Volume 16 - Issue 07
July 2018
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Posted on: July 27, 2018

Heaven Is Only A Frame of Mind Away

Structured Guidelines for a Spiritual Aspirant from Sai, the Sadguru

By Dr Michael Goldstein

Part 01

Dr Michael Goldstein hails from the United States of America and is a doctor by profession. He qualified from the University of California and later earned his post-graduate degree in Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington. He served as the Medical Director of a general hospital and a multi-speciality medical group in Southern California, USA.

 

He has been serving Bhagawan in various capacities for over four decades. He was the central co-ordinator of the Sathya Sai Organisation USA, and Latin America. Later he was the chairman of World Council, chairman of Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation, and the chairman of Prasanthi Council which oversees the functioning of International Sai Organisation.

He was also blessed by Bhagawan to be the chief guest at the Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in 1999. This indeed was a very special blessing conferred by Bhagawan for his devoted service to the Lord and His mission.

As we observe Guru Poornima, the festival where we offer gratitude to Swami for assuming the role of our Sadguru, we present this edited transcript of a talk delivered by Dr Goldstein in the Sai Kulwant Hall on March 29, 2018.

In this talk, he shares some very valuable lessons he learnt at the divine lotus feet. He presents them in the form of a nine-point spiritual program that we can lay out for ourselves to ensure steady progress on the spiritual path. The thoughts he expresses are indeed profound and highly relevant for every pilgrim on the path to self-realisation. We hope it guides you and inspires you.

 
With humility and love I offer my pranams at the divine Lotus Feet of our beloved Swami. My dear brothers and sisters, Sai Ram to all of you. We are gathered here in the Divine Omnipresence of Consciousness, Kali Yuga Avatar Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, our beloved Swami. He chose to assume a physical presence and walk among us. Now He is with us and within us as Divine Omnipresence always and forever.

He has inspired us to free ourselves from worldly bondage and achieve liberation; to be in the world but not of the world; to help, and not hinder the spiritual progress of mankind. He taught us that we are divine consciousness contained in mortal human minds and bodies.

I submit to you that every man and every woman, everyone everywhere are spiritual seekers. We are all consciously or unconsciously seeking in our lives identity and purpose. 'Who am I, what am I, how am I, where am I' - these are the questions that we ask ourselves. This is the beginning of spirituality.

Our beloved Swami has taught and demonstrated that mankind is unique among all of God's creation. We are capable of turning inward deeply and intensely in finding the divine source and essence of our lives.

Our spiritual heart, our inner voice, our souls – these are all names for our true spiritual identity. That is who we really are and that is what we are seeking to realise in our lives.

The truth is that we are manifestations of the Omnipresent Divinity, the Lord God, Divine Consciousness, our beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Faith is a Prerequisite for the Spiritual Quest

It is an illusion that we are merely a conglomeration of flesh and bone, instinct and sensation, thoughts and emotion. It is an illusion that we are limited to these small human identities, frail human bodies, and these fickle faulty minds. We are much more. Human life is bestowed by Divinity, human life is imbued with Divinity.

Nevertheless, many of us remain oblivious to our glorious role in creation. We think and act as if these minds and bodies will persist forever. We become engrossed and seduced by the familiar and comfortable pursuits of this world. And in so doing, our lives become mechanical and reactive. We preclude the profound inner awareness of our innate Divinity. We fail to discern the divine purpose of our human lives.

As a result, Divinity seems distant and incomprehensible to many of us. We cannot perceive Divinity with our senses or define with words or formula or equations.

 

Why should we have faith in Divinity? How can you describe or demonstrate faith with logical argument?

Only that which speaks to the heart can effectively advocate the need and importance of faith. Only the moving example of noble deeds, only the inspiration conferred by selfless love can effectively inspire Divinity.

Faith is like pure water; water is the elixir of life for the body of men. Without water these organs of the body are reduced to non-functional cells which in turn are degraded into lifeless chemicals.

Faith is the elixir of life for the spirit of man. Without faith the spiritual principles given by God to man are not served. When they are not served, chaos ensues among the people. This chaos demoralises men and women and demeans society. This lack of faith is prevalent right now in this Kali Yuga. For that reason, Bhagawan, the Kali Yuga Avatar, chose to walk among us. By word and deed, He initiated the restoration of faith and spiritual awareness among all people everywhere.

