CONVERSATIONS WITH SAI
Satyopanishad - part 13:
Direct Directions from the Divine
In response to your positive feedback to this section where we have a conversation with the Divine, we continue with Prof. Anil Kumar’s ‘Satyopanishad’ following Dr. John Hislop’s series ‘Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’ that ended in January 2008.
This series is also in the question-answer format that many devotees prefer, and has answers from Bhagavan on topics as wide ranging as the origin of evil, the goals of human life, and aspects of God – embodied and formless, to price hikes, women’s liberation, vegetarianism, and the generation gap among people of the present times.
Published in two parts by the author, these volumes have 270 questions in all, which are neatly grouped under separate chapters. In this issue, we continue the fourth chapter: The Outer Door.
CHAPTER 4 - THE OUTER DOOR
(Continued from the previous issue)
Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! We have on one side the most invaluable spirituality, while on the other, we have also friends and relatives diverting our attention towards the world. No doubt, it is our fault to pay heed to their words. Yet, we face the conflict. What is to be done?
Bhagavan: Today no one has true friends. Who are the friends of today's world and of what sort are they? (Addressing the students) After all, your friendship lasts for two or three years until you complete your studies here and leave the hostel. Later, you separate from each other and go your own way. So long as you have money in your pocket and your father is in a good position, everyone would come to you and say "hello", but the day your pocket is empty and your father retires, you will be left with none even to say 'good bye'. Can you still call anyone your friend?
Friendship in Sanskrit is known as 'maitri,' pronounced as 'mythree'. Here ‘three’ represents the harmony in thought, word and deed. Are there friends with this purity? Nowhere! Who is your true friend then? God is your real friend. God is the only friend for you, as He is always with you and in you: Don't consider anyone else as your friend. Further, you should be very careful with people or your company. It is said, "Tell me your company, I shall tell you what you are".
Therefore, all and sundry can't be your friends. A warrior of outstanding stature and an expert in archery, Karna fell into disrepute because he was in bad company, and so he is branded as one among the wicked four, (the dustachathustaya) - Duryodhana, Dussasana, Sakuni and Karna.
Next, who are your relatives? In what way were you related to them before you were born? All of them come in with the passage of time and pass off like passing clouds. Is it not so? Relatives come up to the main door as one dies and the members of the family at the most follow one's corpse to the cremation ground; none follow the departed soul. It is only God who is with you during your life and even after your death. So, God is your real friend and the only relation. These worldly associations shouldn't be taken as friends and relatives.
Your life too is short. But God is awareness and existence. He is there before, during, and after your life. He is the eternal truth. So, follow Him, catch hold of God with your right hand as it is the right thing, and catch hold of the world with your left hand, as it has to be left behind sometime or the other. It is thus the right thing to remember God always.
Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! It is most unfortunate that there is no tangible change in our lifestyle though we have been here and listening to Your divine discourses over the years. We do not know the reason why it is so. Kindly show us the way.
Bhagavan: Lack of practice is the only reason. When there is no power supply and it is dark all over, can darkness be dispelled by just saying "lamp" unless you light it? The hunger of a starving man can never be satiated by merely looking at the menu of the most delicious items. He has to eat some of them to appease his hunger, shouldn’t he? Can a sick man be cured of a disease by merely listening to the formula and composition of the medicine without his taking it?
Can the suffering of a poor man be alleviated with all the knowledge of economics and accountancy? Can you attain liberation (mukti) by reading books without practicing any of the instruction found therein? Instead of saying something without doing, it is better to do and not say anything. I repeatedly tell you that until you practice what you say, there is little effect even after listening to talks for years together.
Take a small example here. Suppose you have with you a matchbox full of matchsticks and you want to light a lamp. You will now have to open the box, pick up a stick and strike against the side of the box to light it. In case you fail to light the matchstick, even after striking it again and again, what does it mean? You then come to discover the meaning: the matchbox is wet. You cannot light a stick striking it against the box. What is to be done now? You have to dry the matchbox in the sunlight for some time.
