Volume 7 - Issue 10
OCTOBEr 2009
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CONVERSATIONS WITH SAI

Satyopanishad - part 20:
Direct Directions from the Divine



Dear Reader,

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 begin chapter seven, “Sadhana, The Inner Door”.


CHAPTER VII: Sadhana, The Inner Door

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Good company is very essential for everybody. Is it as significant as it is said to be?

 

Bhagavan: Undoubtedly, good company is very important for every one of you. In fact, you should also seek the company of good people. You should run away from bad company. It is the company you join that decides your life. So, it is said, "Tell me your company! I shall tell you what you are!" Dust when it is in association with the wind goes up, but the same dust in association with water sinks down. Another example for you: in ten cups of milk if you mix one cup of water, the value of water also will go up. But, on the other hand, in ten cups of water, if you pour one cup of milk, the milk will lose its value. See, this explains clearly the importance of the association or the company you keep.

You also hear in the Mahabharata about Karna, who, in spite of all his excellence in archery, intelligence, and physical prowess, because of his bad company, has come to be known as one among the 'dustachatustaya', the four wicked ones. Karna lost all his name and fame because of bad company.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! What is your advice to employees, who struggle to make both ends meet and wish to follow Swami?

Bhagavan: I have advised you a great many times to keep hands in society and head in the forest. You work well with both your hands. Be very sincere in your work and serve wholeheartedly. At the same time, keep God as your aim and objective. You should keep Him in your mind at all times.

   

Consider a mother. She may be very busy with her household work, but she never forgets her child. She knows when her child will feel hungry and needs to be fed.

You must have watched the dance programme in our auditorium. The dancer keeps two or three pots one above the other on the head, and moves her head and limbs precisely to the rhythm and the drumbeat. To the surprise of the audience all the while the pots remain exactly one above the other on her head as they were kept just before the dance performance began.

How? The answer is simple. As she dances, she constantly concentrates on the pots over her head so that the balance is never lost.

Similarly, in your life you may be doing several things. Yet, you should ever remember God and keep Him as your sole aim. Always look up inwardly.



Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! You are unique in explaining both the components of our life, the spiritual and the physical. You alone can do it in this world. It is most necessary that we mix with people, and sometimes even intimately. We have to interact with one another in our daily life. How are we to speak and what is good for us to speak? Kindly tell us about this, Swami!

Bhagavan: You think that worldly life and spiritual life are separate entities. They are not. Spirituality is awareness. It is total knowledge and not pieces or bits of information. You should always talk sweetly and softly. You can please everyone with your fine talk. See, when a crow sits on the wall repeating kav, kav we chase it away, but when a cuckoo repeats kuhu, kuhu, you too start imitating its sweet sound. Both are birds, but where does the difference lie? It is only the sound, you see! Similarly your talk makes all the difference. The crow has not harmed you in the least, nor has the cuckoo rendered any help to you. It is only the sound that pleases or displeases you. You should speak the truth, you should talk pleasingly. You cannot always oblige, but you can speak obligingly. Is it not? Your words should never hurt or harm anyone.

It is only the sound that pleases or displeases you. You should speak the truth, you should talk pleasingly. You cannot always oblige, but you can speak obligingly.

One day, a hunter was chasing a deer in the forest. A sage who was sitting there saw the deer running fast to escape the hunter. The hunter in his search for the deer, saw the sage and asked him if he had seen a deer passing by. In reply, the sage said, "Oh hunter! The eye that saw the deer passing cannot speak and the tongue that speaks cannot see. What can I say?" So nothing false was spoken.

You must have heard of the great king Harischandra. By just telling one lie, he could have easily got back the kingdom that he had lost. By adhering to truth, his son was brought back to life, and his family reunited. He did not utter a single lie. He stuck only to truth. So, till this day his name is remembered and it has come to stay so long as the sun, the moon and this galaxy remains. He is the very embodiment of truth. So he is called "Satya Harischandra".

Mataku pranamu satyamu - Truth is the life of speech.

kotaku pranamu sainyamu - Army is the life of a fort.

Nottuku pranamu cevralu -  Signature is the life of an IOU.