Is Swami the Conscience?

In Brindavan ashram our beloved Swami would often call a number of His students and some elders after evening bhajans. Informally and lovingly Swami would speak with us. Love and joy prevailed during these Trayee Brindavan sessions with our dearest Swami.

On one such occasion one of Swami's students innocently asked a simple question. “Swami are You my conscience?” And like a Divine Mother and Father He answered the young man, “Swami is not your conscience, Swami is Consciousness.”

Conscious is being awake; conscience is the ability for us to turn inward and relate to our Divine Consciousness. Consciousness is the Lord God manifested within us.

This is a very important distinction; it is the key to the door of self-realisation. It is the key to become who and what we really are. Our beloved Swami has taught us that Divinity is Consciousness and the essence of Consciousness is selfless love. Consciousness is Sat Chit Ananda. Our goal in life is to experience this truth, not merely to ponder intellectually. We must make use of this remarkable opportunity to spiritually realise our Divine Selves. Swami has taught us that we can achieve self-realisation through love and God's grace.

Now is the Best Time to March towards the Goal

Over the years Swami referred to His devotees, to all of us as Prema Swarupalara and Atma Swarupalara (Embodiments of Divine Love and Divine Atma). That is who we really are. But we impose worldly obstacles that preclude the manifestation of our divine nature.

Self-realisation is possible, probable, actually inevitable now or whenever in this lifetime or in lifetimes to come. It depends on our faith, our yearning to know God, our karma and most importantly the grace of God.

It will come to pass whenever we decide to stop procrastinating and we put aside our worldly obsessions. It is our prerogative to do or not to do, to be or not to be. We must never forsake our great expectations. 

In the beginning, Divinity, our beloved Swami took a human form in a village in Andhra Pradesh. Then Divinity as a child played with other children and taught them goodness by His own example.

Then Divinity proclaimed His divine purpose and intention. He sang Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam. Then Divinity began harvesting the faithful. He let His light radiate throughout the world gathering people from all races, religions, nations and cultures in order to inspire, redeem and transform them.

We have the good fortune to be among the gathered ones; are we transformed? Yes, all of us are transformed somewhat, some more than others. We cannot evaluate the degree of spiritual transformation in our brothers and sisters. We do not judge each other, we love each other with love that is selfless, that is pure, that transcends body and mind. It is love that is devoid of desire.

As Swami was transforming us He examined the institutions of society that men had conceived and found them wanting. Then Divinity began the redemption and transformation of the institutions of education and medicine, and so many other divine works.

Now His work continues in part through us, by virtue of the love and light that emanates from our very being. Now all of creation participates in the divine intention of our Lord. Spiritual movement towards Divinity cannot be determined. That is the mystery of Divinity. We can do what we must do and thereby consciously participate in the intention of our beloved Swami.

Raging the War Within

In the Treta Yuga there was a war between two different people and two different lands. Lord Rama, Divinity Himself took up arms against Ravana and the rakshasas. In the Dwapara Yuga there was a war between two families. Arjuna and the Pandavas opposed the Kauravas. Lord Krishna, Divinity Himself, was the Divine Advisor.

Today in the Kali Yuga, good and evil reside within each man and woman. Bhagawan Himself plays the role of divine witness. Our beloved Swami has said each individual must fight against the demonic forces within oneself and vanquish them. When this is accomplished, man's inherent divine nature will manifest itself of its own accord.

Swami teaches us that the spiritual war of the Kali Yuga is within ourselves. On one side there is our real, spiritual self, represented by our noble mind on the Kurukshetra battlefield. Opposing this ‘spiritual us’ ferociously is the ‘wayward us’, the ‘worldly us’, the ‘sinfulness us’.

 

Swami enumerates the six cardinal enemies of man - lust, anger, greed, pride, attachment and jealousy; they are the generals of these ignominious army of the ‘worldly us’.

There are soldiers of them responsible for the multitude of sins that comprise the mischief of mankind. They line up on the Kurukshetra seeking to destroy the real us, the noble us, the spiritual us but we will persevere. Spiritual us is eternally true, ever present. The ‘worldly us’ is a transient intruder.

