As learnt at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan

N. Kasturi (1897-1987)





tad viddhi pranipâtena
paripras'nena sevayâ
upadekshyanti te jñânam
jñâninas tattva-dars'inah   
 [B.G. 4:34]

tat -- that knowledge of different sacrifices; viddhi -- try to understand; pranipâtena -- by approaching a spiritual master; paripras'nena -- by submissive inquiries; sevayâ -- by the rendering of service; upadekshyanti -- they will initiate; te -- you; jñânam -- into knowledge; jñâninah -- the self-realized; tattva -- of the truth; dars'inah -- seers.

Know 'That' by prostration,
by inquiry, by service,
the wise will instruct you,
for they have 'seen' the "That ness".   


        " Taittirîya Aranyaka "      
Vedic chanting

This and That 

The human being is placed in the arena - "this" so that he can utilise the challenges that it affords, to rid himself of the plus he has gathered and the minus that handicaps him, and know "that" to which he belongs. The Gîtâ verse prompts man "tad viddhi" "know that" and directs him to "tattva-dars'inah"-those who have 'seen' and 'become' (for, seeing is submerging) the "that-ness", for that too has a basis that is beyond comprehension, a basis that is its very truth. This "tattva" has to be experienced, it cannot be explained. To 'know' is to become that which is known.

We are already "that"; what the arena can confer on us is mere freedom from the fog that hides us from ourselves. While Swami was at Shirdi in the form He had chosen for His previous sojourn on earth, a devotee named Nanasaheb Chandorkar, was, one day, sitting at His feet, gently stroking them all the while muttering the verses of the Bhagavad Gîtâ. He was a well-read scholar who had mastered many learned commentaries on that divine dialogue between Lord Krishna and His disciple, Arjuna. The Sai Baba evinced a curiosity to know the chapter and verse, Nanasaheb was reciting at that moment. It was verse 34 from Chapter 4.


The Shirdi Scholar 

The consequence of that curiosity was that Baba asked the scholar to elaborate on the meaning of the verse, word by word, taken as a single unit and in the context of the verses that precede and follow. Nanasaheb was overpowered by a sudden sense of inadequacy. But, Baba assuaged his fears. So, he repeated what he had learned from teachers and books; the meaning he gave is exactly what the reader finds on the title page of this section. That did not satisfy Baba. Baba interrupted him often and taught him exactly what Lord Krishna taught Arjuna. Pranipâtena entails elimination of the ego, he said. When Nanasaheb said that 'paripras'nena' meant question (pras'na), Baba asked him, "Why then did Vyâsa who compiled the Gîtâ add 'pari'? Had he lost his head temporarily?, Baba asked. Nanasaheb could not give a deeper and more significant meaning to the word 'sevayâ' also, Baba explained that the seva has its origin and fruition in one's own self. When Nanasaheb stuck to the literal meaning of the second half of the verse 'the wise who have visualised the tattva teach you the wisdom (jñâna)', Baba ridiculed him. Nanasaheb sought shelter in the commentary on this verse by the great Sankara himself. But Baba convinced him that even elementary grammar can validate his ow'n reading of the line.

Instead of "the (rhyming with hay) "the jñânam" grammar permits the version, "the ajñânam." The meaning will then be, "instructs 'to you, ignorance', instead of the time-honored" instructs 'to you, wisdom'! Baba said that critics and commentators, grammarians and dialecticians, including Sankara had overlooked this obviously correct reading. Baba clarified that wisdom, jñâna, cannot be taught or learned, communicated or conveyed through words. One can be taught only the nature and the slippery nuances of ignorance and the method by which it dulls, diverts and deadens the intellect. Baba said that ignorance is not an impregnable barrier or formidable hurdle. One need not be freed from the region of darkness into the region of light. Darkness is not a presence. It denotes only an absence.

