the greatest danger, must have been honored by you, conquering death so difficult to overcome, as do great saints meditating constantly on Him.'
(53) Dhruva, thus praised by the people around, was by the king together with his brother placed on the back of a she-elephant and that way pleased and glorified, he returned to his capital. (54) Here and there, from rows of banana trees and young betel nut trees, were set up brilliant arched gateways that looked shark-toothed with bunches of flowers and fruits. (55) At each gate there was the decoration of hanging mango leaves, cloth, flower garlands and strings of pearls together with pots filled with water and burning lamps. (56) With its surrounding walls, city gates and houses, were the domes of the palace glittering on all sides, beautifully decorated with golden ornaments. (57) The squares, lanes and rooftops were thoroughly cleansed and sprinkled with sandalwood water and provided with auspicious presentations of fried rice, barley, flowers and fruits. (58-59) Seeing Dhruva on the road here and there the woman of the houses, uttering affectionate blessings, showered him with white mustard seeds, barley, curd, water, fresh grass, flowers and fruits and thus hearing their very pleasant songs he entered the palace of his father. (60) In that fine mansion bedecked with inlays of precious stones he, always being lifted up to the divine by his father, lived there like a god. (61) It had seats and furniture of gold with very valuable ivory beds with golden embellishments and bedding white like the foam of milk. (62) The walls, made of marble, had precious gems in them and also the lamps that shone with jewels were held by female figurines made of precious stones as well. (63) Also the gardens were very beautiful with various heavenly trees, pairs of singing birds and the humming of mad bumblebees. (64) Emerald staircases lead to ponds full of lilies and blue lotuses, swans and ducks and flocks of geese and cranes dwelt nearby.
(65) The saintly king Uttânapâda under the influence of hearing and seeing his totally wonderful son, felt extremely happy about the supreme of his wonder. (66) When he saw that Dhruva was mature enough of age made the king him, with the approval of his loving subjects and ministers, the master of the world. (67) He, this king of Vishnu, pondering over the salvation of his own soul, considered himself also old enough and went detached into the forest.
Reference to "White Man's Burden"
The Crucifix (Taken from: 'My Baba and I' by John Hislop, pp. 17-21.)
The crucifix was created by Baba on a most auspicious day, Mahasivaratri. Baba had reached a decision to halt the yearly public viewing of the birth of the lingam as it flashes from his mouth and comes to rest in his hands, cushioned by a silk handkerchief. Although that public portion of the holy festival of Mahasivaratri was now terminated, nevertheless the lingam would be created by Baba each year again and again, for it is a principal sign by which we may know the Avathar. In respect to the oval, eggshaped lingam which Baba produces from within his body on Mahasivaratri night, he says, "It is not possible for you to understand the divine purpose and gauge its potential, or to know the significance of its manifestation. In order to bear witness to the fact that Divinity is among you, it becomes necessary for me to express this attitude of mine. Otherwise the atmosphere of hatred, greed, envy, cruelty, violence, and irreverence will overwhelm the good, the humble, and the pious. ... it is the most fitting symbol of the Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent Lord. Everything starts from it and everything is subsumed in it."
We may also know the Avathar by the sixteen signs that accompany him: creation, preservation, dissolution, knowledge of incarnations, special Grace and the power to bestow it; each of these in the past, present, and future, thus totaling fifteen, with the sixteenth being Paramathma, the Divine, resident in the heart of each being. To these sixteen signs of the divine incarnation of the Avathar, Baba adds another sign, which he terms the most significant of all --divine love, universal and impersonal, yet personal.
The lingam has been seen by the writer a number of times. On the occasion of one Mahasivaratri night, I was sitting quite close to Baba. When the moment came, I saw a flash of gold come from his mouth and saw the lingam caught in the silk handkerchief held by his hands. It was of gold. How an object that size came up Sri Baba's throat cannot be explained. At another Mahasivaratri, the lingam was translucent, and there was a clearly visible flame in the center of the lingam.
The evening before the Mahasivaratri Day of 1973, we were told to be ready in the early morning for a trip; and that when the cars were loaded and ready, we would know the destination. Swami had decided that only a handful of people would be with him when the lingam became manifest.
Our destination was the Bandipur Game Sanctuary in Bandipur Forest, several hours away in Mysore State. We arrived at the Forest resthouse in the early afternoon. The next morning, we returned to our cars and, guided by the Forest people, took various winding roads, hoping to come upon one of the Forest's wild elephant herds. As we moved through the trees and the open areas, in our minds we were hoping for a replay of the dramatic and fascinating encounter between Baba and a wild elephant herd which had taken place some years before when Swami and some devotees had made a holiday expedition to the Game Sanctuary. This time, however, the elephants remained in their secret places and not even one was seen. But the drive through the hills had another and more important objective. Swami intended to find a correct site where we could gather at dusk for the sacred event of the lingam birth. It was on this great and most mysterious occasion, unknown and beyond imagination to the world at large, that the crucifix came into being.