Our true Divine Selves will inevitably prevail if not in this battle or in this life, in the next life or the life thereafter.

Then, as Swami has promised, our divine nature will manifest itself of its own accord. Let us pray to Swami now, 'Dearest Swami let it be now in this life, let it be now, O' Lord, bring all of Your children home'.

Heaven is within ourselves, heaven is spiritual victory when the ‘real us’, the ‘spiritual us’, prevails in this Kali Yuga war within ourselves. Heaven is the realisation of innate divinity - Sat Chit Ananda which is ‘being consciousness divine bliss’.

Our beloved Swami says heaven is not a super terrestrial region of perpetual spring. It is an inner experience, a state of supreme bliss.

My dear brothers and sisters, I submit to you, heaven is only a frame of mind away. We are all ever so close to the realisation of our great expectations. Everyday we see the sun rise and shine. It provides us with light and warmth. Everyday we see the flowers blossom, enchanting us with their beauty and innocence.

And everyday if we look into our own hearts with reverence and intensity we will experience that heaven is ever so near. Our beloved Swami has taught us that we can be in the world without being framed and contained by the world.

Inculcate Spiritual Common Sense

Sometimes these minds of ours run amok and dampen even silence, the divine beckoning from our inner selves, the whispering of our hearts. Sometimes we become diverted from our purpose and forget why we are here in these human lives. We should replace this worldly nonsense with spiritual common sense.

What is this spiritual common sense? It is sense that is common to all of us. It is spiritual knowledge that is innate in all of us - why are we here, what is our purpose, what are we doing to realise our purpose? We must turn inward, seeking the light that shines deeply in the spirit and in our heart.

We must ask these fundamental questions and act upon the wisdom that emerges from deep within ourselves. That is the common sense to which I refer. Go where the answer can be found in our own spiritual hearts. Find the answer, it’s inevitable. Follow the answer, do not procrastinate. The Lord has endowed all men and women with this common sense. That is our innate ability to find and follow the light of God awaiting acknowledgement from within ourselves. Let us make the best use of this very precious time that we have been given in these human lives. That is quintessential common sense.

How should we apply ourselves to discern and achieve the spiritual purpose of our human lives? It seems so very simple and at times very elusive. We know that logic and intelligence alone will not produce spiritual progress. Intellectual analysis without intuition and inspiration results in spiritual paralysis, not progress, not selfless love, not liberation.

We must look deeply and intently into our own hearts. Deep and true spiritual self-enquiry is essential. With determination and love we can each appeal to our beloved Swami to enlighten us. He is always there and waiting for our prayer. It is a heavenly soliloquy to truly commune with the Lord, our beloved Swami, and truly know our divine selves.

Our beloved Swami succinctly describes the essence of spiritual enquiry. Swami says, 'Who are you? God. Where did you come from? God. Where are you going? To God'.

He is teaching us that all people will realise their divine heritage; it is inevitable. That is the divine intention. Our true selves are part of Him. The separateness between ourselves and Him is created by us, therefore let our spiritual self-enquiry, our divine soliloquy proceeds in this manner - 'True Self, kindly reveal to me who are we and who He is.' The degree to which we comprehend and experience the answer to these simple questions is the extent to which we have understood and experienced the spiritual nature and purpose of our lives.

Become Spiritual Knowers Not Spiritual Thinkers

Intellectual cognition of spiritual truth is helpful but superficial. Spiritual experience is profound and essential for spiritual progress. Our minds think, our hearts know. We are seeking to become spiritual knowers not merely spiritual thinkers.

Spiritual knowing is a function of spiritual experience. If we are knowers, what is it that we should know? Are we content with our worldly life without contemplating a deeper meaning and purpose to life? Do we think about who we are above and beyond our personality and relationship with others in this world? Do we know from experience the divine nature of human life and live accordingly?

In the context of spirituality, the thinker studies and digests spiritual information intellectually. He reads books and attends lectures, he becomes the theologian, a scholar of the divine texts. The knower also studies but he intuits truth, experiences spiritual knowledge within himself and becomes an exemplar of the divine scriptures and of selfless love. Ultimately he becomes the saint, the realised soul.

To really know is to realise, to experience who we really are. To really know is to identify our mission in life and apply ourselves to it wholeheartedly. To really know is to fulfil the purpose of human life.