"A-jñâna denotes only the layer of dust on the mirror, the veil of ash on the cinders, the patch of moss on a sheet of water, the cataract on the eyes, the mâyâ on the mind," Baba explained. Remove the veil, the dust, the ash, the moss, the myopia of mâyâ, the jñâna, that you are, will shine as bright as ever. The many will vanish, the One, without a second, will fill the Awareness.

yaj jnâtvâ na punar moham
evam yâsyasi pândava
yena bhûtâny as'eshâni
draksyasy âtmany atho mayi - [verse 35, chapter 4]

Verse 35 assures us that "one will immediately perceive all beings from the cosmic person down to the cornstalk in one's own self, that is to say, in the eternal absolute".

s'raddhâvâl labhate jñânam
tat-parah samyatendriyah
jñânam labdhvâ parâm s'ântim
acirenâdhigacchati - [verse 39, chapter 4]

Verse 39 describes that awareness, jñâna, as parâm s'ântim, Prasanthi, Supreme Peace. "The mind gathers the dust on the outer side of the glass chimney of the lamp and allows the soot to cling to the inner side. As a consequence, the flame is unrecognised and darkness prevails. Scrubbing is called for. It can be done by constant repetition of the name of God or meditation on His Form," Swami says, He compares it to the drill which, with its persistent 'dig dig dig', contacts the fresh-water-sea which lies under the rocks. The sense can be rendered incapable of mischief, the mind can be turned towards the inner reality and the intellect disinfected against prejudice and pride, by the practice of meditation.


Flame with no Flicker 

Addressing a huge gathering of Africans and Asians at Kampala, Uganda in July 1968, Swami said, "As regards the technique of meditation, different teachers give different forms of advice. But, I shall give you now the most universal and the most effective form ... set aside a few minutes every day at first and go on extending the period, as and when you derive peace and joy therefrom" [jyoti meditation]. On another occasion, Swami directed people to spend all the working hours in latent meditation; meditate and meditate, until you are unaware of the process; let it be as spontaneous and as sustaining as breathing. To continue the Kampala discourse;

"Let it be in the hours before dawn, for, the body has been refreshed by sleep and the peregrinations of daytime have not yet infringed on you. Have an oil lamp or a candle with an open flame, straight and steady, bright with no flicker. Let the room be lit only by that flame. Sit before the lamp, with your back straight, in the lotus posture or any comfortable posture. Look at the flame for some time and, closing your eyes, try to feel the light and the form of the flame between your eyebrows. Let it slide down to the centre of the chest, the heart, the lotus, illumining the path as it slides. When the flame enters the heart, imagine the petals unfolding one by one, illumining thought, feeling emotion and desire. The cesspool in which evil thoughts, feelings and emotions and desires breed is purified. Be happy over this. Then, the light of the flame becomes wider and wider, as you watch it. Allow it to pervade your limbs. Now, those limbs have become holy and pure, incapable of dark suspicious activities. Let the flame reach the tongue, falsehood vanishes from it. Let it rise to the eyes and ears and destroy all the dark desires that infest them. Let your head be charged with light; wickedness flees before the flame. Imagine that the light is in you, more and more intensely, until you feel you are the light. It shines in you, through you, all around you, spreading in ever-widening circles, enfolding kith and kin, your friends and companions, nay, your rivals and enemies, strangers, men and women everywhere, all living beings, the world which is our home. Since the light illumines our senses every day so deeply and so regularly, the time will soon come when you can no more relish polluting sights, yearn to hear dark sinister tales, crave for deadening or maddening food and drink, handle dirty degrading inhuman designs, approach places of injury and ill-fame, frame inhuman designs, and utter false festering words. Stay on, in that thrill, steeped in the ecstasy of light. When light meets light, each merges in the other. When the individual meets the universal, only the universal is. I and I are we, but we and he are only we. Practice this meditation."

Swami cautions us against spiritual pride. People who twiddle about in the externals and antics of meditation, who are manipulated by the pulls of the senses, dare teach and train now batches of 'pupils', meditation methods.


