July 24th, 2005
“Life Is a Challenge – Meet It”
With Pranams at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan,
We have been fortunate to witness a very nice programme staged by the students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning from Anantapur campus. It was a musical programme which depicts the life of Bhagavan right from His childhood. As we watched Him from a distance, we found Him literally touched by the devotion, the style, the composition and the music as well.
We are also happy to have witnessed the distribution of the sewing machines and also the grinders to the poor and needy, who really deserved it. They surveyed and selected the deserving people and distributed to them. It is really very great and nice to watch.
Last week, we left at a point where we were thinking why and how we should consider life a challenge. To some extent we have come to know Swami’s views on life - the sociological viewpoint and the spiritual viewpoint also. Thereafter we were trying to know why and how Swami wants us to know that life is a challenge. We covered a few points and the rest we’ll take up this morning.
On birthday occasions, we find students and elders seeking Bhagavan’s blessings. They sit there with their tray and a flower waiting for Sai’s presence. That’s the privilege given to students.
It’s natural to get prepared a few days in advance, to receive these special blessings. You know what’s wrong with this? It is conventional and customary all the world over to bless any person celebrating a birthday this way: “Wishing you many happy returns of the day!” But Sai blesses students like this. (If you are interested, just watch how Bhagavan blesses the students on an occasion like this.) Bhagavan always makes this point as a greeting to birthday boys. He says, “Live a long life, healthy life, Divine life.” These are the three words.
Swami says, “Long life, healthy life, and Divine life.” If life is short, you will not be able to achieve anything. If life is not healthy, one is unfit and life is not worth living; and if it is not a Divine life, it’s better not to have been born at all. Therefore, a long life helps us take to spiritual practice or sadhana. A healthy life ensures the safety of this vehicle of transport (the body), this instrument, this chance of life given to us. And Divine life is the purpose and aim of life.
Therefore my friends, this is another challenge in front of us. Are we to seek the life of plenty, prosperity, affluence, position, politics, possession? What is it that we want? We have worldly pursuits, worldly objectives on the one hand, and spiritual, Divine life on the other. This is a challenge.
Swami wants us to face this challenge such that we pray for Divine life, and not simply spend our years like that. After all, spending year after year celebrating our birthday is simply vegetating and waiting for death, that’s all. On the other hand, if we want to have some kind of Divine life, life will be really vital, active, dynamic and most interesting, because Divinity or spirituality is a continuous, eternal journey.
I may earn and earn until such time that the government says, “No more!” Until such time that the near and the dear will be waiting for my end to take charge of my money! All these will come to an end. Earn and earn, burn and burn, and no more. Similarly, positions also will come to an end in every career. In every career, we reach some point and thereafter we have to retire; whereas a spiritual, Divine life has no end at all, as it has no beginning either.
We have been proceeding along the spiritual path life-after-life. It is one continuous journey. When life is a continuous journey, it is very interesting. On the other hand, if it comes to a standstill or a total halt, or if a halt or stop is nearing, life becomes boring. Life becomes mechanical. But it should not be so. The challenge of life is to lead and live a Divine life, not a life of plenty and prosperity.
Another challenge is this: We have many, many gurus all over the world. Many, many gurus. And some of the gurus immediately expect from you a cheque, or at least some donation. There are many, many ashrams. But here, we are in front of a guru with a difference. He gives and never takes. He tells you that which you may not relish, which you may not accept, which may not be palatable to you.
Because Bhagavan is the Guru of gurus, He teaches what He wants to teach, not to please you. He is not here to please you. He is not here to win your appreciation or admiration, because He doesn’t expect anything in return. As He does not expect anything in return, He just wants to tell you directly what He intends to convey. It has nothing to do with your willingness, with your options, or with your choice.
A very important thing with this Avatar is the emphasis on the practice of what He preaches. It is not simply hearing; it is not lending our ear only; it is not taking notes; it is not recording in our minds. It is meant to be practised. Therefore a challenge right now in front of us is this: precept vis-à-vis practice. Is it the precept you want, or the practice you decide to follow or adopt? Bhagavan wants us to practise all that we say. That is the challenge. Bhagavan also tells us that if only we take to practice, we don’t need so many books nor do we need so many mantras.