Different Sadhana for Different Aspirants

 

One morning some time ago, I was in the ashram and I was reading Swami's words. I realised that I had not been reading regularly and concluded that it was time for me to embark on a systematic review.

I thought I must make a programme and systematically review all of Swami's books again. I went to darshan on this particular morning and Swami called me into the interview room with a group of western devotees making their first pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam.

Swami's grace and love flowed abundantly and the devotees were filled with joy. Then one devotee asked Swami about his sadhana.

Swami instructed him, “Study for steady.” It was very important that if Swami spoke in your presence you should take whatever He said seriously. You were there to hear what He was saying for a reason.

Then Swami stood up and instructed me to follow Him into another room. He gave me some instructions regarding the Sathya Sai Organisation.

Then He was very receptive to my questions. If one can say that God has moods I would say that Swami was in a very very good mood.

At times Swami could be very distant and austere like Divine Father, like the Lord of the universe that He was, is and will always be. Or sometimes He could be very loving and tender like Divine Mother that He was, is and always will be.

In this instance Swami was Divine Mother. I was elated. I took the liberty of telling Swami that I was thinking that I must make a programme for myself and reread all of Swami's books, just as He had given advice to the devotees that were in the interview room.

I sought Swami's blessings, approval and guidance for this endeavour. I asked Swami if His words to the devotees in the interview room, 'study for steady' was also a confirmation that I should also study for steady. Like a child I wanted so much for Swami to confirm that this was a good plan. I felt that if Swami confirmed this then I might find what I am seeking in Swami's books.

Much to my surprise Swami said, “No, book study is not for you. Your study is to remember and think about every time you have seen Swami, every time Swami has spoken to you and every time you have taken padanamaskar.” Swami was telling me that the contemplation of the joy of His divine darshan, sparshan and sambashan was proper study for me.

When Swami said this, I felt a deep peace and joy. The Divine Teacher was giving a great homework for this spiritual student - to think of the most joyful moments in my life with Swami over and over again.

Swami was teaching and emphasising that the love and joy derived from divine experience supersedes the lessons learnt from study of scripture. That does not mean that we should abandon the study of Swami's books especially now. Please do not misunderstand me.

First learn, then experience. Swami's writings should be regarded as divine scripture. The spiritual value of Swami's writings cannot be measured. We must study His words. However, we should realise that our book study is not an end onto itself. If our hearts are open and receptive, then Swami's words will facilitate the emergence of inner spiritual experience. Experience is very important - that was the meaning of Swami's instructions to me.

Many people have not had the opportunity for Swami's physical darshan, obviously that is not a prerequisite for spiritual experience. Deep contemplation of His love and presence in our hearts and in our lives is spiritual experience.

A moment of pure, silent contemplation, prayer, meditation, or profound inner peace is spiritual experience. An instant of exaltation and bliss while singing a bhajan is spiritual experience. There are many sources of spiritual experiences in our everyday lives. 

Time is crucial, we shouldn't procrastinate. Swami refers to time as the body of God. Regarding time, our beloved Swami reprimanded all of us on many occasions over the years. Swami said repeatedly, “Many years have gone by, but your old habits have not changed, and your lives remain the same. The reason is that you are not making an effort to experience the principle of Divinity which is present in all of you in the form of love”. We need to have a plan for this great journey that man can make beyond country and continent, beyond this planet, galaxy or universe.

As thinkers we have understood intellectually, but we are knowers to the extent that we have spiritually experienced this knowledge. Our minds think, our hearts know. Now we need a plan. Is there anything more important in life than acknowledging our reason for being and applying ourselves to the spiritual fulfilment of our human lives? We need a plan to accomplish our purpose in life.

We do not squander money, we make plans to acquire and retain it. Why do we squander our greatest treasure, the precious time of our human lives that we have been given by the Lord? Focusing on our spiritual purpose and our plans are of paramount importance.

Our purpose is to realise that we are embodiments of prema and atma. Become that and act accordingly, that is our purpose. Now to make a good plan we must have some fundamental understanding of the divine drama.

