Om Sri Sai Ram
Our humble pranams at the Divine Lotus Feet of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba!
By the grace of Yugavatara Sarvantaryami Bhagawan Baba, Prof. Anil Kumar entrusted us with the sacred task of editing the Satyopanis ad. Being Swami's translator for several years, he conveyed in the English rendering of the Telugu Satyopanis ad all the nuances and graces typical of Swami's divine utterances. We translated, not without some trepidation, a few pages that still remained in Telugu. Fortunately, these met with Prof. Anil Kumar's approval.
From the questions and Swami's responses in this Upanishad, we can surmise that besides the students, there were present a few others, probably parents, and at least one journalist. Naturally their concerns are matters like the opposing pulls of parents and Bhagawan, of Prasantinilayam and the outside world, besides career options, current social and economic trends, and moral dilemmas. However, the interlocutor‑in‑chief remains Prof. Anil Kumar himself though he rarely raises a personal matter. This is primarily because he would not willingly let go any chance to learn from the Voice Divine. The tone and the tenor of some of the questions makes it clear that often he plays the spokesman for the vast body of silent and hesitant spiritual aspirants, and that of the devil’s advocate drawing out from our Merciful Swami responses to many prejudices, distortions and misgivings. These last, if Swami does not quell them, can undermine the devotees' self‑trust and faith in divinity. These are some features that make the Satyopanis ad unique.
Going through the Satyopanis ad, one is struck by its vibrant, wide‑ranging, earthy, everyday, no‑nonsense topicality. Brain drain and price hike, women's lib and generation gap, white dress and vegetarianism, devotees Indian and overseas, sakara and nirakara , Providence and prarabdha , the origin of evil, the 5th purus artha ,
Rama's `fair play', and Krishna's `partiality' ‑ almost every issue affecting the life of a spiritual aspirant is raised and resolved in these pages. When a questioner's thinking is muddled, Bhagawan out of His abounding Love rephrases the question, and brings into the open a lurking fear. Then, the negative passive listener or reader advances towards a more aware and confident selfhood. Bhagawan corrects our "I‑glasses," probes into our "in‑vironment," evaluates our "proper‑ties," and leads us towards the Bliss of "atma‑sphere." Here is an Upanishad oriented to our egos and mindsets, confusions and hesitations.
The Satyopanis ad displays the criss‑crossing of several themes and approaches: a question exposes a layer of meaning that comes up for discussion in a different context. The concerns of the questioners often overlap because of their youth, educational background, and hopes for the future. However, some contours emerge and reveal a basis for grouping the questions round some areas of interest, which can be re‑grouped in terms of their direct focus. Thus the 270 questions that figure here are presented in 9 Chapters under 3 Parts - Samskr ti, Sadhaka and Sadhana. The first two are included in Volume - I and the third in Volume – II.
Spirituality is at the core of Indian culture, and it is by virtue of this that Indian culture is immortal. In Part I – Samskr ti, Indian culture is presented as a dynamic factor in human history. According to Vedanta, “There is nothing that is not God.” To see, to know, and to experience this Satya is the dutyt and the destiny of Man. Swami Vivekananda has affirmed that the life of the spirit is the hallmark of Indian culture: “this is the themeof the Indian life-work, the burden of her eternasl songs, the backbone of her existence, the foundation of her being, the raison d’etre of her existence – the spiritualization of the human race.” Prof. Anil Kumar’s choice of the sub‑title, “Thus answers Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ‑ how to spiritualise our day‑to‑day life," underscores at once both the Upanishadic core function and its metahistorical content. Questions relating to this theme appear in the opening Chapter, "The India Eternal," a phrase borrowed from the sub‑title of a book by Swami Vivekananda. It is not surprising that Prof. John Hislop expresses the same view: "Only India through ages past has been able to provide suitable land for the birth of Avataras such as Rama, Krishna, and Sathya Sai Baba. It is only in India that Buddha can be born to attain Nirvana. The spiritual heart of India is the heart of the world." As corollaries, the quest of saints and sages, the nature of Divinity and Its response, and finally the issue of Grace figure here.