Somebody asked Swami, “How many times should I chant? How many times should I repeat Your Name? One hundred and eight times? Or a thousand and eight times? Thrice a day, or twice a day? Once in every twelve hours, like a medical prescription?”
Do you know what Baba said? “You don’t have to say it so many times. Here is a matchbox. You don’t have to light every matchstick. One matchstick is enough to light the lamp of a candle. You don’t have to make use of all the matchsticks in the matchbox.”
Therefore rather than only enjoying the precept, rather than just appreciating the precept, Bhagavan wants us to practice. This is really a challenge.
There is another challenge in this. Many people take to a convenient philosophy, a philosophy to suit their convenience. Suppose a person is not in the habit of worshipping. He is not in the habit of going to the temple or doing bhajans.
He will immediately quote from Bhagavan’s discourse: “What did Bhagavan say? ‘Bhajans are not a sign of spirituality. Visiting temples is not a spiritual activity.’ Did Bhagavan not say that?”
You forget the next sentence He said. Out of two sentences, he finds one sentence convenient and quotes it. But there is a second sentence. What does He say? “To realise the Divinity within is spiritual.” This man forgets that and he follows the first quote, which is what we call ‘convenient’ philosophy.
There are many people like that. I met one friend. He said, “Sir, what did Bhagavan say? Swami said that spiritual activity has nothing to do with money. Therefore, why should we talk about money?” I know that fellow is ‘miser number one’! (Laughter)
I said, “Very good. You have got nothing to do with money, so far as spirituality is concerned.”
But there is a second statement – “Tyagenaike amruthathva manasa” which means that eternity and Immortality are possible by charity only. How about this second sentence? Therefore, we fellows have learnt of late how to quote Bhagavan to suit our convenience. We don’t have any conviction. So we go on quoting Him, when it doesn’t suit us.
Suppose there is a fellow who does not read books at all. He is not in the habit of reading Sanathana Sarathi or Sathya Sai Speaks whatsoever. If you ask him, “Did you go through that book? What did Bhagavan say?” he will immediately say, “There is no use in reading.”
“There is no use in reading? Oh ho, I see!” (Laughter)
Why did he start at the university then? Is it for sleeping? (Laughter) This fellow is saying there is no use in reading because he doesn’t read. Bhagavan said, “That reading which helps you to know the Self is the true wisdom.”
CONVENIENCE OR CONVICTION
My friends, there is this danger of quoting Bhagavan to suit our own convenience, which to me in particular seems to be the worst of sins possible -- a convenient philosophy, a way of escape from responsibility from commitment. Therefore my friends, a challenge in front of us right now is convenience or conviction. If you go by convenience, it is the worldly way. If you have deep conviction, a deep commitment, you will never waver, you will never budge, and you will never compromise. This is the challenge in front of us.
The next challenge that I want to draw your attention to is this: Am I going to think of the benefit for the time being, or should I think of the being, the true being?
Time being is different from being. The being is existence. You were, you are, you will be. That is being, existence, consciousness, awareness, which is beyond time. Existence is being. ‘For the time being’ means that which is beneficial to you right now. Therefore my friends, the challenge in front of us is this: Shall we work for the benefits of the time being, or for the being?
It is clearly stated in the Bhagavad Gita that all the spiritual practices we adopt and follow may give us some birth in heaven, some birth in paradise. Some people say, “I don’t have a house here, but I have my house in heaven.” I see. Wait until that time when you finish your life here! So there are people who believe that they have got houses in paradise, in heaven. (We are very much bothered about properties here on earth, and we want to have properties there also! How greedy man is!)
Therefore, all the paradise or heavenly experiences that you get by following spiritual practices, all that is temporary, according to the Bhagavad Gita.
Alright. By attending Nagarsankirtan everyday, by sharing what I have, I may have the benefit of staying in heaven for five years or six years, that’s all. Afterwards, I have to return with double speed. Ascent may be slow, while descent is faster. Therefore the Bhagavad Gita says, “Do not pray to reach heaven; do not pray to reach paradise.” Because stay there is temporary, if at all it exists. It is temporary, because you have come there only on the grounds of the merit you have earned; so you can enjoy it only so long as there is merit. The moment the merit is over, you have to return.
I can withdraw money from the bank so long as some amount is there to my credit. When all the money is withdrawn, if I give a cheque when no money is there, the manager will say, “There is something fishy with this man. Something is wrong with this man. How can he issue a cheque without any credit in his account?”