Dhyana and the Nose   

Swami warns us against arbitrary attempts to arrest or interrupt or distort or divert the breathing process. In fact, though the Bhagavad Gîtâ has a section on Dhyana Yoga, that is to say, on Meditation [B.G. ch. 6] and though there are instructions to "hold the body erect and still, to keep the head and neck firm and to gaze on the tip of the nose, without letting you wander around', there is no mention at all, in any of the forty-seven verses of the regulation or control of the breath. The Lord prescribes that the spot where one sits for meditation should be firm, not too high or too low, with a cloth or dear skin or kus'a grass thereon. There are directions about food, recreation and sleep, but none regarding the intake of breath!

The emphasis in the Gîtâ is all on control of the senses, fearlessness, serenity, restraint over thoughts etc. We have to take note here of the severe condemnation by the Lord of "terrible austerities not enjoined or advised or by scripture, which promote hypocrisy, egoism, lust, passion and power" [B.G. ch. 17:5-6] Lord Krishna says, "They torture the organs and limbs of the body and harass Me, resident in their inner realm (karsayantah sarîra-stham)." Breathing must become spontaneously slow and measure, the intake, the retention and the outflow happening without effort. When thought is concentrated on God, felt as truth, goodness and beauty, agitation ceases, ego lies low, emotions fade away, passion perishes, and the breath is discipline.

Swami is against forceful suppression or tyrannical domination, for, He knows that our reality is soft and sweet, harmonious and tolerant, wise and loving. It will wilt when exposed to harshness or hurry. Those who have been lured by the spell of certain drastic and dramatic schools of Yoga like Hatha Yoga (involving the practitioners in breathing exercises) are gradually weaned away by Swami into adopting normal and natural schedules. During one discourse, He spoke of a jinn which appeared before a magician as soon as he uttered a formula. It demanded that the master keep it bushy with some assignment or other, for, as soon as one work is accomplished and there is no second to keep it engaged, itwould gobble up the magician himself. The poor fellows was at his wit's end and in mortal dread, for the devil completed the toughest job in a trice. In despair, he devised a plan to escape from the maw of the monster. He planted a tall pole and ordered the demon to climb up and, as soon as it reached the top, to slide down. It had to repeat this barren gymnastics, until asked to stop. It exhausted the poor devil so pitiably that it surrendered to the master, promising unquestioning obedience, and no gobble. Swami elaborated on the underlying lesson of this story. The mind is the demon, that can never be quiet. It is a tool designed and donated to us but it has usurped the role of our master. "Do not allow it to roam and ruin as the whim dictates".


Mind the Mind 

Swami told the vast gathering, "I shall disclose to you a trick to put the demon in place. Seat it on the upper lip, in the centre, right under the nose. Give it the job that can never end, so long as life lasts. Let it watch the ingoing breath, wait a little and watch the outgoing breath. The Atharvana Veda (XI-4) verses on prâna runs thus: 'Praise be to you, breath, when you come; and praise, when you go. When you stand up and when you sit still, to you, praise. Praise to you, breath of life, breathing both in and out. To your tossing this side and that, to the whole of you, praise". The mind can best be engaged in this task, but, Swami makes the mind happier and more elated by sanctifying the inhalation and exhalation which it has to watch, by means of a profound mantra "Soham" - "Soham" - "He I" - "Sa aham" - "He is I; I am He". The breath is reminding us that we are not disparate individuals but each "I" is identical with "He". The inhalation is accompanied by an unheard So and the exhalation by an unheard Ham. The Gîtâ describes people who adopt the sâdhana of Soham through the breathing process as prânâyâma-parâyanâh (those who resort to the sublimation of their breath) (B.G. 4:29).