You should not talk too much or excessively. If you do so, society will call you a chatterbox, a loose tongued man. Ati bhasa mati hani, too much talk turns you mad. Mitabhasa atihayi, limited talk makes you very happy as you are not likely to tell a lie, criticise, gossip, or talk vainly.

You lose your respect if you talk endlessly. You tend to lose your memory as well. You lose your energy. If you switch on a radio and keep it on high volume for a long time, many units of electricity are consumed, aren't they? So also, your energy gets consumed if you keep talking for long.

It is always in the depth of silence that the voice of God is heard.

Note that it is always in the depth of silence that the voice of God is heard. If anyone greets you with a 'hello', respond with a 'hello'; if anyone says 'goodbye', you also reply in the same way, 'goodbye'. That's all. You talk only when it is necessary and to the extent it is needed.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Is it not a help to a person if I point out his mistakes?

Bhagavan: Thinking of the mistakes of someone else, you also become defective. To face and to resist a bad man you have to become even worse than him. So, it is a sin to point out the mistakes of others. If you point out the mistakes of others, with one finger, three fingers point towards you.

As the saying goes, a street dog is always in search of slippers. A pig spends its time in gutters. You would also look like a pig if you go on looking at the faults of others.

In a way, a monkey is much better than a man who finds fault with others. When a monkey finds an orange fruit, what does it do? It will takeaway the outer rind and then eats the fruit. Will it not?

This sort of separating the good from the bad is called vibhaga yoga. You should give up the bad, the undesirable.

In Japan, there is a city by name Kyoto. A woman was passing through a particular street carrying with her a big bundle of clothes wrapped up in a neat pure piece of white cloth. These clothes were all dirty and were not neat. Someone asked, "What are those clothes?" She said, "I want to show you the good. I want you to see the good. Therefore, I have wrapped these dirty clothes in a white cloth". Finding faults in others, making fun of others, criticizing others, are mistakes that one should not commit.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Now we understand that we are mistaken with regard to our knowledge. You have explained clearly what awareness is by saying that it is complete knowledge but not the knowledge of a bit or a piece of anything. How are we to cultivate this awareness?

Bhagavan: Spirituality is very essential for awareness. It is impossible to develop awareness by any other means. With a spiritual background, things will be very clear to you. You will then have total understanding, which is awareness. Otherwise, what you acquire is bookish knowledge, superficial knowledge, general knowledge but not practical knowledge, which is awareness. This is possible only in the spiritual path.

 

A small example: You sow a seed in the ground. It germinates into a plant. But do you expect the seed to germinate if it is kept in a tin? Impossible. Similarly, the plant of awareness grows in the field of spirituality and not in a tin of worldly pleasures. The awareness then developed is, in fact, true awareness.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Now it is clear that this sort of "awareness" is not available in our educational institutions, that awareness is so very important for all of us. You are the incarnation of God in the present day world. Why don't You, by Your grace, grant us this boon of awareness?

Bhagavan: If everything is done by God Himself, what will be there for you to do? How will you make use of the God-given mind and intellect? Don't you realise that these divine instruments like the mind and the intellect that you are equipped with will be a waste, if God does everything for you? The mother cooks and serves food. She cannot eat it on behalf of the child! When the child sustains any injury the mother feels sad. But she cannot bandage herself on behalf of the child!

Though you sit in front of the plate filled with potato curry and chapatti, you must also pick them up with your own hands and eat. By simply repeating "potato, chapatti" will your hunger be appeased? The hand and the mouth should be put to work. Is it not? Similarly, you should make use of your mind and intellect.


Everything will be known to you. By your effort, you will win God's grace. With krsi, effort, one can even become a rishi, a sage. Do your duty thinking at the same time of the Lord. Krishna too said the same thing to Arjuna, mamanusmara yudhya cha, "O Arjuna! Remember Me and fight!" Chanting Rama's name, Hanuman could cross the mighty ocean. So do your duty and you can achieve whatever you want to.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Spiritual aspirants observe austerities like upavasa, fasting, jagarana, vigil and consider them spiritual. We request you to let us know their importance and inner significance.

Bhagavan: The traditions, rituals, and the age old practices of Bharat have a meaning and significance. Aspirants undoubtedly get divine experiences. But today people are after external and pompous rituals without any understanding of their inner significance. So they have forgotten the very goals and purposes for which they were originally intended. Almost all the rituals have become mechanical, monotonous and routine. There is none to explain to them lucidly. Most people are not aware of the subtleties. So, you don't find anybody practicing austerities or rituals sincerely. Man need not change. It is the mind that should change.