Creation, Civilisation and Realisation

First there is creation, God invests Himself in mankind. Our genetic pre-disposition and the circumstances of our birth are determined by our past lives. We are born into a situation that permits us to learn the spiritual lessons that we require, to earn the spiritual rewards that we deserve and to atone for our transgressions in the past. We learn what we need, we earn what we deserve, and we atone for our mistakes. In this manner, we truly reap what we have sown in past lives. And we have an opportunity to realise our spiritual selves now.

 
  Dr Goldstein with the Love of his life

Then there is civilisation. As it progresses men and women recognise that the quality of life is enhanced by peace and love. Men and women seek a purpose to their lives, next comes self-enquiry. Our character determines our spiritual stature and civilisation.

First creation, then civilisation, finally there is self-realisation. Men and women experience and become one with their innate divinity. They live in constant perpetual awareness of their divine reality, this is self-realisation. It is selfless love, it is divine bliss. Experience of this is the divine purpose and the ultimate goal for all human lives.

First we are born and we see the light of day. Then we learn and we experience the light of selfless love and wisdom. Finally we identify with our conscience which unites with consciousness that is innate in all of us, and we become the light of God. We see, we experience, we become.

It is simple yet it's illusive, we must always have great expectations. The nature of this consciousness is selfless love. We will then recognise that we are all brothers and sisters. We will lovingly serve those of our brothers and sisters who are in need.

My dear brothers and sisters, to realise our divine selves is the only real purpose for which we are born on to this earth and live these human lives. We must have a plan to accomplish our God-given purpose in life. Each must have their own individual plan in life that suits them and serves them. Heaven is only a frame of mind away.

Plan Your Course According to Your Inner Inspiration

All of us are quite different as individuals but our differences are superficial. Spiritually we are brothers and sisters. Our beloved Swami says unity in diversity. That is, the unity of our essential nature despite the diversity of our external appearances and circumstances. For each of us the most effective way to move forward spiritually might differ.
 
Consider the three pathways to God - Bhakti marga or path of devotion, Jnana marga or path of wisdom, and nishkama karma yoga or action without desire. Each of us can look within ourselves and intuitively know what is prevalent in us, what is our own spiritual course. The paths are not mutually exclusive.

Sometimes one path is prevalent in our lives for any given circumstance. I'll give you an example. Many years ago Swami instructed me to arrange public meetings in five American cities regarding Swami's teachings. These were the first public meetings on the life and message of our beloved Swami that had ever been conducted. This took place decades ago. It began in New York at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway.

The task was daunting, it entailed coordinating strong-minded experienced participants in such a manner that an authentic and cohesive theme would predominate. It required more than I anticipated. I was daunted by the complexity of this task. Five meetings in five cities! I was in Brindavan with Swami three days before the first meeting was to take place in New York.

I prayed to Swami for wisdom. I asked Swami to give me meditation that would bring calmness and wisdom so that I would be enabled to proceed effectively. Swami smiled, He was amused by my request. Then He said to me, “You have no time for meditation, you have too much work to do.”

And then He hit me on the forehead. The noise was very loud when He did. And He held His hand there for one minute. Perhaps only a minute, I don't know. One loses track of time when Swami hits you on the head and holds His hand to your forehead. I was oblivious to everything except Swami's hand on my head and my desire that He should not remove His hand from my head. I became very peaceful and all anxiety left my mind. Then Swami took His hand away and permitted me to take padanamaskar and discharged me.

When I got to New York I began to work on all of the meetings. I slept for only one hour on each of the three nights preceding the first meeting. My wife is a witness.

I was alert, oriented and prepared to continue the work. I didn't feel tired. It was Swami's leela! The meeting was an enormous success. I remember I was the moderator. Dr Hislop spoke. The deputy secretary general of the United Nations too addressed the gathering. The deputies in New York rallied together and welcomed the guests, and had a beautiful display of Swami's books and beautiful music while the people were being seated. It was an event that was truly memorable.

I tell you about this experience in the context of the three spiritual pathways. I asked Swami for meditation, Swami hit me on the head instead. There was no time for meditation and told me to go do work, nishkama karma yoga. The three spiritual paths bhakti, jnana and nishkama karma yoga are like tributaries that empty into the mighty river of enlightenment. They become one regardless of our preferred path. Whatever we do and however we do it, it must be comparable with the teachings of Divinity. Inevitably all paths become one.

 

Go to Part 02

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