But, Soham is tainted with a trace of duality, of a concept of two (He and I). Swami exhorts us to inhale "He" - "So", with every breath and exhale or eliminate "I" - "Aham" with every breath. This is, according to Him, the very purpose of alternate intakes and outgoings. Verse 29, Chapter IV of the Gîtâ refers to persons who 'sacrifice' the inward vital tendency in the outward and the outward in the inward and thus counter the tendencies towards opposites. The result achieved is the reciprocal equalisation of life-breaths. 'He' merges in 'I', 'I' merges in 'He' and the One is experienced, with no shade of a second. "I am in you; you are in Me. We cannot be separated," declares Swami. The mergence is the yajña, the valedictory victory of the life. When that is consummated, there is neither So nor Aham. Soham casts away the vesture of duality and shines in the unique glory of OM. Meditation on Om is meditation on the Absolute.


Step by Step

When Arjuna sought to learn from the Lord, Krishna, the comparative efficacy of meditation on the absolute, impersonal cosmic consciousness and on the personalised almighty God, Krishna replied, "Those who meditate on the indefinite infinite, the unmanifest, having mastered their senses, knowing the basic unity of all they see, and eager to promote the peace and prosperity of all can attain the goal. But, they have to surmount heavy obstacles, the most difficult being one's identification of the self with the body-senses-mind-complex."

When Arjuna was granted the vision of the cosmic power who projected for His own delight the worlds with their components, he was so terrified that he wanted Krishna to appear, as the saints describe Him, with four arms, holding the insignia of divinity. But, Krishna knew that even that milder form would create distance and dread. So, He resumed His human form, the charming embodiment of love and compassion, the pleasing personification of wisdom and power [see B.G. ch 11].

Swami too, when Arnold Schulman dared ask Him, "Are you God" replied that he could never adore, appreciate or acknowledge God if He appeared before him in the form which man has pictured or prescribed. "How can a fish understand the sky" He asked. It can understand only water. "If I had come as Nârâyana with four arms, they would have put me in a circus, charging money for people to see me. If I had come only as a man like every other man, who would listen to me? So, I had to come in this human form, but with more than human powers and...... wisdom".

Krishna advised Arjuna ... "picture God with body, senses and mind, like Me, a body can be present anywhere I will to be, senses that can see, hear, smell and touch everywhere and a mind that can, by a mere thought, form, reform, or transform, all that has emerged from Me and has to merge in Me. Picturing Me thus, let them worship Me, without allowing the mind to deviate from that sâdhana. If they find themselves incapable (asamartha) of even such effort, let them not lose heart; let them persist in doing works for My sake, for fulfilling My commands and reaching the goals I prescribe. If they feel they are powerless (asaktha) to attempt this steadfastness in adoration, it is enough if they do every deed as dictated by duty and rest content, without being elated when it succeeds or dispirited when it fails. They can reach Me through this sâdhana also." [B.G. ch. 12]

When an act is accomplished, its consequence is certain to follow. The doer awaits and judges the consequence, as good or bad, desirable or undesirable, profit or loss. If the original act is done out of an egoistic desire or in pursuit of a glamorous hope, the fruit will have a bitter or sweet impact on the mind. If, however, the act is done as an expression of one's inner nature or as the articulation of one's conscience, one's serenity will not be shaken at all; one's Prasanthi will be unaffected.

As Sai Baba taught Nanasaheb at Shirdi, Prasanthi is our truth. Mâyâ is half-truth, for it superimposes on the One, the falsehood of the Many. A length of rope lying on the road in the dusk is taken to be a snake, a garland, a crooked stick or a strip of cloth, as the mind of man imagines (creates images) the basic rope to be [see also S.B. 4.22:38 & 10.14:25]. A half-truth very often degenerates into a double lie. With a little care, the false half of mâyâ can be denied and destroyed. Dhyana (meditation) or the upadesh (initiation) from a Guru or the kataksha (glance of grace) from the Avatâr can dissipate the cloud of ajñâna (ignorance, stupidity).