Similarly my friends, when there is some merit to our credit, we’ll enjoy heavenly experiences; but later we’ll have to return. So, is it for the time being that you do, or is it for the being?
Bhagavan gives another example. A member of the legislative assembly or a Member of Parliament gets himself elected from the constituency he represents by the electorate. So he is elected to the Parliament. He goes to the capitol of the country as an MP (Member of Parliament) and he stays there. How long can he stay there? Only for a five-year term. Then he has to go back to his native village. He cannot stay there in Delhi or Washington DC. One cannot stay in the Parliament for a lifetime. You can be there only during your tenure; after that, it is finished.
Similarly, our life in heaven (which you believe in), if it exists, is purely temporary, for the time being. But Immortality and bliss are features of the very being. So in spirituality, the challenge in front of us is this: Is your effort for the time being or for your very being? That’s the point I would like to draw your attention to.
Another spiritual challenge in front of us is this: Somebody comes and tells me, “Sir, if you break a hundred coconuts, you will get a lot of money, you will get a promotion, and you can purchase the whole of Delhi. Just a hundred coconuts, that’s all!” I see. A good business proposition, right? After all, a hundred coconuts only – it doesn’t matter.
My friends, we run after temples; we run after pilgrimage centres; we run after people. Why? In expectation of some benefits; in expectation of some profit; in expectation of some promotion, some prospects in life. But this Avatar Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Teacher of teachers, the Jagathguru, emphatically tells this point very clearly, provided we pay attention. What does He say?
The worship you do in the temple has got significance. The meditation you do has got a meaning behind it. All our spiritual activities are not rituals. No, no. They are not anything like time-tables. No! They are not anything like a package or a software programme for the computer. No. Every ritual has got a spiritual significance behind it.
Swami gives a simple example. I attend the Independence Day celebration. I attend the Republic Day celebration of my own country. What do I do? I salute standing in front of the national flag, as a mark of reverence and respect, to my national flag. But the nation does not mean the simple piece of cloth, the so-called national flag. That national flag is, after all, just a piece of cloth. Is that the nation? No! Why do you salute it? There is a meaning behind it. What is it? That piece of cloth represents my nation. It’s not the nation itself. I think you got the point.
So our ritual is like a national flag, with a spiritual significance behind it, that of nationhood. When you salute the national flag, it speaks of your patriotism. It speaks of your relationship with your Motherland. It speaks of your reverence and respect. Similarly, all our rituals have a spiritual significance behind them that speak of the depth and profundity of the entire observance and performance of the ritual.
Here is a simple example. When you break a coconut, what does it mean? Swami says, “Coconut has three coverings: the fibre and the hard coconut shell and the inner soft white part with coconut water.” The brown fibre, the hard shell and the soft coconut with sweet water are the three parts.
One has to remove the fibre, which is the animality within man, the bestial temperament within man, the dullness, the inertia within man. Then the hard shell must be broken, which is nothing but ambition, passion, excessive desire, emotion; the rajasic temperament has to be broken. Then you have the white part that is your piousness, your calmness, your peace, your tranquillity, your truth, your love. Then you can enjoy the sweet water of Divinity within you, just as the sweet water is within the coconut.
You don’t break the coconut here and drink the coconut water at the gate, do you? So the coconut water is within the coconut which is available to you only when you remove the fibre, break the shell and then take the water. Similarly, the sweet water of Divinity is present within the coconut of life.
First, you have to remove the fibre, the animality, the thamasic temperament; thereafter, break the hard shell, the rajasic temperament; thereafter, go even beyond the white part, the sathwic temperament. Then enjoy the sweet water of Divinity within.
I’m sure that at least 99.9% of people do not know this. I am more than sure, because even once we know this, we do not feel like breaking the coconut, as we are not prepared to break ourselves (our ego). ‘I am not prepared to grow beyond these three qualities. I am comfortable with the animality of the fibre, and it is so convenient to have passion and desire, the hard shell. It is nice to look good like the white part inside. Let the sweet water take care of itself later.’ As we are quite comfortable with these three basic attributes, with these three basic qualities, we are not able to get the sweet water of the coconut, the Divinity that lies within us.