To feel God in you is upavasa and not mere fasting as the literal meaning goes: Upa, near, vasa, living: In other words, upavasa means living close to or near God.

Suppose you are traveling to a distant place and you don't have food to eat on the way: Can you consider this upavasa, fasting? Will this be of any spiritual use? A patient doesn't take normal food. Is that fasting? What do you get out of it? To feel God in you is upavasa and not mere fasting as the literal meaning goes: Upa, near, vasa, living: In other words, upavasa means living close to or near God. It means one should turn inward, feel God and constantly think of Him.

This is upavasa in its true sense. Today, we notice people who fast on the ekadasi day. But, they eat double the normal quantity of food the next day. The madhvas (followers of Madhvacharya) observe Bhisma ekadasi on which day they fast. They don't swallow even their saliva.

 

In the state of Karnataka, they say in Kannada, "bida bedi bittu keda bedi" which means, do not give up and spoil yourself. When you give up anything, don't pick it up again. It is a bad habit. Instead, what is happening? They get the flour ready well grinded and preserve the dough for three days, with this they make nice tasteful dosas, south Indian tiffin. So in Kannada it is said, indu adideekadasi ondu tindu nalavattu dosa, it means, in the name of ekadasi, on one fasting day in a month, preparations are made for as many as forty dosas. Is this upavasa? No, definitely not.

One should keep off from worldly happiness, sensual pleasures and material comforts. You should be unmindful of all these mundane matters, but awake or vigilant to the inner core, the atma.

Why should you observe vigil, jagarana? Why is jagarana, keeping awake throughout the night, observed? It means that you should keep off from your worldly happiness, sensual pleasures and material comforts. You should be unmindful of all these mundane matters, but awake or vigilant to the inner core, the atma. You should be awake in respect of the inner divinity while neglecting worldly botherations. But what is done in the name of jagarana? They play cards throughout the night or watch three movies one after the other in the name of jagarana. Watchmen, nurses in the hospital on duty, railway station masters on duty don't sleep in the night. Does it amount to jagarana? Certainly not! Merely skipping sleep is an external ritual. One should know the inner reality while observing these rituals. Since they are all done mechanically, they are made fun of and they look ridiculous in the eyes of others.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Swami! Some want us to do puja, some suggest dhyana, meditation, a few prescribe parayana, reading of the scripture, and some others assure us of good results from japa, repetition of God's name. I am confused about what to do and which one to follow. Kindly tell me the best among these ways to be followed in my sadhana?

Bhagavan: You can follow any of them with total prema, love, nissvardha, selflessness, chittasuddhi, purity of your heart, ekagrata, one pointed-ness, and saranagati, surrender to realise and experience God.

Imitation is human. But creation is divine.


You follow the path that suits your convenience. Any procedure that appeals to you and gives you shanty (peace), and ananda (bliss) can be followed. But never imitate. Never go by other people's words and paths. You follow your chosen path. Otherwise, you lose your own way too. Imitation is human. But creation is divine.

A small example to illustrate that one becomes a loser by following others. There was a fruit market and it was the season when mangoes were available in plenty. A shopkeeper got a board specially painted with the words "Good mango fruits are sold here" and displayed it in front of his shop to promote sales. One stranger came and said, "Sir! What is it that is written there on the board? This is a fruit market. Why should you have the word on the board 'here'? It looks silly and superfluous. I suggest you erase this word 'here"'. Then the shopkeeper sent word to the painter and erased that word on the board 'here'.

Now on the board, the words “Good mango fruits are sold" were left. Another man came to the shop and said "What, Sir? You don't look smart and intelligent. Have you yourself cared to read what is written on the board? This is the mango season. All the shops are selling only mangoes. Why should you write 'mangoes' especially, as if they’re here only? It will be better if you remove the word 'mango' from the board!"

 

The shopkeeper got it erased with the help of the painter. Now on the board the words “Good Fruits are sold" were left. Another customer came and said, "What nonsense is this? Do you find anyone selling 'bad fruits'? How funny it looks when you say 'good fruits', very silly! Remove those words 'good fruits' from the board.