Free from Formula 

Regarding your meditation let me ask! When you rise after the ten minutes of dhyana, do you see everyone as endowed with divinity? Do you love people more? Do you talk less? Do you serve others more earnestly? Your progress must be authenticated by your character and conduct. Or else, meditation is a hoax", declares Swami.

Spiritual exercises have to be adopted much more sincerely than secular ones, because the obstacles are more formidable. Once when some one wailed "I have been practising intense meditation since fifty years, Swami! I have yet to gain concentration," Swami said, "This is a shameful confession." For, as He explained, the man had not readied himself for the adventure of dhyana by mastering the six preliminary steps. The first step is, He said, "the control of the sense; the second is the taming of the emotions, impulses and passions; the third is the acquisition of balance and equipoise; the fourth is the regulation of the breath; the fifth is the prevention of external and objective impacts on oneself; the sixth is one's pointed attention on one's progress. Without climbing these six rings of the spiritual ladder, dhyana would be a futile exercise. You cannot hop in one leap to the seventh, the landing - and therefrom, move on to the eighth, the realisation of the reality." Dhyana is not textbook formula. It is not a rigid time-table or a mechanical routine of staring at the tip of the nose or breathing through alternative nostrils. It is an enthusiastically accepted discipline, involving sublimation of the senses, canalisation of vital energy and orientation of the imagination. This is the reason why Swami declares that dhyana cannot be confined in a curriculum.

During the All India Conference of Devotees (1970) held at Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami replied to questions placed before Him by the delegates. Swami responded to one such as follows: "There is a suggestion mentioned in a note handed over to me by a delegate - regular classes in dhyana may be held for devotees in Prasanthi Nilayam, so that the trainees can spread the sâdhana of dhyana all over the country. I laughed when I read this suggestion. Can anyone train another in meditation? Or, claim the authority to train? It may be possible to teach a person the pose, the posture, the disposition of the hands and palms, the legs and feet, the back, the neck and head, the style of breathing and its frequency and speed. But, meditation is a function of the inner man; it involves deep subjective quiet, the emptying of the overcrowded mind and nourishing the spark of love into an all-comprehensive light."

Swami referred also to another question presented by another delegate. "What I am about to say in answer to another question might pain some of you. But, the truth must be told. There are some who are attracted to various systems and methods of dhyana, recommended by Hathayoga, Kriyayoga, Rajayoga etc., which claim to help you to realise the self. I must tell you that no one of them can help you reach the goal. They may improve your health or prolong life by a few more years. But that is all they can do. What good do you expect to achieve with that body in those extra years? When love is absent, those years will only weigh on you. If love is cultivated, then, the body can be used for serving others, with no concern for the interests of the self."


The Guru

Tattva-dars'inah" 'Those who have seen the "thatness" of That alone can instruct the ones groping in the dark the secret of discovering the light within. The word guru means he who has overcome darkness with the lamp of light. Many gurus now setting themselves up as instructors, are themselves groping their way through greed and jealousy, conceit and controversy, histrionics and hypocrisy. Many of them are burdened with blinkers or afflicted with astigmatism. A few are ubiquitous salesmen of patented formulae, while others seek to establish empires and scrape the sky with steeples. Meanwhile, as Milton discovered "The hungry sheep look up and are not fed".

In fact, they should not be so neglected, for, they are not sheep in sheep's clothing: they are 'lions deluding themselves into bleating and believing that they are the vesture they wear, a vesture they have themselves knitted, purl by purl, through life after life. They are âtmâ, caught inside the cocoon they have spun laboriously around themselves. But they identify themselves with the cocoon body, the clothing which can be put on and put off. They doubt, they dispute, they deny their reality. Oh! the pity of it.