Therefore my friends, here is the challenge in front of us: Is it the observance of the ritual that is important, or the realisation of the significance behind it that is much more important? This is a spiritual challenge indeed.
Yesterday was really great. I really enjoyed it for one reason; I am sure you will all agree with me. We had a fellowship of faiths, a seminar on the ‘Unity of Religions’. Five people representing these five religions addressed us.
My friends, unity of religions is one of the important messages of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. If anyone becomes a fanatic, a dogmatic, a fundamentalist, he has no place in the Sai world. I should not say, “This is the way of praying; this is the way of offering prayer to God.”
Some people have brought some questions to me. “Can we sing English bhajans?” I answered, “Why not? God knows English also.” (Laughter)
Some ask, “Is it necessary to chant Vedic mantras in Sanskrit, which I do not know. Is it necessary?” I said, “It is not necessary.” Why? When you do not know Sanskrit, why should you struggle so hard? You can read your Holy Bible. You can read your Koran. You can read your Dhammapada, all of which are as good, as perfect, as important and as Divine as the Veda itself.
Do not think that Veda is superior to the Bible. That is an irreligious approach. To think that Koran is inferior to Veda is non-spiritual. Thinking that all spiritual texts are equally great or equally important, we don’t have to struggle to learn whatever is alien to us. In other words, the essence of religions is one and the same.
Bhagavan said at one time, “No religion wants you to be violent. No religion wants you to be arrogant. No religion dictates to you to be egoistic. All religions agree upon the fundamental human values of Truth, Duty, Peace, Love, and Non-violence.” So the basic tenets, the basic human values remain the same, whatever the religion may be.
Then Bhagavan said at another time, “One may say neeru in Telugu, and thanni in Tamil; in Hindi, they say pani; in English, water, while in Sanskrit, vari. After all, they are all only H2O. That’s all!”
Similarly, you may give any Name to the God of your choice, depending upon your attitude and your temperament, and based upon your samskaras. But God is always and only One and the same. This is the fundamental message of Bhagavan that we may often forget.
I was not happy at certain places abroad where people insisted on bhajans only to be sung in the congregation; where some people said, “This has to be recited.” I don’t know who said it. You can do it in your own way, that way which makes you happy. Why can’t we sing some biblical hymns? Why not? Yes, why not? Some of the hymns of Christian saints are so beautiful. Why not?
Therefore, my friends, to be dogmatic, fanatic, lop-sided, prejudiced, having a one-sided approach is irreligious, non-spiritual. We cannot claim ourselves to be Sai devotees if we have some kind of leaning towards one kind of faith to the utter neglect of the rest. Therefore, one of the challenges in front of us is this: unity in diversity
Yesterday people enjoyed seeing the person who was speaking on Zoroastrianism give a hug to the man who represented the Christian faith. I never saw devotees clapping like that. They clap in response to Divine messages; they clap in response to certain references to Swami by speakers. But when two people of different faiths were hugging there, the people clapped and clapped. What does it mean? That Christianity and Zoroastrianism are not different. They are one and the same.
And you also find the Buddhists speaking on Swami, which only means that Buddhism is not different from Sai teachings. Only Baba kept me sitting there! Had I been left to myself, I would have jumped onto the dais, grabbed the mike and linked Swami’s message with the different messages of other faiths. Had that been done, I would have been very happy, because the Islamic or Muslim faith is not totally different.
Bhagavan materialised a crescent and a star for a Muslim. He did not give a Krishna idol to a Muslim. There on the dais, there was a person from Holland. To that man, Swami gave the golden cross with Jesus Christ. He has not given him Krishna or Rama. In other words, He wants you to go forth on your own chosen path in the correct direction. He gave a Buddha idol to a Buddhist. Therefore, for unity in diversity we can learn from Bhagavan. That’s an important teaching.
We can never be divided. Convergence is greater than divergence. Unity is higher than diversity. If you go by diversity, you will end up in enmity. But we want amity and symphony, the community and sympathy that come out of unity. Therefore, Bhagavan emphasises this unity, which is a challenge before us.
I can also bring to your attention, my friends, another great challenge. We often try to imitate others. Yes, why not? You are successful in your field. I observe you over a period of time and I try to imitate you. What will happen? In the process of imitating you, I lose my originality. I cannot be your carbon copy. So I become neither - neither an ass nor a donkey, but a mule - a hybrid. So my friends, the challenge in front of us is this: Are you going to imitate or are you going to create? Creation or imitation is the challenge in front of us.