The shopkeeper was convinced and got them erased with the result that only the word 'Are sold' were left on the board. A well wisher of the owner who happened to pass by looked at the board and was shocked. He said. "What? Are you mad? Did you read the board? What do you mean by 'Are sold'? Are you going to sell the board or what?" The shopkeeper called for the painter and got the words 'Are sold' removed. Now he was left with a blank board. Finally, the painter gave the bill with two entries, one for initially painting the letters and the other for erasing each word at intervals. What happened to the owner of the shop who paid heed to the words of everyone? He lost both the board and that money. This will happen to you too, if you adopt other people's ways.

Your Guru also prescribes a method that suits you. He never wants all and sundry to follow the same pattern. The methods of sadhana are suggested depending on your capacity, skill, understanding and the level of your spiritual awareness.



I give you here a simple illustration from the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Once it so happened, that one disciple by name Brahmananda was crossing the river in a boat to buy and fetch the requirements for the residents of the ashram.

He overheard the conversation going on among others who boarded the same boat. One said that Ramakrishna was spoiling many youngsters who were wasting their time by being lazy in the name of devotion and that it was surprising to see them with shaven heads and wearing ochre robes.

Brahmananda felt very sad and shed tears. He returned to the ashram that evening.

Ramakrishna asked him what had happened in the boat while crossing the river. Brahmananda recounted the whole episode feeling very bad about the remarks made against Ramakrishna and his disciples.

Then Ramakrishna was furious and said, "What Brahmananda! How could you hear all these remarks! Can you bear when your Guru is criticized like that? How do you react when your parents are attacked? How could you hear all this?"

Next day, it was the turn of Vivekananda to go to the market. He boarded the boat and was on his way. Vivekananda had to hear once again the boatman speaking ill of Ramakrishna for making youngsters lazy and useless. He could not control his anger. He got up immediately, held the neck of the boatman and was even ready to push him into the Ganges. Somehow, others calmed him down.

 

In the evening, as usual in the course of the conversation, Ramakrishna, surrounded by his young disciples, asked Vivekananda what had happened in the boat. He proudly reported his reaction to the words of the boatman.

Then Ramakrishna said, “What Naren! Are you not ashamed of your behaviour? Couldn't you control your anger? What is the use of your sadhana? Is this the way a brahmachari should behave?"

Vivekananda then asked, “Swami! It is very strange to hear you speak like this. The other day you were angry with Brahmananda for keeping quiet when we were criticised. Today when I reacted to the same words, you are blaming me.

Why this difference, Swami?" Ramakrishna smiling said, "A bicycle has two tyres. There is too much air in the front wheel. A little of it should be let out. The air is less than necessary in the back wheel. Some more air must be pumped into it. So also, Brahmananda should have more spirit, while your temper must be reduced. That’s how the level of the individual is important in the spiritual path. You shouldn't imitate and follow others blindly.

Prof. Anil Kumar: Bhagavan! In our namavali, series of names of God, we address God by so many names. We have more than a hundred names 'ashtottara' and a thousand names 'sahasranama.' Of these various names, which is the best and the exact name of God?

Bhagavan: All names and forms are only His. There is nothing in the universe, which is not His. You should consider God as the indweller of your heart - hrudayavasi.

Draupadi, when she was being disrobed and humiliated, prayed to Krishna for help, calling him 'brindavana sancari' and 'mathura natha', which caused some delay in Krishna manifesting to save her. To prove the truth of her prayerful words, Krishna had to go to Brindavan and Mathura and then reach the open court to save her. Had she called Krishna 'Hrdayavasi', the indweller of her heart He would have appeared immediately before her and saved her straightaway from disgrace. You sing 'Brindavana sancari' in your bhajans. Presently I am in Kodaikanal. Are you not wrong? You sing, prasanthivasa, parthivihara, 'one who is in Prasanti Nilayam, moves about in Puttaparti', in your bhajans. Is it right? No. I am in Kodaikanal, not in Puttaparti or Prasanthi. But, if you say 'Hrudayavasi' the indweller of your heart, though I may be physically anywhere, you will get immediate response from Me.

 

(To be continued...)

Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like more of such conversations with the Divine? Please share with us your reflections by writing to [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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