Swami says "When you believe yourself, you are really believing God, for you are God". How can billions of cells, each under a sentence of birth-growth-death, operate together to sustain and protect to the utmost, this amazingly complex body with its own needs of birth, growth and death? The organism needs an organisation, the organisation needs an all-knowing organiser, present always and everywhere. "My me is God", exclaimed a saint. When mankind discovers it has lost its way, and reached the brink of disaster, the prayer arises from a million hearts,
"Lead me from this fleeting unreality to everlasting reality.
Lead me from this deceptive darkness to all-revealing light.
Lead me from this inexorable death to inherent immortality.
When the cosmic consciousness receives the impact of these vibrations, and when there is a sad dearth of Gurus who can respond and lead, It concretises Itself (though Its own Will) as the Avatâr."


The Avatâr

"When goodness is overwhelmed and evil triumphs, I make myself a body to deliver the holy and destroy evil", said Lord Krishna [B.G. 4:8]. Swami announced that He, the Undiminishable, the Limitless, incarnated at Puttaparthi, in order to
(1) lay down the guidelines for rigtheous living in the world as it has shaped itself
(2) allay the conflicts and hatreds that rend people as under,
(3) console, comfort, and protect the good and godly who are oppressed by the wicked and the wily,
(4) reveal the true message of the scriptures which has been obscured by commentators and propagators,
(5) relieve the earth of the burden of vice and
(6) redeem the pledge conveyed in past ages that I shall appear as the Savior.
Swami has also proclaimed that He has resolved to assume the role of a Teacher of Truth (Sathya Bodhakaya) and that Love is the lesson which teaches Truth. He is Love, He can be won through Love, He accepts Love and rewards Love.

Swami is the embodiment of the consciousness that energises the infinite cosmos, the One, which science is seeking with intermittent success and which religion seeks and sees as energising the infinitesimal too. Swami leads us to the awareness of the One, in all ideas, ideals, objects, objectives, waves and particles. He has come to teach the Truth of Unity, for that Truth alone can free us from fear and the death it breeds. Swami teaches us to picture every sentient and non-sentient thing as trekking "back home", back to the source, back to the Cosmic Will that willed them all. He has come to enthuse the homesick, to strengthen their limbs, to reinforce their resolve, to smoothen their path - all paths that lead homeward and to welcome the innocent, the injured, the prodigal and the pure into the Home, Himself.

Swami is the great reconciler. He reveals to us that the many we think we are, are all only One. To those who fight against each other waving holy books and flags, He declares that every religion is a facet of the same Truth. The devotionally minded in all lands and of all races pray in many languages to the same God. The rationally inclined use different tools of logic to probe into the same Reality. They express their findings or failures in many dialects, but they all reveal the Incomprehensibility of the same God. The action-prone discover behind the masks, worn by those whom they worship through service - the deprived, the distressed, the diseased, the desperate - the face of the God they adore. Though the faces have different forms and features, they are all of the same God. The three directions in sâdhana for union with the source (yoga) are known as Bhakti Yoga, Jñâna Yoga and Karma Yoga. The Raja Yoga (respiratory regulation for purification of the mind) and Hatha Yoga (acquisition of mastery over respiratory, muscular, nervous and circulatory systems in order to isolate the Self from its material appurtenances) are, according to Swami, to be carefully communicated personally to aspirants with requisite mental and physical equipment only.


I and I are I

Prasanthi is the destiny to which every yoga leads. The yoga that fosters, fashions and fulfils all yogas, is the Prema Yoga, the Sai Yoga. This is the unique mission of this unique Avatâr. Its uniqueness consists in the universality of Its Love, Wisdom, Power and Joy. No other Personification of the Divine had this horizon-less dimension, and this spontaneous liberality of Grace, this unquestioning compassion for the foolish, the fumbling and the frenzied. Let us envelop ourselves in silence and silence our clamourous mind, disputatious reason, and listen to the Voice of Sai, the Divine Guru who has Prasanthi as the Boon. There is neither Thou nor That in Prasanthi. There is but one all comprehensive I.

        " Ârati - Lightoffering "      
Text Ârati



Composition photo by Kouwshik, Sri Lanka    

About Narayana Kasturi