Chapters 2 and 3, "Trends in Society," and "Youth," focus on the ills of contemporary society and the challenges they pose especially to the younger generation. T. S. Eliot complains, "We had the experience, but missed the meaning." Failing to learn, we either go through the same experience again and again and suffer from ennui, or run after newer fresher allurements. Morbid and myopic preoccupations prevent man today from vitally interacting with fellowman, and from fulfilling himself through duties and obligations to society: When a modern Macbeth cries, "Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?" Prof. Samuel Sandweiss replies: "I think we ought to call the subject in which I have specialised, not psychiatry, but Sai‑chiatry.” Bhagawan has the panacea: "Each one must regard the prosperity and joy of others in the community as one's own. Then only will India or any other country deserve that prosperity and joy. One's happiness is bound up with the happiness of society."
Part II ‑ Sadhaka deals with questions on Spirituality in theory. Chapter 4 "The Outer Door" takes the cue from our obsession with the senses and the external world. With minds tyrannized by the instinct for classifying we are always on the lookout for diversity, and indulge in fragmentation in perpetuity. The toll such an attitude levies on our spiritual resources is emphasised by Bhagawan: "As long as we are involved with external appearances, we have to carry the burden of doubts and weakness of faith." Further, there arises a confusion between ends and means. Means are taken for ends. With perfect irony, followers of different paths fight each other ignorant of their common goal. As Swami Vivekananda pointed out, "Each one must have his path, but the path is not the goal."
Like the legendary Sisyphus doomed to roll up to the top of the hill a large stone only to see it roll down again, the sadhaka today engages himself in endless and fruitless rounds of yogas and yogis, texts and techniques. Swami teaches him how to disentangle himself from the plethora of nostrums of wonted antiquity and advertised modernity. Questions in Chapter 5 "Concepts" relate to maya, tadatmaya, anubhavajnana and the like. The Sadhaka today carries excessive mental cargo, mostly because of the lure of multiplicity the world presents. He also tends to justify the cargo as a concommitant of the Kali age. P. B. Shelley rightly warned: "The One remains, the many change and pass." The Unity behind apparent Diversity is lost sight of. That is why Swami Vivekananda urges man to remember: "All this manifoldness is the manifestation of the One."
Logic, choplogic, and even cleverness offer pleasures and consolations of their own. Applying these instruments to the realm of spirituality, man begins to take a peculiar delight in contraries, oppositions, paradoxes, and hungers after multiplicity. In Chapter 6 "Parallels and Polarities" most of the misunderstood relationships are lucidly analysed so that at the level of knowing the sadhaka is at peace with himself and fellow devotees. Antagonisms that would divide are resolved into differences not of kind, but of degree, merely stages in the evolution everyone passes through.
Spirituality in Practice is the ruling theme of Part III - Sadhana. As sadhakas clamour for Grace, for mukti, and so on, Bhagawan emphatically declares the priority of sadhana: "I always say, Sadhana first, sankalpa later. This is the correct order. My sankalpa will confer bliss only after assessing the depth of yearning in the devotee. Sadhana is the essential prerequisite." The human mind turned inward is a potent tool for spiritual advancement. In Chapter 7 "The Inner Door" Bhagawan stresses how the inward orientation of the mind alone can guide man toward any intimations of Divinity. Swami recommends the path laid down in the shortest and generally reckoned the first of the Upanishads: "The Ihsavaasya Upanishadh directs the sadhaka to cultivate the Inner Vision so that he can experience God, the Ishwara, the warp and woof of the Universe." Man needs to take a U‑turn, retrace his steps to the source. T. S. Eliot succinctly brings out this sadhaka‑God relationship: "The river is within us, the sea is all about us."
Swami Vivekananda summed up his mission in one word, "man‑making," which really means making him realise the full potential as divinity. This furnishes the theme of Chapter 8 "Human Values." Humanity today is obsessed with price and price tags. Success in the world is ascribed exclusively to one's knowledge and manipulation of the price of everything, most of all of one's own self. But, man is neither a beast ruled only by instinct, nor a commodity to be traded. To be human is to be endowed with value. Satya, Dharma, Santi, Prema, and Ahimsa as innate values elevate man to realising his essential divinity.
Bhagawan Baba. has revealed an aspect unique to this Avatara: bhas yarthagopyamul paluku koraku, `to lay bare the inner meaning of the scriptures.' He remarked recently that the benefits individuals may derive through His Grace are incidental to His primary mission, planting in the human heart the essence of all the Vedas and the Sastras. Towards this end Bhagawan recreates with divine intimacy memorable details of character and incident, and reconstructs the ethos of the Tretayuga and the Dvaparayuga. Occasionally, as He reminisces, an episode or a piece of action unknown to Vyasa or unsung by Valmiki shines gloriously in living colour. Bhagawan affords us glimpses of the immortal figures from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavata against their moral and spiritual milieu, and corrects our hasty, ill informed judgements. Our minds are awed by the divinity of Rama, ramo vigrahavan dharmah, "Rama, the embodiment of Dharma," and of Krishna the sanatana sarathi, the eternal charioteer displaying His vi s'var u pa, Cosmic Form. But they are not awed enough, for they harbour doubts about the former's `fair play' and the latter's `impartiality.' Afraid to ask openly and willing to compromise, the sadhaka loses his integrity. It is in this dark night of the soul that the piercing cry is heard: "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." Removing accretions and encrustations, Swami restores the scriptures to their pristine purity.
In the concluding Chapter, "Scriptures and Baba" Bhagawan's infinite Love emerges most unmistakably. As the Sai avatar moves amidst us, on account of our all too human proclivity, we tend to lose sight of His Divinity. Compounding this vulnerability is His maya, which deludes us into seeing just another mortal. Had not Krishna described His maya as duratyaya, `insurmountable' and added janma karma ca me divyam, `my life and actions are alike Divine'? He also affirmed how men tend to ignore the Divinity, avajananti mam mudha manus im tanu mas'ritam, `Stupid men belittle me, in my human garb.' Krishna vowed to protect the righteous, destroy the wicked, and re‑establish dharma. Sai Krishna has vouchsafed to continue the first task, modify the second into transformation of the wicked, and to re‑establish, not dharma, but the practicing of dharma. Hence, the supreme importance attached to sadhana. Ultimately it is Divine Grace that crowns all actions with success. It is impossible not to shed tears of joy when an aspect we turn to the last chapter, for here He reveals most would know, but never do. All sorts of questions appear here: His food, His hours of sleep, His choice of devotees for miraculous cures and devotees, the repetitions in His discourses, and so on. The ways of Divinity are in the final analysis inscrutable. The Upanishads proclaim: yam e vais a vr n ute tena labhyas l tasyais a atma vivr n ute tanum svam, `The Self is to be known only through His revelation of His form, of His own accord, to one of His own choosing.' As Satyakama tells Gosruti in the Chandogyopanis ad, the Upanishads are spiritual powerhouses: "When it (the Supreme Wisdom) is passed on to a dried up stump, branches and leaves begin to appear."
The reader of the Satyopanis ad needs to pause and reflect upon Bhagawan's words to Prof. 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." Words to the braver spirits, indeed.
Lesser mortals may meditate on this passage, which says it all: "The purpose of the incarnation of Rama was to pass on to mankind the whole duty of man. What is happening today is exactly the same phenomenon. You would have noticed how in the present avatar too biographies are written by contemporaries, and the divinity is acknowledged, worshipped, experienced, and celebrated all over the world. That all this is happening during the time of the incarnation is another parallel to Rama's descent. The same Ideal! The same Love! The same Message, the practice of Sathya and Dharma!"
We are infinitely grateful to Baba for allowing us to be instrumental, however meagrely, in the dissemination of His profound teachings.
Tejasvi nav adhitamastu, `
May our studies (throughHis Grace) illuminate us!'
July 24, 2002