Imitation is human; creation is Divine. Bhagavan is creative. The whole of nature is creative. Nothing is repetitive in the entire creation. If the creation were repetitive, the whole life would be monotonous, a big bore. It is not so.
Life is creative. Life is effulgent. Life is radiant. Life is brilliant with all that is new and fresh. Therefore, we have got to be fresh and new every morning. Let us not think that today is the repetition of yesterday. Let us not think that tomorrow is going to be the repetition of today. Nothing doing. Every moment is new. Every second is new, if we want to live a true life, if we want to enjoy life.
I really liked it very much when that Parsi gentleman said that two L’s are important. What did he say? Love and laughter are the two important L’s. I liked that very much, because some people think that to be serious is a sign of religion. I pity them. Seriousness is not the sign of religion. It is the surest sign of sickness. (Laughter) One should learn to laugh, because when we smile and laugh, we can enjoy life. Life is worth living. Therefore my friends, creativity and not imitation is Divinity. We have to learn to be creative and not imitative. Imitation is blind; it is ugly. We are not supposed to imitate, but to create.
One more point, and then I’ll pass on to the next subject. Shall I limit myself to this ‘I’ness, self-centredness, or should I go towards this cosmic reality?
Yesterday, as one gentleman was speaking, it was so fantastic. As the Buddhist gentleman was speaking, he said, “You are not isolated; you are not to live in solitude. You are not to live a life of aloneness or loneliness. Know that you are part of this cosmos. Know that you are a part of this universe. You are a member of this whole organic family. Plants are your relatives. Animals are your friends. Hills, mountains, and valleys are your near and dear. You are so close to them. When you are so close to nature, you will be natural.”
Today, life is artificial because I am away from nature. If I am closer to nature, I can be natural. When I am natural, just as nature is beautiful, well, I am bound to be beautiful. I am ugly because I am not natural.
Therefore my friends, ‘we’-ness, cosmic universality, catholicity, a feeling of community -- there is beauty in the thought of ‘we’-ness. So the challenge is whether to remain in the position of ‘I’, or to live in the spirit of ‘we’-ness.
The other points have already been dealt with last week. Within these couple of minutes left to me, I shall draw your attention to some of the questions we received by email. Because of certain festivals and due to lack of time, I could not answer them earlier. I’ll try to answer some of the questions within the time left.
What is the proper method to turn the mind inward?
I’ll give a summary, as the question is lengthy. I’ll try to sum up to save time. What is the proper method to turn the mind inward?
The very fact that you know the mind is outward and that it needs to be inward is the first step in turning the mind inward. This is the first step. ‘I know that my mind is outward. Therefore, my life is miserable. I also understand that my mind has to be turned inward.’
Who is that ‘I’? My mind is outward; my mind has to be turned inward. Who is that ‘my’? Who is claiming that? Who is to turn it? When once you concentrate on that, on the one who is to make your extrovert mind introverted, who has realised it? Who has understood it? ‘My mind is outward.’ How do you know? Who is the knower? ‘I must turn my mind inward.’ Who is going to do it?
Is it a calculator or any weighing machine or a thermometer or a periscope, a telescope or a stethoscope? No scope. So understand the knower, who knows that the mind is outward, who realises that it has to be turned inward. That one is within you. Therefore my friends, this process is called ‘enquiry’. The path of enquiry is the only way to turn the mind within.
Please check: “Ko-ham?” Who am I? The first immediate answer is, “Deham.” I am the body. But you will know very soon that you are not the body because, by evening, you will fall sick with your BP shooting up!
If I am the body, I should remain like this. If I look at my photograph ten years ago, I feel like crying. I will not allow anybody with a camera to click my photograph now. (Laughter) We were all very handsome at one time. Today people want to escape us! If I am the body, then the body should be the same all the time; but it is not.
Next question, “Who are you?”
“I am jivasmi. I am an individual.”
No, you are not. No, no, no. Why? Because in sleep you forget your individuality. You are just lying there like a log of wood. So then, where is your individuality?”
Then comes the question, “Ko-ham?” Who are you?