As we crossed a bridge above a sandy, dry riverbed, Baba indicated that this would be the place. He said we would all return here just at dusk, and this we did. The cars halted at the side of the road, and we started to climb down the bank to the sandy river bottom. I was beside Baba. As we passed a bush, Swami broke off two twigs, placed them together, and asked me, "What is this, Hislop?"
"Well, Swami, it is a cross," I answered. Baba then closed his fingers over the twigs and directed three somewhat slow breaths into his fist, between thumb and forefinger. Then he opened his hand to reveal a Christ figure crucified on a cross, and he gave it to me.
He said, "This shows Christ as he really was at the time he left his body, not as artists have imagined him or as historians have told about him. His stomach is pulled in and his ribs are all showing. He had no food for eight days."
I looked at the crucifix, but found no words. Then Baba continued, "The cross is wood from the actual cross on which Christ was crucified. To find some of the wood after 2,000 years took a little time! The image is of Christ after he died. It is a dead face."
I noticed something odd and asked, "Swami, what is that hole at the top of the cross?" Baba replied that the cross had been originally hung from a standard.
We continued down to the river bed, and Baba seated us in a rectangle, with himself at the head. It could be seen that Swami's body was already in labor, and the group at once started singing bhajans (sacred songs of devotion and praise to Divinity). This continued without interruption until the lingam came out from Baba's throat and was caught by him in a silk handkerchief. After the lingam had been admired by everyone, Swami put it aside. He then raised a small heap of sand in front of his knees, and with his finger sketched an outline on it. Then in a moment or two, he dug his hand into the sand and brought forth a silver flask filled with amrith. Then he moved his hand and created a small silver cup. Everyone, from his hand, was then given a portion of the amrith, nectar of the Gods. How delicate and delicious was the taste! It is unique. There is no other taste to compare it to.
Within a few weeks we were back at our home in Mexico and were soon to witness an amazing series of events in relation to the crucifix. The cross is so small that the details on the figure of Christ escape the eye. A friend, Walter, came down to our home and took some color photographs of the crucifix. The over-all length of the Christ figure is only one inch, and Walter was to make some enlargements to bring out the detail. When he mailed us a sample of the prints, my wife and I were astounded. I wrote to him and said that if the pictures were seen around the world, they would create an art sensation. I am sure it is the greatest sculpture of Christ ever made. In my estimation, it is the most extraordinary object Sri Sathya Sai has ever created for the joy of his devotees.
A few weeks later, Walter and his wife returned with color enlargements of the cross. These, along with the actual cross, were spread out on the dining room table, next to large French windows overlooking the sea. The time was about 5 p.m. The details revealed by the photographic enlargements were so extraordinary that all persons present were concentrating on this amazing vision of Christ, and on the mystery and wonder of Sri Bhagavan. On this afternoon, the sky along the Mexican coast was clear and peaceful. But suddenly, without any warning, there was a loud crash of thunder, and as our eyes turned to the windows, lightning flashed from a dark cloud where a moment before there had been only clear sky. A violent wind rushed through the house, causing windows and doors to open and shut with such force that glass was in danger of shattering. The curtains were flying in all directions. We were much startled by this turn of events, but my wife at once said, "It is 5 p.m., the time Christ died on the cross, and what is now happening is described in the Bible." She later brought a Bible and we looked until we found the pertinent paragraph, which said that at the moment Christ gave up His life, a violent storm arose with lightning and thunder, and winds rent the curtains of the temple. We concluded that we had witnessed a wonder totally beyond our power of imagination. Before our eyes had occurred nothing less than a recapitulation of events related to the crucifixion. The following day newspapers in San Diego carried a brief story commenting on the sudden and mysterious storm that had arisen without warning on the Mexican coast, near Ensenada. We and our friends concluded that this recapitulation of an event which had taken place some 2,000 years ago upon the crucifixion of Christ implied a great power connected in some way with that small cross and Christ figure materialized by Baba.
A year or so later, I sent a description of the event to Dr. Eruch
B. Fanibunda for his book, Vision of the Divine. He showed the memo to Baba. After reading the memo, Baba said that the event occurred as described and that the significance attributed to it was correct.
It might be thought that the story of the cross was now complete, but there is still a sequel. In 1975, I made an unannounced trip to India to consult with Baba about arrangements for a visit to America that we hoped he would undertake. Swami had not been informed of my visit and was away on a tour when I arrived. On that day, he was having lunch with a few senior devotees and he said, "Hislop arrived in Bangalore just now and is waiting."
One of the men at the table (who later told me of the scene) remarked, "You made a crucifix for him."
Baba replied, "Yes, I made it for him. And when I went to look for the wood, every particle of the cross had disintegrated and had returned to the elements. I reached out to the elements and reconstituted sufficient material for a small cross. Very seldom does Swami interfere with Nature, but occasionally, for a devotee, it will be done."
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