Similarly, you are drowned in the water of worldly desires and attachments. Therefore, you can't light the lamp of wisdom. Dry your mind with all its limitless desires and thoughts of worldly comfort in the sunlight of renunciation; only then can you light the lamp of wisdom. You may be here listening to any number of discourses for any length of time, but you will not be able to achieve the expected results if you fail to translate the essence of one discourse into your daily life.
Dry your mind with all its limitless desires and thoughts of worldly comfort in the sunlight of renunciation; only then can you light the lamp of wisdom. You may be here listening to any number of discourses for any length of time, but you will not be able to achieve the expected results if you fail to translate the essence of one discourse into your daily life.
Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Because of wrong direction in our thinking, we feel dejected, restless and often fail in our attempts. Kindly show us the way out of it.
Bhagavan: For all these agitations, disturbances, disappointments, depressions and failures, what is responsible is your wrong way of thinking. Whatever may happen in life, you should think, “This is good for me”. You should know that everything that happens ultimately turns to be for your own good. This is called positive thinking. Today you are full of negative thoughts. How do you expect to know and experience God?
Your body, mind, intellect and the senses are completely negative, but your spirit, conscience, or atma is positive. God is your conscience. Do you know why you are not able to realise and experience God? It is entirely due to these negative thoughts and attitudes. So, positive thinking and positive actions are very essential for spiritual progress. Only then will you be peaceful, blissful and successful.
Take your own example. (To the students) It is absolutely because of positive thinking that you are able to plan your academic programme and prepare yourself accordingly, as also aim to secure a good rank in the examinations and later a job. But planning to study whatever would fetch you a very fat salary, help you to go abroad, earn more money and marry a girl who would get you a large amount of dowry, is negative thinking.
As far as your parents are concerned, their idea of educating you is absolutely positive, but making a business out of your education is negative thinking. For a doctor, to treat a patient and cure him/her is a positive approach, but if money is the criterion for the treatment given to the patient, it is a negative approach.
Today we should fill our hearts with all positive thoughts like divine feelings, divine sentiments and good thoughts. Only then you will experience God, who is satchitananda, the absolute positive principle. Therefore, it is necessary for you to take everything as good for you. This is positive thinking. Come what may - problems, difficulties, troubles, failures, losses, blame and what not, you should always be positive. You will know later that all this had happened for your own good.
Today we should fill our hearts with all positive thoughts like divine feelings, divine sentiments and good thoughts. Only then you will experience God, who is satchitananda, the absolute positive principle. Therefore, it is necessary for you to take everything
as good for you.
A small story: there was a king who had a fancy to cut sugarcane all by himself to small pieces and eat it piece by piece. One day, while he was busy doing this, as ill luck would have it, he cut his finger. The minister, who was by his side, remarked, “Oh King! You have cut your finger. This is good for you.” On hearing this remark, the king grew wild, and thought, “What! How can this be good for me? What would the minister say if I lose my head too?" So the king ordered, out of fury and anger, that the minister be put in prison. Then, the minister said, “Oh King! This imprisonment is my good fortune”.
After some time, the king went hunting all alone to a nearby forest. He lost his way and was noticed by some tribals moving in that area. They were actually in search of a man suitable to be sacrificed to propitiate their deity at the end of their ritual. They caught hold of the king and took him to their head priest. After checking the king thoroughly, the head priest said, “We can't kill this king and make an offering to our deity as one of his fingers is missing. A handicapped or crippled body is unfit to be an offering.” Saying so, he set the king free.