“Yes, I am Brahman. Aham Brahmasmi. I am That.” That is the correct answer. It is called the theory of negation. The path of enquiry will help us turn our mind inward.
what is the spiritual significance and purpose of marriage?
Some say that marriage is a necessary evil. (Laughter) Those who have got married, they repent. Those who have not, they are in a hurry to get married. That is the beauty in this. (Laughter) That, my friends, is just a joke.
But what does Baba say? Does He say that no one should get married? If He says that no one should get married, why should there be two Kalyana Mandapams (marriage halls) in the village? Why should there be a Kalyana Mandapam in Brindavan, near Whitefield, Bangalore? Why should there be a Kalyana Mandapam in Hyderabad? Why should He Himself perform the marriage? Why should He Himself preside over mass marriages? Why?
My friends, marriage, spiritually speaking, is much more than we understand in the worldly way. All Avatars are born to couples only. Jesus, Buddha, Shirdi Baba, and Sathya Sai Baba were all born to married couples. They did not come out of the blue or from heaven. So how can they say marriage is not necessary? Can they say that? No.
But marriage has a sacred responsibility. There are four objectives of life: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Dharma is righteousness. Artha is prosperity. Kama is desire. Moksha is liberation. These four are much easier to achieve and to realise for a householder than for a celibate.
Hundreds of devotees say that they are here because of their wives. I told Swami, “It is the wife who becomes the devotee first. She will not allow her husband to have his breakfast until he agrees to make a trip to Prashanti Nilayam.” (Laughter)
She hurries him, that’s all; and the fellow simply follows her. Thereafter, he becomes a follower and this follower becomes a leader later. She feels so badly for her husband, who was not a devotee initially. Later she complains to the husband, who has become a zealous devotee, an aggressive devotee, a 24-hour devotee. She complains that now he has no time for her! (Laughter)
“You are the woman who complained when I was not a devotee. Now, why do you say this?” I have nothing to say, because we are all of that category! (Laughter)
So my friends, marriage is not a barrier. It is for the realisation of the objectives of life. When you cross the river from this shore to the other shore, you need a boat. Married life, the life of a householder, is a boat to cross from this shore of earthly sojourn to the other shore of liberation. A married man will have a kind of understanding, sympathy and an ability to adjust.
Looking at some people who are not married, I congratulate them. Please remain like that because, if you had gotten married, the wife would have committed suicide because of your temperament, which is non-adjusting! You cannot compromise nor can you adjust with anybody; therefore remain a celibate, at least to save the life of one woman on earth! (Laughter)
Therefore my friends, marriage is not a barrier. It is not that I am in a hurry to get every unmarried man married. I am not a priest or a marriage bureau. (Laughter) I am just telling you that, spiritually speaking, it is not a hindrance. The couple work together, just as two wires, positive and negative, allow the electricity to flow for the light to illumine, for the mikes to amplify the sound.
Therefore, the married life is a life of adjustment, a life of co-operation, a life of mutual encouragement. It is a life of mutual sympathy and empathy. Therefore, it is not a barrier. It is a boat to cross from this shore to the other shore. That’s what I can say from the viewpoint of Swami’s messages.
What is Swami’s advice to a daughter-in law?
This has to be a question from an Indian! (Laughter) Foreigners don’t have this problem (Laughter) because the moment the boy completes his graduation, he is on his own. It is only in Indian families, that we still have joint families, where it can be a problem.
What is the advice to a daughter-in-law? Swami wants every daughter-in-law to consider treating her mother-in-law as her own mother. Swami’s definition of daughter-in-law is daughter-in-love. Daughter-in-love. The mother-in-law should know that the daughter-in-law is not from a different house; she is, after all, her own daughter. The daughter-in-law should behave and conduct herself like the daughter of her mother-in-law. It is a relationship of mother and daughter, that’s all. It is not ‘in-law’; it is ‘in-love.’ That’s what Swami says.
Of course, this was a lengthy letter, as this good daughter-in-law is under torture by her mother-in-law. But I can’t help her. (Laughter) What to do? It will come under interference.
you cannot love god and treat the world with contempt
The next question: “When contemplating on Sai, which instantly leads one to enjoy and feel Sai’s Love, I find myself very sad as I feel trapped and chained by the very world I have created around me.”
Wah! This is a dichotomy of experience. I chant Baba’s Name; I am very happy. At the same time, I feel sad that I am caught in the cobwebs of this world, that I am chained in this world.