On the way, the king realised the truth of what the minister had said when he had cut his finger. He summoned the minister and said, “Oh Minister! How true is what you said! It is just because of the fact that I had lost my finger that the tribals set me free, unharmed. Now I have one doubt. You remarked that it was good for you when I put you behind bars. How has this imprisonment turned out to be good for you?" Then, the minister replied, 'Certainly! Had I not been kept in the jail, I would have followed you. The tribals, after leaving you, would have caught hold of me, killed me and offered me to their deity in your place. So, this punishment has been to my good fortune”. This is positive thinking and attitude; then happiness and success will follow you.
akkaraku rani cuttamu
mrokkina varamiyani velpu
moharamuna tanekkina parani gurramu
grakkunna viduvangavalayu gadara sumati
This Telugu poem, means, 'A relation who doesn't come to your help in time of need, a God who doesn't grant you boons even after you pray, a horse that doesn't run in the battlefield, will have to be given up immediately, Oh! Wise one! Is it not so?'
Here, in this poem, first of all, know that it is addressed to a sumati, a wise one. It is true that you have to sever connections with a relation who doesn't come to your aid in the hour of your need, give up the horse that fails to run in the battlefield, and forget a God who doesn't grant you rewards even after you pray. Here, you should note one important point. Why don't you think this way? Before you blame your relation that he is not of any help to you when you need him most, why don't you for a while, ponder if you have ever been of any help to your relation when he needed you? A horse that doesn't gallop in the field must be given up, but why don't you question your competence in horse riding? God, who doesn't respond to your prayers, is not God; but do you deserve what you desire and pray for? This poem is meant for that person, sumati, who thinks positively before blaming anybody. This is how your thinking process should be.
Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Now we understand that we should also have such intense faith in God. Naturally, our experience will be proportionate to the depth of our faith. Swami! Does God also respond commensurate with the intensity of our faith?
Bhagavan: Certainly! If you put in krsi, effort, you will earn God's krpa, grace. Moreover, with krsi, effort, you can even become a rishi, sage.
A village boy happened to meet a scholar who said to him that God could be experienced through pranayama (breathing exercises) and dhyana (meditation). Hearing this, the boy began practising it most sincerely. Pleased with his devotion and sincerity, God manifested Himself before the boy and blessed him. The boy then told the scholar that he had seen God by doing what he asked him to do. The scholar could not believe it. He said, “Oh! Don't talk rubbish! How is it that you could see God while I couldn't, by practising pranayama and dhyana for years? Don't speak lies!"
The boy returned to his place of meditation and saw Lord Narayana there. He said to Him, “Oh God! The scholar calls me a liar! How am I to make him accept what I have experienced? Swami! Kindly stay here until I bring him here and make him see You and experience the truth for himself. But dear God! I am afraid You may run way from here and it will make me very miserable in the sight of the scholar who doubts me. Therefore, with this rope let me tie You to this pole here." He did so, ran to the scholar and requested him to see Narayana for himself.
Although the scholar came over there, he couldn't see God tied to the post, but the cowherd boy could see Him and converse with Him. Ultimately, the boy cried and prayed to Narayana to make Himself visible to the scholar too. God obliged him. This is what true devotion is. God even allowed Himself to be tied to a post. You have to note another point here. The faith that the cowherd boy had in the words of the scholar was the cause of his experience.
If you spend your life in prayer, it is bound to be peaceful and blissful. For example, if you climb up the seven hills and reach the shrine of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala, you will feel very tired. On the other hand, if you go to Tirupati in a group, singing God's glory all along the way, you will hardly feel any strain.
Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! In this age of Kali, devotion, faith and steadfastness are on the decline. Not only this, we often find people making fun of devotees and leading a life opposed to religious norms. This is a very sad state of affairs. What do you want us to do in these circumstances?
Bhagavan: First of all, correct yourself. Rectify your own defects and mistakes. When you are not flawless and idealistic, you have no right to blame anybody and point out the mistakes of others. So, see that your own faith is strong, deep and unflinching.
In Andhra Pradesh, there lived three Rajus, kings in their own field of activity: the king of poetry, Goparaju; the king of devotion, Tyagaraju; and the king of sublime lyrical music, Potaraju. The latter refused to dedicate his rendering of the great work, the Bhagavatam, to the king who promised him immense wealth as a token of his appreciation of the work. Potaraju, or Potana, dedicated his work only to Lord Ramachandra.
Goparaju, or Ramadasu, also called Gopanna, spent all the money he had in the treasury for the renovation of the temple of Rama, for which he was severely punished. Tyagaraju considered ramuni sannidhi, proximity to God, more precious than nidhi, money. All these three Rajus followed their chosen paths out of their deep conviction about the supremacy of God. They worked and suffered for their own self-satisfaction and for the satisfaction of their own conscience. They did not bother about the views and opinions of others. They did not yield to temptations of any sort.
Dogs may bark watching an elephant passing by, but the elephant loses nothing. You know the vastness of a sea. Have you not heard the puranas (ancient scriptures) proclaim that amrta, nectar, and halahala, poison, are produced by the same ocean? Amrta makes you happy while visha or poison is dangerous. Isn't it so?
Similarly, society is like a vast ocean where you have nectarous and good people, as well as poisonous and bad individuals. Bad people make fun of good people. It doesn't mean that you should give up your nobility and goodness.
A crane may make fun of a swan. The singing of a cuckoo bird is horrible to the ears of a crow. A koel eats the tender leaves of a mango tree while a crow eats the bitter leaves of a neem tree. Similarly, some in society struggle for worldly, fleeting and sensual pleasures; while others make all sincere efforts for God's grace to enjoy divine bliss. A donkey that carries a bundle of sandalwood on its back doesn't know the fragrance of the sandalwood. A buffalo doesn't know the taste of beaten rice. Similarly, divinity is not relished by all and sundry.
If you deny God, it means you are denying yourself. You are not different from God. You are God. Your praise and blame do not affect God. The good and bad of your own actions come back to you as reaction.
If you deny God, it means you are denying yourself. You are not different from God. You are God. Your praise and blame do not affect God. The good and bad of your own actions come back to you as reaction. The axe cuts the sandalwood tree that has not done any harm to the axe. Because of this evil deed, the axe loses its sharpness for which it is kept in fire and hammered. The sandalwood tree does not subject the axe to any punishment. So, it is the action of the axe that comes back as reaction.
Consider another example in this context. When gold is burnt in fire it shines brilliantly. But, as a reaction the goldsmith has to suffer because ash falls into his eyes in the process of burning the gold, and his own clothes become dirty due to smoke. Here, the gold, that is burnt and hammered, does not punish the goldsmith. His own action punishes him. Similarly, if you accuse or blame or deny God, it will not do anything to Him. But, your action will come back to you as reaction; you punish yourself.
Suppose you throw some dust at the Sun, what happens? It only falls in your own eyes. If you switch on an electric fan, you will enjoy the cool breeze. If you don't switch on, it will not lose anything; it suffers no loss. If you switch on the bulb, you get light. But, if you don't switch it on, the bulb suffers no loss.
Therefore, good and bad depend only on you. Just as you can buy any material object in this world with money, similarly with the money of God's name, you can be blissful. Under a streetlight, you will be able to see all around including the bulb that illumines. Similarly, divinity makes you, and everybody around you, happy. So, deepen your faith in God and experience divine bliss. That's what you should do.
Fruits can't protect themselves. It is the tree that protects the fruits it bears. The tree is protected and kept green by its roots. If you supply water and manure to the roots, they protect the tree, which in its turn protects the fruits. Isn't it so? God is the root of this world. If you surrender to God, everything will be taken care of.
People with worldly thoughts can't relish divine feelings. A person from the fish market can't imagine who a jeweller is. A sea has most precious gems at its bottom but the seawater is full of salt. Isn't it?
Similarly, we have people of different temperaments in this world. God is never against anyone. There are none close to or distant from Him. All are alike to Him. You may hold a jasmine flower by either your right hand or left hand, it smells equally well in either hand. God is that one who is in all.
(To be continued)
- Illustrations: Ms. Vidya, Kuwait
To access all the previous issues of Conversations With Sai, please click here.