My friends, it is not so. When I sing His glory, when I chant His Name, I find the world altogether different from what it was earlier. Before singing His bhajans, before chanting His Name, I find the world disgusting, vexing, mechanical, and not interesting. I find the world full of competition and comparison, with all duality. But after basking in His holy Name, after thinking of Him, I find the world interesting, because the world is not different from God.
God manifest is the world. World un-manifest is God. You cannot love God and treat the world with contempt. No. You cannot simply love the world and deny the Creator. There cannot be creation without the Creator. Creator’s reflection is the creation.
Swami Vivekananda gave an example: A fellow who did not believe in idolatry went on criticising others who worshipped idols. Vivekananda wanted to teach him a lesson. He went into a palace, and looked at the painting of the father of this gentleman. He just pulled it down, broke the glass and kept it under his feet.
The fellow started shouting, “What did you do? It was my father’s painting, a beautiful picture. Why did you do that?”
“Arre! The picture is not your father. Why do you cry?”
“No, no, it’s my father!”
“Similarly, an idol represents the Ideal. So shut your mouth!” he said. (Laughter)
Idols represent the Ideal. We cannot deny them or consider them as foolish. But at the same time, Baba said that an idol is necessary till such time as you realise the Ideal. He gave one simple example: With this finger, you point to the beautiful flower. This pointing finger is necessary until you see the actual flower. The pointing finger shows the direction, that’s all. Thereafter, you don’t need that direction any more. Similarly, when once you are closer to the Ideal, the idol is no longer necessary. That’s how we can understand it.
My friends, you should never feel that you are chained in this world; that you are happy only chanting His Name. No. This world is nothing but His own creation. This world is nothing but His own reflection. He wanted us to live in this world. If this world is so bad, why should He allow us to live here? Good or bad are your own thoughts. Good and bad are nothing but the effects of the change in time and influence. Therefore, a spiritual man will feel the world full of Love. He will enjoy the world as the manifestation of Divinity.
WHEN A PERSON HAS BECOME VERY SPIRITUAL, WHAT WILL MARRIAGE MEAN TO THAT PERSON?
The purpose of marriage will be to know that true Love is beyond infatuation and beyond attachment, and will help you to go to Divine Love. Marriage means to find the unity of purpose, the unity of Love. That’s what spiritual marriage means.
If things happen as per karma, why should we pray?
The questioner says that prayer could only push the negative effects off to some extent. The powers of prayers are limited. What is destined to happen will happen, as per the law of karma. In other words this man says, as things will happen according to karma, then why should we pray?
Very simple. There is good karma and bad karma. Good karma will give you good results; bad karma will give you bad results. But when you pray, you will experience your good karma, the good results, with humility, reverence, respect and simplicity.
With prayer, when you have to pass through bad experiences, the difficulties and troubles in life, which are the result of bad karma, you will be courageous, you will be hopeful, you will think of a promising future. ‘There are good days ahead of me.’
Without prayer, good karma yielding good results will make you egoistic. Without prayer, bad karma yielding bad results will frustrate you, and sometimes even lead to suicide.
Therefore, prayer will help you to be simple, humble, respectful, and submissive, and to accept the Divine command, to surrender. It will make you hopeful. So prayer is necessary in both the situations, positive and negative.
Why are dress codes different for men and women?
Here is an interesting question: “My dear Anil, I am a member of a Sai centre. I would like you to tell me a bit more about the code of dress in our organisation.” Yes. This question is obviously from a lady.
She says, “When men are free to come for darshan with all kinds of coloured dresses, pants, Indian pyjamas, why should women only come in a particular way? Why prohibit women to enter with particular dresses? Why can’t women enter with pants and tops that are a bit tight-fitting, of western origin?” I am reading it. It is not my creation; please don’t attribute anything to me. I am not interested. (Laughter)
As the proverb goes, “Be a Roman when you are in Rome.” This being India, we have to follow the tradition of this land, as we are here. Wear what you like in your own country. You can be free, in accordance to the law of that land, in adherence to the practice and the tradition of that land. When you are here, you have to follow the culture and tradition of this land. Better I stop at that level, rather than go into other details. (Laughter)
How do you explain the presence of god to a child, in simple words?
A child does not need the presence of God to be explained. Children experience God more than all of us put together.
The other day, when the drama was enacted in front of Swami, we found children crying. The children went on crying. I don’t know why they cried. Nobody asked them to cry. During the dance, they went on crying as they had gone into the mood of ecstasy. They had gone into that mood of bliss. There were tears of joy. They could not contain that emotion. They could not contain their happiness; their joy was overwhelming. It was expressed in the form of tears of joy.
So shall I explain to them how to experience God? It is too silly. We also experienced God when we were children. Of late, for reasons best known to us, we need to do some sadhana to go back to our childhood. That’s why Jesus said, “Unless you are like a child, you cannot enter through the gates of heaven.” As a child is so innocent, a child can experience God.
As a matter of training, initially Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas has come with some procedures to encourage the child to proceed along the path toward Divinity. The Bal Vikas syllabus, the Bal Vikas classes, have produced wonderful results all over the world. Please believe it. Children from Bal Vikas are totally different from children elsewhere, as Bal Vikas has given them a sufficient foundation and grounding for the future, so that they are well-trained and prepared to face life and its challenges.
Can I sing a Ganesha song twice during bhajanS?
A second time? (Laughter) If you say a second time, some person will say, “Why not a third time?” Another person will say, “Why not all the time?” No. Why? Because some people love Rama; some people worship Krishna; some people worship Lakshmi; some people are believers of Christ; some are believers of Allah. All these Names should be there.
There can be too much of Ganesha. You cannot do that. When our singers forget to sing a Sarvadharma bhajan, with all the holy Names in all religions, Swami sees to it that they sing that song. He will not get up until that song is also rendered. He insists that a Sarvadharma prayer (bhajan) should be there. Therefore my friend, if you want to sing a second or third Ganesha song, please sing it to yourself! (Laughter)
I HAVE SENT MY PHOTO TO SWAMI -- IS THERE ANY ANSWER?
Some questions I deliberately put in the ‘priority number two’ list. Now I am going there. Oh ho! “I have sent my photo to Swami. He is talking to me. Is there any answer?”
When Swami is talking to you, what answer can I give you? (Laughter) Please put that question to the photo, and you will get the answer!
Should ‘Loka Samastha’ be recited only after the arathi?
Next question: Some members of our centre believe that we should recite the ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’ only after doing Arathi. Is that the right way for this mantra?
Anyone may say, “Why should I eat yogurt or curd at the end of the meal? Why don’t I begin with yogurt? Why don’t I begin with curd?” Why not? Please do it if you want. Or have yogurt only.
But my friends, ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’ is said at the end of Arathi because, as we leave the bhajan session, as we come out of our own prayers, we’ll have that feeling of universal brotherhood. We’ll have that universal feeling. We’ll have that cosmic feeling. We’ll have that feeling of oneness, of equanimity and equality.
If that is not there, if you say ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’ at the beginning, then towards the end, you may feel, ‘Let me be happy,’ that’s all. You will end up with (ego) ‘I’-ness. You will end up with the ‘I’-ness of self-centredness.
On the contrary, when you say, ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’, you are part of loka you are chanting about; so you don’t have to pray for yourself separately. You are part of this loka, as you have not yet gone to the other loka (to die)! (Laughter) We are all here in this loka only.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DREAMS?
A dream that makes you confused is a psychological reflection. It is mental imagination; it is hallucination, or to quote Swami, “Hysteria.” The vision of Sai is different from a dream of Sai. I gave one lecture earlier on dreams and visions. There I explained the difference between a dream and a vision.
For those of you who were not present then, for your reference, I will explain this in one sentence: “Vision is spiritual, while dream is psychological.” Vision is directed, while dream is left to your choice. Vision is intuitive, born out of the heart; while dream is a reflection of the mind. Vision comes unexpectedly; whereas usually dreams speak of unfulfilled desires or tasks. A simple example: ‘As I cannot beat you here, I’ll take care of you in my dreams and finish you off there.’ (Laughter) So dreams speak of unfulfilled tasks, whereas visions are quite independent. Many more things can be said (see the text of the talk on the website).
As the time is up, I’ll take up the rest of the questions next week. Thank you for your gracious presence. Thank you, friends. May Baba bless you!
Asato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrtyormaa Amrtam Gamaya
Om Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti